In a world’s first, I was up and active before my folks, both of them, down here at the shore. Not that I was up terribly early, but we only got in from a long day in Philly around 12:30, and, well, they are slowly creeping towards old age. They like to sleep in if they can, which increasingly means waking up at 8 if given the justification and the chance.
So yeah, I was up early, and I decided to go for a walk. Wasn’t sure if I was going to stay on the Boardwalk or head “down the beach.” It’s “roar to the shore” weekend, and while most of the bikes will be leaving later, as I made my half block saunter up to the boardwalk, the occasional growl of a hog was the only artificial auditory interruption to the otherwise serene morning. Seagulls cawing, a cool wind blowing off the ocean, and the only tertiary artificial sounds of the hum of the city, themselves so unchanged over time that they lull you into thinking they, too, were the result of anything other than human.
I had walked a block or two north on the boardwalk, and after looking down at the ocean, a solid three quarter’s of a mile away over that world renown brown jersey shore muck interspersed with the occasional pocket of sand, decided I would stay there. After all, the boardwalk has been the defining attraction of the south jersey shore all these years. People do go on the beach, but no one comes here for the beach.
Roller coasters were being tested on the piers, and the rare business owner was chaining open their store front- this place would be open today, at least to some degree. It’s only September 8, and the equinox, so painfully visible on the horizon, is still a few weeks away. It is still summer, even if the glorious season of life is in it’s tragic death throes. The kids are back at school though, and the few who have visited Wildwood this weekend are decidedly local, more so than usual. A guy with white hair passed me on his bike. He was wearing a tattered old TO Eagles jersey. Far from classy, yet eternally optimistic and earnest. This is Philly.
It was a morning to birth art, and while I was not properly equipped for the task, I took some photos anyway. I made it another block before I encountered what a professional photographer might dare dream of. As I dabble, however, in the written word, allow me to describe the scene. Don’t worry, my desire for brevity is as acute as yours- I’m writing this from my phone.
An older middle aged woman was sitting by her lonesome on a bench on the boardwalk, back to the ocean. She was enjoying a breakfast of a few donuts and a cup of coffee which she had procured at the Dunkin Donuts across the way. Sun shining, breeze blowing… Take that sentimental feeling I hope to have given rise to earlier in the entry and apply it liberally. Not more than 10 feet away stood a line and stately seagull, patiently waiting for just a morsel of dough. Standing at attention, still as the night, gaze fixed on his purveyor of sustenance, this seagull commanded both respect and empathy. I stopped for a minute to observe the situation and enjoyed a chuckle. The woman recognized what caught my attention, and looked right back at that seagull and said, squarely, “no.”
If the beginning of this, uhhh, vignette, was the stuff of a photographer’s dreams, the next minute was the videographer’s wet dream. Not more than a second after her denial of the stately lone seagull, my friend was fiercely attacked by another lone seagull. Flying over her left shoulder with the determination and recklessness of a kamikaze pilot, this seagull picked that donut right out of her hand, knocking it to the ground in a fury of lawlessness.
Within half a second, I had offered my condolences. She assured me this was standard fare here, and seemed only slightly perturbed that her otherwise peaceful morning had been interrupted. In that half second, the entirety of the south jersey seagull syndicate had been notified of the bounty, and was en route to the scene. My fellow human had gotten up and was about to leave, when I was promptly shit on by one of these mongrels.
We could both only laugh. I limped out something along the lines of “these damn birds. Snagging your donut, shitting all over me. They got us.”
“Yeah they did. Lets get out of here.”
I turned around and headed back south, she to the north. Upon my return to the condo, I washed that acerbic mixture from my arm, shirt and cap and began my day anew. My folks are stirring and the coffee I made is ready.
My stroll on the boardwalk lasted but ten minutes. In that tiny sliver of day, I encountered both breathtaking beauty and the helplessness and agony of defenseless defeat. It’s just another morning in New Jersey.