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I used to live in Baltimore, MD, AKA "Charm City." I started working in New Jersey, AKA "The Garden State" (before it became known as "Soprano Land") in 1991 and moved my family here in 1993.
I was born and brought up in Fall River, MA, AKA "The Mill Town" and consider Boston, AKA "Dirty Water", my home.
I came here with the same stereotypes of New Jersey as everyone else. Blue Collar State. Lots of Italians. A home base of the Mafia. Tons of corruption. Miles and miles of concrete (including some front lawns). Might as well have been Tarshish were there were "people who did not know their right hand from their left."
The trouble with stereotypes is that there is always a grain of truth to them.
I can't deny that there is some truth to the stereotype of The Garden State. But, it's no where near the truth, the whole truth and it sure as hell aint' 'nothing but the truth.'
Is it gritty? Yup. Some parts.
Do we have corruption? Yeah, we got your corruption right here. You got something to say about that? I didn't think so.
But you know what? That's not any more so than any other place in the world. That doesn't make it right. That's not a defense. It's just that, being so close to New York City, AKA "The Big Apple," things here move faster, louder, and therefore, more obvious.
The latest scandal including three Mayors and five Rabbi's is awful. Horrible. As one law officer said, "These people lived in an 'ethics-free zone'."
But, it's NOT the whole of New Jersey where, I hasten to add, we have had some of the best legal protection for LGBT people without actually having marriage equality - which may be why we're not as advanced as, say, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont to have full marriage equality.
About 18 months ago, we did have a governor appointed Blue Ribbon panel, which included a range of people from LGBT and fundamentalist Christian, study the range of difference between no legal rights, a will and advance directive, domestic partnership, civil union and marriage and concluded UNANIMOUSLY that there was discrimination.
Full marriage equality will come to New Jersey before the end of the year. We all know this. We're just waiting for the 'i's' to be dotted and the 't's' to be crossed.
All in all, it's a good place to live. I don't plan to retire here - can't afford it even with the great pension provided by TEC. I will, most likely in the next 5-7 years, retire to Delaware, AKA "The First State," which is, hands-down, much prettier to look and and less corruption (well, it's all relative, isn't it?) to deal with.
But, unless things change drastically in the next 5 - 7 years (and, who knows, they just might), I will be giving up everything we have worked so hard to accomplish over the last 35-40 years.
All I'm saying is to listen to Jon Stewart, who is a 'Joisey Boy' - educated in the public school system here.
Go ahead and laugh. He's very funny. But, please, don't judge us all by those three Mayors and five Rabbis. Please try to tone down the stereotype.
Unless, of course, you want to sleep with the fishes with your cement shoes.