Wildwood has always held a special place in my heart. As a child it was our annual summer vacation destination where I would explore Dracula’s Castle, eat my weight in ice cream at Duffer’s (BTW if you or someone you know works at Duffers they need to bring back the Volcano Sundae pronto), and would rob my parents playing games up and down the boardwalk. As a teenager Wildwood is where I would go to have fun with my friends, where I had my first kiss, and where I sat in traffic on the GSP for hours but didn’t care because I had the Foo Fighter’s album, “The Colour and The Shape” to keep my restless mind occupied. As an adult, I visit Wildwood annually as a member of the NJ State Elks. Over the past four years it’s become a place where I learn more and more about myself as a positive minded soul with big goals, in pursuit of my definition of success and happiness. My most recent trip, was no exception and has reminded me of a valuable lesson.
My weekend began on a down note on a Thursday evening with a single cold text message from a woman I had been dating for a few weeks. In retrospect I’m happy the woman was able to tell me it wasn’t going to work before I invested any more, emotionally into the relationship. Plus her method was more egotistical than kind. At the risk of sounding too poetic; the Atlantic Ocean has a funny way of sorting out the women undeserving of my attention. At least I’ve learned to listen to it this time around. Still, meeting a woman who, for lack of a better word, “has it all together” and starting a family with her is a major goal of mine and has been at the for front of my attention for awhile now. After wallowing in disappointment for the rest of the evening I made a conscious decision to refocus my attention on the reason I was there: to celebrate the 103rd NJ State Elks reunion. The reunion, was a spectacular event in itself- but my post is not about how great the Elks are and all they do for our country (perhaps this will be a topic for another time). The magic moment I would like to discuss tonight happened to me on Sunday, long after the parade had ended and my fellow Elks started to slowly pack their cars to brave the inevitable traffic of the Garden State Parkway. I woke up early with the sun, I hadn’t slept well and the sting of my defeat from Thursday night began to creep back into my mind. I often have a problem thinking back to love lost, when I find myself single and feeling lonely. I know this is a bad habit, I have struggled to break myself of for a few years. The weekend had been too cold and too rainy to enjoy the beach but Sunday was a picture perfect day. I found myself with no where to be for the first time in a long time, a picturesque shore day, and full use of an Audi convertible. I decided to make a day out of it and when I did the magic of Wildwood washed over me once again.
I began my flânerie on the beach, a place I know well from my summers as a youth. The time was roughly 7:30, a mystical time when both the sun and the moon where both high in the air. The usually crowded beach was sparsely populated and quiet. I had walked onto the beach with my beats on, using U2, Radiohead, Chris Cornell, and Foo Fighters as the opening melodies to my soundtrack for the day. I let the sand massage my feet, sore after a weekend of marching around in dress shoes. When I finally reached the shoreline I turned off my I-pod and listened to the sound of the waves meet the land. The sounds of the ocean is more beautiful than any melody a person can manufacture. When the cold water hit my feet I embraced the water’s gentle caress and looked out to the horizon, imagining the water pushing me back to the shore, just like I used to do when I was a child. I’m by no means a religious person but in this instance, I felt like I was in the presence of a higher power- like I had an audience with the universe. I then did what any person unsure about their future and seeking answers would do, I prayed. The subject of my prayer, I don’t intend on offering, but before I left I made a wish- really more of a promise- to the ocean and left to start my day.
As I walked down the boardwalk,less than an hour later, a strange sensation came over me. Maybe it was the heat, the salt water in the air, or simply just too much convention but I felt my past, present, and future meld into one beautiful moment in time. It sent a chill throughout my body and scared me; not that I’ve had some horrific vision of unspeakable horrors or anything. I was frightened because where I am as a person and where I need to be seems so far and out of reach. Although not unattainable I’m concerned the window of opportunity slowly closes more and more every single day. My friends have told me I’m overreacting and I’m not as old as I think. I’ve heard the adage before, “It doesn’t matter where you start, just where you end.” Goals and motivation are funny things this way- they are supposed to keep you anchored and focused on a particular outcome that presumably is important to you. Goals should wake you up in the middle of the night and keep you obsessed with success. Goals should make you want to kick down the door, rush into the room, and knockdown anyone standing in your way. So why, in that moment feel stopped, like a brick wall just sprang up in front of me. Suddenly the world went quiet. As I said earlier, the ocean has a way of sorting things out, and suddenly I felt like a tourist.
After browsing through some used books and records at “What Goes On”, a record store on the boardwalk I made my way to my childhood mecca- Duffer’s. I indulged in a sundae, The Elvis to be precise, and felt more at ease. As I sat alone in my booth for a moment I looked up and saw a quote painted on the wall above the server’s station, “Live one day at a time and make it a masterpiece!” I took a picture of it, partly because I’m an Instagram addict, (@philtasticphil) and partly because I felt like it was too happy of a coincidence to ignore. After playing a quick round of the Batman arcade game, I took my trip south to Cape May State Park. Although not part of Wildwood it was a nice way to end the day. I walked through the meticulous kept trails winding through the swamp lands, observing various of species of wildlife occupying the nature preserve in the park. I walked on the beach again, past the World War 2 bunker and people watched for a little while. The crowd here was different than Wildwood, mostly younger families enjoying the afternoon. I stopped and listened to the water again. This part of the ocean looked and sounded different. It was more at ease yet untamed as it sparkled in the sun like diamonds on glass. I ended my trip on top of the world, more precisely at the top of the Cape May Lighthouse where while taking a Fyuse of the area view I met a couple a little older than me. While I was walking around in a circle around the upper level of the lighthouse, the guy handed me his phone and asked me to record a video of them while pretending to take a photo of them. I agreed and began recording while acting like the best i-phone photographer that ever lived. Without warning, the guy knelt down on one knee and proposed. Lucky for him she said yes or else the video would have been pretty sad, though beautifully shot if I don’t say so myself. I drove back home in a borrowed Audi convertible in silence, no music, no Grant Cardone, just silence. I wanted to fully absorb the day, as well as the last of the sun’s rays, as I kept thinking what an interesting day this turned out to be. An interesting day indeed.
Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like-minded optimists. One more time:Duffer’s bring back the Volcano Sundae ! Seriously !