Monday, July 23, 2007

In Seaside Heights/God: the ultimate Peeping Tom

I was visiting some friends at the Jersey shore this past weekend. One night, I accompanied my friend Mike while he took his 13-year-old daughter and her friends to the Seaside Heights boardwalk - one of the last vestiges of old, vulgar-beautiful America. A Fellini-esque phantasmagoria of proletarian carny splendiferousness. Rides such as the Moby Dick, the Pirates' Cove and the Skyscraper, which consists of two capsules at either end that perform elliptical revolutions (and that resembles a weather vane), the apex of which is several hundred feet off the ground, and even the thought of which made me nauseous. Ski-ball, pinball, test your strength booths, the haunted manor, Sno-cones, cotton candy, Sicilian pie, sausage and peppers, frozen custard, Dutch pretzels, calamari - even arepas, an indication that the largely Italian-American crowd of my youth has been a bit diluted by Hispanics, Asians and a handful of other tribes, all sporting oversized T-shirts, faded jeans, baby doll dresses a la mode, piercings and bare midriffs overhanging pants like a landslide of flab. (I say the following with some affection.) I always wondered where in the world all the girls who do porn come from? Now I know: Seaside Heights.

A background sonic drone of ringing bells and whistles, screaming kids and poorly mic-ed adolescents barking up prospective customers or declaring the winner of a stuffed bunny. We passed one girl desultorily swinging a Star Wars light sabre, her attitude signifying "yeah, getyourStarWarslightsabreswhogivesashitit'sasummerjobwhoneedsitsellingcheapplastictubestomoronsiftheythinkthisisarealStarWarssabrethey'reevenstupiderthanIthoughtIcan'twaittogetoffandmakeoutandsmokeajointwithmyboyfriend."

At the end of the night, as my two friends and I left the boardwalk my friend Mike suddenly said, "Hey, check out that guy over there." I turned my head just in time to see a small, older man standing in a dark driveway peering into the window of a bungalow right off the main drag. A Peeping Tom, who was startled by the sound of our voices and scurried away.

This led to conjecture about the man's motives. Could he be the bungalow's owner who locked himself out? Unlikely; otherwise why did he allow us to interrupt his mission? If he was a "peeper," at what was he peeping? Did he peep on a regular basis, or was this a special occasion? My friend Mike said he probably peeped all around the neighborhood, which led me to add that he was taking advantage of the town's "$9.95 All U Can Peep" policy.

We continued riffing in this vein for so long that it dawned on me that we were becoming as obsessed with the Peeping Tom as he was with, well, the object of his peeping.

Were we meta-peepers?

My friend Michael had the last word: "Since God knows all and sees all, isn't he the ultimate Peeper?"

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