Sunday, February 28, 2010

Up in Asbury

I'm headed to Asbury Park on Monday to work on a last-minute assignment for an inflight magazine. I've been seeing pictures of the snowy boardwalk on Facebook and am interested to see how it's doing. We only got about three inches of snow down here in Collingswood during the last round of snOMG! But I know the story was different in central Jersey.

What this assignment means is that "Jersey Shore Writing Season" is in full swing. I'm starting in on my New Jersey Monthly June assignment soon, and the iPhone app is due later this month. Oh, and the marathon is nine weeks away. Um, eep?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Soup Kitchen

ALERT! A new soup kitchen is opening in Cape May County. It'll be called the Free Meal Center, and plans are for it to be open by Memorial Day at the site of the former Mayville Inn at 1206 Route 9 South in Burleigh.

It's easy to forget that poverty exists at the Jersey Shore, but it does. I've driven down and around enough side streets and small towns to see it year round. The Free Meal Center will be the first free daily soup kitchen in Cape May County.

The group running the center takes possession of the building on March 15. If you want to help, check out their website for details.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Going to throw this one out there...

I get a lot of press releases from Atlantic City casinos - about their promotions, events, contests and what have you. Obviously, I track news about the town. So I'm going to put this out there:

Would Atlantic City be better off if the bad and poorly run casinos just closed?

There are a handful of casinos - already in bankruptcy - who are doing nothing to improve Atlantic City's image. They won't invest in their properties, they won't change with the times, and they won't let go of the idea that gaming revenue and stupid promotions is where it's at. It's not. Have you looked at gaming revenues lately? I doubt think they're coming back.

Atlantic City isn't going to exist without gambling. It's impossible. The city is too tied up with the vice.

So I'd rather the strong casinos who are pouring money into their properties and investing in "Atlantic City: Destination Resort," thrive, rather than compete with casinos still living by "Atlantic City: Gambling Town" motto. The latter are on life support. Maybe it's time to pull the plug.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

News from around the South Jersey Shore

SNOMG! photos from Strathmere.

SNOMG! photos from Cape May.

How is this not settled yet?! I think I've been posting about this since I started the blog.

Oh no! Get well soon!

More about ties between Cape May County and Les Quebecois.

First, a Strathmere romance novel selling on ebay. Now, this.

And finally: Congrats, Porter! This Cape May pup finished third in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do we really care...

...about this?

I usually refrain from posting about whatever D- or F-list "celebrity" is paid God knows what to appear at a club in Atlantic City. I don't care. These people don't deserve our attention or my time or money.

But I'm curious enough about this one that I checked my schedule. I'll be at a birthday party, but if I wasn't, maybe. I'm not going to lie, though. Since I'd have a press pass, I wouldn't have paid to get in. Maybe the bigger question is: Who WOULD pay to get in?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Minnie Break

And I'm back from balmy Minneapolis! Who knew when I booked this flight that New Jersey would be the winter wonderland, not the upper midwest?

Well, I got there, barely. My flight was the only morning/afternoon flight to leave Philadelphia for Minneapolis after Wednesday's blizzard. I had a great time but am still catching up from my second trip away in one month.

I didn't take pictures on this trip and am going to keep this one off the blog, but I will say this: If you ever go to Minneapolis and eat meat, go to Manny's Steakhouse. Fantastic meal.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Your Shore Weekend: Brrr Edition

Two big events to note if you're down the shore this weekend.

The first is HeartAC, which I wrote about on the blog before. Events start Friday and run through Sunday.

The second is the Polar Plunge in Sea Isle on Saturday. Events kick off on Friday night, but the actual plunge is on Saturday. This year's event will carry a black cloud over it, though - last year, Tracy Hottenstein died the night before the plunge. As always, ladies & gents, be careful when partying. Stay together. And don't go wandering off, especially since there's going to be plenty of snow still on the ground.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Snow Day from Justin Gaynor on Vimeo.

