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DRIVING JERSEY: HAMMONTON



DRIVING JERSEY: THE PINE BARRENS


DRIVING JERSEY: GINO VALENTI



DRIVING JERSEY: TATTOO GURU


What we discovered is that tattoo, despite all the sound and fury in much of the imagery, is actually a delicate walk, an introspect into permanence and representation and ultimately, a very intimate brief encounter with someone who marks you for life.

The Pines Barrens, the cradle of the Piney culture is an anomaly in the Eastern part of the United States.  It is the largest untouched wilderness east of the Mississippi.  In the late 1970s, fears of urban sprawl prompted Congress to pass an Act to protect the Pines and today the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve contains approximately 1,100,000 acres of land, and occupies 22% of New Jersey's land area.

These simple farmers knew a thing or two about the immensity of life because they too created it, from the seed to the soil to the sun and they were humble before the power of existence and we believe there is no higher intention, no better reason for religion, for faith and no finer practice of both than being in awe together.

It's something about the under-dog, the believer, the dreamer in him that connects him to the state for me.  He is a lifer.  He has never given up on his fantasy and he has tasted it from time to time, enough anyway, that at 76 years old he is still reaching for it.

DRIVING JERSEY: LORD WHIMSY

Whimsy introduced himself as Allen, Allen Crawford and Lady Pinkwater as Susan. When our AD Ryan Bott walked in and said "hey, Lord Whimsy, I'm Ryan," He smirked charmingly and said, "you can call me Allen." He is indeed as noble looking in person as he is in photographs, yet in the flesh he comes off more as a cross between Wallace Shawn and Kermit the Frog.

The boardwalk culture of Seaside has always intrigued me for its innocence and indulgence.  There is no denying that the boards and beaming neon, the games and food, the bars and beaches invite families and fools for love and lust, alike. 

DRIVING JERSEY: SEASIDE HEIGHTS

For over a decade Helbing has been leading a weekly weekend hike of 15 to 20 miles around the state. He welcomes all hikers. Participants come from as far south as Delaware and far north as Vermont. The day we caught up with Helbing, there were some 25 others along for the adventure. And he gets paid nothing for this.

DRIVING JERSEY: MIKE HELBING

Who isn't fascinated by gypsy culture and bellydance? It's the mystery stuff of childhood stories and legends. It's a romantic vision of life. It's ancient and biblical. It's a free and freewheeling rambling culture and art. Anyone who has ever paused on the way to the office or to school or even to home and heard the faint sounds of distant music and smelled the sweet scent of lilacs or incense in the air, and thought to deviate, to follow and investigate, knows the lure of the lore of this sort of "freedom."

DRIVING JERSEY: TRIBAL DANCE

ARTS

The Barnegat Inlet has been the scene of many wrecks and mishaps through out the centuries and even today.  The work of a towboat team can surely be treacherous, but there is a flipside...on this beautiful, clear uneventful September day we were treated to that other angle, the long, sometimes monotonous hours shared between a captain and mate.

DRIVING JERSEY: THE BALLAD OF LIGHT BLUE AND BURGANDY

DRIVING JERSEY: JAKE IN WINTER

We ran into D’Arcangelo at the docks, as he was preparing to go out fishing and trolling the water around the bay jetties for shrimp.  It was below freezing with winds gusting to 30 mph, D’Arcangelo laughed when I suggested it might be too cold for him to wade waist deep in the chop around the lighthouse.  He muttered something about appreciating life through experiencing all earth’s conditions and jumped in.

DRIVING JERSEY: COWTOWN

RODEO

When the idea came up to travel down to Pilesgrove, to take in the Rodeo, I took the opportunity...as much to re-imagine how the West fit into my childhood, as it was to find out how it fits into New Jersey today.

"Born To Run" had come out two years earlier and Bruce had already had his face on the cover of Newsweek and Time Magazine in the same week, but there was still something of the rising star, the local-boy makes-good about him.  The best kept secret was already being shouted from the rooftops, but the locals were still holding on.  The stories that were later told about "that night" in Red Bank are part of the pantheon of Jersey rock history.

DRIVING JERSEY: BRUCE

In Jersey we have an almost tragic love affair with summer.  Despite the disturbance and delays it causes, Jerseyans embrace the summer enthusiastically and madly love it until the bitter days of September when karma catches up again, and snatches it from us for all the complaining we’ve done about summer’s children, tourists, shoebees.  We can and will spend the next three seasons regretting, looking forward to and talking about...summer...our greatest love...the one we can’t live with or without.  Driving Jersey thought we could all use a reminder of the good times we've all shared with our old love SUMMER. This is a treat to help you through, a preview of our upcoming episode Driving Jersey: Summer.

Photography by DJ Contributor: Marc Steiner

DRIVING JERSEY: MOUNT ZION

Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Eatontown was built between 1845 and 1846.  James K. Polk was President.  Abraham Lincoln was just setting up his law practice.  It is the oldest church in Eatontown.  Prior to the construction of the church, outdoor prayer meetings were held in the area, which for many years was called "Little Africa" or "Negro Hill."

