Monday, July 12, 2010

Battle of the Beaches Round One: Chatham vs. Sea Isle City . . . The Jersey Shore vs. Cape Cod

This Recurring Feature Destined to Stop Recurring may not be as well organized as The Caucasian Hip-Hop Artist Invitational, and it may not be nearly as important as Know Your Minor League Mascot but it is timely and topical, as it's summer and it's hot as Beelzebub's armpit out there. I also realize that when I was brought on as the Official G:TB Travel Correspondent, it was because of my extensive journeys to exotic locales around the globe. A decade ago I'd be advising you on what islands to visit in the Galapagos, the best places to snorkel in the Andaman Sea, and where to buy reefer in Dahab (not that I ever bought any reefer in Dahab . . . hypothetical reefer). So you might be disappointed by the content of this post-- it's pretty mundane. But I have accepted it and so can you: my globetrotting days are long gone; now I have two young boys who like to dig, so when we go to the beach, it's somewhere that is a day's drive from central New Jersey. I also realize in these difficult economic times, that ANY vacation is a good one: there are people out of work who aren't heading anywhere this summer, but still, judgments must be made and opinions-- absurdly subjective opinions-- must be aired.

Round One of the Battle of the Beaches is an archetypal battle, The Jersey Shore versus Cape Cod. A clash of cultures, values, morality, philosophy, scenery, and breast size. To tattoo or not to tattoo? For these two spots, that is the question. These two seaside towns make me think deeply and metaphysically: how could two places with sand be so different? I'll break it down and then give you an unequivocal winner.

Scenery

Between beers, some people like to look at stuff when they go on vacation. This category is for them.


Chatham

Chatham is scenic. Quaint houses tucked away on wooded lots. Quaint houses without air-conditioning, which is usually not necessary on the Cape . . . except for last week. And some quaint mansions. Harry Connick Jr. and Johnny Depp both have houses in Chatham. Why Chatham? The winding roads and twisted pines and live oaks, dunes covered with sea grass and beach plum and spartina. Water everywhere. You can't drive a half mile in Chatham without running into water, whether it is the Oyster River or the Nantucket Sound or Mill Pond or the harbor or the ocean itself. There are seals in the ocean. Seals are scenic (although rumor has it that you shouldn't pet them, as they are carrying some sort of debilitating virus). There are also terns and sand dollars and moon snails and hermit crabs and lots of other fun things to watch and collect. There are even freshwater ponds (and a bike trail alongside them). You can drive up the coast to the exceedingly scenic Cape Cod National Seashore. The town of Chatham itself is so cute and scenic it borders on fey (which rhymes with gay . . . which reminds me, you could also drive on up to Provincetown which is also exceedingly scenic and has a great gay scene . . . there's some sort of a correlation here).

Sea Isle City


Sea Isle City is not so scenic. The quaint houses have been knocked down and replaced by giant multi-bedroom boxes with multiple decks. But these giant boxes are air-conditioned and roomy. Since I live year round in a quaint house that doesn't have air-conditioning, I don't mind vacationing in a giant air-conditioned characterless box. There aren't many trees left in Sea Isle City, in fact, there's not much greenery at all. A thin swath of grass and nettles on the small dunes before the wide beaches is about all you get. There is less wild-life than on the Cape, although you may spot dolphins and I once stumbled on a scene I'll never forget . . . a baby whale beached itself on a sandbar and fifty people got into the water and pushed it free. I was wearing Ian in the Baby Bjorn, and I waded out into the ocean with him so he could see the whale.

Shell collecting isn't as good as on the Cape, as the shells are usually smashed by the waves, and the one time I found a perfect conch shell, everyone claimed I stole it off someone's porch. You might get lucky if there's dredging going on-- we once found hundreds of conch shells washed up with the bottom sand the dredger sucked toward shore to expand the beach . . . but dredging is kind of gross and smelly, they don't dredge up at the Cape because they don't need the beaches to be as huge as in Jersey. Population density. Once in Sea Isle City in August they installed a giant pipe which you had to climb over to get to the beach each day-- they were sucking sand all the way down the beach. Not very scenic. Front yards in Sea Isle City are usually stone, maybe you'll get a shrub or two, but that's it. The sand and the ocean look the same as anywhere else, so you need a place with a deck facing the water, unless you like to watch people, but that's a different category.

Advantage: Chatham. But this advantage might actually be a disadvantage, Chatham is so scenic that it makes me a little sick to my stomach.

