Lost and Found

So, I have a new cousin.

Well, not a new cousin. She’s thirty-five.

A new-to-me cousin.

I don’t want to ‘out’ her by mentioning her name, and her story isn’t mine to tell, either, but we’ve exchanged texts and become Facebook friends, and hopefully in a few days when things are a bit less overwhelming, we’ll get to actually talk, because she seems like a neat person, and as someone who is (biologically) an ‘only’ child, I have a special fondness for finding family members.

So, my message to her was just to welcome her to my crazy, smart, diverse, stubborn, loving family.

Of course, our family is not without its share of angst.

Whose is?

But I’m not part of the angst in this case, merely an outside observer, but today that distance, that detachment put me in the position of offering comfort and advice from someone from whom I’ve often sought solace for myself.

It’s odd, this role-reversal that happens as we get older. I sat down intending to write about all the strong women – both in my family, and in the greater world – that I’m privileged to know, and instead I find myself marveling about my own inner strength, and musing about paths untaken that I’m still considering.

I love that I find new things about myself and about the world every day.

And I love that lost and found don’t have to be opposites, because both conditions share a similarity: they represent change.

Thursday 13: Coasting

Seaside Heights Roller Coaster After Sandy by Brian Thompson

I don’t know the name of the roller coaster at Seaside Heights, NJ that was washed to sea by Hurricane Sandy last week, but Brian Thompson’s image of the scene – framed by the storm-tossed timbers from the boardwalk itself – has been permanently etched onto my brain. I’ve spent a lot of time at boardwalk amusement parks and piers over the years, so, as a tribute to Seaside Heights, Asbury Park, Keansburg, and boardwalks elsewhere, my first Thursday 13 in months is a list of my favorites:

  1. The Galaxy, Asbury Park, NJ: The first coaster I ever encountered, long since dismantled, but living on in my memory.
  2. The Giant Dipper, Santa Cruz, CA: One of the last remaining wooden roller coasters still in operation. The front gives the best view of the water, the back gives the joltiest ride.
  3. The Wildcat, Keansburg, NJ: Modern-ish, with corkscrews and such, but amazing night lighting.
  4. The Giant Dipper, Belmont Park (San Diego), CA: Another version of the coaster at Santa Cruz, further down the coast. Built in 1925 and recently restored.
  5. The Hurricane, Santa Cruz, CA: This coaster was the scarier of the two at Santa Cruz’s boardwalk, but 2012 was it’s last year in operation. It’s being replaced in 2013 by a spinning coaster called the Undertow.
  6. The Great White, Wildwood, NJ: Another wooden coaster, though technically it’s wood and steel. Classic coaster.
  7. The Cyclone, Luna Park, Coney Island, NY: Probably the most iconic boardwalk roller coaster in American history.
  8. Galaxi Coaster, Palace Playland, Portland, ME: Italian made steel coaster with a minimum height requirement of 42 inches even if you’re riding with a parent.
  9. Boardwalk Bullet, Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston, TX: A classic wooden coaster in a warm-weather locale. Everything really is bigger in Texas.
  10. Rolling Thunder, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ: Okay, technically, this isn’t a boardwalk coaster, but it’s in New Jersey, so I’m counting it because it was the first BIG coaster I ever rode.
  11. The Swamp Fox, Family Kingdom, Myrtle Beach, SC: Another classic wooden coaster (you find these a lot at boardwalks). I’ve not been on this one; it’s on my list.
  12. Looping Star, Ocean City, MD: Another on my list of must-do’s, this one’s in Maryland, and looks awesome.
  13. The West Coaster, Pacific Park, Santa Monica, CA: This is the only seaside coaster in LA, and it’s as iconic as the coasters in Asbury Park and Coney Island to folks from the left coast. If you remember the opening of Three’s Company you know this coaster.

Jersey Strong: Sandy Hook Lives

Sandy Hook Sign by USNavy13@Instagram

Has it really been over a week since I’ve written anything here? I guess it has. I wish I could tell you that I’ve been off having grand adventures, but the reality is that I spent most of last week, except Halloween, watching coverage of Hurricane Sandy, first on The Weather Channel, and then via News 12 New Jersey, a cable channel that I could live-stream over my Google TV. Now, my mother and I share a love of weather movies and weather disaster films, and I do try not to buy into hype when there’s a real weather disaster, but Hurricane Sandy was personal for me, even though I was dry, warm, and safe here in Texas.


Because I was born in Ocean County, NJ at Fort Monmouth.
Because I spent the first four years of my life hearing the foghorn wafting over Sandy Hook.
Because every summer until I was thirteen, I stayed with my grandparents in Middletown, and went to the beach at Sandy Hook, Ocean Grove, and Avon-by-the-Sea.
Because the year I was nine, my mother and I lived in Ocean Grove, two blocks from the ocean.
Because when I was little Asbury Park still had a functioning amusement park (I loved the tilt-a-whirl and spinning teacups), and I’ve been to Seaside Heights more than once.
Because I remember walking up and down the piers of the Atlantic Highlands yacht harbor before going to my cousin’s diner for rice pudding.
Because Sandy Hook, and Fort Hancock (which is out on the Hook) are among my favorite placed on earth, and I have played in the bunkers, and climbed the lighthouse, and built sand castles and learned to swim in the salty blue ocean off those beaches.
Because I have family and friends, and friends who may as well be family who have spent the last week and a half bailing water out of their houses, not having heat, not having power, not having working water, because of Sandy, and now today’s snowstorm has some of them without power again.

Because even though I’ve lived in Colorado, California, South Dakota, California (again), and Texas, at heart I am, and always will be, a Jersey Girl, and Monmouth County will always be my truest home.

After the storm, I went out to Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, searching for images of the places I knew best, the places I loved, and the entry sign at the top of this post is just one of the images I found. It led me to the National Park Service’s Facebook Page for the Sandy Hook unit of Gateway Park Service (Sandy Hook, NJ; Jamaica Bay & Staten Island, NY) and there, I found images of Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock post-Hurricane Sandy.

The beaches are trashed. The parking lots are in disarray. The beach pavillions took serious damage. But the lighthouse still stands, the old houses of Officer’s Row are still there, the Coast Guard dock survived, and even though they’re technically off-limits and covered in poison ivy, future kids will still play in the old bunkers.

Sandy Hook Lives.
And New Jersey is small, but strong.