People ask how is it that I can fall in love with a completely inanimate object such as Asbury Park? I'd always return with, "how could you not?" To rewind, I had discovered Asbury Park when I was 16 years old, some 16 years ago, in the back of the "cool mom's" Jaguar on a "short errand" and "detour" from Freehold Mall. (She was going to trade some weed for oxys and I feel like I was the only one in the car who knew this.) I remember her having to go talk to her "good friends" outside the Pony and told my friend and I to "go play," like we were still oblivious, young children. My "friend" -which I'll get to- refused to get out of the car to "look at garbage" but I had no problem doing so. I was in complete awe... It looked hollowed out like a bomb or two had been set off... That the town just picked up one night and left like Ralph and Alice Kramden without any warning. Boarded up, shutdown, littered, tattered, scattered and torn, I was half creeped out but more than in love with all of it's standstill perish. By Wesley Lake two swans, either pedal boats or presumed floats from a lost tunnel, had found their way trapped. The light current and tiny waves took them apart and together in a cadence that some would find sad but I knew that it was just a reminder that the city still had a heartbeat and pulse if you cared to listen close enough. With the faint knock and tap, part "Tell Tale Heart" and part distress signal, I looked across the lake trying to make sense of it all. It'd be a few years later when I could return to Asbury Park on my own and in all of it's despair, I managed to find hope. The homeless that slept under the remnants of the boardwalk each had their own story to tell and how they were victims of circumstance or surroundings. The ice cream shop housed carnival like wonder from yesteryear. Clown covered decor that was sad and promising all at the same time, kept watch over the drifters and sparse patrons. Probably some of the worst disco fries and milkshakes I ever had but the "bums" I'd treat looked forward to it. Eventually, I found myself with a dog named Chino, and we'd find our way to Asbury Park in the early hours of morning before the real day could catch up with us. These same people, once afraid of who they'd call my wolf, would save pizza crusts to feed him and we'd talk about anything and everything or nothing at all. These will forever be some of my most treasured mornings. But going back to my "friend.."
....There's something that has to be said for being friends with the "mean girl" at school.. First out of routine and then out of necessity and legit survival mode but give it time? It becomes good to know that all of these years later, she's still such a bitch and karma catches up well. I can thank her for one thing though.. And that's my introduction to my city by the sea. That inanimate object that I love so much...that no matter what it has seen or has been through, encompasses every last fluid ounce of what it's like to be human. If you can't love a spirit that refuses to die, I can't help you but we can still be friends.