Call it a lapse of judgment if you like. That will do nicely.
I have two daughters, The Heir and The Spare. Neither one of them has a car. Spare has more friends with wheels, which, I suppose, partly accounts for my sympathy for Heir.
I offered to take Heir and her sweetheart to the Jersey Shore for an afternoon. Heir reacted with such enthusiasm that, spur of the moment, I said, "Why don't we go to Asbury Park?"
Maybe you've heard of Asbury Park, New Jersey. There's a music venue there called the Stone Pony. A long time ago, an up-and-coming rocker named Bruce Springsteen performed there. The Stone Pony still keeps a busy schedule of concerts, and there's an outdoor stage. Asbury Park also has a nice beach and a funky bohemian boardwalk with character. By some miracle, the town survived Hurricane Sandy with minimal damage.
Asbury Park is 55 miles from New York City and 75 miles from Philadelphia.
It is August.
It was Sunday.
We set out for Asbury Park at 11:00 a.m. from Philadelphia.
Let this be a reminder that our planet is very crowded.
We got to Asbury Park at about 1:00 p.m. There are probably 5,000 parking spaces in the boardwalk area, and every last one of them contained a car. Not only that, there were people driving around slowly, looking for someone who might be leaving. No one was leaving Asbury Park at 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday in August.
And yet Heir and her sweetheart were like kids in a candy shop. There's a pinball parlor on the Asbury boardwalk that has vintage games from every decade, going back to 1950 and up to virtual reality. So I let Heir and s. off at the boardwalk and started creeping around, looking for a spot.
I looked. And looked. And finally got really lucky, except it was a residential neighborhood where I would get ticketed at 5:00 if I didn't move by then.
Parking space secured for 3 hours, I made my way to the boardwalk. There was a band at the Stone Pony, doing a sound check. (For those of us with the inside scoop on Asbury Park, a sound check means a concert, which means even fewer parking spaces in the evening.)
It wasn't sunny, and it wasn't warm. But the beach was jam packed. It's actually quite a pretty sight, and hard to capture in a photograph. The beach umbrellas (which weren't really needed) were such vibrant colors, and there were a lot of young people who looked good in bright swimwear. I also had a good book to read, This Fight Is Our Fight, by Elizabeth Warren.
Asbury Park requires you to buy a beach pass to have access to the surf for the day. On a Sunday in August, a daily beach pass costs $10,000. (Might be a very slight exaggeration.)
Heir and her sweetie played pinball, and I sat on a bench on the boardwalk, listening to the sound check and reading my book.
Then, after totally conquering Centipede and Millipede, Heir was hungry.
We stood in line so long for cheese steaks that I thought I might have to go move the car before I got to eat. But finally we had our cheese steaks. Heir and s. returned to the pinball parlor, and I went to move the car. By that time the line of concert-goers had started to form at the Stone Pony.
I've been to Asbury Park many times. Never on a Sunday in August. Still, it helps to know the lay of the town if you're in search of a completely elusive parking space.
I got one. The farthest possible spot in the whole town. And I only got that one because someone pulled out just as I rolled into sight.
Maybe you've been to a place like Asbury Park. It's nice during the day, but it starts really working its magnetism at about 5:00 in the evening, and it gets more and more magnetic through the long summer twilight. To summarize, Heir and s. were cavorting like puppies and didn't want to leave.
At 5:30 beach passes are no longer required, because the lifeguard staff goes home. That's when Heir and her friend went into the surf (not very far, I hope). The concert commenced -- an opening act -- and I just kept listening to the music and reading my book.
Next thing I knew, it was 8:00, I had 75 miles to drive home (40 of it featureless pine barrens), and I was standing in line for ice cream.
New Jersey has these things called "traffic circles." It's basically an intersection of two or three congested roads, going around in a circle, where there's no stoplights and it's only the strong who survive. This is not a place you want to be on a Sunday in August at 8:30 in the evening. But hey, my deities were with me! I'm an old hand at these Jersey traffic circles. Good thing, too, because there are seven traffic circles between Asbury Park and Philadelphia. Maybe eight or nine, who's counting?
Very long story short, I treated my daughter and her boyfriend to a day at Asbury Park, New Jersey. It was Sunday. It was August. I sat and read a book and listened to music.
Next time, I will go on a Wednesday. And leave at 8:00.