On the pretext of attending a friend’s wedding, Laura and I headed over to the west coast of the USA in September 2003. Whilst there, we wanted to take advantage of the proximity of New York to New Jersey and visit Red Bank, the spiritual home of Kevin Smith’s films. Due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Isabel, we had to visit Red Bank on the day after we arrived. We were still fairly jet lagged and hadn’t had time to sort out any maps or work out in advance where we were going.
Armed only with addresses of some key View Askew locations, see the table at the bottom of the page, we set off. From Hotel Pennsylvania, (yes, the one in the song) we headed straight over the road to Penn Station, NY. NJ Transit run the line from Penn Station into New Jersey, and a return ticket to Red Bank station cost about $15 each off peak. The journey to Red Bank took about an hour, with trains running about once an hour.
On alighting at Red Bank station we found ourselves somewhat lost. That’s not because we didn’t know where we were – just that we didn’t know where anything else was. Advice for anyone else thinking of visiting Red Bank on a similar adventure – get a map of Monmouth County before you leave! It was only much later in the afternoon, on another wander past the station that we noticed a helpful brass map set into the pavement, which would have at least pointed us in the right direction for Broad Street, home of the Stash. The station has an information office, but that is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Pity the mid-week tourist! After asking a bemused bus driver whether she was going anywhere near Broad Street, we decided just to head in the general direction of the largest street away from the station and cross our fingers. As it happened, that was exactly the right route to take, as it eventually lead onto Broad Street, just about a hundred metres from the Stash.
An eye on the building numbers let us know that our left turn into Broad Street was indeed the correct direction. I noticed “Jack’s Music Shoppe” (Chasing Amy) before the Stash, which is directly opposite. As we were walking past Starbucks (pleasingly the only chain store in Red Bank that we saw) I saw Jay Mewes buying a coffee. He was short-haired and wearing a basketball shirt, apparently fresh out of rehab. Laura missed him, so we turned back with the intention of going into the shop to buy a bottle of water and maybe ask for a photo. As we did, Jay was walking out of the door, and went off down a side street. An opportunity missed, but I wasn’t about to start pursuing the guy down the street!
With that excitement over, we headed to the Stash across the street. The Stash itself counts as a View Askew location, having been used in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” as well as most of the DVD introductory clips. As View Askew fans will know, there are many original props and costumes from the series in the Stash, including the “Bluntmobile”, Affleck’s breastplate from Dogma, Clerks first draft script, Bluntman and Chronic’s costumes, the cigarette machine from Chasing Amy and Silent Bob’s Dogma coat. Also, Walt “Lon Cheney of the 90’s” Flanagan works at the Stash, so chances were good of seeing him too!
We spent some time browsing around the Stash, checking out the memorabilia and props. I’m no comics expert, but there seemed to be a good number and variety of those too. After we’d been there about 20 minutes, Walt Flanagan arrived for work. Laura and I chose T-shirts and Laura got some of the View Askew comics. However we chickened out of asking for a photo with Walt, he seemed busy.
I had found directions to the Quick Stop from the Stash, but in the rush to pack and get going on our journey, I’d not found time to read them. Printed them, but not read them. Now, I know I had a 6 hour flight during which I could have at least glanced at them, but I didn’t. They had good films on, OK? So, we started to follow instruction number one, and turned right out of the Stash and headed up Broad Street. It was only when I read the next few instructions that I realised there were two distances of at least 5 miles to walk. We’d have spent most of the day walking along highways, rather than seeing Red Bank. So, as it was lunchtime, we headed back down Broad Street to had a bit more of a look at the town.
Half way down the street, Laura decided that she could get some presents for her brothers from the Stash too. By this time, four students from Wisconsin had reached the shop and got Laura to take pictures of them posing with Walt. We spent some time choosing T-shirts for her brothers and then plucked up the courage to ask Walt to pose for a photo at the checkout. The other guy working in the shop took the photo – I reckon he does that a lot. Walt was very friendly and seemed happy to pose for a photo, but you can tell that he lives and breathes comics! I asked whether he was looking forward to the hurricane arriving the next day and he thought I was talking about a new comic called “The Hurricane” or something. It took a little while to clear up the confusion!
Having left the Stash for the second time, we crossed over the street to visit Jack’s Music Shoppe. The outside and adjacent doorway will be familiar to Chasing Amy fans as the location for Holden and Banky’s flat. Inside, the locations for Hooper and Holden’s scene are obvious. The wooden stairs at the end of long rows of CDs are instantly recognisable. What is a little more surprising is that Jack’s is also a musical instrument shop, as well as a recorded music shop. Having “done” the two main locations on Broad Street itself, it was definitely time for lunch.
We walked down Broad Street to see what we could find. Red Bank is a lovely place, busy and full of shops. The absence of recognisable chain stores on Broad Street was refreshing and it seemed like a pleasant place to work. We got lunch at a Deli on Broad Street and sat on a street bench to eat it. At about 12:30, the Catholic Girls School, girls from which were featured in “Chasing Amy”, went on lunch break. The uniformly short skirts that the girls were wearing were certainly different from the stereotype of a Catholic school girl’s uniform!
