I walked my usual route to the gym, enjoying the waning days of summer, late August, unusually temperate. I looked to my left at the soccer field, only a handful of boys are out there today, they must be feeling the end of summer as well, their lackluster attempts at kicking the ball are only sending up little tufts of dust and sand, not the usual cloud I have seen over there before when a good game is going on. Up ahead there's a Mister Softeeice cream truck, right across the street from Fire Station No. 5. I can tell because I see the firemen waiting in line, ordering their cones. I'm a bit jealous, since I'm on my way to the gym, I can't stand right there with them and get a cone and ask for the secret number. After I pass, I hear the familiar sound of the Mister Softee jingle start up, and all at once I am walking, present day, through Ventnor Heights and simultaneously I am eight years old and in Bellmawr, running out the front door of my house with money in my hand, hoping to catch the ice cream truck before it passes by. It's a bit disconcerting, to be in two places at once.
The sounds of Mister Softee fade into the distance, along with my memories, as I make my way along the the mile stretch. The sun is beginning to set, laying just above thehorizon. As I approach the back bays, the smell hits me, full on. There's nothing like the smell of the back bays, it's not a smell anyone could ever call "enticing" but, strangely, I find myself taking big lungfuls of it, reveling in the earthy scent. It's akin to patchouli, although no where near as fragrant, at least, what would be considered pleasantly fragrant. Unless you're from around these parts, you can't fully appreciate the smell. To the shoobies, it hits them as the come off theexpressway, or the pikes, and they collectively "peeyou" the smell. To a native of the island, it's the smell of home. That fetid swamp smell of countless years of rotting vegetation and animal matter, baking under the sun at low tide, that lets us know we are back home, back to the sand and sea. Honestly, it's a lot like patchouli, earthy, spicy, real.
The gym was busy with the usual suspects. I get in and start my workout, feeling sore and pathetic since this is my second time here this week and it's going to take some time to get back to where I was before I fell into my depression. As I begin to work out, I start to feel better, almost right away. I pushed myself on several of the machines, almost matching the weight I used to lift with relative ease. I know, through many a sore day-after, not to get too crazy. I watch myself in the mirror and I am happy with what I see. I am determined again. That's good. That's real good.
I finished up, I did a full body routine, two different exercises for each major body part and then made my way back home. It's now just the other end of dusk, that hair's breadth away from being true night. I wander past the familiar houses, peeking in on occasion at the lives of others. A new baby here, a sports game party going on there. I talk to the dogs that no longer bark at me when I walk by, they know I am no threat. It's comforting. I made my way over the bridge to the city proper, watching the bartender from the bridge at the Wonder Bar, wondering how much money he's making, since there's a boat pulling up to the dock and the bar is packed. I'm jealous. I look away.
Home, I make my protein shake and then open a cold can of tuna and squeeze a whole lemon over it. That and a salad are my dinner. It's very good, believe it or not.
Time to watch some telly, then talk myself out of going out tonight. I should go out, I was invited to go to the Borgata, it's good for business but, it's bad for me right now. Very bad. I am feeling better and better as the hours go by, I don't want to ruin my efforts.
By the way, two weeks from today, Miss Tene is on Maury, and she ROCKED THE FUCKING HOUSE! We chatted on my walk home. I can't wait to see this.
I am a life long resident of this little island on the east coast of New Jersey and I am the walking representation of Atlantic City. Which doesn't say much for the city. I'm a professional party guest.