New Jersey: Armpit or Garden State?

I was quite surprised to be told that New Jersey is referred to as the armpit of America. From where I was standing, sitting, walking, sleeping, eating, drinking and breathing in the city of Hoboken, it seemed anything but. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if I had the money, I wouldn’t be at all averse to living there myself.

At first glance, the city of Hoboken (just one square mile in size) seems to all the world like an Irish village: O’Neails, McSwiggans, Marty O’Briens,  the Shannon – a row of Irish pubs line First Street  all the way down to the river. But when you strip away this outer layer of brash Irish/American, there’s hints of the more refined. Little French bakeries who turn out an excellent eggs Benedict. Second-hand books shops that have more than chick lit and sci fi on their shelves. Old record stores. Unique boutiques each with their own distinct style and fashion (there’s no sales tax on clothes in NJ). Not a chain store in sight – except for the pharmacies like CVS. Fresh vegetable stands. Designer furniture stores. Quaint cafés and outdoor restaurants. Yes, I could definitely live in Hoboken, if for nothing more than the view across the Hudson and the 24/7 PATH to Manhattan.

But back to that armpit. I didn’t know that Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were both in NJ and not in NY. And I didn’t know that the first ever baseball game was played in Hoboken on 19 June 1846. I didn’t know that NJ has more horses than Kentucky or that both of the NY state football teams reside in the state but don’t take its name.  With that much going for it, can it be all that bad?

It does have the highest population density in the USA with an average of 1,030 people per sq. mi., which is 13 times the national average. And it’s the largest chemical producing state in the nation. And it has the Sopranos. But all said… for a first-time visit, I quite liked the state. Or at least what I saw of it. And yes, I did fly into Newark.  Oh … and it’s illegal in NJ to pump your own gas. No such thing as self-service there!





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