Ocean City Beach Days
It’s time to put something more personal on my blog:
I spent Wednesday and Thursday of last week at the Ocean City Beach, about twenty-five minutes from my home in Mays Landing, NJ. My son Charlie and his wife were down for several days of vacation. On Wednesday, my daughter Nancy and my two grandkids: Courtney, 9, and Conor, 5, came, too. On Thursday, I went back out to the beach to join Charlie and Ellen. The weather was perfect and the ocean water quite warm. On Friday evening, Nancy, the kids, and I again joined them for a fresh seafood dinner, after which we went onto the boardwalk for our traditional treat of soft ice-cream, sitting on wooden benches while we licked our chocolate and vanilla swirl cones and watched the setting sun glint on the surf.
In order to capture the flavor of a day at this beach, I’m pasting below a haibun I wrote after spending a day there with Charlie as the season opened. Hope you enjoy it:
Ocean City Beach, Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, 5/24/09
Midday, and my son Charlie and I are at the Ocean City beach. It’s a quintessential beach day—hot sun, cool breeze, rolling waves. We have joined the many people who dot the sands, but there are still spaces between our separate camps. The tide is out when we first arrive, and shallow lagoons, separated from the surf by sand bars, dot the shoreline. Toddlers splash in their gentle ripples under the eyes of watchful mothers. From time to time, we wade through these lagoons, relishing the slightly warmer water.
Later, I walk out into the waves until they break on my shins and splash up around my knees. The water is cold, in the low sixties, but invigorating! Even as the tide turns, because of the sand bars people can walk far out into the ocean here. Until full high tide, it remains shallow for some distance. As the lagoons disappear, children run back and forth at the sea’s edge—jumping over lines of foam. Black and white gulls call raucously, squabbling as they dive for scraps of pizza or bread—the remains of picnics on various blankets. Their shadows veer across sunbathers.
High, white wisps of clouds, almost transparent, hang in the deep blue of the sky—delicate as fish skeletons. A para-sailor floats beneath them, his blue and red parasol tethered to the small green and yellow boat rocking on the swells. On the other side of the rock jetty, fishermen and women pull fish from the sea. I’m reminded of the young woman I saw earlier in some boardwalk shop, stirring a can of “live bait”—gelatinous, red wormy things—with her finger.
And through it all, the waves ceaselessly swell and fall—-soughing in a hypnotic rhythm that the foam echoes as it dissolves and rolls back into the source. The tide grow more vigorous as it encroaches further up the beach; soon the jetty will be under water.
We take a break, go up to the soft ice-cream booth and order mint and chocolate swirl. The boardwalk is a swirl with people—older men and women sitting together on the benches and soaking up the sun, younger groups of girls and boys walking with the innate swagger of ripe youth, families strolling hand-in-hand, and the usual bicyclists weaving their way around the crowd. My son’s frozen custard begins to melt and tip sideways out of his cone, so he upends it into a cup. I stir mine, in a cup to begin with, until it mixes to a color half green, half brown–-a color for which I have no name— as I slurp it up.
Back on the beach, many castles and moats are under construction—or repair. Rakes, pails, shovels, and small trucks are working hard, and the children’s shrieks of laughter are a counterpoint to the ocean’s rhythm.
late afternoon I walk the sea’s edge— transparent
Supper time, and we’re off walking to a little “hole in the wall” restaurant Charlie knows of that has wonderfully fresh seafood. I order flounder, a baked potato, and coleslaw, while Charlie has a fisherman’s platter of mixed seafood, salad, and fries. Well fed, we walk back to the car, say good-bye to the shore, and drive over the bridge, away from the barrier island, feeling content as we slide through the green and gold shadows on the winding road home, surfing the sound of the waves.