Claire at the shore….awaiting a storm.
And memories of the Jersey Shore. Quite a number of years ago, a photo magazine sent me a query about my favorite place to go in the world. It was, I believe, further refined a search than that. It was, as I recall (and my memory may be a tad awry here) about my favorite place, at my favorite time of year. Something like that. They evidently sent it to numerous photogs, a survey, if you will, seeking their thoughtful, well traveled wisdom.
I believe they sent it to some pretty high falutin’ shooters, and I can only imagine the responses they got from this group of urbane, worldly folk. Well known to be highly impressed with themselves and their exploits, they were the type to not be disinclined to inform others of the excellence of their own personal adventure. Unspoken of course, between the lines of their responses, would be the overriding sense that their particular, nuanced appreciation for the finer things was finer, well, than yours’.
“Cannes in the fall is marvelous. The streets are filled with energy and delight, and there’s this little coffee shop on Rue D’Ego, where the espresso is made from beans grown in soil matured with the dung of sacred cows. Not to be missed.” And so forth.
Sigh. I’ve never been much for surveys, especially ones where virtually everyone responding is a teller of tales. I dutifully sent mine back in and said simply, the Jersey Shore. When my kids were small, we would trek there, our own version of Operation Desert Storm. Minivan, beach umbrellas, Little Mermaid towels in tow, we would take the beach in no less a determined fashion than if we had arrived via an amphibious assault craft and rolled onto the sand in a fully armored Humvee.
The wind and the whitecaps were always good companions, and the only sounds louder and more piercing than the screech of the gulls would be the squeals of kids as a chilled wave from the North Atlantic would catch up to their mad scramble back up the beach. My globe savvy buds at National Geographic would always cluck their tongues and mock my pedestrian choice of vacation spot. Bill, my editor, would query me as to my expertise in the breaststroke, as he fancied it the only stroke applicable in those waters, which he imagined to be virtually teeming with hospital waste and discarded syringes. You would presumably push back the floating refuse whilst keeping your head staunchly out of the water.
I took all their ribbing in good grace, as I (along with thousands of others) was onto the fact that the Jersey shore is a rightfully celebrated place, with rough, relatively clean waters on the ocean side, and smooth waters on the frequent bay sides of various islands and peninsulas projecting into the Atlantic. Those calm inland waters easily accommodated a rowboat filled with children bent on crabbing. A long string, a large safety pin, and a raw piece of chicken were all you needed to attract a hungry crab, who would resolutely cling to his chicken nugget as he was hoisted into the boat. The only truly rough seas ever encountered were self generated as inevitably a crab would get loose in the rowboat, and nearly cause a capsize by single-handedly spinning four or five kids into a maritime version of the Penn Relays. Tough to actually run in a rowboat, but they managed. Worse would be the days when no crab was interested, and the children would sit there grumpily, string in hand, patience melting away like a snow cone in the hot sun. The kids would always have one of their grandfathers out there, a veteran fisherman and shore dweller, and he would wink and tell them, quite sincerely, that “This is the exciting part about fishing.”
I always found the exciting part to be the end of the day. You would pick up a floppy hatted, sun block slathered baby out of the sand, much as you pluck a sugar cookie out of the tin on the kitchen counter. Sand everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. I have thought of marketing the idea of zwieback toast actually dipped in beach sand as better than a binky for teething babies. The kids would get cleaned up, the sun would dive into the bay, and the wind would do it’s nightly acceleration, blowing in storm clouds from the sea. Exhausted children, basically asleep in their dinner plates. Nighttime would call for a hoodie and a glass of red wine, and some thinking. (Why does staring out to sea always feel like the most pensive thing you can do?)
Haven’t been to the Jersey Shore in years. The waves and the wind are echoes now. Kids are grown. Making different memories now, just as wonderful. But, when summer arrives, I do remember the shore…..more tk…
Kevin Glackmeyer says
Nice…I hope this Summer is a good one for you and yours. Then in the Fall we in Montgomery, Alabama will be ready for your first stop on the next tour. I CAN’T WAIT I AM BREATHING SOOOO HARD.
