Scenes from Weird New Jersey: South Edition

United by whimsy and a joyous respect for the Garden State, four friends set out for adventure in their native land.

Props: All these pictures were taken by Elena or Hannah.

Stop 0: Strip mall.
Typical. We need bug spray and snacks.

Stop 1: Manalapan Diner!
A very good place to start. We strategized and reminisced about North Edition in 2006: Annie, Craig's grandpappy, Midgetville, the true horror of NJ (development and sprawl). Weirdness crept in at this very first stop. A young man with a ginormous Afro entered the diner. The bathroom was ten degrees warmer than the dining area. A Playboy was tucked away behind the dessert counter.

We were a team of two North Jerseyans and two South Jerseyans of varying areas of expertise:

Brian--strengths: misidentifying insects, lookin' pretty; weaknesses: kind of a pussy
Elena--strengths: organizing the trip, driving, belting out Starship; weaknesses: being tempted to laugh at her own jokes

Hannah--strengths: climbing over gates, botany, waking up happy as a Disney princess; weaknesses: thirteen year-old boys
John TGI--strengths: dramatic reading, impervious to static electricity, fluent in Piney ; weaknesses: pizza

Stop 2 : Grave of Mary Ellis

Fearless Hannah.


My favorite part of this legend:

It’s been alleged that the early 1970’s pop hit "Brandy," was really an ode to Mary. The Looking Glass, the band that wrote and recorded the song, were in fact from New Brunswick, and did record other songs based on local sites. "Brandy," the fine girl, according to the song, was in love with a ship captain who could not leave his true love, the sea, to marry her. Sound familiar?

Stop 3: Gravity Hill, Jackson
Shifted the car into neutral and were pulled uphill. Weird! E spied a shadowy figure in her peripheral vision. She braked abruptly. A thump. Hannah and I screamed. Elena screamed, slammed into drive, and we were flying away. The mailbox that had scared us receded from view. TGI was so frightened he got the hiccups.

"Much to his surprise he was brutally murdered by the stranger."

Stop 4: Trolley Valhalla
Digital props helped us locate the place. Although we found no rusted hulls, there was a lot of wreckage. J told brain teasers to calm E's nerves.

"Where we're going, we don't need roads."


Seat cushion OR the sickening web of a MAN-EATING SPIDER?!?

Toilet Valhalla.

Have they ever seen a chair before?

Self portrait.

Stop 5: Smithville
Come for the abandoned factory, stay for the floating plastic bridge! (No sign of the bicycle railroad, though.)


Disaffected youth of the Pinelands.


Greetings from Weird NJ.

Confirmation! It's plastic!

Gearing up for a shock.

Stop 6: Whitesbog Village Annual Blueberry Festival
Not necessarily weird, but 100% Jersey.


Engine running a shower.

Contender for the next state tourist slogan: Jersey makes me wet.

Bluegrass band.

Stop 7: Bamber Lake

Does this state make my ass look weird?

Stop 8: Leeds Point, Birthplace of the Jersey Devil
Truly creepy, quiet, with mammoth flies attacking the car. We did not trespass on private property, but it is an eerie little place. Elena used the spookiness to her advantage by flinging plastic snakes into the back seat.(She bought them at the Whitesbog General Store and was biding her time.)

I'm tired of these motherfuckin' snakes in this motherfuckin' car!

Impromptu Stop 8: Roadside Champagne Bottle around New Gretna

Here's to you, NJ.

Stop 10: Batsto
Ghost town in the Pine Barrens.


Creepy Elena.

Three's Company.

Time lapse photography par excellence: Batsto Post Office Scene

Stop 11: Pete & Elda's, Neptune City
Eat a double extra large pizza, win a free t-shirt. BRING IT ON. And just to make things interesting, why don't we race?

Spirits are high after the car got gay on the parkway--singalong to The Little Mermaid!

The task at hand...

...looks daunting.

Hannah (bottom pizza) takes an early lead.

John (top pizza) is in second.

Hannah's so close she can taste it.


Elena (bottom pizza) and Brian overtake TGI and are in a dead heat for second place.

Brian just before taking the silver.

Elena can die a happy woman.

TGI struggles. A variety of psychological tactics are deployed. Positive encouragement. "You're doing great." Orders. "Eat that piece in two bites!" Threats. "I'll just say 'moist panties' until you're finished." Reverse psychology and the assurance that we would shame him for the rest of his life. And the key: insulting his heritage. "We come to your 'hood, and you can't even represent? It just goes to show that North and maybe Central are the true New Jerseyans."

