Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove New Jersey’

Several weeks ago I received a message from Emily, informing me that my dear but distant friend, Heide was going to be visiting in New York.  Emily thought it would be wonderful to surprise Heide with a get-together with the four of us.  I whole-heartedly agreed and only had a few twinges of wondering why Heide herself didn’t let me know she was coming to New York.  I made a plan with Emily to meet for brunch on the day after we returned home from Florida.

We decided that brunch on Sunday would work if I could find a place within walking distance of Grand Central as they would be coming in from Westchester.  Cibo was the perfect choice!  I made the reservations and communicated the details to Emily through Facebook.

As it turned out, the night after Christmas Heide sent me an email telling me of her presence in town and hoping we could get together.  I didn’t see this email until we were on the train heading home.  Of course I never read it on Boxing Day because if you’ve been reading this blog you know that night turned out to be a major game night in Florida.  I thought about writing back and making up a story like we could be available Sunday evening and thereby throwing her off from any suspicion.  Emily had told her that they were going to have brunch with friends of hers but wouldn’t say who it was.  Peter advised me not to reply at all so I just ignored her email.

Peter and I arrived early at Cibo and picked out a large booth where  I knew we would be able to chat away with some privacy.  I was so excited, I hadn’t seen Heide in a couple of years and missed her.  When she lived in Ocean Grove, it was so easy to just drop by her house or have her over.  We had this great European tradition whereby if she ate with us and I sent something home with her, I could expect the dish or container returned with something special that she had cooked.  And vice versa!  

The hours flew by at the restaurant, some spent catching up and just picking up where we left off;  Time and distance does not affect true friendship.   Thank you Emily for sharing your visit with Heide with us, we loved seeing you both.

I understand I have a faithful follower who lives in California and Belgium and so this one’s for you, Heide!!

Heide and Emily

Heide and Emily

New Year - Old Friends  Brunch at Cibo

New Year – Old Friends
Brunch at Cibo

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English: A street in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. ...

A street in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Ocean Grove, New Jersey

The Great Auditorium Ocean Grove, New Jersey 

What do they have in common?  Just another wonderful weekend in Ocean Grove where there is always something happening!  And to think they used to call this place Ocean Grave.  Back in the days…. and there was a time in Ocean Grove where life was much more sedate and serene;  of course it still is if that is what you are looking for.  

There was a time when cars were not allowed on the streets of the town after midnight on Saturday.  Where did they go?  They had to be removed from the streets and not returned until Sunday night. This town has religious roots, founded by Methodists who to this day run the town so to speak.  In actuality the Camp Meeting Association which is the organization which ran the camp meetings – those retreats and spiritual renewal times and educational events that were the raison-d’etre for the formation of Ocean Grove.  Methodists from all over the country would travel to the Jersey Shore for a week or two of respite from city life and an opportunity to enjoy the fellowship of the universal Methodist community.   They built a Great Auditorium where services are held every Sunday BUT concerts are held every Saturday night of the summer.  Over the years we have seen some great talents of our times and tomorrow night we will go to the Doo Wop Concert which signals the summer is over.  

However, during the day tomorrow we are going to the Great Flea Market which is held every spring and summer.  Hundreds of dealers selling everything from vintage toys to towels, tee shirts to tea pots, antiques, artifacts and albums.  This event takes place on the wide grassy median of Ocean Pathway.  It’s quite a sight with the ocean in front of you and the Great Auditorium behind you.  

Even after almost 10 years I still am in awe of the beauty of this town.  Every day I feel like I’m living in a postcard or a movie set or a Norman Rockwell painting.  New is good, old is often better and to enjoy life in this throw-back-in-time town is wonderful, delightful and I feel very lucky or blessed (as one might say in Ocean Grove) to be able to reside there intermittently.  Life is good.

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Welllllllll, I’ll tell ya!  People get up and leave!  That is exactly what happened last night at the Doo Wop Extravaganza, the annual Labor Day concert at The Great Auditorium.  

