Liquid Lines

Livin’ Off the Folks Until Middle Age and How You Lose a 4,000-Pound Shark

Forgettable Weekend Conditions, Early Named Storm, and What Happened to Mary Lee
By JON COEN | May 30, 2018
Courtesy of: OCEARCH Where’s Mary Lee, the massive female great white who has visited our waters the past few years about this time?

Does it seem like every week is a big news week?

Between FBI informants, plastic bag bans, patriotic porn stars and a couple of socially awkward kids with nuclear capabilities having an argument on the global swing set, this is a heavy news cycle we’re in. So it would be fully understandable if you missed the story last week that made national news about the parents who took their son to court when they couldn’t evict him from their home.

For the record, he’s 30.

Michael Rotondo was given several written requests to move out of the family’s upstate New York home over the last few months. Last week, he appeared in court to defend his right to keep living with the ’rents. The New York State Supreme Court judge commended Mikey’s legal research in his “common law requirement,” but gave him the boot nonetheless. The kid wasn’t happy.

After a first written notice last winter, Mom hit him with another letter.

“Michael Joseph Rotondo, you are hereby evicted effectively immediately. Any action you take that can be construed as threatening or harassing to us or prevents or obstructs our ability to use the house or property … as we see fit will result in your immediate removal from the premises.”

Tough love.

First, I should say I did my research on this. Mr. and Mrs. Rotondo are not infirm or in need of Michael to take care of them. And I highly doubt he secretly pays random utility bills out of gratitude.

Second, I’m trying to imagine how a family communication gets to the point where they’re reduced to leaving legalese on Post-It notes for each other, but I imagine there’s a lot of backstory here. And I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact Mikey doesn’t have a job. He claims to have some kind of enterprise, but won’t say what it is.

Every day, I’m impressed with different millennials from their surfing to activism, creative endeavors and even work ethic. But there is that stigma that they are in no hurry to go start a life on their own, and that’s not entirely made up.

Playing the “when I was your age” game just sounds bitter. But I have to ask, what’s up with that whole live-at-home-’til-your-34 thing?

There will always be certain differences that one generation shrugs at the other for. It’s all in good fun. We had no idea why our parents got married, nailed down 9-5 jobs, and had kids by the time they were 22 instead of backpacking through Europe or camping on a beach in Nicaragua. But a generation before them, the average person only lived to be 60. And as far as we were concerned, the generation before that was being chased by dinosaurs.

We couldn’t wait to move out of our parents’ homes. Back in the wayback ’90s and early 2000s, young surfers found enough work to buy freedom. The ultimate goal was to pay rent in a crappy apartment and save enough for a winter adventure. I remember bunking in a tiny bedroom with two other dudes in Surf City. When someone had a “guest” over, we slept on a cot, outside on the deck. Fortunately, there was a drought that summer. And right after the holidays, it was off to somewhere that had more consistent surf than New Jersey.

I get it. It was a different time. We celebrated (and occasionally exaggerated) life as a struggle. We made free meals of the fixins bar, listened to the Beastie Boys and wore big pants. It was silly in its own way.

Compare that to millennials. Today, everything is great, all the time. Life is all dreamcatchers and sipping $7 cold brew coffees in elf shoes while listening to bands that have removed all the vowels from their names.

To be fair, rent has soared with real estate prices. Rent in 1998 was comparable to a phone bill today, but 30-year-olds need phones. Unlike Facebook, you can’t post to Instagram from a laptop.

If you read the articles on Rotondo v. Rotondo, one of the notes ma and pa left for Mikey was a list of suggestions that included organizing his belongings for the move, selling some belongings, and even: “There are jobs available even for those with a poor work history like you. Get one – you have to work!”

Mom, you are such a drag.

The story keeps getting better. He told USA Today that he hasn’t been pursuing a career because he’s been busy with parenthood. Oddly enough, he doesn’t have custody of said child, or apparently even visitation rights. Keep in mind the economy is humming right now and there is no shortage of jobs.

