Monday August 30, 2021
Day 6: Dolles Sign, We Hardly Knew Ye
Rehoboth's iconic Dolles Salt Water Taffy sign has greeted visitors since 1927, but now it's disappearing.
I know. I never did Days 3-5 but hope to backtrack and pick it up at some point.
Saturday I made the trek from New York City to Rehoboth Beach, Del., thinking about COVID. Every sniffle, every inadvertent cough, you probe yourself and wonder. You're careful all of the time but you still wonder. The Amtrak ride from Penn Station, New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Hall, to the Joseph R. Biden Jr. station in Wilmington, Del., was about as good as it could get under the circumstances. (Note to Republicans: Support infrastructure and maybe you'll have something named after you, too.) The train was clean, the conductor/ticket taker told people to mask up, no one complained. New York generally has been good. Half the people walked the streets masked, and indoors that was pretty much everyone, but of course they knew the tragedy of it. Delaware was a revelation.
My sister and her family picked me up in Wilmington and we made our way south but stopped near Dover for lunch: Grotto Pizza. Don't know how well-known that chain is outside of Delaware, but they're pretty big in Rehoboth and getting bigger. Too big? The most iconic sign in Rehoboth is the Dolles Salt Water Taffy sign that towers over the center of the boardwalk at Rehoboth Avenue, but apparently the owner of the property recently tripled the rent, Dolles is getting out, Grotto's is coming in, and it's removing the sign. When I read about it earlier this summer I said to myself, “That's it, no more Grotto's for me,” which, let's face it, wasn't a huge sacrifice, living in Seattle, and not being a huge fan during my infrequent stops in Rehoboth. And yet here I was, in my very first stop in Delaware, breaking that promise. My sister's family ordered a pizza and I ate a slice. I missed my slice of good New York pizza and ate a slice of lukewarm Grottos. The gods look down and laugh.
But the greater disturbance for me was inside Grotto's, where none of the customers were masked. Worse, none of the servers were masked. I haven't seen that in a while. You'd never guess we were in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
Most of Rehoboth was the same. Buying groceries along route 1, or walking along the crowded boardwalk Saturday night, you'd see a few other masks but not many. At Penn Station, it was 95% masked and maybe 5% unmasked. I remember one lone, crazy Black dude walking back and forth along the length of the station, a weird smile on his face, plus a few Nosenheimers (people who haven't figured out how to wear a mask after 18 pandemic months), but everyone else was responsible. Rehoboth feels 95% unmasked, 5% masked. The unmasked look stupid and feel belligerent. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it. But that was a thought: “I never realized how stupid everyone here looks.”
At least the place we're staying at is beautiful and close to the beach.
For the moment, the iconic shop is occupied by a Henna store, which wasn't exactly doing gangbuster business on Saturday night.