Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"American Pickers"... in Barnegat?!

If you think nothing exciting ever happens in New Jersey, especially in Ocean County, or more specifically in Barnegat, then you were not privy to the fact that Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz from the History Channel’s smash hit TV show "American Pickers" were in town this week. But let’s be honest, practically everybody knew they were here.

Photo by Kelley Anne
American Pickers TV host Mike Wolfe films in 
Barnegat for the upcoming season.
Photographs of the "American Pickers’" white Antique Archaeology van, sitting in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn on Route 72 in Manahawkin, were floating around Facebook during the beginning of the week. So when my boss gave me permission to cut out of work early and check out the scene on Tuesday, I made some inquiries and quickly learned the Pickers were filming at First National Antique Restoration on Bay Avenue in Barnegat — just a few streets away from my childhood home.

"American Pickers" captures the work of professional antique pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel across the U.S., digging through cellars, scrapyards, barnyards and sheds, looking for hidden treasures that have been long forgotten about. Hoping to "recycle America," the duo mingles with interesting collectors, historians and hoarders alike to discover and restore antiques that tell a unique story about America's history. Pickers, or modern archaeologists, are considered crucial in the antique business. Without them, many antique shops would have collapsed years ago, and many of the beloved artifacts found in museums and collector’s cabinets around the world may have been lost forever.

Upon arrival at First National Antique Restoration, I realized I wasn’t the only one interested in catching a glimpse of the TV show hosts or their white van, which was sitting diagonally in the parking lot, looking like a giant piece of fan bait — and fan bait it was. People young and old from all across town scattered up-and-down Memorial Drive where Wolfe and Fritz were filming. The on-lookers even strolled through shop owner Jon Szalay’s parking lot where they stopped to take pictures of themselves in front of the show’s car. I even saw one guy trying to push his minivan out of the driveway, which had apparently seized and died on the spot. Hey, you can’t blame the car engine for being excited, too.

"I was heading to Curves this morning when I saw the 'American Pickers' van," said local resident Laraine Harris. "So when my friend gave me a call, I figured we better stop by and see what was going on," she added, posing for a picture in front of the show’s van with friend Carol Mills, also a local resident.

Photo by Kelley Anne 
Shop owner Jon Szalay continues working while 
on-lookers stop by to take pictures.
Luckily, Szalay didn’t seem too worried about all the unusual attention. He simply said hello to everyone who walked by or asked him a question about the Pickers before continuing on with his work. Besides, he and Wolfe have been friends for years. The two met about 15 years ago at an antique motorcycle meet in Oley, Pennsylvania. Wolfe and "Jersey Jon" as Wolfe affectionately calls him, realized they were interested in many of the same things, including authentic, quality antiques, restoration and early motorcycles like Emblems, Indians and Harley Davidsons. After their first meeting, Wolfe and Szalay kept bumping into each other and eventually started picking together all across the country.

"Mike is really busy," said Szalay. "It was three years ago when he called me up and said the History Channel bought six episodes (of 'American Pickers'). I’m his best friend, and now I only get to see him maybe once a month. But I’m proud of him. I want all of my friends to succeed in life," he added, while torching a 1912 Emblem motorcycle dogleg into its rightful shape — a restoration project he's working on for a client in Arizona.

Szalay’s passion for antiques took shape in the form of furniture building when he was just 14-years-old. He began borrowing a few of his father’s woodworking tools and restoring furniture for income during high school. In 1979, when Szalay was only 17, he decided to purchase an old bank building, circa 1914, in downtown Barnegat, to continue working professionally. Szalay owned and operated the antique and restoration shop for 26 years before he decided it was too much trouble to run both. Now he focuses solely on restorations, and the shop is simply his home and studio, open only by appointment. Although the shop displays many "closed" signs, people still try knocking on the doors in hopes of perusing the many fine antiques the owner has accrued over the years. Luckily, Szalay and his neighbors look out for each other’s property.

"That’s a no trespassing sign," said Szalay’s neighbor, Christina Demopoulos, pointing to a sign on the shop’s front door and sporting an I’m-super-serious glare. "I’m the pit bull, and I watch over the outside perimeter of this place," she added.

