Monday, December 26, 2011

Remembering the winter in South Jersey

 This past Christmas weekend had me thinking of the "old days" when I lived up in South Jersey. Living in South Florida, where the temperature on Christmas Day was 78, it's easy to forget what the winters are like up north. But some of my clearest, most vivid memories are of The Wildwoods, Ocean City and Cape May in the winter.

I remember in Wildwood, in the winter, there were so few cars on the streets that the city would turn off the traffic lights and cover them with burlap bags to keep the weather out. When it snowed, the causeways going in and out of most of the shore towns would be closed. It wasn't until the casinos came into Atlantic City, if I remember right, that they started making more of an effort to open the causeways.

We used to go up on the Ocean City boardwalk in the dead of winter, just for something to do, even though everything was closed. Walking the boards in 25° weather at one o'clock in the morning with a bunch of friends was fun, if nothing else to breathe in the fresh sea air. Then it was down to the Point Diner, which was open 24/7, for hot coffee or cocoa, and sometimes a late night burger or breakfast. Some of the best burgers I ever had were at the Point.

One New Year's Eve in the late 1980s, my friends and I wound up at the Point Diner at around 2am. The place was packed, of course, and there were actually some people we knew there getting coffee. A girl who I went to high school with (and tried to date with no luck, but was friends with) was there with a group of friends. She invited me over to sit with her for a few, and I had to squeeze in tight next to her. If I had half a brain I would have realized she was coming on to me...but I didn't...even though when she directed my eyes down to her legs, I could see she was wearing some very sexy stocking...and had her skirt hiked up just enough to see the garter belts. What a dumbass I was...I talked with her a few more minutes then went back to my group of friends. Wasn't until the next day I realized what she was after. Missed opportunity there. Oh well.

Jilly's on the boards in OC used to stay open late into the season. They had video games and pool tables, and it was one of the few places you could play pool without being 21 or a badass that could fight off a bunch of tough guys. We'd play pool at fifty cents a pop well into the morning...cold or not...Then head back to EHT in my 63 Imperial Crown or my 53 Chevy Belair, cranking the Stray Cats or Elvis or some big band stuff as if it were the 1950s. This was back in the late 80s and early 90s. Guess what...still friends with most of those guys, and still have that kool 1953 Chevy Belair. Kooky, ain't it?

-Christopher Pinto, author of Murder Behind the Closet Door, the Wildwood Paranormal Murder Mystery.