Justin Gaynor, who often photographs the Jersey Shore, put together this video about the weekend snowstorm. I know snow is not always lovely, especially to the thousands of shore residents who lost power. But I need what I can to brace myself for round two, which is coming on Tuesday. Instead of thinking about the shoveling and the cold and the misery - and the possibility that my Thursday morning flight will be canceled - I'm diverting my attention by watching a soothing and beautiful snow video.

Ann Delaney has been using her twitter feed to update who has power when in Avalon and Stone Harbor. Follow along if you're concerned about your shore home.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

So...there was a lot of snow this weekend. Lots of shore folks lost power, too.

In the least shocking news of the year, Pinnacle says it's ditching its Atlantic City project. Way to blow up the Sands for nothing, guys. Please take down your billboards.

I've GOT to read this book. I'll buy it someday. Promise.


Interesting bit of history from Atlantic City Weekly.

Welcome, eh? The Jersey Shore's relationship with French Canadians continues.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

St. Pete & Me: The rest of the way

I had three stellar days, weather wise, while in Florida. But on Saturday, things turned. I woke up to a gray, hazy humid morning. I got in my run - 7 miles to Treasure Island and back - and felt wiped. I hate running in humidity, and my body's not used to it now given most of my training is done in 30 degree weather.

But I got it done early so I could explore. First up: driving over the Sunshine Skyway, an amazing -- and somewhat frightening -- cable bridge. It has emergency call boxes linked to crisis centers at the top. Yes, it's that high.

That bridge lead me to Sarasota and the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The Ringling Bros. Circus used to have its winter quarters in Sarasota, hence the location of the estate, right up against the Gulf of Mexico.

I say estate because it's not just one art museum. You pay the hefty fee of $25 for entrance to a circus museum, the art museum, and the Ringling home.

Yes, $25 was a lot, but I think it was worth it.

So who would like to be shot out of a canon?

Or play dress up?

I spent most of my time wandering the grounds, which include tree and rose gardens.

As much as I hate humidity, there was something restorative in walking around the estate in that soft, pre-storm air. The rain started right as I pulled out of the parking lot. Perfect timing.

For dinner, I headed to the Don CeSar back in St. Pete Beach. Most people know it as the big pink building, and it's amazing. The only problem, though, was that the pain that has started as a pinprick spiderwebbed around my head, so I took my food to go and ate dinner in my room.

The next morning wasn't much better. I kept up with my marathon training even though I was on vacation, which meant a 14 mile run. I went back to Fort DeSoto for it, which was a mistake. Mid-way through the run, the winds kicked up and I finished the last eight miles into probably 30mph head winds. I was so frustrated at the end that I threw my water bottle into the mangrove trees. Not smart, I know. But after I drank some Gatorade and calmed down, I picked it up and watched a few kite surfers face plant into the water. I don't know if that felt worse than my run, but it was something.

To reward myself for that horrible run, I read through book number three while enjoying the hotel's Bloody Mary bar. I thought it was two for one. That really meant each drink had double the vodka. Um, I went to bed early that night.

I did see what little sun and sunset there was that night amid the haze.

The next morning, it rained, so I flew home standby on an earlier flight. It was a great trip, but maybe I should have stayed longer given the snow we're supposed to get this weekend?

I kid. I had someone waiting at home for me.

My mom watched Emily while I was flitting around Florida. Emily loves my mom, and vice versa, but Emily doesn't quite eat or sleep right while I'm gone. Poor pup.

And that concludes my Florida adventure. Back to the beach soon!

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

St. Pete & Me: Day 3, Tampa edition

I make this trek every year in line with the University of Tampa National Alumni Association Board meeting. I usually call into the board meetings over the phone, but the first meeting of the year is a great excuse to get away.

I am probably the LAST person my classmates would have ever expected to be on the alumni board - I explain why here.

But I wouldn't have become a writer without the newspaper experience (there was really no one who wanted to run the paper, so I got a chance to do so even though I had no experience), so I can't knock it completely hence my involvement on the board.

