The Day Trip


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So I calledup Paul and said, "I think we should go to Asbury Park on Sunday."
"Whydo you want to go there all of a sudden, biscuit?"

"Because...becauseI want to get out of the city before the summer ends."


"Let'sdo it."


"Youmean it?"


"Ofcourse I do, sweetbread."


Two dayslater we met at the Avis on 11th St. and sped toward Jersey in a spanking whitemidsize. The air conditioning was cool and the roads clear and in no time wewere on the Garden State Pkwy. But when we got off at the Asbury Park exit we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of bumper-to-bumper traffic.


"Iguess a lot of people are going to the beach today," I said dubiously,remembering how Francesca had described Asbury Park as a "ghost town."


I lookedat some of the bumper stickers on the cars. They were for radio stations andbands and some said things like "Stoner Chicks Rule." At first I thoughtit was a Bruce gig, but then I looked out the window and saw that almost everyone driving was under 18. This was definitely not a Boss crowd. I had to find outwhat was up. But I didn't want to ask a teenager because I find them kindof scary. So when I spotted a middle-aged woman in an SUV to our right, I rolleddown my window and said, "Excuse me. Do you know why there's all thistraffic?"


"Ihave no idea," she said, shrugging. "I've never seen anythinglike this."


We drovefor a few more minutes and finally I decided to bite the bullet and ask a teen.I spotted a car in the next lane with a teenage girl driving alone. She hada sweet, innocent look on her face and there was a stuffed green parrot toyperched on her steering wheel. What a cutie. Surely she'd give me the 411.I pushed my window button down but just as I turned to her I saw her begin talkingto her parrot, poking it playfully and making expressive baby faces. I quicklyrolled up the window and looked over to Paul.


"Didyou?"


"Uhhuh," he said, laughing. "I don't think she would have been ableto help us. I think she has some issues."


I lookedout the window again and this time I spotted a bespectacled, goateed 17-year-olddriving a car filled with teenaged girls. "Excuse me," I said, openingthe window. "Do you know why all these people are going to Asbury Park?"


"WarpedTour," he answered, like I'd asked what decade it was.


"Oh!"I said. "What's that?"


"Apunk and metal festival. Thirty bands."


I rolledup the window and wailed to Paul, "I can't believe this! Out of allthe days we pick to go to Asbury Park we'd have to pick the day of theWarped Tour! Francesca went here with her boy and they didn'thit any bumps!"


"Isthat why you wanted to come here? Because your friend did?"


"Notat all!" I shouted defensively. "I wanted to glimpse the collapseof quaint Americana!"


He noddedskeptically, and said, "Let's pull off and decide what to do."Then he deftly switched lanes and drove us into the parking lot of a ShopRite.When we got out of the car we saw two punk teens leaning on a car drinking beer.Definite Warped Tourers. One was short and scruffy, with dark hair, and theother was tall and bleached-blond.


"'Scuseme," I said, walking over. "But we're from New York"?Paulwinced?"and we wanted to go to Asbury Park for the day, but then wefound out about the Warped Tour. Do you know any other good places to go tothe beach?"


"Seaside,"said Brown.


"Seaside'sskeezy," said Blond.


"Whatdo you think Asbury Park is?" asked Brown, like his friend was a dope.


"Skeezy'sjust fine with us," I said eagerly. "We like skeezy." They toldus how to get there and then we got in the car and headed back to the GardenState.


Half anhour later we crossed the bridge to the Jersey Shore and I immediately got thishave-to-shit feeling in my ass. My grandparents used to have a place in HarveyCedars they called "Maven Haven By the Bay" and my parents took methere every summer till I was 12. I always used to get excited when we crossedthe bridge because I knew I'd get to see my cousins and play in sand. Andeven though this was different, to my sphincter it felt exactly the same.


The streetsof Seaside Heights were packed with teens and kids and young couples. I couldsee a Ferris wheel in the distance and a boardwalk and I got so revved up Istarted bouncing up and down in my seat like an anxious dog. "Brooklyn's excited," said Paul. "Brooklyn's gonna get to go swimming inthe ocean."


"Sheis! She is!" I screamed.


We parkedthe car and walked down the boardwalk into the amusement park. It was packedwith kids in bathing suits and melanomic women in bikinis walking arm and armwith huge, muscular men. All the grown-ups seemed to be smoking and all thekids looked unpretentious and tan.


"Whatshould we go on first?" asked Paul.


"How'bout the Gravitron?" I said. (When I was 14 I went on a Gravitronin Rehoboth Beach, DE, and it gave me a spontaneous o.)


"Okay,"said Paul.


