Making Chanages

[Originally written 1.23.06]

No matter what particular subject may be giving me the “winter blues”, there is something that comes along to give me just a little bit of hope.

Let’s take a short trip back in time.  The other afternoon, I decided to go out for a nice refreshing walk along the D&R, as fresh air coupled with exercise seems to clear my head of unwanted noise and focus my thoughts into a cohesive plan.  It also happens to be a nice place for me to have a smoke without anyone bothering me.  Instead of being bombarded by too much stress and anxiety, suddenly your ears are being tuned to the chirps and warbles of the birds fluttering through trees devoid of their leaves, the subtle breeze rattling branches and leaving a slight chill on your skin.  Hours passed by yet I didn’t feel them being wasted, and as I was making the return trip to where I had parked, everything seemed to straighten itself out.

Today, and for the rest of the week, I have a number of things to take care of in order to tie up all the loose ends, so to speak.  Friday I am checking out a room that is available for immediate occupancy – the price is right, and from the way things sound, it is very spacious.  According to the ad there is also some furniture included and plenty of extras that make it seem too good to be true.  There will need to be a discussion regarding how financially possible it would be to obtain this room, which brings me back to the beginning of this post.  While I may not exactly want to move to Philly, things happen for a reason and this feels like the opportunity to make a change in my life that is greatly needed.  Realizing this means moving into an area where everything will be new, but that is a huge part of the reason I am not hesitant about relocating from the place I have called home for my entire life.

Ah yes, I knew there was something that kept telling me it would be a good idea to get away not only from this area but the state in general.  Though I have been enjoying the company of someone who means the world to me, I also see what sort of price that comes with and for the first time in our sordid friendship, I understand what he was trying to protect me from for all these years.  However, I’m not a kid any more or some gullible teen that can be easily bullied, though I am at an age where I won’t tolerate threats against me or my family.

[Originally written 1.24.06]

It appears I am now going down to Philly in just a few hours to check out the room and talk with the home owners, as they want to make sure I’m a good person, can take care of things and pay my rent on time.  My Financial Advisor is aware of the situation, and funds are in fact available upon needing them.  If all goes well, I should be able to re-locate within the next week and though I am restraining from expressing too much excitement, I will say that I am so fucking ready to move on.

My mind is filled with many things, such as what I am going to do when I actually settle into Philly so that I can sustain living there and all.  Having just been to South Street with my best friend, it’s difficult not to entertain fantasies of having nights like that on a regular basis.  No one would know us there and in certain environments we would barely stand out, which I think I would prefer over being treated like a fucking zoo exhibit.  We could always escape to the Shore or the Pines when we wanted as both are a just a drive away, and there seem to be plenty of things to do in this so-called City of Brotherly Love that I am sure we could enjoy doing together.

See, there it is, lovesick wishful thinking that will get me caught up in intense emotions when I should be concerned with taking care of boring responsibilities so that I can make the transition from one state to another.  After all the years we have known one another, I don’t want to feel guilty about such expressions either, since I spent a significant amount of time dealing with other people’s issues with my relationship.  Which is pretty ridiculous since I don’t see the problem with forming a long-term friendship with someone.  We have survived through some very dark moments and I never find myself doubting that he is always going to be there for me, a huge sense of comfort I don’t find anywhere else.

[Originally written 1.25.06]

Who says you can’t leave Jersey?  Oh, having been here my whole life, quite frankly I never thought I would be making plans to do just that.

Driving down to Philly yesterday to meet with the people that own the house went really well, as they are pretty decent and seemed happy to have me there.  The room is incredibly spacious and I was told that I could paint it if desired; I can also decorate it anyway that I want.  Over the next few days I am going to be packing my stuff and squeeze as much of it into my car as possible to haul down on Friday.  The rest can be brought down later on I suppose since I don’t know anyone that would want to help me move, but I was assured no harm would come to it in the meantime.

