After the short trip to Fury Beach, we sat around the patio for the rest of the evening, sand-blasted and beaten, and taking turns to shower off the stickiness and seashells. Zabriskie laid out a good spread of food and Craig went to work on the grill, but kept dropping burgers between the rack. Jersey Jen stood by with a stack of CDs and where Craig could find no one familiar with the Roller Racer toy, she could not find anyone familiar with Freestyle. Though, after playing samples for us to jog our memories of what Zabriskie suggested must have been purely regional hits, I realized that it wasn’t freestyle at all, or at least there were nothing freestyle about the songs. The kind of songs I always thought of as warehouse R and B because the songs were generic and in the 90s, the music videos for them were cheaply shot in some SoCal warehouse location. I perked up. “This is the stuff they used to play at the roller rink when we were kids!” And, come to think of it they still do, recalling our daring trip with Zabriskie to a hidden roller rink in Alexandria a few years back.
Once we were able to clean up, Phil and I took a walk down the street for a pack of soda and to wander around the neighborhood, partially curious about Screws Unlimited, a place Dorothy mentioned passing down the street. Some of the others hiked over to the WaWa to get the odd item of Ping Pong balls. Point Pleasant merchants are aware of the average age and alcoholic consumption of it’s seasonal visitors and have stocked accordingly, at least according to Craig, who’s theory was supported by the fact that even the supermarket had Ping Pong balls on display near the checkout lines. And indeed, the gang was preparing for a beer pong match, officiated by the large dusty ping pong table Craig and Andy (his Cousin’s boyfriend) brought from the garage.
The sun went down and the door hung open to the back door of the house, despite the misquotes, people shuffling back and forth for drinks and food and the facilities. Jen put on more freestyle until Zabriskie joked that I requested Madonna, and a Madonna CD was surprisingly on hand to satisfaction. Ansu tried playing DJ, but seemed defeated when no one seemed to take to the roadtrip variety mix that ranged from the sounds of somber and Swedish Fever Ray to the lovably vaudevillian Man Man tracks. I could only offer consolation that either people were too drunk to notice the music, or too unfamiliar. Afterall, this was a gang that liked the kind of cheesy music you could sing along too. We were all proudly belting out Journey and Bel Biv Devoe lyrics at the wedding, after all! In the end, the party raged later than Phil and I did, having retreated back to our hotel in sleepy Neptune, desperate to hit the bed and be sleepy right along with it after a long day. As I got ready for bed, I noticed I still had sand behind my ears.
We drove over to Princess Maria’s, a gawdy blue diner, the next morning on the way back to the beach house. New York and New Jersey are particularly notorious for those kind of greasy spoons. So, naturally, they’re a great source to seek out localism whereas, say around DC, our few diners are chains. At the real diners, the waitresses are usually older, plump women, with that kind of noticeably dyed red tint in their hair. They remind me of that old show, Mel’s Diner, especially because they’ve kept that old uniform in most places I’ve been too. Nowadays, I guess a lot of the owners are Greek or Turkish. I ordered a small breakfast, knowing we’d just be picking at food all day again. Meanwhile, Phil’s Hungry Man breakfast defeated him, even when the waitress forgot some of the stuff he ordered.
At the beach house, everyone was in some different stage of getting ready to drive one mile down the road and sit at the beach all day. My uncle always said that about folks out of Jersey and New York (mostly our relatives), where everyone knew where they had to be, they just took forever getting there. Phil was getting restless waiting around for people to finally get everything together. I could tell the gang had a late night, Zabriskie looked exhausted as hell.
At Point Pleasant, there’s an after hours in the late afternoon, which is distinguished from the early afternoon because of the admission fee to get on the beach. A whopping six bucks, which seems a little steep. And Phil and I found holes in the enforcement, though we still wound up buying a ticket. We plopped down in the sand as soon as we got there, but Ansu and Jersey Jen were alone in daring the water. Phil and I weren’t about to make any attempts again, and I didn’t want to get my shorts and underwear too wet anyways, having somehow lost half of my bathing suit between one day and the next, and breaking the wooden piece that held the top part together. Mercy!
The beach was crowded left and right. Dorothy brought a stack of tabloid magazines that kept conversation trivial for a while. We’d be on the beach about six hours, getting up periodically to take walks up and down the beach when we got tired of sitting around. The lifeguards seemed to be keeping busy with warning people not to get out to far. The wind picked up quite a few times, and at first a dad went charging out pretty far for his son’s inflatable raft and the lifeguard kept blowing the whistle at him as though he didn’t have it in mind to come back to shore. A group of three lost their beach umbrella when it flew out to shore. Some kids tried to rescue it while attempting to use the sodden thing as a parasail while the two girls it belong to came by to retrieve, useless as it was at that point. I couldn’t figure out how the guy who was with them, sitting back on the sand completely failed to catch it before it got that far out in the water. When the lunchtime hour came around and the repetition started to weigh on us, we cut through some yards to scout the deli and more importantly, a bathroom. The place was well stocked on wine, sandwiches, and for some reason… dusty video cassettes. Some yuppie looking family came into the store buying stuff for a July 4th party and blew 15 bucks on a watermelon. We bought some of it sliced and a bottle of water and parked ourselves on the retaining wall at one of the houses near the beach entrance to have some lunch before heading back.
