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Beach Blanket Birdbrain

By Jerry Zezima

Whenever I go to the beach, which is about once a year, thus sparing regular beachgoers the horror of witnessing me in a bathing suit, running into the water and getting eaten by a shark, I imagine myself as Frankie Avalon, star of the “Beach Party” movies of the 1960s.

My wife, Sue, takes the Annette Funicello role, though she’s not very good in it because she doesn’t like to dance in the sand — unless, of course, she’s bitten by a crab.

So it was with very little fuss, and no rock and roll music, that we recently staked out a slice of shore, slathered on some sunscreen and plopped ourselves down in rickety chairs for what was probably the last beach day of the season.

For me, it was the first. And my unexpected presence must have excited a fine feathered flock of aquatic birds because they welcomed me with open wings, which they used to zoom over, past and around me. One of them squatted nearby, eyeing me with either friendly curiosity or, more likely, open hostility.

It was boy meets gull. We got into a staring contest. I looked over. The bird looked away. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye (though I don’t know how anything round can have a corner) and noticed her staring again.

I made a stupid face. She screeched, which prompted another gull to sit on the opposite side of me. I was surrounded.

I shifted in my chair and almost fell over. The birds flew off and came back moments later with reinforcements, some of which circled overhead before a couple of them dive-bombed me.

I felt like Tippi Hedren in “The Birds.”

The only place to escape was the water, but I didn’t want to go in because: (a) it looked dirty, (b) it looked cold and (c) it looked like just the place where Jaws would be waiting for me.

With apologies to John Williams, taking a dip would have been “dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb.”

So, while Sue snoozed and sunbathed, left mercifully alone by my avian adversaries, I got up and walked on the beach. I wore flip-flops to prevent the rocks that studded the shore from hurting my feet, which, even at size 11, are very delicate.

Speaking of studs, I noticed a couple of young women looking at me. At first I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger, muscles rippling and glistening in the sun, before I realized that with my physique, I would never be in the male version of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Instead, I’d be the cover boy for GQ (Geezers’ Quarterly).

I saw a guy with a fishing pole.

“What are you going for?” I asked.

“Porgy and bass,” he replied.

“A Gershwin classic,” I said, referring to the George Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess.”

For some strange reason, the guy didn’t get it. But he did say he also hoped to hook a bull shark, adding: “They’re dangerous.”

“That’s no bull,” I stated.

He didn’t get that joke, either, so I moseyed back to our little patch of sand, clumps of which became embedded under my nails and between my toes, and plopped down in my chair. I nearly tipped over again, which woke up Sue.

“Let’s go,” she said.

I struggled to fold the chairs, one of which, I was sure, would slice off a finger. We gathered everything and started to walk back to the parking lot when the birds began harassing me again.

I screeched. One of them whirled to fly away and nearly collided with another one.

I smiled with satisfaction, knowing I probably wouldn’t see them again until next year.

As they say at the beach, one bad tern deserves another.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of five books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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