The boy and his dad, downashore, 1974.
This is the story of a boy. A boy who loved going downashore.
This love has been there since as long as the boy can remember, when his family used to rent a house in the Brant Beach section of Long Beach Island for a week every summer. The boy remembers that the house seemed to be surrounded by reeds. The boy celebrated many birthdays and showed off his kung-fu moves at that house. And the boy, thirty years later, still remembers how one summer there was a tire-flattened frog on the street his family walked on from the house to the beach. He can still picture that frog, surely preserved for way beyond that week by the heat coming from the steaming hot tar of the road. [Many, many years later, the frog was gone - and so was the house, knocked down and replaced with condos - not even a reed remained near the site.]
But soon the family switched rental houses and switched shore towns, too, now choosing to go to Ocean City, where the boy's aunt owned a house that was smack-dab in the middle of a church parking lot. Ocean City offered a boardwalk and the back wall of the church was perfect for throwing a rubber ball against. And holy cow, was it ever easy to get to mass on Sunday. In that church parking lot, the boy finally learned to ride a bike - at the belated age of eleven. The boy remembers that his family always seemed to have the house the week of baseball's All-Star game. Being a Rod Carew fan, the boy always rooted for the American League. Back then, the National League always seemed to win. [A few years later the church decided that their parking lot could use a few more spots, and the house was knocked down and paved over. An addition was erected on the back of the church, no longer making it an ideal surface for playing wall-ball.]
The boy and his mom, downashore, 1974.
During the boy's high school years the family returned to Long Beach Island - this time to the Surf City section, about ten miles north of their old LBI location. By this time the south end of the island had become the cool end, and the newly licensed boy drove down there almost every night. The boy spent very little time in the Surf City beach house, especially in his first-floor bedroom (next to the garage and more accurately called a basement, since most of the living area was on the second floor), which reeked of mold and mildew. [This nasty little house, of course, somehow still survives twenty years later.]
Then the boy went off and got married to a wonderful girl who loved going downashore even more than the boy. When they started taking their little family to the beach, they, trusting the boy's memories, chose Ocean City. They rented the first floor of an old three-story house, hemmed in by an apartment building and a too-close neighbor. Indoor sunlight was sparse, the washer and dryer were four blocks away, and central air was just a dream.
The owner of the tiny house they rented, a nice old man who lived on the third floor, told them stories of developers offering him large sums of money just so they could knock down his house to build high-priced fancy townhouses. He always turned them down. After a few years at this house, the owner decided to rent the house out to one renter for the whole season and the boy and girl had to find another house. [Last summer the boy and girl walked past that old house, only to find that it had finally been knocked down and replaced with those high-price townhouses. The boy and girl wondered if the old owner finally gave in to the developers or maybe he just passed away. They almost hoped it was the latter.]
But the boy and girl lucked out. They found a house that had just been redone (though not by knocking anything down) and was priced right. This house had a washer and dryer! And central air! And they loved the house. It was at this house that their one son took his first steps, and where he discovered something called "the Disney Channel." But soon these owners also rented out to one renter for the whole season, and the boy and girl went looking again.
Last year the boy and girl went on-line and found a summer house that seemed too good to be true - all the perks of the last house - plus a third bedroom! And a second bath! And a fireplace! For the same price! It seemed that a new owner was pricing the house low to lure people away from their existing rentals. But the boy and girl (and their two little boys) didn't need luring, and pounced on the house.
And now it's January and the boy and girl went to the magic website that would tell them how much the owners of that wonderful beach house would charge this summer and found out that the rent was going up $400 dollars this year. And the boy and girl said, "screw that."
Luckily, the house before this one, which really was pretty good and does have central air (though no fireplace), had not been knocked down and was even available once again. And for the week they wanted, too. And the price was $400 less than what those mean old ogres at the other house were demanding.
And so the boy said, "This is good. Tomorrow I shall place a call to the realtor and snag that bad boy."
And they all, hopefully, vacationed happily ever after.