The location is great as it is within walking distance to a train, which will save me a lot on gas for when I want to travel into Center City, and it also apparently can take me to the art museum, the zoo, the Mutter Museum [which I’ve wanted to check out for ages now] and Eastern State Penitentiary, which is a really old prison that you can walk through.  Suffice to say there are going to be plenty of activities to look forward to, and I know just the partner in crime that will enjoy doing them with me.

There are too many things I am going to miss about New Jersey, but as harsh as it sounds my family and most importantly my own safety is more important than fond memories.  This is the best thing for me, and perhaps some day I will be able to return – I really doubt my presence is going to be missed and I am actually excited for a change of scenery.

Did not  sleep all that well last night, and I am only awake now due to writing a letter to my best friend about how glad I am to be moving.  Figured it was best to get that out to him while I could since I am going to be without internet for a while, but that is why I have a cell phone even if he’s not a fan of using it to communicate.

Now I am just rambling and need to get stuff done instead.

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We Only Came For the Beer

[Originally written on 1.12.06]

My days of hitting clubs and supporting the local scene sort of faded due to lack of interest in the grand variety of shit that was being churned out.  It seemed like any snot-nosed brat that had mommy and daddy drop some cash on expensive instruments and equipment suddenly had a band, and more often than not, they lacked any sort of talent.  Being out of the loop due to traveling and the fact that my focus was on sideshow, I had to admit that I didn’t even know what was happening with the music scene.  Outside of a few home-grown bands I had the pleasure of seeing a few years ago, I was slowly becoming convinced that it had crashed and burned and died a fiery spectacular death.

However, thanks in part to the internet, my faith that New Jersey can still produce great tunes was somewhat renewed.  Losing touch with what used to be a regular thing feels weird, as if I didn’t have enough issues with alienation and social anxiety.  Then again, it’s different now since when I find a show I would like to attend, I have someone I can invite along.  Anyway, I was browsing some message boards to see what was happening at the venues I used to haunt, which led to the discovery of a band called Turnpike Wrecks.  Listening to the tunes they had on their MySpace page, it only took a few seconds for me to get into them.  When I saw the bulletin posted a few days ago about their one-year anniversary up at Connections, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to check them out live.

While I was nervous about asking Jon if he wanted to go with me, I had faith he would put effort into being a supportive partner.  However, I was still too chicken to verbally pose the question, so I sent him an e-mail instead and had a positive reply within a few days.

This morning I was in grand spirits and went out for a two-hour walk before going about my usual routine of getting ready.  A certain someone was certainly stalking my actions, no doubt curious about what I was doing even though surely they had their own friends to hang out with or whatever.  Since I am doing my best to avoid any conflict, I drove to a nearby park and met Jon there.

The ride up was an interesting one, as a storm had rolled in, but I felt safe in the Mercury as we chatted and smoked a joint.  The sky had a strange red tint to it, there was a light mist that crept across the highway, and I was treated to a front-row seat for the lightning that lit up the night.  We stopped somewhere along the way on account he needed to gas up the beast, but that just gave us a few minutes to catch up on kissing and inappropriate public groping.  He smelled so good I could have drowned myself in the scent that came off his tattooed skin, but his suggestion of finding a dark spot in the parking lot was turned down on account we still had an hour or so of driving ahead.

However, the trip took longer than that due to the fact I haven’t been up there in quite some time, so it took me a minute to remember which exit to take and all.  Apologizing for the poor navigation, Jon laughed and said it was just all part of the adventure, his hand squeezing mind for reassurance.  We did manage to find the venue, though likely had missed a band or two in the process of getting sidetracked a couple of more times prior to doing so.

Sitting in the back of the Mercury, we traded a bottle of rum between us and drank the whole thing between more kisses.

“You know I have a hard time resisting you,” he said, hands exploring places usually concealed by clothes.

“The feeling is mutual,” I teased, rubbing my fingers across his cropped hair, trailing them down to dangerous territory.

