Monday, August 07, 2006

A trip down the North Jersey coast.

I felt very comfortable in Asbury Park. But there's not a whole lot to do if you are on your own, and you don't feel like going out to a bar. So after I took advantage of the internet access of the public library ($3/hour for non-members), I decided I'd take a drive and see some of the surrounding communities.

First I drove north into the "suburbs" of Asbury. Allenhurst and Deal are quite lavish communities with "beach houses" the size of mansions. Lawns are perfectly manicured and streets so clean that you wouldn't fret about applying the "five-second rule", even if you had been chewing gum. The only non-white faces you see there are the "help". The road markings make it patently clear that they don't appreciate day visitors. "No Stopping or Standing" postings are frequent, and reinforced with "WE WILL CALL THE COPS" signs. I felt like I could be arrested just for taking photos. Too much... so I traveled south.

After the proudly Christian enclave of Ocean Grove, I hit a series of quaint, increasingly yuppie towns like Bradley Beach, Avon-by-the-sea, Lake Como, Sea Girt...etc. These places were all fairly unremarkable and mannered. In between there is Belmar, with just the slightest hint of working class spirit. There were some mexican groceries and auto part stores along with the ice cream parlors.

Keep moving, and eventually you'll run into Point Pleasant. Truly a family-oriented experience, the town has a little business district with antiques, hardware stores, and boutiques trying hard to be trendy. The conservatism of the town defeats fashion, but surely proves to be the source of its popularity. The big draw for the kiddies is Jenkinson's boardwalk. I don't know exactly who this fella was, but he's got a virtual monopoly in Point Pleasant. There's Jenkinson's amusements... Jenkinson's rides... Jenkinson's arcade... Jenkinson's public restrooms... Jenkinson's Bar/Restaurant... Jenkinson's damn aquarium... you even have to pay Jenkinson if you want to step on his beach ($6 for the day). Point Pleasant is clearly family-friendly (the way Jenkinson's wants it to be), and as one would expect- completely vanilla. I wonder if Jenkinson gets the 25 cents per ten minutes that it costs to park anywhere near his empire. I'm sure the police give him a cut of their ticket proceeds. If Mussolini had a beach resort, it would probably look like this.

Further down the coast we run into the getaways of the robber barons of Mantoloking. Without getting into the specifics of grandiosity, let me just note that these beach "bungalows" have driveways (?!). A good deluge could cause billions in property damges. This community is one of few places that could make me cheer for the melting of the polar ice caps. Let them rebuild in Harrisburg-By-The-Sea.

Back down to earth again and into Seaside Heights... the final shore destination of my trip. Not too much to remark upon here. Much like a more congested but cleaner Wildwood, on a shorter boardwalk. There are plenty of motor lodges and package stores to please the mildly discriminating. Roadsideamerica.com mentioned that I could find one-act side shows here ... like "World's Smallest Horse"... and "Most Deadly Rattlesnake". But no dice. The long journey down the coast ended in disappointment. But this beach does have an honest-to-goodness sky ride between the boards and the surf. It didn't quite make up for the lack of freak animals, but at least it was something different to look at.

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