Having seen the main locations in Red Bank itself, I still wanted to see the Quick Stop. We set off away from Broad Street back down to the station, trying to find a map of the area so we could look for bus routes or train stations that might take us nearer our quarry. After an hour’s walking and several failed attempts to find a shop that had a map for sale, we ended up at a small retail park. Opposite that was a 7-11, which thankfully sold maps! The most appropriate map was of Monmouth County and we sat and studied it, munching on a Dunkin’ Donut.
Navigating Red Bank by bus seems to require an encyclopaedic knowledge of the route times and destinations. None of the bus stops have any information on them other than the route numbers. So, if you don’t know where each and every route goes, you’re stuck. Had we had more time (or the information centre at the station been open) we might have been able to work out a bus route that would take us somewhere near Leonardo. As it was, it was clear from our map that the nearest train station to the Quick Stop is Middletown, and even that’s over an hour’s walk from Leonardo. But the single stop would be cheap and the journey quick. (The USA seems to have privatised its railways so much better than us.) It would also be interesting to walk through the small towns that we had to pass through to get there.
Middletown had opened its 9/11 memorial gardens a few days before we got there, and it was shocking to see how many people a small community like this had lost. In many ways the sight of the memorial gardens, with its path lined with stone plaques featuring likenesses of the victims from the town, had more of on impact than our visit to the WTC site a few days later. As someone who never saw the towers when they were standing, it was difficult to appreciate the difference their absence made. Work on re-opening the subway station had already begun and the site seemed like a building site, differing only in the attention it was getting from those stood around it, looking in. However, the loss of this community was clear, through the gardens and the ribbons tied around the trees outside the family homes.
We walked through Middletown towards Highway 36. The route was through a residential area, lots of large wooden houses set back from the road, surrounded by equally large gardens. We were headed for Marina’s Diner where Alyssa bought Holden the picture of a sail boat, and Silent Bob tells his “fuckin’ gay story”. All we knew about the diner was that it was on Highway 36/East Road, so we found East Road and found the intersection with Highway 36. No diner. Having walked down one of the approaches to the crossroad, we were left with a one in three choice. We chose to turn left and had no luck finding the diner. So we went back the crossroads and tried going straight on. Again, no joy. Sod’s Law meant that the diner would be down the last road we tried. Anyway, three or four hundred yards down the road, there it was. By now it was getting on for tea time, so we tucked into what we thought would be typical diner food and played a couple of songs on the table-top jukebox. The waiting staff were friendly, and didn’t seem phased by us wanting to take pictures of us eating and paying the bill.
Setting off from the diner along Highway 36, we headed towards Leonardo. There is a path that runs alongside Highway 36, which I would advise taking. It’s safer and much more pleasant than walking along the Highway shoulder. After three quarters of an hour walk, we eventually found the Quick Stop and RST Video. The place was certainly different from my preconceptions from the films. I had always pictured the shops being set back from traffic and other buildings, on a route out of the town. In reality they’re set back all of a car’s length from the road that runs in front of it. The road does indeed run out of the town, but only if you don’t plan on stopping when you come to the sea. It’s a pretty quiet road and the Quick Stop, RST and the tattoo parlour are in the middle of residential area. Bushes and trees have grown round the end of the store, making it seem much more integrated into the surrounding environment.
Venturing inside the Quick Stop, the bank of fridges where the “Milk Maids” and the “Guidance Counsellor/Egg Inspector” did their stuff were clearly visible. The door where Caitlin Bree did her thing with a corpse actually led to the freezer compartment (as featured in the Clerks cartoon series.) The size of the Quick Stop itself makes the fight sequence between Dante and Randall seem much more epic. Shooting in such a confined space (albeit only with a handful of people) must have been a real challenge. Naturally, I wanted to buy something from the Quick Stop, so I purchased two bottles of water and some gum. The guy behind the counter looked suitably pissed off at us being there, but didn’t seem to object to having his picture taken.
RST Video was, fittingly, shut.
From the Quick Stop, Laura wanted to walk to the ferry terminal at Port Monmouth to sail back to midtown New York. It took about an hour to walk there from the Quick Stop, fighting biting bugs on the way. Advice to anyone planning to stay in Red Bank after dusk: Either take insect repellent or wear long trousers. By the time we got there we were about half an hour late for the last midtown ferry, so walked the hour or so back Middletown station.
The train ride back to Penn Station seemed long, but only because we were fighting the jet lag to stay awake. We had managed to notch up a respectable number of locations in a day, with the added bonuses of seeing Walt and Jay. If we go back after I’m 25, we’ll be able to hire a car and see a whole load more locations.
Our initial locations list:
|Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash 35 Broad Street Red Bank New Jersey||Berkeley Carteret Hotel and Convention Center Ocean Avenue Deal Lake Drive Asbury Park New Jersey (Chasing Amy)|
|Quick Stop/RST Video 58/60 Leonard Avenue Leonardo New Jersey||Marina Diner Highway 36 East Road Belford New Jersey (Chasing Amy)|
|Jack’s Music Shoppe 30 Broad Street Red Bank New Jersey (Chasing Amy)||Ocean Ice Palace 197 Chambersbridge Road Brick New Jersey (Chasing Amy)|
|Postens Funeral Home 59 East Lincoln Avenue Atlantic Heights New Jersey (Clerks)||Victory Park River Road Rumson New York (Chasing Amy)|