I’m always amazed at why New Jersey is used as the butt of so many jokes and insults. The so-called jokes are often overt, but often they are subtle. Being a mostly lifelong resident of the state I don’t get it and am often perplexed to figure it out. After all, I think it’s a great place to live for a number of reasons.
Anyway, here is the latest subtle insult I stumbled across. In the July 29 2018 issue of The New York Times magazine, writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner writes the following:
“My phone rang. It was the mother of my son’s friend, back home in stupid New Jersey, and I realized she wouldn’t be calling if not for something gone awry. I apologized to G.P. and picked up the phone. The mom told me that my son was insisting that I was supposed to be picking him up.”
REFERENCE: See page 26 of NY Times Magazine dated July 29 2018
Now…how is this nasty comment about NJ relevant to the story on GOOP and Gwyneth Paltrow? I just don’t get it. Nor do I get how a NY Times editor would leave such an inappropriate, irrelevant comment in the story since it has no relevance whatsoever to anything in the story.
It has been fashionable to insult New Jersey for decades. I will speculate that usually this to due to two factors while noting that I have no idea what the motivation was of the writer in the New York Times GOOP article in her subtle NJ putdown.
1) IGNORANCE – Most people putting down the state don’t really know the state, even if they grew up here. I grew up here and don’t feel I really got to know the place until my 50’s. For instance, in high school I recall driving west on Route 518 to the Lambertville – New Hope area never really paying attention to the old brick farmhouses, the roadside farm stands, the beautiful hills, quaint historic Hopewell or the view from the towpaths along the Delaware River. Or, when driving to shore towns passing the horse farms in the Colts Neck area. Or the many cool towns where the edge of New Jersey meets the magnificent Atlantic Ocean… or the lighthouses …or Cape May… or Duke Farms…. and on and on and on. Or, the great history that took place in New Brunswick, Princeton and Morristown, and so much more. Yes, unfortunately much of the ignorance stems from a person’s only view of New Jersey between what they see from the Turnpike in the old industrial area between Newark and Manhattan. Of course, all states have their not-so-nice crappy looking areas.
2) PARROTING – So many people parrot back stuff that they hear from other people without regard to any particular personal knowledge of the subject. And, of course, many people see the jokes as accurate representations. The list of jokes is long. For example…in the film “Sleeper,” Woody Allen’s character said “I believe there’s an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey.” The list of stupid NJ jokes is long, as you know.
Certainly being sandwiched between two major cities has made it easy to make fun at the state between the two.
But, the reason people have converged on New Jersey over the decades has not changed. New Jersey is an economic powerhouse. We are the second richest state in the US. The economy of NJ is the most diverse in the United States, serving as US headquarters for many world leaders in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and yes, agriculture. NJ is still a farming state. We are 10th in sweet corn production, 8th in tomatoes, 4th in bell peppers, 3rd in cranberries, and 2nd in blueberries! And 22% of the state is pine trees (The Pine Barrens) an area that is mostly unpopulated with some of the purest water in the country.
And, there is no other state in the US (including California) that gets less revenue back from the federal government vs. the amount paid in federal taxes by NJ residents. Yes, NJ gets less back from the Feds than we pay in.
Oh, and by the way, before Silicon Valley there was Bell Labs…the center or technological innovation in the country. This is where the transistor was invented, without which there would be no computer revolution. And lets not forget that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb here in Menlo Park (Edison) , as well as the phonograph and motion pictures. And, Nikola Tesla did much of his work on the modern AC electrical supply system in his lab in Rahway.
And I won’t get into the great talent that has come from our state. The list includes Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen but the list is much, much longer.
I’ll stop the rant here for now and leave you with some photos of the towpath area along the Raritan River in New Brunswick taken recently.