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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Good thing there’s a paint store close by.
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.
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’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?
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.
Leave a Comment