Friday, August 31, 2007

News from Around the Jersey Shore

Kim Kardashian will be at Providence (Quarter at the Tropicana, 2801 Pacific Ave., 1-800-843-8767) on September 2. If you know who she is, I guess this is a big deal. If you're like me and had to google her to find out her claim to fame, then, well, move on to the next news item.

Speaking of AC, here's an interesting blog post about it. It's called "My City in Ruins." You can guess the piece's tone.

A story about efforts to save the Beach Theatre in Cape May. Good luck guys!

Free concert in Brighton Park in Atlantic City Saturday afternoon.

The New York Times has a nice piece in the Escapes section about the South Jersey shore (and, yes, I am kicking myself for not pitching this story myself -- then again, I was a little busy). The article points to something going on this weekend -- sales. Major, mega sales. Stores are trying to clear out their stock before the crowds disappear on Monday. I stopped in at the Attic, which is next door to Suncatcher Surf Shop (9425 2nd Avenue, Stone Harbor, 609-368-3488 in Stone Harbor, yesterday. Everything was $30 or 75% off -- whichever was lower. Before you go "$30 is not a bargain," consider that the jeans I picked up were originally $150, the sweater $160 and the shirt $175. Original price: $485. Labor Day weekend price: $90.

It was quiet in Avalon yesterday, and so far this morning, the town still looks somewhat empty. The crowds will start coming soon, though, so I'm going to enjoy the quiet, and the sun, while it lasts.

Digg this

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Labor Day Weekend = Last Chance

I know that it's not the weekend yet, but if you're mind's not on the three day weekend ahead, then you're really dedicated to your job.

Labor Day weekend is the traditional end to the shore summer season. In my book, I wrote about a lot about places that close up shop the day after Labor Day and don't open again until Memorial Day weekend. A lot of businesses stay open through September, October, and sometimes part of November, or even all year long, but most of the shore will slow down considerably after Monday.

So this is the time when people are trying to pack in their last summer shore experiences. Add to the mix that this is one of the most popular vacation weeks of the year, and you've got shops, restaurants, rides, beaches and bars packed to the brim.

I'm not immune. My boyfriend and I are making sure we hit the Ocean City boardwalk this weekend. Yes, yes, I know I've been there already, but not to play pinball at Jilly's (1168 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 609-399-2814), ride the carousel at Wonderland Pier (854 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 609-399-7082) and watch the summer crowds go by. As I've learned while writing and researching this book, there's a big difference between working and playing at the shore. I've worked double time the last three weeks so that I could take some time at the end of the summer, even if it's a day or two, to enjoy the shore the way everyone else does. It'll be the perfect preparation to the one last tedious edit I'll make to my manuscript on Monday before I ship it to my editor and publisher on Tuesday.

That doesn't mean I won't be working this weekend. Tomorrow I'm making one more trip through (even though I said before that I was making my last time) to fill in the blanks on the manuscript, and take those last pictures. I have enough to satisfy my publisher (or at least my contract requirement), but if this is my only shot in reporting to people what I know and love about the shore, you bet that I'm going to turn in as many visuals as possible. I also want to do some reading in the Avalon Library to bone up the history sections of the book. And they have free wireless internet.

If you can't make it down the shore this weekend, never fear. The warm temperatures hold through September or beyond -- I spent a day on the beach last October. And a lot of places do cater to those who travel to the shore in what's called the shoulder season. But if you want to catch the buzz that is the summer season, get going -- it's your last chance until May 2008 (which is when my book comes out -- mark it on your calendar now! May 5!)

Digg this

Rough Draft

What you see in this picture is my book as it appears when printed out from my desk jet. Of course, this isn't what it'll look like when you (hopefully) pick up your copy from the bookstore -- that'll look more like this -- but I think this picture gives you an idea of the volume of pages and work involved. And the mess that has become my desk.

The book is not done yet, but I'm getting closer. I won't read through half of these chapters again until Monday. You know what it's like when you read something over and over again to the point that you can't pick up on any mistakes? I'm at that point, so I'll take a few days to let my mind breathe. I'm still double checking information on two chapters, and I'm also finalizing my "to do" list and "to take pictures of" list. When I head down the shore tomorrow, I'll know everything that I need to do so I can send this puppy to my editor and publisher on Tuesday in complete form.

I also saw a draft of the cover (and, no I'm not telling you which down is on it because it's not 100% final). I don't think I'll have that "wow, I wrote a book" feeling until I have a copy in my hands, but seeing my name on a mock cover like that was pretty close.

What I'm Listening to: Music for the Morning After by Pete Yorn

Digg this

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Late Night Shopping

Today, I've spent a lot of time talking to owners of Jersey shore shops, asking them how late they're open. Ninety-nine percent are saying something in the range of from 9pm to midnight -- or beyond.

And that's not just Atlantic City -- I'm talking Ocean City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, Cape May. I don't think I'd ever find those kinds of hours at home outside of the holidays, but it makes sense. The weather's nice, people are on vacation, so they're going to be out later at night. So if you're a night owl and looking for a few last minute deals, hoof it down to the Jersey shore. Also, a few towns already had their sidewalk sales, which means the merchandise that didn't sell is, in many cases, still on sale, sometimes at even lower prices (I'm talking to you, Stone Harbor).

This won't last, though. Once Labor Day has come and gone and the kids are back in school, the hours of operation shrink until some shops close until next season (Easter to Memorial Day seems to be the range). Many in Cape May, Ocean City, Avalon and Stone Harbor will be open weekends until at least October, sometimes to Christmas. Best bet is to call ahead before you go to see whether or not your favorite shop will still be open after summer's gone. Until then, though, shop to it!

What I'm Listening to: What I'm Listening to: Guster on Ice: Live from Portland by Guster.

Digg this

T Minus One Week

I think it's fitting that I'm writing this post in the first half hour of the day. I'm very close to my book deadline -- this thing is due to the publisher one week from today.

Panic, and some fear, is starting to set in. I am working past midnight, after all, and I hate writing any time after 3pm. Yes, I've got that much to do.

The good news is that the text is done. I'm going to do one more read through right before I turn the book over to my editor, but the words are just about what I want them to be. The devil, as they say is in the details. I'm going through the entire book to make sure that the entries are formatted correctly, that I've got all the off season hours for all these places (probably the most tedious part of the book), that I'm hitting word counts in all the chapters, that I'm spelling everything right, that I got the phone numbers/addresses/website correct. Today I wrote the introduction materials, the acknowledgements and the pricing guide (which I had all along, but not in a format that I could use for the book).

And there is still so much to do -- key words to be put into the index, final photo permission forms sent out and accounted for, final photos to take, list of unusual spellings to hand over to the copy editor -- all those little things that I knew I'd have to do but didn't exactly know what they'd be.

That's the panic. Where's the fear coming from? I don't want to get anything wrong. What if I input the wrong phone number and forever piss off a shop owner? I don't want any angry phone calls when the thing comes out, or to upset anyone. Well, I know that's not going to be possible. I can't write about everyone, and those who aren't included might feel miffed.

I'm tired, my shoulders ache, and my eyes are dry. I was never one to pull an all nighter, and I can't do it right now. I need some sleep to start fresh in the morning.

One more week of this. I know it'll be worth it, but, damn, I'm ready for bed.

Digg this

Monday, August 27, 2007

West Wildwood

If you’ve never head of West Wildwood, you’re not alone. I hadn't either, and it took me and my dad a few tries to find it. He hadn't heard of it either, but someone he works with has a house there, so we decided to check it out after riding bikes on the Wildwood boardwalk Sunday morning.

West Wildwood is located over a bridge on 26th Street in Wildwood. It’s the only road on and off the island. Most of the area is residential, but it has its own borough with its own fire department, police department, mayor and everything else a township needs, though it doesn’t have any traffic signals. No need – it’s that small.