Girls


Chatham

When I was younger, I couldn't last very long on the beach. I don't like the heat and I don't like the sun. But now I know how to survive if I'm bored (this also works at the circus). You look at the girls. Normally, strange women don't hang out near me in their underwear, but these rules are abandoned (for better or worse) at the beach. In Chatham it is often for the worse. Generally, Chatham attracts an older, well to do crowd. People that have the finer things in life and also tend to eat a lot. And grandparents with their grandchildren. Grandparents are not fun to ogle.


Chatham is also full of white people, REALLY white people. Last week, I saw a girl who was significantly whiter than T.J. Painfully white. I couldn't stop looking at her, but not in that good, stalker way. More like the way I can't stop looking at T.J.'s pink belly during the OBFT. And for whatever reason, these very white people of Chatham never tend to have much in the cleavage department. Someone smarter than me can figure out this correlation.

You are also running the risk on the Cape that the weather will be typical: cold and foggy. Girls will be wearing sweatshirts and sweat pants on the beach, but you won't even be able to see that far because visibility will be less than ten feet. You'll be able to watch your kids dig or read a book, but that's it. I will say this, though, last week was one of the hottest on record at the Cape and if you make the trek out to South Beach, which is below the Chatham Light, you will be pleasantly surprised. I saw more cute women (but still no cleavage) here than every other beach combined. Perhaps it is because you have to navigate a lot of steps and hike a bit, which weeds out anyone who's not in shape.

Sea Isle City.

Density. In August, the Jersey Shore is packed . . . and Sea Isle City may be less packed than Belmar, but you're still talking about a LOT of people, and while this can be annoying, it is great for scoping out hot women. Proximity and the law of averages guarantee you will be near someone worth ogling. And people are tan here, and often curvaceous, and generally fit. The surf is much stronger here than on the Cape, so there is also the chance that's someone's bikini top might get ripped off by a huge wave.


Sea Isle City also has a number of bars, which attracts the young folk, and it has a relatively inexpensive bay-side, where the young folks can rent houses. So you get a wide range of ages to look at as well (although if you get to the beach at 8 AM because your kids get up at 6 AM and by 7 AM you are ready to kill them, you're probably not going to see any cute college girls). There is also a well used running path along the beach . . . Cape Cod is good for a lonely run or bike ride on shady lanes and trails . . . you will have more titillating scenery when you go for a jog in Sea Isle City.

Advantage: Sea Isle City

Night Life

Chatham





In Chatham you might find yourself at a cocktail party drinking beer and chatting with a little man wearing pink shorts (he'll call them Nantucket Red but they are PINK). And this man might be G:TB founding father Rob. Give him directions to Provincetown.

You might find yourself talking to your jovial host and notice that he has lobsters sewn into his shorts. Or pandas. Or armadillos. You might find yourself in The Squire, a rustic and quaint Chatham bar that serves great seafood, and you might be settling in for a long night's drinking, but to your surprise, you and all your friends will be herded out at 12:45 because closing time on the Cape is 1 AM. And there are no grease trucks if you're hungry for a late night sandwich. On the Cape, like in Williamsburg, you have to make your own fun-- perhaps Igor will write a post on that topic . . .

Sea Isle City

I am more of an afternoon partier-- it really takes something special to get me to stay up late-- but there are certain magical places that make me want to give up sleep: Bangkok, New Orleans, Memphis, Prague, and Madrid come to mind. Sea Isle City is one of these places. The bar scene is fantastic-- it's not so huge that it's overwhelming, but there is plenty of variety. There are bands everywhere and they play at various times so you don't have to stay up until eleven to hear live music. They range from Bon Jovi cover bands to cheesy bands with awful names like "Burnt Sienna" to the inimitable LeCompt. You might also run into The Juliano Brothers, an obese trio that does a fantastic cover of Baba O'Riley.


Just be careful that your wife doesn't run off with the band.


If music is not your thing, then watch for mechanical bull night at the Springfield. The five dollar cover gives you unlimited rides. Apparently, no one takes advantage of the "unlimited" clause-- they ride once, get spun to the point of puking, and then chucked from the bull and go and sit and drink beer, but the night we went we were so inebriated that we rode the bull all night, until the Russian operator had pretty much had it with us, and started genuinely trying to kill us. We did get better (until we got worse) and the DJ gave us t-shirts for our perseverance.