Half an hour later we strolled into Connections just in time to hear Broken Heroes being introduced as they began their set.  Surely we were glowing at that point [for a number of reasons], which caused us to dance around to some tunes despite the fact everyone else was just standing around.  As the band was heading off stage, this girl comes up to me and calls me by name.  Intoxicated, I didn’t realize who she was until she introduced herself as Jess.  We went to the same cosmetology school and I used to go to her to have my hair cut, but I hadn’t seen her in quite some time since moving further south and all.  Jon was quite the gentleman and engaged in polite conversation, the three of us chatting while people milled around.

Then it was on to the main even of Turnpike Wrecks, which really got the crowd close to the stage cheering them on.  Though I’m not usually easily impressed by bands, these guys had something that kept our feet tapping, and plenty of stage humor without being stupid.  Someone could not resist sweeping me up into a few more dances, which encouraged other couples to follow suit.  Well, I can say I don’t think I have ever seen people swing dance to oi before, so that was a first.

After the set, I went to say good-bye to Jess who was with a friend of hers, so the four us wind up talking longer than expected.  Next thing I know, I’m shaking hands with Pete, who is the lead vocalist of Turnpike Wrecks.  It didn’t occur to me at the time on account I was so caught up in actually being social and having a great time with Jon, but I felt it was worth noting that he is a skinhead, and not the asshole self-righteous white power type that seems to be rampant in this state.  Just goes to show that carnies can get along with people from any subculture, so it was nice to have that experience.  He invited us to come up and check out his Thursday DJ night, then said his good-byes and was off to chat with some other people he knew.

Our drive back felt quite short, and it didn’t take long for the outfits we had spent hours assembling to wind up piled on the floor together.  Spending the night with him is certainly something that I can get used to, but I am so afraid that once I do, everything will get fucked up somehow.  When I am in his arms though, I can only think about how happy I am and that I never want the feeling to stop.

A Shore Thing

[Originally written on 1.6.06]

The other morning I was sitting on the bed, contemplating what I would do to be productive for the day when my phone beeped, indicating I had a message.  Not knowing who would have been trying to call me at such an early hour, I almost completely ignored the noise.  Curiosity got the best of me, however, and upon punching in my pass code, I am pleased to hear Jon’s voice simply instructing me to come to the Shore as soon as I could.

Fighting off that giddy school-girl feeling, I packed something to eat, hopped in the shower, dressed, and headed down the Parkway.  After the amazing time we had on my birthday, I wasn’t expecting to hear from him at all, worried that the emotions were too much for him and that he would retreat into old habits.  It seemed that he was serious about making changes, and I could hear the restrained excitement in that digital message, or maybe I was hoping he had the same bubbling excitement in his belly that I did.

The time spent driving on the highway seemed to just melt away, and soon the sparkling ocean was within my sights, the late morning incredibly clear with the sun warming my face.  As soon as I stepped out of the car Jon was waiting there, his arms wrapping around my waist as he pulled me in for a tender kiss.  Our Hollywood Moment has vastly improved, though I still got that big, long, I-missed-you-like-all-fuck hug.  We go inside for a moment so I can put my things up, his demeanor quite attentive and affectionate, which is something I had apparently been needing more than I realized.  He asked me if was hungry or anything, and I may have lied slightly stating I ate before I came down.  Technically I had a granola bar and some water, so it wasn’t entirely untrue.  For some reason I didn’t want him to know I hadn’t been eating well or that my diet for the past few weeks mainly consisted of alcohol.

Jon then suggested we go out for a walk, and after a half hour of roaming through the quiet neighborhoods, he takes me into an Army & Navy store.  Surprised it’s even open, we browse the merchandise for a few minutes, and then he says that  I can have anything I wanted, his treat.  Though I tried to protest, stating that it was weird to spend his money, he insisted it was an innocent gesture.  Being conditioned by exes who made me feel like shit when they willingly bought me things I didn’t ask for, I have a tendency to turn down polite offers.  This was not one of those situations, and it was at that moment I realized what was happening.  Unable to resist a goofy smile, I wandered around the store and discovered a lovely black leather bag I can use for a purse, so I won’t be paranoid about things falling out of it.  He returned the smile and held my hand while we stood at the register; I swear my face was red from blushing so much.

