Very long entry, some 3,100 words and 40 fotos.
Sailboat glides past Molly Pitcher Hotel, Red Bank.
I needed a change last Sunday, so when I collected my car from where I had parked it Downtown on Saturday (I took a taxi home from the NJIT reception (which I will discuss tomorrow; there are many pix and some videos to integrate with text, and this task took a while), in that I was snockered), I headed directly to the Garden State Parkway and took a roadtrip to my old stomping grounds in Monmouth County. One of the great things about Newark is that it is so central to transportation that wherever you want to go, there's a major roadway and/or railway that goes there. And New Jersey is so small and jam-packed with things to see and do that you don't have to stay overnite unless you want to.
I wanted to check out the house my family lived in when I attended high school (Middletown Township H.S., class of '62), and was astonished to discover that it had been massively expanded by the people who bought it after my mother's death. I took pix to send to my sibs, which I needn't trouble you with. But I do show, above, the little lake, about a mile and an eighth long, that it backs onto, Shadow Lake.
Ticketing machine for parking lot at Marine Park, Red Bank. When we lived in the area, parking was free.
I dropped in on friends of the family who live a few doors away, but despite there being cars in the driveway or out front, nobody was home. So I left a note and went on my way to do the Red Bank loop. Red Bank is within (extended) walking distance of our old house, and was the closest concentration of stores and things to do in the vicinity. I had intended to go down Front Street and then make a right to get to Monmouth Street, one of the two main drags, with Broad Street (which intersect), then head down and around Marine Park, which would have been the 'official' Red Bank loop. But I got distracted and ended up missing a turn, so went directly to Marine Park, which has views of the Navesink River (náe.va.singk.
The Navesink is not really a river at all, but an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean that joins with the Shrewsbury before meeting Sandy Hook Bay. All of that is the ocean, but we drew a distinction between "the ocean", meaning open ocean, outside Sandy Hook, and the Bay or the Shrewsbury and Navesink "Rivers". For boating purposes (we owned small boats at various times), if you wanted to get to the (open) ocean from Red Bank, you'd have to go miles and miles to get around Sandy Hook, but all that interconnecting water is technically the Atlantic Ocean, just as Newark Bay is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, as makes Newark a seaport. There is a river that feeds into the Navesink, as does the overflow from Shadow Lake. It's called the Swimming River, but almost nobody swims in it. Even the Navesink is used mainly for boating and sometimes waterskiing, but rarely for swimming as the main activity. In the coldest part of the winter, there used to be iceboating! I think I saw a feature on iceboating on the Navesink on News 12 a couple of years ago, but I'm not sure how often the ice is thick enuf. What's different about the Navesink from Newark Bay is the Highlands of the Navesink to the north. The Middletown side is mansion country due to its wonderful views. That's not the part of Middletown I grew up in. In the foto above, the land isn't very high, but the houses are nonetheless large. In the foto below, looking northeast, you can see that the land is much higher than the water, tho because the Navesink is wide, you may not appreciate that at their highest, the Highlands of the Navesink are over 200 feet tall, as provides great views of the Bay, the ocean, and New York City at Twin Lites, on the Sandy Hook side. Brian Williams, anchor for the NBC Nitely News, was raised in a section of Middletown from which you can also see NYC. I'm not clear on the name of the section (Monmouth Hills, I think), but when I was looking for it online, I chanced across one of those "roadside oddity" webpages (with fotos) about the Food Circus ("evil"-looking) clown near the Five Corners in central Middletown, which we used to pass to get to the high school. I didn't see it this trip, and it may be torn down as part of a redevelopment project. After I left Marine Park, I drove the reverse loop to Elsie's Sub Shop and got a special combo 1&2, something I like to do whenever I'm in Red Bank. Elsie's has been around since 1959, and there really was an Elsie back then. Not far from Elsie's is the old Boro Hall, which is now a YMCA and Disney's Place for kids. The World War I monument below is typical of small-town America between the wars. The clock no longer works. Or perhaps I should say it does not presently work. Maybe it will be fixed someday. Red Bank is a lovely little town, of only about 12,000 people. It has some art galleries and other things you might not expect to find in a small town, including two sushi restaurants next to each other across a wide driveway into a municipal parking lot. The filmmaker Kevin Smith used to live there, and has set some of his movies there. It's almost exactly an hour's drive from Downtown Newark, and is easily accessed by train on NJTransit's North Jersey Coast Line. (Kevin Smith was on the Tonight Show tonite, and has ballooned up to so fat that he broke a toilet in the men's room of a restaurant. Oddly, he tells the story of this alarming incident on TV even tho that story ends with a friend of his who manages that restaurant saying he will never tell anyone about that embarrassing incident. So Kevin himself tells it. Hm. Jay Leno says he's worried about him, as I am too. My best friend died before age 49 from literally morbid obesity.) I wasn't hungry right then, so headed for Route 35, to drive to Asbury Park. The last time I was in Asbury, perhaps four years ago, the place had manifestly seen better days, so I was very pleased to see that it has clearly turned around.
