REMEMBERING SISTERS, FRIENDS, ENEMIES & LOVERS FROM THE GARDEN STATE
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH, REAL WOMEN IN AN UNREAL WORLD
Funny How The Oddest Things Will Trigger Memories, Click
We were watching a show on the teevee called "In Plain Sight," taped some weeks ago. We like the show because it stars Mary Catherine McCormack, of Plainfield, New Jersey. Plainfield, the "Queen City," was a neighboring town to the one in which we first attempted to grow up, in "Central" Jersey. New Jersey is a small State, too small to be divided more than once and still leave something worth mentioning, so no one outside of Central Jersey ever mentions it. You can inhale in Philly and exhale in Manhattan without breathing any Jersey air, hardly. Sometimes it's hard for New Jerseyans to breathe, sandwiched in between all that greatness and history, corruption and filth. They manage, in part because they have a history of their own and in part by always supporting a fellow Jersey girl or boy. So I watch Mary's show.
Plus, OK, Mary is beautiful in that unaffected Central Jersey way. You know, the minimal make-up and the simply brushed hair, the blue jeans and the girlie "top," the pretty mouth and the sarcastic things that come out of it. Even if Central Jersey is just a geographical fiction which exists only in the minds of Central Jerseyans, some of the ladies there do have their own way of doing things. You might even call it a "style," but they would make fun of you if you did. Because there's no there there, therefore no style. The folk of NJ's post-industrial midlands know they're not from South Jersey, with its' scary Pine Barrens, Jersey Devils and "Phully" refugees, and they don't want to be from North Jersey with it's overly creative accountants, mobbed-up garbage men and Crooklyn escapees. So they have created this mental safe zone that lies somewhere West of Newark, South of Lake Hopatcong, North of Trenton and East of the Delaware River. It's a diamond shape, maybe twenty-five or thirty miles to a side, with the northern tip pointing at Morristown and the Southern tip pointing at Princeton, with the West point at Flemington and the East at Westfield. (Most of Morris, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex and parts of Union, Monmouth, and Mercer Counties.) It's cozy. It's where Mary is from, right in the middle.
We know this because we recognized her accent and mannerisms, her facial expressions and ways of holding herself, and because we looked her up on IMDB. Turns out she was one of those private school girls, probably from Sleepy Hollow, in what was left of Plainfield after the riots in the 1960's some years before she was born. She would have been much younger than ourselves, a child of the 70's. But she would have worn the same snotty blazer and maybe a tartan skirt on special days at school. She would have been wickedly smart and funny, terribly studious and wild at parties, a genuine heartbreaker, tall and blonde and pretty as Hell. She would have left poor old Jersey behind for the theater and never looked back. But she would have always been a Jersey girl.
To our delight, Mary did a couple of scenes with another Central Jersey girl on the episode we watched. Laura Prepon, of Watchung, NJ, just up the hill from Plainfield, played her long-lost and unbeknownst sister. Laura's hair is blonde now, and she is tall and beautiful in that Bambergers' way. Seeing her interact with Mary was like going home for Christmas back in the days when we were all students or soldiers or wanderers on the various roads of life, magical moments when everyone was thrown together for what might be the last time, and girls we used to know as gawky in grammar school had become angelically beautiful, with wings upon which they flew away, leaving us in the snowy mud beside an over-decorated tree on the front lawn, staring up at stars we can never touch.
We could not begin to list all the Jersey girls we knew, or wished we knew, and loved over the years. Stolen first kisses and last desperate hugs, weddings and Christenings, wakes and funerals, brief dances in the Delaware moonlight and long talks on the sunburned Jersey Shore, hours and hours in cars wandering aimlessly around the Kittatinny Mountains and the New Brunswick alleys, trying to get to the heart of a girl.
OK, one girl. Suzanne. Like the song, which had just come out four years before we met her. It really was her song. We even sang it with her. Suzanne with her Guild guitar and her long blonde hair, her beautiful, intelligent, amused and unaffected face, turning towards us and then turning away. She could have been the third sister to Mary and Laura, a rare and special Jersey girl, rare and special because she was so real and normal, in that Raritanian way. She died in car crash in California at the age of twenty-one, three years after we sang her song, thirty five years ago this week. Mary reminded me of her. I could never forget my Jersey girl, Suzanne.
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