Asbury Park Adventure

While speaking at the RubyMotion conference in Belgium I met Bret Morgan, who runs a coworking space in New Jersey called Cowerks. Since we live near each other and both like coworking, we had a good conversation and I agreed to speak at the Jersey Shore Tech Meetup. Two months past quickly and before we knew it the time had come. He arranged everything, I gave my speech, and we had a great time. I really like Asbury Park.

RubyMotion lets you write iOS and Mac OS apps in Ruby. A bunch of us love it. At their first conference I gave a speech about RubyMotion and accessibility, discussing the tremendous benefit an iPhone has for a blind person, how developers could make their apps accessible, and some of my own observations learning how to write apps as a blind programmer. It went over well, and I agreed to give a similar speech at Cowerks. Bret said not to make it too technical, so I substituted the code examples with an introduction to RubyMotion. I also updated the speech to reflect the exciting new development which lets me use the REPL with VoiceOver. I thought I had everything prepared down to the letter. Of course, life rarely works that way.

Meanwhile we planned logistics. Bret’s friend Meghan would provide transportation. Sure enough at 03:00 on the dot she pulled up. We made the drive in an hour and a half, not bad at all.

I arrived at Cowerks and set up my computer. It felt weird to work with my luggage sitting next to me. It also felt weird to sit in a coworking space other than Indy Hall. I kept expecting one of my friends to come up and say hi. I made some final tweaks to my speech and emailed it to Bret so he could try to coordinate the slides which now differed. And of course I would like to thank Adriano Martino of Italian Label for doing such a tremendous job with them. Bret and I grabbed a bite to eat at the cafe downstairs. We have identical diets: vegetarian leaning towards vegan, no cheese, and lots of garlic.

We came back up and Bret asked if I’d like to say a few words about Indy Hall and coworking for a video project. I said sure and to my amazement stepped out onto their balcony, and I don’t mean a tiny little balcony with a few chairs either. They had the real deal, with benches, tables, and even a hammock. Coworking from a hammock sounds like a great idea to me. I met the guy doing video and said a few words, still marveling at my surroundings.

I heard that people here run on beach time. I didn’t fully understand. The meetup started at 07:00. I remember checking the time at 07:22, and they still calmly waited for people to show up and made no attempt to start it. I had an idea, and rigged up KoalaSAN to stream the speech live, something I really enjoyed and will do again. Finally at around 07:30 we started. I love beach time!

The speech went as well as it could have. You can listen to it here or use the links at the end of the article. Even though I didn’t include technical material, I kept getting interrupted with derailing technical questions. I began to wonder if I should work in the more technical material, but I soldiered through my notes and finish the speech I had prepared and practiced. At the end we decided to go for it, so I went back to my Belgium speech and went through the technical details of the UIAccessibility protocol and related code examples. In hindsight it would have worked better if I would have inserted them at the proper point, but everything worked out. Bret said you never know who will show up, and this time we happened to get more developers.

After some closing words we went out for drinks. Some things never change. Just like after Philly Cocoaheads, I found myself at a bar, but not National Mechanics. I had a Black Hat #9 to get things started, but then switched to a local brewery called Kane. I enjoying sampling local beers and comparing their tastes. I had a hoppy IPA and one which tasted lighter called Carton. Event hough it tasted lighter it still had plenty of alcohol. For this reason, they call it getting Kane’d.

I met some cool people. A fellow pipe smoker named Dave gave me a tin of vintage Dunhill Nightcap pipe tobacco from 1995. I understand its value. He must have given it to me for that reason. Wow!

A girl named Jess and I talked a bunch. I mentioned the Dreamz app which uses the iPhone’s sensors to monitor your sleep state, and deliver an audio cue to help you achieve a lucid dream. A girl had an iPhone with a broken home button. Oh dear.

As the night got on I found myself in an enthusiastic discussion with a surfing instructor. He really wanted to take me surfing and I really wanted to go. He wanted to get in the cold water at 08:00 in the morning. Somehow I knew that wouldn’t happen. “I wouldn’t worry about it.” someone said. “He will probably call you on the other side of noon.” He hasn’t called me yet. I keep picturing a surfer in Asbury Park waking up the next day with a hangover wondering why he has the business card of an iOS accessibility consultant. Oh well. I really would like to try surfing with him sometime.

We got home a little after midnight. Justine made me a quick snack of pita chips and almonds, and gave me plenty of water. This helped so much. Nevertheless, the next day I got Kane’d! I felt better after lots more water, aspirin, and cacao, which I had brought with me. Bret had to get up early – running a coworking space means constant work. Justine makes jewelry and showed some to me. I enjoyed the feel of the polished stone and intricate wiring. Eventually we got ready to go.

The night before I met a girl named Kara. The parallels with Indy Hall continued, there Kara cooks dinner for night owls. Here Kara runs a vegan restaurant called From Seed to Sprout. It sounded like the perfect cure for the previous night. I had their multi-vitamin juice, a raw taco, and kale marinated in olive oil and salt. I also got a raw margarita pizza for later. It all tasted exquisite! I felt 110% better.

Meghan met us at the restaurant and we went home from there. At 03:00 I had made it home. Now I sit here with a pipe of this wonderful tobacco, my memories dissipating like its smoke. I thoroughly enjoyed my twenty-four hours in Asbury Park. Justine called it “Bizarro Philly” and that pretty much sums it up. It has a strong local vibe, but it also has a beach. It feels more laid back than south Jersey where I’ve often vacationed. I would definitely like to return. And if you find yourself in Asbury Park, definitely check out Cowerks and From Seed to Sprout. And try not to get Kane’d!