Friday, August 19, 2011

This just in...

This mornings news included this tidbit:

Bat causes stir at NH selectman's meeting
Aug 18, 9:12 AM (ET)

EPPING, N.H. (AP) - Maybe the bat just wanted to air its concerns to the board.
The Board of Selectmen in Epping, N.H., was discussing road signs this week when the meeting was interrupted for about two minutes by a bat that swooped and flitted over the panel, causing members to duck and chuckle.
The bat was eventually chased out the door.
Selectman James McGeough calls the wildlife encounter a comedy of errors, and jokingly suggested police shoot it.
Board Chairwoman Karen Falcone tells WMUR-TV ( ) the meeting became a "frenzy." Town officials have long known that bats live in the tower above town hall, but this was the first time one made an appearance at a meeting.

Emily's Restaurant

So, we've made a left, run through the arcade, and then there comes - a blank, really blank,  just nothing at all like an edited memory about a horcrux kind of blank. Oh, wait - I'm beginning to see one of the empty spaces - it's set back from the boardwalk a bit. It's the Flanders Hotel. I can't believe I forgot that place. I even worked there for awhile.

Built in the 1920's in the "Spanish Mission Revival style", The Flanders had a private beach, and its swimming pools were filled with salt water. It was a pretty swank place. In my day there, it was getting a lovely genteel patina of shabbiness. Except in the workers housing whose patina was more Tobacco Road.

There was this one guy, a dishwasher there who had something like 7 or 9 degrees. He just preferred to be left alone, and I guess he made a mindless zen ritual of washing dishes (a  mostly automated procedure). As winter arrived, he'd go wash dishes at a swank hotel in Ft. Lauderdale.

I worked in the kitchen and did a little bit of everything from cooking to dish and/or pot washer. Then I moved to the other side of the door and became a waiter. I subbed for the maitre de. I even played the piano one night.

The whole place had an almost old world charm. It was even rumored that the old ballroom was haunted, as well as the cellar catacombs. When it was built, it was so modern it was "fireproof". Sadly, this turned out to be true in 1927.

The place changed hands in 1996, and was renovated with an eye towards luxury condominiums. It now has luxury suites for rent - a single with ocean view is only $400.00 per night in high season. One of the ocean view penthouses will run you $950.00 per night. From what I gather there are portions of the place which were sold off, money came in from a new partner? and who owns what sounds complicated. In 2009, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. I'm afraid though, that it's too late already. Modern photos of their high price digs don't quite look right. It's all phony now, like the faux nouveau glass paneled door to a section of the new dining facilities named Emily's, their name for one of the ghosts whose name is actually Marilyn or Maryanne. What can I say?

It was a summer friend who worked at the Flanders who turned me on to Lenny Bruce. Gosh, all those years ago. But I remember. And I remember the slum conditions of the rooms for the workers. A different world from the one inhabited by hotel guests. And I remember the sad elegance of a once grand hotel, catering to an aging clientele who were out of their time as the world passed them by.  I was lucky to see it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The first arcade on the left

There was only one block between Uncle Harry's and the Boardwalk. Just as you got up a ramp to the boardwalk was a side door to kid heaven. It was an old arcade. It was immediately apparent that little had changed since the late 1930's or early 1940's. Just inside the door were about 5 or 6 Skee Ball machines. The old ones. With the 10 foot ramp. I couldn't find an exact picture, but they looked something like this:

There were another series of them just to the right of the main entrance.  I hardly saw them. Just to the left was a Grandma machine, and I always headed right for it. Put in your coin and grandma would start moving. Her hand would drift over a line of cards. She would look from left to right until that magic moment when she selected a card and sent it down a chute to you. The card was printed with your fortune.

 At this arcade, they had the gypsy grandma. She looked more like this:

Just across from grandma was a row of kinetoscope machines (which used a celluloid loop) and the kind with flipping cards - I can't remember what they were called! Grrrr.

Just around the corner were a couple of fan photo type machines. You'd put in your coin and a card with a picture postcard of a movie star would emerge. I still have a couple.

Of course all that is gone now. The entertainment technology of a simpler age.

I've been having problems with blogger this evening. I know it's only Mercury Retrograde at work, but well, you know. Later.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Last Two Weeks of August

It's getting cool at nights now. And today, as I write, it's rainy with a temperature in the mid 60s Fahrenheit. Summer is ending. In a week or so the kids here will be going back to school. They go back so early here.
When I was a kid, school always started the Wednesday after Labor Day. I noticed some years ago that summers end earlier in New England than where I grew up in New Jersey. Up in Maine, most people have cleared out by the week before Labor Day. In New Jersey, I can remember standing on Labor Day morning on a Boardwalk so busy that you couldn't walk more than a couple of feet without bumping into someone. By 1pm, most of those folks were gone. By 4pm you could throw stones with all your might and not hit anyone.

As a matter of fact, it would be right about this time of the month that we'd all head to Ocean City for the last two weeks of August. My grandmother's Uncle Harry had a house there. This was in the late 1950's. I can't find a picture of the place (except in 8mm), but this gives you a fairly good idea of the area.

 By the early 1960's he'd sold the house, starting us on a one week stay at various places like the Sindia Apartments. The Sindia was a famous wreck from the days of the China trade.

Good God, the size of that thing. The ruins below were gone by the time I came along.

But, the following was there as long as I can remember, including the years I lived there (I left in 1972). I've read that they are now underground - thanks to a beach replenishment project. Local lore had it that a solid gold statue of the Buddha was on board the ship and never recovered...

Ocean City has been in my mind for a few months now. It first started showing up in my dreams. I'd find myself in the "Gardens" (read: Italian ) section of town...   well, it got me to thinking about maybe going back. At least it's an upfront tourist town. It's built for people watching. I can see myself, happy, retired, very poor,  sitting on a bench and watching the passing parade. Many of the benches on the boardwalk have backs which swing so you can sit looking out to sea, or set it to watch the world go by you on the boardwalk.

I've no idea who this is, and I really don't care all that much. So feel free to go ahead and make up your own story about her. It's from 1937 and that lady is sitting on the kind of bench I mean.

Oh, before I forget: One year we rented rooms at the new Sting Ray Motel. It was very modern for Ocean City. And it certainly didn't fit in architecturally. But it was right by the Boardwalk. And it was a block long. And see that section on the left? It is directly across the street from Uncle Harry's.

Ocean City Memories will be continued...