It’s no surprise that many of my blogs of reminiscing begin with: “When I was a kid at the Jersey Shore.” It was and remains a magical place for our family. There is a wide, off-white sandy beach, a small downtown with ice cream shops, miniature golf, a small arcade, a movie theater, and even a boardwalk for romantic post-pizza strolls. That’s not even to mention the Sabia/Sedlacek compound. We have the “dock on the bay” complete with boats and jet-skis, railings and pilings for karate kid bay jumps—a semi-private haven for all our tomfoolery. It made for great vacations.
So many memories are burned into my brain from that 7-mile island. It could be that I made those robust memories before I started my drinking decade, but that’s a separate discussion. I remember the time my friend John and I found a GameBoy in a random bathroom and managed to peacefully share it all summer like the best friends we were. I remember A.J. wanting to crab all weekend long. I remember when we made shows, haunted houses, concerts or games with the Freeds. I remember climbing the walls of the upstairs house with my sister. I remember the blissful look of calm upon all the visitors when we’d sit out on the concrete slab of a patio, amidst the radiantly setting sun, after a huge, delicious dinner, with a citronella candle burning in the middle of the table, while my Dad told raunchy stories and worries wandered away. I remember family that has passed and friends that have gone their way sitting together in those dusky hours and I’m amazed at the beauty and love present in life and loss. We can’t take it with us, we can’t make a moment last forever, we can’t re-live our good times. But sometimes, a smile is brought to our face from remembering those that have touched our lives in the past.
I am never far from those serene Avalon summers in my heart, and recently, I was reminded of a classic South Jersey tradition—the yearly trip to the Wildwood waterslides with the Freeds. Once a year, sometime in August, the two families formed a conglomerate of twelve maniacs, ready to squeeze an entire week of fun into 6 hours. Four parents and eight children, would head to the sleazy part of town in the chill of the 8am hour to ride the slides. Some slides’ names remain stuck in my head, “Red Tornado, Shotgun Falls, Rocket Raft Run…” It was always a great day of running up stairs, waiting in line, shivering in the shade of the dawn and of course, a few water activities. We’d eat a big greasy pizza afterwards, and if we were very lucky, we’d even ride the rollercoasters a few times before leaving, prune-handed and hair crunchy with chlorine.
A few weeks ago, during the Chinese New Year’s vacation, I went to the waterslides at Caribbean Bay, part of the Everland Resort complex, about an hour south of Seoul. Yes, it was February and bitterly cold, but since Koreans only swim outside during the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August, most of their pools are covered. It was a large complex of faux shipwrecks, small child slides, wave pools and about 25 chairs for the 900 people there.
In Korean fashion, there was a great adult area of relaxing saunas and hot tubs, and an abundance of child-friendly pools. There were also four rather large adult water slides. Unlike the kitschy names of American waterparks, they were creatively called Slide #1,2,3,4. One was exceptionally fast and left water jammed beside my cerebellum, another was a blacked out, two person tube ride and very fun. The complex also included several hot tubs outside. They were steaming like lobster pots. With my lady Jordyn, we made a run for it and nearly jumped in from the sting of Siberian winds upon naked flesh. We met a nice group from Taiwan and we chatted about Taiwanese food, learning Mandarin, and how good the hot water felt. A western face in Asia always prompts discussion, a way to practice English.
I kept trying to find a difference between the Korean and American waterparks, and was left continually stumped. They both have hot and not hot people. They both have clean chlorinated water, expensive fried food for sale, bad floral bathing suits and cover-ups and muscular lifeguards frustrated by the lack of good mirrors. I suppose I’ll never get over the Korean way of wearing t-shirts and sweaters at the beach/waterparks, but then I remembered fat kids do that in America too. Perhaps we’re not so different after all.
We had a great time, ate overpriced donkatsu in our bathing suits and left waterlogged and sleepy. There was no traffic on the way back to Seoul, and the weekend was finished. Three nights of delicious BBQ dinners, fish and kimchi for breakfast and another weekend of Korean overdose had finished.