The bar in town, Westside Saloon (770 West Glenwood Avenue, West Wildwood 08260, 609-729-1488), is the kind of place where everyone knows your name, and if they don’t, they’ll probably ask. It looks like it belongs in the Alamo, not the shore. There's also a golf course and a few marinas, but that's it for businesses.

West Wildwood is prone to flooding, which is why most of the houses look like they’ve been lifted up on cinderblocks. Some literally were -- they started on the ground but were lifted up because of the floods. Residents take the flooding in stride – one pointed out two areas of higher ground where people park their cars until the water levels drop back down.

You won’t find much in West Wildwood in terms of nightlife or action, which is why most people like it. It’s close to the water and has the same benefits of the shore, but without a lot of traffic, both of car and people variety, or noise. I did a quick real estate search -- the prices aren't ridiculous like they are in Avalon or Stone Harbor (though still higher than I could hope to aff0rd), and you probably won't have as many drunks stumbling up your street.

What I'm Listening to: Guster on Ice: Live from Portland by Guster.

Digg this

Shore Fashion Faux Pas

Quick non-shore note: here's a book review I wrote that appeared in Sunday's St. Pete Times. No, I don't smoke, but I enjoyed the book anyway.

Back to business, then. Last week, Philebrity wrote about an alarming fashion trend: high waisted jeans. It's one of those looks that only works on models, but you'll see plenty of mortal women trying to make work this fall. Another trend that only looks good on freakishly tall and skinny women: jeans tucked into Uggs.

Why do I bring this up on a shore blog? Because whatever fashions are touted in magazines as hip, hot or whatever, are sure to wind up down the shore, especially on the boardwalks. Yes, even Uggs. The temperatures dipped into the "highs in the 70s" category a few weeks ago, and I saw this fugly trend all over the place. Girls, trust me: if even Cindy Crawford looks silly doing this, you do, too. The same goes for white shorts with high heels (I'm talking to you, half the ladies who go to the Princeton). It's not something most people can pull off.

I'm not saying Uggs don't have their place. I have a pair, and I love them. But I also wear them with sweat pants around my house where no one can see them, or with jeans where the jeans cover the slender part of the boot. And not when it's 80 degrees outside. Why don't you leave them in the closet and wear those clothes you bought just for summer one last time? Unless it's white shorts and heels.

What I'm Listening to: Preston and Steve on WMMR.

Digg this

Friday, August 24, 2007

Print, print, print...

It's noisy in my office today, and my file cabinet is shaking. No, nothing too interesting or intense is going on. But I am printing out the entire contents of my book. I use "fast draft" mode to save ink, and my printer tends to rock on the filing cabinet that it calls home.

I've printed out chapters as I've worked on them, but only once did printed the entire thing in one sitting. But now that I have only 11 days until the book is due, I'm going to do another "state of the union" and make a list of absolutely everything that needs to be done, from what pictures are missing, to what hours of shops need to be double checked, to any formatting that has to be taken care of, to making sure I have a big enough box to mail the thing to my publisher.

I'm calmer than I expected I'd be. I don't know if that'll be the case next weekend. Today I've been mentally and physically preparing myself for the next week-ish ahead -- I did my laundry so I'll have clean clothes next week; went food shopping so I'm not scrounging for meals or tempted to get take out; prepared batches of good-for-me dishes that will stay good and fresh in my fridge for the next week; ran so I won't feel guilty if I miss a workout or two; cleared off and cleaned up my dining room table, which will become my work surface (I have no idea why I like to write at kitchen and dining room tables -- it's just the way it is. And it lets me spread out); and I've been cleaning my house so that I don't feel like I'm working in a hovel and also to prevent me from worrying about cleaning it when I have more important things to do. I also wrapped up any freelance projects I had left; wrote and mailed over due thank you notes; picked up thank you gifts that'll be handed out after the book is done; paid bills; and now I'm going to read through any magazines left in the "to be read" pile.

I hope all this will help me when I go through the sprint toward the finish line. If not, well, I can always sleep through September.

What I'm Listening to: The Life Pursuit by Belle and Sebastian.

P.S. And if you're wondering what ever came of that second book I mentioned, well, I turned it down. It wasn't the right project for the right terms. I'll write more about that later...because I know you were so worried about it.

Digg this

News from Around the Jersey Shore

Short news round up today:

Police caught the guy who they believed stabbed a British tourist in Margate.


More kudos for the Borgata.

This story caught my eye because it's a follow up to an article I posted before about Trump poo pooing Atlantic City's partial smoking ban. But, at least in this case, the comments are priceless.

What I'm Listening to: Preston and Steve on WMMR.

Digg this

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rainy Day Activities in Atlantic City

I feel bad for anybody who planned this week as their one week down the shore. The weather's been sucky every day, and I saw a lot of bored and frustrated families in Wildwood and Stone Harbor yesterday.

Could I offer a suggestion that might not automatically pop to mind when you think "what do I do with my family?" Take them to Atlantic City.

Yes, that Atlantic City, which has a lot of things for families to do, especially on a rainy day. There's Ripley's Believe it or Not (1441 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 877-713-4231), the Atlantic City Aquarium (New Hampshire Avenue and the Bay, Atlantic City, 609-348-2880), Absecon Lighthouse (31 South Rhode Island Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-449-1360) and Flyers Skate Zone (501 North Albany Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-441-1780). The Tropicana (2801 Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-340-4000), has an IMAX theater, which is showing the latest Harry Potter movie and a flick about Dinosaurs (go to their website for a coupon). The Trop also has a magic and spy shop in the Quarter -- fun for kids and grown ups.

You could take the kids back-to-school shopping at the outlets at The Walk (1931 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-872-7002) and The Pier at Caesars (One Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City, 609-345-3100). Don't be intimidated by the Pier -- I scored better bargains there than at the outlets last time I went through. And talk about kid friendly: You can even make your own chocolate bar at It's Sugar (The Pier at Caesars, 609-345-3100 ).

If you're feeling adventurous, you could drive inland a bit to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Great Creek Road, Oceanville, 609-652-1665). It's 43,000 acres of preserved land that's home to buckets of wildlife, especially birds. You can drive an eight-mile loop or hike one of the shorter trails. Stop in the welcome center for a bird ID sheet, and to rent binoculars. If the kids groan and say that it'll be boring, tell them there's a lookout tower they can climb.

What I'm Listening to: If You Want Blood by matt pond PA.

Digg this

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tully Nuts

It was (another) soggy day at the shore -- I'm still wringing out my jeans. If you're stuck in your shore house, and of legal age, it might be worth venturing out to #1 Tavern (1st and Atlantic Avenues, North Wildwood, 609-522-1775) tonight for a Tully Nut.

What's a Tully Nut? Good question. The recipe's a secret, but we do know that it's red and made of five types of liquor. It's also stood the test of time -- the Tully Nut was first concocted in 1969 and is still turning tongues red at #1 Tavern. It's got a slushie consistency, too, so it might make you feel like you're in a tropical paradise instead of an early autumn.

What I'm Listening to: We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes by Death Cab for Cutie because it's a Death Cab kind of day.

Digg this

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Last Research Day

On Wednesday, I'll be commuting to the shore, specifically Wildwood, to wrap up some research. Why commuting? Because my dog's having some issues (would you ever guess that a 12 pound dog could eat a baby bunny in one gulp? I didn't, but my dogwalker called me frantically on Sunday morning saying that she did), and because I've got tix to the Phillies game. I know that finishing the book is top priority, but it is baseball season, and games must be attended.

So what do I do to prepare for research, at least for tomorrow? It's a good time to write about this considering Wednesday's trip is probably my last session of full on research (though Sunday sorta counts -- though I don't know how much work I'll get done while riding bikes through Wildwood with my dad). I might need one more day next week to take pictures, but that won't be as labor intensive as on-site research.

Most of today was spent figuring out what was left to see in Wildwood, based on what I've read and places people have told me "I must see," plus what I've seen but didn't have a chance to investigate. This lead to a "to do" list that's already packed in my bag.

