I don't understand jughandles.
It's really not that difficult, but everyone's a comedian all "what's the deal with airline peanuts" about them, so let me try to explain. You know how, when you exit a highway, you peel off to the right, and then you loop back around to the left to go into the town or whatever? Same exact principle, just on a smaller scale. On some Jersey roads, allowing turns from the left lane would back traffic all the way up to hell, so: jughandle. They're quite handy.
Maybe if you're used to all those crazy Jersey dri--
We don't drive that badly. Really. This is a fifteen-year-old statistic so I should probably hunt up a newer one, but as of 1990, Jersey had the third-lowest rate of traffic deaths in the 48 contiguous states -- with the most paved roads per hectare, or whatever. Which means that, given how crowded it is, we drive quite safely. Your best bet when driving in Jersey: move it or lose it. It's the pokey Pennsylvanians that tend to gum everything up, so step lively, and we're not kidding around with our left lane -- if you can't hack it, move over.
Well, if you're such awesome drivers, how come they don't let you pump your own gas?
I think it's because of how much road there is, and how many gas stations there therefore are, in the state, but I don't rightly know. It's annoying, that I do know.
Is Newark really a big scary ****hole?
So glad you asked! No. It isn't Mayberry, but it isn't the gold standard of dangerous crappy urban blight, either. It has a spiffy arts center and great restaurants, and an inexpensive and convenient (if often hilariously incompetent) minor-league team right near the train. (Awesomely, the Bears do not sell foam fingers, but rather foam bear paws. Hee.) The go-to ****hole in New Jersey is Camden, which is maybe not a fair categorization any longer, but as of ten years ago…yikes.
So, a lot of Mafia there, then?
A lot of crack addicts, is the problem in Camden.
The Mafia is not really something most Jerseyans deal with in their day-to-day lives. We all knew a couple kids who had pagers before anyone besides doctors carried them, and when that one girl's dad and boyfriend each bought her a Beemer for her birthday? Yeah, her dad was not "in paper" and her 35-year-old boyfriend was not "in dental supply." But it had nothing to do with us. I mean, I went to a girls' school; we didn't do a lot of illegal gambling or construction work.
But you listened to a lot of Bon Jovi.
Well, if it was on the radio.
You're from Jersey and you don't like Bon Jovi? Do you not like Springsteen either?
Okay, honestly, this is like asking a Californian if she "likes" the Pacific. It's not a like/dislike issue. It's…just there. Sure, some Californians -- the ones who surf, I'd imagine -- are going to actively love the Pacific, and some Jerseyans actively love the Boss. But for some of us, he's…just there.
Bon Jovi is really not as strongly identified with Jersey, in a weird way. It's more of a time-period thing than a Jersey thing -- like, we'll happily claim Bruce and Sinatra, but mention Bon Jovi to us and we're kind of like, "Oh, this is about the hair, isn't it. Okay, fine." We didn't really decide he was A Jersey Emblem; everyone else did, because of the perm. I mean, yeah, we all listened to their music, because everyone did, because they had two huge albums in a row and were all over MTV.
Yeah, about the hair…
I don't think I understand how we ended up holding the big-hair bag. Texas? Hello? Don't get me wrong, I have attended heavy-metal battles of the bands in Union (and I guarantee you, the North Jersey readers just went, "Ohhhhh man," because…ohhhhh man), and no question, that's the biggest hair I've ever seen, not counting Patti LaBelle. Double-process perm, back-combed, ten minutes -- not spritzes, minutes -- of Aqua Net at the roots? Sure. Light a match in the ladies' and it's a Michael Bay movie.
But I've seen that hair in Philly, too. And Augusta. And Cleveland. And upstate New York, like, two years ago. I myself sported the fetching (read: "ridiculous") Ocean-Spray-wave bangs, but we didn't really do the big foofy poodle hair at my school or around my town. A few girls did, the girls who drove Camaros and had married boyfriends and got permission to smoke at school from their parents. It was like Bon Jovi in that it wasn't a function of Jersey; it was a function of the eighties. When the eighties ended, so did that hair.
See, here's the thing. We had TV. We had magazines. New York is right there. It's not like Jersey doesn't know what's going on. A lot of the stuff we catch **** for, everyone else does or did -- and worse.
So…you didn't work in a mall?
No, I worked as a gravedigger in order to subvert the stereotype. Duh, of course I worked in a mall. I was sixteen, I lived near a mall, I wasn't really qualified to do anything else yet besides straighten t-shirts -- so I worked at a mall store, like half the teenagers in America. I mean, they've got malls in Florida. I've seen them. But Floridians get the dip**** questions about Disneyworld, I guess, and we get the mall question. And yes, my friends worked there too, and yes, I would time my break to coincide with my boyfriend's break and we'd meet at the Mrs. Field's. Yes, I am a Jersey cliché. Happy now?
I also worked at a church, and for a lobbyist organization, and as a pool tester. My question is whether people from the Minneapolis area get the mall crap, because you can see that mall from space, but I bet they don't. I bet they get the "cold enough for ya?" thing, and everyone trying to do the accent from Fargo, and Jerseyans get the mall thing.
I mean, see above. The whole country's got malls, and bad hair, and crappy driving, and pollution. We just get "the credit" for that stuff for some reason. The fact that we also coughed up Thomas Edison doesn't seem to count for anything. Or WFMU. Or Weird NJ. Come on, people. At least try to see the good.
I'm from California, and I think our tomatoes --
Just…stop right there. They're not better. They're just not. Find me a person with a California tomato tattooed on his or her person. Yeah, I didn't think so.
A Jersey beefsteak tomato is the apotheosis of tomato-ness. If you don't agree, you've never eaten one in season. This is not up for debate or alternative interpretation. The Jersey tomato is the best tomato in the world. Period.
February 7, 2005