Monday, July 13, 2009

The Garden State

As I was walking down the rain drenched streets of Vancouver with a virtual stranger this evening, he asked me where I was from. I told him, with a bit of reluctance, New Jersey

New Jersey, everyone has got the wrong idea about the place. I mean, shoot, I’m thankful for The Sapranos, The Garden State movie AND soundtrack, and the new founded ‘cool’ in blue-collar heroes like Bruce Springsteen, but really, we are so much more than that!

New Jersey, you know the place… “the girls with big hair”, “the land of shopping malls and greasers”, “the armpit of America”. Too many people have the wrong idea. Tonight, as I walked through this quiet rainy Canadian city, this man informed me that “New Jersey is one big suburb”. His comment was made from his observation from the interstate. His observation as he drove through the state was one made of ignorance, one made by someone on his way to somewhere else. He didn’t know the Jersey that I knew.

As people drive through the ‘garden state’ like addicts on their way to their next fix they don’t see all that I know of this beautiful land. I would bet my last Atlantic City dollar that they never put a spade in the earth and witnessed just how deep and rich this garden state soil is. I would bet that same dollar (now that it is two) that they have never planted a heritage tomato seed brought to NJ by the struggling Italian great grandparents of the now flourishing mobsters. Have they watched the massive green fruit grow darker and deeper in its hues of red to match their European skin, as the days grow even hotter and brighter in the July Jersey sun? Have they even tasted a Jersey tomato? Maybe. But one of mine? Doubt it! The soft, sweet, ruby flesh dripping onto the cutting board after a sharp stainless steel knife slices through it. Ya wouldn’t fuhgetaboutit.

Have these people who have ‘been through jersey” driven the back roads? Where for miles all you see is old deciduous forests accented with meandering rivers and train-tracks and then, out of no where you are in a beautiful old town that has sat among these hills for hundreds of years. Not only do the buildings speak of their age, but also one visit to the cemetery and the crumbling gravestones give you the sense of the antiquity of this state.

I imagine the same ignorant people who talk trash about Jersey are the ones who have moved there with their multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies and chemical plants. These are the same people who stand to make a profit off of people agreeing that Jersey IS a dump. Because if you think it ain’t worth anything then why would you defend it? It is not the people and the land that stink, it is the corporate pollution.

It really wasn’t coined ‘the garden state’ for nothin’ and I just really want them to know that.

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