A seaside retreat is supposed to be just that — a retreat. Oftentimes, it’s a reprieve from the gridlock of city living our visitors seek. And for the most part, Cape May provides that. Breathtaking sunsets, sea breezes on sunny porches, cool cocktails in relaxing bars… we weren’t just ranked number seven in Budget Travel’s 10 Coolest Small Towns in America contest for nothing. There’s so much here to bring a stress level down.
And something that makes it rise.
We’re talking about the intersection where Perry Street meets Myrtle Street, and where those two roads meet Park Boulevard, and where a bunch of drivers sit bewildered, inching forward, without the foggiest idea what they should be doing.
We were in CVS earlier this week, which sits at the corner of all the intersection madness, and we ran into Rusty Nail bartender Sara Werner. As a child, she told us, she would play street hockey in the CVS parking lot, and count how many cars traveling south on Park Boulevard would slide right through the second stop sign. (Okay, there’s not really a second stop sign here… just a painted line which suggests that stopping again before crossing Perry Street would be a good idea, because from the position of the actual sign, you can’t really tell if you’re about to get pulverized by a MAC truck.)
West Cape May Mayor Pam Kaithern told us that Sara isn’t the only one with concerns. “For some time,” she said, “the borough has been very cognizant of the intricacies of that intersection. It’s been a subject of study and, at this point, the county freeholders have hired a consulting firm by the name of Urban Design for a new layout. What we’re planning to do is put in a roundabout.” Pam directed us to County Engineer Dale Foster, who assured us the project will not impact the park that runs parallel to Myrtle, that a roundabout is a good fit for the space because, unlike a circle, it forces everyone to reduce speed, and that there will be a public information meeting held at some point this winter, once all the studies are completed. “We’re hoping to fund the work with federal money from a safety improvement program, so we’re in the process of producing many different types of documents,” he told us.
It’s a process that can’t happen quickly enough, according to Doug Carnes, owner of the Wilbraham Mansion Bed and Breakfast on Myrtle Street and President of the West Cape May Business Association. “Bottom line,” he said, “is that this is a poorly conceived corner. There is absolutely a lot of traffic confusion because of it. It’s brutal. It’s the definition of a defensive intersection. I do something illegal every day… I don’t signal when I’m driving to the Wilbraham Mansion from Jackson Street down Perry, because how is the person at the Park Boulevard stop sign going to know that I’m turning onto Myrtle instead of Park? I don’t want to confuse them, and I don’t want to get hit.”
Regular readers of this column will remember an accident a couple of years back that involved a woman on a bicycle being dragged by a utility truck upon approaching this intersection. It’s surprising to us (and to CMPD officer Tony Genaro… we called him) that there aren’t more accidents here. We’re willing to bet it has something to do with the fact that everyone’s usually going so slowly, because of all the confusion. “If you want my opinion,” Tony said, “it’s a complete mess.” We agree. Watch this space for updates on our future roundabout.
The Show Must Go On
If you were so much as an extra in your kindergarten Christmas play, you’ve heard the well-trodden theater expression “break a leg,” but… break a shoulder? That’s what happened to Osborn Focht, one of the stars of Cape May Stage’s Time Stand Still, on Reading Avenue Beach last Wednesday. Osborn had taken a break from rehearsing for a bit of bodysurfing and, with just one week to go before curtain, a powerful wave took the actor out of commission.
“I was in water less than waist-deep,” Osborn told us. “I stood up to get out of the surf, and I got rolled by a wave I never even saw.” His shoulder hurt, Osborn said, but no more so than a “knuckle punch.” Which is why he was so surprised the next day, when the doctors at Cape Urgent Care gave him the diagnosis (fracture) and the treatment (four weeks in a sling). “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “But there’s a crack in there.”
Osborn, who started working on the role on his own last spring before arriving in Cape May for official rehearsals on May 27, is devastated. “This meant so much to me,” he said. “I just loved this show, and it was so close to opening.” We asked him if he’d considered going on with the play anyway. After all, it’s a drama that tells the story of a photojournalist and a foreign correspondent… how hard could it be to write a bum shoulder into the script? “It’s intricate to the plot that my character is the one who’s mentally damaged,” Osborn explained. “It’s his wife that becomes physically so in this story.” Apparently, she’s already sporting a sling.
So what’s a theater company to do? The show must go on, as they say in the biz, and Cape May Stage’s Artistic Director, Roy Steinberg, wasn’t about to throw in the towel… although he was worried. “It’s always terrifying to lose an actor,” he told us. “I always have a Plan B and C, but this time, all of the actors I called were busy working on film and television projects. One was getting married; another, leaving for Europe.” Luckily, Roy says, “the angels were on my side.”
Penny Bergman, the director of the show which recently wrapped at Cape May Stage, The 39 Steps, was able to recommend a replacement… And not just an he’ll-do-because-otherwise-we’re-screwed type of replacement, but an “A-list Emmy nominee” by the name of Jon Lindstrom, who was an As The World Turns regular. We’d also like to point out that Jon played (in his words) “the jerk volleyball player” and “really nice dolphin trainer” on Baywatch, even though “the most interesting thing about that was working alongside Pamela Anderson.”
