“History is often the tale of small moments—chance encounters or casual decisions or sheer coincidence–that seem of little consequence at the time, but somehow fuse with other small moments to produce something momentous, the proverbial flapping of a butterfly’s wings that triggers a hurricane.”
I was paying for my own tuition at that time so I was pretty focused on school. As a result, my social life was at a standstill. When a friend suggested we go to the shore for the Fourth of July weekend, I hesitated. I was taking summer courses and had little extra cash for a getaway, but she was persuasive. So, I scraped up the money and that weekend that summer we went to Bay Head in Ocean County, New Jersey. It was not the Jersey Shore of Snooki and The Situation. The town of Bay Head, situated on a long, narrow barrier island that separates Barnegat Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, has one of the largest historic districts in New Jersey. Its large ocean-front homes are architecturally significant structures— at least they were until Superstorm Sandy wreaked devastation there on October 29, 2012.
Our weekend many years before that was idyllic though. On the fourth, we spent the day sunning and swimming and we talked about evening plans. She wanted to go to a “hidden” bar known for upscale clientele and the grasshopper cocktails she had heard about and I wanted to go see the fireworks. We compromised—bar first and fireworks after. At least that was the plan.
After showering and changing at the small inn we had booked, we set out to find the bar. The only clue was that it was in the basement of a beach mansion on the sand and you entered from a narrow road called East Avenue that paralleled the Atlantic coast to the rear of the residences. We found the road and proceeded along, passing private homes with high hedges. Eventually, we heard music and laughter and peeked into a walkway between the greenery. Closer inspection revealed an entrance for “The Bluffs.” We had found our destination.
Though part of an upscale hotel, the bar room looked like a private house basement and it was filled with tanned twenty- and thirty-somethings laughing, talking and drinking. I felt nervous and awkward but my friend was outgoing. She chatted easily and I floated along in her wake. When two friendly guys drifted over and started a conversation, I found myself drawn to one of them. As the evening wore on, I was laughing a lot.
The bar closed at ten so the four of us took a walk on the sand. The conversation flowed and the time flew. Sometime after midnight, we went to a diner for something to eat then the guys drove my friend and me back to our inn. We said goodnight and he asked if he could call me. I had a good feeling about him so I gave him my number.
A week later he called and we set up the first date that we now tell our children about.
Sad to say, “The Bluffs” is no more, except preserved as a memory in a coffee table book, The Bluffs, Bay Head, New Jersey - The Story of a Hotel at the Jersey Shore by Francine LaVance Robertshaw. The well-known and beloved landmark was torn down in 1996 to make way for two big houses. It avoided destruction by Sandy but like so many other beach towns, Bay Head’s historical architecture was already being assaulted by McMansions. The original grande dame of a building will always have a place in my heart though.