My favorite things New Jersey

1. Music: There is Count Basie, Lauryn Hill (download "I Just Want You Around"), Paul Robeson, and Deborah Harry’s best songs; my favorite is the reggae-inspired "The Tide is High."  Paul Simon was born in New Jersey, and of course there is sax player Wayne Shorter.  Even at age 44, I’m still not into Frank Sinatra.  Bruce Springsteen I now find mostly unlistenable (monotonous rhythm sections), but parts of Born to Run still send a thrill through my heart.

2. Author: Philip Roth is the obvious pick, but I prefer Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost, a neglected masterpiece, and the first half of his Executioner’s Song.  Stephen Crane is from the state, but somehow he doesn’t count in my eyes as a New Jerseyan.  Mencken had the bottom line on James Fenimore Cooper.

3. TV show: Duh.  I still don’t get the appeal of The Wire; for obvious biographical reasons, I’d rather watch white New Jerseyans kill each other than black Baltimoreans.

4. Poet: William Carlos Williams, here is a quickie poem.

5. Comic: Jason Alexander, by far the funniest guy on that show.  Bud Abbott is another pick.  James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) can be funny when they let him.

6. Director: Steven Spielberg, AI is about how morally superficial people can be; Sugarland Express and Close Encounters (director’s cut) are other favorites of many.  There is also Brian de Palma, his best film is the Hitchcockean Dressed to Kill.

7. Non-fiction writer.  John McPhee has raised the bar for all of us.

8. Painter: Jacob Lawrence, especially the early works.  There is also George Inness, who painted Montclair, and Ben Shahn, here is my favorite of his.

9. Sculptor: George Segal I am not so fond of, but otherwise I draw a blank.

10. Economist: Milton Friedman.

11. Movie, set in: Here is a list, plus there is Clerks and other Kevin Smith creations, not to mention Big (Tom Hanks) and Buckeroo Bonzai.  I opt for Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.  What else am I missing?

12. Mom: Mine.

The bottom line: Too obvious to state.

The second bottom line: Population density is a wonderful thing.

Comments

'my favorite is the reggae-inspired "The Tide is High." '

More than reggae-inspired - the song was written and first performed by the Paragons, a rocksteady trio from Jamaica. See http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:6gjteau24xk7

How can anyone like a state with Jug Handles, too many tool roads, and no self-service gasoline?

the wire -- what is there not to get? it's the best show ever made!

Having grown up here and lived for eight years in northern New Jersey, I can say that population density is indeed a wonderful thing. However, it's simultaneously an awful thing. I found NJ to be very nearly as foreign as Germany, where I'd been living for the previous year on a post-doc.

Uhh ... an NJ-native foodie writes about our home state and doesn't even mention diners?

Tyler, where did you grow up?

I'm from Teaneck (Bergen County).

Trey Anastasio is from New Jersey. So is Derek Jeter and Jim Bouton.

Bergen County, Hillsdale.

On food, what about Kearny fish and chips!

On Springsteen, I don't listen much at all nowadays, but not because I wouldn't enjoy it if I did. He's one of the all-time great, and will pass the durability test with flying colors.

Montgomery Burns is from New Jersey? Wow.

No Bon Jovi?!?

Paul Robeson was not an anti-semite, though his silence on the persecution of Jewish intellectuals in Stalinist Russia and his overall support of Josef Stalin merit him some condemnation.

Museum: Newark Museum. Jaw dropping collection of Tibetan art.

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