Tomorrow morning, I'll wake up bright and early (think before 6 am), walk my dog, eat breakfast, scan the newspaper, then head out to fill my car with gas, and then fill me with Wawa coffee to prep us both for a drive down the shore. I'll probably have a second breakfast in the Wildwoods (hey, I'm training for a marathon -- I'm allowed to eat a lot), see what's left to see on my list, walk the streets I haven't walked while taking notes, then head back home to walk my dog again before I watch the Phillies spank the Dodgers (I hope).

I'm sure that by the time I collapse into bed tomorrow night, I'll be exhausted. But at least I'll have finished the last nugget of on-site research. And that, readers, will be a great feeling.

What I'm Listening to: Ganging Up on the Sun by Guster.

Digg this

T Minus Two Weeks

It's another gloomy and chilly day down the shore. After my exploits in Cape May and Avalon this weekend, I'm back in my regular office and taking a big look at my entire manuscript. Why? Because I only have two weeks more until the book is due to my publisher. ACK!

I'm surprised that I'm not completely panicking, though I'm sure I will be this time next week. I guess I'm calm right now because four of six chapters are with my assistant, and I know what needs to be done. In five of the six chapters, that means filling in holes, whether it be another restaurant description or two, or writing the introduction. The bulk of the work I have left to do is in the Wildwoods, which is why I'm headed back there tomorrow and this weekend. Pacific Avenue shopping, you're mine! I also need to finish organizing the photographs, getting all the signed permission forms that I can use other people's photographs, make sure everything is in the right format, write the introduction and then give every chapter a heavy edit to make sure the prose is interesting and sparkling.

I'm not sure how often I'll be posting in these last two weeks, but I'll try to put something up here every day. Hopefully. Then sleep for a week. Maybe. It looks like my second book proposal is going to get the greenlight, which means I'll be starting book two soon after I finish book one. When it rains it pours, right?

Digg this

Monday, August 20, 2007

From Lobster to Laughter - A Weekend Down the Shore

This weekend was one of contrasts, and I think because both kinds of things exist in one close area that makes the shore so interesting.

To start, I did make it to the Lobster House (Fisherman's Wharf, Cape May Harbor, Cape May, 609-884-8296) on Saturday night. Housemate Chris and I expected to wait an hour or two for seating, and when we pulled into the parking lot, we just barely got a spot. I figured those one-to-two hour wait estimates would be correct, and was very glad I'd packed a protein bar. But when we got inside, we were directed to a hostess who took us right to a seat in the upstairs dining room. I think we planned it just right -- we got to the Lobster House at 5 p.m. By the time we left at 6 p.m. -- stuffed with gloriously fresh seafood and that amazing bread they serve -- the place was mobbed with waiting (and hungry) people.

Since we finished dinner much earlier than expected, we took a stroll through Cape May down to Congress Hall (251 Beach Avenue, Cape May, 888-944-1816) and had a drink at the Brown Room. This spot buzzes as a pre-dinner hang out, but was still relatively crowded when we got there. I highly recommend the Blue Pig Tavern Ale, which is made by Flying Fish, a South Jersey brewery.

Then Sunday was Tour de Shore. I did not participate in the event, in which groups of people dress up according to theme and ride their bikes from bar to bar in Avalon. But I had fun watching everyone else who did. Housemate Misti was in on a group whose theme was "5 year old birthday party." My favorite was the guy in full clown get up who rode his bike with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth (not that I condone smoking...I just thought he looked funny). For most of the afternoon, you could see bikes full of people in silly costumes riding through town, along with a few limos for the more affluent participants. I ended up at the upstairs room of the Rockin' Chair (2409 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3300) for Quizzo and then the Princeton (21st Street and Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3456) to see the aftermath. At the Rockin' Chair, I was greeted by a Roman Senator (no suit or tie here), bees, and one piece of "future cougar bait," which brings me to these t-shirts, which I think are hysterical. Someone also started an impromptu hula hoop contest, and got up on stage and sang us some Neil Diamond.

By the time I got to the Princeton around 10 p.m., it was a zoo. Most of the people there had been drinking since around noon, so it was much like 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday night. I met a few Cobra Kais, Roller Girls, sailors, a stranger who asked me if I'd make out with him (no thanks), and a lot of people who forgot what their theme was and/or lost costume parts along the way. Most everyone was at least a little rain-soaked -- it had been a chilly, rainy day on Sunday.

My point? Oh, right. I could have a luxurious seafood meal, sip custom brews at a swanky lounge, and laugh at a bunch of drunks riding bikes in costume, all in one weekend, all in one small area of the Jersey Shore. It's what I think makes the area so much fun, and what I think will make this book so interesting. I keep telling myself this now that I'm just at about t-two weeks to deadline. Panic might start settling in tomorrow. At least I had a blast this weekend to prep for the final rush.

Digg this

Friday, August 17, 2007

Cool Cape May

Today's a Cape May day in the offices of Jen A. Miller. No, I'm not there (yet) but editing the Cape May chapter.

It's such a cute town, one I didn't appreciate when I was a kid. I thought it was boring, and that the shopping along Washington Street was nothing compared to what any boardwalk had to offer, except for Whale's Tale (312 Washington Street Mall, Cape May, 609-884-4808), which has a fantastic room of kids stuff, including a tower of hand puppets.

Now that I've been digging into the history of this town, can enjoy restaurants where my placemat cannot be drawn on with crayon, and can afford to stay at some of the B&Bs, I love it. And it has such a colorful past. For example: the Cape May we know today -- that mecca of romance and Victorian archteicture -- wouldn't be here today if it hadn't been for a manmade disaster.

Early on the morning of
November 9, 1878, arsonists set fire in Ocean House, a hotel that had been shut down for the winter. The fire quickly spread to Congress Hall (251 Beach Avenue, Cape May, 888-944-1816), and then from one more wooden structure to another. Total damage: 35 acres.

Of course the fire was devastating (though no one was killed). But something had to be built once the ashes were cleared away, which is when most of Cape May's gorgeous Victorian B&Bs were built. I've found most clock into existence around the 1880s.

I'll be in Cape May this weekend, too, finishing up research, noshing at the Lobster House (Fisherman's Wharf, Cape May Harbor, Cape May, 609-884-8296) and strolling down Washington Street to see the town at is vacation height.

If you're headed to Cape May this weekend -- or any shore town -- make sure you bring a jacket or someone to snuggle with. Highs are only hitting the 70s during the day, and dropping into the low 60s at night. It's the kind of weather I like best, but only if I'm not chilly.

What I'm Listening to: Dulcinea by Toad the Wet Sprocket
What I'm Reading: Gilded Lilli: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique by Kelly Dinardo

Digg this

News from Around the Jersey Shore

Smackdown on the Ocean City Boardwalk! In this corner, the town, which wants to use rain forest wood to replace worn boards because the rain forest wood is better up to the task of handling boardwalk traffic. In the other corner, those who oppose deforesting rain forest. Who will win? Stay tuned.

With popularity comes magazines. Here's what you can find about Atlantic City (and if you editors need writers, I'm in the know). I'd still like to know what happened to the Jason Binn mag Boardwalk that was supposed to be touching down a few years ago....

Obviously, drinking and driving is stupid. Now you have a greater chance of getting caught in Sea Isle City. As if the threat of death and/or jail time wasn't enough. And here's where to call a taxi.

Miss America's moving to TLC. Wow, that crown's fallen pretty far from its peak.

Again with the smoking ban. Quick summary: smoking indoors, including at bars and restaurants, is illegal in New Jersey, except for Atlantic City casinos. Even there, many casinos are slowly converting most of the gaming areas to smoke free (more than a handful of casino officials also told me they think they'll be entirely smoke free by the time my book comes out). But Donald Trump decided that no smoking is hurting business. What do you think his employees, who have to breath in that stuff, would have to say about that?

Here's a nice article about The Brendan.

And there is life at the shore after Labor Day. Here's what some folks in Sea Isle City do when you go home.

What I'm Listening to: The Break-In by Ari Hest.

