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What are You Looking At? (a Lengthy Guide to the Wildwood Night Life)
by J. Michael Bolan
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"To Alcohol, the cause of and solution to, all of life’s problems."
- Homer J. Simpson

I recently decided to drop out of society for a little while. I had to get away. Had to go to where the sun is always shining, where I could dig my toes into the warm sand while sipping a Pina Colada and be surrounded by incredibly beautiful scantily clad women on some tropical island. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go to a tropical island, so I had to settle for the Jersey shore. Granted, the Jersey shore is no paradise and many will go on record and say it is in actuality, Hell on Earth. It is widely known by all those other people in America that New Jersey is the armpit of the East Coast. Seeing that the East Coast of the United States is the only part of the world that I can say I somewhat have knowledge of, I’d have to agree. Yet since I was a boy the Jersey Shore has always been a place of great solace to me.

Whenever the city is breathing down my neck, stifling me, and life is driving me crazy I like to go there to put things in perspective. Just lay back on the beach, relax, and forget about work, bills, and the fact my house is literally falling apart. It’s incredibly soothing to me to go to the beach and stand under the vast indifference of Heaven and stare out at the massive Atlantic Ocean and realize whatever’s bothering me doesn’t really matter. It’s a form of therapy when I get wrapped up too much in things to go stand at the foot of the ocean and think to myself that this ocean has been here in some form, for millions of years. Its age and its depth are unknown. All the significant (and non-significant) events in the history of Earth this giant monster has been there, coming in and going out and it has devoured far, far greater men than I will ever be. So, at ease that it is all relative and how small my problems really are, I can lay there letting the sun toast my pasty pale skin a healthy tan, dig my toes into the warm sand and drink my mass produced domestic beer while being surrounded by so-so looking women, some of which are way too scantily clad.

No, The Jersey shore is no a honeymoon destination, at least in shouldn’t be. No, the women are not necessarily goddesses. But, if you’re looking for a relatively cheap getaway, where you can unwind and bask in the sun while trying to avoid New York medical waste, then the New Jersey shore is for you. If you are young and looking for a good time than the specific shore point to kill your brain cells and try to get picked up without spending a fortune would have to be Wildwood. Warning, be careful where you park and always be on the look out for the glass shiv. Luckily, for me it was not very expensive at all because I have loving friends who rent a house in Wildwood, allowing me to mooch a free semi-vacation off of them.

I give to you a slice of my Wildwood experience as it happened.

8:00 AM

Wake up, get out of bedroom, get overwhelmed by the odor of stale beer, rotting meat and cigarettes. Look at wall clock; notice it is only 8 AM. Go back to bed.

Breakfast at Larkin’s
26th and New Jersey

Larkin’s is a quaint little diner that, noticing the drinking/sleeping habits of many people in Wildwood, serves breakfast all day long. The staff is extremely friendly and the price is extremely fair. I attended breakfast with Mimi Van Dorn, the Shark and Leatherneck. We get a big breakfast for four, for just over twenty dollars. Be warned: the jukebox in your booth will play Debbie Gibson and only Debbie Gibson, no matter what selection you make. While eating breakfast and seeing other friends, acquaintances and family members enter the Shark comments, “This is just like the ending scene in ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’. You know, when they’re at the diner eating breakfast and everyone’s coming in.” Just before I could comment on the stupidity of his remark my other two fellow diners agreed. Shocked and disturbed that three people I consider friends have spent a combined $22.50 on a Jennifer Love Hewitt film, I am held speechless. “What was that song during that last scene? You know, it was an older song. It fit that scene perfectly. You guys remember it?” The Shark asks. No one can remember. I assure him it was Todd Rundgren’s “Bang on a Drum.”

1:30 PM
Beach at Glenwood Avenue.

Despite being assured that we would go to one of the Boardwalk’s water parks (I’m no big fan of the ocean) I wind up on the beach with the Shark and Mimi Van Dorn. The Wildwood beach is supposedly the largest free beach in the world. Meaning, you don’t need to purchase a beach tag and it’s totally open to the public. I never really understood the whole beach tag concept. Nor do I understand having to pay to get into National Parks and the such. It’s nature for crying out loud. We should all have complete access and equal opportunity to destroy God’s wonders with our candy bar wrappers, cigarette butts and empty soda cans. It’s sickening to me that “The Man” can require us to pay for tags to the beach. Well, thankfully you don’t have to worry about “The Man” tagging you like some endangered species on the Wildwood Beaches.

