Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Jersey Weekend Trip to Aunt Babe’s 100th Birthday: First Day Pictures and Reflections

After 30 years: My elementary school friend Chris C. (left) and myself (right) met at his sister's restaurant -- the Harborside Grill -- in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., January 26, 2013.

Chris and I attended Elberon Elementary Public School in Elberon, N.J., in the period between 1977 and very early 1981. I had not seen him since the early 1980s (unsure exactly when but probably around 1982 on a subsequent visit). That is, it had been at least 30 years.

I reestablished contact with Chris in May 2011 but this was the first time we met in person. He lives with his wife and young daughter in Somerset County, N.J., in one of the bedroom communities of New York City. He is in advertising for a media company and is also a part-time volunteer firefighter.

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OK, this blog is my loooong (i.e., 2+ months overdue) photo-essay and overview of my trek up to New Jersey to my great Aunt Babe's 100th birthday party. I went there with my mom and my dad (who came up separately from Florida) for the event. My stepfather Ray also came along but did not go to the event. I wrote a preliminary entry about her birthday / family reunion back in January. This entry contains the first day's picture. In some places, the main narrative lags behind the pictures.

Rushing along on the Amtrak train out of Washington, D.C., already somewhere in Prince George's County near Laurel in suburban Maryland, 10:41AM January 26, 2013.

So I started out on Saturday morning by heading to Union Station to take an Amtrak to BWI Airport rail station (MARC trains do not run on the weekend or major holidays). I went there to meet my mom and Ray. They live within several miles of the station and it was a convenient meeting point.

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In the car on I-95 in Anne Arundel County, Md., near Glen Burnie, 11:04AM January 26, 2013. In all the hundreds, if not a few thousand times I've ridden in the car with Ray and my mom, I've never not sat in the back.

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In keeping with Bartcop's Rule #1 of Life -- Nothing is Easy -- it was all frenetic aggravation to get to Union Station. I took the Metro Green Line from U Street/Cardozo but when I got to Gallery Pl - Chinatown to transfer, the Red Line was all screwed up with single tracking, large numbers of passengers, and an indeterminate wait time.

Rushing through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, 11:11AM January 26, 2013. This is where I-895 goes under the (toxic filthy) Patapsco River. It is distinct from the much newer Fort McHenry Tunnel, although this tunnel has been greatly refurbished from the death trap quality it had years ago.

I'll refrain from any THX 1138 tunnel chase scene references.

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I exited the Metro station intending to take a cab the remaining mile to Union Station, but there were NO cabs to be found so I had to walk quickly there. The weather had warmed up a bit and it was a sunny morning, but it was still an aggravating walk that took me past the sprawling John C. Young Center for the Homelessly Insane (which exists corporate legal gigolo cheek by schizophrenic jowl to Georgetown Law School). That block or so feels sketchy, dicey, and "old school" D.C. 1980s / early 1990s in the Reign of Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry and "open air" drug markets, drive-bys, and general Crack Wars.

Furthermore, Union Station is a bit of a hassle to reach since I-395 sort of splits it off from most of the downtown streets and you have to detour either to Massachusetts Ave. or E Street NW.

I hustled and bustled and when I got there, the gate was naturally as far from the entrance as possible and there was a line, but everything moved quickly and I made it to the Amtrak on time.

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Looking south from the Delaware Memorial Bridge onto the broad expanse of the Delaware River shortly before it becomes the Delaware Bay, 12:26PM January 26, 2013.

Far in the distance (not visible in my low-quality cellphone image) were the billowing steam clouds coming from the main cooling tower that exists near the three units of the co-located Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Stations down in Lower Alloways Creek Township, N.J.

You can see the nearby Wilmington skyline from the bridge. In addition, from the north span of the bridge on a clear day (or night) you can just barely see the much more massive Philadelphia skyline about 30 miles away.

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The suspension towers and cables of the twin spans of the Delaware Memorial Bridge that carries I-295 and U.S. Route 40 over the Delaware River between Delaware and New Jersey (12:27PM January 26, 2013). Suspension bridges just look so cool to me.

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Arriving in New Jersey ... Who says you can't go back ...??

Arriving in New Jersey at the "bottom" of the New Jersey Turnpike with the electronic welcome sign prominently visible, 12:28PM January 26, 2013.

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One of those legendary tickets drivers get when they enter the New Jersey Turnpike showing the toll fare schedule from Exit 1 to Exit 18E and 18W for different kinds of vehicles (based on number of axles). My understanding is that if you lose the ticket, you have to pay the full fare as if you drove the entire length of it.

We got our ticket at the southern end of the N.J. Turnpike so this is the type of ticket we got. I think yoiu get different tickets with different fare schedules depending on where you get on.

