Growing up, my next door neighbor John was a tall, boisterous man. Born and raised in West Orange, New Jersey, he had a non-descript accent you couldn’t quite place, which really only came out when he tried to say my name. Instead of pronouncing it “air-in”, John called me “uhr-un” in a declarative way that would make you think he had a bone to pick with me. The life of the party with a wicked and bawdy sense of humor, John was, to me, my only exposure to the Garden State until I moved to New York in 2004.
Although truth be told, I don’t often think of John. Life gets busy and you don’t often have time to remember those “halcyon days of yore” — that is, until your parents come to town. For the Graves family, it seems that every time we get together there is a good amount of time spent reminiscing. This trip was no exception as the conversation inevitably turned to John, our Garden State ambassador and his opinions about what to see and do when my parents came to NJ for the first time. One mandate, “visit the Shore.”
Of course, for my generation the Jersey Shore conjures ups the MTV set (as much as it pains me to type that), but for the vast majority of the population, the Jersey Shore represents a summertime tradition. Weeks spent holed up in a shore town, days spent lounging on the sand, cruising the boardwalk for beach treats and diversions (with everything from amusement park rides to mini-golf). There is something distinct about the Jersey Shore — maybe it’s the blend of beach, boardwalks and barrier islands — that you don’t find in other beach towns.
I know some may be upset by the previous statement. To be fair, as someone who grew up on the beaches in Southern California, I’m the first to admit that a beach in one city is fairly similar to another, they tend to offer a laid-back vibe and easy-going attitude that can only be attributed to the ebb and flow of the ocean (it just instills a peacefulness and appreciation of its natural glory). But there is just something about the Jersey Shore I can’t quite put my finger on. No doubt it will give me plenty of blog fodder.