Archive for the ‘Best of NJ’ category

Well We’re Living Here in Allentown (New Jersey, not Pennsylvania)

December 19, 2018

A few months ago, we bought a house in Allentown. No, not the Allentown in Pennsylvania made famous by coal and Billy Joel, but the one in New Jersey. Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

Like when I told people at work I was moving to Allentown, the response by many was, “Woah, that’s gonna be one hell of a commute!” To which I’d respond, “No, not Allentown, Pennsylvania – Allentown, New Jersey.” I soon realized it was better to preempt such a response by saying “Allentown…New Jersey, not Pennsylvania” and avoiding the confusion. Only, it would lead people to say, “I didn’t know there was an Allentown in New Jersey.”

Allentown

For the many who are unfamiliar, Allentown is home to just over 1,800 people. It’s located at the northwest corner of Monmouth County, and very close to the borders of no less than four other counties: Mercer, Middlesex, Burlington, and Ocean. While it may seem like the geographic center of the Armpit of America, it’s actually 14 miles from that spot. But close enough.

Though located right off the Turnpike (Exit 7A) and very close to the large town of Hamilton, Allentown feels like a world apart from the rest of the state. It’s surrounded by woods, farmland, and creeks. One of the main roads to get out of town is literally a gravel path passing over each of those landscapes.

I also have to highlight Allentown’s Main Street, which looks like something from the past – all local businesses and not a single chain. No Starbucks, no McDonald’s, no Dunkin’ Donuts, no CVS. Given that the town was founded in 1706, historical buildings are all over the place, including an old church that now serves as the town library, and the old mill building, which currently houses a coffee shop and other boutique stores.

There’s also some unique attractions in town, like the combination bicycle/chocolate shop (for real), or the Pork Roll Store – a butcher shop specializing in New Jersey’s favorite spiced pork product. Incidentally, I wrote about this place way back in 2010 after seeing one of their vans on the road. Never would have imagined I’d be living up the street from it eight years later.

What’s also great about Allentown is that it’s near several other attractions that I either never knew existed, or never bothered to visit. For instance, there’s an Amish market (run by real Amish people!) in the town of Columbus. There’s the oddly named Assunpink Wildlife Management Area complete with a lake and gun/archery range. It’s also close to the Pine Barrens, home of the Jersey Devil…and pineys. And let’s not forget about Roosevelt, probably the weirdest town in New Jersey.

Given the small town charm, surrounding farmland, gun range, and even Amish people , this Allentown seems a hell of a lot more Pennsylvania-ish than the real one.

All told, I couldn’t be happier in my new town. But since nothing is in life is perfect, I’ll share my one complaint. Being close to the border with South Jersey, there’s one item on pizza shop menus and the like that irks me to no end. I hate to say it, but I’m now officially living in hoagie country…

 

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My Favorite New Jersey Strip Mall

August 21, 2016

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. (more…)

Bar + Arcade = Barcade!

May 4, 2013

Yeah I live in Lawn Guyland now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still write about the place I lived for 29 years, right?

Well I was back in my home state last weekend after making the trip to the Paris of the Armpit of America, AKA, Jersey City.  What I didn’t count on was this journey including an extra 45 minutes of driving around looking for parking. Anyway, the trip was well worth the effort, as the plan was to head to a bar I’d never heard of until that night: Barcade.

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Two Reasons Why I Love Living at the Beach

August 24, 2011

As summer is slowly coming to an end, I thought I’d share some pics of why I love living in Belmar.  Both of these pictures were taken on the same day, a couple of weeks ago.  The first is of the full moon coming out of the horizon.  After a 15 minute walk from the beach to the marina, I got a pic just as the sun was setting.  Perfect timing!

Moonrise:

 

And…

Sunset:

I Wrote a Guest Blog!

January 3, 2011

I was recently asked to write a guest post for the travel blog, onetravelbloggers.com.  I was told I could write about literally anything.  Since there are so many places in the Armpit of America that I could write about, I couldn’t pick just one.  So, I decided to write about New Jersey as a whole. Though other bloggers have written about more exotic locales, like India, Thailand, and Romania, I think mine holds up pretty well!

Without further ado, here is my article, “New Jersey – An Unlikely Tourist Destination”.

The Best of NJ: WPRB 103.3 FM

April 15, 2010

That stands for "We Play Reallygoodmusic, Bitch!"

A few years ago, I got a job in Princeton, NJ and spent about two and a half years working there.  One of the highlights of that job was my hour-long commute.  For reals.  You see, though I was by myself in the car, I wasn’t alone.  I had the radio to keep me company.  And I kept that radio tuned to WPRB 103.3 FM – the radio station of Princeton University.

Though I would originally listen to Q104.3, the classic rock station based in New York, it would often break up as I traveled west towards Princeton.  Each day, I would do my usual search for a new station; every time the seek button brought me to a new one, I would either hear a commercial or static.  One day, though, I landed at 103.3.  I heard this really weird song that sounded like it was being sung by Lisa Simpson, and I was hooked.  (I would later find out that the song was Only Skin by Joanna Newsom.)

I kept the radio on 103.3 for the rest of my commute, and I kept hearing all these unusual songs.  They were like nothing I had ever heard.  Upon getting home, I looked up 103.3 to find out what it was all about.  I learned that it is the student-run radio station of Princeton University, known as WPRB.  As I had been so accustomed to conventional radio, where I would often hear the same songs over and over, this new (to me) station was a real awakening.

For the remainder of my time working in Princeton, I would listen to WPRB whenever possible.  I was exposed to all different kinds of music, as delivered by the station’s many different deejays.  You see, they have a different set of deejays and different programming each day.  On top of that, every deejay is only on for like two hours.  Although I was only able to listen to the station from 8 AM to 9 AM and from 5 PM to 6 PM (meaning I would hear the same shows each week), I still got a good sampling of music I had never heard before. (more…)

The Best of NJ: Adventure Aquarium

February 24, 2010

New Jersey isn’t really known as a hotspot for marine life. The animals that eke out a living in our polluted waters eventually succumb to our chemical runoff or get scooped out of the water and end up on a plate at the Red Lobster in East Brunswick. However, there is one place in the Armpit of America where our fishy friends can thrive – Adventure Aquarium.

Anyone who has been to New Jersey’s Adventure Aquarium would surely agree that it is one of the best things in the Armpit of America. Ironically, this “best thing” is located in the worst part of the state. You see, this wonderful aquarium is found in Camden. For those who don’t know, Camden is a shithole. Routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the country, you normally don’t want to spend much time there. But, as long as you can dodge a few bullets as you drive through the city before ending up at the revitalized Camden waterfront, the trip will be well worth it.

Though there are bigger and better aquariums relatively close by (like those in Baltimore and Boston), us New Jerseyans should be very proud of this place. It offers a chance to see all kinds of marine life face to face (rather than the usually dead jellyfish and horseshoe crabs that wash up on the Jersey Shore). And, I think we all should be proud that such a bright spot can emerge in an otherwise disgusting city like Camden.

I went to adventure aquarium for the third time about two weeks ago. Though things haven’t changed much in my visits, I still find everything just as amazing. Then again, I have a fish fetish. But enough about me, onto the fish! (more…)