Hello all, sorry it’s been such a long time between posts.  Chalk it up to laziness, mixed with my birthday and other social outings.

I received a Nook for my birthday and have to say it’s pretty awesome.  Anyone considering it should definitely invest in one.   With the release of the new Color Nook, the older models only go for $150.  You can carry an entire library in a tablet.  It’s pretty remarkable. It’s very easy to use and titles are abundant.  You can always purchase copies online (and even through the device itself).  As a librarian, however, I must advocate that there are other options. You can check out titles from your local library, given that they participate in an e-lending program such as ListenNJ.  And there are free materials that are now out of copyright.  If you go to the Project Guttenberg website, you can find some classic works of literature available in all eBook formats.  The future is now!  That is not to say I will be abandoning print media.  That is hardly the case.  My personal library will still feature many leather-bound books as featured in one of my previous posts.  No.  I am merely stating that eBook readers are incredibly convenient and are the future of reading as we know it.

Speaking of the future…It seems as though the world has gone to hell in a hand basket lately.  Japan is underwater and the entire Middle East and North Africa are rebelling.  Amidst all of this turmoil, I have begun to realize that A LOT of the books I’ve been reading, have been about post-apocalypse worlds. I’m talking about a full out end of the world due to a virus, war or natural catastrophe.  Scary stuff, I know.

Here are some of the books I’ve read.  With this reader’s advisory, comes a grade. I highly recommend any and all of them.  Here they are:

-Cell by Stephen King – People who answer their cell phones after a certain point in time become enraged zombies (think 28 Days Later, without the cannibalism) who kill those who have not answered their phones.  It follows a father who is stuck in the middle of Boston during the initial incident, as he searches for his son in Maine. B+

World War Z by Max Brooks – Pretty self explanatory, huh?  The dead rise, the world fights back.  The story is told through a series of interviews from around the world.  Insightful political commentary.  B+

-The Passage by Justin Cronin – Follows a young girl orphan named Amy who has subtle other-wordly powers.  It later turns into a slowly-evolving thriller about the creation of a vampiric germ and its intended use as a weapon. This kind of COMPLETELY BACKFIRES.  Fast forward to a 100 years later, where people are surviving as best they can.  A

-The Strain and The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (book 3 set for later this year) – Vampire/Zombie thriller about a contagious vampire disease (originating in the Old World) that starts in New York and slowly spreads outward. A-

-The Road by Cormac McCarthy – A father and son travel across post-apocalyptic American in search of food, shelter and safety.  Caution:  extreme literary style is used (I had to listen to the audio book to get through it).  Pulitzer winner.  A

-The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – Post-apocalyptic America where a new society is formed of 12 colonies and one capitol.  These 12 colonies exist to serve the Capitol and its lavish lifestyle in all things…including an annual game where two teenagers are sent from each colony to fight to the death.  FYI, it’s a young adult book but can easily be enjoyed by all. A+

-Salvation City by Sigrid Nuñez – A devastating flu rocks the world in the late 2000’s.  An orphaned teenage boy becomes adopted by a Pastor and his wife and learns to adapt to his new lifestyle.  Very thoughtfully written and rattled with pop-culture references and a light sprinkling of Christian undertones. B-

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – Nothing like the movie at all.  These vampires are sentient creatures that taunt Neville into insanity.  Set in 1970’s suburban California. The end of the world and the vampires are hinted at being created by a nuclear war. B+

-Feed by Mira Grant (book 2, Deadline, is slated for a May release) – Zombie/political/technological thriller that follows the three bloggers who follow a presidential campaign in a post-Rising world.  A-

So…As you can see I’m also a fan of horror fiction.  Even if they appear as horror books, they work well as cross-genre blends.  I’ve been using the word “apocalypse” a lot.  Perhaps it would be better to call them “survivalist.”  Either way, these titles deal with the end of the world in some way.  Definitely check them out if you get a chance and you’re into seeing what others’ perceptions of the apocalypse.  All of them, particularly McCarthy, have very interesting, realistic and utterly brutal descriptions of such worlds.  Call it being morbidy, but I loved these books and this genre.  Until next time – M.


