Sunday, March 07, 2004

Thirty Days On The Beach Can Change A Man's Life

"Good Monday

That statement is a paradox for most
people if only because Monday morning brings them to
work -- a place where few find much "good." Indeed, most
people go to work today so one day they won't have to go
to work anymore. Perhaps that is the reason so many
fantasize about "dropping out."

I wrote the
following piece in 1996 while taking my first extended
vacation from work, a time that led to fantasies of my
own about a different way of life. Published in a number
of newspapers that year I received dozens of stories
from others who had similar experiences.

eight years later, I know that "dropping out" takes
different forms for different people, but in each case
means making a leap of faith. Whatever "dropping out"
means to you, it needn't be done on the beach or on a
mountain. You can leap anywhere and make changes that
feel right even though you may not know where they will
lead. For many those changes lead to the work they love,
the kind of work that lets them get up on any "Good
Monday morning."

Thirty Days On The Beach
Can Change A Man's Life
style="FONT-SIZE: 78%">(copyright Jim Karger,

Thirty days on the beach seems more like
two or three. Days drift into nights from which mornings
are born and the cycle repeats itself, endlessly, like
the tide.

No matter how long you are here, you
can always tell day from night. But, soon the date
becomes unimportant, and then the day of the week is,
too, forgotten;

"Is this Tuesday?" I asked, making

The lady fondling the lettuce
smiled, but said nothing.

"Excuse me," I repeated, "but is
this ..."

"I heard you," she said, looking up.
"And, no, it's Friday," she said knowingly, like my
question was some kind of cheap, pick up line she'd
heard before.

"Thanks," I said, turned away, and
headed for the cantaloupes.

"Excuse me," she followed, "but are
you serious?"

"Yes, I am," holding a cantaloupe in
each hand, "melon selection is a serious

"No, I meant the day. Did you really
not know that today is Friday?"

"Still don't." I paused. "Unless I
take your word for it. Want this cantaloupe?" I put the
riper of the two in her basket.

"Well, no, not actually."

"Oh," I said, taking the melon back
and putting it into my basket.

"It's just that, well, you look, uh,
fairly normal," she observed, as if expecting to find a
matching physical defect.

"I object," I said.

"What?" she asked.

"You heard me. I object. I'm a
lawyer and I can object. It's my prerogative."

"You? You're a lawyer? No


"You don't look like a lawyer," she
smiled, a condescending smile.

"What do lawyers look like?"

"I don't know," she replied, off
balance, "but they don't have hair down to their
shoulders, pierced ears, and they definitely don't wear
roller skates into grocery stores during business

"They're inline skates, and who told
you that?"

She paused, and I could see she was
thinking hard, seeking a higher authority.

"Well, no one, but you don't look
like any lawyers I know."

She blew off my question, repeating

"Are you sure you're a lawyer?" she

"As sure as you seem to be that
today is Friday."

"So, where do you practice?" she
cross-examined me.

"I'm practicing now," I said,
looking down at my skates.

"I don't mean practicing skating,"
she snapped.

'But, I do," I said. "I like
skating. How about you?"

"I don't skate," she snapped, like I
had asked her where she stripped for a living.

"Too bad. Floors in grocery stores
like this are perfect, smooth, good to practice your
turns," I said as I turned a perfect circle.

"The reason I ask," she said, by
then exasperated, "is that I am a lawyer."

"Want a medal?" I asked, looking
down into my basket at my two fine cantaloupes,
carefully selected, nearly ripe.

"No, it's just that ... I ...," her
voice trailed off.

"It's just that you want to know how
it's done. Isn't that what you want to know?" I said,
looking up into her eyes, still blue, but now

"Yes," she whispered, "yes."

"How long are you here?"

"Through Sunday."

"Not long enough to learn," I said

"Learn? Learn what?"

"Learn how to do his," I said,
gesturing to my skates.

"That's not what I meant," she

"Yes, it is. You want to learn the
fine art of dropping out. Gotta learn how to skate
first, and that takes more than a week."

"Three days," she said

"Oh, yeah. I forgot. It's

"Friday," she muttered. "It's

"You're right," I conceded. "It's
Friday. But, until you can forget that fact, you will
never learn."

I turned and skated to the checkout
counter, purchased my melons, and forgot it was Thursday
before I left the store.