Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Heading to Atlantic City to ring in 2009? There's lots to do, as you can imagine -- too many to list, in fact.

What's a potential partier to do? Click here. The ACCVA has a great round up on their site.

I'm lying low this year, for a few reasons, one being the welt on my tailbone from when I slipped on ice last week. Yeah, I recommend not doing that.

Until next week, then, happy new year, and thanks for checking out the blog this year!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Down the Shore with...Maureen Siman

Hope every had a nice holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Mine was good (except for the morning when I slipped on ice and landed on my tailbone...ouch).

But now it's time to get back at it with another installment of "Down the Shore with..." This time, I'm interviewing Maureen Siman, vice president of marketing at the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor's Authority. She's also the person behind the ACCVA's twitter feed. If you're on twitter, follow her (and me while you're at it) for lots of great Atlantic City info.

1. I usually ask people what they consider their favorite shore town and why. OBVIOUSLY you're going to say Atlantic City! So...what is your favorite shore town other than Atlantic City?
My family and I go to Brigantine beach every weekend of the summer, without fail, weather permitting. It is absolutely a magnificent beach, with a spectacular view of Atlantic City! Our favorite vacation spot along the Jersey Shore, other than AC, is Cape May. For years and years, my family and I have spent one full week there each summer in a rental home. Typically, the group consists of my family of four and my four brothers, their spouses and children. It’s a blast! Nothing but beach all day and relaxing at night

2. How do you think AC's changed over the last 10 years? How much time do you have?
Seriously, the changes are astounding. As the destination marketing organization for Atlantic City, our job is to promote AC. My favorite thing to say to people at the beginning of a conversation is: If you haven’t been to Atlantic City in the last three to five years, then you haven’t been to Atlantic City. It has, seriously, changed that much. Ten years ago was a lifetime ago in this destination. We were still a day trip market with little more than gambling to offer our visitors. Today, we are a full service destination that offers fantastic dining, shopping beyond anyone’s expectations, nightlife that will keep you up all night and spas to help you recover. In fact, we’re doing the first Atlantic City Restaurant Week in 2009 and we could not have even thought about such a promotion ten, even five years ago. As of today, we have 68 restaurants participating! We’re absolutely thrilled with that.

3. What about AC might surprise this blog's readers?
Our selection of spas and shopping is, perhaps, the biggest surprise. Our dining options have emerged and are getting lots of attention but the surprising things are definitely spas and shopping. When a visitor drives into AC for the first time, arriving on the Atlantic City Expressway, they are greeted by a fantastic shopping district called Atlantic City Outlets: The Walk. It’s a beautiful, pedestrian shopping district that spans six city blocks. Plus, The Pier Shops at Caesars opened last year and there is no other place like it in the US. Designer stores on a pier that juts out 900 feet over the ocean. Amazing views!

4. When did you start twittering for the ACCVA?

About a month ago. I ‘tweet’ daily Monday through Friday about Atlantic City, and it’s been fun. We’re slowly building our ‘followers’ and hopefully, contributing something to the twitter universe.

5. Are you guys doing any other social media projects we should know about? I'm a "fan" already of Atlantic City's restaurant week on Facebook...
Actually, we just launched our AC Restaurant Week myspace page late last week. As an organization, we’re still learning about social networking and social media, particularly how it relates to marketing a destination like AC. We think it’s a perfect way to market our city as we continue to attract a younger demographic. Next year, we’ll launch Atlantic City on facebook and myspace and who knows where else! We’re also looking into mobile messaging for ACRW as well as the destination as a whole.

6. And what's your favorite place to eat in AC? I know some folks in your office favor Angelos... :-)
Ahhhh, Angelo’s! Who doesn’t love Angelo’s! It’s the great neighborhood Italian place and still has that feel, even though they’ve grown by leaps and bounds and expanded in the last few years! It’s particularly fun at lunch to walk in there, find Angelo himself sitting at a table doing paperwork, with his staff running around serving the locals. Just this morning, I was driving past on my way to work and watched what I thought was a scene out of a time long ago: an old Italian guy carrying two huge bags of fresh Italian bread from Formica’s around the corner and up the street to Angelo’s. Quite a sight and one that warms my heart J So, back to your question: my favorite place to eat has to be The Knife & Fork. Truly ‘old’ Atlantic City, amazing food and great wine. Not to mention the history of the place (it used to be a men’s club and was even a speakeasy). The second floor, the Ladies’ Lounge, is fantastic with beautiful architecture and design. Just a fantastic place.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Past

In December 2004, I published a column in SJ Magazine about my family's Christmas tradition. I'm reprinting it here (but not with my first magazine headshot -- yuck) as a way of wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday!

Ghosts of Christmas Past
And all the times we shared

By Jen Miller

Our Christmas morning routine was this: no matter how late we'd been up the night before, my older brother and I woke up sometime around 4:30am. We'd hunker down in my room and play board games until 5:45, then we'd stop to watch the numbers on my clock wind down to 5:59. Then, hand ready to turn the knob, we'd bound out at six to wake up our parents. They'd moan and groan about the hour, then wake up our younger siblings. My mother sent us, one by one, to the bathroom to brush our teeth while my father prepared the living room. He had a movie camera before anyone had heard of VHS, and he'd set up big, bright lights, normally used on construction sites, in the corners of the living room.

Mikey and Tracy lined up on the top step with Jimmy and I behind. My mother stood at the bottom of the staircase to make sure we didn't run down too early, and she took the opportunity to tease us about what she saw. "It looks like there's a big present for Jimmy here," she'd say, "and an odd-shaped one for Tracy. I wonder what it could be."

