IF YOU’VE been reading the papers lately, maybe you’re bracing yourself for insect catastrophe. We’re referring to the 17-year cicadas known as Brood II which have been growing underground for — you guessed it — 17 years. They’ll emerge locust-style — up to one billion of them per square mile, according to the The Huffington Post — when the soil reaches 64 degrees. A repulsive siege, in the oh-so-scary words of the news media, will take over the east coast, from the Carolinas to New York, essentially ruining your summer and your lunch.
The Philly Post predicted a Garden State Parkway covered in “an apocalyptic swarm of screeching bug-missiles on rumspringa.” So… should you be hiding your children? Packing up and heading west? Plugging your ears with balls of cotton when you sleep? We called an expert to find out what we can expect in Cape May.
“You can expect to be disappointed,” said Michael Raupp, Professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland. Uh-oh, we thought… We’re really in for it. “Cape May is a little out of the range. The nearest counties to you guys that will experience the Brood are Atlantic, Cumberland, and Burlington.”
Huh? Then why should we disappointed, we asked of Michael. Sounds to us like we dodged a bullet. Or, in the words of The Philly Post, billions of bug missiles. We’re avoiding a summer of sweeping crunchy exoskeletons from our porches… that’s what the 17-years leave behind after they mate and die, according to National Geographic. And we’re bypassing the deafening song the male cicadas create when courting the females… a noise that will cause permanent hearing damage, according to Gizmodo.com.
“You’ll be disappointed because you’ll be missing the splendor of the cicadas,” Michael said. “I want people to stop thinking of this as the seventh plague and, rather, as a really cool natural phenomenon. Nowhere else in the known universe experiences such a synchronized emergence after an extremely long period of time, where the strategy of a species is to fill all the bellies of its enemies and still have enough of itself left over to reproduce. Safety in numbers is an unusual tactic in the animal world. This event has everything… life, death, birth, sex, drama. It’s better than reality TV.”
Okay… but what about the blacking out of the sun by cicada swarms we’ve been reading about? “Oh god,” Michael said, “It’s not going to be like The Mummy movie.” And the deafening noises? “About 90 decibels,” he said. “That’s the same level as a loud lawn mower or a rock concert. Hey, I lived through the 60s, and I can still hear. The only way you’ll experience permanent damage is to stick one in your ear, and that, I don’t recommend. The cicadas aren’t going to harm you or your pets, and they aren’t going to hatch in your house.” In fact, the only things the cicadas might damage are orchard plants, since inside the branches is where they like to lay their eggs. “They do affect the quality of life, though,” Michael said. “They improve it.”
Still, there will be people who will be utterly freaked. “Entomophobia is a real phobia,” Michael said. “I’ve heard from psychologists and psychiatrists that people are going to struggle with this.” So what’s a bug-fearing soul to do? Michael recommends talking with a counselor, and learning as much as one can about the cicadas. And if all else fails? “Think of this as a cool antidote to the dastardly mosquitoes that plague south Jersey,” Michael said. “And take a trip to Cape May.”
WE READ a study recently that said when you’re just about to give up on a project, tack on an extra 15 minutes of trying, and your chances of success increase exponentially. Just 15 minutes. Of course, there are those people who keep at a project for 15 years. That’s how long Cape May local Carol Fragale Brill— whose work has been recognized by Poets and Writers and Philadelphia Stories—worked on her first novel, Peace By Piece, now available for purchase. “I had a burning desire or passion… I don’t know what else to call it,” she told us. “I just knew there was a book inside of me.”
Carol, originally from Philadelphia, started coming to Cape May to visit the mother of her future husband, Jim. “I was more of a Margate girl at that point,” she told us. “And every time we’d pass that exit, I’d think, Why can’t your mother live here? But I just fell in love with the area, and 15 years ago, we moved down here permanently.”
Though the book is set in a fictional town, Carol says she was impacted by her surroundings. “I always wanted to live near a beach,” she said. “Having achieved that goal, I think I was more confident that I could achieve other goals, like finishing this story.”
Finishing the story and, in the process, offering female readers especially a character with whom they can connect. “When I started the novel,” she told us, “I thought the book was really about a woman with an eating disorder. But as the character and plot evolved, that became just one part. It’s a love story, and it’s about relationships. It’s the story of a woman dealing with everyday stuff women deal with.”
