Asbury Park, Introduction to Part 1
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For a long time I've wanted to describe the city of Asbury Park as I remember it - how it looked, what it was like before the final stages of decline. Now's the moment. Here I've put together, in words and images, not only a tour of the city's physical beauties, but of its immaterial ones: what Asbury felt like and what that feeling has become in me with the passage of time. My having grown up in Asbury seems to have decorated - with a world of patterns and images - the most valued aspects of my inner experience.
With varying degrees of awareness, people who have spent their lives in Asbury Park, from the 1950s, early 60s, or before, carry deep within themselves a glowing image of some magical, far-away land. For me, the expression kingdom by the sea, comes to mind. Principality is another way of saying it, a word that recalls a "storybook place" like Monaco. When I reflect on my childhood in the broadest way, what I see is an above-the-rooftops view of an ocean-fresh summer day. The wide, clean Atlantic borders all of it, sparkling to infinity. The boardwalk stripes the ocean's sandy edge and is weighted in place by the most fantastic pavilions.
The angle of my mental image is limited in view - not everything is seen; but somehow everything is present. Once you get to know Asbury Park, or any place really, the "all," unconsciously, is included in the particular. This is why I plan to describe as much as possible and in a very orderly way. Many pieces of information will fly from the reader's mind as we go along - but the knowledge will not be lost. It will be there, tinting, as "forgotten" things do in real life. This is the "World" of a place. Asbury park, like a magical Chinese box, had "World" hugely - worlds within worlds within worlds.
Asbury Park is a mile and a half square. (By nature, it is exactly a mile across at the beachfront.) It is very large in relation to neighboring towns. Its permanent population has never risen much above 17,000, though in the summer it could swell to to one-hundred thousand or more.
Three jewel-like lakes are an integral part of Asbury's structure. Two of these, Deal Lake and Wesley Lake, form the city's natural borders. Tiny Sunset lake is the third.
AP Reference Image 1
For starters, we will briefly visit these lakes, one by one, just to get a sense of proportion. Take your time, relax and come along!