Digg this

Thursday, August 16, 2007


A few things:

-I'm getting a lot of hits from people searching "Tour de Shore" in Avalon (thank you, Stat Counter). Here's the skinny: it starts Sunday at the Princeton (21st Street and Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3456) at noon. You can register the day before, also at the Princeton, from 2-4 p.m -- something the organizers highly recommend. It's $20 a person, and the money's going to charity. No water guns at Jack's (3601 Ocean Drive, Avalon, 609-967-5001) or the Rockin' Chair (2409 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3300).

-Check out this week's issue of Atlantic City Weekly for a few of my beach reading recommendations.

-The Brendan is still going strong in Avalon. Fashion show tonight, skate jam and movie night tomorrow, competition and homecoming Saturday night. So go already.

What I'm Listening to: Soundtrack to Le Divorce.

Digg this

Shopping on Asbury Avenue

It's been another rainy day at the shore -- Dave Roberts on 6ABC showed a very detailed map of the thunderstorms rumbling through the towns, and even though the sun's supposed to peek out later, a lot of vacationing families are looking for something else to do. Of course I have a suggestion:

Asbury Avenue in Ocean City is a main street throwback. It's what it must have been like when there were no indoor malls, strip malls, four lane highways through the middle of town, or even online shopping. It's location near the shore and pretty far from any mall has probably preserved its main street status, and even when it's raining, popping in and out of the shops is a treat.

If you've got kids, head to Sun Rose Words & Music (756 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-399-9190). They have a playful kids area with both books and activities, and plenty of stuff for you to browse. The stock is heavy with local titles, and it's a center for author signings. To dress up your kid in the finest of finery, you might consider stopping at Sea Oats (710 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City,
609-398-8399). They've been selling buckets of cute stuff for kids for 25 years now. Lots and lots of pink.

For the more musically inclined, there's
Grassroots Music and Books (1059 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-398-6500). The front room is loaded with acoustic and electric guitars. My favorite spot is the back room, which is lined with vinyl, both of new albums and old.

The antiquing is fine along the avenue -- Yours, Mine and Ours Antiques (957 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-525-0270) might make you regret every yard sale you've ever had, but it's a joy to browse through. Take your time here, and look up, because the entire store is packed, floor to ceiling, with gems. Only Yesterday has a store on Asbury Avenue, too, at 1137,
but it's only open Thursday to Sunday. Their store on the boardwalk is open seven days a week.

Ladies, yes, there is shopping. Fantastic shopping.
Glass Frog Studio (920 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-398-7510) used to just be a stained glass studio, but the owner's added in very fashionable accessories, like hats and bags. Yes, she does have items for fall if you're thinking ahead. La
Bottine Boutique (1033 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-399-6400) is a cute, small and cozy shop. Prices on the shoes aren't out of this world, but the selection is adorable.

One of my favorite stores for fashion on the avenue is Colette Boutique (900
Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-525-0911). It's the first physical store I've found that sells items from Stop Staring, which makes retro vintage fashions. The sex kitten factor is high in the dresses and gowns they sell, but the shop also stocks jeans and bathing suits. Do NOT skip the shoe selection. Purrrr. If you're bargain hunting, try Whatever (817 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-271-7231), where everything is $10. Very colorful stuff here, and it doesn't look cheap.

Denovum (908 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-814-9084) is a fun place to browse. It's big and airy, like a barn, and full of the eclectic and just sometimes odd. It's a home furnishings and decor store, but far from the ordinary, and just a bit out of place on Asbury, which is probably why I liked it.

Asbury Avenue has plenty more spots to browse and shop -- but the best way to figure out what's there is to see for yourself.

What I'm Listening to: Several Arrows Later by matt pond PA.

Digg this

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Catch Up

After another trip through the shore, I'm taking today as a catch up day, meaning that I've worked on other freelance project, caught up on my reading, took care of paperwork, and sorted through a lot of mail (us freelancers, we're a burden to our mail men/women).

I also did something else that's novel: I have not worked on the book. Well, it's not like I stopped looking and taking notes when I was at the shore. But for a few days, I did what most people do at the shore in August: enjoy it. I haven't typed a word in my manuscript since Friday afternoon. And you know what? The break felt good. I'll be back at it bright and early tomorrow morning, but I think my head needed a break. I'm 99% sure my writing will be stronger, fresher and have more zip and zing than what would come out of a worn out brain.

So with that I'm going to walk my dog, read and go for a run. More about Atlantic City tomorrow (which is the town that won the shore poll, in case you were curious).

Digg this

Tour de Shore for Two

On Saturday, Housemate Chris and I toured Avalon and Stone Harbor from a more breezy point of view: bikes. Our stops were marked by where we could grab a drink.

Before I get into this post, I would like to say that if you are under 21 years old, doing this is not only illegal but stupid. And shore bouncers have little patience for underage kids and/or fake IDs. So you're warned. Chris and I are well above the legal limit.

Riding right along, then: Our first stop was the Harbor Pub (261 96th Street, Stone Harbor, 609-368-8800). It's had a few names since I've been coming down the shore, including PJ Ryan's, which is what I remember it as. A few years ago, my mom and I had dinner there, and I can't see that much has changed. It's a local spot that serves good bar food, and bumps at night. The downstairs bar has a decent selection of brews, too -- can you really go wrong if you've got Blue Moon on tap? I didn't think the bartender had to ask if I wanted an orange slice, though. With Blue Moon, that should be assumed.

Then it was onto Fred's Tavern (314 96th Street, Stone Harbor, 609-368-5591), the spot Chris was looking forward to most because of the jukebox. Unfortunately, golf was on, as was the television volume, and neither one of us wanted to step in and tick off the crowd in favor of good music. It was pretty packed for a late afternoon, and most people sitting around the square bar seemed like regulars. It's a dark spot, too, and it was easy to forget that it was still daytime when we stepped out of the bar. Thank goodness I had my sunglasses.

Back on the bikes we went to the Windrift (125 80th Street, Avalon, 609-368-5175). I've been here before, once on a Sunday night when the inside bar was packed by 8 p.m. It was much earlier this evening, but the upstairs, outdoor bar area was jumping. The crowd was mixed -- people taking in an early dinner, or stopping in for a drink right off the beach. I still want to go back on a Tuesday night for wing night, which I heard is a sight, not just for the wings, but for the throngs of people who partake.

That was our last stop before heading into Avalon proper, or Avalon that's closer to the shore house we're part of. We made a quick stop at the Rockin' Chair (
2409 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3300), which has excellent Quizzo on Sunday nights. But the downstairs area seemed a bit too formal for two people who'd been riding their bikes all over the island in the middle of the afternoon, so we zipped over to Circle Tavern, which is part of the recently renovated Princeton (21st Street and Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3456).

I'll have a lot more to say about the Princeton in another post, but it's almost like a throwback to a college bar. Everyone starts drinking somewhere else, and ends up paying a very high cover to get in here (usually around 11 p.m.) because that's where everyone else is going. But in the evening, the Circle Tavern is a surprisingly good restaurant. I noshed on the creamy mac and cheese. Chris finally found a juke box. I'll forgive him for playing a ridiculously long Iron Maiden song because I got to play a Guster tune ("Barrel of a Gun," if you're curious).

That was the last stop on our tour of the Seven Mile Island, though Chris was good enough to cap off the evening by trying to pop a wheelie on the 21st Street Bridge. And falling spectacularly.

Apparently, Chris and I may have jumped the gun. Sunday, August 19 is the "Tour de Shore," which is essentially the same thing we did, but it starts at the Princeton at noon and involves a heck of a lot more people. Oh, and you dress in costume. Yes, our house does have a theme picked out, and, no, I'm not going to give it away yet. But I'll probably be resting up all week to prep for another bike tour of the shore.

What I'm Listening to: If You Want Blood by matt pond PA.

