Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Exploring the Urban Nature of North Jersey

April 29, 2017

Think of the biggest stereotypes of New Jersey – overcrowding, factories spewing out pollution, a mess of traffic-choked highways, garbage dumps, etc. While this is what most of the world thinks about the Armpit of America, it is totally wrong – except when it comes to the northeastern corner of the state. I’m exaggerating of course, but the area of New Jersey across from New York City isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when you want to spend the day in nature. But you’d be totally wrong for thinking that.

I recently explored Richard W. DeKorte Park, right in the middle of the New Jersey’s Meadowlands – an area now more famous for its sports and entertainment venues rather than the wetlands for which it was named. Now I would say that the park provides a nice escape from all of the New Jerseyishness of being in New Jersey, but it’s all still there, just pushed into the background. And somehow, despite having all the highways, factories, powerlines, and buildings in view and all the associated noise within earshot, it just adds to the experience rather than detracting from it.

 

meadowlands 1

The park consists of multiple walking bridges built right over the wetlands, allowing you to see fish swimming around the water and birds flying all around. But it’s not just the birds flying overhead – you’ll see countless planes making their way to or from Newark Airport. And amid the rustling of the tall grasses, you’ll hear the whistle of the train coming by.  Moreover, the whole scene is framed by New Jersey’s endless network of highways. Not sure why, but it all makes sense.

meadowlands 2

 

Maybe that’s because the area has always been impacted by humans, and nature has always had to adapt. Wikipedia tells me that before the Meadowlands were actually made up of their namesake meadowlands, it was full of cedar forests, which the early Dutch settlers cleared away to grow salt hay. And since then, the area has been treated as a garbage dump by every group of people who passed through.

Still, Mother Nature persisted. The result is an urban yet natural landscape that can only be found in New Jersey.

Born to Run….Back to New Jersey!

March 23, 2017

I heart njAfter living on Long Island for the past four years, I am beyond thrilled to formally announce that I am moving back to New Jersey. Yes, it’s really happening. In just a few weeks.

Actually, I am already officially a resident of the Armpit of America once again, having done the dirty work at the DMV (or MVC as NJ calls it) earlier this week. And I’m not usually one to believe in “signs” or spiritual stuff, but the first song I heard on the radio upon leaving the DMV MVC with my new New Jersey driver’s license and license plates was “Born to Run” – clearly that was the work of a higher power.

Though the wife and I had been talking about moving back for a while, the urge became clear once we welcomed our son into the world a few months ago.  With our families being either two, or three and a half, hours away, it’s been difficult for him to see his grandparents. And every time we make the trip to Jersey, we have to pack up half the house. Also, I want my kid off of Long Island before he starts talking – I’d never forgive myself if he were to start speaking with that Lawn Guyland accent.

I’ll be honest – although I like to complain about Long Island a lot, there were a lot of great things about living here.  We got to be closer to my grandmother during her final years, hang out with some wonderful relatives who live nearby a lot more often, and made some good friends. And while I’m thrilled to be moving back to the promised land, there are some things about this place that I will really miss. Like grandma pizza (sorry, pizza places in New Jersey just don’t get it right), the wineries on the North Fork (such a great setting compared to NJ’s wine country in South Jersey) and the ability to buy beer at every single grocery store, pharmacy, and gas station.

Despite these benefits, my heart is, always was, and forever will be in New Jersey. And now it’s time to come home.

Years ago, back in the glory days when I was living in an oceanfront apartment in Belmar, some friends and I spent a night on the balcony playing the board game “Escape From New Jersey!” And in the blog post recapping this adventure, I lamented how the game is impossible to win – just like in real life, there is no escape from the Armpit of America. However, having actually escaped for four years, I couldn’t be happier to be back. And I don’t plan on escaping ever again.

 

The Cast of Jersey Shore: Where Are They Now?

January 4, 2014

ImageIt wasn’t long ago that almost 90 percent of my blog posts were about MTV’s Jersey Shore. But it wasn’t just me – those greasy, orange STD magnets were everywhere: chatting on talk shows, hosting events at clubs, doing commercials – and even appearing in Christmas ornament form. But my how the mighty have fallen – and I’m not just talking about drunkenly stumbling in their six-inch heels on the way home from Bamboo.

As is often the case, MTV built these people up and then forgot about them, just like so many of the network’s previous flavors of the minute: Avril Lavigne, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, etc. One day you’re being interviewed by Kurt Loder on the red carpet at the VMAs, and the next day you’re googling yourself and thrilled to see that some second-rate writer mentions your name on a rarely updated blog about New Jersey. Will the same hold true for the cast of Jersey Shore? While I previously showed where they’ll be in 20 years, let’s take a look at where they are right now as they desperately cling to those final fleeting seconds of their 15 minutes of fame.

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A Jersey Christmas in the Stars

December 24, 2013

My little hiatus from blogging lasted a bit a lot longer than I had intended. So what brought me back from the depths of the internet and inspired me to start writing again? A weird little Christmas song from 1980, of all things.

Apparently that year saw the release of “Christmas in the Stars,” a Star Wars-themed Christmas album. Despite being a big (though not obsessive) Star Wars fan, I never knew such a thing existed. Perhaps if there was a Chanukah song, that would be different story – what I wouldn’t give to hear Chewbacca’s rendition of I Have a Little Dreidel!

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The Puzzling Jersey Shore Puzzle

May 12, 2012

Let’s face it – puzzles are boring.  And if there’s one thing worse than doing a puzzle, it’s reading about someone else doing a puzzle.  Except when the puzzle in question is a 300-piece portrait of the cast of Jersey Shore!

