Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nothing ever lasts

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We made the trip south in the rain again, although not the deluge we faced in the fall trip where we had to stop along the side of the Parkway in order to let the downfall relent.
Rain accompanied a number of trips to Asbury Park, but did not keep us away until rain turned to snow and ice, and we hunkered down in Jersey City to wait it out, coming south the way the geese come north, as a spring ritual.

Not all the trips south over the last year had come with rain, but generally, the parkway became a madhouse filled with insane drivers in a rush to get somewhere fast. This trip was different with only one or two of the weaving idiots to make the trip uncomfortable, and fewer still of the panicked pedestrians that clogged middle lanes for fear of onramps. So we made good time even though we had chosen to leave later, doing our chores before we left – and arrived slightly over an hour after the 2 p.m. check in at the Neptune motel.

These roads always make me nostalgic for those days I was the backseat passenger in my grandfather’s car and made our way to some shore community where he or my uncles needed to work on somebody’s boat, or for our own annual summer trip to the beach – always pausing on the way to get a basket of fruit and vegetables from the inevitable roadside stands – those inexpensive summer icons since replaced in the city by the ludicrously labeled farmer’s markets at five times the price.

This time, I thought on my last trip wandering aimlessly along Route 35 when I still owned my silver Pinto, and I took my mother and my uncle for a ride, even then aware of the changing landscape and how intrusive development had become, and how we had struggled to find a still-in-business roadside stand for us to stop at.
Routinely, we take the same route in and out of Asbury Park – a route made into myth in a Bruce Springsteen story from his 1978 New York City concert – and we park in the same place near the intersection of Kingsley, Cookman and Asbury.

Once the hub of amusement activity, the place has become a graveyard of memories, a vacant lot along one side, two parking lots, and misconceived condo development. But on this day, with a steady rain after a weekend of snow, this world was nearly devoid of all life. Even our Christmas weekend trip had filled the boardwalk. But as we made our way up to the casino, life did not seem to exist even inside the bars along one side or in the abandoned cavern of the casino itself.

As routine, we made our way to the other end of the boardwalk to the still occupied Convention Hall, where we hoped to get coffee, and found the place as vacant as the boardwalk had been with a few employees of the pub preparing for some wedding, and an occasional jogger or dog walker passing through. The coffee was closed tight for lack of interest. Apparently, people had not yet gotten over the impact of the snow and so did not believe the world would thaw as quickly as it had.
We made our way back towards the Casino, seeing a few more brave souls appear as darkness came. Wesley Lake glowed with the warmed reflections remaining buildings as we walked up the Ocean Grove side and crossed one of the bridges to access the eateries near Cookman. The beer garden had opened, but we avoided it in favor of the small pizzeria we had eaten at previously, and then made our way back down Cookman to the boardwalk again to wait out the hour or so before we could go to the Stone Pony.

A few more people moved along near Madam Maries. The wedding party we had seen earlier posing for pictures in the convention center was gone, and only a few regulars occupied the pub. We sat at the tables near the closed coffee shop and took warmth under the ceiling level heaters we alone appreciated at that moment.
Outside, darkness grew more intense with the gray rain, and before long, we were out again, moving towards the Stone Pony in the rain.
Later, after the music was over, we made our way back to the motel.
By morning, it was cold, but clear, demonstrating that winter still clung even if the snow did not.

As with previous weekends, we packed up, put our stuff in the car, and then walked to nearby Perkins for breakfast, before checking out, and making our way back to Asbury Park.
Since our purpose this trip was to see the Bruce Springsteen tribute band we did not linger long in the cold, but took a brief stroll along the boardwalk from convention center to the pier in Ocean Grove. Someone had replaced the little sailor doll at the end of the pier and so all seemed well with the world again, although when we got to Main Street in Ocean Grove, we discovered a pile of sticks where three stores had been gutted by fire in January – one more injury to a memory, although not as horrible as the one that leveled Sea Side Park.

Memories are meant to fade, not go up in smoke, or get bulldozed by greedy developers. But then, the important lesson in all this is that nothing ever lasts, nor should it, a memory is precious partly because it holds on to the residue of something important long after the reality.

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