The Jersey Shore

I watched a video the other day about the rebuilding of the Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy… what might happen and what might not happen (http://www.nj.com/ledgerlive/index.ssf/2013/02/ledger_live_video_rebuilding_n.html). I sure hope it doesn’t become a rebuilding project, but a restoration project.

The Jersey shore has a special place in my heart … especially Seaside Heights. I don’t want see a new and improved Seaside Heights. I want to see the Heights rise from the rubble and return to its former self.

Growing up, the shore was a frequent stop. My Grandma rented a place in Seaside Heights every summer for about three years when I was a pre-teen. My cousins and I owned the sand, surf and boardwalk. Back then, a pre-teen could roam Seaside without direct parental supervision.

I remember the arcade and got quite good at skee ball. There probably wasn’t a ride I didn’t ride, especially the roller coaster pictured in the video and most famous for it last residence in the ocean surf rather than the pier. That turn over the ocean literally took your breath away. You felt like you were flying, which was appropriate because right after the sharp turn was a steep drop.

I got my first taste of the forbidden fruit when I was 12 when I became fascinated by Madam Something who, for a nickel, would perform a fan dance inside her glass cage. I remember going on a beach scavenger hunt with my cousins and finding a whole quarter in the sand! I learned about the undertow in the ocean first hand when I ventured a wee bit too far, only to be frozen in the surf and dragged under, only to be pulled out by the strong arm of a stranger {angel?} with nothing more than a mouthful of salt water. In addition to a new-found respect for the ocean, I also learned we are all equal {my angel was a black man in my very white world} and I had an obligation to help others who were “caught in an undertow”. I did that a couple times, too.

During my early teen years, my trips to the shore were limited to maybe once or twice a year, but after I got my license, the summer trips were once or twice a month. Heck, a couple of friends and I even zipped down to the shore instead of classes during my senior year.

It wasn’t unusual for a group of us to head to Seaside on a Friday or Saturday night for some girl watching and a sausage and pepper sandwich … that’s right, an hour and forty-five minute drive down and an hour and forty-five minute drive back for a couple of hours on the boardwalk and a meal. My personal best was 78 minutes, although I won’t go into details. I almost blew my first engine on the Garden State Parkway on the way home one night (early morning) stopping at every travel center for a couple of quarts of oil to get back home.

I introduced the magic of the surf and sand, the boardwalk and concessions, the sausage and pepper sandwiches and frozen custard to my wife {she led a sheltered life}. Actually, she was dating my best friend at the time and we decided to head to the shore . It was about 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night, which puts us on the boardwalk around 10:30. As we’re eating our sausage and pepper sandwiches, Karen leans over to me and says, “I have to be home by midnight.”

After we started dating, got married and started raising a family, we continued to make tracks to the shore. Well, at least I would usually come up with the suggestion and, yes, it often was on a whim. Even when we moved to Illinois and Ohio, on trips back home, we often scheduled at stop in Seaside. When we lived in Maryland, we went to Ocean Beach, but always compared it {not always flattering) to Seaside Heights.

If I want to get back to my center, I have to go to the Jersey shore. I prefer this time of year when the crowds are thinned. I could walk for hours along the ocean shoreline — and have. I am completely mesmerized by the ebb and flow of the tides. It’s my quiet place. It’s where I re-connect with God. It’s where I come to peace with myself.

Less than a month after Karen died, I found myself at the Jersey shore. We — me in the flesh and Karen in her urn — drove down to watch the sun rise over the ocean. I needed that to help me start healing.

I still do. If I’m really getting overwhelmed, I’ll head down to the Jersey shore, sometimes for just a couple of hours. As I breathe in the salty air, I can literally feel the anxiety ebb. As I watch the birds play in the surf, all my cares are lifted. When I walk down the pier into Barnegat Bay, I’m in a different place … and it carries over for days and weeks.

I haven’t been there since Sandy. Initially it was because no one was allowed in. But I have been following progress at Exit82.com, official tourism information web site sponsored by the Seaside Heights Business Improvement District. And now I can’t wait to see the progress.

I don’t know what I’ll find. I hope it’s a restored and revitalized Seaside Heights. If not, at least I’ll have the memories. And not even Sandy can take that away for me or the countless millions who have enjoyed the Jersey shore over the years

And there is always the bonus of the best sausage and peppers sandwiches in the world!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Every promise God has put in your heart, every dream He’s planted on the inside is well worth the fight.

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About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
This entry was posted in Faith, family, joy, Memories and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Jersey Shore

  1. Maryanne says:

    I love this! What a beautiful tribute to the Jersey Shore. My husband and I started dating in Nov. of 2005, both loved the Jersey shore, and went down almost every weekend during that winter and have so many wonderful memories documented in our photo album. We even got married in Neptune Township by the mayor!

    • There is something magical about the Jersey shore … especially my favorite Seaside Heights. I remember going to Asbury Park as a kid as well, but when I went there about 10 years ago, it was literally a shell of itself. I can sit on the beach for hours watching the ocean do its thing or walk along the water’s edge … summer, fall, winter or summer. It may be the same ocean in Maryland, North Carolina or Florida, but it’s not the Jersey Shore! Glad you have happy memories too.

      • Maryanne says:

        Yes, very well put! I love Seaside too, my uncle had a summer bungalo there that we visited in the 1970s. Spent many vacations there (and Wildwood). But right before Sandy Seaside Heights was pretty run down. And interesting, Asbury Park was the one that was built up. They had an amazing bar on the beach with beds and high stools to view the ocean. And a mall on the beach with a couple art galleries. Now it will be a lot of rebuilding. I can’t wait until it gets back to normal again. In the meantime, we’ll spend weekends in other areas of NJ.

  2. Cathy Marcuccilli says:

    Glad you’re tracking the rebuilding progress on the Exit 82 site. There was so much devastation, and it will take time to rebuild – and hope also that there will be a large amount of restoration. Interesting, my first visit to the Jersey Shore was Seaside, in my late 20’s, and Kohr Brothers frozen custard is a favorite since then. Other beaches were my first ocean experiences, so not as connected to the Jersey shore. Although, when my children were 6 years old, took them to Ocean City, NJ; and have usually made at least annual trips since then – sometimes for a week, sometimes for a weekend. At first my suggestion, and then sometimes their suggestion, never my ex-husband’s idea.

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