The winner of Libby’s book is Jane Dietz! You will get an email from Libby!
I met Libby at a Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime meeting last fall and was delighted to hear about her new series, the Poppy McAllister Mystery series, from Kensington. The first book, Class Reunions Are Murder, came out on January 30, 2018. Libby is giving away a copy of the book to a commenter! Please join me in welcoming, Libby!
I grew up in south Jersey. Exit Zero. Technically the Villas which would have been like exit two, but they didn’t make an exit two because no one wants to go to the Villas. I lived down the street from a seemingly defunct button factory. It was apparently in operation until recently, but we never saw anyone there. No cars, no people. It’s like there were secret underground tunnels that only night workers knew about. In a word – creepy.
The Villas was not exactly a hotbed of activity since it was mostly populated by summer homes and settlers who had arrived on the Mayflower. Most of Cape May County was deserted in the off season. If my dad passed more than four cars during his fifteen-minute drive home from work he was like, “Whoa! What’s with all the traffic!” Then he complained that rush hour was out of control.
When most people refer to New Jersey as the armpit of New York, they mean north Jersey. In south Jersey you’re the armpit of Philly. Yoose eat your cheese steaks and Italian hoagies and root for the Flyers and the Eagles or you’re a mook. Everyone knows it.
My high school was small, my graduating class had roughly 200 students, and I had to walk four blocks to catch the bus – which I think constitutes child abuse in today’s society. After school activities were very popular because there was literally nothing else to do other than going to the mall. And by mall, I mean the tiny little strip of about fifteen shops in Rio Grande with the K-mart, two screen movie theater and Rick’s Pizza.
When I was a kid this was a huge culture shock for me. I came from the urban sprawl of the suburbs just outside of Washington DC. We had high rise apartments, public transportation, and a different nationality of restaurant on every corner. New Jersey was cornfields and asparagus farms. You rode your bike to the deli to get your mom capicola and provolone and the good hoagie rolls because she bought tomatoes at the farm stand on the way home from work. You can’t have a good hoagie without the good hoagie rolls.
In the summer, the population of Cape May exploded from four thousand residents to forty-thousand shoobies. Shoobies are what we call the tourists who wear socks with their sandals and order everything on the side when they know they’re gonna eat it anyway. You want to be known as a shoobie all you gotta do is order a “steak and cheese” or a “sub.” We’ll still sell it to you, but now it comes with a side of disdain. You gotta learn the language if you don’t wanna be a mook.
Our little two-lane roads get so clogged with shoobies it takes forever to go a couple blocks. They descend upon the beaches and bed and breakfasts in a clash of humanity fighting for a blanket sized patch of sand to call their own. They come to rent bicycles and beach chairs, line up for miles to buy water ice and frozen custard with rainbow jimmies. They loll about in the Atlantic Ocean, basking in the blistering sun under the constant rumble of single prop planes pulling banners that advertise everything from Reef and Beef Happy Hour to Marry Me Tina.
Growing up in a resort beach town means you’re the one who works those pancake breakfast shifts before going to your booth on the boardwalk. Your nights are spent trying to cajole shoobies into three for a dollar balloon darts and water gun horse races under the constant drone of “Watch the Tram Car Please.” You gotta mind your Ps and Qs because your tenth-grade science teacher is making the funnel cakes next door.
Everyone works as much as possible in the summer because they gotta make the money last all year. Your uncle works on the fishing boats at the crack of dawn to bring in tonight’s clams casino while grandma chambermaids for tips, so she can blow it all in Atlantic City on her day off. Your teachers don’t got time to put together lesson plans the last few weeks of the school year. They’re too tired from bartending now that the clubs are open. No one’s complaining.
Some people say there’s a rudeness here, a brusque attitude common to south Jersey. Maybe it’s the Philly influence. Maybe it’s the rampant humidity or the mosquitoes the size of salt water taffy. Maybe they’re just tired from working two jobs on their feet all day so they can have the luxury of heat this winter and they don’t got time for no shoobie funnel cake emergency. Whatever it is, they don’t mean anything by it. Once you get to know them, they’ll give you the shirt off their back. Just be aware that the shirt will probably say “Welcome to New Jersey. Now go home.”
Readers: Have you ever lived or visited somewhere that was a culture shock?
Bio: Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School sometime in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She has worked as a stay at home mom, climbing the ladder up the ranks to the coveted position of Grandma. She also dabbles in the position of Vice President of a technology company which mostly involves bossing other people around, making spreadsheets and taking out the trash. She writes from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat Figaro off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling.