Juggling in (New) Jersey: Top 10 Observations from Suburbia

New Jersey, Monday
We have been running around northern New Jersey for several days now, spending time with my mother, having meals with my father, and doing the endless tasks associated with moving and clearing a house.
A few days ago, I posted about being back in the middle of my inherited life. It was, and when I’m here it still is, quintessentially suburban.
My chosen life is centered in Sydney and Paris, so it’s quite a contrast when we spend time in the area where I grew up:
1. It’s quiet, in terms of people and traffic noise. Inside people’s homes, they are undoubtedly experiencing the same range of emotions and crises as people do everywhere, but you wouldn’t know it from the outside. Residential traffic is minimal and birdsong is the predominant noise, with an occasional distant train whistle from the Erie Lackawanna line.
2. It’s pretty, not in Sydney’s grand natural beauty way or Paris’s great history and architectural way, but in the shady-streets-lined-with-oak-and-maple-trees and well-cared-for-lawns way.
3. There are too many gigantic lawn trucks everywhere, as big or bigger as some full-size moving vans.

4. It’s safe, or relatively so, with a very low crime rate. I don’t think people leave their houses unlocked, but it’s the typical small-town atmosphere where many people know and trust other residents.

5a. It’s homogeneous. The area is mostly Caucasian, with none of the ethnic or racial diversity I’m used to in Sydney and Paris.

5b. It’s insular in many ways, not only in its lack of diversity, but in the general absence of world news, the subject of my previous post.

6. There are gray squirrels, and sometimes rabbits, scurrying around the yard.

7. The Spanish language is well and truly part of life here, with telephone menus often beginning with, “for English, press 1.”

8. There’s no public transportation. But getting around in a car is quick and easy.

9. There are a billion cars on the road, and they are all going shopping. There are big malls and little malls and shops and stores everywhere. It’s shopper’s paradise, if that’s what you want. This evening we’re hoping to make our first visit to Barnes and Noble, Clive’s way of measuring the American economy. He says, “How can it be bordering on recession when the two-acre car park — i.e., discretionary spending — is always full?”

10. There is food everywhere. There are casual and formal restaurants, pizza places, fast food of every variety, diners, burger joints, donut shops, bagel shops, steak houses, and bar-and-grills.

Today we’ll spend juggling, seeing Mom, doing errands, cleaning the attic, and having dinner with Dad. I think it’s going to be pizza. Yum — there’s nothing like New Jersey pizza. Tomorrow we head to Washington, D.C., to see my son and his apartment.

Still to come: U.S. portions and the dubious practice of doggie bags.

One Response

  1. I look forward to your post regarding the doggie bag. Enjoy your time in DC with your son – he sounds like quite the guy.


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