Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rituals & Remembering

Sleepy Mornings

The town where I live for a large part of the year feels like a 1950‘s Mayberry time warp much of the time.  It’s a small shore town in New Jersey with a five mile wooden boardwalk featuring two amusement parks in addition to a main street (called Asbury Avenue here) in the heart of town.  The people at the post office know your name, as they do at the hardware store and in the restaurants and shops.  People are nice -- they take their time -- they’re not overly fond of change.  It's a dry town (no liquor served) due to early Methodist roots.  Every few years some of us hope for just enough change to allow a glass of wine with dinner, but it gets shot down every time which may or may not be a good thing.  It's very much a family sort of place.

Crime here consists mainly of “borrowed” bicycles which usually turn up at the other end of town within a day or so.  People leave their doors unlocked here.  I forgot and left the garage door open one time and was gone for two weeks.  When I returned home, everything was exactly as I’d left it - bicycles, tools, a spare fridge full of beer and wine, half a dozen beach chairs.  Amazing.

It gets a little crazy here in July and August when the vacationing hoards arrive and traffic is wacky with too many sun baked drivers and pedestrians zombified by long days at the beach and too much sugar.  Summertime rituals are savored -- the smell of sunscreen, the sound of the lifeguard’s whistle, the dolphin that swim by about 9:00 a.m. each morning when I remember to pay attention.  Gorilla Golf, the Ferris Wheel, the Log Ride at Wonderland Pier, the peanut-buster parfait at DQ and the daily screaming melt-down of a child on the boardwalk that always makes me smile and wonder what earth-shattering event has just occurred.

There is another daily ritual that takes place here during the high summer season.  This particular tradition began eleven years ago tomorrow and occurs each morning at 9:20 a.m., weather permitting.  It happens at the waterpark.  I don’t completely understand the need for a waterpark in a beach town, given that it’s located approximately 20 yards from a huge, mostly blue ocean with real waves to ride, but here it is and it’s very popular.  Out in front is Jimmy’s Hot Dog Stand and on top of Jimmy’s, two tall flag poles from which two, crisp American flags fly.

Each morning as a few dozen locals begin to gather and chat, a couple of young waterpark employees climb up a ladder to stand at the foot of each flag pole.  Many mornings, a third gentleman stands with them, at attention.  At 9:20 a.m. on the dot, a recording of Proud To Be An American by Lee Greenwood plays and walkers, runners, bicyclists and surrey riders gradually slow and then come to a stop, wondering what’s going on.  The crowd gets bigger and then the National Anthem plays.  It’s the version by LeAnn Rhimes.  The two flags are raised slowly, simultaneously.  Nearly all boardwalk traffic has now come to a halt...hats are removed, hands are held over hearts, war veterans in the crowd salute.  It gets really quiet except for the music and the crashing of waves.  The notes rise sharply near the end of the song at the word “free” and hold for a moment.  The song ends - a rousing cheer goes up and suddenly the boardwalk is all animation and movement.  Life goes on.

If you've had your coffee and aren't too busy with your day, some of you may be doing the math and figuring out that we’re not too far from New York City here in my little town at the Jersey Shore.  You may have had a little "aha" moment and understand the significance of two tall flagpoles as part of this ceremony.  Eleven years is a long time, but remembering is important and they still know how to do things right in a small town when it comes to ritual and remembrance. 

Life Goes On

The daily flag raising ceremonies have ended for this season and the water park has closed - or will close soon I'm sure.  I'm already looking forward to next summer when they begin again.  Wishing you your own special rituals and remembrances.  All the best,

E. England

Here’s a link to the National Anthem sung by LeAnn Rimes -- I think it needs to come with a hanky warning:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBd5PL3ZsRc

Gillian's Island Salutes America's Freedom Ceremony:

Join us each morning this summer as our Team raises the American Flag for the day in tribute to America's freedom. This year will mark our 11th Season of performing the Flag Raising ceremony, and we are proud to continue on what has now become a tradition on the Ocean City Boardwalk. All of the details for the ceremony are listed below - if you find yourself up early and heading to the beach, stop by and pay respects to our great country with the Gillian's Water Park and Adventure Golf family!

WHEN: Daily from 9:20 am to 9:28 am.*
WHERE: Out front of Jimmy's Hot Dogs and Gillian's Island Water Park on the Ocean City Boardwalk.