SOON I WILL BE GOING to the beach. This is somelthing of a ritual with me. I went as a child, worked at the beach as a teenager and, if truth be known, grew up right next to the beach. This is how I know the beach for what it is. It can be an awful place.

In the first place, the beach is sandy. This means that I get sand into body crevices I did not think I had. It also means that I get sand into my food. It is a fact that a sandwich wrapped at home and hermetically sealed will, when opened at the beach, contain sand. Nothing is as awful as biting into a salami sandwich that has a layer of sand between the salami and the (rye) bread. I have done this twice in my life, and after each occasion I've had to have analysis.

When the beach is not sandy, it is rocky. A rocky beach hurts. It hurts your feet when you walk on it and it hurts your back when you lie on it. It particularly hurts when you enter the water, because then you don't know if you have stepped on a sharp rock or the tail of a horseshoe crab that will enter your foot and come out the top of your head.

The truth is that the water and the beach are full of scary animals and fishes. I do not like sharing the ocean with sharks or, worse, jellyfish. A shark will only kill you, but a jellyfish will attach itself to your body and can only be removed, I was authoritatively told by Herbert (Horse) Freedman when he and I were 12, with an acetylene torch. Either that, or you can wait until the jellyfish dies on your arm and falls off, taking your arm with it.

More on jellyfish. They sting. The sting of a jellyfish can kill your or hurt you -- I forget which. There is a fat kid named Arnold at every beach i the country who was killed when a swarm of jellyfish surrounded him ;and stung him to death. This is a story I never believe until I get into the water. Then I believe it.

The beach has mean, green flies. They come and feast on me. They do not feast on anyone else but me. They feast on my legs and when I cover my legs, they feast on my toes. Once I killed a fly that had feasted on my toe. It made me feel wonderful. I thought all the other flies would grieve. Instead, they feasted on my other toes.

I wonder sometimes why I go to the beach. A good deal of the time, I do not like the beach. But there is a whole mystique about the beach. For instance, people think it is romantic to make love on the beach. This started, I think, in the old days of Hollywood when a couple would embrace and then the camera would pan to the window and the sea outside. (We can all be happy the camera did not pan to a dry cleaning store.) The beach is where Burt Lancaster made adulterous love to Deborah Kerr in "From Here to Eternity." This is pure Hollywood. In real life, it hurts to make love on the beach. It is scratchy. The sand hurts. And you wind up on a crinkly candy wrapper.

The beach is full of broken glass. I know this. I expect to get cut with every step I take into the sand. I consider myself very brave just to walk on the beach. The glass that cuts you on the beach is not white. It is green. It is glass from old Coke bottles. It is very thick and a cut from this glass requres stiches given to you by some medical student who thinks your cut is "interesting." Either that or your lcut is treated by a life guard who does not know what he is doing and months later you get gangrene and die just like the fellow in "The Snows of Klimanjaro" -- only surrounded by sandy salami sandwiches and the top 40 songs of last week playing from 12 different radios.

The beach has crying babies. The beach has the aroma of other people's food. The beach strips away all social class since it also strips away amost all clothing.The beach is like traveling third class on old European trains that don't even exist anymore.

Sometimes I think of going to the mountains. The mountains are cool, pretty. But there are bears and snakes in the mountains and people who want to sell you maple syrup in tacky-looking log cabin containers. In the mountains, you have to drive miles for ice cream and there is no spot where the sky meets the ocean and the ocean meets the land, where the air is tangy from salt, and where, just before sunset, you can run and run and run until you are young again.

I think I'll go to the beach. It's time to feed the flies.