I Just Can’t Do It

I returned to New Jersey this past weekend—the state where I was born; the former center of the universe. I know that my middle daughter will be disappointed to hear that I just cannot live there again. I can visit, but I cannot stay there long enough to file my taxes.

There are many reasons. Let me count the ways. At the top of list is the weather. I like the fact that I have snow only every few years. The last highly significant snowfall occurred around Christmas 2010. On that day, we built a life-size snowman, made snow angels, and went sledding on the golf course. No such snow this year or last or the year before that.

I don’t want to shovel snow, worry about driving in the snow, or fall while walking in the snow. I do not want to go for extended periods of time without seeing blue skies, and I do not like to be cold.

I hate the cost of living up there. The price to own a home is outrageous as are the property taxes. I recently spoke to a woman from New Jersey, who looked into buying a condo in Myrtle Beach. When she inquired about the property taxes, she was told, “$500.” When she responded, “A month?” she was shocked to hear, “per year.”

Finally, I cannot stand the traffic. Living in New Jersey and dealing with the traffic is akin to living in Atlanta—without the good weather.

New Jersey is the most densely populated state, with over 1200 people per square mile. That is a bit too crowded for my taste. My current state averages 133 people per square mile. Ahhh! Doesn’t that sound more appealing?

There is a constant flow of traffic, which is why I decided two months after moving to Atlanta that I could not grow old living in such a congested city.

No matter what time I fly into Newark airport, I am always faced with a wall of traffic. At 2:30 in the afternoon, one would conclude that an accident was the cause, but no, it was the 1200 people per square mile factor.

While returning from dinner at 9:00 on Sunday night, we were again confronted with heavy traffic. It absolutely must be nothing short of a fifty-car pile-up, I decided, but that was not the case. It was the 1200/pp factor again. THERE WAS NO OTHER REASON! We stupidly doubted the WAZE App, which instructed us to exit the highway, so we got stuck sitting in the Jersey sea of traffic. Never doubt WAZE!

So I will remain a Southern Belle. Just blame it on weather, cost of living, and the damn traffic.

Time to Play Trivia

I decided it was time to start “cleaning” two of the bedrooms which still have some of your possessions- particularly the lavender room, which is where I began the cleanse. While perusing the bookcase, I came across a fascinating book—New Jersey Trivia. As a trivia-loving family, I thought you would all love to play.

  1. Casey for you: Grace Kelly had a summer home in what city?
  2. What islands were ceded to New York State in an 1833 treaty? (I am shocked by this!)
  3. Which Morris County town is known as “Rose City?” (Hint: Tori)
  4. What is New Jersey’s largest lake? Easy peasy
  5. What actor/actress from Grease was born in Englewood, New Jersey?
  6. In what city was Jason Alexander born in 1959?
  7. Who was the first Democrat to carry NJ for president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964?
  8. What year did New Jersey enter the Union?
  9. What is the largest religious denomination in the state? (You can get this one!)
  10. Who is the only New Jersey native to become President of the United States?
  11. In what numerical order did NJ ratify the Bill of Rights? (Cheer!!)
  12. What part of Rutgers University was once the largest women’s college in the United States? (If you don’t know this, girls, shame on you. I went here!)
  13. In what town did George Washington winter in 1776 and again in 1779-80?
  14. What is the state tree?
  15. What is the state flower? (Casey, you will be happy with the answer)
  16. Where does New Jersey rank in the number of hazardous waste sites? (Unfortunately, this did not shock me!)
  17. Where was telephone service first provided
  18. What is the highest temperature ever recorded in the state?
  19. What seaside town is informally known as the “Irish Riviera?”
  20. Where are Loveladies, Harvey Cedars, and Ship Bottom?



  1. Ocean City
  2. Liberty and Ellis
  3. Madison
  4. Hopatcong
  5. John Travolta
  6. Newark
  7. Bill Clinton
  8. 1787
  9. Roman Catholic
  10. Grover Cleveland
  11. First
  12. Douglass College
  13. Morristown
  14. Oak (technically the red oak)
  15. Purple violet (okay, I failed this one!)
  16. First
  17. Camden in 1878 (I had no idea!)
  18. 110º in 1936 (Does Grandma remember?)
  19. Ellen??? You will be happy to learn it is Spring Lake
  20. Long Beach Island

Post your scores. Who won?



