First Night … and Beyond

From this guy’s standpoint, First Night Ocean County was a huge success. But, then again, any time spent at the Jersey shore is a success.

First Night Ocean County, in case you missed it, is a family-friendly event held New Year’s Eve afternoon … capped off with fireworks set off on the beach and exploding over the ocean. I don’t have numbers, but would estimate hundreds were on the Seaside Heights boardwalk — many kids decked out with balloon animal hats and carrying spoils from their afternoon adventures — just after 5 p.m. Despite temperatures hovering in the mid 30s and a steady breeze, there was no complaining as the younger kids bounced from bench to rail in Christmas-like anticipation of the show … tweens and teens bundled in blankets keeping warn with lighting fast texting … parents kept a watchful eye on their kids and the time … and seniors who simply enjoyed another year under their belt.

fireworkThe show didn’t disappoint with about a half hour of non-stop bursts, some volleys hugging the shore and other exploding high in the sky and illuminating the oceanscape — all to the oohs and aahs that traditionally accompany fireworks.

Originally, I had planned to make a long day of it, returning home after the fireworks. But as I was driving down, I decided to get off the interstate(s) and take in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey countryside. I think that impulse was spurred by my leg through Tioga County in New York. We had a light dusting of snow in the early morning hours and the Tioga landscape was breathtaking.

The “detour” obviously chewed up a little extra travel time so I opted to spend the night at the shore. That would give me a chance to make my boardwalk rendezvous with the Beachcam {I hope some of you caught me “live” — okay with about a minute delay — at 4:45 p.m.} and visit with Millie in neighboring Tom’s River after the show. Okay, after a date with a sausage and pepper sandwich at Spicy’s in the Coin Castle Arcade. The only problem was nonagenarian Millie had other plans for the night and wasn’t home when I got to her house 😦 .

So I decided to go back to the motel and just chill. I started watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, but the fluffy pillows and down comforter — off a stressful production week that resulted in an all-nighter Sunday and about a total of eight to 10 hours of sleep since Saturday — quickly did me in. I did wake up just in time to hear Miley Cyrus screech her way through Adore You and Wrecking Ball, all the time thinking how quickly she has lost her talent. I don’t know if she was lip-synching, but if she was she was doing a terrible job and if she wasn’t she should have. Just before the main event, the station went to a commercial. Then, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, I was out, dozing off and missing the ball drop completely. I woke up to noise disguised as music, the clock reading 12:17. It was my cue to turn off the telly and enjoy the slumber … which I did until just before 8 a.m.

After a complimentary breakfast and check out, I made another impromptu visit to Seaside. I took a stroll on the beach {the water was relatively warm}, drove over to the bay where only posts jutting out of the water remain of the pier I walked on many, many times before. And I surveyed what was left of the Seaside pierPark boardwalk after a raging fire propelled by powerful winds destroyed it in September. The businesses were in the process of rebuilding after it was leveled by Hurricane Sandy not even a year earlier. The fire started at a Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard stand — one of my favorite haunts — and went on to ravage more than 80% of the Seaside Park boardwalk.

Before leaving, I decided to try Millie’s house again, ringing her doorbell about 10 a.m. She looked great and we journeyed through the years for the next two plus hours. In case, you missed it, Millie was my second Mom growing up. She is my best friend’s Mom and since I spent as much time at Bernie’s as I did my own house, Millie was stuck with me — and Carmen and Murray — at all hours of the day and night.

In the spirit of New Year’s, she remembered coming downstairs to find Murray, Carmen and I laughing and talking and being, well, boys, with Bernie around 3 a.m. New Year’s morning back in 1966. Murray, Carmen and I had gone into New York City for the ball drop. I don’t remember why Bernie didn’t go with us, but on our way back home, Murray had the bright idea at stopping at Bernie’s. And that’s exactly what we did. I remember Millie groggily coming down the stairs and asking us, “Don’t you boys have a home?” Of course, she said that a lot.

During our conversation, I nonchalantly told her I was considering retiring to Maine. She shifted into her sales mode and pointed out about a dozen reasons why I should consider retiring to Tom’s River instead — including being closer to her. She is such a sweetheart!

A little after noon, complete with a goodie bag {mostly healthy fruit, I might add} for the road, I headed back home. I was transformed back to my teen years and the marvel of Jersey driving. I know drivers are crazy everywhere, but only in New Jersey can you be going 80 mph in a 45 zone and be passed on both the left and the right like you were standing still … the use of directional signals confuses drivers … and it’s common to see driver’s weave from the left lane through the center lane to the right lane back to the center lane and back to the left lane just to get around someone going one mile per hour slower than them. Now I remembered how we could get from Exit 153 to Exit 82 in an hour or less {and those were the days when you had to stop about every 15 minutes to throw a quarter in the toll bucket}.

fallsSince this was a serendipity trip, instead of following MapQuest, I opted to hit Paterson for a quick diversion. I wished Mom and Dad a Happy New year at a cemetery stop, visited the Great Falls and stopped at Gelotti’s for it’s homemade peanut butter swirl ice cream cone.

From there, it was back to reality … but not before a 36 hour respite.

So, thanks Seaside Heights Business Improvement District for giving me an “excuse” to head down to the shore in winter.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.

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About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
This entry was posted in family, fireworks, Friends, growing up, holidays, Jersey shore, Memories, New Year's Eve, relationships, Uncategorized, winter and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to First Night … and Beyond

  1. sounds like a delightful new year. So glad you enjoyed yourself. Happy New Year!

  2. TamrahJo says:

    LOL – Here in Colorado, years ago, I worked with a woman who had only gotten one traffic citation in her entire life – – – in New Jersey, stopped when she was going 15 mph over the speed limit – – her citation was written for “impeding traffic” – – she couldn’t understand why the cop stopped her when everyone else was passing her and was indignant over the citation she was given – which she went to court and tried to fight – – I hope, wherever she is now, she has read this blog – it will ease her mind to know she was not singled out to be picked on – – LOL

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