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Things you can learn in New Jersey
by Susan Rienzo
Saturday, October 31, 2009

After ten days or so spent in New Jersey for a family wedding, it takes nearly a week to recover well enough from my bagel-induced stupor to write (or speak) coherently.  But here it is, the moment readers have been waiting for: the final recap of my trip back to the "homeland". 
The Wedding
  • New Jersey weddings are incredible. There is nothing like them.  From the beautiful old cathedrals to the New York Giants ice sculptures to the vodka luges, they’re over the top.
  • In case you don’t know what a vodka luge is, it’s an ice sculpture (a non-Giants one) with a hole at the top into which one pours vodka which then comes out the bottom into a glass or a waiting mouth. I’m not sure what the point it, but I can tell you one thing: stay at least fifteen feet away from them. I now know from painful experience that the combination of vodka consumption, slippery ice, and reaching up to pour bottles at awkward angles is a dangerous one. If someone should happen to break a bottle and the flying glass grazes a leg, there will be blood. (For the record, I was not the drunken dropper but the innocent victim standing in the wrong place at the wrong time).
  • I can still dance like a madwoman for four solid hours, half that time in heels. Fortunately a proper wedding host/hostess will provide flip flops in a variety of colors for the ladies who want to “de-heel”.
  • A great band costs about $1000 per member, even if they can’t play Devo’s “Whip It!”. For four hours’ work, that’s about the same hourly fee a lawyer gets, but you’re paying for a whole legal team at once. It’s a good thing that for this price they can at least play “Mony Mony”.
The Weather
  • October can be freaking cold and can actually produce snow. 
  • There is a word for the thick haze that’s not quite cloudy, not quite misty and not quite dark. However, when this word is not used for years at a time, it apparently disappears from one’s memory bank. I learned this while struggling to describe it until my brother-in-law said, “It’s called fog, remember?”
On the Road
  • New Jersey roads are notorious for being poorly lit. So it’s fortunate that, unlike the word fog, the skill of driving with “brights”-and continuously turning them on and off for approaching vehicles-returns quickly when the need arises.
  • When waiting in a line of cars for the sole gas station attendant to get to you, it is extremely difficult to control oneself from jumping out of the car and beginning to pump one’s own gas. I mean, the nozzle is right there! What’s the real harm?
Family and Friends
  • Friends who have known you forever can make the years melt away when they remember a favorite story like it was yesterday and not twenty years ago.
  • Only your cousins can get away with repeatedly saying, “I forgot how short you are!” even though they are well under five and a half feet tall themselves.
Other Stuff
  • The Miley Cyrus hit “Party in the U.S.A.” has been customized for all radio stations across the country, and was not written especially for Johnjay and Rich.
  • It appears that movie marquees in New York and New Jersey will now post birthday wishes upon request. There is no film coming out with the title “Happy Birthday Mary Rose”.
  • The friendly/unfriendly ratio has shifted to approximately 75/25, with the state being decidedly friendlier than it used to be. (I hope it’s not because I moved). Even though waitresses still spit out the list of specials fast enough to make even a native’s head spin, there are people there who will talk just to make conversation. Even while de-planing, I came across a gentleman who tried to guess if my wearing Uggs boots in October meant I was from Arizona or New Jersey. I began to explain the whole complicated issue of where I was "from", but when he commented on how amazing it was that I was short enough to fit beneath the overhead bin, I felt no compulsion to finish that explanation. 
And he wasn’t even a relative.

Originally published on

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