Zabriskie and Craig’s other friend and her boyfriend showed up a little later. They’d be staying at the beachhouse that night, replacing Craig’s cousin and her boyfriend, Andy, who left that morning to visit some other relatives. Sometime around 4, burnt by the sun and tired of being at the beach, I was contemplating building a couch out of the sand. Someone was looking up the fireworks schedule and we suddenly found out that somehow, the idiots in charge in town had indeed scheduled an evening fireworks display, but not until July 5 when it hardly seemed to matter. At least to the tourists, many of whom presumably left by then. Everyone groaned a little bit, except Ansu, who walked back to the beach house hours earlier, tired of the repetition, and worried about getting too much sun long before us. Phil and I decided to head over to the liquor store (which was packed) to see what was there. An old man tapped on my driver’s side window to ask where from Florida I was from. I rolled it down a crack to shout Orlando, and he replied Sanabelle Island. We smiled at the commonality, and then I backed out of the lot so we could swing by the supermarket to pick up some party snack refills. The girl at the checkout counter had no idea what we were talking about when we asked if they took Giant cards in place of their store brand, since they were both the same chain of supermarkets. Rather than waiting for the barbecue to flair up back at the beach house again, we dropped by a small deli that was getting ready to close for the evening. The guy behind the counter said there was no more hot food, so we ordered a cold sub to split, but it turned out to be something like a foot and a half long, and we struggled at the feet. I looked around the shop and Phil pointed out the smiling stuffed boar’s head on the wall and the sign that recommended that consumers buy water with a high PH because it was better at killing contaminants.
Everyone was back at the house when we got back, and we sat towards the back to the deck eating our dinner and experimented with mixing beer and diet tea, though it didn’t turn out too well. Funny enough, this had made Lindy comment on Ansu mixing soda with his beer, which I’m so used to now, that the very mention surprised me. It’s functional! Dusk weighed on and Phil said we should go take a walk before the sun went down entirely, but I had to wait so long for Jersey Jen – notorious for long durations getting ready in the bathroom — to get out, that we missed it anyways. I pointed out to Phil the fireworks we could see just above the trees, somewhere off to our left and another off to our right. I wondered where they were and kind of wished we could see them. After all, we were missing a pretty grand fireworks display back in DC.
Later, everyone decided we’d go down to the boardwalk to watch the fireworks, and again, we waited so long for people to get ready. Well, mostly for Jen to get ready since everyone else had been cleaning up and getting changed since getting back from the beach. Phil and I rode alone in Lola Corolla this time, following Zabriskie in one packed car and Jersey Jen in another. We didn’t get far until we reached a busy street that Zabriskie started parking and then called us up to let us know we should find parking, too. It took us longer than everyone else and Ansu and Zabriskie both kept calling to coordinate where they were. Apparently, the boardwalk was too loaded with people, so they went to the Food Court to scout pizza. “We’re by some place called Fun Town.”
We passed the aquarium and an intense looking miniature golf course, drawn to it like ogling kids. We joined up with the rest of the gang back by the pizza booth, something Craig raved about earlier. Ansu opted for a salad since he was still a bit well-lubed from the liquid diet, and later joked that he couldn’t afford balsamic vinegar. Phil and I watched people going into the lounge area. To get in, people were required to show two forms of ID, though it looked like the security guards weren’t even prepared to recognize the first because they went for their guides often. I wasn’t sure if they had been stupidly unprepared for the number of out-of-state residents that place draws on a major holiday weekend. One kid looked like he was just about to cry trying so desperately, or rather nervously, to assure the unmoved security guard that his ID was indeed authentic. Phil and Ansu took interest in an old Tyson fight ESPN was airing on TV while everyone busied themselves with finishing their pizza. I just looked at all the people around us. Most of them were muscular guys who wore shirts about a size too small and had these girlfriends who would’ve made convincing hookers. Who the hell wears platform heels to the boardwalk?!
Wait, where is the group?
