Sitting around a cozy New Jersey bar counter is nothing like going out in New York — it’s almost like sitting around the kitchen table. You come as you are and stay as long as you like. And conversation, if you’re inclined to have it, can be easily had, whether or not you know the person sitting next to you. The first word New Jersey brings to mind is “regular,” not in a bored-to-death suburban way, but as high praise regarding a person’s temperament.
“The New Jersey character — at least this part of Jersey — is straightforward, plain-spoken to the point of bluntness, though not at all unfriendly,” the poet August Kleinzahler wrote in his essay “East/West Variations.” “The humor is deadpan, ironical, playfully deprecating. It’s a beer-and-a-bump kind of place. Affectation is quickly and viscerally registered.”
The article closes with a cheery, heart-warming, twinkly story that makes me go all teary-eyed. Because in NJ, it doesn't matter who you are- you get the same rough and tumble treatment as everyone else, but its all affectionate, like a strong bear hug.
I never caught the (also Irish) bartender’s name, but even before he’d poured my first glass of wine, I felt as if we’d established a bond.
“I know a girl who can do it with her mouth,” he said, gesturing to the bottle, which he had just uncorked the old-fashioned way. He paused for a moment, reflecting on the intimate nature of his disclosure. Then he grinned.
“That’s kind of rude; you’ve not even had your first drink. But it’s not like you’ve never been here before. You know how we roll.”
I’ve never met that girl. But I bet she’s a regular.
I bet she is too.