The allure of the beach is, in some ways, its seediness. The deeper we stride into its inhospitable waves, the less the laws of man can bind us. It was Thoreau who said, "We are all anarchists where the surf meets the sand, bros." Or possibly that was an original quote from Randy, who is a guy we know from the beach.
Either way, this casual lawlessness fosters an easy trust. Before we jump into the waves, we ask strangers to keep an eye on our stuff. While we're in there, we expect teenagers to pay attention to our toddlers' safety in a crowd full of half-naked people. And after we come out, we believe the guy running the clam shack when he says deep frying can make shellfish taste like food.
Or as we called them growing up in New England, water lice and sea-roach
The question any vacationer relaxing on a sunny shore must ask, naturally, is "How can I make money off of these saps?" And the answer is simple: develop, develop, develop! People are in a trusting state against all common sense, so throw up a boardwalk where they can play lots of rigged carnival games for cheap tchotchkes they don't want and can't use. Lure them in the same way you would flies: with loads of sugar. Better add some fried food and old meat for good measure.
Now that you've got them all in one place, trap them on some vomitous carnival rides till they're hungry again. But how are you going to make sure they stick around after sunset? A crappy jazz band, obviously, busking for their dinner. Better add a hotel to that boardwalk, too, so you can fleece the herd again tomorrow. Uh-oh! Some of the guests want a section of the beach to themselves now that you've made it so crowded. Crapburgers! You'd better cordon off a part of it for the hotel's use only.
Is the beach at full capacity? Excellent! Where once there was naught but useless, gentle tides, there is now a thriving mecca of recreation operating at maximum efficiency! The principals of capitalism have triumphed yet again! Until ... say, where's everybody going?
Wikipedia weeps for Dreamland
Behold! The perfect beach
Er ... it seems beach attendance is dropping because we optimized the fun right out of things, and not even the deepest-fried meats can change the public's mind. Where teeming crowds once ... uh, teemed, now nothing remains but a lot of litter and empty buildings. And they slouch, slowly crumbling under the ever-encroaching tide. Foolish man! To think thou couldst tame the sea! In time, all is washed away, save for two trunkless legs of an Ozymandias statue by the ruins of the Watchmen theme ride roller coaster.
And there, over the course of a thousand years, your boardwalk empire will crumble back into a pristine beach ... where human beings may yet again venture to feel surf foaming on their ankles, sun baking their skin anew and sand irritating their genitals as they have sex under the boardwalk.
Brendan recently outlined How Bacon Is the Secret to a Healthy Marriage and Why Mr. T Is a Great Man.
And be sure to check out more of his stuff here in To My Unborn Son: Stuff I Won't Have the Balls to Say and 5 Ways the '90s Made Us Strong .