Cheap thrills

By ELLEE DEAN  |  June 14, 2006

Pony tracks, $2.50 (a losing bet will cost you a trip to Hooters.)
Douse yourself in the stench of beer, boiled hot dogs, yellow mustard, and live Thoroughbred racing at Salem, New Hampshire’s Rockingham Park. Grandstand admission costs $2.50, clubhouse admission is a buck more. Boost your odds and hang by the ice-cream cart: the girl handing out Ben and Jerry’s picks winning horses ’cause she sneaks the jockeys free soda. (I know because I used to be her.) Lose a bet? Yeah, pony! A losing ticket buys two 10-piece wing plates for the price of one at the Hooters across the street.
Rockingham Park | Rockingham Park Boulevard, Salem, NH |

Hampton Beach, cheap (fitting in will cost you your polo.)
A neon nylon hat shades dad’s burnt mug. Mom’s wearing cut-off jean shorts and a cut-off Playboy Bunny T. The kids drag dolphin-stamped sarongs in the sand and lick Spuds-N-Stuff off fingers ringed in $3 silver. Hampton Beach is budget. On Ocean Boulevard, I throw on my $1 HAMPTON BEACH: WILL WORK FOR BEER midriff T, and browse the strip’s palm readers, plastic-sunglasses kiosks, and belly-stud-stocked shops. I stop in Happy Hampton Arcade — a few poses in the black-and-white photo booth, a few gutter skeeballs, and I’m ready for a fried-shrimp plate followed by a round of mini golf at Buc’s Lagoon. Hampton Beach is oddly romantic, in a trashy sort of way. Maybe it’s because my first kiss was sweaty and sticky behind Ocean Boulevard’s Mama Leone’s. Or maybe it’s because of the handful of mall dates I picked up while cruising the strip in my mom’s car. Whatever it is, I still go back. I will be the sun-blistered local at the sixth annual Master Sand Sculpting Competition, lit for night viewing. I’m considering a stint in the Sea Shell Stage’s Idol Competition. And you can count on me to win the $100 pot on the Al Gauron $18 night-fishing trips. Fact is, this cheap New Hampshire native doesn’t mind the tacky tourist beach.
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

The Stone Church $5–$25 (lust, gluttony, and sloth cost an average of $7 at the Bean.)
Built in 1832, the Universalist-Meeting-House-turned-Catholic Church-turned-private-school-turned-VFW-Hall-turned-roller-skating rink-turned-shoe-assembly-plant became the Stone Church live-music venue in the late ’60s. Over the years, bands like Phish, Parliament, and Bela Fleck have rocked the Granite Street temple. Recently revamped — again — Newmarket’s Stone Church now serves up homemade grilled meatloaf in mushroom gravy and white-cheddar mac ’n’ cheese along with local bands like the Brew and not-so-local bands like Motor Booty Affair (coming to you from the White Chocolate Galaxy’s Liquid Parallel Universe #7 and Planet Grooveopolis). A local hint: a drunk night on a Newmarket couch is best remedied at the Big Bean, a nine-year-old Main Street institution. Behind an old screen door, crowds feed on creative breakfast specials and regular favorites like the Old 420, a two-egg, any-style dish, and the Spock, an omelet scramble doused in hollandaise sauce. The morning after, we eye the seven-deadly-sin specials. We place a big order for Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth: we aren’t in church anymore.
The Stone Church | 5 Granite Street, Newmarket, NH | | The Big Bean | 118 Main Street, Newmarket, NH | 603.659.8600

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