Traveling to Mecca… sort of.

Memorial Day, 2014.  I had to work the midnight shift bringing us in to the day that celebrates my millions of brother and sister veterans and still-serving members of the greatest all-volunteer fighting force the world has ever known.  I looked at the weather report and it showed the day was going to be one for the books:  Blue sky, 72 degrees, virtually no humidity and very little wind.  This would, indeed, be a day for cycling and a day to revisit my younger years! (Click pictures for enlargements)

Cornell Avenue

Ok so one thing to mention up front here… This little cycling excursion was supposed to be about using a camera to photograph everything that was my environment as a child and young adult and create this visual masterpiece that would soon sell by the millions… for millions.  I failed one or two steps in the process and the result is this WordPress blog.  BUT, I am still proud of my time there and the greatest thing about taking horrible pictures, or not enough pictures, is that is allows me a great reason to visit someplace again… and again… and maybe one day I will get photoblogging right. : )

So yeah, a HUGE kudos to every blog and photo-narrative I have ever seen where the artist has been able to tell a beautiful story with all the right pictures along the way.  Wow that takes much more forethought than I have put into this, and it inspires me to do better! (For example:  a good narrative might have included a screen capture of the Weather app to put a visual aid to the first paragraph. Notes, notes, notes…)

Ok so cycling.  Awesome.  I took my bike on the train down to Red Bank because, you know, it is still Memorial Day and the traffic extravaganza promises to be ever-boring.  Once I arrived at the station, I was immediately impressed how easy it was to settle back into the neighborhood and how there was no question of knowing where I was going or what to do next.  I suppose I thought that after seven years away from the Shore things would be somehow different.  Not like flying cars different, but somehow noticeably different and I would be left standing there looking at the sky like a tourist.  (Why do tourists always look at the sky?)



So I did my little ritual to get saddled up.  In my mind, I feel like my ritual mirrors the one in the Oceans Twelve laser scene.  Maybe one day…  I headed out to Broad Street and then south.  Verizon still has its dominating presence as a large perfectly cubed red brick building and the Super Foodtown is still there.  Check.  Next up was Colorest. Dad told me recently that Valentine no longer works there, so in my book that pretty much means the building is there, but no soul inside.  Now it is just a store.  What was that about change?  Maybe this is it.

Colorest is a visual artist’s paradise.  For my Dad, it was for photography related items like mat board, foam core, and the related products for making beautiful framed prints.  But this store had all types of professional pens for writing, pencils for drawing, colored leads, pastels, watercolor and “real” paints, architectural drawing aids and instruments, et cetera.  And everything was seemingly professional quality with “Made in” origins like Germany, Austria, Italy (They made this, remember?).

I thought the store was cooler when it was on Shrewsbury Avenue when it was much smaller.  The place was like a super overcrowded antique shop except it was artist supplies.  They had stuff everywhere in some kind of disorganized fashion that I never really understood.  But when you found something in there, it was with much jubilation like you just found some long-lost treasure!

641 Shrewsbury Avenue

641 Shrewsbury Avenue

Circle Chevrolet.  Hyundai seems to be the big seller here now, with their logo taking center stage and Chevrolet’s only presence on the street sign.  BMW moved out years ago and relocated to a new building twice the size of this in Eatontown.  My Dad was the service manager here and he got me my first “on the books” job here in high school.  It was a good time, and I enjoyed being able to see Dad every day.  Also, a particularly strange hippie girl (before the current hipster revolution happened but definitely post-real hippie era) introduced me to the Black Eyed Peas.  Nice.  But since then the BEP became “too big to fail” and seemed to have failed nonetheless.   Shoulda kept the girl, guys…



So cycling. . .

Across the street from Circle was the Pour House.  Now I know my Dad has more memories here than me because I was not of drinking age and they were not of the sort that pours to teenagers.  But their bar food was some of the best!  That much I know!  Next door was a bank where I deposited my first quarter million dollars.

