Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

Close.

A close shot of the vegetables lying close to each other. I purchased these this morning, from the local farmer’s market.  The produce was grown close-by, by a group of close-knit farmers who run a community event each Saturday; Jersey fresh and organic.  This is as close as we can get to eating healthy and helping the local farm economy.

Close enough for you?

Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

Nothing says summer like goin’ “down the shore” to a Jersey girl.

Atlantic City: The Original Vegas

Atlantic City Boardwalk

Saturday was so beautiful in the Northeast. It was the perfect kind of day to spend in the garden, or divert the car towards Atlantic City.

So that’s what we did.

Eighty degrees, cloudless sky and a nice sea breeze. Add that to the smell of funnel cake, sunscreen and slurp down the experience with fresh lemonade, while strolling the boardwalk and recognizing street names you normally see on your Monopoly board.

Steel Pier, Atlantic City

Atlantic City is a diverse mix of people, but it has most everything that Vegas touts, except there’s an ocean and expansive boardwalk. No, Celine Dion isn’t playing Atlantic City every night and I’m ok with that, but there are shows to be seen. There are glitzy and glamorous nightclubs, casinos and hotels. The amusement rides may not be as sparkly and the exterior decor may be a little more worn, but there’s something to be said for the city by the sea.

I grew up being fascinated by films of ladies jumping their horses off diving boards next to Steel Pier and photos of the old timers who wore their Sunday best as they wandered the boards in the early 20th century. I’ve also watched a lot of Boardwalk Empire on HBO, and though I know its primarily fictional stories written for entertainment, I have no doubt that Prohibition brought waves of crime and corruption that still linger today. Feeling that way does take away from the nostalgia of flapper girls and their shiny cigarette cases and replaces it with heroin chic society types that rival fashion models of the 90’s.

Atlantic City is an accessible city. It is a little less sparkly but nice equivalent to a five hour plane right to Nevada from the East Coast. But just like Vegas, don’t wander too far off the “strip” in Atlantic City; unless you’re looking for some non-fiction CSI type experiences. Also, get some saltwater taffy; it’s so good and the remnants of it can be tasted for days since it’ll be stuck in your molars. That might be an exaggeration, but in all honesty, stop at James’.  If taffy isn’t your thing, drop by the Whiskey Tavern in the new Revel casino, order an Old Fashioned and slip into shiny 1925 subway tile heaven.

James’ Salt Water Taffy

What Did New Jersey Do to You?

I was technically born in Philadelphia, but raised right over the bridge in New Jersey.  Despite popular belief, it is not the armpit of the country, it does not smell bad (outside of Newark) and there is a ton to offer, other than fodder for late night TV hosts.

Why does everyone hate Jersey?  What have we ever done to you?

There are some things that need to be cleared up.

  1. The Jersey Shore crew, yeah, they aren’t from Jersey.  They are from New York.  Don’t judge us on their characters.  Even the shore doesn’t want them there.  They did nothing but ruin our already ridiculed image and waste our tax dollars.
  2. New Jersey is the Garden State.  There is an abundance of agriculture and farming.  Though it is the most densely populated state, there is an array of pinelands, beautiful coastline, mountains, creeks, rivers and farms that add to the beautiful landscape.  As a matter of fact, bordering states know us for our delicious Jersey corn and tomatoes, and Ocean Spray uses our local cranberry bog farmers for their juice.
  3. North Jersey and South Jersey people have nothing in common.  This is a tried and true fact.  Though the state is only 170 long by 70 miles wide, South Jersey has no common traits or loyalties to North Jersey and vice versa.  They were originally two separate territories between 1674 and 1702 and they should have stayed that way.  South Jersey supports Philadelphia sports and clean air.  North Jersey houses New York fans and commuters.  I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that I’m partial.
  4. Don’t ask me who supports New Jersey major sports teams; I don’t know anyone who knows the answer to that.  There has to be somebody, I just have yet to find them.
  5. New York loves to make fun of us, yet they fail to recognize that Manhattan would not function without the assistance of New Jersey public agencies and our workforce.  Also, your beloved Giants play in Jersey, don’t forget it.
  6. Entertainment trends seem to define us.  We are also not all mobsters.  I won’t deny that they exist, but I also won’t admit to it.  I don’t want cement shoes.
  7. I realize I just said entertainment seems to define us, and I do somewhat resent that, but our state pumps out some of the greats to be proud of anyway; and many more.  They are in no particular order, but we’ll let the Boss believe otherwise.
  8. We love our diners.  We have the most in the world – how can you not love that you can’t get five miles without stumbling upon a place to chow down on an omelet at 3am?
  9. Thomas Edison did a lot of inventing here, while Atlantic City revolutionized gambling and leisure.  Light bulbs and slot machines are still important to our culture; I think you’ve heard of them.
  10. You can make fun of us all you want, but we’ve got hundreds of pluses and 8,821,155 people who tell you that you’re crazy not to appreciate our history and what we have to offer.  No, I don’t work for New Jersey, but if you visit, maybe you can drive my taxes down with tourism profits.