Departing the store, Jon asks me if I am up for a walk on the beach.  Even though it was rather chilly, what with the winter wind coming in from the ocean and all, I happily accepted the invitation.  How long had it been since our feet had touched sand together, arms linked as hands warmed one another, nothing but the rhythm of the ocean for miles and miles on end.  Every second of those days became meaningless, as we were together at that exact moment of time and I had every intention of focusing all of my attention on him.

He eventually breaks the silence by asking me how the carnival experience was, which we apparently had failed to discuss during birthday shenanigans.  There was a lot I needed to get off my chest, about all the things that happened with my former partner, his behavior during travel and now, along with the feelings that I was battling with lately.  We sat on the sand facing the ocean, my body huddled against his, and suddenly I just started to let it all out.  The good, the bad and everything between; he listened intently while lighting a blunt, holding me tighter if I happen to get caught up in emotions and let a sob slip.  It felt good to get it out so I could put it behind me and move forward, especially since I got to vent to the one person who I know understands where I am coming from.

The world is much different where land meets sea, and I don’t know what it is, but I always feel better when I am at the beach.  Having my best friend by my side always made that experience memorable, but our relationship status had already changed.  Announcing it to ourselves wasn’t necessary – it’s just one of those things we knew without saying, and I could see that he was actually into the whole thing as much as I wanted him to be.  Jon insisted that I cleanse myself of all the negative thoughts I was carrying inside, to rid myself of them in order to start fresh.  It was a New Year after all, and there was no better opportunity to make resolutions.  Standing on the shoreline, I made my plea to the forgiving sea [rhyming unintentional] and braced myself as Jon baptized me with the chilly brine.

“Let the healing water of the Atlantic wash away your demons!” he joked in a heavy southern drawl while placing a kiss on my forehead.

When evening approached we dressed in our best dinner attire, which included polished combat boots and cropped hair, something he had done that morning on account he wanted us to coordinate.  It was good look on him, as it brought out the tattoos on his face and gave him a younger appearance.  Or maybe it had just been too long since I had stared at him and was just noticing all the things that attracted me to him in the first place.  Settling into the Mercury, I was hit by so many familiar sights and scents I felt a bit overwhelmed.  Cool ocean air poured through the open window as he passed me a blunt, the curling smoke getting sucked out into the dark night.  The Reverend and his Unholy Angel were back in town.

As the hours passed, we wined and dined as though we had done it on a daily basis for the past six years.  If it is at all possible to fall even deeper in love with someone you feel has always deserved the supercharged emotion, it was happening to me at that table while my eyes were locked on his.  How nice it was to see him genuinely smile as his hands gestured absently during the telling of a joke, the glimmer in his own eyes stealing my heart with every second I was lost inside them.

There was a moment where he reached across the table to take my hands in his and the expression on his face grew serious. “Are you enjoying yourself, Angel?”

“Tremendously!” I exclaimed with a smile.

“Well, I hope you get used to that, as it’s going to be happening a lot more.”  He kissed my palm and then gave me a wink with a sly grin.

The remainder of the evening is something I am keeping to myself, but I will say it was even better than one of my birthday presents.

Home Sweet Home

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Say what you want about New Jersey – right now I have never been so happy to see the place I have called home for the past 23 years as I am right now.  Then again, having spent several months away from it, I feel as though I am appreciating all of the little things I have always loved about it.

After weeks of making wreaths for eight or more hours a day, there was not much more for me to do at the tree lot, nor was I getting paid.  The downside of doing your job efficiently, which created enough stock to carry them through the rest of the month.  If additional wreaths were needed, there were two people capable of producing them, so I couldn’t argue with that logic.

