I spent the first 8.5 years of my life in New Jersey. It's where I learned to walk, talk and shit - which is more or less how many outsiders view The Garden State. To them, Jersey is the smelly armpit of New York, where waste management occurs, where the Jersey Shore is a bad MTV joke and the Governor is a bit too large for life. For those of us who grew up there, we know differently. First of all, there's North Jersey, Central Jersey, South Jersey (where I'm from) and the Shore. Take it from an original Jersey boy -- it matters what exit, and do you get NY or Philly TV stations? Aside from our territorial divide, us natives proudly carry a brazen badge of collective honor that's quite different than the torch raised by the alumni from other states.
As Bruce Springsteen so matter-of-factly sings in Born to Run, the state's official theme song, we're "pulling out of here to win." We're a bunch of small-town overachievers, fighters and dreamers. Yes, we've got The Boss leading us to The Promised Land -- but, also riding out with us are 'Ole Blue Eyes- - Frank Sinatra, genius Albert Einstein, the coolest sweat hog - John Travolta (aka Vinnie Barbarino) and the original Captain Jack -- Jack Nicholson. You know what else all these Jersey Boys have in common besides their zip codes? They're all members of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. That's right, the little state that can has its own Hall of Fame.
On Thursday night, at the Asbury Park Convention Center, the NJ HOF inducts its latest group -- an esteemed and diverse pack that includes the late Sopranos star James Gandolfini, NBC's Brian Williams, jazz legend and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, basketball great Patrick Ewing, former governor James Florio, and 19th century labor leader Peter J. McGuire. Previous years saw Thomas Edison, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Douglas, Joe Pesci, Danny DeVito and Frankie Valli enter. No, the Jersey Hall is not composed entirely of men. After all, singer Tom Waits immortalized Jersey women with his song - "Jersey Girl" - which Springsteen subsequently covered, further romanticizing women from "across the river."
Top Jersey gals going in this year include The Shirelles, chef Alice Waters, writer Dorothy Parker and suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Maud Dahme, a Holocaust survivor and longtime Holocaust educator, will be honored as an "unsung hero." Singers Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston hail from Jersey too, and yes, they're already in the Hall.
So, we got a lot of singers and actors? You got a problem with that? You know what else we got? Immigrants. By the boat load -- literally. The first immigrants who came to America passed through Ellis Island, which is in New Jersey. That makes Lady Liberty officially a Jersey girl!
But, back to the boys for a moment.
When Jersey's Jon Stewart delivered his rousing tribute to Springsteen at the Kennedy Center Honors a few years back, his speech was as much about the pride of Jersey as it was about The Boss.
Bruce, himself, perfectly captured the spirit of New Jersey when he inducted DeVito into the Jersey Hall back in 2010.
You see, all Jersey Boys are kindred spirits -- forever, united and proud. New Jersey is our hometown.
Maybe, it's something in our blood that allows us to dream bigger. Or perhaps, it's in the water -- literally. One of the lesser known things about New Jersey is that there is an abundant amount of natural fluoride in the drinking water. Jersey water builds strong teeth - as evidence, I've only had one small cavity my entire life. Strong teeth - strong will. That's Jersey.
Yo! I'm from Jersey and damn proud of it! It's Facebook official too.
For more on this year's ceremony and the New Jersey Hall of Fame visit the Hall's website. http://njhalloffame.org