Ocean City is much more fun when it does not feel as though your ribs are being ripped from your body. Or when your back does not spasm from sitting down, lying down, or standing up. Or when your lungs don't feel like sponges.
Or when it isn't foggy/overcast/drizzling the whole time.
In other words, this time was much nicer than last time.
I had obviously hoped that this trip would make up for last month's pin-a-grin-on-my-face-and-bear-it experience. And it did. The weather was beautiful, I was healthy--even my hip decided to behave--and Bobby and I made a vow to park the car Friday morning and not move it until it was time to leave Sunday evening, leaving us free to eat, drink, and frolic as we pleased. And we did.
Friday morning, we left early, around 7:30. Bobby drove, and I apparently napped and headbanged in my sleep shortly after crossing the Bay Bridge into Kent Narrows.
We arrived just before eleven and stopped for lunch at the Dough Roller. There are several Dough Rollers in Ocean City. At the first one we went to, they sat us with breakfast menus, so I asked the server for a lunch menu.
He asked the hostess, who would not give him one. "We are not serving lunch," she said.
They serve lunch at eleven. It was eleven.
Bobby had been in the bathroom, and he came back and--not knowing what I'd just overheard--also asked for a lunch menu.
"They say they are not serving lunch," said the server.
"Well, what time do you serve lunch?" Bobby asked.
"It is past eleven."
"So why aren't you serving lunch."
"I don't know."
So we left and drove a few miles down the road to the next Dough Roller and had lunch there. But that was quite...odd.
This trip, we had decided, we would spend on the beach. So after lunch, we checked in at the Buckingham--our old standard for summer stays--and were on the beach by noon. The weather was perfect; in the low 80s (around 27 for you sensible Celcius folks) and sunny. The sea was making nice waves for Bobby to go boogie-boarding but was nonetheless well-behaved.
I sat and read a book of short stories and enjoyed it, without worrying about what I should be doing. It was lovely.
I had been suffering from a strange sort of writer's block. A combination of writer's block and complete lack of motivation to actually write. So I strolled down to the water and got in to about my knees. And I thought about writing. I thought about the story ideas that I had yet could not get excited about. And--as is usually the case with me--I began to get excited about them.
What is it about the sea? It inspires me. Maybe I really do hear the voice of Ulmo. :)
I spent a good bit of the afternoon scribbling in my notebook about one of the stories that I hope to begin soon.
We stayed on the beach until nearly sundown, then walked down the Boardwalk to the inlet and had pizza at Piezano's for supper. They do their pizza differently there, with the sauce on top of the cheese. Don't knock it till you try it; it's delicious. And I am proud to say that I ate nothing healthy the whole time I was in Ocean City. On Friday, I had a veggie sub and cheese fries for lunch, then pizza and cheese fries for supper. I had never had cheese fries twice in one day before, but now I have, and I am proud! And walking back to the hotel that night, Bobby and I each had a chocolate-peanut butter custard cone. Yum.
After supper, we popped into Marty's Playland and played an engaging two-player game of Sea Hunters. Bobby's character died almost right away, and I made it as far as the end of Level Two and died fighting the Leviathan. I played a bit of LotR pinball, but the Valar really were not smiling on me this weekend, and my ball kept either hitting into the little side avenues that cause it to be lost or rolling directly between my paddles where it is impossible to hit. I maxed out at a score just below five million.
We walked down to the inlet, where there is the Ocean City Lifesaving Museum. Now we see this every time we come to OC yet have never been inside. Given both our loves for obscure lore, I don't know why. On a whim, we popped into the gift shop. On a whim, we checked the museum hours; it was open until ten. So we bought two tickets and had a great time walking through.
The building used to be the old OC Lifesaving Station and was sold to the town for $1 and moved to the inlet, where it was converted into a museum. All of the years that I had seen it, I thought that lifesaving was the same as what the beach lifeguards do. Frankly, I wasn't too interested in that. But I was quite wrong. Lifesavers were men in the late 1800s to the turn of the century who patrolled the beaches looking for ships in distress. Using a variety of methods, they would then rescue the persons on board. Naturally, ships don't tend to sink in ideal weather, so the lifesavers would often have to trudge for five to ten miles dragging thousands of pounds of equipment behind them in the sand in all manners of rain and snow. Some of the accounts given in the museum were astounding, of rescues conducted with snowstorms so vicious that there were man-high snowdrifts to contend with or ninety mile-per-hour winds. Yet they were largely successful, and the lifesaving division was eventually incorporated as part of the Coast Guard.
The museum is the pretty red-roofed building in the front.
