When one thinks of summer, they imagine sunscreen, the beach, and some bubbly, overplayed, teenage-cult pop song to the tune of Katy Perry's California Gurls. And if you asked someone to put a place to the idea of summer, well, they would look no further than the title of such a song.
This is because the media perpetuates a "West Coast is the best coast" mentality, idolizing California, with it's mass of paradise-esque palm trees and countless bronzed celebrities that may as well be American royalty. The East Coast, if given any thought at all, leads one to imagine a blazing hot, culture-infused Florida, or, if given a second thought, the Carolinas, home to salty blue water shores and the setting of all Nicholas Sparks novels, ever.
Rarely would one think of summer and think of New Jersey—a state distastefully dubbed as the armpit of the country, a title I don't necessarily disagree with. Our accents, (wood-er, caw-fee), infamous opposition to any kind of hospitality, and lack of reputable sports teams (unless you count the Devils, which, I don't think anyone does) make sense of such harshness.
But Jersey shores are a different thing.
And not the kind of "Jersey Shore" that made us all look like drunk, sex-obsessed Italians (okay, maybe a good number of us could be grouped in that category, but not to the desperate effect of 2009 Snooki).
I'm talking about the Jersey Shore that is Ocean City, New Jersey (not to be confused, as it often is, with Ocean City, Maryland).
Ocean City is a place as Summery as it sounds. With the windows down, you smell the town before you get there in a combination of salt, sand, and the sea that is unique from other local shore towns. You're sure to hear some version of "Under the Boardwalk" as you walk the boardwalk, and you know that there's nothing that says "Ocean City" like Mack & Manco's, ahem, Manco & Manco's pizza, with Birch Beer, of course.
Tired, sunburnt moms push strollers and lug beach chairs throughout the beach, which is always covered in striped umbrellas, and dads perch their tanned toddlers on their shoulders as they explore stores selling "I'd flex but I like this shirt" and "SEN16R" t-shirts. Kohr Brothers' orange and white swirled ice cream is essential to the Ocean City experience, along with the fudge samples always being handed out from candy shops that advertise salt water taffys.
There's a sort of magic to the city that's technically an island, to walking into Gillian's Wonderland Pier to the smell of cotton candy and caramel popcorn, and riding the Log Flume like we all did in the summers when we were younger. The gangs of fifteen and sixteen-year-olds that are walking Urban Outfitter and Forever 21 catalogs are one of the few reminders that the times indeed have changed, but that doesn't stop wide-eyed baby boomers from being in any part of the city claiming "I remember when ______", because, simply, Ocean City is a shore town of delightfully capped nostalgia.
When millenials take their children on updated versions of the same ferris wheel and tilt-a-whirl rides that they enjoyed when they were younger, it's as if they're revisiting the summers their parents brought them to the shore. If you were lucky enough to be brought to Ocean City during the summer as a child, you know what I'm talking about.
Ocean City is one of New Jersey's hidden treasures, and while it may not embody the spirit of summer to most people, it will always be what "summer" is and what it means to me.