When the gang finished up their pizzas, we rounded up and meandered to the arcade after enthusiastic suggestions for a couple rounds of skee-ball were made. Huddled by the machines, Kim, Dorothy and Craig dutifully played their games. Phil was more impressed by the presence of kiddie slots and turned 25 bucks into a 100 tokens, then to 2300 tickets, then to a Point Pleasant shot glass and 10 cheap crappy rings. Air hockey was the best though the scorekeeper looked to be delaying games (though it’s an advantage if you just want to play longer) and AC and I wondered how it took two years till we finally got a match in and vowed to find more places to play it back home. There was a good bar in Georgetown tucked between all the pricy spots that catered to all the college kids looking to drink beer and trade challenges on classic arcade games, ping pong tables, and dart boards. This is coincidentally where I first bonded with the other AC, but the guy who owned these great activity bars didn’t seem to make them last as long as the friendships they spawned. Meanwhile, back in Point Pleasant, Phil and I, trying to get the bang on tickets, managed a knack for a quarter-toss game where you timed a quarter to fall into a jackpot slot. The parents of some of the kids seemed more concerned with the winning loot than their kids. One guy who must have been in his 50s stood by a machine with his female companion and just threw in one quarter after another while strands of tickets just spit out of the machine. They had just about every kind of merchandise to pick out too. Even standard appliances like crock pots and Dirt Devils. But unfortunately, it took a lot of tickets to break free of the shitty prize range. One kid’s dad brought him over and his smile turned to crying disappointment when he got a load of his choices. We settled to use up the rest of our share to spread joy in the form of googly eyed rings among the group!
We lost the group again!
We stuck around the arcade so long, we were well behind in tracing their path far out on the boardwalk. We stopped for ice cream before heading on. Phil looked among the candy options and we debated picking up a licorice pipe and pack of candy cigarettes, which seem funny at first, but a waste of money later on. When we were leaving, a crowd started to form near the door and we watched in confusion until it was clear that one of the green braceleted party goers wasn’t doing so hot and stood like he was trying to focus on the ground, but couldn’t. A security guard stood behind him, almost like he was ready to walk on, but managed to think a bit faster and swung one of the patio chairs around to just barely catch the kid as collapsed backwards. He sat in front of the ice cream shop entrance puking pink vomit while the security guard went away. The on-lookers went on their way too, and we walked down the boardwalk to catch up with the gang.
The vacation homes are built right on the boardwalk path, and like the homes in Amsterdam, people don’t seem to mind that you can peer right into their picturefront windows on the backporch. Hell, if there was a big enough party going on in the backyard, strangers off the boardwalk could just meander right in probably unnoticed. As nice as some of the places looked, save the Lexus Manor wherein ever manner of Lexus was parked out front, I don’t think I’d ever be that comfortable with that short of a personal space boundary.
The boardwalk was pretty empty and quiet with the exception of a few people on their back porches, a few passer-bys on the boardwalk, and this one guy who attached these circular things lit up like neon to a fishing pole and sent them in the air like a kite. There was a stage back somewhere around Fun Town playing what else but Journey! Well, a sort of dance version anyways. And walked away from the sounds towards the end of the boardwalk to catch up with everyone else at last. We disbanded shortly afterward. Ansu decided to drive back to DC that night, and we were heading back to the hotel. Everyone would leave town in the morning.
We got up Sunday morning and by the power of Phil’s iPhone, we found a real little diner squatting somewhere near the Brick Township. Authentic in that it had a sliding door entry way and held about 6 booths and the rest were seats at the kitchen counter. There were two waitresses who were dressed in uniform, the older one our waitress who served us and then returned to conversations about her sickly cats with the people seated behind us who seemed to know her well and also had sickly cat stories to share. A family came in a little after did and sat at the counter. The chubbier of the young daughters wanted to order two meals, but the waitress tried to kindly explain that a salad was like eating a whole other meal. She finally relented, despite the reasonable explanation, angered it seemed, at having given in. Phil and I were heading down the road to find a gas station when we passed by a giant indoor and outdoor flea market. In a way, it was like the one we’d seen and occasionally stop at in Harper’s Ferry. Which in turn is more like people selling their old junk. We started out in the indoor section. We passed through the army surplus, and, not seeing the shop keeper, I kept picturing something akin to Fred Forrester in Falling Down popping up and hyping Nazis while trying to sell us empty “collectible” cannisters of Mustard gas. We wandered by the rusty and dusty antique piles where the owner and what I guessed was a customer discussed what famous boat a wooden chair came out. “This looks like something from the USS Armistad,” the non-owner said, and the owner shook his head no. We wandered through various vendors selling deep fried heart attacks, slutty casual wear, Michael Jackson memorabilia, and even weird mixes of specialties like baseball cards and motorized scooters. Phil picked up an oversized screwdriver and was about to deliver his punchline, “Do you wanna get screwed,” but held back in the presence of an elderly lady sitting nearby.
I picked up a bag of plums from a produce vendor who’s merchandise was mostly rotten or just didn’t seem like it would last a car trip back home, even if for a few hours. When we got out side, it was the same thing. A mix of people’s old junk, including a bunch of creepy Victorian-era paintings, video cassettes, and self-help books. The Asians vendors always manage to have a large setup of mostly useless knick knacks, but newer than everyone else. It’s hard to drop a dime on the whole place when you stop to ask why you’d need anything you bought. Eventually the redundnacy of the place wore on us and we finally hopped in the car to head back home.