triggers: the raw bar

triggers: the raw bar

there are different memories of mine of the jersey shore, the real one, not what you saw on TV, wildwood crest when I was a child (boardwalk with rides and games) and then later on Cape May, I never recoiled, as early as I can recall, at the raw seafood bar (specifically talking about The Lobster House), it took me a while to get used to oysters however, but clams? I suppose we were meant to be, I suppose texturally they are similar to oysters but not for me, I like the chewability of them, yes, I like to chew them, big ole cherrystones on the half shell raw, I notice many people kind of slurp them down quickly, only getting a bit of the ocean flavor doused in cocktail sauce, kind of powering through them like shots of liquor, I want more than that flash, I want to know where they are from to savor the flavor, for a moment more at least, this particular raw bar, was my first, and to which all others have always been compared, maybe the location has something to do with it, my home state, the vacation memories with my folks and now my own-some, all these years, the same, you order them up, they schuck them up, nothing fancy, a big plate of ice, a wedge of lemon, a container of cocktail sauce, no crackers (sorry Maryland), a dollar store child’s size plastic fork, and that all adds up to perfection, with social distancing in order, I had to take my order down the dock, literally the raw bar’s backdrop is the dock where the commercial fishing boats come in to deliver their catch, you sit in their shadows and can almost listen to their histories creaking in the hulls, certainly smell the fresh ocean and a bit of oil, seating is equally simple, tables made out of those rope storage spools painted over too many times to count, surrounded by the ubiquitous plastic white chairs, even in covid times there is comfort there in this setting, while not bustling it was busier than I might have thought, the every other minute decades old sounding announcement system bleating out about orders ready at the takeout window, “ticket 1916, ticket 1916, ready @ the takeout window”, but I concentrate on my plate, a glistening fresh 2 dozen, I could eat 100, or more, probably, I try to remind myself to slow down, take a sip of amstel in-between, but damn they are so good, all those memories triggered in a bite flood my entirety, the burst of sea water, a tinge of cocktail sauce, the meaty texture of the clam bellies, everything I remember, surely would be a disappointment if it were not, but my entire life, this one spot, nothing seems to change even in a pandemic year, and in a way, it calms my soul, letting me know everything will be just fine, at least for now, with a simple plate of clams, well, now… they are … gone.
(side note “the raw bar” would make a great strip club name, just saying)

thoughts from the porch (beach edition)…

thoughts from the porch (beach edition)…

6:50pm
the sand is cold, I could wear shoes, I know, but that is not the essence of the beach for me, the volleyball courts are empty, for some reason I think it bad karma to cross them, the lines defined that is, silly I guess, but we all have our idiosyncrasies, a stiff steady wind pushes in from the ocean, my journal’s bookmark flapping wildly about like some worn flag that has seen one thousand seasons and as many storms, so I walk toward the remains of the sunset, somewhere in the back of my mind this seems a warmer path, maybe it is just the exercise of walking in sand, feet sinking in, there are a few other travelers here, as I suppose there would be, or at least should be, there is the inner conflict of wanting to share such a place and yet commit it all for your own, both thoughts feel at home in my mind but I suppose I do not own this open secret, so here you are, welcome, the rush of the waves provides constant sound, I hear nothing of humanity at the moment, not a drop of the usual din seems to reach my ears, except the wind, not howling, not screaming, nor a gentle hand, somewhere in the limbo that lies between all those, a rising firm calm if you will, gulls glide silently above, a couple walks by with their young child, also silent, I can not accurately describe the golden shimmer of the leftover tide in the sand and fading sunlight, wave upon rolling wave, maybe this is the only timeless thing I may ever encounter or perceive, back there, just some hundred or so feet, the supposed real world, none of that has ever felt like this inside my bones, is this abject loneliness? I have always been an optimist, no, I am not lonely even if I am quite alone, I just feel something missing, perhaps…
I can feel the darkness of the rest of the beach creeping up my back behind me, I do not dare to look and become a pillar of sea salt, no, I look forward to the only hope I have, the only light left, even with a useless breath, might I, fight the inevitable –
with this, a moment, an experience, a performance on the oldest stage, might even Homer blush, for he knew, as do I, our temporal nature, among nature, while born of gods this realization, or born of science, much the same, these waves have seen many eyes before mine, and many more still when I am gone, for at least I was this once, graced with the best seats in the house.

