Jersey Shore, Labor Day Weekend, 2005 With gas prices hitting an all-time, my two buddies; Ronnie and Dunner; and I figured it was time to get the hell out of Toronto and head down to the Jersey Shore for an unsupervised-by-our-better-halves, end of summer blowout. The three of us were twenty-something young professionals, and we’d all known each other since before we could remember. We each had five days and five hundred dollars to kill, and our livers were dreading the prospect of it. We picked up a gutless little Hyundai Accent on Thursday morning from the only car rental joint in town that was crazy enough to give us the unlimited mileage option, and peeled out of the parking lot with four cylinders of fury as we buried the signed rental agreement somewhere at the bottom of the glove box, doing our best to ignore the fact that we had agreed, in writing, that under no circumstances would we allow the automobile to leave the Province of Ontario. Forty-five minutes later, we were stocking up on an obscene amount of duty-free booze and cigarettes, and before you could say “legal action has been taken due to refusal to follow terms of contract”, we were humming along the New York State Thruway, singing along with the Violent Femmes as we giddily wondered: “Did you do too many drugs too, bay-bee?” Our first stop was the city of Brotherly Love where a girl I know from high school took us into her 16th St. bachelor pad for a night of raucous imbibing which eventually saw us bar-hopping Chestnut Street and then slamming back a pair of Geno’s finest before retiring to the comforts of our host’s hardwood floor. The next morning, with the Cheesesteaks wreaking absolute havoc on the interior of the rental car, we stopped in for a quick clichéd photo atop the Rocky Steps, and with the sun beating down and the mercury licking the high 80’s, we hopped on the New Jersey Turnpike and eventually pulled into Belmar, the jaws of both of my buddies hitting the floor as we cruised Ocean Avenue, the two of them unable to believe that this was New Jersey and that these were the caliber of women we’d be promenading the boardwalk with for the next 48 hours. We checked into The Mayfair Hotel at Ocean Ave. and 10th, with me doing my best to convince the lady at the desk that there would only be two of us shacking up, thereby saving a cool $50 per night. While my two buddies were stealthily carting the coolers full of beer up the four flights of outdoor fire escape stairs, I unlocked the door to the room only to discover, in a moment of Del Griffith-like revelation, that the we had been assigned what could only be described as the Mayfair’s honeymoon suite: One Queen-sized bed draped in a pink and black satin bed spread, shag carpeting on the floor, mirrors covering every inch of the walls, and the clincher: a full stand up shower with clear glass sliding door, in the middle of the room! With the horror of the impending sleeping arrangements flashing through my mind, I was on the verge of running downstairs to see if we could maybe switch for another room with some more appropriate décor when Dunner walked in, cooler in hand and dripping with a hungover sweat, taking one look at the shower in plain view, front and center, and announced: “F#ckin Awesome! Shotguns!” He proceeded to climb into the shower, fully clothed and still wearing his shoes, and began shotgunning cans of Coors Light like he was the Deaner waiting for Tron. After that point, it would have been impossible to change rooms, and considering the massive windows that opened up onto Ocean Avenue and the absurdly fantastic views we were afforded of the Shore’s finest bikini-clad girls as they pranced lazily past within easy earshot, and it was safe to say that we were pretty well set for the weekend. We spent a couple of hours lounging on the beach with our pathetic Canadian-white-guy-non-existent tans, the highlight being a deep-post pattern that Dunner sent me on along the boardwalk, his errant throw ultimately drilling a parked and pimped out Escalade and sending us into hysterics as the alarm began to scream. The only thing we knew to do was to gather the pigskin and run away like little girls, laughing uncontrollably before finally finding ourselves in the outdoor dining area at Havens and Hamptons, watching the deep sea fishing boats go by on the Shark River as we knocked back crab cakes and incredulously drank the wine and Rolling Rock we were allowed to bring with us after having first purchased it at Hanley’s. The fact that they gave us a bucket of ice to keep it cold in was absolutely mind- boggling for us, knowing as we did that if you wanted to bring your own beverages to a restaurant in Toronto that you’ d have to hide them in your jacket pockets and drink them in the extra large bathroom stall. We eventually walked the sycamore-lined streets back to The Mayfair so we could get ready to go out for the night and Dunner and Ronnie could go toe-to-toe in a beer shotgunning contest in the pink romance shower. As we were in the process of leaving the hotel, we ran into a group of girls who were attempting to carry out the same stealth mission that we had when we lied about the number of occupants in our room. They were so impressed by the dexterity with which we’d pulled off our ruse that they followed it to a tee, sneaking five extra girls up the back fire escape and eventually showing their gratitude by inviting us back to their room for a giant Styrofoam cooler’s worth of Jello- shooters. Throw in a bottle of Sambucca and a seemingly endless array of Canadian