These Normal Stories Expanded Stories, Linked from This Normal Life
Saturday, February 28, 2004
The Naked Truth
We had just collected the kids from Camp Jaycee, the Jewish Community Center Day Camp in La Jolla not far from where we’ve been staying with Jody’s dad for summer vacation. We were looking for something different to do with the afternoon.
Not far away is this amazing cliff where hang-gliders take off and sail over the Pacific Ocean. It’s absolutely jaw-dropping, and we thought the kids would get a kick out of it.
But when we got to the jumping off spot, there was nary a glider in sight.
“No wind,” the snack bar guy said, pointing at the sky, causing the tattoos on his chest to animate like an X-rated Disney cartoon.
Then Jody spied a path. It went down all the way to the beach below.
“Who’s up for an adventure!” she announced. The kids readily took the bait. Who can resist a challenge like that? Though as I viewed the coming descent, I was already thinking about the climb back up. To my untrained eyes, it appeared we were at a height no less than that of Masada, with a path that snaked just as sharply.
But it was a beautiful sunny Southern California day, and the reward was a beach full of warm water, surf boards and surprises.
Did I mention surprises?
About three-quarters of the way down Masada, California, nine-year-old Merav made an interesting comment.
“Why is that man wearing a skin-colored bathing suit?”
Maybe her new glasses were playing tricks.
A minute later, five-year-old Aviv announced in a loud voice: “Look Imma – he’s naked. And he’s naked too. They’re both naked!”
In fact, there was quite a lot of nakedness going on below: we had inadvertently arrived at a well known (except to us) clothing-optional beach. With a whole range of family fun taking place: nude swimming, nude volleyball, even nude boogie-boarding (ow, that’s gotta hurt).
Normally, this is not the sort of place we proactively take our kids. We’re not prudes by any means, but we have a healthy sense of Biblically-inspired modesty. And the men (and for some reason they were all men) were walking around the beach flaunting their nakedness.
Couldn’t they just sit quietly under a nice beach umbrella? At least until we left?
However, we had just made a pretty serious hiking commitment and the peaks of our Masada loomed large behind us. Aviv had already run ahead. No, there was no turning back now.
As we got closer, it became apparent that not everyone was naked. It was a mixed congregation of sorts. Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, all together in the same space. A real melting pot.
And truth be told, from a vacationing Israeli perspective, there was an appealing, even liberating element to all the nakedness around us. There was no chance anyone could be hiding an explosives belt under his bathing suit.
Speaking of which…
As we reached the bottom of the trail, little Aviv began to whine.
“Imma, I forgot my bathing suit!”
Merav was still wearing hers under her shorts after her day at camp. But Aviv had already changed into long pants and a t-shirt.
“Aviv, why don’t you go in naked,” I suggested. “Everyone else is.”
When in Rome…
He looked around and cautiously began removing his clothes. Like I said, this is not standard operating procedure in Jerusalem. Then, before we knew it, the kids were frolicking in the waves, jumping, splashing, having a jolly old time.
Yes, exactly as we had planned.
That’s when Jody spied them.
“Look, look!” she began to yell, gesticulating wildly and pointing into the sea. “Look!”
A naked man not far from where we were standing must have assumed Jody was pointing at him and turned uncharacteristically self-conscious.
“Dolphins!” Jody clarified.
The kids whirled around just in time to see several beautiful gray-black bottle-nosed dolphins jumping up and out of the water over the cresting waves. It was a magnificent sight. Totally unexpected.
At that very moment, I guess the wind must have whipped up again, because a hang glider suddenly appeared in the air. There above us was a man, sailing as freely and unencumbered by worldly concerns as the beachcombers frolicking around us or the dolphins playing in the surf.
He was not naked, by the way.
And I thought to myself: only in California. Only in California…