CapeMay.com Blog

Independence Day Weekend

This past weekend was the annual fireworks show and Kiwanis pancake breakfast on Saturday July 4 and the Independence Day Parade on Sunday July 5, on Beach Avenue.

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The 4th of July parade features the Coast Guard,floats, marching bands, Boy Scouts, Miss Cape May County Outstanding Teen, bicycle riders and the Cape May Fire Department.

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The Kiwanis Club of Cape May hosted their annual pancake breakfast.

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The firework display started after dusk and it was a marvelous show. The fireworks shoot off a barge in the ocean. The show lasted for 10 minutes. People watched from on the beach, boardwalk and high balconies.

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Pizza Pause

As a typical teenager, I’m capable of eating far more than the average human being. Maybe I can blame it on growing, or maybe I just enjoy the wonderful, always welcoming taste and warming sensation it provides for my stomach and soul. As much as I love to indulge in the world of food, there is only one food that I can eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This versatile meal is a favorite to more than just teenagers. It’s popular among parents on those days when cooking is too much of a hassle, and the kids need something to occupy them for a few moments to get that glorious sound of stillness. That’s right, the one and only, pizza, is adored by many and is the one meal I’m glad to eat at every hour of the day.

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Because pizza is so popular, Cape May is sprinkled with numerous parlors so that you’re never more than a five-minute walk away from one. With countless places to choose from, it can become a difficult choice, but through the haze and smell of cheese, Louie’s Pizza stands clear in my mind. Not only are their slices freshly made and steaming right out of the oven, they’re also approximately the size of Texas, give or take a little. My stomach might not even have room for the perfectly fluffy crust that waits for me at the end of the cheese, but there’s no way I’m leaving out the best part. Every bite makes a fresh crunch as your teeth break through the crust and the delectable cheese attacks the roof of your mouth. Between the size and the taste, Louie’s is at the top of my list.

While I’m openly crazy about food and slightly biased towards Louie’s as a local, I will admit that Louie’s has my heart for reasons more than just the pizza. Over the years I have spent more than enough time not just eating there, but also simply hanging out. Whether it’s walking off the beach for some shade or being in the mood for a late-night slice, Louie’s provides the perfect atmosphere to sit, talk, and goof around. Come ten people or come two, there’s always room to pull up a chair. In the heat of the afternoon I take shelter under an umbrella, armed with a slice and a cold Coca-Cola. It’s a nice pause from the busy traffic buzzing by and the endless rushing of people in search of a final destination.

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Nighttime at Louie’s is an entirely different story. The place is alive and kicking, pumping slice after slice out of the oven. Even if the streets are quiet, Louie’s is not. The majority of the chairs sitting outside usually get sucked into our circle of friends, sometimes managing to pull twenty chairs. We gather up around a table or two, grab some pizza, and are perfectly content in that moment. Good food and good friends with the beach twenty feet away, I don’t see how it gets much better.

Once the night starts to wear on, some people even wander down from Carney’s or Cabana’s to get a slice. You can hear these people all the way down Beach Drive after having a few drinks in them, but it just goes to show that even the sub-conscious drunk mind can’t help but crave a slice from Louie’s. More than just good pizza, Louie’s provides a sense of community to teenagers, kids, and adults alike. Through the years I’ve eaten enough pizza to keep the place running, and I’m sure there are countless more slices to come. More than just pizza, Louie’s is a place to come together with family and friends, and it certainly isn’t one to forget.

The Perfect Cape May Photo

Point and shoot. It should be just that easy to take a photo.  But when my mom tries to recreate her favorite shot of my brother, Michael, and I on the boardwalk, it is never a simple task.

The original shot of my brother and I was one of those candid shots that were taken in a quick moment. We did not even realize it was happening. I’m bending over to hold his hand and leading him off to show him something.  It was taken around 2000 when I was six and Michael, one and a half.

The original photo.

The original photo.

