WEST WILDWOOD, N.J. ⏤ Dollars dangle from the wood ceiling like bats.
Every summer, shoobies stumble upon the backwoods dive bar, wander in for a drink and confront the rafters. They will gawk at its scope for a moment or two, contorting their faces as they measure the challenge, weighing the potential of proving themselves against the risk of embarrassment.
But after a few drinks, inevitably, they go for it.
A plastic cup on the wood-topped bar holds loose change, another holds thumbtacks.
The shoobies provide the bills.
Setup: Poke the tack through the back of George Washington’s head, and stack the quarter (or nickel or dime) on top of the thumb end. Wrap the bill around the coin, and twist it into a shuttlecock.
Approach: Throw it toward the ceiling, with one arm, underhanded.
Object: Make it stick.
Goal: Don’t look foolish.
Result: Shoobies dodging falling darts. Locals laughing at them.
That is, if the shoobies can find the bar in the first place.
“Not many people know where we are,” said Billy Scott, who owns the place with his brother, “which is the best part.”
The one-story, trailer-sized structure stands two blocks from the bay, the best-kept secret on a little-known island.
Laughing with tourists is always a good time, but shoobies aren’t the Scotts’ intended customers. They cater to the locals, mostly blue-collar retirees and their families who either live in the town year-round or who visit every summer. The initiated call it “The Wedge,” a nickname broken off the official designation, Westside Saloon.
It’s not just another dive bar, those dark, seedy, sandy institutions that litter the South Jersey Shore points like playpens for adults. The Wedge is a seasonal reunion hall. It always looks the same, and it’s always there. The same faces, the same names, year after year.
It’s one shotgun of a room, enveloped in wood, a dart board in the corner for those who like to throw sharp objects sideways instead of up. It’s known for its “Orange Crush,” a mashup of freshly squeezed orange juice and assorted spirits.
The bar reflects its town. One bridge, in or out.
And just as storms ravaged the island and flooded its streets, extenuating circumstances have ravaged the bar. Last summer, for the first time in its 90-year lifespan, The Wedge had to shut down to remedy fire code violations. It was closed for a year, but after renovating the kitchen, the Scott brothers were allowed to reopen this summer.
I was there last year, the last night before it closed.
The bar was empty, save for a group of wiry outsiders.
I punctured the $1 bill, wrapped it tight, and launched.
Just another shoobie trying and failing to prove they belong.
About this Series:
Shore is about everyday people and their meaningful times spent down the Shore. Find each installment — and be sure to leave a comment — at Philly.com/ShoreSeries.