But when I heard the story of Mikey defending his legal rights to sponge off his parents until he’s middle-aged, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is coming to LBI. Might some local moms start dropping eviction notices into their adult kids’ laundry (after they’ve washed and folded it, of course).

Mikey lives near Syracuse. I’m sure it’s nice and all, but we live in vacationland. There must be a few 30-somethings happily living rent free on this sandbar. It’s a fun place to live and it’s amazing how much more fun you can have when you aren’t saddled with things like … rent. What’s the motivation to get out?

The best part about the whole Michael Rotondo story is that he did interviews with the major news networks. After what you would think would be a humiliating day in court, the dude had no shame in going to multiple outlets and pleading his case. Great resume builder.

Look, millennials are an easy punching bag. I’d love to never have to hear someone over the age of 40 blame the ills of society on participation trophies again. But I’ll also say this:

Get a job, Mikey.

MEMORIAL DAY NOW A MEMORY: From what I can see, we all came through Memorial Day weekend. There were no drownings or selfie stick injuries. None of the college boys riding bikes and yelling through the streets at 3 a.m. rode off a dock. All the locals who got stuck in Friday’s traffic eventually made it to where they had to go. No one’s business went belly up because of the rain. And best of all, folks who had to endure the indignities of day-trippers parking in front of their second homes will live to fight another day. (You’ve got the whole summer to sit out front and play parking monitor, dude; pace yourself).

So that’s good.

It wasn’t anyone’s idea of an ideal weekend for weather. Doesn’t matter if you’re a surfer, sailor, sun worshipper, day drinker, boater or fisherman, it was a bit bleeeech. Bartenders were happy, though. But it did have its moments and sometimes it’s all about taking advantage of the opportunities. I’m specifically thinking of all the psychotic little kids who were frolicking in the 58-degree shorebreak. I love those kids.

Memorial Day weekend water is never warm, but it was certainly cooler this year. And thanks to the chilly south winds on Friday and Saturday, the chilly rain on Sunday and the chilly gloom on Monday, it wasn’t like they were hot days where you just wanted to get in the water. If you were standing on the beach in a jacket on Sunday watching your crazy little kids swimming, you will not have any problem getting them to move out of the house by 21.

The surf was mostly a bummer. Both Saturday and Sunday were 1- and 2-foot at the absolute best. But both days were fairly clean, considering south and then northerly winds. And that certainly didn’t stop both guys and girls from getting after it, especially when the sun was out on Saturday. It was mostly longboard slop, but when you’ve been pining for summer since last September, any wave will do. I’m stoked for anyone who made something of it.

The surf was looking to come up a bit on Monday in the onshore winds. That never happened. Frankly, northeast winds would do nicely to warm up the water and give us some chunky, drifty surf. This was more varied and not strong enough to really kick us up some swell. And Sunday’s 2- to 3-foot and clean forecast got washed away as well. It was a forgettable weekend of waves all around.

TOPIC OF THE TROPICS: Normally at this time of year, I have already done something of a hurricane season preview based on the early predictions. Well, hurricane season started without us.

It’s very common to be tracking some kind of tropical system on Labor Day; it’s very uncommon on Memorial Day. Last Monday, May 21, an area of low pressure formed in the southwestern Caribbean Sea and then drifted northward into the Gulf of Mexico where it was classified as Subtropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of 2018. Hurricane season is supposed to start this Friday. Seems we’re already underway.

Top sustained winds were only about 65 mph at landfall, which in this age of super-weather, is pretty tame. Alberto hit the Florida Panhandle (they got hit by a tropical storm and probably still had an overall better weather weekend than we did), worked his way up the Mississippi Valley, where he’s now simply a nuisance. If we get any effects from this storm, we probably won’t even know that it was once a named storm. It’s unlikely we will see any waves.

