Everyone else knows you're from Jersey when you say things like
There must be more, I'm sure of it because everyone from everywhere else knows I am from New Jersey even though I think I'm really slick.
I have no accent, I think. "Really, you can tell I'm from Jersey?" I ask. "Ooooh, yeah," is the grave reply. Always, I mean, owe-weez. Terrible, but funny.
When I was a teenager, I planned to leave New Jersey. Maybe California. California would definitely be better than the provincial, boring stretch of New Jersey I grew up in, I thought. It was fine for running around in the woods as a kid (and as a teen, too), but for a sophisticated New Jersey teen who read poetry and listened to punk rock, Hunterdon county was sleepy.
My friends would occasionally take trips to New York, but did not want to explore. Instead, they waited around Washington Square Park until someone offered to sell them a joint. I couldn't be bothered, "We're in New York, and you want to stay in this little park and leave right after you buy a joint?" I thought.
I wanted to roam, look in shop windows, eat unusual food, and watch street performers. I couldn't be sure they wouldn't leave without me, and I didn't have the confidence to roam alone.
I had one friend with the will to drive to New York. He was a friend and neighbor, one year older than me. We had long been friends, sharing musical tastes and talking easily about life and philosophy.
One afternoon, I accompanied him on a search for an apartment in Brooklyn. He borrowed a car from his brother who sold used cars, if I recall correctly. As we merged into the traffic headed into Holland Tunnel, he purposely bumped a passenger bus on my side of the car. The bus driver yielded to us, finally respecting the alternate merge protocol, or perhaps the driver simply respected this madman in a sedan.
Once in the city, we walked through steamy hot, rundown neighborhoods and waited for realtors. Most never showed up. One did. Remember nothing about the realtor, just the apartment. It was a railroad apartment - kitchen/living room and bedroom all in a line. Two windows, brown paneling. Tiny bathroom off the kitchen. "You could have the middle room," he offered, which meant the room with no doors, between his bedroom and the kitchen.
I doubt I replied. I was intimidated. Despite my drive to leave New Jersey, I couldn't quite picture living like this. Years later, I did move to one of the outer boroughs. We had a few more windows.
My friend settled on the apartment, and we celebrated by getting a lunch special in the Little India neighborhood. Appetizer, entree, and dessert all for a few dollars. This day was much better than my scant hours spent trailing buddies in Washington Square Park.