What a week! Right up front, I must admit it’s been hard to concentrate on work with the world crumbling around me. By extension that means it’s been a challenge to write this blog post. I live in Northern New Jersey, and Hurricane Sandy has left a devastating path of destruction all around me. (I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think of Olivia Newton John—Sandy in Grease—every time someone talks about Sandy. What a ridiculous name for a hurricane.) My family was relatively lucky. My folks lost heat and electricity, but for some reason still have hot water. I lost heat, electricity, and hot water, but my condo complex has a generator that keeps the heat on for part of each day. My brother came through amazingly unscathed. I’m wondering what he did to deserve that. Perhaps it’s because he’s a vegetarian.
Thanks to my L.L. Bean Mini Solar Emergency Radio, I’ve kept up with reports of the heartbreaking tragedy that this storm has brought to folks on the Jersey shore, in lower Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and so many other places. But it wasn’t till I used my guest privileges at a gym an hour away (in search of a place to work out, but also to get a hot shower and use a hair dryer!) that I actually saw footage of the damage. Seeing so many familiar places flooded or broken apart is sobering. A map of the Jersey shore—my Jersey shore, not the ridiculous version that gave name to the TV show I refuse to watch—could be overlaid with a timeline of my youth. That family trip to Ventnor and Atlantic City when I was five; the weekend at the Long Beach Island home of my friend from camp when I was 16; the overnight trip to Seaside Heights after my high school senior prom; the drive to Asbury Park at the beginning of a college romance.
When I took a photography course in New York City after 9-11, I fulfilled our landscape photography assignment by driving down to Asbury Park to take pictures of the decaying boardwalk. I returned toward the end of my class to restage photographs captured on postcards from the early 20th century. It was somehow comforting to revisit the boardwalk, despite the sad condition of the once glorious casino, which was designed by the same architects who created Grand Central Station. That was 10 years ago, and I haven’t been there since. But I recall hearing that a refurbishment had taken place. This week, Asbury Park took quite a hit, along with Atlantic City and many other shoreline communities.
I dug through my collection of archival postcards to bring you some views of better days—way before my youthful adventures—from the Jersey shore. Let’s hope there will be more “colorful beach scenes” in the not-too-distant future.
To send aid to those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief page. And a shout-out to Staples in Englewood, NJ, for scanning the postcards and letting me borrow their WiFi for a little while.