BS sent me this article from the Inky regarding perhaps the most pressing issue of our times: where does north jersey end, and where does south jersey begin? and, more importantly, is there a culture to central jersey? a research-minded person has just completed a documentary on this very topic, and i, for one, hope it makes its way to the DC metro area, where there are boatloads of NJ refugees transplants.

now, most of you folks who have either never been to the garden state or whose experience of my beloved home state consists of a ride on the turnpike (helpful hint: hold your nose as you pass through elizabeth) probably have no earthly idea that we new jerseyans think we have different culchahs. we do, though to be fair, a lot of our customs depend on our proximity to either new york or philadelphia.

for me, for half my life, this was home. and in the old days, it was simple to me: you were either in the 201 area code, or you were in the 609 area code. growing up in toms river, i lived literally on the border of 609 and 201, though i was proud to be in 201 merely because i was sick of the yeehaws in south jersey who perpetually wanted to secede. (we were willing to let them, believe me.)  i always figured monmouth and ocean counties were sort of a mix of north and south, as we always had an influx of people from both philly and new york. to me, monmouth and ocean were and ARE central jersey, and everything north of monmouth is north jersey; and everything west of both is south.

now, of course, there are 50,000 area codes covering the state, so my definition pretty much goes kerflooey. that, combined with the fact that monmouth and ocean seem to be completely infiltrated by new yorkers looking for better home prices (well, they were better until the influx) leads me to wonder whether my two home counties are still central anymore.  i mean, route 9 — you know, bruce’s fabled highway, which passes both by my old house as well as by BS’s hometown in scenic freehold boro — is a nightmare now, with traffic that rivals long island. i’ve been gone for nearly 20 years, and the place is completely different.

but i still return. my family is still there. i can’t get decent pizza outside of the new york metro area. i can’t really experience the sleazy joy of the boardwalk anywhere else quite the way  it is there, the rancid odor of the sausages and zeppoles, the taffy which can cost you $1000 in dental work if you’re not careful. the salty smell of the shore, the green of the pine barrens, the swirl of hungry seagulls swooping and diving inland before a storm, the delicious, secret thrill of hanging out amongst people who probably live a lot more dangerously than you do.

i just can’t really feel that anywhere outside of my old stompin’ grounds. i guess i don’t really care whether it’s north, south or central jersey, in the end. it’s just an overpopulated, underappreciated place.

but one thing’s still for sure: people in new jersey never, ever, call it joisey.


6 Responses to “home”

  1. OK. Well, when I grew up in Union I sort of thought of myself in North Jersey, but perhaps right on a divide. Now in Highland Park I totally do not feel like I am in North Jersey and for sure not in South. I think there is a definite Central Jersey area. Here is the way I see it:

    Counties that are for sure South Jersey – Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, Salem, Gloucester, Camden.

    For sure Central Jersey – Mercer, Monmouth, Middlesex

    For sure North Jersey – Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Warren, Morris, Essex, Hudson

    Counties partially in North and Central – Hunterdon, Somerset, Union

    Counties partially in Central and south – Burlington, Ocean

    Where the dividing line is in those five counties, I don’t know, but it is there somewhere!

    Did I take this too seriously?

  2. I was just going to second MyKidsDad’s comments. I grew up in lower Middlesex County and definitely believe there is a separate Central Jersey region, with its own culture and signposts. Actually, there are two Central Jersies. There is the Middlesex/Mercer/Somerset axis, which is a melting pot of blue collar and upper-middle-class communities. Then there’s the Jersey Shore (or “Shore Points”) area, which comprises most of Monmouth and Ocean counties and stretches down the state east of Route 9. Freehold is somewhere on the dividing line.

  3. I mean, it’s hard to explain, but East Brunswick and Old Bridge definitely have a different feel than Red Bank or Middletown. And Lawrenceville feels different than Cherry Hill.

  4. Mike is right! So there is North Jersey, South Jersey, North Central Jersey and South Central!

  5. heh. that means i’m from south central 😉

  6. I’m from North Central, but now, living in Highland Park, I think I am in Central Central. LOL

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