Tag Archive: New Jersey


We have recently returned from a really great visit to England, which we will likely post about here. I have a conference trip planned for San Francisco planned for later this week. Jolie is joining me for this. So this is proving to be a busy, fast moving and well traveled summer. Some highlights from this past week, however, entail visits to places closer to home – specifically to two delightful beach locations, one of which is intimately familiar and the other a first time experience. So, accompanying a really great weather week (sunny, in the low 80s F and with relatively low humidity), a beach visit seemed like a must.

And that is a good thing, as I love the beach!

So, on Tuesday, I packed my overnight bag and made my way back to Beach Haven on Long Beach Island to visit with my mom, my sister Pat (who was also there visiting) and our good friend Barbara. I was looking forward to seeing them all, but also to seeing the sand and the ocean. And to walking along the beach and to taking a dip in the ocean.

So, here are some photos from Tuesday, the day of my arrival, I left home just before noon and made a few pit stops along the way (most notably,in Paramus, NJ for a burger topped with queso sauce,  roasted green chiles  and pickled red onions), I arrived at just after three pm. My family was out and left me a note to welcome me down.

So, down to the beach i went. I was very happy to be there.

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When I returned to my mom’s house from this quick visit, I sat out on the back deck with a cold summer ale and a copy of the local paper (“The Sandpaper”). Then, everyone came back and greeted me. my mom then went into the house, where she’d been going through old stuff that was packed away, and came out to show me some things from memory lane – some old clay figures that I had made when I was a child and also, likely from the same era of my childhood, a part of a GI Joe set, a plastic mummy’s tomb piece. How funny to see these things that I had completely forgotten about after all these years.

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The next morning, I happened to wake up super early, just before six am. I could have rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep. On the other hand, I’ve become enamored in recent years of early morning visits to the beach at around the time that the sun is rising. There is nothing quite like the experience of the beach at that moment. Trust me on this!

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So many thoughts go through my head when i am here or as I look at these photos. One thought is one of gratitude to be able to experience such a place. Another is nostalgia and the memory of people who are no longer with us, but with whom I stood on these beaches. I am not especially religious. I consider myself something of a humanistic pantheist, theologically speaking. But I understand the impulse of my mom’s local Catholic parish to see these beaches as a piece of divine creation and to use them as the site for sunrise Easter vigils. I can respect that impulse.

The other thought is this. I become more and more concerned with what we are doing to our oceans, and in fact, to our entire planet, with each passing day. I try to follow the news, including the science news, and it is often not very encouraging. We may be at a point of no return. I hope that that is not the case. Time, of course, will tell. This is the same beach, after all and the same small barrier island that was underwater following Hurricane Sandy back in the Fall of 2012. I’ve already posted about this earlier and posted about LBI’s recovery. But thinking ahead, and to a future of rising sea levels, This precious island may, like a beloved family pet, have a limited lifespan. And the thought of this is very unsettling.

But, at the immediate moment, I was simply very happy to be on this beach and in this moment and to be enjoying this moment of connection with nature – the sea, the dunes, the sand, the sea birds, and the shells along the shore, as well as the feeling of my feet touching the soft sand and the warm water. That part of the experience felt truly blissful.

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As did the tranquil quietness of the moment – very few people around: calm, quiet, and with the sounds of nature surrounding me.

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And I’m not exactly a surfer (though I do like doing a bit of body surfing in the waves) but I do appreciate surfers’ athleticism and their inherent need for a clean, healthy environment (something they share with skiers, hunters, fishermen, hikers, trail bikers and anyone else whose leisure activities require a stable natural environment, regardless of their politics. Some surfers, in fact, who are explicitly environmentally minded, have even started up a surfing based environmental organization. Kudos to them. Anyway, I am thinking of this because, as there usually are, there were surfers out in the water, early, trying to catch a wave.

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As the early morning continued on the beach, I had another goal, and that was to look for sea glass. Jolie and I have been collecting sea glass for the past few years. Jolie is hoping that we can eventually collect enough pieces so as to craft a sea glass bowl with them. She is hoping to do something along the lines of this example, crafted and described on a blog called Debi’s Design Diary. 

sea glass bowl

To me, that sounds like it will be really nice. Since Jolie was not able to be joining us for this mid-week beach visit (because of work; I’m off for the next few weeks) I was especially wanting to bring her back some sea glass. I looked along the shore on several beaches. Eventually I found a beach that had a lot of shells and other debris from the ocean washing up to the shore. I knew that this would be the place to look.

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I’m happy to say that after two days of intensive sea glass hunting, I was successfully able to find a number of pieces, including a somewhat rare blue piece. Here is my “haul.”

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I was really happy to be able to bring these back to Jolie, particularly the blue one. When I first spotted it, it eluded by grasp. It was under the shallow water, but sea glass in that location is challenging to grab because of the water being in motion.

In addition to this activity, I also got to enjoy taking a quick dip in the water and also catching at sunset at the bay. The beach had a lot of different activities going on. I was also happy to have my sister join me for my afternoon beach visit.

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The next day was more of the same – up at the crack of down, and back to the beach, 7/11 coffee in one hand and camera in the other.

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After a while, I thought I’d might go down toward Holgate, that is the southern end of the island. When I got there, however, I learned that the beach continued to be closed because of erosion, a situation that has continued following Hurricane Sandy’s wrath. The area remains a bird sanctuary. Here is the view.

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Finally, after my beach time was done, I made my way into town, where I saw these really cool retro bikes, bought an “elephant ear” pastry,  and picked up a plant for my mom. I also paid a visit to a few favorite shops, including a local craft shop and a novelty store that has been there forever called the “Parlor” (formerly the “Dollar Parlor”)

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The next day – starting out for some really amazing old school brick oven pizza at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. Truly a memorable lunch of pizzas, one topped with pepperoni and other with clams. The place had a real old school charm. There was even another food scholar there standing in line and taking a photo, obviously charmed by the place as much as we were.

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Finally, to our final destination: Hammonasset Beach State Park, in Madison, CT, to look for more sea glass.

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starting with the nature center, and then – leaving our shoes behind – making our way toward the beach. Here, by the way, is a larger map, courtesy of Google Maps showing the beach’s location on the Long Island Sound.

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The beach, as you can see, was sizable, sandy, and facing out toward the blue ocean waters of the Long Island Sound. Jolie and I were truly happy to be here. Here we are, exploring for sea glass.

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After looking for about an hour, we were relatively successful, finding a total of six smallish brown sea glass pieces, along with a number of small, very smooth glass like sea pebbles. We kept a few of those, as well.

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Before we left, I continued walking a bit further along the beach and out onto a very sizable jetty. A lot of people were out on it some walking and some using it as a sort of dock for fishing.

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Once past the jetty however, the next beach featured a variety of rock coverings as well as thousands of small mussel and clam shells washed up to the shoreline. It was an amazing sight.

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Overall, then, this was a really enjoyable week of beach time. I was glad to be able to get into the water, and glad to also get a beach day with Jolie. Now, I’m looking forward to us getting a bit more beach glass and to seeing her craft a sea glass bowl. I’ll be sure to take a photo and to post it here when this occurs.

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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
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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.

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