Laura Wood—The Thinking Housewife—has an ongoing series wherein she shares her husband’s boyhood memories of growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her latest post involves Wildwood: “Marx by the Sea.” The entire series is charming—and an interesting glimpse of a lost world. However, I have a connection to Wildwood, and I agree that it is—and remains—a wonderful place, even though it is unfortunately located in New Jersey. (Actually, I like New Jersey, taking after my pro-Jersey father who was stationed there as a youth while stateside in the Navy.)
I first visited Wildwood on a family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey. I was not fond of Ocean City—it required paid passes to use the public beach! Plus, the town had all sorts of fun-killing regulations that I found appalling, including bans on Frisbee throwing, kite flying, and other beach pastimes. It is as if every disgusting character flaw manifest in the typical suburban Democratte had transubstantiated into the town provisions of Ocean City, New Jersey. Yuck! So, we ventured beyond Ocean City to visit other places in and around Jersey, including excursions to Cape May (lovely), Philadelphia (the patriot places), and Atlantic City. There, my brothers and I insisted on visiting every street on the Monopoly gameboard; this required a second trip because we could not find one of the streets (one of the purple properties, if I remember correctly). After visiting the local library and doing some research (without the internet!), we discovered that the street—Saint Charles, I think—was now under a casino. So, upon our return, we drove onto a closed parking lot next to the casino where the street had been according to some maps that we found. As we were doing this, a police officer drove up to us, and my poor father had to explain what we were doing in a vacant lot. Fun times.
Anyway, my favorite day during that vacation was the visit to Wildwood. The family dropped Adam, Aaron, and me off at Wildwood in the morning, and we had made a rendez-vous appointment for late at night. We would spend the whole day at the beach and amusement parks. I suspect that it was the first outing that we three brothers did together with no other family members. It was a grand time. We ate delicious pizza on the boardwalk (yes, Laura Wood, the pizza industrial complex has overwhelmed even idyllic Wildwood), we rode the Gravitron so many times that even I started to get dizzy, and Aaron braved his first upside-down roller coaster experience. I can still see our finding a huge horseshoe crab under one of the piers. It is odd what one remembers.
When I moved to D.C., I made the trek to Wildwood as many times as I could, and I successfully convinced my Jersey-hating friend Andrew to go against his principles to step foot in that profane land. And he admitted that it was “ok.” Nay, Morey’s Piers are the best way to enjoy the shore—immediate beach access at the end of the piers, surf and turf thrill rides with perfect views, a lazy river to recuperate, but with Jersey Shore edgy options off the main stream (imagine going through a car wash naked), children’s action play areas—all with veritable Mid-Atlantic beach luxuries like private hot showers, changing rooms, cozy cabanas with smores-making fire pits, and hammocks overlooking the waves. The piers are like a beachside resort for the masses. Marx in Wildwood, indeed!
A few years ago, my father sent me a link to a fascinating photographic essay in The Atlantic about the Hindenburg: “75 Years Since the Hindenburg Disaster.” The pictures are quite interesting—especially the Nazis in New York imagery that strikes us as bizarre. Yet, it should not—the world was still at peace (of a sort) in the mid-30’s. Yet, war was coming. I found the picture of the crew’s survivors sad as I wondered how many of the men would survive the following decade.
The photos also show a little of what it was like to travel by Zeppelin. It is too bad that the industry fell apart after the disaster—bad press, indeed. It is rather surprising, though, that most of the crew and passengers survived the crash. Read the Wikipedia page for more information. Evidently, the young cabin boy survivor Werner Franz is still alive.
Happy Columbus Day to my fellow Americans! Our effeminate, overly apologetic (for others, of course, not for oneself) age abhors the day, but it is a celebration of our civilization’s conquest of the New World and of the new nations born therefrom.
Another famous traveler, though fictitious and more appealing to the liberal Zeitgeist, is the Doctor. Instead of the Santa Maria, he uses the TARDIS to get around. Instead of conquest, he forever gets entangled in local business on behalf of the locals (or for some of the locals, much to the chagrin of others). Like Columbus, though, he has been occasionally charged with genocide, monomania, and crimes against humanity. In short, the Doctor, like Columbus, is an interesting person.
