There are several ways to be burned at the beach and at least as many ways to douse the pain. Ask the young man sitting alone at a packed Rehoboth singles bar, wearing a glum lobster-face, holding a beer just shy of tears. Is he having a good time?
"Yeah, why? Doesn't it look it?"
"Well," he says, "sometimes I have a really heavy thought but then I get really messed up and I just start partying again." After sharing this insight he is back in the swing, "Goin' to a Go-Go."
It's been a humid ride through the musty cornfields, a breeze over the bridge. Pulling onto Rehoboth's main drag at 10 Friday night, our first find is the LONE STAR CAFE where Manny Klein mugs with his microphone, waving a kiss to us on the sidewalk from within a neon circle in the window. "Tonight!" the chalkboard boasts, "Jerry Berkowitz on vibes!" No cover, and a lot of jazz for the money in the small, not-too-smoky room. No minimum, either, but minimums don't seem to be a problem here. The crowd taps in time to the jazzmen from Wilmington. The daiquiris flow while Manny steps outside to mop his face. Across Rehoboth Avenue at THE SUMMER HOUSE, a pastel- colored mob pulsates inside. We, however, are not a pretty sight. In fact, we are rejected by two jacket-and-tied bouncers who look with scorn upon a collarless T-shirt, a faded favorite that says "Aloha." Is it the vertical print that rubs them the wrong way? Ah well, there's always Saturday night, and we've learned a lesson: One does not enter the swampland without an alligator as forward guard. We kick up some dust and beat it. We marvel at a restaurant named Won Ton Desire and head south past the Sea Esta, pardon the expression, toward Dewey to check out the NATURALLY HOT tub scene -- steep for $5 per person until 10; a steeper $10 for 45- minute sessions into the wee hours. On weekends, hopefuls line up to take the plunge in case anyone misses a reservation. There's nothing provincial about these bars. Three blocks from the surf in the heart of Rehoboth, MR. SMITH'S is Georgetown at the shore and FRAN O'BRIEN has followed us from home. Likewise, THE SUMMER HOUSE belongs to Van Fossan, who owns Beowulf Pub in Washington. Take away the ocean and what have you got? Nineteenth and M Streets with sand in your shoes. But enough cruising for one night; there are tans to be nurtured in the morning. Saturday arrives with thunder, but by dusk the moon is faintly visible. The BLUE MOON restaurant has mastered the Deco art of neon, using reflecting aluminum, exotic plants and 1940s-style bartenders to complete the setting. The food is rich and pricey for the beach, but definitely a class act. A drink at the bar is enough to soak up the atmosphere. Tonight we are dressed to kill at The Summer House and breeze past the twin thugs who fling open the doors. We hit a wall of flesh. The place is thick with khaki pants and mini-skirts. The youth of today, taking their alcohol in milkshake form, have not a lot to say. The music is Motown, the dance floor doubles as the clogged aisle in front of the bar. A young man with his right arm around a wide-eyed honey turns to me on his left and wants a kiss. He's serious. "You've got a hot one there," I say to the girlfriend. "It's my birthday," she gushes, by way of explanation. I'm following Smokey's "Tracks of My Tears," wondering what the fire marshal would say. Out on Route 1, the partying at the BOTTLE & CORK is out of uniform. A dozen motorcycles parked outside and the package-liquor store on the corner are clues to the earthy crowd. A hyper-amped band in the courtyard pumps away at collegiate metal. Dazed men talk out loud to themselves in the name of mingling or careen into us in time to the beat. On to the RUSTY RUDDER, a shopping mall and dining, dancing and drinking combo that's the Club Med of Rehoboth's nightspots. Live bands play from 3 to 7 weekend afternoons; deejays spin rock into the evening. The miles of parking lot, adjoining raw bar and seafood carryout are calculated to nab the daytime family business as well. The dress code is relaxed: "You can come in here wearing nothing if you want to," a staff hulk offers. Inside we fall into the stream of milling zombies, stepping lightly over a pile of survivors on a sofa. On the way out, we maneuver past the same crew, some of whom are now conversing with the air. If we could get them to travel in twos, at least they'd appear to be talking to someone . . . On the bay, a couple strolls the pier stretching from the disco into the romantic distance. In the miles-long parking lot, a nautical tableau beside the asphalt reminds us of the proximity of saltwater. We retreat to quiet drinks at O'BIE'S on the Boardwalk, overlooking the Atlantic at Olive Avenue: There is an ocean here, after all. BODIES, BODIES, EVERYWHERE July 31, from noon to 4, is Rehoboth's Second Annual Best Body on the Beach Contest for men, women and children at the Fisherman's Beach at the north end of the boardwalk. You may be inclined to grease up and get physical -- or wait until dark, when the real pageants crank up again. CRUISING THIS WEEKEND AT THE BANDSTAND Ferko String Band, Saturday at 8, Rehoboth Avenue at the Boardwalk. BLUE MOON (bar, restaurant) 35 Baltimore Avenue. BOTTLE & CORK (bar, dancing) The Numbers, rock, through Sunday. Route 1, Dewey Beach. THE CANYON (bar, restaurant) Ken Norkin, magician, Saturday, 9-1. Nina and Becky, classical violin and flute, Sunday, 5-7. 10 North First Street. COUNTRY SQUIRE (bar, restaurant) Friday, Rob and Connie Lawrence, pop. Saturday, Crabmeat Thompson, rock. Sunday, Tom Larsen Blues Band, 9-1. 5 Rehoboth Avenue. THE DINNER BELL (restaurant) 2 Christian Street. Friday, Hee& She, pop. Saturday, Sammy Ferro, pop, 9-1. FRAN O'BRIEN'S (bar, restaurant, dancing) 59 Lake Street. HENLOPEN HOTEL Earl Bayasee, piano, through Sunday, 9-1, Horizon Room. Lake Avenue and the Boardwalk. LONE STAR CAFE (bar, restaurant, jazz) Scotty at the piano through Sunday, 63 Rehoboth Avenue. MR. SMITH'S LTD., (bar, restaurant) 84 Rehoboth Avenue. OBIE'S BY THE SEA (bar, restaurant) On the Boardwalk at Olive Avenue. RUSTY RUDDER (bar, restaurant, dancing) Dave Hudak, pop, Saturday and Sunday, 3-7. Maryland Pacesetters International Steel Orchestra, 18-piece band, Monday 8:30-12:30. Dickinson Street and Route 1, Dewey Beach. SUMMER HOUSE (bar, restaurant, dancing), 78 Rehoboth Avenue. GETTING THERE U.S. 50 east toward Annapolis, over the Bay Bridge to Maryland Route 404, then follow the signs.