Hesston Speedway, the dirt track that’s about an hour from State College. Rob, the bf of my old intern Karen, drives a sprint car in his spare time and was racing there. Karen offered me the chance to go. I said not just yes, but hell yes.
Readers, you might want to sit down for this next part.
It wasn’t even hot pants night.
theme from Deliverance. When political pundits talk about the part of Pennsylvania between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh being Alabama, Hesston Speedway is exactly what they’re talking about. The parking lot, buildings, and track itself look as if they cost about ninety-eight cents to build. If you can build a speedway without a plan, let alone plans, permits, and so on, this would be it.
|The best part of this selfie is the guy sitting behind us.|
Especially if it were hot pants night.
And then there was the Arts Festival, where I celebrated the tenth anniversary of being run over by not getting run over.
The following weekend I drove to Ohio to help a friend recycle some furniture by bringing it back to Happy Valley. The worst part of the trip was spending the night in a Hampton Inn that smelled like the inside of a sneaker. The best part, other than quality time with an old friend, was that no furniture fell out of the truck; something that’s actually happened to me before.
|Do these guys look as if they’re having fun at the Jersey shore or what? My guess is that at least two of the guys were avid fans of The Jack LaLanne Show.|
Soon enough I learned that the premise of the game was simple: you toss a clamshell, from which the actual clam is long gone, into a hole in the sand. You do it on the beach, below the high tide line when the tide is out, so that you have a hard surface of sand on which to play. I suppose you could do it in other locales, but I think it would lose something (and it doesn’t have much to start with) in the translation.
After I’d signed on the dotted line and was ready to pay, I learned that you needed to have actual cash or a check to register, a fact that the organizers failed to mention ahead of time. Apparently processing a credit card with a gizmo on a cell phone, or battery-powered terminal, or an old-fashioned knuckle-buster, or even writing the credit card number down on a piece of paper for processing back at the office was not in the cards. Did I miss the fine print that said the event was being put on by Amish? Fortunately Bruce had a wad of cash so we were able to sign up and get our free ($15) unattractive even by New Jersey standards tee shirt.
We had to decide if we wanted to play singles or doubles, and we opted for mixed doubles. Bruce and Martha made up one team and Pam and I the other.
The organizers also failed to make clear that registration opened at 9:00 but the actual event didn’t start until 9:30. So we had plenty of time to do more milling around, or if you prefer the technical term, flogging one’s yo-yo.
During the yo-yo flogging, someone pointed out two holes in the sand, seemingly the “regulation” 25 feet apart. There was a plastic milk carton filled with clamshells at the ready. Several of us took the time to practice.
It was then I discovered that there was a good reason that clams don’t fly—in addition to lack of wings, feathers, or even the ability to put their tray table in an upright and locked position for takeoff and landing. It was because they have the aerodynamic qualities of a clamshell. As in…none.
The beach is a breezy place, and as my clamshells went hither, thither, and yon, I thought to myself, “What ho! Now I know how Jordan Spieth must have felt at St. Andrews!” Less the white trousers and kazillion dollar Under Armor endorsement deal, I mean.
I wondered if the AHS people were expecting the crowd to grow, but when 9:30 came and went it was apparent that clamshell pitching isn’t quite as popular as going to a gallery opening to see Jane Seymour, her VPL, and what passes for her painting, or riding around on the island jitney from bar to bar with a bunch of over sunned, over served, and over sexed weekending twentysomethings.
Jack’s Place, a bar in Avalon that caters to the college crowd. I’ve never actually been there, but have driven by a million times and each time I do, I think to myself…”Jack’s Place….I wonder if Jack’s off tonight?” And I chuckle to myself each and every time.
After more yo-yo flogging, someone had the bright idea to add a second court and out came what appeared to be a rusty Chase and Sanborn coffee can for the purpose of digging the hole in the sand. The AHS opened up what golfers would call the back nine.
After an extraordinarily poor showing of teacher voice on the part of the “organizers”—and I use the term loosely—the first guys were called up for their singles matches. They stood about behind their Chase and Sanborn-made holes in the sand, 25 feet apart, rather like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr wearing not knee breeches but Lands End swim trunks and armed with clamshells instead of dueling pistols.
Each player had two clamshells to toss, and the players were to alternate throws, first player A, then player B, and back to player A and then Player B. The guy with the clamshell closest to the hole got one point. If he got the clamshell in the hole that was two points; and if he tossed the clamshell in the hole on top of the other player’s shell, he got four points. At least that’s how I think the scoring worked. I’m not sure all of the historical judges used the same historical scoring system.
At this point I realized we might be there until after Labor Day and I uttered my first “Kill me now” of the day.
