Mr. Sandman’s Beach Report

Column by Jim Bishop

OCEAN CITY, N.J. – Something was definitely missing last summer. It wasn’t quite the same without our annual family pilgrimage to “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”

Anna and I took a quick run to Virginia Beach shortly after her 2006 school year ended, and that was fun, but a consecutive 30-year stretch of jaunts to Ocean City, N.J., didn’t happen for several reasons, and I felt a disruption in my life cycle.

So this summer, we headed back to the familiar sand and surf and with our families and grandkids in tow. Daughter Jenny was 3 years old the first year we came with Anna’s sister and her young family. Jenny and Sara returned with us every year, each bringing a friend and later, boyfriends. Today, they come with their children, our grandkids, three generations keeping the tradition going.

Now back in the ‘Burg, permit me to make several observations on this year’s trek:

– I know there are many weighty reasons for people being heavy, but I was struck by the large number of obese individuals on the beach (bathing suits have a way of focusing the flab issue), many of whom spent a goodly part of the day downing pizza, french fries, chips and soft drinks and little time swimming.

– Not only that, but tattoos were everywhere, on the beach and boardwalk, not limited to the hairy behemoths; women who looked like your everyday homemaker also sported a variety of conspicuous designs. One guy’s entire body was inked, from neck to ankles. Is it supposed to make one look more attractive or distinguished, like smoking once was touted? I wonder if some persons will one day regret having subjected their carcasses to such voluntary (painful) abuse.

– There was also no escaping the ubiquitous cell phone. Every third person sitting on the beach or stepping along the boardwalk was glued to one. A visual memory I’ll keep with me for some time was seeing two guys in the noisy arcade, playing air hockey while talking on cell phones.

– The fare from the “name” pizza, ice cream and candy outlets isn’t that great and is overpriced, but we buy it anyway because it’s from the boardwalk.

– The amusement rides are rickety, too short and too expensive. I watched in awe as people walked up to the ticket counter and exchanged fistfuls of cash for sheets of tickets at a dollar per ticket (most rides required four or five tickets a person, regardless of age).

– I happily stumbled on to a radio station from Atlantic City, WMID-1340AM. They play exclusively the music of the 1950s and early ’60s, 20 songs in a row. If I had the means to manage and program a radio station, this is what it would sound like. The best part, the station is online, and I can return to the Jersey Shore and sing along with the music I grew up with on my home computer at www.classicoldieswmid.com.

Ocean City seems like a still point in a rapidly-spinning world. Many of the rustic, two- and three-story residences are, sadly, being demolished to make way for $2-$3 million condominiums that owners can charge exorbitant rental fees for and get because of location.

But in many ways, the town retains the look and feel that it had when we started coming as a family in 1975. Remarkably, it’s still a dry town; no alcohol can be purchased within the city limits. For me, the highlight of our too-brief respite was participating in our grandchildren’s enjoyment – jumping the waves with Jacob, watching Dylan improve his skill on a skimboard with each passing day and playing video games in the arcade, 2-year-old twins Grant and Megan excavating in the sand and getting covered with grit (maybe eating some along the way). For all the expense and the hectic, seven-hour (or longer) drive to get there, we keep returning to Ocean City.

We’re not sure why we subject ourselves to the abuse to our fiscal and physical personas, except, ultimately, it’s all about family. We’re storing up memories for all eternity. Thus, we must go down to the sea again to see what we can see – and make a few waves.

Jim (Beach Bum) Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at bishopj@emu.edu.


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