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10:46 p.m. - 2013-09-01
Summer's End

We down to the a Ford Focus. No tall ship handy and anyhow I don't think they let boats use the Garden State Parkway even with an E-Z pass.

After stalling and dawdling all summer we scraped up some dough, I faced down my fright of what might be there, and away we went to Seaside. Was it hard? Oh yes. Glad enough to find our favorite motel was still in business we arranged for a room (actually an efficiency with a bedroom off a living room/kitchen, Wolf bunks on the sleeper-sofa in the front room while Mick and I have the bedroom to ourselves), after the shock of crossing the bridge to find so many immediate holes in the familiar skyline it was a big relief to find the dumpy Mark III motel the same as ever, right down to the owners' drooling mutts wandering the parking lot and the proprietress with the raspy voice and truly frightening smoker's hack running the front desk and shouting orders at her husband. Same old, same old there, thank goodness. She didn't recognize us at first. I've put on quite a bit of weight and had my pointy hair tucked under a hat, but when I smiled and chatted a bit she said, "Oh! It's you! Took me a second to place the voice." I nodded and took off my hat and she laughed, started coughing, brought up another piece of lung, then gasped, "Hey, your hair's a different color! Glad to see you folks again." She apologized that a room wouldn't be available until 2:00 but we could use the parking lot if we wanted and we'd do all the check-in stuff later. Good deal.

The water park was open for business, which I knew from the updates I get on FB. I'd been tracking Casino Pier's progress all winter. We dropped Wolf off with instructions to rent a locker and to send me a text once in a while so I'd know he was okay and Mick and I set out on a tour. It felt a little ghoulish to be seeking out all the ruination from Sandy but I needed to see for myself just how bad it was. By the time we got down to Alphabet City in Seaside Park I was wailing with grief. Mick, panicked and anxious to make it all better, tried to point out all the things that were just fine, but right then ANY change was too much and all the tarped roofs, empty rubble lots and the huge gaping hole where Funtown Pier had been...ouch. He hadn't realized, really, how much Seaside means to me. What can I say? Seaside is my happy place. The one spot on the planet that's always come through for me. No shitty memories. No bad things. And for me when something is good I want it to be there forever. Just as it was. No changes EVER. Hell, I'm still resenting the new condos that went up 10 years ago and how they opened a fucking Dunkin Donuts kiosk right on the boardwalk and how you can't find a single place to get a pork roll sandwich anymore, to see Seaside half destroyed from a storm? Well crap. I cried myself out though and after a while I agreed it wasn't all terrible. We parked the car at the motel then Mick and I walked the boards and I got myself okay again.

Yeah, terrible shit happened here, but they're fixing it back up and some things like the new benches are even better than the old ones. The new benches have backs that can be switched from a boardwalk view to an ocean one. Clever and handy. And the new fencing along the beachside of the boardwalk is good too. Gone is that dopey pipe railing that was exactly at eyelevel when seated on a bench, now it's an iron picket fence and really quite pretty and doesn't obscure the view. There was a guy working on top of one of the sky ride cable towers and Mick about had a cow when I called up to the guy and when I got his attention I said, "Thank you! Get it fixed, okay? We need it back!" He nodded and gave me a thumb's up. Mick was shaking his head as we walked away and I said I knew I was embarrassing to travel with. My mannie disagreed. Told me he loved when I did stuff like that and how it cool it was that because I have no fear of looking foolish I never am. "Baby, if I tried something like that I'd sound like a lunatic, but you? I bet you made that guy's day." Perhaps, but even if the guy working on the sky ride did think I was nuts I don't care. It's fabulous to me that so many people are working so hard to put Seaside back together and the guy on the tower was one I could thank in person. So I did.

After dinner at a primo barbeque place we went back up on the boardwalk and did boardwalk-y stuff. Had Mick's caricature done by a talented dude who went along with my request that he not make Mick look mean. Came out pretty good. Wolf went bananas riding the new and the newly refurbished rides on the partially rebuilt Casino Pier. We hit several arcades. Watched fireworks. The guys had ice cream. (No way I could put ice cream on top of pulled pork, ugh.) I bought a small plaque made from recycled boardwalk wood. The proceeds go to the municipal rebuilding fund. So now I own a piece of the old boardwalk, which is a comfort. It was after 11:00 when we staggered back to our room. Wolf pooped from all day on the water slides and most of the night on the pier, Mick and I from all the walking and emotional upheaval, and all of us shagged from the early start. Sleep wasn't easy though. The bed was hard and kind of crunchy from the plastic mattress protector. I snore. Mick snores louder. I'm a space hog. Mick is a covers hog. He and I kept waking each other up. Then ridiculously at 4:00am the smoke detector went off. Not the "Get up! You're going to die!" alarm, it was that annoying 'low battery' beep. BEEP! Three minutes go by. BEEP! Three minutes go by. BEEP! Etc, etc, etc. Holy Mother of God. Like we needed that shit. Where would we find a 9-volt battery at 4:00am? Fortunately the efficiency had a broom. Something I knew from previous stays so I got it from the closet and gave the smoke detector in our room a good poke on the reset button. And for good measure I poked the one in the front room too. The detectors shut up and three very weary travelers finally conked out solid until 9:00am.

