The Comeback Kid: Asbury Park, NJ

Yep, summer has wound down to its unofficial close. (Feeling sad.) It’s been a really nice one, weather-wise for sure, and in other ways). BTW, it’s not just the back-to-school part that impacts me—it’s the readjusting to the schedule, bringing work home again and shorter days. (And I hate Eastern Standard Time. Just sayin’.)

Since it’s Labor Day, I figured a post about the beach would be appropriate. (And Tess’ posts about her recent visit to China might have inspired me a bit too. Hi Tess!)

Finally made it to recently refurbished Asbury Park last week. The revitalization process of this one-time East Coast resort is still in progress. Revitalization on many levels got underway in 2002.

Quick fact: At the onset of the previous century, Asbury Park’s only competitor in the beach resort department was Atlantic City.

From Wikipedia:

Quick fact: ~600,000 folks vacationed there during the annual “summer session.”

Quick fact: Musicians Bruce Springsteen and actor Danny DeVito hail from Asbury Park.

Quick fact: The very cool Stone Pony venue is opposite the boards on Ocean Avenue. Bruce Springsteen—with his E-Street band, featuring the awesome (but late) saxophonist Clarence Clemons—rocked that watering hole on many an occasion.

Find more detailed history on the origins and development of Asbury Park here. (It’s pretty cool.) The opening of the Garden State Parkway led to fewer folks needing to take a train to the beach. Legalization of gambling in Atlantic City took a lot of the traffic too—at least, that’s what Hubby says—and the addition of Sixx Flags Great Adventure Theme Park didn’t help the Asbury Park cause either.

My history with Asbury Park:

I’ve supposedly been there as a kid. I’d be lying if I said I remembered.

When my stepsons were little boys, Hubby and I did a day trip there. Honestly and sadly, it was already a ‘welfare’ and ‘ghost’ town. The Casino walkway  linked Asbury Park to Ocean Grove (“God’s square mile at the Jersey shore” and still-dry town). The cleanliness of Ocean Grove and the nice maintenance of its many Victorian mansion/beds-and-breakfast structures contrasted starkly with the littered beach and abandoned boardwalk on the other side. In the Casino, however, at least one shop remained open, but one had to wonder how long that lingering business could last. (I’m sure it didn’t.)

Asbury Park Casino
The Casino–or its skeleton–with some kind of construction work evident inside. The walkway links Asbury Park with Ocean Grove, which borders AP on its south side. The man in the center was playing a guitar and singing. The acoustics were okay.  (Photo by Hubby.)

The other day Hubby and I were looking for a day trip. I wanted to go to the  shore, but wasn’t looking to spend a day on the beach. Due to riptides and a death at nearby Sandy Hook, bathing was highly restricted anyway. (Not that the ocean has seen me in it during the past 20 years or so, but Hubby likes to dive in here and there.)

Inside the Casino walkway
Inside the Casino walkway –photo by Hubby. 

Hubby suggested Asbury Park. Since I hadn’t been near it since my fifth wedding anniversary (that would have been April 29, 2000), I jumped at the idea. I love a place that offers something new I can learn. Yes, I’m nerdy like that.

Asbury Park Casino Mural
How awesome is this mural lining the Casino walkway? The lady might have been painted 5-6 years ago. A I found it quite impressive.

The entire scene—including the ride—changes flavor frequently. One goes from the parkway to the state highway to the main drag, which isn’t necessarily the prettiest of places.

Ocean Avenue, however, has been cleaned up. (So has the beach, beautifully so, compared to how it looked the last time I went.) Several of the original buildings and hotels have been restored, or restoration is in progress.

Asbury Park beachfront
I took this photo from the north side of the restaurant overlooking the beach. Nothing relaxes me more than sitting on or near the beach when the PM breezes come in off the ocean.

There’s a retro-feel to the place, with a few typical beach-style shops and places to eat on the boards, as well as a mini-mall of sorts at the restored convention center.  (It reminded me of the North Wildwood boardwalk, which is much calmer and far less attraction-oriented than the Wildwood boards.)

Restaurants that are open to the water—with sheltered dining available should the weather dictate—are on opposite outside walls of the mall. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the north end, at a wooden table made from an industrial electrical wire spool, sipping from Hubby’s drink while overlooking the Atlantic.

View the convention center and theater and its outdoor seating area.

View the inside the convention center, aka, the arcade.

View Tillie, the (creepy) face (IMHO) of the Jersey Shore. Not sure if Tillie is a he or a she, but that face was painted on opposite sides of the demolished Palace Amusements building. (Tillie has been repainted onto the Wonder Bar, as a tribute to Palace Amusements. )

Asbury Park wasn’t terribly crowded. Granted, it was a Thursday. Hubby made some good points about why the area isn’t the best for the comeback the city hopes to make.

Asbury Park boardwalk
The boardwalk, taken from the Casino, which faces the north side. Think the guy on the bike–with the six-pack–posed?

