Friday, May 14, 2010

Let the Different Summer begin...

You can read about my different summer here: The Different Summer

Yesterday was my last final, thank God. And I'm officially done. This summer I'll be living in upstate NY, interning for the Committee on US-Latin American Relations (where I interned this spring) and then working at a coffee place (finally got a job!). I'm pretty excited, albeit a little homesick.

This is the first summer that I haven't spent in New Jersey. Summer number 20, and finally I'm spending the season somewhere else. I miss Jersey, and I think it's a missable place (even though people continually insult it). But sometimes, especially when you're in college, you need to do things a little differently than you used to. So here I am--not in Jersey.

Today I walked around town a little bit and started doing the thing I do at the beginning of every summer, when I have really high expectations for myself. "I'm going to write poetry everyday... in fact, I'll write a chapbook!" I told myself as I walked to the library. Then: "I'll read one book of poetry every week and one non-poetry book. And I'll watch movies. Particularly The Graduate... I need to see that again. And I'm gonna listen to Paul Simon's 'Graceland' on repeat. And maybe I can convince someone to start driving me in the direction of Graceland while the album's playing since I don't have enough money to actually go to Graceland... That way I'll get to pretend for 45 minutes.

And exercise. I'll do that more. Or, well, let's be honest here, I'll startexercising.

And clean my room, and the rest of my apartment. All the time. I'll be neat for once. And I'll start eating organic and learn how to ride a bike again."

These are the things I told myself all throughout today and the chances of any of them happening are kind of slim. But it's nice to think about them anyway. That's the way the beginning of summer is--expectations are always high and that's the way it should be. No one should ever start a summer without saying: "This is going to be the best summer of my life."

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Blog!

Hey everyone!

I've started a new, all purpose blog! Check it out!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mary Ellis' Grave

**Note: Sorry the pictures are kind of bad, my camera's broken. Also, I think there were some typos in this before. Oops!**

I think it's safe to say that I'm obsessed with the story of Mary Ellis. I even used her life as inspiration for a project in college. Here's the story, in case you don't know it:

Mary Ellis (1740-1827) fell in love with a sea captain in present day New Brunswick. He sailed off one day, and vowed to come back to her. He never did, though, and Mary Ellis waited by the Raritan River for him everyday until she died. Mary was buried on the property with other members of her family, and when the line died off, the property was sold and eventually became the parking lot of a Loews movie theater. The parking lot's been repaved multiple times, and Mary's grave sits seven feet above the cars of movie-goers.

In the 1970s, this band from New Providence/New Brunswick, the Looking Glass, wrote a song about Mary. The name was changed, and the one-hit-wonder "Brandy" was born. I'm sure you know it: "Brandy, you're a fine girl (you're a fine girl!)\what a good wife you would be (such a fine girl!)\but my life, my love and my lady, is the sea."

My mom went to high school with a guy from the Looking Glass, and I guess some of the members lived in a hippie house down the street from me back in the day, and they played at my dad's friend's wedding. Somehow my life has become the "six-degrees of the Looking Glass."

Maybe, it's because I love a good story or because I think this story is sadly romantic, but sometimes I just find myself thinking about Mary Ellis. In real life, she probably would've pissed me off. If she were my friend, I guarantee I would've lost my temper and yelled at her, "FOR GOD'S SAKE, JUST GET OVER HIM!" because in reality, a lifetime waiting for someone is far too long. I'm not going to pretend I know anything about love, and I can't even imagine being that enamoured that I would even consider waiting for one person forever, but really, Mary, there are other sea captains in the sea.

But because I didn't know her personally and consequently didn't have to put up with her bitching about heartbreak to me on a daily basis, I love the fact that Mary waited for him like that. I find it sad and beautiful and, sometimes, I even give her credit for being able to care that much for someone for all those years without even being able to see their face anymore.

I'm not good at waiting, and although I hope that I never end up hanging around the Raritan River for the rest of my life waiting for some dude, I probably could learn a thing or two from her about patience.

Kristina, Megan, and I went to visit Mary last Sunday. We drove on Route 1 and when we got to the parking lot, we started wandering. It was dark, and there were a lot of people around, but when we started to head to the back of the Leows theater Kristina reached into her pocket, "I'm going to take out my rape whistle."

I laughed, but couldn't help but feel kind of relieved. Once we got behind the theater, we realized that it wasn't all that sketchy and there was a huge stone structure in front of us.

