Getting To Know New Jersey

For a while now, I’ve been waiting for my employer to let me know where my next work assignment will be. I could end up anywhere in the United States, though some places were more likely than others. While hanging out with my family a few weeks ago, I finally got my assignment: The Jersey Shore.

Mom immediately worried that I didn’t have enough mascara. Dad immediately made jokes about The Situation. I’ve never watched The Jersey Shore, so I had no idea what they were talking about. I just knew that I would be a close train ride to New York City, and I like New York. Isn’t New Jersey just a suburb of New York? I was about to find out.

The adventure started with me rushing to book airfare, so I could get back to sitting by my parents’ pool being teased about mascara. Not being able to get a decent flight into Newark, I assumed the next-best option was LaGuardia. I vaguely remember a taxi driver at some point saying I should always fly into LaGuardia. Of course, he meant this for trips to Manhattan, which is, coincidentally, between LaGuardia and New Jersey. Thus began the first part of getting to know New Jersey: driving.

The New Jersey Turnpike seemed so simple when I was driving through the state, without stopping, that one time. I went through the cash only line, picked up a ticket, and threw cash out the window whenever there was another sign. It was the cheapest of all sections of paid road I traveled on that trip from Durham to Long Island. No big deal! So after I escaped from Manhattan (without hitting any pedestrians or passing out from anxiety over the fact I was driving across Manhattan), I had no problem on the turnpike.

But then my GPS took me to a second turnpike (The Garden State Parkway), which had different rules. In what has to be a conspiracy between the State Of New Jersey and Google Maps, my GPS sent me through the EZPass bypass, where you have to have a transponder to pay your toll. There are no ways to un-do this mistake once it is made. If you go left at the fork, you must make an EZ Pass appear, or you get a ticket. Their ticketing system probably has a picture of me scrambling at the windshield, trying to figure out how to open the transponder that comes with the rental car (which I didn’t plan to use, because it is very expensive). This will go well with the pictures of me holding my brand new transponder up to the windshield, stopped in the pass-through lane, with some more-experienced turnpiker honking his horn behind me. My turnpike tickets are piling up!

But when I got where I was going, it was so pretty. I never knew that “The Garden State” wasn’t a joke. Seriously, this state is pretty. After my first day of work I drove through ten miles of the most gorgeous horse farms, to get to a small town called Red Bank.

The Secret Stash is a comic book store in Red Bank. It also happens to be where I got the name for my horse, Secret Stash. I don’t know why I knew that Kevin Smith had a comic book shop by this name, but I did, and I thought it was a cool name. So when I learned how close my office was to the Stash, I had to make the trip.

There is no doubt who owns The Secret Stash, with Jay and Silent Bob on the front of the store, and Kevin Smith Memorabilia piled near the entrance. I haven’t really been to that many comic book stores in my life, but I did think the pile of video cameras was kind of unusual. I had barely discovered the Buddy Jesus statue in the back of the store before somebody was announcing that they were about to start filming. Turns out I had walked into an episode of Comic Book Men. I left, quickly, before I became some fat woman in the background while Walt was shouting obscenities about his need for red solo cups.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Jersey Shore without going down to The Shore. I grew up with all of our family beach vacations being to Myrtle Beach. Once, as an adult, I went to Myrtle with somebody that grew up vacationing on the Jersey Shore, who said that the two beaches were almost identical. So I was shocked when I drove out to Seaside Heights and didn’t see row after row of hotels lining the boardwalk. In fact, there are very few beachfront hotels to be found in this whole area. I guess the Jersey Shore that resembles Myrtle Beach is further to the south (toward Atlantic City). This area is less densely built up, thought very heavily populated. One local described it as being full of New York Jerks that come down for the weekend. There’s a pretty easy train ride to New York City from here. One which I tried out when I traveled to the Meadowlands to see…

The man on the screen is Springsteen - just take my word for this.

The man on the screen is Springsteen – just take my word for this.

Bruce Springsteen. Is there anything more New Jersey than Bruce Springsteen? I had barely figured out my drive to and from work when I saw a message on Twitter about The Boss having tickets still available to a show in the Meadowlands the next day. I spent the whole day trying to compare my need for sleep to the value of having experienced Bruce Springsteen in his home state, and when I left the office, found myself driving to the train station.

At the train station, I found myself buying round trip tickets to the Meadowlands. Once I had those in hand, I figured I should actually buy a ticket to the show. Without really ever making a firm decision, I was on my way to the most New Jersey sunset of all.

The show was long, and in order to take the train back and be functional at work the next day, I had to leave about 2/3 of the way through, but it was an awesome experience, even if I was sitting between the “F” and “E” in the “MET LIFE” sign at the top of the stadium. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back for a Giants game, soon!

Now it’s Labor Day weekend, which magically forms a barrier for keeping the New Yorkers away from the beach until next year. This is some magic day that has magical powers to immediately stop all tourism. I haven’t been here long enough to have strong feelings about this, but I’m excited about the beaches being free (there’s normally a charge) and things being slightly less crowded. But first, I’m excited to see what weather we get from the remnants of Hermine. As best I can tell, we are either going to have no effects at all, or we are all going to die. In the meantime, we get some fantastic sunsets.

Sunset

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2 Comments

  • Lisa J. says:

    Enjoyed your adventure.
    Safe travels!

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