strength beer, and by the time we set off for Bar A, we were pretty well doing a tightrope walk somewhere along the stupid line. I should let you know that my friends and I used to have this ridiculous ongoing joke when we were younger which essentially stated that the more you drank, the more invincible you became. We called it the force-field because the premise of the lark was that if you were drunk, you immediately transformed into some kind of a chemically dependent superhero, as you inherited the three I’s: Invisibility, Inaudibility, and Indestructibility. A mature and responsible way to approach alcohol consumption, I know. The point is: we’d outgrown that preposterous immaturity and buried it behind us years ago… until it was somehow rediscovered this weekend at the absolute worst possible time. Walking up 18th Avenue, Ronnie and Dunner, after shotgunning somewhere in the neighborhood of six beers apiece, were completely out of control, talking about the kinds of things that should never be spoken about while walking along a residential street. The fact that these two somehow believed themselves to be inaudible at the time didn’ t help matters whatsoever, and when a man and woman rode past on their bicycles and managed to overhear some of the statements being made, well, let’s just say that this particular man took exception. And while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and say that this particular man happened to be one of the largest, most intimidating, blatantly steroid abusing specimens I had ever seen in my life. To call him a close friend of Greg Anderson’s would be an understatement of epic proportions. He immediately turned around, on his bicycle no less, stopped in front of us, rang his bicycle’s bell (I made that part up) and proceeded to get in the grill of each and every one of us, violently berating and openly challenging us for a solid five minutes. There were three of us and only one of him, and he was wearing John- Stockton-circa-1987 shorts and riding a bicycle; yet the only thing the three of us could do was to stand there and nod our heads with our tails between our legs, saying things like: “Yes Sir.” “I agree, Sir.” “I apologize, Sir.” “I’m an idiot, Sir.” “It won’t happen again, Sir.” Of course, as soon as he finished crushing any semblance of our remaining male pride, he rode away on his ten- speed and we immediately began going on endlessly about how we should have kicked his ass right there and then, how it would have been no problem for the three of us to take him and how that juicer needs a good beat down anyway, but we all knew deep down that we had come within a misplaced syllable of having our faces reconstructed, and decided that it would probably be in our best interests to get another drink as soon as possible, eventually pouring into the Piranha Pub for double Vodka Red Bulls and Coors Light Tall Boys. There was absolutely nothing going on in the Piranha, so we downed our bevies as fast as is humanly possible and got the hell out of there, but not before I asked the bartender, half-jokingly, if I could have my beer in a to-go cup. To my utter astonishment, she pulled out a plastic cup and handed it to me as if it were the most normal thing in the world, leading me to think aloud: “How cool is that? You’re actually allowed to drink on the street here”. Of course, I wasn’t more than 10 steps from the bar when the flashing lights of Officer Allen’s pickup truck informed me that maybe this place wasn’t as cool as I thought it was thirty seconds earlier. My telling him the story of how the bartender had given me the cup and in so doing had misled me to believe that it was completely legal to walk down the street with a beer did nothing to dissuade him, nor did the fact that I told him that I was from Canada and that we were allowed to drink on the streets there all the time (a total lie). The result was my 27-year old self being humiliatingly issued a $275 fine for possession of alcohol in public, the entire production, combined with the being verbally bludgeoned by a man wearing shorts that originally belonged to Jimmy Connors and riding a Schwinn, essentially amounting to the most unfortunate fifteen minutes of my life. In this instance, the only way to deal with the current slings and arrows of outrageous fortune was to move onward and get completely obliterated at Bar A on shots of Jager and those new aluminum Bud Light bottles, doing our best to introduce Dunner (the only single guy on board) to as many eligible Jersey girls as possible, all while making complete asses of ourselves on the dance floor as Big Orange Cone went to town on a variety of Bon Jovi tunes and other summer classics. On our way home from the bar, we ran into Officer Allen again and I drunkenly thanked him for the ticket, trying to convince both him and myself that the $275 was a small price to pay for such a great story. We eventually found a cab to take us to The Mayfair where the girls with the Jello shooters had found better guys to hang out with, which prompted Dunner to once again begin shotgunning beers in the exotically located shower while Ronnie threw things out the window and yelled at the drunken passersby. I attempted to pump up an air mattress and ended up passing out on the shag carpeted floor. The three of us awoke the following afternoon with screaming hangovers and a mangled sense of self-worth, and attempted to alleviate both with Pork Roll and Egg sandwiches from Freedman’s and a day of deep sea fishing. The fantastic grease and refills of decent coffee took care