The sky was gray; pregnant and patiently waiting to let the snow gently start falling. The ocean was a crest of green foam mist. The temperature registered in the mid-20s. Bitter chill hung everywhere. My friend and ex-blogmate, Lo and I hadn’t seen each other to socially distance in awhile, and planned for a Saturday afternoon of walking, Bloody Mary’s and a nosh. Without discussion, we knew that interior dining spaces were off the list. Since March, 2020 we had not dined inside. With vaccines on our radar screen and the daily reminders that the UK variant was more transmissible, lethal and already invested in the U.S., it made no sense to change policy this late in the game.
We had planned on Rooney’s, a seafood joint in Long Branch that usually has tables set up plein air, but that day the patio was bare. When we inquired if we could eat outside they said it was not possible. We shifted gears and walked the 1/2 mile to McCloone’s. Without hesitation, despite the frigid temp, the hosts set us up at a table facing the pounding sea.
We ordered our two extra spicy Bloodies and apps of shrimp and crabmeat flatbread and Buffalo chicken wings. Two wings in, my toes and fingers were frozen, but we had to finish our Bloodies – it was so beautiful out, with no one at all occupying the same space and having the entire vista of the beach to ourselves, knowing we had nowhere to be or obligations to fulfill but to go home and wait for the ice storm. It was all too perfect until I thought frostbite was a possibility. As there really was no way we could warm up our hands, I told Lo let’s drink up, it’s too cold for me. And so we sucked the drinks down, gave our waiter a little extra tip because he had so gamely served us without a coat on or comment as to our choice of venue, and walked along the beach back to the car.
I think I shall place that lunch on my list of top 100 experiences. I doubt I shall ever be able to replicate the scene – of having the whole beachfront to yourself because on that particular day at that particular hour, no one but Lo and me was interested in experiencing below freezing temperatures in the name of an afternoon cocktail. How lucky were we!