I used to hang out on the Jersey shore. Not that much, and I certainly can't claim any sort of ancestral affinity for the place, or any sort of historical roots. But for about a decade there, when I worked at AT&T Bell Labs, I spent a lot of time in central Jersey -- Red Bank, Freehold, Long Branch, Holmdel, Asbury Park -- and after work my co-workers and I would wander the beach, watch the old Italian guys play bocci, and scour the boardwalk looking for a decent seafood restaurant. This was, of course, back in the days when companies still employed people.
Thanks in no small part to Bruce Springsteen, the place has always had a romantic appeal for me. Bruce immortalized the dingy bars and seedy arcades on albums such as Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. I never took part in the life on and under the boardwalk, but I did, for a while, date a barefoot Jersey girl who drank warm beer while sitting on the hood of a Dodge, and I've been inside the Stone Pony, where Bruce got his start, so I've always claimed honorary residency. It's a mythic place, at least in song. The reality is probably somewhat different. As far as I know, Lucent Technologies, formerly AT&T Bell Labs, has laid off most of its staff, so there couldn't be that many corporate beachcombers strolling the boardwalk these days. It was all a long time ago.
But it comes back when I listen to Tom Waits' great song "Jersey Girl." Unfortunately, there's no good YouTube version of Tom singing his song, but Bruce Springsteen isn't a bad consolation prize. Here's Bruce conducting a choir of 20,000.
Down the shore everything's alright.
You're with your baby on a Saturday night.
I just found out that the job opportunity I'd pinned my hopes on -- the one I've been holding out for, hoping and praying that it might become a reality -- has been eliminated due to budget cuts. So I could use a strong dose of good, old-fashioned romantic hope today. Sha la la la la la sha la la la.