I’m from Joisey? Are you from Joisey?
Let’s get two important things out of the way right now. I am originally from New Jersey (pronounced New Jer-zee by just about everyone here). And, while there are some major highways (the NJ Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and US Interstate 80) that run through our little state, New Jersey is still known as the garden state for good reason: a large portion of it consists of expansive rural areas, beautiful wooded acreage, and farms. In fact, half the state is still woodlands and it is home to more than 9,800 farms covering 790,000 acres of farmland. No, you don’t really see this on The Sopranos – well, unless Tony or one of his boys are dragging someone into the woods by their ankles. Got it? Good.
You know it’s a special state when it’s only one of two in the entire nation where you cannot pump your own gas. That’s right – all gas stations are full service and full service only. Eric DeGesero of the New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association said New Jersey requires full service gas stations as a way of creating jobs, limiting accidents and assisting the elderly. And there are no plans to repeal the full service requirement. After living elsewhere, it seems a bit snobby and lazy to just sit in your car while someone else scurries about tending to all your fueling needs, but then again, I haven’t been here in winter in a quite some time. Of course, we all get out of our cars in the frigid Chicago winters to fuel up so maybe New Jerseyans are a bit pampered.
New Jersey, the home of renowned Princeton University, is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is bordered on the north by New York, to its east the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean. Delaware borders New Jersey only on the southwestern side and Pennsylvania lies to the west.
Inhabited by Native Americans for more than 2,800 years, the first European settlements in the area were established by the Swedes and Dutch in the early 1600s. The English later seized control of the region in 1664, naming it the Province of New Jersey. The name was taken from the largest of the English Channel Islands, Jersey.
Our little state was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution and it was an important site during the American Revolutionary War. Several major battles were fought here and we learned about them over and over and over in grade school. So much so, that I think our knowledge of other major wars was quite limited. Today, New Jersey has the highest population density and the second highest median income of any state in the United States. Several New Jersey counties are ranked among the highest-income counties in the entire nation.
I was born and grew up in Northwest New Jersey, or the “Skylands.” It is known as a wooded, rural, and mountainous area… and was often a surprise to my friends who visited me here expecting it to look like Newark, a big industrial city near New York City. They were not disappointed by its beauty, curvy wooded roads, and rural colonial feel. The rest of the state is filled with lakes, the Appalachian Mountains which create a wide area of hills and valleys in the entire north region, the pine barren forests in the south and the miles and miles of coastal beaches running all up and down the east coast–locally it’s simply called the Jersey Shore.
In fact, Cape May, at the southern tip, is the oldest seashore resort area in the United States. It has the second largest collection of Victorian-era homes in the nation after San Francisco and is the only entire city in the country to be named a national historic landmark. Yes, there are some cities and lots of industry near the Hudson River and New York City area. But the rest of the state is plenty green.
New Jersey is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse states in the country. By percentage, it has the second largest Jewish population after New York; the second largest Muslim population (after Michigan); the third highest Asian population, and the third highest Italian-American population of any state according to the 2000 Census. All this translates into some fun people and some damn tasty food at every turn.
Once I left the state back in the early 90s, it was only then that I finally started to appreciate it for its beauty and everything it had to offer. I defend my home state early and often and although I love my adopted hometown of Chicago, there has always been a piece of my heart right back here in New Jersey.
Some fun facts:
New Jersey has the lowest rate of depression in the United States found by a study from NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness (Is this because they are all rich or because no one has to pump their own gas??).
New Jersey is the birthplace of many modern inventions such as: FM radio, the motion picture camera, the lithium battery, the light bulb (thanks Thomas Alva Edison), transistors, and the electric train. Other New Jersey creations include: the drive-in movie, the cultivated blueberry, cranberry sauce, the postcard, the boardwalk, the zipper, the phonograph, saltwater taffy, and the ice cream cone.
- The first organized baseball game was played in Hoboken, NJ in 1846.
- New Jersey has more diners than any other state or any place in the world: more than 600
- New Jersey’s State House is the second oldest still in use (Maryland has the oldest).
- New Jersey was known as the “Pathway of the Revolution.” Over 100 Revolutionary war battles were fought on New Jersey soil.
- New Jersey has more horses per square mile than any other state. The United States Equestrian Team is headquartered in Gladstone, NJ.
- The properties in the United States version of the board game Monopoly are named after the streets of Atlantic City.
- It’s the first state to sign the Bill of Rights.
- The first professional basketball game was played in Trenton, NJ in 1896.
- New Jersey has 127 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean.
- New Jersey is home to more than 9,800 farms covering 790,000 acres of farmland.
Some Famous New Jerseyans:
- Bruce Springstein
- Jon Bon Jovi
- Frank Sinatra
- John Travolta
- Tom Cruise
- Bruce Willis
- Brooke Shields
- Budd Abbot
- Whitney Houston
- Jack Nicholson
- Martha Stewart
- Jon Stewart
- Jason Alexander
- Zach Braff
- Danny Devito
- Michael Douglas
- Kirsten Dunst
- Ed Harris
- Derek Jeter
- Laryn Hill
- Queen Latifah
- Jerry Lewis
- Kelly Ripa
- Joe Pesci
- Dennis Rodman
- Meryl Streep
- Anne Hathaway