Trish and I just returned from a two day outing to New Jersey to visit her father in Lakewood, and while we travel to Jersey/NYC/ Connecticut every year to visit members of her family, this trip was slightly different.
There is a popular saying among men that goes something like, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work,” or whatever activity you prefer in place of fishing. For Trish, ANY day at the beach beats almost any other occasion hands down. We have been to beaches on both coasts of this great country as well a few lakes, and while a lake is still water, the sound and smell of the ocean crashing onto the shore has a drug-like effect on her.
There is a collection of little glass jars that lines a shelf in our bathroom, and each contains a bit of sand and a few shells from each of the beaches we have visited. This was a ritual that began before we ever met, but it has been carried on in grand tradition. Each time I look down on those jars as I shave each morning, I am reminded of the time we have spent at the water’s edge, and the simple joys we’ve found there.
I was never a big beach nut before I met Trish, but I have long been fascinated by the ocean. I spent many hours as a child glued to the television watching, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” and now when I stand on the beach and look out over the vast expanse of waves, I feel as though I am looking at another realm. One that is filled with majesty and beauty, a world that calls to you of her hidden wonders that lie beneath such a serene and graceful surface. A realm that for all her beauty can be deadly and unmerciful; I suppose this is the compelling “song of the sea” that has taunted the hearts of men for ages.
I don’t think Trish is so drawn to the sea as much as the experience of the beach itself. Here she loves to walk with her feet in the water as it laps up onto the sand. She never tires of people-watching as the allure of the beach and the ocean releases the inner child in so many of us. With camera in hand, she captures an almost endless array of people, sunlight, waves and sea birds in their purest setting, and it is magical to watch her in action.
She has long told me stories of the Jersey Shore, and the mighty weekly and even nightly exodus from the bustling cities that brings the madding crowds to these oceanfront communities. Asbury Park, Sea Bright, Point Pleasant, Wildwood, Cape May and Seaside Heights are all names I’ve heard more than once, and places she knew well from her youth, but aside from one quick stop to see the “painted ladies of Cape May” one evening, my experience with the famed shore points was little to none.
Back in the spring of this year, we spent an afternoon on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant, and it was unlike any boardwalk I had ever seen. The game arcades, gift and clothing shops, and food vendors lined this wide, wooden, beachfront stroll like a carnival. I’m sure when the evening hours arrived and all the lights and sounds would be in full swing, the experience would be even more wondrous to behold.
This past weekend we visited Seaside Heights, which is the setting for the television reality show, “Jersey Shore.” I am not a big television watcher, and even less interested in the modern crop of reality shows, which in my opinion highlights all of the worst qualities that humans possess, but that is another discussion.
However I can easily understand why someone would choose the amazing boardwalk at Seaside Heights as a setting for a show or film. Amusement parks, shops, arcades and eateries are trimmed in lights like any theme park, and the boardwalk itself is as wide as the street of an old west town. The weathered planks and peeling paint might show the age of the place, but in this case it simply adds to the whimsical charm. This is a place that people have been coming to for generations, and its simplicity is as timeless as pizza and ice cream.
From the seemingly endless stretches of beach at the Outer Banks, to the sugar-white sands of Florida, to the shimmering pyrite-sprinkled shores of Southern California; I have never seen a beach have the kind of effect on Trish like the Jersey Shore did this past weekend. Maybe it has been there all along and I just never took note before, but Seaside Heights and the once glorious Asbury Park brought the inner child in her to the surface like a glowing aura. I suppose that stands to reason since these places are where her memories of youth are rooted, and the places where she took her daughter when she was growing up as well.
I mentioned in my last post the joy it gives me to carry her to these places and watch her and her camera seize these moments in time, but the Jersey Shore went far beyond the lens, it was trip into the emotional past, and an opportunity to touch something from cherished years. This has always been an easier thing for me since I still live near where I grew up and I have watched it change over the years, but there are still those places where I can stand that are rich with memories of days gone by.
Walking the concrete sidewalks of Manhattan is the only other place I have seen have such an effect on my wife, but the boardwalk of the Jersey Shore seemed to hold a touch of joyful innocence that few other places have exposed. I can already tell there is a summer jaunt in our future, one that includes a day at the beach, a sunset walk under the carnival lights of the boardwalk, and an ice cream cone that puts a sweet exclamation point on a day that makes you feel child-like again, no matter what your age might be.
The old Carousel and Casino at Asbury Park