This is where I decided to become a writer. I was so homesick that first year that I'd sit on the dock by my dorm and write. Go figure.

ANYWAY, I headed into Tampa early to meet with a fellow freelancer at Indigo Coffee, which is a local coffee chain (much like Avalon Coffee is a local shore chain). She tipped me off to Sherry's YesterDaze Vintage, which is an awesome consignment shop that focuses on vintage wear. I picked up a backless Studio-54esque dress that, oddly enough, has long sleeves. Why not, right? Too bad the white mini dress with flower appliques didn't work. If I took off the Brady Bunch puff sleeves, it'd had been a perfect sheath dress for the summer.

Then I had lunch, per usual, with Andy Solomon, who was my newspaper advisor, at Cafe European (MY GOD THE MOUSSE!)

After the alumni meeting, we headed to a school get together at Four Green Fields, which is an excellent *authentic* Irish pub with a real thatch roof. It's the first bar where I maybe had a drink underage (at a bar that is not known campus wide as not carding, that is), and where I first tasted goat cheese.

Now, don't get yourself in a tizzy about this. When I was 19, I was a section editor on a newspaper staff of juniors and seniors. They were all over 21, so I tagged along and had a beer. Four Green Fields is also where I first tasted goat cheese. It opened up a culinary world.

Post-dinner, I went back to St. Pete Beach to my hotel's beach bar. It felt like a Jersey Shore night - I was wearing jeans, flip flop and hoodie to drink lite beer and watch a so/so cover band. The crowd was older than what I find at the shore, and all locals (meaning they live there now, not that they're born and bred Florida locals. Those are hard to find).

The next post will wrap up my posts about vacation. Saturday and Sunday weren't as packed as those first three days, mostly because of my running schedule and bad weather. So stay tuned!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

St. Pete & Me: Day 2

Vacation day two: Got up whenever I got up (ahahahaha!) had breakfast (free at the hotel) and drove to Fort de Soto Park. For the grand entry fee of 35 cents, I was welcomed into what Trip Advisor call's America's Best Beach.

It is very nice - I admit that. It's not what you and I think of a beach, though. It's on the gulf, so no real waves. It's made up of five small, connected islands and is awash in running trails (both paved and not). I got in a quick four miler, starting here:

And ending here, on top of the actual fort (I didn't take my camera with me - I took the pictures after the run when I was stink and sweaty. No wonder all those German tourists in sweaters and long pants looked at me funny).

Then I showered and headed over to St. Pete proper for the Dali Museum. As you can guess, it was incredibly odd. It's housed in a bunker type building along the water. In 2011, it'll be moving to new, big digs.

Next, was another trip highlight:

Oh, I do love Village Inn (free pie on Wednesdays!) I'm craving those hash browns right now, too.

Post-lunch, I bought a few summer items off the sale rack at Surf Shack, then it was back to the pool for more reading, another beer, and more sun.

In case you're wondering, I read 3.5 books on vacation. That is a record for me.

On Thursday, I wasn't running during sunset, so sat on a beach chair and watched the sun sink over the gulf. It's a highlight of every visit.

For dinner, I headed to Pass-a-Grille, which I first thought was a restaurant. Turns out it's a town just north south of St. Pete Beach - very small, very quiet. I thought I'd try one restaurant, but I didn't like the look of the menu, so headed up the street to a place called Brass Monkey. No, this is not named after the Beastie Boy song (at least I don't think it is). I was the youngest person in there by at least 20 years, except for the bartender. I enjoyed watching the seniors dance to the cheesy cover band.

I try local beers wherever I go, and I couldn't get much more local than Evander Beer. Evander is an artist who lives in town. He is a bit scary looking but makes a nice beer.

I had a salad before the artery clogging meal above, FYI. That's Evander's beer (and face) in the background.

Then it was back to the hotel to rest up for Day 3, which was all about Tampa...

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

St. Pete & Me: Day 1

I crammed so much into my six-day trip that I decided it'll be easier to do the write up per day. I won't take long to put these online, so if you don't care about beaches not in NJ, sit tight!