The first surprise of the evening was Kenny Vance and the Planotones;  Kenny with his extraordinary voice and devoted Auditorium fans has for the past several years been the closing act of the concert.  He brings the house down as his voice goes up and up and up!  Why was he the opening act?  Several people around me murmured the same thought; did he have another show to go to?  We don’t know the answer to that question.  What we do know is that he was NOT the headliner of this particular Doo Wop show.  And why not? BECAUSE this year’s star was Martha Reeves, formerly of Martha & The Vandellas.

I’ve never seen Martha perform before so I don’t have a standard by which to measure her performance.  What I saw was truly disgraceful.  She wasn’t on stage more than 15 minutes when people began to get up and leave.  She was erratic, her enunciation and projection left so much to be desired that it was impossible to understand the words to any song she was feebly attempting to sing!  I’m not going to speculate on what was wrong with her last night that caused her to forget words to songs, stop in the middle and chastise the band because they weren’t on count or worse yet, to ask the audience to clap on command by the number.   I swear there wasn’t one person in the audience who knew when to clap. Add that to the fact that she consistently referred to her venue as being in Ocean View!  It was just too much.  We left right after the clapping fiasco.  I have never left a concert in Ocean Grove before.  They haven’t all been great but never so bad that I wanted to just get out of there.

Not going to end this commentary on a sour note, NOT when I can extoll the virtues of Kenny Vance’s performance.   He was fabulous as always,  we are never disappointed with the Planotones and 3 standing ovations to prove it.  How does he hold those falsetto notes so long?  He is gifted with a clear and strong voice and over the years has perfected his falsetto voice and incorporated it into many more of their songs.

One of the great treasures of Ocean Grove and the United States is our Great Auditorium and as a venue for great performers, it stands alone.  Every singer this year has mentioned the magnificence of the Great Auditorium, its marvelous acoustics enhance every performance;  I look forward to next year’s roster of entertainers, knowing of course that Kenny Vance and The Planotones will be back to trill and thrill us.

Kenny Vance

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Tony Bennett performing at a Library of Congre...

Tony Bennett

I expected to be thrilled, impressed and entertained last Saturday night;  We went to see and hear Tony Bennett in concert in the Great Auditorium.  I didn’t expect to cry…

The show opened with Tony’s daughter, Antonia, who sang several songs to warm up the audience.  This audience did not need warming up.  The auditorium holds about 6,000 people and my guess would be that there weren’t more than 600 empty seats and that includes a wraparound balcony!  Antonia is sweet looking and sounding, but certainly lacks real depth to her voice.  She doesn’t have the timbre and resonance of a singer with a strong voice.  Unable to sustain or project, Antonia manipulated  the microphone by pulling it away from her mouth as she trailed the last notes of a line.  Oh well, this is not about her anyway.

Tony walked on stage to a very long and loud standing ovation.  He was clearly thrilled to receive it and to be on stage.  He appears to love performing;  He plays to the crowd, he sings and he relates bits of his career and who he sang and worked with along the way to stardom.  He ends almost every song with either his arms raised up as if in “ta dah” and “there you have it” or salutes the audience with two thumbs up.  I don’t remember (that far back)  if these gestures were always part of his performance or not, but then again, who cares? He has the pipes and a magical velvety-all-in-the-right-places voice.

He sang song after song, sometimes really belting it out and you wonder how does a man his age still maintain that voice and the ability to sustain such high notes for so long.  Yes, he was quite surprising in that regard.  We were regaled with the likes of Smile, I Wanna Be AroundFly Me to the Moon, and The Best is Yet to ComeAnd then he charmed us all with what he referred to as his hits;  The Way You Look Tonight, Because of You, The Very Thought of You, As Time Goes By, Once Upon A Time, Because of You and of course,  I Left My Heart in San FranciscoJust AMAZING! Really freaking amazing!  The entire audience leapt to their feet at the end of I Left My Heart in San Fransisco and it was truly one of the longest standing ovations I ever witnessed.   Of course he was perfect for the Auditorium crowd, 95% of whom listened to his soft crooning voice during their teen-age and twenty-something years.  Oh and how those memories flood back to you!

