Monday, March 21, 2011

under the pier

in winter, with everything on top of the pier boarded up for the season, to me the place to be was under the pier. on a fine, sunny, not-too-cold afternoon i took a look around down there on the underside of the historic wooden pier at old orchard beach. the tide was on its way in again, but still fairly low. i liked the white sea ice and the briney green growth on the wooden pilings, and the sound of the waves as they crashed and sent a glorious spray into the pilings at the end of the pier. the sand was light brown and smooth, startlingly clean - no rocks, shells, seaweed or debris of any kind -- no offerings from nature or man.

i looked left and then right, up and down the beach, and saw a few people, mostly couples and people with children, out enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. a young man and woman in their 20's walked past me as i took pictures under the pier. deep in conversation, they saw only each other. when they got to the other side and out of the pier's shadow they stopped, turned to each other, and leaned in. they spoke words lost on the wind and the woman buried her face on the man's jacket. her face rested just below his shoulder, pressed tight, secure and warm against his bones. she lifted her head and they slowly kissed and moved away together along the sand.

the first pier was built in this sand in 1898. it was 1770 feet long. through the years, countless northeasters and blizzards have damaged the pier; the great fire of 1907 destroyed the whole structure. it was rebuilt many times, and each time the pier was reduced in length, leaving today's pier, the 1980 version, at only about 500 feet.

the old apple orchard on the hill (no longer in existence) for which the town was named, was an important landmark for sailors when sailing vessels dominated the seas. today the main part of old orchard beach has become, sadly, a little run down, a little worn out. tacky tourist shops and amusement park rides dominate the scene on the beach.

in a bygone era, old orchard beach served as a holiday resort for america's rich and famous, a place where large homes and fancy inns welcomed them, and where thousands danced on the pier above the sparkling waves. there used to be a casino up on the pier, too. guy lombardo, rudy valle and duke ellington all visited old orchard beach years and years ago, when the pier was known as a glitzy hot spot of the night.

from where i stood underneath the pier, if i listened very closely, i could just make out the faint sounds, high above my head beyond the waves, of many shiny and glittery pairs of elegant evening shoes moving and twirling with the rhythm of the music on the old dance floor on the pier......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The picture reminds me of a movie I once saw.