Cape May travel log part 1…

Cape May travel log part 1…

clouds cloudy dawn dramatic
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

I wish I could make movies, with the film of my eyes, so I could really show you what I am seeing, not just in the usual dimensions, but with the actual lens of my mind, I am driving, down a way, I know so well, and literally a countdown, New Jersey is many things but one thing in particular is the spine, the Parkway, the numbered roadway that seems to control destiny here in the garden state, tonight I am travelling, due south, or as far south as will allow, down from 131 all the way to exit 0, ZERO, and then a bit further, in the summer months this would be a head scratching mess, bumper to bumper, taillights, eye locked eye fights, horns, accidents causing throngs of frustration rippling up the roadway for miles, but not today, and certainly not tonight, the sky is spitting, and misting, the bright dashes embedded in the asphalt road are hypnotic and monotonous both, eight lanes in the busy part of the state become four and then down to two, bridges over unseen waters rush on by, there are very few cars on the road tonight, a Sunday, to be sure, but the hour is not that late even if it seems later, six PM sharp seems more like midnight dark, but who am I to say, exit 42 just went by, not much further to go, no GPS, no maps, I know all this route well, a ritual perhaps, my yearly coming here, well, there, when I get there, Cape May, all these years and I never thought to research the name as to why ‘May‘, and the thought will probably be gone before exit 30, or 12, or the Wildwoods, ever so closer to my shore resort destination…

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I pass exit zero, without much or any fanfare, the land seems bare, wrapped up and tucked away for winter, not barren or abandoned, just buttoned down to the point of just enough, I suppose this is what hibernation is, except for humans living in places where the wind, wake and weather dictate behavior, for a time, for a season, this time, so I have arrived, a resort town, directly on the ocean, of course the hotel is located on ‘Beach Avenue’, the town is not quite empty, but the word “vacancy” is in more display than car lights on the thoroughfares, as a matter of fact the traffic lights are also put to sleep, just a blinking yellow where proper popular crossings used to be, no matter, there is nothing to encounter, just the misty rain in the streetlights light, the blinking yellow light flashes on the sides of the dark buildings like predictable lightning, my old hotel with a parking lot occupied by only one other car, this is why I come here, this time of year, I am almost disappointed someone else is here, but secrets are never kept, and others I suppose might have the same bent, as me, so, I park in my choice of spots, walk into the familiar lobby (as I have stayed here many times over the years), and an older woman checking in is wondering aloud with the hotel employee, “am I the only one here?”, and I answer, “no there is also me”, which seemed to startle her a bit, even if it was not my intent, so I check in, with the gentleman who is more like a kid, I never run into the same person twice, at the desk, in all these years, he’s nice enough, certainly up on his speech about hotel policies, I interject, trying not to be condescending, probably failing, that I am well aware of all these things as I stay here every year going back at least a decade or more, how pompous, but I think he took it fine, with a nervous genuine smile, I made a joke about the parking situation, honestly this is the most empty I have ever seen this place, that suits me just fine, but I am sure the desk worker still has to adhere to his due diligence, and well, good for him, I get my key card, fifth floor, ocean view of course, I imagine I am no where near the two others who are checked in, and I must admit I hope that to be true, I am here to detach, get away, isolate, decompress and all that, a selfish moment, a selfish sentiment, yes, I agree, but sometimes such things are needed, and this is one of those times, and that is why I came.

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Sometimes the familiar is a lull and you lose yourself, you forget to check the details, this is an old hotel, back to the 1800s in fact, you can tell in the hallways, drafty and cold, as is the case tonight, the ceilings are also shorter than you might imagine, hard to tell how many souls have walked these halls, I stop off the elevator to check out the lounge (there is one on each floor), old victorian decor, paint over paint over paint from the years and wear, various books seem random, a complete volume of Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedia, it seems this little corner survives like a museum outside the reach of the internet, at least for now, the faded yellowing pages are somehow soothing, even if I am not going to bother reading, books can be experiences in many ways, even on display, such as this, left like little presents for those who wish to unwrap them, but for now, I would rather get to my room, unpack all this junk I have wrought upon my back, all my gizmos and electronics, this laptop on which I type, all the work to break them down and build them back up seems absurd for just a short week, but a creature of habit needs to eat, so here I am and doing all these so I might have a level of comfort that I brought with me to this place.

end part 1

a moment of perfection (well, almost at least)…

a moment of perfection (well, almost at least)…

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Sometimes things align, and you just feel it in your bones, I stepped out of my usual routine and took a trip, a chance, this weekend (I usually work 6 days) and traveled not so far, in my own state, I literally pulled up a map and said “where haven’t I been?”  Well, as it turns out, I have been missing out, the photo is the culmination of a day’s journey, it feels like a week, in a good way, I pit stopped in Absecon NJ as it would be a good jump off point to travel from (and being close to Atlantic City there are tons of hotel choices), the trip started off, um, not so well… driving from Hackensack to Absecon on a Friday night in the summer?  yeah… probably not such a good idea but I was determined, hit some rain in the north but managed to make time south of home (Edison), in all I arrived around 9pm, tired but not wiped, and then the wait to check in, I figured there would be no one here, I was wrong, and to boot their reservation system had problems with online bookings… and sure, I had booked online… so after about a 20 minute wait I was panicking to find all my proof, the damn hotels.com app would not load, surely this was not a good sign, but… should I doubt, my reservation was fine, and I had wrapped myself in an anxiety pretzel for no reason (there might be a lesson in there), nice enough hotel, comfy king size bed into which I melted…

