Saturday, November 10, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #81 - Part 5

Sandy: memories of home

The rest of the show is going to be a little more personal than I usually get. I was away for a week at a conference, so last week's show, number 80, was recorded before I went away. So Sandy happened while I was gone, so I couldn't talk about it then. So I'm going to talk about it now.

For my wife and me, Sandy proved to be a hassle but little more. We were sort of stranded for two days, unable to get home, but were otherwise okay. We got home two days late and rather lighter in the wallet but otherwise unscathed. There was no damage to speak of here, a couple of branches down, a neighbor lost a little siding off their house, the power was out but only for a few hours. We lucked out again.

Other places didn't. After Sandy raked across the Caribbean and went up the east coast, the big news of course, if only because it was what was unusual, was the damage to the New York metropolitan area. I have family in down in New Jersey. Some of them reported they had flooding in their houses and some lost vehicles in the flood. My brother, who lives in north Jersey, was without power for over a week. You know about the flooding, the 14-foot storm surge that hit lower Manhattan. You probably heard about how the storm caused fire in the Breezy Point section of Queens and how the wind whipped that fire through the neighborhood and the entire neighborhood burned to the ground. You know about the millions without power or gasoline or heat. You heard about the people stranded, some of them running short of food. People on Staten Island were hit that way.

And you may have heard about how that was followed up with a blizzard a few days later, with areas getting three to six inches of snow.

But part of the devastation of Sandy - and with over 100 people dead and estimates of damage at $50 billion, devastation does seem to be the word - part of the devastation struck me in personal, a more visceral if you will, way. I grew up on Jersey shore. I was born there. I lived a long time there. The Jersey shore was home - in a lot of ways, it still feels like home: It's the place where my memories lie. Seeing some of the coverage was hard.

This is Ocean Grove, New Jersey:

I've walked the length of that boardwalk. I know exactly where those houses are. I know how far it is from there to the nearest frozen custard stand.

This bridge, this is Mantaloking:

I've been over that bridge. It was a very pretty bridge. Mantaloking, which you see there, lies on a long barrier beach that's separated from the mainland by an inlet. That bridge went over that inlet, linking Mantaloking to the mainland.

A little further down that barrier beach, the family of a friend in college had a summer cottage in Ortley Beach. We used to cruise this section of Route 35:

We were just, like John Cougar said, suckin' on chili dogs and shooting the summer breeze. It was somewhere around here, a little north of here I think, where we were stopped by a local cop because we had long hair and were essentially told to get out of town. It was all part of the Great Ortley Beach Massacree, which if anyone is interested in some old guy's memories, I'll tell you about sometime.

Then there was Seaside Heights. Come summer, this was the second summer home even for a lot of us who lived at the shore. There were boardwalks and rides and games all along the shore, but unless you wanted to go all the way to Wildwood, Seaside Heights was the big one. If you really wanted to drown yourself in cotton candy and candy apples, if you wanted to be surrounded by the blare of boom boxes and the glare of flashing yellow and red neon lights, if you wanted to hear and the clickety noise of game wheels and the whoosh of tilt-a-whirls, this is where you went. And this is it now.

It's estimated that 90% of structures in Seaside Heights are either destroyed or damaged, some of the latter beyond repair. And I have to add that what you see in the middle background is this:

I've ridden on that roller coaster. But the pier that it sat on is now gone.

But the picture that I think got me the most was this one:

That is the main street of Sea Bright, New Jersey. I have driven on that street more times than I can remember. When I took my wife down to the shore because she wanted to see where I grew up, this is one of the places I took her. Sea Bright is easy to find on a map; it's where Sandy Hook joins the mainland. It's a thin strip of land between the ocean and an inlet that opens into two rivers.

In this picture, you're looking north. Just a little further up, just beyond frame of the picture, is a bridge that goes over that inlet, while the street that you're on, Ocean Avenue, continues on toward Sandy Hook.

If you go past that bridge, a little ways up on the right is a sea wall - a big stone and concrete structure about twelve to fifteen feet high. On other side, there is ocean. There is no beach, it's all washed away. One of the things to do is if we had a good nor'easter was go to Sea Bright and watch the waves wash over sea wall and onto the road.

And where there isn't sea wall, along that strip and to the right and the south of where you are in the picture, where there is beach, there are beach clubs.

So I knew Sea Bright was in trouble. That sand from those beach clubs is no longer on the beach.

The woman in picture - who by the way is the mayor of Sea Bright - is not walking on sand dunes. She is walking down Ocean Avenue. The beach from Sea Bright has been moved into the middle of town.

I show this - I started to say not out of nostalgia, but suppose it is to some degree. The real purpose, though, is that I wanted to say a kind of RIP for the home of my memories.

Someone wrote just the other day that the Jersey shore is not just a physical location, not just a resort area. The Jersey shore is a brand, it's a lifestyle, it's a way of thinking, a way of being. Which by the way has absolutely nothing to do with that idiotic TV show. I don't know of a single person who actually grew up on the shore that does not despise that show. But the Jersey shore is an attitude, it is what it is - it's a way of being.

And now it's gone. It's gone. The Jersey shore I knew is gone.

Oh, it'll be rebuilt. There's no question it'll be rebuilt. There will be houses that go back up, there will be amusement things that go back up - but it won't be the same. It'll be new, it'll be shiny, it'll be glitzy, it'll probably be upscale.

The Jersey shore will be there - but it won't be the Jersey shore any more. The home of my memories is gone and I just wanted to have the chance to say RIP.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');