Vigorous Anonymity

Where everything is all right

Posted on: May 28, 2010

When a baby is born in a New Jersey hospital, the parents are given a green, pink and white blanket, an ID bracelet, and a roll of quarters.  The quarters are for Parkway tolls.  Because every New Jersey kid comes with a prerequisite that its parents introduce it to the Jersey shore.

In New Jersey, we don’t go to the beach.  We go “down the shore”.  It doesn’t matter that a lot of territory that isn’t the beach also isn’t north of it.  If you live in Camden, you pretty much just drive straight across the state…still, you’re going down the shore.

I made my first trip down the shore when I was about six.  My parents took me, because, like I said, it’s a prerequisite.  If you can picture in your head the palest, most ill-equipped people to sit on a beach, you have my parents.  I’m pretty sure my father was wearing black socks.  We only went the one time, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was a “day trip”, we probably only spent a few hours on the beach, but Dad and I collected sea shells, which back in the 60s were in prominence on the beach, but now are incredibly rare.  I was afraid of the water (still can’t swim) but the smells and the sounds were amazing.  And once a Jersey kid experiences it, they have to refill the cup on a regular basis.  There are rules about these things.

When I was a teenager but too young to drive, I went to Seaside Heights all the time with my friend Becky because her parents were big into day trips.  We used to wear the precursor to the tankini, which was basically a little bikini bottom and what was almost a mini dress over the top.  We thought we looked awesome.

Enter the first boyfriend, he with the 1978 Firebird Formula – fire engine red, with black leather interior and the T-roof.  No air conditioning though.  Jerry regretted that a long time.  We would drive down to Belmar after he was done with work on Friday nights and we’d spend 3 hours just cruising up and down the boardwalk, winning stuffed animals and stuffing our faces with funnel cake.  The boardwalk at night was magic.  The lights, the voices, the smell of Coppertone.  Magic.

This weekend is Memorial Day, and thus the cycle begins again.  New Jersey will once again be heading down the shore.  It will be Springsteen and Southside Johnny on the iPod for as long as the kids in the back seat will allow it.  It will be the mad calculations about when to leave and how to miss the traffic and what detours to take when you get near what used to be the Garden State Arts Center but is now called the PNC something-or-other.  Because the other thing that Memorial Day brings is traffic.  Mounds and mounds of traffic.  Basically, if you have to go south in Jersey, you don’t do it on a Friday night, and if you need to come north for work on Monday, you leave 3 hours before work starts and drive straight there.  Otherwise, you’ll spend 5 hours in bumper to bumper traffic with two screaming kids in the back seat and a husband who curses at everything that moves faster than he does.

It’s a big time in Jersey.  I can’t remember a summer I didn’t spend down the shore in some fashion or another.  A day.  A weeekend…sometimes two weeks in a row if we were fortunate.  And that first smell of dead clams as you cross the causeway is worth the 5 hours it took you to make a 2 hour drive.  Trust me.  It is.

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5 Responses to "Where everything is all right"

Man, you could so be on Jersey Shore, the TV show! (Which is moving to Miami this year, which makes no sense.)

mmm dead clams… Don’t forget the rats with wings, I mean seagulls.

Yes.. My name is Cohiba.. Its been 480 days since I was last at a beach. The last time I went there were horrifying cries of look beached whale and something about a speedo is all I remember ohh and losing my sandwich to a rat with wings.. As you can see my pasty pale computer nerd skin is still quite in tact and avoid the sun nearly as much as a vampire.

=) BTW welcome back..

Ooooooooh. I live near a shore now! I’m waiting to be able to convince SOMEONE in my family to ride bikes to the actual beach (instead of the snooty beach-like-thing in Evanston) and spend the day smelling dead clams. 🙂

Nothing sez summertime like the odor of dead clams. I hope you had fun!

There is nothing better than that ocean / clam smell. I now live on the beach, and I have to drive over a draw bridge every night. I love it when I approach the bridge, windows open, and that smell hits me. I instantly smile!

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  • None
  • TheQueen: Yeah, perhaps next year suggest you ALL just skip the adult gifts and focus on the little ones. I'm sure you won't miss it!
  • kristabella: Yay! You're back!
  • Shania Ring: Out of all of that, the only thing in my head is 20?!? Twenty? I remember a little boy in middle school when I first started reading you. Are you SURE
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