"Is that it?" Megan asked. We all stared at in in disbelief. It was huge.

"It looks too big."

"Let's walk over and see."

And sure enough, when we got there, on top of the huge stone structure was a fence, and a grave.

"I'm gonna climb up," Megan said and started scaling the wall. Finally, she pulled herself up and Kristina handed Megan her camera. Just then a security guard started circling the parking lot. Megan crouched down on the stone structure.

"Just stay down!" Kristina and I hissed. But the security guard clearly didn't care about us and just drove off.

I'm very afraid of heights and normally I don't really see the benefit of freaking myself out just for a good view or something of the like. But this time, since it was Mary buried up there, I knew I had to do it. The wall was only seven feet, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared.

I asked Kristina to hand me up flowers. I couldn't really get to Mary's grave very well, since it was fenced off, but I threw the flowers in anyway. I felt like I owed it to her. She was buried with a few other family members, but obviously not with her lover.

At least she wasn't resting alone.

We wandered around the parking lot for a bit. We were going to walk into the woods, but it was dark and we decided against it. On the way out, Megan and I thought it would be interesting to ask the security guard if there were any plans to move the grave. Megan and I are big fans of good stories, and we hoped the the security guard would be able to tell us some awesome part of Mary Ellis' story.

However, he ended up having no answers for us, and just sent us inside to ask the main desk at the theater for a binder with some info on Mary Ellis. To our disappointment, the binder just contained the Weird NJ article about the grave and the lyrics to "Brandy." I don't know what will become of Mary Ellis, but I hope she gets to rest in the place where she spent her life waiting, even if it is just a parking lot now.

We left the parking lot and drove off down Route 1, leaving Mary behind. I still had "Brandy" in my head, and I couldn't help but wonder: Did Mary's captain die at sea? Or did he just not love her enough to come back?

And I wondered for Mary which one would've been worse.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Devil Tree, Fake Nudist Colonies, Blairsden (Again)

"I was in a funk the other day," my friend Kristina said, making a face. I was at the dry cleaners I work at, and Sharon and Kristina were visiting me before embarking on a blog adventure.

"Yeah, I feel like I've been in a funk lately, too," I told her. And Sharon nodded in agreement. I suggested the weather being the culprit.

"I want to do summer things, but I can't because it's always raining," Sharon said leaning on the counter in the store.

I can't really describe my funk. I guess it's just the, I've-been-cooped-up-inside restlessness. Plus, I wanted to get a job doing something new and exciting, but instead I went back to the dry cleaners and am babysitting- two things I did when I was in high school.

I want to meet new and wonderful people and see new and wonderful things with old friends. I need adventure. I need excitement. And, if we're being honest here, I need romance.

But, today the rain let up, and Sharon, Kristina and I decided it was time to take off for the suburban streets of Jersey.

We went to the Devil Tree. If you're from central Jersey and know Weird New Jersey, you've probably heard of the Devil Tree. If I had to guess, I would say the legend of the Devil Tree is only second in popularity to the tale of the Jersey Devil.

The Devil Tree is located in a basically empty field in Bernardsville on Long Road. It's been made into a state park because so many kids have wandered around it, inching closer and closer to the pits of Hell... or something like that.

Anyway, legend has it that the now rich development across the street from it used to be a big plot of land with a KKK headquarters. And the KKK used to hang people on the Devil Tree. Supposedly, because of all the evil done there, that the tree is now cursed/haunted/possessed and if you try to chop it down, you will undoubtedly reach your untimely demise.

There's also a part of the story that says if you're snooping around in the field at night, a crazed man in a pick up truck will come and get you. The stories on Weird New Jersey's website go like this:

My friend took a branch from the tree once and broke a bone/got into a car accident/had some unfortunate thing happen to them.

Whether or not they're true, I can't really verify. However, this is what I can say about the Devil Tree:
1) I know people who have peed on it, and they've lived to tell the tale without broken bones or concussions or anything of the like.
2) An ex-boss of mine (who I really trust and isn't a liar or someone who makes up tall tales) said that she got chased by the guy in the pick up truck.
3) And in spite of being an agnostic, I won't get into a car with anyone who takes a branch. I'm pretty sure I'll believe in God before I believe in the Devil, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Pascal's Wager. Except on a darker level.

When we got to the Devil's Tree, there were some high school kids hanging around. One girl was trying to scare the other three and was doing a pretty bad job at it.

