Musings: Nomadic Lifestyles

At the moment, a maximum of 4 people actually read this thing. One of those people is me. Of course, it isn’t fair for me to just expect people to come running to read my blog, so I started to read some other blogs as well, including the blog of 25% of my readership. It was here that I read a post that got my mind running a bit. It discussed her impending return to New Jersey and the fact that however badly she had wanted to go back, it’s still a little panic inducing.

I know this feeling well. As we all know, I feel like a part of my soul dies every day that I’m not in the Garden State. It’s like the combination of Jersey’s sea breezes and industrial waste have formed some sort of drug-like compound that I was born addicted to. Going cold turkey for 5 years has not been easy.

So if I miss New Jersey so much, why don’t I just pack my bags and go? There are two reasons. One is that I need to keep my job for a little while longer before I bail for whatever is next. The second is that I don’t really know where to go if I go back. As much as I would like to cruise back into my hometown, where everything is familiar, I know it would never make me happy. Not in the long term at least.

There are few things I enjoy more than laying around my house in NJ on random weekends or going to my favorite beaches, but no matter how much I hate it, that’s really not my home anymore. It was my home, but now it’s just my parents’ house. I brought my bed with me to my apartment, so I sleep on the floor in my room in NJ and I know that I’ll probably never move a bed back in. Even if I did, would that be what I want? As long as my bosses permit it, I will always go back for a few weeks at Christmas and for some time in the summers, but beyond that wouldn’t be for the best.

I’ve felt like a nomad for a while now; a man without a state. I really enjoyed College Park, but that was a fixed, 4-year deal. It’s still fun to visit (I did yesterday), but it’s really an accelerated metaphor to what our hometowns become. The places are all the same, but none of the people who made it memorable are still around. If any of them still are, it’s sort of sad. They just don’t look like they fit anymore. (Edit: While on the topic of how weird it is to go to the same place and see how nothing has changed except the people, check out this website. It’s awesome.)

I moved to DC after CP, which has been an exciting experience. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the city and I’m pretty bummed about leaving it. It’s hard to just pick up and move on when you’ve only just started to find things you really enjoy somewhere. Still, no amount of appreciation will ever change the fact that it’s not really for me.

Yeah, a little too refined for my tastes.

At the same time, I’m excited about moving to Baltimore. It’s something new and it will demolish my commute; however, it’s hard to get too stoked about discovering a new city when I’m positive I’ll only be there for one year.  I’ve seen enough from coming here on a daily basis to figure out that it’s cool and a little more like Jersey than DC, but still not 100% what I’m looking for. So where to next? At this point, I haven’t got the slightest clue.

Also, this guy drank himself to death to GTFO of Baltimore, so it can't be too great.

The good news is, for the moment at least, I feel like I’m on one of those really long, fun, late night drives with friends where you’re exhausted, but don’t want to get home just yet. In my mind, I’ve already got the destination picked out; I want to settle in Jersey one day, probably in a town similar to where I grew up, but just different enough to make my own life there. I’m just not ready to finish driving yet.

Now it’s time for my shameless Jersey plug (Although this whole blog is starting to seem like one). One of the many great things about Jersey is that it has so much to offer. No two towns are exactly the same. From the farmland to the beaches to the full blown cityscapes, you can always find something unique in the Garden State. I’m not sure if I’ll move back immediately after Baltimore or if I’ll keep peddling cities for a while before I make my triumphant return, but it’s nice to know that my options will never be limited back in Jersey. Part of what excites me so much about getting back there eventually is that I’ll have a chance to live in some of the awesome places that I only briefly encountered while growing up there. Even if I move back well before deciding on a place to settle for good, there will always be more than enough places to try out.

Although the whole moving thing is a major pain in the ass, it’s also extremely exciting. It’s a good kick out the door; a little thrust to keep you from settling into a comfortable but underwhelming life. I would much rather move on a yearly basis, with a little bit of fear for the unknown constantly sitting in the back of my head, than waking up one day at 40 and feeling like I missed out. Life’s supposed to be an adventure and I’d hate to miss out.

Musings: Sandwich Dreams and Brisk Mornings

This is going to be a quick one. In fact, there’s not much to write after that title. In a very, very sad tribute to what my mind apparently dwells on, I woke up at 4 AM dreaming about a sandwich. I can’t remember exactly what went on the sandwich, but the dream consisted solely of me preparing it, getting ready to eat it, and then waking up. Imagine my disappointment when I remembered how crappy my actual lunch was going to be.

