Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Snow that sticks

Beach house, originally uploaded by seat_5a.

I am happy to report that the latest snowfall has stuck around. I was really missing the snow but I am glad I get to wear my snowboots. It is lightly snowing now and I finally feel at ease. I guess maybe part of my discomfort in being slightly homesick was the fact that it felt like the same season, when I am used to seasons announcing themselves with a bang.

In defense of my new home, I think this is unusually warm weather for now, which Minnesota is also experiencing. Cars have been falling into lakes there because drivers are too stupid to realize the ice is not thick enough to drive on. I have no sympathy, frankly, if you are not taking the proper precautions...Survival of the Fittest!

BUT I think some of the schools in New Jersey were being overly cautious when they closed school on Monday. Today's Asbury Park Press had the listed snow totals for all areas--the most was 4.5 inches in Marlboro...my area had only 2.7 measly inches and they closed schools! If this was Texas, I might understand, but I have to think that New Jersey has the ways and means of clearing a snowy road.

Methinks some superintendents and principals wanted the day off to play too.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

History of LBI

I really like my local library. Its small, its friendly...I've always craved being a "regular" someplace, sort of a Cheers-where-everybody-knows-your-name kind of thing, but not necessarily because I was an alcoholic. So this teeny, tiny library in Surf City seems like a good alternative.

Before I got my MacBook (I love it so much!) I used to come here for internet time, but now I've been free to explore the bound annals (aka books). So I recently checked out a history of Long Beach Island. I learned it's pretty much been a resort spot for several centuries.

Interestingly, the first part developed were not the areas near the current causeway, or the pretty northern bit, but the southern end of the island, where Beach Haven is now. Since most of the traffic came from Philadelphia and it was the point most directly west of the city, it developed first. I guess after you've taken a horse carriage across the Pine Barrens and then had to take a boat to an island, going another 12 miles north in a horse carriage seemed unncessary. So there wasn't too much about Surf City in the book.

BUT I did discover that my street was one of the first bay to ocean streets (I use that term loosely) on the island. I wish some of the big, old hotels were still in existence, it would be interesting to see.

Modern-day connection: they appear to be tearing down the Quarter Deck Inn, which is the first hotel you see on the island. I suppose lots of families have memories of staying there, and it will eventually just become another page in the history book.

Monday, January 22, 2007


I had another post, about LBI history, all ready to publish, but something else happened to bump that post to another day:

IT SNOOOOOOOOOOOOWED! I am so excited! My co-workers think I am very strange because I like the snow so much. I guess I am strange...especially when it comes to snow. I just think snow is so fun because it means snowball fights, snowmen and lots of pretty white glazes on everything.

Unfortunately, the snow we got was just enough to put a thin layer on roofs, but not enough to cover all the dead, brown grass on the ground. It is also fairly warm, which is nice because the roads are not slippery since the snow just melted when it hit the pavement, but I wonder if it means the snow will not stick.

(note to self: work on run-on sentences)

The sad thing is I didn't realize it had snowed until I watched the morning news and they said "from city to shore, snow..." and I thought to myself "shore? I am shore! Does this mean it snowed?" The same thing happened the other day, when I was checking the tracking of a package via my computer and realized it was outside and I had walked right past it. Oops.

Tonight I am heading to the local library for a movie viewing and discussion. I wonder if it will be me and a bunch of old ladies, like the opera workshop I went to? Either way, its a chance to interact socially, which I need!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

From the vault

Maybe its homesickness or the fact that I just got a CD of backup info from my old computer, but I've been spending a lot of time looking through old pictures. Obviously I always intended to move near an ocean, since I think I enjoyed this surfer dude costume the most. (I started out as Calvin, but when my Hobbes left the party, I started digging in my friends closet to make the hair fit many different costumes: Old lady, surfer dude, disco guy, etc.)

The first time I ever went surfing was three and a half years ago in San Diego, where I was for a professional convention. I loved it. I instantly understood why so many people work just enough to live, so they can spend the rest of their times on the beach. I still remember that feeling of getting up on the board after so many failed attempts...and I felt proud that I was the first in my class to be able to do it, and only two other people managed to stand up by the end of my class.

It's been a long time since I've had the chance to go surfing. Obviously, there isn't much opportunity to go surfing in Minnesota, though some real die-hard surfers have Surfed Lake Superior. And now I am going to be only a few blocks to surfing all summer long! I live about a mile from the original Ron Jon Surf Shop, whose stickers I always saw on cars but always assumed it was in California.

A co-worker of mine surfs, so hopefully she will take me under her wing and help me know the best equipment, the best spots, etiqutte of NJ beaches, etc. I think I will probably start with a cheap foam longboard (cheap is relative) because it should be easy to relearn on, etc.

It has warmed up here a little bit, just enough to think about surfing for us uninitiated, but the long haul of warm weather means the ocean didn't cool down as much as usual, and surfers (with their wetsuits) are still surfing in january. Though perhaps they do that year-round irregardless of warm snaps...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Location, part II

NYC Philharmonic, originally uploaded by seat_5a.

I wrote about why I like where I live. Now let me tell you why I Don't like where I live.

Mainly, its the lack of things to do. Or, namely, things to do that I am used to having available. Growing up near a major metropolis (well, two, actually, but they are like one to me), I had lots of options available. It wasn't a big deal to go to a nice restaurant, or to an ethnic restaurant, and head to someplace like the theater, orchestra, or independent movie theater.

In a way, living out here is like living in one of the small towns I always would pass through on my road trips. The ones where I would say "what do people do here" (admittedly, with some condescension, I'm ashamed to say).

I guess living in the middle of everything means you're living in the middle of nowhere.

I think my opinion might change as the island wakes back up for all the summer people, but even then I haven't seen a Thai restaurant between Atlantic City and Toms River. Heck, I'm not even sure if there is a Vietnamese place in Ocean County (please please PLEASE tell me if its otherwise...)

I miss being able to go for rush tickets at events, but this weekend I had the chance to do that. We listened to the New York Philharmonic play at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. With Zubin Mehta leading! Playing the Elgar Cello Concertos! It was an amazing experience because we had seats right in front of the soloist. Like, if she decided to spit, it would've landed on my program. It was the most amazing, intimate, moving and uncomfortable experiences of my life. Mostly because she was so passionately playing, it felt like I walked in on a couple making love. Both beautiful, but very uncomfortable.

We did explore some of the neat things on the island, namely the Barnegat Lighthouse and surrounding area. We also drove up to Jersey City for a really fun party hosted by some very great friends.

Hopefully I will have more to do in my own area soon. I wish it didn't cater so much to summer people and rewarded us hardy winter folk...
In the meantime, I'm pretty good at making my own fun!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Location, location, location

Beach on Long Beach Island, originally uploaded by seat_5a.

One of the things I love about where I live is where I live. Its pretty obvious that I've never lived near an ocean, much less on an island, so I (nerdily) still get excited when I think about the fact that I live on an island.

The island is only 9 square miles, but its 18 miles long. So that means you are never more than half a mile from a beach...pretty cool. I sort of feel like I don't take advantage of being so close to the beach enough, but it IS winter. Expect more this summer! Its amazing how dark it is, I can see lots of stars and constellations.

I like looking to see the lights of Atlantic City, which you can see right as you get off the causeway bridge (you can see it from the bridge but the "string of pearls" lights on the side sometimes make it hard to see.) Its the only source of light pollution you can see.

The island is also equidistant from both NYC and Philadelphia, about 1.5 to 2 hours each, which is amazing to me. Back home in Minnesota, the only thing we could drive to within 2-3 hours is Duluth, St. Cloud, Rochester and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Those aren't major towns, but as major as it gets! Chicago is about 6-8 hours away.

Since I've moved, I've been to NYC twice since I moved here and Philly...a lot more! It's a little easier to drive to Philadelphia--and once you get there its easier to park! Somehow, NYC always feels farther, probably because, while it takes the same amount of time to get there, it always takes longer to get to your destination, whether its for finding parking or taking an extra train, etc.

