Archive for the ‘Random’ 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…)

How I Spent My Childhood Summers in New Jersey

July 25, 2016

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.

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A South Jersey Vocabulary Lesson

August 2, 2014

South Jersey DictionaryMuch has been written and discussed about the divide between North Jersey and South Jersey – not just the literal border between the two regions, but also the cultural differences. And having spent 29 years in the neutral ground of Central Jersey, I’ve been witness to the best and worst of both sides. And one of the worst things about South Jersey is its vernacular, which is unlike anywhere else in Jersey – or the world.

So if you ever find yourself below the belt of the Armpit of America, as in south of Route 195, you will likely hear the following crazy new words:

Hoagie

While the rest of the world would call a long roll filled with various meats and cheeses, smothered in shredded lettuce and dripping with oil and vinegar a sub (or submarine sandwich if you want to get formal), South Jerseyans refer to this item by the totally unappetizing term of “hoagie.” To me, hoagie sounds like something you would call the vomited up remains of a sub, but in South Jersey, that’s what they call dinner.

In either case, they love their hoagies down there, with South Jersey convenience store chain Wawa even having Hoagiefest each year. (Warning: by clicking on that link, you’ll hear a jingle about hoagies that will immediately get stuck in your head.)

Wooder

If you are dining at a restaurant in New Jersey’s Dixieland and the waiter asks you if you would like a “wooder,” don’t be alarmed; he isn’t offering you his erection. That’s just how the natives say the word “water.”

Wooder Ice

One of the most perplexing terms you’ll hear in South Jersey is “wooder ice,” or water ice. That is the term they call the frozen dessert that everyone else refers to as Italian ice. Even more confusing, there are places in South Jersey that advertise their “Polish Water Ice,” which sounds like the butt of some joke and not something I’d want to put in my mouth.

Jimmies

Staying on the topic of frozen treats, we move on to “jimmies.” Everywhere else in the world, those brightly colored bits of sugar and wax are called “sprinkles” – but not in South Jersey. South of the border, they call these ice cream staples jimmies for reasons not fully understood.

Hoooome

This word simply means “home,” but in the South Jersey accent it is pronounced with a ridiculously long “O” sound. I know it’s hard to explain, but try stretching the “ho” part of the word, with your lips gradually coming closer together until you get to the “m” part. And that’s how they say “home” – and similar sounding words like “phone” or “alone” – in South Jersey.

[Yes, I know these words and pronunciations are more indicative of the greater Philadelphia area, but it’s just fun to pick on South Jersey. Don’t worry, I’ll be making fun of North Jersey soon enough!]

My New Favorite Joke About New Jersey

May 5, 2012

Last weekend, Jimmy Kimmel hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. During his speech/standup act, he picked on a bunch of political figures, making the same old tired jokes everyone’s heard before: teasing Obama about his big ears, joking about  Bill Clinton’s womanizing, and questioning Joe Biden’s intelligence.  And as is required with any political comedy act, he made fun of Chris Christie’s weight.

Even I’ll admit that joking about our governor’s weight is not only getting tired, it can be mean – and Kimmel’s first joke was a tad too much. For those interested, he said something about how inside each governor is a president waiting to get out – in Christie’s case you can still hear him screaming.  But after that cheap shot, he said something genius.

He suggested that Christie was confused and thought New Jersey’s nickname was the Olive Garden State.  Okay, maybe it’s not the best joke ever, but I think it works on so many levels, beyond just making fun of our governor’s girth. Drive past any of the many strip malls on the many highways in the Armpit of America and you’re bound to see an Olive Garden or three.  Aside from that, Olive Garden serves its patrons faux-Italian food, just like the many faux-Italian people calling this state home. And just like olives have a nasty stench, so does this state.

You can check out the whole Chris Christie thing below – starts at about 1:45:

Jersey Devil Wine!

April 25, 2012

The other night I tried Jersey Devil Honey Wine, produced by the Valenzano Winery located in Shamong, New Jersey.  While I never heard of the town before, apparently it’s located in the Pine Barrens, birthplace of the Jersey Devil, hence the name of the wine. As you can see in the (horrible) pic below, it has probably the coolest looking label ever, with the Armpit of America’s most famous monster (sorry, Snooki) surrounded by bees.

