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Beyond Exit Zero: Cape May Photos

From the porch at Poor Richard's on Jackson Street, one block from the beach. The breezes that day were amazing, and welcome, due to the scorching temperatures. The next day, breezes were absent, and the day was a tad hellacious.

Cape May is a treasure trove of Victorian-era architecture, block after block. Lots of architectural 'eye-candy'. Across the street from us were the 'Seven Sisters', all built in same style and at same time.

Parking can be an issue, but it's not impossible to just park right on the sidewalk, and access the beach. Beach badges are required during peak hours. These two young ladies are availing themselves of the showers that are found at several points, to wash off sand. Lots of benches, as can be seen here. See and be seen, part of the stroller ethos.

Beach Street runs along the ... guess what? Behind us is the Cape May Lighthouse and Concrete Ship, along with several protected areas for nesting birds.

Closeup of a kite; the windy conditions and empty expanses of beach at day's end are perfect for this pasttime.

The margin between boardwalk and beach is a dunes area with a lot of plant life. People are not allowed on that fragile turf, but the photographer visits that terrain with a light touch:

There is a thriving business subculture relating to beach umbrella rental, and these things, whatever they're called:

For those who know Cape May, Trisha's has moved into town; this space on the left is chopped up. Lots of businesses come and go, and Cape May is no exception. This is around 7 PM, and you can see the beach is largely empty.

We strolled the boardwalk, and I got these shots in before we headed to dinner at one of our favorite spots.

The next morning, we were out and about by 7 AM. No beach badges are needed before 10 and after 5, but we would have gotten out early anyway, as morning walks on the beach, coffee in hand, are a treasured habit.

WHAT EXIT? While the phrase sounds as if it could have come from the classic Abbott and Costello routine "Who's on First?"1, the name for this section comes from the old Joe Piscopo joke based on the supposed crossing of his path with that of a fellow Garden Stater on the ferry from Delaware. According to Joe, she saw his Jersey license plates, and called out "You from Jersey? I'm from Jersey. What exit?" in a reference to our beloved (I guess) Garden State Parkway (GSP).

As a New Jersey native and person of Polish extraction, I've been serving life-long double duty for the nation on the comedy front, as a representative of a state and of a nationality that have been the butt of jokes for a long time.

The ethnic jokes are usually cookie-cutter slams that have been trotted out of that tiresome kit and applied to yet another nationality, so this is no big deal. The jokes are typically disparaging, but if you 'own' it, maybe it's not so bad to say it, so here's one example, without picking on any particular ethnic group:

"It seems a (pick your ethnic group) guy had an emergency recently because he had locked his keys in his car. A police officer arrived, and used a tool inserted into the window to open the door. It's a good thing too. It was a very hot day, and his poor family had been trapped inside there for hours."  Yuck, yuck.

On the state-of-birth side of the story, Jersey has been in the comedy spotlight for a long time, due to its proximity to New York City, with its media, entertainment and other cultural clout. It was easier to get a laugh about supposed provincialism in a town known to the audience than to reach for a parallel example from elsewhere, so cities in Jersey (and New York areas like the Bronx and Brooklyn, to be fair) got that dubious distinction. Toss in the fact that a lot of Jersey names seem to fit the rhythm of some jokes, like 'Hoboken', or 'Ho Ho Kus', or 'Hackensack', which are just a few of the musical names left behind by the Lenni Lenape / Delaware people, in addition to Manasquan, Matawan, Manalapan, Parsippany, Whippany, and others. On the Polish side of the story, the Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa, and the Polish Pope did a LOT to end the Cold War, in my mind, my generation's existential challenge, so there is ample reason for pride there, in my humble opinion.

Because of the provenance of both the 'Joisey' and 'Polack' families of jokes, I am not offended by them in the least. It's nice to get noticed, as the formerly shy high school student that I am will attest. So I therefore say to all and sundry who have gotten a laugh out of poking fun at 'my people': YOU ARE WELCOME. Hope it cheered your day. Since I love my heritage and my home state, I gladly accept my fate. (Actually, I'm kind of glad that New Jersey has an image problem--- it probably discourages people from moving here, and there are ENOUGH 2 people living here.)

