In the grand tradition of true Portlanders the Druggie and I went to Sauvie Island last weekend to soak in the sun. We were both paler than we wished—the Druggie due to the fact that she’d spent the last six weeks in a Muslim country working with Aids orphans, and I due to the far less noble reason that I’d spent July in a classroom and August papering the world with cover letters and resume—and we wanted to wear the glow of one good Summer day before Fall stole the warmth away.
Besides it was the perfect weather for drinking beer, reading a book, and courting skin cancer. We’d chosen our day well.
Or so we’d thought.
At five to eleven the Druggie pulled up in front of my building in the lovely Pepe la Subaru, and off we went to grocery store to buy snacks to fill my cooler. One more stop at the local Bugerville for lunch and then we were on our way to Sauvie’s sandy shores. Having never actually been to Sauvie’s beaches (what a bad Portlander I’m admitting to being!) we were being guided by the vague directions of a friend that involved gravel roads and mile post markers being used as landmarks.
A bit too vague, it turned out, but no matter. We knew we would find the beach eventually and with the windows down and the radio playing we were secure in our belief that we would find the beach eventually.
And we did. Loading up with bags of blankets, books (a girl should always carry more than one, just in case), and foodstuffs, we hiked up the concrete stairs on the side of the hill to find a vast area of hot white followed by cool blue water.
After quick squinty-eyed check of our surroundings revealed that we hadn’t accidentally found our way to the nudist beach, we set out our blankets, stripped down to our bikinis and proceeded to put on sun tan lotion. Sure, we were planning on courting skin cancer, but it would only be done with a degree of fifteen or higher acting as a barrier.
With all unprotected areas slathered in lotion, we sat back to read our books. The plan for the day was as followed:
Get sun and read.
Get sun and snack.
Be joined by the Druggie’s sister and the friend she’d just picked up from the airport.
Lay out blankets we’d provided for sister and sister’s friend.
As a group, partake in the sun, snacking and reading until someone started to feel crispy or the sun went down.
A reasonable plan, or so it seemed in those first bliss-filled minutes lying upon our blankets. I was finally getting to read a book that I’d been crazy about earlier in the summer, but kept getting interrupted every time I picked up. Nothing was going to stop me from finally getting past the first chapter. There were no cover letters to write or interviews to schedule. It was Sunday, the day of rest, and I was going to do just that. The sun was high, the water cold, and there was just enough of a breeze to keep the temperature pleasant.
Heaven…until Heaven got Old Testament.
Suddenly our breeze transformed, growing strong and stronger as it blew off the water. It caught at the loose white sand, flinging it against our left sides, coating our newly lotioned bodies. It was relentless, collecting in cracks and crevices, filling our ears and pinging against our sun glasses.
At first we thought it was a momentary thing, it would die down soon. But ten minutes passed… then twenty. We used our tank tops to try knock the collect sand off our sticky backs. We shook out our towels to rid them of the collecting sand dunes only to have the wind snap at them and try to rip the fabric from our grasps.
Soldiering on, I tried to ignore it. Just in enjoy my book, but it slowly became heavier and heavier. Was I growing weak? Was the weather zapping me of my strength? No. I realized it was the sand, collecting in the well every time I turned the page. Not that I was turning that many, squinting as I was to keep the sand out of my contacts ruined with my ability to clearly see the words.
We’d already given the sister directions, she was on her way. As far as we knew she’d already bought a parking pass and was looking for the turnoff. We couldn’t just leave, they’d be here any minute.
In desperation—forty minutes had now gone by—we moved closer to the water, taking the spot of another couple that had given up. The amount of sand pelting us was immediately reduced by half, but the wind continued to blow, catching what sand grains it could to exfoliate away the top layer of our skin.
“We’re tough,” the Druggie and I told each other, “We can do this.”
Forgetting, of course, that the last time we’d made this vow we’d walked over ten miles in bad shoes to transverse the
Or maybe subconsciously we hadn’t because as another blast attempted to roll us up hill we modified, vowing to do this “at least until the girls get here.”
But the girls did not arrive and the wind did not die down.
As we waited the couples around us began leaving, abandoning their towel flattened sand to the ruffling of the wind. The only groups that remained were mothers with large flocks of children. The children ran up and down the shore in the water, unaffected by the wind, while the mother huddled in their folding chairs at the shoreline and warned them to “keep in sight, there’s a bad current out there.” We gave up on reading, lying back to just grit our teeth, close our eyes, and enjoy what we could of the sun as sand continued to collect in our ears.
For awhile I considered that perhaps I would never finish my book, that it wasn’t meant to be, but more important matters took over my thoughts. What would happen if sand breached my eardrum and got into my brain?
Would it itch? Was it possible? Wouldn’t that make a quirky CSI episode: Woman with Sand on her Mind?
Finally a (hopefully) not too panicked phone call revealed that the girls were still at the Druggie’s sister’s house. Maybe they could meet us at the park near the Druggie’s apartment?
“Sure,” we replied, trying not to sound relieved. “We’ll pack up.”
As we hauled our (much heavier) sand-filled bags back up to the stairs, we passed a couple who’d commandeered our original spot.
“Fine,” the reclining woman told her standing boyfriend. “We can leave. I can barely breathe anyway.”
The breeze at the park, when we finally reached it, was just that a breeze. So slight that at times you didn’t even notice it. We snacked on chips and salsa, bagels and cream cheese and chatted with Druggie’s sister and her friend.
“You were lucky,” we told them, shaking sand from our blankets.
“The wind was crazy,” we continued, pouring sand from the bags.
“There’s even sand in the cooler,” we exclaimed, “despite the fact that we’d never opened it!”
The sister and friend were nice enough to never imply that they thought we were exaggerating, and we enjoyed a nice, gust-free afternoon in the park before retiring to our own apartments.
It was getting ready for my shower that I discovered my swimsuit had been compromised and there was sand where no sand should be. It coated my back, even under the straps, and collected both top and bottom. Uncomfortable and gritty, it drove home my belief that nude sunbathing—if this is what happened fully covered—would never be for me.
But the Druggie’s…poor Druggie. She went home to clean her apartment, and why bother changing clothes if she was just going to continue to get sweaty and gross? So in her bathing suit and shorts she washed dishes, organized her desk, dusted and then swept. Cleaning her floor to a shine.
As she bent over to put her cleaning supplies away, she noticed some sand clinging to her bikini top, the skin beneath seemed sandy as well. Making sure that she was far enough away from her windows, she thought, “What the hell,” and popped the suit cups out to check for damage…
Only to pour microscopic, practically invisible sand all over her nice clean floors.
So much for a fun, relaxing day reading on the beach.**
*For the record, when most Oregonians say beach, they mean the sandy shores of one of our rivers. We refer to the
**Although in its defense, the wind and sand combo did manage to exfoliate away all our dry skin. I haven’t skin that felt this nice in years!