This webpage of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority shows all the toll schedules (as of 2012) for a regular 2-axle passenger car (non-senior citizen discount) based on where you get on and off. Here is the more general page.

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The Cherry Hill, New Jersey giant ellipsoidal "spaceship" water tower along the New Jerey Turnpike somewhere near Exit 4, 12:57PM January 26, 2013.

I THINK this is the very same water tower that I used to see back in the early 1980s, though it is possible a new one was put up. It certainly has a new coat of paint.

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A fallow but winter dormant field lightly dusted in a mid-winter snow along the New Jersey Turnpike near Exit 5, 1:13PM January 26, 2013.

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I failed to get a picture of Exit 7A -- the exit I would have to take to get to my dad's house in the forest atop a hill in Upper Freehold Township way back in the 1980s and early 1990s. I remember one stormy night around my 17th birthday (Nov. 26, 1986) when we took the turn too fast and ended up jumping the pavement and the car bouncing down a steep embankment in a sort of semi-controlled descent. My dad managed to stop the car and we were able to get out despite the tires being a couple inches of muddy grass.

The sign for Exit 8 / I-195 nearing Neptune, N.J., 1:57PM January 26, 2013.

Neptune is the township where I was born at Jersey Shore Medical Center. For many years (including when I was born there) the facility was also known as Fitkin Hospital. I've always understood (not sure where I first heard it) that actor Jack Nicholson was born at this same hospital (back in 1932).

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And here it is, my first home as an infant ... 

Building 56 at 1423 Rustic Drive in the sprawling Middlebrook Apartment complex (now called Middlebrook at Monmouth) in Ocean Township, N.J., as seen at 2:05PM January 26, 2013.

This was the place I lived from when I was a newborn (Nov. 26, 1969) to about 1974 with my mom. My dad lived here for a while but they were separated by 1972 and divorced in mid-1974. She married Ray in December 1974. We lived in apartment 12 on the second floor (the windows on the top left of the building were ours).

While I lived there, I would regularly go to and stay at my grandparents' house on Kirby Avenue in Long Branch, N.J. (about 5 miles away) where my dad was also living after separating from my mom. (I recall he had an apartment in Asbury Park for a short period of time in 1974 and/or 1975.)

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OK, here is a close-up of the part of Building 56 at 1423 Rustin Drive in the Middleboork Apartment complex in Ocean Township, N.J., as seen at 2:05PM January 26, 2013 where I lived with my mom for the first five years of my life from late 1969 to early 1975. Our apartment (#12) was that top corner apartment. The smaller window is in the bathroom and the larger window was the kitchen.

My mom would sit me in my high chair and I would stare out that window for extended periods. I recall looking at a nearby tract of trees and a small house beyond it.

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Yes, mom, we're home, 38 years later.

That top window was either to my bedroom or her bedroom (I can't recall which one).

At one point, Ray made some comment about her moving back there and getting an apartment rental application (Ray can be funny when he wants), but she didn't find that funny at all.

I met Ray at Middlebrook one night in early 1974 -- I still recall this tall then-thin man leaning up against his car (a green Camero) and he scared me.

I also recall this episode in 1974 -- I like to think it was in April and associated with the Super Outbreak of 1974 as the weather system crossed New Jersey -- when there was a tornado watch and when I got really angry and cursed God, only to have a violent storm that night, and I thought God was angry at me and I was crying and pleading for forgiveness as I was wrapped up in these thick drapes that we had in the living room.

I'm probably mixing up multiple events, but that's how I like to think of it.

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Into the Way Back Machine (First Trip), Circa 1974 ...

Yours truly as a small child (about 4 years old) in my bedroom at Middlebrook Apartments (Apt. 12 / 1423 Rustic Drive, Ocean Township, N.J.) circa 1974. This is a frame grab / screen capture of a home movie. My dad had set up a train set for me.

I remember that giraffe head coat rack. I recently asked my mom what happened to it, but she didn't remember ("I don't know, I guess I eventually got rid of it") .

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"YAY! TRAINS!"

Another frame grab / screen capture of my dad and me playing with the new train set in my bedroom in Middlebrook Apartments (Apt. 12 / 1423 Rustic Drive, Ocean Township, N.J.) circa 1974.

I also had an inflatable plastic rabbit named "Blouser" to which my dad wrote a song.

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The houses along Spruce Avenue in Wanamassa, New Jersey, 2:17PM January 26, 2013.

I used to have a baby sitter named Gertrude Hill who lived on Spruce Avenue (see image above). She watched me when my mom was working back in the early 1970s. She had a mean invalid husband who had a walker and would sometimes try to chase the small children who filled the house, except he couldn't get up the stairs. He just slept endlessly in a downstairs sideroom.. She also had two children including a son Kenny (who always ate hoagie subs) and a daughter (Judy, I think). She had this awful little mutt of a dog named "Lad." It was a white dog with stubby little legs that hobbled around and growled when you got near it.