Asbury Park is a small city but, due to its beachfront location, taller than one might otherwise expect. This building, whose brickwork is apparently being replaced, at least in part, is where my father lived for a couple of years, on a floor very close to the top.
This next residential building is new, and near the beach. There are similar new apartments in a few blocks too.
Asbury Park, like Red Bank, is also charging for parking, tho by means of a different multispace system. Whereas in Red Bank, you purchase a ticket and place it inside your windshield, in Asbury you punch in your parking-space number and buy time. Apparently a record of which spaces are paid and which not can somehow be accessed electronically by parking officers. The system is a tad complicated as to, for instance, adding time, and the guy ahead of me was a bit flustered. I remarked that towns like Asbury Park should be glad people want to be there, and not penalize them by charging for parking on a public street. He agreed, and remarked that when he used to come to that area in the Fifties (when the city was doing very well), parking was free.
Right alongside where we parked was this large, manicured lawn, on which bunches of Canada geese and some seagulls rested. I couldn't take a picture of the bulk of the geese because the sun was low, directly behind them. One of this pair stops to eat some grass. I see seagulls in parts of Newark but do not recall ever having seen a goose here. Herons, yes, but no geese. Now that I think of it, inasmuch as I hear geese are a nuisance in many places, one must wonder why there are few to none around here.
The former Berkeley-Carteret Hotel is now "The Berkeley - Oceanfront Hotel". Here, a pedalcar that seats four, rests outside the front entrance. Berkeley and Carteret were the original two proprietors of British New Jersey. It seems to me insulting to drop one of them but leave the other.
The hotel's website has some pretty odd wording ("inscrutable views"; "The Historical Berkeley Hotel would like to offer you our 'Welcome Back' personal Hotel site tour to you and some of your faculty"; "A multi-million dollar USD restoration and renovation in 2007/2008 created all new sleeping rooms, ballrooms and meeting space"; "Eatontown Located 2 miles east of hotel" — which would put it in the ocean), as makes me wonder if it was bought by foreigners. The Wonder Bar is still around, tho I thought it had closed. As I recall, it claimed in the Fifties to have the world's longest bar. It is now a live-music venue. After some online research, I discovered that it had indeed closed, September 2007, but reopened in July 2008, part of the revival of this old beach community. I also found that the smiling face over the bar is "Tillie", but did not know why, nor who named it that. "Tillie" is a female name, but the face looked male to me. I thought that it might be short for "Tillson" or something, so did more research. Et voilà! It is a male face, and "Tillie" is short for George Tilyou, founder of Coney Island's Steeplechase Park. The version on the Wonder Bar is a copy of a larger mural that had been on the Palace Amusements, which establishment was demolished in 2004. But the 14-ton mural was saved, and languishes in a temporary shed, according to a September 18, 2008 article from Bloomberg news.
Convention Hall, above, is looking really good, past a large, well-groomed lawn with occasional ornamental grasses and such.
Before you get to Convention Hall from the vicinity of The Berkeley, you see this statue of James A. Bradley, the founder of Asbury Park, which he named for Francis Asbury, British-born first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. We often call Asbury Park simply "Asbury", but there is another "Asbury" in NJ, an unincorporated area in Franklin Township, Warren County. There are far too many places with the same name in this state.
I had never looked closely at the detail on Convention Hall until I was taking pix of it Sunday, whereupon I noticed polychrome ceramic and bronze decoration.
The revival of Asbury Park is little short of astonishing. I had heard a few years ago that gay men and lesbians had started to settle in Asbury, and that often presages the rise of an area, if it doesn't even cause it, which is one reason I want more gay people to move to Newark.
I couldn't get the colors right in the foto above. The green in the shells is much greener, and the sky was much bluer.