We walkedinto the saucer, nodded at the DJ in the center and stood in two adjoining spots.No one else was on our ride. "Summer of '69" revved up, and aswe began to spin and the floor dropped out from beneath us and gravity pinnedus to the wall, I waited to jizz. Nothing happened. I looked at Paul for addederotic stimulation but he looked kind of spaced out, so it didn't reallyget me going. I started to move my hand toward my crotch but as soon as I liftedit, the machine's force snapped it down by my side. God was telling menot to mix onanism with amusement, but I didn't want to listen. I wrenchedit up again and this time it landed on my left tit. I did a little nip pinchand started to get warm but then I saw the DJ looking at me funny, so I slidit to my stomach and gave him a weak smile.


When wegot off Paul and I went into a photo booth and took two shots of ourselves ina frame that said "Living La Vida Loca" around the edges. As we emergedfrom the photo booth I noticed a climbing wall right next to it. I had firsttried wall-climbing in Stockholm at a street fair and I'd made it to thetop three times in a row and ever since then I'd been convinced this wasa sport I could master.


There wasa sign that said you got your five bucks back if you could press the bell atthe top and suddenly I got antsy and eager. "Hold my purse," I saidto Paul. He got that look on his face that all guys get when you ask them tohold your purse, and then he took it and held it away from his body like itwas a bag of dogshit.


I took offmy sandals, paid my dough and went up to the attendant. I got into the harnessand he clamped me to the rope. I chose the shortest of the four walls you couldclimb, anxiously glancing up at the bell, and then I began my ascent to thesky. I chose each of my footholds carefully, never moving until I was sure Ihad a good strategy, and within three minutes I'd made it to the bell.I stuck my finger in, feeling like that kid with the dyke, and the bell ranggloriously and loudly so the whole park could hear. "I won! I won!"I shouted to Paul. The attendant lowered me down slowly and as soon as I wason the ground I said, "Give me my five bucks."


"Youdon't get five bucks," he said. "You climbed the women-and-kidswall. You only get five bucks if you can climb wall 8 or 11. Look at the sign."I walked toward the sign and read it again. He was right. It said very clearly"wall 8 or 11" and I had climbed wall 5. I was furious at the misleadingadvertising?why did they put a bell on the sissy wall if ringing it didn'tget you anything? I wanted to give it another shot but Paul had an impatient,other-guys-are-thinking-I'm-fageau-with-this-handbag look on hisface, so I put my shoes back on and grabbed my bag back. "That sucked,"I said. "They should let you know you're climbing the sissy wall assoon as you start. And that 'women-and-kids' line was so offensive.The highest-ranking wall-climber in the world is a 14-year-old girl."


"Youdid a good job," he said. "I was very impressed. As soon as you startedI thought, 'The muffin's gonna make it.'" I bit his cheekaffectionately and we walked through the game section toward the boardwalk,passing some sort of target shoot where all the prizes were cigarette cartons.That's so New Jersey, I thought.


When wegot to the boardwalk we headed toward the beach and spread our two towels onthe sand. As I lay down I spotted a condom right next to the towel, but insteadof freaking big-time I just threw sand at it till it was buried, then rolledover to face Paul.


I took offmy shirt and shorts and revealed my brown J. Crew-outlet bikini, then ran downto the water and hopped waves for a few minutes. Then I went back to Paul andcollapsed next to him. "Why don't you go in?" I said.


"I'mnot much of a swimmer, but I'm thinking about it," he said. Then hetook off his shirt and ran to the water and when it got to his ankles he turnedto me and shook his head like I was crazy for having withstood the cold. I wavedlike a girlfriend on the beach waving to her boyfriend and then he stepped outa little further, picked up a rock, pitched it far out over the surface andwatched it land. He seemed pensive. I thought how the ocean does that to people,clears their heads and not just their skin, and I was happy to be watching him,happy to be at the beach, even if it wasn't Asbury Park, even if it wasskeezy. After a few minutes he came back and lay down on his towel and I putmy nose next to his and breathed in so I could smell the salt on his face.


When wegot hungry so we walked to a restaurant a few blocks from the boardwalk to getsome dinner before we headed home. They didn't serve alcohol, so Paul wentto a liquor store down the block and brought back a Bud for himself and a Bassfor me. He loves Bud, but I don't hold it against him.


Our waitresswas inept and the food was awful and when the check came I whispered, "Let'sleave her a bad tip so she learns to treat her customers better."


"We'renever gonna see her again, lug nut," said Paul. "She's a teenagerand this is her summer job and she's only doing it so she can have spendingmoney at night, so maybe it's better if we just be generous." Paul'sroots are as upper crust as mine, but he's employed by the service industryand has great sympathy for his workingman cohorts, near and far. He always tipsat least 20 and often 25 percent because he knows from experience what it feelslike to be stiffed. I still thought it was wrong to tip for mediocre servicebut the day had been good and I liked the town, so I set down an extra fiverand we walked to the car.


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