Archive for the ‘Armpit Adventures’ category

Exploring the Urban Nature of North Jersey

April 29, 2017

Think of the biggest stereotypes of New Jersey – overcrowding, factories spewing out pollution, a mess of traffic-choked highways, garbage dumps, etc. While this is what most of the world thinks about the Armpit of America, it is totally wrong – except when it comes to the northeastern corner of the state. I’m exaggerating of course, but the area of New Jersey across from New York City isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when you want to spend the day in nature. But you’d be totally wrong for thinking that.

I recently explored Richard W. DeKorte Park, right in the middle of the New Jersey’s Meadowlands – an area now more famous for its sports and entertainment venues rather than the wetlands for which it was named. Now I would say that the park provides a nice escape from all of the New Jerseyishness of being in New Jersey, but it’s all still there, just pushed into the background. And somehow, despite having all the highways, factories, powerlines, and buildings in view and all the associated noise within earshot, it just adds to the experience rather than detracting from it.

 

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The park consists of multiple walking bridges built right over the wetlands, allowing you to see fish swimming around the water and birds flying all around. But it’s not just the birds flying overhead – you’ll see countless planes making their way to or from Newark Airport. And amid the rustling of the tall grasses, you’ll hear the whistle of the train coming by.  Moreover, the whole scene is framed by New Jersey’s endless network of highways. Not sure why, but it all makes sense.

meadowlands 2

 

Maybe that’s because the area has always been impacted by humans, and nature has always had to adapt. Wikipedia tells me that before the Meadowlands were actually made up of their namesake meadowlands, it was full of cedar forests, which the early Dutch settlers cleared away to grow salt hay. And since then, the area has been treated as a garbage dump by every group of people who passed through.

Still, Mother Nature persisted. The result is an urban yet natural landscape that can only be found in New Jersey.

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A Tour of the “Jersey Shore” House!

July 4, 2016

This is pretty epic. If you couldn’t tell from the title, I went on a tour of the “Jersey Shore” house, and it was amazing! Considering how much I’ve written about this show and its crazy cast of greasy goofballs, I can honestly say this was one of the highlights of my life.

It wasn’t planned or expected – just happened to be in Seaside Heights, walked up to the infamous Shore Store where the cast worked during the show, and saw a sign inviting people to take a tour of the house, which is right behind it. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see where our beloved Snooki, The Situation, J-WOWW, and the rest of the gang lived, fought, hooked up (and God knows what else they did in that house) for four summers.

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They’d probably get more business if they advertised: “Take a picture in the Smush Room”

The tour was led by this guy who worked on the crew of the show, who led us through the back door of the Shore Store and onto the back porch. But before we went inside, he warned us that it’s a lot smaller in real life – something I’m sure many of the girls who’ve hooked up with The Situation have also realized. (more…)

Let’s Talk About Vintage Arcade Games…Again!

June 25, 2016

There’s just something about old timey video games that keeps drawing me in (and keeps me writing about them – like this time and this other time). Though I satiate this need by plugging in the old, yellowed Super Nintendo and playing Super Mario World for the millionth time (and still being unable to do that crazy jump in the Cheese Bridge level that opens the path to Soda Lake) or a newly acquired Intellivision, these aren’t always enough.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of arcades serving the not so niche market of vintage electronic entertainment seekers. One such place is the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, which despite sounding like a gallery dedicated to geriatric genitals, is fortunately nothing of the sort. Having heard about this place for years, I finally checked it out during a recent all-too-rare visit to my beloved Jersey Shore and was blown away – you walk in and see row after row of about 100 pinball games all lovingly cared for and in perfect working condition. And each one has a sign above it giving you the year the machine was made and a brief back story.

And what’s great about the place is that you pay a flat hourly (or half hourly) fee up front, and then have access to every single machine, all of which have been retrofitted with a start button instead of having to feed them quarters. That’s right – no more having to deal with that stupid change machine that keeps spitting your dollar out, or having to keep fishing into your weighted down pocket to get a new quarter when you lose. Although I’m sure some would argue that that’s part of the experience of being at an arcade. (more…)

The Most Surprising Thing I’ve Ever Seen in New Jersey

November 5, 2011

I thought I had seen it all.  I assumed I’d known everything there was to know about New Jersey.  I didn’t think there was anything else that could surprise me.

I was wrong.

So what’s with all the dramatics?  Well, I recently visited a part of the Armpit of America that I thought existed only in my nightmares.  No, not a Jersey City whorehouse.  Not a crack den in Camden either.  Not even Chris Christie’s private bathroom.  The place of horror was a farm auction.  In New Jersey.  About 20 minutes from cosmopolitan Princeton and at the confluence of three major highways.

