Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Seaside, New Jersey

The Summer is all about activity and, this year, I'm attempting to feature more places of interest on The Holidaze.  In my life and where I'm from, there's no better Summer spot than the Jersey Shore.  It's a place than I've been going to since I was 2-years-old, maybe even younger.  The boardwalk is one of the most amazing places in the world.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, it all makes for one hell of a roller coaster ride and, yes, that pun was certainly intended.

If you've never been to the Jersey Shore, you probably immediately associate it and Seaside, NJ with the MTV series "Jersey Shore."  You're probably thinking of Snooki, Pauly D, and The Situation and there are a lot of people who will tell you Seaside is nothing like that.  Well, for the most part, they're right, but I'd be lying if I didn't mention the few guidos and guidettes walking around with their shirts off.  They're certainly down there, but the Jersey Shore is much more than that.  It's a place for family fun and memories.  Whether your a 90-year-old grandmother or a fist-pumping 21-year-old, the Jersey Shore has something for you.

Unfortunately, it's a place that I've taken for granted in recent years and, after Hurricane Sandy, it's nothing like what it was last year.  Just look at the destruction Sandy caused for Seaside, NJ Seaside After Sandy.  The Roller Coaster fell into the Atlantic Ocean, the piers collapsed into the water and on to the beach, the boardwalk was ripped up and, yes, even the Jersey Shore house was affected.

Governor Christie said that they'd get the Jersey Shore back open for business by Memorial Day Weekend and, believe it or not, he did it.  It's not the same at Seaside, the rides are gone, but NJ is "Stronger than the Storm" as is on their way to overcoming a major natural disaster.

As soon as we got the chance, we got on the Garden State Parkway to check out a childhood landmark.

First thing's first, if you're going to the Jersey Shore, you gotta look the part.  You don't have to be a jacked up meathead to rock the boardwalk, you just have to have style.  Well what says style more than Slimer?  As soon as I found this shirt, I knew I had to have it and knew exactly where I'd wear it.  The Jersey Shore was the perfect spot and, with those kicks, I received compliments all day long.  Pauly D aint got nothing on CK ;)

As soon as we got to Seaside, it was somber.  It was a surreal moment.  Seeing the disaster on TV and on the Internet is one thing, but seeing it up close and personal is another.  I couldn't believe it.  I felt as if I just walked into a wake or a funeral.  My childhood memories had taken place in these very spots.  This is where so many people shared moments and experiences together.  I'm sure countless couples shared their first kiss on the Ferris Wheel that once stood mightily on this pier.  I'm sure children laughed and loved on these rides and made their parents proud to be parents.  Its amazing how much was ruined by a storm, but this disaster could have been much worse and if the loss of attractions is the worst of Seaside's problems, then they're in good shape.


In 2008, I stood in the exact spot those two photos above were taken.  Look at the roller coaster in the background.  Look at the rides!  They're all gone now and I'm glad I have this picture to remember what was.

The damage is severe and it's safe to say that Seaside is only half open, but the construction crews are hard at work and on their way to rebuilding the boardwalk and piers to be even better than they were before.  And despite what you see, Seaside is far from sad.  Yes, when you first see it, it's a shock.  But then you realize that the stands are packed.  The arcades are pumping out their usual jams.  The restaurants and bars are open and, of course, the beach is full.  For as bad as Seaside was, and still is, it's far from closed and far from dead.  You may not be getting 100% of what the Jersey Shore had to offer a year ago, but you're getting more then half of what was there.  It's still a great atmosphere and experience.  It's still fun and you soon forget about what happened.

Now what are the chances that Slimer would be at the Jersey Shore the same day I wore my Slimer T-Shirt?  That was awesome.  You don't know how happy I was to see that giant stuffer Slimer hanging from the boardwalk stand.  I had no interest in attempting to win something so big, but I looked all over for a crane game in those arcades.  If I could have found one, I probably would have spent whatever it took to wrap that claw around him just to take a picture and post it here on The Holidaze.  Unfortunately, one was nowhere to be found, but we'll see what Point Pleasant, NJ has to offer when we make it there this summer.  I will put on that shirt again just to act as if it's a coincidence when I find it.  "Ohh Slimer? Wow, he's so old that's crazy he's here, whoa.."  Little will they know!

Believe it or not, I've never had a beer at the Jersey Shore.  I'm 26 years old and have never had an alcoholic beverage at the Jersey Shore.  I may be the furthest thing from The Situation that you can find on the boardwalk.  But after seeing the recovery process, and an awesome rooftop bar, we had to sit back in the sun and toast to a new beginning for Seaside.  Not only did that ice cold beer hit the spot, but it was only $1.50 and makes for a great photo with the beach in the background.  If that doesn't sum up the perfect day, I don't know what does.