The Pour House

Formerly a bank-

The bank isn’t there anymore and it will soon be a doctor’s office.  I’m sure the interest earned off the aforementioned quarter million was enough to put all the tellers through medical school and set them up in a new building.  (Google: sarcasm)

Well the check was real but it was not made out to me.  Car dealers purchase the vehicles in advance and then sell them on their lots.  So that money was used to buy a handful of Chevys and the check was for General Motors.  Moving on.

The old Grist Mill

MJ’s? Seriously?  Well it would be wrong to judge a book by it’s cover but I think my family and I will always know this place as the Grist Mill.  It was a working mill at one point and the supporting river behind it really rages after heavy rainstorms.  It is really pretty wild to watch.  I wanted to see if they bought the rights to the infamous French onion soup, but alas, I was simultaneously trying to exercise so I decided not to partake…

Shops behind the old Grist Mill DSCF0413

The first picture above is some new stores they are building on the Grist Mill property.  Across the street Charlie’s Other Brother became Moose’s Tavern.  That’s ok I guess because I never went to the original and they went out of business anyway.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

After the tragedy on September 11th, 2001, a local artist created a masterpiece.  He built scale models of the twin towers that stood at least six feet tall.  They were absolutely marvelous, and I am sure they are still presented somewhere locally indoors because the weather did take its toll.  In place of those towers are two sections of steel from the World Trade Center.  Tinton Falls is a beautiful town and a large part of the population does commute to the city every day.  It has some decently affluent sections, so I imagine that this town felt a very personal loss after the event.

No Comment.

No Comment.

Still there.  The sign that knows all and says nothing.  I can’t imagine the conversation the workers had when they hung this thing. . .


Heading down Shafto Road!!


My preschool.  My house is on the other side of the trees in the distance.  I have maybe three distinct memories of preschool:

  • During rec time outside, I remember seeing my Mom staining the fence in our back yard.
  • The classroom had a large circle on the carpet and we would all sit on the circle facing each other.  We played duck-duck-goose.
  • The Neptune police department fingerprinted us incase we got lost or boosted a stroller.

Cornell Avenue


The intersection of Asbury Avenue and Cornell Avenue.  This stop sign has a memory attached to it:  My Dad taught me about reflection angles one night.  He told me to face the sign with a flashlight at my waist and aim it at the sign.  It lit up dimly, but definitively.  Then he told me to bring the flashlight to eye level and aim it at the sign.  Wow!  I won’t tell you the result so that you all can try this for yourself.  The angle and direction of light is a fundamental part of visual arts.  It is also why headlights are where they are and people that think they are cool by driving at night with just fog lights on are really dumb.  The latter part may just be the reason he taught me that… I don’t remember. : )

19 Cornell

19 Cornell

So this is it.  19 Cornell Avenue.  When we were there the house was beige, which I think was a far better choice.  Also we had a normal mailbox, not Fort Mailbox.  And we always parked out cars in the correct direction.  But home is home and I will always see it as I knew it, not as they camouflaged it.  The dark tree on the left was a time Japanese Maple Pink Blossoming Crabapple Tree my Mom planted when we were there.  It got huge! ; )


The BEST part of the whole day was also the most unexpected!  While I was taking a picture of the house I noticed Mr & Mrs Sorenson out cutting their lawn!  My best friend growing up was their oldest son Ben and they lived two doors down.  We used to cut through the house in the middle all the time- front yard or back- and I can now only imagine how bothered Jim used to be.  Oh well, he was a little weird anyway.  Anyway, they asked me to be gentle with the camera since they were in the middle of cutting the grass.  Great to see them!


Ok so after that meet up, I did a quick burn down to Belmar and stopped for the shot of the marina on the new Rt 35 bridge.  The old bridge used to require an opening for anything taller than a kayak, but the new flyover is quite nice!  The Belmar Marina houses party boats (NJ for group fishing vessels) as well as personal boats.  I even saw the Big Mohawk! Still there!  Dad stored his first boat here- Wave Dancer.

