The Garden State of New Jersey

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When it comes to exploring the United States of America, it's hard to miss a lot of the states. You'll find it hard to pull your eyes off of the rolling hills and old-fashioned attitude of Virginia. You'll find it difficult to pull your ears away from the fine and soothing classical country sounds of Tennessee. Your mouth will never want to leave behind the cheap and plentiful chilli-stacked hot dogs of New York. Oddly enough if you find the right people, this is also the place your sense of touch will never want to leave.

Sadly, there is also a place your nose will never be able to ignore, or perhaps even recover from, and that is good old sulfuric New Jersey.

This researcher, having been stranded in the middle of this marvellous lump of wet lint of a state for nearly nineteen years, is able to offer up an insider's view on a few things you should understand if you intend on blending in to this magnificent cesspool.

1) The Garden State Parkway

This is a very handy more-or-less straight road that runs both North and South along the length of the state. Sadly, it isn't able to offer a direct, immediate route to many of the most important (read "overpopulated and smelly") areas of New Jersey, yet there is still a good reason to ride on it, and that is for the sheer novelty of riding on one of the few roads in all of history that actually has a mind of its own. The Garden State Parkway is a shifty beast of a slab of pavement that you have to keep all of your mindpower on if you wish to outwit it. Somehow it always manages to present the motorist with an entrance heading North if they wish to go South, allowing them only to find a Southern entrance if their destination lies anywhere North. It somehow manages to bombard drivers with rest stop after rest stop (complete with people who will cut you off to get over to one) until you really need the services one has to offer, in which case you're assured not to come across any, no matter what your speed, until fifteen seconds after the point you are no able to contain your liquids. Also noteworthy is the only person in the state who actually RESIDES on the Garden State Parkway. His name is unknown but he has various four-letter nicknames. He's bald, short, tubby, and elderly, with squinty eyes and thick glasses that would probably serve a better purpose as paperweights. His car is grey of an unknown make with a broken trunk and he makes his living riding right down the middle of the two lanes with an inaccurate blinker on. HOW this is considered a living is unknown, but it's rumored he gets a kick back from the mental institutions for every motorist he forces to be committed.

2) The People

New Jersey tries its very hardest to be a little minature melting pot, with mixed success. In fact, the people here have become so mixed that there really is no such thing as a New Jersian anymore. Instead it's all people who believe they have come from other places and fail to realize that they are no longer there. It's not an oddity to see on the same street a dirty-bearded flannel-clad teen who firmly believes he's in the south, a bubble-jacketed young man rapping about how tough it is to live in Brooklyn today, and business-suited briefcase people in an extreme rush to make it to work as if there were a single place to be employed in New Jersey that didn't have the word "burger" on the sign. It's difficult for people this confused to communicate realistically with each other, and doubly so for an outsider. Don't bother asking anybody anything about him or herself, because if you get an intelligable answer then you must not be in New Jersey at all.

3) Wawa

A chain of stores that are all over the state, these can be found at every intersection that doesn't already have a gas station or a bar there. And a few that do. These small stores sell everything from cups of coffee to gallons of milk to onion dip to Jar Jar Binks Candy Wands to My Cat is Better Than Yours magazine, but the most interesting thing is that no matter what single item you bring up to the register, the price is invariably $6.99. This is a great place to do all of your grocery shopping if you happen to have a weekly paycheck with as many zeros as the national debt. Otherwise these places should be avoided completely, and with them the crazy mid forties men who stand outside them constantly in blue shorts, smoke brown cigarettes and ask all the younger children who pass by if they want to tickle his wooden leg.

4) Long Beach Island

An extension of New Jersey which lies to the east and is connected to the mainland by a road called Route 72. It runs North to South and houses everything from rich vacationers to really rich vacationers. In the "off-season" it's pretty dead over there, but come summertime the motels, restaurants, and merchants all spring to life, which attracts patrons at an amazing speed with their near bottomless inventory of shirts that say "L.B.I." on them. Why people pay over $16 for these shirts is a mystery as the only time a purchased one has ever been seen in public it was wiping the oil off of somebody's dipstick.

5) Toxic Waste

Ranking pretty darn high in the amount of toxic waste within its borders, New Jersey is expected to have enormous mounds of it reaching high into the brown sky beside and behind each other right there in plain sight all along everyone one of its roads and all of its scenery. Of course, this is an exaggerated view. The toxic waste is kept very well hid from the public eye, stockpiled harmlessly away beneath our elementary schools and farmlands. It is sandwiched neatly beelow the most valuable sections of the state's crust and a measly 100 feet above The Cohansey Aquifer, our nation's largest natural untapped fresh water source. Why they chose to entrust this magnificent natural resource to us is as inexplicable as why the role of Rick in "Casablanca" was initially intended for Ronald Reagan.

6) The Jersey Devil

All of the nicer places in the world must have gotten first pick of the supernatural beasts. Loch Ness. Sasquatch. The Roswell Probeatron. New Jersey came in dead last with (drum roll please)...The Jersey Devil. Existing for the sole purpose of giving the residents something to talk about other than where they think they really came from, The Jersey Devil is an urban legend about the deformed 13th offspring of the Leeds family. Supposedly he runs around and...runs some more. The Jersey Devil has been "sighted" numerous times, running everywhere...the woods, the road, people's garden's. It has never, however, murdered anybody, abducted any pets, or even stolen any shopping carts. All it seems to do as far as reports are concerned is "run." What it's running toward is unknown. What it's running away from is PURPOSEFULLY unknown. Why it's running in circles since it never seems to leave the state is even more mysterious. All we can really assume is that this unfortunate-looking local boy may just be training to make his parents proud and one day bring home the Track and Field gold.

Also, those faint of heart should steer clear of the Old Country Buffet. The food is fine, but the man who walks around in the bee suit and doesn't serve anybody food may prove a disturbing sight for anybody who isn't used to seeing insects taller than them wearing ballcaps. Just thought you should be forewarned. Otherwise, New Jersey is a fine place to wipe your dipstick.

--Philip J Reed, VSc

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