The minutes stretched on as we shimmered with impatience. We'd jump up and down, clap our hands. We'd jump up and down, clap our hands, and urge my father to hurry up! Finally, finally, he gave us the all clear, and we'd bound down to gawk at what Santa had left, filling the room with oos, ahs, and squeals of excitement. We'd run to search for presents with our names on them: from Santa, from Mom and Dad. It didn't matter. All the ribbon and bows and wrapping paper sparkled under the tree, which was, even then, overburdened with kitschy ornaments.

But we couldn't open those presents just yet. My mother made us sit for one picture in front of the packages and tree, smiles wide and bright across our faces. Then we'd sit on the floor while my father played Santa, giving us a present each, one by one. We'd watch for what everyone got: Legos, Barbie, new books and games. Paper went onto the floor and bows to my mother for her to stick on her robe and to use for next year's presents.

After the last present was unwrapped, we sat among piles of toys, clothes, boxes and wrapping paper, smiling and laughing, reexamining what we'd been given. Then we'd search the house for any big ticket items like bikes or Playschool houses. After that, it was to the family room where our stockings hung over the fireplace, stuffed with packages, candy and a few coins, too. We all had the same one, green felt with fake fur puffing at the top. My mother made them to be the same, and, to make them different, we covered them with pins from places we'd been, school awards and pictures of things we enjoyed. My favorites are my "Still Scrambling" Randall Cunningham pin and one from a trip to Disneyworld.

After we put those presents back in the stocking -- taking care to remove the candy so the chocolate didn't melt -- we would tidy up the living room and situation our gifts under the tree. Then it was time to put on our Christmas best for breakfast with Grandmom and Grandpop, a feast of bacon, eggs, hot cakes and french fries. The table was noisy and crowded. Elbows bumped, food reached over and, sometimes, something spilled, but that was okay. After all, it's Christmas.

But things change, times change. The kids are adults now. Grandmom and Grandpop moved to Florida. Mom and Dad split up. Now we have breakfast with one and dinner with the other. We even have two sets of stockings. There will come a time soon when this tenuous holiday schedule will crumble. We'll start expanding and creating our own families and traditions. This past year might have been the last where we'd all been together, and, someday soon, I might not even see my siblings on Christmas day.

We used to complain about the time it took my father to set up the lights, but now I promise that I would have waited more, just so that we have those memories to keep, even if we don't have the holiday to share for much longer.

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Top 10 of a Great 2008

I know what you're thinking: ugh, another top 10 list. But if you're a regular reader of this blog, it's stuff you already know, and if you've just joined in since the summer, you'll get a taste of what was going on around the ol' blog back before my book came out.

So here's my top 10 events of the year, and I blogged about them all (something that surprised me, believe it or not). Think of it as a bit of Jersey Shore cheer and warmth on this cold Christmas week...

10. January at the Jersey Shore

This might seem like an odd thing to put on a top 10 list, but it was a turning point of a trip. I had just reviewed the final manuscript of my book in actual book form and given approval to the cover, so I knew what the book was going to look like but still had no idea if anyone would read it let along buy it and like it. I was still in that jittery "I'm about to become an author" phase.

I went down the shore that week to have my picture taken for the first article I wrote to promote the book -- a rather lenghty piece for Cool Cape May, which turned out to be I think the article most people read and said "hey, that's you!"

This trip was also a reminder of why I love the shore and wrote the book. I hopped off the Garden State Parkway in Ocean City and drove south down the Ocean Drive all the way to Cape May. Even though a lot of stores were closed and it was cold (COLD!), I had a lot of time to think about what had happened the previous year and imagine what would happen once the book came out (and I was way off...)

Then there was the actual picture taking at the top of the Cape May lighthouse, which was was...interesting. And frigid. Here's the final shots with article. It was also an experience that really started my fine working relationship with Exit Zero and friendship with publisher Jack Wright (have fun on vacation!) It also promted me to set up the photo shoot for a similiar piece I'll have on their Ocean City book to make sure it was taken in warmer times. I used to style photo shoots a few years ago. What fun to do it for a shoot that involves you!

9. TV Time.

Now that the summer's over, I can admit that I wasn't a big fan of going on TV. Yes, I am forever grateful that two shows on NBC 10 and CN8 put me on camera, and I'd do it again in a heart beat. But I found TV stressful and nerve wracking. I'm still not over the moon about how I did on the NBC 10! show, though doing "All That & More with Tracy Davidson" show in two parts (filming at my house then a live spot on air) was nifty, and it was cool to say "hey mom! I'm going on TV today." What I really enjoyed, though, was radio -- Preston and Steve were great as was the crew on 95.7 Ben FM, SoJo 104.9 and KYW 1060. Print articles were fun, too, and different since I was on the other side of the journalism table, especially when the magazine I used to edit did a piece on me AND named this blog as best blog in "Best of SJ." The kicker? The book getting a mention in AARP. I cried -- CRIED -- when I saw it. Stupid, yes, but a big deal to me.

8. West Wildwood in the New York Times.
I had pitched this story in August of 2007, right as I was wrapping up the manuscript for my book. My editor, the ever talented and wonderful Dana Jennings (who is currently writing about his cancer treatment for nytimes.com) loved the idea but wanted it to run in the summer (obviously) and said to get in touch in summer 2008, which is exactly what I did. The piece was a lengthy one to put together, but it was worth it, and the article ran in the Friday of Labor Day weekend -- the perfect cap to the summer.