(1) There are no amusements (i.e., rides or stands)—on the boards or in the immediate area—at present. (BTW, the original carousel was sold and currently resides somewhere in Myrtle Beach.) A sprinkler park, mini-golf and a store that offers crafts-for-a-cost (i.e., sand art, pottery, etc) seem to be the most entertainment for parents with younger children.

(2) Asbury Park is right on the coast. It is not a peninsula. No bay. (No striking sunset over the water, either.) No inlet. No boat traffic. No marina. That also limits chartered boating and fishing activities, I’m sure. (Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, the Wildwoods, Cape May and other more frequented shore areas are peninsulas.)

Asbury Park carousel housing
Carousel’s housing. Although empty, it has been refurbished and occasionally used by theater group(s). Note: When Hubby and I brought my stepsons here, this structure had been turned into an indoor skateboarding park. Planks everywhere and a kid charging $8/person to use it. Innovative, but  creepy to hear a thunder-like sound coming from inside there in a relative ghost town.

On the plus side, Asbury Park is RIFE with history and nostalgia invoked  because of the preservation of its many original structures and images. One can easily imagine what it was. With a little effort and some amusements, I believe it can prosper, especially with local traffic. (I heard its downtown district is getting a shot in the arm too. That can only help.) It’s a place where I enjoyed a few hours. I definitely might not mind spending a day, or even a weekend at one of the restored hotels. Chances are, I’d wind up writing about it some more.

Asbury Park heating plant
The heating plant, designed to provide heat for winter activities at the resort’s Casino and Carousel, assuming I read the articles correctly. These were designed by the same team who designed NYC’s Grand Central Station.

Sorry I got a little long-winded, but thank you for indulging me. As someone who has some trouble letting go, I love the preservation of times past.

Have a great week,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krista’s ‘Brilliant Disguise’ Prompted Me in Multiple Ways

Happy St. Patrick’s Day,  blogger buds!

Hope the weekend treated you well and that all celebrations were what you wanted them to be. I kept busy with a family birthday party; compiling related blog articles into booklets to go along with a workshop in-the-works; communicating with Debbie at The Cover Collection–see my rave about it here–and getting this post together (while working from an iPad and a laptop—I never wanted that first desktop, lol).

I’m also preparing my share of a St. Patty’s Day school breakfast: a cheese, pepperoni and cracker tray, oatmeal-raisin-cranberry-almond bars and a coconut cake with awesome cream-cheese butter frosting. (Yum.)

The above are just a few of the reasons I want to retire from school. Who has time to work?

leprechaun-card1

Clip art courtesy of clipartsandcrafts.com

Today’s post was inspired by a WordPress prompt. I subscribe to them and every now and again like the topic enough to pull together a response. I also believe it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and possibly grow one’s follower base. (How it works: Comments are always closed on prompts. Pingbacks are enabled; if you link to the prompt post on your blog, your post will appear in the list below the prompt.)

This one was entitled Brilliant Disguise. Krista suggested writing about a time someone really pulled the wool over your eyes. (And just b/c I’m a distracted disaster my brain immediately started playing Bruce Springsteen’s title track to the CD by the same name—do we still call them CDs in this download-driven world?—and my favorite off that collection: All That Heaven Will Allow. If you’ve never heard that song, you HAVE to. Then make sure you come back, lol.)

Here’s my story: We were on vacation with another family at one of my favorite places on the planet: East Hill Farm in New Hampshire. (Fans of the movie Dirty Dancing will relate; this place reminded me of Kellerman’s.) We’d been out earlier in the day and passed a Harley-Davidson dealership.

Hubby was into motorcycles then. (Just a hair of background: we’ve always promised to discuss spending upward of a certain amount of $$ before doing so.)

Long story short, hubby went out with his friend for a while that afternoon, and came back in time for ‘cocktails’ on the lawn. This man, who could never-ever get a fib past me—I can tell from the way his lips look against his teeth whenever he tries; no I can’t explain it—told me he had a surprise and that he’d just purchased a brand new Harley.

Since money-rich is something we are so not, lol, I probably stared at this mouth and teeth looking for the fib. Maybe I was so floored at his ‘news’ I missed it. His buddy sat next to him, nodding and confirming what hubby said. Finally convinced hubby was telling the truth, and beyond hurt that he’d go there, I ran off, fighting back tears, as a romance writer would say.

I can still see his buddy calling across that giant lawn, and hearing his voice almost in slow motion: “Joanna! He didn’t do it!”

Hubby followed, dug me out of our room and told me the truth. (Might have been the first and only time he called me ‘sweetheart’ too. I usually go by ‘Babe’ or ‘Joey.’ When he calls me ‘Joanna’ it’s not necessarily for a good reason.)

So that’s what Brilliant Disguise at WordPress prompted me to write. How about you? BTW, comments are closed on these prompts but pingbacks enable you to connect with other bloggers responses. So, if you choose to share your story, just post a link to your blog in the comments as well, and maybe even connect to WordPress.

You never know where that could lead you. I’m still not convinced, but my follower base supposedly increased by at least 400 after I connected with one a little while back. Next week, I’ll share some links to some great posts I came across this week, simply to keep this one from getting any longer.

Have a great day,

Joanna