Things started out easy enough – I did the border first, just as they teach you in puzzle class.  But when it came to putting the cast together, I ran into some serious problems.  Why, you ask?  Well, it’s pretty difficult trying to figure out which piece belongs to which person when they all have shiny orange skin, manicured nails, and way too much jewelry:

So, I had to continue working from the outside in; it was easier to follow the grain in the wall and the pattern of the carpet than to determine whose orange leg or greasy hair belonged to whom. The clothes helped a bit in putting these idiots together – purple dress for Sammi, leopard print for Deena, overly stretched out black pleather for Snooki.

Eventually everything came together and I was almost done with my masterpiece. I just had a few more pieces to fit in before I could call this puzzle finished.

After figuring out where to put Snooki’s wonky eye:

Pauly D’s scalp:

J-WOWW’s tits:

and Deena’s sexy cankle:

I have a finished puzzle!

In Case You Didn’t Know, NJ is Corrupt

March 14, 2010

In light of all the drama going on with the political landscape in New York, Newsweek recently put together a list of the most corrupt states in the country.  This should be no surprise to anyone, but New Jersey made this elite list of seven states.  Newsweek’s Andrew Romano, who hails from the Armpit of America, wrote a very nice summary of our state’s tendency to put only the most disgraceful politicians in office.

Romano discusses New Jersey’s first colonial governor, Lord Cornbury.  Aside from the funny name, Lord Cornbury was a nepotistic, bribe-taking cross-dresser.  Romano also mentions that gay sex scandal involving former governor Jim McGreevey.  The author then touches on the FBI bust that caught a group of rabbis and state officials trafficking human organs and fake Gucci purses.  Yes, you read that correctly.

I suggest reading the whole article to get an even broader sense of the level of corruption that has always plagued the Armpit of America.  Though the other states in the article (New York, Louisiana, Illinois, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Ohio) may be corrupt, none can top my beloved New Jersey.

Bruce!

May 24, 2009

For my first real entry on a blog about life in New Jersey, what could be a more appropriate subject than Bruce Springsteen?  Especially since I had the privilege of seeing him and the E-Street Band perform at the Meadowlands last night.  Seeing New Jersey’s favorite son (sorry Bon Jovi) in New Jersey?  It doesn’t get better than that.

After the long trek through the Turnpike, we arrived at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.  The concert was at the Izod Center, formerly known as the Meadowlands Arena, Brendon Byrne Arena, and Continental Airlines Arena.  It is also the former home of the NJ Devils and the soon-to-be-former home of the Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn.  Tailgating was fun, sitting around drinking beers surrounded by the Izod, the old Giants Stadium, and the almost-completed new Giants Stadium.  There is also this huge building called “Xanadu,” which, when it opens, will be a mega shopping center complete with its own indoor ski slope.  As if we need another mall in New Jersey.  The building is rather hideous:  the exterior is just a bunch of different colored rectangles and three metal towers sticking out from the top.  I was told the building was made to resemble the turnpike, with the rectangles mimicking the stacks of shipping containers one sees on the side of the highway and the three towers replicating those found at the oil refineries.  Why anyone would want to pay tribute to that miserable road like this is beyond my comprehension.

Anyway, this entry is about Bruce.

So the show started with the  high-energy and crowd favorite, Badlands.  Bruce and the band looked and sounded great, but I soon noticed something was missing.  Patti Scialfa, Bruce’s wife and E-Street guitarist, wasn’t there.  But this odd-looking and untalented woman doesn’t really add much anyway, so no one seemed to care.  If the rumors are true, I’m sure Bruce didn’t mind much either that she wasn’t there.  To compensate for the tragic loss of Patti’s vocals, there were two backup singers, one of whom had an afro that would make Pam Grier jealous.  These singers were very talented and added a lot…maybe Bruce will kick Patti out and keep them?

A few songs in, they played Out in the Street.  Towards the end of the song, the members of the band each sang a line.  Beloved saxophonist Clarence Clemmons obviously got the biggest applause – the aptly nicknamed Big Man could pick his nose on stage and eat it and the crowd would go crazy.  Anyway, they played some more songs, including a fun cover of Good Lovin’.  Then it was time for Bruce’s ritual of taking requests, based on signs people hold up.  After collecting a bunch of signs and sorting them out on stage, he would pick one up, show it to the band, show it to the audience, and rock out.  The three songs were Cover Me, The E-Street Shuffle (which I was really hoping he would play), and the always-welcomed Thunder Road.  Later on, Bruce closed the set on a powerful note with The Rising and Born To Run.

After leaving the stage for 90 seconds at the most, the band came back for the encore.  The encore included American Land, which is a folksy, Irish jig-inspired song about immigrants coming to the US.  Perhaps the Mexican hat dance would be a more appropriate inspiration?  After this song, Bruce joked, “The Turnpike’s closed!  No one’s leaving yet!”  He then proceeded to play Glory Days and ended the show with a nice cover of Mony Mony.

Overall, it was an amazing show.  He played a bunch of his rarer songs but also enough hits to keep the most casual fan happy.  Additionally, he only played a couple songs off his new album, which kept everyone happy.  While I know not everyone likes Bruce, I’m sure even the harshest critic would at least respect that fact that Bruce and the band are all over the age of 50 and can still play the way they do.  Whether you love Bruce’s voice or think he sounds like a hoarse dog, he still has the same energy and passion that he did 30 years ago.  Also, unlike other musicians, they don’t rely on pyrotechnics, special effects, stupid video montages, or any other distractions.  With them, it’s just about the music.

Once again, it really is an amazing experience to see this New Jersey legend on his home turf.  Even more amazing is that it took place right off of the Turnpike, the most disgusting highway in the most disgusting state, and right next to a still-uncompleted mall designed to look like the Turnpike.  Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, the concert really showed what’s best about the Armpit of America.