We ignored them and looked at the area of the tree where the hanging branch used to be. It was recently cut off. I couldn't find any reports on whether or not the landscapers have died doing so. For their sake, I hope not. But whoever took the job must be really brave, or have a low tolerance for superstition.

Sharon touched the tree, and I thought there might've been a rumor that the tree felt hot to the touch. But she said that it didn't. Some rumors are just rumors.

We walked back to our car, and I couldn't help but feel like I would never want to live across from the tree or anywhere near it. Even if it isn't full of evil forces from the underworld, it's still a grave reminder of the people were killed in the name of racism. Even without the Devil, I would say there's a bunch of evil floating around.

After we left the Devil Tree, we got back into the car. Bohemian Rhapsody was playing on the Q (104.3) and I moved into the middle seat in the back.

"I'm moving so we can pretend we're in Wayne's World," I said, re-buckling my seat belt and sticking my head in between the passenger and driver's seats in front of me.

Kristina drove us passed an area in the woods that she thought was either a cult site or a nudist colony. The verdict is still out.

I wanted to take them up to Blairsden, since it was dark and a beautiful night. We got hopelessly lost trying to find the center of Bernardsville. We started taking guesses, "Well, I think this road runs parallel to so-and-so road so that means the center of Bernardsville will be to our left."

We were wrong a whole bunch of times, but then, looming up in front of us like Mecca or another holy city, was the center of Bernardsville. We were lost and wandering no more. From there, we hit 202 and went up a whole bunch of streets trying to find Lake Road. Then, we finally hit that too.

Blairsden Lake was a thousand times creepier at night. We went all the way past the lake once and then decided to turn around and take pictures in the dark. None of them came out well, but it was totally beautiful and creepy. You'd see the occasional fire fly or bat zoom over the water, and the moonlight hit the lake just right that you could see the water rippling in the light summer wind.

Sharon wanted to get a picture of the three of us together, and propped her camera up on Kristina's car and set it on a timer. As soon as the picture was taken, we saw a car coming down the road.

Now, Lake Road is big enough for one car. Not two--it's extremely narrow. And here we were, parked in the middle of the road. And although I hate to admit it, I'm not good in high pressure situations.

"GET IN THE CAR!" I yelled. Kristina and Sharon started to move, and collided. Kristina's teeth dug into Sharon's forehead. We jumped into the car and I was still yelling, "KRISTINA, PUT YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON!"



I found myself covering my head in the back seat. Sharon turned around from the front and held up her hand, signaling to the other drivers to stop.

Somehow, we all forgot that even though our lights weren't on, the other car's lights were. And that they would see us. Which they did. Kristina finally got her car on, and very carefully the other car squeezed passed us, along with a second car that was behind them. But then, both of the cars stopped right in front of us. And from down the road, we could see another car was coming from behind.

Now, I don't know what the logical response to this situation was, but in my head, I was sure they were going to kill us. We were going to be blocked in on this tiny little road and we were going to be killed. Obviously, Kristina was thinking the same way, because I frantically started to say, "Kristina, close the windows and lock the doors!" only to realize that she was in the process of doing just that.

However, instead of killing us, the driver in front of us stuck his hand out the window and motioned for us to move pass him.
We looked at the car as we passed, and the driver was a kid around our age.

"Oh, he was cute," Sharon said wistfully, and I couldn't help but stare at him as we drove by, thinking exactly the same thing.

And finally, with a big exhale of relief, we started laughing. We had managed to get out of the situation alive and fully intact, except for the fact that Kristina had bitten Sharon in the frantic process of trying to get into the car.
We headed home. On the way back, I started to sink into my own thoughts. I couldn't help but feel that no matter what kind of funk I'm in, as long as I have nights like the one I had tonight, I'll get by just fine.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Carnival and Rain and The Real Housewives of New Jersey

So, I haven't written in a while.

That's because I haven't done much in a while, and I apologize for the half assed entry. If you live on the East Coast, you've probably been hit with rain. And not just a little rain. Days of rain. Noah get your Ark rain.

I went to college in upstate New York. I've had my fair share of shitty weather this year, but for some reason this rain has really hit me hard. People call me to go out, and I don't want to leave my house. All I want to do is curl up on my couch and watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

But, it's sort of getting better--both the rain and my disposition. Last Friday it was sort of nice, and my friends and I went to this thing called the Warren Expo. It's basically just a carnival.