To celebrate the day, I suggest that you set course for Brooklyn, where there is a Doctor Who themed bar—The Way Station. Girl Gone Geek offers a thorough review of the joint along with many pictures (see the full set below the post): “A TARDIS Lands in Brooklyn - The Way Station Bar Interview.” I love the wall homage to the fourth Doctor.
Last week, Americans commemorated the tenth anniversary of the the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. I found most occasions of public memorial rather distasteful. Modern American society pushes us to indulge in pathos. Moreover, as Lawrence Auster has often remarked, the officially sanctioned language regarding the horrible events ten years ago perverts the public understanding. The day was not one of tragedy but of malice and aggression. People did not just die; our enemies intentionally killed them. A decade later, many of us remain clueless and apathetic to the war without and the war within. Instead of waking to the problem, we have gone on a long ride that benefits politicians, war industrialists, and even our enemies. We are the suckers of world history.
One commemorative item that I found suitable was an interactive feature on the New York Times, “The World Trade Center Towers As They Were.” You may listen to a narration about the towers as you manipulate the device to look at a computer model of the World Trade Center complex. There are also interviews about the architecture, engineering, and art of the site. The Frenchman in the interview notes how the towers functioned as a compass for people who emerged from the subway. Such was true for my brothers and me when we visited the city. A glimpse of the towers informed us immediately which way was south. I was not a fan of the glass and steel design, but the complex was noble in its own way. Our nation has ceased to be so ambitious in our buildings. We have ceded civilizational confidence to other nations.
Last week, I visited the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore to see the new exhibit, “What Makes Us Smile?” If you have never visited A.V.A.M., I highly recommend it. I think that it is an art museum that even people who hate art museums would like. I have been to several of their shows, and they are always fascinating. Their exhibitions, normally a year long, feature works that complement a chosen theme. The artists showcased are not professionally trained, and so the “feel” of the works is quite unexpected and independent. As the artists represent no school, the diversity of style is as broad as the human soul aspires. The exhibitions are well displayed and organized, too, with interesting information conveyed about the topic and about the artists.
The current exhibit mainly has to do with humor, and the walls around the artwork feature quotations and anecdotes about humor from anthropological and poetic perspectives. My favorite part of the show was the section on Oregon cartoonist John Callahan. I love mordant wit and contemn taboos; therefore, I found Callahan quite a congenial dissident. Callahan died this past summer, and A.V.A.M. presents his cartoons as a sort of memorial to him. Here is one of Callahan’s cartoons:
So, pray for the soul of John Callahan and make sure to visit the American Visionary Art Museum. Or visit Callahan’s soul and pray for the art museum. A trip to Baltimore puts all of the options on the table.
For my Dad and me, today marks the end of our short trip to New England. This afternoon, I’ll take him to Reagan National to catch a flight back to Cincinnati.
As my father has not been in D.C. since Bush’s second inauguration, I hope to show him the new Capitol Visitors’ Center this morning. I think that visiting the Capitol is so much better and more organized with the new center. I just want the landscape work to be finished; the grounds have been a mess for nine years.
If everything goes as planned, my father and I shall visit the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York today on our way back from New England. After visiting Annapolis a dozen or so times, it will be interesting to see the “other side.”
If we have the time, we may stop for dinner in Pennsylvania Dutch country, which my father has never seen.
Over the weekend, I visited the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore for the second time. If you ever go to Maryland, it is worth your time to visit it.
The museum has a pleasant gallery exhibition plan that features mixed media in every room. If like many people, you tire of seeing painting after painting, the Walters’ rooms are set up like learning rooms or the halls of curiosity of European palaces, with paintings on the walls, objects of interest and sculptures on tables, and historical artifacts of practical use placed throughout.
Moreover, the diversity of the collection is impressive. You can visit art rooms from the Dutch Renaissance, an armor and weapons collection from the Holy Roman Empire, a treasury of macabre memento mori pieces, a gallery of French porcelain from Sèvres and Russian treasures from Fabergé, an Orthodox icon exhibit, several rooms dedicated to medieval Western life, culture, and religion, and even antiquities from Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, and Byzantium. Each period room contextualizes well its collection with complementary pieces and interestingly informative signs.
The museum has offered free admission for the last several years, and the surrounding neighborhood downtown is quite charming in Charm City. After the National Aquarium in Baltimore, it is the best attraction in town.