By Phil Jacobs
Today I received a letter from a Montego Bay resident who writes that she’s been a property owner for 45 years here and had always enjoyed the resort’s family atmosphere.
Last summer, though she saw a trend carrying over into this summer and that she describes as the “Boardwalk being no place for family fun or gathering.” She noted what she described as the “tail-gating parties on the inlet parking lot,” trash all over the Boardwalk and long lines of people using beach showers like hotel rooms.
Most recently she and her family saw two “grown men totally naked on the inlet parking lot and not a police officer anywhere in sight.”
Now she has taken her family up north to Bethany and Rehoboth Beach.
I’m sure this letter writer’s desire to stay in Ocean City wasn’t encouraged by the performance of a pole dancer on the Boardwalk last Saturday night.
That’s correct, a pole dancer, dressed in a bikini, and drawing her share of the Boardwalk crowd ostensibly took “center stage”
In 2012, the resort had to stop regulating its street performers after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The town can regulate what areas street performers can use, but they cannot regulate their particular performances.
In a statement, the town said, “It will seek legal counsel to determine if this type of act is allowed.”
The pole dancer’s appearances come at a time when we’ve heard our share of concerns over the identities of people dressed in cartoon-like costumes standing along the Boardwalk. Their hope, I’m sure is that you or young ones will want to have a photograph taken with “Iron Man” or “Sponge Bob,” and leave each costumed “character” with some tip money.
This has been a year where “no profanity please” signs have popped up. It’s been a summer where laser pointers and spring switch blade like knives have been banned.
Freedom of speech? If you dare, take a look at some of the sayings being printed on T-shirts for sale.
I don’t pretend to have the answers for what’s happening largely on the Boardwalk near the Inlet area.
I do know that I met and spoke to some very wonderful people during the recent Jesus at the Beach festivities and before that just while spending an evening listening to Reggae music at the Caroline Street stage.
It’s not the Boardwalk or the city’s fault if there is profanity or if a bikini-clad woman pole dances in public. If adults and their children are directly impacted by what they see on the Boardwalk, it’s the family who needs to discuss what they saw and whether it was right or wrong. Certainly, there is more than enough room on or off the Boardwalk, the beach or Coastal Highway for everyone to find a comfortable space. The focus should be on what is working, what is “family” and there are plenty of opportunities to take part in activities that won’t offend.
I don’t particularly care for the pole dancer, nor do I love seeing the people in costumes. But I do love seeing the banners of military heroes along the Boardwalk. I do love sitting on a bench at dusk watching the ocean or the lights along the pier to illuminate the sky. Have you seen the “supermoon?”
Certainly Rehoboth Beach and Bethany offer their own personality, and I am hearing that more families have moved their vacations from Ocean City to the Delaware beaches.
But we are winding down what seemed like an awfully quick season. We have Labor Day and the Sunfest beginning September 18. Certainly families are going to be here to help make it a successful event.
Solutions to the family image issue? It’s been discussed I’m sure by everyone in a place of authority in Ocean City. Perhaps this off-season, that issue should be the focus of a major City Hall discussion. Maybe folks who have left Ocean City for other vacation spots could be identified and asked to come and talk to city officials.
But the idea of looking to hold the line on what is appropriate on the beach is still worth having. There’s a difference between a violinist and visual artist making tip money on the Boardwalk from a scantily clad pole dancer.
It is more than just as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote in 1964 concerning hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.”
I agree with the freedoms granted people to express themselves. But I do think there is sometimes a line that gets crossed. I can’t always say what categories cross that line, I just “know it when I see it.”