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.
Thanks to old-time Sea Brighter Jim Betts for reminiscing with me.
Most know the historic building in Sea Bright as the excellent restaurant Tommy’s but fail to recognize or remember what was there before the fine coal-fired pizza establishment (I think the chicken wings are even better and over the top). The building housed a surf shop, post office, Oceanfront, and Chubby’s Pub.
I became legal in December of my senior year at RFH. This meant we could drink legally in great local places like Val’s and Briody’s, but the hit of that winter of 78/89 was Chubby’s. We poured into the place and often got carried out as we were as experienced with drinking as online traders are today on Robinhood.;)
Here is a remnant from back in the day.
We drank as much beer as they would serve us and ate from the indoor version of Mrs. Rooney’s Hot Dog cart. We declared there was a “Hot Dog War In Sea Bright.” It didn’t last long, and the undisputed winner was and still is the venerable Rooney. I remember watching many Rangers games there while I figured was a future actually was. Hmmmm.
Next time you stop in for pizza and some wings, thank back to those hot summer nights after graduation. We all left for college but left a piece of us at Chubby’s
My parents had a lot of stuff they acquired over a 62-year marriage. They didn’t throw anything out, literally. That was left for the last one standing, me.
This fall will be a year since we sold the house on Blackpoint Road in Rumson. After 13, 20-yard dumpsters were carted off; we were left with a basement of things that had meaning or value. That has been reduced to a couple of handfuls of items that will stay in our family. One is an Elgin Watch I found at the bottom of a box. It didn’t look good, but after I had pieced together its history, I decided to have it restored and repaired.
The watch was given to my grandfather by his wife in 1926. Her initials inscribed next to his inside the case near the guts of the watch and serial number. The case has his initials, VT, a Freemason symbol, and the number 32 etched on the back. Freemasons are a kind of secret society, and one of the most significant fraternal orders still active today. There are several Freemason Lodges here in Monmouth County. Think of help and fellowship. The number thirty-two has Freemason meaning and connotes a Master Mason – which means something to Freemasons but not to those of us not initiated.
I paid a king’s ransom (pun intended) to have it restored. It works well and looks good for a hundred-year-old trench watch. It was used and abused by a veteran, who was a plumber with a curiosity about life. I had a strap made from a shop in Finland, which is perfect. The dial has the 12 facing towards my elbow, which was the style of the time. The design from a time when watches were made more user friendly for those fighting wars.
When you settle an estate and dig through the stuff someone else thought was important enough to keep around, it is good to give pause and try to figure out why. The watch was my grandfather’s, passed to my mom, and made its way to me from the bottom of a dusty metal box. It was never intended for me, or it would have been given to me when everyone associated with it was still alive. But it made its way from an old man’s arm to his favorite grandson. That’s cool.
I can’t watch tv news anymore. The competing networks are just too over the top. Deciphering the truth eventually leads me to believe nothing is the truth. There is probably a fancy word for that, but for now, let’s just call it bullshit.
The bullshit is basically that everyone either has or will get the virus. The whole world is protesting (Trump supporters don’t wear masks because they are immune from their last vote) looting and burning. Cops are killing people at random, and being black, white, or gay is worse than being a woman.
But I think I have found a bright light at the end of the tunnel. I saw an ad last night for a lawyer looking for people who have been abused by priests. This tells me at least one person in the CNN ad department thought it was a good idea to take this lawyer’s money so he can help those poor people and put a bad guy in jail.