Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Heart New York?

New Jersey is the butt of every New Yorker's jokes - in some ways, unfairly.

Sure, for urban New Yorkers, Jersey is just the west side of the Hudson river. All they see is the Jersey turnpike, flanked by petrochemical plants, an airport and the only reason any New Yorker would venture into that no-man's land - an IKEA.

But beyond the Newark suburbs, Jersey lives up to the title of 'Garden State.' Somerset and Hunterdon counties are lush and green, while Princeton and Windsor are two of the prettiest all-American towns in the nation.

That being said - it'll never replace New York in my affections.

It's not just the city that's so wonderful - there's something about New York state itself. The mentality and mindset. I spent several months on Long Island in and loved it in a way I don't quite feel here in Jersey.

To the uninitiated, New Yorkers and Jerseyites might seem quite similar. They've got similar accents and a close ethnic mix (significant numbers of Irish, Italian and Jewish people.) The swarthy guy with bulging muscles and the Camaro could equally come from Rockaway, NJ or Ronkonkoma, NY. New York and New Jersey even share baseball and football teams (although there's intense rivalry between the Jets and Giants, Yankees and Mets.)

But there is a different sort of energy with New Yorkers. I don't quite know how to describe it. To some, they might seem just that bit harsher than New Jersey residents - more likely to butt into a conversation and quicker to express their opinions.

To many people, this seems kind of rude (hell, New Yorkers aren't famous for their courtesy.) However, I think it's just their way.

New Yorkers cram as much as they can into every 'New York Minute' (a period of time much shorter than a regular minute - often considered to be how long it takes between the light turning green to the guy behind you honking his horn.)

The fact that New Yorkers are always in such a hurry - and demand information and resolution in a few short moments - means they might come across as rude, but they're not. In fact, I've always found New Yorkers to be blissfully devoid of bullshit. They simply don't have time for it.

They are direct and to their point - which, for somebody stuffy and British like me, is refreshing.

I think the other thing I love about New Yorkers is their tolerance. Yes, that's right, I'm accusing New Yorkers of being tolerant. Allow me to explain...

Perhaps not to slowness, stupidity or not getting out their damn way - but in a city (and therefore, state) that is the very epitome of the American 'melting pot,' a New Yorker is surprisingly tolerant of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and races. New York is the capital of Irish-America, Italian-America - it encompasses Harlem, Chinatown, Little Brazil, Little India...

It encompasses everybody, really - and in New York, whoever you are and wherever you came from, you can find a home here.

New Jersey might only be a few miles across the river, but things definitely change once you cross the Hudson. The people, the accents - even the skyscrapers of Newark - are very similar to New York, but perceptively different.

I'll staunchly defend New Jersey - the 'Misunderstood State...' But between you and me?

It ain't New York.

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