I was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, in 1945, which makes me first and forever a Jersey girl. New Jersey has great beaches, a bevy of lakes in the northern part of the state, and the pine barrens in the south. The state has a surprising amount of agriculture: Jersey sweet corn and tomatoes are legendary at farm markets in the summer. New Jersey’s reputation suffers from terrible traffic, a rolling financial crisis, some of the most dysfunctional urban centers in the country like Camden and Paterson, the oil refineries in Secaucus that make the place stink for miles around, and former governor Chris Christie.
One of the great HBO series of all time, the Sopranos, was filmed in Kearny — where I lived growing up and where Tony’s crew conducted their business out of Sartriales Pork Store on Kearny Avenue — and in West Caldwell, where Tony and his family supposedly lived. In one great and very funny episode, Carmela Soprano confronts a huge black bear meandering around their swimming pool and threatening her son A.J. She chases the bear away by clanging pots — apparently a typically successful and recommended strategy.
Black bears in New Jersey? Turns out the state has, according to writer John McPhee, “the most urban, the most sophisticated, and the most reproductively fruitful of bears.”
Who could ever imagine that its bear population is New Jersey’s claim to fame? 🙂