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My tiny niece swiped my sister’s phone and actually called me on her own to talk milkshakes. Her speech therapist gave her some tough homework this summer in preparation for kindergarten. Some of the muscles in her cheeks aren’t tight enough so pronouncing certain sounds is difficult. Therefore this poor child must drink extra thick milkshakes through a straw. So she calls to report that WaWa’s extra thick shakes are “divine”, and now I also know that someone’s been reading Fancy Nancy.

Anyway, extenuating circumstances forced me to extend my stay here at the Jersey shore. See, July 6th marked the 100th anniversary of a fatal shark attack, the second in a string of attacks that supposedly inspired Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws and spawned our fear of sharks. On July 6, 1916 in Spring Lake near the smancy Essex and Sussex hotel, a bellboy there names Charles Bruder became the shark’s second victim. You can read more about the real story, which would’ve made an even better movie, on Weird NJ.

They showed Jaws on the Spring Lake beach on the 6th and we had to go. We brought WaWa coffee and dinner (pork roll egg and cheese sandwiches for my friends), slouchy chairs and Baja hoodies we’ve had forever. Before the movie, they played Springsteen and the little kids bopping next to us knew every lyric. It was a very Jersey night. The most fun.

More people die every year at the beach from sand collapses than shark attacks, yet it’s sharks many people understandably fear. I guess a movie about repeated sand tunnels caving in wouldn’t inspire too many sleepless nights. Challenge, Mr. Speilberg.

After sundown, the announcer spoke of the victims and took a moment of silence for the real people who lost their lives. I’ve seen Jaws on the beach every summer for the past few years. Usually we arrive late and have a really terrible view or a light from the boardwalk blurs half the screen. Not this time. This was the very first summer blockbuster. Watching it on a breezy clear night with waves crashing behind us and the Essex Sussex condominiums almost within sight, I couldn’t take my eyes away. It’s actually a gripping movie if you have a good view of the screen and let it grip you.

The only moment that stole my attention happened during that first scene, Chrissie’s last swim. She tears off her clothes and dashes into the water at night. From deep below we see her legs swimming on the surface. Cue the attack music and a toddler watching with her mom beside us starts flipping out and screams “Ooh, no! Ooh, no! Ooh, no!” Her mom said it was her first horror movie. Not a bad introduction. She wasn’t the only screamer in the crowd either.

One article I read said some researchers think there’s sort of a Great White nursery off the coast of New Jersey and that’s why so many stop by in the summer. I also read there hasn’t been another fatal attack here since the 1916 “Matawan Man-Eater”, but can’t find that article so maybe I made that up.

Yesterday we spent the day swimming in Island Beach State Park until a storm forced us to leave. The water there is cool and crystal clear. The white sand and dunes are perfection. We arrived when the park opened at 8 am and watched dolphins swimming north. After spending a few days in Cape Cod last month, New Jersey’s undeveloped beaches still reign as the most beautiful to me. Yes there are sharks in the water but I don’t fear them as I used to. Perhaps if someone makes a bear equivalent to Jaws, let’s title it Claws, my fear of bears will fade away, too. Challenge #2, Mr. Speilberg.