Thursday, August 23, 2012

Home Again? Perish the Thought!

This has been Teh Best Summer Evar!

Oddly enough, this is in part because we have spent so little of it at home.  What this says about Our Little Town is, frankly, a little disturbing.  I mean, it’s a nice enough place, really.  Not where I ever thought I’d end up, but not a place where I spend my days volunteering for medical experiments or Navy Seal training in order to escape, either.

Perhaps it’s not where we weren’t that made this a good summer, but where we went.  Because we’ve been to some wonderful places this summer.

You thought you were through all that vacation stuff, didn’t you?  Well, think again!  Because we just got back from another one!  That’s right!  There’s yours truly, living the high life, partying it up like the 1%, if the 1% had just spent four of the last fourteen days in a 12-year-old station wagon with two kids, a spouse, as much baggage as I could tetris into the back, and a bag of snacks that could have fed most of a high school boys track team for a week.  Also, a fair amount of sand, at least on the return trip.  Of course, we had nothing strapped to the roof at any time, so I guess we don’t qualify for that 1% discount after all.  Just regular folks, we are. 

Regular folks on the move.

This time we went for our annual trip out east to the Jersey shore, where my parents have made a tradition of renting a big house for a week and calling a gathering of the clans, because we’re from Philadelphia, and that’s what we do.  We drive out from Wisconsin, my brother and his family come down from New York, and we spend a glorious week on the beach, hanging out with each other.  My mother worried that the girls would be jaded after their big trip to Sweden and England, but we reassured her that this was not the case – and indeed, we had a grand time.

The first leg of our journey took us as far as Pittsburgh, where we met up with Random Michelle and Michael, who may or may not be random but who was with Michelle.  We discovered the joys of Chipotle (seriously, where has this chain been all my life?) and hung out at the hotel pool while Tabitha swam and Lauren demonstrated her new “synchronized swimming” routine.  I put that in quotes because it was just her, which made it difficult to see what she was synchronized to, really – mostly it ends up looking like someone dropped a small electrical device into the pool, not big enough to cause serious bodily harm but enough to lead to early-80s dancing.  So it was very much like the Olympic original, in other words, and good for Lauren.  It was very nice to meet Michelle finally, after getting to know her on the web, and we look forward to getting to see her and Michael again soon.

We then went to Ocean City, NJ, where we were staying this year.  Ocean City is a nice town for kids.  It’s more active than Cape May, where we’ve been going for the last few years, and it has a real boardwalk – with all sorts of tchotchke shops and restaurants that sell semi-lethal food (what is it about boardwalk pizzas that they all have to be bigger than manhole covers?  Seriously – that’s some distorted pizza, that is) and even amusement parks nestled away in the back.  But it’s also a dry town, which means that it is entirely surrounded by liquor stores – every entrance into the city has at least one vast and several smaller establishments designed to supply what you can’t get once you cross the bridge into town.  It keeps it interesting.

We did it all, while we were there.

We hit the beach.

We (well, the girls and their cousins) went boogie-boarding.

You will notice that there is a wide array of boogie-boards there.  We were somewhat taken by surprise by the fact that Tabitha and Lauren have chosen this year to grow at prodigious rates – Tabitha is about two inches taller than she was on Memorial Day, for example – and last year’s boogie boards were just … antiquated.  Fortunately, there are places on the boardwalk that will sell you new ones.  Imagine!  Places!  On the boardwalk!  Selling you things!

Truly, this is an age of wonders.

And we did hit that boardwalk hard, yes we did.  There was one store in particular that advertised itself as the home of Official Licensed Minecraft Gear, and thus it became our beacon.  Tabitha and Lauren are addicted to Minecraft – a video-game where you build civilizations one 8-bit graphic at a time, from what I can tell – and this place had it all.  Tabitha found her “first day of school” outfit there, Lauren got a necklace with something called a “creeper” on it, and even Kim got into the act.

We also went to one of the little amusement parks, and since it was the middle of the day rather than the evening, we actually had room to move around and get on rides. 

In the evenings we mostly hung around the house and played cards (more Phase 10!  You need to go out and buy this game!) or engaged in acts of conversation.  And techno-gadgetry.

And on one night our friends Mike, Krista and Eli came over.  I’ve known Mike since we were graduate students at Pitt, back in the early 90s – we bonded over a WKRP in Cincinnati joke and Krista later determined that we must have been the same person in a former life.  This might explain how we managed to run into them at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on our way to Ocean City as well – it’s that homing sense.  They were staying with Mike’s family on the other side of town, and came up to have dinner with us: some UFO-sized boardwalk pizzas, a few imported adult beverages, and most of the polkagris that we’d brought back from Sweden.  Hey – we’re not training for the Olympics here. We were going to eat well, even if it killed us.

One of the things we like doing down at the shore is just walking along the beach.  Kim, Lauren and I did that on our first night there.

And on our last night there most of us went down.  Keith bought some flying devices that we spent a pleasant time trying to get up into the air, against the wind, and we made good use of the empty lifeguard stand as well.

As it got darker, we noticed a small animal furtively prowling the beach about fifteen yards away.  It gradually drew nearer until we could make out that it looked like a fox.  At this point the kids all jumped up into the lifeguard stand, but the adults figured that it was probably too skittish to get too much closer – it had closed to within about five yards by that point – and eventually it moved along.  We later decided that it might have been a coyote – it looked taller than a fox, but was definitely not a dog – but it was too dark to tell. It was pretty cool either way.

We left Ocean City and went up to spend the day with Aunt Lori’s parents at their house in Margate.  This always is a hit with Tabitha and Lauren, because Aunt Lori’s dad has a boat.  A powerful boat.  One that he likes to make go very, very fast indeed. 

Me?  I stay on the shore.  I like being on surfaces where if I screw up I can still breathe.

Margate also has Junior’s, which makes the world’s greatest donuts.  We hit them twice in a 24-hour period.  I may not eat sugar again until Halloween, but it was so, so worth it.

After Margate we drove back to my old neighborhood and spent a day with my parents outside of Philadelphia, hanging out and generally enjoying ourselves, before getting back on the road.  We got home Tuesday afternoon.

It’s been a great summer, filled with marvelous experiences.  But it’s nice to sleep in my own bed too.

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