Seaside Heights and Park were towns that formed a great deal of my childhood. I didn't live at the Jersey Shore, but I sure wanted to. And I took advantage of every vacation spent there and, once I was old enough, I drove down there myself with Sandy.
There were very few places to "go" and "have fun" and "meet guys" in our central NJ life back in the 60s. In my home town, there was NOTHING to keep one entertained. The small park in my back yard was good for ice skating and watching kids sneak smokes where their parents couldn't see them, but as for doing anything...well...if you get something out of standing around with a few kids you don't really know, then I guess some people could call that fun.
But going down the shore! Now, nothing could beat that! During the day there was the ocean to get pounded by waves in and crabbing and getting a terrible sunburn. At night, there was the boardwalk and the incredible adventures to be had there.
The boards smelled of creosote. The air was redolent with the aromas of pizza and sausages and peppers and onions. Kohrs had the ice cream. The fun house had this idiotic laughing lady in a glass window and she screamed this obnoxious laugh far into the night. There was music coming from the Chatterbox night club and thousands of teenagers milling around the stretch of boards. And the steam organ music of the carousels...and the candy stands and wheel games. I'm lost in these memories!
Over the ocean hung a sliver of moon, highlighting the white cresting waves. The sound of them crashing against the sand was a subtle beatbox base to our lives.
That was a long time ago.
When we drove through yesterday, we were dismayed to see half of the boardwalk gone. Yes, we witnessed how they worked to fix it after the hurricane. We saw the skeleton of the roller coaster clinging hopelessly to the sand as it was beaten by the waves. But we saw our governor reassuring us that it would be back! Everything would be back, and the building started and the boardwalk was laid and then what was left of Seaside Park faced the indignity of a fire that took away so many shops and restaurants and memories.
The people who had those shops have chosen, apparently, not to rebuild. Seaside Park boardwalk is just that--a boardwalk. One arcade, the one closest to Seaside Heights, remains, and a restaurant has been built at the very end. Other than these establishments, there is nothing. Like the gaps in a seven year old's teeth, even though you love the kid, the lack of teeth makes them pretty ugly.
So is my Seaside.
The Heights side was bustling, but different. Parking has been left to a central machine that prints out a tag for you and takes your money...something like two bucks for half an hour. Who the hell spends only half an hour on the Boardwalk? Nobody. Nobody. My guess is that the parking revenue is to be used to pay for rebuilding my memories.
Well, it can't. The whole feel of the Jersey Shore is gone for me. That longing to be there is gone. My childhood and teenage years have been eradicated completely. Not one slice of pizza, not one dripping cone of Kohrs can do anything but remind me that everything about the shore, this part of the shore, MY part of the shore, is gone. For years and years, just going there made me happy. Everything happily remained the same.
And now it's gone.