The place is called the Camelot Horse auction, located in Cranbury, New Jersey.  Despite being surrounded by the Jersey Turnpike, Route 130, and Route 33, one arrives at the auction by traveling over a deteriorating road through a dark cornfield to get to a gravelly parking lot.  It’s still hard for me to believe that such a place could exist so close to the typical Jersey landscape of highways and strip malls.

I was invited to such a place by some friends who are just a tad more country than I am and certainly fit in better than I do.  After meeting up, we went inside an old barn to see the animals up for auction.  The barn was full of little stables, each holding a variety of horses, ponies, donkeys, sheep, and goats.  In another room were a bunch of cardboard boxes containing various smaller animals, like guinea pigs, rabbits, and pigeons.

Something tells me this guy ended up as someone's dinner that night.

But the main attraction of the farm auction was, appropriately enough, the auction room.  This section of the barn had bleachers along the walls, a big, rusty truck full of farm equipment, and a podium in the middle of the room for an Amish-looking auctioneer.  Adorned with a straw hat and a big, bushy beard, he presided over the bidding on items like shovels and feed buckets with the typical auctioneer gibberish. (more…)

My First Trip to Sussex County

October 22, 2010

Sussex County: Just the tip of the armpit.

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Sussex County for the first time.  Nestled up in the northwest corner, Sussex County is geographically New Jersey’s northernmost county but culturally its southernmost.  It is known for its mountains, farmland, small towns, and country folk.

The reason for the trip up north was for a friend’s birthday.  Driving up to Sussex County, I couldn’t believe the scenery and almost forgot that I was in New Jersey.  The gently rolling hills full of trees seem more typical of Pennsylvania and upstate New York.  And the signs advertising not one, but two mining museums made me think I was in West Virginia or Kentucky.  But all of the strip malls along the way served to remind me that I was still in the Armpit of America.

Another reminder was the numerous signs talking about this one diner – apparently the best diner in New Jersey.  Diners are a dime a dozen in this state and usually fall into one of two categories:  perfectly average or not so great.  Each one claims to have the best of something, whether pancakes, burgers, or omelets.  But for a diner to claim to be the best at everything?  I was intrigued – but I’d have to do my investigations another day.

We arrived at the birthday party and were greeted by some of the redneckiest rednecks I’d ever seen.  And I mean that in the nicest possible way.  Everyone was really nice and friendly, just a little more country than any other people I’ve ever met in New Jersey. (more…)

Dave Coulier Walks into the Armpit of America…and Stinks!

September 21, 2010

At around 4:30 last Tuesday afternoon, a friend informed me that Dave Coulier, best and only known as Joey from Full House, would be performing stand-up at Brookdale Community College. It’s not every day that an actor from what I shamefully admit is one of my favorite shows ever is only a half hour away from me. So I dropped whatever plans I had that night, got a group of friends together, and hustled on over to Brookdale.

Though half of my high school went to Brookdale Community College (the other half, including me, went to Rutgers), I had never been on the campus. It was pretty confusing finding our way around. Though we parked in this big parking lot in the middle of the campus, there weren’t many signs showing which building was which. And once we found the building, we had to walk through its labyrinthine halls to find the room where he was performing.

While I thought the show would have been in an auditorium or gym, it was actually in this small conference room. There were only about 150 seats, many of which remained unfilled. Though the website said it would cost $5 for non-Brookdale students, it turned out to be free. It’s kinda sad. His Full House cohort Bob Saget can sell out auditoriums, but the best Dave Coulier can do is a free show at a college – a community college, no less.

Try to keep your panties on, ladies; it's Dave Coulier!

Having seen the show, that $0 admission fee was definitely worth the price. Actually, I think Dave Coulier should have paid me to be there. Though he had a couple good jokes, most of his routine was pretty lame. For example, he spent a few minutes talking about how his 80-year-old father doesn’t understand computers and then discussed how his teenage son keeps his hand on his crotch and plays video games all day. Such groundbreaking stuff this guy has! He also talked about how Porky Pig wears a vest but no pants. Um, didn’t another comedian make the same joke about Donald Duck? (more…)

New Jersey’s Ghetto Barber Shops

August 23, 2010

And now for a post that isn’t about “Jersey Shore”!

Let’s rewind back to Fourth of July weekend.  My hair (total Jew-fro) was getting a little too curly and unmanageable to be seen in public.  I had a friend who had been cutting my hair for free for the last couple of years, but she wasn’t available.  And, since I had plans to go out for the night, I needed a haircut that day.

Little known fact: Dustin Diamond and I are first cousins.

I googled around for barber shops in New Brunswick.  All the results I found fell into two categories: unisex hair salons or places bragging about their “street” and “Brooklyn” cuts.  I have too much pride to go someplace with the words unisex and salon in its title, but I’m not man enough to go to one of the ghetto places.  All I wanted was a barber shop catering to nerdy white guys.  Since there weren’t any such places in New Brunswick, I decided to look around in the nerdiest town in New Jersey:  Princeton. (more…)