There comes at least one point in everyone’s lives when you realize that something you loved as a kid truly is a piece of shit. This can happen with a TV show (such as when I recently saw an old episode of Ren and Stimpy) or perhaps a favorite candy (anyone remember Gushers?). Either way, it’s incredibly disappointing when you discover that something that you only have positive memories of never was that great to begin with. I had one of these ah-ha (or rather uh-oh) moments last night in Point Pleasant.
Point Pleasant is a shore town in Ocean County, known for its boardwalk, a surprisingly nice aquarium, and its two biggest bars, Martell’s Tiki Bar and Jenks. Both are found on long piers that stretch right up to ocean; but this is the only thing they have in common. Jenks, with its loud club music and all-around trashiness, attracts world-class Jersey skanks, which in turn attract the loud, greasy New Yorkers. Martell’s, on the other hand, offers a more fun and laid-back experience. Or at least it used to.
Although it’s easy to understand how our perspective of something can change as we go from youth to adulthood, it’s harder to accept when something goes downhill in the course of a year. Martell’s was always my favorite shore bar, and I have plenty of great memories hanging out at the end of the pier with friends as the moon rose over the maritime horizon. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. Anyway, I was expecting to have the usual good time there last night, but something was horribly wrong.
Upon entering, which was more difficult than it should have been (since the ID-checker, wristband-wrapper, and money-taker were all on top of each other), I noticed that the bar didn’t look right. It was definitely missing something…like people. The entire pier is usually packed end to end. As this was the first warm, rain-free Friday night in a long time, and because the unofficial summer season is well under way, the bar should have been mobbed.
Perhaps this lack of people could be attributed to the band that was performing last night. Now crappy cover bands are a staple of any bar on the Jersey Shore. However, there is a difference between a crappy cover band and a crappy cover band. A crappy cover band is what you expect to hear – although not great, they get the job done and keep people entertained. A crappy cover band, though, fails at this. The band from last night was definitely a crappy cover band. It was bad enough that they decided to play the annoying Poker Face. It was a worse decision to have their male singer perform it.
My next gripe about Martell’s has to do with the drinks. I ordered my standard Vodka Tonic and a Corona for the girlfriend. After handing the bartender a $20, I was given a five-dollar bill, two singles, and some change in return. If my math is correct, that means I paid over $12 for those two simple drinks. Now if my Vodka Tonic was made with Grey Goose or if the Corona came with some special kind of lime, I could understand the price. However, my drink was made with generic vodka, and, as far as I could tell, the lime in the Corona was just a regular one. Regardless, my drink was served in a really tiny glass. No standard-sized plastic cup or the like. This was a glorified shot glass. After ordering another one, I was told the price was $6.50. Now I could understand paying this much for a Vodka Tonic at a swanky bar in Manhattan. However, there is no reason for a grimy shore bar to charge twice as much money for half a drink.
After hanging out there for a couple hours, we left the bar to get some food on the boardwalk. We then tried to get back in to use the bathroom before leaving. However, the bouncer wouldn’t let us it and said, “It’s last call, no one gets in.” I pointed out how he had just let these two girls back in right in front of us. He then said its because they had to meet up with their friends. I replied, “So you let people back in to ‘meet up with their friends,’ but we can’t go in to use the bathroom?” The poor thing looked perplexed. A couple minutes passed before he finally responded with, “Yeah, thats right.” I then told him what a great job he was doing. He smiled and said thanks, without the slightest bit of sarcasm or cynicism, as if he thought I was really complimenting him.
The boardwalk at Point Pleasant, and specifically Martell’s Tiki Bar, have always been a fun place to hang out at. Yet, last night was a less-than-spectacular experience. An unorganized staff, a crappy cover band, pricey and unsatisfying drinks, and dumb bouncers all worked together to tarnish my image of this magical place. In the past, I would have recommended that anyone from another state go to Martell’s to see a more pleasant side of New Jersey. However, after last night, it really represents the Armpit of America.