New Jersey is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the US, due to its location to the main point of debarkation for immigrants during the 19th century, and the story continues to this day. Why, in the Edison area (central Jersey), there are about EIGHT different Indian sari stores within a two-mile stretch! Newark has its large Portuguese section, there are Italians, Chinese, Germans, Irish, Caribbeans, Africans, Latinos from all areas (Ecuador, Argentina, you name it). Thanks to a large Orthodox Jewish community, the Livingston area has extensive sidewalks, so the faithful can walk to their services, use of vehicles and other machinery being proscribed on the Holy Day. And on and on, ad infinitum, the American story writ large, writ small.

1Abbott and Costello were both Jersey boys; that wise-cracking metier was native to this region, so it fit well with Bud's patter. I remember hearing an old radio broadcast from the WWII era of this famous routine, which I had heard many times before. For those not familiar with the routine, forgive me for not going into it, so this next commentary may be lost on you, but anyway:

At the end of the routine, Costello becomes so exasperated that he says "I don't give a damn", to which Abbott replies cheerily, "Oh, that's our shortstop". Again, for me at least (and I suppose for others, given the routine's popularity), this was a 'boffo' finish to the routine, as it wrapped up the interplay nicely. I mention this because in the version I recently heard, intended for the troops, Costello is sensored from using 'Damn', I can only suppose, because that's not in the classic routine. Even in the depths of the slaughter of that world-wide war, some functionary, family name Milquetoast I assume, says "we can't have that". (Actually, the tightass probably didn't indulge in contractions, so he said "we cannot have that").

Costello says weakly in the sanitized version 'I don't care', to which Abbott gives his shortstop response, but for me it had no bite, and left an odd aftertaste. "I don't give a damn" was a better beat, the safe version sounded too short. (Again, I'd been sensitized to and spoiled by the 'good' version.)

2Actually, if you have never heard of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, you would be shocked to hear that even in the midst (literally) of this most densely populated state, there is a region of white sand, tall pine and uninhabited splendor. One night I was 'down the shore', as we say in NJ, and coming back late at night to Trenton, which caused me to drive through the Pine Barrens. There was no light source anywhere at one point in my trip, so I could pull over and could see the night sky in an unusually detailed way, compared to most parts of the state. This, with a gentle pine-scented breeze. A lovely interlude in an otherwise hectic 'modern' life.

3I read recently that the supposed squalor of the camp at Valley Forge was exaggerated. Granted, the 'Sunshine Soldier' and 'Summer Patriot' that Thomas Paine wrote about so eloquently in talking about the crisis would not have lived in those quarters, but at least some of the cabins were cozy and well constructed.

4Ifill had been the target of similar insult from Don Imus in the past, who called her the cleaning lady who covered the White House or something to that effect; not worth my time to look up the actual insult. As the story broke and was resolved by his firing, Ifill joined David Brooks and others on Meet the Press this year. In a masterful few minutes, she called out the too-easy relationship between Imus and several of the correspondents on that very panel, including host Tim Russert. To its credit, the Imus act also had a healthy and useful component of political content and commentary, interviewing many politicians. Imus was popular partly because he was good at using his market clout to help people sell their latest book. This is not to excuse his language though, which is, I believe, largely if not entirely driven by the profit motive and market share (and yes, mind share, for good or ill; the human 'bandwidth' can only simultaneously accommodate so many concepts and themes, so let's keep the crap outta there; whaddaya say, pal?)

5One author with an insider's view of history is Al Gore relative Gore Vidal, whose novel 'Burr' is rich in detail and character; did you know that at one point in his career, Burr wanted to start his own personal empire in the West? Also, check out his account of a disputed election in 1876, the Hayes/Tilden tiff, a negotiated outcome which traded Southern votes for the gutting of Reconstruction, necessitating a 'second Reconstruction' in the 1960's, as most of us remember. The 2000 election was not the first controversial election, and our country has survived, based on a large ballast of good will, non-partisanship, and frankly unattentive inertia.