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Saturday, April 08, 2006

In most cities, the blasting of an architectural symbol into a pile of mangled steel would bring people out to have one last look at the old girl, to reminisce, to remind one another of good times long gone.

In this city, the implosion of C-8 now scheduled for April 29th will bring tears of relief and cries of "HALLELUJAH!!!"

Don't miss it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

After years of willful and economically driven neglect, Asbury Partners has agreed to a $6 million deal to renovate boardwalk pavilions and structures. On the developer's 'To Do' list are:
* Paramount Theatre
* Convention Hall
* Casino
* 1st Avenue Pavilion
* 3rd Avenue Pavilion
* 4th Avenue Pavilion
* 5th Avenue Pavilion (includes Howard Johnson's)
* Sunset Avenue Pavilion
* Heating plant
The total preliminary cost of the condos and other buildings being constructed by Asbury Partners is $1.2 billion. I'm a writer so have no idea what percent $6 million is of that staggering amount ... but I know it's barely a drip in one of the many buckets in the Convention Hall's concourse that catch water leaking from its roof, not to mention the tsunamis that pour through and across and underneath the abandoned Casino.

Sad to say, this won't be pretty.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Devastating column on the failures of the Bush administration, perfectly represented by the lingering hole in lower Manhattan:
Maybe we should leave Ground Zero as it is. The imagination can provide a fitting memorial to those who died. "We dig a grave in the breezes," Paul Celan wrote in his Holocaust poem "Death Fugue." We can dig ours as deep as the World Trade Center once was tall. The ugly emptiness will remind us always to be wary of the grand schemes of politicians. They can't build a building. They cannot capture a mass murderer. They cannot wage war in Iraq. This is their hole. It is, by dint of failure, George Bush's presidential library. His proper legacy is a void.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

At my dad and stepmom Louise's home along Florida's 'Treasure Coast', nursing a sunburn, getting ready for dinner on their outside patio. Don't know what it's like back in NJ ... don't care.

Surprised my dad with my arrival on Thursday. His birthday falls on St. Patrick's Day, meaning I got to enjoy Louise's miraculous corned beef and cabbage. Also got to see my uncle Bob and aunt Gloria before their return to New York. My dad, uncle Bob and I went to the nearby Mets spring training complex and caught a game against the Marlins on Sunday. Port Saint Lucie is the fastest growing city in the country, though just as many people 'leave' as move here (EMT sirens signal their departures several times a day). People ride personal scooters along major roadways. Palm Beach women of every age sport breast implants that shine like Perdue chickens. Big-bellied men bark in Brooklyn across the country club parking lot of my dad and Louise's 'active adult community'. Sitting beside the club's pool is like loitering outside an operating theater: surgical scars and near-death tales abound.

I return to NJ tomorrow on the world's cheapest airline, a bus-with-wings outfit called USA 3000. Life's a gamble. My odds drop at 8 pm ET tomorrow night out of Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Spring-like weather yesterday left me little choice but to walk about this technicolor town. Down Summerfield a bi-racial couple revealed what may be cracks in their relationship ("You a lying witch!" "You a lazy prick!") before a young man on a beaten bicycle made sure I was "OK" ("Got everything you need, my man?"). Crossed over to a comparatively Disneyesque Cookman to stop in at Ruby to say hello to Janet and her DJ fiance, across the street to catch up with Bill "Mayor of Cookman Ave" Meisch at House of Modern Living, then to congratulate Doug at Rock Paper Scissors for a blistering response he had published in this week's tri City News to a silly diatribe bashing the lack of 'cool' along Cookman that ran in the previous week's issue. Smaller the community, more vicious the in-fighting. Here's a portion of Doug's masterpiece, which is directed towards the writer of the article and TCN's publisher:
First and foremost, on behalf of COOKMAN AVENUE, I just want to extend a hearty fuck you to both of you.

I would also like to invite you to open or buy an actual store on Cookman Avenue or anywhere downtown.

Then you can spend thousands of dollars a month in rent, utilities, marketing and associated expenses to maintain that store.

And then, and only then, can you possibly have the right to an opinion about property values, retail models, city planning and social issues.