Food and Drink

Chatham

The seafood is excellent on Cape Cod. I recommend the cod. But the restaurants can be a bit pricey, and they are usually pretty reserved. And Christian's has closed and Mongo the bartender is no longer employed in Chatham, so things are a bit bleak. Still, it's worth getting a lobster roll at John's in Provincetown and the local oysters at the Squire are delicious. And, ironically, New England Pizza's hamburger pie rivals anything you can get at the Jersey shore (except Pete and Elda's, but that is a different beach).

Sea Isle City

The reason you live in New Jersey is for the food. Sea Isle City has it all. Great seafood at Mike's Dock and an excellent system-- you order when you walk in and then go sit at a picnic table and drink the beer you brought with you. That's right: THE BEER YOU BROUGHT WITH YOU. For those of you who don't live in Jersey, a lot of restaurants (especially in Sea Isle) let you Bring Your Own Beer. No restaurant prices, no waiting for the waitress, no charge, no funny looks when you crack your sixth Corona (because they go down awfully fast) and no exorbitant bar bill. The tiny steamed clams, the oysters, the stone crabs, the calamari, the fried fish, and the crab cakes are equal to anywhere (except perhaps the Outer Banks, but that is a different battle). The only downside is you might not be able to get cod.

You don't have to like seafood to like the food in Sea Isle City. But it's South Jersey, so you have to like sandwiches. My cousins actually base their week around the sandwiches they will eat for lunch. Philly cheese steaks, chicken cheese steaks, massive Dagwoods, broccoli-rabe and sausage, blackened fish, fried fish, and, of course, Welshie's specialty . . . the barnyard . . . a cheese steak concoction with bacon, chicken and beef. You can also get a late night sandwich in Sea Isle, and the WaWa is open twenty four hours.

Advantage: Sea Isle City. You don't fuck with New Jersey when it comes to food.

Beach Sports (including but not limited to Digging)

Chatham

Chatham is great for kayaking and boating-- lots of winding waterways and quiet places to explore. My cousins have a boat and so we always take a couple of trips with them. We do NOT have a boat, nor do I ever plan on getting one, because boating seems to require way to much preparation for me. We also don't have a kayak. The swimming is good at Oyster Pond, if you like to swim laps. Judging by my kids, the digging is just okay on the Cape. The surf isn't very big and sometimes there can be a lot of seaweed and/or mung. The collecting is fantastic, but for more action packed beach sports you need bigger surf. There can also be giant green-head flies which will take a chunk out of any part of your exposed body.

Sea Isle City


Sea Isle City has fantastic flat beaches with fine sand and rolling surf. It's great for skim-boarding (although my skim-boarding days are probably numbered . . . I am the oldest, fattest, and hairiest skim-boarder on the beach these days). You can also rent a sea kayak or surf. The beach itself is good for soccer, washers (a South Jersey beach version of horse-shoes) and boccie. And the digging is phenomenal: because of the fine packing sand and gentle slope of the beach, you can really create some large holes and piles and channels. And we've never had a problem with green-head flies . . . they must need beautiful scenery to breed.

Advantage: Sea Isle City


And the winner is . . . Sea Isle City! The Jersey Shore defeats its first challenger handily-- unless you require a lot of scenery and high end shopping and a thriving gay scene up the road. But if you like good food and cute women and live music and air-conditioning, and don't mind a little cheese, then Sea Isle City is the place for you.

In a few weeks, Sea Isle City will take on the Outer Banks, since I will be leaving my Sea Isle City vacation a few days early in order to get down to the Outer Banks Fishing Trip. This should be a fantastic head to head match up, only made better by the proximity of the two trips. Until then, I hope that some of the other Official G:TB Travel Correspondents continue The Battle of the Beaches, as I will be sweating my ass off in central New Jersey. And I will leave you with the most important scenery of all, because really, it's not about where you go, it's about who you are with . . .



38 comments:

T.J. said...

I've been establishing my base tan, using SPF 70...

Geoff said...

There is nothing wrong with pink shorts...or shorts adorned with whimsical little critters all over them. It takes a confident, latently gay man like myself to pull that look off. Dave's jealousy is unbecoming.

rob said...

two things:

1. they were pink - someone else claimed they were 'nantucket reds'. i make no apolgies for my cape style.

2. your son's hand better not be where i think it is.

Jerry said...

Yeah! Jersey! (even if it is south Jersey...)

Igor said...