The next day after applying enough sunblock to survive an extended visit on Mercury Wolf and I went to the beach. Mick the Whitest Irishman Ever Born opted to stay back at the motel napping and reading his book indoors with the comfort of the a/c and zero chance of bursting into flames as he might have on the beach. Wolf spent the day on his boogie board being whammed around by the heavy surf and battling a wicked riptide that kept dragging everybody toward Point Pleasant. I mostly sat in my little beach chair, reading, eavesdropping, watching the gulls and the near horizon hoping for dolphins. I did go into the water several times but early on after getting knocked on my butt and scraping the heck out of my knees I stayed in the shallows. It was enough to stand there in the foam wash, my feet sinking into the sand, breathing deep the salt air and feeling peaceful in my best beloved place. Once Wolf came running up to me with his hand clapped over his nose frantic it might be broken. A wave had gotten him. Dumped him and then whapped him with his board right in the schnoz. His nose wasn't broken, but it did swell and turn an interesting plum color. Even a potentially broken nose wasn't enough to keep my water baby out of the ocean for long and after a rest and a trip up to the boardwalk for some life-sustaining pizza, he came back with a cold bottle of water for me and a renewed zest for body surfing. More sunblock all around and off he went to the water and I went back to my book.

All good things must end...sigh. Late in the afternoon Wolf and I packed up and hiked it back to the motel. Tell you what, after all the adventures and short sleep and a day in the sun those seven blocks seemed like miles. Too much good food, way too much time on my ass in front of this machine, not nearly enough time keeping my blobby bod in motion. Autumn resolution #1- get off my duff and get some stamina back. Weight is moot. It'll come off if the gods are kind, but even if I stay this round I need to move more. Couldn't hurt and it might help. Fortunately it's coming up on my favorite season. Wonderful fall when the air is crisp, my time is my own, and going outdoors isn't a hellish punishment. In any case with the guys at school I can throw open the windows, turn the stereo up to 11, and do the fall cleaning to a driving beat and with a right good will.

Today Wolf went with his father to the Renaissance Fair and is spending the night at his aunt's (Mike's sister). It the ex's birthday and my kid is spending some time with that side of the family. I think Alex came down, if so I hope he was kind to his little brother. My sons do NOT see eye-to-eye on the subject of Mom. Wolf told me once he can't wait to be all grown so he can defend my honor and knock his brother's block off. I told him I appreciate the sentiment but it would make me happiest if he not make war with Alex. Not his job. Whatever is going on between me and his elder brother is up to Alex to settle or not. Wolf never has to choose sides. I know it's hard for him to be in the middle like this and if I had my way there wouldn't BE a middle. It is what it is though and Wolf should look at it as a good thing. He's loved by lots of people. He has a dad and all the family from that side. Plus me. Plus Mick, who adores him. Plus Mick's parents and the rest of the O'Gaelic side who think Wolf is the bee's knees. Wolf is loved and wanted everywhere he goes. How cool is this?

Mick and I had adventures down in Rockland County today too. In the forenoon we went to a Volkswagen enthusiasts meet and greet at the shop of a father and son team who restore vintage Beetles. Mick got his ya-yas out ogling all the air-cooled Beetles from the 1950s and chatting with fellow Perverts. (This is the actual name for VW collectors and fans. Why? Beats me.) I made admiring noises and did my regular LA at a party thing for a bit then retreated to a quiet corner and read my book while the Pervs got their swerve on.

We took a wander afterward and lunched at a diner not far from where I was born. The hospital was torn down in the spring of 1963 and I like to think it was sheer coincidence it was obliterated mere weeks after I came into the world. Some lucky shopping at the Nanuet Barnes and Noble, and a quick zip down the Thruway to the hideous Palisades Mall. It was crazy to take on the Big Ugly Mall on Labor Day weekend, school shopping was in full cry. Scoring a parking place was fraught. We finally got one though and headed inside Macy's. Mayhem. Bedlam. The mall proper was no better. But we waded through anyhow. Mick would not be dissuaded from his aim to buy me things. So I have two new bras. And five new pairs of underpants. And some delicious dragon fruit herbal tea. Followed by a late afternoon snack of conveyor-belt sushi. Which, btw, is irresistible. Part automat, part arcade claw. Conveyor belt sushi is all about the quick grab and the happy surprise. I stuck with known faves like California roll and crunchy squid, but Mick was in discovery mode and tried everything from fatty toro to lobster roe hand roll. We both took a pass on Dynamite Octopi, tempting as it was. Wee bitty octopuses like cartoons. They were just too adorable to eat.

And that, my friends, is how the Sages spent their last few moments of the season. Tomorrow summer is officially over. A flurry of laundry and getting ready and packing lunches and backpacks and fall begins on Tuesday.

We did it up right. ~LA

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