Hey, Fickle Readers! Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything remotely literary on this blog. So I thought I’d drop in to announce that the literary dry spell will, in fact be longer still! Right now, I’m in Ocean City, New Jersey, with a huge wing of the extended Fickle Family: me, Inspector Spacetime, Little Fickle (whose full name is Little Fickle Spacetime, in case you were wondering), Grampa Fickle, Nana Lemon aka my stepmom, and Nana Lemon’s daughter Liz. This is the Fickle-Spacetimes’ first foray into Ocean City. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
1. They ought to call this place the Diabetes Capital of the World. Ocean City is dry, meaning that there’s no booze being sold anywhere within city limits. Apparently, the town’s food purveyors decided to make up for this missing social vice by playing up another: gluttony–specifically, the gluttonous urge to stuff one’s gullet with every nutritionally bankrupt food imaginable. The first night we came, we walked on the boardwalk for a little while, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a variety of sweets available in a three-block stretch. We’re not just talking fudge, custard, and taffy (although they’re all here in abundance). There’s also gelato! Molasses paddles! Dippin’ dots! Soft serve! DQ! Orange Julius–holy God, they still have Orange Julius?? Water ice, both traditional and Polish (??)! For those who crave fat rather than sweets, you’ve got everything fried you can think of, including (and I’m not kidding about this) crab fries. And, if you’ve just given up on the whole fat/sweet debate and simply want to get a quick calorie high, check out this sign in the window of a fudge shop:
WE HAVE CHOCOLATE-COVERED BACON!
Would this be a selling point anywhere else in the country? That’s a question for the ages…
2. The world of the Simpsons is officially our world now. Speaking of gluttony, there’s this shop on the boardwalk called Johnson’s, which sells caramel corn. You can buy a tub and then, for a small discount, bring it back to be refilled. Johnson’s has been around for a long time, and according to Nana Lemon and Liz, there’s a ritual that’s grown up around the carmel corn tub that people follow to this day. On our first night, Liz, Nana, and I headed for Johnson’s after a quick gelato (did I mention the fine tradition of gluttony here in Ocean City?), while Nana filled me in on how to order: 1) you put your tub on the counter, 2) the teenager behind the counter asks if you want your tub open or closed (i.e., with the lid on), 3) you say “open,” “because (says Nana Lemon) if you ask for it open, they make a mound of caramel corn over the top of the tub, so who wants it closed?” So we had big hopes for Johnson’s when we finally made it to one of their eight locations. (Okay, maybe not eight, but there’s several.) Yet Nana Lemon hadn’t been to Ocean City for years. In fact, the Johnson’s ritual had changed slightly. Now, when you say “open,” the teenager sticks your tub and lid inside a clear plastic garbage bag and shovels as much popcorn as can be expected to fit in or around your tub.
Anyone see the Simpsons reference here? “King-Sized Homer,” when Homer decides to make himself “hyper-obese”? He goes to a matinee of “Honk If You’re Horny,” and the manager says they don’t have wide enough seats for him, but if he leaves quietly they’ll offer him–you guessed it!–“a garbage bag full of popcorn.” Matt Groening, give yourself a gold star. “The Simpsons” has now become completely enmeshed with reality.
3. Who are the welfare cheats, now? Inspector Spacetime and I just came back from an anniversary getaway to Atlantic City for a night. Not only was it the first time Little Fickle was without both of us overnight (did great–yay!), it was our first and most likely only visit to Revel, the upscale hotel/casino, built in 2012, that’s closing its doors next month. Really a shame, too: it’s a beautiful place: sleek lines, decorated in shades of sand and sea blue, excellent food (went to Jose Garces’s Amada last night; possibly even better than the flagship restaurant in downtown Philly), and yet whoever designed the place seemed determined to attract the high-roller/conventioneer clientele of Vegas, when Atlantic City is more of a gambling granny/family destination. Inspector Spacetime says the Revel people wanted to “revitalize Atlantic City,” and then didn’t. Sad.
Then the Inspector mentions how sad it is that the people who built Revel, in their quest to “revitalize” AC, got huge chunks of New Jersey money to add to their investment. “Excuse me???” I said. I mean, I’ve heard of corporate welfare going to lots of different industries: banks, automakers, Big Oil, solar energy. But casinos? They get money, too? Do all rich people these days feel like they have the right to take money from taxpayers, for whatever the hell they feel like spending it on? Hot-air balloon silkeries? Factories for making robotic napkin folders? An app that sells individual jelly beans? Have they no dignity at all?
I know I have only the Inspector’s word on this. I’m too afraid to research this, though. I would think that, for a group of people who scorn subsidies for health insurance, unemployed people, and mothers who can’t work because of their kids, they would never stoop to take government money for any of their own personal investment needs. Please, someone, tell me I’m wrong.