Once I woke up for real, I was met with a very nice morning. If you haven’t been outside yet, you are a bum, but you should run outside immediately. Some of the perfect morning may still be lingering. It was sunny and a perfect balance of warm and brisk. Anytime I can wear shorts and a hoodie comfortably, I’m happy. It’s the type of morning I associate with getting up early in the summer, grabbing some breakfast, and making it to the beach just in time for things to start warming up.

God, I’ve got to get back to Jersey.

Stuff That I Like: Bruce Springsteen

I’m getting ready to head back to Maryland today and it’s as bittersweet as always. Obviously I love being in New Jersey, but my home, and my life for that matter, is actually in Maryland/DC these days. I always listen to a lot of Bruce on the way to New Jersey. When I’m driving up here, he’s a bit of a primer to get me in the Jersey mood (as if I’m ever not in the Jersey mood). On the whole though, I primarily listen to ska when I get back to NJ, because that’s where the real memories of my youth are.

I’ll have to write a major FY post about that later though; this one is about the Boss. I definitely listen to Bruce the most when I’m out of the state. He just lets my mind drift momentarily back to Jersey when I can’t actually be here and gives me what I’m jonesin’ for.

Just as leaving Jersey made me appreciate it so much more, my love for Bruce definitely grew during the end of college when I was really missing the Garden State. When I was immersed in the state, and it was all that I knew, I guess I couldn’t see how quintessentially Jersey he was. But when the indescribable grittiness and freedom that I associate with my state were suddenly gone, I realized that Bruce poured it right back in through his music.

Besides, are you fucking kidding me? That's basically me if I was born 38 years earlier.

The more that I’ve listened to the man, the more lyrics I’ve come across that seem to yank on threads attached to memories of growing up in NJ and the desire that I’ve always had to get out into the world and discover the unknown.

When I think about how popular Bruce has become, I always wonder if everyone that listens to him feels it the way I do. The songs are certainly good enough on their own, but I associate them so tightly with so many things, I have a hard time believing that the masses appreciate them in the same way I do. I’ve come to equate it to something like really good Kimchi. I’m not Korean, but I know when I’m eating something delicious. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pick out all of it’s nuances, because I haven’t grown up eating it, sharing it, and really experiencing its place in its native culture. The closest I can get to letting you know how, and why, I feel so close to the man is sharing this video with you. If you’ve got the time though, I highly encourage you to watch it; Bruce explains how I feel better than I ever could.

I mean, seriously. The man just expressed everything I’ve ever felt in words. I almost want to shut this blog down after only a handful of posts because he summed up everything I’ll ever want to say.

All of this aside, it is seriously my life’s ambition to meet Bruce. I was originally planning on doing it solely by becoming excessively rich and/or famous, but on the way back from Seaside on Friday night, my friend Beaver suggested just hanging around Monmouth county. Becoming rich can wait until later I guess; I just wonder how long I’d be able to survive panhandling in Monmouth county.

Anyway, for all those Bruce noobs out there, I suggest that you listen to the following to get started: The entirety of Greetings from Asbury Park and Born to Run, Rosalita, 4th of July (Asbury Park), and Jersey Girl. Don’t bullshit either; really listen to them. I know I will.

Fitness vs. Fatness: New Jersey Part 2

It’s interesting how we come to associate certain activities, foods, and senses (read:music and smells) with places. As I mentioned earlier, I’m back in NJ this weekend and no matter how many times I come back, I can never resist going back to a few specific things when I come home.

First, I always feel like I need to go for a run. I ran for years and years in Double Trouble, learning new paths, fusing them, and perfecting the combination for whatever mileage I was in the mood to do. Since I’m home so infrequently now, I feel like I’m insulting my memories if I don’t hit it up for at least one run each time. In case you’re bored and in NJ, check out my favorite route here: Double Trouble Run

Next, a summer morning will never be complete without one of the following: Pancakes or french toast from my mom or a pork roll, egg, and cheese on a poppy from Oh What A Bagel. With my mom gone this weekend, my options were pared down. Of course, it’s not like I minded. Pork roll is notoriously hard to find outside of the Garden State and as far as breakfast meats go, it’s definitely my favorite.

The best part of waking up.

