I was only there a few days ago, but we hauled out early on Friday morning, back to New Jersey. This time, to spend the 4th of July weekend with the gang at Zabriskie and Craig’s beachhouse near the South Shore. The roster changed throughout the week, but there were to be 12 in attendance at the house for the weekend, everyone making their mad dash like we were bombing for hidden treasure ala Wacky Races. Zabriskie, my old roommate, and her husband Craig, are North Jersey natives, but the comical Jersey stereotypes like the nasal twang, feathered hairstyles, fake tans, bar fights, and the stash of Journey’s greatest hits – are more noticeable in their friends and family hailing from their hometown. The South Shore, on the other hand, provokes a lot of snorting smirks. From the way Zabriski and Craig tell it, the revered memorial would be a the muscle-bound guido and his big-haired girlfriend in a Zeus and Hera pose.
Point Pleasant is a beach town. Sleepy in the off-season. Booming in the summer. Climaxing during the July 4th weekend (at least until Sunday morning). The kind of holiday where young patriots gather to drink until their knees are overwhelmed by the weight of national pride and they’re about to fall down in a pool of their own vomit until a quick-thinking security quits pussyfooting and slips a patio chair under them while they puke a gallon of pink film while blocking the entrance to the ice cream shop. Where the young people will get their Fake IDs neatly pressed in honor of the Founding Father’s declaration of independence from the British. And we will stand with them, waving our flags and signaling for refills.
The beachhouse is actually about a mile from the beach, just over the drawbridge. A quaint little one-story-turned-two, dated by its shingle-covered walls. Certainly a deceptive disguise to the impressive interior. A real Blue Ribbon tribute to kitsch. The kind that makes you regret forgetting your camera. Craig’s mother and grandmother decorated the place, filling and complimenting just about every inch with nautical and pirate themed items. Never could they approach a yard sale and say, “No, this Poop Deck sign [which now hangs on the bathroom door] will only be the straw on the camels back!” The enclosed back porch even had a small bar decked out with tiki-themed garland and topped with a possibly symbolic bottle of wine dating back to 1990. The wall behind was covered in a mural of a windswept beach scene. That section of the house felt like it was inspired by MTV’s Spring Break! As said, the house was converted from one level to two, with the attic being transformed into a loft-styled bedroom (with a ladder entrance!), much to the chagrin of AC, who was too tall to stand upright and instead opted for sleeping in his car. I’m gracious to the hosts for going along with my Trading Spaces backstory for the newcomers who arrived after us and were equally amazed by the house.
When the lifeguards kicked the tourists off the beaches at the sight of ominous clouds and the sound of the thunder, all of which conveniently disappeared when we got back to the house, our hosts and their friends made their obligatory introductions and asked how the drive up was. “You’re the third person to ask us that,” I told Jersey Jen before saying hello to Lindy who greeted me with a hug while I looked on trying to figure out who she was, thinking maybe she was that girl who finished off the night of Sarah and Craig’s wedding by jumping in the hotel pool in her dress. Though later, she reminded us that she was the 6th who joined us last year for 5-hour tubing trip out in Harper’s Ferry. A particularly hilarious time since Sarah’s tube deflated halfway to the end, but that’s another story. Everyone else seemed to be somewhere along 295. Ansu showed up next and was awarded a speeding ticket for his troubles. Then Dorothy, who spoke of a diorama project featuring the grandfather of anthropology, although he came out looking like Elvis, and thereafter was refered to as the Elvis diorama, to be completed at Camp Arts & Crafts, Dorothy’s Arts & Crafts-themed reason to buy a lot of beer on Saturday. No glueguns! Kim, forever on CP Time (she taught me about this at the wedding), wouldn’t be getting in for another hour, along with Craig’s pre-drinking-age cousin and her older boyfriend, who made a hobby of sailing boats and racing cars. Craig kept talking about a laguna down the street that somehow had a bar in the water, but we opted instead to hop in Lola Corolla with Ansu, Craig and Dorothy and head back to the beach.
I never thought I’d find a worthy challenge to the fearsome waterslides we endured at Ohiopyle (Pennsylvania) while at Johneroo last year. Normally, I don’t like to size things up too much. Being too cautious can put the fear in you, and I’m not sure we would’ve braved the waterslides last year, though it would’ve saved us all a bit of blood and pain. And, maybe we would’ve sensed a need to be cautious going into the beach at Point Pleasant, but we wouldn’t notice parents preventing their kids from getting too close to the crashing waves until the next day because late in the afternoon, the beach was already pretty cleared out. Ansu, Dorothy and Craig slowly made their way out into the water, and Phil hesitated, though I think he was more likely just waiting for me to put my stuff down and catch up with the crowd. “You just have to jump in and get it over with,” I reasoned over the crashing water, still not cognizant of the fury and thinking Phil was only skittish because of the cold water. The ground drops pretty close to where the waves end (though they go pretty far out to the shore every 10 minutes or so) and so the waves are pretty close and pretty big, whereas you’d normally expect a ripple as the water edged out to the sand. I dove in sideways and took a hit, retreating back when I got the wind knocked out of me. I grabbed at my side, not sure whether to laugh or cry, thinking I might’ve broken something important.
Gah! Why does laughing hurt?!!!
I sat down a minute and caught my breath, Phil by my side. And then we gave it another shot, trying a different approach. “You have to jump over it,” he said and demonstrated, leaing at the wave. I dove out the same, pretty sure I wasn’t making the jump over. Like the waterslides at Ohiopyle when they’re at their roughest (i.e., the one day we bombed down them), the waves swallowed us and pushed us down quick and hard. The flooring of the beach underneath the water isn’t hard packed sand, nor is it just sand. It’s mounds of loose seashells, which is hard to gain footing in, only making things worse when trying to get from point A to B. I came up from the water dazed, feeling the weight in my short pockets and bathing suit where a mixture of seashells and dirt deposited themselves in large clumps. It was even plastered in my scalp. And worse, in my mouth. Point Pleasant Beach tastes like perfume.
Phil came out of the water, scraped raw on his knees and elbows, having been taken down too. We just went back to our towels and sat down, waiting for the others who seemed to be enjoying the frisky dip. I wondered what their secret was for getting out there without being ravaged. Though even that isn’t always key, since Lindy would take a spill too when we went out toe the beach again. The more annoying part was trying to figure out how to clean myself off, especially my hair, since I couldn’t dunk my head in the beach, no matter how close I kept to the dry sand.
When we got back to the car, I half-concentrated on the conversation with Craig as he tried describing a toy made in the 80s and asked if any of us knew what it was (the Roller Racer, though he thought maybe something like Wiggle Seat). Meanwhile, I fell behind a bit trying to shake the lining of my bathingsuit underneath my towel and emptying my pockets. The seashells and sand seemed to be endless in supply.
TO BE CONTINUED.