Road Trip… it’s a term that encompasses many interpretations depending on who is doing the interpretation. In this case however, it was a trip up to New Jersey to meet with friends from childhood while also conducting a business trip – truly a case of business mixed with pleasure. On the business side, a friend of mine whom I have known from the 5th grade onwards, asked for my consideration in forming a partnership around my favorite way of trying to earn a living – photography. Sounds good, when and where? As the details emerged, several other ‘thoughts’ occurred – namely how to make a couple of people quite happy. Suffice it to say, 5 days on the road was well worth it.
My rural little township – yep – that’s REAL country when you live in a Township. Not a ‘burb’ or a ‘burg’ but a Township – seriously mean’t you were out in the sticks. Well those sticks are now populated with “McMansions” and more than a few increases in retirement villages. Where horse farms and agricultural farms were common, with road-side stands selling straight from the field without 45 various types of USDA mandated whatchawantwithmylifenow’ inspections, places like Clare’s Market (which is now a Wawa) are gone, while miles of unending fields are now warehouses and distribution centers. Strange thing is, the roads have only marginally improved with the density and type of traffic. Curves are wider due to the presence of tractor-trailers constantly rumbling to the various highways and byways that make up the area, located dead-center between New York and Philadelphia. Traffic lights appear where at best, a courtesy stop sign was once posted, just to keep the folks at NJDOT somewhat gainfully employed. Strangest sights I did see were where the old police station was located – once an old house, is now a really old house with trees growing through it. The other was the land reclamation going on. Where Saturday mornings in my youth were spent with my father, hauling stuff to the township dump – not a landfill, but a DUMP, is now peppered with McMansions and their manicured lawns. They look quite pretty sitting there, but I have to wonder about what was done to what is or (hopefully) was under them. Trust me, back in the 60s and 70s, you couldn’t spell EPA. Recycling was a term yet to be coined, let alone applied. Today of course, even tiny Helmetta has had a recycling center in place for many years. Alongside of all of this ecological befuddlement, some things remain pretty much the same. I popped into Mendoker’s Bakery in Jamesburg for an oatmeal cookie for breakfast – trust me – they’re excellent, along with anything else from Mendoker’s http://www.mendokersbakery.com/ . The cashier gave me a quizzical look of semi-recognition, I said my name, to which she responded with a chuckle that she was the wife of another classmate of mine. The kids of the owner/founder of Mendoker’s are also classmates. Same with most everyone else who is from this area. Trust me - small town knowledge still exists in Central New Jersey. Thankfully, Starbucks® hasn’t quite infiltrated the area. Surrounds it, yes, but there’s nary a one to be found within 10 miles. Dunkin’ Donuts® however, is now occupying a small mall with a Subway’s® for its neighbor in the spot where Perrine’s Pontiac Dealer had been located from the beginning. You want the Golden Arches? Gotta’ go to East Brunswick or Freehold for the nearest. Ditto with Burger King®, KFC®, and anything else of the major fast-food chain persuasion. Dominos®, Subway®, 7Eleven®, and Dunkin’ Donuts® are it in downtown Jamesburg. But, you want a for-real no kidding Jersey staple known as a diner? The ones that have been there since I was a kid are still there for the most part. You want Snapple® and home-fries with that? Sure thing. And don’t forget the scrapple™. Don’t ask… truth is, I never cared for the stuff (whatever it’s concoction and lineage really is) either. Somehow, cross-breeding less than normally used parts from pigs, turkeys and cows into a mixed creation as a breakfast food item isn’t exactly something I wish to pursue for in-depth knowledge any further than a cursory glance at Wikipedia for verification. Perhaps it might explain a little bit about the way things are on the Eastern Shore … I’ll be nice at this point and not question their chosen form of dietary sustinance as such, because they have a major summer festival centered around Scrapple™ which does provide the area with a sizeable income from unsuspecting tourists... whom I would advise to take stock in Tums® or Rolaids® to counter the after-effects of this roadside charm. The Dairy Queen® I stopped at for lunch in Delaware was great. Two guys yapping about cars, two moms with a bunch of kids waiting for a third to join them, were about it for patronage at this place. Real hamburgers cooked to order, that didn't have free-range anything as a part of their pedigree... yep, my kinda’ stuff. What would make for boring television when compared to some of the shows that we see along the same lines, just doesn't translate quite as well as the high intensity in your face stuff found on The Food Network®, just calm laid-back this is how we are, deal with it, if you please.... or not. Otherwise, the door is located to your military right... have a nice day.
Visiting my hometown’s brand-new high school put a whole new spin on ‘small-town syndrome’. The new school is sooooo high-tech that most community colleges would do well to take notes on what they have. These guys have a full-blown television broadcast studio with equipment that is bleeding-edge. Of course, I zeroed-in on the photography department (yeah, as if you didn’t see that one coming). They have stuff that made me feel positively ancient. Thanks to an extended tour from my photography teacher (who is retiring from there next year, if they’ll let him), what would have been called the 50-cent tour was more like the $50.00 version. Wow!! I don’t think they earn mere high school diplomas from here, more like an advanced associates degree. They get an iPad® - and the top-end one at that, issued to them at the start of the school year. Like I said, this place exudes bleeding-edge technology used to give children an exceptionally rich resource-filled foundation in their high school years. I hope they will appreciate the opportunity being given to them by their parents and a very generous community.
Due to space and time considerations, this trip will be concluded in next week’s edition. Next: NYC as seen from Hoboken.
I'll part with the thought of "Gee... I'm hearing a Bruce Springsteen song rumbling through my mind... "My Hometown" from his "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album.