Photo by Kelley Anne
Barnegat residents Laraine Harris and Carol 
Mills pose for a picture.
Over the course of our conversation, I could sense Demopoulos warming up to my presence, which was lucky for me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to schmooze my way into an interview with the Pickers, but I did win a big smile from Fritz, who passed me by after dodging a sea of excited fans and heading onto his bus. Still I decided to hang around and snap photos of Wolfe while the show crew filmed take after take of what looked like a personal interview. But I was quickly shooed away with the rest of the crowd after Wolfe complained we were standing in his view and distracting him from his lines.

Under sworn secrecy, Szalay wasn’t able to tell me much about the specifics of the filming, except that they are working on a special project together. According to Szalay, the episode will air some time during season four of the show. So keep your eyes peeled for the mention of Barnegat in the upcoming episodes of "American Pickers!"

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mother Earth sends strong Earth Day message

In honor of the nation's 43rd Earth Day celebration on Sunday, Mother Earth treated the Jersey Shore to some much-needed rain. A rip-roaring northeaster kept many folks inside yesterday as 1.71 inches of rain pelted to the ground. But Big Mama was kind to the people, also. Earth Week celebrations (April 16 through 22) consisted of mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s.

Photo via Check It Out
Earth Day is celebrated by more than 500
million people in the U.S. and by numerous
national governments around the world.
Peace activist John McConnell first proposed the idea for Earth Day in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. He believed that we as a people have a moral obligation to respect and preserve the land we inhabit. In lieu of this feeling, McConnell proposed the nation reserve a special holiday that served to honor the Earth's beauty and to remind us to treat it with kindness. He was so moved by a picture he saw of the Earth in Life magazine that it later became the symbol used for the Earth Day flag, which he designed personally.

On April 22 of the following year, then-U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson called for a nation-wide environmental teach-in after witnessing the devastation that accrued from a massive oil spill off the west coast of Santa Barbara, California. More than 20 million people participated in the event that year. Since then, Earth Day has been observed on the same day every year by more than 500 million people in the United States and by numerous national governments around the world. In 2009 the United Nations designated April 22 International Mother Earth Day. Now many communities around the globe celebrate Earth Day festivities throughout the entire week, known simply as Earth Week.

Alongside many other grass roots organizations around the world, southern New Jersey’s districts held special events in reverence of the environmentally important day. The Ocean County College in Toms River held panel discussions and presentations throughout the week in the Solar Lounge and Bartlett Hall.

The Point Pleasant Borough Environmental Commission held its ninth annual Earth Day Celebration between 12 and 4 p.m. at the Riverfront Park. The day culminated with nearly 60 vendors offering food, games, rides, green products and services and even a fourth- and fifth-grade T-shirt contest, which focused on alternative methods for mosquito control.

The Kidgits Club hosted a special Earth Day event for kids at the Toms River Mall on Saturday, and the Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach held a “Party for the Planet” presentation where kids learned about the many ways they can help save the environment.

Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps took place up and down the Jersey Shore from Cape May County to Middlesex County on Saturday. The first Beach Sweep took place in Sandy Hook in 1985 with the help of 75 volunteers. In 2011, 7,575 volunteers showed up at nearly 70 beach sites. This year, Beach Sweeps were held at 75 different locations along the Shore.

Luckily, the cigarette butt has lost its spot as the number one piece of litter found on New Jersey’s beaches. Unfortunately, single-use plastics, which take an incredibly long amount of time to biodegrade, have been found in larger quantities. As the beach season rounds the corner, it’s important to remember that what people leave on the beach isn’t just piling up for volunteers to pick up at a later date. The waste is washing into our waterways, ill-affecting each and every living thing on the planet.

