People treat you differently when they think you own the beach house. They imagine you're somebody, who has done something and who could be capable of doing something more.

Recently, we rented a house in Del Mar for 10 days. It sounds fancy, but isn’t. This is maybe the least fancy house in Del Mar.

The house has a flat roof with rocks on top, trim with peeling, blue paint and although there are $10 million places within a half-mile, this is not one of them.

If anything, it is charming in a beach shack sort of way. Charming because the beach is 100 yards away. For 10 days each summer, we are the kings of the castle, and riches include white sand, a blue ocean and an endless horizon.

We have been going to Del Mar, 26 miles north of San Diego, for more than 50 years. Beach traditions are like that. People find their beaches, their sand, their sunsets, their favorite liquor store, surf shop, hamburger joint and cannot be dissuaded or talked into trying something new. If it’s worked this long, why change?

Mom and Dad took us there when we were kids, we took our kids and now they’re taking theirs and if they don't have any, they’re taking themselves. Nobody wants to miss a year, even if it’s just showing up for a day, a dip, a sunset and a morning walk sheltered by the gray clouds that appear overnight out of nowhere.

The beach includes Scrabble games in the carport a few feet away from the street, close to where beachgoers walk to and from their cars pulling wagons wedged with colorful beach chairs, boogie boards and umbrellas.

As they walk back and forth, some notice the house and feel emboldened or enthused enough to comment:

“I love your house,” a woman said. “I’d rather have your place than any of the other fancy ones along the beach.”

Notice the use of the word “your.” People look at you differently when they think you own the beach house. Women think you’re handsome, men think Sue is prettier than she already is and people peg you as younger than your book age.

A better person, a more honest person or a more humble one would respond by saying, “Yes it is and we are lucky to be able to rent it,” and usually we are those people but after 15 or 20 times, we are moved to quiet acceptance of our good fortune centered around the word “your.”

We nod, smile, agree and do so with humility as if to say, “Yes, we are fortunate, but if you save your pennies and keep a positive attitude, you might be able to afford one of these too.”

It helps to bow your head when you are saying this to mask the total fib because everybody knows you can save all the pennies you want and be a saint and you’re never going to be able to afford a place here and neither are we.

However, why kill hope. Everybody can dream. Everybody, starting with us.


If we can occasionally pretend that we own the house, it’s a short jaunt to the hot place by also taking credit for building the largest sandcastle on the beach, something 4-year-old Nora and I did one day.

Toward the end of our stay, a 40-ish man and his son sculpted a magnificent sandcastle with a moat, tunnels — it had everything but a four-car garage — just a few feet away from our beach setup. We were struggling with a drip 8-inch-high mud castle that kept collapsing and next to us, Hearst Castle was rising into the stratosphere. Nora looked over and said, “Papa, can we make one like that?”

No, we can’t because that guy runs the Army Corps of Engineers but I’ll tell you what we can do: We can wait him out.

He has to leave sometime and when he does, and he did, we can ask him if we can take possession of his sandcastle.

“Sure,” he said nonchalantly, as if he made these magnificent structures every day.

They left, we moved a few feet to our right and suddenly newcomers thought we’d built Château de Chambord. Nora wisely said nothing and I said less than nothing.

Yes, we own the house and built a castle the tide would struggle with. Not that we’re bragging. Not that we aren’t.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

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