As I glance across the swirling Hudson brine at the steep banked edges of Hudson and Bergen counties, studded, like a crown, with brick high-rises and fringed along the water's edge with piers of cheap condos, I feel an inexpressible longing. Why not discard the empty mainstream life I have adopted, to wander through the city blocks, the suburban streets, the office parks, the grimy industrial zones of my state, seeking wisdom? Then, inevitably, I sigh and return to my voluntary exile in Corporate America.
David Lincer found us a fun quiz game that explores the origins of some of NJ's more human-like municipality names: www.sporcle.com/games/mikenew/njbabynames-redux .
A former roommate of mine came to New Jersey at the age of 28 (or so) for graduate school, from western China. He recalled to me, after a grueling day of travel that brought him across the world to his new Jersey City apartment, that he took a deep breath and was elated at the freshness of the air.
Is this a funny story? Is it ironic because New Jersey actually smells bad or doubly so because it humbles the negative air quality stereotype?
Asked about why he likes America in general and New Jersey specifically, this same former roommate lauded the comfort of his new nation - how small, calm, and orderly everything is here. The Hoboken NJ Transit Terminal seemed almost laughably quiet compared to any Chinese city's main train station.
A closer-to-home comparison is frequently, often daily, made with New York city. I remember the almost pastoral feeling of returning home to Jersey City Heights after a workday in Manhattan to see a clear night sky full of stars. Indeed a more amplified version of this feeling explains a lot of the appeal of New Jersey's suburbs - the ability to come home from the city, walk barefoot in your back yard, and pick tomatoes.
The industrial areas surrounding America's cities at a certain distance, did, in a certain time period, tend to smell pretty bad, and to a lesser extent continue to do so. New Jersey's diverse lands do encompass some of such areas. For better or for worse, we expose them to the view of the entire world, along the Turnpike, surrounding Newark Airport, and in other such areas. Coming to terms with larger issue of whether NJ is a pleasant or unpleasant state to live in requires a broader scope of inquiry - an understanding of all of NJ's regions and sub-regions, cities and towns, and how they fit into broader developmental trends in America and throughout the world.