So, last Thursday I noticed that there were a few jokes on Thursdays NBC comedy bloc, made at libraries’ collective expense.  I’m not going to boycott NBC.  Just thought my fellow advocates of libraries should take notice.  The first happened during Community.  Here was the first scene:

[Troy and Abed are seated in the library at their study group table.  ENTER good-looking librarian who returns a book to its shelf.  Both men ogle for a bit…]

Troy: Why does being a librarian make her even hotter?

Abed: Keepers of knowledge.  She holds the answers to all our questions: will you marry me and, why are there still libraries?

I’m not about to jump on my soapbox and decry NBC for making fun of libraries.  I like NBC and proudly laud them for their programming.  Their newer shows, particularly Outsourced and Parks and Recreation have helped restore my faith in the work related sitcom again.  Speaking of which, let’s have another look at Parks and Rec’s recent library bashing:

[Leslie and Ben arrive at the police station to try and get Ron out.  They are seated at the desk of the police chief, about to cash in on a favor.]

Leslie:…would you drop the charges and release him [Ron] into our custody?

Police Chief: All right, but keep him away from that crazy librarian.

Leslie: I’ll do my best.

Police Chief: In fact, I don’t want him within…500 feet of the library.

Leslie: That’s good advice for all of us.

Police Chief: Nothing but trouble there.

Now I know that Megan Mullally’s character is supposed to be crazy, they addressed that last season.  And I thought it was all fun and well when they continued to make fun of the library.  But after watching this episode, which was hilarious, I was like “Wow, they will not stop with the library jokes.”  Seeing Ron with his new haircut and kimono was totally worth it though.  Anyway, just thought I’d point out that libraries got ripped on twice last Thursday.  But then again, Parks & Rec and 30Rock did make fun of Canada within 30 minutes of each other too.  Coincidences are strange.  I’m just sayin’…

When I have written about the library, it has mostly been to complain about patrons or other library issues.  Today, however, is not one of those days.  It all started yesterday morning… A coworker informed me that someone donated some books to be put out for sale.  I perused the books.  They looked old, like the belonged in an old English library…maybe Oxford or Cambridge.  Two books in particular jumped out at me.  They were leather bound and bore gold colored inscriptions on the cover.  They were “Advise and Consent” by Allen Drury, and “Rabbit Run” by John Updike.

I had recently seen some old leather-bound books in Barnes and Noble the other day, and I instantly wanted them.  So I figured, these two books would be perfect to add to my collection.  I took them on a whim.

Sidenote: Some of you may think me pretty evil for taking someone’s donations.  However, I will have you know that books donated by patrons always go to the book sale.  I am not permitted to add items to the catalog.  Sadly all of our cataloging is outsourced to our book vendor. So I paid the fee ($1 per book) and took them home.

Upon further inspection, I noticed that both titles were signed by their respective authors!  I looked online and the books are both valued well over $100 each.   However, I don’t plan to sell them yet.  Just thought it was pretty cool.  Thanks anonymous book donator.   And all of this on a Monday to boot…  Talk about awesomeness.

I came as a Pisces

Posted: January 15, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard of the hoopla that almost everyone’s Zodiac sign has changed.   For more info, check the story.  Now I’ve never put much stock into astrology.  As Kathy Bates one poignantly remarked “Now Bobby, astrology is just one of the many works of the devil.”  I’ve always thought of horoscopes as something people read and then try really hard to interpret (or twist) the happenings of their daily lives they read in front of them.  It’s easy to be influenced by your horoscope.  Here’s an example…

Yesterday, my horoscope (as a Pisces) read:

You are eager to discuss your thoughts and plans with others at this time and you may have a very fruitful brainstorming session, a spirited debate, or a very active meeting with others in which things really get accomplished. You are verbally assertive and can present your own plan or idea quite convincingly.

So I think to myself: Hey I had a productive manager meeting today.  I contributed to the group more than I normally I do.  Hell, I was actively participating in the conversation, and I never do that.  Touché horoscope.

