They strolled the north end of
boardwalk, pausing often to let people pet their rescued greyhound. Asbury Park
We sat on a bench after having walked several hours in Point Pleasant, and then through Asbury, searching for the usual clues from a past we came too late to witness for ourselves.
Those trips to the Stone Pony I took with Hank in the 1970s too vague a memory to count on, and that one trip through the ruins of the Casino in the early 1990s when a cold rain made it impossible for us to look more closely at what had survived the early wrecking ball.
He, an elderly man with a salt and pepper goatee, stood back as his wife talked about the dog and how it had raced for years in
as a champion, but might have been killed – because
that’s what the racing industry does to dogs when they can no longer race. Florida
“You can only race them for five years, and they then have to go,” she explained.
They hailed from
now, but he boasted of having been born here, his
parents come to Pennsylvania just prior
to the Great Depression. His father was a window washer in a town with too many
windows for anyone to count, including those in the Convention Center behind
“But when the Depression hit, people stopped caring about their windows,” he said.
His father took up another living moving things, which seemed to help the family some until one day while moving grand piano, he ran over his foot and crushed the bones, after which things went from bad to worse.
They were so broke that when he was born in 1936, they couldn’t pay the hospital.
“We’ve still owe them the $15,” he said with a wry grin as if he had gotten over on the system.
He was one years old when the family moved out, but he continued to return here, as if drawn back by some power he could not explain. The family took vacations here, and he continues to have memories of where things are or should have been, and sees them in their rightful place even though the wrecking ball has claimed most of them over the years.
“My daughter comes here four times a week,” he said. “She’s here somewhere today jogging. She’s consumed with Bruce Springsteen. Frankly, she’s here stalking him. Earlier this year – on her birthday – she was at the Wonder Bar when he showed up. It was the greatest moment of her life, she said. She just got tickets to see him in
. She couldn’t believe she got the tickets.” Philadelphia
His bright eyes glinted as if he had somehow made an important connection, had passed down some great legacy from his own past, and his passion for this place and what it once was, his daughter finding an important connection to a town he loved so much he had to keep coming back, and their return on Christmas Day part of some mutual pack that said they will continue to share this treasure.
I didn’t ask him what he thought of Springsteen, since he was of a different generation, more Frank Sinatra than Rock & Roll, but I could see the joy in his eyes, this amazing Christmas present the whole family shared, daughter jogging through the fog on this warm holiday in December, while her parents walked a dog they had rescued, all somehow managing to save something important here, some aspect of Asbury Park they gave to us in passing.