The reason my mom loves this shot the most, is because it has all of our favorite boardwalk spots – the arcade, Morrow’s Nut House, Convention Hall and the Oasis (since gone) – and the newer pictures have Henry’s on the Beach (since gone) in the background.  She took it on our point and shoot, automatic Nikon camera.

Every year since she took that photo, my mom tries to recreate that shot. In fifteen years since the original photo, she has only been successful twice.  Now in the days of iPhones, she can take the shot as many times as she wants, until she is satisfied. Of course, both Michael and I have to be in the mood to cooperate – a difficult task.

Once we were old enough to cooperate, it meant we were old enough to be uncooperative.  Especially in our teenager stage, where any request from our parents was met with an astounding “no way.”

2003 was the first year my mom tried to take the photo again.  I was ten and Michael was five, so we were a little more agreeable. We must have been goofing off before she took the picture, because we both have silly expressions on our faces. She took the photo during the day, not totally recreating the original nighttime shot, and there is more of the boardwalk visible than in the original picture.

2003 retake.

2003 retake.

The most recent time she almost successfully recreated the shot was in 2009, I was sixteen and Michael eleven. The shot was taken around the same time at night as the original shot, but it is not in the same spot. The retake is posed, which just does not have the same je ne sais quoi as the original shot.

2009 retake.

2009 retake.

Fast forward to present day, 2015. I am twenty-one and Michael is sixteen, and all attempts to recreate the shot are even more difficult than before. No one wants to cooperate with my mom. So I took Michael to the boardwalk for a funnel cake, and very kindly asked if we could take a selfie of mom’s favorite shot, to update it – and to my surprise, he agreed! Mom did not even need to be involved in this retake (thanks to the popular iPhone selfie) – kind of an ode to how much things have changed in fifteen years.

2015, a selfie.

2015, a selfie.

I think the great thing about the original photo, is every time my family looks at it, we smile. It was one of those photographs that you cannot help but love. It not only captured the moment at the time, but kept that memory alive fifteen years later.

It does not take much to get a photo that will continue to be talked about many years later. It was a simple shot that is not perfect and is slightly blurry. In the days of iPhones and digital cameras, we strive to take the perfect shot, over and over again. But there is something charismatic about a photo that only got one chance to come out right.

It might not be the best photo, but it is perfect to my family because the memory lives on a decade and a half later.

A Light For More Than Boats

Often I catch myself in a trance-like state as I ride my bike down Second Avenue in the evenings. The streetlights are few to none, leaving the concrete beneath my wheels to be illuminated only by the glow of passing houses and the hanging moon above my head. With the steady hum of my tires and a calming breeze that rustles the branches of the trees on either side of me, it’s easy to get lost in thought until a light flashes for a brief moment in the distance. Many times I’ve thought this strange flash to be a stroke of lightning until I come to realize that it is the ever-faithful lighthouse.

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Countless treks have taken me up and down the 199 steps that create the spiral staircase of the lighthouse. If you added up all the steps I’ve climbed after going up and down so many times, it’s probably enough steps to take me to the top of Mount Everest. While the actual climb itself may seem repetitive, as I’ve done it more than my fair share of times, the view from the top is one that never gets old.

There is no way to fully capture the first peak outside as I burst in to a gust of salty air. I spend the climb peering through porthole after porthole, increasing the speed of my feet as my flip-flops clang louder and faster on the winding metal steps. The closer to the top, the quicker the pace, until finally a light can be seen leaking in through the doorway. It seeps through and demands my gaze, my eyes attracted to the light just like those of a moth. As I near and it grows brighter, finally stepping on to the round ledge, everything is too bright to see until my eyes adjust, at which time I feel enveloped in a sense of home.

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The water spans all the way to the horizon, and I see rooftops and bodies of water and marsh that stretch all the way down to the Cove beach. From the time I was 5 to now 18, this view has always been one that has greeted me with happy memories. I’ve climbed the lighthouse with grandparents, family, and friends more times than I will ever be able to count, and there are still many more times to come when I one day have a family.

