“How’s the armpit of America?” a dear friend facetiously asked in an email while I was in New Jersey.
Now, I cannot confirm or refute whether the rest of New Jersey is deserving of being an “armpit”, though I had my suspicions when I got off a train in Seacaucous, took an unfortunate deep breath of air, and subsequently turned and remarked to Carolyn, “Wow, that’s pretty foul…” She explained that this area was, essentially, built on top of a swamp. The surrounding water did look really nasty. Furthermore, landfills in this area are completely overflowing, creating some garbage headaches for the entire region…
But in any case, I am pleased to report that Montclair, New Jersey, is quite nice! Carolyn lives here, and as she sometimes has to walk home pretty late at night, I was glad it at least felt like a safe place. Indeed, crime statistics show that crime rates here are significantly lower than the national average. Here are other impressions of this town of ~40,000 people:
The neighborhoods were well-kept and pretty upscale. Classic, older homes replete with airy porches or entryway columns were landscaped with lush lawns and neatly manicured bushes, while tall, full-bodied trees lined the sidewalks that could have been built a couple of centuries ago. Good thing because shade is certainly welcome here in August—it can get quite hot (temperatures were mostly in the high 80s and low 90s when I was there) and is usually accompanied by high humidity. All in all the Montclair neighborhoods kind of reminded me of some Norman Rockwell paintings.
“Montclair” means “bright mountain” in French. Not sure if this is an appropriate name for it since I’m not sure what bright mountain is alluded to here (Montclair didn’t seem too hilly?)
Downtown was pretty clean too (except for the bus stops on some streets) and has a movie theatre, some ethnic restaurants (we went to Mazullo’s for lunch for Italian, and I thought the food was good), and shops. Life seems a whole lot saner here than New York City, which is just a half-hour bus ride away.
Of course, real estate anywhere near New York is pretty expensive, though how expensive Montclair is, I’m not sure.
Notable residents include Yogi Berra (of New York Yankees fame) and Stephen Colbert (of The Daily Show). Lots of films and TV shows were filmed here, including Analyze This, Ed, and The Sopranos.
All in all Montclair was not a bad town, and should not be called “an armpit”. About the rest of New Jersey, maybe someone else can provide his or her impressions. : )
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