On the way down to Atlantic City (big money, big money/blowing on dice...) I got a load of Mighty Joe (you big gorilla!) , a tribute statue oddly placed in a gas station parking lot. One doesn't really expect to see gorillas in Jersey.
Entering AC was cool. Suddenly out of nowhere you see skyscrapers reaching up out of the seaweeds along the ocean shoreline. A Las Vegas on the beach. Now I haven't yet been to Vegas (I'm thinking late November-ish), but I can tell you that as I walked the famous boardwalk it felt like a sad, old, worn-out, once-great glitzy city. Which, going off of the numerous city restoration project signs, is precisely what it is. The Trump Taj Mahal was a cool sight to see on the boardwalk, and the sound and light water show in the mall was neat. Imagine water from below and above you dancing to music from genres, then add color =) One cannot leave AC without trying some famous Saltwater Taffy, so I loaded up a bag with all kinds of flavors ranging from peanut butter to blueberry to root beer. Then I made my way further south into Wildwood Crest, to meet my host Ray.
When I pulled into the driveway of Ray's wonderfully placed sea-side condo, and took in the sea air, I smiled big. I love the beach, and I can't believe this guy is going to open his home and his life to me, a complete stranger. Ahhh, the wonder of CouchSurfing. Upon ringing the doorbell, I was immediately greeted by a very loud, very excited puppy dog. Ray put him in the crate to settle down, and he welcomed me into his home offered me a beer, and showed me to an immaculate guest room with two blue twin beds and bathroom. It felt just like a well-maintained hotel room. I had to comment to Ray how impressed I was with his clean and tidy home. I mean, this guy's a bachelor! After a long day of driving I took a shower and went to bed.
Then I continued on my way down the boardwalk and spotted something glorious: Pizza topped with cheesy french fries. Could it really be? Has Wildwood combined two of the world's best guilt foods? It was true indeed. And as I took that first bite of wonder, my taste buds cheered for joy...a triumph. And what could possibly add to this calorie-bonanza? Well, I am after all a self-proclaimed Condiment King, or "Sauce Man," as I also like to call it. "How 'bout some ranch," I asked the German waitress behind the counter. Not bad. It wasn't long before I was having a heyday squirting ketchup and mustard all over the darn thing. I mean, c'mon, this little slice of heaven was a creative genius; it begged me to push the envelope even a little further!
After killing myself with the three meals I had just consumed in a little under 30 minutes, I happily walked on, my mad food-child beating the walls of my belly. After browsing all the cool shops, I grabbed the beach gear (chair, umbrella and towel) thoughtful Ray had lent me, and took to the miles of sand laid out before me. I found my spot, did a little reading in my travel guide book, "1000 Places to See in the US and Canada Before You Die," then slathered on some sun screen and hopped in the cool water. The waves were huge, and I loved letting them try and hurl me to shore. After getting in my swim I lowered the joints of my beach chair and caught some sun. What a a perfect day.
The day was about to get even more perfect as I showered up and walked downstairs to find Ray preparing the most amazing shrimp dinner, and over some delicious white wine, I got to know this awesome man who was without any motivation of profit, giving me the most wonderful memories of a lifetime. We laughed as we talked about the crazy couch-surfer he once had, and how they really put an interesting twist/damper on some quality time he and his now ex-wife were trying to enjoy. We talked about my trip, and where I am in my life.
After the last bit of crazy-good shrimp was devoured (by yours truly, lol), I stepped outside and said hello to the very friendly, very polite neighbor girl and her dog that she was walking, or the dog that was walking her rather, lol. Then I said a hello to her mom who stepped outside. Not much later Ray took me out for a night out on the town, and I got a great sample of the local nightlife as we hopped on and off the trolley into bars and clubs, and we oohed and ahhed at the weekly Friday night fireworks blasting above the boardwalk. Ray got to know me better as I let the alcohol take my guard down, and we talked about some good, personal things. It was late into the night (or should I say morning) before my head hit the pillow.
Saturday, August 28, 2010