A Lonely Seaside Boardwalk Walk
You can almost hear a Bruce Springsteen song in the wind.
I remember my very first trip to the Seaside boardwalk. I was four or five years old or so. I was walking with my cotton candy trying to keep up in the crowd when a woman wearing a big bulky fur jacket of some sort rushed past me and snagged half of my cotton candy on the fur. I tried telling someone of my group but they were all busy talking and walking and not paying attention. I turned to watch fur bimbo disappear into the crowd sporting what looked like a pink skunk-stripe on the fur. My grandparents made a fuss about getting saltwater taffy. The machine that makes it is cool to watch but… the taffy never did anything for me. The boardwalk itself and the wheels and carousels and rides always held a special fascination. They used to have a ride with old fashioned cars that rode around a track that I remember like it was yesterday. The boat ride was always appealing. I have to wonder how many new species of parasite and contagion evolved in the fetid pool of filth that the boats floated in… And we happy boaters trailed our hands in while boating, before eating cotton candy or Belgian waffles without washing our hands. Good thing we lived back in the days before that stuff was bad for you.
I loved the carousel near the saltwater taffy place. Not so much because you could ride on a tiger, which was great, but they usually left the door open to the center and you could see all of the gears and belts and motors and such that drove the carousel and… the pinup calendar that the creepy maintenance guy had tacked up on a cabinet door of some sort. Skee-ball was fun and playing the wheels occasionally paid off. Most of my younger years were spent in the company of a stuffed snake won on the boardwalk. The last one I remember was lime green and about five or six feet long. The tongues and eyes were made of felt glued on. The tongues usually didn’t last too long. Crane machines were always tempting and seldom rewarded the effort. I always made a spin painting or two back then. I still have some of them. The Chatterbox was a noisy busy boardwalk bar that seemed a little scary when I was young. It was open to the boardwalk and was the first bar I ever remember seeing. I’m glad I had the chance to patronize it before it closed or moved or whatever happened to it. The Saw Mill used to be a great place to stop for a beverage or two as well. They used to sell the worlds largest pizza slices with a small soda for $1.25. $3.75 bought many a filling meal at the end of a long cold off-season boardwalk walk.
For all the hustle and bustle during the summer, and weekends close to the beginning and end of the season, the boardwalk takes on a different character as the weather gets colder. As goes the rest of the beach, so goes the boardwalk. Post season weekends stay busy as long as the weather is favorable… until mid October or so. For the next five months the place takes on the look of a post-apocalyptic movie set complete with nuclear mutants. The Point Pleasant boardwalk gets a “Sorry… we’re closed” look to it. Seaside has a gritty creepy kind of desperate desertedness that you just have to experience. There’s an oasis or two of light and condensation fogged windows every so often from the three or four bars that stay open all year, and the arcades that do the same on weekends. The same tragic group of boardwalk rats always seems to be sitting in the same bar stools in the same bars. The highlight of the last walk, besides the ghost town atmosphere, was the young cat that tried his best to make friends. He was just too skittish to be petted but definitely wanted something to eat. I hope for the best for him. We’ll check on him next time we get a chance to walk the boards.
If the idea of walking down a deserted boardwalk with the wind howling and the ocean waves pounding sounds a lot like a Bruce Springsteen song to you… Try it, you’ll like it. This is what he writes about. This is the Jersey Shore. There’s no place like it.
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