Digg this

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Atlantic City: Always Turned On

After I finally -- FINALLY -- digested my sandwich from the White House Sub Shop, I set out to check out the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

In the course of writing this book, I've spent plenty of time on the Boardwalk. But I'd never "walked the boards" on a night during the summer. And even though it was a Monday, the Boardwalk was swarmed with all kinds of people, from families to couples to maybe a prostitute or two. No joke. It has a bit of that seedy feel of the Wildwood Boardwalk, but I think because there are so many different people, it's not as obvious. Though the smoking on the Boardwalk is very annoying.

I stopped first at the Irish Pub (164 Saint James Place, Atlantic City, 609-344-9063). One of my housemates couldn't stop shouting the Irish Pub's praises, and he has good reason to do so. It's off the Boardwalk and doesn't look like much of a spot, but once you step inside, you're enshrouded in dark wood and Irish paraphernalia. But not the cheesey "I just bought this off ebay" kind -- the Irish Pub's been around the block a few times. The menu said the bar itself is 75 years old, and it looked at it, though it at least felt like the chairs had been reupholstered in 75 years. I sat next to a father and son in town for the day from Philadelphia. The son said he hadn't had a great day at Blackjack, but he was enjoying his dinner. The Eagles game was on, too, so me, the son and the father, alternated between chatting about our lives and the game.

I continued on my way down the Boardwalk, going into all the casinos and checking out the restaurants and bars. This was, after all, why I did one more trip through Atlantic City. The crowds were thickest around Caesars and Trump Plaza, no doubt because of the bars, restaurants and shopping around the Pier at Caesars.

I walked all the way down to the Hilton, which is the Southern-most casino on the Boardwalk. It also looks like one place that's not ready or willing to snazz herself up as the rest of Atlantic City has, and I think there's a draw in that to some people. It's also the smokiest casino I've been in. Yes, the casinos still allow smoking, but most have done their best to corral the smokers in one spot. The Hilton, well, not so much. I also peeked into a big band dance, but that was invitation only. Boo.

After that, I trucked back up to the Tropicana to watch the end of the game at Fire Waters, which is a slip of a bar that has 50 beers on tap and 101 in bottles. The crowd was mostly guys gearing up for a night of gambling while watching the game. But I was feeling worn out and left after one beer. That certainly was a long walk back to my room at the Trump Taj Mahal, but it felt lovely to sink into the big, fluffy bed in my room. I don't know what I expected from the Taj, but it wasn't the sleek, clean and comfy modern room that I stayed in. I remember the Taj from its glitzy big 80s day -- it's come a long long way. Though I really didn't need Donald Trump's face on my room key.

I left very early this morning and headed back to Avalon. When I thought about what else I had to check out in AC, the only thing I could come up with was the Atlantic City Air Show, which is roaring through the skies on Wednesday. The teams were practicing yesterday and will be today, which made for a noisy afternoon. But I've got more book to write, and more research to do, so it's to another shore town I go.

What I'm Listening to: Whatever's on ESPN.

Digg this

Monday, August 13, 2007

A White House Not in Turmoil

When I got into Atlantic City this morning, the first place I headed was not on the Boardwalk. It was to a little corner eatery called the White House Sub Shop (Arctic and Mississippi Avenues, Atlantic City 609-345-1564).

The sandwich and sub shop has been in town long before gambling and was known as a favorite of Frank Sinatra. The walls are covered with photographs of the rich and famous who've stopped in for a sandwich, including a lot of Miss Americas. I went for the White House special, which is loaded and big enough for a few people. The picture you see here is a half serving. I ate my sub over five hours ago, and I'm still full. I'll be lucky if I can muster up an appetite in time to chow down for the Eagles game tonight.

It's a crowded spot, especially during lunch, so be prepared to wait. Or if you're traveling solo, like I usually am, ask the other folks in line if they're waiting to sit at the counter. If not, you're in.

What I'm Listening to: Hotel New York by Anouk.

Digg this

Brendan Borek High Tides Memorial Fund

In 1991, Brendan Borek lost his battle with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer. Before he passed away, friends organized a surf competition in his honor. Since 1991, "The Brendan" has been held in his memory, and to raise funds to support families in the area whose children are suffering from cancer. The fund, called the "High Tides Memorial Fund," pays for whatever a family needs -- gas and tolls to and from hospitals (usually in Philadelphia), hotels, scholarships, groceries, utilities, mortgages, rent. They make gift baskets around the holidays and even give siblings of children with cancer gift certificates for back to school shopping.

"I didn't want other families to go through the experiences we went through as a family," Lydia Borek told me yesterday as we sat and chatted at the Pale Moon Boutique (2170 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-0100). It's owned by her daughter-in-law and also the offices of the High Tides Memorial Fund. Pale Moon stocks casual designer clothes, and also sells clothes, from t-shirts to onsies, with the Brendan Borek logo, and, in some cases, Brendan's art.

The point? I'm getting to it -- a big chunk of the money that the High Tides Memorial Fund pays out is raised this week through the 17th Annual Brendan Borek Surf Memorial. It's a week worth of events, so here's what's in store:

Monday: Crabcake Day. Get your crabcakes at Sylversterr's (21st and 5th Avenue, Avalon, 609-967-7553) today because profits go to the fund.

Tuesday: Art Show. Check out the Avalon Yacht Club (7th and the Bay, Avalon) from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to check out some nifty stuff.

Wednesday: Pizza Day. Head on over to Circle Pizza (2108 Dune Drive 609-967-7566) and grab a slice to raise money for the fund.

Thursday: Pancake Day and Fashion Show. If you haven't been to the Fishin' Pier Grille (32nd Street an the Boardwalk, Avalon, 609-967-8144), a small spot right along the Avalon Boardwalk, now's a great time to go -- and buy a pancake. Why? You guessed it -- money toward the fund. Thursday night is a fashion show with clothes from Pale Moon Boutique and Haven. It's at the Princeton (21st Street and Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3547).

Friday: Skate Jam and Surf Movie Night. If you're more into skate rather than surf boards, head to the Avalon Skate Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. That night, check out a grooving surf movie and the documentary about Brendan and the fund. That's at Community Hall -- both at 30th Street and the beach.

Saturday: This is the big day -- the surf memorial. It starts bright and early at 6:30 a.m. If you don't surf, local bands will be rocking starting at 10 a.m. at 30th street beach. That night is the Homecoming Party at the Windrift from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. It's a nice cap to a long week that's doing a great thing for local families. So go already!

Digg this

Friday, August 10, 2007

Reader Poll

On the blog so far, I've been writing about whatever shore spot I'm working on that day. But what towns do you want to know more about? This isn't a popularity contest, but a way for me to write what you want to read. For example, you might be a Sea Isle City fan but want to know more about the changes in Atlantic City. Or you're all about Avalon but looking for something to do in Cape May. Maybe you're a gambler but looking for something else to do at points due south. Whatever you want to know -- click on the poll to let me know.

So click away, readers, and have a happy weekend! And make sure to check in next week to see what's happening Down the Shore with Jen.

What shore town would you like to know more about?

Atlantic City





Ocean City


Sea Isle City


Stone Harbor

The Wildwoods

Cape May

What I'm Listening to: We All Belong by Dr. Dog

Digg this

Progress - It's a Good Thing

I hoped to title this post with a progress quote -- maybe something from my sentimental pick for favorite Walk Disney World ride, The Carousel of Progress. But after going on an internet tangent that took me to three websites about the Carousel of Progress, then the history of the song that plays during the ride, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," well, I ran out of time.

So anyway -- the Atlantic City chapter is now in fact checking. It's not done -- I'll be in Atlantic City for two days next week finishing up the odds and ends. But enough of it is written and ready to go that someone else can start making sure I got all those details right.

That leaves Cape May and Wildwood. Cape May's in good shape -- well, the town's in excellent condition, but my chapter on it needs some work. Wildwood, um, well, it'll get done, which is why I'll be headed there first thing Saturday morning.

Saturday is also when I'll doing a bike tour of all the finer establishmens of Stone Harbor and Avalon, something that is meant to be fun and not work, though of course I'll be bringing my camera and notebook. I'll try to report back about the ride early next week, and give updates from good ol' AC. It's air show week, so I'll be looking up while walking from casino to casino along the Boardwalk.