You epitomize what this city does NOT need ... people devoid of culture, conscience, clarity and collaboration and people who are ultimately spoiled little cry babies.
Brilliant. The 25-year-old writer of the offending article has a record of moaning about the lack of 'cool art scene' in AP's downtown, and last year it was Ruby's Janet who wrote a scathing retort to his whinings about the closing of a bar called Oddfellows. Basically, the kid wants an 'edgy' place to drink where he can teeter on a bar stool and watch well-scrubbed yet provocatively tattooed women pour cheap beer and pretend to care. In AP, that place is now Asbury Lanes, whose twangy, deep-fried, hot-rod-punk vibe is the brainchild of a man named Mel Stultz, the creator of Oddfellows and a true visionary. Mel recently departed the Lanes, however, leaving the fate of the young writer's favorite watering hole in danger of -- GASP -- changing yet again.

The opinions of 20-somethings ... the mere idea brings mordant chuckles.

Anyway ... with my mind and spirit whipped up by Doug's business-owner-righteousness, I pursued the promise of soothing alcohol at Red Fusion, which occupies the former Harry's Roadhouse. Logically, this brought me to Red Fusion's bar area, which has seen at least 3 or 4 businesses come and go (including Stultz's Oddfellows). Harry's was owned by the Dorrian family, the same upstanding sophisticates whose establishments have been linked to the 'Preppie Murder' of the '80s and the recent gruesome murder of a grad student on the lower East Side. Thankfully, both the bar and restaurant are now owned by a family that's operated several businesses free of tabloid sordidness.

I had a few pints of Smithwick's and a dripping mess of a burger while talking to Sean the bartender. Sean's the older of two sons working with their dad at Red Fusion, an arrangement dating back to his teenage years. Sean's commitment appears genuine, as he and his brother (who books bands) have become AP residents by moving into loft apartments next door. The bar is big and airy and the restaurant now looks like a restaurant, instead of Harry's "hodgepodge of temporary tables" motif. Won't take long for word to get out and crowds to return, especially the sun-burned, lookin-to-get-laid hordes of summer.

When I left the bar it was dark and chilly. Hurried down quiet Cookman, past the mangled streetscape leading to the beach, along the see-sawed sidewalks of Grand Avenue, and over the Sunset Lake footbridge where a half-moon glowed on the necks of silent Canada geese. Only in Asbury Park .....

Molly Ivins is a goddess:
Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, “unpatriotic” by a bunch of rightwingers.

Take “unpatriotic” and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “Unpatriotic”? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

While I was away tending to family business in Tennessee, another Asbury Park landmark passed away. The Atlantic and Belmont hotels, however, died of natural causes. Fire.

Funny thing ... just before leaving for Tennessee, I took my daily walk down the boardwalk and instead of walking through the Casino into Ocean Grove, made a right at the carousel building. Wandered down past the site of the Palace, my feet sinking in mud where skee-ball games and dark rides and blinking bits of money-plundering machinery once overcame the senses of generations of Jersey Shore parents and kids. Cookman Ave. has been closed for many months now east of Grand Ave., as the developers have carte blanche to alter AP's road grid to better suit their condo cocoons. I crossed what used to be the street that beheld the twin grinning visages of the overhyped 'Tillie' and walked west on Asbury Ave. To my surprise, every building was empty and boarded up, all the way to Bond Ave. The first two buildings were the Atlantic and Belmont hotels. I made a note to return with my camera to capture the silent misery of the century-old structures. Too late.

UPDATE: Cops have arrested a 14-year-old boy and charged him with arson.

Smartest words I've read on why we should impeach the Miserable Failure:
We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal -- known to be armed and shown to be dangerous.
Spoken by Harper's editor Lewis H. Lapham, who recently wrote "The Case for Impeachment: Why We Can No Longer Afford George W. Bush." Lapham was inspired to write it after reading a report compiled by the House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff, and commissioned by Rep. John Conyers Jr. on Michigan.

Asked why his panel would undertake an effort doomed to be dismissed as partisan sniping, Rep. Conyers responded with true patriotism: "To take away the excuse that we didn't know. So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, 'Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?' when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that 'somehow it escaped our notice' that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law."

Brilliant.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I hope I'm still in Asbury Park on the glorious day that C-8 is imploded. Seems that day is coming soon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The older I get, the less I know.

But I do know this: A life well-lived must be

Lived.