The Cinnamon Snail, the brainchild, fathered by Adam Sobel first hit the road in February of 2010 and has been serving healthy, socially conscious gourmet meals and deserts around New Jersey ever since.  Sobel, himself, is a character ripe for recounting.  He is something of a mixed media artist, what used to be referred to as a renaissance man.

DRIVING JERSEY: CINNAMON SNAIL

DRIVING JERSEY: ROLLER DERBY

Used to be wives and girlfriends stood on the sidelines while their men swung clubs, rackets or bats.  Their concern then was for the bruises, broken bones and injured egos of their men, today, because of a resurgence in the popularity of the sport of Roller Derby, the shoe is on the other foot...because she’s the one wearing skates...and a helmet and shoulder and knee pads.  She’s the one with the bruises and the broken bones. 

 

This holiday season we at Driving Jersey decided to travel the state to connect with as many people as we could, to ask them seasonal questions, but there’s no escaping the fact that many Jerseyans and Americans are living through difficult times and the holidays would therefore be different.

DRIVING JERSEY: THE HOLIDAY

DRIVE

DRIVING JERSEY: JOHNNA WHITE

Johnna White volunteers at the SPCA animal shelter. At a time when time is impossible to come by, White volunteers hers, two or three days a week, two or three hours a day to cat socialization at the center, which in her words, means, she "plays with the cats." But according to the folks at the SPCA, cat socialization, is one of the most important things non-staff can do for these animals to prepare them for adoption.

DRIVING JERSEY: VINELAND

The concept was to create a significant work of art through the involvement of a diverse community. The hope was and continues to be that public art projects bring communities together, foster pride and inspire revitalization.

DRIVING JERSEY: ROCKIT!

On any given day or night some twenty or so kids, mostly long-haired boys in jeans and tees and mod girls gather there to play, practice and live the lifestyle of the rock musician.  The emphasis is on learning all aspects of performance.  Musicians and singers are matched in multiple rock bands that meet for six 90 minute rehearsals.  The endgame is a three hour epic rock show on the Count Basie Theatre stage. 

Since 1950 the theater, started by Joseph P. Hayes, has entertained and inspired summer audiences.  The space, originally a converted mechanic's garage, was infused with Hayes’ show-must-go-on spirit.  And here's another part of the story of Jersey that I love, no surrender, never-say-die, refuse to go quietly or to go at all.  Indeed, part of the mystique, of Surflight was, is its indomitable, enduring whimsy. 

DRIVING JERSEY: SURFLIGHT

DRIVING JERSEY: JAWS

Certain movies have this effect on us, this power over us.  Perhaps no film has ever shaped our recreational lifestyles, our connection to the environment, like the movie Jaws.  Before it, our fears of the water were based in drowning, but after the summer of 1975, an overwhelming phobia of sharks permeated the consciousness of a generation of Americans.

DRIVING JERSEY: EDUCATION

We followed Mrs. Rogers back to her old school to visit after being away from her home away from home for a decade.  And just like a teacher, she brought a child, her granddaughter to tell her the stories...to offer one more series of lessons.

DRIVING JERSEY: THE AMERICAN

DREAM PART 1

I had always been a big believer in the idea of the American Dream. I was an American Dreamer, which today seems more like an admission, a confession, than a declaration. I was raised to strive for it, to seek it and to expect to achieve it.  I clutched my travel mug each day and embraced the drudgery of a morning commute to the city, to a desk job in the sky for a paycheck that I thought would eventually lead me to the promised land of my cultural DNA.

DRIVING JERSEY: THE AMERICAN DREAM

PART 2: LAKEWOOD TENT CITY

It was during our exploration of the distance between the American Dream and the American reality that we decided to visit Lakewood Tent City.  More a village than a city, this super rural community that sprung up a handful of years ago because of a need for shelter for a few, is now home for some 90 or so people.

DRIVING JERSEY: AFTER SANDY

PART 1

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Driving Jersey spent three days on Long Beach Island and in Manahawkin, the mainland town across the bridge from the defenseless barrier island. Like many places in Jersey, LBI was hit hard by Sandy. Residents were only recently allowed back to their saltwater soaked homes when we visited. This is a collection of their stories and the stories of the relief, the rebuild and the eventual rising up.

DRIVING JERSEY: AFTER SANDY

PART 2

Before Hurricane Sandy, many small towns along the Jersey Shore, were only known by those who lived there, summered there or got lost there. 


“If it wasn’t for Sandy,” one resident remarked, “no one still would’ve ever heard of Union Beach...we kinda liked it that way.  Now everything is changed.”

