Amazing ain’t it — how you can go from a perfect priest’s pet at church one minute to a raving lunatic driver ready to run a Hummer off the highway the next because you didn’t like their driving the next?
Most of our family beach days are better timed, which sums up rule number one: Never hit the beach when everybody else does. We usually never travel during peak seasonal rush times: We don’t arrive on Friday nights nor head back on Sunday afternoons. No Memorial Day weekend, no July 4th, No Labor Day. This last trip we went against the rule (traveling home on Sunday evening) and we paid it for it with high-speed, bumper-to-bumper frustration. Perhaps next time I will remember my beach rules. While traveling to and from the beach has become markedly faster than it was back in the day, the main vessel, I-195 is still the same old haunted highway that buzzes with demons, drunks, dagos, dopes, and rookie cops from the state police barracks trolling for 19-year-old idiots. For young drivers, it should be a road of extreme paranoia. Once after a Santana concert when I was 18, I got a flat tire and had to dump out an entire cooler of expensive booze in the ravine by the roadway for fear of the staties showing up to investigate. (They never came.)
This was after these rare Sundays I took communion and made promises to God to be a good boy while I had the Lord’s body and blood in my system…Still, there is something about the Jersey Shore that brings out the evil in all of us. And this brings up rule #2: Never go to Seaside, affectionately by many in the know as Sleazeside, home of the godawful reality TV show Joizey Shore… Those cretins on on the show are a quarter century late at the least in trying to expose that dump. Sleazeside was always then that it is now — dumb, dank, and reckless. That’s not where we go for family fun night. Once in a while we go to Island Beach State Park right to the south of the Sleaze, but we skip the Park.
Rule #3: Respect the sea in all of its afflictions. So now, while I do fight with the occasional bout of road rage coming and going, it’s a good idea not to battle the ocean when it’s not in a mood to have you swim in it. I’ve been swimming in the same waters of the Jersey Shore for decades and have a sense of their temperament. 99% of the time the Jersey tides are ok for visitors, not too rough, too dirty, or too red for swimming. But once in a while, it really doesn’t want people knocking around in it. Watch out for red flags. Careful swimming at night and watch out for guys with night vision cameras all you skinny dippers. Believe you me, they are out there.
Also, bear in mind that the Shore in general is not such a congenial place to live. Number one, during the summer it’s a ripoff. Number two, It attracts a different cross section of society than the inland world. Beach folks tend to be saltier, more addicted, more derelict — then. Perhaps now, the price of beachfront properties has gentrified those towns and chased the riffraff into smaller and smaller pockets, but the energy remains. Especially if you got there in the offseason. I always liked the shore in those months, a little more empty, more noir, etc. A place you could hide away in a cheap motel with sand on on the bedspread. Then, in keeping with this rule, the next would follow: break all of these rules as often as you can stand it. Still, at the end of the day, I love the shore and I’d retire there any day if I could get away with that Joizey Shore kind of lifestyle right down the road the road from my favorite Sleaezeside dive… Uh, maybe not.