The childish antics of a certain individual were stressing me the fuck out to no end.  Though I did everything to avoid having contact with him outside of work, he was having none of it and would often incite conflict through aggressive words or actions.  Like, I am just standing there doing my wreathing making thing and he would just start verbally attacking me out of nowhere about how I have to “give up my dream” and “get a real job” and so on.  He could not even let me leave in peace, which my sister was witness to and really only made him look bad.

There are many things I learned while traveling, and now I have to apply them to my life.  While I have a small chunk of cash from all this hard work, I also realize I need some sort of steady income in order to support myself once I move out.  Thankfully, I am being given some time to find a place and I am extremely grateful for this kindness since there is no obligation to allow me to stay here.  However, seeing as how I didn’t invite myself into this situation, it would be unfair to just dump me out on the street.  Unless someone decides to act like an adult and accept the situation as it is until things change, the environment will be quite uncomfortable and I really don’t needed the added stress right now.

Internet access will decrease on account I don’t have my own computer and the one here is locked, which makes finding a new living arrangement kind of difficult.  Having a friend who has said I can make use of their laptop when needed is comforting, and I can always go the library if all else fails, but that is the least of my concerns right now.  There is more I would like to write about, but my time has to be spent on other things at the moment since I am at the library.

Other than that, I enjoyed sleeping in a real bed for the first time in several months.  Spending one night in a hotel room doesn’t count.  May have also spent over an hour having a nice warm shower, considering I only had one the entire time I was at the tree lot.  Which means once again unintentionally setting a record for most consecutive days spent dirt, which is now eighteen days and not something I want to try to do again.

Hearing people complain about the cold weather has to be one of the most annoying things right now.  Do you have any idea what it’s like to use a doniker in this weather?  The next time you stroll down the hall in your heated house and effortlessly relieve yourself in the porcelain bowl, imagine having to bundle up in a hat, scarf, gloves and coat just to do the same.  Without slipping on ice or getting attacked by trees, with your hands stick from sap and afflicted with a weird half-numb sensations that makes using them awkward.

There was another postcard from Aaron that welcomed me, which really made me feel appreciated when I needed to the most.  It has been too long since I heard his voice, that infectious laughter coming from him as the light hits his eyes in just the right fashion so they look like they have been carved from steel.  Though I made a new friend through traveling, I need the one who knows me the best and has the appropriate words for every situation.  The secret message on the postcard said he was making his way back to the Garden State – he missed me terribly and knew that my birthday was coming up, which for some reason he did not want to miss.  Well, we have spent every one together for the past four years, so I suppose it’s only right we continue to uphold that tradition.

Exited anticipation of when he is coming back would be an understatement, but this gives me something to look forward to since I haven’t exactly made any plans.  If I get to see him again, no matter the context, that is more than I could even dream of right now.

Glass in Glassboro

This is the last week of Summer and it seems as though we have been subconsciously filling in these final days of the season with many adventures, though being blessed with wonderful weather and the time to do so is truly appreciated.  Our destination earlier today was meant to be the Heritage Glass Museum, as visiting Wheaton Arts and learning about how significant glass-making is in South Jersey a few months back had reignited my interest in the craft.  Many of the surrounding tows had their own glass works that produced items that were both useful and decorative.  Glass is quite an amazing medium, considering it can go from a solid to molten state, be re-shaped and then cool down into a solid form again.  Though I own far more ceramic collectibles than glass, I have been keeping an eye out for pieces in antique shops and managed to pick up a few.

When I was younger blue glass was a prized possession on account I had not really seen colored glass outside of trips to the recycling center, but in my wiser years I am completely enamored by carnival glass for reasons that extend beyond the name.  Then there is the fact that I have performed broken glass routines for many years in the past, which is one of my favorite acts to do as well as being one of the more dangerous ones.  It’s just amusing to be that some glass I want to save and cherish, as it has history and sentimental value, yet other pieces are just a bottle or jar that gets smashed and added to the newest pile of glittering shards I have been slowly building.  This was a lot easier when I drank more and lived with people who were basically alcoholics, but I want enough to execute an idea I’ve had for a while now, plus an extra pile to set on fire when I want to.

