Monday, September 16, 2013

Swag Ho Monday - This Piece of Wood

I love the beach. No wait, I love the shore. I’ve been to plenty of beaches, including some of the “world’s best,” but for me, nothing holds up to the beach I call home – the Jersey Shore. Or, “down the shore” if you’re a native. On other beaches, the sand just isn’t right. The water’s too clear. You can see all the creepy sea life swimming around you. There’s not enough sea glass. There’s not enough garbage.

Beach condom, anyone?

There are other elements that combine to make the Jersey Shore the place I hope I go when I die. One of those elements is the boardwalk. Specifically, Seaside Heights boardwalk. I know… gross, right? What’s my problem? You don’t get it, do you? You think I'm a weirdo.

I took this picture in Asbury Park last summer. This is also gone now.
 Here’s the best way I can think of to explain it: have you ever been made to watch a beloved movie from someone else’s childhood that you yourself have never seen? Let’s say you’ve never seen The NeverEnding Story, but for me, it was one of those movies I loved and watched over and over again as a child. I say to you, “WHAT?? You’ve never seen this movie? You have to watch it!” And you and I sit down and watch. As I’m watching, I’m reliving my childhood, loving all my favorite parts, quoting my favorite lines. Meanwhile, adult you, experiencing this bizarre movie for the first time, are sitting there thinking, “What the hell is that giant white dog thing flying around? This movie sucks!”

Make sense now? Kinda?

That boardwalk, for better or for worse, is a part of my happy place. It’s a part of me. And if you pay attention to the news, you know that it’s taken quite a beating over the last year.

The first time I was able to get back there after Hurricane Sandy tossed the piers and all the rides into the ocean, I was shocked, but I was also so relieved to find that there was one small piece of it that survived. Including this crappy shooting game, my beloved Carson City.

Kid A "shoots the guns"
I don’t know how long it has been there, but I do know it has been there for my entire life. So much of the place has changed. I had forgotten about it, actually, until a few years ago when I was sitting in a boardwalk bar with my brother kicking off Memorial Day weekend and we decided to seek it out. And there it was, like a time machine, exactly as we remembered it.  I feel like I talk a lot about smells around here. Don’t I? Well that was the part that hit me as we approached. It smelled just like I remembered. 

We stopped here every time. I hope he remembers it!
After the hurricane, pretty much the whole boardwalk had to be rebuilt. As the crowds hit the boardwalk for that first time in May, it smelled like brand new wood.  The new boardwalk is nice. It looks pretty, even though the questionable clientele of Seaside Heights have accelerated its age significantly with cigarette burns and grease stains. Come on, it adds to the charm!

In a blind test, I’m sure I’m the only person who would pick mildewy rot smell over fresh wood.

So the point I’m trying to make here in a rambling way is that I’m sentimental. In a weird, hoarderish way. I take probably 400 pictures and videos a month, I keep things that nobody should keep, all because I have this compulsive need to hoard my memories.

We were there as usual, the weekend before my favorite place - the only remaining piece of boardwalk that wasn’t swept away by the hurricane - burned to the ground. I was at Carson City with my cousin and Kid A. I had a fleeting thought as I looked at the new section of boards that nothing is permanent. That sure, everything pretty much came back, and they can’t take our memories away(!), and jersey strong(!), and all those other nice sayings, but there’s no guarantee that your favorite place won't just disappear tomorrow and you’ll never experience it again. I had that thought and for a second I really felt like taking a piece of Carson City, just in case.

I couldn’t even tell you what I would have taken, had I gone through with it. You obviously can’t just go around taking pieces of things. At the time, the thought didn’t even make sense, and that’s why I didn’t act on it. Because it was a stupid thought. Who steals pieces of arcade games? Not even me.

And now, it makes so much sense. Less than a week after I stood in the same spot with my kid that my parents stood with me so many years before, it has been reduced to a pile of ashes. Seeing it in person was like going to a friend’s funeral, except nobody was saying, “Ohhhh. She looks good.” She doesn’t look good. (Semi-related side note: no corpses look good. I would like to put out a formal request, right here and now: when I die, please nobody feel like you have to pretend that I look good if for whatever reason you end up in a room with my embalmed body. Thanks in advance!)

She looks good, don't she?
The moral of this long and rambling tale is that if you’re ever in a place you really love and you feel compelled to steal a piece of it, just freakin do it. Take it!

There is now only about a 10-ish foot section of old boardwalk left (out of the whole 2.5 miles). I thought it was all gone, and when I saw that tiny, pathetic, splintery section, I wanted to lay down on it and cry. But someone probably threw up on it or bled on it or who knows what else, so I only did it in my mind.

That’s how I ended up with this piece of wood. I stubbed my toe on it walking on the beach that’s right off the boardwalk. I had just paid $5 for this tiny little magnet that is allegedly made from the old boardwalk.

Whatever. Let me believe it's real.

I’m 50% sure it’s not. But who knows? I can’t be alone here, there are pieces of “old boardwalk” selling for close to $50. (No, I did not buy that. I realize I have written an over 1,000 word eulogy for a place that’s pretty much the equivalent of Fat Elvis, but I’m not that nuts! 

This piece of wood I dug out of the sand, however, is part of the old boardwalk. How do I know? I can smell it. What am I going to do with it? I don't know. Put it in a box somewhere. Maybe make something out of it one day.  Maybe I'll forget what it is, and I'll stub my toe on it once again, and ask myself why this old piece of wood is in my basement. But for now, I'm happy I have it.

1 comment:

  1. So obviously I laughed along with you through parts of this, but now I'm a sobbing mess even though I've never been to this place. History lost and missed childhood moments and bla bla. You can't do that to a knocked up woman. I cried over mashed potatoes the other day... how am I supposed to handle a sappy post about you losing a place where you had so many memories?! I should have read the warning label.

    Now excuse me while I blow snot all over my sleeve.


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