After some time, presumably overhearing my grumbling, and after an Avalon beach tag inspector walked by wondering “WTF?” the folks in charge decided to open a new course so that more people could play simultaneously. It think I heard someone say that there was a shortage of historical judges, though everyone was perfectly capable of keeping score themselves. It couldn’t have been a space issue—the beach is seven miles long after all.
Tom had some sort of job in IT, but also worked at Jack’s Place ("I wonder if Jack’s off tonight?”). He wore red board shorts that were much too long. Seriously, the Speedo was invented with this guy’s body in mind. No matter what he made at Jack’s Place (“I wonder if Jack’s off tonight?”) he would have made WAY more at The Blue Moon in Rehoboth being objectified and overtipped by gay men. He might even have realized that he could have done better than hungover MaryBeth and learned something about window treatments in the process.
We didn’t bring home the suitable-for-hanging-in-the-garage clamshell plaque. And really, that’s probably OK. I got an incredibly unattractive t-shirt that I cherished briefly instead.
I suppose that it’s an occupational hazard that someone who organizes an event for living goes to his share of crappy events. This was the worst tourist experience since the Las Vegas Mob Tour, something that was so horrible that it’s in a class by itself. The 6th Annual W. Norman Mackey Clamshell Pitch could have been amusing but instead it was like going to a beer party where they ran out of beer five minutes after you got here, and instead of beer, they gave you a calculus exam. When it's time for the 7th Annual W. Norman Mackey Clamshell Pitch, I'm washing my hair.
In order to get the taste of that out of our mouths, Bruce and I drove over to North Wildwood to take in an antique car show on the Boardwalk.
North Wildwood is just over the Hereford Inlet Bridge—toll, $1.50, E-Z Pass not accepted—from Stone Harbor, but it’s quite different from its smart and upscale neighbor.
|That's my mother, on the far right, with her older sister Doris in the middle, and their cousin Ollie on the Boardwalk in Wildwood, 1936.|
Lilly Pulitzer togs, it’s like a Diane Arbus photo come to life.
To me, the most interesting car was an Edsel built for the Canadian market. I had no idea that American cars made for the Canadian market cars weren’t the same as American cars made for the American market, but there you have it. And the differences went beyond the two choices for upholstery: plaid or the Hudson’s Bay Blanket. The owner’s manual was written in more polite English and it had a do-hickey where you could plug your dipstick into a heater during the 11½ months of winter in Canada.
In the evening we took a stroll downtown after a dinner of Back Bay Crabcakes, a local delicacy. A clerk at the hardware store, where we stopped for a 3/16” drill bit, gave me the two thumbs up on my orange Vans and urged me not to pay attention when my wife said “You’re not going out looking like that are you?”
I gave Bruce a knowing look and assured the clerk that I wouldn’t.
Ferko String Band which was in concert in the parking lot of the Stone Harbor Water Works. We missed the first half of the show, so when we got there, the light was fading and some in the assembled crowd had obviously enjoyed the offerings of the adult beverage stations and perhaps even a flask of Geritol or two. Apparently drinking on municipal property in the shadow of the town water tower is A-OK in NJ.
Pam and I settled into a prime standing room spot behind Stone Harbor's leading citizen, Sister James, the force of nature who keeps Villa-Maria-by-the-Sea in tip top shape.
I was totally clueless about the band until the emcee reminded the audience that The Ferko String Band performs in Philadelphia’s Mummer’s Parade each year and will be at the Stone Harbor Christmas Parade this year.
Mummers, I don’t understand. I suppose they’re like a krewe in New Orleans or those troops of guys who dress up like the Cisco Kid in the Rose Parade. Mummers wear crazy costumes and have bands with accordions and banjos and what not and have a special dance, the Mummers' strut. As a fan of the "more diverse" Wildwood would say, they're totally whack.
Liquored up old folks--twentysomethings were conspicuous in their abscence--were bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to string band standards like Waitin' for the Robert E. Lee and Alabama Jubilee.
Three band members, decked out from head to toe in their New Year's regalia did the famous Mummers' strut as the band played a tune called Hindustan.
It was kitschy, joyous, and hilarious.
The crowd loved it. When the band got to the finale and the Mummers' signature tune, Oh, Dem Golden Slippers, the audience bolted from their aluminum lawn chairs to dance. You have not seen moves until you've seen a retired nun do the Mummers' strut.
I’d expected the clamshell toss to be the highlight of my day. Wrong!
Instead, it was a gaggle of retired nuns doing the Mummers' strut under the Stone Harbor water tower.
I wonder if the kids from Jack’s Place ("I wonder if Jack’s off tonight?") know what they are missing?