When I poured out the Gilbert Family Saga on Wednesday I failed mention that I was from the Garden State of New Jersey. That’s right, Tony Soprano, the Bada Bing boys and I all hail from the same Great Neck of the woods. I grew up and matured into the fine young, er middle-aged man I am in the lovely town of Fort Lee, New Jersey. When you leave New York City and cross the George Washington Bridge into the Garden State the first town you hit is Fort Lee (where Vito got whacked in the Sopranos.) It sits on the cliffs of the Palisades and is considered by many to be the sixth borough of New York. What this means is if I had to be in midtown Manhattan for an important choir rehearsal I could be there in twenty minutes.
Anyway, the Garden State is not what the media portrays it as, just one long stretch of the New Jersey turnpike. There’s a beautiful shoreline, plenty of farmland and tremendous pizza and chicken parmigiana sandwiches. So today, I thought we would take a look at some of the interesting, amazing and yes, terrifying facts about my home state.
New Jersey has the highest population density in the U.S. with an average of 1,030 people per square mile, which is 13 times the national average. Which is interesting because from 1989 thru 1999 I lived in Hermosa Beach, CA., which has the highest population density (18,000 people in one square mile) of any city in the country. Fortunately, most of those people are either waiters with screenplays, waitresses who were actresses or lifeguards.
New Jersey is the car theft capital of the world, with more cars stolen in Newark (the birthplace of my wife) than in any other city and more than New York City and Los Angeles combined. Jersey is also the leading industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation. It has 108 toxic waste dumps, which is more than any one state in the nation. Am I swelling up like Hootie and a blowfish with hometown pride now or what?
On a more positive note, picturesque Cape May holds the distinction of being the oldest seashore resort in the U.S. Atlantic City has the largest boardwalk in the world and is where the street names in the game Monopoly are from. The first drive-in movie theatre was opened in Camden, New Jersey. I believe the first movie shown was one of my kid’s favorites, “Basic Instinct.”
The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland. The light bulb, phonograph (record player) and motion picture projector were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park laboratory. The first tin-foil phonograph was crude, but it proved his point that sound could be recorded and played back. I believe the first song ever played back was Arrowsmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady.” Modern paleontology, the science of studying dinosaur fossils, began in 1858 with the discovery of the first nearly complete skeleton of in dinosaur in Haddonfield. It looked strikingly similar to a young Phyllis Diller.
Back in 1848, in order to meet the increasing demand for his wire rope, John Roebling opened a factory in Trenton. Along with his two sons he built a suspension bridge across the gorge at Viagra, er Niagra Falls. They then built the Brooklyn Bridge and many other suspension bridges in the US. When asked about his next challenge, John Reobling was overheard to say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
New Jersey has the most diners in the world. If you’ve never been to one, then you’ve never seen a menu the size of the late, great Jackie Gleason. My home state has the most shopping malls in one area of the world with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius. I’m tingling. The first Indian made reservations, er Indian reservation was in Jersey, the first baseball game was played in Hoboken and the first intercollegiate football game was played in New Brunswick in 1869. Rutgers College (my mother’s alma mata) beat Princeton. I think the spread was 3 points and this was the first time that cheerleaders chirped “Push them back, push them back, waaaay back.”
Let’s get to the good stuff. New Jersey has a spoon museum featuring 5,400 spoons from every state and almost every country. And who doesn’t love spooning. To get there you take the Garden State Parkway, get off at exit 13 and look for the fork in the road. It’s right next to the Slauson Cutoff. And speaking of heavy hitters, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Frank Sinatra, Queen Latifa, Shaq, Nancy Mager and my golden retrievers Bonnie and Friday are all New Jersey natives.
Coming from New Jersey to a place like Santa Cruz puts a solid perspective on life. You don’t take the Pacific Ocean, the incredible beauty in nature or Ugg boots for granted.
I was going to end the week with a gorgeous sunset from late November but the sunset on Wednesday night put an end to those plans. The first two shot are from Stockton Avenue before I headed up to Natural Bridges, where I ran into my pal Larry Selman, who’s got a beautiful web site full of amazing bird shots. You can check him out at http://MostlyBirds.com. Anyway, the sky turned blood red and was the icing on the cake for my birthday. Well, that and all the warm feedback I received from friends, family and army recruiters on my special day.
So get ready for lots of action from Sunrise Santa Cruz as we will be blasting out blogs every day next week before we go on a two week hiatus as I try to get in touch with my inner self through massage, meditation and movies. As usual, have a great sports weekend and yes, my son Jason did hit the winning shot with no time left in overtime to secure a big win over Holy Cross last night. The place went crazy as those kids in those wheelchairs played their hearts out. Just kidding. The place didn’t go that crazy.