Okay Miss Things. Told ‘ya a coupla weeks ago that the trip to Amsterdam broke me. So we’re going close by today. Touristy and tacky–filled with kitsch and all things commercial. No, that would not be my apartment. That would be Ocean City, Maryland. And the Queen loves it.
It’s a day that promises to be muggy–with at least 60% humidity. Hazy sunshine with wispy clouds that travel across the sky like a dapper older black gentleman with no particular place to go. The air feels like your bathroom a few minutes after you’ve finished a shower. In other words: an average early summer day on the Eastern Shore.
Located about two and a half hours from DC, and about four and a half hours from New York, Ocean City sits between the Isle of Wight Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean–with an Inlet formed by a hurricane as late as 1933.
As a kid, the Queen mostly remembers Ocean City because of having to cross the Annapolis Bay Bridge–the highest and longest in Maryland–in silence because my best friend’s grandmother thought that any sound whatsoever would send us over the side and into the bay. As a young adult I shunned it for a time because I thought it was just très tacky. Until for some reason I decided to use it as an administrative retreat location during the off-season. I fell madly in love with it. I realized that it was a beautiful place with incredibly friendly people. I just didn’t like the tourists.
So before it gets too busy, let’s grab something to eat; take a little walk on the Boardwalk for the sublime to the ridiculous; and visit a spot that is, in some ways, the exact opposite of Ocean City, and yet the perfect complement. Ready?
Tea with Tolkien
When the Queen learned for the first time that his favorite Ocean City restaurant, The Hobbit had relocated from the charming old Victorian edifice that I remembered–with sweeping views of Assawoman Bay (I swear I did NOT make that name up), to its new modern digs…I was worried.
However, no worries. The atmosphere inside is still reminiscent enough of its Tolkien namesake. And even for those of you Miss Things who cringe at the amount of Middle Earth detritus that fills the place, hopefully you’ll find the coziness of the surroundings conducive to amiable conversation. I’ll start:
Not so much in the books–but is it only me, or in the movies were Sam and Frodo not portrayed as the most ADORABLE romantic couple EVER?!!! Right up there with Tracy and Hepburn and Bogart and Bacall. But I digress. Try the Cream of Crab soup. It’s so fresh that they give you a mallet to smack the crab in case it’s not dead. And even though we’re in Maryland–try the Long Island Iced Tea. Finish a couple of those and you won’t care which state you’re in–Maryland OR New York.
Believe it or Not
Let’s stretch our legs a bit on the Boardwalk. The Queen hasn’t been here since the multi-million renovations that have taken place. It’s funny: no matter how much they try to spruce up places like Atlantic City, Coney Island and Ocean City, I still get a sense of that dilapidated charm that I remember loving as a kid. You can slap some make-up on an old Diva. But she’s still an OLD diva–and the better for it. My favorite parts of all of these boardwalk resorts remains the Penny Arcades and odd shops and attractions. And since we normally find some place cultural to go to after our Brunches–why should Ocean City be any different? Let’s head into a local museum: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Are any of you Miss Things old enough to remember when Ripley’s used to have a comic in the Sunday Paper? I remember sitting for HOURS studying the comics in general and Ripley’s in particular. Boy, did they tap into that fascination so many of us humans have with the dichotomy between what we see as grotesque, and what we see as beautiful. In this regard, I present to you:
Where the Wild Things Are
Just down the coast from Ocean City is a place that couldn’t be more different from its Eastern Shore sister. No real Boardwalk to speak of, and not a shrunken head made into a candy bowl in sight. Chincoteague and Assateague islands offer another view of the American Landscape. One of the major attractions of the area are the wild ponies of Assateague Island. The lore is that the horses escaped from a Spanish Galleon hundreds of years ago and made a home on the island. The more likely truth is that land owners probably pastured their horses on the island to prevent from paying tariffs on them, and eventually the animals went feral. No matter what the story really is they are a majestic and awe-inspiring phenomenon. Driven from one island to the other, the exodus is truly one of the most exhilarating sights I’ve ever seen. This area truly reminds you of an intrinsic beauty that owes nothing to brightly colored attractions–other than the ones that Mother Nature provides. The ponies emphasize the fact that survival is possible even in the most brutal of circumstances. And the will to thrive is as natural as the windswept white beaches of these great islands.
It seems to me that the Queen needs both for his own survival: cotton candy and wild horses. How about you?
I’ve missed you Miss Things. Thank you once again for taking time out of your busy schedules to spend your Sunday with me.