April 11, 2015
It was a love story with an unhappy ending we didn't learn about until the second time we stumbled upon the house just south of Deal Lake.
We fell over it during our trip to the area the weekend after Christmas on a rather chilly stroll along the lake, and then back towards the center of town.
At the time, we were merely puzzled about the house and the front yard so overwhelmed with statuary, we struggled at first to make sense of it.
A corner house, the front yard had three gates, two of which seemed permanently closed, but guarded by matching stone lions at each -- faces worn smooth by weather and strewn over with the wintery remains of vines.
Peering over the gate from the Park Avenue side -- we glimpsed some of the statuary, many of which were various cupid characters, some with wings, some riding on the backs of beasts.
In winter, even the most normally lush yards seemed sad, and overgrown with the shredded remains of dying plants. But for some reason, this yard despite all of its pretensions seemed sad for other reasons we could not know.
By the time we came to the corner and the second gate, we could clearly see the front of the house where a pantheon of Christian saints stood in full glory on pedestals at intervals along the front fence. The corer gate had more lions, but we could see the yard better and that there were statues big and small of all sorts, sizes and shapes, most reflecting some sense of innocence and yet sensuality that seemed contradicted by the religions artifacts.
The front porch had a line of cupid statues, as provocative and innocent as the religious statues were defiant, raising many questions that trip would not answer.
We had, of course, run into similar -- if not quite as overwhelming -- properties in other places, including some in Cape May. But this differed in several important ways, a sense of purpose lay behind this collection, and it seemed to reflect a theme even if we could not desern what it was.
We move on -- driven from the place by the chill and a sense of extreme sadness.
We returned on Easter weekend, and were on the boardwalk along the north side of the Convention Hall when we ran into a couple of women walking their dogs.
We made friends with the dogs, and then moved on, taking the long walk we had taken on Christmas weekend, up to Deal Lake and back to that house on our way back.
The women from the boardwalk were there.
They said the house belonged to a gay man, a long time resident of Asbury Park, who had lived with another man for many years. When the other man died, the gay man started building this tribute to his memory, and even though many years had passed, the tribute continued, new pieces popping on the property from time to time, but always with this odd mixture of faith, innocence and sexuality.
The man never connected with anyone else, and apparently lived in the house along, morning the loss of the lover that had once shared this dream of living in peace.
It's a sad story, reflected on the faces and images of the yard, not one that we would have gotten in detail, but clearly one conveyed by the vast array, as if by sheer volume, the survivor continued to profess the quality and quantity of love.
As I said, it is a sad love story.