“I’ll be living the good life with corn on the cob almost every night …”
– Leo Ryan, the pride of Shrine of the Little Flower
Memorial Day was early this year. Windy and cold, the holiday came and went almost a week before the month of May had passed.
But early or late – ready or not, rain or shine – the long weekend that honors America’s war dead launches the annual vacation season of cookouts and swimming.
The orange and yellow and key-lime hot rods that burned up Coastal Highway during Cruisin’ Week have peeled out for fresh asphalt. Alice Cooper – who turned a hard 65 this year – has croaked “School’s Out!” once again.
The Summer of 2013 in Ocean City, Maryland.
Speaking for kids and kids at heart everywhere, Baltimore author Jen Michalski shouted it from the Crabtown sidewalks: “I CAN’T WAIT!”
At Billy’s Pizza & Subs they’ll be doing what they’ve done best since 1959 – serving up the cheesesteaks with hots and the pies with extra pepperoni. Anglers will study the tides and the phases of the moon. Tune in to 1590 on the AM dial to hear WIJK broadcast every Baltimore Orioles game to accompany the sea breeze on the front porch.
[You want to listen to the Nationals game? Cart your suburban Washington rear-end up to Rehoboth, buddy.]
And Joe Ciurca, 75 and recovering from a knee he banged up playing basketball, will bide his time at the Sunset Grille in West Ocean City, enjoying a plate of Chicken Chesapeake while waiting for his doctor to say the leg is good enough to paddle back out into the surf.
[The “Chesapeake” is pan-seared chicken breast topped with ham, lump crabmeat, spinach, provolone and a sauce of whole grain mustard. Ciurca is an Eastern Shore addictions counselor living for the past dozen or so years in North Ocean Pines, a long way from his doo-wop roots at the corner of Milton Avenue and Preston Street in 1950s Baltimore.]
Joe took up surfing 30 years ago and says – with the intimacy of a guy giving a tip on a horse – that he knows “where the breaks are – 9th street, 17th street, 26th and 34th streets, sometimes Assateague Island.”“I’m a beach bum,” said the ex-Marine. “That’s why I’m here …”
Before the summer is over, Ciurca is also going to test his hoop skills – “I think I can still play” the surf and the matzo ball soup at Rosenfeld’s to see how it compares to the one his son’s mother-in-law makes.
Warren Rosenfeld, who opened the deli in the old Sunshine House surf shop at 63rd and Coastal Highway, expects a lot of folks to come in this summer to see how his soups, brisket, chopped liver and whitefish hold up against family memories.
“My grandfather and his brothers had a bakery in the early 1940s on Capitol Hill,” said Rosenfeld, a 58-year-old attorney who moved to Ocean Pines in 2004 after raising his family in Germantown. “I could never get it out of my head that I wanted to run an authentic Jewish deli before I died.”
This is the first summer for Rosenfeld’s, which gets its corned beef and brisket and other meats from Saval Foods of Baltimore. The deli is being welcomed by vacationers – Jew and gentile – who crave something besides pizza and burgers at the shore.
“We waited 34 years to be able to get our potato knishes at the beach,” said Dorothy Brillantes, a Gotham City native. “We used to go to New York, bring them down and freeze them.”
Rosenfeld’s is expected to be open year-round. It ain’t cheap – a 12 ounce hot pastrami sandwich is just about 14 bucks – and it sure ain’t Katz’s on Houston Street in lower Manhattan but it features liver and onions and it has coddies.
“I didn’t know what a coddie was,” confessed Rosenfeld, betraying his D.C. roots.
But he was smart enough to find out. At $1.99 for a burger-sized fish patty, the codfish cakes are the house bargain.
A lot is going to take place along the nine-mile sandbar that is Ocean City this summer.
Enough memories made in seven-day stretches of vacation to last a lifetime.
For many – young and old, but mostly those of a certain age, it’s not really Ocean City unless they are hanging wet and sandy beach towels over a wooden railing of a bungalow south of 14th street.
In Old Town endure the totems of summer: a tub of Fisher’s popcorn, perhaps a BIGGER tub of Thrasher’s French fries, a game of Skee-Ball.
[The Fisher’s tubs are great for Maryland-centric recycling. Along with his surfboard and corn-on-the-cob skewers, Leo Ryan will be bringing a gallon of homemade crab soup in an old popcorn container.]
No matter where I’m staying, I make time to walk by the Hitch Apartments at 5th andSt. Louis Avenue.
My family stayed there several years in the late-’60s/early ’70s and I’d play catch with Gregory Lukowski on the parking lot and pretend I was Orioles’ Gold Glove shortstop Mark Belanger. It was the same summer my mother told me I could “forget about” buying a poster of Frank Zappa on the toilet.
Beth Sherring – aBaltimoregirl who once rocked out at the Marble Bar in the basement of the Congress Hotel in the early days of punk – is a family woman now with her own beach traditions. As surely you have yours.
“If I go downtown, I visit the incredibly decrepit fortune teller machine. I walk to the end of the Boardwalk and watch the current rush by the jetty and imagine where my body would end up if I fell in,” said Sherring.
“I like to walk and read on the beach when the lifeguards have left, the shadows are long … it’s as close to solitude as I’m likely to get inOceanCity.”