Sunday, March 8, 2009

sand in my shoes

There’s an old saw about how once you get sand in your shoes, you can never totally get it out—or something like that. It’s been that way for me. Since leaving the Jersey Shore for points south, I scamper back each summer for as long as my day job allows and my friends put up with me—or put me up. Whatever.

And I also confess, somewhat sheepishly, to running live webcams of the Point Pleasant Beach surf and the boardwalk on my computer. I don’t do this occasionally, you understand, but ALL the time. (The surf camera does shut down “when the lights go on,” though.)

Several times a week, I check in at my old paper’s website to see what’s doin’ in the state, and wasn’t at all surprised to learn the police were needed to get between the Point Beach mayor and a councilman at a recent Borough Council meeting concerning the mayor’s plan to expand paid parking onto every street to make up a budget shortfall .

Ah, parking—the third rail of Point Beach politics. Comments from residents left on the site touched on the vitriolic. Geez, I miss covering that place. To borrow from Saturday Night Live: It was always something.

The feisty Ocean County resort was my first beat when I started at the local weekly newspaper and again when I graduated to the Asbury Park Press, a large regional daily. I made my home in the less affluent adjacent Point Boro. To my children, “downtown” was Point Beach’s Arnold Avenue, which then included a Woolworth with wood floors.

In those long-ago days, (in addition to the parking) it was the town’s rusty water that filled the Borough Council chamber to overflowing with angry residents – many of whom brought their damaged laundry, including undies, as exhibits.

That’s about as racy as things got until the Spring of 1995, when sex came to The Beach in the form of The Love Shack, a small boutique selling lingerie, novelty sex items and offering body-piercing services.

In a small town where political grudges span generations, almost any happening is grist for the political mill. So, it’s no surprise that the then Borough Council President, a mayoral contender, used the shop to spark a ruckus at the last council meeting before the June primary election.

Newspaper reports had him railing against the shop in a manner befitting Professor Howard Hill in “The Music Man.” (The flimflam artist, you may recall, used the advent of a pool hall in the mythical hamlet of River City as signaling moral doom for its young.)

As evidence, he distributed photos he took at the store, including one of the manager’s young son next to a “fake penis.” One business owner, demanding the town take immediate action, complained the shop’s vibrators and dildos were embarrassing and made her feel “dirty.”

The Shack’s manager called the critics “uptight” and accused them of blowing things out of proportion. (Pun intended?) The Love Shack carries condoms and massage oils, but the only other sexual items in the shop are “gag gifts,” she said, denying there were any vibrators or dildos. That “fake penis” , she added, was not a sex toy, but merely “soap-on-rope.”

Well, that was enough to stir this reporter to action. Not one to take hearsay as fact, I made a quick trip to investigate. (Hey, “Hard Copy” had nothing on me.)

At the risk of disappointing the truly licentious, The Love Shack came across as more PG than X-rated: more “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” than drool; more playful than seamy. So, what was for sale, you ask? A fair question.

The vast majority of the floor space was devoted to clothing, mostly scanty versions of the thong-type bathing suit you can find in malls or clothing catalogs. OK, a few did have metal studs decorating the bodice. There also were “tear-away boxer shorts” And the by-now-rather-old-hat edible panties and “I love you” garters.

For the more adventurous – or mischievous – there were X-rated greeting cards and lipsticks, erotic oils, jellies and creams (including the whipped variety), fur-lined hand cuffs, oral sex manuals and something called a “penis ring.” And lest I forget, a kit to “Grow your own penis and amaze your friends.”

Oh, in case you’re wondering, the much discussed “fake penis” was indeed soap-on-a-rope – generously endowed perhaps, but benign and certainly clean.

I must agree with one lifelong female resident who said the only thing obscene about the place was that I couldn’t get my butt in one of those swimsuits.

One last note, The Point Beach Republicans did turn out in record numbers for that primary. But they proved more unflappable than the folks of River City, returning the veteran mayor to the ticket by a vote of 703 to 386.

1 comment:

carol said...

Funny how Point Beach is considered "more affluent" when you consider the rooming and half-way houses, seedy motels that house the down-and-out in the off-season months and the railroad. I think Point Pleasant is the better town.