When Stopped on the Boulevard, Smell the Pancakes


Several days a week, I drive from Beach Haven to the mainland. I try to be calm amid all the traffic. I play a little game with myself and try to spot things of interest I don’t normally see in the off-season. After summer, the speed limit increases and the lights go off. I don’t need to play games or look around. Now I have the luxury (ahem) to dawdle and gaze at the scenery.

I see a lineup of cars parked by the tiny diner on the bay. Customers sit outside at tables. It must be like sardines inside, but the people keep coming. Hmm, I think, they must be giving away the food. I’ll have to check the place out.

Although it’s early in the morning, there’s a crowd at the old Sink ’R Swim “mini mall.” Many cars are parked by the yoga place. It’s 8 a.m. There are also two cafés serving breakfast with a crowd outside. I wonder if you have to be skinny and drink smoothies to sign up for yoga …

It’s too early for the bars to open, but I look at the famous pink buses lined up in a parking lot. I check out the sign to see what music is on for tonight. Two groups, one for the early bird crowd at 5 p.m. and a rocking band 10 at night.

I love seeing the pizza place that sports the description “Occasional Waterfront Dining.” The owner is in a flood zone, and the restaurant is often surrounded by a tidal flood. He changes the signs regularly. The last one I spied said, “No WiFi Here. Talk to Each Other.” Amen.

I pass the Long Beach Township municipal complex and stop at the light. Oceanside, the pickleball courts are full. On the bay, the view includes a panorama of sails, paddleboarders and playground activity. It’s a beautiful  picture.

As I crawl toward Brant Beach, I check out the St. Francis parking lot. It’s usually full as there are many events at the church and community center. I look for the daycare children in the Mother Goose parade. It is a sight to behold!

I’m making headway now. The light turns green when I see a sign at a bakery: “The Best Jelly Donut on the Planet.” Now who am I to argue with that? I’m ready to take the challenge and do a taste test before they close for winter.

When I get into Ship Bottom the crowds are lined up for breakfast at the outdoor café. The smell of pancakes and bacon wafts through my open car windows. I promise myself to eat there early one morning.

I’m on the Causeway and driving very carefully. It’s no time to daydream, but I’ll be back at the end of the day. I’ll meander toward Beach Haven, probably hitting all the lights, which are not always in sync. I’ll try to be patient as I watch the annual summer parade. When I finally get home, I’m inspired to wax poetic.

                                Waiting At The Light

Barefoot beach seekers
await at the lights,
crossing with hot-footed speed.

Bikini-clad teens
bodies curvy and tan,
laugh at the whistles and jeers.

Bicycles, tricycles,
skateboarders too,
head for the waves and the water.

Moms in their straw hats,
dads in their flip-flops
steer kids across the street.

It’s the summer parade,
the boulevard crossing,
like lemmings to get to the sea.

Slow down and breathe in,
breathe out and be calm.
You’re lucky to be here all year!

Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.

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