If it’s the summer, dinner is never complete without something grilled. Steaks, veggies, burgers, hot dogs…it’s all good in my book. I can, and always do, pound an obscene amount of Jersey corn when I’m here as well. Since I’m just cooking for me and my sister tonight, I decided to stick to the some basic burgers and corn (protip: for awesome corn, boil water, add a splash of milk, add corn and remove from heat until tender). Again, not complaining.

I also made a massive batch of my mom’s lemon iced tea, the greatest summer beverage in the world (sorry, not much of a drinker here).

I'll drink the hell out of this though.

On a side note, when I fired up the grill for the burgers, I had a bit of deja vu. I can still vividly remember the first burger I ever cooked. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school and I was chilling at home playing some Morrowind. My brother stopped in to see if I was hungry, which I always am, and we scoured the house for some grub. Our search yielded a few frozen patties, Thomas’s bagels, a slice of cheese, and some House of Blues hot sauce. Not too fancy, but without a license, a car, or a job, times were tough.

It was half raining, half misting at the time (just like it is now), but we grilled the burgers outside (as I am now), and I retired to my room with the burger and some tea. As someone who loves the rain, I pulled up my blinds, opened my windows, and listened to the rain while I ate the burger. Then I continued playing Morrowind, in which it was also raining, and marveled at how awesome my day was. It’s seriously bizarre how some moments in life stand out so incredibly clear, while more important and practical things evade our conscious. I also really, really want to play Morrowind now, but I’m afraid that I won’t go to sleep at all tonight if I do.

Then again, it would be totally worth it.

Anyway, my mom’s coworker has a birthday on Monday, so Jesse and I baked a carrot cake for her to take in. I siphoned off some of the batter before baking to make a few cupcakes for us too.

I’d better hit up Double Trouble again on my way back to Maryland.

Fitness vs. Fatness: New Jersey Part 1

Oh Jersey. Oh Jersey, Jersey, Jersey. I didn’t have the highest of
hopes for you last night. Sometimes, a week worth of 3 hours commutes takes its
toll and I begin to doubt that I’m up for a 3-4 hours drive back to
Jersey on a Friday; however, I sometimes agree to come back to help
out, and I’ll be damned if I back out of it. Still, It doesn’t help that
I get up around 5 on Friday’s to go into work early. Sprinkle some insomnia in from Thursday night with the fact that I’d be making the drive without my two miniature travel companions, and things
were looking dismal.

But Jersey…dear, sweet Jersey. Before I go any further, I should
insert a disclaimer. I love my home state a whole lot. People like to
dump on it and I don’t take it well. I always liked it, but going out
of state for college and work has only increased its siren-like call,
constantly beckoning me back. I tend to enjoy things more when I’m
here, I become enter a semi-euphoric state, and stress drains out of me in pools.
Therefore, please expect to hear about the state a lot. Now, back to

I figured today was going to be a traffic-filled  wash. Leave it to Jersey
to bring things back around. While driving back, I began to feel
guilty about my recent laziness. I haven’t been running as much as I
used to and I didn’t feel great about it. Unfortunately, it was
absurdly hot and humid and I’d been low on energy all day. Then I got
back to my hometown and the air became sweeter. The temperature
dropped by about 15 degrees. I felt alive again.

I decided to take a detour before going back to my house. I pulled
into Double Trouble, my all time favorite running haunt, changed into
running clothes in my car, and took off. The bugs were pretty awful
today actually, but it was so damn nice that I couldn’t help but get a
big, stupid grin. After a nice little jog, I took a dive into Cedar
Creek, threw a towel on my seat, and went home.

Not a bad way to start the weekend.

It’s pretty good that I decided to run too, because dinner was
delicious and I didn’t hold back. My stepdad Jim has a knack for
simple, amazing dinners with fantastic Jersey grown ingredients.
Steaks with corn and grilled squash, onions and eggplant; Egg noodles
with locally grown brussel sprouts; plenty of other delicious things. Today’s
was garlic toast, sliced provolone, spicy sliced ham, fresh tomato,
asparagus tossed with garlic, and fresh basil.

Also not a bad way to start the weekend.

All in all, not a terribly unhealthy meal, but nothing is too healthy
in bulk. Oh well, I’ve come to expect some splurges when I’m back in
NJ. Everything takes me back to a tastier place and I’m afraid I’d be
missing out on the experience if I was nitpicking. Here’s to health.