As I will soon be leaving for college and a whole new world riddled with change awaits, I know that the reliable lighthouse shall always be standing strong and unmovable upon my return. While her revolving light provides boats with a knowledge of where the shoreline sits, she shows me where home is. Where the waves gently crash upon the sand and the treetops are illuminated by occasional flashes, where bike rides are often and uneventful nights are few, that is where home is. Wherever my travels take me, the lighthouse will always show me the way back to my beloved Cape May.

My Cape May Past, Present and Future

The Atlantic Ocean is the only body of water I have ever known. Family trips to Cape May have filled my summer vacation fantasies from before I was even born. Cape May has been my tropical destination for 21 years. And I have no desire to change locations.

I will be forever grateful that my aunt and uncle told my parents about a quaint little Victorian town, called Cape May back in 1992. My dad does not like to fly (a trait he has passed on to me too) and prefers to take vacations to which he can drive. So my parents set out to explore Cape May, not knowing that they would be spending the next 21 years vacationing here.

Growing up with the anticipation of summers in Cape May has thrilled me for as long as I can remember. We have rented a house on Stockton Avenue, a condo in the Morning Star Villa (my earliest memories of Cape May are from there), a few hotels and finally two houses on Sewell Avenue.

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My younger brother, Michael, and I on the boardwalk. Circa 2003.

Having to squeeze in all my favorite activities in a two week span was not easy, but with a whole year to plan my vacation, it was possible. I counted down the days until the day before we left for Cape May.

I love every aspect about my trips to Cape May. I enjoy packing my bags, and loading up the car. Even the tedious waiting for my parents to pack the roof rack the morning we were leaving. I looked forward to eating fried chicken at our favorite spot on the ride up and probably seeing dolphins on the Cape May Lewes Ferry.

When we would stop at the rental company to pick up the house keys, I knew my vacation in Cape May had truly begun. And I could not have been more ecstatic the year that I was old enough to hold on to one of the house keys.

Coming to Cape May each summer was always a mystery. I would wonder if my favorite stores and restaurants were still in business. I longed to sit on the beach with a good book in hand and a plastic baggie to hold my shells and beach glass.

Visiting with my neighbors has also been such an important part of my summers. I kept in touch with them throughout the year and kept them up to date with my schooling. I was even lucky enough to meet, become friends and stay in touch the girl next door, who shared the same birthday one year apart from me.

Fast forward many years, I never thought I would be blessed enough to skip stopping at the rental company and drive all the way up from Virginia with a house key in my pocket. In 2012, our dreams of owning a house in Cape May became real. The Cool Cat Cottage on Sewell Avenue is now my actual dream home.

Suddenly, I did not have to fit my entire vacation into two weeks, because I now had six weeks to spend at my leisure. I was able to channel my love for Cape May into writing and interning for Cape May Magazine.

I even got to come up every few months to the house. Soon we were celebrating Passover, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and my birthday at our home here. Swiftly, my special summer trips to Cape May lost their sparkling appeal. I still anticipated my trips to visit, but as the visits became more frequent, Cape May became slightly less special. I could not quite place my finger on why exactly.

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Quiet Thanksgiving 2014 on Sewell Avenue.

Maybe my vacations were not as special because I did not have to condense beach trips, mini golf, shopping, antiquing, baking and running around town into just 14 days. I did not have to spend all year planning the perfect two weeks in Cape May. I could now skip going to the beach every day, and not feel like I was wasting time. Even now, six weeks’ worth of beach visits and fun is not enough time in Cape May.

Now, with one year left of college – I plan to move here after graduation and begin my journalism career. How will living in Cape May full-time compare to a few weeks’ vacation? I don’t want to take living in Cape May for granted.

I never thought there would be a day where I would be telling people that my plans to move to Cape May might actually be a reality. I have wanted to live here for as long as I have been vacationing here. And presumably soon, that wish will become reality.

A repeat renter. Return vacationer. Vacationer local? I’m not sure what spending 21 years here and then moving here will make me. But I cannot wait to find out!