I'm off to Australia. Be back in February.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Via Tom Tomorrow, one of those revelations that should send every single American into indignant apoplexy:
A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.
Is there a greater sin than sending young men and women into battle without proper equipment? Can a country be allowed to shirk such responsibility? Since our timid press won't touch it and Fox News will create a straw man 'crisis' to draw attention from it, Americans will snuggle into their oversized couches for their oversized asses and let nacho cheese drizzle their chins in front of flat screen TVs and let the words of our piece-of-shit president mollify their snuffed consciences. Meanwhile, more soldiers will die, war supporters will guzzle gas in their SUVs, more soldiers will die, the right wing media will prop up the demonic Rumsfeld and Cheney and Rice, more soldiers will die, war supporters will kneel before their bonus checks and cheer our president's tax cut proposals, more soldiers will die ...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Thanks to MB Wilson for sending me a link to an article in Salon about the pending demoliton of the old Upstage on Cookman Avenue. Not much new information, but the pictures -- especially those taken during the riots that occurred on the other side of Main Street from the Upstage -- capture a time intentionally glossed over by those espousing the pending return of AP's 'glory days'. 'Those', of course, being the waterfront developers with $$$ in their eyes.

Among several letters I've had published in the triCity News (their web site is useless) was one detailing the lost tourism potential of the Upstage. This was when the fate of the Stone Pony was the cause of much hand-wringing among out-of-town boomers lulled from their couches for a moment or two to consider the loss of a building they mostly associated with the history of Bruce Springsteen. The Pony has been much more than that, of course, but today is being managed into irrelevance by its current owners, those same waterfront developers who only want a hefty ROI on their years of investment. As do the owners of the Upstage property, where Springsteen, Southside, Steve Van Zandt, Danny Federici, Garry Tallent, Vini Lopez and others turned a thin, dark room into an incubation chamber for a sound that defined a place, a time, a mindset. By next year it will be condos. Condos! Farewell, Asbury Park ...

Speaking of mindsets ... Marah is playing the Pony next Friday but you wouldn't know it -- I walked by yesterday and saw no mention on the marquee, no poster, and found barely a mention on the Pony web site. Granted Marah has yet to break big, but they've got a strong Springsteen connection and a loyal Philly following, two marketing facts I guarantee no one within the Pony organization understands. As the title of Marah's latest release puts it, "If you didn't laugh, you'd cry."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A woman has been charged with the New Year's Eve robbery and murder of the man on 7th Avenue, whose name was Saahron Jones, whose crime scene I came upon on New Year's Day.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Asbury Park was made to be walked. Not just along the ocean, where broad boardwalks have lured decades of visitors to rides, arcades, sweet shops and souvenir huts, some of which are slowly -- s l o w l y -- returning. Every street in AP is girded by sidewalks, many wrenched and blistered by the molten bulk of shade trees that represent a time when city fathers could afford to be concerned with simple aesthetics. Still, every corner of town is accessible.

Accessibility, of course, does not equal desirability. AP offers pedestrians many terrains: Avenues of giant homes that shine and shame, side by side. Sidestreets battered by years of neglect and haunted by shuttered structures and shadowy characters. Could-be-bustling commercial thoroughfares like Cookman Avenue that suffer from the pot-luck business hours of too many boutiques. Hard-scrabble parks laid out long ago by urban planners influenced by European utopians. Even a footbridge over Sunset Lake, where sea gulls and terns stand their ground along rails streaked white with droppings.

Yesterday, the streets of Asbury Park delivered something new. Walking back from the Main Street convenience store where I buy the Sunday NY Times I came upon a side street along 7th Avenue adorned with yellow police tape. No cops, no onlookers, just police tape running up and down the block. Turns out a man was shot to death there at approximately 10 pm New Year's Eve. Just so happens I left my home at that time and walked along 8th Avenue toward the ocean -- in the opposite direction of the shooting -- on my way to the Stone Pony on New Year's Eve.

Police are investigating the shooting. Was it planned? Random? Did I miss walking into the shooter by two minutes? One minute? A few seconds? Could I have been Asbury Park's last homicide victim of 2005?

Happy new year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Season's greetings from Asbury Park:

Candy cane-clad street scenes worthy of a painting by Norman Rockwell. Festive, multicolored lights, punctuated by red and green illuminated stars stretching as far as the eye can see.

