Even though I would have gone through school *mumble*mumble* years before these tanorexic gym clowns, I can only imagine how I might have turned out if I had grown up in that environment instead of my idyllic Mayberry-type small town. Since I'm not even a tiny bit Italian I don't imagine I would have fit in with the Guido crew, and since I am as white as a glass of whole milk and can't attain any sort of height from my bangs, I can only imagine that I wouldn't have fit in very well at all.
But I do like pickles.
I'm thanking my lucky stars that I grew up here:
Population: 665. All either hearty New Englanders or ambitious Flatlanders, like my parents.
It really is this pretty.
Every summer my parents sent my sister and me down to the shore to spend a week with my grandmother, who lived in Asbury Park, NJ, just north of Seaside Heights. Fans of Bruce Springsteen will recognize Asbury as being his hometown.
My grandmother lived in a senior living community called Asbury Towers, and it was one of the only high-rises around. She lived way up on the eighty-something-th floor and as a kid it was always very exciting to stay with her there in her tiny but plush apartment. I loved the elevator rides, the view of the ocean from her living room window, her teeny galley kitchen, sleeping on the pull-out sofa, and the fact that she got different (and better!) cartoons in the morning. I have very fond memories of watching The Jetsons while eating cereal in that apartment.
My dad would drive us down, spend the night, and then drive home the next day. As soon as we arrived my grandmother would pull out a bag of stale bread she'd been saving and we'd go down to the lake to feed the ducks, then we'd all head over to the boardwalk where I would get either a candy apple or one of those giant lollypops that always cut the shit out of your tongue.
Hey, it was the early 80's. I'm sure those shorts were the height of fashion!
At this point the boardwalk was already in a steady state of decline. A lot of shops had already closed and were boarded up and the crime was getting bad once evening fell each night. In the late 80's there would be reports of hypodermic needles washing up on shore and muggings in broad daylight. By the time I was 13 or 14 my parents moved my grandmother to Vermont because they feared for her safety living alone in Asbury. She was also losing her marbles, but that's another story for another day.
Still, those handful of summer visits remain some of my most cherished childhood memories. My grandmother was fun and even kind of hip for an old lady. She drove a car that she called Jesse, had lots of friends who loved to come out to eat with us, and took us out to play mini golf, eat salt water taffy, and dine at the Howard Johnson's or Sizzler. Each day she'd consult the sign to tell us when high tide was so that we could avoid the big waves.
Now that I'm an adult I haven't been back to the shore in over twenty years, but I became a fan of Asbury Park on Facebook so each day I am treated to photos and blurbs about what is happening on the boardwalk that day. They have apparently done a lot of refurbishing and reconstructing the boardwalk area, and I'm so glad that it is being returned to its former glory. If there is any good to come of the hot mess known as The Jersey Shore, perhaps it is that attention (and tax dollars) will be returned to these family fun spots that languished for so long.
Here are some photos taken recently, compliments of Facebook:
And look! You never know when you might run into a celebrity down the shore:
Next year I hope to bring my family back to the Jersey shore for a vacation. If I can give them some of the same warm fuzzy memories that I have, I think it would make my grandmother and father, who have both passed on now, very happy. I think it would make me happy, too.
Have a lovely summer day!
ETA: Here are a few beautiful photos taken last weekend on the NJ shore by my very talented old friend (and newish FOOBH!), Bob M. Montgomery.