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How to turn your pad into paradise 

A vacation retreat

Those lucky bastards, with their beach vacations, cruises and trips overseas. "When are you going to get a tan, Karen?" they sneer with contempt masked only by the hand shielding their eyes from the glare from my legs.

Not all of us can afford to watch the sun rise on St. Tropez. Hell, some of us can't afford the No Tell Motel five miles from Myrtle Beach.

Many a summer you've toiled away for "The Man," while your well-remunerated peers ventured to exotic locales (i.e., places beyond the city limits). It's sad enough when you're young and wile away the summer hours watching Judge Judy or flipping burgers at some greasetrap. But as an adult, your vacation desolation is rarely anyone's responsibility but your own.

So a little ingenuity is in order.

It's time to reclaim your home and make it a paradise in the Piedmont. That's right, you can turn your 800-square-foot bungalow of boredom into a vacation retreat. Turn off the phones, shut down your computer and shoo away your neighbors. With a little creativity, you can make your own vacation without even leaving the house. You can have so much fun that, maybe, when you tell people you spent your vacation at home, you won't feel like some Willy Loman automaton trudging aimlessly towards death. Here's how you do it:

OUTDOORS

1.) Preparation -- You need a comfy outdoor lounge chair. Beer and pre-mixed frou-frou drinks. Sunglasses. Sunscreen. Radio. Tawdry novel. Trashy magazines. Fan with cord run from inside the house (mimics that ocean breeze). Dart gun to ward off miscreants, party crashers and pesky neighbors still reliving their days in Sigma Alpha Asshole.

2.) Enjoy -- Slide on your sunglasses and, as you ease back in your comfy lounge chair, try to pretend you are in Jamaica. If you wear contacts, take them out -- the blur will help the transition. Now drink. Soon it won't matter where you are. If you prefer to do without substances, do breathing exercises and hypnotize yourself.

Now, the vacation obviously can't end with heatstroke. You have to go indoors at some point, but there's no reason why you have to retreat back into normalcy.

INDOORS

1.) Preparation -- Get a soft, inflatable pool that you can fill with sand. Put this in your bathroom next to the tub. Tape scenic beach scenes to the walls. Fill the tub with water. Now, just think of the tub as the world's smallest, most exclusive beach. And it will be exclusive if you don't even allow your pets in there (they can really mess up the sand). Bring the radio and frou-frou drinks to the bathroom.

2.) Enjoy -- Make sand castles in your new bathroom beach. If you want to feel like you're sitting underneath the glare of the midday sun, turn off the air-conditioner and position some lamps near the doorway. Once you're through frolicking in the sand, slide into the bathtub. Now isn't the time to yearn for a roomy garden tub. Learn to appreciate what you've got, at least for today. Soak in the tub, book in hand, as your favorite music plays.

If all this seems pathetic, just remember how much money you're saving by not leaving town. No hotel rooms, no fast food or bar tabs. Remember how Ben Franklin said a penny saved is a penny earned? Well, you could be maxing out your credit card in Tahiti right now. Congratulate yourself on not using oil to drive or fly somewhere. Be proud you're not despoiling beaches. Just think of all this, and feel superior. You'll need that veneer of smugness when forced to look at co-workers' vacation pics from Aruba.

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