Friday, June 28, 2013

Dirty Little Secret? Jersey's Mixed Bag

East of the Delaware, there's a tight-lipped secret. Water, industry, sand, alcohol, Pine Barrens, history, fish and family mix together on the higher tides, and find their way into the minds of outsiders when the flow washes out. It can feel like an unregulated collapse of the social and natural worlds. But, I believe, there's order to this chaos.

Where other states work night and day to play teacher's pet--pumping pamphlets and promos about themselves, their this-and-thats, their sights and sounds, one stands alone in its resistance to fight such a silly battle. One state, by keeping quiet, receives the discursive trash. It accepts the stereotypes, the stigma, the put-downs, and the misconceptions. That's all alright...'cause it's full. The doors are only open because these doors are the kind that can't be shut. So you can wander in, but why would you? After all, you've heard the tales, seen the shows, and you're not interested.

There's the absurd vocal mimicry--"Get a kup of kwawfee!" "Put your shoe on, Shoown!" "Have a noice daaii!", there's the "real" (crazy) housewives, the casino capitalism of a phony-haired robber-baron that spawned a ridiculously impractical board game, the sasquatch that inspired a hockey team, the thousands of ghosts of prohibition-era territory wars, the pollution, and let's not forget about those gelled-hair hotties who tan their way down the shore. 

I've got news, and it's good, if you're like me: All of that is just what Jersey wants you think. Jersey don't fight back (make no mistake, the men and some of the women WILL FIGHT YOU BACK) against those thoughts because it knows something you don't. Even after Sandy--which ironically is a word that describes what all the waves look like right now due to beach restoration projects--the fish still swim in Jersey. There are so many fish. Striped bass, bluefish, flounder, weakfish, just to name the inshore slam glam... And they, like their human cohabitants, could care less if you're there. But if you show up, and you cause a stir, they will fight you. Thank goodness they will fight you. Because if you're here, you're here to fight. And someone has to end up with a bloody nose. 

The fishermen of the Jersey Shore have it good. No, it's not a fish on every cast--at least not on this tide, but maybe in an hour or two when it turns around. Tonight a worm hatch, tomorrow a shrimp hatch. When the world is convinced your backyard has nothing to offer, there's just more room for you to run around. And Jersey doesn't mind keeping it that way. 

And when you damned curious folks (like me) do persevere in your quest to stick your nose in their business, to find out if all those things are true, if they really talk funny, if their wives are "real" or crazy or have a name more appropriate for a Gulf Coast gamefish than a Yankee "gweedette," Jersey has a subtle strategy. On your way to the water, you'll have to get through the food--the hot, fresh, soft pretzels, the cheesesteaks, the cannoli's, the powder cream donuts, the sticky buns, the Italian ices, the saltwater taffy, and--oh my god--the pizza...

With so many obstacles, good luck finding the fish. Ooops...I mean, "there are no fish here." Just stay home, wherever that is. 

[P.S. If you go to NJ and want to uncover its secrets, I highly recommend Capt. Joe Hughes of Jersey Cape Guide Service. Read his reports here.]

1 comment:

  1. Pizza selection also well known as the favorite of your grandmother, my mother Mary Jane Wargny, God bless her, and 723,654,978 others at latest count! Brad