Archive for August, 2019

The Boardwalk

courtesy of

In the mornings, Burke and I ride our bikes down the boardwalk. It’s early, after she’s done teaching (online) and I decide to abandon work for the brisk salty air and the feel.

It’s going to be hot later, really hot, and so I want to enjoy the boardwalk in the cool morning. The sun will have come up an hour or two before, so the air is warming up when we hop our bikes. A lady in a hoodie and a pair of shorts is walking a grumpy dog, and we pedal up the road.

People drive slowly at the Jersey shore. This is probably because of bikes and kids and people crossing the street. It’s also due to the feel at the shore, which forces you whether you like it or not, to slow down, enjoy, and be passively nice to those around you.

When stand up to pedal our way up the ramp to the boardwalk and once that minor exertion is done, we are on the flat boards. Everything else is gravy. The bikes people rent or buy down the shore, and the bikes by far most often seen are called ‘cruisers.’ No gears, no handbrakes. Many of them have a basket. Some of them have a Ken doll attached to the back as a passenger.

There’s nothing like the Jersey boardwalk in the morning. The heat and cold are sautéing a mist off the ocean. The beach is vast and cool and quiet. The boards rock under our bikes. There are people doing the same no matter if we go at 6 or 7 or 8 am. We pass all of the places that will be packed later. Morey’s Pier, Hot Spot, Ed’s, dozens of shops, water parks, amusement parks, stands for every junk food one can imagine, Hot Spot #4 (haven’t seen 2 or 3). The only places doing business are the Dunkin’ Donuts and the diners. Otherwise, the gates are down, the places recouping and recharging.

We make it to the end of the boardwalk and our bikes hit the pavement. Grassy hills and dunes keep the ocean out of sight now. We lock the bikes up and walk up a light hill. We hit the ocean fast and the dolphins are out in droves. Some kids are torturing a dead horseshoe crab.

On the way back after our breakfast burritos, the boardwalk is a little more awake. The gates are halfway up, there are more people. Kids are pointing at the water rides, their parents are looking at the coffee shop. We enjoy the relative quiet. In the afternoon we go to the beach and drink our Orange Julius just like everyone else. In the late afternoon, we sleep.   

In the evening we head back to meet my mom, my sister, and her kids. This time we walk.

I read a haiku once that I have never been able to find again. It’s about a boardwalk at the Jersey shore (or maybe it was Coney island) in April. While I don’t remember the exact words, I do remember that the haiku perfectly conveyed the lonely, empty, beautiful feeling the boardwalk has in the office season. A place where there are no people, but where there are thousands of people on another day. Like a baseball park in It blew me away. I wish I had had it tattooed backwards on my ass, the body’s Moleskine.  

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Cape May Journal

Saturday, August 10, 10:18

(in the car)

Fred (nephew, 9 years old) enjoying an audience of three that has no escape for the next 93 minutes, begins one of his peculiar queries.

“Raise your hand if…”

It trails off. Not sure if this is because he jumps off without a place to land or because his eyeballs are glued to an iPad. Everything is secondary to the screen. Always. Still, he is curious and adventurous, our future archaeologist. He meanders through a valley of mismatched clauses. “…have you ever, what do you think is the…my favorite, do you know how which dinosaur has blue legs?”

Mom puts in a valiant attempt, but she is told that she is wrong.

He explains. “Pokémon has two legs because…”

I put in earphones and, like many men, seek solace with a Joe Rogan podcast. Chuck Palahniuk.

Saturday, August 10, 13:29

Cape May is nearly perfect.

Quiet, coolish in the shade, hottish in the sun.

Aunt’s house is in a neighborhood off the main drag and is a perfect beach house. Homey, a well-used porch with pockets of sand here and there, a creaky screen door, wide open windows in lieu of air conditioning. Kitchen is a bit tight, cozy with food. Baseball is always on.

Mom, aunt, sister, niece, and nephew embroiled in discussion concerning the events surrounding a dropped birthday cake two years previous. I have heard four versions of the event and not one of them fully corroborates another. Fascinating.  

Decide to walk to the beach rather than hear 4 different climaxes of the same story. It’s like living in a Faulkner novel.

Personal opinion: it was Mom’s fault.

Saturday, August 10, 14:50

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Country Life

Not Chauncy the Great Black Wasp, but a Cousin of Chauncy the Great Black Wasp

This morning I am busy, like all of my mornings home in the small town where my parents live. I wake up early, spend a half hour on the porch drinking coffee and enjoying the prehumid time of the day. I then write for two hours in the kitchen.

A huge wasp has spent every day at the screen window of the kitchen trying to get to me. After day 4 I looked it up online to find that it’s a Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) and that it’s mostly disinterested in people. But this doesn’t mesh with the fact that Chauncy (his name) is interested enough in me to try to get to me every day. I read that the Great Black Wasp’s sting can ruin your day, so I say hello to him in the morning, but I do not let him in. The basement is filled with spiders. I don’t go there.  

After writing I eat on the porch in a rocking chair and watch cars go by. And in the afternoon, I proofread academic journals and research articles. By 2 or so, I am free to read and lounge and exercise. I am eating a mostly carbohydrates and sugar diet, so I don’t skip exercise. I have slowly tricked my sister’s cat into loving me. Well, not me as much as the addictive probably slightly narcotic treats I am using to entice her out from under various furniture. She has weird legs that are a completely different color from the rest of her, but I don’t mention it as I don’t want to hurt her feelings. She’s also really long, sort of like a ferret. Her meow is like a lady’s scream in a 1940s movie, but from really far away.    

Today my mom has enlisted me for a task. I am to go to the store and buy (a notably specific) five cases of water. It’s been specified more than once.

“Can you get five cases of water today?” she asked me yesterday.

For the last sixteen years, a stack of water cases has stood as high as an elf in the mudroom. It has been depleted, and my mom is worried and muttering about dehydration and zombie apocalypses.

“Can you get five cases of water tomorrow?” she asked last night.  

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The Go Between

Neato Picture of Messenger courtesy of Sheila Terry

I walk into the kitchen. It’s 6:35 am, my mother has been awake for an hour and a half. I groggily begin my day, fumbling with the Keurig until it sounds like liquid is coming out.

“Do you know when Dad finishes today?”

“I don’t know.”

“Does he have to go to the bank?”

“I don’t…know.”

“OK. Is he up and in the shower?”

I’m not arrogant enough to think that everyone should know my comings and goings, but since my mother has just awoken me from my blow up bed in the living room and since I walked into the kitchen seconds later and since my dad sleeps upstairs, I sort of thought she’d be able to piece it together that I don’t have any of the answers to any of the questions that she’s asking me.

I respond with a slight grump: “Mom. I do not know,” I respond with a slight grump, only really allowable before 6:50 am and after you’ve been mildly injured in a game of pick up sports.

“Geez, fine.”

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