When I arrived back from Lebanon, New Jersey seemed to be bathed in a transcendent haze of utopian light that I didn’t think could possibly fade.
Perhaps that’s because I arrived smack in the interim when summer begins to defer to fall, which is Jersey’s best look:
It lasted for around four months (which is about how long my culture shock high lasted when I first arrived in Beirut and Lebs seemed like the best country in the world in every possible way…but even after the initial high evaporated, Lebanon still gets a top ranking in Marie’s Index of Awesomest Countries…but we’re talking about Jersey right now ).
There were walks, blustery trips down the shore, night outings with my sisters right before Sandy hit, candlelight dinners for weeks after Sandy, my brother’s championship soccer game, and many trips to the local bar that I had really missed while I was gone.
Then reality settled in right alongside familiarity, and I seem to be getting restless once more. I have a feeling I’ll be moving out of Jersey again soon and that I’ll miss all the glorious mundaneness of everyday life here. For this reason, it’s important to give New Jersey the ode it so deserves.
New Jersey you are:
1. The armpit of New York? Perhaps, but if so, I’ll nestle into you any day. You have suburbs and cities and history and rural areas, enough ghetto to keep us grounded, and the infamous shore boasting some pretty great waves. You are close enough to NYC that the Big Apple is at once homey and familiar and still very exciting for those who don’t have to make the daily commute (and I’m sure even commuting has its charms).
2. The best bagel-maker of all 50 states. You are the expert bar-none with the kind of doughy delights that are hard on the outside and have the perfect combination of soft and chewy interiors. Delicious with taylor ham, egg and cheese. Delicious with a generous slathering of cream cheese. Or warm and buttery and sinfully unctuous.
3. Persevering against the flow in the gas station department. You realize that sometimes gas station attendants have the best stories and are some of the most interesting people and also, who wants to pump their own gas mid-winter?
4. A faithful provider of diners to crash at late at night for milkshakes and fries or perhaps a post-midnight order off the breakfast menu.
5. Fully aware that we need a good dose of all four seasons. Even though winter is a little longer than many would like, it could be much worse, and we do have St Paddy’s Day to distract us with enough beer, tender-salty corned beef, and Irish soda bread to carry us right into spring. You give us crocuses and tulips for a joyful spring, the beach and the sweaty humidity of a good hot summer, enough trees for a breathtaking fall, and hills for sledding in a cold white winter that’s usually broken up with intervals of temperature highs.
But most of all, New Jersey, you were my personal incubator for the entirety of my childhood. You hold some of my best memories and you will always feel like home. So if I do take off anytime soon, don’t forget that you’re still my favorite –even if I love the whole world–and I’ll never be gone for too long.