Monday, September 18, 2006

A Day at the Beach: Part II

Little Natalie had it made in the shade at Point Pleasant Beach.

Remember Aunt Helen’s parking lot from the entry a few days ago? Well if you thought her parking policy was a great deal for the Clarks of New Jersey, wait till you hear what happened Sunday in Point Pleasant Beach when we saw Aunt Debby, Poppy’s real-life sister.

Not only did we get free parking, not only did we get the “member’s welcome,” but we also got the free booklet of 60 tickets for rides at Jenkinson’s boardwalk – a $25 value! Debby casually handed it to us as if she had a thousand free tickets stashed away somewhere. (Rumor has it, she does.) We thanked her and wished her well and commented on the gorgeous blue sky and warm weather. “Made to order,” was Aunt Helen’s comment, as she hustled to rectify a haphazardly parked family.

Anyway, we went off to enjoy another glorious day of boardwalk, funnel cake, chocolate malt, sunshine, sand and wicked waves. When we returned to the car, there was a gift waiting for us. Aunt Debby had stuffed candy in the Honda’s cupholders and $10 bills in each of the kids’ car-seat buckles.

So let’s do the math. The normal person would pay $10 for parking and $25 for the rides. The Clarks of New Jersey, however, not only saved the $35 in expenses, but we took in $20 in revenue — a $55 total value.

I’m not sure if Aunt Debby or Aunt Helen read “,” but this entry is dedicated to their generosity.

Some advice and random notes from the beach:

• To get the utmost enjoyment of funnel cake, one should not watch as it is being prepared.

• Be careful when the waves break close to the shore line. Dad is experiencing back and neck stiffness as the result of one brute of a wave that caught him out of position.

• The guy at the candy and ice cream store recognized us from our last visit. “I remember you because you asked for chopped Snickers the last time you were here,” he said. They still didn’t have chopped Snickers.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Deep in the Forest

We discovered another great beach: Stone Lake at Stokes State Forest in Sussex County. This place is a hidden gem. Clean beach, cool water and paths and trails to walk abroad and recreate ourselves. Margie and Natalie (above) played in the sand, while Theo played with the fish.
Here was a state park, when comes such another!
The Clarks of New Jersey visited the forest on our way to visit the Clarks of Pennsylvania, a.k.a. Mimi and Poppy. A good time was had be all, even Poppy, who was recovering from a mystery cold.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Day at the Beach

The Clarks of New Jersey made several great decisions on the Sunday before Labor Day, and were rewarded with karma.
Here are the examples:
1) We decided to abort our shopping trip to the Menlo Park Mall and hit the boardwalk at Point Pleasant instead. In fact, we had already parked at the mall, loaded Nattie in the stroller and walked all the way to the Nordstrom entrance when Margie asked: “Why not go to the boardwalk?”
Why not, indeed?
2) We decided to take the Garden State Parkway to Point Pleasant. At 3:30 p.m., the traffic flow was smooth and fast. The whole trip was 45 minutes. Remember when we mistakenly took 35? Ouch.
3) We decided to look up Helen Ciesla. Aunt Helen is a dear old relative. She’s my dad’s sister’s husband’s aunt, and a sweet lady. Everyday in the summer she stands sentinel over her parking empire directly across from Jenkinson’s boardwalk. She charges $10 to the public, but she lets family in for free – even when the lot’s full, she’ll squeeze us in somehow.
Interesting real estate point: Helen lives next door in a classic old house, with a comfy living room stocked with photos of the A-Team – my three young cousins named Alex, Adam and Andrew. Helen shared a story. A parking customer, a cop from up north, asked Helen, “how much for your house?”
“Make me an offer.”
The cop gave some six figure number.
Helen: “That’s a good down payment.”
4) We decided, when faced with an open gate to the beach to hit the beach. We weren’t prepared – no towels, no swimsuits, no chairs – but we spent a wonderful hour near the crashing waves, whipped up to fury by Hurricane Ernesto. Then we moved on to the thrills of the boardwalk – the rides, the skeeball, the funnel cake. It was a classic day in Point Pleasant.
5) We decided to come back.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Sidewalks of New York

Mom’s last day of vacation from Miss Margie’s Day Care was Friday. After this weekend, little Kara, little Maura and Maura’s new baby brother Paulie will begin spending their days at 56 Voorhees Place. How does Mom celebrate her last weekday of freedom? Ambitiously. She carries two kids, a stroller and a big bag of supplies to the train, through the New York subway system and up the steps to Dad’s office at 425 Park Ave. Then she whisks them off to FAO Schwartz and Central Park for several hours.
Eventually, the four of us enjoyed a peaceful afternoon stroll down Park Avenue, through the Helmsley pedestrian tunnel and into Grand Central Terminal, where Mom and Dad taught Theo the secret of the whispering wall. Off to Bryant Park, above, for some rest before our final push to Penn Station and home.
An interesting toy note: Theo wouldn’t let go of his new Lego toy – a complex dinosaur kit with tiny little pieces. While sitting around a small table at Bryant Park, Mom thought she felt a single piece drop to the floor. An exhaustive search was launched. Nothing was found. Maybe nothing hit the ground after all. It would be a shame to lose a single tiny piece of the toy.
Ten minutes later, walking down a crowded Sixth Avenue sidewalk, Theo spills the entire Lego pack. Tiny pieces ricochet everywhere, commuters stepping all around, mom and dad doing their best to recover what they can.
When we arrived at the Metuchen platform, it was raining.