Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Jersey Shore.

It's been 5 days since Hurricane Sandy came and devastated the Jersey Shore. I've been stuck up in Philly, starting a new rotation, and it has been an emotional and stressful week to say the least. While my family and friends are all safe and sound, the devastation around our town is so hard to put into words. I have been feeling so uneasy to only be able to watch on tv the things going on in Toms River and NJ. I want to be able to help, I want to give back and support the town that has given so much to me. I was just back home for an entire month, and wish more than ever my rotation was down there now. One of my best friends Katie wrote a post and really was so well-spoken in conveying our emotions right now, so I'm re-posting it here:

"The other night I felt like I had so much on my mind.  I picked up my laptop for the first time since we lost power and started to write.  This is what it ended up being.

Where do I begin?

It's 10:50pm on Thursday November, 1 2012.  I am sitting in the dark in my childhood bedroom in a house that is 58 degrees because we have been without power and, therefore, heat since Monday at 1:00pm.  In most situations this would be cause for complaint, but tonight, I consider myself lucky to have a bed to sleep in as less than two blocks away my old high school is housing hundreds of displaced neighbors from the barrier island.

Attempting to understand and process my feelings over the last few days has not been an easy process.  I have laughed and shaken my head at the absurdity of it all and then broken down in tears the very next second as the harsh reality that my childhood, teenage, and young adult home will never exist as it once did.

I have not been able to turn on the news to fully grasp the national response to this tragedy.  I've been living of Facebook on my iPhone.  However, from what I can tell the country has been immediate to respond and all of us here are beyond grateful for the outpouring of support and love from across the US.

And yet, I have also been extremely disturbed by comments saying that Sandy was "God's way of punishing fist-pumpers" and other cruel jokes about New Jersey.  But, then I realized that The Sopranos, The Jersey Shore, and The Real Houswives of New Jersey have formed New Jersey's reputation.  How could people ever truly understand the reality of living at the beach and in this state when we are consistently portrayed as gangsters and guidos?

That's far from what we are.

I was born and raised in Toms River, NJ- one of the communities that was hit hardest by Sandy.  It takes me 7 minutes to get to the beach.  This is my home.  I moved to New Brunswick while I was at Rutgers.  I lived in Manhattan for a time after that and now I have an apartment in North Jersey.  Yet, the moment I get off the parkway at exit 82, I breathe a sigh of relief to be back.  It is the only place I have ever felt truly comfortable and you need to know what it's really like in order to understand how much we've truly lost.

Lavalette is the place I go whenever I need jewelry for a party.  My Sister's Jewelry Box and its "sister" store My Sister's Favorite Things always come through for a special event or a birthday gift.  Bond Ave is where my fiances family goes to the beach, and where we have gone to enjoy it with them the last few years.  The Music Man Singing Ice Cream Shoppe employed me for three years back in High School.  From them I learned responsibility and what it meant to be a part of a community.  Sadly, I am not sure of the status of any of those places as I write this.

Ortley is where I spent my childhood.  It's where my Mom took my sisters and me every day in the summer.  It's where I made sandcastles and ran from jellyfish.  It's where I got sunburned and got sand so far in my bathing suit that it would never come out.  It's where I took Jr. Lifeguarding with Pete Bush, and learned to handle a riptide.  It's where I was first given the freedom to hang out with my friends without parental supervision (because they were really only a few towels away).  It's where I went to play kickball at night in high school with my friends when our parents probably thought we were actually running off to drink and party.  But, playing kickball on 3rd Ave under the lights was actually way more fun.  It's where I would pound my steering wheel when I couldn't find parking and would eventually end up at Barnacle Bills or, even worse, on the other side of 35 North.  It's where I would walk to Bakin' Bagels for lunch and I'd do it barefoot because I thought it was cool.  It's where I first spend nights holding hands and walking under the starts with my now-fiance as we fell in love the summer before we left for college.  Ortley is where I grew from a little girl into a teenager.

Seaside Heights is where I found entertainment.  It's where my parents lined up on Easter to buy 50% off tickets to Casino Pier and Water Works.  It's where I played the Frog Bog with everything I had in order to win a "Choice" prize.  It's where I went for the clown festival, Easter Brigade, and St. Patrick's Day Parade.  It's where I went on my first roller coast, which is now buried in the ocean.  As I got older, it's where I went for drinks with friends.  It's where I spent nights at Sawmill during "holla for a dolla" or Beach Bar with my friends and the rest of my graduating class.  It's where I hung out at a grown up Chuck e' Cheese called Hooks, that would provide me with some of the fondest memories of my 20s.  It's also the place I would complain about having to "drive all the way over the bridge" to go out.  In hindsight, I never should have complained.  It's also where I worked at Luna Rosa for 5+ years and had some of the best summers of my life, making life long friendships.  And it's there where the owners took me back in with open arms when I came back from New York, unemployed, in the winter after my lung collapsed.  The compassion Carmine and Stephanie showed me that year, when I had no sense of normalcy or hope, is something I will always be grateful for.

Seaside Park became my sanctuary.  It's the beach I left Ortley for when I started wanting serenity with my friends over the crowds of the whole town.  F Street became the place I went whenever I needed time.  Time with my friends- body surfing, laughing, and sharing stories.  Time by myself to sit, read, and bask in the sun.  Time I needed to clear my head when I was stressed or confused- regardless of the season.  It is the place Kenny and I went the weekend we got engaged when we needed some time to ourselves after being overwhelmed by the love from our families and friends.  Seaside Park is the place I go to gain clarity about my feelings and emotions.  It's my, and so many others', safe haven.

But where do you go when your place to decompress is gone?  When the place that the majority of your memories are tied to no longer exists?  When you're sitting a few miles from it and know that you will never see it again as it was?

For those who believe this place was made of fistpumpers and guidos- you are wrong.  It's plain and simple.  The Jersey Shore is far beyond what anyone could ever show on television.  And the loss of it is even greater.

Thankfully, the people are what make a community.  The sand and the sea will look different.  The boardwalk will have new stands and rides.  The dunes will be rebuilt.  The homes will be redone. But us?  The people who call it home?  We'll still be here.  We'll build it up with the memories that make us who we are.  Creating new memories that will shape who we're becoming.  And we'll hold onto the memories of our past as we enjoy the new ones that will be our future.


...Down the shore... everything's all right.


Taken this September from F Street. <3"

Every word of this is true; this is where we have grown up, fell in love, had first dates, first jobs, late nights on the beach, wild drinking nights when we were 21, where comfort and familiarity remains as we grow into adults and find out place in the world. The beach is our sanctuary and one of my most favorite places in the world. This is where, now in our mid-20's, we dream of living permanently near again, down the street from our best friends, but this time with our own houses and kids of our own. I know things will be rebuilt, but things will never be the same. For those who lost their houses our loved ones I can't even imagine, because I already have such a strong sense of loss over this place. I feel like I'm mourning for a place that harbored so many happy memories for me growing up that may never be the same.

It seems silly to ever worry about wedding planning details again. I laughed the other day because the gazebo we wanted to get married in is totally gone, everything around it flooded and destroyed. It's really not that funny, but sometimes you just have to laugh. Really, I just want to be married to my best friend. Because when it comes down to it, being with the ones you love and making wonderful memories is all that we really have, and all that really matters.