July 24, 2011

New Jersey—We’re More Than Just Snookie--its Jennifer Wilck

Hello from New Jersey and thanks to Annette for inviting me to contribute today.
I was born and raised, in fact, lived here my entire life here. As a teenager, I dreamed of leaving this familiar, boring, everyone-is-the-same place and was thrilled to go to college in the Midwest. I dreamt of all the people I’d get to meet who were not like me—didn’t look like me, talk like me, act like me. I wanted to see landscape that was different from my own. Like most teenagers (I think), I wanted to be someone else, and to do that, I needed to be somewhere else.
And then I went to college (Washington University in St. Louis). At the time I was there, do you know what state had the highest percentage of students attending the University? New York and New Jersey. Welcome home!
I met a whole new set of people, and yes, they were from all over the country. And if a lot of us were from the same place, well, it did make it easier to catch a ride home. But I found out that people have many preconceived notions about people from New Jersey (and this was long before the Jersey Shore was on TV; I don’t even want to contemplate how that show has influenced people’s ideas of our state!). Although the popular “New Joisey” accent is actually a New York accent, I quickly learned to flatten mine to avoid the teasing. My retort to “What exit?” was “I don’t know!” since like much of the state, I don’t actually live directly off the Garden State Parkway (not to mention my total inability to figure out directions or a map). And my inability to pump my own gas was actually a good thing, since it enabled me to bat my eyes at cute guys who were more than willing to help me out.
Yes, New Jersey has some very strange laws, and not being allowed to pump your own gas is only one of them. Some other beauties are: It is against the law for a man to knit during fishing season; if you have been convicted of driving while intoxicated, you may never again apply for a personalized license plate; you may not slurp your soup; and it is illegal to delay or detain a homing pigeon. Bernards Township is a “frown-free town zone” and in Trenton, you may not consume pickles on Sundays.
As much as I loved college, I did miss home, and was very happy to settle here after college. I’ve remained here and am now raising my family in New Jersey. As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate things about New Jersey that as a child and teenager I was never able to do. The entire state is not the Garden State Parkway or the NJ Turnpike; there are beautiful beaches, farmlands and mountains. There are museums, restaurants, symphonies, theater. There are quaint towns with abundant history and antiques. There are larger cities with their own rhythm and things to do. There are plenty of opportunities to do good and to help others. And of course, there is shopping!
Actually, one of my favorite local spots to visit (with and without kids) is the Morris Museum (www.morrismuseum.org). Located in a restored mansion, there are permanent and visiting exhibits on everything from art to Snoopy to geology to costumes. Last summer, they had an amazing exhibit on shoes (!!!) Free to explore on my own while the kids were in camp, I was in heaven, made all the more so by the chocolate shoe on display—seriously, a chocolate shoe!  There are children’s programs and camps, theater productions, art classes and music.
So, if you’re ever driving down the Garden State Parkway or the NJ Turnpike, take an exit (any!) and explore a little. Look around. Stop at a restaurant or hike one of the many trails. Just make sure not to frown at a police officer and if you’re in Blairstown, don’t throw ashes on the sidewalk!

Jennifer Wilck’s first romance, A Heart of Little Faith, can be purchased from www.whiskeycreekpress.com  Visit  her website www.jenniferwilck.com  and her Fried Oreos blog www.jenniferwilck.wordpress.com or Heroines With Hearts blog www.heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com also on Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jennifer-Wilck/201342863240160  

18 comments:

Nora said...

Jennifer, As a person who's been through NJ but never stopped, it's great to hear about the REAL NJ. Enjoy your Garden State. I enjoyed reading about it. Stay cool.

skystne said...

You mean you still can't pump your own gas in Jersey? Amazing. It was that way when I lived there in the fifties. Some things never change but that one does surprise me.

My favorite town is Morristown with the winter headquarters of George Washington's Revolutionary army. What a lovely place. It still amazes me that he and his men survived the brutal winter there. Lots of history in the state.

Ana Morgan said...

I lived with my grandparents in East Orange as a teen,and went to school in Summit. I had friends in Morristown and relatives in Short Hills. My grandma rented summer houses on the shore.
New Jersey is home to me, even though I've lived in Minnesota far longer than I lived in NJ.

jrlindermuth said...

Your sense of humor shines through, Jennifer. As to those laws, those of us old enough to remember 'service stations' get nostalgic at the idea of not pumping our own gas. (Who wants to stink like gas anyway?).
Thanks for reminding us--even in a small state like NJ--there are plenty of worthwhile things to see and do.

Fran Orenstein said...

Jennifer, you certainly made NJ look a lot better than its less than appetizing nicknames. Not a NJ native, (I'm a New York born and bred), but I lived in NJ for 32years, raising a family and working for NJ State Govenment. NJ definitely has it's lovely locales like the northwestern corner,the Delaware Water Gap,and Cape May and the shore. I lived equally distant between NYC and Philadelphia, near Princeton, at Exit 8 on the Tpke.[LOL], so culture was always available to us. Thanks again, and good luck with your writing.

Diana Cosby said...

Hi Jennifer,
Interesting blog. I've driven through NJ, but I've never stayed for but a few days at a time. Wow, you can't pump your own gas there? NJ is mega beautiful. So much to see. :)

Paula Martin said...

My cousins live in NJ (Scotch Plains, Martinsville and Flemington) so I've been there several times, as well as to the 'Joisey Shore'. I love the small towns and the woodland areas.

Pauline B Jones said...

Wow, some weird laws! LOL! So much I didn't know about NJ! Thanks for the fun blog post. :-)

Debra St. John said...

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for telling us about New Jeresey. My knowledge of the state was limited to the fact that Bon Jovi hails from there. What can I say?...I went to high school in the 80s! I lived for hair bands...

Jennifer Wilck said...

Thanks, Nora. Of course, this "real" NJ is only from my perspective, but I'm glad to show that not everything you read and see it the truth!

Skystne, Morristown is a great place to explore, shop and eat. The history is amazing!

Hi Ana, I didn't realize you'd been to NJ so often. I know some of those areas well.

Thank you, JR! I've never minded not pumping my own gas!

Fran, thanks so much!

Diana, it's definitely worth a stop sometime.

Oh Paula, does that mean you'll visit sometime soon???

Pauline, thanks for stopping by--weird laws are probably everywhere, and it was fun looking them up.

Francine Howarth said...

Hi,

I've never been to NJ, but if I ever do I'll know what and not to do! ;)

Nice post.

best
F

Jennifer Wilck said...

Debra, I like the rock band reputation! Others, not so much.

Francine, maybe you'll change your mind (but if you prefer Snookie, please don't tell me).

Heidiwriter said...

Hi Jennifer,
Nice to know New Jersey is NOT Snookie!! LOL. Love the outdated laws.

I have a writer friend named Jennifer Wilke (in WA state).

Good luck with your writing and publishing endeavors.

Debbie Kump said...

Living in a town with lots of quirky rules (like you can't park your car on decorative rocks), your blog brought a smile to my face! And I agree with your beaches comment…Cape May is beautiful. Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your novel!

Jennifer Wilck said...

Heidi, I think most places have them, and they're funny. The key is to come back to our "normal" laws later and see if they hold up. That's funny about the Jennifer Wilke.

Debbie, thanks so much for stopping by!

Jennifer Wilck said...

A big thank you to Annette for hosting me this week! I really appreciated it!

Debby said...

I graduated from high school in New Jersey. It is a very intriguing state and filled with contrasts. Great post!
debby236 at gmail dot com

Jeannine said...

While traveling through New Jersey, my husband and I fell in love with the small town of Clinton, and even went back for another visit a few years later.