The Season’s Upon Us, 2012
I’m talking about the summer people, the tourists who flock to our sandy shores.
Tourists don’t bother me. Some locals resent them. I don’t have a problem. Most of our overnight visitors are nice people anxious to enjoy the sun and surf and have a little fun. I’ve watched people I know are local residents spit on the street, drop cigarette butts wherever they go, curse in public and then have the nerve to complain about how the tourists are ruining our beach.
The people who promote tourism around here work very hard to set a good tone. The quality of beachfront hotels has improved considerably over time.
Still, our tourists aren’t haughty gourmands. They like free breakfasts and all-you-can-eat fried fish and shrimp dinner specials. They don’t worry about where food comes from.
My friend Tom, who lives in Marin County, California, was here recently. I had to caution him not to ask a waitress how happy the chickens were whose eggs contributed to our breakfast, or whether they were free range chickens, or not.
Looks like Vacation, 2012
Our tourists aren’t particularly fashion-conscious, either. A lot of them consider t-shirts and team jerseys to be suitable dinner attire.
From years of doing tourism research, I know that shopping is Americans’ second most popular vacation activity (right behind eating). But it looks to me like our resort area retailers set a low bar. It’s understandable that a beach resort would have a lot of shops that sell t-shirts, bathing suits and sand buckets. But do you really have to have one in every block? And do they really have to feature t-shirts that say, “Don’t Ask Me. I’m Drunk!” And what the heck is the allure if hermit crabs?
A quick walk down the resort strip that past Saturday morning revealed that little has changed since last summer. We have the usual attractions where you can squeeze an image of the ocean onto the face of a penny, have your name engraved on a grain of rice or get a henna tattoo of Kurt Cobain or Angelina Jolie. There seem to be more bodega-like convenience stores. Rare is the street corner on Atlantic Avenue that doesn’t have a kiosk and clean-scrubbed kids selling timeshares.
There’s a Facebook page where people who grew up here like to complain about how things have changed. But their memories are more idealized than real. It was never so innocent. We’ve always been a place with a raffish edge.
I don’t know the derivation of the phrase “Summer people. Summer not.” I first heard it attributed to a couple of old Maine lobstermen watching yuppie weekenders. I don’t think it’s a very kind thing to say. But when it comes to describing people I have to admit there’s a hint of truth to it. And I’m not just thinking about tourists.
I Put Ketchup on my Ketchup, 2012