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“A Connecticut Yankee in Ocean City’s Court”: An outsider’s experience of pre-season area activities
Written By: Mike Lauterborn
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“A Connecticut Yankee in Ocean City’s Court”: An outsider’s experience of pre-season area activities
Phillip Lauterborn, 10, enjoying a Subway lunch in his man-made beach foxhole.
“A Connecticut Yankee in Ocean City’s Court”: An outsider’s experience of pre-season area activities
Ocean City visitors Willie and Blythe enjoy happy hour at Davey Jones’ Locker Room on the boardwalk.
“A Connecticut Yankee in Ocean City’s Court”: An outsider’s experience of pre-season area activities
Hostess Rachel hula hoops at Hooters’ 123rd Street Ocean City location.
(Installment #2 of Fairfield, Conn. writer Mike Lauterborn’s 4-day April adventure in Ocean City – an outsider’s perspective on the sites and sounds of Maryland’s oceanside getaway destination)
The dominating morning news was about a volcano in Iceland that was pumping into the air a huge plume of ash that was drifting across Europe, shutting down airports and grounding flights. I was glad to have found a great getaway that didn’t require air travel or that I don protective respiratory equipment!
    My school-aged sons and I breakfasted at the hotel’s Coral Reef Café enjoying fare like pancakes and eggs. As the day was a bit overcast, we walked off our food strolling along the ocean’s leading edge plucking up a wide variety of shells including clams, snails, oysters, mussels and scallops. Mid-walk, we encountered Dale from near Allentown, Penn. He was poking along with his young daughter, whom he referred to as “our shell collector.” I showed her a seahorse carcass I had found, which she thought was cool.
    Dale claimed to be a contractor, which he described as “stressful”, and this short getaway was helping him relax. “The Poconos are right in our backyard,” he said, and it would have been easy for him to go there, but his daughter likes the ocean.
    Beach walking morphed into plodding along the boardwalk that divides the beach from the strip of waterfront hotels and retail shops. In a pizza shop at the Grand Hotel, a striking-looking auburn-haired woman was making pies. The dough was obviously fresh and she kneaded it with her long narrow fingers. When I detected an accent and asked her about her heritage, she said, “I’m Armenian.” Then she added, pointing at co-workers, “He’s from Turkey… he’s from Moravia. You’re going to see a lot of people from many different countries during the coming months here.”
    We returned to the beach, where my 10-year-old, Phil, raced around by the water, playing tag with it. He then dug a big hole and lined it with a hotel towel – a pseudo bomb shelter. He also planted five dried bamboo stalks by the water and watched the sea wash in and recede around them. Simple amusements courtesy of Mother Nature!
    Midday rolled around and intestinal nudges told us to go hustle food. Subway, adjacent to our hotel, called. Juliana, the Argentine counter girl, was only too glad to accommodate. Subs secured, we noshed on the beach then the boys – the aforementioned Phil and 14-year-old Evan – went for another trot down the shore. They were best of pals on this trip, tossed sand chunks, and wrestled with each other as they went. I realized they only had about 3 1/2 years left together before my elder son would be headed off to college. This trip would be a lasting, cherished memory.
    The beach meter expired, showers followed and a Happy Hour search ensued. Up and down the Coastal Highway we cruised. Seacrets? No. Macky’s? Not open. La Hacienda? Just opening. We came all the way back down to the point by the Route 50 bridge, parked and continued our quest. O.C. Frogs? A little warm. Harrison’s Harbor Watch? Wasn’t doing the trick.
    We drifted back up the boardwalk past pizza stands and T-shirt shops, stumbling on Davey Jones’ Locker Room, boasting a second floor aerie affording a boardwalk birdseye on one side and distant ocean view on the other. Best of all, it featured the green-eyed Kim, a waitress extraordinaire, both the daughter of a Mike and mom of a Mike. I figured that, with the common thread of names between Kim and me, it was karma for us to roost here.
