J is for Jersey

No, this is not an ode to my favorite Devils’ Hockey jersey, this is about my home state. I knock it a lot, but I’m allowed. I’m born and raised.

If you’ve never been, it is not at all like you’ve heard. Even down the shore, it’s not like you saw on TV with those imbeciles who WEREN’T EVEN FROM HERE!

We really have a little bit of everything, mountains, farmland, shores, cities, lakeside communities, forests all crammed in here, but that’s just it. The parts of Jersey that aren’t all spread out are way, way, way too populated.

At this time of year, it’s “fair” season, and all the towns, all the churches, and all the schools start having food and rides on the weekends. I got myself a big bag of cotton candy (blue, of course. I swear the pink stuff is different. Discuss?) this afternoon, and inhaled it within 5 minutes of getting home with the bag intact. I ate it while watching “Fixer Upper” and dreaming, as usual, of Texas. I wonder if their cotton candy is different. Perhaps all my Italian street fairs will be one of the things I miss most when we move.

It’s a lot, I get it. If you live in the densely-populated areas in my teeny-tiny little state, it is a lot to take. There is so much traffic and congestion that when I worked just under 40 miles away from my house a year ago, it took me about an hour and a half to get there and an hour and a half or more to get home. That is why I want to move.

When I was younger, I wanted to move to South Jersey, live in a shore town year round, walk on the beach every day in February, and yet still live where it is familiar. I know it sounds weird, but it really is as if the state is divided in half. You could almost see it just looking at a map. It’s where it gets all skinny there in the middle. I jest.

Up north, we are very close (some of us, really, really close) to New York City. So we identify with it. We have the stadium right in my town where the New York Giants and New York Jets play (don’t even get me started), and maybe we visit Philly once every ten years or something. It is the exact opposite once you pass that invisible line. The accents change, the towns don’t seem as distinct, and the loyalties change to Philadelphia. It is as if you are visiting a different state.

I’ll tell you an embarrassing story. I honestly thought people in Virginia felt much the same. I was working at the magazine and I needed to use a map to show which states had approved something, and I wanted a nice illustration of the US, with the division lines of the states, and preferably, the names or initials of the states written inside. Well, I couldn’t find one. All the salespeople were out, so I couldn’t see the maps in their offices, either. So, a small group of designers and layout artists gathered around my computer to see how many states we knew. I already had most of the perimeter filled in. I knew the two coasts, and of course, everyone knows Texas is that humongous “country-sized” state down there, I just needed help with the middle. I picked out Ohio and Michigan okay, but other than that it was embarrassingly empty. I wasn’t alone, most of my counterparts could only make an educated guess or two. We were going on websites of specific states trying to figure out where they were, or what shape they were. Finally, we had it pretty much finished, with one small exception.

“What’s that one?” I asked, pointing at that oddly-shaped chunk on our side of Ohio. “West Virginia,” my buddy Carl replies. “Oh, come on… I’m not that stupid, don’t prank me. None of you guys knew what half of these states were. Come on, what is it? Do I have to figure it out myself? Fine!” I said, oddly angry for no reason.

“No, that is West Virginia, see how it is next to Virginia there, on the WEST side?” I disagreed vehemently, sure that West Virginia was just like South Jersey. It’s actually one state, but the people view it as two separate entities. I bet no one I worked with, 12 years ago now, and whether they were there that day or not, ever forgot me standing on my chair shouting, “West Virginia isn’t a state, CARL! Stop being a jerk or I’ll never go to lunch with you again! Find me something official that says it is a state!”

Well, the internet makes fools of us all, sometimes.


2 thoughts on “J is for Jersey

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