Of course, for every author, there’s the challenge of balancing one’s writing life with one’s work… Carol served as HR Director for AtlantiCare before moving into organizational development and leadership coaching. But for the Cape May author, there’s an added obstacle. “Living here,” she said, “there are lots of opportunities to have company during the summer, so I always let friends know that they’re welcome to be here, and I’ll come out to cook for them, but that on Saturdays, I work on the book in my off-limits office.”
In her office, or on the beach, that is. “I’d bring my notebooks and do some writing in front of the lighthouse,” Carol said. “There, it doesn’t feel like work. There’s a joke in my family that I’ll set up a stand and sell books next to my beach chair this summer.”
If you’d rather not wait that long, the book, which Carol self-published despite offers of representation from agents, is available on Amazon.com and at Cape Atlantic Book Company and Tommy’s Folly, or as an eBook. You can also join Carol on April 21 at the Point Diner in Somers Point (1 Macarthur Boulevard) for a “Literary Lunch,” during which she’ll read from Peace By Piece and chat with attendees about the writing process. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be on the lookout also for Carol’s second book— one that will be set in the Cape May area — which she’s in the process of finishing now. We don’t know whether or not that narrative will have a happy ending, but we do know that Carol’s own story is shaping up to be pretty great. “Hey,” she said, “I’m a kid that grew up on fairytales.”
THERE are people in this town who never seem to stop moving… the kind who always have exciting projects in the works. Case in point: Mike Boschen, who’s going to be doing Cape Island proud in the Big Apple.
You might have met Mike and his wife Nicole Pense, owners of Bliss Organic Ice Cream. They’re the couple who, before settling in Cape May for good, launched a cross-country search for the the perfect place to raise a family (a story we documented in one of our color issues).
It all started more than three years ago, back when Mike and Nicole were full-fledged New Yorkers living the fast-paced city life. Mike, a skilled trombone player, worked as part of the orchestra for a Broadway show and taught at Juilliard in the high school division. Nicole ran an agency matching special education teachers to kids with special needs. But after Sage, the couple’s first child, was born, they decided it was time to start over in a family-friendly small town.
Enter the cross-country journey that, after he quit his job and she gave up her business, would take Mike and Nicole to all 50 states. In each one, they interviewed a couple who has been together 50 years or more, with the hopes of turning the interviews into a book that would enhance the relationships of all who read it. Everywhere, they kept an eye out for the ideal place to settle down, although they had a feeling they’d probably land in San Francisco.
The very first interview took place in Cape May, and the last happened nine months later, in California, that place the couple thought they’d be most taken with. But, by that time, they knew what they’d been looking for had been in front of them all along.
“I don’t know how we didn’t realize it,” Mike told us. “When I was a kid, my parents bought a house in Cape May and it was a second home for 10 years. While my wife and I were dating, I took her there and she loved it, so we went to visit all the time from New York City. We even got married there. I think we were just so set on leaving the East coast, we didn’t notice that the perfect place for us was right there. This place is a rarity. It packs a lot of culture into a small space.”
But the trip was not for naught. “We love organic food,” Mike said. “And on the road we were always looking for homemade food, if not organic. When we were discussing what to do for work, Nicole mentioned the idea of an ice cream shop.”
She started making the sweet stuff at home, before selling it at Big Wave Burrito and the Cape May Farmer’s Market. Shortly thereafter, the couple opened their Park Boulevard and Carpenter’s Lane locations.
Add two more kids to the mix, along with that book they’re still working on, and you’d think Mike and Nicole were busy enough… but what’s one more (uber-cool) undertaking?
“It felt weird to go without playing for so long,” said Mike, who took a short hiatus from his trombone while on the road. “So I started to play again, and by the time we settled in Cape May I wanted to get back into it.” He became a regular performer at the Merion Inn, and in the Baltimore and New Jersey Symphonies. After reconnecting with friends in the music business, Mike got an offer to play for Matilda on Broadway. Since February, he’s been commuting from Cape May to New York several times a week. “I’m doing what I always wanted to do. Play music and live at the beach.”
Now, the family is thinking about finding a second home in New York, so that the kids will get to experience the buzz of the city along with the calm of Cape May.
“This new job is a great way to get New York back in our lives, and at the same time, keep our roots in Cape May,” Mike said. “This place is important to us.”