Brian Struble says
As always, your blog topic hits home with great feeling. I agree, the magic of a place is often found with those you love, just spending time together looking out across the beautiful expanse of water…
Kyle Jerichow says
I miss the days I would go down to Sea Side and go to the Saw Mill for their HUGE pieces of pizza and then funnel cake, adn then justs walking up and down the boardwalk people watching.
Saw quite a few concerts down there as well.
Life just always seemed simpler when I was sitting in the sand.
Those are some my favorite memories from when I lived in NY.
Enjoy your time off with your family, Joe. That is what life is really about.
Dawn Norris says
Sounds like a little piece of heaven on earth to me 😉 Took my girls for their first family bike ride around Newburyport, MA today – creating our new memories as a family. I agree about the staring out into the ocean part as well.
Happy summer to you Joe – hope to see you and Annie sometime in the near future…
With warmth, Dawn
John Morgan says
Loved your post. I’ve lived all over the country and when my kids were little into their teens we took them to the Jersey Shore on vacation each summer no matter where we lived. We lived in Kansas for two years and each summer we drove back for two weeks of paradise.
Kids are grown now but memories of the Jersey shore linger. My one son lives in Massachusetts and takes his family to the Jersey shore each summer. The tradition continues.
Like you, I haven’t been there in years, but when I think of my favorite times and places, it’s at the top of my list.
Thank you for sparking a happy memory.
Enjoy your summer.
All the best,
Tim Shields says
Exclellent post Joe. Kids grow up too fast, and suddenly they are gone. But you are the only dad in the world who can say he wrote his daughter’s names at the top of the light tower on top of the Empire State Building. I love that!
Thanks for teaching us what you know about photography. Most of what I know is from your books and videos.
Paul Hara says
“You would pick up a floppy hatted, sun block slathered baby out of the sand, much as you pick a sugar cookie out of the tin on the kitchen counter.” This is so precious. You are an amazing multitalented man!
Brian Powell says
What? Joe bring a lot of gear to the beach?? Say it aint so! :))
But seriously, hope you have a great summer,
Richard Haber says
Belmar, NJ, summer of 1963. Last year before college living out of my 4 door Studebaker with the twin bed for a rear seat.
Good times, matey, good times…
I never understood the call of the beach/ocean until I came to the East Coast, though further south (OBX). It is a magical place. The beaches of the West Coast just lack the magic of the East. Thank you for sharing.
you have brought forth memories of my entire childhood in point pleasant, new jersey!
baby oil with iodine as suntan lotion, noxema to soothe the burn at end of day … but on to the boardwalk in said hoodies and flipflops for pizza and ice cream til the rides shut down at midnight … i’m on the wrong coast now … enjoy your days at the beach this summer … i will be there in spirit … thank you !!!
I definitely feel you on this one 😀
My Grandparents moved to the noth end of LBI in 1976. They’re long gone, but the house is still in our family, and our 35-year collection of Jersey Shore memories continues to grow. And while the summers are indeed welcome and vibrant, I even love spending weekends up there in the dead of winter, when the icy wind howls and all the traffic lights are blinking yellow.
And when people cast that skeptical eye whenever I mention the place (always the medical waste, LOL), I just smile and think to myself, “Yeah, keep telling yourself that… I know the truth about the Jersey Shore, and I’m perfectly content to keep it a secret.” Then they trot off to Ocean City, MD, or Virginia Beach, and come home complaining about the crowds 😀
Viva jersey Shore! It’s not just for guidos!
Awesome post Joe…. I can feel the place after reading that. Thanks
Brian Scott says
Great photo and story. My favorite place is one not too far from home that few people have heard of. Small and not crowded. I like that.
Wow… your post really took me on a whirlwind through my memories. Growing up, I was really blessed in that my family took a vacation every summer. Occasionally, we would hit Maryland or Cape Cod, but the lion’s share of my family vacations were always in Avalon and Sea Isle City. Good times. I still love those places, but just don’t seem to be able to get there every year anymore.
Richard Kozak says
You certainly have a way to evoke those summer memories with our kids at the beach. Thanks for taking me back there. I miss them sorely as you do. Enjoy some well deserved time off.
Angela Hughes says
I love this Joe- this is great writing! I am reading this on the coast of Costa Rica in paradise, but I must say after this post, it is making me miss my peeps and my 3 times a week expedition to the beach 45 minutes away from my house on the East Coast in New England. I have yet to try out the Jersey.
