A BIT ABOUT THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

As many here know, I grew up in New Jersey and maintain close ties to this state. I have family and friends who remain there, and my mother lives there, year round, just a short walk from the ocean. A number of our previous posts here have referenced New Jersey, and in particular, its delightful shoreline and its beaches. There is good reason for why its beaches are so beloved.

Anyway, following a busy summer this year,  I spent a pleasant shore weekend in late August visiting with my family back at the end of summer. The weather was very nice, and as I made my way to Long Beach Island, I decided to check in on a shore location where I hadn’t been in a long while. I’m talking about Asbury Park, the shore town made rather famous by this landmark LP
.

Walking around on the boardwalk, I could see that Asbury Park has been going through a building boom, and a lot of what was there seemed quite a bit more upscale and Manhattan-y. Nonetheless, a few things were familiar to me.

Paramount Theater

The Wonderbar, featuring an image of “Tillie,” Asbury Park’s iconic image

And the following two places – both of which are part of the Springsteen legend.

Madame Marie’s – a spot that is featured prominently in this song

And of course, the legendary Stone Pony, a place where Springsteen and his friends (like Southside Johnny) still periodically show up and play.


My boardwalk stroll and lunch of fried clams done, I made my way back to my car and toward LBI, my mind filled with thoughts, images and memories of the Jersey Shore, and what was, what is, and what was to be in this part of the world.

The weekend at my mom’s was basically chill out time. I arrived in the afternoon, said hi to everyone, and walked down to the bay to catch a sunset.

I was pretty tired that night, which was a good thing, because after turning in early, I also woke up super early the next morning, around 5:00 am, just in time to catch the sunrise at the beach. I don’t do that very often, but it is something that I highly recommend to do, at least once a summer, especially if you are at an ocean that the sun rises above.

So, here is the beach as you approach it as the sun is rising. This was at 5:33 am. I love the beach this time of day, as it is as calm and peaceful as a place can be.

Thank goodness for 7-11 and their hot coffee.

It was blissful to be able to walk along the cool sand as the cool air started warming up under the sun and to take in the beach’s calm, natural beauty. I was glad to have my camera with me.

I also managed to scoop up a bunch of nice shells and bits of sea glass. I have a bunch of ocean shells in a jar at work, reminding me when I am there of my beloved beach. Jolie has a growing collection of sea glass that we have both found;  eventually she will probably do something creative with them.

Anyway, after heading back to the house for a while, I would return later that afternoon, with members of my family, for a bit of family beach time. Here I am, sitting with my mom, in our beach chairs.

She and I have been enjoying the beach together for a long time!  😉

During this afternoon beach visit, in addition to taking a dip in the ocean, I also had, while taking a walk, an encounter with someone I instantly recognized – Chef Michael Proietti, who, as I recalled, had been a contestant on the Food Network’s show, The Next Food Network Star. This was his promo clip from that show.

And here I am, happy to be photographed with him. He is as nice and as cool in person as he was in his run on this show, and I wish him nothing but the best. I still hope that the Food Network decides to give him his own show.

Speaking of food, I also got to play chef that evening, offering to make what my brother-in-law once said might be my “signature dish” – steamed little neck clams and mussels, cooked with corn and chorizo sausage. It’s a wonderfully hearty dish, and I decided to also serve it with pasta and a pan sauce. I was happy to serve this meal to my family (mom, my sister, her husband and their daughter, and our uncle Lou, who was also down vacationing at the shore).

The next morning, I was up again pretty early, so again, I decided to do another morning beach walk. This time around, I threw on my swim trunks just in case the urge to go for a morning swim hit me. Again, it was very captivating and pleasant to be early to the beach.

So, a nice beach weekend this was. Before heading back home, I picked up a new pair of flip-flops, which happened to be somewhat reggae themed. 😉

Also, on the way back, I stopped for a visit with my pal Jim, who lives in Point Pleasant, another legendary shore town. It was great seeing him and also seeing the Point Pleasant boardwalk; as with Asbury, it had been a long while since I had been there. I am also eager to meet up  again soon with pal Jim, as he is a good friend.

The following weekend was Labor Day weekend and given the holiday nature of this time, Jolie and I returned to LBI for one last summer hurrah before the Fall was to start-up.

As we did earlier in the summer, we got in a visit to the norther tip of Long Beach Island and its iconic lighthouse.

But, mostly what we did was what we usually do at the shore – take long walks, hang out at the beach, swim, and generally enjoy ourselves and our time there.

Anyway, cut to late October, 2012. Tropical storm Sandy took place, starting its destructive path in the Caribbean and in making its way north and west, hitting New Jersey and New York particularly hard.

While we were spared Sandy’s destruction here in Beacon, seeing what was happening elsewhere, to places so familiar to me, was deeply painful. I was glued to the television news coverage and gasped several times while watching it. It felt a bit like the 9/11 attacks of eleven years ago. My immediate concern was with my loved ones and with their houses, but I also instantly felt deep sorrow for everyone who was seriously affected by this storm. And I started worrying that this is a sign of a permanently altered climate, a byproduct of industrial society and our steady production of greenhouse gasses. This will all need to be further examined. In the meantime, there was the need for some initial recovery to take place.

My mother, with my sister, brother-in-law and our dear family friend, Barbara (who is like another sister to me) got to return to my mom’s house, one week after the storm, so as to do some initial damage assessments and to remove what could be removed from the house. It was exhausting work, and brought everyone up close to the aftermath of disaster. A week later, I went down to the island to pitch in with the cleanup, and saw many scenes such as this.

or this (a corner pizza joint down the block from my mom’s house)

One of the most dramatic images was of these two houses, near the beach in the town of Ship Bottom, that had essentially collided into one another, given the blowing winds and water.

So, this is what a house that has been torn from its foundation looks like.

Amazing!

My observation now is that a few weeks after Hurricane Sandy has passed, the NJ shore and the NYC metropolitan area are in a slow, steady recovery process. While down on LBI, I saw a number of homeowners and business owners doing damage assessment and beginning the repair process. Things are slowly reverting to normalcy there, but there is still a long way to go. That said, the long-term challenges for a warming planet, particularly for those who reside in low-lying coastal areas, remain with us and are urgently in need of a large-scale concentrated effort by business, science, government and citizen activists and local communities as we attempt to meet such challenges. We are, literally, all in this together.

I also want to add that I was struck by both the awesome power but also the sheer beauty of nature during a quick visit to check out the beach. The beach was much cooler and windier than it had been in August and September, but it was still a happy occasion to be able to walk on it. Here are a few images of what it was looking like.

What a difference a few months make in nature’s grand narrative!

Finally, I wish to end this with two more videos; one, a bit more about LBI’s recovery.


And one more reference to the Boss, and to his song that seems very appropriate for this occasion.  My eyes filled with tears when I listened to this a few weeks ago, just as it did the first time I heard it.

QUICK UPDATE:

This year, 2013, has not been much of a beach year for us. In case anyone is wondering, the Jersey shore as well as my mom’s house, are all in a recovery process. We haven’t been down much, but we were down at the end of July for a family wedding. I had an opportunity for a quick visit to the beach, and it was a really nice feeling being back. Here are a few images of my short visit to the beach.

P1760244 P1760251 P1760254 P1760260 P1760269

 

 

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