7. Filming the "Down the Shore with Jen" series.
While I was iffy on TV, I loved filming this series, which me and Steve Chernoski shot in a day, starting at sunrise in Atlantic City and finishing at sunset in Cape May. Well -- almost sunrise. I was a little bit late getting down to Atlantic City. I'd never done 95 on the AC Expressway until that day, and then I was sprinting through the Showboat Casino (and, as a friend said, am surprised someone didn't deck me). Turns out it was a foggy day anyway, so I didn't miss much.

It was also the first time I realized that most of this stuff is lodged in my brain. I didn't have a script. I referenced the book a few times before filming just to make sure I had dates right, but I knew most of it.

Here's the first part in the series:

We also got kicked out of the Pier at Caesars that early in the morning (hey, the door was open!). I am forever grateful to Steve for doing me this favor (so go check out his site -- please!)

You can see the entire series here.

6. Emily Swims!
No, I didn't have a picture of when my little gal took a swim, but it's branded in my brain. I was on vacation in Cape May -- the first vacation I've taken in about four years -- and I was so very upset that the summer heat was still hanging out in September (95-100 degrees). So every day, I'd take Emily to Higbee Beach, which is a spot on the Delaware and dog friendly. She liked to chase birds and pad in the water, which is shallow. I'd stand in the water and she kept creeping out deeper. I turned to look at something and then when I turned back to Emily, she was swimming. Yes, another crying moment. My poor little pup had such a bad time before I got her (abuse, being put up for adoption not once but twice) that to see her make that kind of leap was such a Kodak moment (but no Kodak! I know, I know...next summer, I'll bring the camera).

5. This dress.

I know, I know, nothing to do with the shore. But in terms of 2008, that was a single gal moment all the way -- not just that I threw aside any thoughts I had of what a woman my build should wear (the cataloge picture of this dress showed it on a rail thin model whose weight lifting experience seemed to be lifting a cigarette to and from her mouth...I didn't know how it would look on someone who has actual muscles) but also that I wore it even though I didn't have a date. I couldn't bring myself to put the dress away for way too long after that event. Thank goodness I had a camera for THIS one!

4. Phillies win the World Series

This was a personal and professional moment for me. I've been a life long Phillies fan, so the team winning the world series was obviously a huge moment. But I got to write about the series not once, but three times for the New York Times -- all because I took a shot and pitched a story that should have been too late to pitch, then offered to keep helping out. And having a press pass to walk along the parade route on Halloween? Priceless.

3. Italy

Oh my goodness, Italy. What an unexpcted, fun and exciting trip. I wasn't supposed to go -- I had too much to do, I told myself. But I dropped everything one Friday night, booked a ticket, and was in Rome a week later. I'm so glad I did that.

2. The Ocean Drive 10 Miler

A race? A race is number two?! Of course! That race wasn't just the culmination of months of training. It was also a personal accomplishment -- I used running to pull myself out of a long, deep funk that settled in last fall. I couldn't write anything worth reading (or selling) for months after I turned it the manuscript of my book, plus I was dealing with grief over the death of my grandfather and an awful break up that I'd pushed aside while writing the book. So 2008 didn't exactly start on a high note. Training for this race was a major step in turning things around. And crossing that finish line strong? Just amazing. I can't wait to run it again this year.

1. Publishing a book.

I love this picture. My neighbor took it on the day the first copy of my book came in the mail. That is literally an ear to ear grin. I couldn't knock it from my face for days.

Obviously, publishing a book was the highlight of this year. I never thought I'd write a book before I turned 30 let alone one about the Jersey Shore. But it turned out to be the perfect project at the perfect time. Everything that came after it still amazes me, not only in book sales but in how many people care, from the guy who shoulded "I read your blog!" at me from the World Series Parade crowd, to everyone who comes to this site.

So thank you for making this a great 2008, and I'm looking forward to more shore in 2009!

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News & Notes in New Jersey Publications

New Jersey Monthly's "Power Issue" is out. Well, it's online at least (I'm still waiting for my print copy) and lists more than a few shore people, including a nice profile of the Morey Brothers (not my article) and Curtis Bashaw (my article). The dining section also includes two write ups of Jersey Shore spots: Chelsea Prime (not my review) and Oyster Bay (my review).

I also wrote a profile of Ted & Nina Wells. It's not shore related (though Nina Wells raves about the shore), but I figured I'd share anyway. If you'd like to see the entire Power List, click here.

I also got a nice early Christmas present yesterday: this review of my book in the winter issue of Edible Jersey magazine:

"The Shore. The words alone evoke sensory images of hot sand, the clinking of slot machines, the swirl of a carousel and, of course, the food. For the first time tourist, the array of offerings can be overwhelming; for a lifelong aficionado, there's always something to discover. Miller, a contributor to this magazine, serves both audiences well in this impressively researched, 262-page guide. In addition to listings of where to go, what to do and where to stay, she provides a good dose of history and insight on topics such as crabbing or how to protect the dunes. And the first-person narratives scattered throughout make us feel as if we're traveling with a well-informed, entertaining friend."

Out of everything that's been written about the book this year, I think that is the nicest review I've gotten. Thanks guys.

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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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Friday, December 19, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Not a shocker, but still sad: casinos are laying off a lot of people.

Spirit Air, which I always take to Tampa, is adding a Boston flight out of Atlantic City.

Fire at the Skylark, but the Wildwood motel is OK.

Sea Isle's city council okayed alcohol sales at outdoor areas attached to restaurants. Will this apply to bars as well? The OD does serve food, after all.

R.I.P Robert Prosky, a native of Cape May.

The Atlantic City post office is going to be demolished.

And a-one, and a-two, and a-three: awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Here's a different kind of "Red Ryder..."

