Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Winter Dream Of The Jersey Shore

We are now in what is indisputably the worst time of the year. The holidays are over, it is ass-cold, and the days are still short. When it gets cold, New Jersey Transit trains start breaking down. Two days this week I have had to stand the whole way to New York because of shortened trains and having to take on passengers from other broken trains. Stepping into that hell after waiting on a freezing platform is a wretched way to start the day. Today it was packed to the gills on a broken down old train short two cars on my way back home from the city. That's a rotten way to end a day. (Also was pleasant to brown bag a beer standing up. It's been that kind of week.)

Some winter days, to dispel the tired and angry thoughts in my head, I dream a dream of the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore in the summer time. I sit (or stand) on the train, imagining I can smell the salt air, that I can feel that combination of warm sun and cool breeze, and hear the gulls calling out. 

In fact, that's what I am doing tonight, in the midst of my fatigue and seasonal depression. Last night I was feeling so angry about so many things that I worried that I was in danger of just not giving a damn anymore as a defense mechanism. Today that level of anger went off the charts. I found out that one of my sister's former students, who came here from El Salvador as a toddler, is now in danger of deportation. I read the president's "shithole countries" comment. I was once again overwhelmed with nausea thinking about all the people I know who voted for this.

To keep my thoughts from killing my will to resist, I dream again of the Jersey Shore to soothe and distract me. Here's some Shore artifacts that can help you do the same.

Here's a video of Bruce Springsteen performing "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" from about ten years ago. To me it is the greatest poem ever written to the Shore, the place where the Boss first launched his career. The accordion makes it, played by Danny Federici, the E Street Band's organist. This was actually his last performance, and evidently the song he chose to go out on. Listen, and you will understand why. The longing is almost unbearable, much like my current longing for spring.

I am a fan of Shore towns that are hip (like Asbury Park) or quiet and quaint (like Ocean Grove and Cape May.) However, when I want to have the true Shore Experience of deep fried oreos and t-shirts with vulgar slogans, I go to Wildwood. I also love the town for its beautifully tacky mid-century commercial architecture.

Philly teen idol rocker Bobby Rydell was one of the many musical artists who played the Wildwood region of the Shore, and this song, "Wildwood Days," is a fun ode to the town.

The King of Marvin Gardens is one of my favorite obscure 1970s movies. It shows Atlantic City, the land of Monopoly, in all its brokedown glory before the casinos came. It also explores the Shore as a site of the death of the American dream.

1980's Atlantic City looked at that town after the casinos came. It is a great portrait of America as it entered the Reagan years, with its casinoization of the American economy. Desperate dreamers always seem to find a way to the Shore, one thing that makes it irresistible to me.

Asbury Park has a beautiful carousel house, but the carousel itself got sold off to someone in South Carolina when the town hit hard times. Not sure what exactly the metaphor is, but it perfectly matches the faded glory that is Asbury Park.

Here's another Springsteen song, "Tunnel of Love," which uses a cheap boardwalk ride as a metaphor for a troubled relationship. His music on the album of the same way was an interesting left turn from the arena sound he had embraced in the mid-80s. It is more personal and introspective, like the Shore-based music of his first two albums. There are also some great shots in the video of the Shore in 80s, when it was rougher than it is now. The song has a kind of melancholy edge to it, which makes it the right place to end.

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