Tag Archives: shark

Fun and affordable things to do in New Jersey…

Years ago I discovered a fun and surprisingly cheap way to spend a day, one that has left my family with years of memories and a few rather durable souvenirs. This was back when my daughter was smaller and all things prehistoric fascinated her beyond compare, and while she enjoyed museums I knew she might enjoy something a bit more ‘hands-on’.  That’s when I discovered an amazing but little known detail about certain regions of New Jersey: they’re brimming with Late Cretaceous era (that’s roughly 67-74 Million Years Old) fossils!  And not ‘bake in a desert with picks and brushes’ fossils, but wade in shady ankle deep brooks and pick them right up fossils. Yes, readers, it’s true. Spots such as Big Brook, Ramanessin Brook and surrounding brooks in Monmouth County, right off the Garden State Parkway, will provide small (and not so small) children more fossils than they’d ever imagine. The majority of these fossils are shark teeth and other marine fossils exposed as the brooks and creeks cut down into the fossil beds, revealing an ever-changing layer. It’s a wonderfully cool way to spend a hot summer day, peaceful and tranquil aside from the squeals of “I found another one!” and I can promise it will become a favorite tradition, one your children will remember even after they’re grown.

The only ‘tools’ we brought were plastic colanders picked up in the grocery store and large serving spoons for scooping river gravel into the colanders. Half the time we didn’t even need them, we spotted fossils right in plain view.  As with sea-shells and beach glass, the rule was we would each only take our five favorite treasures home, the rest were returned to the brook. Do use caution as some areas of these streams can become deep… just stick to the shallows, that’s where you’ll find the most. Bring a small first aid kit, there are overhanging branches and there can be sharp bits in the gravel and an occasional, unfortunate piece of broken glass. My advice: Wear comfy old sneakers you don’t mind mucking up, jeans to protect your legs and a tee shirt. Don’t forget your bug spray, some towels and a change of dry clothes for the trip home.

There are a number of resources online to guide you both in where and how to look and to identify what you’ve found.
For more information, here’s a start:

You’re gonna need a bigger boat…


And the man who uttered those memorable, and for me so very relevant words, is gone. Roy Scheider passed away at 75. Jaws is high on my list of favorite movies, and one I can watch time and again. In fact, it is what I consider essential mid-winter viewing, keeping me from climbing the walls while the river’s frozen, the docks pulled, and Annabel Lee is wrapped beneath her cover awaiting spring. Jaws has some of the best ‘on the water’ scenes of any movie, and the Orca is a beautiful example of an old wood fishing boat. As a kid, all I ever wanted was a boat like that. I think I’ve come pretty close.

But what makes Jaws truly outstanding, what elevated it beyond a mere ‘monster’ movie is what you DON’T see. You know there’s something out there. You’re shown a thrashing girl, a limb, a chewed up boat and more. You know the shark will appear but you don’t know when. It does at last, only to slip back out of sight, raising your anxiety even further. The key to this, for anyone who knows the history behind the movie, is that ‘Bruce’, the mechanical shark, was malfunctioning through much of the filming. But there were tight schedules to keep so they worked around the shark’s scenes with hints of its presence. Docks destroyed, towed floats and barrels, and of course, the music. Watch the movie and see how often you know the shark is present but unseen. It wasn’t deliberate at the time but ended out more terrifying. And it also focused the plot around the small group of people involved, people you come to understand as you see them responding to this unseen threat lurking beneath them.

Among the notes posted over my computer is “Leave the mechanical shark off screen.” As I write, I deliberately keep the scary stuff lurking just out of sight, and let the reader sense its presence through other means. I want you to focus on the characters, care about them, know they’re in danger, but not what it is or what the hell will happen next.