Growing up in central New Jersey meant spending summer tracing the shoreline. We went to Point Pleasant, mostly, because it was for families. We usually left before it got too dark, when the mood changed. When I was a teen, driving down the parkway at perilous speeds, I began to see the shore as a mix of romance and threat. A het threat, I realize now: men ready to fight if someone flirted with their girl, women ready to scratch out each other’s eyes for the same reason, bodies bronzed and waxed to attract one another. You’ve heard of the reality show, I don’t need to go into it.
So the shore was for families, or for the rituals that lead to families, even if for a time, they sought out fun with the determination of a cannonball.
I didn’t grow up going to Asbury Park, even though it was the nearest shore town to me, but I grew up hearing about it from my parents who spent the 70’s in clubs there. My vague understanding was that it used to be beautiful but it had been down on its luck for years. I’ve been hearing about it more these past few years, but not so much from people in Jersey as people in New York. Like Coney Island and the Rockaways, Asbury Park has been redeveloped to attract city folks drawn to run-down, gritty glamour. And as with Coney Island and the Rockaways, to get an understanding of the town, we need to think beyond the daytrippers and their golden hour ‘grams.