Rand, walking down the street of the town in which he was born.

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I married a boy from New Jersey.

There is no state more unfairly maligned. Tell folks you are from anywhere else, no matter how abused and run-down, and the response will be better than if you say you are from Jersey. Detroit will get you sympathetic comments about the state of America’s heartland, and praises of Motown. Salt Lake City yields images of brick-red canyons and cloudless skies. Even Tacoma, Seattle’s much ridiculed neighbor to the south, has a song written for it (it’s soulful and lovely and I’ve never been able to look at that dusty old jewel in the south Puget Sound the same way).

But say you are from Jersey, and folks usually sneer. Or scoff. I know, because in the past I have done it, too, even though I didn’t really knowing anything about the place.

The first time Rand took me to New Jersey, we had just gotten engaged. We were the first non-married couple to ever stay at his grandparents’ house. Even Rand’s mom and dad had to wait until they were married. Apparently the rules became more lax as the years went by, if only slightly, and by the time their oldest grandchild let it be known that he was going to get married, Pauline and Seymour figured that was enough to let us stay with them. I suspect this is a personal triumph for my husband, that he was able to spend the night with me under their roof without things being legal and official. He may have giggled a lot that first night from his side of the guest bed. That’s all I will say.

Before that trip, I had never seen Jersey, save for what Rand had pointed out to me from Manhattan. I expected factories and junkyards. An expansive industrial wasteland, interspersed with the occasional trashy beach, populated by girls with big hair and tiny outfits, and guys with … well, also with big hair and tiny outfits.

Instead, what I found was that Jersey didn’t meet my expectations at all. And thank goodness for that. It was green and lush and I soon realized that “The Garden State” wasn’t an ironic title. After that trip, when the opportunity arose (and even when it didn’t), I no longer told people my husband was from Seattle. Instead, I said, rather proudly, that I had married a boy from Jersey.

Never mind that he left when he was an infant. Forget the fact that his upbringing was primarily in the northwest. You can take a boy out of Jersey, but if he has any sense, he’ll return. As my husband has so many times before. As he did, just a few short weeks ago.

Of course, I went with him. Anyone who’s really seen Jersey wants to go back. Not far from Rand’s grandparents’ home in Flemington, there are farms. Actual farms. With horses and tractors and all manner of objects that most people would never come up with if you were playing the $25,000 Pyramid, and the category was, “Things you find in New Jersey.”

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And the town in which they live, the one where my husband was born, looks like it’s trapped in time. I mean this in the best possible way. It’s like Mayberry, except with more Jews.

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The local fur company has apparently not realized that several decades have passed since pelts were in fashion. They keep trudging along like it’s 1957.

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I understand the temptation. Why not live in one’s heyday? When I was in college, wearing your hair back in scarves was en vogue in Seattle (or as en vogue as anything can be in a town where flannel is considered formal wear). Despite having never been much of a genetic lottery winner, I found that I could rock a head scarf better than most, while managing to avoid looking like a washerwoman. I continued to wear them long after they fell out of fashion, and heck, even now when I’m cleaning the house and my hair is whipped back in an old bandanna, I think I look not all that bad. Take away the broom and the dustpan, and va-va-va-voom (sort of).

The point I’m trying to make is, while I’m not exactly a fan of skinning furry little animals (though I don’t hesitate to eat them), I get why the Flemington Fur factory stuck with what they did well, even after the times changed. It’s nice to remember when you were on top of your game.

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It seems they haven’t even updated their window display, either. I’m not sure if they are being ironic or what, but I rather like it in either case. I can picture Joan Holloway draped over that chair along with that white coat, looking bored and eating chocolates.


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In fact, I suspect entire episodes of Mad Men could be filmed in this part of the country, and the set designers would have very little to do. Maybe spruce up a door or two.

Though, really, I think this one looks pretty great the way it is.

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Good thing there’s a paint store close by.

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In Seattle, they’d have turned this into a coffee shop five times over. Maybe they’d keep the sign in front, and it would be called “Stryker’s Coffee”. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but I have to say, it’s kind of refreshing to see an old paint and wallpaper sign outside a store that still sells paint and wallpaper.

As we drive through tree-lined country roads, and I warn Rand to watch out for deer (The schtick is one we stole from his grandparents: “Seymour, watch out for deer.” “Yes, dear.”), I wonder how Jersey got such a bad reputation.


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Because the natural beauty of Jersey is abundant. In addition to the rolling hills and green pastures and frolicking animals, this is the state that gave us the backsides of both Springsteen and Bon Jovi (which, yes, still falls under the category of “natural beauty”). Men who, when they walked away, could compel even the most composed woman to crane her head and whisper, softly, “Damn.” (Yes, they made contributions to the world of music as well. But I’m talking about what they’ve done for the good of humanity. And for both of them, it’s “wearing jeans.”)

And then there’s my husband. Even if it Jersey gave me nothing else, I’d have to love it for him alone, wouldn’t I?

