Like many people from the Philly area, I grew up going “down the shore.” I’m not much of a beach goer, and wasn’t even one as a child, but I have always loved walking the boardwalk.
I grew up going to Avalon 1, where my grandfather owned an old beach shack two blocks from both it’s largest beach and the entertainment section of Avalon’s boardwalk. It was a kid’s paradise – we had an arcade, skeeball, and the greatest penny-candy shop to ever grace the shore. Yet, really, it was little more than it’s name suggests – it was a walk. Avalon’s wooden path wasn’t lined with shops and amusement rides and stand after stand of boardwalk food. Apart from the 29th Street complex, it was simply a wonderful place to stroll and listen to the surf.
I loved it. I could spend my daily allowance with skeeball, a few arcade games, and some Swedish fish 2. Then I could walk a block and be in wonderful quiet. Now I also loved the boardwalks in both Ocean City and Wildwood as well, but neither of these salt-air strip malls holds as dear place in my heart as Avalon’s.
Even more than the sound of the boardwalk, it’s the smell which is fixated in my brain. The mixture of sea air, sun-baked wood, and the remnants of sun-tan lotion gave rise to a scent which sings to my soul, “Summer!” This vacation-scented perfume rises into the hearts of those who walk it’s face – it’s present even at the busier boardwalks down the shore, where it has to compete with the smells of various fried foods and other confections. The scent of a boardwalk at night is unique, and one which Jersey Shore goers know well.
I don’t get down the shore much nowadays, I’m often too busy for day trips and my family vacations elsewhere 3. Whenever I am privileged to make a journey toward it’s open confines, however, the first thing I always do is inhale deeply. I’m not merely looking to breathe in that wonderful salt air, I’m searching for that unique and wonderful scent which I’ve found no where else. When I catch it I know, part of my soul has arrived at home.
- This was back before Avalon became “middle class need not apply.” The Avalon, NJ I remember had a semi-shabby apartment/condo building one block from our house, and was made up of rows of old cozy beach-shacks. The Avalon which exists today is a pale reflection of the energy of old. ↩
- The kind which have been exposed to air, so they get that wonderful crust around the gooey center. ↩
- Sadly, it’s not only Avalon which is pushing out the Middle Class. ↩