In Seaside Heights, NJ, for a couple of days this week trying to exhale. It’s been good to get away (at least one friend pointed out that if we stayed at home we’d only tend to chores and errands without truly unplugging).
So we unplugged, got away, ignored the technology and — gasp — actually had a few conversations with each other. (And slept past 5 am.)
Truly, it’s the little things that matter most.
Frankly, though, the trip got off to a bad start. Basil had to work Saturday morning, so we got off to a later start than we wanted. Once we got underway, we sat in a ton of traffic. And on the Tappan Zee, as we crawled along with all the other vehicles hoping THIS wouldn’t be the moment when center span finally gave way, work called him back — couldn’t he turn around and handle the paperwork for an accident that had just taken place?
Nearing the Palisades Mall, Catherine and I decided we needed a pit stop. You can imagine our surprise to find every bathroom in the mall closed — water main break. In desperation, we considered trying the john in the men’s room, but changed our minds after meeting a fellow zipping up as we came around the corner. Thankfully, there is a Crowne Plaza just a few exits away.
Just a few hours into our vacation and we were feeling a little too National Lampoon for comfort. Luckily, the kinks worked themselves out and we were tucking into a good meal, loafing in our bathing suits and watching a terrific movie before long.
Of course, the people-watching on the boardwalk is amazing. I’ve seen more tattoos in more places than I imagined possible these last few days. Piercings too — who knew that if you had your nose, tongue, lip and cartilage pierced, you should go for hip piercings as well?
And what with the colorful outfits, hairdos and antics, there were numerous sights and sounds to entertain us. Here are a few we won’t soon forget:
- Meeting 6-week-old Charlotte as fireworks exploded over the boardwalk. Charlotte, we were told, was born premature on the Fourth of July (weighing just 4 pounds!), and her mom — who seemed to be 18 or 19 at most — had missed the fireworks then and was determined to see them now. I don’t know what Charlotte thought; she managed to sleep through the entire thing.
- Watching a boy of about 10, oblivious to the crowds of people milling around him, on his hands and knees one night, trying to peer through the cracks in the boardwalk to see what was below.
- Listening to a 10-year-old wunderkind perform with the house band at one of the boardwalk restaurants. She wasn’t half-bad.
- Watching an enormously drunken woman dance alone to said house band before falling on her ass. Security escorted her out.
- Watching one of the lifeguards in the role of wingman, asking two bikini-clad 20-somethings if he could have their numbers for his friend (who was on duty and couldn’t leave his post to ask them himself). Believe it or not, they wrote down their numbers on the slip of paper he provided and then dutifully delivered to the lifeguard chair. Basil laughed, saying that back in the day he would have kept the numbers to himself.
- Wandering through the amusement park in the rain, the rides all dark and silent, while the ocean crashed into the pilings below. Catherine and I agreed it was too creepy for comfort; we kept waiting for Shaggy and Scooby to appear!
- The young busker whose sign exhorted passersby to help start her music career. Unlike the fellow we saw last year, who sang the same original work over and over, this gal was a covers act. Her work was so, um, unique that it often took an entire song before you realized what song she was covering. She got points for pluck though, sitting out on a hand-crocheted afghan in shades of olive-green and gold, consulting pages of carefully written chords and lyrics as she picked out the tunes, sometimes stopping and starting again to correct a mistake.
But the absolute pinnacle of our trip had to be when Basil photo-bombed a family eating at the same restaurant where we were enjoying a nice Italian dinner.
Two young girls and their mom were sitting outside, on the opposite side of the window where we were seated. When they asked the waitress to snap their photo, Basil leaned close and made a ridiculous face that sent us into giggles and guffaws long before the family realized what he’d done. It was the kind of laughter as cleansing as a good cry — each time we tried to compose ourselves, we fell out again. We laughed until we cried, until our sides ached and the other patrons were openly wondering what we were drinking.
It didn’t take long for one of the photo’s subjects to realize what had happened and tell her mother. She in turn craned her neck to get a closer look at us through the glass, wagging her finger the whole time.
They took it with the humor that was intended, and of course we apologized and snapped a proper photo of them on our way out.
The laughter has stayed with us since, however.