“Cause down at the shore everything’s alright
You and your baby on a Saturday night
Nothing matters in the whole wide world
When you’re in love with a Jersey Girl
-Tom Waits Sung by the Boss
My wife Janet is a Jersey girl. Even though she was born and raised in Pittsburgh, she spent a lot of time at the Jersey Shore. As a kid, during high school and college, she spent summers working on the boardwalk selling crabs and Ziggies, doing other summertime part time jobs, and being a waitress. She stayed with her aunt and uncle who insisted that Janet and all the cousins got summer jobs to augment their fun times on the beach and on the “boards.”
While working as a waitress, she had a boss who said,” fugheddabaddit” for everything. ” Hey, how is the Pastrami today?” ” Fugheddabaddit. ” Hey, can I have a day off tomorrow? ” Fugheddabaddit” ” Hey what is the weather like tomorrow?” ” Fugheddabaddit. Don’t you just love the Jersey accent and demeanor? It is no wonder that we go every year on the annual pilgrimage to Avalon, NJ. We just can’t help ourselves with the tradition and the feeling that you get when you cross that bridge into New Jersey and then smell the salt air in Egg Harbor.
A lot of Pittsburghers have gone elsewhere in the summer. The Outer Banks, Myrtle, Florida. But most of the hard core Pittsburghers still make the pilgrimage to the Jersey Shore for a myriad of reasons. We go with two other families and have done so for years. So many traditions have been established down there like Mack and Manco pizza on the boards with Johnson’s caramel corn. It is now Mack and Mack but basically the same pizza on the boardwalk in the evening watching the show of visitors and tourons that frequent these parts in the summer. As I previously mentioned, the local folks who have businesses down there who survived the hurricanes and just keep working and rebuilding, are typical of the New Jersey mindset. My knuckles get white from squeezing the steering wheel when I enter the state and I always remark that these people aren’t good enough to drive that fast. But you get guys like old man Moran at Moran’s Dockside who will sell you blood worms, clams, shrimp and every other kind of bait in the world every day with a deadpan look on his face. When I told him the last time that I am having no luck with all the bait that I have purchased each and every day, he looks at me and says,” Too hot to fish.” ” Bad time of year.” So I say,” Then why did you sell me the bait? ” He says ,” You wanted to fish.” Gadda love these folks!!! So I am relegated to fishing with my buddy Dean Denmead and on occasion coming up with Satanic catches like eels, horshoe crabs, turtles, dogfish and the occasional snow tire. But it is all part of the tradition. Even when the land breeze flies bite your legs so hard during the baiting of the line. It is like they sense that you are trying to get ready to fish and therefore are distracted enough to allow for them to feast on your flesh.
For me, the only way I maintain sanity is to ride my road bike with Mike King from Avalon to Cape May in the mornings. The early morning sunrises, seeing the crabbers under the draw bridges, and smelling the salt air is intoxicating. Part of the visit is to stop at Nun’s Beach in Stone Harbor and get the new T shirt for the year that commemorates another season at the beach with the pending surf contest sponsored by the nuns at the convent on the beach. Don’t tell me the Catholic clergy has it tough. Dinners at Sylvester’s with the fantastic fresh seafood eaten from paper plates on a picnic table may not be haute cuisine but it sure is Jersey. The corn, the tomatoes, the lazy days on the beach- people watching, are some of the things that Janet talks about all year. Fugheddabaddit.
So, in a few weeks, we will pack up the vehicle, bungee the beach chairs and fishing gear to the roof, put the bikes on the rack, and head east. And the reason you do it every year is because everything’s all right when you are in love with a Jersey girl. Thanks for reading.