Friday, May 20, 2011

Paradise Beach

This story in the Sacramento News & Review is a beautifully sad tale of a great beach along the river that—along with many of the wonderful riverside spots—has not been well taken care of for too long, and our organization is very concerned about that.

An excerpt from the story.

“Paradise Beach, a bank of sand no wider than 200 feet along the American River in Sacramento, is a misnomer. Or so it seems at first glance.

“That’s because the shore is littered with used condoms and abandoned tighty-whities. Twice I have had the misfortune to stumble across a man pleasuring himself in the bushes. An old baby sitter swears she found a human hand once in the water there. And yet my friends and I return year after year in the summertime, to bask in the sun and count the number of children that lack a supervising adult.

“This is primarily due to limited options. Sacramento, unlike the stereotypical California town, has no picturesque expanse of white sand sprawled along the dazzling Pacific Ocean. So, on sleepy August afternoons, we river rats grab a raft and a six-pack and head to the only beach available. Once you’re on the water, the sounds of domestic dispute are carried away by the wind. All you hear is the lapping of water. And in those moments it can feel like paradise.

“I remember one such evening several years back. My best friend Lilly and I lay bobbing in our raft, watching the sun dive into the waves. Cool streams of sweat slithered down our backs, and Lilly wondered aloud, “What happens now?” It was the last summer of childhood. How could we let it go?

“Soon our bedrooms would be packed into boxes, shoved into trunks of minivans and awkwardly reassembled in strange dorm rooms. Hundreds of miles apart, we wouldn’t be able to sneak over to each other’s houses in the middle of the night or conspire ways to ditch cross-country practice. There would be no more late-night talks over coffee. No more practical jokes on mutual friends. No more Saturday mornings spent tanning on her deck.

“This calculated transition to adulthood birthed childish anxieties within me. Would she miss me as much as I’d miss her? What would time change? Who would we be by next summer?

“For many years I had anticipated my escape with eager restlessness. Now that it was on the horizon, I found myself treading in nostalgia. Once I left, I could never really return home. Like an old friend, Sacramento would always be familiar, but as time went on, I would not fully recognize it. The city would change, as new developments rose, friends scattered and old haunts disappeared. What would Paradise Beach mean to me in five years? Would it still offer solace?”