Jersey Shore Envy

One of the great things about my union job in the early 1970s was that I got my birthday off as a paid holiday. That first week in June when I turned 19, my high school buddy Lou and I headed down the shore.

Without knowing why, my family was shore aversive. I had stumbled upon some black-and-white photos of my parents showing them in their youth enjoying benefits of sea bathing. I hardly remember any trips down that way.

When my childhood friend regaled me with tempting tales of sun, sand and surf at the Jersey Shore, and all the good times I missed, he planted the seed for a chronic case of Jersey Shore envy.
Walnut Beach boardwalk, Ashtabula, Ohio, 2013
Joey, another childhood buddy, had told me of his family taking bus trips to Seaside Heights, and all the grown-ups from his old Montclair home were singing, "Hail, hail, the gang's all here, what the hell do we care now!"

So, there we were, two very white guys about to fry on the beach, or die of windburn from the sand showers that washed over us. The water was way too cold to go in. The penguins were tussling with polar bears for the last blocks of ice. Lou and I could take a hint. The two of us North Jersey kids just stretched out on a towel in the late spring sun and enjoyed the privacy of having the entire Seaside Heights beach to ourselves.

New to the beach, Lou was my tour guide. He'd stayed here with his family and friends. On our walk from the parking lot to the beach, he showed me the house where he stayed on the second floor. And the outside shower. I'd never known anyone who showered outside. Then we walked the vast, deserted boardwalk as he told me of his older cousins who'd won what at which stand and which stands to avoid if I ever decided to return on my own.

We snuck into the restroom to change into swimsuits. Lou told me to ignore the sign that says "No Changing In Restrooms". The place was desolate, but if anybody asked if we changed into our swim trunks in the restroom, Lou said we'd just tell them we wore them under our clothes. He explained as if he were versed in the law that since there were no lifeguards, we wouldn't need badges to get on the beach. Badges? We don't need no stinking badges?

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