of the former, but the fact that 2:30pm is approximately four hours too late for the latest daytime boat out to sea didn’t do much to improve the latter. Which got me to wondering why they can’t have deep sea fishing expeditions for the same guys who stay up all night to dominate the illegal beer pong tables on Friday? (Side note: I understand that it is not my place to comment on the policies of countries other than the one in which I currently reside, but the idea of banning a game which is comprised of completely legal and taxable goods and played by consenting adults on their own property seems somewhat unconstitutional to me. It was only two years earlier that I walked past Patrick’s Pub on “Bring your own Mug Night” in Belmar, and aside from the fact that people were getting their extra-large to-go soup containers from Klein’s filled with Bud Light for $2, there was actually a fully sanctioned beer pong tournament going on inside the bar. And now you can’t even play on your own front porch? How does this happen?) With our fishing expedition officially ixnayed, the only thing left for us to do was to buy some beach blankets from the hardware store (they only ones they had left were covered in pink, further abstracting us from the waning possibility of having anything remotely resembling a girl coming within twenty feet of us) and hit the beach again, eventually making a mockery out of what had the potential to be a virtual ballet of Frisbee-tossing artistry. We sucked. As the sun began to fade, we decided that it was time to do the Springsteen pilgrimage, and piled into the Accent to head for Asbury Park. I love that drive up to Asbury from Belmar, where every tiny seaside town has its own distinct character and charm. Even the names of the places themselves evoke a kind of beauty. You look at a map and it reads like a poem: Avon-by-the-Sea, Ocean Grove, Shark River Hills, Spring Lake Heights, Neptune City… It beats the hell out of Scarborough, Vaughan, and Brampton, I can tell you that much. It had been a little more than a year since I’d last been to Asbury Park, and though the progress the place had made in the interval was slow, it was progress nonetheless. Glad to see the place inching its way back. We took the customary boardwalk pics, leaned up against Madame Marie’s, and then headed back to Belmar, stopping in Bradley Beach at the fantastic El Mexicano Restaurant on Main Street (love the fact that you have to march through the kitchen to get to the bathroom), where we merrily washed down a round of tacos and burritos on the street-side patio with the 12-pack of Coors Light from the liquor store down the street. I’m telling you, we just couldn’t get enough of the BYOB. After a couple more beverages back in our swank suite of a hotel room, we decided to hit up the Boathouse. As soon as we walked into the joint, we knew we were home. Not only was the band doing a commendable rendition of Glory Days, but the place was absolutely rammed with drunken twenty-somethings, and for the most part, it looked as though very few of them considered steroids to be a viable fifth food group. We sat at the back bar hammering home pints of Yuengling and shots of Tequila with a pair of girls from Brooklyn who made our foul-mouthed topics of conversation seem like the recorded minutes from the annual Angel Hugs Charity meeting. They eventually slammed back a round of Jack Daniels and tagged the bottom of the bar, along with Dunner’s arm, with El Marko and its purple grocery store ink before getting the hell out of Dodge, leaving us feeling like we’d just witnessed a tornado touching down across the street and wondering how the f#ck we could possibly top that. The next thing I knew, Ronnie, Dunner and I had inexplicably split up: Ronnie was wheeling a tandem of serious cougars near the bar, Dunner was sliding into third base on the dance floor in front of the band, and I somehow found myself immersed in the eye of a bachelorette-party-hurricane; in other words, we were all within our respective wheelhouses. Particularly myself. Because in my vast experience with these oft-lame bride-to-be gatherings, it always seems as though the girls are lacking some kind of a leader. In almost every case, some of them are already married, most of them are otherwise reserved, and all of them invariably seem to be standing around wearing stupid looking T- shirts with lifesavers tied to them, waiting for someone to take the reigns and crank it up about fifteen notches. Which is precisely where I come in. My job is to get talking to one of the girls, find out what they’re all about, and then completely take over. Since it’s a virtual guarantee that none of them have ever been to a successful bachelorette party, you simply have to show them how it’s done. Act like you participate in these things all the time, break down for them the rules that you are obviously making up right there on the spot, and tell them that they simply aren’t allowed to say ‘No’. ‘It’s a bachelorette party,’ you tell them: ‘those are the rules’. Before any of us knew what was happening, the bride-to-be was up on the bar, flat on her back, freely allowing any and all comers the opportunity of taking the coveted bearded clam shot: an ounce of Jack Daniels that is taken directly from the person’s navel. Sounds disgusting, I know, but this is a bachelorette party, and nobody is allowed to say ‘No’. The next thing I know, I’m up on the bar so the bride can take a shot out of my disgusting, hairy, lint-collecting umbilicus, and then before I can say ‘Wait a minute, I’m