Posted March 24, 2008 by Carl Unger
7. Diners – There's simply nothing like a 24-hour New Jersey diner. The menu is usually spiral-bound and thick as a dictionary, and it contains pretty much every dish under the sun. Lobster at 4 a.m.? Absolutely. Want French toast with that? Sure thing. Seriously, these places must have walk-in freezers the size of airline hangers. Locals generally pick one diner they think is the best around, and they stick with it. From that point on, going to other diners is unheard of. Keep this in mind when asking for recommendations. There is no diner in New Jersey that is truly the best (not true, the King George diner in Wayne is the best—represent!). Regardless of where you go, you can count on burnt coffee and unspeakable decor. I can sum up the latter in one word: mirrors. Lots of them. Lastly, the New Jersey diner wouldn't be what it is without Taylor ham. Taylor ham is a sausage subspecies of questionable origin. Whatever. A Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich is to die for.
6. The accent – I grew up in New Jersey, but moved to New England for college. I wasn't on campus more than three hours before someone made fun of the way I said "water." Not too long after that, I was picked on for the way I said "coffee," and then "Boston," and then "awful." So I did what I had to do and learned to speak like the locals did. When in Rome, right? Well, a piece of my soul died during the first cold New England winter, and the death knell came when I uttered the word "water" and didn't pronounce it "wuddah." Now when I speak to my family, it sounds like they're talking under water. Readers, embrace the accent. It's beautiful in its ugliness.
5. Big Italian guys – An unofficial study I just made up shows that New Jersey has more big Italian guys per 100 citizens than any state in the union. This has two practical implications for normal, shrimpy people such as myself: You often feel inferior, if not downright intimidated; and there are tons of great Italian delis around. My personal favorite is the Italian Touch in Washington Township. Get a sandwich of prosciutto with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers—they make it good here. I could eat this sandwich for the rest of my life (It would be a short life with a diet like that, but tasty right to the bitter end). And please don't embarrass yourself by trying to speak with an accent. Remember, respect the accent.
4. The New Jersey Devils – There are four major professional sports teams that play their home games in New Jersey. Two of them, the Giants and Jets, lie and say they're from New York. Another team, the Nets, will be moving to Brooklyn in the near future. That leaves the Devils, who proudly moved to a brand-new arena in Newark at the start of this season. They're the only team with the guts to say they're from New Jersey. They've also won three Stanley Cups in the past 15 years (tied with the Detroit Red Wings for the most during that span) and have arguably the best goalie of all time in Martin Brodeur. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, New York!
3. The Meadowlands – Legend has it this is where your problems go to die and never be found by the cops. That may be true for people involved in the state's shadier businesses, but for regular folks like me, the Meadowlands is where you go to get lost while trying to find a shortcut to the highway after a basketball game. And oh yeah, it kind of smells. More on that shortly.
2. Bruce Springsteen – Sure, women swooned for Bon Jovi. Sure, men used him as justification for dispensing enormous quantities of Aqua Net onto their hair. But none of that can hold a candle to the timeless folk-rock poetry crafted by Freehold's favorite son. Drive down the shore sometime, maybe to Wildwood or Seaside, someplace old-timey like that. Roll down your windows and crank up "Thunder Road." I know it sounds cliché and maybe a little schmaltzy, but I also know that if you don't feel at least a twinge of adolescent romanticism swelling in your chest, you're probably dead.
1. The smell: You can always tell when someone hasn't really been to New Jersey, because they'll whine about the smell, claim the whole state stinks, and tell pathetically false stories about how they almost barfed at a rest stop because of the odor. My guess is these people probably need a refresher course in personal hygiene, because I promise you the whole state doesn't smell. The area around the turnpike usually smells—it's an indefinable, vaguely petroleum-based aroma with hints of landfill dancing on the breeze—but that's about it. People, enough with the smell, okay? It's really not that bad. Plus, if you piss off the smell, it could get ugly. Just watch this:
So be careful, okay?
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