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The Good Life . . . at a Beach-Tennis Club

The dog went over the first wave like a thoroughbred steeplechaser taking a gate and a water hazard at the same time. Dick Francis would have been proud.

He swam smoothly to the next wave, and over, until he was out beyond the breaker line, serenely pillowed by the swells. Then he gently reached his head to the left and turned toward the gently sloping beach.

When he reached knee-deep water, I could see the stick he had in his mouth. He took it to his master, placed it at his feet and turned his whole body into one joyous wag, indicating with his smile and the toss of his head that he was ready to go again.

The dog was a golden retriever, and the game continued for 15 minutes. Then the master let the dog run down the beach. When he called him once, not raising his voice, the golden swimmer trotted right back and stood still while his harness was put back on. Then the dog shook sand from his coat all over his master and they headed across the beach, their morning romp successful.

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I wish my dog, Peaches, could do all that. Oh, not the swimming. She’d be over her crewcut head in six inches of water, and forget the stick; she won’t chase a ball. Her attention span is limited to rawhide bones she eats up. She has the cleanest teeth in Linda Vista, according to her veterinarian. Do you suppose if I chewed those bones, it would brighten the smile of my dental hygienist? I just wish Peaches would get the part about responding to a call instead of rushing down the driveway to the blind curve. Ah, well, she has a pretty smile and, “Look, ma, no cavities.”

I saw the golden retriever and his well-schooled master during a peaches and cream respite last week at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. My lifelong friend (his life) Marty Erck was in La Jolla playing in a tennis tournament. He is a nationally ranked doubles player and his mother, Jean Erck, my treasured friend from Houston, had come out to see the matches and enjoy the club. Marty invited me to join his mother in the ocean-facing suite she had. That’s an attribute I would like to encourage in young men, inviting their mother’s friends to come and enjoy the lush life for a few days.

The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club has been there for years, spreading out its two-storied multi-wings along a stretch of gentle La Jolla Beach. There are two dining rooms, one for serious dining, another, equally handsome, for breakfast and lunch. There is also a hamburger and fast-food counter facing the beach.

Guests were from all over, but mostly from the town of La Jolla. Obviously, the locals spend vacations there as well as escapees from the sunnier sun belt, including some friends of Jean’s from Houston.

My first day at the club was clammy and overcast, and my fake linen slacks were simply not warm enough. You can see that I was driven into the pro shop to buy a snuggly warm-up suit I couldn’t afford. The next day dawned bright and hot, and you don’t have to be told what happened. I was forced back into the pro shop to buy a pair of shorts. This is something I have not done for a while because the Fit and Trim diet, which Peaches and I share, has not quite done the work yet. It’s not exactly that I’m overweight. It’s just that anyone skipping toward the golden years who buys a pair of shorts hasn’t gotten the word. The mandatory bathing suit is always allowed, although finding one without those high French-cut legs is not easy. Patsy is threatening to buy a wet suit. She is, however, a size 4, which makes her hard to love when it’s bathing suit season.

Midweek, Bea Lou Buck, dandy friend from the old Orange County neighborhood, came down to have lunch with Jean and me. It was not a “remember when” session because both Jean and Bea Lou are tomorrow-type women. Dandy day.

If I had to name the most soothing part of the stay, it was placing my head on the pillows and going off to sleep with the sound of the surf, rolling all the way in from the edge of the horizon.

It was a delightful respite and as soon as I learn to retrieve that stick, maybe I’ll be asked back.

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