Here's a nifty shore photo.

The Beach Theatre in Cape May could still be torn down.

In other -- closer -- news, today is my mom's birthday. She's a good mom, she is. Here's an old picture of me, mom and my brother Jim on the beach:

I would like Jim to note that I'm the one wearing the captain's hat (I say this because he's coming home today, and we talk smack like that. I won't even post some of the things I say to my younger brother because your boss might get mad at you for reading such language on a work computer).

This weekend is also the big ol' Verzella family Christms party -- that's my mom's side of the family. So have a happy weekend, everyone!

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tag, I'm It

Brian Branca of Marketing in Traffic (a blog worth visiting just to see a picture of his Admiral Ackbar costume) has tagged me in this nifty thing going on where I get to share seven things you might not know about me, then direct you to seven other blogs that I think would be interesting (and they then do the same). I like this idea and wanted to participate (even though someone thought I was too popular). So here goes:

1. I can solve a Rubik's cube. Quickly.
2. I was captain of my high school softball team. I was supposed to play in college but tore the labrum in my left shoulder (a shoulder that also has nerve damage, but we didn't find that out until later). This could have been a good thing, though -- if I had played softball in college, I never would have joined the student newspaper and probably wouldn't have become a writer. Ergo, you would have been subjected to someone else's random blather at this exact moment.
3. I am allergic to eggs.
4. I absolutely, positively can not STAND the sound of people cracking gum.
5. As a young lass, my grandfather cut my hair in a style that was super popular in the 80s: the bowl cut (it looked like someone put a bowl on your head and used it as a guideline):

I was also chubby and wore my older brother's hand me down clothes. When I was about seven or eight, a little girl asked me if I was a boy or a girl. I cried for days.
6. My favorite seasonal beer is Troegs Mad Elf. However, it should only be enjoyed when it's cold out. A friend (someone who is tagged below, in fact) bought me a case as a thank you. Mad Elf does not taste good at Easter.
7. My byline is "Jen A. Miller." My middle name, however, does not start with the letter A.

So here's seven blogs to check out:

Trish's Diaries
Ann Delaney's Beach Blog
Tri for our Veterans
This is Illuminati
South Jersey Places

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Golden Nugget

A sad day, readers: The Golden Nugget is going to finally be dismantled.

The Golden Nugget was THE ride in Wildwood back in yee olden days (e.g. when my parents were teenagers!) On January 31, the Moreys will take apart the ride and give pieces of the ride to anyone in attendance. I'll be there, and I believe my father will be as well.

I give the Moreys credit, even if they are taking the ride down. They hoped to save it and even moved it from one pier to another with the hopes of one day re-using it. But at a price tag of $3 to $5 million just to bring it up to code? That's a tough call.

In its place will be something that I look forward to seeing -- a roller coaster that could possibly stretch between two piers. It'll be sure to sell a lot of tickets, though I bet a few people would like one more ride through that abandoned mine town.

Got any Golden Nugget memories to share? Either drop them in the comments or email me at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com.

I wrote an essay about the Wildwood boardwalk and the Golden Nugget in my book (page 170 if you've got it handy). In honor of the Golden Nugget, I've reprinted it here:


Obviously, I spent a lot of time on the Wildwood boardwalk while researching this book. But it wasn’t until the very end of the summer, a week before I was to deliver the manuscript to my publisher, that I enjoyed it the way most people do: as a tourist.

My dad wanted to ride bikes on the Wildwood boardwalk, so I said I would go. A strong love of Wildwood runs in his family. His great-grandmother asked to be taken to the Wildwood boardwalk when she realized that she was in the last days of her life. The family took her to the boards, where she sat and watched the scene of people and ocean go by. She died the next day. My parents walked the boards, rode the Golden Nugget, and went to the movies on the boardwalk. They even honeymooned in Wildwood Crest.

They brought me and my siblings to the boardwalk, too, though the last trip we took together was in the early 1990s, which is when the boardwalk had turned less family-friendly and had more tattoo parlors and T-shirt shops. I remember thinking that the boardwalk here didn’t look anything like the one in Ocean City, which was and is a bright, colorful, and happy place, or so it seemed to me. Even as a preteen, I could see that Wildwood’s boardwalk was getting much the worse for wear. My father hadn’t been back since, and neither had I until I started writing this book.

We made it to the beach early and parked by the Wildwood Convention Center. I could see flocks of bikes already wheeling up and down the boardwalk. After renting two bikes, my dad ignoring the owner’s warning not to ride the bike up and down the ramp, we started to ride.

It was a Sunday, and not nearly as packed as a Saturday morning would be. Along the way, he told me what used to be where, like the movie theater, or the rides he remembered at what pier. I saw families taking a walk, runners, and a few people who looked like they hadn’t slept the night before. The amusements and games were just coming alive, and people waited in line for a breakfast sandwiches from the Hot Spot restaurant. I saw a lot of bathing suits, boogie boards, and beach bags on people crossing the boardwalk to the beach. Sure, I saw a few of those unsavory T-shirt shops, but also candy stores, restaurants, and people selling Wildwood shirts without also offering less G-rated options.

We had just passed a go-kart track when I saw my father do a double take and abruptly stop his bike. “It’s the Golden Nugget!” he shouted, and promptly turned his bike around, rode back to the pier, past the go-karts, and right up to a fence that blocked us from riding back to a building on the pier.

The Golden Nugget was the highlight of the Wildwood boardwalk. The ride was built in the 1950s and, for 40 cents, you could zip through an indoor “abandoned mine” roller coaster. It might seem tame now, looking at the low, squat brown building at the end of the pier, especially when you look at the heights and spills offered by other Wildwood roller coasters, but my father says it was the ultimate thrill when he was a kid.

