I was a servant to the ocean. The Atlantic just two miles east of my childhood home; you could smell it and feel it if the conditions were right. When the seagulls came inland, they flew near our house. It was an indication a storm was kicking up the wind in Sea Bright, so they headed toward safety. Our house was anything but…..

When I finally turned 17 and could drive, I was free to explore beyond the places I would walk or ride my bike. Checking the waves was a favorite activity, and now Sandy Hook and Long Branch were in practical reach. The summers in NJ are notoriously flat, but that never stops a surfer from watching, hoping, and noticing the slightest bump on the horizon that may signal a swell was coming. Kind of like a mirage fueled by waves of hope and promise.

Somehow I always ended up in the Sea Bright Public Beach parking lot where I pulled up to the bulkhead that ran north to south. It was low enough so you could peer over and see the small jetty off Donovan’s. That would tell you if the ocean’s heart was beating. Soon after I was able to drive, I headed to the public beach every day for a fix. One day after pulling in, I jumped out of the car to get a better look, locked the door, and walked towards the water. Unfortunately, the car was running.

I had some change in my pocket and walked to the payphone near the bus stop on Ocean Avenue. Across the street from the Sea Bright Pharmacy which Sandy would later destroy and called home for help.

I went back to the car and stood there as my dad’s truck pulled into the lot. I retreated into myself as I knew what would come before I got the extra set of keys. After being reminded of how dumb and stupid I was, the final dose of insult came in like a roundhouse punch. I was told I would never amount to anything. Next, we headed out of the lot in our vehicles. We went north towards the bridge into Rumson. I got stopped by the light as dad sped through. The gates came down, and doors closed. I was saved for a while as the bridge was opening for a boat to pass through.

Another day in paradise.

Peace, chris

Thanks to old-time Sea Brighter Jim Betts for reminiscing with me.

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