Friday, July 22, 2005

I'm not a big weekend poster

Hello, my friends...and you are my friends. I have been delighted to be a guest here at The One True Tami's place this week, but I'm not a big poster on the weekends, so this may be my last posting here.

It's a lovely day in my corner of New Jersey. A beach day. Hot, but with relatively low humidity. A fine day to hang out down the shore. I expect the Parkway will be very crowded this evening with people heading down there on "this warm July." Politics doesn't seem very important to me at this very moment.

Down in town the circuit's full of switchblade lovers, so fast, so shiny, so sharp
As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark

I'm feeling pretty nostalgic. I used to live in Long Branch. I'm not much of a beach guy, mind you. I don't like laying on the sand, roasting my skin, slathered in oil. But living down the shore was heavenly. I don't know if it's the same these days. I hear that the coast at Long Branch has been covered in condos, trying to mimic Miami I guess. Prices have gone sky-high. And maybe it has gotten more like north Jersey, the pace of life more frenetic, rushed, intense. When I lived down the shore there was this fine, semi-rundown, lazy feeling to it. I loved it for the ambience, the spirit, the ease of it all.

Weekends like this I would ride my bike out and around Sandy Hook, riding in the street and avoiding both the heavy traffic and the wide storm drains that could wreck your wheels, out to the end of the Hook, the old military installations, the tip of the Hook taking a pounding from the Atlantic, back around on the Shrewsbury side, the boats moored in the river, riding at anchor in the bays, looking up at the Highlands, people across the water eating steamers on the deck at Moby's. There was always a strong headwind coming from one point of the compass or the other and I'd hope that the wind was offshore so I would have an easier time on the ride back, through Sea Bright where it floods every year and the residents complain that it floods every year like they are somehow surprised by it, stopping off in Monmouth Beach to pick up an Italian ice at a mom-and-pop, riding with one hand while trying to eat a lemon ice with the other and not drip on my clothes, turning back into Long Branch by the Hilton (except I think it's a Sheraton now), up Broadway past Joe and Maggie's Bistro, turning up Norwood, where I used to live.

Long Branch was a fine place to live fifteen years ago, when Red Bank was first declared "the hippest town in New Jersey" before it was overrun with too many coffee shops, trying to become the Seattle of the East or something equally as pointless. Long Branch had a poor reputation and maybe it wasn't a great town if you had children in school, but I liked it. It wasn't a place to impose itself on you. There were lots of shops, all of them with that "rundown but working" shore look, a boardwalk where folks would stroll in the evenings and on the weekends, batting cages and a few pinball arcades eking out a living. It was a that made live-and-let-live seemed like the moral code of the whole world. There was a condo development near Seven Presidents Park that had gotten just so far and no farther; the story I heard was that the developer had run out of money. It stood, unfinished, the walls up and painted but without windows, like a creature with empty eyes, for years. It seemed the perfect metaphor for that area. Maybe it would get finished, maybe it wouldn't, maybe it would be something a little better, maybe it would fall into decay, eaten by the salt in the air, or maybe it would just stay exactly like that, neither prospering nor failing, but nobody caring, either. The days were fine and the nights pleasant and every now and then a storm would come off the sea and, if you had a mind to do it, you could ride out to the boardwalk and watch the clouds, roiling, black, miles offshore, as the storm approached. Then you'd ride your bike double-quick back to your apartment just before the storm broke and turn off all the lights, listen to the thunder, watch the lightning, and enjoy the power of a storm just off the ocean.

In the summertime
And oh the wonder
Felt the lightning
And we waited on the thunder
Waited on the thunder

That was my Long Branch. That was my shore life. And maybe it was the time and place and maybe it was just me, younger, single.

Sandy, the aurora is risin' behind us
Those pier lights, our carnival life forever
Oh, love me tonight and I promise I'll love you forever

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