I went with the kids that I ate lunch with senior year. Sharon ate with us too, but she was at her brother's graduation. When we got to the Expo, half of our group (Jerry and Dani) decided to go on the Gravitron--that scary looking thing that use centrifugal force to hold you to the side of the ride.

My friend, Iain, and I decided to opt out of the Gravitron, and went for a walk around the fairgrounds. All of a sudden, four cops went running by. There was a pause, and then every kid in our area who saw them took after them.

Iain smacked my shoulder, "Let's go!"

We ran after the kids who were running after a cop, someone knocked down the makeshift orange plastic fence that enclosed the carnival. It was a stampede of preteens, police, me, and Iain.

We passed some middle school girl with dyed blonde hair and ridiculous eye liner crying. Her friend laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder, "It's okay. It's okay. It's just your adrenaline rushing."

Two boys passed us and one shouted excitedly to the other, "Maybe someone's dead!"

Iain and I laughed at them. Part of me felt like I had finally matured because I was neither crying nor predicting someone's death at the edge of the fairgrounds. Then I remembered that I was chasing cops across a field to try and see what was going on with a bunch of middle schoolers. I guess maturity hasn't really hit me yet.

Eventually the crowd stopped, and up ahead of us the cops turned around, "It's nothing! It's nothing!"

Everyone started the slow walk back up to the carnival. I asked a girl I remembered vaguely from high school if she knew what was wrong, "Someone was smoking." Then her face became serious, "It might've been a joint."

So, that was that. This is rich, suburban New Jersey, folks. Where a flock of people hurdle themselves into the woods because someone "might" have been smoking a joint.

With this rain I feel like I'm completely trapped in the hellish parts of the suburbs. IE- inside. But eventually it'll get sunny again. I can stop wasting my time watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey and start exploring more places than the local carnival. New Jersey, the Garden State, the rain state, the state of people who "might" be smoking joints, is a state of endless weirdness. And I still plan on seeing as much of that as I can.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blairsden Lake

The day after the Talamini Road experience, Charlie decided to show me a road where there were the "13 bumps" in Bernardsville. The legend of the 13 bumps is that, supposedly, during the (Jersey?) Witch Trials, 13 witches were murdered and eventually their graves were paved over.

There's a 13 bumps road in Watchung, and I've been on that road multiple times. However, I had never been to the one in Bernardsville.

"I've only been there twice, and both times it was in the dark," Charlie told me, as we started to head towards Bernardsville in his car, Charlie's CDs coming through the speakers on the stereo.

"Do you know the name of the road?"

"No, but I know what it looks like."

"Do you know the name of the road the 13 bumps is off of?"

"No, but I know what it looks like."

This ended up being a problem, because things look very different in the daytime than they do in the nighttime.

We headed through the center of town and then up Clairmont Street until we hit some ritzy road in the middle of the woods where there were mansions on huge pieces of property--overlooking fields and farms and forests.

We drove up that road until we got to the end of it when Charlie said, "I think we went up the wrong road. But look at this house." He pointed out his window to a gigantic house at the end of the street. "It looks like a resort."

I scoffed, "We should show up here sometime with suitcases and tell the owners we're here for our spa weekend."

We got back to the center of town and then started driving down Route 202.

"I'm certain that it's going to be off of this road on our right," Charlie told me.

"You're certain?" I said doubtfully.

"I'm somewhat, very certain, yes."

We then proceeded to turn down every side street to our right, and went the wrong way down a one way street, and still we didn't come across any 13 bumps.
Finally, we gave up. I called my dad and asked him to give me directions to this lake and that sat underneath an old mansion called Blairsden. It was a nunnery at one point, and my parents took me up to the property once when I was younger because it's supposedly haunted. Weird NJ and local Bernardsville lore are all over that story. My dad tripped some alarm in the parking lot, so we had to leave. I was about nine or ten and found this whole tripping-the-alarm-business to be really, really exciting. It was the beginning of my adventures, I guess.

The lake that surrounds Blairsden is located, conveniently enough on Lake Road off of Route 202. It's gorgeous and eerie. The road that follows is so slim that it's hard for two cars to fit by. There's really no spot to park and look at the lake, and you can barely see it sometimes through the trees and bushes that line the side of the road. But when you do manage to poke through the trees and get a glimpse, the view is fantastic.
On our way back from the lake, a downpour started. You could see the drops flood into the lake and the paling sky made the whole trip even more spooky.

