Born to Run….Back to New Jersey!

Posted March 23, 2017 by armpitnj
Categories: Uncategorized

I heart njAfter living on Long Island for the past four years, I am beyond thrilled to formally announce that I am moving back to New Jersey. Yes, it’s really happening. In just a few weeks.

Actually, I am already officially a resident of the Armpit of America once again, having done the dirty work at the DMV (or MVC as NJ calls it) earlier this week. And I’m not usually one to believe in “signs” or spiritual stuff, but the first song I heard on the radio upon leaving the DMV MVC with my new New Jersey driver’s license and license plates was “Born to Run” – clearly that was the work of a higher power.

Though the wife and I had been talking about moving back for a while, the urge became clear once we welcomed our son into the world a few months ago.  With our families being either two, or three and a half, hours away, it’s been difficult for him to see his grandparents. And every time we make the trip to Jersey, we have to pack up half the house. Also, I want my kid off of Long Island before he starts talking – I’d never forgive myself if he were to start speaking with that Lawn Guyland accent.

I’ll be honest – although I like to complain about Long Island a lot, there were a lot of great things about living here.  We got to be closer to my grandmother during her final years, hang out with some wonderful relatives who live nearby a lot more often, and made some good friends. And while I’m thrilled to be moving back to the promised land, there are some things about this place that I will really miss. Like grandma pizza (sorry, pizza places in New Jersey just don’t get it right), the wineries on the North Fork (such a great setting compared to NJ’s wine country in South Jersey) and the ability to buy beer at every single grocery store, pharmacy, and gas station.

Despite these benefits, my heart is, always was, and forever will be in New Jersey. And now it’s time to come home.

Years ago, back in the glory days when I was living in an oceanfront apartment in Belmar, some friends and I spent a night on the balcony playing the board game “Escape From New Jersey!” And in the blog post recapping this adventure, I lamented how the game is impossible to win – just like in real life, there is no escape from the Armpit of America. However, having actually escaped for four years, I couldn’t be happier to be back. And I don’t plan on escaping ever again.

 

Ready for “Jersey Shore: The Next Generation”?

Posted February 20, 2017 by armpitnj
Categories: Jersey Shore, MTV's "Jersey Shore"

Tags: , , , ,

I think it’s fair to assume that the attention and buzz around MTV’s “Jersey Shore” has officially flickered out. When was the last time you heard anything about Snooki or the Situation? And when has any late night talk show host cracked a joke about them? And while New Jersey was the butt of everyone’s jokes during the show’s 2009-2012 run, even that has died down.

I think it’s safe to say that the orange grease balls who made up the show’s cast have finally faded back into the faceless obscurity from which they emerged. And the scene of the crime, Seaside Heights, has finally recovered after dealing with the aftermath of the show, Hurricane Sandy, and a nasty boardwalk fire, reclaiming its title as a family-friendly shore town – or so those poor residents thought!

According to our friends at NJ.com, there may be a new “reality” show taking place in Seaside. The infamous club that the “Jersey Shore” cast frequently frequented, Bamboo, posted a casting call for a new show – “I Love Summer.” Specifically, they’re looking for “loud and fun” people, which obviously has residents and officials ready to fight back and save their town from reliving the attention and embarrassment MTV already bestowed upon them.

So is the world ready to watch a bunch of loud New Yorkers making idiots of themselves at the Jersey Shore once again? I think so. Just consider this birthday card (created by New Jersey’s own Designer Greetings) I bought the day before hearing about the new show:

jersey-shore-card

I was pretty confused upon seeing it – seemed like something that should have been on the shelves back in 2010/2011 at the height of Snooki and friends’ popularity. Who aside from second rate bloggers looking for inspiration for a quick and easy blog post would buy such a thing? Why would Designer Greetings put out the card now?? Why would a small grocery store chain on Long Island carry such a thing???

I take it all as a sign that after a few quiet years, the world is indeed ready to make the Armpit of America everyone’s punching bag once again. And if  “I Love Summer” actually comes to fruition, that will surely happen. And you know I’ll be watching it…and writing about it.

Three Jars and a Bottle of Jersey

Posted January 27, 2017 by armpitnj
Categories: Belmar, Reviews

Tags: , , , , , ,

Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly four years since I left my beloved New Jersey. Since then, I’ve collected numerous things to remind me of the Armpit of America and comfort me as I get nostalgic for the state’s litter-strewn highways, chemical vapor-filled skies and golden but dirty shores. So join me as I break into four cherished mementos, in the form of Jersey-flavored tomatoes, alcohol and wax!

