|New Jersey and You.... Perfect Together.|
posted by Dave on 3/30/01 &
Due to the negative connotation that has become associated with my nickname of "D-Mac" over the years... I now want to be referred to as.... D. Middy.
Seriously, Jennifer Lopez and P. Diddy (snicker) should get back together. They were perfect for eachother. One has a big ass.. the other is a big ass.
A strange phenomenon has occurred over the past decade. It's actually something I never thought I would see in my lifetime...
New Jersey has become cool.
I remember growing up in my suburban home in the lovely town of Wayne, N.J., listening to late night talk show hosts and stand-up comedians take jabs at what a complete landfill of a state New Jersey was. I could never understand where they were coming from when they made their jokes. As I looked around at all of the beautiful towns like Ridgewood and Morristown... I pondered, "How can this be the Armpit of America??".
This all changed once I went away to college and had to travel back and forth on the NJ Turnpike on a semi-consistent basis. I'll be the first to admit that the Turnpike is an ugly road. The smell in between the Newark Airport and the Meadowlands Sports Complex is something you never get used to either. The second the smell hits, a brief instant occurs where you're ready to accuse a passenger of shitting their pants... before you look up at your location and realize that it's just the outside air.
The heroes of 1980's New Jersey did little to dispel the general populace's opinion about the state being a toxic blight on the record of the United States. When most people thought of New Jersey in the 80's they immediately thought of:
Hehe.. Tico Torres.
Bruce Springsteen made a career of singing about (a) how he wanted to escape from New Jersey and (b) the collapse of the area where he grew up in Asbury Park. Bon Jovi... well, who the hell even knows what Bon Jovi was singing about half of the time.
I really shouldn't put Bon Jovi down. I went and saw them in concert at the Continental Airlines Arena a few months back.. and I have to admit, it was one of the most fun nights I've had all year.
The thing is though... these guys weren't representing the New Jersey that I grew up in. I mean, sure I could see where they were coming from.. and sort of relate to what they were all about... being that I did take the yearly family vacation down the Jersey shore each summer. Still though, North Jersey was the place where I grew up... and in my opinion, the underrepresentation of my part of the state was hurting the state's image as a whole.
In the mid-90's a new hero from New Jersey made his mark on the media landscape. I had remembered reading about this guy from Red Bank, who was in the process of making a black and white indy film about a convenience store worker and his friends... That man turned out to be:
Ummm... sorry about that. That man turned out to be, Kevin Smith.
Writer's Note: Saying the name Tico Torres is kind of like opening a can of Pringles. Once you pop.. ahh hell.. you know the rest.
Kevin Smith captured the essence of something most Americans never thought of when thinking of The Garden State... I'm talking about the New Jersey sense of humor. I'm not exactly sure where the Jersey sense of humor derives from... but it definitely has a unique flavor to it. I guess maybe it arose from the fact, that while the rest of the country was cracking Jersey jokes... we were still under the umbrella of the New York City media. Therefore, it's kind of a "Haha.. Make your jokes. We're fuckin better than you anyway." type of deal.
Characters like Brodie Bruce in Mallrats are a dime a dozen here. I mean, one of the year end Senior awards in my high school was for "Most Witty". Sarcasm, being pop culture savvy.. and behaving like a complete wiseass are kind of like national pasttimes around these parts.
In addition to Kevin Smith, comedians like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher stepped to the forefront to exemplify the un-PC, common sense type of attitude that is symbolic of the state. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country.. and with pretty much every race, culture, and creed packed into one area... there's just no room for political correctness.
Still though, while New Jersey was starting to become more well represented on the mainstream landscape... the area where I grew up in, North Jersey, was still not being represented to it's fullest.
I remember the first time I saw the promo for this show on HBO, I thought to myself, "Great.. another typical show that's going to stereotype Italians as mobsters.". I didn't watch the first episode, just because I figured the show was going to be demeaning. I was working for my father's company in North Jersey at the time... and all I can say is that the buzz in the office about this show was deafening. People were talking about various landmarks and how they couldn't believe that Satin Dolls (which was within walking distance from our office building) was being used as the Bada Bing! strip club. The way people were talking about it... I became intrigued just because from what I was hearing, this wasn't just a show about the mafia... it was a show about North Jersey.
The first time I sat down to watch an episode, the opening credits said it all... I mean, here was the protagonist, Tony Soprano, leaving New York City through the Lincoln Tunnel... and hitting the New Jersey Turnpike. Tony gets on the Turnpike (which looks like the shithole we all know it is).. and drives through some of the lower class towns that people would be most likely to associate New Jersey being like. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he pulls into the driveway of his lush, suburban home (which is located in North Caldwell, the town next to where I grew up). People might think that Tony's neighborhood is out of the ordinary... The truth is the majority of other towns in Northern New Jersey are just as, if not much nicer than the Sopranos neighborhood.
Granted, the proliferation of mob activity isn't as rampant as the show would lead you to believe... but at the same time, growing up, I definitely had some friends who's family income didn't exactly seem commiserate with the so-called "jobs" that their old man held. It was something one never questioned, however.
A lot of people in New Jersey, Italians in particular, don't like the Sopranos. As a matter of fact, a lot of Italian anti-defamation groups find the show racist. I can see where they might be coming from... but at the same time, if they actually watched the show, they might realize that the whole mob lifestyle really is just serving as a backdrop for one of the most realistic portrayals of family life in America. The complexities of the family dynamic as well as the dynamic of other relationships between people in life, are astutely explored in a way that is captivating to the audience. This show is much deeper than it appears on the surface. This show is the epitome of New Jersey... in that, it's easy to just knock it without actually looking at it... just like the state in which it takes place.
New Jersey... I salute you!
Then why did you move to Manhattan, Dave?...
Watch the tram car, please!!
If those Italian anti-defamation people want to attack anything. Go after those fuckin' Olive Garden commercials. I swear to God... the stereotypical Italians they show in those commercials would be like the equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken having a commercial showing black people sitting out at a picnic table, eating chicken, having watermelon for dessert, and washing their meal down with malt liquor... Nevermind the fact that no self-respecting Italian would eat at the Olive Garden anyway.
Writer's Note: When I say "self respecting", I actually mean, any Italian with a woman at home that enjoys slaving over a hot stove... whether she likes to or not. Get back to work, Grandma!! I'm hungry...