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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
*Click images below to view larger versions.
“A Connecticut Yankee in Ocean City’s Court”: An outsider’s experience of pre-season area activities
Phillip Lauterborn, 10, rents a bike from Todd at Jo's Bikes, Gifts & Collectibles to ride up and down O.C.'s famous Boardwalk.
“A Connecticut Yankee in Ocean City’s Court”: An outsider’s experience of pre-season area activities
Camilla the change lady and her Shih Tzu Pica at Playland Arcade on the Boardwalk.
(Installment #4 of Fairfield, CT 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)

DAY 4: SUNDAY, APRIL 18
I arose with the sun, a beautiful orange ball inching into a virtually cloudless sky. The day, our last in O.C., had promise. Following some “stuff” organizing in our hotel, the Holiday Inn & Suites, my boys Phillip (10) and Evan (14) and I sedan’ed along the road parallel to the Boardwalk to an alley by Ocean Gallery. We struggled for a moment with a pay-to-park system until an adjacent bike shop manager just opening up informed us that we didn’t have to start paying until 9. “It’s in the fine print,” he said. We thanked him and went around the corner to The Dough Roller, a Pizza & Pancakes purveyor.
    An odd combo (pizza and pancakes), you think at first glance, but both products require base ingredients like flour, and the name also speaks to the restaurant’s ability to provide both breakfast and dinner. Chelsea, a brunette with hazel eyes as colorful as the surrounding sea and warm smile that could melt butter over a short stack of pancakes, greeted us at the entrance and plopped us down in a sunny window-side booth.
    Our meals came in a blink of an eye – cinnamon and raisin French toast, Hawaiian pancakes and your standard short stack (from the kids’ menu) for Phil. Chelsea (“like Chelsea Lately” she said, “But without the vodka,” I added), 21, lives in Willards, about a half hour’s drive away. She admitted to having been out at a bar called Station 7 last night and was a little dazed as a result.
    Chelsea introduced me to her younger sister Tay, 17, a fellow waitress. They said things are usually busier here but that the “Pork at the Park” Fest at Winter Place in Salisbury may be drawing people away.
    I noticed Chelsea had a tongue stud. “I have a lip ring, too, but they don’t let me wear it.” I also noticed a pendant around her neck, with a phrase on it that seemed to sum up this moment perfectly: “One person can make a difference… and that person is you.”
    It seemed only just that we rent a bike from the bike shop guy we encountered earlier. Todd, at Jo’s Bikes, Gifts & Collectibles, greeted us in overalls he’d donned to help bear the chill, which had continued from last night into this morning. The boys and I set off exploring, stopping first to eye a stately installation at North Division that was dedicated to the firefighters of the world, in particular the 343 that lost their lives Sept. 11, 2001.
    On the wall in the alley at Caroline Street there were posters of old postcards depicting whimsical scenes like a voluptuous female beachgoer faking distress to capture the attention of a hunky lifeguard. The image was captioned, “Just a mere maid looking for a lifeguard!” We found the same type of images a street over, but showing historical glimpses of the boardwalk – Victorian homes where hotels now sit, people strolling with sun parasols and beachgoers in full “bathing costumes.”
    The boys sucked me into the Playland arcade to game play. Camilla, an engaging senior citizen who pronounced her name “CAH-muh-la” (with the emphasis on the first syllable unlike Prince Charles’ beau), served up ten dollars in quarters using a meat grinder-like device wherein each pump of the handle delivers four quarters. I remarked that the machine was cool, to which she said, “Sometimes the old things work better… and they don’t break.” Reading “Lady Killer” by Lisa Scottoline, Camilla called herself an Eastern Shore girl and had certain opinions about the country’s current leadership and society. “There are too many crooks, too much greed. Everyone wants to be a millionaire, and they want me to live on $100 a month! People could live well if the charitable money was spent right.” She introduced me to Pica (pronounced “peeka”), her Shih Tzu dog named after an Ecuadorian woman she met on the boardwalk, then summed up, “I’m a friendly person. I treat people like I would like to be treated… I would like to show people our “Land of Pleasant Living.”
    There was still a chill in the air, Dunkin’ Donuts called and a tall, nimble-fingered Asian counter girl was there to rescue me. “Light and sweet,” I said to Fai the Thai, with regard to my coffee preference, though it could easily have described the beautiful barista. In the U.S. on a work visa through the summer, Fai said she chose O.C. because “a friend came here last year.” Why did her friend choose O.C.? “Her sister.” Why did her sister choose O.C.? I could see this line of inquiry was only going to go round and round and changed gears to speak with a quad of young women that walked up to the counter.
    They were from Delaware and I thought all were college students. I was right in 3 out of 4 cases – the fourth in the party was actually a 36-year-old mom who betrayed her identity when she admonished one of the girls (her daughter) for putting too much sugar in her iced coffee.
    Our lunch stop – the last meal we would enjoy in O.C. this visit – was Shenanigans Irish Pub. Lovely blonde lass Natalie ushered us in, entrusting us to brunettes Casey and understudy Megan. I was promised “two free smiles” if I could guess the correct spelling of the latter’s name and scored same. A special, “Marty’s Magic Mushroom Panini”, piqued my interest especially when Casey explained that it was named after an entertainer who plays here often – “a one-set acoustic Irish gig who gets up there with a guitar, high hat cymbals and harmonica, and sings. He must be good as he had a sandwich named after him.”
    Noting two Gaelic phrases at key entry/exit points – “Fearadh Na Failte” (A Hearty Welcome) and “Go Raibh Maith Agat” (Thank You) – I challenged the staff to correctly pronounce them. This brought manager Nick on deck, who was at a loss as well, so I vowed to do research and follow up. (see www.irishgaelictranslator.com)
    While waiting on our fare, I scoped the place, finding my O’Brien family crest among two hundred-plus wooden plaques affixed to the walls, and eyeballed all the Guinness promotional signage both new and vintage. Casey then brought me a most welcome sight: a Guinness draught with a shamrock imprint in the foamy head. In turn, the boys received lime-green Mountain Dews, about which Evan felt the need to say, “You know, you drink enough Mountain Dew and it lowers your sperm count.” Like Kirby’s Pub a few nights ago, the restrooms were labeled Pointers and Setters and the former had Irish jokes above the urinal.
    As the short hand on my watch pointed at one o’clock, we reluctantly pulled up stakes, put the pedal down on the Grand Marq, bid O.C. a fond adios and beat it back across the Assawoman (I kid you not) Bridge headed to points north. As we went, we were serenaded with Beatles tunes spun by DJ Batman and Sister Sara (Our Lady of Perpetual Motion) of the “Hair of the Dog” show on Ocean 98.1 FM. It was the only way to bow out from this fun, often kooky, never boring, four-day Ocean City excursion!
CONCLUSION OF 4-PART SERIES

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:http://www.facebook.com/MikeLauterbornChasingCharley
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