I'm excited to learn more about both of these cities as I live here and hope I take lots of time to go to both places. They have so much to offer! I mean, I don't have to elaborate on NYC (though it would take living there for a decade to take advantage of all of NYC, and even then you wouldn't do it all), but I really like Philadelphia. It's a city made up of neighborhoods, and very easy to navigate...though the narrow roads themselves can be difficult.

I finally did the tourist thing in both cities--I went to see the tree in Rockefeller Center during Christmas, something I've always wanted to do since my Baby-Sitters Club books talked about it! It was gorgeous...but unfortunately I was really rushed that evening seeing the tree, so I don't feel like I got to enjoy it. Oh well, next year!
Then the week after Christmas, my dad, brother and I went to see Liberty Bell and some of the historical buildings around there.

We couldn't get tickets to see Independence Hall, but we did stumble upon The Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank Building. After cracking a few jokes about being the Second Bank, we went inside. Inside are portraits of historical figures. I found it fascinating because when I read about history, I don't care what happened, I am more interested in the people behind what happened. How they lived, what they wore, what they did when they weren't creating history (which was rarely.) The portraits come with plaques that give that kind of information and talk about the relationship between all the people in the gallery.

That's my kind of history.

Lots more trips to both cities are planned in the future! I often things about what I might have missed doing in Minnesota (though I feel I did do a lot of stuff there!) and I'm going to try not to have that feeling living out here!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


flooding, originally uploaded by seat_5a.

The weather here has been rather unusual. Its odd to have 70 degree weather and go to the beach to watch the sunset with no coat on on Saturday...and then have it snow today.

This, I believe, is not normal weather. I've been assured that it does, indeed, snow down here. I am ridiculously attached to the snow and wish it would...though I wonder how much of that is some sort of Minnesota bravado, where I need to prove to these soft people how tough we northwoods people are!

But I don't feel very tough at night sometimes. The wind howls when it rains and a bush in front of my house scrapes against a window and makes these "eeek....eeeeek....eeeek" noises. So, I haven't watched a scary movie since I moved out. Too much to stoke the imagination. I don't know if the rainstorms here are more furious or if I just scare more.

They have nor'easters, which are like the north Atlantic version of hurricanes. They can produce up to 90 mph winds and torrential downpour! The result of these storms can be coastal flooding...and living on an island, that means me!

The combination of a nor'easter and high tide and full moon caught me the first weekend I moved out here. The flooding wasn't too bad, but it was exciting for me! I had to move my car because this is salt water flooding, not freshwater flooding like in the midwest.

Blizzards I know how to deal with, but driving in the flood was hard--how do you drive through high water without splashing all over your car and risk erosion?

I probably looked like an idiot that day but that's okay. I know how to handle myself in ice and snow storms, pumping my brakes and all. Just wait until it snows, I'll show them!

Unfortunately the snow today did not stick.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Sunday, January 7, 2007

local color

a really, really, really nice day
Yesterday we went for a drive. It was absolutely gorgeous, perfect weather outside yesterday--nearly 70 degrees. In January! So we left our coats at home. We went down Route 9 through Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton and then we drove down Seven Bridges Road, which I wrote about for the APP as one of my first stories assigned to me.

It's a pretty little road-to-nowhere that ends abruptly. It was originally intended to serve as another route to LBI, but the seabed was too soft to build a bridge across. So it just winds through wild marshes, with only small marinas and abandoned fish factories along the way.

It has several "one-hoss" bridges that only fits the width of one car at a time. A stoplight helps regulate traffic, so two cars don't accidentally end up facing each other on a bridge, where the only way out is backing up. Scrubby pine trees, tall grass and brambly bushes grow alongside the road, which sometimes dips so low, it feels like you are driving on the marsh itself.

