01 February 2010

TV Calamity - Jersey Shore

I spent a few weeks in the summers sandwiching 1969 posing as a surfer with my friend Stephen Sunyak in Seaside Heights. I gave Stephen the moniker Phineas, a variation on a contraction of Stephen (phen), and short for Phineas J. Woopie-Cushion.

Phineas’ folks were always trying to maintain a tenuous handhold on their white collar gigs. His dad was a college-educated manager who, when he was lucky, stayed a friable handhold ahead of the layoff axe that was gaining prevalence. His mom was a substitute teacher whom I tormented on occasion in the classroom with attention-starved antics despite knowing she was my surrogate mother for two weeks several summers in a row.

Some years the Sunyaks could barely afford the two weeks in a shore shack in Seaside Park, much less to have me as a hungry guest of the family. I spent some time with them while Mr. Sunyak was out of work. There wasn't a lot of cotton candy on the cardboard spindle.

But then, as it is now, the Jersey Shore is about signing on for shit that’s a pay grade above your station – shit you can’t afford. You saw it then, with families cramped into shore shacks several hot-tar blocks from the ocean. And you see it today with the gobs of credit-card mansions.

Tin Soldiers

When I recall those Seaside summers, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tune Ohio rings in my head.

I won the Ohio single at some rigged game on the Boardwalk. Anyone with a melon understood the Nixon administration was not government by the people or for the people.

The shore wasn't 100% about cheap sex and debauchery as depicted in the TV calamity Jersey Shore.

Some of us communed with nature.

There was one Saturday where the surf was flat at sunrise. Phineas and I schlepped our surfboards back to the shack, slept until noon, ate some baloney on Wonder Bread, and checked the surf again. Still flat.

Dominus Vobiscum

Bored to a panic, Phineas and I booked over to Saturday 6 pm mass hoping the surf would be up Sunday morning. Our teenage thinking was that by showing up with shoes on in a Catholic church, our slacker savior would somehow see fit to energize some swells... for chrissake.

The Sunyaks were Catholics, as was every blue collar family in New Jersey including mine. There must be some non-Catholics in New Jersey, I just never met any in the 17 years I lived there. I suppose there aren't many Catholics over in blue-blood Princeton. It's curious, and not-so-curious, that religiosity is roundly class-based, but that's an aside. No one in New Jersey prides themselves on being blue collar any more which is sad. Everyone thinks they're rich. But there are still plenty of Catholics, so nothing really changes that much.

The mass probably wasn’t given entirely in Latin by that time, but wafts of smoldering incense made it plausible to cop a contact high in the front pew. After we were blessed by a troglodyte in vestments
Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo
we headed out to check the waves.

Well I’d be a nun’s steel dildo if there weren't monster 8-footers pounding the shore. Best waves I surfed - ever. Church never made me closer to an anthropomorphic myth, but I did feel the power of nature after that mass.

I used to believe the chiasmus
Cheap things ain't good, and good things ain't cheap
but, not so much now.

The TV calamity Jersey Shore is repulsive - yet it accurately reflects the baseness of monkey-humping humanity. TV's Jersey Shore sugar coats what it's like raw-peckered and coming of age in New Jersey, or anywhere for that matter.

A BBC story about offspring-eating monkeys called Bonobos, reminds me humans are few licks of DNA from being a cannibalistic species. Maybe I shouldn’t be so disappointed about the progress of humanity. Plus, surf's up in some corner of the globe.


  1. Jersey is really another borough of NYC, most of us are just urban ocean lovers. Jersey Shore is just a caricature some mtv suit dreamed up. Just like all southerners ain't good ol' boys, and midwesterners ain't farmers and hicks,most of us from Jersey (How come we don't call New York, York; or South Dakota, Dakota ?) ain't gangsters or guidos.


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