Sunday, February 17, 2008

Down the Shore with...Laura Kiniry

We have another travel guide writer on the blog today for this week's "Down the Shore with..." Cat fight? Nah. Laura Kiniry is author of Moon New Jersey, which covers the entire state. I was a little nervous talking to Kiniry -- what if I missed something? Lucky for me (and you, assuming that you're on the edge of your seat, waiting to read my book), it looks like I got them all (phew).

Kiniry is currently working on a revision of Moon New Jersey. She might have relocated to San Francisco, but she's a South Jersey girl through and through, and, like me, has a lot of memories from the Ocean City boardwalk.

1. What do you consider 'your' shore town and why?
Without question, Ocean City is my shore town. I've been going there since I was a baby. When I was almost three my family rented a top floor apartment on St. Charles Place with my Aunt, Uncle, and their six kids. We spent six weeks with them, and I actually remember bits and pieces. I remember the ocean splashing up between boardwalk planks during high tide, and I remember standing on the front porch with my brother and my Nana —- my dad's mom —- and tossing a plastic beach ball into the street. My dad also grew up going to Ocean City, and whenever I'm in New Jersey, the two of us drive down and walk the boards. During my adolescence, my mom's family starting vacationing there as well (they were originally an LBI family), so I have a lot of Ocean City memories.

2. What's your favorite place to eat in Ocean City?
Mack and Manco's at 9th and Boardwalk. I like that location best because it's open all year. Their pizza's incredible: just the right blend of sauce and cheese, and a nice thin crust. You can't find pizza like that in San Francisco.

3. Any other favorite foodie spots?
I love boardwalk food in general, especially Kohrs Bros. soft serve vanilla cones, Johnson's Carmel Popcorn, and pierogies at the Boardwalk Promenade. As for in-town eateries, my friend Becky and I used to frequent Luigi's during high school. I haven't been there in years, but I remember some spectacular Italian dishes. I've always liked The Chatterbox because it's an OC institution and open year-round, 24/7 throughout summer. It's a good place to head for burgers and sandwiches. Just outside of the city in Beesley's Point is The Tuckahoe Inn, perfect for special occasions. I ate Thanksgiving dinner there this past year with my family. And for delicious breakfast pancakes, I recommend Oves at 5th and Boardwalk.

4. How did you get from Deptford to San Fran?
I grew up in Deptford —- my parents still live in the same home they brought me to from the hospital when I was born —- and stayed until I was 21. When I was 20, I visited Southern California with a friend who was thinking about moving there for college, and I really liked what I saw. My cousin Monica lived in San Francisco at the time, and she said, "If you like Southern California you're going to love Northern California." When she invited me out to stay with her I decided to give it a go, since I'm sort of a wanderer and have always loved traveling. I've been here on and off ever since. It's hard being so far from my family (most of my relatives -— parents, brothers, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins —- are in the NJ tri-state region), but I've found I appreciate both them and New Jersey so much more being away. I really make the most of my New Jersey visits. And about 10 years ago I began collecting New Jersey books -- stories about shore history, the Jersey Devil, Jersey diners -— on trips back East, and reading them when I returned to San Francisco. It's like I was doing preliminary research for what was to come.

5. How did you get involved with the Moon book?
I actually came across a call for authors on Craigslist. It was back in 2003, and I didn't have a lot of professional writing experience. But I did have passion. I believe that's what got me a book deal in the end. Originally, due to my lack of experience, I was turned down for the position. But I knew I was the person to write this book, so —- after a crying a bit —- I pursued it. Relentlessly. It took a year acquiring writing samples, interning with local travel publications, completing a photography class (I photographed most pictures in Moon New Jersey 1st Ed.), checking in every once in a while with the editors, and ultimately rewriting my book proposal, before Avalon offered me a contract. Once the book was completed, I think they were pleasantly surprised.

6. What are you looking to do with this revision?
Surprisingly (to me), a lot has changed in New Jersey in only a couple years. In addition to updating Moon New Jersey to reflect these changes, I plan on adding new photos and new call-outs (short blocks of text highlighting interesting facts, figures, and places). I'd also like to include some noteworthy places I bypassed in the first edition due to time and space constraints, tighten the text, and focus more on outdoor activities and history. New Jersey has such interesting history —- especially pop culture history —- which I think a lot of readers would be interested in learning about. Also, any must-visit eateries, hotels, and attractions that have come about in the past couple years, will of course be included in Moon NJ's second edition.

7. Tell us some historical tid bits that we might not know about the South Jersey Shore.
In the 1950s Wildwood earned the nickname, "Little Vegas." An already established as a vacation resort, it was morphing into a notable music hotspot, with Bobby Rydell singing about his "Wildwood Days," Chubby Checker performing his first twist, Bill Haley and the Comets publicly debuting Rock Around the Clock," and Dick Clark hosting American Bandstand from the boardwalk's Starlight Ballroom, destroyed by fire in 1981.

By the 1970s the gingerbread Victorians Cape May is famous for had lost much of their charm. The city's outdated architecture was bypassed for more modern towns like Beach Haven and Ocean City. If it weren't for the Cape May Cottagers Association (now the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts), Cape May as we know it today might never had existed. The group went on to preserve many of the city's Victorian structures, revitalizing Cape May by hosting special events like walking tours, home tours, and trolley tours, catering to the Victorian theme.

The Wildwoods have a similar opportunity with their Doo Wop architecture, which was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "11 Most Endangered" list for 2006. A local organization, the Doo-Wop Preservation League, has been working non-stop to see that the Wildwoods' contribution to American history is recognized. With its angular roofs, flashy neon signs, and exotic themes, it's some of the most unique architecture out there. Preserving it could really solidify the Wildwoods' future as a one-of-a-kind resort.

And just a bit of nostalgia, does anyone remember the mummy who used to scare passer-bys from above the Playland marquee on the Ocean City boardwalk? It's probably been more than 20 years now. A crowd use to gather in front of Playland to watch him (I think there was a Dracula, too) perform his act. It was all part of a scary dark ride that began at the front of Playland, somewhere near the skeeball games. I loved that guy!

8. You mentioned in an email that you keep track of South Jersey news. How do you do that/where do you go for that information?

My parents are a big help. They read the Courier Post each morning and my Mom cuts out articles she thinks might be helpful and puts them in a scrapbook. My parent's have some good friends who live in the Pinelands, and they've been helpful as well. My dad's Mr. Personality. He chats up librarians, park rangers, etc. And I can't forget my friends. They've been wonderful when it comes to restaurants opening, neighborhoods changing, etc. I also subscribe to New Jersey Monthly, read several NJ blogs, and check occasionally. Wow, I hope my parents don't ask for pay after reading this!

9. When will the revised Moon book be published?

Spring 2009.

Digg this


thesaboteuse said...

i met laura kiniry in austin, texas. a true traveler with incredible spirit. and, yes, she may live in SF, but she is a jersey girl for certain!
thanks for the interview!

sjerguy said...

Did you know Macs and Mangoes was started as Macks in Wildwood? They are the best pizza! Did you know Diamond Beach used to be a huge night club? Did you know about the train that was sunk in wildwood crest?

Elizabeth said...

My cousin was the mummy who used to work above the Playland entrance on the Ocean City boardwalk! It was his summer job in high school. That was 30 years ago! Last year at an art show in the Music Pier, a vendor had an old photo print of Playland showing the pyramids on the roof! Wish I had bought that print!