Anyway, this isn’t about my exploits in playing with broken glass, but rather about our afternoon in Glassboro and finding disappointment in the fact that the museum was closed.  Well, I suppose that one of should have checked on hours of operation prior to departing, but we do so enjoy driving when the sky is blue and the sun is shining that we figured it would still be worth seeing the town.  Though I feel kind of silly for not having taken a picture of the museum, though now that we know when it is open, I am sure there will be a revisit in the future.  However, it is worth noting that the building was erected in 1926 as a bank and served three other purposes before becoming what it is, which happened to fall on the 200th anniversary of the founding of Glassboro.

glassboro_08The South Jersey Museum of American History is also located down the street, which is something else we plan on going back for, but today we just checked out the abandoned movie theater that appears to be in renovation even though there is a tree growing out of the basement.  With not much else to see on that street, we headed down a different one and passed a cute little diner – one of those old school chromed out dining cars that has two other buildings tacked onto the back of it.  They had a decent crowd and even though I was kind of hungry myself, we skipped the packed diner and opted for a slice at the pizza joint on the next block.  While waiting for said slices to be warmed up, I was amused by the menu of fat sandwiches, as I haven’t seen those since late nights in New Brunswick doing the drunken zombie walk to the grease trucks.   The pizza wasn’t bad and at least had some flavor to it – sorry Philly, you tried really hard but you just can’t do pizza the way Jersey does.

We walked down to Barnes & Nobles after that, as it’s been quite some time since we have even seen one since we moved back.  Most of the large chain stores around here are Boarders or BAM!, and while they are all basically the same, books are books no matter where they come from and it doesn’t hurt to look.  Besides, having the opportunity to inadvertently scare college kids who obviously are still living in their little bubbles is always fun.  Apparently wanting to stand there flipping through a book about South Jersey history is too much to ask when you have tattoos, stretched ears and a non-conventional hair cut.  You don’t see me pointing out people’s appearances in a very loud and obvious manner in an attempt to belittle them and instill a sense of insecurity as a means of covering my own, as I am pretty certain that they would get upset and then look like the asshole.

Then again, I did get some satisfaction about putting my hands all over their precious books and then leaving without making a purchase.

2013_38On the way home we spotted this little park that we didn’t even know existed which happened to be right down the street from where my husband works.  It’s called the Willow Oak Natural Area and was a Boy Scout project funded through donations – there’s some plaque and monument in the gravel parking lot that had these details on it.  At the beginning of multiple trails is a hand carved sign that designates where the trails go, though there is no indication of how far into the woods they reach.  Since it was still relatively sunny out, we did not mind the shade that welcomed us as we began wandering the not so visible path, more signs naming the various trees and plants that surrounded it.

Not much later, we were getting attacked by swarms of mosquitos and decided to turn around.  Usually we are coated in bug spray before even attempting to hike through woods, but I guess the energy of a nice day caused us to forget.  We also seem to be out of the aerosol kind, as bugs haven’t really been an issue lately and so we didn’t even realize that.  Oh well, I suppose this is just another one of those places we will have to come back to again.

High Street and the Castle House

The afternoon started off with a suggestion from my husband that we go check out the Castle House, which is as one would image, a house that undeniably is visually similar to the structure of a castle.  Why someone would want such an abode is a curious mystery, and since we had passed by it a number of times before, he thought it was about time we had a proper visit.  Now I want to mention here that while we are Weird NJ enthusiasts and often seek out the locations discussed in the magazine, we also do it in a respectful way so that other people can also enjoy the random strange, odd and unusual things that are scattered across the state.  When exploring abandoned properties, we generally adhere to the ‘No Trespassing’ warning that are blatantly posted, since we are wise to the fact that people around here have guns and aren’t afraid to use them if need be.  Then again, I have never had such an encounter but I have heard plenty of stories and can only say that if you ignore what is right in front of your face, well, you might deserve having to deal with whomever put them there.

