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Trip 23 -- Diners of New Jersey Walk

Day 12: Somers Point to Sea Isle City (Point Diner)
Monday, October 26, 2020

Today: 28595 steps/23.49 km/14.60 mi/4h 25m
Total: 436337 steps/349.38 km/217.09 mi/68h 31m

I turn on the TV set just in time. Mike and Alex are discussing a new Web site that will tell you whether the ice-cream machine at your desired McDonald's is working. "Good Day Philadelphia" has made my life that much closer to complete.

When I emerge from the shower, they're discussing what your phone's lock screen says about you. If it's your pet, you're living in a fantasy world. If it's a selfie you're narcissistic. If it's a picture from your vacation, you have an inferiority complex, and if it's a generic picture that came with your phone's stock app, you're easygoing and you have lots of friends.

I've never thought about what picture to show on my phone's lock screen, but I would say people choose whatever picture will make them happy.

Mike, however, changed his photo at 4:00 this morning -- an activity he engages in surprisingly often for someone who claims to know little about technology, Alex says. The new photo is of purple angel wings.

Then he changes it again. Alex seems to be licking from a plate.

"That's Alex finish-offing a bowl of soup," Mike says.

And with that, I have all the inspiration I need to fold the strewn, almost-dry clothes at the Econo Lodge and hop on over to the Point Diner.

The .5-1.25-.25 menu, roughly, is suited to a seven-year-old with a sweet tooth. The "wafffle sundae" (I guess they bring it out really loud) is a Belgian waffle (or wafffle) with two scoops of ice cream, banana, chocolate syrup, and powdered sugar. I take it down a notch -- a tiny notch -- and have an apple-pie waffle, apples baked into a waffle with cinnamon and powdered sugar, with vanilla ice cream. It wants butter and syrup, too.

The Point Diner is "A Shore Tradition Since the 1950's." The music playing is "It's Five o'Clock Somewhere" and whatever country song has "talkin' 'bout girls, talkin' 'bout trucks." There's a nice view of the Somers Mansion, that brick building from the 1720s.

They're posting the lunch specials. A sandwich of liverwurst and onions is $7, but I don't understand why that's more special than the $6 version shown on the menu. As I walk out, someone has just received the chipped beef. The beef shavings are much more prominent than they were at the Harley Dawn; I should have had them here instead. Maybe creamed chipped beef on an apple-cinnamon waffle with ice cream is the next hit diner meal.

It's a two-mile walk across the World War Memorial Bridge to Ocean City. The bridge was built from 1931 to 1933 and replaced an earlier twin bridge, a drawbridge for cars and a swing bridge for rail. It takes me up and down a few times as it crosses over three islands. Today is overcast and hazy, and I wonder whether the buildings I'm seeing to the north are in Atlantic City, where I bought the shoes I'm wearing back in August.

Ocean City is dry; Adam from the Anchorage Tavern said that everybody comes across the bridge to his place to drink. I walk through "Macaroni Street," Ocean City's Italian area from 1910 to 1950, before heading toward the water. Ocean City's homes are large and modern and a good many of them are available for rent; several buildings have multiple realtors' names and phone numbers signed on them.

These little coastal towns are narrow spits of land, connected to each other by short bridges and to the mainland by longer causeways such as the one that includes the World War Memorial Bridge. I walk the length of Ocean City and then cross the Strathmere Bascule Bridge into Strathmere, where homes have signs protesting a proposal to build a hotel.

Strathmere is tiny and residential, and the surrounding wetlands are home to diamondback terrapin turtles. As I exit the bridge, which has a raised walkway so narrow that a side of scrapple at breakfast would have rendered me too wide to fit on it, a sign says, "Random Pedestrian X-ings Next 3 Miles." I zig myself across the road to take a picture of it, then zag back to the oceanside walkway.

Strathmere is mainly one road, with frequent pathways to the beach. The post office is an old wooden house with a coffee table on the terrace. I walk along the beach for a mile or so; apart from three people and their dog the beach is uninhabited on this Monday afternoon, except by gulls and other seabirds.

I cross from Strathmere into Sea Isle City. The buildings are modern and large, and most of them are symmetrical two-family residences, with the north and south entrances mirror images of each other.

The Colonnade Inn is a Victorian house dating from about 1883. It's locked, so I call, and someone promises to meet me shortly. Someone else arrives; he's there to check out one room's fire alarm and a few other things. "I hope you're not staying in 3C," he says.

"I don't know which room I'm in," I say. I'm booked into a room called the Eastwick, so I imagine I'm safe.

Someone comes in to receive both of us. The hotel has 19 rooms, and of course the Eastwick is 3C. "This is the craziest hotel," the receptionist says. All the rooms are independently owned, but they're offered together as the Colonnade Inn. The owners can choose to stay in their rooms or let them out, as desired.

I tell the other guy that he can do what he needs to in my room, but he says he'll come back tomorrow instead. I'm shown the exits and given the keys. The room has a map of Sea Isle City from 1885, a fake fireplace, and what seems to be a bathtub with jets.


Look, I'm staying at the Colonnade.
Wow, I guess that means I've got it made.
Building built in eighteen eighty-three.
Nothing else could make me so carefree.
It's warm and grand and rosy,
By the sand and cozy.
I've arrived without a paus
e And now I'll summon my applause for

Sea Isle City.
Ain't it so pretty?
Just wait and see:
It sticks in my heart.
Just wait and see:
We never will part.
I'm saying,
Please do feed me well.
Please sustain me well.
Maybe I'll never go.
How can I ever go?
The town where I wanna be
Is none but one that's right here by the sea.
Oh, Sea Isle, uh-huh...

I can imagine how busy the streets and sand must get in the summer, but this afternoon hardly anyone is about. The only open restaurant is on a short stretch called Fish Alley, where tribute is paid to the fishermen who sustained the nation during the Great Depression and rescued victims of U-boat attacks.

There are several restaurants, but only the Oar House is open, along with a takeout market called Mike's Seafood. The original owners of what is now Mike's arrived at Ellis Island and couldn't communicate with the seller of train tickets; they ended up in Sea Isle City because they somehow picked south as their direction of travel and that's as far as their money would take them.

The Oar House has a few people sitting outside and no one sitting inside. I sit at the outside bar and have a crab-cocktail appetizer, which comes in the shape of numerous little garlic cloves, and then a shrimp-and-crabmeat flatbread. Everyone else leaves and someone approaches the bar; his name is Christian and he's doing shots of Jim Beam. He works at Mike's and knows the bartender well.

"Jeopardy!" comes on. He's getting all the questions right. "I was on this show, in twenty-sixteen," he says.

He's had less than his share of luck: "I must have stepped on a leprechaun." In a betting pool for the last World Cup, he drew Spain, which was highly favored, but they didn't even make the quarter-finals; in last year's Kentucky Derby, he drew Maximum Security, who finished first but was disqualified due to interference.

In his "Jeopardy!" episode, he couldn't see the video Final Jeopardy well; it asked for the New York City hotel that houses the painting "A Vicious Circle." It's the Algonquin; he guessed the Chelsea. (No one got it right, but he finished third.)

In today's episode, of course, he knows the name of the ancient text from the 18th century B.C. whose goal was to "settle all disputes and heal all injuries."

He notices that I'm getting all the questions about classical composers, and we discuss music. He used to earn the wrath of another bartender by putting on Tom Waits and Thelonious Monk, whereas everyone else wanted to sing along to their favorites. The bartender would shut off the jukebox when he saw Christian coming in.

Christian leaves, and I take the rest of my $20 bottle of merlot back to the Colonnade and familiarize myself with the Code of Hammurabi.

Go on to day 13