Long before the words Jersey Shore became synonymous with a certain group of televised partiers, I fell in love with the entire New Jersey coastline. Seaside Heights was the first place I ever saw the ocean. Ocean City was the only place where I got to ride a carousel with honest to lady luck brass rings. Yes, I did grab one and never forgot the experience. And, no, I did not fall off my horse doing it! Quaint Cape May, with its grand seaside Victorian Hotels. Atlantic City with its sentinel lighthouse, standing watch over the gambling mecca so far inland that it’s more like a streetlighthouse. And Wildwood, a bit off the beaten path, slower, with a feel of what it might be like to live along the coastline so near to New York City, yet far enough removed to seem like a step back in time.

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I like the historical feel of the lighthouse, with its brick pavement and gaslight type fixture. It too seemed a bit inland. Maybe a Jersey thing.

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This gull and its shadow are the quintessential beach image. New Jersey knows how to show seagulls off to full advantage. Flying overhead, decorating a beach like this one, even swooping down to snatch a treat right from a tourist’s lips (I saw that happen once), they’re ubiquitous, charming…and a little scary.

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Dunes are another feature of many beaches the world over. I could never get used to the shale beaches in Great Britain. They’re cool because they’re almost exotic to someone accustomed to soft white, golden, or even black sand shorelines. They aren’t easy to walk on, though. While loose sand is shifty underfoot, navigating gazillions of pebbles makes a person feel like Smaug slithering through his mountains of treasure. To me the novelty of shale will never replace the feel of soft sand on bare feet. And sand dunes are beautiful, in their stark way. Add a retaining fence and sea oats, and they become salt air still lifes.

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And, finally, one of the attractions that make the Jersey Shore so appealing. Whether tucked away in a cavernous room filled with harsh artificial light or displayed right out in the open air, carousels have long been fixtures of the boardwalks. Each is a work of art, particularly the glorious antique treasures, gilded and painted and all but throbbing with make believe life, as the music plays, the horses soar and dive on their poles, and sometimes a brass ring waits to be snatched by eager fingers.

After Sandy’s devastation I’ve often thought of the magical nature of the Jersey Shore. The dunes and the birds will come back and remain a fixture no matter how many times mother nature upsets their balance, but historical buildings and art in the guise of entertainment bear such fragility as the years pass. I treasure my memories of days spent among them, and hope many manage to withstand the wrath of time and tide to be treasured on for years to come.

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