Monday, May 29, 2006

Down the shore...

(Edited version--part 2 tomorrow)

Early last week, I met with the headhunter who had placed me at my new firm and we got around to talking about our plans for the Memorial Day weekend. She mentioned that she would be going "down the shore" to a house in Avalon, NJ. That particular phrase seems to be unique to Philly and South Jersey. It's not "going down to the shore" or "heading out to the beach", but simply down the shore. It's as if the people here decided that its more important to just get out of town for the weekend as quickly as possible than waste time on frivolous things like prepositions.

She had heard of some people who were still looking to fill an open spot or two in their house and I thought that the time felt right to join one this summer. Last Tuesday at happy hour I met the woman who was the organizing everything, and she showed me some photos of the place and talked about the people who had already signed up. One hour turned into two and one pint turned into three and by the end of the evening I just had a feeling that this would be a good fit. I put down my deposit and became the 9th official member of their house.

Here's a pic of our place--we have the unit on the left-hand side. It has three bedrooms and baths, a full kitchen, and a big living room with vaulted ceilings. As soon as I opened the kitchen cabinet and was greeted by the familiar sight of a 1 lb. bag of Twizzlers and a box of Crunch-n-Munch, I began to feel right at home.

By the time I finally arrived on Friday night, most of the people had already been there for awhile and were hanging out on the 2nd-floor deck. I made my way up the stairs to find that they already had a chair and an open beer waiting for me. Little by little I started getting the hang of everyone's name and background. Kate was the organizer of the house and the one I had met for happy hour. Brian and Michelle had met in college (where they knew Kate) and had been married for three years. Brian was a doctor and Michelle turned out to be from my hometown in northcentral PA. Mollie was a consultant and Amy was a 6th grade teacher. Tim was a personal trainer, and Kate mentioned offhand that he and I would be sharing one of the bedrooms for the season.

I smiled enthusiastically and replied "great!", while I subtly returned my third slice of pizza back to the box and replaced my Yuengling Lager with a Coors Lite. Tim is actually a very down-to-earth, laid-back guy, but it had been a couple of weeks since I had been able to get to the gym and I had visions of waking up to 5 a.m. tae bo workouts and discussions about the benefits of creatine-enhanced tofu-flavored protein bars. I made a mental note to renew my subscription to Men's Health.

Saturday morning was spent driving around to pick up all of the stuff that I needed/forgot to pack for the total beach experience.
The first item on the list was buying a decent beach chair. When I saw the name on this model I knew that it was the one. It's called "The Big Kahuna", which was the nickname that my father gave himself as the self-annointed bodysurfing champion of Brigantine, NJ. Each summer growing up he taught all four of us about the proper body form and the mystical art of launching yourself at the perfect time to catch a wave just before it broke. For years he continued to be able to ride the waves farther in towards the beach than any of us.

This was my first view of the beach as I made my way down past the dunes in the early afternoon. A couple of people in the house had already been out enjoying the sun for a couple of hours, but I knew that I should pace myself in the quest for a savage tan this summer. I have a stubbornly fair complexion, the result of centuries of pale-skinned Scottish and Irish ancestors having contributed to my overall genetic make-up. Our family coat-of-arms features a can of Solarcaine and a beach umbrella.

I set my new chair up at the water's edge and soon lost myself in the pages of a great book with the constant roar of the ocean drowning out any distractions. I went swimming for a little bit and caught a few waves that would have made the Big Kahuna proud. I finally made my way back up to the house around 5 o'clock and met the final arrival for the weekend. Mira was the other attorney in the group and had also joined up at the last minute through the referral of a friend.

Saturday night we all walked together five blocks down the street to a bar called Jack's Place to hear an excellent band named Love Seed Momma Jump. The details are a little hazy but I think I bought the first round of shots and then everybody followed suit one after the other. We capped the night off by ordering a Fishbowl, which is simply a bowl filled with ice and multiple straws and some ungodly mixture of alcohol. We took turns finishing it off in groups of two and three, and fortunately the bar was within perfect stumbling distance back to our house after they finally announced last call.

Sunday morning I woke up with a wee bit of a hangover. I carefully stepped over Tim doing his 100th ab crunch in between our twin beds on my way to search for some Tylenol and a diet Coke. Some of the group began to tease me for passing out on the big sectional couch upstairs after we had returned from the bar. I had no memory of this but began to point out that after 2 a.m., the term 'fell asleep' would also seem to equally apply. I did have to concede that the photo on Mira's cell phone of me sprawled out fully-clothed still clutching a half-eaten piece of pizza in my hand did give some extra weight to their side of the argument. Somewhere beneath the Scottish Highlands one of my pasty ancestors rolled over in his grave. But there was no time to waste on hangovers because another perfect beach day lay ahead...