"All State Parks Closed." I kept passing these signs on the Garden State Parkway this past weekend, unaware that a budget impasse had resulted in a partial shutdown of government operations (not counting essential personnel like prison guards). I also didn’t realize this applied to my beloved Island Beach State Park.
Located south of Seaside Heights (sometimes referred to as Sleaze-side Heights and once home to MTV’s Jersey Shore), Island Beach State Park is the family-friendly alternative. My family usually tries to get there at least once during a summer trip to the shore. But not this time.
Of course this wasn’t the case for everyone. On Sunday, NJ Advance Media took aerial photos of Governor Chris Christie, his family, and friends on Island Beach State Park. (Initially the governor said he did not get any sun that day, but after the photos came out, a spokesperson clarified that Christie did not get any sun because he wore a hat.) Christie claims to have spent only 40 minutes kicking the sand, catching up with his wife Mary Pat. And he pointed out that one of the perks of being governor is having the house on the beach. "Run for governor, and you can have a residence there."
In other words, Let them eat funnel cake.
The media have since been up in arms. "Chris Christie is probably the most unpopular governor in the country, and he seems bent on making sure of it," wrote Aaron Blake in the Washington Post. "Beware the politician who doesn’t give a damn for decorum," warned Frank Bruni in the New York Times. "What he markets as irreverence can be something coarser and more perverse." The photos have become a meme.
By July 3, a budget deal was reached—the dispute surrounding the reallocation of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield’s "excess reserves" having been resolved. And New Jerseyans went back about their business. The DMV reopened.
At this point, New Jerseyans seem indifferent to it all. Those residents I spoke with just shrugged their shoulders—it’s about what they expected from a governor nearing the end of his term, a politician with the lowest approval rating (15 percent) of any governor of the Garden State. Yes, that means lower than Jim Florio (remember those "Dump Florio" bumper stickers?) and Donald DiFrancesco. (Regarding the latter, a friend of mine once conducted a focus group poll, in which one New Jersey resident summed up his feelings by saying, "Donny D doesn’t know s—t about f—k!")
During the weekend shutdown, folks simply went to other beaches. Belmar was packed. But it didn’t stop them from having a good time. My friends and I enjoyed a Sunday night dinner by the ocean at La Dolce Vita. I had the Zuppa di Pesce—an abundance of seafood on a bed of linguine. We didn’t have funnel cake, but the cannoli was exquisite.
Editor's note: As it turns out, I was not the only one who thought of the headline, "Let Them Eat Funnel Cake." Props to Jeff Edelstein of the Trentonian for beating me to it.