DSCF0435You pretty much need to click the image to see it full size to get any idea of what is going on here.  See the alien?  You didn’t click the picture, did you?  (There is no alien.)  I should have crossed the road for the shot, but I guess that is one of those “next time” items.  This shot just shows the inlet heading out to the Atlantic.  Three bridges and a railroad bridge separate the marina from the ocean.

Sea Coast Chevrolet

Sea Coast Chevrolet

This is Sea Coast Chevrolet.  At least, it was.  My Dad spent the first half of his career here in the USA at this dealership.  He wasn’t planning on staying there that long, but hey, everything turned out great for our family anyway! : )  It is now a mixed use development.

Speaking of mixed use, have you seen the recent news about the millennials returning to the city centers and away from suburbs?  I love it.  I have always been attracted to cities because they offer so much variety.  So good job here, Belmar!  People can go to the suburbs to buy a car.


I remember my Dad having some stories about this house next door to Sea Coast.  I am sure he is the only one that will have something to say about the picture.


The Macaroon Shop is on Main Street in Avon.  Ali I wasn’t planning on heading North yet but I had to take a quick detour for you anyway.  Still exercising so I didn’t go in.  But I thought you’d like to know they are still there.  For everyone else: awesome bakery.

Looking towards Belmar from Spring Lake

Looking towards Belmar from Spring Lake

This is the southern point of my ride.  These are the gates separating Spring Lake and Belmar.  Spring Lake is fancy old-money beach town.  There is a sad mark of history about these columns:  They used to have gates and a sign saying “No blacks.”  I don’t have the right words for my feeling about this part of American history, so I’ll use a quote from my grandfather who lived through it all, even the depression.  “The only good thing about the so-called ‘Good ol’ Days’ is that they are GONE!”  -Maj. Wilson H. LaForest, USA Ret. ; )

The gates are gone, the beaches are open, and anybody left alive that enjoyed that era now find themselves as the ones hiding behind closed doors and shuttered windows.  The rest of us are taking in the sun!

DSCF0447 DSCF0446

The Ocean Avenue bridge raised for boat traffic.  Here is a shot of the actual inlet from the Atlantic Ocean.  I always liked the jetty on the left better- it was in Avon where Mrs Sorenson took us to the beach growing up.  The sand was better, the jetty was better because it did not have all the pebbled concrete mixed in.  The one I am at now is the northern tip of Belmar.  This section is pretty much reserved for fishing, so you don’t see too much beach activity.


Lastly we have this shot of Asbury Park.  The building that seems to be under construction is actually in demolition!  Ocean Avenue in Asbury used to be three or four lanes wide in one direction.  The moron that allowed this contraction to be built actually allowed them to encroach into two of those lanes, so there was this choke point right in the middle of Ocean Avenue.  Then the builder went bankrupt and everything just remained as it was: 4-5 story tall shell.  Now they are taking it down and they have Ocean Avenue setup as a two way street with ample parking.  This is good because Asbury Park seems to have survived the apocalypse and people are coming back to visit.  For my entire childhood, this town was the worst kind of news.  But before that, it was the pearl of the shore.  The big building on the right in the distance is the Paramount Theatre.  Bruce Springstein has played there.  It is an awesome palace that straddles the boardwalk.  Really neat.

And that’s it for now!

Oh by the way- I tagged Fuji in this post because I took these with my XT-1, which, is a fantastic camera!  Highly recommended! So there is the requisite review.  ; )




7 thoughts on “Traveling to Mecca… sort of.

  1. THANKS for taking me on a trip back to your childhood and seeing all the wonderful places you experienced . I am SO glad that my sister and I were able to visit your wonderful Grandfather and Parents in their New Jersey homes… looks like it was a “wonderful life”
    Barbara Brochu


  2. Fort Mailbox….that was awesome! Is there a headless body hanging from the one tree? And a cardboard box nailed to the other. Boooo… hahaha. Great pictures, I had no idea SeaCoast was gone! Without dad what were they to do though right? 😉


    1. There is a tire swing on the tree. That seemed a little out of place but I guess that’s what they wanted… Yeah when Dad left Sea Coast I’m sure they imploded. : )


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