I grew up in New Jersey. That means my “hometown” stretches from Mahwah to Cape May.

For Buddy Doyle, the scent of salt air, Coppertone and tomato sauce summons the “unique, sublime substance” of the Jersey Shore, site of his “most cherished memories and seminal experiences.” Courtesy of Buddy Doyle

I might cite the Jersey Shore – if a hometown is where our most cherished memories and seminal experiences lead to the person we’ve become. Add the values we embrace, and the people we loved who instilled them, eh?

How often have you heard; “smells (or feels) like home”? I’m what’s called a “renifleur” – one who gets significant satisfaction from one’s sense of smell. The precise definition is a tad more sensually fraught, but this is a family essay, capishe?

I visited my hometown a few years before (and since) Hurricane Sandy devastated much of Seaside Heights in 2012. The augured aroma of salt air, boardwalk creosote and Coppertone wafted through my olfactory nerves. The fragrance of Italian bread, oregano and tomato sauce. The whiff of a Taylor Ham sandwich, Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets or Stewart’s Root Beer. The summertime smell of fresh-squeezed lemonade, cotton candy and Julie Antonek’s hair … but I digress.

My grandfather owned and operated the Dairy Queen on the Collingswood Circle near Wall Stadium where stock car races convened on Saturday nights. When they let out, a long stream of headlights snaked up Route 34 (a la “Field of Dreams”). Gramp would alert the crew: “Ready up, boys – here they come!” For a frantic hour or more, we’d dispense ice cream cones, sundaes, root beer floats and those juicy, roll-a-grill hot dogs – always with a toasted bun!

We’d close ’er down around midnight and pile into his 1960 Buick Invicta. A bodacious convertible she was – with a dazzling dashboard display. I’d sit in the middle of the (bench) front seat. Someone rode “shotgun” with the rest of the crew in the backseat. He’d let me steer with my left hand, and accelerate with my left foot on up to the Colt’s Neck Diner, where he’d hold court with his “Ice Cream Team” till 2 or 3 a.m. In unison, we’d sing Bobby Vinton’s immortal “Roses are Red (My Love)” on the jukebox.

Want more “Jersey”? In Bruce Springsteen’s soulful tune “My Hometown” (nearby Freehold), he speaks of sitting on his father’s lap, in “that big old Buick” steering, as they “drove through town.” In his terrific autobiography, “Born to Run,” he mentions taking his sister for ice cream “at the Dairy Queen.” He and I are both Jersey boys of the same age. I often wonder if he and his sister might have frequented my grandfather’s Dairy Queen. It’s possible I might have dispensed them a couple cones. He might remember me … I should give him a call. Perhaps he’d be willing to read my Jersey Shore-inspired screenplay.

No matter. Because I’ve no doubt we’d both respond in kind to the euphoric, saline smell of its sand, its surf – and its unique, sublime substance. The Jersey Shore is not just my idea of hometown, man – it’s my idea of heaven.

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