If you haven’t had enough Earth Day fun, the second annual Brick Township Green Fair will take place this Saturday, April 28, at the Veterans Memorial Middle School from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And don’t forget to look out for another Beach Sweep in October!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life." — Philip Levine, Our Valley

April is finally here, which means it’s National Poetry Month! Many wonderfully talented poets have had strong roots in the uniquely beautiful state of New Jersey. Walt Whitman (1819-1892), one of the most influential poets in the American canon, died in Camden where he spent many years editing Leaves of Grass  a collection of poetry he spent his entire life writing  and composing his final book of poetry and prose, Good-Bye, My Fancy. William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), a leading poet during the Imagist Movement  a poetic development of the 20th century that focused on common speech in free verse with clear, concrete imagery  lived and died in Rutherford. He inspired many avant-garde Beat poets, including Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) who was born in Newark and paved the way for liberalized publishing with his 1956 collection of poetry, Howl and Other Poems. Amiri Baraka (1934-present), a prominent figure during the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s, was also born (and still lives) in Newark. Stephen Dunn (1939-present), winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize of poetry and the distinguished professor of creative writing at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, once said “New Jersey's gift to its poets . . . is that it's a place of many places, essentially amorphous, freeing us to look at the world.” Robert Pinsky (1940-present), former national poet laureate and consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, founded the Favorite Poem Project dedicated to celebrating poetry's role in America. He was born in Long Branch and received a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Photo via AAP
This year's poster features "Our Valley"
by Philip Levine.
Hoping to increase awareness of the significance of poets and their poetry in the United States, National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. Each year, the Academy designs and distributes nearly 200,000 National Poetry Month posters, which are mailed free of charge to teachers, librarians and booksellers around the nation (I got mine!). The Academy also provides lesson plans for teachers and tip sheets for anyone interested in hosting an event in honor of the month-long celebration. Editors and journalists from media outlets across the country receive press releases from the Academy to ensure National Poetry Month receives coast-to-coast attention. As a result, thousands of articles about poetry emerge in newspapers, magazines, and online mediums. Visit the Academy of American Poets online for a list of ways to celebrate poetry every day this month.

Many local events in April are being held in tribute to National Poetry Month. The Ocean County College Department of English and Literature is hosting a number of special events, including a poetry reading on Tuesday, April 10 at 11 a.m. in the Black Box Theatre, Room B100 of the Arts and Community Center. Alicia Suskin Ostriker  a Jewish feminist poet, critic and activist who lives in Princeton, will lead the reading. Ostriker is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University and has taught in the low-residency poetry MFA program at Drew University. On Thursday, April 12 from 12:30 to 2 p.m., an Open Mic Poetry Jam will be held in the Solar Lounge.

Beach Haven resident Richard Morgan, author of Sea Glass: A Collection of Poetic Pieces and Sea Glass People: Portraits of Words and Watercolors, will be reading from his works at the Stafford Branch of the Ocean Couny Library on Monday, April 16 at 1 p.m. Morgan's wife, Pat — a member of the Pine Shores Art Association will accompany the reading with slides showcasing the books' illustations, which she drew.

The Carriage House Poetry Series in Fanwood will host a free open mic event preceded by a reading led by distinguished poets Renee Ashley and Catherine Doty on Tuesday, April 17 at 8 p.m. in the Kuran Arts Center. Ashley is on the core faculty of Fairleigh Dickinson University's low-residency creative writing MFA program. Doty, born and raised in New Jersey, teaches sixth grade language arts in Millburn. Both poets have received a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

The Society for Poets of Southern New Jersey will be hosting a number of poetry events throughout the month of April at the Woodbury Public Library and the Logan Township Library. The events will include open mics, poetry readings and workshops.

In honor of one of my favorite poets, Robert Hass — one of contemporary poetry's most praised authors — I leave you with his poem, Meditations at Lagunitas. Please feel free to share your favorite poems with me!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Shore celebrates spring

Whether you’re celebrating for Easter or for Passover, or for the simple pleasures the Vernal (or spring) Equinox has finally brought us, the Jersey Shore is a wonderful place to be this weekend. And with blue skies, warm weather (a high of 60 degrees!), a definite breeze and blossoming flowers and trees, there simply isn’t anything more you could ask for.

Photo by Kelley Anne
This picture of bright orange oxlips surrounded 
by tiny purple violets was taken outside my 
parent's house in Barnegat.
The spring season is a time for renewed existence spiritually, mentally and physically. And in many ways, this special weekend is a time for thanks and praise, love and personal resolutions for both the religious and non-religious individual.