We went to Camden and spent the day in what has become known as Waterfront South, a former shipbuilding neighborhood, anchored on the corner of Broadway & Ferry by Sacred Heart Church.  We spoke with three members of the community, a reluctant landlord storyteller, an urban farmer activist and a firebrand poet priest proclaiming a message of common sense for the common man.  And despite the darkness, all three still believe in the dream, invincibility?  Nah, survival, restoration, a future.....the future.

DRIVING JERSEY: BROADWAY & FERRY

AMERICAN DREAM PART 3

DRIVING JERSEY: THE AMERICAN DREAM

PART 4

The American Dream isn’t dead and it isn’t necessarily real either.  It’s an inside job, that’s a crap shoot on the outside, but we still believe in it like the generation that taught it to us, from a time that is past to a time that is inevitably different.  We aren’t, as a nation. as molded as we once were in the days and even decades following World War 2, which is a good thing, but the result, it seems, is we, rightly or wrongly, successfully or otherwise, explore the boundaries more.  Choice, change, shifting responsibilities, desires to be different or left alone have strained the power of the Dream and have forced it to evolve.

DRIVING JERSEY: THE HOLIDAY DRIVE 2013

This year we decided that we would experience how the holidays are best enjoyed, in all of its pageantry and excess. The holidays, after-all. like birthdays and any celebration of joy, are for all of us to find an oasis of happiness, to seek mirth and beauty in what may sometimes be bleak and miserable. Driving Jersey: The Holiday Drive 2013 are visions of our Christmas present, a present from Driving Jersey to you, a moment to witness joy. 

DRIVING JERSEY: ASBURY PARK: TWO SIDES

One of the great things about driving Jersey, one of the things we love, are the endless angles and stories that come from exploring a single event, person or town.  The idea that, in exploring one tale we are invited into many, is one of the original inspirations of our work.  It’s likely not just a Jersey thing, more of a human thing, but where ever we go, someone is suggesting someone else, some thing else for us to check out.  That’s why Asbury Park:Two Sides was so meaningful and so much fun to make.

DRIVING JERSEY: THIS BOARDWALK LIFE

This is a story about how a significant moment in time is reflected in what we think and say about it, our memories, our faith, our strength...what we took away is the feeling that this place is priceless because of the characters that gather there, who live there, who struggle there and love there...this boardwalk life, it comes, it goes, it's washed away and rebuilt upon the sand, before the open water that frightens and threatens us, but also always attracts what interests us most, each other.

We’re living through amazing times, amazing technological times, our questions are answered, our destinations are navigated, and we are connected to each other like never before, but at the same time, we’re disconnecting in equal measure. 


Despite all of the technological breakthroughs of our modern times we’re still getting lost, still losing our way.  We’re still missing the point and missing each other.  And long conversations that used to begin with a question conclude quickly with a suggestion of, Google it.  But I don’t want to Google it.  I still like hearing different human responses to my questions.  I wanna hear your voice.  I wanna see your eyes as you respond.


So whenever I've got something on my mind, I ask about it to everyone I meet.  It's kinda like asking for directions to places inside all of us.


Over the last six months I've been searching for meaning in the ideas of BEAUTY, LOVE & TRUTH. Magnetic disturbances within my own compass had pulled me off course and I had to recalculate my route.  BEAUTY, LOVE & TRUTH or our understanding of them guides us through life. 


They're ideas that seem so obvious and then suddenly so mysterious, specifically particular, impossible to define or understand, but felt by us all. 


On the road, we found three people who shared with us their passion, their purpose and their understanding of BEAUTY, LOVE  & TRUTH.  Driving Jersey: Lost & Found is the first report from the field on these subjects.


In Northwestern Jersey, we hiked with Mike Helbing's Metrotrails group.  Helbing has been leading 20 mile+ hikes around New Jersey every weekend for two decades...for free.  He navigates his hikes along abandoned railroad beds and through vacant homesteads and farms, some dating back to the early days of America.  His passion is uncovering the stories of life, human and otherwise, by exploring the scars left behind and the ways nature has come in to reclaim that which was taken from it.


In Ocean Grove, we marched along in the annual, "epic" Independence Day Parade, at the urging of Heather McLaughlin.  10 years ago, McLaughlin organized a kazoo band to march.  The number of kazoo-ers and the good spirit that they have generated has grown exponentially each year.  Today, some 100+ people kazoo through the streets of this Rockwell-esque town.  What she began as a whim for the 4th of July, has brought her friendship, love and fulfillment that lasts all year long.


After living in the same home for 26 years, Johnna White, decided she was moving on, moving in with her boyfriend.  Her transition, which we, picked up on at her yard sale, was difficult, yet beautiful.  White invited us into the place she called home and opened up her heart about the impossible blessings of closing a chapter in her life, starting a new one and saying goodbye.



Music for Driving Jersey: Lost & Found was performed by The Following, Jesse Pollack, Alms House, Jon Francis, and 125 of the finest kazoo players money can't buy.  Check local listings and Facebook for updates about PBS airdates and times.