If you look across all the respected sources that give forecasts for hurricane season, this year is slated to be average to slightly above average. Keep in mind that last year’s seasonal forecast was for an average year and it wound up going off like the president’s Twitter account every time he heads into a bathroom stall. These preseason odds makers call for the number of storms and strength, with sometimes a brief hinting of region. They can’t predict where which storms will hit or the damage, two factors that made last year more significant on a human scope than a meteorological scope.

Alberto is not a sign that this year is going to be a five-month rage of spinners. The fact that he was a subtropical storm suggests it even less, as subtropical systems rely more on upper level conditions than super warm sea-surface temps.

Colorado State University scientists, who study storms from way up in the Rockies, generally assess the preseason conditions and then compare them to data from past years. They note that this year, tropical sea surface temps are not all that high and there’s not particularly strong El Niño or La Niña conditions to see any indicators for more or less storms. Also note that our local water temps, which are colder than average right now, really have no impact on what kind of season we will have.

MARY LEE-LESS: It has been right around May and June the last few years that the most famous shark of the last century (because you know which one was the most famous in the previous century) has come to pay us a visit.

Back in 2012, OCEARCH tagged Mary Lee off Cape Cod. The 3,500-pound mature female quickly gained notoriety thanks to 129,000 Twitter followers and OCEARCH’s nonstop publicity machine that aims to bring awareness to the plight of great white sharks.

Over the next few years, the behemoth matriarch of the seas “pinged” in some very unusual places, including in the Manahawkin Bay, near our bridge. At the time, OCEARCH told the public it was likely a malfunction with the GPS signal, but when I met OCEARCH Director Chris Fischer last summer on a tagging mission off Wildwood, he told me, “Oh yeah, that shark was in your bay.”

She pinged in all sorts of spots off the East Coast, very close to human activity, and the press covered her like mad. Basically, while we’re trying to get our tourism season kicked off, all the regional media are reporting that there’s a massive great white playing at the bay beach.

I’m not sure what I believe, or what I want to believe. OCEARCH has ruffled some in the science community. But the moral of the Mary Lee story is this: Great whites and other sharks are in the ocean, and sometimes very close to us. But we don’t know they’re there because they don’t bother with humans. The fact that no one ever saw or photographed Mary Lee, despite her proximity to civilization, supports that.

Anyway, last June 5, she buzzed by LBI close enough to smell the fresh doughnuts at Shore Good. She remained tight to the South Jersey coastline until June 17, when she sent her last signal off Beach Haven. She has not pinged since.

Fischer has publicly said that he feels Mary Lee is still alive, but her tag may have gone dead. And there’s no reason to believe otherwise. The body of such a shark in our waters may have very likely been discovered.

She’s not gone, but her celebrity status is. So I would say the chances are pretty good that there’s a nearly 4,000-pound tooth machine just off our coast this week. We will just have no idea. Everyone will be just fine. And she’ll just go about living her mostly solitary, quiet, apex predator lifestyle. And we’ll keep on eating doughnuts, blissfully unaware.

WHAT’S HAPPENING: This weekend is Hop Sauce Festival. The day starts with the Hop Sauce Tune Up Paddle at 9 a.m. at the Taylor Avenue waterfront in Beach Haven. The actual Hop Sauce Festival starts at 11, but the location has moved this year to Veterans Memorial Park, also in Beach Haven. Everything is pointing to a great day, and it doesn’t look like anyone will be missing any surf to attend.

Beyond that, June 11 is Barnegat Bay Day. This is a free event at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, wherein local organizations set up to educate adults and children about how the bay works and the creatures that live on and in it. This event is not to be confused with “Bay Day,” an annual event where a hundred boats pile onto the sandbar in Ship Bottom in August and people drink like fish.

Getting out a bit, June 23 is Shapefest at South End Surf ’N Paddle, an annual festival that involves surfboard shaping, art and music. There will be more details to come on that.

Don’t expect any great surf this week, or any great weather for that matter. The good news is, if you’ve got a couch with a 33-year old permanently attached to it, the law is on your side.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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