Also - this was NOT a sponsored trip (i.e. a tourism board calls me up and offers a free vacation in exchange for press coverage). I wanted to put that out there in case you were wondering given the hullabaloo about new FTC rules on bloggers. I paid for every penny.

I landed in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon. I picked St. Pete Beach again for vacation because I'm on the board of my the University of Tampa National Alumni Association, and our big meeting is in the winter. Why not take a few extra days to lie on the beach? Before headed to that beach, though, I made two stops:

1. Inkwood Books. A fabulous independent bookstore in Tampa. Instead of buying a guide book before I left, I went here - they should have the best stock, right? I picked up Moon Florida Gulf Coast by Laura Reiley for a guide, and Hot Damn!: Alligators in the Casino, Nude Women in the Grass, How Seashells Changed the Course of History, and Other Dispatches from Paradiseby James W. Hall for pleasure. Hall is a mystery writer but for a time had a newspaper essay column. The book is a collection of those columns. Perfect reading to go along with a Florida vacation.

2. Publix GreenWise. To cut down on restaurant costs, I hit up this Wholefoods-esque supermarket. I kept up with my marathon training while on vacation, so I needed to have a lot of food handy or I'd go Hulk due to low blood sugar. The Publix is also across the street from Inkwood, so that was a two-birds-with-one-stone deal.

Then it was over to St. Pete Beach, cruising over the causeway with all the windows down on a 70 degree day. I stayed at the Postcard Inn, which I read about last fall in a magazine. It wasn't expensive (especially with my AAA discount), and they didn't charge a resort fee - something I was whacked with where I stayed last year.

Here's the courtyard:

And the lobby:

The Postcard Inn reminded me a lot of a Wildwood motel - and not only because the hotel restaurant is called Wildwood. I'll get to that in a minute. It reminded me of the shore because it was an old, beach-side motel that was renovated with the younger/hipper/greener traveler in mind.

I liked it. It was cool without being too fancy, and the price was right. I did take a photo of my room but it doesn't do justice like the photos on the website do.

My first order of business was to hit the pool. I knew I wasn't going to have a string of sunny days, so I wanted to get in as much sun as I could.

Then I ate, changed, and did a six mile barefoot beach run. The sand is different along the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn't stick like NJ beach sand, but the beach was covered with a lot of little tiny shells, which made the run interesting. I ran at sunset, too, which made it one of the prettiest runs I've ever done.

That night, I ate at the hotel's restaurant: Wildwood Burger and BBQ. The bartender said it was not named after Wildwood, NJ, but I tweeted the hotel, and whoever runs the twitter feed says that it's named after the Wildwood BBQ festival (I'm hoping to do an interview with the owner to figure out where that connection comes in?) I cannot get away from the shore, can I? Here's the hotel at night:

For a first day with travel starting at the 6:29am PATCO train to Philadelphia (to catch the R1 Septa train to the airport), it was a nice one. Stay tuned for Day 2.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

While You Were Waiting...

I'm working on a long post about my trip to St. Pete Beach. Until then, enjoy this video of Miss'd America, which happened - fabulously - in Atlantic City on Sunday.

(For those who asked after I tweeted pics from vacation: I stayed at the Postcard Inn - I didn't want to say while I was actually there. It's a very cool place).

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Good riddance... bad rubbish. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Actually, let it hit you. You were never wanted in the first place.

Congrats to NJ shore towns for making sure these morons weren't allowed back in the Garden State. Sigh of relief? Yes. I won't have to know they're on our beaches while I'm working this summer. I'd guess they'll end up in Florida. You see much more of that culture down here in the party areas of Tampa and South Beach.

MTV better change the name of the show, and if they don't, I hope to GOD the state stands up and does something before the second season airs. The name has always been a lie. It wasn't really Jersey Shore in the first place.

I'm headed back from Florida today. I had three really nice days, then three not so nice days. It's going to rain today but at least it's not snow! I'll post an update when I'm back home.

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