Jar #1 – Ethnic Cottage Jersey Tomato Sauce

tomato-sauce

Purveyors of internationally flavored products like Indian and Thai sauces, Ethnic Cottage decided to cover a new ethnicity, Jersey-Italian, with its line of four Jersey tomato sauces, including the pictured marinara. I was pretty surprised by the ingredient list, comprised of just tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and seasonings, and no sugar, no chemicals and no weird thickeners. The result is a great tasting sauce that tastes like some little Italian grandmother made it herself. Sure, if you like your tomato sauce to be overly sweet and salty, you might not enjoy this. But if you want a tomato sauce without any weird additives and in which you can actually taste every individual ingredient, give Ethnic Cottage a try! Read the rest of this post »

Some New Jersey “Nursery Rhymes”

Posted September 24, 2016 by armpitnj
Categories: NJ Personalities, politics

Tags: , , , , , ,

New Jersey is home to so many heroes and villains, myths and monsters, making it the perfect inspiration for nursery rhymes! Here are my attempts to memorialize the Armpit of America in nursery rhyme form.

Please note: I don’t recommend actually reading these to kids, especially that last one…

 

A Man Named Christie

There once was a man named Christie
Who ruled his state with an iron fist-y
His temper would erupt
And his actions, corrupt
But deep down, he was just a big sissy.

 

Always Second Best

This is the story of a boy named Jon
Last name, Jovi – his middle name, Bon
He left his small New Jersey town
Trying to become the best singer around

So he put together a band and grew his hair real big
And soon he was getting gig after gig
He wanted to be the biggest star from his state
Anything less than that, he would hate

Little Jon made the charts with many a song
About working class heroes and girls who done him wrong
But there was someone who did this all much better
From his shadow, Jon couldn’t get unfettered

Against this man, he counted many a loss
How could he ever win against a guy called The Boss?
Try as he might, his songs were never as good
And he started to wonder if give up music he should

But his career is nothing to laugh at or reason to be sad
Anyone with his success should certainly be glad
And as he stood there on stage in his black leather vest,
Jon thought to himself, “Maybe it’s not so bad, to be second best”

Read the rest of this post »

Top 5 Pokemon You’d Find in New Jersey

Posted August 31, 2016 by armpitnj
Categories: Top 5

Tags: , , ,

It’s pretty amazing how Pokemon Go continues to take the world by storm. What’s even more amazing is that the Pokemon franchise is still around. What started as a game for the primitive Game Boy console 20 years ago has spawned a TV show, movies and a media empire that still excites everyone. Not even the other video game veterans like our favorite Italian plumber, a boomerang-throwing elf, a blue hedgehog or a barrel-tossing gorilla can boast the level of popularity that Pokemon continually enjoys.

But as the franchise evolved, its creators expanded the list of Pokemon from the original beloved set of 150 weird little monsters to now more than 700. And you can tell they’re running out of ideas, with newer-generation Pokemon like Chandelure – an anthropomorphic light fixture, or Vanillite – a smiling ice cream cone. Even in a world where children roam around unsupervised hunting animals, imprisoning them in little balls, and making them fight against each other, Chandelure and Vanillite force you to stretch your imagination a little too far.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a blog about New Jersey. So what the hell does Pokemon have to do with the Armpit of America? Not much, to be honest. However, I thought it would be fun to make a list of the Pokemon most likely to inhabit our favorite state. And don’t worry – they’re all from the first generation Pokedex.

1. Caterpie010Caterpie

This cute little guy is the Pokemon world’s version of a caterpillar. His real-world brethren aren’t nearly as adorable. Drive down the Parkway in the summer and you’ll notice many of the trees covered in caterpillar nests. Although Caterpie will eventually evolve into the equally adorable Butterfree, the New Jersey versions just become ugly moths.

600px-067Machoke.png

 

 2. Machoke

These things look like body builders with lizard heads, and certainly wouldn’t be out of place at the Jersey Shore. Machoke is the Pokemon version of the guido if you will, complete with spiky hair, arm tattoos, and the need to compensate for a clear lack of a bulge in the crotch area.

