Thursday, December 15, 2005


I need to train my children on how to have a vacation. At the end of each term, if their grades are good, we take them on a trip. Usually to the coast. The Oregon coast is beautiful, stormy, rocky and wild and we have lots of memories there as a family and years of memories as a couple before the kids were born.

In college we would drive to the coast and climb cliffs at night in a raging storm, feeling the basalt shudder with the impact of the waves; play tag across the slippery rocks; practice martial arts unarmed and with boken and bo waste deep in the frigid water. We would snorkel until the cold water gave us an ice cream headache or bodysurf at Gleneden beach.

Unable to afford a hotel we would camp on the beach or up a logging road, sleeping in fifteen-dollar Kmart tents or in the back of the jeep. We would get fresh snapper (cheap) directly from the boats and cook it in the coals of a drift wood fire... delicious despite the burnt fingers. Photos from that time show young men swordfighting by fire light and beautiful young women belly-dancing.

This is the coast I want to share with my children, this is the sense of fun and uncivilized freedom I want them to feel, to yearn for, when they think of a vacation. Instead, too much they think of a hotel with a pool, a hot tub and the Cartoon Network (I won't get cable at home and would happily destroy the TVs but I am outvoted). It's good in its own way. We are prospering and can afford the luxury, we have a membership in a sort of flexible time share of resorts worldwide. Beds are nice. Hot showers and kitchens are nice. Hot tubs are very nice and even as college kids we would not have refused a chance to finish the day in one.

When it was time to leave the hotel, I would look longingly at a rock on the beach, forty feet high of good solid basalt with holds very rare on the lower part that has been eroded by waves. My son would think of it too... but only for a moment, then he would be distracted by the possibility of shopping in a new place, eating in a new restaurant.

That was how the vacation was spent, with the exception of a few hours. For a few hours we hiked along the beach, explored shallow sea caves and I was able to show the kids the iron pyrite deposits near the Devil's Punchbowl and sword fight while mom sampled wine at a tasting room.

For too much of the rest, though, it was shopping and eating out, things I avoid doing whenever I can at home. It's an ambivalent feeling, taking time from a busy schedule to spend time doing things you hate doing with people you love spending time with.

So I'm going to teach my kids how to vacation and this year they will raft and climb and cave and snorkle and I will teach them to rappel and, hopefully, they will have memories of high adventure instead of high pasta; new experiences instead of nouvelle cuisine.

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