I began going down the shore (to Seaside Park, NJ) in the Fall of 1986. Having grown up in Georgia, the Jersey shore mystified me. At that time, there were no sand dunes. Boardwalks with amusements, games, souvenir shacks, snack stands and bars were built right up over the beach. Worse still, you had to pay to get to the water, and you couldn't even walk on the beach at night. And, horror of horrors, this was the year hospital waste and used syringes were found washed ashore.
The water was dark, murky, and ice cold, yet the sand was scalding hot. Compared to my southern experience, the waves were enormous and terrifying. So my first impressions of the Jersey shore were not so favorable.
But after a few years, the water became clear, even a lovely blue on sunny days. Volunteers planted dune grasses and other native shrubs and the dunes actually came back. The bizarreness of the boardwalk, its tackiness and color and noise, grew on me and I began to long for it, for Maruca's pizza and Kohr's ice cream and the hermit crabs with their crazily-painted shells, the T-shirts that say things like "Italian Stallion" and "Jersey Girls do it best," the games you can (almost) never win but keep betting on, the families and odd couples and old people and endless roving packs of teenagers that never change, no matter the year, the salt water taffy stands and temporary tattoo carts and noisy game arcades and, of course, the carousel.
So, to celebrate twenty years of the Jersey shore, on this visit I got an airbrushed T-shirt. What screams "Down the Shore" more loudly than a good airbrushed shirt? (Hey, I could've gotten the panties that said, "It won't lick itself"--I did exercise some restraint.)
Come on in, the water's fine!