TGI earns his shirt like the rest of us.

Not going back soon.

Stop 12: Asbury Park
How could we tour South Jersey and not stop at the beach? John told a ghost story as we stood in the sand. We resolved to buy some ice cream and watch a scary movie at home base. "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us" took us safely back to Freehold.


Song Of The Last Three Days

Rilo Kiley's "A Better Son/Daughter." The Youtube options out there are live performances, an anime video, or this Logan (Veronica Mars) "fanvid"! (It takes a while to load.)

I am hoping the Finger Lakes will snap me out of it.


Blog Blah Blah

1)The Urge to End It All.

2)"Perusing telegraph manuals reveals that Morse code is to the semicolon what weedkiller is to the dandelion." (Note to self: figure out how to permalink to Slate.)

3)What is this? One of the few instances I clicked on a banner ad.

4)Will Google put me out of a job? Is correlation enough?

5)Just found Viral Video Chart, and by way of it, Feist on Sesame Street.


A New Hope

After the dinner and fireworks (story for another day), I sat with my niece, who is nine years old.

"Are you thinking of having kids?"
"Not right now. Maybe someday--"
"With JP?!"
"Well, I think it would be difficult for the two of us to have kids together."
"You could adopt."


Recent Developments

Address the North. Address the South. Address the East. Address the West.

Maybe it will get a little bit weird.

July should be Take Back Your Life month. I WILL return to the gym. I will write once a day. We have to stop this experiment in self-loathing. It's so easy to delete. I really should write this down first and then type it.

My mother was comparing me to my cousin a few weeks ago. "Remember Halloween? You invited the whole class to our house!" And who, dear Mother, do you think I inherited that gene from? whose father's house always had people coming and going? John Lin, aunts, cousins, people from Michigan. It's really hard to do this. This week at work I must have been ON. I've started to write. Why do I write. I'm obsessed with the past among other things. I have been jotting down things I remember from elementary school. Our teachers. Krispin, Shirvanian, Forcella. Does anybody remember who the 4th grade teacher was that wasn't Mrs. Swanson? I can't remember. Winter Enrichment. And out of the ether (Facebook) comes Anthony, who used to climb trees. We don't think it can last, this experiment. We finished our "love letter to the Garden State," but I can't write about it yet, it's too soon. Plus I want to see the pictures. I was home for a dentist appointment. I went to dinner with Scilla, Breanna's. The waiter stopped us halfway through and said "Excuse me, are you a Mc_____?" That's funny when you go someplace so often that they recognize you. That is a long time coming in New York. We drank Clean Slate, the Riesling that Courtney found at the Friday Night Liquor Store. We gossipped and complained about work. She has a slick new car, an Infiniti like my dad's but with four doors. It was the Hanover Township fireworks, they boomed boomed while I surfed the Internet in the basement in the empty house. Then decided that I needed to drive. There is a sign on the way to work, an ad on a telephone booth for Sunglass Hut. A hot shiny man on a waverunner, a buzz cut, and sunglasses and the copy "My cubicle was my castle." In NJ, my car is my chariot. So it has been, so it is, so it ever shall be. This is very important. This leather, this blackness. This heading west on Route 10 with the windows down and the sunroof open and the wind in the hair and "Buttons" playing on the radio as loud as I can take it. I love this crappy song, it feels so good to be heading west, even though I'm just going to Barnes & Noble in my mind I'm continuing west, past the Nip, past the Mississippi, past Denver, past past past to China and Afghanistan. And Bob used to drive a big blue Lincoln, and it felt like you were turning at the edge of the flat world the car was so wide. Remember how all old cars like that had the one continuous front seat? I am jealous of the generations before and their continuous front seats. What is the word for those? It was Vondrism's birthday. Another postcard from Evan off in another remote corner of the world. Africa. Kilimanjaro. The elephants and the monkeys and Mike is really moving into a house. And another Mike is really moving in with his girlfriend. We trudge back to our cubicle castles. We watched the Mermaid Parade earlier, and sat in the shady corner, drank beers, and Sam said if I were a sea creature I'd be a seahorse, because I'm merry. I think seahorses are endangered, and maybe males can get pregnant? There was a weekend where I met Shira in Central Park. She was spread out underneath a tree on a Yankee blanket. There were hipsters and then Luke met us on his bike and then it rained, it poured, we were soaked. We walked all the way to 1st Avenue in the downpour. I tried to take a picture when I got home but you couldn't tell I was wet. I just looked bad.