Moonlight and Sand

After rarely venturing beyond a one-mile radius of our home since March, my wife and I decided to spend a few days in Ocean Grove, New Jersey earlier this month. Our longing for a change of scene outweighed our fear of mass transit. Since my wife was working on a big project, I left a day before her.

The industrial sublime view from the train. Notice the layered Jersey City and New York skylines and the legendarily treacherous Pulaski Skyway. (Photograph by author)

Arriving a few hours before check-in time, I decided to wander, people watch, and grab a bite to eat in nearby Asbury Park.

Asbury Park, a former seaside resort now associated with music and nightlife, borders Ocean Grove. Although the ongoing pandemic has shuttered–hopefully temporarily–the city’s performance venues, most of Asbury Park’s small businesses remained open, and its restaurants offered outdoor dining. While enjoying lunch al fresco and listening to music piped out from a restaurant, I realized how much I missed such a simple pleasure. I felt almost normal. Almost.

(Photograph by author)

On my first evening in Ocean Grove, I walked to the beach to watch the moonrise above the Atlantic Ocean. When I looked around, I noticed individuals and couples gathering to enjoy this beautiful lunar phenomenon. Quietly and unknowingly, we waited to share this moment.

The moonrise at Ocean Grove, New Jersey. (Photograph by author)

After darkness fell, only the rolling waves disturbed the silence of the Ocean Grove beach. This was not the historically raucous Asbury Park boardwalk. I enjoyed sitting on the sand and studying the moonlight skate across the water.

The nighttime Ocean Grove beach. (Photograph by author)

Later that night, I returned to the beach and lost myself in its stillness. I felt that I had stepped into a Romantic painting. I didn’t think about the next Zoom meeting, the insanity of our president, or the ever-lingering contemporary dread. I thought about nothing. I just stared at the moon, the water, and the sand.

Looking at the ocean from the dunes. (Photograph by author)

My wife arrived on the following afternoon. Every evening, we would head to the beach, join our fellow stargazers, and watch the moon slowly rise above the ocean horizon.

Although every day carries an uncertainty and a fear not encountered by most Americans in our lifetimes, solace still might be found. I discovered it in the moonlight. I hope that you find it somewhere, too.

Delightfully Frozen in the Past: Ocean Grove, New Jersey

During our recent vacation—too short, as always—my wife and I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, right next door to the rowdy and famous Asbury Park. While Asbury Park tempts one with rock ‘n’ roll music, cheap drinks, and the hope of fast women, Ocean Grove offers quiet nights, family-friendly restaurants, and a proper (read: Methodist) atmosphere.

After disembarking from the train, we walked through downtown Asbury Park to the footbridge traversing Wesley Lake, the man-made body of water separating Asbury Park from Ocean Grove. The difference between the two localities could not be more visible and palpable.

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A vintage postcard of the Ocean Grove side of Wesley Lake. The bridge in the background connects the village with Asbury Park. Stately, Victorian homes rest on the Ocean Grove side of the water. Automobiles besmirch the landscape of Asbury Park (Courtesy of Digital Commonwealth).

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Thoughts on Asbury Park: a Few Days at the Jersey Shore

Wanting to avoid the expense, inconvenience, and utter unpleasantness of flying, my wife and I have planned our weekend trips and vacations around train travel over the past several years. A proponent of the contemporary cult of travel (and any airline executive) would blanch at this practice. The whole wide world awaits you. Why limit yourself to your tiny corner of the globe? Fortunately, we live in the New York metropolitan region with its extensive local and regional rail networks and an enviable abundance and variety of sites and geography.

For well over a century, weary urbanites have visited the Jersey Shore for relaxation, refreshment, and entertainment. Embracing this tradition, my wife and I rode the rail to Asbury Park, New Jersey, a storied town experiencing resurgence and reinvestment.

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Looking toward the Asbury Park boardwalk in the morning (Photograph by author).

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