I Love You All…But

I was lying on a table in the doctor’s office this morning, waiting for the doctor to inject his magic pain-relieving potion into my hip. Why is this happening? I thought. As far as I know, Grandpa never had issues with that part of his body. It was his back that bothered him—the reminder of the injury he sustained during his war-time train accident in Georgia. Grandma’s problems have been about falling and breaking various bones, but I never heard her speaking of arthritis in her hip.

I mentioned to the doctor that I will be driving to New Jersey on Friday—a trip of at least twelve hours. I needed reassurance that my orthopedic doctor was not wrong in his assurances that I would be better for the wear after the shot.

“Do you have family there?” he asked as he was preparing his weapon. I chuckled to myself and knew that the question would be different if I were lying on a table in New Jersey days before driving down here to South Carolina. Wouldn’t that Jersey doctor say instead, “How nice? Where are you going—Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, or Charleston?” He wouldn’t assume I was going to visit family.

Look, I love my family and friends up there. We moved back to New Jersey from New York because I missed my home state. But things have changed. I have changed. Why would anyone go to New Jersey intentionally at the end of October unless they had family or a wedding to attend?

It’s cold and it could snow. My friends and family have been informed by me many times that my policy is to avoid the Garden State at almost all costs during the winter. Knowing that a snowstorm tore through the state on Halloween just four years ago, causing widespread power outages, shutting down businesses, schools, and even canceling Halloween made me realize that winter begins much earlier than December 21 in New Jersey.

So we will pack our warm clothing, and hope for the best. There is no doubt that we will have a wonderful visit, but I will be happy to return to my lilies and azaleas still growing in my yard. And to my peeps up North, let me remind them that there is always room at the Hole-Inn-One. The rates are very reasonable!

Autumn Yard
                     Autumn Yard

Take Out; Eat In

Growing up, we had our weekly food rituals—take-out pizza on Friday nights from Gencarelli’s and Chinese on Sundays from Delicious and Best.  We always ordered one meatball, peppers and onions—the fajita pizza—and a second which varied. Sometimes it was a white pizza with broccoli; other times it may have been a chicken parmesan or meatball pie. Apparently no one else ordered our “usual”, because we never gave our name and they always handed me the correct two pies when I arrived to pick up our order. We were predictable.

Chinese take-out Sundays was a throwback to Dad’s childhood—probably the biggest connection to his Jewish heritage other than deli. Wonton, egg drop and hot and sour soup followed by dumplings were our staples, with a few entrees that varied each week. Invariably, there were six dumplings in the order, so bickering regarding “who gets the extra” always ensued.

In my family, the only time I ever recall hearing the words “take-out” was followed by “the garbage.” It just never happened. We had our Friday night homemade pizzas, which was a fabulous alternative to Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks or creamed tuna on toast—Grandma’s answer to meatless Friday’s until, thank goodness, she had an epiphany and began making pizza. Chinese food never crossed my lips until I met Dad.

Occasionally, the seven of us would pile into EVA-179 (our station wagon) for a night out on the town. We would go to either Paul’s Diner or the Reservoir Tavern. There were no toppings on our pies. No Siree! I’m not even sure if toppings were an option way back then. The dinner that was delivered to our table consisted of delicious slide-off-the-crust cheese pizza accompanied by a few pitchers of birch beer.

Before McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s stormed into the area, a little-known burger joint known as Wetsons set up shop on Route 46 in Pine Brook, situated on the present site of Wendy’s—across from Gencarelli’s. Wetsons served fifteen cent hamburgers and ten-cent fries, and although we did not go often, it was a cheap alternative, particularly when we went shopping in the area. I believe McDonald’s and Burger King were responsible for the eventual demise of Wetsons.

I recall one very special lunch with Grandma. I am not certain if it was to celebrate a birthday or possibly my acceptance to college, but I vividly remember the restaurant. It was, to me, a very fancy schmancy place called the Hearthstone Inn. It was located on Route 46 in Parsippany (a real happening place compared to Main Street Boonton) on the current site of Fudruckers.

The occasion was memorable because it was an outing with just the two of us, which was unheard of growing up in a family of five children.  But what made the luncheon a historic event for me happened when the server came to our table and asked for our drink order. Without skipping a beat, Grandma looked him in the eye and asked for two whiskey sours. I definitely was not eighteen yet, which was the drinking legal age at the time. I was no more than seventeen, but I may have been sixteen. I knew I had to act casual—no giggling or cheering, which could have revealed the deception. So I remained calm and enjoyed my first illegal drink. Grandma was a rebel!