However, like most of you, my sign recently changed from Pisces to Aquarius.  I’ll get more into this later.  Here is what my Aquarius horoscope for yesterday read:

This is a very good time to go to the theater, an art exhibit, or social gathering. You want to see beautiful things and exchange pleasantries with others. In fact, matters of the heart are on your mind and you may want to play matchmaker now.

And what did I do last night?  I engaged in a social gathering of sorts (I brought my brother to dinner with my girlfriend and I).  This is a seldom occurrence at best.  And I had a good time.  Inexplicably, I felt the need to bring him out with us.  We went to the new chic Japanese steakhouse the just opened up in town.  It was great.  Although…I didn’t get to play match maker…though after going out with us, I wanted to see my brother have a girlfriend…

See what I mean? Daily horoscopes can be skewed to fit Zodiac signs.  And your probably asking yourself “If this is how you feel, then why the heck are you writing about astrology ad nauseam?”  Well, I’m getting to that.  You see, I actually do believe in the Zodiac signs…in terms of personality.  Now we move onto this business of the changing symbols.

Most people who know me well, know that I am the typical Pisces.  To put it briefly, I am the overtly sensitive romantic who is deeply devoted, compassionate and imaginative.  I can also be a self-pitying, lazy escapist.  For more on my astrological foibles, click here.

This new sign Ophiuchus (which is impossible to pronounce), has thrown everything into question.  It has displaced many people out of their designated signs (including me).  Although born a Pisces, I have now been annointed an Aquarius.  I figure, one of my bestfriends is an Aquarius, this must be ok.  It was.

Once I heard word of this zodiac shuffle, I hurriedly went to see what these Aquarius’ (aquarii?) were all about.  It turns out it’s pretty nice and at times, congruent with my lifestyle.   I am a humanitarian (though perhaps not modest in saying so), inventive and sometimes, aloof.  I can be sort of a gadget-head at times and I am constantly looking for ways to make things better (at least at my job).   After reading this, I felt a lot better about my conversion.

I did notice one things about the new zodiac zones.  I was born on March 10th.  The new Pisces zone begins on March 11th.  The conclusion I came to is that although I have relocated to the Aquarius zone and share some traits, I am still a Pisces at heart.  Since I was born on the cusp of the two zones, you could call me a zodiac hybrid, mutt or half-blood.  In short, I am a Piquarius.  Don’t worry.  I’m still the over-sensitive, head in the clouds, fool.  However, now I can add a new trait to that list:  humanitarian.  Peace. -M

I was perfect…

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Movies
Tags: , ,

I would like to start off by wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year.  I had started this New Year like most people, awaking into a hellish hangover, wishing I had not taken in so many spirits the night before.  I was appreciative that my  first Manhattan apartment party was not marred by a Cloverfield monster.   Anyway, I seem to remember expounding on the argument that New Year’s resolutions are total nonsense, for people who want to change themselves but don’t, and that resolutions hardly last past the first week in January.  With a more sober mind, I now recant my pessimistic outlook and say that anyone who has a resolution and would like to make it should…just make it a reasonable one.  As for me, I am going to try to be more consistent with blog entries, ambitiously (but sensibly) going for one a week. Facebook friends be warned, you may find your news feeds overwhelmed with news of my latest entries.

So, last night instead of going to the bar I saw a movie, Black Swan.  Ok, I’ll admit I had really wanted to see The Tempest that night.  But it didn’t last long at the theater.  And after thinking about it, I’m also riding the wave of abhorrence towards Julie Taymor since the Spiderman musical has been demystified for the utter steaming pile of manure that it was destined to be.  With The King’s Speech sold out, we were left with one option; Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.  I’d seen the previews on television.  It seemed like a provocative thriller about the rise of a young ballerina played by Natalie Portman.  And Mila Kunis is there.  And they make out.  Ok, I’ll watch this movie.