What you do have to worry about is dehydration. The enormity of the Wildwood Beach is almost unconquerable. When you first hit the beach from the street, if you look east and squint really, really hard, you may make out the ocean. If you are lucky enough to be on a stretch of beach that has a wooden walkway down to the water; you may make it in under an hour. If not, then prepare yourself for the long haul. Try not to get discouraged as you pass the skeletal remains of families that didn’t make it. Those people are weak you are strong. You can, no you WILL make it to the water.

The beach is relatively clean despite all the stereotypes about the Jersey Shore. The last of the Manhattan area hospital refuse washed up years ago. Of course there are the jackasses feeding the seagulls making you feel like Tippy Hedren in 'The Birds'. Be strong the gulls will eventually swoop down and completely consume the moron who is attracting these diseased defecating rats with wings. The water on this particular day was very nice. It is indeed rare when there is no seaweed or dead jellyfish. The ocean was very clean and temperature wise it was just right. Knowing that I am very discriminating when it comes to swimming in the ocean, I jumped at the chance to actually enjoy the water and cool off.

4:00 PM
Lunch at Sam’s Pizza
26th and the Boardwalk

I’ve had pizza in New York and like everything about New York it sucked. I’ve had pizza in Florida and like everything about Florida it sucked. I’ve had pizza in probably every city or state that I have ever traveled to or through. Admittedly, that’s not many but I feel it’s enough to get an adequate sampling. In other words, I’ve had my share of pie (if you know what I mean). I’m no gourmand and in actuality take little or no pleasure from eating. I do it only to sustain life. If some time in the near future one of our many overpaid scientists develops a pill that you can take and not eat all day, I would sign on for it. I would miss Sam’s Pizza and maybe steak, if just a pill came along.

Being from Philadelphia and just spending 13 months of utter torment living in South Philadelphia, I’ve heard over and over that the only good pizza is made by some Italians in some cramped pizza shops in the city. I’ve never bought into this. Now, while I assume the people who run Sam’s are Italian, I don’t really care, I can honestly say that Sam’s Pizza is the greatest pizza I have ever consumed. Many from my hometown would call me an infidel, “No way pizza from the shore can be better than pizza from Philly (or New York, or Chicago or insert your major metropolis here).” But, truthfully, it is. There are also some people who will tell you that Mack’s is the best shore pizza. These people are not to be trusted. The Sam’s Pizza Lover vs. The Mack’s Pizza Lover is a cultural clash that’s been going on for quite some time. The division this issue has caused is up there with the rights to the Holy Land, Gun Control and who is the better Darren, Dick York or Dick Sergeant? But, don’t base your opinion on mine, try them both and see if you are among the sane, emotionally balanced people in this world. Sam’s is $1.45 a slice and Mack’s, well I don’t eat at Mack’s so I wouldn’t know. Bring two dollars with you, you should be fine.

5:00 – 6:30
Nap Time

I dreamed that I was on this crazy cliff in this field of rye with all these little kids, there were no big people around except for me. They would all be playing and stuff and running and my job was to, if any of the kids were about to go over the cliff, I’d jumped out and catch them. Just like that song, “If a body catch a body a comin’ out the rye.”

Number One Tavern
1st and Central (?)

I had spent the last two hours hanging around my friend’s place. Dino and a guy called Cussinmeat arrived, thankfully, with a 30 pack of beer. We all sat around and discussed philosophy and politics. Debated the existence of a Supreme Being and the legitimacy of a flat tax rate. Then we watched the 27 year-old Cussinmeat ‘rip-cord’ three cans of beer.

We took a cab down to 1st and I believe Central in North Wildwood, located on the corner is a bar, well let’s say a tourist trap, known as the Number One Tavern. It is the home of some obnoxious red concoction known as “The Tully Nut”. The Tully Nut is a secret mixture of five different liquors. It looks and smells and kind of tastes like a really sweet Hawaiian Punch. It is also 7 dollars a drink. It’s appeal, if I am to understand it is to really mess you up, really quick. Now, I’m all for letting loose and unwinding and using our good friend alcohol as a vehicle for this, but I have a problem with this drink. Not the drink, but the concept. We are all human beings and we all have the right to try to destroy ourselves if we choose, we also have the right to use whatever method we would like to accomplish this goal. The thing I see with this drink however, is that A) the people drinking it are not real drinkers. They do not put the time and effort into a night of boozing that die-hards do. They are also not prepared to deal with the sometimes painful, many times embarrassing consequences of their actions. In other words, these people drinking the Tully Nut are amateurs. They are the same people clogging our bars on St. Patrick’s Day, swilling their green beer and puking corn beef and cabbage on your shoes. A quick glance around the men’s room confirms my suspicions as all the fixtures were stained with bright red vomit. B) For whatever reason, consumption of this drink gives people the uncontrollable urge to obnoxiously yell out the name of the drink. The bar is a sea of people, all holding up these plastic cups full of this bright red fluid. Raising your glass and screaming out the contents is apparently a rite of passage at this place. I felt an overwhelming lust to kill every drunken buffoon who periodically shouted at the top of his/her lungs, “TELLY NUTS!” The name itself is almost too obnoxious for me.

