By Paul Goldfinger
Almost every day I have an automobile adventure as I set out for Wegmans. The first part is heading north on Main Street, a multicultural showpiece in Asbury Park where driving is a challenge. To begin with, bad driving is a norm there. You must watch for abrupt lane changes, especially by cab drivers; jay walkers (it is the Jaywalking Capital of America;) oblivious drivers who stop cold and block one lane of traffic; and getting caught behind cars trying to make left turns–like the guy who can’t wait to get to “Meat ‘n More ” or the driver who missed the left signal at Asbury Avenue—sort of the Times Square of AP. Sometimes the fire engines come screaming out of their garage onto Main Street. I guess the main virtue and problem along that stretch is the the high volume of cars and people in a relatively small area.
But Main Street is a moveable visual feast*, so it is better to walk than drive. Don’t be tempted to sightsee while you drive north on Main Street. It could be dangerous. Some of the sights are fascinating such as the hair braiding places like Sir Jean’s and the frequent Mexican restaurants ( “I wonder which one is best,” you think.) Or you might be tempted to study the line outside the sneaker store and engage in some cultural analysis. You spot the Salvation Army thrift shop on the left and you think, “I have an old leg of lamb that I could donate and get a tax deduction”
You also pass the offices of the Coaster, a newspaper that specializes in old news. There are a variety of restaurants to check out, but no Starbucks. “Where can I get Starbucks around here?,” some might wonder, as they look from side to side. (Only a visitor who is culturally out of touch would look for Starbucks on Main Street.) If it’s Saturday you can stop at the Farmer’s Market, but watch out for people crossing with their bags of tomatoes. Also, be alert for the tourists pulling luggage as they head from the train station to the Grove, or the school kids, or the crossing guards, or the day workers, or the little Mexican moms shepherding a few kids to school, or the cars turning into the two Dunkin’ Donuts.
If you, like me, enjoy people watching, Main Street can be a visual delight, but it’s like texting when driving, don’t take your eyes off the road. Sometimes I am drawn into beautiful Sunset Park because I see something worth photographing. You might also be tempted to turn into Frank’s Restaurant where everybody goes for breakfast including cops, contractors, politicians, bloggers, realtors, homeboys, wayward Grovers and stylish types from across the border on Cookman Avenue. And another distraction is the cacophony of loud music emanating from stores and cars and trucks: Salsa, hip hop and then Beach Boys from the white guys in the Jeeps.
Once you have survived that leg of the trip, you need to turn left at Sunset Ave by the Dunkin Donuts. You go one block and you meet the train tracks. I always slow down there because of the “bumpity bump” that threatens my wheels, tires and suspension. I once saw a guy swerve to the right to avoid the rattling wheels. One time I tried that, and the driver behind thought I was turning right, and a moment later he was passing me on the tracks.
So, a few weeks ago, work began on that Sunset Ave section of track. After a couple of weeks of not remembering and then having to make multiple U-turns past a stadium that I never saw before, I found an alternate route, but soon the work was over.
I guess the stadium is the home of the Asbury Park High School Bishops. Be the first to tell us why their mascot is a bishop, and you will win a prize.
Now, there is no more clickity clack when you drive over the tracks. It is as smooth as silk. After that, the trip to Wegmans is very nice—that is until you get to Rt 35 in Ocean—white bread country—where there are other issues, but we’ll leave that for another time.
So take another look at Main Street as a place to visit and to have dinner. Send us a restaurant review. It actually is a much more fascinating place than Soho-by-the-sea which is downtown vertically to the east, and a lot less spicy.
* Credit to Ernest Hemingway for the “movable feast” line.
MARIACHI MEXICO DE PEPE VILLA ”Cancion Mixteca”