I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I’m totally judging this bottle of wine by the label.  With the fricken Jersey Devil AND bees, how could it not be bad?

So how did does it taste?  Well, it’s thick as syrup and cloyingly sweet….which is exactly how this connoisseur of fine wine likes it.  Just like the Manischewitz wine I grew up with.

So if you like wine that tastes like extra sweet grape juice with a touch of honey, give Valenzano Jersey Devil Honey Wine a try.  They also make a bunch of other wines, inspired by the fruits of the Pine Barrens, like blueberry wine, cranberry wine, and even “cranpagne.”

Update from the Garden State

April 12, 2012

Yep, it’s been a while.  Between starting a new job, moving, and some other stuff, I haven’t been able to blog as much as I’d like.  So this entry will hopefully make up for the past few months of neglect.

As stated three seconds ago, I got a new job. It’s in Middletown, Armpit of America, only 10 minutes from the town I grew up in, in a building I’ve driven past hundreds of times.  Around the time I was being considered for this job, I was also interviewing for a position in Pennsylvania. Though I was kind of excited about the prospect of leaving this state once and for all, I got an offer from the place in Middletown and never heard back from the Pennsylvania job.  Apparently, there really is no escape from New Jersey.

After a brief stint back home, with an enjoyable 10 minute commute, I moved back to Belmar.  Rather than another beachfront apartment, I’m now in a quaint little cottage in a quieter part of town.  It’s definitely more conducive to writing, so I hope to blog more frequently.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s catch up with some of my favorite New Jersey personalities.

Chris Christie has his highest approval ratings yet, despite being proven to be a liar.  While this might seem to be a paradox, it just proves that New Jersey has a love affair with corrupt politicians.

Snooki is pregnant.  While she claims her boyfriend Gianni is the father, I wouldn’t be surprised if the baby comes out with a receding hairline and a smug, undeserved sense of accomplishment.

Bruce Springsteen is touring again. I tried to get tickets but – surprise! – Ticketmaster screwed me over.  On the bright side, since I couldn’t see Bruce last week, I went to Video Games Live instead!  It was amazing!  They have an orchestra performing music from video games – it’s actually a lot cooler than it sounds.  Maybe.

During the show, they played the music from Castlevania and brought out the woman who composed the original soundtrack for the game. Who looked like she was 20, despite the fact that the game came out in 1986. She must be undead just like the characters in the game.  Anyway, it turns out that this women recently moved from Japan to New Jersey. Why anyone would do that is beyond me.

One more update – I’m actually going to Japan! While I wish I could say it’s to investigate why Kinuyo Yamashita left her home country for the Armpit of America, it’s more of a vacation.  But maybe it will inspire to bring back my old State Vs. State (or country) feature. Maybe.

Top 5 Blog Posts of 2011

December 30, 2011

Tired of all those stupid, pointless lists every single website has been needlessly churning out all this week?  Me neither.  Here are my favorite things I’ve written this past year, in no particular order.

1) The Most Surprising Thing I’ve Ever Seen in New Jersey – Come along as I uncover a little known event in New Jersey – a farm animal auction.  You’ll see a cardboard box full of roosters, miniature horses, and an Amish auctioneer.

2) My Latest Obsession: Teresa Guidice – This past year, I got hooked on Real Housewives of New Jersey.  And what was it that drew me in?  The crazy-eyed train wreck that is Teresa Guidice.

3) ArmpitNJ.com Exclusive: Snooki’s First Draft! – Snooki became a best-selling author this year, but all the credit should go to her ghost writer.  I managed to get my hands on Snooki’s original draft for A Shore Thing.

4) Killer Klowns from Outer Space: A Review – Sure, the movie doesn’t really have anything to do with New Jersey.  But it was so krazy I couldn’t resist writing about it.

5) No Escape from “Escape from New Jersey” – What better way to spend a night than playing a drinking board game?  This simple game just proves that there really is no escape from the Armpit of America.