Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sidewinders and Tombstones (or Halloween Down the Shore)

We took a walk in Sea Isle City tonight. Yes, I know that this post is labeled as a Halloween post, and I realize that yesterday was Halloween. Close enough. You didn't really think we were going to walk by the sea alone at night on Halloween, now did you?

Anyway, as I was saying, we took a walk in Sea Isle tonight. It was a bit like a haunted walk on the boardwalk. There were scary critters (yes, Joe, this is, after all, a Merci post, so there must be creepy crawlers) and there were tombstones.

Sea Isle City (SIC) is pretty quiet on weeknights at this time of year. The businesses on the boardwalk are all closed, if not actually boarded up, and most of the businesses in town are closed, too. We often have the boardwalk all to ourselves in the evenings. Sometimes we don't see another soul the whole time we are out. Usually there are a few other walkers or joggers around.

Tonight we headed onto the boards in our usual manner. We took note of the ocean, which was a little rough, and we saw that the wind seemed to be driving the waves at an angle to the shore. We headed into the wind, thinking that it would be nice to have it at our backs on the return trip. It was unseasonably warm this evening, and only light jackets were required.

The boardwalk in SIC is lined with benches bearing dedications from locals and visitors to their loved ones. I'll take a big leap here and hazard a guess that these dedications were made available by the city at a price as a means of bankrolling the venture.

In the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk in summer, we rarely notice the dedications, obscured as they are by warm bodies basted in sunscreen(can you smell that pina colada scent?), beach towels, and bags full of souvenirs (salt water taffy, t-shirts, and little ships sailing on endless voyages in little bottles, no doubt). At night in the off season, there are no swimsuit-clad teens talking on cell phones to occupy the benches, no children with ice cream cones to drip sweet, gooey messes onto the seats.

Tonight the desolation of the boardwalk was emphasized by the pounding of the waves, and we had the feeling that we were wandering through a dark seaside cemetery. The benches were tombstones, each with its own epitaph; In Memory Of... Pop-pop's bench... John and Jane Doe: Remember the good times... Ghostly specters of Tourists Past arose as we passed by each bench, and an irrational frisson of fear coursed through us at the thought of those who had gone before. The tall grasses behind the benches seemed to offer cover for imaginary ghouls. We walked on the ocean side of the boardwalk, not too close to the benches, in the same manner in which one avoids walking too close to headstones for fear of treading on a grave.

This is not the first time we have felt this way, and the feeling was, perhaps, enhanced by the season. We forged ahead. Things progressed normally for the first couple of blocks. And then it happened, the ghouls and beasties began to take shape. First one beady-eyed little critter skittered across our path, then another, then another. Soon every spot of ABC gum, every stone, blob, mark or shadow morphed into a beclawed creature. With pincers at the ready, they sought to grasp the hems of our pants, prepared to hang on until able to mar the flesh beneath the clothing. We started an odd little dance of hops and halts, wincing at the thought of a crustacean crunch beneath a sneakered foot.

These creatures were small, and more nuisance than monster, until we saw Him, the King of the Crabs. Bigger and bolder than the others, he stared us down, daring us to proceed. We waited in obeisance of his will until he had passed, then we continued on our way.

So for our Halloween tale, we walked through a graveyard by the sea. We were attacked by wave upon wave of claw-handed creatures until we were finally taken to their leader, who quickly dismissed us as inconsequential and set us free.

We left the boardwalk for the return trip to our car, forgoing the pleasure of the wind at our backs for the relative safety of the quiet city streets. If ever we fail to return from one of these outings, direct all queries to the King of the Crabs. Our friends may inscribe a bench in our honor, and visit it in the crowded comfort of a summer's day, ice cream and souvenirs in hand.


Virginia Gal said...

oh wow, that sounds so delightful, having a boardwalk to yourself (minus the killer crabs). What a perfect way to spend an evening - you could probably get a lot of mediating done there also, good for the soul.

Merci said...

It really is quite nice. And the crab thing doesn't happen very often.

PaxRomano said...

What a wonderful post! Halloween "downtheshore", the ghosts of summer revelers, the mood (haunting but inviting) ... and the crabs!! Yikes, you went from Edgar Alan Poe to a 50's horror film, I loved it!!!

Merci said...

Thanks, Pax, that's high praise coming from one of my favorite bloggers!

This time of year is the best down here.