Save your Trunk or Treat and Turn Your Kids Loose for the Real Thing on Halloween; Spooky Weekend Nor’easter.

Oct 24, 2018
Photo by: John Gilman It wasn’t a banger swell, but 2- to 3-foot with side-offshore winds and some swell angle isn’t the worst thing. Dave Ambrose with the spray on his backside.

All Hallow’s Eve is coming up in just a week. It’s kind of like Christmas for weirdos, which is generally epic. Remember when you were a kid and Halloween fell on a weekend? You went out with an empty pillow case and came back with diabetes! It was the best. Let's crank some Misfits and AFI!

I always hesitate to be one of those “Back when I was growing up …” types. Often those folks are desperately exaggerating their own experience and maybe have a version of America’s past warped by political agendas. I'm taking about kids being outside and interacting, not some golden age before those horrible plastic straws where you could drop racial slurs and no one cared.

But Halloween was the bomb, no doubt. The whole week around it was amazing. I would imagine that with today’s technology, Mischief Night is far different. Thanks to social media, pranks could be amplified. But I also have to imagine there are far more ways to get caught in 2018.

You probably didn’t know this, but Halloween is celebrated all year ’round.  Let me explain.

There are some folks who really love Halloween. I mean, it would be easy to make jokes about these gothic zombie types who start building coffins around Labor Day, but I just can’t bring myself to poke fun at anyone who has a borderline unhealthy obsession with some fringe interest, especially considering how many of us were drifting down the beach on Saturday to catch a 2-foot sideshore wave.

But a lot of these folks are too busy during Halloween to actually enjoy it. They work in the ghoul industry, which ramps up in September. October is obviously the big denouement. Not unlike an LBI summer, they work long hours during a short season, usually dressing up, painting their faces and working on their bloodcurdling screams.

Have you ever wondered who actually likes candy corn? It’s these people. They keep the fake blood industry alive during economic downturns.

Anyway, they’re so busy working to scare the crap out of us on haunted hayrides and scare houses that they don’t have time to enjoy the holiday itself. True story. They have a passion for Halloween, yet they don’t get to actually experience it like everyone else. This was explained to me by a pasty-faced zombie with a hatchet in his skull a few years ago, as he was resting up for his next round of making people pee themselves.

“We’re all busy working through Halloween,” he explained, with blood dripping down his face, “so we all go to Chicago every year in March for our own Halloween.”

This was a few years back. I believe the gathering he’s speaking of is still held somewhere in the Midwest each March. But there are other similar conventions, events and spook shows in the Halloween off-season. And these folks can’t get enough.

Locally, I have seen plenty of advertising for Trunk or Treats, a new tradition that has become part of late October. And I have to say I’m not the biggest fan.

The Trunk or Treats themselves are fine. Parents park in a lot and open up the automatic hatch on the SUV as kids go from car to car collecting goodies. As far as candy-to-effort ratio, it’s like hitting an entire neighborhood in 15 minutes. There’s a Trunk or Treat in Surf City this Saturday that is very popular, and for good reason. Aside from the cool things that happen in Barnegat Light on Halloween, about one in five houses is occupied on the Island this time of year, and not many of those few residents are expecting kids to knock on the door.

You could probably trick-or-treat 10 miles of LBI and wind up with only a Kit Kat, two mini Hershey bars, a La Croix sparkling water, a 7-Eleven hot dog, a handful of Jetty stickers, one scratched copy of Sinatra: Best of the Best and 12 TD Bank pens.

“Oh gosh, sorry, kids, I didn’t even think to get candy … uh … oh, a ghost, that’s a scary costume. Let’s see … I have some Ensure. Or do you guys want some free passes to the St. Francis pool?”

So yeah, the Trunk or Treat makes sense east of the bay.

But what about just going over to the mainland? And why are there all these Trunk or Treats planned on the mainland ,where there are thousands of homes, many of which are adorned with homemade wooden tombstones and spider webs?

