Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

Well, it was not as debaucherous as in year's past, but I spent the weekend in a beautiful home on the New Jersey Shore with a bunch of hard-charging guys. I guess putting myself in that position is part of the problem.

Friday Night was a typical Shore weekend that included barhopping, shots, and pizza at 2 in the morning. Angry at myself for trying to relive the glory days of fun, sun, cocktails and girls (I ask myself, were there even glory days from my past, or did I take a few great days out of the last 20 years and string together my own narrative, like the fish story you heard growing up that kept getting bigger and bigger as your Uncle got older, and the story more refined?), I was determined to make my Saturday count.

I got up at 9 AM, an unheard of hour since I woke up briefly at 6 AM and heard the house of revelers behind us still partying, and prepared for a run.

I was staying at a friend's place in Belmar which is a town filled with families, but also chock-full of young guys on steroids, and with enough tattoos to make the Navy envious, and enough hair-gel to make no one envious...except other like minded, self-described Guidos, with their hats on crooked strutting about the beach like they owned it. And some of the girls are just as obnoxious with plenty of body ink, piercings, fake boobs, big hair, and bigger mouths. It is no wonder that a TV show about these young people is such a hit, it's like watching a car crash, and all the normal, family-oriented Italian-Americans are justifiably up in arms over this TV show, and these few embarrassments they see daily on the beach. The saving grace? The town next door, and a short jog away, is Spring Lake - a gorgeous town dubbed the "Irish Riviera" because of all the wealthy Irish-American New Yorkers who have been building mansions down there for generations. It is truly one of the most beautiful towns I have ever been in and definitely gives tony Southampton a run for their money.

Saturday was the famed Spring Lake 5 Mile race for charity. It drew over 7,000 runners! I actually tried to sign up for the race a couple of weeks ago, but it was already closed.

My knees were feeling up to it, and I was motivated by the fact that I had a night like I did, but was up at 9 AM with my running shoes on. Being the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, the start of Summer, all the shops were open for business at this hour and plenty of spill over from people at the Spring Lake 5 which started at 8:30 AM.

It was raining slightly, a mist really, and the fog was still hanging over the beach. I could not have painted a more gorgeous setting running along the boardwalk and then onto the beach. With the mist, and the fog, and my adrenaline pumping as I projected my old body forward in a trudging jog through the pristine sand one song kept repeating in my head over and over, and with great respect to my dear British friends, I confess it was "Foggy Dew." With Ireland still fresh in my mind, and the fog and mist early in the morning, I could not help but play it over and over like a slow (to match my pace) march through the sand. But being American and Memorial Day Weekend I suspect my beloved English brothers and sisters would not mind that I chugged along the beach humming 'But to and fro in my dreams I go and I'd kneel and pray for you, For slavery fled, O glorious dead, When you fell in the foggy dew.'

I had no watch, and no marker for distance so through the foggy dew (sorry, again, I promise to run to "Old Britannia" today on the treadmill!) I would see the last pavilion in the great distance, and as I got closer, I tested myself to run past the new pavilion I could make out in the fog and distance. Shortly, I was in Spring Lake and I got such a charge watching the thousands of people who just finished the 5 miles race walking on the boardwalk. Plenty of families ran the race too. It was exhilarating to run in the sand, something I loath to do because of the difficulty, early in the morning, and being amongst others who value the healthy lifestyle. I suspect I would be better off hanging out with these fine folks at 9 AM, then slinking about the numerous Shore bars at 3 AM looking for happiness. Everyone was happy, and though it is only 5 miles, it is a race and people bragged about their times and hugged one another since it is such a festive gathering. According to Google maps I ran 2 miles on the beach - not on wet sand, but deep sand, which was a good little work-out, and my knee was really starting to throb, and swell. I saw some people I knew who ran the race after I got off the sand and onto Ocean Avenue, and blended in to bask in their glory. Really, I just wanted to grab some free bananas and water bottles!

Getting back before others woke up is a great feeling. I then hopped on a bike and rode to get food for me. The stores along the shore are all pizza, sandwiches, and fried foods, no fruit, no salads. I rode to a grocery store to load up on cherries, peaches, pineapple, apples, and of course oatmeal.

For lunch I road to the famous Klein's restaurant for some seafood. It's Memorial Day Weekend and the thought of clams and steamers and chowder was too irresistible. I go there at noon and the outside bar on the canal was filled with 40 people doing a 20 bar pub crawl on bikes. This was their second stop. Again, this is the culture I flirt with be it in the city, or on the Shore. I resisted the urge and stuck with water. The New England clam chowder was akin to anything you can get out of a can of Campbell's. It was chunky, and clearly filled with milk and butter and potatoes with a decent amount of clams. But it was not that great, and I remembered my new favorite clam chowder is the much healthier, and tastier, clear broth clam chowder popular in Rhode Island. The cherrystone clams were plump and good, and the steamers were also good, but it felt weird doing the traditional dip in melted butter. I preferred them without the butter. Although the clams were very good, it was not the "event" I was expecting.

One by one, food "events" were not what I expected them to be this past month. I finally had a hamburger. It was fine, but not some great experience, and I longed for a giant salad. Clearly, when you live your life around impulses, and making food an event (e.g. hot dogs and burgers at a Summer BBQ, fish and chips on a Dublin street, popcorn at a movie), you will often make the choice that is less healthy. At least that is how I lived my life.

After riding my bike for about 6 miles with groceries in hand it was good to get back home and prepare for the beach. The weekend was pretty much the same - alternating between healthy and terribly unhealthy living.

I made the dreaded pack with the Devil, "OK, after this Memorial Day Weekend it is back to clean living." Well, there will be a million of those exceptions this Summer, such as a guys RV trip to the middle of Pennsylvania this weekend to watch a race, and other big weekend events. Exceptions never, ever work for me. It has to be all or nothing. Probably, my biggest regret this weekend was not visiting beautiful St. Catherine's with my former girlfriend when she suggested it, but I was on the beach with my pals and a cooler filled with, well, you know. And I have been kicking myself ever since. Chasing fun like a dog chasing his tail, and all I have to show for it is exhaustion.

I plan on seeing Heather, and the Ladies of London in a few weeks here in NYC, and if I am not on the straight and narrow I will get an earful, so I expect to put my Memorial Day Weekend past behind me. Will I? Can I? Well, of course I can. Will I make the concerted effort to stay on this diet found in Eat to Live? Yes, but will I make it harder on myself by tempting myself at every corner? We will see.

Last night salmon, this morning fruit and also oatmeal. Going to the gym right now at lunch time!


Vegan Epicurean said...

Spring Lake is lovely and definitely a laid back place to relax. I have not been to Belmar though your description did ellicit an eye roll. I haven't seen the Jersey Shore and it sounds like I need to keep it that way. It might just get my "Italian up". Assuming you have any Italian friends you know what I mean. ;-)

All things considered it doesn't sound like you ran with scissors as much as you could have. ;-) Glad you enjoyed yourself. I hope your knees are better today. Running on the beach is brutal!


Gwyneth said...

Ahhh, you were down in my old stomping grounds! Although most of the people you were describing don't actually live there. They are Benny's. ( Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, and New Yorker's ) throw in the Staten Island crowd and you figure out why I never hit the beach on the weekends ;o). But you are correct about the mouths, We are if nothing else, honest with our feelings and we will be sure to let you know exactly what we mean. The Jersey Shore is a beautiful place to grow up. Glad you had fun!

Keep it up Terry...you rock!

Jersey MO.