We never made it up to Blairsden though. The rain was too bad to keep driving around. Maybe that's for the next adventure. And maybe we can complete the investigation without tripping any alarm systems.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Talamini Road, Bridgewater

Weird New Jersey gives very specific details of what you're supposed to do when driving on Talamini Road in Bridgewater:
1. Turn off your music and your air conditioner
2. Sit on the driver's side of the car
3. Drive West on the road, away from Route 202
4. Go 35 miles per hour

And then, from the depths of... well, wherever, you're supposed to hear a moan.

Rumor is that someone died on that road, hit by a speeding car. Weird New Jersey found no records of this, but when the reporters went, they did hear this mysterious moan.

I decided this would be my next adventure. A few days ago, Sharon, my friend Kristina, and I decided to check out an abandoned high school in Madison. We couldn't find it, however, and ended up going bowling instead, which was fun, but not really blog worthy.

I told Sharon I wanted to go to Talamini Road, and my friend Charlie texted me later that afternoon, asking me to hang out, so he agreed to go on the adventure with us.

Over the years, Charlie has been one of my favorite adventuring partners. We've gone to a lot of really cool places together--waterfalls, abandoned houses, abandoned barns, and a laundry list of local punk and ska shows when we were younger and when Jersey had more venues.

However, we had never been to Talamini Road before. We left from Charlie's house, since he lives closer, in his mom's car (since it's a little nicer than either his car or my car).

"Pick a CD," He said, handing me a huge binder. I saw one that said "Gypsy Night" on it, and shoved it into the disk player. When I was a sophomore and/or junior (my four years of high school have started to run together) we had a "gypsy night" where a few of us got dressed up like gypsies and had our more musically inclined friends play their instruments for us by a fire. We roasted marshmellows and ate homecooked vegetarian food.

The soundtrack to this evening had a bunch of gypsy-esq music--from Tibet and the Ukraine and, well, the United States--and the ocassional spoken-word song.

Just as we turned onto a dark road in Bridgewater, a spoken-word song by the band 1905 came over the speakers.

Sharon moved to a different seat in the car, shifting towards the passenger's side in the back seat, "I don't want to be on the driver's side anymore."

"Alright, we're not on the road yet, though," I said to her, craning my neck to see her.

"Oh," She laughed. "I heard the guy talking in the song and I thought it was the moan."

A few minutes later, though, we came to Talamini Road.

When we drove down it the first time, we didn't hear anything, but we were going in the wrong direction. We got to the end of the road, and then Sharon and I switched seats so I could be on the driver's side in the back.

A car came up behind us and saw Sharon and I running to different seats. They pulled up next to us and a young boy poked his head out of the window, "Are you guys okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine," I said. And because I felt like I had to explain why Sharon and I were switching seats I continued, "We just had to change seat... cause of... motion sickness."

The boy nodded, looking a little confused, and they drove off. I rolled my eyes at myself. Motion sickness? Really?

"I can't believe they asked us if we were okay," Charlie said.

"It was so... nice."

"And so not something that happens in Jersey."

We turned off the radio and the air conditioner in Charlie's car. We kept the windows rolled down, set the cruise control to 35, and started down the road.

All of a sudden around a curve, we heard a weird vibrating noise. Sharon, who wasn't supposed to be able to hear the moan because of where she was sitting, turned around.

"Did-" I started, but then kept quiet incase that wasn't the moan. But when we got to the end of the street, I hadn't heard anything except the strange vibration.

"Did you guys hear anything?" Charlie asked.

"When I started to talk, I thought I heard something," I said.

Sharon turned around, "I heard that too."

"Yeah, so did I," Charlie agreed.

Sharon went on, "It wasn't really a moan though. It just sounded like a note." She demonstrated, making a monotone sound with her voice. "It sounded like bagpipes."

That started an endless line of jokes about The Bagpipes of Talamini Road.

We decided to try it again, but the next time we didn't hear anything. On the way back, Sharon and I switched seats again.

A few minutes later she said, "Did I leave my purse up in the front?" I handed it to her. She scoffed, "I'm glad it was up there--I got worried the Bagpipe Ghost had stolen it."

New Jersey is so full of legends that even hearing a bagpipe sound when you're supposed to hear a moan is amazing, because at least we actually heard something. Half of the time legends are 100% made up. At least this one was only 50% made up; although, I'm no scientist, but I'm sure physics could explain why we heard a weird sound going around a bend at a very specific speed in a car...