When Jon got the call about the opening at Cape May Stage, he was on his way back to California, this time not to run oiled up and in slow motion down the beach, presumably, but to work on several film projects there. “He postponed his trip,” Roy told us, “partly because he’s heard such great things about Cape May Stage and the high production value of our shows. I feel blessed to have an actor of Jon’s caliber.”
Jon seems equally excited, although he prefaced our conversation by saying he didn’t have a lot of time to chat about it — Time Stands Still is not a play Jon was even familiar with until this week, and he’s got rehearsing to do. “Usually, it takes a minimum of two weeks to prepare for a show like this,” he told us. “I’ve been at it all day, running lines all night… any moment I have. This is a huge mountain to climb. The play is excellent, and the better a play, the deeper the emotions and subtext go. But this is definitely exciting, and everyone has been so welcoming.”
We’ve got a feeling Jon and the rest of the cast will pull off another spectacular Cape May Stage opening, even with this abbreviated rehearsal schedule. And we’ll be in the audience at some point during the show’s run to watch them break a leg… figuratively.
A Frothy Good Time
We’re pretty sure you’ve heard of the Annual Froth-Blowing contest at the Ugly Mug. How could you not have? It’s a big deal. People have flown in from Ohio just for this contest. It’s been written up in Philadelphia Magazine. It’s what some folks this year scheduled their family reunion around, according to Mug manager Casey Smith. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock (and even then, we’re not sure you wouldn’t have heard about this), here are the Cliffs Notes: You turn up, pay $5 (which benefits the Police Athletic League), get a beer with a lot of head on it, and try to blow as much foam from your glass as you can in one breath, or at least more than the other contestants. Why? Because it’s fun. Not the good, clean kind of fun (there is far too much beer flying everywhere for that, and far too many sexual innuendos flying around, too), but good, dirty fun.
We showed up at the start — around 5:30pm — because we wanted to see the poncho-wearing judges, a mix of police officers and Mug bartenders, announced, which they were, as the Official Polka Dancing Club of Cape May because, well, why not? The place was packed already… not an empty bar stool, and some people were even perching themselves on the backs of the restaurant’s booths to secure a good view of the action.
We sidled up next to local Carl Schnekenburger because he’s been entering this contest since 2001 (he was sporting his 2001 contestant T-shirt), and we thought we could pick his brain. “Some guy talked me into it after an afternoon at Carney’s, because I’m easy to convince after a few beers,” he told us, “and I almost won. I lost in a final blow-out, and once you get that close, you get hooked.” What’s the secret? “You can’t be afraid to get wet,” he told us. That, and “it helps if you’re sober.”
Sober is something the guy beside us — 51-year-old Ron Yowell — was struggling to be. “I don’t drink except for this one night,” he said, which is why the bartender served Ron’s Miller Lite with a glass of water and a Red Bull. “Gotta balance out the beer,” he said. “I’m staying at the Victorian Motel, but I can’t get wasted before my first heat.” This would be a particular shame, considering that Ron, a casino worker from Galloway Township, has been practicing for this contest after getting done his shifts in the middle of the night. “I make a mixture of water and dish detergent that foams up nicely so I don’t waste the beer,” he told us, “I’ll catch myself blowing froth at 3:30 in the morning, but I shouldn’t say that.. you’re going to think I’m too into this.” No, Ron, we think you’re too into this because you scoured the internet for a practice glass that closely matches the eight-ounce ones used during the contest at the Mug, because you bought goggles to protect your eyes from splashing, and because you told us to “become the froth.”
Justin Mogavero, General Manager of the Virginia Hotel and a member of froth-blowing team Meat Jerking Beef Boys (uh, what?) told us to forget all that… the most important thing is to “catch the lip of the glass on an angle.” Don’t come from above, he warned; it’s all about the angle.
Around this time, MC Jeff Walden called your reporter’s name, because it was her turn to blow. She took her place at the bar where Officer/froth judge Tony Genaro waited to squirt her with a Miller Lite-filled water pistol. It was a direct hit to the eye (hmm, maybe Ron’s goggles would have been a good idea after all), which was not a great start to the competition. But after a tie-breaking blow-off with Chris Wimberg, she ended up on top, even beating out one of the members of Cape May County’s Official Budweiser Drinking Team: Team Stand-by. (Booyah!) What does an official Budwesier Drinking Team do, we wanted to know? “We show up at different events at support them,” said Stand-by member Evan Sulliban, who happened to be celebrating his 34th birthday. “Blood drives, beef and beers, the fireman’s convention.” And of course, froth-blowing, which they practice for throughout the winter months.
All in all, it was a great night, with over $1,300 raised for the Police Athletic League. There were 42 rounds of competition, each with five contestants who fought the good fight. But the title of US Froth Blowing Champion went to one of the Mug’s own, bartender Amanda Peck. “Some people prefer a real quick short breath,” she told us, “but I did a long breath.”
Take note, all of you who are gearing up for next year’s contest.