Liquid Lines

License Plates from All Fifty States, Very Few Waves But Many Things to Do

A 7-Year-Old’s Take on Tourism
By JON COEN | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Greg Melega Johnny O’Hara making a lot out of a little summer surf.

Surf City — My son has become very interested in license plates this year.

And I have to say, I fully support this curiosity. I think I had a similar fascination when I was his age. Anyway, I got him a workbook that has stickers of each state’s license plates and a map of the U.S. As we see each state, we place the sticker on the map.

I’m almost as enthusiastic about it as he is, mostly because it’s sparking his interest and conversation about travel and geography, two of my favorite topics. And, bonus, it doesn’t require a touch screen.

As we drive to the supermarket or the tackle shop or Barry’s Do Me A Flavor, he’s asking questions about how far things are away, which states border New Jersey and “Dad, what’s the longest you’ve been in a car without stopping to pee?”

Just walking to the beach the other day, we saw Colorado and California plates, and we discussed trips to both. We’ve had great conversations about state nicknames, museums in Washington, D.C., the skier on the Iowa plate, the four corners, snowboarding in Vermont, how many hours it takes to drive to Florida and our past trips to the Outer Banks. Additionally, I’m happy to have these talks because when you live in a seasonal place where you make 75 percent of your income in three months, there isn’t a lot of time for out-of-state travel.

As he’s closing in on seeing all 50 license plates, I had to explain to him that Hawaii was likely going to be the great white whale. We discussed how it’s an island and unless someone shipped their car to San Diego and drove cross country, we probably wouldn’t see one until we go back to Hawaii.

But on the last week of school, he reported that he saw a Hawaii plate while riding the bus. And while I doubted him, he swore up and down.

Well, on Saturday we were driving through Surf City and he just about jumped out of the car.

“Dad! There it is. The Hawaii license plate! It was on that teal car.” Despite weekend traffic and Surf City’s town-wide yard sale congestion, we made a quick U-turn.

And there it was, the Hawaii license plate, with letters that read “KAHUNA.”

I believe the car is Barry Shaw’s ’53 Chevy Handyman. She’s a classic America beauty, a favorite of surfers in the ’60s. I also think it’s a novelty plate, but I wasn’t about to start explaining that to a 7-year-old.

Hawaii, check.

But this interest has also led to a conversation about how people from all over the country come to our town. And yes, there are those February days when the wind is blowing 40 off the bay and he can’t find a friend outside for miles in either direction, but how cool is it that people come from all over to experience the bay and beach that we call home?

It always reminds me of how salty locals can get about the summer. There are actually people who’ve lived on the Island a few seasons and look down on those people from the mainland. Are you kidding me?

I’ll fess up to the few times that I’ve suggested, perhaps with some enthusiasm, to someone with a PA or NY plate which direction they should be heading. But I actually love every single family on our street in the summer and we miss them through the off-season, specifically that rainy 40 weeks from March to May. Hey, I wasn’t born here either. I grew up in Forked River. We looked at all those lucky kids from Southern Regional and wanted to be a part of their LBI world. Eventually, most of them accepted us. Some Island natives might still not consider us locals. And that’s OK.

Because here’s the thing – do you ever remember being in the womb, filling out a questionnaire about where you wanted to be born? I’d think that if you were fortunate enough to be born in one of those coveted places that people flock to, you’d be a pretty gracious person. You could have been born in Nigeria … or Dallas.

And sure, there are summer folks who can’t wait to fit into the benny/shoobie stereotype – the loud lady from Staten Island, the litterbugs from Newark, the entitled kid from Manayunk, or the family sprawled out with the entire contents of their Princeton garage on the beach. But the overwhelming majority of folks from those places are respectful and just want a day, a week, or a summer experiencing what locals have. (Granted, locals are working 90 hour weeks when they’re here.)

And to be honest, I often think back to the months after Superstorm Sandy when people traveled an hour or three every weekend to volunteer in cleanups and community events. I’m certainly not going to be the one to question those people’s love for this place. Because I also remember year-round folks who lived next door to the high-water mark and couldn’t clean up debris on their own street or do a single damn thing to help their neighbors.

So as we get into the heart of summer here, maybe the guy on his parents’ Jet Ski (kept at his parents’ “shore house”) can just keep that in mind. And locals can make an early weekday morning trip to the grocery store to stock up so you don’t get stuck in all that July 4th Causeway traffic and wind up cursing out that nice family from Philly packed into the station wagon with vacation anticipation and a roof full of crab traps.

Now if someone from the Badger State could park at the surf shop up the street ...

SURF ROUNDUP: Last Friday morning had a 2-foot wave. The wind was not ideal at low tide. The tide was not ideal when the wind was offshore. Then it went flat.

The end.

SWEET SPOT: Sorry there isn’t more to report on for surf. It has been pretty much hot garbage lately, except that the water is still cold. I suppose I could delve into the scientific reasons why the surf has been hot garbage, but let’s not.

For all the hype that Memorial Day gets, this past week was more of a grand opening of the season, starting with the official first day of summer on Friday and the first big start of weekly rentals. As far as human density, Friday looked like an ordinary April weekday. Saturday looked like July. But a gorgeous weekend it was, from the beach to all the boats zipping around on the bay.