The museum also boasted old OC artifacts, a mermaid collection, sands from around the world, and--most intriguing after the lifesaving stuff--shipwreck memorabilia. Including a good deal of stuff from the infamous Andrea Doria, which is considered the Mount Everest of wreck diving and which has sent many a diver to a watery grave. The phenomenon is called "China fever" whereby divers become obsessed with recovering china from the wreck and often dive alone or foolishly, dying as a result. Some of that coveted china was on display in the museum. Bobby's and my eyes were wide as saucers. (Okay, bad pun, I know!)
When we left, we both agreed that that was $6 well spent (for two admissions) and that we were glad we had taken a chance on it.
We stopped at the fishing pier--the most fun a buck will buy--and spent a good deal of time staring into the water, but we didn't see any huge skates this time. Bobby caught a glimpse of a small one, and a guy on the pier hooked one, but the two giants that we saw last time must have had plans that didn't include us because we didn't see them the next night either. Damn.
By now, it was late and we were tired, so we started the two-mile hoof back to the hotel, stopping for custard and then to sit on the Big White Wall and watch all the silly people going by.
Saturday, it was up early for breakfast at Layton's and down to the beach for a record eight hours. Eight hours of napping, reading, and splashing in the water. Because I was not debilitated this time, I could actually get in, though I tend not to get in over my head because I find being knocked about like a prizefighter by the sea to be an unpleasant affair. But I got in to my waist. The water was fairly warm.
When the tide goes out and most of the people have gone home, Bobby and I like to walk along the water and pick up the things that wash up. We found young jellyfish, whole for once, and lots of sea plants. We also found a lot of trash. I mean really. What are people thinking when they leave their garbage at the high-tide line? That the ocean will put it in the garbage bins for them?
So we always pick that up too, of course. Stupid, dirty people.
For supper that night, we ate at Brass Balls Saloon and each indulged in yummy alcoholic drinks. I continued my trend of eating as unhealthily as possible: cheese omelette for breakfast and fried macaroni-and-cheese wedges and nachos for dinner. Bobby had ribs. This weekend, he ate more meat than he usually eats in a month.
Then it was back down to the inlet, for more unlucky pinball and another game of Sea Hunters that got us to Level Three this time (for four dollars of quarters, of course). We went on rides: the Crazy Dance, of course, which is my favorite carnival-type ride, and the giant Ferris wheel. But rides are bloody expensive. These two rides for the two of us cost thirteen dollars. Ai....
We went back out on the pier, but as I said, the skates were being stubborn this weekend. We shared another custard cone and did more Idiot-watching, then went back to the hotel and fell into bed.
Sunday, it was...back to the beach!
We generally stretch our last day as long as possible. We went to Brass Balls for breakfast--and I continued to work towards my goal by ordering a Bountiful Burke, which is scrambled eggs over fried potatoes and covered in cheese sauce--and then down to the beach. We stayed until 4:30, and then it was time to pack up and start thinking about home. :(
This picture was taken on the walk back from breakfast:
We had dinner at Dumser's, which is best know for its ice cream. I had a grilled cheese and a sundae; we shared jalapeno poppers. Then we drove down to the inlet to do our gift-shopping. In Maryland, if you come back from the ocean without caramel popcorn, saltwater taffy, or fudge, you're likely to be disowned. Prolonging our evening even further, we did more pinball (still no luck) and took a walk out on the jetty and took some pictures.
(Yes, that handsome man is Bobby!)
We were lucky enough to get a great shot of a fishing boat coming past the inlet. We see them all of the time from the beach, heading out to sea. The boat used as the Andrea Gail in The Perfect Storm movie was from Ocean City, incidentally.
Some views of the pier and inlet area. The fishing pier, which costs fifty cents to sightsee and is well worth it.
The part of the pier owned and developed by Jolly Rogers connects to the fishing pier:
And a close-up of the pier rides and also a sign of the times: there is extensive construction in the background, building more beachfront condos. The little houses and motels of my childhood are being torn down to make way for this.
The ocean turned vicious on our last day there. The lifeguard spent much of his afternoon yanking people out of the water. Even Bobby was getting knocked around. Here are some crashing-water pictures that Bobby took that night:
The inlet itself was created by a hurricane in 1933 that tore away part of the little strip of land, taking much of OC's pound-fishing industry with it. But in its wake, the town turned instead to sport-fishing and--naturally--tourism. The view of the inlet, where the two pieces of land used to connect:
And finally, one of the old standards from my childhood closed this year and is currently up for sale: Mario's. Mario's was an Italian restaurant--quite a classy place back in the day--and my family was regular there. There was once an incident where my sister was pretending to "fly" on one of the chairs there and tumbled ass-over-tin-cup onto the floor and earned herself the name "Flying Tootsie." (She was quite young at the time, in her defense, and I am momentarily glad that she is in England because she is probably thinking violent thoughts involving me right now. Kirsty, you may use this information as you see fit.) But Mario's has always been one of those landmarks for me that I never expected to disappear. Alas, this year it did, though the building remains, so I got a snap of it:
It seems fitting to end my summer with that.