The Golden Nugget is still in Wildwood, though it’s not operating. The ride is owned by the Morey Organization, which runs all the amusement piers in Wildwood, and you can see it, as my father and I did. You can still read where the name of the ride was, and see where the carts zipped in and out of the enclosed coaster.

It didn’t take us long to ride the boards—the boardwalk’s only 2 miles long—and then it was back to the car for bottles of water and air conditioning. We spent the rest of the morning driving around town so he could see how the place had changed, and what remained.

“It’s better than it used to be, much better than when you were a kid,” dad said as we headed up Ocean Drive toward Stone Harbor. “Much better than when I was a kid, too.” Except for the Golden Nugget being out of commission, of course.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


If you turn to page 57 of my book, you'll find a gray box with the headline of "New Rail Line?" The text under says: "As of press time, a new rail line is being planned that will be a direct train from New York City to Atlantic City--no stops."

Finally, that rail line is here. Well, at least we have a date for when it will be here.

ACES, an upscale train running from New York to Atlantic City (with one stop in Newark but none in Philadelphia), will run its first train on February 6. The price? It starts at $50 each way. That gives you an idea of the target audience -- the folks who will not only go for $500+ a night rooms but will also pay full prices to do so as opposed to players who expect free room and board in exchange for all the money they pump into slots.

Case in point: ACES will have a "lounge" on the train -- and by "lounge" I mean bar. They want this to be the start of the party for New Yorkers coming into town. Plus, the line runs weekends only (they're using rail lines already in place and couldn't squeeze another train in on commuter heavy weekdays).

I thought it was a neat idea a few years ago because the only way to get to AC from New York before was car, limo, bus or plane (don't think people didn't do it). But given that the Borgata has just laid off 400 people, new construction projects are being shelved, and casinos along the strip are hurting, will enough people pay for this kind of service? A bus ticket could cost less than half of what ACES charges and includes a slots credit.

This concept was planned on a boom economy when everyone in Atlantic City was spending gobs of money to upgrade their properties, and new casino and condo projects were on the books (Pinnacle, MGM Grand and more). But those days are over, and who knows when it'll turn around?

So I'm not sure how it'll do. ACES has been in the works for so long that it would be stupid not to go ahead with it, and even though I have doubts about how successful it'll be, I'm glad to see this train I've heard so much about is finally going to start chugging along.

Now, if you notice, this train does not stop in Philadelphia. Why? A few reasons as far as I can tell -- unlike New Yorkers, more people here have cars. Plus, there's already a train that runs out of Philadelphia to Atlantic City. It's not exactly a swinging party ride, but it's still a train with a much more regular schedule than ACES will have.

I could go on about how I think Atlantic City PR and ad pushes (usually put together by NYC-based agencies) focus too heavily on NYC vs. Philadelphia, but I had my say already when I was quoted this summer in the New York Observer :

“The Chelsea can’t survive on a New York crowd alone,” said Jen Miller, author of the guidebook The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May, who had stayed at the Chelsea earlier in the week and came back to witness the revelry on Saturday. “Yes, you’ll get a lot of New York people in Atlantic City, but Philadelphia and southern New Jersey is Atlantic City’s bread and butter, especially in the off-season. I think putting a Stephen Starr restaurant in there plays to our restaurant sensibilities—he’s much more a Philly guy than New York. I would recommend that they stop putting the New York Post in front of rooms in the morning—it should be the Press of Atlantic City or the [Philadelphia] Inquirer.

“Even if you’re from New York,” she added, “you’re still at the Jersey Shore.”

ACES' PR campaign is being run by Tierney Communications, which is based in Philadelphia. Should be interesting to see how they play this one out.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Excuse Me, Do You Need a Pimp?

On Saturday, I made my way down to Atlantic City for the Running of the Santas at the Tropicana. The Santas chased Hooters girls, which explains the picture above (and before you ask, no, I do not have orange shorts or super shiny tights though I do have a 10ish year old men's small Hooters t-shirt that my younger brother bought during a Catholic-school sponsored field trip to Baltimore that I wear when cleaning and doing yard work, but I digress).

What a fun idea! The Santas run all over the country, but this was the first event in Atlantic City, and the added twist of the Hooters girls added some extra zing. Plus, the "run" course went outside, which made for some funny pictures.

I think the Hooters girls were better off than the folks in costume -- at least they wore flat shoes. Some of the stilettos on the other runners didn't work quite so well on the Boardwalk (and neither did the two hours of bar specials leading up to the actual event).

The costumes were impressive. A sampling:

The run started near Firewaters, a great bar for beer lovers, then headed outside onto the Boardwalk, then back inside near Hooters and through the casino, through the Quarter and finally into Adam Good Sports Bar, where many Santas and elves enjoyed 40 oz. bottles of beer. It marked the second event this fall where my running training came in handy (the first being the World Series parade).

I have not yet mastered the ability to take clear pictures while running, but here's what I got anyway:

I'm not sure how the Santas fared after the run. I had to head right home after, though I did have a nice afternoon in Atlantic City before the event. I checked out the newly opened areas of the Chelsea and had hoped to pop into Teplitzky's, their new coffee shop/lounge, for a piece of pie before the running of the Santas, but they were closed in the late afternoon (boo). Looked cool, though. Here's another sample of the hotel's mid-century modern decor theme:

It was a nice day for Boardwalk walking -- a little cold but not so much that I wanted to run inside.

