Monday, March 06, 2006


Funchase is a great site about Wildwood NJ, created by artist R. Grassi. Like a boardwalk, it defies methodical exploration. You go where you're going, or you just go with it. More than you ever expected to know about Mack's Pizza & The Fun Shop, but all of it somehow feels worthwhile knowing. The artist paints some of the biggest attractions as background. Then he shows how Wildwood really was a family place. This is first rate people's history. Sadly nostalgic - unavoidable with this kind of subject, but celebratory not mournful. (Thanks to Gordon for the unexpected winter-is-ending tip.)

I didn't explore Wildwood until the late 1980s, & haven't been there enough, even so I'm grateful considering how much has been lost in that short period. I loved the Island as I found it, when I found it, knowing little about what it was before except that it had a very big, very great boardwalk. The only other boardwalk just as big & as great had essentially died & been reborn as a kind of mutant thing, but it took over a decade for my heart to give it up. The North Wildwood motel I stayed at for the first few years just went "condo." It was not a large motel, or "doo wop." There was no swimming pool, game room or snack bar, but it was only one long block from the boardwalk on 21st St. Owner Kay on premises, who sent a card in February postmarked Manasota FL to all of her customers that she was going condo & retiring. Which was a friendly thing to do. I liked it enough until I finally decided there was no need to sleep where I could hear pier rides at midnight & happy people at 3 am. It was both saner & spiritually necessary to move toward the inlet, lighthouse, cheaper take out, & a beach that wasn't like crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats. But I became a North Wildwood benny, that was important.

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Growing up, I used to go to Wildwood every summer with the family. Oddly enough it was also the hot vacation spot for French Canadians...who knew?
It's the nearest convenient ocean beach with warm water for the Frenchies. Straight down the Thruway & Parkway. Oddly, it was difficult to find a really good cup of coffee in town. I thought a small Starbucks stand on boardwalk, even a Dunkin' Donuts, would be fabulously successful.
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