Where the hell is Central Jersey?
I was all set to write about a bunch of other things when I came upon a story I read that legislators from the great State of New Jersey have passed a bill to encourage tourism in the State and officially divide the state into three regions – Northern Jersey, Southern Jersey, and believe it or not, Central Jersey.
What actually constitutes Central Jersey? Well, according to this legislation, it is made up of Union, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Mercer, Somerset, and Hunterdon Counties. So the great debate of whether or not Central Jersey actually exists will be put to rest?
So where is Central Jersey and how do you get there? And how do you know you are there?
Depending on where you go in New Jersey, not only do you feel like you are in a different state, but sometimes you can feel like you are in a different country. The landscape is different. The culture is different. The people are different.
There are a lot of places in the United States where the view from your car window can change drastically. But take a drive on any of the roads that bisect the great State of New Jersey.
From north to south there are the obvious – the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway – both of which are so familiar that the locals often communicate their residence by the exit number they live closest to. And then there is good old U.S. Highway 1. It still goes the entire distance from the edge of Maine to the tip of Key West, and cuts through many familiar and unfamiliar towns in New Jersey.
From east to west there are I-80, I-78 in the northern part of the state, U.S. 30 in the southern part of the state. There is also I-295 that is the southern part of the state. But no major road that cuts through “Central Jersey” except for the infamous I-287 which doesn’t bisect anything…it just takes you on a long and winding wild ride from the end of the Outerbridge Crossing in Perth Amboy (in Middlesex County) up to Route 17 in Bergen County near the State’s northwestern border. So that doesn’t count.
But what are you missing in the picturesque Central Jersey?
Sure, there are many historical landmarks. There are a number of Revolutionary War battlefields and sites from colonial times in Trenton in Mercer County and Freehold in Monmouth County. How about Thomas Edison’s laboratory in Edison in Middlesex County or the Nathaniel Drake House in Plainfield in Union County?
Having some roots in Miami, I was always impressed by the concept of the 305 (taken from the telephone company’s area code) marketing initiative used to promote the Miami-Dade County area. So why not start a 732 campaign for Central Jersey? I know, I know, there is still that 908 stuck in there, and, oh yeah, some 973’s and, oh geez, perhaps even some 201’s still hanging in there. So that ain’t gonna work.
What’s the appeal? What is going to draw people to Central Jersey? The opening segment to The Sopranos gives a fairly good glimpse into the sites when you visit this great state.
If you fly into Newark Liberty Airport, which is in Elizabeth (Central Jersey) not Newark (Northern Jersey) you can get a bird’s eye view of the shipping containers in the global seascape of Port of Elizabeth in Union County. Who wouldn’t want to venture out to this worldwide-dependent port of entry for imported goods?
For a scenic view of the Garden State, stick to the highway that carries its name. For most of the way in Central Jersey, you will be see the forest for the trees….well…you will see trees. Until you get to the Raritan River, and then you will see the majestic view of industrial towers and smokestacks, and the Edgeboro Landfill off in the distance. And if you don’t see it, you WILL smell it. Oh…it’s there alright.
If you want to enjoy the waterfront, and take a walk along the beach, there’s easy access to Laurence Harbor in Old Bridge – the Gateway to the Jersey Shore. Beware…you might want to heed the warnings of the signs posted, though, with some areas closed due to an exorbitant amount of toxic waste. I have seen plenty of people wading in the waters right next to the closed areas of beach, swimming and fishing. I mean…they went in as people…and came out as mutants.
I know it can be exciting to visit Central Jersey. My friend Mike came in from Miami some time ago and, as we were driving through Sayreville, asked me to stop and take a picture of him with then Sayreville Mayor John McCormack who just happened to be raking leaves on his front lawn. Wooooo…exciting. I mean, I love John McCormack but it wasn’t like he was meeting New York’s Mayors Ed Koch or Rudy Guiliani. It’s Sayreville.
Oh…yeah…Sayreville…in addition to being the boyhood home of the one, and only, Alan Karmin, it is the boyhood home of that other guy named Jon Bon Jovi. You can visit that monument not far off the Garden State Parkway (Exit 124 on the southbound side). There’s no marker there, by the way, just ask one of the locals living on the street and they can either point you in the right direction or give you the classic eye roll.
Central Jersey…stay tuned for the launch of the Alan Karmin Reality Bus Tour.