Great post, Joe. Loved reading it. I was just daydreaming a little before I dropped in on your blog (we’re expecting our first child – a girl- this september)and your blog post was in line with what I was thinking, except instead of memories past, I was thinking of the times to be had.
The photo of Claire at top is a beauty… this could be just my frame of mind talking, but I think it’s one of the nicest ones I’ve seen posted on here.
a most visceral description, thanks for taking us with you. fam bombing the beach a hilarious metaphor! and don’t forget about Snooky and Jwow, wherever they go has Got to be cool!
Dennis Pike says
If only this were what people thought of when the Jersey shore comes up these days, instead of Orange colored miscreants, the only thing lower that their IQ is their sense of morality. I live in Jersey, and normally avoid the shore like the plague, at least in the summer months. This kind of makes me want to go check it out again.
and wonderful shot at the top Joe, cheers.
Who needs a camera. The story tells a picture! Great post, Joe. Reminds me of my youthful summers up on Lake Winnipeg. A veritable inland sea.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories. The photo is beautiful and your fondness for the Jersey Shore and the love for your faily is evident in this photo.
It is such a magical place. Being from CT, I only visited that area last year, and can’t wait to go back later this year. Thankfully it was nothing like the TV show makes it look. Your writing describes it perfectly! Very much a feel-good family place (and clean!).
Your books are amazing, and I’m forever in awe at the things you can do with flash. Also like the heartfelt writings about your family…so sweet…chokes me up. :}
Lovely post, Joe.
It reminds me of my childhood holidays in Cornwall here in England. It was a magical place then full of cottages, amateurishly-made cream teas and scones and harbour towns bustling with sun-kissed people relaxing in the evening, sand still in their hair. I’m only 28 but I feel this place has changed forever since then. The commercial world outside has infiltrated the idyl and it will never be as my brothers and cousins and I enjoyed it all those years ago.
My nana’s old friend Alice has passed away and with her the second home that we so loved to visit, despite her Great Danes which would stalk us as we pulled up in the evenings, one jet black and with a bottle on its foot to protect a damaged limb leaving only a terrifying scraping sound as evidence of its approach from the blackness.
Wonderful memories, I hope your beautiful pictures of your children only bring you a smile as you reminisce.
JerseyStyle Photography says
There’s the shore…and then there’s the Jersey Shore.
You know I love this post, my friend. Nothing like the boardwalk, the cry of the gulls and the sea air.
I’ve enjoyed many of summers at the Jersey Shore. And now, introducing to to my kids. Happy, too, to find out that a liberal dosing of baby powder helps whisk that sand right off!
Off to the grill…
Sam Gordon says
Man, you are missing one of the great joys of life if you don’t go back to the shore with your grandchildren! Sure it was great with the kids, but the grand children add an other dimension to what we remember. Take the little ones to the places their parents got a kick out of and enjoy.
Joe Masucci says
As good a writer as he is a photographer. Repeat with me, “I do NOT have a man-crush on Joe McNally”…
So, it wasn’t really the beach… it was your kid’s and family…
Families are Forever.
Enjoy the journey !
Jill Flusemann says
Good grief man, you sound just about as eloquent as J.K. Rowlings!
John A. says
Joe if you ever “quit” photography (which I sincerely hope not), I hope you don’t discard the possibility of becoming a full time writer. I love your photography ..and I love your writing.
Memories make the location.
Debbie W says
Wonderful post, wonderful memories…reading this reminded me of taking my daughters to the beach every weekend when they were little.
Melissa Grooters says
I absolutely love this. It brought back so many memories of the shore with my family when I was a kid. Really, it doesn’t seem like summer without days and nights at the beach. Thank you for sharing.
Great picture, wonderful story. The more I look at your work the more I understand the wonder of photography that is the ability literally to use an image to create a mood, place, or a time and to share that with the rest of the world.