At the end of this road is an old red-and-white Coast Guard Station, now home to the Rutgers Marine Field Station. The bushes grow high at the turn-around. The road ends with a metal road barrier, but just beyond that barrier is a small path that goes through the curving bushes. The bushes are like a tunnel and, even if you've been there before, its sort of exciting to see what is on the other end.

Which is a small beach that opens out into the Atlantic Ocean. From there you can see the very tip of Long Beach Island, Atlantic City, other small uninhabited barrier islands and miles and miles of ocean. Seagulls dip and soar and scream and you almost think you can see them scooping up fish, but never manage to actually catch them in the act.

Out on this narrow beach, we spread my "dirty" blanket, huddled under my "clean" blanket and just sat there as the sun set. I thought we wouldn't be able to see it from that perspective because we would be facing east, but the sun set right in front of us, just west of Atlantic City. Luckily the sky was almost cloud-free. Unfortunately, the one place where there were clouds were exactly in front of the sunset, just above the horizon. Nevertheless, we enjoyed most of the sunset, rolling up our blankets a little early so we could enjoy the drive by dusk.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


So, looking at Sioux's pictures from her trip to Hawaii made me seriously jealous. I really would like to take a vacation that is just a vacation--I can't remember the last time I did that.

Anyways, it sucks that this probably won't happen for awhile. Most of my vacation time will be wiled away a day at a time for 3-day weekends to fly home and other various spots for weddings. Not that weddings aren't wonderful--I am very happy and grateful that so many of my friends are getting married and so many want to include me in the celebration. Each guest is a huge undertaking (esp $$-wise), so when someone makes the effort to save one space (or two) for me, I am going to make the effort to attend.

Earlier, the problem was all my vacation went to one big chunk of vacation time--going to India. Dec. 2004 and March 2006. And that is NOT a vacation, no matter what the two weeks stretching across the vacation calendar may look like. I come back from India needing a vacation.

For now, I am happy taking one- or two-day vacations to NYC, Philly area, Atlantic City, etc. I would like to go to Boston and Toronto and Hershey, PA. =) I also would like to go to Vermont and New Hampshire cause those were two states I always said I probably would never have the chance to visit but would actually enjoy. And now I am close enough to do it. Plus then maybe I could understand which one is narrow at the top and which one is narrow at the bottom. Those are the two states I always confuse in those online geography tests. (now, don't go rushing to tell me that Vermont is this one and NH is this one...People keep telling me and I keep looking it up, the problem is getting it to stay in my head.)

Let's not even get started on all the places in the world I want to visit...South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Spain, the English countryside, Incan ruins in Mexico (not drinking to ruin in Mexico), Australia, Chile...and back to The Netherlands/Amsterdam and Nepal.

And, of course, Hawaii!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Random thoughts

I always hated the post New Years. There wasn't really anything to look forward to, after the smush of holidays during the last half of the year/first half of the school year. It was just a long stretch of time with an occasional Friday or Monday off for MLK or Presidents Day. We used to have this break called "Energy Break" which was on the historically coldest week of the year, puportedly to save energy by not having to heat and light the schools. It was spring break--in February.

Now I don't even have those days to look forward to! We don't get MLK day off, though we did at my last paper (with an option to use this "diversity day" for any other diverse holiday of our choosing.) I don't have any spring breaks, etc. Boo for working.

I drove down to the very southern (driveable) tip of Long Beach Island, right at sunset. It was amazing. I was so close to Atlantic City, and I could see the sunset over AC and reaching out into the ocean. That was cool. It took me a lot longer to get down there then I thought it would. I wish it was a nicer drive, more ocean views or something. It was lots of big fancy homes and stuff. That tip is the start of the Edwin Forsythe Reserve. I think its maybe Edwin B. Forsythe reserve. Why is almost everything here named after someone and why does everyone use their middle initial? I know why I use it (to keep my byline separate from the other Shruti Mathur in journalism, who went to school in Johns Hopkins and grew up in the Baltimore/DC area) but we also use it in our articles too.

Anyways, I hope I can share this view with some people sometime real soon!