In Michael Mann's 2004 film, Collateral, Jamie Foxx plays a cabbie who keeps a photo of a Maldives island in his cab. Whenever he gets stressed out, Foxx's character imagines himself there. I had something similar. Last year, when feeling overwhelmed, I loaded up a webcam, featuring a live shot of the beach at Avalon, New Jersey. My anxieties would slowly wash away.
Throughout much of my childhood, my maternal grandmother rented a house in this coastal borough, where her children and grandchildren stayed for two weeks during the summer. The location brings to mind happy memories of boogie boarding, touch football in the sand, and rushing home to watch Total Request Live. Recently, it's been such a source of nostalgia that my sister got me a history of the area.
I'm a bit of a homebody. So, this year, in an effort to coax me out of the house, my mother-in-law rented a place near Avalon. It was incredibly generous. And while I'll miss sleeping in my own bed—and all the other comforts of my hobbit hole—I can't wait to return to that familiar stretch of shoreline.
Once there, I plan to show my daughter, wife, and mother-in-law some landmarks of my youth. Sadly, it appears Godfather's Arcade went out of business. My cousins and I spent countless nights amassing tickets at this boardwalk haunt, playing Skee-Ball and Feed Big Bertha. I called up Nina Ranalli of the Avalon History Center, who said the location was demolished in 2001.
However, Hoy's 5 & 10 is still standing. Looking at images on Google, the store seems just as anachronistic in this era or corporate consolidation as I remember. This was where we bought everything from sunscreen to beach chairs. According to the company's website, it was established in 1935 by Bernard Hoy. His grandson runs the chain's handful of remaining shops today.
Of course, I'll take a photo of my new family in front of the Avalon rescue boats, which served as backdrop for my grandmother's Christmas cards. I'd love to rent a surrey bike and see if we can find the house I stayed in as a child. And if the weather is bad, perhaps we can check out the movie theater in nearby Stone Harbor, which has undergone significant remodeling since I was last there.
The appeal of Wildwood, located about half an hour away, will probably be lost on my infant daughter. I recall going with my cousins to ride roller coasters and go-karts, both of which scared me. Shopping for hemp necklaces was more my speed. Still, the towering ferris wheel could catch her eye. The website for Morey's Piers claims it's one of the largest on the east coast.
I'm so excited to go back to Avalon. While I'm something of a champagne socialist, I'm not sure we can afford to make the trip a regular thing. But a guy can dream.