Since it is a place serving a badass drink that messes you up, it attracts a lot of frat boys and party girls who still think getting drunk is cool. Since Wildwood is teeming with frat boys and party girls who still think getting drunk is cool, the place gets very packed. The owner greets you at the door, checks your ID then literally pushes you as far back in a corner as you can go. Not only is it a tourist trap, its also a fire trap. Yet, these complaints did not stop me from consuming many Tully Nuts at the Number One Tavern.

Moore’s Inlet
Somewhere in Anglesea (It’s huge, you can’t miss it.)

After being pushed and shoved further back into the Number One Tavern myself, Leatherneck and two female companions, eventually fell out the back door and headed over to Moore’s Inlet. The last thing I remember seeing is watching Cussinmeat ripcord a fifth of Wild Turkey while standing on the bar.

Moore’s Inlet is a gigantic place that is pretty much a Wildwood Institution. My father drank there; his father drank there. Unfortunately, the history of my family in this country only goes back two generations or I could try to emphasize the institution concept better. It has an indoor bar and several outdoor bars. There are also booths that take up the entire area in between the bars, which is massive. When we were there, supposedly there was 1500 people crammed into the place, and you could feel it. Moore’s doesn’t have any secret specialty drink, just loads and loads of (mostly Irish) people getting loaded. Actually it is a very friendly atmosphere that usually has two bands (one inside, one outside) and is located right by the ocean so outside there is also a nice sea breeze.

The crowd at Moore’s varies greatly in age, I ran into my grandmother there, but its cool because as I said its very amiable. To be honest at this point of the night things get a little fuzzy, I remember Dino showing up and kissing my father. After about an hour or so, we decided to leave and walk on down to a place called Kennan’s or as its better known, "South West Philadelphia-East".

I HAVE NO IDEA Keenan’s Irish Pub. Beats me, in Anglesea.

On the walk from Moore’s to Keenan’s I somehow lost my footing. I remember hearing the crack of my head hitting the curb like it was happening to someone else. It sounded like a dozen eggs simultaneously smacking the ground from three stories. I also remember thinking, “Jesus, this is going to hurt.” I got back up while the Shark, Dino and some other people, I don’t know who, were looking at me pretending to be concerned yet unable to control their laughter. Deeply concerned that unbelievably I was not in any real pain while constantly feeling the back of my head convinced it would be soaked in blood, I assured everyone concerned I was fine. Now, many people seeing a friend bank his head off of a curb like a Superball, would probably take him home or if it was serious enough to the hospital. My friends took me to Keenan’s.

Keenan’s is yet another massive bar in Anglesea made up of, again not to stereotype, mostly people of Irish decent vacationing at the shore. The crowd is younger than Moore’s and not as family friendly. Whereas a couple of generations of a family could go to Moore’s, sit at a booth have dinner and some beers, no self-respecting person would bring any members of an older generation to Keenan’s. It too, has an indoor part and an outdoor part. It too is jam packed with people. There is no live band inside Keenan’s, but there was, at least I think there was, a band outside. For some reason I also think they were playing either television sitcom theme songs or Steppenwolf covers. It gets real fuzzy.

A long, lonely walk home.

Cab drivers in Wildwood are a rare breed. They hang around the Anglesea area (an area choked with bars) and shuttle people from Anglesea to other parts of the island. If you are unlucky enough to be in between Anglesea and the rest of society, you will have little or no luck flagging down a cab. The night before, I luckily was able to convince what I think was a cab to stop. It was a pink station wagon with a phone number painted on the side and two burly looking guys in the front. They asked me my destination, I told them and got in. There was no meter, no radio, or anything that you would normally find in the interior of a cab. But, they were willing to take me where I wanted to go for only five bucks so I gladly hopped in. Saturday night, I was not so lucky.

I had to walk about twenty blocks back to the place because no cabs would stop and I was too stupid to just wait in Anglesea for one to pick me up. I was also too stupid to realize that I left all the people who would have keys to the place I was sleeping back at the bar. I broke into the house and was so tired from the walk (and apparently the Tully Nuts) that I fell fast asleep with my feet still dangling from the window in which I climbed.

So, that was my experience with Wildwood Nightlife. If you are as big a dullard as I am, you may want to wear a bike helmet while bar hopping. I also suggest hanging out and catching a cab, an actual cab, as opposed to walking 37 blocks in the middle of the night.

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