If you do practice religion, the Jersey Shore has many wonderful church services for Easter and Passover. I attended Manahawkin United Methodist Church for Good Friday Worship a musical service led by the Chancel Choir where my Godmother played flute alongside the pastor who played clarinet. 

There are also many Catholic services in the county, many of which can be found through The Monitor, and other denominational and non-denominational services. For a list of services being held on Long Beach Island and the mainland, check out the Worship section of the "Calendar" in this week’s edition of The Sandpaper.

If you’ve never attended an Easter sunrise service, which is held on the beach as the sun rises to fruition, this weekend would be the perfect time to experience such an amazing blessing. I’ll never forget the first sunrise service I attended as a little girl. I was sleepy, cold and grumpy on the drive over to Long Beach Island. When my family and I arrived at the beach, I laid in the sand with a scowl on my face. But I’ll never forget the way my soul melted as the sun rose above the Atlantic Ocean in splendid color, simply turning night into day.

If you’re not particularly religious or you’re just looking for something fun to do with the family after church, the county has many lighthearted activities planned, including Easter parades, breakfast or brunch with the Easter bunny and outdoor and indoor Easter egg hunts. Check out the Ocean County Easter 2012 Guide for more information about these events.

I don’t think I’ll be spending any time with the Easter bunny this Sunday, but I do plan on taking a meditative bike ride, purchasing some flowers from ShopRite in Manahawkin (they have many beautiful bunches to pick from right now!) and spending lots of time surrounded by good food and even better family. I’m looking forward to indulging myself in the laughter and love we provide for each other.

Let me know what your holiday weekend plans are, and be sure to enjoy yourself.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Look who's back in town

Hi, I'm Kelley Anne — a proud local from Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I grew up on the mainland — just a 15 minute drive (without summer traffic) from my childhood home to the Route 72 Causeway, which takes you up over Barnegat Bay to the Island (as us locals affectionately, or lazily, call it). Of course, if you find yourself soaking up too much sunshine on the beach, and you're afraid you just can't handle any more leisure, the Causeway will always take you back to the mainland (the highway only travels east and west). But if you leave, you will surely miss the serenity of soft sand between your toes and rolling waves reverberating in your ears. It's a fact. It has to be. Hundreds of stores around the world sell manufactured conch shells that mimic the sound of that calming rush of waves rolling onto the shore. But Long Beach Island and its surrounding beach areas is filled with beachy sounds, sights, smells, textures, and tastes you can experience first-hand, and I suggest you do.
Photo by Steve Essinger
This picture was taken two years ago on
Barnegat Bay. As my family and I awaited 
the Fourth of July fireworks display, our
boat bobbed atop rippling waves, and the 
sun set in a radiant splash of color.

As a young girl growing up in southern New Jersey, I didn't fully understand the beauty of the life around me. I easily tired of the beach and its laid-back atmosphere (crazy, I know). A longing for the fast-paced environment of the city was always tugging at me. After graduating from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Liberal Arts, I ventured off to Washington, D.C. for an internship with a video production firm called Double R Productions.

Although I loved DC's urban culture and its upbeat attitude, I found myself heading back to Long Beach Island only a few months later for a seasonal journalism position. During my time writing for The Beachcomber, I learned a lot about the history of the 18-mile island that I had never known before. Even though I've spent most of my life here, I often felt (and still feel) like a newcomer, eager to experience anything new and exciting at the Jersey Shore.

But when bathing-suit weather replaced itself with sweatshirt weather, the Shore appeared to close up shop. For me, running around the Island, looking for leads to good stories came to a halt, and I found myself longing for the city again. This time, I headed to Philadelphia, where landed a job writing for the Clean Air Promise Campaign on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. But I only stayed a couple of months before the Shore summoned me home again.

This summer, I'll be at it again — running around the Island and all over southern New Jersey, sharing my thoughts with you about the beach, local eateries, upcoming events, nightlife and whatever else I feel like talking about. Please feel free to follow along and comment at any time. If there’s anything you’re particularly interested in learning about, let me know, and I’ll be sure to dig up something for you!