Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Tale of Three Beaches.

So far I have visited three different beaches on the NJ coast. I should not have been surprised to see these three resort towns appeal to three totally different demographics- Just as in any other class of consumerism, there are different products for each class. These are so readily distinguishable from one another that it is readily apparent on a superficial level within the first ten minutes at each location.

I've already touched a bit on Ocean City, NJ- America's Greatest Beach Resort (TM). This place appeals mostly to white, conservative card-carrying, conventional citizens of the American upper-middle class. This is the bourgeois beach, sans alcohol. There are rules for everything here, and to be accepted you need to follow them closely (in addition to the rules I mentioned in a previous post- even the ocean is marked off with flags between which, and only between which, you are permitted to swim). Don't try to have any other than vanilla fun here.

I found my way to two other resorts yesterday... Cape May and Wildwood. I'll take these in the order I visited them...

Cape May is (the self-proclaimed) America's Oldest Seaside Resort, and it is old money indeed. Posh, extravagant, monied... it is replete with stately old hotels, tree-lined narrow streets, and smart boutiques and "eateries". The architecture (much of it Victorian) is shockingly beautiful. This is the place that the upper-middle class comes to dream about what could be... while of course staying in one of the many Bed and Breakfasts or Hotels. With all this money comes tasteful (yet not necessarly discreet) opulence. It's definitely the beach to come to to view how the other half (of the top 5%) lives.

I finished my meanderings in Wildwood. Ah... Wildwood... ye are not how I had known thee. The last time I was in Wildwood was twenty years ago, and it has changed. It used to be a slightly more gritty OC, where the older teens would go to let off a bit of steam. Still there was plenty for the parents to occupy themselves with, and it still had the air of wholesome fun. Walking on the boardwalk in Wildwood now is like being on the midway of an urban county fair... there are plenty of storefronts offering hair weaves, manicures, henna tattoos and "wax hands"(?). There are gaudy "casinos" that offer games of chance with the opportunity to win a cruise (after spending about $50K). Food is limited to the greasiest of boardwalk fare... pizza, cheese steaks, curly fries, and spaghetti... and of course the whole panopoly of sweets one might expect to see the hoi polloi shove down their gullets. The t-shirt shops all have their crudest, most obnoxious mass-market designs pushed out in the stroller's face. And of course there are Morey's Piers, offering thrills to the young and the eternally young. The amusements get face lifts to jive with the latest trends in mainstream entertainment, but they essentially stay the same. Witness the zombie dark ride that now advertises itself as a "laser tag adventure". The animations don't react to being shot. They still simply pop out of the wall as they always have.

This is the working class resort. Things are rusting, the boardwalk boutique walking mall is boarded up, and there is little visible police presence. And they don't require beach tags to get near the ocean. It's democracy in its crudest form. Wildwood appeals to the shifting, volatile mob..."Come One, Come All"... and attracts a lowest common denominator that many more well-heeled Americans find distasteful. I was fascinated. I rode the zombie ride three times.


Blogger John Morris said...

Oh I hope it rains on your parade. I am sweating my ass off here working for you!

5:22 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Well... that sounds promising. Can't wait to see the results. Your pale skin would be burning right off here in the sun anyway.

5:41 PM  

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