The International Writers Magazine: Comment
New Jersey Roast
When I think about Thanksgiving I think about the suburbs and, more specifically, I think about New Jersey. My mother’s family is in New Jersey, and I got slammed with a pretty strong dose of that place while I was still a kid.
My mother’s parents grew up in Newark. Her father was a Romanian Jew and her mother was a German Jewess. That state is completely shot through with my blood relations although I don’t know any of them because my mother was so nutz that she inspired them with revulsion. My mother’s personality could be compared with Tony Soprano’s errant sister, Janice, who is as perverse and destructive as it’s possible to contemplate.
I suppose I could take some time to look up my New Jersey relations. What would I find? This guy’s a dentist. This lady’s a grandmother. Borrrring! Unless there’s a material interest involved, family life is a waste of time. At least on my father’s side I have Saul Bellow to brag about (not to mention my charming father, Morey), but I don’t have any desire to know any of them either. I have got the best of both worlds. I got a decent family background to brag about without having to spend time with them. No Judgments.
A lot of cool people have come out of New Jersey; Jerry Lewis, Bruce Willis, Frank Sinatra, the Sopranos, who capture the comprehensive expression of New Jersey attitudes and values. Einstein lived there for many years but his brains didn’t rub off on the place. They’re knuckleheads. The state has got great beaches, but try to find a decent beachfront café. If you’re looking for more than overpriced lobster shacks and pizza, you’re out of luck! All the beach towns are pure mafia, and they are not renowned for any kind of gastronomic sensibility.
If that freakin state ever did anything right, I would pass out from shock. Atlantic City sits on a great beach, but it’s a dump, with half the hotels in receivership. Try to find a decent restaurant in the whole city – at any price! Freakin idiots don’t even care what they’re eating. Anyway, you can’t even get there from here. New Jerseyans are too cheap to build a decent rail link connecting New York to Atlantic City, so the only way to get there is by using charter bus services, which is so unpleasant, the majority of riders being Chinese restaurant workers, Tadjik livery car drivers, that by the time you arrive you’re already in a worse mood than when you started. And then, unlike Vegas, where the food is outstanding, there’s nothing to eat except for no-alcohol hotel buffets and freakin fast-food arcades.
New Jersey is a state that takes Home Ownership seriously, and the ultimate expression of New Jersey love is cash money, unvarnished by any aesthetic sensibilities. So they got money, so why are they all so repressed and frustrated? Why? Not enough money. And then you get more money, that’s not enough either. In a super-acquisitive environment like that, where greediness is admired as a desirable quality, with all the elementary particles bouncing off each other like a Princeton supercollider of greedy people trying to get more money, anybody stupid enough to assert that he has already got enough money runs the risk of being identified as a potential subversive.
And who the hell am I to say that’s wrong? First of all, I’m judging them as a New Yorker, from out-of-state, and, as Lenny Bruce once allowed: “You no play-a da game, you no make-a da rules”. Second: America is living very comfortably as a result of the efforts of lunatic megalomaniacs. Western writer Louis L’Amour put it succinctly when he wrote “This country was built by bad people as well as good”. What the hell, as long as I don’t have to be exposed to them personally!
New Jerseyans suffer from acute cultural deprivation, and they are fine with that. My uncle, Saul Bellow, used to joke about the philistinism of Chicago, but he obviously never spent any time in Jersey, where it’s The Land That Time Forgot circa One Million Years B.C.. The most celebrated writer out of New Jersey, Philip Roth, got his reputation from writing about a neurotic jerkoff from Newark, Portnoy.
I got a million Jersey jokes. New Jersey had a beauty contest and nobody won. New Jersey people are so ugly that peeping toms reach in the window and pull down the shade. The people in Jersey are so fat that when they take a bath they don’t leave a ring around the tub – they leave stretch marks. New Jersey governor Christopher Christie submitted a blood sample, and the results came back “Ragú”.
This Christie character is the ultimate polished model of New Jersey spiritual attainment. His insulting mouth and intimidating manner remind me a little bit of the Lee J. Cobb portrayal of mob labor boss Johnny Friendly in “On the Waterfront”, set in the racketeering milieu of 1950’s Hoboken, except Johnny Friendly was hard as granite, while Christie is an obese blowhard pig bladder blasting a useless load of hot air. After years of loudmouth blathering, he’s campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, but he only scores about 1% in the polls because he has been squeezed out of the race by an even bigger, fatter blowhard, El Grande Trumpo!
Just in case you think I am slamming New Jersey out of a psychological grudge match or chemical imbalance, the facts speak for themselves. Prior to electing Christopher Christie as its leader, New Jersey had elected a hat trick of outrageous idiots who were so theatrical that they could get hired for a Jerry Lewis Comedy Show. Christie’s immediate predecessor was Jon Corzine, who broke every bone in his body in a car crash while he was speeding to the broadcasting studio to mediate a dispute on live radio between New York shock DJ Imus and the members of the championship Rutgers woman’s basketball team, whom Imus had referred to as a gang of “nappy-headed ho’s”. After getting thrown out of office, Corzine went to work managing a huge hedge fund and immediately lost a billion dollars of investor money.
Before Corzine they had Tim McGreevey, who finally resigned in humiliation, giving his stupid “I Am a Gay American” speech.
But for me, the Blue Ribbon dork of this little triumvirate of imbecility has got to be Christine Whitman, who was a rich heiress from an ancient New Jersey family. She was totally vacant upstairs, just like her voters. After 9/11, which was totally bungled by Bush, even according to Bush’s own CIA Director, George Tenet, Whitman, whom Bush had incredibly appointed as head of the EPA, took charge of the World Trade Center cleanup effort. She visited the ruins of the collapsed towers and declared that the smoldering ruins posed no ambient threat to the air in lower Manhattan. She never even bothered to mandate respirators and hazmat suits to the relief workers. Now those workers are dropping like flies from asbestos lung disease, or mesothelioma. So don’t shoot me. I’m just the messenger. All those cruel jokes about New Jersey must have some basis in fact, no?
New Jersey has got it all, baby. A naked guy jumping out of the bushes of a park in Newark and trying to rape a cop who is bent over in the dark trying to locate his lost handcuffs. A state trooper caught on video having sex with not one, but a whole selection of barnyard animals.
No point in eating my heart out in despair. That’s the world we live in. Thank the Lord; we have the Hudson River to separate these jokers from Manhattan. It can’t prevent the odor of pig flatulence and oil refinery gas of Secausus and Bayonne from drifting over on the westerly breezes, but the people there have to take a tunnel or a train to get here, which discourages a lot of them from coming. They don’t have to come here because their money is going to end up coming here anyway, no matter what.
© Dean Borok November 26ht 2015
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