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Back in New Jersey: week two
by Susan Rienzo
Friday, October 23, 2009

New Jersey
New Jersey
photo courtesy of the State of NJ

I’ve now been in New Jersey for over a week, which means my accent has returned so strongly that I probably won’t be understood back in Arizona. You know what I’m tawkin’ about? Huh?

Being back here is like visiting Disneyworld, except instead of rides, the attractions are things you see only in Jersey, like Teamsters’ halls and diners which try to outdo each other in opulence. And instead of go-carts, there are unlit New Jersey highways, which is especially fun when playing "dodge the deer". I’d really like to know why the streets here are so dark. Even if the road is a newer one with streetlights, half of them are out. Is that to conserve energy or is someone in the DPW sleeping on the job?

It’s probably the latter because the state’s residents do not seem particularly concerned about the environment. For instance, the people who burn scrap wood stained with chemically loaded varnish in their fire pits. Or at our hotel, where there was a serious plumbing issue. I’ve never had to work so hard to get a hot shower. (In fact, sometimes I lost the battle and took an ice cold one. I guess that’s not bad in a way since a lot of New Jersey men could use a cold shower on a regular basis.) But when an inquiry was made to the hotel staff about the hot water situation, they said, “Oh, just let it run for about 15 minutes first. That should work.” You could practically be incarcerated for that in the desert!

Another amusing activity is “New Jersey drivers vs. pedestrians”. I had to do a quick delve into my deepest memory to remember how to avoid being run over. The good thing is, when backing out of a parking space it’s not as much of a worry here as in Arizona that someone will blithely walk behind the car as though they are indestructible.

And the other day at a red light, I heard a car horn honk the moment the light turned green, allowing not even one nanosecond of reaction time for the first car to move. Actually it was kind of impressive.

Of course no visit to New Jersey would be complete without a stop in “the city”. On Sunday we resurrected an old tradition by taking the Holland Tunnel into Little Italy for pastry and shopping on Canal Street for knockoffs.

For anyone who’s never had this experience, here’s a little synopsis of the way it goes down. After you spend $8 to get through the tunnel (twice as much as it cost when we lived here) and about $50 to park your car for two hours, you then proceed to recoup that money by negotiating savings on designer-inspired jewelry and accessories. Expect vendors to descend upon you whispering into your ear names like Chanel, Gucci, Rolex, and Coach. If you show the slightest interest, they will lead you somewhere. Just follow, it’s okay. They’ll take you through a locked door to a small shop which, to the inexperienced, appears to contain only a few scarves. But under one of those scarves is a key. And that key unlocks another door hidden in a wall. And behind that door is a roomful of the good stuff. It’s like being in a candy store, but a lot scarier.

Once you leave that store, expect to be swarmed by more merchants with watches and jewelry under their coats, and bags full of cheap bootleg DVD’s.

My husband Jimmie had never really experienced Canal Street before and kept looking at me as though I were leading him to the hidden store in the infamous “Pulp Fiction” scene.

But he readjusted to the Arizona life pretty quickly. Upon picking up the car at Sky Harbor, he remarked that it cost more than he thought to park there for seven days. When asked how much he expected it would be, he replied, “Twenty dollars?”

You can take the boy out of Arizona, but you can’t take Arizona out of the boy.


Originally published on

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