The weather, specifically the temperature, has been just about ideal lately on our little sandbar. For all those chilly spring days when inland is perfect, we’ve been reveling in the comfort of high 70s weather recently while places to our west have been hotter. There’s a noticeable difference even from the mainland to the Island, but in general, the tri-state area has been awfully comfortable lately.

And good news, we’ll be getting more of that. Highs this week look to be in the low 80s, which makes summer a true pleasure. We’re in no hurry to get into the sweaty 90s.

Part of the reason for that is a little phenomenon where we see hot or cold air displaced around the hemisphere. Generally in the winter, when we have those horrific polar vortexes, the other side of the Atlantic is kind of mild. When we have a warmish winter, people literally freeze to death in Russia. Well, Europe is scorching right now. Frenchmen are sweating their baguettes off, so it would make sense that we would be enjoying more moderate temps. Hey, I ain’t complainin’.

And for that matter the ocean temp has been making a steady crawl upward. May and June tend to see dramatic temperature changes according to the weather patterns. The wind will go south and freeze up the water. Then it will go east or northeast and bring it back up. Then maybe there’s some cooling with offshore winds, and on and on. Of course, those south winds that cause upwelling and cold water tend to be our only days of surf so when the ocean is warm, we’re not in it.

When I say we’re creeping up, I mean the average for the week is a little better than the previous week. The cold days are less cold and the warmer days are a bit more comfortable each consecutive week. Earlier this week, we got into the mid 60s, which is nice. Traditionally, by mid-July, the temp swings balance out a bit and it stays more consistent. Hopefully, we will be comfortable in trunks two weeks from now and ride that into October.

The waves are another story.

WHAT’S DA HAPS/ALL DA HAPS: Make no mistake. The season of fun is here. And I am sure that we will enjoy it in a very 2019 style, with a low-cal, sugar-free hard seltzer in one hand and Instagram in the other, listening to some variety of blues, reggae, ska music.

Summers have a way of getting away from you. We take it for granted and then the next thing we know, it’s January and you’re wishing you could sit outside one of the area’s fine establishments, enjoying summer food, summer music and summer art. This is it. No excuses.

The weekend starts Thursday when Chris DeMakes, frontman of Less Than Jake plays Bird & Betty’s as part of the “Let’s Go Solo” Tour. He’s got JT Turret of the Arrogant Sons of Bitches opening and then he will play a bunch of his own tunes and LTJ songs. Less Than Jake has played a pretty solid role in the punk/ska scene of the last 25 years. I’m hoping to hear some stuff off Pezzcore!

Bird & Betty’s actually has a full schedule of acts lined up for its first season, including a lot of original touring bands, which is a nice switch for LBI. Of the venue’s big pulls this summer, they have G. Love doing a solo acoustic show on Friday night. (Full story in this issue.) Tickets are $30. There will be tickets at the door but they’re available on Ticketweb. G. Love is one of those musicians that people on LBI love.

Friday night also starts the first FirePit Fridays on the 68th Street Beach in Long Beach Township. This is a new event featuring the township’s five new fire pits. These are free events and families are invited to bring coolers and friends.

As much as the Island may be changing for better or worse, it’s very impressive to see the towns initiate these kids of events. Honestly, I never thought I would see the day that local municipalities actually encouraged people to enjoy fire and bring coolers. I have no doubt it will all be safe. I mean, it’s at the police station for one thing. But it still marks something of a new attitude from the powers that be. Rec Director Joni Bakum has lined up a whole summer full of artists to play these.

I’ve been writing an awful lot about this upcoming Shapefest at South End Surf ’N Paddle and it’s finally here this Saturday, June 29. The shaping starts at 8 a.m. and there’s often surfing throughout the day if the conditions allow. There will be some traveling and local shapers including Mike Karol of Stoke Surfboards and local Randy Budd of Pine Knot. It’s worth the time just to hang out and listen to Budd’s humorous observations about the shaping world.

The real festivities kick in at 6 p.m. with more shaping, a BBQ and a performance by the Ellameno Beat from Florida, who have now graced the event for five years.

Sunday, June 30 is the Jennifer Celeste Snyder Bryceland Sunrise Memorial Art Show at Yoga Bohemia in Surf City. It’s not actually at sunrise, but our Surf City friend Jenn Bryceland, who we lost a year ago, happened to love going up to the beach at sunrise. It runs 1-4 p.m. and will feature music by Greg Warren and Friends. The art all has some connection to Bryceland’s life.

And if you can believe it, next Monday is July. How’d that happen, right?

On July 1 Bird & Betty’s will have its weekly Monday Industry Night (referring to the bar/restaurant industry) sponsored by Farias with bands, giveaways and drink specials for 21+. This one will feature the San Clemente surf/ska/party band Tunnel Vision.

That should give you plenty to do, especially since the waves this upcoming week will mostly be more hot garbage. Might be a good time to start timing yourself paddling in the bay, or buy a new reel, or perhaps some good skate wheels and bearings.

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