What I was subjected to that night was much more than that.  I think that Aronofsky has really outshined himself here.  Although I have not yet seen Pi or Requiem for a Dream ([gasp!].. but fear not, I am watching it after the football game today) I did see The Wrestler.  And although I found the subject matter of The Wrestler a little more engaging (from a guy’s point of view) than the ballet, I have to say that Black Swan (tempted to call it BS although that couldn’t be further from the truth) to be extremely captivating.  Also, has anyone else noticed Aronofsky’s recent penchant for men in tights?  I’m just saying…

Jokes aside, Black Swan is much like The Wrestler, in that you are instantly revealed the brutal preshow rituals/routines that ballerinas go through as they are preparing backstage…squeamish moviegoers beware. I hear the Portman is engaged and carrying the child of her choreographer from the movie.  Their chemistry really shines, because you can tell how she absorbed her role as a well-practiced ballerina.


Sidenote: I am conflicted to not divulge too much in this entry.  So for those of you who have not seen it yet, this is a semi-spoiler alert.  There’s no huge twist at the end, but you are reading a streamlined version/review of the movie. But I digress, back to the BS story. Here we go…

You are taken on a rollercoaster of a ride as the movie is told from the perspective of the rigid and highly unstable Nina Sayers.  She is awarded the highly coveted role of Black Swan in her ballet company’s upcoming show.  The problem is, in order to do so she ousts long time company favorite played by Winona Ryder.  For all of Portman’s incredible performance (for which she does deserve an Oscar), it is worth noting that Ryder did a fantastic job as the broken and defeated older ballerina who has to make way for the young, up and coming Sayers.  If the movie had followed Ryder’s character after her fall from grace, it would have been The Wrestler: Part Deux.

Sayers vows to be perfect but has difficulty engaging her dark side.  The role of the Black Swan requires a dangerous identity transformation from the innocent White Swan into the seductive Black Swan.  You will find that little by little, the show is an allegory for Sayers’ life. While watching, I found myself constantly asking the question: “real or not real?”  And yes, for those of you who have read Mockingjay, I did steal that. A large extent of the movie passed as a hallucination. (Sorry that’s the last spoiler, I swear).

Eventually Nina finds out how to unleash her dark side with the help of Milas Kunis. Sayers’ life takes a series of out of control turns, which features a sex-filled, drunken drug-romp, damaged personal relationships, and the realization that there is no going back to the way things were.  In the end, Sayers’ dark plunge culminates in her ability to play (and master) the Black Swan.   Portman aptly murmurs, “I am perfect” at the end of her performance on opening night.  And she was, both in the show and in the movie.  I give this film my full endorsement.  Go see it now while its still in theaters.

Sorry for being away for so long. The stress of my new job has taken its toll and has prevented me from posting even on a bi-weekly basis.  So that, in addition to the new Madden videogame for PS3, have eaten up all my free time.  So now that I have an off day, I figured I’d try to be productive (and resist the urge to play Madden’s tantalizing Franchise mode) write about something quasi-work related.

Nowadays, it seems like every movie preview I see is either a sequel, adaptation, or remake.  And many times, a much better read person than myself will comment, “the book was so much better…” My currently reading list has afforded me the opinion that that statement usually rings true.  Remember way back when in January when I said I would start Rowling’s Harry Potter series?  Well, after finishing Prisoner of Azkaban, I took a long hiatus (a common practice which I am famous for, for those who read this blog).  I’m not sure if its because I wanted to savor the Hogwarts flavor, or that the books lengths suddenly increased five-fold.

Regardless of the reason, over the summer I read Goblet of Fire, and although I found the idea of the Tri-Wizard Tournament was interesting, Voldemort’s return horrifying and Mad-Eye Moody one awesome BAMF, ultimately I thought it was kind of drawn out and lost interest towards the end.  The movie did nothing to assuage my disappointment.  It didn’t even follow the book that well.  Not even teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson slipping into the role of Cedric Diggory, could save that stale flick.  My dreams of falling in love with the larger books even more seemed all but dashed.  So I took another break.

