Monday morning, day 3. Lying in bed, while Todd went for a walk, reading a book and texting mom whose only concern seemed to be that I “DID NOT get the hippies in trouble.” I mean, really. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
You know what else ain’t nobody got time for? Three – count them, THREE showers a day on vacation. It was So. Damn. Hot. The humidity was off the charts.
Todd ended up at a Candy Kitchen – a sugary mecca of all things sweet and obscene. He returned with six boxes of saltwater taffy and three pounds of fudge. No, it wasn’t all for us.
We ate some fruit I’d brought and had stored in the room fridge, which someone – I discovered Sunday morning – had previously set to FREEZE. So everything in it was frozen. The strawberries didn’t rally as well as the cantaloupe, but still delicious. I took my first shower and we headed out to another famous location I’d never, in the 30-plus years I’ve been going to OCMD, been.
Assateague Island. You’ve probably seen the images of horses cavorting together on the beach by the ocean, likely at sunset or some other beautiful panoramic view of the coast. A friend had been there a few weeks before and mentioned bug spray to me and all I want to say about that is THANK GOD.
The drive in was slow with many cars stopping periodically for the horses grazing along the shoulder, which was kinda cool but I wanted to get to the beach. I couldn’t wait to see them there. Well guess what? Even the horses ain’t got time for this heat and especially on the beach which, while lovely in a less commercial way, was scattered with people and beach chairs and not a horse in sight. We took some photos and walked back to the car, stopped at the public restrooms which were really just porta-potties in disguise. Water all over the tile floors and the “toilet” scared the hell out of me as a black and bottomless pit. Who among us has not feared what lies inside a porta-potty?
Anyway, we got back in the car and traveled a short distance to a small parking lot adjacent to a charming-looking wooded path. I remembered my friend’s suggestion about repellent and quickly sprayed myself all over, ending with a hairspray motion over my head. We crossed the threshold and side-stepped the biggest pile of horseshit I have ever seen. A few more feet inside and suddenly… FLIES!!! Dive-bombing us from every direction, bouncing off my head and I was waving my arms around fruitlessly like a lunatic. I ran ahead to a clearing and passed a woman waving her arms like she was drowning and shouting “that’s it! I’ve had enough!” and I wondering what fresh hell lay ahead.
The path became a deck which emerged into open sky and several overlooks to the bay, a single cluster of grazing horses to one side and several egrets wading through the wetlands. We got some breathtaking photos and a sweaty selfie to remember the experience. Unfortunately there was only one way out and it was through the supernatural level of Survivor forest. The only thing missing was a raven quoting Nevermore.
So my review is: I can say I’ve been to Assateague now. It’s not like the pictures. Mosquitos are the very least of your problems. Must bring OFF. Beaches are beautiful and not crowded. Maybe it’s better in the fall?
We left there and went on a hunt for some good pizza. Shouldn’t be hard in a beach town, right? We were looking for good, old-fashioned mom-and-pop pizza. For hometown friends – something resembling Lubrano’s or Little Italy’s or Ramble Inn. For those who don’t know: big round pizza roughly the size of a donut tire, thin crust, the oils from the cheeses dripping off of it as you eat.
We ended up at Mione’s on 67th street, one of only two tables seated. The pizza was delicious! We each had a slice that tasted like more, but we were sensible.
At this point I’d like to note that Ocean City was not as crowded as I expected, where once there were long waits for tables, crowded beach and boardwalk, and traffic on Coastal Highway/Philadelphia Avenue thick with vacationers. I previously mentioned that some things have changed, not the least of which is restaurant hours. Several places we sought out were not open. I don’t know whether this was the case all summer or the manifestation of schools reopening and summer staff returning to their normal lives. In some ways it was disappointing and in others, a relief to not be battling crowds of obnoxious people. With the exception of the bus, which is perpetually stuffed full.
Dinner was at M.R. Ducks, at a high-top table overlooking the boat docks. Not exactly a “breathtaking” view at sunset, but altogether pleasant with an unobstructed view and no one seated around us. The bar appeared to be full, but tables were scattered. The temperatures had cooled down a few degrees.
I ordered coconut shrimp with thai chili sauce (one of my favorites), a small salad because you have to eat something healthy, right? and … what’s better than crab cakes? BALLS! The crab balls were served with cocktail sauce – not my preference so my balls were plain and delicious and free of shell (peeve of mine from Higgins). Todd had steamed shrimp.
M.R. Ducks is on the bay at the tip of the island and we decided to leave the car and walk to the boardwalk where it begins. We popped into some stores and the arcade, played some skeeball and games of chance, and gave our tickets away to a kid on the way out. Next stop – Thrasher’s Fries because you don’t go to Ocean City without eating them, sprinkled with malt vinegar. And this time, no seagulls shit on me. I’d call that a win. We stopped at the Purple Moose and there was no live music so we just bought t-shirts and left.
We returned to the hotel and walked to a nearly empty Salty Dog for drinks. The Salty Dog is a direct line from the hotel on Philadelphia Avenue, and – 31 years ago – was around the corner from the condo where the guys were staying, so it was one of the first bars I experienced then. Small and bursting at the seams with people and DJ Batman spinning the tunes and keeping everybody entertained.
We ordered a drink and this guy across from us was polling anybody who was listening about best band … best singer of all time … most overrated band. Guess I don’t need to tell you the consensus on that last one for everyone but him was U2. This guy was nearly 50 but didn’t look it, with a new wife who was barely 30. She was hanging out with two of her girlfriends a few seats away doing shots. It was a curious thing. I chose not to ask too many questions since I’d already done a fist-bump with another man sitting next to me who’d made a political comment and that led to more opinions my tequila-marinated brain ain’t got no time for.