But the startling resurrection of that nearly defunct minor city is truly remarkable. There is lots of new construction, and not just by the ocean. I had parked on Kingsley Avenue and wasn't sure how to get to the Parkway. (I didn't want to take local roads back to Newark at that point.) When I got back to my car, however, I saw a Parkway sign at the very corner of the block I was parked on. When I followed the arrow, it took me to Cookman Avenue, an office and retail area in the olden days, and lo and behold there were open-sided restaurants and bars in an unexpected stretch, very upscale and comfy looking. Alas, I was on my way and didn't get any fotos of that, but it was really heartening. My father had an office on Cookman many years ago, I think, and that area had looked pretty bad for years. But at least parts of it have come way back.
The Paramount Theater is built into Convention Hall. Something I read suggests it is separate from the main auditorium, but I'm not certain of that. If it is, this open area of food and other vendors, and tables and chairs, intervenes.
In the main auditorium were another bunch of vendors.
The ceiling of that area is striking.
Displayed in the men's room (and presumably elsewhere in Convention Hall) was this list of events at the Stone Pony, Bruce Springsteen's favorite Shore music club of yore.
A comparable list of events at the Wonder Bar was also displayed. I don't know if these were paid ads or a visitors and convention bureau program of mutual assistance between tourist sites.
Part of Convention Hall is occupied by a bar with an enormous porch for seating, flag(s?) off the porch, and stairs down to the beach. Here, two women help a third, elderly woman to cope with walking on sand, back to the comfort of solid surfaces. I thought the flags showed the name of the bar, Cîroc, but that is apparently just the brand name of a vodka that paid to advertise on the flagpole(s).
There were very few people on the beach at that point, late in the day, but a few brave souls ventured into the water. Here, two grown men approach the water. A few minutes later, I heard them saying it was refreshing, which sounded like deliberate understatement. I imagine the water is still pretty warm from the summer just gone.
Further down the beach a couple of kids stayed in much longer. Was the water really that warm? Or is this an example of why adults have to supervise kids?
I guess they didn't see this sign.
One man was fishing off the breakwater. A freighter passes slowly on the horizon.
Three teenage girls ventured out onto the breakwater and were caught by the spray from an unexpected wave, so ran screaming back to the beach. I didn't get a picture of that, and it might have been rude to capture them in mid-flite.
These medium-size seagulls throw long shadows late in the day.
I suspect the various crab claws and such in this patch of sand are remnants of the predations of such gulls. How many claws can you spot amid the flotsam (things that float) and jetsam (heavier materials tossed by waves)? You can't tell from this next foto, but the gulls in that area are enormous, perhaps the largest I've ever seen. I also found interesting the texture of the sand in the areas not disturbed, which suggests it was smoothed by some machine. The low angle of the sun gives shallow tracks dramatic shadows.
I walked to the water's edge, trying to judge how far the water would come up, because it's easier to walk on the more solid wet sand than on the loose sand. A wave came farther than I anticipated, but I got out of the way so didn't get my shoes wet. Still, I was able to bend down and put my finger in the ocean. You can't go to the ocean and not put at least one finger into it. Then I walked the couple of hundred feet from the water to the boardwalk thru loose sand. I have heard an exercise machine commercial describe the action of the device as feeling like walking in sand. So I got my exercise too. Touched the ocean. Walked in sand. Got an Elsie's sub. This is living.
Here's a view of the boardwalk in that vicinity, looking south. The sun was so low that even the low buildings on the west cast most of the boardwalk nearby into shadow. Not so the view north.
The hour I had paid to park was nearly up, and I wasn't going to walk all the way down to the buildings at the end of the boardwalk (in the view south above). So I returned to my car and drove to my last stop before heading home.
I believe that this ornate building used to house a carousel. It no longer does. Or should I say it does not presently (but might again someday if Asbury continues its rebound, despite the current worldwide economic crisis)?
The detail on the structure is beautiful, especially as gilded by the low sun.
And so ends this account of my daytrip to the calm inland waters of Middletown and Red Bank, and the gentle waves of the open ocean at Asbury Park. From the mountains and lakes of our northwest to the Atlantic Shore, this little state has a lot of variety, and it's all within a single day's drive, to and from. You can sleep in your own bed, if you like. Or be lulled to sleep by the rhythm of waves rushing up the beach near a beachfront hotel. Asbury is back.