Welcome, one and all, to upperWETside — that’s the “wetside” of New Jersey; that spongey shangri-la that lies east of the GS Parkway and runs north-south from about, say, the abandoned Amboys Multiplex to about, say, the Sandy-savaged sandbar of Long Beach Island. But it goes beyond simple geographics — the UPPER wet side’s a Permanent Staycation and a state of mind; an attitude more townie than tourist, more year-round culture vulture than migrating snowbird, more dirty-stayout than day-stay tripper.
We’re your host and humble servant Tom Chesek — longtime arts/entertainment correspondent and critic for the Gannett NJ Newspapers (Asbury Park Press, Home News Tribune) and websites; regular contributor to local pages both paper (Red Hot magazine, WeirdNJ) and pixelated (redbankgreen); slightly shady publicity guy and the kind of freeloading freelancer who could almost give seedy old-media types a bad name. Elitist as hell, too, even when we can’t scare up the cost of 15 minutes parking along the boardwalk.
Since 2011, we’ve also been the live-in “director of programming” and all-around creepy old caretaker of The Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park — the historic and allegedly haunted home of the great 19th century novelist-poet-journalist, and a little island of literary-themed (and oh-so civilized) events and diversions, here amid the gorgeous madness of Asbury Park.
Aging hipster, lapsed capitalist, cynical media mutt, shameless namedropper, welfare snob, party crasher par excellence and interviewer extraordinaire — this is what we are, and nobody but nobody does it better.
You might also have stumbled across us, in print or in person, as the editor of Red Bank oRBit, a slick and colorful (and now-defunct) source for people-oriented features on the music, theater, art, film and literary events going on around Monmouth County’s most happening haunts. oRBit quickly made a name for itself through its comprehensive updates, its lovingly punning perspective and its deep-dish interviews with everyone from international restaurateurs to roller derby queens; sex workers to symphony musicians; Ralph Nader to Howie Mandel; US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky to Jackie the Joke Man.
You’ll find a tremendous cache of oRBit feature stories — not only by us, but our guest contributors as well (Joe Muccioli, Kathy Polenberg, Dustin Racioppi and Moore) — archived right here, along with things that originally appeared in the Press, redbankgreen, Asbury Pulp and beyond. With lots more “new old” stuff added in recent months, it’s a repository for a decade-plus of our entertainment writing — and from our narrow little repository window we’ve gazed down upon the grassy knoll of cultural commerce, here in a place that was once regarded as little more than a backwater. Take a few moments to scroll our STORAGE (archive) unit for quick links to a dizzying parade of creative folk who’ve passed this way, not to mention the ones who call the wetside home.
You’ll find a stockpile of stories created specifically for this site as well — a fresh, fun and informative take on the cultural landscape in this neck of the weeds — the SOUNDS and the SCREENS; the STAGES and the SCENES; the SIGHTS on the gallery walls and the SYLLABLES that tumble from an author’s mouth between inhales of muenster and merlot.
We’ve even made available the option of experiencing upperWETside in a version that’s specially formatted for iPad users — complete with a “blavatar” (Kappy the Keansburg pig, an Upper Wet Side icon rivaling Tillie or Evil Clown) that displays on your home page, so it launches and works just like what the kids are calling an “app.”
So let other sites have their slideshows of drunks hoisting Silver Bullets; their regurgitated press releases, and their comprehensive coverage of 1.5 square blocks worth of brooklynesque-boilerplate turf. And let upperWETsidebe your place to go for passionately playful coverage, for the Shore lifer’s point of view and for the sort of Q&A interviews (and alarming alliteration, painful puns, run-on sentences) that almost nobody seems to have room for these days. A commitment to the glorypower of the WORD that’s more unfashionable than ever in blogland. It’s simply us doing what we do, whatever that may be. And no, we don’t solicit or even particularly care about reader comments — you can contact us easily enough if need be via Facebook.
Like we said, elitist as hell. So if anybody tries to peg you as a “wetsider,” you tell ‘em your week beats their year — and that when it comes to life on the Jersey Shore, you’re strictly upperWETside!