New Jersey Hometown

The area of New Jersey I grew up in isn’t colloquially known as The Socio-Economic Smorgasbord of the East Coast because you’ll choke trying to get the entire phrase out, but it is an accurate accolade.

I grew up in a mostly-white, middle-class Jewish neighborhood. Hassidic temple-migrations every Saturday, largely working-class, high property taxes, in the foothills of Appalachia. Ten minutes up the road and the hills are even more wooded, leaving the working-class for million dollar estates. This is also mostly-white. Go ten minutes the other direction, downtown flattens out, the lots are smaller, lower- to lower-middle class, less Jews, more Irish and Italians and Hispanics, respectively-styled eateries everywhere. Ten more minutes to the mini-urban area of Hispanic¬†immigrants, day laborers and empanadas, World’s best Chinese food, and pizza. Another ten minutes east – massive Indian IT community. Ten minutes west – blue-collar back-hills with lots of spare truck parts and mechanical know-how.

Junior year of high school the morning announcements included the miraculous milestone of Hispanics inching out Europeans for biggest ethnic group. Walk to my locker in high school, nothing but Spanish.

There’s a pizzeria owned a Hungarian family, another by a Portuguese family, another by a Peruvian couple.

The area lost a lot of houses during the Recession. Those who had the most trouble paying property taxes were the first to go, and the people who are buying these foreclosed homes are doubling, even tripling the sizes of the homes. The poorest are being pushed out, the richer moving in. Smack in the center of New Jersey, it’s still hills and woods and blue-collar from fifty years ago when the area had nothing but mines and quarries. There’s still a rifle range in the basement of the high school.

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