The Chatham Squire is and was a snooty-patooty bar scene full of arrogant patrons and even worse bar staff . . . but getting banned from there all summer put a serious damper on our already retarded social life.

The Woodshed up in Brewster, however . . .

Jerry said...

How are we going to collect our money from the pool?

TR said...

Piscataway was just rated the 57th best town in the nation.

It's not even the 57th best town in New Jersey. No offense to those of you from the greater Brunswick area who may feel an attachment to the town, but the rise of Rutgers football can only have so much of a socio-economic impact on a town.

Jerry said...

Piscataway was my home for my first 6 months, but I'd have to agree your assessment. They have been producing some excellent defensive backs though.

Dave said...

where is this rating of towns? how many towns are there in new jersey-- is 57 really something to be proud of?

Dave said...

i would figure most of the pool money could be collected at the obft . . .

Dave said...

57th in the nation! i mis-read that. wow-- good for piscataway-- highland park borders piscataway and it is way better to live in highland park so maybe we are number 2 (right behind aspen)

d-train said...

marilyn manson hangin at the beach - who would've thunk?

Lecky said...

Since this post and resulting comments seems like some kind of jersey takeover of G:TB, it seems an appropriate place for my first comment. Any time weeks of high heat, Lebronia, cape cod prints and general summer malaise lull the G:TB editors south of the mason dixon line you have to make your move, jersey style. Rob, here is my cover letter for your consideration -

Dear Sirs – I would like to be considered for a position at Georghe:The Blog. I hate my job, so this seems like a great way to kill the hours of 9am – 5pm (EST).

Yours truly,

J. Lecky

T.J. said...

Hey Dave, that t-shirt you're wearing....pack it for the Martha Wood, cause it seems perfect for Whit's lame non-stache competition.

Jerry said...

What about crazy hats? Or maybe we could all buy different colored Crocs.

Igor said...

Lecky, nice to hear from you. You ought to make your way down for the OBFT with (or instead of) Dave.

rob said...

lecky, the apprenticeship period is a bitch

T.J. said...

I think d-train might have to clear some hurdles first, before the Leckster even gets to the window...

d-train said...

teej my man lookin out for the kid!!!!
you're my boy blue!

zman said...

Lecky was my favorite character in The Pacific.

Igor said...

He was my favorite character in The Great Unit M Sangria Wok Fight and its sequel, I Passed Out In the Stall at La Tolteca.

Lecky said...

Rob, I'm willing to start at the bottom, a summer internship if you will, observing the wit, charm and style of the pros and meekly commenting on occasion where appropriate. I realize I have many strikes against me already due to my association with Dave, but I've go nowhere else to go

and my WWII military record speaks for itself

T.J. said...

But do you know Mr. Truck?

d-train said...

this chap lecky really has some chutzpah, passion, grit. i have none of that at the moment.
signed,

down & out on the prairie

Dave said...

g:tb attracts jersey talent!

i suggest that he must submit a sample post, to be graded by TJ.

Mr. Truck said...

i like the cut of this lecky guy's jib. but what does he think of greasetruck?

d-train said...

you ever been to a turkish prison camp lecky?

Jerry said...

Yes, and have TJ mark it up with a red pen and scan it up here so we can see his comments.

Dumb
Gay
Really gay
Sentence too long
Boring
Paragraph with no OJ jokes
Gay

Dave said...

and his final comment . . .

looks like you wrote some interesting "words" but it would work better as a youtube clip.

T.J. said...

Haters gonna hate.

Lecky said...

from my Nook profile page:

Likes: Canterbury Tales (unabridged), red cell blood transfusions, Midnight Express references, K2 hookah parties

Dislikes: Fat free

Loathes: Greasetruck

舜佳 said...

Pen and ink is wits plough. ............................................................

志穎志穎 said...

朋友是一面鏡子............................................................

Whitney said...

You got that right, 舜佳.

T.J. said...

George Steinbrenner is dead. Tough week for the Yankees organization.

TR said...

Who will be the 3rd Yankee legend to go? Yogi? Whitey? Mel Hall?

Dave said...

how about some fresh content?

don't make me write a fake steinbrenner RIP clairvoyance post.

Beachwalk83 said...

So why is half my neighborhood in West Chatham originally from New Jersey?!? I guess tans, cleavage, greasy food, cover rock bands and BYOBs have their appeal. When your children are older and you're a little embarrassed by the above, you'll bring them back to Chatham.