I had expected the Pier Shops at Caesars to be more crowded given how close we are to Christmas. The obvious reason it wasn't "get me out of here" busy would be the economy. Still, I found some good deals, including a price drop on everything at the LeSportsac store -- I got a smaller version of my 'reporter' bag.

An eventful day overall. But the most interesting moment? When a gentleman on the Atlantic City Boardwalk asked me if I needed a pimp. I politely declined.

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We Can't Let This Bank Fail

I'm part of a state-wide blogger project to get the word out about the dire situation New Jersey food banks are in. I know times are tough, but anything we can do to help matters.

To see what other folks are writing, and all the great people participating in this effort to get the word out, click here.

We'll get back to our regularily schedule programming tomorrow (which, yes, includes pictures of the Running of the Santas and a story about how a guy asked if he could be my pimp).

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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Running of the Santas

Before I get started on the Running of the Santas: tonight is the Beef & Beer for Brian Hickey, freelance journalist and former managing editor of the Philadelphia City Paper, who was the victim of a hit & run in Collingswood. The good news is that he's coming out of the coma -- his wife asked him to give their friend the finger, and he did -- but getting hurt ain't cheap. So if you'd like to come out tonight or give a donation, click here for details.

Now onto something very silly: as I've mentioned before, Saturday night is the Running of the Santas at the Tropicana. Here's the website that has all the details, including times, tickets and bar specials.

The thing that cracks me up about this version of the Running of the Santas is that they'll be chasing Hooters girls. It's ridiculous, but I hope to be there to check out the fun. If I go, I don't think I'll be participating (hi, I have to drive home, and I really don't drink much anymore), but I will be there sporting my favorite holiday t-shirt ever.

Have no interesting in drinking as Santa and/or chasing bikini babes? Then you might want to check out the Trop's Holiday Spectacular.

I haven't been into Atlantic City proper for a while. I was hoping to get there on Wednesday but plans changed and I made it as far as the Atlantic City Country Club (where I met the print ad model for Bellezza Salons, who talked to me and texted Deion Sanders at the same time...she was nice though and it must be cool to have your face on a gift bag...wait, MY face is on a purse in Cape May but I haven't gotten a picture of it yet...anyway...) for an eWomenNetwork event. Depending on when I get into town, I want to take a look at what's left of the Atlantic City Hilton. Rumor is that they'll shut down entirely after New Year's.

That is, of course, if winter doesn't wash across the region and keep me holed up in my house watching White Christmas. Again. Not a bad prospect, but I think it's time to head back down the shore!

Also...since I just wrote a blog post about the 5 Myths of Freelance Writing (that got a record number of hits -- apparently, I need to post about freelance writing and pictures of me in a gold dress to really up traffic), I have two section cover articles in today's Philadelphia Inquirer: a piece about DIY holiday gifts for Weekend and an article about decorating your tree for free for Home & Design featuring Leah Ingram of The Lean Green Family.

And did anyone else catch the mention of the Borgata on 30 Rock last night? I hope they didn't pay for that considering they just laid off 400 people.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

5 Myths of Freelance Writing

As more newspapers circle the drain and shed thousands of jobs, I'm not exactly surprised that friends and family ask me in a timid, concerned voice, "Are you OK?" I'm not even shocked when the more bold and (okay -- rude) say, "Aren't you worried that all these laid off journalists are going to take your freelance work?"

Er, no.

So I'm going to take a brief shore break to clear up some misconceptions about what it is that I do in the form of five myths about freelance writing.

Keep in mind that this is told from my freelance life. In January I'll have been doing this for four years to somewhat financial success (I did buy a house -- not a big one -- but still, a house though I still don't have cable). Someone who's been doing this for a month and someone who's been doing this for 10 years may disagree.

I'm also not writing this to discourage people from giving freelance writing a go. I welcome them to it. It's a fun job, and I regularly give advice on how to make a go of it -- or at least steer people in the right direction. But I want anyone considering it as a job to go into it with eyes wide open. Just like I would be terrible as a breaking news reporter, not every reporter will want to freelance.

I've been working on this post for a week, hoping that it doesn't sound to harsh and that I get the tone just right. If I didn't, I apologize in advance.

In any case, here goes:

5. It's easy!
I call this work for a reason. I cringe when people tell me they want to write when they retire (I'm tempted to reply that I'll pick up surgery when I retire). I've been writing every day since I was 18 to make it look this easy. Plus, freelancing is as much about finding work as it is actually writing -- if you want to make money doing it. I don't have a spouse, rich uncle or sugar daddy who funnels money into my bank account so I can keep at this "hobby." This isn't a hobby. This is my job. Every penny I earn comes from this. Also, for the record, I do not work in my pajamas, and I do not sleep until noon (I was enraged for a week when the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a flimsy piece by a new freelancer about how easy freelancing is, accompanied by a photo of a woman typing in her PJs and bunny slippers -- with a caveat at the very end that the writer wasn't making a lot of money doing what she did. Of course not! She wasn't working!) Yes, I work out before lunch, but I'm at my desk at 7:30 am and usually there long past five plus work on weekends. It is not a job with a flexible schedule (and, no, I can't drive you to the airport, walk your dog, or wait for your repairman because, like you, I have to work). This is not a job for the lazy. It's not even a job for the pull yourself up by your bootstraps type. It's a job for the person who makes her own boots.

4. It's all about the writing.
Freelancing writing is a business, and you need business know how to make this work. I spend 30 percent of my time writing. The rest is dedicated to pitching articles, revising, meeting with clients (yes, I call them clients because I am providing them a business service), networking and invoicing. I'll get to chasing money in a minute.