These are Cookman Avenue and Main Street in Asbury Park at Christmastime in the late 1940s.

Seventy-odd years into its existence, Asbury is a thriving town. World War II is over and Shore area residents, along with Americans everywhere, are optimistic.

New homes and cars, not made during the war years, are popping up everywhere. Innovative American manufacturers have switched from war to peacetime production. Store shelves spill over with unrationed consumer goods.

Asbury Park could be any fair-sized American city, except for what makes it special; the wide, white sandy beach and boardwalk, where everything is strangely hushed this time of year. The hotels — Kingsley Arms and the Berkeley-Carteret — are quiet. On deserted Wesley Lake, the swan boats have gone to wherever wooden swan boats go in the winter. Along the boardwalk, the Casino and Convention Hall, the Natatorium and Sodamat, Kohr's Frozen Custard and the Planter's Peanut Store, all are shuttered now. It's like a city at the end of the world.

Which, in fact, it is, with that vast, sparkling otherworld of water bordering its east, stretching off to the far horizon. But move inland a couple of blocks, past the empty Palace Amusements and the Caramel Shoppe, and carols begin to fill the air.

The Mayfair and St. James, two of Asbury's six operating theaters, lavishly advertise their "gala" holiday attractions. Snow begins to fall around Bill Green's Plantation Room. Approaching Freid-Neissen's and Dainty Apparel, the Coast Cities Coaches "Asbury Park, Deal and Grand Avenue" bus goes whining past, swaying as it turns down that church-lined boulevard, where houses of worship fill with poinsettias and, on Sundays, stylish gatherings.

Shoppers love Tepper's, and Steinbach's, with its holiday windows (and Santa Claus upstairs!). Issuing forth from the glass-block-fronted Salvation Army building next to the Press on Mattison Avenue, soldiers of Christ sit patiently in store fronts with their kettles and bells, collecting money for the poor, even as snow settles on their heads and shoulders.

Steam engines still chug into the old Asbury Train Station, with their attendant noise and smoke, and from the magnificent marble Post Office, overburdened mailmen, working 11-hour shifts and six day weeks, trudge out into the falling snow, while inside, besieged clerks process piles of parcels and cards.

Busiest of all are the five-and-dime cent stores. Four in a row on Cookman Avenue; H.L. Green's, Kresge's, J.J. Newberry's, and, the granddaddy of them all, Woolworth's. First the candy — then the toy counter greet you as you walk into Woolworth's. Off to the left is the meeting-place lunch counter.

Asbury Park in the late 1940s is rich in diversity. Anyone experiencing it will have their own personal reminiscences. Even so, how good to live again in memory these bygone Merry Christmases. How hopeful to feel that it will be that way again, in a Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Here's something you can't say every day: Bruce Springsteen came to my workplace today.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sun shining brightly this Saturday morning. A minor observance? Not in my neighborhood. Came home last night to road barriers along every local street. Branches down everywhere. Water lapping at the front door of my building on Deal Lake Drive. Stood just outside the lobby door at 10:00 last night with Superintendent Bill, who'd been up since 3:00 am keeping the rising water from turning the lobby into a duck pond. Half dozen cars sat submerged on Deal Lake Drive, but it was a peaceful scene. The only traffic a family of geese exploring the expanded lakefront. Bill said some ducks had paddled up to the door earlier in the day. His girlfriend Elaine said it was "cute." Water has receded this morning, at least in front of our buidling. A good part of Deal Lake Drive is still underwater. Took a picture but can't post from home. Will do so on Monday.

Meanwhile, my building made the papers, only this time not because of mobsters living within. This article includes an insane quote from a resident who was reminded of Hurricane Katrina (what an idiot), and this one discusses flooding throughout NJ.

An article in yesterday's Star-Ledger included a gallery of photos taken in Loch Arbour -- which is on the other side of Deal Lake -- and Asbury Park. Sitting in my office in a midtown Manhattan high-rise after an insane workday (check back here for a description of how Sirius has paid me to write double entendres about male orgasms for 2 weeks now), I was able to see photos of people being evacuated by row boats in Loch Arbour and Deal Lake Drive innundated by its namesake. Nervous breakdown, anyone?

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