"Is it an Up and Down World?"
I guess it would be no surprise to anyone that consistently reads this column to learn that I listen to the blues while writing this piece on a weekly basis.
I mention this because as I was brainstorming (if you want to call it that) for ideas for this week's column and I was trying to find a way to compare Ocean City to Scott Baio and Brett Michaels in a way that would make sense without people trying to put me on the 'nutso' stretcher normally reserved for 'pop tarts' and those who overdose on local seafood buffets; I heard a blues song that seems to sound like the rumbling gray clouds in our otherwise blue sky.
It was called 'It's an Up and Down World' by a chap called Tad Robinson, and though it's not exactly 'Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again' or even 'The Thrill is Gone' for that matter, the song's title is the exact mantra that those in this town that are not worried about the resort's troubles, are saying when asked about this lull in business and activity in Ocean City.
Everywhere you look, people are struggling, and the general consensus is that this is the worst winter in a long time. Even the biggest optimist has to 'keep it real' for a second and realize that though the winters are always a bit cold from a money making aspect, this one has been downright frigid.
Many of those that aren't worried seem to cite the times in the 70's when this town was hurting and it needed a bit of a facelift or renaissance if you will, and then the 80's came around and made everything better than fine. I was not around in that time, and up until 1977, I hadn't even been assigned my nine-digit social security number, so I can only speculate and draw from these stories of folklore that I have heard from those that were there when this was still a quaint little resort town.
As far as the stories go, the one thing that holds true with all the stories that I have been told is that the 80's were the glory days in Ocean City. The time when excess was best, the endless summer began and this little resort town turned in its fishing boots and quiet family fun for tight lycra pants and a heavy dose of the nightlife and the need to boogie like Lionel Richie: all night long.
If I'm mistaken, tell me I'm wrong but that's kind of what I've gathered over the years of hearing those who were here in the aforementioned 'Glory Days.'
There are a lot of local businesses that got started in the 80's and I'm sure that a lot of the fat cat rich folk in town really started to rake in the bucks during the Reagan administration, which could explain why Ronald Reagan is spoken about amongst Republicans as some sort of political savior that was sent from above.
I watched the last Republican debate and it was remarkable how a good half an hour went by and all they did was talk about their love of the late former president, although it was nice to hear Guiliani talk about something other than 9/11. I will admit however, the only reason why I kept watching was to see if Ron Paul would challenge anyone to a fight. The other candidates treat him like a kook, although he seems to be the only one that is thinking in a logical sense when it comes to foreign policy instead of just saying that we'll just 'stick a boot in the ass' of anyone that wrongs us.
All that aside and back to the talk of the 80's and how the town's obsession with becoming an over-the-top beach destination was born in a decade in which everyone was trying to be as over-the-top as possible. If the town's renaissance turned was trying to make everyone that visited here in the summer months have the same level of good times as getting backstage at a Poison concert, than perhaps we are in need of a new renaissance around here, because despite contrary belief by those who still wear member's only jackets, the 80's are over.
Which brings me to Scott Baio and Brett Michaels.
My wife is a big fan of the 80's, as I believe it reminds her of woods parties and hair bands, in which she was a card-carrying member of that fan club. So it is only natural that she would be obsessed with VH1's two reality shows that feature icons from the 1980's: Scott Baio (Chachi) and Brett Michaels (of the horrendous hairband Poison).
The thing about these two 40-somethings that is similar other than the fact that they've bedded tons of supermodels and done truckloads of illegal narcotics is that neither can seem to let go of the decade that made them famous.
I think that Ocean City has the same problem.
Perhaps the wave of success that Ocean City enjoyed in the 80's and continued to enjoy up until recently is something that we as a town are not willing to admit is over and it may be time to cut our hair, act our age, and perhaps come up with some new ideas to get the public to want to visit here.
The only thing that many restaurants have changed since the 80's on their menus is the idea to add a bit of garlic to their crabcakes or add one seared tuna appetizer.
Perhaps the 'razorback', for instance, is to food lovers what 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn' is to music lovers: a classic in some respects by its group of supporters, but certainly not a timeless classic in the eyes of the food eating public.
Perhaps the thing about change in Ocean City that people are so afraid of is that things won't be the same, since 'same' has become a feeling of comfort. I've heard people say 'This is the way that it's worked for 20-some years, so why change anything?' If you only look at things in this little bubble then that works, but the question here is: how tough do times really have to get before we start looking at some new options to draw people here so the locals can make a living?
The party that the 80's started is over, and maybe it's time to grow up and try to be the family resort that we claim to be on the sign coming into town. And if we can't do that, perhaps we should change the party up a bit so it appeals to a bit more refined crowd that can afford the Ocean City pricetag.
Scott Baio gets it, why can't we?
If we don't, we run the risk of looking as ridiculous in the public's eyes as Brett Michaels and his many bandanas chasing around a bunch of tramps on stripper poles.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org