3. You must start at the bottom.
I started freelancing part time when I was 21 and full time when I was 23. I had a national assignment right out of the gate. My motto has always been "the worst they can say is no." I've pitched things I probably shouldn't have pitched -- a feature to Woman's Day, a column to Allure -- and gotten them, even if my background says I shouldn't have. If you hold back as a freelancer, you're never going to get to that next step.

2. We're hurt by this economy.
This could go either way. It's hard to tell how many jobs I could have had if not for tough times. But I'm already in the trenches and people now come to me with assignments -- I've built up enough clients and work over the last four years that magazines and universities know me and will sometimes call me with work (or remember I'm here with a gentle nudge). Don't throw rocks at me, but I haven't been this busy since spring 2007. I place my writing in different fields, so whatever hit I'm taking is softened or even countered by businesses that are growing (e.g. healthcare and education). It's a business tactic -- diversifying my work so that I can continue ahead if a client cuts back or goes under. And I can't get laid off if I'm my own boss.

1. You must be poor/you must be rich.
Two opposite sides of the scale, but I get both. Even though I'm six years out of college, I still get that "wow, you can't do much with an English degree" attitude. Yes, writing can pay if you do it right. On the same note, some folks hear what I make per word in an article, or what I charge as my per hour rate and think I must be rolling in the dough. But freelancers shoulder the responsibility for so many more costs -- everything from office supplies to health insurance, not to mention having to set up our own retirements savings accounts and the fact that if we get hurt/sick/suffer writer's block, there isn't still a check coming to us every Friday. Oh, and then there's that pesky matter about folks not liking to pay us on time. At least once I month I have to bring out the "give me my money" stick. Could you live knowing that someone held your check (and mortgage payment) for a month for no reason? That an editor lied about why you haven't been paid on time? That your payment is held up because, even the editor has revised your piece, it hasn't been 'approved' yet (I've had checks held for nine months because of this)? That you won't get paid on time because someone lost your invoice? That a magazine will pay you half your fee because they assigned too many articles that month and, even though your work is stellar, they have no room for it? Could you deal with having to completely re-write something for no additional fee because a senior editor changed his mind? That, readers, is the ugly and frustrating side to freelancing.

What I'm trying to say is that you can't just put out your "I'm a freelancer" banner and expect work to fall into your lap. It takes time to get going in this job (and even longer for checks to start coming in on a regular basis), and it's hard work to make it a viable small business. Even at four years in, I still feel like I'm working my tail off to keep this going.

But I absolutely love it (except for the late payment part). I love it for more than just the writing -- I love chasing down assignments, securing new gigs and jumping into a new project. I like finding work that interests me instead of someone else telling me what to do. I like that push at my back to keep going, to do better.

I like knowing that, while I might write for 20 different clients, the only boss I have is me. My father has always said that the unknown about my work would keep him up at night. Sometimes it does. But the possibility of getting laid off would, too.

I'll get back to the shore tomorrow. There is, after all, a Running of the Santas on Saturday. And who wouldn't want to write about that?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Atlantic City's population is on the decline.

Apparently, home prices in AC are "extremely overvalued." This isn't a shocker to me -- can you imgine paying a few hundred grand for a condo in Atlantic City? I mean, it's a fun place to visit and all, but I think some developers were reaching too high too fast.

Boyd Gaming, which owns the Borgata, just took a hit.

But -- hey! -- here's some good news: wifi in AC!

And Michael Phelps was in town. That's fun.

This is s a nice article about Henny's closing.

Here's some pictures from a Cape May parade.

And here's some Strathmere pictures.

Gillians is having their annual holiday ticket sale -- deals to be had if you know you're going to be hitting the Ocean City boardwalk next summer.

Nothing makes a scandal like a sex tape (Atlantic City related -- promise).

Yikes! Expect to pay a whole lot if you get into a car accident in Wildwood. Yikes again.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Want to Know What the Chelsea Looks Like?

As I do every holiday season, I watched White Christmas while wrapping holiday presents this weekend (yes, I shop early...that's because I have to help everyone else in my family right about now).

When I got to the scene that starts at about 3:00 in this clip that I saw The Chelsea, the boutique hotel that opened up in AC this summer.

Well, obviously not the Chelsea, but the theme of the Chelsea -- that retro cool slick feel that they're going for with the same colors, shapes and decor. The white built-in book cases are almost identical.

At least that's what I think (and I have been writing about design for the last few months). I've heard people compare it to a lot of different pop culture items, and I struggled to think of an apt comparison myself. I think this is the closest I've gotten.

Plus it was an excuse to post part of White Christmas on the blog. I love the movie -- I even wrote about it in a grad school paper -- but it's completely ridiculous. I mean, they do the Minstrel number with a full orchestra and, when the song's over, it's a meager three man band in a barn. It's also full of gratuitous leg shots. Look for them next time you watch the film -- casually leaning against a crate; stretching before the next dance number; even painted on background signs.

Anyway, I hope to head back to The Chelsea soon. I visitied when it had just opened, and I've heard it's picked up steam since. Plus, my friends have given Chelsea Prime, the hotel's steak house, rave reviews. One even said the filet was the best piece of meat he'd ever had. So here's hoping.

Speaking of nightlife, want to vote for what in AC you think is the best? Then fill out the Atlantic City Weekly survey asking just that.

**UPDATE**Forgot to mention this: I'll be at this free Atlantic City event on Wednesday night. I've been to plenty eWomenNetwork events closer to home, but this is only my second down the shore. Should be fun!

