When I was young, growing up in Old Bridge, New Jersey, a small town near New Brunswick, we went, occasionally, to the watery coast where Bruce Springsteen–as yet unknown to me–was carving out a career. I’ve never been to the Stone Pony, but I bet we drove right past it on our way to the Asbury Park beaches.
Then, when I was 11, we moved to South Jersey where I live–just one town over from where I started–to this day. Yes, I’ve traveled the country and indeed, to a few other parts of the world, as this blog has reported. But I haven’t moved far from home and this week I spent five separate days at the southern Jersey shore, in Ocean City, Brigantine and Atlantic City. Yes, separate days, three round-trips up and down the Atlantic City Expressway. I’m going broke paying for gas, but it’s always worth the trip.
But besides the obvious, there’s that salty-air freshness you can’t get anywhere else. The winds off the ocean cannot be beat. I don’t care where you are; if you are not feeling the sensuous, glorious, happy caress of the ocean breeze while soaking up some Vitamin D, digging your toes into the sand and sipping a vodka and Italian Grapefruit soda, you are not as lucky as I’ve been this week. (Of course, it you are on the Amalfi coast, you are much luckier, but that’s another story.)
But last night, my son and I went into Atlantic City to see Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood (“Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”) onstage in the Tropicana Casino, and afterwards, walked the boards. And I gotta tell you, the boards in AC have CHANGED!
Last weekend in Ocean City, we walked the same boards we’ve walked for years. Oh, there are coffee places now serving up some pretty good mochas, and the prices have gone up, but for the most part, Kohr Bros is still Kohr Bros, the mini-golf is awesome and the boards are filled with tired parents and tanned kiddies scarfing down funnel cakes and playing until they drop.
There’s a fancy bar on the beach: not hanging over the beach attached to a restaurant, but ON the beach. I’ve never seen that on the Jersey shore:
This is, seriously, a different boardwalk than the one that hosted the Miss America contestants every year–do they even still have that parade? “Show us Your Shoes” might be a familiar September chant gone by the wayside.
In Ocean City, they’re riding bikes, eating Manco & Manco pizza (whatever DID happen to Mack?) and feeding the birds.
In AC, they’re smokin’ hookah, narghile, shisha, hubble-bubble.
So, what’s all this mean? It sure ain’t the same on the boardwalk in Atlantic City these days…
Ah, progress. It giveths and it takeths away. Atlantic City has changed, and I for one, don’t love it. Then again, I’d rather be in Brigantine or Ventnor, or Cape May…but I’m usually in Ocean City, where it’s hokey rather than hookah; where kids ride the waves by day and the ferris wheel by night; and where smoking is banned on the boardwalk so that the infants in the Baby Parade can breathe that beautiful ocean air. And sometimes, there’s even a wedding.