Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wildwood Nights

I didn't post anything yesterday because I was just too damned busy. End of story.

Today's title refers to a beach town in New Jersey. It's a part of my childhood. When I was little my grandmother would take me there every August for a few days (we weren't rich so week-long vacations were unheard of), around the Catholic Feast of the Assumption (August 15th) which Irish superstition holds is an auspicious day to put one's "feet into the water" to cure whatever variety of ills one has.

Nevertheless, Nana keeled over dead at 62 of a massive coronary brought on by years of drinking and smoking. But her feet were gorgeous.

Those few days every year were some of the happiest days of my childhood. I loved Wildwood, or as it's known in Philadelphia and Wilmington, "the Irish Riviera". It had a mile-long boardwalk, loaded with arcades, rides and fast-food take-outs of the disgustingly beach-front variety. For a buck or two a night (we're talking the late 50's, early 60's here) you could have a swell time, eat some pizza, ride the scary rides until you puked, ate cotton-candy, won a stuffed toy at a shooting gallery and played pinball or ski-ball until well past 11 p.m.

The last time my Nana and I went there was in 1962. I had just turned 13 and it was getting to the point where it was totally inappropriate for me to share a bedroom in one of the Irish-run bed and breakfasts there with my grandmother. Rather than cruise the boardwalk that year, I totally checked out and went to an air-conditioned movie theater on the boardwalk where I saw, in glorious CinemaScope, David Lean's ravishingly beautiful motion picture, "Lawrence of Arabia", which made an indelible mark on me. I changed a lot during that first year of puberty. I acknowledged to myself that I was gay (or queer, or different or something) and that Roman Catholicism and I were irrevocably on divergent paths from then on. I also knew that I was "okay" and that it was the religions which were fucked up.

Anyway, that August was the last time I set foot in Wildwood until about 9 years ago, when I got my first car in many decades. I drove down there on a whim one Saturday in February or March of 1999. It was cold and wet and rainy but just seeing the place made me want to come back.

And now it looks like I will. My closest friends and I are looking to spend a week there this coming July. We're looking at condo rentals now.

I hope I'm not setting myself up for some sort of disappointment.

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