and the banging on the door, 8am, what the hell?  I know I hung the do not disturb tag, but apparently in my tired blindness I had requested a maid… after hostage negotiations through the door we came to an understanding, understanding I put the wrong sign up, my bad, and back to sleep I was as I rarely get to sleep in and wanted to catch that extra wink before embarking on my exploration(s) I had planned for the day…

so a few weird dreams later I wake up, shower, and embark, off to Great Bay Wildlife Refuge, a large area of salt marshes connected by some rickety bridges and traffic lights that seem to be in the middle of nowhere, sweeping views, lots of shore birds, the sound of the wind on the reeds and grass, I’ll spare you the details but this is total zen for me, I drove all the way down as far as you can go, and hiked from there as far as you can go, and I did not learn my lesson about walking in crocs… not exactly the best footwear for long walks but great in the fact that who cares if they get muddy etc… fair trade off I guess. and then I visited Edwin Forsyth Wildlife Refuge which you can drive through, although I hopped out often for photos… so I walked a lot, and then drove …  a bunch and walked some more.  Both preserves were awesome, what a great day to visit, you could see Atlantic City in the distance like some weird metropolitan art skyline, my only complaint ?  the damn greenies, damn they are persistent and vicious, greenies… are green headed flies and they bite… really bite, like draw blood bite, if you smack one at the right time (after it has fed) your hand is bloody, yeah… as fun as it sounds, you even smack them and they are still dug in and you have to pull them off, my legs look like they were hit by pre-pubescent acne, well.. at least they don’t itch as much as mosquito bites….

so that leads me to the photo, which was a night cap, the ending, I was the only “party of one” waiting for a table, Oyster Creek Bar and Restaurant, oddly enough it is on the edge of the very park I was routing around earlier (Edwin Forsyth Wildlife Refuge), this is a very Jersey experience, so visceral for me, this part of this jersey shore has such a distinct smell, it is like inherent to my instinct, I recognize it, it brings me back, it makes me feel at once like a child and at most immortal like time has stopped to make this perfect moment, this place is the type where you can stroll up in your boat, tie up and have some great food, mixed with regular folk looking for the same, but you are all right there on the precipice of where the food actually comes from, the sea, right there, the salt marsh is teeming with life, and tasty life, and then not so far off  is the Atlantic ocean, you smell it all, the diesel, the semi sweet rot of a swamp, the salty air, the gentle aroma of wet wood, the short waves slowly lapping at the docks, the conversations you have had yourself, couples bringing their babies out for the first time, the families with their grandparents, the parties of nine, all of it, terrible chairs, red and white table cloths, local kids waiting out the shift, this is so familiar, so damn visceral, it makes me feel immediately comfortable, I could watch this all day… and night, but they just called my name, and damn I am hungry, hope it lives up to the hype, it probably will…

note: I am uploading a bunch of videos to my YouTube Channel, I finally got off my ass and learned how to use my ThiEYE cam

Shore planes.

Shore planes.

aircraft airplane book miniature
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

I was driving down the GSP tonight (as I am wont to do), and just noticing something, something that seems very Jersey to me, shore planes… now what the hell are shore planes might you ask… and surely I might have an answer, going back as far as I can remember (not that it is that long in celestial time) these biplanes (well I imagined they were biplanes they certainly sounded like it), well, anyway, these planes would drag these huge banners back and forth across the beach sky like “Eat at Joes” and similar jargon, no websites because this was pre-internet (somehow we grew up without it), but anyway those planes, another one of those very specific things that is dug in there into my Jersey DNA, I remember the sound, to look up from my castle building or crab hunting, such a distinct memory linked to a sound and a time, and the sand…

the following is something I wrote and posted on Facebook a while ago, it is Very Jersey specific, but I liked it anyway, but with today I kind of regret not shoehorning  in the planes… how on earth did I forget the planes? ?!  I guess inspiration was incomplete that day, I suppose I could rewrite it, but, that does not seem to be my way….

the squeaky swings
of phillip’s beach
rusty chains
green burning seats

sunlight sneaks
through the gaps
white-wood shower stalls
smoothed with age
from water’s fall

the yellow striped awning
the wide-wood steps to the gate
hardly hold
the little wild ones at bay

neon buckets mold towers
little hands fashion moats
the unrelenting tide
sweeps away all that is built

names in the sand
spirals and feet
all disappear
in the surf
even the sand crabs
diving head first

driving home, exhausted
a day in the sun
a day on the ocean
a nap in the car

back safe at home
the night drift to sleep
still riding up and down
the waves of phillip’s beach