Stories by the Sea: an Introduction
Let me first acknowledge that this collection will not be for everyone. It is not your typical beach read, even though most of it was written on the beach. It isn’t the same literary lexicon you might find on a Top 10 shelf next to Ray Bradbury or J.K. Rowling.
To be honest, I can’t quite tell you what it is. I just don’t know.
… It simply is.
The real reason this book exists is because you do. You were born. You learned how to read. You found it by some means of fate. And then you decided to lend me a small portion of attention. For that, I am truly grateful and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Talk about niche audience, though. I mean shit. These are stories from Jersey. More specifically, ones about living near the ocean and all the density that comes with it. It’s where words and worlds become clear for me. Where I was born and bred and where I feel most at home. It is where I’ll likely die too. Here by the sea, my mind can either run wild or float wanderly, depending on the tide.
These stories are my vessels. Some of them are rooted in truth. Some of them are entirely fiction. Others aren’t really anything. They peacefully exist, waiting for you to figure that all out.
I know, I know. I know what you’re thinking. No one reads short stories anymore. Nobody cares where they came from or what they’re about. Blah, blah, blah. Please realize that isn’t exactly what I’m going for here. This was not created for “the industry.” I wrote this because I needed to. Because the ocean is in my blood and it needed canvas to spill upon.
It keeps me buoyant.
Rather, these are small pieces of human condition, scattered in the sand with shells and sea glass at dusk. They’re chunks of energy born out of sunsets and mindfulness.
It started with an epiphany “On Ocean Ave” and ended sometime during the “Reflections of Summer.” I couldn’t stop writing if I wanted to. The project began as an attempt to convey something — a feeling, an emotion, a love-affair — one that I’d never been able to effectively and efficiently explain to anyone. Even to the ones who claim to “get it.” In fact, the only people who ever seem to understand are the ones who live in or come from such coastal habitats. And sometimes they can’t find the right words either. So I figured I’d try.
I remember being a freshman in college at Rider University, out by Princeton, trying to explain this to friends from Philly or New York. It would go like this:
“So where are you from?”
“Manasquan, by the beach.”
“No, not your summer house. Like real home.”
“Yeah. That’s where.”
“Wait… people live there all year round?”
“Yep. We have dentists too.”
And then I’d shake my head, upset with the world, wondering why I even bother.
I feel like some (all) of the major media outlets like Bravo, MTV, and HBO gave us a bad rep. (On top of all the other previously established and well-deserved ridicule.) They portrayed a culture that only exists in a small percentage of New Jersey, only adding more fuel to the jokes. The term “jersey shore” used have a positive connotation. Now, unfortunately the rest of the country — and perhaps world — think we’re all fist-pumping wannabe Italians who enjoy tanning, excessive wealth, and beating women. Or we’re just America’s armpit and serve no purpose. All they know is the Turnpike, Parkway, and putrid smells in between. Or that big governor guy, Chris Christie, who gave up campaigning for president to endorse Trump.
While some of these stereotypes definitely exist here throughout certain seasons (namely May-August), it does not identify with what cultures truly stem from the Jersey Shore. Especially after Hurricane Sandy. It’s just its own thing.
So then what does true Jersey stand for? Springsteen and Sinatra? The Parkway? Pork roll, egg, and cheese?
I sure as hell have no idea. I can’t explain what it’s like to be here. I can’t describe anyone else’s thoughts besides my own. But I can tell you one thing: if you ask anyone from the Jersey Shore why they live here (and haven’t left yet), they can’t quite put their finger on it. Maybe they’ll have a few Jersey-pride stories. Or some weird-accent NSFW vernacular. Maybe they’ll talk about the beach lifestyle or the surf. I know my dad has more lifeguard stories than my mom cares for. Some might even tell you about all the farms we used to have. Others might explain what it’s like to have someone else pump your gas. No matter the response, one truth is simple: living here is like anywhere else. (Except it’s really not.)