“Our Southern Style”

If you listen carefully, you can hear Ocean City strapping up their collective chinstraps for another summer “down the shore.”

If we have it our way, you will never notice our metaphorical eye black.

Like a duck gliding gracefully on top of the water, the OC experience is supposed to look effortless, carefree, and blissful. We are selling paradise, but we don’t want anyone to see what’s going on underneath the water.

We don’t want you to see how stressed we are to get all the pieces into place. We don’t want you to think about how we have come up with advertising campaigns in which every word has been carefully chosen to get you excited about spending your money at our respective establishments. We don’t want you to think about how most of the summer help had to be trained about an industry that will be merely “funding their fun” for the next three months.

We don’t want you to think about how much work goes into keeping the “tourism machine” running smoothly. We only hope you enjoy your umbrella drink, get some sun and don’t visit “Club 65” (the police barracks for the newbies) at any point during your visit.

This is one of our strengths, and that is keeping the façade well-groomed and looking fit like the hot bodies at the pool bar or “high class” like those debutantes in the big hats at the Preakness.

We are pros at keeping you from looking behind the curtain.

With all that being said, the rush is hitting us like a Ken Kesey-ish wave of enlightenment and the folks that keep your umbrella drinks coming are the ones that view the summer as some sort of stage. Don’t just think they want your money, they genuinely want you to have a good time, and they will help you remember that you are on vacation too and you need to relax when you have to wait for a table, or your meal, or get mad about the size of your happy hour discount.

It’s happy hour. You get a discount for no reason, so the least you can do is be happy.

I have to take the blame if I am offending anyone here, and I realize that this isn’t in any way the refined style of the south. You know, the one where no one really talks about anything that is troublesome, but rather they just put on a poker face and look down their nose at adversity.

See, I’m a northerner that has transplanted to the south. Rather than act like someone that wears their neighborhood on their sleeve like I’m owed something because my parents decided to live where it snowed instead of a place where kids get “fog days” when there is inclement weather, it doesn’t make me better than anyone else. (I wish someone would explain this to tourists from New York, however.)

It’s just different here in many ways, and I’ve been trying to embrace it while truly understanding it (not that the world needs another existential columnist).

Back to those Preakness hats, because they have always puzzled me. I find nothing more UN-attractive than women in those hats. They scream, “pour me a chardonnay and turn the lights off”, and that just isn’t my style. Perhaps that means I don’t understand the hierarchy of the high-class or maybe I am just subconsciously annoyed that I never looked that good in seer-sucker.

I get the tradition of the whole hat thing. In the old days, people that had a tan were considered lower class because having a tan must mean that they worked in the fields or were the equivalent of blue collar. The hats blocked the sun, and kept the women looking pasty and like a true debutante. As it evolved into a fashion thing, the underlying façade of what high class is became an over-the-top accessory to wear to the race. Those hats are kind of like painting your face or writing a letter with your buddies on your keg stomachs to spell out some spirited catchphrase that will at least earn you a high-five or perhaps start “the wave” in your section.

Being someone that has always enjoyed sports, but more for the sport and not for the circus that surrounds the aforementioned sport; face painting, hat wearing and all of that has never been high on my list of “things to do at a sporting event.”

If the Preakness is no longer a class divided event, then why is the biggest party in the middle of the track, far from the hat squad? Why are there no foam fingers that are waving when a horse named “Hoof Hearted” gets to the winner’s circle?

It’s just not prudent to Southern Style.

I can hear the rich-folk telling me now, “If you want foam fingers and jorts, there is always NASCAR.”

Which I guess is true, but if you go to a sporting event to look rich, why not just wear a tie at a NASCAR race?

This makes me wonder about the dress codes in Ocean City as well. Every big club has them, but there really isn’t a fair-balance at enforcing them. I’ve seen some sharp dressed black fellas turned away for having their shirts un-tucked, and I’ve seen some Bobby Labonte t-shirts, with Old-Bay streaks, let in with open arms.

It makes me wonder, where the line is, and it has nothing to do with the people waiting in the que.

At any rate, in trying to understand the differences from my former zip code and my new one, I’ve finally figured out a nice analogy for what Ocean City means to the people that live here, and to those that merely visit.

Ocean City is like a kid. For the tourists, they get to do fun things with the kid, get the kid all excited, tire them out, and when they are finished playing, they can give the kid back to the parents. For locals, we are the parents that for better or worse love our kid. We realize that our kid has some faults, and perhaps an alcohol problem, but every year, we want the world to see how special our kid is, and of course, continue to come back and play with our kid, when we are too busy working.

So for another summer, the residents of Ocean City are putting on our metaphorical Preakness hats and will be both watching from the grandstands and partying in the pits hoping that our kid will make us proud again.

Wherever you are from, enjoy the summer, and don’t worry what’s going on behind the curtain.

I assure you that it’s all under control.

Email me at [email protected].