I Belong to Nowhere

I visited an old friend last weekend and she was asking what my husband and I were up to, and if we had any future plans.  I told her that depending on what happens with my career, we wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Europe or some authentically historic American town, but we’ll see what happens.  She said how she could never do that, just pick up and leave, but it’s something that we have grown accustom to and maybe it’s slightly hereditary.

I’m an avid ancestry enthusiast.  Every key member to my family tree, at least going back a few generations, had the same defining quality; the ability to be fearless and never look back.  This to me is a quality because I admire their courage and ambition, to pick up from their place of birth and independently find a new home in a new state, country, continent, etc.  And they did it alone.  They all did.

This is a blessing and a curse because combined; these adventurous ancestors gave me life.  Had they not, I don’t want to say “ran away”, but rather “looked for better opportunities”, I wouldn’t exist.  It’s a curse because, as a researcher, it’s very difficult to track them.  I run into possible distant connections and it appears my ancestor was always the black sheep who left and never wrote home.  There never seems to be hostility or a tragic story that I’m aware of based on family stories, they were just ok being independent.

That being said, I began frequently re-establishing myself early and being the “new kid” by changing schools throughout my youth.  Not by my choice, but my parents, due to transportation, tuition, educational factors and eventually a move just before high school.  I settled in well for the most part at each place and sought my own adventure to California after graduation.  I never truly felt like I fit in anywhere. Though I did find myself back in New Jersey a few years ago, close to family and old friends, I really don’t feel that I have a home.  The town I grew up in until I was 13 would probably be the closest thing to a “home” feeling but most of the people who lived there are gone or have passed away.  If you remember, I was friendly with the elderly people.  Sure I had friends that were my age, but they’ve since grown and moved too.

Today we live in a town close by, which feels like a neighborhood that people grew up in, finished school, started to grow their own family and then moved back in.  There is a sense of community, but not for me.  I am friendly with people here, but my roots weren’t here.  I think it is why I find the idea of moving anywhere that feels comfortable, so appealing, because I don’t need to stay anywhere out of obligation.  No one else in my family has.

My husband and I are the same way.  Having grown up in Iowa, and then joined the military, it caused his zip code to change more than a few times.  We come from heritages that we didn’t technically belong to.  My family has strong Irish and German tradition, but I don’t necessarily belong there.  My family for generations lived in Philadelphia and I was even born there, but then became the first to be raised in the suburbs of New Jersey.  Although it’s only minutes away, I didn’t grow up in a row home with a corner candy store or play baseball on the asphalt, so I can’t claim that as home either.  I grew up in a house where people had their own space and minded their business.  They were people looking to remove themselves from city culture; maybe culture altogether.  I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, I’ve had a fortune life with loving parents, but the circumstances have just left me feeling a little lost as an adult.

We aren’t tied to anywhere and maybe we’re not quite sure where home is yet.  I suppose we’ll have to find it together and make it that way ourselves.  We can be the “new kids” together.