While its exterior walls are smooth, flat and somewhat grey, there are a few features of the Castle House that distinguish it as a unique property, particularly when looking at the modesty of the homes surrounding it.  The most prominent are the alternating high and low segments along the top of the structure, which are also known as a merlon and crenel in castle architecture terms, and the narrow windows that resemble arrow slits.  Yes, there are even bridges that connect to both doors that serve as entrance and exit points, though I have no idea which one is supposed to be the front or back.  Since this is an occupied space – and one which seems well taken care of – I stood on the street to take the photos posted below.  Showing respect for property, whether it is lived on or not, is something I wish more people would consider before embarking on explorations.  Not everyone wants a bunch of lookie-loos hanging out on their long snapping pictures and pressing their faces against windows, which is something I am sure those who act in this manner would find rather invasive if it happened to them.

Sine we were already in the area, we headed down the road for about five minutes to check out this abandoned house that had been mostly burned down.  There was yellow tape strung across trees in the front of it, so again, my photographing was restricted to a specific distance and I had to do the best I could.  While unsure of what had caused the fire, there was plenty of evidence on the surrounding trees and the shed that had also been damaged which suggested it was mighty powerful.  Ordinarily I would not be so intrigued by something destroyed by fire, but I didn’t get any of those smells associated with it either.  If it had not been for the neighbor across the road mowing his lawn, I might have tried to get a little bit closer, as I am sure the charred remains of the wood offer some interesting details.  Being on your best behavior is a challenge sometimes, but I do want to be able to revisit certain sites and do what I have to so I that can.

millville_03While the sky had been fairly overcast when we left the house, we noticed that it was starting to clear up and my husband asked if there was anything else I wanted to take pictures of.  Unable to think of anything in the area, he suggested a butcher shop we’ve passed before that has a giant bull statue out front, but he got confused as to which direction it was in and we ended up in Millville instead.  By then the sky was far more blue, so we parked on High Street which is part of the Glasstown Arts District, where there are plenty of galleries that host works from local artists, and a variety of shops and restaurants for just about every taste.  It is also home to the Levoy Theater which may not be as extravagant as the Broadway Theatre in Pitman, but this one has quite an extensive history and has been through many renovations to create the structure that is seen today.  We happened to come across a store that was filled with nothing but antique radios – something my husband is fond of and sort of collects – but they were closed and had very limited hours, though we will go back since the prices were very affordable.

millville_11After stopping in the book store that sort of reminded us of the ones we used to frequent in Philly, we went wandered down to the Maurice River and entered the walk that follows alongside of it, admiring the park across the way and the view down river.  Here we encountered several bums, one of whom smiled at us, and though they were not particularly troublesome, it was one of the first times we had seen any actual bums just hanging out in a park.  Then again, the majority of the parks we have visited this year are either state forests or in areas that aren’t heavily populated, where as this one is in a town where there the neighborhoods show signs of lower income residents despite the impressive Victorian architecture that dominates them.  Here there was a shopping cart sitting in the muddied bank of the river, random words scrawled into the painted metal posts of a gazebo, and busted out bulbs in the lamps that lined the walk.  On the bright side, we came across a large stone structure that was oddly placed and wondered what it had been used for – I thought it might be an old train trestle.

Another afternoon well spent wandering through a South Jersey town, taking pictures and getting to know a little bit more history about my home state.

An Afternoon in Smithville

smithville_03Located along Route 9 in Galloway Township, the Historic Towne of Smithville does not quite have the same lengthy history as Batsto, but it does offer an atmosphere of family friendly activities that will certainly make you glad that you took the time to visit.  My husband has been telling me about it for quite some time now, and when we learned there would be a car cruise there today, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take a drive out.  His dad came along as well, which is always nice since it tends to be just the two of us and it is not often we all have the chance to do something together.  This also means that during the ride we get to hear stories about how he used to go there with his wife and how long it has been since they last went.

