Labor Day weekend with Sel Marin.

Today is Labor Day, the calendar square upon which Jersey Shore locals bank our prayers all summer long. As we speak, an awe-inspiring homeward migration of SUVs, Jeeps, four-door sedans and soccer-mom vans clogs the Parkway end to end. GOODBYE! we shriek inwardly as we watch the exodus from the nearest county-road overpass. For months we'll be finding your cigarette butts, used condoms, and dirty diapers buried in our sand... but at least YOU will be out of the picture.

Now begins what Mark DiIonno of the Newark Star-Ledger calls "the grown-ups' summer... where the shrieks of gulls, not children, pierce the clear salt air." Locals finally reach the beach via local roads unimpeded by bumper-to-bumper traffic. Heat and humidity abate, as do fistfights and drag races; a golden harvest moon oversees our tranquil comings and goings. No longer must we grapple with an imperative to get far from the madding crowd. It has left on its own, taking along all of its squalid hullabaloo.

When I first reviewed Heeley's Sel Marin back in May 2010, the occasion happened to be summer's other bookend holiday-- the one we dread the most, as it touches off the whole unpleasant tourist flood (cue the theme from Jaws). The words I wrote then are just as true today:
I know firsthand how it is to live "at the shore" yet never see the beach, to fill my lungs every day with salubrious salt air but never be able to get close to its source. Sel Marin is a true-to-life breath of wind from a salty emerald sea-- experienced as a sadly diminished allusion from far, far inland. Whatever beach Heeley modeled it on must be paradise-- I simply can't see it from where I live.
And yet neither the words nor the scent sting this time. We've been through so much worse... and now that both the calendar page and perfume vial are used up and ready for a change, so (blessedly) am I.