Posted tagged ‘Amish’

Well We’re Living Here in Allentown (New Jersey, not Pennsylvania)

December 19, 2018

A few months ago, we bought a house in Allentown. No, not the Allentown in Pennsylvania made famous by coal and Billy Joel, but the one in New Jersey. Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

Like when I told people at work I was moving to Allentown, the response by many was, “Woah, that’s gonna be one hell of a commute!” To which I’d respond, “No, not Allentown, Pennsylvania – Allentown, New Jersey.” I soon realized it was better to preempt such a response by saying “Allentown…New Jersey, not Pennsylvania” and avoiding the confusion. Only, it would lead people to say, “I didn’t know there was an Allentown in New Jersey.”

Allentown

For the many who are unfamiliar, Allentown is home to just over 1,800 people. It’s located at the northwest corner of Monmouth County, and very close to the borders of no less than four other counties: Mercer, Middlesex, Burlington, and Ocean. While it may seem like the geographic center of the Armpit of America, it’s actually 14 miles from that spot. But close enough.

Though located right off the Turnpike (Exit 7A) and very close to the large town of Hamilton, Allentown feels like a world apart from the rest of the state. It’s surrounded by woods, farmland, and creeks. One of the main roads to get out of town is literally a gravel path passing over each of those landscapes.

I also have to highlight Allentown’s Main Street, which looks like something from the past – all local businesses and not a single chain. No Starbucks, no McDonald’s, no Dunkin’ Donuts, no CVS. Given that the town was founded in 1706, historical buildings are all over the place, including an old church that now serves as the town library, and the old mill building, which currently houses a coffee shop and other boutique stores.

There’s also some unique attractions in town, like the combination bicycle/chocolate shop (for real), or the Pork Roll Store – a butcher shop specializing in New Jersey’s favorite spiced pork product. Incidentally, I wrote about this place way back in 2010 after seeing one of their vans on the road. Never would have imagined I’d be living up the street from it eight years later.

What’s also great about Allentown is that it’s near several other attractions that I either never knew existed, or never bothered to visit. For instance, there’s an Amish market (run by real Amish people!) in the town of Columbus. There’s the oddly named Assunpink Wildlife Management Area complete with a lake and gun/archery range. It’s also close to the Pine Barrens, home of the Jersey Devil…and pineys. And let’s not forget about Roosevelt, probably the weirdest town in New Jersey.

Given the small town charm, surrounding farmland, gun range, and even Amish people , this Allentown seems a hell of a lot more Pennsylvania-ish than the real one.

All told, I couldn’t be happier in my new town. But since nothing is in life is perfect, I’ll share my one complaint. Being close to the border with South Jersey, there’s one item on pizza shop menus and the like that irks me to no end. I hate to say it, but I’m now officially living in hoagie country…

 

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The Most Surprising Thing I’ve Ever Seen in New Jersey

November 5, 2011

I thought I had seen it all.  I assumed I’d known everything there was to know about New Jersey.  I didn’t think there was anything else that could surprise me.

I was wrong.

So what’s with all the dramatics?  Well, I recently visited a part of the Armpit of America that I thought existed only in my nightmares.  No, not a Jersey City whorehouse.  Not a crack den in Camden either.  Not even Chris Christie’s private bathroom.  The place of horror was a farm auction.  In New Jersey.  About 20 minutes from cosmopolitan Princeton and at the confluence of three major highways.

The place is called the Camelot Horse auction, located in Cranbury, New Jersey.  Despite being surrounded by the Jersey Turnpike, Route 130, and Route 33, one arrives at the auction by traveling over a deteriorating road through a dark cornfield to get to a gravelly parking lot.  It’s still hard for me to believe that such a place could exist so close to the typical Jersey landscape of highways and strip malls.

I was invited to such a place by some friends who are just a tad more country than I am and certainly fit in better than I do.  After meeting up, we went inside an old barn to see the animals up for auction.  The barn was full of little stables, each holding a variety of horses, ponies, donkeys, sheep, and goats.  In another room were a bunch of cardboard boxes containing various smaller animals, like guinea pigs, rabbits, and pigeons.

Something tells me this guy ended up as someone's dinner that night.

But the main attraction of the farm auction was, appropriately enough, the auction room.  This section of the barn had bleachers along the walls, a big, rusty truck full of farm equipment, and a podium in the middle of the room for an Amish-looking auctioneer.  Adorned with a straw hat and a big, bushy beard, he presided over the bidding on items like shovels and feed buckets with the typical auctioneer gibberish. (more…)

State vs. State: Pennsylvania

February 9, 2010

After proving beyond any doubt how New Jersey is so much better than Delaware, I have my sights set on the Armpit of America’s western neighbor. While comparing Delaware to New Jersey was obviously pretty easy, proving that my state is better than Pennsylvania may be a little trickier. But let’s give it a try.

When one hears the word “Pennsylvania,” there are a few images that come to mind: the green patchwork of farmland, the quaint little towns, and the beautiful mountains and valleys. Well, newsflash: New Jersey has all these things too. Big deal, right? Well New Jersey is like one quarter the size of Pennsylvania, so all of our farmland, quaint towns, and mountains are all within an hour or so drive of each other. Compare that with the over 5 hours it takes to drive from one end of Pennsylvania to the other.

Which brings me to the next point. Just look at the two states on a map. New Jersey is shaped like a voluptuous woman, drawing you in like a siren. On top of that, the girlish figure of our state is all natural, for the most part. Aside from the northeastern border with New York, New Jersey’s boundaries are all formed by water. And how is Pennsylvania shaped? Like a boring rectangle with a misplaced wedge on top. What other state has a stupid wedge on top?? Only Pennsylvania.

They obviously didn't have enough room for Pennsylvania's official slogan: "Virtue, Liberty, Independence, and Stupid Wedges"

The story behind that odd wedge is yet another reason to make fun of the state. Originally, that sliver of land belonged to New York. Since it stretched all the way to Ohio, poor Pennsylvania didn’t have access to Lake Erie. So the crybaby people of that state did what they still do best: whine until they get their way. So they finally got their connection to the Great Lakes, but at the cost of having a misshapen wedge at the top of the state. (more…)