Saturday, November 10, 2012

My City In Ruins

             Nestled between New York and Philadelphia, New Jersey and the people who live here, are the Rodney Dangerfield of the 50 states.  It’s been that way ever since the 13 Colonies broke away from England.  Mocked for everything from our accents to our attitudes, viewed with disdain and condescension by neighbors across both the Hudson and Delaware, this state is often the butt of late night TV show jokes.  People who don’t know anything about New Jersey think we speak like characters out of the Sopranos and only understand geography when we can attach a highway exit to the map.  Like the caricatures on a dumbass show on MTV or Real Housewives capture the essence of who we are.
            But New Jersey is more than oil refineries on the Turnpike and gridlocked highways filled with rush hour commuters.
            For those of us who were born here, who grew up here, or who live here, this state is much more than that.  We are 127 miles of coastline and sandy beaches, the untouched beauty of the Pine Barrens, acres of farms, and rolling hills.  We are generations of families who have built lives here and raised children and made a difference in the world, in big ways and small.  We are tough and resilient, filled with hard-assed attitude, and we know what it takes to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and get the job done.  We are the best of all people. 
            We are a state filled with courage – brave, spirited, caring people who love our families, friends, and neighbors with a fierceness nobody else can match.  Our identity is forged in the strength we find in each other.  We are the gritty toughness of a Springsteen song and the beautifully written words of a Toni Morrison novel.  We are a state of farmers, fishermen, truck drivers, blue collar laborers, doctors, lawyers, and executives – sons and daughters of immigrants from all over the world.  We identify with the underdog, and cheer on those facing the longest odds and toughest journey.
             We are everyman.
            So much of what I learned in life, I learned growing up in New Jersey.  This state is a part of me and who I am.  I am proud to be from New Jersey – full of that unique blend of edginess, attitude, energy, and strength, and filled with a love for the people around me.
            New Jersey will rebuild and restore what this storm tried to take away.  The spirit we own can never be broken.  Don’t tell us how hard it will be and don’t try to stop us from doing what needs to be done.  We are about overcoming odds and taking on all challenges.
We are more than a punch line in somebody’s joke.
            We are what this country is all about.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But -

  • There are whole generations of people from across all demographic groups who have never taken the time to learn how to say, “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.

  • I haven’t always agreed with him politically, but there’s nobody at handling a crisis – at least one caused by Mother Nature – than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Hands down, he’s the “lead from the front and get things done” kind of guy you want in charge

  • After riding out Hurricane Sandy, I’m not traumatized by the storm.  I’m traumatized by the indifference of so many people about the devastation it caused (substitute Katrina, Irene, tornadoes in the Midwest, the earthquake in Haiti, etc. for Sandy).  Too many people don’t care until it impacts their own comfort and convenience.

  • The randomness of fate and the power of Mother Nature are two of the biggest equalizers in life.

  • Writers write.  Plain and simple – if putting words on paper for others to read is your chosen profession (or dream – desire – passion), then suck it up, tough it out, and stop bitching about editing and rewrites and word counts.  It’s petty and small to hear somebody whining about the “rigors” of writing….go pour concrete, pound nails, or sweat on a highway work crew for a couple of months and change your perspective.  Shut up and write.

  • Anybody who knows something about football knows that Tim Tebow isn’t a serious answer to anything related to the sport.

  •  If the urban oasis by the sea that I live in is a microcosm of small town politics, it’s often the people from the “wrong side of the tracks” who show up at town council meetings to address problems like gang violence, drugs in the neighborhood, schools, and education for their kids.  They’re the ones who are taking steps to make things better.  The people who should do more because they have more are the ones who get involved only when it concerns dog parks and inappropriate bathing attire on the boardwalk.

  •  Cory Booker has future President written all over his resume (if not the Oval Office, then make room for him in the Senate)

  • There’s a kind of coolness to the music of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Carl Perkins that never goes out of style – something that feels like the innocence of high school, fast cars, and the open road.

  • I believe that the worst of times can bring out the best in people, and that we can put aside our differences to work together and make things better.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  I’ll keep believing that until they carry me out of the room and turn off the lights.

My thoughts and prayers to my friends, neighbors, and everyone affected by the hurricane and its aftermath.  Stay strong.