Friday, January 22, 2010
No, for Real
Outside of my front door, right now, is the cast of The Jersey Shore. Not impersonators. The real deals. It has caused quite a 'situation' (haha) on Bloomfield Avenue. It appears that every short-skirted, high-heeled, hair-sprayed, patterned T-shirt wearing person within a 20-mile radius is lined up outside of my apartment. I am slightly tempted to get a camera and a notebook and do some interviews. Alternatively, I could go outside with a thermos of tea and some hoodies. Those girls must be cold.
Eric and I were clearly not part of the invading army as we were wearing coats, so Eric stopped to offer his sympathy to the beleaguered Montclair PD while we were walking home from work.
Eric: Wow. Sorry guys. Good luck with this.
MPD: Seriously... you want to stay and help us? I'm not even kidding.
So, yeah. Another day in the surreal world of actual Jersey. I don't know why the crowd was so desperate to meet the cast. They are all from Staten Island anyhoo. The crowd could have just looked at and listened to each other. It would be equally entertaining.
Actual overheard conversation:
ShoreGirl: (while running in heels wearing no clothes) Oh my gawd, are we there yet? I'm fuckin freezing.
ShoreGuy: No. Like, one more block. I swear. Stop whining.
ShoreGirl: You said that two blocks ago you asshole. Omigawd! A limo! Snooki!!
I have been able to work the Jersey Shore into my organizing rap, though. =D
KPd.: Yeah, with your help last year, we were able to pass legislation to help clean up the Jersey Shore.
SuburbanMom: :::raised eyebrows::: Really?
KPd.: The location, not the television show.
SuburbanMom: Ohhhhh. Okay. I was gonna say - No amount of donations could clean that show up. They're not even from New Jersey!
SuburbanTeen: Yeah. Omigawd. We SO aren't like that here. For real.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Don't Forget the Change for Tolls!
(For atmosphere, this post is best enjoyed with the selection "Garden State Parkway Boogie" by Holme: www.myspace.com/holmeband ... They are playing the night of the 30th in Montclair, Ben!)
This is Eric's car.
For those uninitiated, it can seat three across the front and rear benches plus two in the trunk jump seats. Alternatively, you can use its Mustang engine to haul six friends, tents, and a keg. You can tie a Christmas tree to the roof rack.... or you could just roll it into the back. Safety features include a steel cage frame, 360 degree visibility, and seat belts. (Thanks Ralph Nader!) According to the Cash for Clunkers program, it is very fuel efficient. Perhaps the wood paneling reduces the wind resistance.
Owning a car is a critical part of being a resident of NJ. Sure, we live in the most mass-transit accessible part of what may be the most mass-transited state (I have zero stats on that), but car culture allows one to explore the highways and less-traveled corners of the Garden State. At the risk of sounding sadly suburban and uncool, nothing says summer like sticking your feet out the window in shore traffic on the Parkway. Sure you could take the train to Asbury or Belmar, but you would miss the smug feeling of watching New Yorkers get on the gridlocked express lanes while you crawled slightly faster on the 3-laned local section. Also, I'm pretty sure we could set up a kiddy pool in Eric's trunk.
Anyhoo, this weekend we wandered in the rain down the GSP to Sandy Hook (Exit 117). Contrary to recent popular depictions, the Jersey Shore is not entirely inhabited by booze-sweating morons from Long Island (but boy are they entertaining!). In fact, Sandy Hook is part of Gateway National Park, the most visited national park in the country. It is home to a large maritime forest of holly and cedar trees, an awesome abandoned army fort and gun batteries, and winter seal migrations. For the carless, there are multiple ferries from NYC as well as extensive bike trails, but on a day of nearly freezing rain, bikes seemed less pleasant.
We began our adventure by surprising the park ranger at the Visitors' Center.
KPd.: We were wondering if you have any trail maps for a 1-2 hour hike.
Ranger: Um... Yeah... You do know it's pouring out?
Eric: We brought our rain pants!
Nora: Can I touch the seals?!
Ranger: Eh... Well we haven't had any seal reports yet this year.
KPd.: Any sightings of Snooki?
KPd.: Just a map then...
The hike took us through a fantastical landscape of holly trees and vines. Occasionally, the path popped out on the beach and then returned to the forest. The ocean was an angry grey (British spelling). Nora opened a massive military bunker dug into dunes decades ago. The inside dripped creepily. We toured a restored Victorian-era officer's home at the end of the trail where lonely park volunteers eagerly told us the Hook's military history. We were the 9th, 10th, and 11th guests of the dreary day. It was an absolutely wonderful way to spend a day, despite the rain, and all made possible by the glory of the Garden State Parkway and our access to an old station wagon.
Unfortunately, my bizarre love affair with that highway was shaken today when I stumbled upon the dirty secrets of its past. In a cheesy "Portraits of America" photo book, I flipped through pictures of historic Bloomfield. Most residents know that the town is older than the GSP and that some things were "moved" to make way for the highway which runs down the middle of town, longways. I suppose I always assumed that since the road runs along the route of the old Morris Canal, there were not a lot of homes in the way.
I learned otherwise when I came across a photo labeled "Walnut St." I grew up on Walnut St. This was not the same street at all. Gorgeous Victorian mansions with wrap-around porches and iron fences receded into the distance. Tall trees shaded the road. I read the caption: "This street was demolished to make way for the Parkway." The following pages recorded the total destruction of over 400 homes and, in the 1950s, $3 million in ratables. A giant muddy gash was torn through the streets. In one picture, I could clearly recognize the remaining structures clinging to the edges of the eminent domain abyss as the Bloomfield I knew, the one with houses perched over the Parkway.
Sadly, while the Parkway seems to have mostly avoided heavily populated areas, it needed a way through Essex County. Newark was gashed as well, but the book notes in one caption that Bloomfield was one of the only towns that openly welcomed the new road.
While I will probably continue to celebrate the Parkway as the magical road to the shore, it exists in the version of New Jersey that I know, the car version. When I flipped through the rest of the photos, I could not help but mourn the Bloomfield, NJ that I never knew - a charming Victorian city with electric trolleys, railroad stations, and a major canal. The prosperity and grace of that town was not enhanced by the convenience of multiple Parkway exchanges.
Friday, January 15, 2010
My Computer is Back On!
My computer (Skylar, you may remember, is its name) is... well... old. Once upon a time it and I were fresh-faced recent college grads starting a new life together in Brooklyn. Now I am grumbling about my aching knees, and Skylar can't handle the dancing ads on weather.com and refuses to open the cd drive without prodding.
Crowd: You still use your cd drive? Get a flash drive! It's Oh-Ten!
Me: Shh... You'll scare the cd. I think it's coming out now.
Anyhoo, Eric decided to help me update my computer for Christmas which of course scared me to death. I agreed he could open Skylar up and mess with its guts only while I was locked in the bathroom taking a shower. I couldn't watch.
Eric carefully followed the Dell directions and installed the new Dell memory. I turned on Skylar. So far so good... I turned on weather.com. The ads danced and frolicked across the screen. I turned on iTunes. I burned a cd. I played a movie. I flipped through my photo album. Skylar handled all these tasks simultaneously with ease. Then, without warning...
WHAM! Blue screen of death!!!
Apparently, Dell had instructed Eric to install twice as much memory as Skylar could handle, so it turned itself off to prevent a total meltdown. It was the old computer equivalent of an erection lasting more than four hours. Time to call a doctor.
After weeks of waiting, the correct amount of memory arrived in the mail. It has been installed. My computer is now operating like a new computer from... let's say... around late 2007. Which is a dramatic improvement.
And means I can blog again!
If anyone other than Sam cares...