What I'm Listening to: Soundtrack to Mary Poppins. Hey, you try reading about the Sherman Brothers and not get the itch to listen to their musical masterpiece.

Digg this

Will of Steel

I'd like to make a public service announcement: yes, the Steel Pier (Virginia Avenue at the Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-345-4893) is alive and kicking. Donald Trump's bulldozers have not yet brought down the historic pier in favor of condos, so this summer, and until the end of the season, the rides will still be shooting people up in the air (slingshot) or turning them in lazy circles (carousel).

I visited the Steel Pier in early June, and found out that the person who runs the Steel Pier is actually cousins with the folks who run Avalon Campground (1917 Route 9 North, Clermont, 609 624-0075), which is where I spent most of my summers as a kid. The Steel Pier is operating under the assumption that they'll be here next year, and many years after that. So if you're bringing the kids to Atlantic City, or just want a thrill with your side of gambling, take a ride on the amusement side.

What I'm Listening to: The Reminder by Feist.

Digg this

Thursday, August 9, 2007

News from Around the Jersey Shore

Here's what's happening down the shore:

I like to run, but not this much. While I'll be huffing and puffing my way through the Ocean Drive Marathon in March, I bet this guy'll be thinking it's a sprint.

OMG! J Lo and that husband of hers are going to kick off their tour in Atlantic City on September 29. OMG OMG OMG!

Talk about customer service: the manager of the Windrift (800-453-7438, 125 80th Street, Avalon) will not only check you in, but save your life.

Here's another biking at the shore piece. But using the Queen's "Bicycle Race" lyrics and the phrase "grease your chain"? Come on, people. Let's try to work around the cliches, shall we?

Of all the things to be cracking down on in Atlantic careful where you cross the street.

A walk does a body good. In Atlantic City's case, the Walk (609-872-7002, 1931 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City), which are the outlets right off the Boardwalk, does the city good.

And doesn't this look like a happy vacationing family? I know it's not actually a news story, but it's a reminder of why most people go down the shore (in this case, Sea Isle City): to have fun.

What I'm Listening to: Occasions by Harry Connick, Jr.

Digg this

Daily Shore Candy

Quick post this morning: if you get Philadelphia's Daily Candy emails, you've already read this one. If not, check it out here. Features things to see, buy and do in Atlantic City, Ocean City, Wildwood and Cape May.

Two guesses as to who wrote it, and the first one doesn't count :-)

What I'm Listening to: Preston and Steve on WMMR.

Digg this

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Half Full - Sort of

Another milestone today -- three chapters are now ready for fact checking. Those would be Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Avalon/Stone Harbor (which is a combined chapter since the two towns are on the same island).

Feel free to join me in a big WAHOO!

I'd like to say that's half of the project, but two of the remaining chapters - Atlantic City and Cape May -- are the largest in the book. And I still have some on-the-ground work to do in the Wildwoods, too, before I can ship them off to my assistant. T-27 days and counting...

What I'm Listening to: Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie.

Digg this

Where the Hell is Strathmere?

Forgive me for cursing in today's headline, but it's not so bad if I read it off a bumper sticker, right?

"It's an old joke around town, among some people," wrote the woman behind the bumper sticker, and, in a recent email (and she'd rather not share her name -- I tried). "But some Strathmere people don't like the saying."

Strathmere is a slip of a town stuck between Sea Isle City and Ocean City. My first visit was the day after my junior prom. We used the beach as a place to party, digging holes in the sand for the kegs. It was a really nice day for April -- about 80 degrees -- though I spent most of the day petrified that I would get arrested for drinking underage, even though I didn't drink at the party -- just watched as everyone else drank, got drunk, got sick, and had to go home.

Not the best start to my relationship with Strathmere, but it's improved since. A friend of mine has a house there, and we spent many evenings on his porch, watching the waves and the fisherman. I even had my 21st birthday party at his house (where, yes, I did have a drink. Or five).

"Strathmere is a small, quiet old fashioned seaside town with old beach houses, a trailer park and a few restaurants. Nothing touristy," the lady also wrote. "We've managed to hold off condo-nization and overdevelopment. It's a close community and the quiet, quaint quirkiness is what people love about Strathmere."

Every time I've driven through Strathmere on my way from one shore town to another, tried to stop on the beach, which does not require beach tags. It's still largely unknown compared to the rest of the Jersey shore, and has a few great restaurants, like Midred's (609-263-820, 901 Ocean Drive, Strathmere) and the Deauville, (609-263-2080, 201 Williard Road, Strathmere), which I've written about before.

I've got Strathmere on the mind because I'm about to hit another milestone today: the Sea Isle chapter is just about ready for fact checking. Strathmere is wrapped into this chapter since the two towns share the same island, even if their image and mentality are completely different.

I also wanted to highlight this column from the Courier Post by Steve Wood about Saturday's 10 mile race in Sea Isle. Um, yeah, I'm not too upset about missing that one.

Speaking of Sea Isle, is Shoretalken about the town today. Given yesterday's post about Avalon, I'll be staying tuned.

What I'm Listening to: Funeral by Arcade Fire.

Digg this

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

One Down, Five to Go

I hit a nice mark today: the Ocean City chapter is done and ready to be handed over to my assistant. Assistant? I've hired another area freelancer to call all the places I'm planning on writing about to make sure I got the phone, address, website, and hours of operation right. It's a blessing to have someone take that weight off my shoulders, even if it's going to cost me. This way, I can get back to the writing and hopefully produce a better book (which will lead to better sales, thus paying for the cost of hiring an assistant).

I learned a lot about why Ocean City is the way it is today e.g. no liquor. At all. You can't even BYO to any of Ocean City's restaurants. That's because the town was founded by four Methodist ministers, and the Christian mentality stuck. You couldn't even shop in Ocean City on Sundays until the late 1980s. I don't mind that this particular blue laws fell -- and I'm sure the shop owners appreciate the extra day of tourists those weeks during the high shore season.

Even if the no-liquor law might keep some people away from Ocean City, the town's never lacking in families that vacation there for that reason, and I think it's helped the town stay family friend whereas you've got bars bumping until the wee hours of the morning in Avalon, Stone Harbor, Sea Isle and Wildwood. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not exactly what you want to wake your kids up at night.

Housekeeping note: writer extraordinaire Matt Katz has started a blog called "The Engaged Guy." Read it here. And if you're wondering how he "proposed in a magazine article," click here. It's one of the coolest things I've been able to do as a freelancer. Good luck, you two crazy kids.

What I'm Listening To: Felicity, Music from the Hit Television Series. And stop laughing. I bought it for $1 at a yard sale, and it has songs from Aretha Franklin, Remy Zero and Peter Gabriel.

Digg this

Monday, August 6, 2007

Renault Wine Tonic

Last week, I toured Renault Winery (72 North Berman Avenue, Egg Harbor Township, 609-965-2111). It's the longest continually running winery in the country. It was even open and doing business during Prohibition. How? It's a fun story:

During the 'dark ages,' Renault got itself a permit to keep making wine for religious and medicinal purposes. This wine went to the churches -- after all, how else were they going to drink the blood of Christ on Sundays if they didn't have wine? Renault also started making a medicinal product called Renault Wine Tonic. It was supposed to sooth an ailing stomach. But it also had an alcohol content of 22 percent -- that's not bad compared to today's wines, which clock in at about nine to 14 percent alcohol. The tonic's label warned that if the tonic was chilled, it would turn into wine. You can imagine what that did for sales.

They don't make Renault Tonic today (though you can see a poster on the tour), but they do make wine, and the grounds also include a golf course, two restaurants and the Tuscany House, which is a gorgeous and romantic spot tucked away from the general noise that is the Jersey shore, but close enough for it to be a vacation spot, which is why I'm writing about it here. That, and because the story of Renault Tonic makes me giggle.