If the Trunk or Treat is planned for the days prior to Halloween, perhaps on the weekend before, again, I’m all for it. They’re kids. Let the little Paw Patrollers, Fortnite troopers and Frozen Princesses have one week where they bury themselves in high fructose corn syrup. Make them run a few miles the next week.

But Trunk or Treat should not be a replacement for Trick or Treat.

Trick or Treat has always been one of the high points of the year, a true American holiday. Having all the parents circle the luxury SUV wagons is nice and all, but do we have to take one more tradition and turn it into a sterile experience of something we used to enjoy? It’s been a long time since I’ve heard of a razor blade in a Reese’s Pieces.

Let kids get out there and experience the world. Let them learn their own neighborhood. Make them walk up an unfamiliar path and knock on the door of a different home. Let them have a real-life interaction with a stranger. Encourage them to help along the little kids. Being a little scared is OK. Hell, I want a hellion bike gang to throw eggs at my kid in a few years.

And if parents are weirded out about going up to strangers’ doors, how the hell are children going to learn?

It seems that some folks have this idea that our streets are full of danger. Sure, you want to keep an eye on your kid. Make them check in by phone. Maybe teach them what to look out for. But it would appear that people are fearful because we don’t actually go out into our neighborhoods like we used to.

Kids go from the contemporary cave to organized sports and lessons all day, instead of running amok in the streets. Give them a day to just go crazy around the ’hood. Make those old folks get up from watching Fox News a couple hundred times and remember the fun they used to have going house-to-house, before the streets of Southern Ocean County were such a “scary” place.

WAVE GOODBYE TO SUMMER: Well, for those who were so annoyed that we got an extra two weeks of summer at the start of October, I hope you’re happy. I hope you’re enjoying scraping ice off your windshield on these early mornings and the pilot went out on your furnace. We went from literally surfing in trunks to four layers of clothes in 10 days. If you’re the type of person who likes days in the moderate 60s, we had a grand total of two of them. The ocean temps dropped from the 70s to the 50s in record time. 2018 continues to be a real kick in the teeth when it comes to weather.

I actually love the fall, but I think we all know the six months of winter are right around the corner, and therefore there’s no hurry with the cold. The windier days we’ve had are not welcomed at all.

It has also not been a stellar month for waves. What we have come to know as Rocktober produced about two days of fun waves thus far. We did have a small wave last Thursday with pretty clean conditions. It was mostly a longboard swell. The winds had a hint of north in them, which wouldn’t have been an issue, but now we’re in the season where a tiny bit of blow from just a few degrees off west/northwest makes a big difference because it’s blowing so damn hard. By the time the wind mellowed out, most of the size was gone and the tide was too full. Then the wind went south on Friday.

All of the forecasts called for southwest winds at a decent clip, turning more west/southwest on Saturday. But Saturday morning actually revealed a west/southwest breeze early on. This was nothing special, but it has been some time since we had a swell with a distinct direction and winds not fully onshore. It was about 1- to 3-foot hard angle south swell with some runners. The 11 a.m. low tide was a bit shallow, but as it rebounded, there were some open faces. It was tiny by sundown. Sunday was flat. Again, there were no great waves, but it’s the type of bread and butter swell we used to get all the time and have been lacking of late.

As I mentioned, the ocean temp has dropped significantly. The bareback and shorty sessions are done. We don’t need boots yet, but I predict we will by early November. And then, as usual comes the full 20 pounds of wet rubber soon after. It’s to the point where we now wear trunks for three months and hooded winter suits for six months with short windows in between.

WINDING UP FOR THE WEEKEND: I hesitate to talk about waves this early out, but it does seem we’re in for a storm this weekend and some waves to follow. Models show a low pressure system forming down by the Gulf and pulling north up the East Coast. It does appear the low will track east of us, over the ocean. If that happens, we could get a decent nor’easter. The cleanup may not be until next week.

