I grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey. Even though some call it America's armpit, I liked it, mainly because it was close to Manhattan. The bus I took to high school was an NYC commuter bus and sometimes I didn't get off at school, but went in to the city and got a different sort of education. In fact, my school was so close to Washington Heights that the stoners would make "city runs" during lunch, crossing the George Washington Bridge to score pot and beer.
And New Yorkers hated us. Bridge and tunnel people, they called us. New Jersey was--and I assume still is--the butt of countless jokes. But I never understood why city dwellers felt the need to deride Jersey so much. New Yorkers live in one of the greatest cities in the world, so why bother putting down their neighbors? Why prove or assert superiority? It's like the big bully in school picking on the skinny nerd.
Anyway, when I was growing up, we went to the shore every summer. My grandmother lived in Tom's River so we stayed with her and went to Seaside Heights. Which just happens to be the setting of the new MTV reality show, Jersey Shore.
Full disclaimer: I've only seen about 30 minutes of the show. But that was enough. Fuller disclaimer: As a kid, I loved Seaside Heights. The beach was kinda dirty and cops patrolled the boardwalk, but my brother, sister and I went on the rides while my parents played the games of chance. We always came home with stuffed animals, a new toaster oven and cartons of cigarettes.
Critics say the characters on Jersey Shore are ethnic stereotypes, that they defame Italian Americans, er, guidos, I mean. That's probably true--but that's what all reality tv shows do. Duh! Plus, these people exist. I went to high school with them. Some of them are even my relatives--by marriage. MTV didn't make them up.
Even way back in the eighties when guido was an epithet, the Italian Americans of Hackensack (and especially South Hackensack) were proud of their hair and hair-care products--keeping combs in the back pockets of their Sergio Valentes to maintain their feathered coif. And they were proud of their muscles and muscle T-shirts and smooth olive skin that looked pretty awesome with a tan. They were proud to wear their gold Italian horn necklaces. Looks like they're proud to be on television too.