What I'm Listening to: Writer's Block by Peter Bjorn and John.

Digg this

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Built to Last

You can't walk a block down any shore shopping area without being bombarded by shops trying to sell you a t-shirt, sweatshirt or pants with the town's name blazed across them. And why not? Most tourists will want to take a bit of the shore home with them in a form that won't go stale before you can hit the Atlantic City Expressway.

But not all t-shirt shops are created equal. Here's four spots that sell goods a cut above the rest:

Flying Fish Studio (130 Park Boulevard, West Cape May, 609-884-2760)
If the town-across-your-shirt souvenir doesn't cut it, take the walk to Flying Fish. They make catchy beach themed gear, like sweatshirts with a big lobster on the front, or retro-designed shirts dedicated to Cape May’s smaller beaches, like Poverty Beach. They also provide gear for Cape Mays' annual Lima Bean festival. Some of their items are also sold at the Exit Zero store in Congress Hall (251 Beach Avenue, Cape May, 888-944-1816).

Henry's Fine Jewelry (1236 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 800-214-4435)
Yes, they have jewelry -- and plenty of it -- at Henry's, but they also sell Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) jackets and such, made with goods by Gear. They're rugged, and the letters are stitched on, so it'll last you far beyond next summer.

It’s All Good (2307 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-368-0001)
It's not cheap cotton tees at this optimistic store. They have screened town names, too, if stitching isn't your thing. They also stock Margarittaville flip flops. Watch out for that pot pot.

Wave One Sports (324 Washington Street Mall, Cape May, 609-884-6674 and 225 96th Street, Stone Harbor, 08247)
This one's my personal favorite -- I have one regular sweatshirt (Avalon), one hooded sweatshirt (Cape May) and one hat (Avalon) from Wave One. The bases they use -- the sweats, shirts, pants, hats -- are top quality, and the stitching is impeccable. They have a slew of options, too, from what you're wearing to what town you want to boast. My favorite section is the sale bin, which is where odds and ends are piled together, unfolded and ready for you to sift through. Stone Harbor has the bigger bin, but last time I was in Cape May, I snagged the white sweatshirt you see in this picture from their bin. That's the Cape May Lighthouse is shining through the letters. I like it, even if it's a bit strange. Then again, so am I. And I have no idea why my mom's making that face.

What I'm Listening to: Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House by Crowded House.

Digg this

Library Lovin'

"Can't you find that online?"

I'm not blaming the family member who posed this question. He was only trying to help.

Here's what happened: I told said family member that I was headed to the library to research the history of the shore towns, and he figured I should be able to find that information online. True, I could find bits and pieces, and I could plunder Wikipedia. But the journalist in me (which I'm sure my editor appreciates) knows that those summaries aren't enough, and that Wikipedia can be very wrong.

So I went about things the old fashioned way -- I went to the library, specifically the Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers University-Camden (RUC).

Me and Paul have a history. My graduate degree is from RUC. At the time, I was working part time, going to school full time and freelancing, so I spent a lot of time with Paul, reading, writing, killing time and sometimes napping between classes at one of his many desks and tables. It's not a pretty library, but that's part of the charm. There's nothing to distract you except for what's on the page in front of you. I like the basement level. It's quiet and chilly enough to call for long sleeves (why I work better in chilly temperatures, I'll never know -- I went to school in Florida, for Pete's sake). The windows are too high to look out from. Throw in my iPod to block out noise of other library patrons, and you have the perfect environment in which to read about the history of South Jersey shore towns. Plus, it's a Rutgers Library -- you can't get much better than that, especially when it comes to information about New Jersey.

And I certainly learned a lot:

The Summer City by the Sea by Emil R. Salvinti
It's an illustrated history of the rise and fall and rise of Cape May. Salvinti includes a chapter about the fire of 1878, which destroyed more than 35 acres of the city, from how it started to how much it destroyed. He even included a fold out map of the ruined area -- I've strolled those acres many times and can't even imaging how devistating it was to lose it all of that at one time.

Stone Harbor by T. Mark Cole and Cheryl Glasgow
Stone Harbor's been on the leading edge of wildlife preservation for quite some time. The town established a bird sanctuary in 1947, and the Wetlands Institute in 1972. They even ran a "Save the Point" campaign in 1970, long before Al Gore was cool. Or hot and bothered about the earth being hot and bothered.

Sea Isle City by Michael T. Stafford
Sea Isle City was founded by Charles K. Landis, who wanted to create a resort town much like the ones he'd seen on vacation in Italy. I doubt anyone thinks "Italy" as they're cruising Landis Avenue in Sea Isle City, but, hey, at least it was a start.

Ocean City by Frank J. and Robert J. Esposito
This family friendly resort was founded in 1879 as a Christian resort, which is the initial link to the town still being dry -- very dry. You can't even BYO to Ocean City restaurants. And, as of publication of this book at least, acclaimed author Gay Talese vacations here.

America's Boardwalks: From Coney Island to California by James Lilliefors.
This was my favorite of the bunch. Lilliefors is a long-time newspaper man and wraps the history of each boardwalk town into character studies of the people who make them unique. He writes in detail about how the Morey family established amusement piers on the Wildwood boardwalk, then took over and renovated their competition. I also like Lilliefors account of what architect Steven Izenour said about Wildwood: "Tacky with a capital T...what you need to do is take Tacky to new heights. In an increasingly homogenized commercial world, it's the perfect counterpunch strategy, and given the years of ad hoc evolution it took to make it what it is, nobody, not even Disney, could beat you at your game." Izenour was a huge champion for savoring and promoting Wildwood's Doo Wop architecture, which you can read about here.

I might have been able to find a lot of this information online, but it was much easier to flip through these books and jot down my notes. Sometimes the old fashioned way works just fine.

By the way, my master's degree isn't in writing or journalism. It's in literature. Do I use the degree in my current profession? Of course. I review books, and the only difference between yesterday's morning of research and any research I did for a graduate class paper is that, this time, I'm the one being paid for the work, instead of paying someone else for allowing me that privilege.

What I'm Listening to: Sounds of Sinatra.

Digg this

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Let the Countdown Begin

Alright, folks, I'm now at T-1 month until the book is due. One month to tie up loose ends, make sure all those phone number, addresses, websites and -- oh yeah -- the facts are correct, and to get all the pictures that will be used in the book. One month to make sure that my prose is scintillating, that the information is useful and that the book is a fun read. One month, people. Time to get serious. Which is why I'm off to the library. Yeah Saturday fun!

One bit of advice if you're down the shore or even if you're not -- if you see a roadside stand or farmer's market, please stop. It's peach season, corn season and tomato season. They don't call it the Garden State for nothing.

And on a non-shore note, I had a book review published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Read it here.

What I'm Listening to: Out of Nothing by Embrace.

Digg this

Friday, August 3, 2007

News from Around the Jersey Shore

Enough of me writing about the shore. Here's what a few local news outlets have to say:

I was waiting for someone to make the Big Brother argument regarding the Ocean City high tech beach tags. Thanks to Paul Mulshine from The Star Ledger, we've got one.

Even though this piece leans toward rant, it does provide a bit of information on the safety of biking in Avalon and Stone Harbor. I read this one since I'll be taking a bike tour of the seven mile island next weekend. And as I have been reminded over and over again, yes you CAN get a DUI for riding your bike while intoxicated. Or, apparently while pushing your scooter home after two appletinis:

As you probably heard, Wildwood got a few new tram cars. They're supposed to be a more comfortable ride. No guarantee of ever getting that "Watch the Tram Car" recording out of your head, though.

And so you guys don't think I hate Wildwood (there are some great things there, honestly, but a lot of work to do), here's a letter to the Press of Atlantic City about the town's progress.

