Archive for the ‘Best of NJ’ category

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.

(more…)

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…)

The Best of New Jersey: Delicious Orchards

December 2, 2009

I’m happy to introduce a new feature on this little Armpit of America blog. As you can see above, this new feature is called “The Best of New Jersey.” In these entries, I’m going to put aside some (but not all) of the snark you’ve come to expect from me and just talk positively about something in New Jersey that makes life in the Armpit of America somewhat better.

The first place I’m writing about is Delicious Orchards on Route 34 in Colts Neck. For those who don’t know what it is, Delicious Orchards is a country store selling a wide variety of produce, a huge selection of baked goods, and a whole bunch of other good, high-quality stuff. Since this meager description probably doesn’t due the store any justice or let you see what’s so special about it, allow me to walk you through, section by section.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera. To make up for it, here's a picture of a bag!

Upon entering, you are greeted by a thousand different scents, each one more intoxicating than the next. Okay, maybe that’s a little too flowery, but I’ll go on. The first section you encounter when walking in is the baked goods section. You will be surrounded by shelves and shelves stocked full of cookies and donuts. As long as I can remember, no trip to Delicious Orchards was complete without picking up a package of their plain apple cider donuts and their sugar cookies. To this day, I still can’t go to the store without buying these two items. Their mere scents immediately soften my bitter 26-year-old soul and bring me back to my slightly less bitter childhood.

Anyway, after passing through the welcoming gate of cookies and donuts, you’ll walk past some more baked goods – breads, cakes, and pies – all made on the premises. Once past the bakery, you’ll end up in the cheese section, where the aromas of thousands of cheeses from all over the world fill up your nostrils. The cheese section then leads logically to the meat section. Delicious Orchards offers all kinds of meat, from the standard chicken and beef to goose liver pate and gourmet sausages.

While the store is already impressive, it’s not until you get to the produce that you are really in awe. With a name like Delicious Orchards, it’s obvious what their specialty is. The site of mountains upon mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables is truly breathtaking. The store’s selection of over 20 different types of apples will put any supermarket to shame. In addition to its wide selection of the most common types of produce, Delicious Orchards has plenty of unique items I haven’t seen anywhere else. If someone can tell me where else in New Jersey you can find pomelos, black turnips, and patty pan squash year round, please let me know. Not that I actually buy these things, I’m just trying to prove a point.

I hope you can now see why this humble little farm store represents the best of New Jersey. Though many people like to joke about how the Garden State is such an inappropriate nickname for New Jersey, one visit to Delicious Orchards will clear any doubts about the worthiness of that moniker. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go finish this bag of sugar cookies…

Compare this to the ingredient list of a box of Oreos and tell me which sounds better.