Photos and creative direction by Annette Lamothe-Ramos; styling by Miyako Bellizzi. Special thanks to the time-warped city of Wildwood, New Jersey.
Is Twitter Superhero Cory Booker in Silicon Valley’s Pocket?
Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is one of the hippest, most tech-savvy politicians in the country. He’s known nationwide for using Twitter to connect to constituents and others, and for saving old ladies trapped in burning buildings and dogs trapped in crates; during Hurricane Sandy, he even let some of his neighbors stay in his house. At first glance, he’s the quintessential charismatic politician come to save a city beleaguered by crime and poverty. But high-profile acts of heroism notwithstanding, America’s favorite mayor (and, it’s more or less assumed at this point, a candidate for president in the not-too-distant future) spends a lot of time chilling with Silicon Valley execs and hedge-fund bros, and, more importantly, freely uses those connections to enrich himself.
As the New York Times recently revealed, despite the fact that he is currently running for (and about to win) a seat in the US Senate, Booker has up to $5 million of equity in a YouTube-esque startup company called Waywire that was conceived on his behalf a couple years ago by Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter guru. Booker personally lobbied tech industry billionaires like Google’s Eric Schmidt (and other rich people he knows, like Oprah) to provide $1.75 million in seed money, and he’s used appearances around the country made in the name of attracting investment to his troubled city (including a speech at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas) to plug the startup. That won’t help Newark much but it will likely help Booker’s personal bank account.
The Silverball Pinball Museum in New Jersey Is My Everything
Pinball is pretty much all I care about. I make art and I write and I have friends and blah blah blah, but it’s all just a means to get quarters and play pinball.
The best place to play pinball on the East Coast is the Silverball Museum in Asbury, New Jersey. The entrance fees vary, but for $20 you can stay all day and play every machine they have, all of which are free once you’re inside. The photos sprinkled throughout this blog post are pictures of some of my favorite games at the museum.
Pinball is a beautiful game that was originally like pachinko, in that it was used for gambling as well as recreational purposes. Much like today, pinball players of yore would pull back a spring-loaded plunger and shoot a metal ball through a playfield covered in pins and hope that the ball hit some targets. Eventually someone made a machine with six flippers, adding a stronger element of skill to the game. Not long after that, someone else decided to keep the flippers but simplify the operation by controlling all of them with just two buttons, and that’s how modern pinball was born.
Pinball machines are sort of like video arcade games but much more unique. The production run of an average machine usually ranges between 500 and 10,000. They also contain miles and miles of wire, which is neither here nor there, but pretty neat nonetheless. They are hand-constructed and almost all of them are collectors’ items.
Burning Man Vs. Superstorm Sandy
Union Beach, New Jersey, like much of the state, is a mess thanks to Superstorm Sandy. Its residents who are sticking it out and hoping to rebuild have to figure out a way to clear their lots of debris and condemned structures. Regular relief groups don’t provide aid for this kind of work, and contractors aren’t going to cut a break for flood victims. It has left an altruistic void, one that has been filled by a bunch of people who every year head out to the middle of a desert in Nevada to do a bunch of drugs, dress up like gay aliens, and light a bunch of shit on fire.
Yes, a small group of Burning Man enthusiasts have rapidly formed what appears to be an extremely efficient charitable organization that helps people in ways more bureaucratic organizations can’t.
No Warning 7: Ambushed
Dir: Aiden Riley
Two weeks before writing this, I was in sunny Los Angeles with VICE’s global editor, Andy Capper, filming retired porn star Belladonna for an upcoming episode of my Skinema show. The family was back in New Jersey, and I could drink until sunrise, pick fights with Parisians, and walk around my hotel room nude; I was on vacation without a care in the world. I should have just stayed in LA, because the day I arrived back home in New Jersey the airport was full of fearful folk running around with their hands above their heads, doing the Steve Martin and screaming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
We were 24 hours away from getting ass-raped by Hurricane Sandy. California refuses to acknowledge any part of the country outside its borders, so during the week I was out there I had heard nothing of this megastorm. I had to prepare my home, my skate shops, my family, and my world in general for outright disaster, and I was very late to the party. None of the stores in or around my town had any generators, flashlights, food, or really anything left on the shelves.
Luckily, every skateboard filmer owns a generator, and my friend R.B. Umali was kind enough to lend me his since he undoubtedly wouldn’t be able to run it in his Manhattan apartment once Sandy hit. Less than two hours before the city closed the Holland Tunnel, I raced in and out of NYC to grab the only hope I had of keeping my family warm and our fridge running.
Thankfully, I was spared. My home received only minimal damage, my shops were unscathed, and I was only without power for a week. But the rest of New Jersey was absolutely devastated. My hometown and the boyhood home of Jon Bon Jovi, Sayreville, was flooded by the Raritan River at high tide on the night of October 28, and the full moon only brought the surge farther in. Houses are now kindling. The high-water marks show that, in some places, the surge reached well above head-high. Many good, hardworking people lost their homes, which were condemned because they were flooded with toxic water contaminated by a feces-filled sewage plant on one side of the river and the Edgeboro landfill on the other. Every town in New Jersey along the river, the Atlantic Ocean, and Raritan Bay suffered the same fate. I have been overwhelmed with sadness and despair for my fellow New Jerseyans.
In the aftermath, while delivering food and warm clothes to those in need, I have seen underdressed infants shivering in cold and dark homes without power; as of press time, there have been no signs of power being restored, and aid workers are nowhere to be found. One father I met was working diligently, without light or heat, to cut open all the walls on the first floor of his house in an attempt to remove the drenched and damaged drywall and insulation before mold set in. He told me that FEMA had cut him a check. I asked whether it would cover the damage, and he laughed and said, “It wouldn’t even cover a new heating unit.” And because his property had been rezoned two years ago, he was without flood insurance. With tears in his eyes, he removed his glove to shake my hand and thank me for the box of donated clothes that skate companies had sent me. His palms were so cold it was like shaking hands with a corpse.
Someone in California texted me, asking, “Is everything back to normal over there? The national news isn’t covering it anymore.” I laughed. We are going to have to create a new definition for “normal,” because things will never, ever be the same for the people of New Jersey.
Since I live in Brooklyn and have the entire island of Manhattan between me and New Jersey, what I’ve seen of the Garden State is from bus rides to the airport and episodes of The Sopranos. Seems depressing. These photos by Gergely Szatmari, from his series “Meadowlands,” pretty much confirm my suspicions. They remind me of every suburban landscape I’ve ever seen which feels forgotten, sad, and yet full of its own unique beauty. Also, there are a lot of cool old cars there.
In the past year or so my home state of New Jersey has become a punchline for reality TV. It’s quite sad to me. People have always had their jokes about Jersey with all its visible refineries and landfills along the stretch of highway outside Newark Airport, or its trapped-in-time stone-washed, 80s high-haired and low-expectations ladies or how it serves as merely a gateway between NYC and Philadelphia since 1867 and all of that is fine and true. I’ve laughed along with those jokes all my life while always waving a flag of state pride, but this recent rash of greasy, fist-pumping pieces of shit and the whores they violate should not be lumped in with the rest of Jersey. That level of scum that washes up on our shores each summer is from Staten Island, NY, home of the only landfill on Earth big enough to be seen from outer space.
That lot have made people forget how amazing and lush a state New Jersey is. I’m on a crusade to correct that.
Read the rest at Vice Magazine: NEW JERSEY FASHION WEEK - Vice Magazine