Park the flash unit and start writing………
As a child I summered on the Jersey Shore. Now I live here! Wherever my travels take me….I always return to the Jersey shore………DD
I grew up in the Midwest, but my dad has lived in Jersey my whole life. I remember my first summer visit here, the beach, the boardwalk, the relentless sun. Today, I am 25 and recently moved here, and I try to convey to my friends how “The Jersey Shore” is the worst depiction of the coastline here. The beaches at dusk are right up there with any beach I’ve been to. You should definitely have the kids come in for a weekend and come back down. I will get the first bottle of red!
Lynne Krizik says
You really took me back on this one.
Felt like I was right there with the sand and the kids:)
Don Groff says
I read this post a moment ago while sitting in a beach chair at Beach Haven, LBI,and can only say Amen and thanks for the memories. It remains as you described,including the sugar-cookie babies.
A great memory, thanks for sharing it.
Heidi Welshans says
How I would love to see your family albums. Great post.
Jay Mann says
A nice read to start the day with, thx
Kurt Wall says
I wouldn’t mind seeing you slide show of vacation photos. 🙂
the best place will always be related to a memory… for me the local beach where i’d did for hours with my bucket and spade.
Paul Hodgson says
You never need to go to as far as some believe to step across the threshold of where means most to you.
Good post as always Joe.
“patience melting away like a snow cone in the hot sun”…picture perfect
Randy Scott says
Like a lighting setup, sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are best remembered. Lovely photo and I’m sure may warm memories.
Vincent Filaski says
All memories old and new are wonderful. If you enjoy the sea, consider Key West. A photographers dream.We love it here.
You are as gifted a writer as you are a maker of images.
Please, keep doing both.
Tom Peterson says
Thanks. It triggered some happy memories. Have a good summer, where ever you go.
Kelly Borgman says
Love the pic and the sentiment !
Maureen McDonald says
makes me so nostalgic… and a little misty-eyed!
Karen B says
For me it was Wells, Maine. …and crabbing for us was with bits of hot dogs in onion bags. That would entertain my boys for hours. They would haul in a bucket full to be let go before departing. I remember one time my youngest wanted to keep a “pet” crab unbeknownst to us. Well half way home the smell permeated the car and we had to stop and say “so long fella” 🙂 Your post sparked great memories…. 🙂
Mark D says
Thanks, as always, for the fine imagery Joe. Perhaps I can offer a fitting metaphor for this: The Moment it Clicks. I too have spent many a time in modest vacation and there’s nothing like staring into a sunset over a calm Minnesota lake dotted with the last devotion to fishing. Children’s faces drenched in the day’s sun all wrapped in a favorite beach towel. It allows you time, it allows you space … and plenty to be happy about. Thanks!
As usual, a wonderful, inspirational post. But – a feather bed at a Marriott? Really? Which Marriott?
Sent from 30K feet in the air -LA to Macon for a Dodge shoot…
Michelle Riordan says
The Jersey Shore is my favorite place all year long. It’s summer, it’s fun, it’s life & it’s peace. The most amazing tip I could ever share is that there are 9 other magnificent months of the year to enjoy this vision & keep the memories going. Thanks for your inspiration. Love the black & white. I enjoy your seminars at Photoshop World.
Loved this post and appreciate your down-to-earth approach to life, Joe. Was fortunate to spend enough time at Point Pleasant during the formative years that the ink is indelible. Thanks for the jog down memory lane. Peace.
Michal Marz says
your description is spot on.. Right down to the hoodie and glass of Merlot.. For us, it Montauk Point, fires on the beach are awesome! The pace is slower, tourism and shopping a bit less and though the water is rougher out east, the obligatory light house visit caps every vacation out there.
What a beautiful memory to have. Thanks for sharing!
Funny how other sees pictures – I think it is kind of spookey 🙂
Susan Peterlin says
And my favorite place too! I have vacationed at the Cape May shore since I was a teen(now well over 50). When we moved to Nebraska 13 years ago, I promised myself that our twins would enjoy the wonders of this little idealic village and the wonderful wide beach. We have loved our time there and unfortunately as our children are now on to doing more interesting things with their lives, the only thing remaining for me are memories of a wave caught just right, dolphins swimming in the distance and sand everywhere imaginable.
Thank-you for your blog.
Chase Schiefer says
What a fantastic post. Perhaps my photos will bring back some warm memories? http://www.flickr.com/photos/bachmansivory/sets/72157624684813855/
I love summer