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Kindle and the Start of Shore 2009

Part 1: Hey, high tech friends! My book is now available on Kindle, Amazon's wireless reading device. I'd read a lot about a Kindle but never seen one -- maybe now I'll see my book on one!

Part 2: Yes, Shore 2009 has started in the offices of Jen A. Miller. Well, it started a few months back when I started negotiating articles with editors. I just turned in the first shore article I'll have running in 2009 -- my 758th version of the "What's New it Atlantic City" article.

Now, I'm not complaining. At all. But I have done the piece before, and with four other articles due by Wednesday, I needed some help. Solution? A custom Atlantic City dance party. Well, the mix was custom made for www.atlanticcitynightlife.com, but it turned into a one person (then one person plus one dog) dance party. After I turned in the article, I spent a half hour dancing around my house to the mix. And lemme tell you, there's nothing quite like a white girl in sweats and a t-shirt dancing around with her dog. It's so awesome that I closed all the blinds in my house lest I rend a neighbor star struck.

And guess what? The mix is STILL GOING. Check it out if you need a lift like I did.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dress I wish I had for my book launch party

Just sayin'...

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some Friday Holiday Cheer

Looking for something Christmas-y at the shore on Friday? Check this out: The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a very Victorian place, is being visited by Mr. and Mrs. Clause, who will arrive by firetruck at 6pm. They'll be part of a tree lighting ceremony that takes place at 7. And, oh, hey, it's free!

Check out the lighthouse website for more information.

And I didn't get this up in time, but I meant to: The Tropicana is now having ladies nights on Thursday through the month of December. Just typing that makes me want to sing this song (NSFW - I couldn't find a radio safe version):

Could I wear a Lil' Kim wig and get away with it?

Speaking of the Trop, I can't stop giggling about their chasing of the Hooters girls, which will happen on December 13. It's actually a "Running of the Santas," which happens all over the U.S. but at the Trop for the first time this year. It's quite an event. I just might have to go.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

This is a really thoughtful editorial on the gaming industry.

Lock your doors, kids!

Ocean City's doing all it can to keep bringing holiday shoppers to their town.

Speaking of, this is a nice post about Sun Rose Words and Music.

Cape May Stage is having some deals, too.

Duh: Stone Harbor's pricey.

John & Lisa of John & Lisa are Eating in South Jersey welcomed a new addition to their family...on Thanksgiving day. How fitting.

That last call at Henny's was a big one. (Still...what happened to the mermaid??)

One, two, three: awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. (But met at the shore house? Crazy! If I could only have such luck...and on an entirely different note: is it just me or is everyone's Facebook feed exploding with news of marraiges and engagements? Egads, I might drown in them. )

Not surprised about this one.

The headline for this article is "A.C. Casinos Desperately Need Hooters." Um, you go read it. As awkward and horrible as it sounds, I sorta want to see the running of the Hooters girls. Should draw an interesting crowd.

Right after reading that article, I went to "Striper plentiful up and down New Jersey beaches." I did not immediately think of fish.

Thanksgiving in Sea Isle sounded like fun.

Oooo, that Justin Gaynor, getting to the shore while I'm anchored at my desk. I'm sort of saying "Justin" in my head the same way Seinfeld said "Newman."

I missed the Sandy Paws 5k!

But, hey, I did make the Haddon Township Turkey Trot. Not down the shore, I know, but about a mile from home. Look at me go!

I ran a 23:05 race. Not bad -- not my best time, but far from my worst.

It was a pretty hectic holiday weekend, kicked off by my 10 year high school reunion. Oh, and I got a haircut. Folks who saw me asked me to update, so here you go (this is related because it's a picture of me the night of the reunion with my friend Jen...no, not myself...her name is Jen, too):

I came back to my desk on Monday to hear the awful news about Brian Hickey. His friends have put up a new website, where you can find news, information and the details on the beef and beer that will be held in his honor on Friday, December 12.

Brian was a freelancer like me, and it's been great to see how many people have rallied around him and his amazing wife, Angie. But they could still use all the help they could get. So if you know anyone who might have been in the area the night he was hit, or might want to attend the beef & beer (which I hear was accidentially called the "Beer & Beer" in an upcoming ad, though it would fit), please direct them to that site.

I also learned tonight that Brian was playing a key role in a new shore publication. I'll be helping out in the interim, so stay tuned for an announcement about that shortly.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

For a Fellow Writer

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I know I did, but I came back to my desk to hear some horrible news: Brian Hickey, freelance writer and former editor at the Philadelphia City Paper, was involved in a hit and run a few blocks from my home on Friday night. He is in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital and not in the best of shape, though he is fighting hard for his life. You can read all the details here.

Why post this here? Because we need your help. The authorities believe Brian was hit at the corner of North Atlantic and West Linden Avenues in Collingswood around 10:10pm on Friday night. Given where that road is, I'm guessing that someone came out of the PATCO parking lot, onto North Atlantic, and hit Brian while he was walking home from Fischer's back to PATCO.

If you or anyone you know lives in that area or was near that area, please please please think about or ask them to think about when they were there and what they saw.

Brian's wife, Angela Klem, who is keeping us updated on Brian's facebook page, wrote "People need to think about whether they were out with any friends/colleagues that night who park at that lot and may have been arriving at the station around 10:10pm. They could be the driver or even another passenger on the train may have seen a car heading in the direction of N. Atlantic. This information would also be helpful for the police and it's anonymous to call it in."

So pass this around to anyone you know who might have been in the area. It's a horrible thing to have happened, and I hope they find whoever did this to a wonderful human being.

**UPDATE**There's going to be a beef and beer for Brian and his wife on December 12. Click here for details.

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