By now, everyone has seen what might have been just another postcard from a fading beach resort
had it not graced the cover of a certain singer/songwriter's first album.
By now, everyone has heard of Bruce Springsteen and someone's claim of having seen him for $1 before he was famous. I swear, it's true!
One of the great things about getting to be, ahem, a certain age is that the statute of limitations runs out. You see, when I saw the then-obscure Bruce, the legal drinking age was 18. Still, I was a few years shy of that. So were a couple of the youngsters who accompanied me, and their siblings who were just on the other side of that age.
In those days, the Stone Pony was a "dive bar" in what was then a dying town. If you were in Atlantic City before the casinos opened--or have ventured more than a couple of blocks away from its "strip"--you have an idea of what Asbury Park was like in those days.
It had become so unfashionable, in fact, that this was nearly demolished:
I used to ride through it and, as often as not, have no company besides a pigeon or seagull or two. Now it houses a bar and a few stores--and you can't ride through it. Cycling isn't allowed through the promenade, but even if you've spent your life riding criteriums and downhill slaloms, you couldn't have ridden through the crowd I encountered there the other day.
I'm not complaining. I had a great ride down there, from my place in New York, and back up to Long Branch. I reckon I did about 120 kilometers in total before taking the train back.
Though it was warmer--about 14C--the air felt almost as chilly as it did during my Connecticut ride on Thanksgiving day, when I started in OC conditions and the temperature didn't get much above 5C. I wasn't complaining, though: My seashore ride had the sun and clear skies I saw during my ride to the Nutmeg state.
No, I didn't see Bruce, or stop at the Stone Pony. I did go by it, though. Not surprisingly, it's become a tourist attraction: While some parts of the city are still worn around the edges and suffer from unemployment and poverty, the beachfront and downtown areas draw strollers, shoppers and others from around the area.
By the way: Contrary to what some have mis-reported, Bruce was not born in Asbury Park. He did, however, spend his formative years--at least, musically--in the city.
On the other hand,"Bud" Abbott of the Abbott and Costello comedy team was born in AP. So were Danny DeVito and Leon Hess. And, as much as it pains me to mention her name, Wendy Williams.
Oh--a fellow named Arthur Augustus Zimmerman also first came into this world in Asbury Park. In 1893, he won the first World Championship of cycling.
Finally--You might say that Asbury Park is where the "joy buzzer" went to die. At least, that's where its inventor--Soren Adam Sorensen--drew his last breath!