My friend/Dickensian benefactor Sean loves introducing me to people as “Alison, our friend from Minnesota.” Which I have mixed feelings about. I haven’t LIVED in Minnesota for the past year, having moved to Evanston, IL for college and then deciding to spend my summer in New York. I’m so confused about which place to say that my Twitter bio says “NY via CHI via MINN” because I couldn’t choose.
I’m not ashamed of Minnesota; I’m proud of being from Bloomington, MN and think it was a great place to grow up, even though I never want to live there as an adult. I’ve had my fill of it, and prefer to be fond of it from afar and revel in the occasional visit.
As much as I love Minnesota, sometimes I wish I were from the east coast. Being from the there seems to (in my anecdotal experience) result in a limited sense of the world outside the region, as well as an undue attachment to passive-aggression. “Minnesota nice” is mostly just “passive-aggressive.” As a pretty blunt person who doesn’t do subtlety well, this has often led to awkward situations.
Chicago is immune to some of that "Midwest culture," but the city itself isn't a very good place to grow up. And the suburbs are all fairly interchangeable with the Twin Cities suburbs I'm escaping from.
Anyway, last night Sean introduced me as such to one of his friends who started asking me what I thought about Minnesota. He said “if I could choose a different state to grow up in, I’d probably pick Minnesota.”
Of course I asked “where are you from?”
Well what a crazy random happenstance that was.
Friends, I am an unabashed New Jersey enthusiast. I’m not being ironic there, I think New Jersey is awesome. This has mostly evolved from my love for WFMU, a free-form radio station located in Jersey City. You can listen to it on your radio if you live in the area, but mostly I listen online and through the archives. I’m a die-hard fan of The Best Show on WFMU, hosted by Tom Scharpling, who has lived in New Jersey for the majority of his life. He frequently talks about the state, from the Pinball Museum at Asbury Park to the legacy of great punk bands it can claim.
Last weekend, I went to New Jersey for the first time, and it felt weirdly spiritual. I went to a show at Maxwell’s, a beloved rock club in Hoboken that unfortunately closed its doors on July 31. I’d heard stories of Maxwell’s for years, and I was very lucky to be able to attend a show there before it closed.
The show I went to was a WFMU live broadcast, so I got to work the room and meet a bunch of the DJs in person. I occasionally found myself saying, “Y’know, this is my first time in New Jersey. It’s really exciting.”
People mostly thought I was joking, or making fun of them. People from all over the country, but especially New York, tend to treat Jersey as a punchline. I had to add, “No, really. I have so much love and respect for this state.” Which is true.
I love most people from New Jersey, and appreciate the “Bad News Bears” kind of culture that emanates from it. Jersey is accustomed to people writing it off, and uses that as a motivator. That’s part of why it can claim so many great punk musicians, because that hard-scrabble mentality is what punk is all about. Even Newark, which is regarded as the Detroit of the east coast, is coming back with one of the best mayors in America at the helm, Cory Booker.
(I know it’s possible that I’m ascribing too much meaning/sunny optimism to my view of New Jersey, OK? But whatever, that’s the point of the piece.)
If I were not from Minnesota, I’d definitely want to be from New Jersey.
Have you ever felt drawn to a state that you’ve never lived in? Not just like as a sweet vacation spot but on a deeper level? Or is this all kind of silly?