I think Mrs. Hill was actually British, but no relationship to Benny. Ha ha

The reason I post the above image is because I think I REMEMBER that evergreen (spruce??) tree. I could see it from her kitchen (which faced the small backyard) in a yard a few houses away. I also remember seeing one of those old-style TV antennas on the roof next door. It made kind of a "W" shape and I associated it in my mind with the word "Wednesday."

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Here is the house where Mrs. Hill once lived. This is 1318 Spruce Avenue, Wanamassa, N.J., as seen at 2:18PM January 26, 2013.

The house was not blue back then. I (vaguely) recall it was a kind of off-green color. I think.

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This is Sunset Lake in Asbury Park, N.J., covered in ice and a light dusting of snow on a bright winter's day, 2:25PM January 26, 2013.

My mom used to ride her bicycle from Middlebrook Apartments to the boardwalk in Asbury Park, and she would put me on a back seat (with a little helmut). It was approx. 2 miles away. I mention this because once when she stopped at this lake, I fell in (off a short bulkhead). My mom -- who cannot swim -- jumped in (the water was a few feet deep) and immediately cut her foot on a piece of glass. But she got me out. That must have been around 1973. She still recalls the look on my face when I fell in.

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OK, this is Asbury Tower located in Asbury Park, N.J., 2:26PM January 26, 2013. This is a really tall building -- about 25 stories tall -- and may be a senior citizens place. My mom used to know this lady named Molly who lived there. It used to be just a dull yellow color, not these various sandy hues.

This building is just a random skyscraper on the Jersey shore in Asbury Park -- almost certainly the tallest building structure on the Jersey shore north of Atlantic City. From the top of it looking north on a clear night, you can probably see New York City / Long Island (certainly the lights and maybe with a small telescope, the buildings of Manhattan) about 35 to 40 miles due north.

Of note, the views of New York City become more prominent as you get farther north until you reach the Atlantic Highlands, in particular the Twin Lights.

For some reason, I kept thinking of Chris Heron and I being up in an apartment on that top north-facing floor when I drove by it. Not sure why.

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Here is the beach at Asbury Park, N.J., on a bright and tranquil mid-winter's day beneath an infinite expanse of blue sky, 2:28PM January 26, 2013. Hurricane Sandy wrecked tremendous havoc to the beach -- everything was torn up and the beach looked all wrong. As it was on this day, the ocean was flat as glass. (And it was the next day as well.)

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We drove to Long Branch via the super-wealthy enclave of Deal (I didn't take any pictures as I was too busy looking at things) and past the spot where my childhood elementary school -- Elberon Public School -- HAD been. The school was gone and another structure was being built. Chris C.  told me that he didn't have the heart to tell me the school was gone.

This is a Google aerial satellite view of the area known as Elberon, which is basically a section of Long Branch,  N.J. The close-in view is centered on where my school -- Elberon Public School USED to be in the brownish square just off Park Avenue -- along with the nearby residential streets.

This area is incredibly Jewish (you'd swear you were in Tel Aviv), although I was part of the Italian-American contingent on this part of the Jersey shore. As for "downtown" Long Branch, like nearly every city of size in New Jersey (except maybe Princeton), it is rather ghetto.

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Evergreen trees growing on Van Court Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey, 2:37PM January 26, 2013. I remember these evergreen trees. This is the high spot of Long Branch. My grandparents used to know a guy named "Cowboy" who lived in a house here (behind or near those evergreens).  Or maybe it was a guy named Joe Nastasia.

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OK, this is what I knew as Van Court Park along Van Court Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., 2:38PM January 26, 2013.

I lived very close to this park, although back in the 1970s it had swings, jungle gyms, a weird spinning merry-go-round like ride, random boats that you were supposed to sit in, and those rides where you rock back and forth and the thing is on a spring so you get the sensation of actually riding.  I was also in two fights here once -- a wild girl who attacked me at the bidding of her older brother because I had been making fun of him (he was a teenager and I was about 8) and once in a sort of "human cockfighting" episode between me and, yes, Chris C. (featured in the lead and last images of this entry) that was set up by the class bully John S.

The wild girl's onslaught was only stopped by my Aunt Tessie who happened to be there. (Actually, I had returned to the park after racing away on my bike crying to re-confront her when my great aunt happened to show up.) My Aunt Tessie -- or rather the ghost of who she once was-- was at Aunt Babe's 100th birthday. She is the lady sitting next to my Aunt Babe in this picture. I did not even recognize her until someone told me who she was.

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Into the Way Back Machine (Second Trip), Circa 1974 ...