I'm talking about you.

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I’ll spare mention of his backside because I know that a good number of you read my blog during lunchtime, and you might gag from hearing a grown woman gush about the man she married. I’m simply say that when he walks away?

Damn.

But what do you expect? My man is from Jersey. It is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in America. And unless, for some wonderful, magical reason, I have the occasion to see my husband, The Boss, and Jon Bon Jovi bent over the hood of a car (never mind that Rand knows zilch about cars. A girl can dream, and on my blog, I do), I doubt that Jersey could look any better than it already does.

Full list of categories:  City Guide » Local Color » Loving the Entrepreneur » Random Musings
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Comments (24)

  1. 26. Jul, 2011 / Mindy:

    As a native Salt Laker, I ask: where are these brick-red canyons of which you speak?

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    It is simply what comes to mind, my dear. Like my initial impression of Jersey, it doesn’t need to be accurate. :)

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  2. 26. Jul, 2011 / Steve:

    This makes me so happy! Thank you! I will be wildly distributing this all over the interwebs and sharing it with everyone I know (even those I don’t). International friends have always been skeptical if they’ve actually heard of New Jersey, but this blog may change their minds.

    Also, my sister-in-law had her grandmother’s fur cleaned at Flemington Furs when she married my brother! Needless to say, I live very close to Flemington. Message me the next time you guys are in the area, I’d love to grab a cup of coffee and direct you to the finest cupcakes within a 50-mile radius.

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Rand’s grandfather tells me they have a huge vault at Flemington Furs where people used to store stuff back in the 60s. Not sure how often it gets used today, but apparently they do get some business. Will definitely send you an email next time we’re in the area (which is often). We can go to a diner. The kind with a menu the size of a phone book. :)

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  3. 26. Jul, 2011 / Erin:

    Love your blog and your constant gushing about your husband…adorable and refreshing!

    p.s. I was born and raised in SLC and there are lovely red-brick canyons in Southern Utah so you’re right on with what comes to mind. :)

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Aw, thanks. Glad my gushing isn’t as nauseating as I worry it might be.

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  4. 26. Jul, 2011 / Michele:

    My hubby is a Jersey native ~ from Parlin, NJ (Sayreville for all the Bon Jovi fans). Our first apartment as a husband and wife was not far from Flemington – in Bordentown, NJ. We had a one bedroom apt in an old converted mansion overlooking the Delaware River – pure heaven I tell you (except there was no washer and dryer, but why spoil the perfect memory). Should have taken more photos while I was there. Love your blog!! xoxo michele

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Thanks, Michele. And congrats on marrying a Jersey boy. I suspect he looks great in denim. It’s just something they do well.

    That old apartment sounds amazing. Maybe it’s best you don’t have photos: the only record is in your head, and as time passes, it just keeps getting better and better (like my recollection of the movie, “Howard, The Duck.” I remember that flick being AWESOME. Pretty sure if I saw it again, it would spoil the magic).

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  5. 26. Jul, 2011 / Becca:

    Sigh. You are forcing me to make a serious comment. I usually prefer the sarcastic and witty (so I like to think) comments but not today.

    You are inspiring. There I said it. Your constant praise of you husband and his adorableness is just so (as Erin put it best) refreshing. Thank you for not being ashamed to express how wonderful marriage can be and how much you are in love. I look forward to reading your blog every day and this is one more reason I keep coming back.

    Ok, enough mushy stuff! :)

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    This is one of the best comments, ever. Thank you so much. I’m thrilled you like the blog. I started writing it for Rand, so I can’t tell you how much it means to me that other people care about it. :) Hugs.

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  6. 26. Jul, 2011 / Candice:

    Thank you for this awesome defense of NJ. We moved from NYC to NJ when I was five and I consider myself still a New Yorker (in the same way your husband is a Jersey boy) but I’m also totally a Jerseyite and have spent much time defending my state.

    And your gushing for your husband is adorable and enviable. It reminds me that I should gush about my own more than I do (which is not enough at all).

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  7. 26. Jul, 2011 / Philip:

    I think Rand just makes Jersey look better. Take him out and I doubt its that… handsome.

    Anyway, my dad is from Pequannock. A town so remote that people who’ve lived their whole lives in Jersey have never heard of it. He swears it’s real and that the state is beautiful. He also holds onto certain bits of his Jersey-accent, but only the most refined parts. To this day he will hold forth on the correct pronunciations of merry, marry, and Mary. And, god help me, he’s right.

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  8. 26. Jul, 2011 / Deanna:

    The first time I went TO New Jersey (as opposed to THROUGH it) was for my best friend’s 21st birthday. She wanted to see a water polo tournament at Princeton (long story, but talk about men who make you say “…Damn.”). I think my favorite part of the trip was looking around and saying “You know, guys…maybe it’s the margarita the size of my face, but is New Jersey actually really nice?” And everyone nodded.