 

109Koffing

3. Koffing

Koffing is like a floating ball that farts out toxic gases – just like the many factories throughout the state polluting our sky and water.

 

 

088Grimer

 

 

4. Grimer

According to this source, Grimer is “a slimy, amorphous blob-like Pokémon, made of living purple sludge. Its body contains a variety of pungent bacteria…” So pretty much a poisonous slimeball – New Jersey has more than it’s fair share of those (e.g., any of the husbands from Real Housewives of New Jersey).

 

143Snorlax

5. Snorlax

The largest of all Pokemon, you are most likely to see a Snorlax sitting on his throne in the governor’s mansion in Trenton, or on the campaign trail trying to get another poisonous slimeball elected president (no offense to Grimer).

My Favorite New Jersey Strip Mall

Posted August 21, 2016 by armpitnj
Categories: Best of NJ, Random

One of the cliches about New Jersey people like to throw around is that the state is nothing but highways and strip malls. It certainly would be hard to argue with that – the Armpit of America is home to more than its fair share of both. But there is one strip mall in particular that stands above the rest – hell, I’d even say it’s magical.

I’m talking about the Strathmore Shopping Center, also known as the Aberdeen Townsquare Shopping Center, located off of Route 34 in Aberdeen. And I’m not playing favorites just because I grew up in that town – I have yet to see any strip mall anywhere that can match what this place can offer. What also makes it special is how The Strathmore Shopping Center (or just “the stores” as well called it in my youth) meant different things to me at different parts of my life. From running errands with my parents as a little kid, to gaining the freedom to ride my bike there when I got older, to hanging out there as a teen, to stopping there today pretty much whenever I’m in town, this seemingly generic strip mall has been a constant throughout my life.

Strathmore

The Strathmore Shopping Center: clearly what Belinda Carlisle had in mind when singing about Heaven being a place on Earth.

What’s also amazing it how so many of the stores from my childhood are still there: the local bowling alley, the bagel shop, the candy store. Sure, there are some places that didn’t make it, like the kosher deli cleverly named Chubby Bubbe’s, the mom and pop video store that was run out of business when Blockbuster moved in across the street (which got its comeuppance 20 years later), or the shoe store for people with wide feet (unfortunate, since I now realize that I have wide feet). But for every store that closes down, a new one takes its place. Read the rest of this post »

How I Spent My Childhood Summers in New Jersey

Posted July 25, 2016 by armpitnj
Categories: Random

Tags: , , ,

Summers are often a magical time, where you take a break from the pressures and schedules of school and just get to be lazy for a couple months. Unless of course your parents made you go to day camp, in which case you still had to catch the bus, take on a full schedule of activities and deal with the drama and struggle of fitting in, just like at school. Such was the case with my childhood summers in the Armpit of America, where I would count down the days for school to end, only to start camp soon after (and then count down the days until camp was over).

Though this may seem like a vicious cycle of misery, camp was never that bad….much like Ronnie and Sammi from “Jersey Shore” (speaking of which, I toured the infamous house, in case you missed it), I just had a complicated love/hate relationship with camp, as described below.

pine.grove.day.campI went to three different day camps during my childhood, but it was only the third that had a significant impact on my life. That camp was Pine Grove Day Camp, located in Wall Township. It was run by a guy who looked like a cute old Jewish man like Mel Brooks but who managed a children’s day camp like a concentration camp. Seriously, the guy could make you wet your pants with one harsh look. But still, he knew what he was doing. Aside from sunburn and mosquito bites and all the times I wished I didn’t have to go each summer, that camp gave me a lifetime of memories from eight summers.

Pine Grove touted itself as a camp “as complete as a sleepaway camp” and pretty much lived up to that description. Sure, it had a few pools, sports facilities, arts and crafts and all that standard stuff, but what set it apart more than anything is that it served lunch. Not just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but real food cooked in a real kitchen – fried chicken (or as the camp menu called it, “honey dip’t chicken”), meatball subs, grilled cheese, hamburgers, etc., complete with sides and dessert. In fact, the only meal that sucked where those days every two weeks where the option would be tuna and egg salad platters. But any day you didn’t like the main course being offered, there was a range of substitutes you could order – bagels, turkey sandwiches, yogurt. Hell, even if you kept kosher, they would accommodate you. Needless to say, the food was one of the best parts of Pine Grove, especially if you were a fat kid like me.

Read the rest of this post »