Extra Points Column: Missing Out on Life’s Pleasures
Cape May's John Cooke, creator of the popular Cape May Live Facebook page, recently asked members to list one or two things they're missing during the ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
I found it almost impossible to limit my list. So many parts of my life and world have been altered and/or eliminated in the last two months or so that I could probably fill this laptop. Here are a few things.
*I miss baseball. Despite having covered the Eagles for 27 seasons, baseball remains my favorite sport. It's been that way since I was 9 and dad took me to Connie Mack Stadium to see the Phillies play the San Francisco Giants in the summer of 1967. My plan was to take the family, including grandsons Hampton (4) and Graham (2), to Citizens Bank Park in mid-July to see the Millville's Mike Trout and the Angels face the Phils. But that's not going to happen. Even if the season does finally start, games will be played in empty ballparks.
I also miss watching games on TV. After tuning into Jeopardy at 7, I would always switch over to the Phils game and also check out ESPN or the MLB Network to see if Trout or Twins reliever Cody Stashak (Oakcrest High grad) were being shown. There was also a chance Lower Township's Matt Szczur would have been a backup outfielder for the Phils. Now that I'm finished all three seasons of Ozark on Netflix, I've got nothing to fill my TV time at night until the season finally starts.
*I miss going to Atlantic City a couple times a month, whether it's to see a concert at Boardwalk Hall, Borgata, Hard Rock, Harrah's, Ocean or other casinos with my wife, Karen, or play a few hands of three-card poker with my buddy, Tom Shagren, at Borgata.
Karen and I have seen some amazing shows over the years, including the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, Sheryl Crow, Eagles, James Taylor, Santana. Karen also gets a kick out of seeing Barry Manilow, though I've managed to avoid joining her.
Regardless of whether we win or lose, "Shag" and I always have a good time at the tables and seldom leave without hearing a funny or heartwarming story. One day a few years back, we were sitting with two women and an elderly gentleman. The conversation turned to marriage and the old guy revealed that he had been married 60 years.
"It feels like yesterday," he said. ... "And you know what a lousy day yesterday was."
*I miss going out to eat. I'm luckily enough to live in an area that has some of the best restaurants in the state. At least once a week, Karen and I would have lunch or dinner at Lucky Bones, Lobster House, C-View, Mayer's, Cape May Fish Market, Two-Mile, Harpoon's, On the Rocks, Oyster Bay or Rusty Nail. We usually celebrate our anniversary on June 19 (it will be our 38th this year) at Washington Inn. We also play Trivia with the Shagrens, Frank and Ellen Smith, Ronnie and Ray Liddy, Jane Menendez, our daughter Ashley once or twice a week at Red Brick Ale House, Harbor View and Willow Creek Winery in the summer. How our team, "Movin' On Up," fares depends on how many margaritas, orange crushes or glasses of Sangria we have.
As I've mentioned before, I really miss Sunday breakfast at Uncle Bill's Pancake House. It's been a weekly ritual for Karen and I since 2000, when our son Kyle started working there as a cook at age 15. When Tommy O'Hara closes for a few weeks, we hit UB's in North Cape May, which is owned by his sister Beth. Once or twice a year, we go to the Oceanview Diner to catch up with Denise Faulkner, who has worked there forever.
*I miss boxing. The stakes don't matter to me. It can be a 12-round world championship bout or a six-round scrap between local prospects. I always get a charge out of being ringside for a fight. Same goes for MMA.
After a few down years, there were several boxing scheduled for the spring in Atlantic City that had to be postponed. One was slated for late May in conjunction with the annual Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Cage Fury owner Rob Haydak was planning on at least two MMA shows.
Local boxers such as Rodney Brooks (Mays Landing), Thomas LaManna (Millville), Isiah Seldon (Atlantic City) and Anthony "Juice" Young (Pleasantville) were forced to put their careers on hold. MMA fighter Cesar Balmaceda (Atlantic City) has had to wait to get back into the cage.
*Most of all, I miss hanging with Hampton and Graham. We get to see them once a week, but lately it's been while Karen and I are in our car and they're on their front porch. Hampton has learned how to ride a bike and our trips around the neighborhood were special. I miss building forts out of couch cushions in their living room, working on puzzles on the kitchen table, pushing them on swings, blowing bubbles in the backyard, putting them on my shoulders during trips to the Cape May County Zoo.
I'm fervently hoping - actually praying - that restrictions will be relaxed by the time summer gets in full swing. Much to my delight, they have developed a love for the beach and the water. We took a couple trips to the "Cool School Pool" in February and early March and I was excitedly looking forward to watching Hampton ride waves on his boogie board.
And I don't want to wear a mask while I'm doing it.