By Eileen and Paul Goldfinger, Editors @Blogfinger.
We were downtown last night, and there was a live show in front of Nagle’s. That may seem extraordinary, but for Main Avenue in the Grove, it’s business as usual. This is a very special place. A piano is placed in front of the restaurant/ice cream emporium , and tables and chairs are arranged in a rough circle around the “stage.” At the piano is a certain woman who has been performing her summer show for years. Her name is Alla Axelrod and she sits at the piano, talks to the crowd, makes music and backs up a variety of vocalists who toss her a key and off they go.
Alla does a fine job keeping up with the singers regardless of where the tune takes them. Even when the singer’s intonation heads south , north, or both, somehow the music still sound good. A sour note? No problem—the audience smiles and claps. It’s musical special sauce which is really about the power to enchant which music brings. Alla Axelrod is having a variety of singers perform with her this night. One is a teenager named Kaitlin, another is Valery from Manhattan, and then there is Lucille of Ocean Grove.
A man walked up to Alla. He had a dog and a parrot. If he had wandered into a bar, we could have a good joke. He placed the parrot on her head. Then he placed the parrot on Valery’s head. Then he, the dog and the parrot moved on. Everybody smiled and laughed. Special sauce again. Last week we spotted a woman on the boardwalk with a parrot—a coincidence? Or magic? Or is it Hitchcock and the birds?
A lively audience had gathered around, and they enjoyed the show while eating ice cream. The Nagle’s ordering window was constantly in motion, and there were lots of small children with their parents and friends—happy to be outside at night.
Heading west on Main Avenue, diners were still eating al fresco at Yvonne’s. At Day’s, the line for their ice cream was long, as usual.
Ocean Grove on a Saturday night is a unique and special experience. Besides the downtown scene, over at the Great Auditorium, The Beach Boys are singing a medley of their greatest hits, and you can hear them quite well from the lawn seats or even a couple of blocks away by some of the tents or in the park at New York Avenue. A woman on a bench there is getting some good vibrations, singing with the boys. You could even hear the audience inside and out singing, “Help help me Rhonda…”
And of course, the special sauce requires a special ingredient which is always present. What? Yes, of course—-the ocean. Walk a few blocks and visit the ocean at night. Go on the beach, listen to the music of the night, put your toes in the water, or walk on our new boardwalk. The total effect is a sense of being in a magical place where everyone is enjoying themselves and everyone feels totally comfortable. The children add immeasurably to that sense, and it is all soothed by the music, the twinkling lights in the shops, the porch people, the tent people, the Great Auditorium inside and out, and by the warm ocean breezes.
It seems like everybody is outdoors. There is no honky tonk or irrational noisemaking. Nobody acts weird, and no kids are screaming at each other. Even the dogs don’t bark. Unlike the magical kingdoms of Disney, this feels real, because people actually live here. It is a hometown unlike many others, even those which are at the Jersey Shore. What other town is like this one? Not too many.
A little girl in a long red t -shirt is standing in front of Nagle’s clutching an ice cream. She seems a little bewildered by all the people, especially in a nighttime setting when she might normally be in bed; and then Mom leans over and scoops her up to safety. Another magical moment in Ocean Grove.
THE DRIFTERS WITH BEN E. KING: