Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ocean City Enjoyment Changes With Age

Growing up in northern New Jersey meant most of my family's beach trips were to The Jersey Shore...Pt. Pleasant for single day visits and Stone Harbor/Avalon for weeklong stays. Wildwood and Seaside Heights were saved for high school debauchery and MTV Spring Breaks. A nice 2.5-hour drive by my dad was nothing for me and my naps in the backseat. The Maryland equivalent to New Jersey's Ocean City is its own Ocean City. Both cities enjoy white trash cheesiness, boardwalk fries, and a true Americana experience for the middle class.

Having lived in Maryland almost 10 years to the day, I've experienced quite the gamut of Ocean City offerings between 18 and 28 years of age. I also took a few family vacations to Ocean City (hereafter known as the Maryland one (hereafter known as the OC (hereafter done to dismay any California valley readers (hereafter I will use less parentheses)))).

The OC classic, so Maryland, so necessary.

Submitted for your approval, a list of what the OC offers a male by age:

Newborn To Five Years Old
You have no idea where you are, who you are, and how to say much of anything. knowing when to use a toilet and writing your name is all you have to show for yourself. Playing in the big sandbox is fun, but you don't have the dexterity to build anything more than a 3-inch hole with your hand. Be careful not to eat the sand! The boardwalk is a blur, but you like those flashing lights and the cotton candy sugar high your parents are kind enough to give you.

Six to Ten Years Old
You proudly bring your arsenal of sandcastle equipment: plastic bucket with handle that breaks the moment you fill it with wet sand - check, plastic shovel with scoop that breaks after you dig too deep - check, castle tower-shaped bucket to fake your building skill - check, and imagination that keeps you quiet so your parents won't lose you on the beach - check. Your quickly growing vocabulary is only used to express your desire for more cotton candy, that you don't wanna walk four blocks to get taffy, and you really need the potty...soon.

On my way to sand castle supremacy!

Ten to Thirteen Years Old

Playing in the sand seemed like a good idea until you built the Detroit skyline, highways, and tunnels, only to have the high tide wipe out everything. Suddenly the sand is boring and unfair so you stomp your feet. You pass time on the beach with the folks by reading Cracked and Mad Magazines. You don't get most of the jokes, but read ahead anyway. The boardwalk is where you shine. You constantly want more quarters for the arcade and think you can outsmart the carnival games that are hopelessly rigged. You don't care that the stuffed penguin costs five cents for the Carney to buy; you'd rather be stubborn and win it after 7 dollars of softball tosses into a rigged milk jug.

Hey Carney! Bring it!

Fourteen to Sixteen Years Old
Playing in the sand is for little kids and you'd never be caught doing that again. You try to read your required summer book, but your ever increasing hormones distract you into noticing every bikini-clad woman within 50 feet. You have not learned how not to stare. You ride waves with your boogeyboard from Sunsations. You're not as cool as you think because everyone else is from out of town and bought their boogeyboards from Sunsations too. Purchasing a Big Johnson t-shirt instantly makes you funnier than you think back at home. You rock the boardwalk arcade, again thinking you're cool, for beating Street Fighter II Turbo on one credit, until you're not cool because you used Chun Li.

There's no shame in using Chun Li, just the loss of coolness.

Seventeen to Eighteen Years Old
It seems everything your parents do is done to embarrass you. The tan bodies walking by know you're not from the shore and your skin isn't made to tan, so don't try to act "cool." You finally have a license and may drive all you want, but your car is also the family car used to get up the Coastal Highway. Always needing more calories for your growing body, you agree to go on a family bike ride as long as it ends in copious amounts of pancakes. You realize you'll never beat your father in mini-golf no matter how many Old Pro courses you play. Hanging out on the boardwalk at night, around the henna tattoo and funnel cake shops is the only thing to do, yet it offers nothing to do.

Nineteen to Twenty Years Old
Those 18 and older clubs advertised on OC TV sure look like a great time...they have strobe lights! Maybe a fake ID will get you into one of those sad boardwalk tiki bars.

Twenty-One to Twenty-Four Years Old
Daytime is spent eating subs and getting sunburned. Nighttime is spent at Seacrets, the only choice in the OC. It's offering of a nightclub, beachclub, live music, bars, and food on the Bay is everything a college kid needs in life. Sure it's trashy and has an unexplained line to get in, but who cares. It's a rite of passage, like a Bar Mitzvah.

Twenty-Four to Twenty-Seven Years Old
You can't substantiate a visit to the OC for more than a weekend. The boardwalk is suddenly just okay. You can't understand "those kids" who just hangout near the henna tattoo/funnel cake shop at night. You visit Seacrets for old times sake and quickly realize: a) you're not in college; b) you're not a lifelong OC person; c) you don't want to be that sketchy, pervy guy with the wrinkled skin whose tan is way to dark; and d) money spent buying drinks is better spent on your mortgage as you don't have any disposable income and actually are aware of such a concept.

Twenty-Eight Years Old
You take your parents' offer to stay with them on Saturday night.

Twenty-Nine Years Old to Empty Nesters

Let's call this part two that I hope to write in 20 or so years.

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