    There was another connection, writing related: Manager L.B.’s (Lawrence Bell Steele IV of the Charleston, SC Steeles) mother Nancy Lynch (maiden name) is a writer and author of “Vietnam Mailbag”. The book features letter excerpts from servicemen on tour in Nam from 1968-1972. An informative pamphlet at the bar gave a full topline.
    Kim was, unfortunately, checking out for the day, but not before I persuaded her to join me in a shot of her choice: Lemon Drop (Ketel One vodka, sugar and lemon). It went down easy.
    As the crowd was sparse here, the boys and I decided to help the bar recruit revelers. As such, we banged on the picture window overlooking the boardwalk and pointed to my Yuengling pint to attract attention. In this way, we were initially successful in pulling at least eight people.
    The first pair was brunette Blythe (not “Blith” as some mistakenly call her) and longhaired boyfriend Willie, of Scotch descent, both from Poolesville, Md. Set #2 were two couples, one of which were parents of one Katelyn Rushe, a Robert Morris University student and author of “Deer Lake” about a hunting trip gone wrong and in which the deer become the hunters.
    Pulling up the tail end was Charlie and Brenda from Dundalk near Baltimore, who were down in OC for the week. Brenda has been coming here for the past 54 years and recalled staying in a place as a youngster that was $150 per week and included three meals a day! Between them, they had 10 grandchildren and a great grandson. Charlie, a retired GM mechanic, calls Brenda “the best woman in the world”, and has decided that, “If I ever get a tattoo I’ll get a ‘W’ on each cheek so that when I bend over it’ll spell ‘WoW’” and calls himself “the luckiest son of a bitch to sh** between two shoes” for surviving a tour of Vietnam.
    As I chatted with this entourage and gratefully accepted the beers they sent my way, the boys went up the boardwalk to Playland arcade, scoring a trove of booty that included a plastic jumping frog, purple rabbit’s foot, helicopter thingy and micro projector.
    I returned the boys to the hotel again, hopped in my jalopy and headed uptown, hearing a Hooters radio spot promoting the 123rd St. and Bayside location. Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn in and soon challenging diminutive blonde hostess Rachel to Hula Hoop. After a couple of gyrations, she passed me along to the accommodating Trish, who sent in a Yuengling mach schnell. While I tossed it back, I gazed upon this brilliant franchise with its wide range of branded merchandise from calendars and T-shirts to glassware and even golf bags. The Mid-Atlantic Hooter girl uniform appeared to be black with tank tops toting the adage “Having Fun in the Sun”.
    Twenty-year-old Trish, an accidental Steelers fan, sidled over and sat a bit, showing me the tattoos on the underside of her wrists – on one, a lily, dedicated to the elder sister that raised her; on the other, a rosary, in tribute to her grandmother who taught her how to say the rosary. Trish’s dream was to become a wildlife biologist and work at a zoo. “I really want a pet panda. I would name it Danger. If I had a tiger, I would name it Cuddles.”
    My next stop-in was Kirby’s Pub, though just to use the restroom, labeled Irish Pointer (the Ladies’ Room was labeled Irish Sitter). I was lured to Seacrets again, figuring that the featured live band would draw a crowd with which I would better mesh. I fell in with Terry, 45, and Connie, 46, from Beaver and Midland, Penn., respectively. We joined the crowd in the packed Morley Dance Hall to shuffle our feet to ‘80s tunes. Blonde Terry, in particular, kicked up her heels while Connie played den mom and held our drinks. Overhead, confetti rained down at intervals, a helium-inflated ball bounced about, and balloons dropped, getting stomped underfoot. The good vibe here carried me back to the hotel.

Mike Lauterborn is a Fairfield, CT-based freelance writer and author of “Chasing Charley”, a soon-to-be-published recreation of John Steinbeck’s 1960  “Travels with Charley” road trip adventure. For more info:
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