Whenever I tell people that I live in New Jersey I get the following response: "oh". It's a short, flat sound that is usually followed by some sound like "mmhph". What they really mean, and really want to say is: "You poor, sad person. You lived in Manhattan for 15 years... have you lost you mind??"
Then they ask me where I live in New Jersey and I say: Montclair. Their response changes dramatically. It's now: "ohhh", an almost multi-syllable sound with a lift at the end that shows they recognize something as good. They've heard of Montclair. It's a leafy green oasis in a desert of highways, tarmac and goombas. It's the "Upper West Side of NJ". Maybe Graham isn't insane.
Truth is, I love the burbs and I love parts of New Jersey. I did live in Manhattan for a long time but the pressures of raising two kids in the city (Harry is 6 and Vivian is 2) was a little much. The kids loved it but Vivian slept in our closet for god's sake. We joke that she'll grow up to be a fashion designed because her earliest memories will be of clothes. Granted, it's not a good joke but what do you want, we're parents and just not that cool.
But moving to New Jersey has definitely changed my life and that's what I'll be chronicling in this blog. Will my life turn into an Ice Storm-like reality with key parties and angst-ridden children? Or will life in the suburbs become some kind of bland nightmarish 50sLeave It To Beaver existence? Who knows. The Ice Storm version might be more fun in the short term but at the end of the day I'd prefer Leave It To Beaver.
I'll sign off with a quick Q&A to address some basic issues of living in Montclair, NJ:
How's the commute?
Real estate agents and NJ-boosters are going to try and tell you that the commute is 30 minutes. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. This is a little lie that we tell ourselves makes the pain of commuting go away. It's about an hour door to door. That's the truth. But the good thing is there are many commuting options. 1) The bus. My wife is a huge fan of the bus. It picks you up on the corner and blasts through the express lanes on Route 3 and the Lincoln Tunnel to drop you off at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street. I guess I'm just a snob but I'm not really feeling the bus commute, that's why I take option 2) The Train. NJ Transit has its faults (and they are many) but the train to Hoboken is generally pretty good and you can get a lot of work done in the new quiet cars (those are located in the front and back of the train and any noise is met with violent repression). You can also take the train to Penn Station but I work downtown and the Hoboken express is now my favorite commuting option. Then there is 3) Driving. This just doesn't seem like a viable option to me but there are thousands of people who do it everyday so maybe I should gas up the Subaru Outback (yes, it's gotten that bad) and give it a shot.
Either way, you're looking at about an hour and it's going to be messy. Deal with it.
How are the schools?
Awesome. My son is in kindergarten and he has 5 teachers for a class of 24. And it's free. In my old neighborhood in Manhattan there are people that pay $35k a year for pre-school. These people are called bankers and can easily afford it so don't cry for them.
Is it like the Sopranos?
Not really but the final scene of the series was filmed down the street from my house at a place called Holsten's Brookdale Confectionery in Bloomfield. I like to point that out to out-of-town guests for some reason.
Have you met Snooki?
No. But I have friends at MTV who say she is a wonderful person.
What exit do you live on?
I honestly don't know what that means. Are you talking about the Garden State Parkway? If so, then it's exit 151.
Do I like it here? Yes. Am I glad I moved out of the city? Totally. Am I going to go out and buy a satin tracksuit and gold chain? Not now, but give me a couple of years and I could totally be rockin' that look.
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