Yours truly in Van Court Park*, Long Branch, N.J., circa 1974. This is another frame grab / screen capture from home movies my grandfather made. I posted some of these images in this entry about my namesake Uncle Richard. This was taken on a winter day (I vaguely remember it and that it was cold) probably in early 1974.

*It's possible that the name is "Vancourt Park" but I'm not sure.

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Another picture of me in Van Court Park in Long Branch, N.J., on that long ago winter day circa 1974.

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And here I am looking up at the sky (I used to do that a lot) in Van Court Park, Long Branch, N.J., circa 1974.

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Back to the present ...

Turning onto Kirby Avenue in Long Branch, N.J., 2:38PM January 26, 2013. I recall that small cluster of evergreen trees back in the 1970s.

Yes, once again evergreen trees figure into this entry. I didn't even realize this until I composed this entry.

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This is the big mansion whose associated property included ALL of Kirby Avenue in Long Branch, N.J., before the other houses were built in the mid-1950s. This mansion has been through many incarnations and renovations over the year. I used to know a boy named Edward who lived there with his mom back in the 1970s.

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This is the house at 368 Kirby Avenue in Long Branch, N.J. (2:40PM January 26, 2013) where I lived from 1976 to 1980. But the house had been painted this dreadful beige color and many of the shrubs had been removed. There also used to be a large Norway maple tree in the front yard but that was cut down (it was dying) by January 1988. This was a full 8 years after we moved out, but it oddly timed with my grandmother's funeral -- indeed, that was the day I discovered it was gone.

Until at least 2008, the house looked pretty much as it did when I lived there. Here is an entry from September 2008 that features a picture of how it looked and I remembered it.

But in the interest of time, I'll just post the image in question:

368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., as seen on September 6, 2008.

In short, the 2013 look is dreadful.  One thing that didn't change is the "T" door window on the front door -- which we seldom used, instead preferring the garage entrance. The "T" is for "Todaro." The garage is gone in the new look, having been turned into an extension of the house.

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Into the Way Back Machine (Third Trip), Circa 1975 ...

Yours truly on my bicycle in the driveway of 368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., probably in the summer of 1975.

Of note, the two yew bushes at the start of the driveway (including the one you can see behind me) were STILL there (and not all that much bigger from 38 years ago).

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And a second picture of me on my bicycle in the driveway of 368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., again from what may have been the summer of 1975 (plus or minus a year).

I hated smiling then and I hate it now.

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And once's more back to the present ...

My mom and dad talking at the Holiday Inn Express in West Long Branch, N.J., 5:57PM January 26, 2013.  This is the first picture I got of them together in I-don't-know-how-many-years.

My mom and Ray and I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express -- but I had my own room. My dad stayed at a dump of a motel nearby known for its unsavory doings.

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Random Image: New York Fox 5 Weather Lady ...

This is the weather lady on WNYW Fox 5 in New York City. I'm not even sure of her name. I tried to look it up / find out but I really couldn't tell. It might actually be Jill Nicolini, who (as near as I can tell) is the entertainment reporter. Nicolini is a former model.

You can almost hear say in a thick New York accent, "Yeah, it's cold out. You got a problem wit dat?"

No ma'am.

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That night we drove to Harborside Grill in Atlantic Highlands to meet Chris at his sister's restaurant. The drive took us up Ocean Avenue through Sea Bright (which was NOT as devastated as I expected), and a nearly full Moon was shining off the night time Atlantic. And we had that spectacular view of New York City as seen from the Route 36 bridge. There are numerous tremendous views from the Atlantic Highlands (in particular from the Navesink Twin Lights).

Here is a group picture at the Harborside Grill in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., January 26, 2013 from right to left: Chris, myself, my dad, my mom, and Ray.  

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And I will end this entry with another version of the picture of Chris C. and myself at the Harborside Grill -- in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., January 26, 2013.

As I noted at the outset of this entry, I had not seen Chris since about 1982. It was so strange and nice to see him after basically half a lifetime.

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This wraps up the first day's worth of picture from my New Jersey trip to for my great Aunt Babe's 100th birthday party. I intend to post next weekend the second day's pictures including of the party (a few of which I already posted in my preliminary entry back in January).

As a quick aside, the geothermal report project suddenly requires that I stay up and work on it tonight into the wee hours to create a detailed outline and partial draft, which I will do so as soon as I post this entry. As a result, I probably won't be in work until about noon. I still managed to make it to the gym tonight. As for this blog, I do not intend to update it until my next Friday night musical interlude (April 5th). 

--Regulus

2 comments:

к.нео.физ.де.му said...

yay! really enjoyed reading this entry - amazed at how much you remember from your childhood, wonder if i can walk the memory line that way...

i'll talk to you about chris next time i see you...

can't wait for the sequel! :)

Regulus said...


Thanks, Mike G!

Let's meet up soon.