Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shore Redux - Flashback

It might be the music blaring from the amusement park rides that provide a bright backdrop against the ocean surf. Possibly, the loud arcades manned by over-tanned teens or the aroma of open-grilled sausage and peppers mingled with the smell of sunblock. It could be the sounds of Springsteen blaring from a surf-side bar or eating frozen custard from the ubiquitous dessert stands lining the boardwalk. Quite possibly, it is the smell of fried seafood on the water or drinking something cold under one of those lovable, but tacky transplanted palms on the beach.

ll of these are what can take me back to childhood summer. The ocean boardwalk was where you wanted to be as a kid, as a teen, or on college summer break. And the New Jersey boardwalks are what remind me most of what summer should feel like. It is the one place whose smells instantly transport me back to being a kid in the summer. The place where I won my first arcade prize, first jumped into the ocean surf, or rode a roller coaster over the ocean.

Down the shore
is where you went in the summer. It was either a day trip or a budget motel with a cement pool just a few blocks to the beach. It was days in the surf, rounds of miniature golf, and nights walking up a down the colorfully lit wonderland that provided you with endless entertainment. It was where you could visit as a kid with your family, as a teenager with your friends, and again as a young adult and beyond, and never feel out of place. Whether it was tacky or tasteful, crowded or sparse, the boardwalk was the pulse of the Jersey summer. It was the measure for how your summer was many trips you had made down the shore. Even if it rained, you never felt cheated because you could find something to do on the boardwalk and still feel you were getting your money's worth.

Summer means different things to different people, but the smells and sounds of the boardwalk, the music, the people, and the food together all gel into the one experience which, to me, means summer. And there may have been other beautiful places we vacationed, more exciting, more expensive, or adventurous vacations over the years. But the boardwalk on the Jersey shore is what will forever remind me of summer. It remains the touchstone for what a memorable summer day should be. And for that, I have come to realize...the boardwalk in summer will always remain a pretty good place to be.

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