Friday, July 15, 2011

The Garbage State

New Jersey, that is. Rather than The Garden State, which is optimistically emblazoned on New Jersey license states, New Yorkers know it as The Garbage State.

In 1954 the State Governor refused to sign a bill to add 'Garden State' to NJ license plates (it passed anyway), because "New Jersey is noted for its great strides in manufacturing, mining, commerce, construction, power, transportation, shipping, merchandising, fishing and recreation, as well as in agriculture. I do not believe that the average citizen of New Jersey regards his state as more peculiarly identifiable with gardening for farming than any of its other industries or occupations."

He was right about the garden bit. But as for fishing and recreation, that was lost on the rest of the world too. The Garbage State has stuck. To be fair, it's not as damning a nickname as it sounds: it's just that most of NYC's rubbish gets sent to NJ for disposal.

I tried to keep an open mind about New Jersey. From what I see, gazing across the Hudson from the top of Rabbit Hutch Towers, it doesn't look so terrible. A mixture of sailing boats and tall buildings facing the water, some trees, a bit of marshland: nothing looks trashy from this distance. Plus I know some smart people who go to the beaches there on vacation. And I saw the film, Garden State, in which Natalie Portman is charmingly kooky against a backdrop of suburban greenery.

And yet...

I have just spent two days in New Jersey courtesy of  Big Corp. Let me tell you, from the pylons of Newark and the relentless concrete of the New Jersey Turnpike, to the sprawl of Piscataway, Edison, and a dozen other connected towns that look just like Slough - it aint no garden.

I think the state marketing team should give up on Garden State. A better branding opportunity arose when Domino's Pizza pulled their sponsorship of MTV's Jersey Shore - claiming it was demeaning to Guidos and Guidettes. I don't know about that. Those drunk, partying, fighting, Jersey folk make their state look like an absolute blast. If a little trashy.

Guess there's no escaping that Garbage State nickname after all.

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