Monday, December 22, 2008

Down the Shore with...Chris Illuminati

Hey, it's back! The latest and greatest installment of the "Down the Shore with..." series. During the rush of the summer, I had trouble keeping up with it, but I'm happy to bring it back, starting with the one and only writer and blogger Chris Illuminati, who not only loves the shore but has been writing some interesting posts about his and his wife's quest to get in top shape. He also runs a funny site called 9 to Fried for those who love to hate their jobs. But here's his thoughts on the shore.

1. What's your favorite shore town and why?
This is honestly a rough question so I'll answer it by saying "it depends on my mood." For example, if I am looking for a night out with the wife where we can get a taste of Jersey shore the way it was when we were little ankle biters, we will take a trip to Wildwood. We ride the coasters, get a sausage and peppers sandwich, lose our paycheck on the cranes. Oh, and did I mention fudge? Well, fudge. If we want to go out and have a good time with a younger crowd, catch a decent band, and drink probably more than my liver would allow I'll meet friends down in Manasquan. If we are looking for the best of both; the beach and food and a step away from nightlife, we go to Brigantine. If you twisted my arm and made me choose just one I'll take Brigantine.

2. How's Wildwood now different from the Wildwood you knew as a kid?
This is what I love about Wildwood; it feels exactly the same as when I was a kid. The old hotels are restored to look the way they did when they were first built and all of the new buildings follow the rule of trying to look retro. Everything is just stuck in freezeframe of time from my childhood. I went down last summer to find Duffers Ice Cream almost exactly as I left it back in 1987 -- except they have new video games. I was hoping they still had Pole Position with my name in the Top Ten scorers but EVERYTHING can't stay the same forever.

3. Manasquan's a bit out of the range of what this blog covers. Are beaches further north that much different than the southern shore?
I feel the Jersey Shore is the Jersey Shore (profound, I know). I think each beach has its own feel, its own history, and its own type of people that it attracts. You won't feel uncomfortable anywhere along the coast but there are certain places that don't feel warm to certain people. So you scope out a different area and mark it as your summer destination.

4. How long have you been going to Brigantine?
This will be my fifth summer. My parents were going to AC frequently. They aren't big gamblers, they just liked to gamble, get drinks, and my dad is a sucker for a good buffet. It felt like they were throwing money away by constantly staying at a casino. They've always wanted a place at the shore to call their own, so they took the money they were going to spend on my writing lessons and bought a condo in Brigantine. At first I thought, "where the heck is Brigantine?" and thought it was a bad idea, but I went for a visit and immediately fell in love with the town. Sure, I am a so so writer but at least I got a beach house out of the deal.

5. What's your favorite place to eat down the shore?
Right as you come out of the tunnel from Brigantine into Atlantic City there is a place on the corner of Fairmount and Mississippi Avenue called Angelo's Fairmount Tavern [Jen note: I also LOVE this restaurant]. My wife is an incredible cook, and my mother is of course one of the best around, but while they are both fighting for the top spot Angelo's is fantastic for authentic, home cooked (if you live in a bar/restaurant) Italian food.

6. When did you start your blog?
I started my blog about two years ago. I had all this personal writing that didn't fit it in my daily content for work, and it wasn't quite material I'd use for freelancing. It was just personal experiences, funny situations, or stupid thoughts that ran around my brain. It started to get an audience, which came as a huge shock because it meant people where interested in my personal life. It's an odd thing to think about so I try to forget that I am telling friends and strangers about all of the things that should usually be kept a secret.

7. How's the fitness/dieting going?
The wife is doing absolutely fantastic. I can't explain how much I admire her for doing this fitness competition. I am going along for the ride, blogging about it, and trying to be as supportive as possible. I slip up constantly, especially where diet is concerned, but I make sure she stays on track. She has much more will power than I do. She could sit in front of a cake and not think about a single bite while someone in Utah says cookie and I get a craving so bad I am hijacking a Tastykake truck like I am in a scene of the Italian Job.

8. Tell us about 9 to Fried.
Well when I was hired at phillyBurbs, one of my assignments was the Job Search section. Basically, it got a ton of traffic and management wanted to figure out a way to keep people interested even after they finished looking for a new job. So it started out as a blog to help people; info about resumes, how to dress for interviews, etc. It bombed. Then one day I found an article online that was job related but completely absurd. So I posted that article and ripped it to shreds. I was merciless. Of course, people loved it. So it got me thinking that people checking out jobs are obviously ticked off about their own so why not a blog for people that HATE their jobs? 9 to Fried was born and it's now one of the most popular sections on the site. I even have a group of dedicated readers called the 5 O'clock Shadows. It's honestly my favorite thing to work on because of the subject matter and my "shadows." I am like a proud parent of a dysfunctional child.

9. And apparently you went to college with my sister. What was Rider like?
Rider was probably one of the smartest moves I made in my life. I was at a small school in Pennsylvania that was celebrating their first year of running water. I was miserable. I was a Jersey kid stuck in farm land. I trasnfered after my Sophmore year and it was like a whole new world. My grades improved, I made a ton of great friends, and I wasn't far from home, my family and childhood friends. I have everything I could want in life for those two years. Blast you graduation!

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