When I took a look at the length of Order of the Phoenix, my heart stopped.  It was nearly 900 pages!  We’re talking Tolstoy- King- Follett territory here.  Yet I pressed on.  And I’m glad I did.  The book was incredible.  So much happened.   You have: the incompetence of the Ministry of Magic fully exposed in the toad-like, easy to hate Dolores Umbridge, the introduction of Luna Lovegood, and the battle in the Ministry that results in the Bellatrix Lestrange slaying her cousin.  I then thought that there would be way too much to put in the movie.  But I was surprised yet again.  The movie was fantastic.  I’m very glad director David Yates stayed on for the remaining installments.

I then took another break for a few weeks.  Then suddenly, I realized I only had two weeks before the newest movie came out.  In what seemed like an utterly hopeless race against time, I rushed through Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows (with the help of their respective audio-books-which are awesome, btw) and just managed to get them finished before the release of the movie.  Both books impressed me once again.  As did both movies.  My only complaint was that the movie’s Slughorn (though Jim Broadbent is awesome) was not as I had imagined him.  Also, Snape!  I know I’m a little behind the times with these reviews, but totally did not see that coming.  I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read, but I did not predict any of that happening.  And by “that” I mean Snape’s actions and motives.  Touché Severus.

I could write a lot more about how much I’ve loved the latest books and movies, but I think this is a good ending point.  Suffice to say, movie adaptations of books can go either way, as demonstrated by the Harry Potter franchise.  Moving on.

I recently tried to read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and gave up.  It was way too literary and McCarthy’s penchant for not using quotation marks…ever.  I took a different tact and decided to listen to the audio book instead.  It was much better.   I could actually distinguish between dialogue, thoughts and description.  I was very satisfied with the book and can see why it won the Pulitzer.  You see the best and worst of a post-apocalyptic world.  The book is tragic and after reading it (or listening to it) I recommend you have someone you love nearby.

The movie was almost a shot for shot interpretation of McCarthy’s prose.  The dialogue and voice over were taken from the book verbatim.  I was very surprised to see this because it seems as though directors/screenwriters need to add (or embellish) stories with their artistic license.  Viggo Mortensen was precisely as I imagined the protagonist “the man.”  Cameos by other characters were also spot-on portrayals of their literary counterparts.  Those cameos included Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce.  The musical scores during the movie perfectly captured the mood of the moment.  Overall, it was very impressive and incredibly loyal to McCarthy’s work.

As I sit down to finish the Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” series, I wonder what the forthcoming movies will bring.  Will they stay loyal to books?  Will they fall victim to improper use of artistic license?  Who knows?  The movies will not be out for a few years now, as casting has just begun.  Movie adaptations are an age-old subject that will continue long after this blog post.  I’m only hoping to stimulate some internal discussion as to why so many of these adaptations are out there.

In an age where Hollywood is inundating the masses with remakes, adaptations and sequels, I expect these titles to be enjoyable.  Original screenplays have grown even more precious.  Even the bad ones.   Tron and True Grit have better live up to their originals (though I’m sure they will with Jeff Bridges being involved), or I may just stop going to see the movies in theaters altogether.  Hope you’ve enjoyed my first editorial/full out rant.  Peace –M.

Way down the shore

Posted: August 17, 2010 in Travel

On Saturday, my girlfriend and I embarked on a road trip that took us to the most southern point in New Jersey.  So far, in fact, that it is below the Mason-Dixon Line.  As we ventured further down the Garden State Parkway, it seemed as though we were leaving the state entirely.  The only thing familiar was the hundreds of yellow New Jersey license plates also flocking southward.  A near three hour ride, mired in heavy traffic would be enough to put anyone in a cranky mood.  When we crossed the bridge and greeted by the Welcome to Cape May sign, all negative feelings were drained from my body.  Now, I was filled with excitement, joy and a yearning to explore this famed Victorian beach town.

Whale mural

If asked to describe out trip in one word, it would most certainly have to be serendipitous.  The timing of the trip was entirely dictated by chance—which despite being subjected to hours of traffic—proved very positive for us after we arrived.  I will mention these unforeseen occurrences throughout this blog post.  Our timing first seemed too good to be true as though we were being smiled upon by the day-vacation gods themselves.  Our first instance of good fortune transpired when we at last found ourselves a parking spot at Cape May Elementary (the only free parking in the area) and approached the welcome center.  There we were met by an affable Cape May Chamber of Commerce employee, who presented us with a map and information about the town’s hotspots.  Vince (our temporary guide) in addition to being very friendly, advised us to visit the bar/night club known as The Boiler Room because it was “kicky” and young people like ourselves would have a good time there.  We acknowledged all of his advice and vowed to check this place out, provided we had enough time.  Well-stocked with information about the town, we set out on our way.