A summer night on the Jersey Shore, in a remarkable venue – an enormous wooden structure that is well over a hundred years old, and Tony Bennett singing love songs to you.  I have never ever sat in the front row of a concert;  Last Saturday night, Peter and I had front row seats  and I sat there mesmerized by his performance.  Was it that he sang so well?  No, of course not; He was a great singer, now he is a legend who still can hit some of those high notes,  and sing a love song to every woman in the room at the same time.

I’m not sure exactly what song put me over the edge;  The first tear rolled down my cheek somewhere between The Very Thought of You and Once Upon A Time. Yes, the words are beautiful.  Yes,  Tony crooned the words beautifully but I don’t think those two things brought on the tears.  Well at least not completely.  When you are my age and you know you are closer to the end of your life than the beginning and you see someone 20 years older than yourself doing something he not only does so well but also loves doing it, you, well at least I, was really emotionally moved. In a way, this consumate artist who makes every song his own and has been doing so for 60 years of his life and mine, creates a level of comfort that makes him seem like an old friend.  The tears are the good-byes to my youth, the days when I heard Tony Bennett sing so many of these songs.  Listening to songs that you probably made out to, danced to and day-dreamed over what seems like another lifetime ago, it dawns on you that it was a lifetime ago!

Tony sang his last song, blew kisses to the audience and left the stage.  The crowd would have none of it. They stood up, clapped and clapped and clapped some more.  The musicians stayed on stage so I thought maybe he would come back and he did!  He sang one more and still they wanted more.  He tried to leave the stage and the audience applauded longer and louder than before.   So he brought Antonia out and they sang a duet and then he was gone.

There was one other special moment during the concert and this had more to do with where we were than just with this great singer.  Tony Bennett, like every other single performer I’ve seen at the Auditorium said that this building, this great venue is a magnificent structure in which to sing.  To prove that they don’t build them like this anymore, he asked that the entire sound system be turned off and then he sang;  his words washing over  the audience much like the shore a couple of hundred feet away!  Clearly he was heard at the back of the room and top of the balcony, proving the mastery of his own talent and that of the craftsmen who built the Great Auditorium 140years ago.

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It had to have been a very long day for Pete last Saturday.  He got up early and drove his Metropolitan sedan to the British Car Show, Brits on the Beach, which was being held in Ocean Grove.  The Positive Earth Drivers Club runs this annual event and chose Ocean Grove as the venue.  Anyway, all summer long, Peter kept saying, “You know the Met should be in the British car show” and I would always pooh-pooh the idea and I’m not even sure why.  Well on Friday he got it into his head as we drove 80 mph on the NJ Turnpike that he  really should do the show.  We thought all you had to do was drive up early in the morning and park your car like we did in the Vintage Auto Show.  So I called the Chamber of Commerce just to make sure and was told, “oh no, this is a show you have to register for and we don’t run it and they already have their quota of cars”. Not to be deterred, I suggested we call and see if someone canceled.  I left a voice mail and by the time we reached the cottage, a gentleman called him back.  We were in!!!

So Cute, 1958 Nash Metropolitan, First Place Brits on the Beach 2010

The Nash Took It!

I was happy for Peter but did not really want to participate, so he went off by himself on Saturday morning.  I was a bad wife and didn’t even go to the show until it was over and they were giving out awards.  By the time I got there (that is found a parking spot) the officials were calling everyone to the stand so they could announce winners.

There must have been 20 categories, Triumphs 3, 4 and beyond, MGA‘s to MGTD’s, Morgans, Rovers and Austin Healeys.  Award after award was announced and given out.  There were 3 trophies left on the table and since we didn’t have a Triumph, Austin Healey, MG, Jaguar, Morgan or a Rover I guessed Peter and the Metropolitan weren’t in the running for anything.  However, there was an S class which was to cover other British cars.

Third place went to a great MG Magnette which had a lovingly restored engine but a body that needed work,  Second place went to a cute green perfect little Morris Minor.   And then, and then… the man announced the first place winner and this is what he said,”First place in Class S, Other category goes to Peter Press, the Nash took it, congratulations”!!

Yippee, wowie zowie, Peter won!!! And brought home the Trophy.

Brits on the Beach 2010, First Place-Other Sedan, sponsored by Land Rover

First Place - Other Sedan - Brits on the Beach

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