NJ in Space
Let's deal with something a little different today, a news story I first heard from News 12 New Jersey. The space shuttle that went up Saturday to take to the International Space Station, among other things, a part to fix the sole toilet on board (and, by the way, it was the pee portion, not the 'solid waste' portion that had stopped working), carried THREE — count 'em, three! — New Jerseyans, out of a total crew of seven. The Star-Ledger confirmed that report, with a clarification about one of the astronauts' New Jersey connection:
In that I have no fotos of New Jerseyans in space, I initially showed fotos of New Jerseyans living in a converted space, a former factory in the Ironbound that now serves as home and office to a pair of Newark-trained architects and their young son. (Is that reaching? or merely a clever tie-in? As a pure intellectual with not the tiniest shred of ego, I vote "clever tie-in". Only votes to the same effect will be counted, since any other view is plainly deranged.) I saw their home/office on the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee bus tour of different kinds of Newark residences May 11th. However, on July 28th I received an indignant email from the wife demanding I remove those fotos. It hadn't occurred to me that someone who invited A BUSLOAD OF STRANGERS into her home and didn't tell anyone "No pictures!" would be indignant about fotos and complimentary commentary being placed on the Internet. But I accede to her wishes and am removing all those fotos and their captions. What remains is the astronaut story and an email exchange between a reader and me in which I defend Montclair. Sorry that there are now no fotos in this entry.
Both the commander of the mission, Mark Kelly, and the man in the pilot's seat, Ken Ham, are native New Jerseyans (Kelly grew up in West Orange [Essex County, of which Newark is county seat], Ham in Plainfield[).] A third astronaut, Ak[i]hiko Hoshide, spent time as a child in Fort Lee.
When that shuttle returns, it will bring back a FOURTH New Jerseyan, who has been on the Space Station for 2½ months! Watch Jay Leno make some kind of crack that four people tried to escape from New Jersey but were captured and brought back.
When the shuttle returns to Earth in about two weeks, after rendezvousing with the International Space Station, it will be bringing back another [New] Jersey native, Garrett Reisman, from Parsippany.Still, 6% of all astronauts is three times what one might expect of one state out of 50. Neato keen.
According to NASA, there are about 100 astronauts active in the space program. Only six have ties to the Garden State, which means that on the return trip from space, two-thirds of New Jersey's astronauts will be flying together on one mission.
Discovery also will be hauling some lighter fare, including a game jersey worn by Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the team's upset over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. [Lest outsiders forget, the "New York" Giants' home stadium is in New Jersey, as is the (same) home stadium of the "New York" Jets.]Can anyone get the Star-Ledger to stop using the contemptuous term "Jersey" for "New Jersey"? Every time I hear it, I want to flog the bastards. The story about the football "jersey" shows another of the reasons "Jersey" is NOT an acceptable alternative to "NEW Jersey" — you Star-Ledger MORONS! (No offense to Christine B. in the next foto.)
The astronauts intend to hold up the shirt to one of the shuttle's windows and give it a good view of the Earth, then take a few photos before stowing it for the trip home. Once back on terra firma, they plan to return the much traveled No. 10 to Manning at a Giants practice this summer.
Garrett Reisman, who has been on the Space Station since March 11th, has appeared on TV from space as "a self-proclaimed member of the 'Colbert Universe'."
He was interviewed live from space on the May 8, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report after being seen wearing a "WristStrong" bracelet.
That brings me to something I said I would eventually discuss, a defense of Montclair. The blog "Baristaville" has had some harsh things to say about Newark, but in an email exchange from last December with "CB" of Bloomfield I rose to Montclair's defense nonetheless.
Here's an entry from The Gothamist, which is a NYC-centric blog [and Park Slope, Brooklyn, more particularly] that occasionally covers topics of interest.
I figured you might be interested in this entry because it's a perfect example of the kind of "chip on the shoulder" elitism expressed by folks from the 5 boros about New Jersey and in particular, about Essex County towns near Newark.
Admittedly, Montclair itself is populated to a large degree by NYC transplants and people with an equally large chip on their own shoulders about Montclair vis a vis other towns nearby.I replied, and CB included parts of my rejoinder in this followup email:
[me] As for the interaction in Brooklyn, if it's anything like Manhattan, almost nobody knows their neighbors or has anything to do with them. That's a large part of why people stay in places like New York City: to choose their friends from interests, not geography. I have neither more nor less to do with my neighbors in semi-suburban Newark than I had in Manhattan.
CB: Yep, I agree. I KNOW my neighbors and occasionally get invited to BBQs and the like, but I don't hang out with them on a regular basis.
[me] Hip is internal, wouldn't you think? And relative. I think "trendy" is more what they mean. Ah, well. I don't know if there's any point to fiting that mindset in that venue [The Gothamist].
CB: That's probably true. I'm just amused by the fact that it's still the same old "New Jersey smells bad and is one giant toxic waste strip mall" mentality from folks in NYC. Whatever. I have room to breathe, a driveway, the freedom to drive if I WANT and access to relatively decent public transit when I DON'T want to, a swimming pool, CLEAN public parks, etc.
[me] The people who read that blog would be disinclined to stir from
their insularity and (false sense of) superiority. It's odd that people who live in BROOKLYN should look down their nose at MONTCLAIR. I heard, on News 12 NJ when they were visiting Montclair one day, that Stephen Colbert lives in Montclair. Who is hipper than Stephen Colbert?
CB: Yeah Colbert lives in Montclair (or, as he likes to spell it, Montclert. You, as a spelling reformist, should get a kick out of that). I see him at the YMCA once in a while when I pick up my daughter from vacation day camp there. Also, most of the editorial staff of The New York Times lives in Montclair, too. Oh the irony.
[me] 'MONTCLERT'. C'est bon! (mot). NYT: I worked for about 3 months for the NYT legal dept as a word processor when they were conforming all their pension plans to ERISA (Federal pension reform act). I was living on 46th Street btw Ninth and Tenth, and it took about 8 minutes to walk to work. Now, if I were to work in NY, it would take me an hour and a half to get to the same place. But in the 23 years I lived in that block, the population of NYC went from about 7M to 8M, and you could feel it.
CB: Yeah, I lived in both the East Village and Brooklyn (Park Slope, in fact) from 1987 till 2002, and I can say without a doubt that things changed a lot during the time I was there also, and even more since I've been in NJ. The various things which drew me to NYC originally are largely not true of it any longer.
New York is there, within easy reach, if I want it. But it doesn't surround and oppress me anymore. Instead, I live in leafy Vailsburg, semi-suburban but still urban western Newark, where, as I type (around 4:30am), songbirds tweet and twitter. Happy happy joy joy. Birdcalls are the loudest sound I hear, followed closely by the ticking of a wall clock in my home office. Not one car has passed my house in over an hour. But if I step into my own car, parked behind my own, one-family house surrounded by 70-foot trees, and flowers on vines and bushes or sprung from bulbs, I can be at the Newark Museum or a bunch of art galleries in 20 minutes (4 miles away), or Greenwich Village (18 miles) in 30. Why on Earth would I live in New York?
* If you need help finding a house in Newark, let me know. I am a licensed real-estate salesperson, and tho I am not presently active in the business, I am affiliated with a broker who can hook you up with an agent who knows exactly the neighborhood you're interested in. (And I get a little bit of the commission if you buy. Somebody's got to get it.)