We first traversed the touristy section of Cape May in hopes of finding some lunch.  Although we had left early in the morning, it was approaching noon and our appetite was rising.  Finally we stumbled upon Cape May Fish Market to sit down and have lunch.  We both ordered the thing you would expect at a seafood restaurant:  a turkey club and a cheeseburger for my girlfriend.  The meal brought out to me was of Man vs. Food proportions.  The triple-decker turkey sandwich was difficult to fit in my hands.  After taking in the shocking amount presented to me, it was simply mind over matter.  And after a slight struggle, I consumed (read: defeated) my meal.

On Washington Street

A big groggy after our large meal, we set out on foot to the Emlen Physick Estate, one of the oldest houses in the entire town.  This was the first serendipitous moment of many during our day.  As we arrived to purchase tickets for the tour, we were informed that the tour would be starting in no more than 3 minutes.  We hurriedly made our way to the tour meeting point, walking briskly on the seashell driveway.  This estate was everything you could expect of a Victorian Era mansion.  The estate’s grand first floor gave way to even more luxuriant 2nd and 3rd floors to what our tour guide referred to as a Seuss-ian chimney.  Unfortunately no photography of any kind was permitted once indoors.  Suffice to say there were many interesting artifacts, replicas, wallpaper and carpet designs, and reproductions that filled this enormous manor.  We saw original bath suits (made of black wool!) pianos, top hats, books and more in the house.  It was an impressive sight.  Afterwards, we lounged at the gazebo and plotted out our next course of action.

The Physick Estate

My girlfriend’s father was at one time in the coast guard.  Cape May has a U.S.C.G. station at the far end of town.  Thinking it would be a good idea to grab a picture by the institutions sign for her father’s stake, I suggested we hoof it out there, grab the picture and come back to the beach to relax.  The walk was much longer than I had anticipated (and the map’s scale had led me to believe) but we got a nice tour of the residential district and away from the beaten path.  I noticed that many of the town’s year round denizens were Philadelphia sports fan.  I walked with trepidation, fearing my Mets cap would conjure some sort of confrontation with the town’s residents.  My apprehension proved unfounded, but I realized that whether I liked it or not I was in Philly-country now.  Oh, and the Mets lost to the Phillies that day, so there was little reason for taunting on their part.

Eventually we found our way to the beach and as soon as we could, we slipped off our shoes and ran for the beach.  I felt strangely like a foreigner, enjoying a beach that was not my own.  It also made me feel hypocritical because I had so unabashedly mocked out-of-towners for flocking the Red Bank and the greater shore area.  I was Benny now.

Lying on the beach we closed our eyes and reflected on what a lovely day it had been already.  And it wasn’t even half over.  I was more interested in looking at the Victorian hotels and buildings than I was the water.  The water I had seen a million times, but the houses…they were incredible.  Even though I had taken careful measures to prevent sand from going anywhere on my body, I found myself covered in it.  After a thorough brush-off, we made our way to Carney’s to grab a nice pint of pale ale and some delectable steamed clams.

At the beach

We headed back towards the tourist area to pick up some souvenirs.  I had seen a navy blue Cape May hooded sweatshirt that I had to have earlier that day.  On our way back, we found the public library.  We had wondered whether the town would have one after seeing the tiny schools.  The library was just as small.  After searching through a few stores, I at last found my beloved sweatshirt.  Satisfied, we hiked back to the car to head west towards Cape May Point.