The oldest structure in this quaint little South Jersey town is known as the Smithville Inn and it dates back to the late 1700s, though there is some debate as to whether or not the structure was originally planned as an inn.  It is now a 42 seat restaurant which offers a charming and intimate dining experience, though there are several other places you can also grab some grub that range from coffee and baked goods to pizza and pretzels.  Aside from food, there are over 40 different shops and boutiques that have a wide variety of merchandise such as collectibles and crafts, arcades that house antique artifacts from old amusement parks and an old-fashioned steam train that takes visitors on a tour around the town.  You can also enjoy paddle boats, miniature golf or a round on the carousel that spins its riders right next to the lake.

smithville_05Our purpose in visiting, aside from it being my first time there and wanting to check out what it was all about, was to browse the classic cars that were supposed to be on display until 5 pm.  Whoever gave my husband that information may have misunderstood his question and thought he was asking about something else, as all of the cars were revving their engines and leaving just as we got to the lot they had been parked in.  Oh well, it was still a beautiful afternoon and there were enough still around for me to get my fix of nostalgia and whatnot, so we decided to walk around so I could check things out.  The arcades had piqued my interest when my husband had been showing me the town map, though I was disappointed that they did not have any games.  They did, however, have some amazing vintage machines that are as solid as furniture, but I was not interested in flattening out my penny or having my ‘fortune’ delivered on a card via automaton psychic.

There were plenty of interesting shops that we visited as well, such as Evermore Herb Co. where you can purchase just about any herb you want for the kitchen or your own well-being.  Inside the Candle Shoppe one will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by the numerous fragrances of Yankee Candles, though there are other assorted housewares available as well.  We happened to find some really lovely smelling incense and bought a dozen sticks – I don’t know why we haven’t done this sooner since I used to burn incense all the time, as I tend to prefer them over candles.  At Fantasea Treasures, I was enamored by the display of kitsch in the form of hand carved tikis, giant glasses made from cut liquor bottles and a large assortment of nautical themed gifts that were set beside quirky bar signs.  Could not resist purchasing a blue crab, as they had plenty of them hanging on the wall, perhaps to integrate into a future hair piece or something.

Dad treated us to a ride on the train, and I don’t care how hold I get, I will never stop enjoying amusement ride and see plenty of people who are in there 60’s and beyond having a heck of a time relieving their youths on them, so I am going to have my fun too.  There was a couple twice our age sitting in front of us, so that made riding with tons of kids and their parents a lot less awkward.  Basically the train runs a loop around the area of shops known as the Village Greene, and gives you a better view of some of the on premises lodging options such as The Barn and the Johnson House.  If you suddenly are struck with the urge to be groomed or pampered, there is a full service salon, nail space and barber shop that are more than happy to cater to your needs.

My favorite shop is also the last one we happened to stop in, and I was kind of surprised to hear punk music blasting out of it since the general vibe of the town is quiet in comparison.  Underground is full of apparel, records and artwork related to punk, but it also carries a significant amount of Jersey pride merchandise.  The prices are also much better than a certain store in Philly that carries mainly mass produced alternative uniforms, and I am always happy to support local businesses over larger corporations.  We were just browsing, but I definitely spotted a few things I would not mind going back for, as the town is open every day except for Christmas.

On the way back we stopped for dinner at Mickey and Minnie’s Inn, a restaurant on the White Horse Pike that has been owned by the same family since 1938.  There are not enough of these places, as large chains of the same old shit tend to dominate the highways that pass through all of these South Jersey towns and buildings that were once filled with hungry crowds now stand empty and slowly decaying.  The interior of Mickey and Minnie’s was covered in wood paneling, kind of dark and looked like it hadn’t been changed since the 80’s.  Our service was more than friendly and prompt, and the food came out on giant plates, so that made up for feeling as though we had hit a time warp.  None of us were able to actually completely finish our meals, but we were all satisfied and that’s what matters.

Despite having missed the car cruise, I would have to say it still turned out to be a really great day that I got to spend with two people who mean a lot to me, and I don’t think it really gets any better than that.