the one who’s supposed to be in charge here’, the bridal party begin doing each other, paying little mind to whether or not the members of their party are wearing dresses that need to be hiked up to their nipples, or whether or not those same members have decided to go au natural, as they say. I sh$t you not, it was Girls Gone Wild at The Boathouse, and all because these innocent girls needed someone to guide them and to let them know that it was alright to cut it loose for a night. What can I say? I was happy to help them out. The poor guy behind the bar could only shake his head and turn a blind eye, pretending not to notice that there was more skin being flashed atop his bar than at an AVN Awards after-party. By the time we finally got out of there, Ronnie had a cell phone full of digits, Dunner had gotten further during the chorus of American Girl than I had during the duration of my prom night, and the minivan full of bachelorettes was screaming my name and imploring me to jump in and go back to New York City with them… Did I mention that we were drunk? We may or may not have taken a cab back to the hotel, and I vaguely remember drinking out front of the hotel with a blatant disregard for the law, chatting up any and all passers as they came and went. At one point, an Australian guy came bounding down the steps of The Mayfair in nothing but his trunks, and it was then that I decided that a dip in the ocean might be the perfect end to the evening. The Aussie and I stood out there in the water for the better part of half an hour, talking the way only two completely hammered total strangers are capable of, the both of us vowing to never pay the ridiculous fines for the tickets we were each issued over the course of the weekend. (It seemed that our friend from down under had managed to rack up an astonishing three charges to my one, including the ever-popular ‘littering’ fine after ripping up his first ticket and dropping it at the feet of our favorite local law enforcement official). He laughed mightily at the absurdity of paying a fine issued in a state he would surely never return to, and I laughed right along with him. Of course, when I received the warrant for my arrest in the mail two months later for failure to pay my ordinance, I cowered like a wet puppy and sent off a money order made out in full that very day. But a great night in the Borough, to be sure. We awoke Sunday morning to yet another wicked hangover, temporarily assuaged by the good people at Freedman’ s, and then hit the GSP for Atlantic City, eventually securing lodgings in the ultra low-class Burgundy Motor Lodge, or as it would come to be known: The Ron (for San Diego’s favorite anchorman, of course). This was easily the sketchiest place I’d ever had the privilege of staying in, but the building was shaped like a horseshoe which meant that you could see the people coming and going from their rooms (a great many of which were paid to be there, for about an hour or so), and each window had a spectacular view of the posh swimming pool which was located on the ground floor smack-dab in the middle of all of the luxury, and which very obviously hadn’t had any water in it for a number of years. In any event, the empty pool made for a nice target in which to toss our Rolling Rock caps from our third floor balcony as we sat and listened to tunes on the room’s clock radio, all the while getting to know the lovely wee girl staying in the room beside us. It seemed pretty strange that she would be staying in a place like this, all alone, no less, but we figured she was probably just in it to get laid, fair enough, so we decided to invite her along to The Borgata when we hit it up. Ronnie dominated the Roulette wheel, Dunner made a killing sitting anchor at the $20 blackjack table, and I hung around the penny-slots, watching the people drop three bucks an hour in Atlantic City’s newest and hottest Casino. It takes a certain caliber of person to risk that kind of coin. It takes a completely different caliber of person to watch it all go down. I’m not sure after which complimentary drink it was that we decided that it would be a good idea to take our new female friend from The Ron into the Men’s Washroom with us for a tour, but shortly thereafter our stay at The Borgata was terminated. Something got broken on our way out the front door of the Casino, but to this day, I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. We ended up in some Irish pub on the boardwalk eating burgers and fries and drinking pints of Guinness while Ronnie molested a chair in lieu of finding a date. The four of us eventually ended up back in our hotel room watching a tear-jerking ESPN segment on one of Canada’s most inspirational heroes; the late, courageous Terry Fox; and when our lovely lady from the room next door saw that both Ronnie and I were on the verge of passing out in the two beds, thereby leaving our good friend Dunner out in the cold, so to speak, she magnanimously invited our boy to stay in her room. Ten minutes later, and the sweet sounds of Barry White (among others) were echoing through the walls, and the rumor going around was that our overly friendly heroine; who earlier that day had booked herself alone into The Ron; had asked Dunner if he thought Ronnie and I might like to join in on the fun. You can’t make this stuff up. Dunner mercifully declined on our behalf, and with that, the Jersey Shore Labor Day Weekend had officially been graded a 10 out of 10. On the agonizing 10-hour drive back home, it was unanimously decided that we’d be back again soon.