Sunday, June 18, 2006

Let New Jersey be New Jersey

I'm just back from the Land of Baked Ziti. I attended a bat mitzvah and the ziti flowed like wine.* The wine, on the other hand, didn't flow much. I'd venture to say that there was more call for Diet Coke than wine, this being a largely Jewish affair.

There was a little problem with the steam table. The host and hostess had determined that the covers would not be raised on the hot food until the Bat Mitzvah girl had lit candles for all the relatives and friends, and one or two for World Peace. But an old gent came up to these tempting covered containers, opened them, and got a plate upon which he placed his food, in contravention to the intentions of the party of the first part, the host. One of the banquet managers hovered over him, trying to get him to go away and wait for his food, but he paid no attention to her. It would have taken an Act of Congress to stop him. So she didn't--just wrung her hands.

The MC spent three hours screaming at the top of his lungs and the disc jockey turned up the amps, to the immense gratification of everyone present, except me. When my ears started bleeding, I inserted earplugs. They helped some.

But it was a nice family occasion. The youngest was about two, the oldest were some of those aunts and uncles who come out of mothballs on occasions like this. They can't hear anyway, so what's loud music and screaming MCs to them? They sit together and talk about their doctors, their medications and their rheumatism. I can foresee joining this group one day soon.

The loud noise did something to my brain, much as repeated hammering with a baseball bat applied to the skull. It made me feel tired. Even dazed.

I stopped for gas in New Jersey, and someone else pumped gas for me. It was heavenly. I don't care if the guy was an illegal alien--he cleaned my windshield too. Gov Corzine wanted to allow--make that compel--New Jerseyans to pump their own, but there was such as outcry he backed off.

Now comes my poem:

I think that I shall never see
A refinery as boring as a tree.


I mean it too. The refineries along the turnpike call to mind Carl Sandberg's "Hog butcher to the world." Not that New Jersey is a hog butcher (neither is Chicago any more), but the coarse vitality of these tanks and smokestacks is interesting and impressive.

Not so the crappy, boring trees planted along the lower parts of the highway, no doubt to "beautify" it. The trees appear to be all of the same species and the same height. They are uninteresting trees, good enough for government work perhaps, but you would never cherish a tree like that on your property. The land is extremely flat too, adding to the sense of tedium. If they hadn't planted the trees, perhaps there would be a glimpse of farmland or even a warehouse to entertain the eye.

Driving through this featureless forest, I kept feeling my eyelids droop. I stopped for coffee so I wouldn't fall asleep and run into an 18-wheeler.

A word about the drivers in New Jersey. They are aggressive, they drive fast, but they are good drivers generally. Delaware drivers would be killed within a week, if they drove like that in good old NJ.

Delaware drivers! I'll get to them later.

*It's illegal for more than 20 people to get together if they don't serve baked ziti. The authorities are very strict about this.

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