March 08, 2002
Heading up River Street away from the train station, you travel a stretch of parking lots and garages, construction sites, and trash-strewn empty lots until you reach Frank Sinatra Drive, a winding stretch of road with a clear, panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. It’s a gorgeous view across the Hudson, so close to New York you can almost reach out and grab it, but it must have seemed unimaginably wide to the young Sinatra, and once he was able to cross that river it’s not too surprising that he never wanted to look back. It’s a feeling of envy and longing familiar to many people who have lived on the west side of the Hudson.
It’s a strange relationship between New Jersey and New York City, with the latter exerting such a huge influence that it’s commonly known here as "The City," as in, "Do you want to go into The City tonight," like there could be only one worth mentioning. On the other hand, we’re generally considered daily invaders by New Yorkers, insulted by Mayor Bloomberg, charged exorbitant tolls, given condescending nicknames, and generally treated like unwanted guests at a party. Then the next day we hop back on the train and head right back in.
[I should note here, before I get an angry letter from Justin Slotman, that I’m relying on my own experience as a Central- and North-Jersey resident, as the southern part of the state is in the Philadelphia orbit and not subject to the same Manhattan pull. In fact, largely because of this two-pronged gravitational pull, New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in which to run for statewide office, as candidates must buy airtime in two of the country’s largest markets.]
When Jeff Jarvis pointed out several other Jersey bloggers (myself, Justin Slotman, Andrew Hofer) and suggested that it might be time to organize a Jersey Blogger Get-Together, my thought was that it had, in fact, already happened, and fittingly enough it took place in Manhattan. I lived in Seattle for four years with another Jersey native, and when we were asked where we were from we would instinctively reply, "New York," though when pressed for specific details about which part of New York we actually lived in we were forced to demure, "the…[volume drops here]…New Jersey part of New York." It wasn’t deception, really; we had naturally grown up thinking of Jersey as part of New York, an outer borough as it were.
Do I sound self-loathing here, an embarrassed bridge-and-tunneller hoping to someday pass? I hope not, since I have a sincere fondness for my state, and there are many, many things about it I greatly missed during my time away. But I can’t deny that one of the things I missed the most about New Jersey was New York.
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