What I'm listening to: X&Y by Coldplay.
What I'm reading: Career and Corporate Cool by Rachel C. Weingarten

Digg this

Thursday, August 2, 2007

This Weekend at the Shore

If you're headed to the South Jersey shore this weekend, there's tons to do (aside from, of course, sitting on the beach). Here are a few of those things:

If You're a Runner: Saturday is the Sea Isle City Island Run. It's 10 miles, seven of which are on the beach. Starts at 5:30 pm (low tide). Call 609-263-3655 for more information. Runners, remember to HYDRATE. It's going to be a hot one. And if anyone wants to pick up my race t-shirt since I'll be stuck in the library working on this book/proposal for the next book instead of testing my calves on the sand, I'd appreciate it...and I'll see you at the Ocean Drive Marathon in March!

If You're Over 21: Might as well apply your bar money to a good cause. Saturday is Bobblepalooza, a house party in Avalon that raises money for MS research. The price is somewhere between $10-20 to get in, and last year they had 50 kegs. No, that's not a typo. 5-0 kegs. The place is packed, as you can see in this video (and turn the volume down if you're at work):

The party starts at 1 pm at 496 22nd Street in Avalon.

If You're a Shopper: Delia's is having a warehouse sale at the Wildwoods Convention Center (4500 Boardwalk, Wildwood, 609-729-9000). I took a quick peek in earlier this week, and there are more than a few items for the non-in-high school crowd. No entry fee, either.

If You're a Music Fan: Rain, the Beatles Experience, is at the Atlantic City Hilton Casino (Boston & Pacific Avenues, Atlantic City, 609-340-7160) this weekend. Read all about it in a recent Atlantic City Weekly article.

And, of course, the Art of Surfing festival continues in Ocean City.

This is far from a complete list, but a few things that caught my eye. Enjoy!

What I'm Listening to: Garden State soundtrack.

Digg this

Change of Plans, Part II

I should have been zipping down the Atlantic City Expressway by now, ready to chow down at a fabulous eatery in Ocean City before grooving to The Silence at the Art of Surfing Festival.


I shouldn't be complaining that the folks who want to publish my second book would like to get started ASAP, so they asked for the proposal to be done by the middle of August. Nor should I be complaining that a few freelance projects came my way today, confirming that I'll be able to pay my mortgage next month. Should all writers be so lucky. And, like Maggie said, no whining. Still, I'd much rather be dancing by the ocean than hunkering down over my desk in Collingswood (and, no, I'm not telling you what that book might be about).

But 'dems the breaks. Good luck tonight, guys!

I'll be back at you tomorrow with a slew of stuff going on this weekend at the shore, from a big fun shore run to a grand ol' fund raising party. Stay tuned!

What I'm Listening to: Guster on Ice: Live from Portland by Guster.

Digg this

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Surf's Up

Thursday is the kick off to Ocean City's Art of Surfing Festival. It's held at the Music Pier (9th Street and the boardwalk, Ocean City) from August 2 to 4 and features art shows, live bands and everything surf you could imagine. And it's free. You can't beat that.

The showcase band Thursday night is The Silence, a fantastic Philadelphia-area band I've written about a time or two, and the biggest reason I'm headed to the Music Pier tomorrow night. They're also involved in some terrific causes, including the High Tides Memorial Fund and Surfrider Foundation, and they obviously know their surf. Lead singer Evan McIntyre is the kind of guy who surfs on Thanksgiving day. And the kind of guy who promised me a surf lesson -- I'm holding you too that, Evan.

I'm being told that the doors to the concert venue open at 7pm and the band will be on soon after. Again, it's free. So what are you waiting for?

While we're on the topic of surfing and Ocean City, I have to tell you about Surfers Supplies (3101 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, 609-399-8399). I can't believe this one slipped under my radar until I started working on this book. It's been in Ocean City since 1962 and is an actual surf shop -- not one of these places that sells only surf-inspired wear and maybe, just maybe, a few boards. You walk into Surfers Supplies and see surf boards, not the latest and greatest Roxy fashions. “In most places, they’re in the back. They’re the core of our business – we put them right up front,” says Greg Beck, co-owner of Surfer Supplies. Becks' one of three guys who bought the legendary surf shop when the first owner decided to retire. He's also been working there since he graduated from high school, and swears up and down that he'd be surfing on Thanksgiving, too, if his family didn't live in Delaware.

Surfers Supplies is a big part of the Ocean City Art of Surfing Festival. Even if you don't know how to hang ten, it's worth checking out. And, as if I have to hit you over the head with this, it's FREE!

What I'm listening to: Rockin' the Suburbs by Ben Folds.
What I'm reading: These Things Ain't Going to Smoke Themselves by Emily Flake.

Digg this

Boardwalk Bliss just announced their list of top 10 boardwalks in the United States. Sitting on top of that list is Atlantic City, and Ocean City is number six. Am I surprised? Not really, though why they picked the Ocean City Maryland boardwalk over the one in New Jersey, I'll never know.

Atlantic City's Boardwalk is the first in the country, and the longest. It's the only boardwalk that merits being spelled with a capital B because it's the original, and it started because Alexander Boardman, a conductor of the Camden & Atlantic Railroad, was fed up with tourists bringing the beach with them into his railcars. So he made a collapsible footpath of wooden paths. It was so popular with hotel owners, who also hated sand in their lobbies, that the city built a 10-foot wide boardwalk in 1870. It wasn’t a permanent fixture. The Boardwalk was made of 12-foot long sections that could be picked up and moved during high tide and storms, and in the winter.

Today, Atlantic City's Boardwalk is 5.75 miles of casinos, shops, restaurants and spectacle. I'd say it's the most diverse Boardwalk in southern New Jersey. You can step into luxury shops, pizza parlors and play the slots within feet of each other. Atlantic City also has bars on the beach, accessible via the Boardwalk, which you can't say for most other boardwalks in the area (Sorry, Carousel [43rd Street and the Beach, Sea Isle City, 609-263-4951] You don't have ocean views).(609) 263-4951

Like I've said before, I'm not a big Atlantic City fan, but a walk down the Boardwalk is great for people watching. I'm happier on the Ocean City boardwalk, which is 2.5 miles long and pure fun. I've been coming here since I was a newborn, literally (I'm a July baby), and while the names of some of the establishments have changed, and a few favorites have gone the way of Strawbridge & Clothier, the Ocean City boardwalk is still a destination for families. Jilly's (12th Street and the boardwalk) still has the best video game collection on the boardwalk -- classic games are in the back room. The Surf Mall (1154 Boardwalk, 609-398-1533) still has whatever's the latest and greatest this summer, and rock paraphernalia lining the back wall and ceiling. You can still rest your feet and make a pit stop at the Music Pier (9th Street and the boardwalk, Ocean City), still watch salt water taffy being made at Shriver's (9th Street and the boardwalk, 877-668-2339), play mini golf among the characters at Goofy Golf (920 Boardwalk, 609-398-9662), get a slice of Mac & Mancos or an ice cream cone at Kohrs Brothers at a few boardwalk locations. And, yes, you can still ride the classic carousel at Wonderland Pier (6th Street and the boardwalk, 609-399-7082).

The contrast between the whimsical fun of the Ocean City boardwalk and the outright seediness of Wildwood's boardwalk, which I toured on Monday, is striking. I felt like I needed a shower after that walk, and it had little to do with the heat. There's no doubt in my mind that, if Wildwood didn't have those fantastic ride and water parks, no family would venture onto the boardwalk. As much as the town is trying to clean up its image, the boardwalk is still overrun by raunchy t-shirt shops and piercing parlors. It's not as bad as it was in the '90s, but still not the place to take the kids when Ocean City is so close, which is why I would suggest sticking to the beaches or streets of Wildwood, as opposed to the boards. Sorry, guys, I tell it like it is.

Speaking of Atlantic City, stay tuned to Later this month, they'll be posting a guide to Atlantic City. Two guesses as to who wrote it, and the first one doesn't count ;-)

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm sometimes listening to albums or reading books that aren't out yet, never fear. I'm not doing so illegally. I get advance copies from publishers and music companies. One of the perks of the job. Speaking of...

What I'm listening to: Wolfgang's Big Night Out by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Digg this