In Defense of the Jersey Shore
I’m still in severe recovery mode from my annual trip to Sea Isle City, New Jersey as I type this. I have a slight Irish tan (read: semi severe burn) on my shoulders, no voice, a ringing in ears that will not stop, severe dehydration (from both sun and alcohol, I presume), and sore limbs (we’ll get to this later). However, I consider the trip to be a great success.
For those of you whose sole impression of the Jersey Shore revolves around Snooki & company, let me make one thing clear: there is a diffinitive difference between beaching above Atlantic City or below it. I’ve never been north of AC, but it’s in Seaside Heights that this show shot to fame. This is the land of jacked and tan. In the same vein, north Jersey’s Asbury park is responsible for giving us the gift that is Springsteen, so you (and I) should reserve judgement until having visited. I held the same prejudices against Atlantic City until I went there on vacation, and completely changed my tune.
The southern Jersey shore is strip of towns including Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, and Cape May sit on a strip of barrier islands. They’re advertised as very family friendly; salt water taffy, old and young crowds, 50’s style breakfast joints, and mini golf. Sea Isle, despite having many of these things is decidely un-family, which is I think why I love it so much. It allows those of us with jobs, responsiblities, and student loans to forget about our problems and live an almost articial life for a few days. And that, is what a trip to the shore is all about.
I was trying to be financially responsible last weekend and vowed to remain in Lancaster and get some work done (this is literally the story of my life). Thursday night, my sister, who just graduated from Drexel a week ago, texted me to say she’d like to do something on her last weekend in Philly, but had no friends. Friday morning my brother texted me to say that he and my cousin were en route to Sea Isle. A college buddy texted minutes later saying he’d be joining my brother. Everyone was going to the beach, and I’m not one to be left out.
Saturday in SIC
My sister, former college housemate, and I decided that in the name of financial responsibility, we’d skip the entire weekend and make it a Saturday beach day trip. Sea Isle is about an hour and twenty minutes from Philly, and is an easy ride down the AC Expressway. In fact, sometimes Sea Isle feels more like Philly transported to the Jersey Shore than NJ itself. A poll taken in the bar Saturday afternoon showed the crowed to be spilt PA/NJ about 50/50.
We were initially going to try and hit AC in the morning for breakfast and gambling and roadtrip down to SIC, but decided against this as my sister had a little bit of a rough morning. We arrived around noon laden with beach chairs, no suncreen, and a cooler full of Bud Light Lime (you’re unofficially allowed to drink on the beach in SIC as long as you use a solo cup, and pour inside your cooler). The weather was perfect: mid 80’s and breezy. It was hot enough to go in the water for lengthy periods without getting cold, but not oppresive. Zac Brown sums it up best with the following lyrics, “got my ass in the water, toes in the sand, not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand, life is good today.
At the Club
We had a large group and easily finished our cooler around 3. No shower happy hour starts at 4:00 and is a tradition in SIC that life revolves around. After our afternoon of sun and booze, we needed some food, and decided to lunch at “the club.”
The Commodore Club is an exclusive (so exclusive I could find no website) member’s only social club found on SIC’s boardwalk between two unassuming souverneir shops. In fact, if the above sign wasn’t perched outside telling members the day’s deals, you’d walk right past. Luckily for us, my friend is a card carrying member and is able to bring as many as nine friends in to experience all the excitement and glamour.
It actually is sort of fun in a drinking-for-cheap-at-the-beach’s-answer-to-a-VFW type way. It boasts cheap drinks ($3.00 pints, $4.00 martinis) and a decent selection of non-overpriced food for lunch (I had $6.00 wings). It also has an old school jukebox with a really bizarre selection. We dined to “Livin La Vida Loca” and “Tale as Old As Time” from Beauty and the Beast.
NO Shower Happy Hour at the Ocean Drive
My favorite part of trips to Sea Isle City are No Shower Happy Hour. I’m told it exits in many of the town’s bars, but I’ve exclusively attended at The Ocean Drive, more commonly referred to as The OD.
In theory, myself (and probably alot of you reading) should hate both the OD and “No Shower”. It’s always uber crowded, people get beyond drink, you can hardly converse over the sound of the music, the floor is covered in human filth and glass, and humorless shaded bouncers keep watch cross armed at various points around the perimeter of the action. It is, however, a glorious, glorious experience. I don’t know if it’s because it’s at the beach, or that when you leave there’s still sunlight, but it’s really unmatched, and something you have to experience.
No Shower Happy Hour with Secret Service is even better.
No Shower Happy Hour is exactly what it sounds like. People don’t dress up, they don’t clean up, they come right from the beach (you could even check your boogie board in at the front door). The entire crowd is clad in beach wear. If you really want to fit in wear a basketball jersey, homemade pinny, and your cheesiest shades. If they’re neon, even better. Another great perk of SIC is the abundance of live music. If you prefer cover bands to DJ’s, you’ve come to the right place. OD boasts regular performances by favorites like Secret Service, Burnt Sienna, Go Go Gadget, and Mr. Greengenes.
Secret Service hosts “Jam” sessions every Wednesday and Sunday at the OD. These jams come along with $1.50 bud light bottles and $2.50 sweet tea concotions that I refuse to touch. My cousin had never seen Secret Service, but heard all of us rave about them. His “Is Secret Service any good?” brought alot of laughts. They’re not “good” per say in a musical way, but they are hands down the most fun cover band I’ve ever seen. If you don’t attend a Secret Service Jam at the OD and come out in a great mood, you have no soul.
There are no pretensions among the crowd. No one is trying to look cool. No one cares that you don’t know the words, or that your dancing is bordering on the epileptic. Secret Service played three sets, well beyond their 4-8 timeslot. I believe we exited sometime around 9. From classic Tom Petty, to their patented Boy Band Medley, to a version of “All I Do is Win” that two middle aged white guys should never pull off, to my current favorite jam “Call Me Maybe” (don’t judge, everybody loves it), they just play fun music. An OD tradition is for everyone to bang their hands on the ceiling to the beat of the music. I thought I was going to lose my arm during “Come On Eileen” (which explains my sore limbs). Secret Service ends every performance with a requisite “trip to Africa” playing Toto’s best known (and only?) hit.
After No Shower, we gorged on several pizzas, hydrated and headed back to Conshohocken for the night. The rest of the town? They went back to shower (or not) and would be back out at the bars in several hours (or minutes) time. It really is an unreal world, where you could forget that real life exists.
We did some light bar hopping upon our return and found this sign at the first bar we visited. “Africa” was playing as we entered. I like to think it was Sea Isle’s way of telling us, “you messed up, you should’ve stayed.”