The Ludwig family brought some of the beach home with them after a recent outing. | Supplied photo
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:09AM
I don’t remember going to Chicago beaches as a child. “Real beaches” required an ocean, not a lake.
I don’t think that way anymore. In fact, I prefer the freshwater of Lake Michigan to saltwater. With that in mind, I trotted my 6- and 4-year-old sons to the new 31st Street Harbor last week.
The $100 million renovated beach opened June 7. It includes a harbor (not much use for a guy without a boat), a soft-surface playground and reconditioned beach. It’s near U.S. Cellular Field. So if you can get to a White Sox game, you can get to the new 31st Street Harbor.
We met friends at the fenced-in playground. This area has all sorts of twisted climbing contraptions and a pair of water areas, perfect for getting soaked on a hot day. I appreciated the design, which allowed me to keep an eye on my boys from anywhere in the park.
It wasn’t long before we made our way to the beach. Bubba and Peter dove into the water as though it were made of chocolate. The waves crashed on their well-lotioned backs. They thought this was wonderful, challenging each swell to knock them to the sandy ground below.
For a public beach, it was relatively clean. A few beach-goers seemed a bit odd. But they kept to themselves. And lifeguards circled the shoreline like vultures, warning swimmers not to get more than chest-deep.
We were swimming for about 20 minutes when a buddy pointed out something floating in the water. Swimmers reacted as though it were the Baby Ruth candy bar from the movie “Caddyshack.”
It actually was a dead baby goose.
Bubba and Peter unknowingly frolicked in the waves just a few feet away from the dead bird. After a bit of head scratching, my friend ladled the corpse into a sand bucket and walked it over to the trash. How he kept from gagging, I’ll never know.
The boys later used this same bucket to make sandcastles.
We packed up and headed home around midday. I stripped the boys down in the car and made another discovery — roughly a half-pound of sand was trapped in the liner and pockets of their wet swimsuits.
Bubba and Peter were coated in large, grainy sand throughout their private areas. Sand spilled on the seats and carpet of the minivan as they disrobed.
I emptied what I could into the parking lot. There was no way to get all of the sand off of their butts.
“We are driving home naked, boys!” I boldly announced.
My sons were equal parts confused and exhilarated by the idea. I wrapped their sandy privates in beach towels and strapped them into car seats. This mostly kept them from picking at the sand in their crotch.
However, I had another problem. Underground improvements on my street meant no running water at the Ludwig house that afternoon. I briefly considered blasting sand off the boys with the air compressor in the garage. Then, inspiration struck.
We arrived at the park district. My two boys entered the locker room wearing nothing more than towels. All three of us showered like dirty hobos in the public rest room, using hand soap to flush the sand from our butts.
The day proved to be quite an adventure … hardly what I’d call a day at the beach.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.