Again, it’s too early to say exactly how much swell we’re talking about or when the winds will go offshore. Let’s just hope the storm will pass us pretty swiftly and move off to our northeast, meaning a defined shift to offshore winds. Again, this is something we used to get on the regular, but lately any opportunity for the atmosphere to keep a northwest wind from setting up, it will take.

While most of us are hoping to see this blow move some sand around in Harvey Cedars, no one wants to see the precious sandbars at mid-Island breaks get dug out.

WORTH YOUR SALT: There is a fantastic event coming up that I want to get on everyone’s radar. On Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. there will be a public meeting at the Barnegat Light First Aid Squad introducing a proposed program called the Surfers as Lifesaving Team, aka SALT.

This is something that has been kicked around the Island for some time. It is essentially a program very much like the volunteer fire companies that deals with water rescue, and I think it’s an awesome idea.

The program is directed toward experienced watermen and waterwomen. It is essentially an attempt to get surfers, boaters, lifeguards, paddlers, kite surfers, fishermen, etc. all lined up and trained to be able to make water rescues.

This is not designed, in any way, to go around the current beach patrols, fire or rescue units. This is an effort by the Barnegat Light First Aid Squad to reach people who are always within a few blocks of the beach, happen to have great flotation devices at all times and are experienced in the water.

Our beach patrols do a great job all summer long. The issue is that after 5 p.m. and in the shoulder seasons, they’re not always on duty or they just have a skeleton crew. And there are no guards anywhere from September to Memorial Day, meaning that if someone gets in trouble in the ocean, they are waiting for one of our two rescue units to arrive from Barnegat Light or Beach Haven.

And while someone is out there stuck in a rip or struggling to get their kid who went into the shorebreak, there are dozens of surfers living and working within a mile of the situation. Pretty much every waverider has had an instance where they got to a swimmer in trouble and helped them out. In this case, they would have some formal training, even if it’s just to keep a victim afloat until the full rescue team could get there with a ski.

“For the number of water rescues we do here on LBI, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to involve some new people who already have solid waterman skills with rescue basic training. And we have such amazing fire, water and first responders here. Why not have everyone on the same page?”  Bob Selfridge, a Barnegat Light resident, emergency medical technician for AtlantiCare and training officer for the Barnegat Light Beach Patrol and Barnegat Light Volunteer Fire Co., told me a year ago when I did a story on the subject.

The new program would school potential lifesavers on safe driving to a scene, liability vs. risk, and water rescue skills. It would also have them CPR certified.

The whole thing sounds like a fantastic call ,and much respect to Selfridge and the folks in Barnegat Light for spearheading it. My question is how is this going to become an Island-wide initiative? Often getting five boroughs on the same page is like moving mountains, or at least dunes. I mean, an Island-wide beach badge? How hard is that? Hopefully everyone can find a way to make this work from inlet to inlet

’ROUND TOWN:The big question this week is if this upcoming storm will clean up enough for the Jetty Clam Jam this weekend. This weekend will bring us six weeks into the waiting period. As of early week, the models have winds coming up onshore on Saturday and really cranking on Sunday, so it’s hard to say. If it’s not a total haymaker, I could see a day with north winds going northwest being a potential. The Jetty boys will be taking a hard look at this one. Overhead lefts would be a nice treat, for sure.

Other than that, things are quiet on the event front.

Science Saturdays are back at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. The one on Nov. 10  is titled “Marine Debris and Where It’s From.” South-End Surf ’N Paddle will host a screening of “Andy Irons: Kissed by God” with the Lighthouse International Film Festival on Nov. 24 as well. There will be 100 seats, and it costs $5. I suspect this will sell out. You don’t want to miss it.

Other than that, make yourself a great costume. Get out your pillowcase. Get your kid out there and hit as many houses as he or she possibly can. Fill your belly with sugar. Go nuts. Happy Halloween.

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