As you can see, it was a beautiful day and there were plenty of beach goers enjoying the weather.  Despite the damage done to the piers, the boardwalk is in perfect condition because they've completely rebuilt the structure in less 6 months.  That's impressive and I have to tip my cap to everybody who took part in the process.  Whether it was fundraising, donating, or physical labor, the boardwalk at Seaside wouldn't be back without any of you.  Thankfully, the people are coming back and supporting the rebuilding effort as well.

While taking everything in and enjoying our beers, this little lady decided to land on my girlfriend's watch and remind us that not all nature is a disaster.  This was a pretty cool moment and, for some reason, there were lady bugs everywhere.  Are the attracted to new wood or something?  Are they attracted to shiny objects?  I've been going to the shore for years, and I don't think I've ever seen one lady bug, let alone 7 in one day.  There must be a reason.  Regardless of why, it made for a pretty picture of two pretty ladies.

Speaking of pretty... here I am.  Before leaving the rooftop bar, I had to take my picture in the funhouse mirror.  Why?  Because it was there!  You don't see a funhouse mirror and NOT stand in front of it!  You're not human if you don't want to see what you'd look like in a funny, distorted, body!  I still look awesome, but I don't know if my girlfriend agrees.  I think she's more impressed by Slimer!

Like I said in the last post, I will never ever turn down a game of Pop-a-Shot as it's one of my favorite things to do at the arcade.  This one, with the NBA logos on the backboard, is one of the best designs because I know exactly where to bank the ball.  And seeing that the high score was only 63, I knew I could beat it.  My personal high is 99, so I was going to at least hit 64 and become the new Seaside Champion!

Challenge accepted!  Challenge won!  The new high score is now 71 and, of course, I had to put my hand over the New York Knicks logo because I am a huge Brooklyn Nets fan and never miss out on an opportunity to cross out the Knickerbockers.  It's always an added bonus!

Now, if you're going to Seaside, you better not be on a diet.  You better not be trying to watch your weight because, if you're going to truly embrace the experience, you have to chow down on some classic boardwalk sweets and treats.  Just look at what this menu has to offer.  Zeppoles, Fries, Funnel Cake, Pizza!! And that's just the tip of the iceberg as you walk up and down the boardwalk.  In this case, we were looking for real food (as real as it gets at Seaside) and split Cheese Fries and a Coke.  But we were just bracing ourselves for what came later.

I'm not a fan of hermit crabs, but I love the designs people paint on their shells.  On this day, there were two that stood out to me and those were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Hermit Crabs.  For as disgusting as that crab's legs or claws are, the Turtles' shell makes up for it.  Because there are two of them, and they're wearing the red eyebands, I have to assume that they're based on the Mirage Comics.  And you can assume that I'm a giant geek.

Hermit crabs and cheese fries are all well and good, but do you see what I see?  Do you see that box on that shelf?  Could that... be? Is that... a box of.. Twinkies??  Noo way.. It can't be.  This was at "Fry Me Up" where they will essentially fry anything.  Oreos, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Pickles, Raviolis, you name it.  But their menu still said "Twinkies," so I had to ask..

Hey man, are you actually selling the REAL Twinkies? You have them?

He said... YES!  He said that he bought 150 boxes before they sold out and still has a few more left.  He also informed me that Drake's was owned by Hostess and also went out of business.  I didn't know that, but it explains why I haven't seen Devil Dogs anywhere.  He had those, too and was willing to fry them up!  The guy was nice and had cool stories, but he said that he turned down a $300 offer for a box of Twinkies last week.  Um, are you crazy?  A fried Twinkie is only $3.50.. You're not making that much profit to turn down an offer like that!  If I were him, I would have put them all up on Ebay when I had the chance.  Now, Twinkies will be back in about a month or so and the novelty will have worn off.  Oh well, I'll gladly give you $3.50 to have my FIRST Twinkie ever!

This was the highlight of the Seaside experience.  Believe it or not, I have never had a Twinkie before.  I'm not a huge fan of cake, so I guess I never thought to go out of my way for a Twinkie.  I knew how popular they were, but it never lured me in when Hostess was in business.  Then, when they went out of business, I searched everywhere for a damn Twinkie.  I guess you always want what you can't have, because I became a mad man and was unable to find one anywhere.  Then, of course, everybody told me how crazy I was for never having one and what I missed out on.  Blah blah blah... Well, now, thanks to the Jersey Shore, I've had my first Twinkie ever and it was fried in all it's glory!!  We also had fried Oreos so, suffice it to say, we were pretty full.  But what a great way to end our trip back to the Jersey Shore!

So yes, the rumors are true!  The Jersey Shore is on the rise and will be back stronger than ever in the days, weeks, and months to come.  We only went down for a quick visit, but will surely get more out of Seaside, as we've always done in the past, as the Summer progresses and the weather heats up.  Until then, make sure you do what you can to create your own carnival experience.  I suggest deep frying something.

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