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  9. 26. Jul, 2011 / lulu:

    I gotta tell you that here in mexico what we hear about Jersey (and I hate to say this) is what we see on TV shows like Jersey Shore, or Jerseylicious (sorry, I don’t know how to spell that)
    So, reading this post makes me change my mind, and I thank you for that!
    I totally understand what it is to be from a place that has such a wrong reputation. I mean a lot of people think that us mexicans wear huge sombreros, drink tequila and sleep under a cactus.
    So now that I know this I hope that in my next trip to the States I’ll be able to visit Jersey… and of course now my duty is to pass this information on!!

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  10. 26. Jul, 2011 / Alexandra Smith:

    I’m from Jersey, my father is from Jersey, and my mother is from Danmark… don’t ask. All I’ve got to say is ‘East side represent!” whoot whoot!

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  11. 27. Jul, 2011 / Atiya:

    I came across your blog on Time.com and since that day I have kept coming back. I have gushed about it to my sister, my friends, everyone I can think of :P I am a college student from Pakistan and I think I use your blog to live vicariously :P Like the other comments put it, your love for your husband is inspiring. You make us hope that our marriages are as happy, fun and full of love as yours is…I really hope that I am in love enough to start a blog which is a “love letter to my husband”.

    Thank you for everything :D

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  12. 27. Jul, 2011 / Mike:

    I married a Jersey girl! (25 years ago next week).

    She’s from the Flemington area – a little closer to Phillipsburg, so I’ve been visiting that part of the world for a nice long time. She too looks great in jeans – then and now! She and her family are not the “TV Jersey” – they’re all country. Before marriage, my very first night staying at her house I slept on the living room couch and woke up to her mom using a .22 out the kitchen window to “get that groundhog in the garden…” My in-laws still raise sheep and chickens and over the years have had lots of other farm animals too. One Christmas my then girlfriend gave me a sweater vest that she knit from wool that was shorn from their sheep by her dad. Yes, she carted, spun, cleaned and dyed the wool herself too. (No, we’re not Amish.) Our kids have always enjoyed going to “Grammy’s farm in New Jersey.”

    Really like your blog. Just found it last night. Kudos too to all the commenters – smart, witty crowd you have following you. I’m thinking of starting my own blog and wanted to see what’s out there and who does blogging well. You’re at the top of my list..great stuff, keep going! Mike

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  13. 27. Jul, 2011 / Michael Franco:

    Hi there,

    Found your blog as a result of the Time magazine list–nice going! I’ve really enjoyed poking around a reading some of your entries–especially this one. I’m in love with a Jersey Girl myself (making Bruce proud) and as someone who grew up in the NYC suburbs, I was shocked when she drove me past the smog and smell of North Jersey to the farms and fields of South Jersey. We now own a house on Brigantine island and despite having seen some of the best beaches in the world (we’ve lived abroad for many years), that one is still my favorite. As are Jersey peaches, Jersey corn, Jersey blueberries and, of course, my Jersey Girl. Thanks for a great blog!

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  14. 27. Jul, 2011 / Sanjana:

    All I know about NJ is what I heard on HIMYM (sorry!) and Jersey Shore (which is the worst thing on American television! ugh!)

    So it’s good to hear something different about NJ. Not that I’m going to visit anytime soon, but if I had to, now I know I’d probably enjoy it! :D

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  15. 28. Jul, 2011 / Susan:

    I’m from the Philadelphia area and have always viewed NJ in a somewhat negative light. But after reading your post and seeing your photos (beautiful as always) you’re making me want to come around :)

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  16. 28. Jul, 2011 / Naomi:

    I think we discussed my Jersey heritage the other night. I’ve always thought of it as a preternaturally bucolic place, about a half hour away from Manhattan, although now that I’m an adult I realize that was probably just my grandparent’s village. (Geez, I love that it’s called a village!)

    Then again, I love Tacoma, too.

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  17. 23. Aug, 2011 / RiderWriter:

    Wow. Just wow. You have officially made my day and my week, if not my past 25 years, which is how long this Jersey Girl has been “living abroad” in the Midwest. And yes, I can still say “cawfee” with the best of them. I am constantly called upon to defend my home state, and it gets rather old; now I have a handy reference to direct people to when I attempt to expound on the true nature of NJ. So THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I am off to post a link right now on FB, which my buddies back home will appreciate as well. People here in MO will doubtless roll their eyes and think, “There she goes again…” but that’s too damn bad. All hail, Jerseyites! :-)

    P.S. My mom always had/has a fur. I’m quite sure at least one in the past came from Flemington. She just dragged my son off the beach and into the City a couple weeks ago to have the current coat repaired, so yes, there are still people (obviously) who keep the likes of FF in business!

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  18. 21. Jan, 2012 / AJ:

    I think being from Fargo, North Dakota might give Jersey a run for its money- in terms of people’s reactions….

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    The wood chipper scene certainly did you no favors. But damn, I love that movie. And the accents are great. :)

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