Our friend Barbara who lives in Hawaii but was born in New Jersey is going through a tough time. I thought she was mad at me because I haven’t heard from her in quite a while. Because in my mind it’s always about me. It wasn’t. It was about her. Enough said. She’s down. So we need to lift her up.
I’ve tried to catch up. I’m not the only one who left New Jersey and had to come home. Mostly we all do. Here’s a rotogravure from someone better than I am on matters photographic.
There’s also this essay about New Jersey from the original Instapunk, back when I wasn’t as stupid as I am now. An excerpt:
Here’s the deal. New Jersey is the greatest state in the union. For so many reasons that it’s impossible to list them all. Okay, I’ll list a few, but there are many many more. New Jersey is:
The most topographically diverse of all 50 states, ranging from mountains to salt marshes and everything in between, including the best farmland in the world for growing vegetables, a beautiful and lightly populated bay shore that flows from one of the mightiest and most beautiful rivers in the country, one of the largest wilderness areas in the U.S. (the Pine Barrens), and horse country — and horses, by gar — on a par with anything you’ll find in Kentucky.
An architectural treasure and time capsule containing houses dating back to the 1600s and some of the best surviving specimens of colonial patterned brick houses, Victorian gingerbread, and Industrial Revolution commercial buildings.
The only state in the union that honored all its treaties with the Indians.
The site of the colonial town (Greenwich) Rockefeller tried to buy before he settled for Williamsburg, Virginia.
The site of the turning point in the American Revolution, the Battle of Trenton, and the only history changing duel in American History, the gunfight between Burr and Hamilton.
The home of a cattle brand older than any in the whole state of Texas.
Home of a greater university than any in New York or Pennsylvania — Princeton — and the only state university in the country — Rutgers — asked to join the Ivy League conference at its inception because of the school’s history and academic excellence. (Not to mention the fact that the first college football game ever played was between, you guessed it, Princeton and Rutgers.)
The birthplace of country music and, indeed, much of the recording industry. Jimmie Rodgers and numerous other artists cut their first albums at Victor Records in Camden.
The birthplace and/or home of numerous historical figures, writers, comedians, musicians, and actors, including Aaron Burr, Grover Cleveland, Molly Pitcher, Betsy Ross, Norman Schwartzkopf, Buzz Aldrin, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Dorothy Parker, Philip Roth, William Carlos Williams, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Bill Evans, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler, Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah, Ed Harris, Jerry Lewis, Ernie Kovacs, Eva Marie Saint, Meryl Streep, Ray Liotta, John Travolta, Bill Murray, Michael Douglas, Kevin Spacey, Kirsten Dunst, James Gandolfini, Joe Pesci, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neill, Derek Jeter, and Martha Stewart.
The only state in the union which eschews jingoism for humility. New Jersey people root for the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers and the New York Giants, Jets, Yankees, and Mets, and they represent in many cases the majority constituencies for these teams and don’t even demand acknowledgment of their cross-state support from people who uniformly laugh at the mention of their state’s name. They’re the same way when they travel; people who have never been to New Jersey at all laugh immediately and scornfully pronounce the clicheed “New Joisey” trope that makes rubes from Nebraska to Alaska feel more sophisticated than they have any right to. New Jerseyans laugh right along with them, soak up what they have to offer, and ultimately move back to the greatest state in the union, where there are thunderstorms but not tornadoes, droughts but not uncontrollable wildfires, tremors but not earthquakes, rainstorms but not hurricanes, overflowing streams and rivers but not floods, and snowstorms but not blizzards.
Born to run. All of us. Boats, cars, bikes, and everything else. It’s called balls. You New Yorkers could look it up.
We all come home, Barbara. It would be a privilege to meet you in person.