Thursday, September 19, 2013

Down at the Jersey Shore

Actually, I started the day by laying in bed. Mom was taking Skylar to school, and I didn't want to disrupt anything. After he left, I read The Wizard of Oz and wrote in my journal for a while. When he left and Mom came back, I got dressed, then went downstairs and had a bagel and an apple for breakfast.

Mom and I finally decided to explore the Washington Street Mall in Cape May. Once again, it was a gorgeous day for it. It was a little warmer than yesterday, into the lower 70s, and a tad bit breezier. Otherwise, the weather remained as perfect as it's going to get in southern New Jersey in early September.

The Washington Street Mall is three blocks of restored storefronts in downtown Cape May. Traffic isn't allowed for much of the mall, making it a great place for a stroll. Our first stop was the Cape May branch of the Winterwood Christmas Shop. Originally a bank, this imposing building was a gift shop throughout the 80s and 90s until the Cape May Winterwood moved there a couple of years ago. They seemed to be doing very well, with a great selection almost on a par with the larger Winterwood in Rio Grande. Mom and I admired Halloween decorations, prints of drawings of Cape May Victorian homes, and ornaments of all shapes and sizes, for everyone from ballerinas to dog lovers.

Our next stop was a surprise. Standing out amid the pastel or bright-colored buildings was one painted stark black. We entered to find a world of exposed pipes, dark colors, heavy hoodies, and broadcloth shirts in stripes with checked cuffs. Yes, it was a men's store, one of the first on the mall since Barry's shut down in the 90s and was replaced by Frailinger's Candy Store, much to Dad's dismay.

After a quick walk down Liberty Way , an alley with several stores, we hit Dellas 5 & 10. Dellas is Cape May's equivelent of an old-fashioned Woolworth's, complete with a lunch counter. There used to be a lot more "real" clothing (as in, without the Cape May name) and seasonal items there, but it's still your best bet on Cape Island besides the tiny Acme if you want to find things you need that don't have shells on them. (And they still have a decent cheap toy selection. Mom used to let us pick a dollar toy from there during visits when we were very little.) I got nothing here; Mom wanted cough drops.

I had to explore the mall's two toy stores. I can never pass up a good toy store. We first took a look at The Toy Shop of Cape May, a relatively small store that opened in the early 90s, just in time for Keefe to start collecting their selection of Thomas the Tank Engine figures. They also have an excellent selection of board games. Mom says she gets board games for her grandsons from there.

The Washington Street Mall has a mall within a mall. The City Center Mall opened during my early childhood. Their leather store is a little expensive and it looks like their art gallery is gone, but they still have The Zoo Company of Cape May toy store. In fact, the Zoo Company seems to have moved across the main concourse to a larger store that used to be a surf shop. They still have a great stuffed animal collection (I bought a lot of stuffed toys there as a kid), plenty of plastic minature figures, and are the only place in town to buy Sanrio products. (Incidentally, it looks like a cigar store took over their long-time, always rather cramped space.)

When the Atlantic Book Store closed in the old First Fidelity bank (it's now a Stewart's Soda Shop), another book store opened in the City Center Mall, the Cape Atlantic Book Company. They actually took over most of the right side of the second story except for the space that has always belonged to Judy's Jewels. Alas, they weren't anything special and didn't really carry much you couldn't find in a Barnes and Noble besides some local-interest books.

We explored a few gift shops next. Mom liked the hats and scarves at American West, Madame's Port, and Swede Things In America, but all three were expensive. We wound up at Across the Way, a lovely little store at the end of the mall next to an ice cream parlor. It was a jewelry store during the 80s and early 90s, specializing in the huge and cheap. (I bought some of my first dangling earings there...before I realized that my ears couldn't handle huge or cheap. Those earrings were so darn big, I now use a few of them on my Christmas tree as ornaments.) The store still sold some jewelry, but the rest of their offerings were more eceletic, from a variety of stuffed animals made from socks and old sweaters (I liked the polar bear made from a cable-knit sweater) to eccentric clocks. I bought a book-themed journal. (My current one is half-done.)

We made two more quick stops on the way back to the car. Love the Cook specializes in gourmet cookware and cooking items and is owned by the family that runs the Washington Inn, one of the fanciest restaraunts on the island. I bought the same two chai mixes I picked up there the last time I visited in 2011. Mom said she needed a new wooden spoon and a really nice vegetable brush. Though Bath Time is a lovely little shop that specializes in fancy soaps, lotions, and other toiletry items, once again, most of them were beyond our budget.

Cape May eateries tend to be overpriced, even the ones that really shouldn't be, like Dellas' lunch counter. We had our lunch off the island in North Cape May. El Portal was a nice little Mexican place comfortably situated in what used to be the Burger King across from WaWa on Bayshore Road. It made ample use of both the building's unusual architecture (including their exposed ceiling beams) and the grill Burger King left behind. I had a Chicken Quesadilla. Mom had a Chicken Fajita, which she'd had before and said was delicious. My quesadilla was yummy, warm and soft with wonderful grilled chicken. Mom loved her fajitas, too. It's a shame she says they don't get more business. They weren't very busy when we were there. They don't even have a sign on the road - the old Burger King sign was broken and rusted and looked like it had never been replaced.

After lunch, we took the back way through West Cape May onto the island, this time to check out one of the antique/thrift stores just off the mall area. Whiskers has been there for as long as I can remember, but I don't recall it being that big before. Although it was only one story, like the Barrington Antique Center, it was room after room of wonderful old things - books, sports memorabilla, linens, clothing, records, china, glassware, toys. I saw two Donna Parker books I wanted, but they cost three times as much as the ones I got from that yard sale! I opted for a much smaller tea caddy instead. I talked Mom into buying a beautiful tapestry tote bag for ten dollars. It was heavy and well-made, and I'm sure my practical Mom will think of something to use it for.

After spending over an hour in Whiskers, we decided we were both tired and just headed home. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting together, in the kitchen and on Mom's sun-filled porch. We mainly discussed family problems, and I told her what Mrs. Stahl had told me about going on more trips now that I have the money to do so.

Mom made us a simple but tasty meal of sauteed chicken breast, steamed broccoli, Carolina mushroom and wild rice mix, and tomatoes fresh from her neighbor's garden. After dinner, we switched on the NFL Network and watched pre-game coverage of the Chiefs-Eagles game.

That may have been more interesting than the game. Despite a lot of pre-game hype, thanks to former quarterback Donovan McNabb's jersey being retired and former coach Andy Reid returning to play his old team, the game was a washout. The Eagles played poorly, especially in the first half. Reid knew how to get around their fast offense with a lot of fake injuries that kept the offense off the field. The Eagles finally lost 26-16.

Tomorrow, I'll be spending the morning with Mom, then heading home later in the afternoon to start the second half of my vacation.

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