My grandparents on my father’s side had a summer home at, and eventually retired to, the Jersey Shore. This was before its most recent incarnation as a pen for mindless, self-absorbed nitwits whose raison d’être appears to be too much hair product and tanning. This was also back when working-class people, my grandfather was a carpenter, could actually afford a summer home.
My grandfather along with a bunch of ‘cousins’ (we called actual cousins cousins no matter the distance from 1st as well as close family friends) bought up nearly one block of vacant land, imagine when there was such a thing at the Jersey Shore, on 1st Avenue in Ortley Beach and together they built their summer homes.
this isn’t the actual block but I took this picture years later because it reminded me of that time
When we weren’t on the beach, we were always on the beach unless it was raining, we would hang out behind the row of cousin’s homes in the strip of adjacent sandy backyards and play. Some of the kids were older – I was probably around 6 or 7 playing with teenagers – so their form of play was different from mine. One rainy day one of the Rogers boys had setup his portable record player on their sightly raised cement deck and was giving a concert. He was recruiting for an all-boy band and the pickings were slim so I ended up as the guitar player – my guitar was a mop. The Roger’s boy, I thought he was so cool mainly because he was a teenager, put on a record and we played along as if we were Herman’s Hermits playing “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”.
I remember initially feeling nervous and kinda confused – I was given strict instructions on how to pretend-play the mop convincingly but why would I want to? I wondered – and then feeling elated as the girls watched the boys play but they cheered for real. I loved that jangly muted rag-stuffed guitar sound and the heavily accented Peter Noone singing out to Mrs Brown about her lovely daughter. I don’t recall how many times we repeated that 45 (many is my best guess) but I do recall feeling the stirrings of something I didn’t yet understand but I did understand that music was its soundtrack.
To this day I can play a mean mop.