The month of May has a lot going for it. The Kentucky Derby’s a ton of fun with the hats and parties and gambling pools. Cinco De Mayo gets bigger every year. But the single most important day of the year falls in May and that’s Mother’s Day. I know that sounds odd coming from a father of two with the nickname Big Daddy, but let’s be honest here. You didn’t crawl up next to Pop in bed when you were a kid with that awful earache, did you? It was always Mom that chilled you out and continues to do so for the rest of her days on Earth.
But as far as holidays go, it’s really difficult to top Memorial Day. It’s the summer version of “pitchers and catchers reporting.” That day in itself isn’t the first day of spring, but it signals that it’s just around the corner. Well, the same applies to Memorial Day. The debut day of summer may officially be weeks away, but Memorial Day Weekend means it’s really time to try on that bikini and see if all those months of dieting and working out paid off. (If it didn’t, well, you still have till June 21. See how that works? Dr. Oprah here just gave you almost another month!) This year’s Memorial Day Weekend will carry extra heartfelt anticipation because it wasn’t that long ago we were praying that there would be any Jersey Shore left at all after Sandy. Well, I’ve been down the coast many times since that horrible day and, thanks to luck and hard work, the Jersey Shore is ready to rock and it’s gonna be a terrific summer. (Geez, I’m sounding like the mayor from Jaws here.)
And with a father who served in WWII and a brother who is a Vietnam vet, I also completely respect what the day itself is all about.
Every year I go on Daily News Live on Comcast SportsNet, now Philly Sports Talk, and present them with my annual list, “Ten Things I Love About the Jersey Shore.” I tweak it every year a bit so it’s not always the same. Here’s the list’s debut for South Jersey Magazine.
10. Not working. The fact that you’re down the Shore to begin with means you’re not working. No wonder everyone is in a good mood. You’re wearing flip-flops for Christ’s sakes.
9. It’s close. I remember the first time I performed in Nags Head, N.C. I said to myself, “This is nice. Hmmm. There’s a beach. Some waves.” But why would I drive nine stinkin’ hours to get to a beach area that has nothing more to offer than our Jersey Shore? And we live in South Jersey, which makes our ride to Sea Isle a snap. I have friends who live in Bucks County where it takes them two to three tortuous hours to get down. Without a doubt, being that close to the Shore is a huge bonus to South Jersey living.
8. The Wildwood Tramcar. I once did a gig at the old Spectrum where I got 18,000 maniacs to scream “WATCH THE TRAMCAR, PLEASE” in unison. Does anyone know the official name of it? … It’s “The Sightseer,” and did you know that many of those cars have been operating since the ’40s?!
7. Lucy the Elephant. Like the giant clothespin in downtown Philly, Margate’s famous landmark is just … uh … odd. Try to explain either to an out-of-towner.
6. The ’50s-Style Motels in Wildwood Crest. Take a ride at dusk to view some of the most incredible neon this side of Vegas. Bring a camera. And hurry up. They’re not going to last too much longer with the condo explosion.
5. The Ocean City Boardwalk. I know it doesn’t have the thrill rides that the Wildwood boardwalk has to offer, but it has a gentle quaintness to it that can’t be matched. Is there a better kiddie-ride spot left on this planet than Wonderland? And of course there’s Johnson’s Caramel Corn and the greatest pizza on the planet, South Jersey’s own Mack & Manco’s. Or is it Manco’s & Manco’s? I know one thing for sure: I wish it was Mack’s & Big Daddy’s. What a cash cow.
4. The Bridge between Sea Isle City and Avalon. You could pick any bridge on Ocean Drive at sunset and the view would be gorgeous, but this one’s particularly high up. Plus this bridge is symbolic—it separates the working class from the stuffed shirts. (I always have to take a shot at Avalon. For crying out loud, they won’t let their Fudgie-Wudgie guys step on the beach. They have to stand on the dunes and ring a bell like a nun. Then you have to get out of your chair and go to them. Well, excuuuuse me!)
3. Hiding from the Beach Tag Police. An art form I have mastered over the years. Various methods work. Flat out running away. Pretending to be asleep. Developing that air of invisibility. Or my favorite—slipping into the water until you can see they are gone.
2. Drinking. I’ve always said, “A man who doesn’t like the Jersey Shore is a man who doesn’t like to drink.” Where else would you stand in line to pay a cover for the right to buy overpriced drinks in a nightclub where it takes you 40 minutes to fight through the stuffed crowd to get to the bathroom? And who’s got the tap for the keg?
1. Chicks. Show me a Wawa in the tri-county region where you wait in line to buy a Shortie hoagie behind two chicks in bikinis buying packs of Parliaments. Only down the Shore!
Listen to Big Daddy Monday through Friday on Sports Radio 94WIP. It’s not too early to get your tickets for the big show at Upstairs at the Lobster Loft in Sea Isle City on Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend, May 25. Call (609) 263-3000 to make reservations. Big Daddy will perform his award-winning, one-man show based on the book about his dad, "Last Call", on Saturday, June 8 at the Society Hill Playhouse, just in time for Father’s Day. Go to BigDaddyGraham.com for information on ordering tickets. There’s only 110 seats.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May, 2013).
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