Several of Cape May’s attractions are actually located in the Point.  The lighthouse, Sunset Beach, World War II watch tower and nature conservatory are just a few.  We want to catch get some photos of the lighthouse (even though it was closed) before the sun went down and to watch the sunset on Sunset Beach.  We finally made it to the lighthouse (which is also a State Park).  We grabbed some token photos of the lighthouse and then heard the shrill of children.  We turned our attention to the source of the commotion and realized everyone was pointing and ogling the water.  They were all watching dolphins.

Lighthouse at sunset

Dolphins leaped out of the water as a small pack of them headed north.  We had considered taking a dolphin/whale watching tour during the day, but Vince told us it would be a wash.  The whales are all in Massachusetts by now, he uttered.  And even though we decided against spending time and money on the watch we were still serendipitously granted view of the sea mammals.   I got as many photos as I could, but most just turned out as tiny black fin-shaped specks against a dark blue ocean.

That’s a dolphin fin…can’t you tell?

We left the beach with hopes of catching the sunset at the aptly named beach.  Regrettably, everyone else had similar ideas as we had to park a good half-mile from the beach.  The setting sun was shielded from an unlucky strand of clouds placed just at the horizon.  So we were snubbed from our romantic sunset, but at least caught a glimpse as the fiery orange tinge faded into the sea.  We also saw one rare sight, the remains of a concrete ship.  Long story short, America ran out of steel and iron for production and constructed 16 ships out of concrete.  They weren’t very fast, but they somehow stayed afloat, with the exception of this one.  It crashed just off shore and the split remnants of the ship’s hull stuck out of the water, like the ruins of an ancient underwater city.

“It’s like Atlantis” my girlfriend said, as we stared at the nautical marvel.

Concrete ship

I spent some time looking for Cape May diamonds (translucent pieces of quartz) on the beach.  The setting of the sun (and possibly my girlfriend’s waning patience) dashed any hopes I might of had in finding any larger sized precious stones, but I did find a few fragments to present to my mother later.  Our long haul to the car was followed by an even longer wait in local traffic.  Eventually we found a beachside parking spot and set out for the Boiler Room.

Searching for diamonds

Enjoying sunset

The bar, which we thought must have been this tiny hole in the wall, was located underneath the very ritzy Congress Hall hotel.  We approached the bouncer, produced our IDs from our wallets and descended the stairs.  Below, I was met with total surprise at what I saw.  This was hardly the hole in the wall we had imagined.  Instead, it was a hip (dare I say kicky) night club, with an ample bar and stage for performance.  The ambience is best described as a Manhattan-esque bar that plays live music, with the tranquil neon lights fluttering on the wall.  It was both exciting and low-key at the same time.

Though well nourished by the clams form Carneys, we ordered some appetizers.  My girlfriend had the friend calamari and I had a buffalo burger.  Both meals were delicious.  We savored the bar food as well as our accompanying spirits (a River Horse Pale Ale and Long Trail Blackberry Wheat). When we entered the Boiler Room, it was a bit quiet and the band was just doing their sound checks before their performance.  This was our last serendipitous moment.

The bar soon began to fill up and the band began their set as we were eating.  They were a soul/jazz/blues band that covered some classics as well as performing some of their own work.  The lead singer was everything you’d expect to be a band of this ilk. The bluesman came onto the stage after the band’s terrific instrumental rendition of Oye Como Va to sing what had to be a Ray Charles song.  He was tall, old and wore a weathered face of a man who had done this all his life (spending his days on the beach and his nights performing in nightclubs and bars).   He was linen clad and was topped by a worn Panama hat drawn over his eyes.  As he sang he danced around in his chair as best he could; waving his arms to the rhythm of the blues he sang. It was all too good to be true.  We absorbed the pleasant feeling of the set and became entranced as the band played on.  Tempted to say this was once again like our Nick and Norah/Good Old War experience, I refrained from mentioning it (even though it really was).  We just enjoyed the presence of each other’s company, the band’s company and the experience of the day.  After finishing their first set, we removed ourselves from the bar (for fear of being hypnotized longer by the music of the bluesman) and set out for our way home.

Any other two-hour plus car ride home would have been a little tiresome and even annoying.  Still doped up on the high of our music experience, we conversed about the day and how wonderful it had been.  And it was truly wonderful…