Wednesday, September 14, 2005

NEW JERSEY: Examining Seaside

Photo of South Jersey magazine taken fall 2004 in a house in Cherry Hill, N.J., on a whirlwind 36-hour trip from D.C. to Brooklyn and back

This past weekend, a friend from my days at the college paper came down from Princeton, N.J., for the sake of getting out the greater Princeton Junction area. As a Jersey native, Neal has always enlightened me about all things Garden State-specific. It's always been an odd place, a state I never have really understood.

But there is Jersey pride (the movie "Garden State", a still pictured at left, has a cult following and from what I've been told is a good depiction of life in New Jersey) amid all of the trash talking its residents are used to, whether they're doing the trash talking or not. Anyhow, I want to go up sometime this fall to do a grand tour of the state's finest diners. As Neal, his girlfriend and I were talking about that glorious state, I remembered perhaps the one thing that will always instantly make me laugh: the web resource to understand that unusual anthropological specimen, the New Jersey Guido.

"Guido" most often is used in a context that is insensitive. But in places like Seaside Heights, the environs where the Guido is typically on the prowl in search of his Guidette, it is used as a term of endearment. I highly suggest you read this 2002 article from The Washington Post's Style section that Libby Copeland penned. It is truly a wondrous piece of journalism:

As the sun sinks, guidos prepare for partying. Some nap. Some shower. The whole crew walks to Temptations to wait 20 minutes to pay $20 and get stamped so that later, they won't have to wait in an even longer line. When they stand outside the club, guys drive by pumping loud music through open windows, and a voice from somewhere keeps yelling, "'Ssup, girl!"

The story's protagonist and Guido cult hero, Moo, is stuck trying to figure out what he's going to wear:
Moo gives up and goes to take a shower. Jana says, "He takes longer than I take." Out in the main apartment, the music is loud, and Construction Carline is shouting, "WHO WANTS SOME SHOTS OF JAEGER?"

Carline already has his outfit set for the club: his construction helmet (actually a tree-trimmer's helmet with ear guards) and a red cape. Tonight, he'll be calling himself Tempts Man.
Seaside Heights, N.J., sits in the Garden State's Third Congressional district, currently represented by Jim Saxton (right), a Republican who represents much of central New Jersey including some Ocean County beach communities. While Moo 'n' crew and the Temptations bar sits in Republican territory, much of this guido demographic comes from various parts of New Jersey to Ocean County, so it is probably difficult to easily track voting patterns, or cross check with data from the Census Bureau. I wouldn't think statisticians would be able to craft a Jersey-specific "Would you describe yourself as a guido? If so, fill in the bubble"-type of question.

Google "new jersey guido political leanings" and all sorts of stuff comes up, most of it not very useful. From Underneath Their Robes, the judicial news and gossip blog, you come across a Sept. 24, 2004, post analyzing the Vanity Fair article "The Path to Florida: What Really Happened in the 2000 Election." In it there is a listing of Supreme Court clerks, who they clerk for, law school and appellate clerkship.

For Justice John Paul Stevens, you come across "Eduardo Penalver (Yale/Guido-maniac)."
For Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you come across "Linda C. Lye (Berkeley/Guido-maniac)."
For Justice Steven Breyer, you come across "Danielle Spinelli (Harvard/Guido-maniac)"

So who's Guido-maniac? Under Their Robes explains in a post from Aug. 11, 2004:
Some of you might be scratching your heads right now and asking, "Guido—who’s he?" If you have to ask, get out of this blog! Yes, Article III Groupie understands that, to much of the world, a guido is "[a]n adolescent or young-adult American male of Italian ancestry or descent, esp. one of lower-middle-class socioeconomic background or status, [who is] thought of as being dim-witted, excessively aggressive, and prejudiced against perceived outsiders, particularly homosexuals and members of other races." … But within the federal judiciary, "Guido" refers to only one, truly unique individual, of aristocratic Italian ancestry and extremely high socioeconomic and educational status: the Honorable Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit, the most prestigious circuit court after the high-and-mighty D.C. Circuit. (Yes, Article III Groupie stood up from her seat and genuflected after typing the words "D.C. Circuit." Her mama raised her right!)

According to Judge Guido Calabresi's Yale bio, he specializes in "Torts; tragic choices; legal process, constitutional litigation." If his 1970 book, "The Cost of Accidents: A Legal and Economic Analysis" doesn't seem all that interesting, this quote from a June 2004 meeting of the American Constitution Society might:

In a way that occurred before but is rare in the United States...somebody came to power as a result of the illegitimate acts of a legitimate institution that had the right to put somebody in power. That is what the Supreme Court did in Bush versus Gore. It put somebody in power.

The New York Sun later reported on the gathering, saying in its lede: "A prominent federal judge has told a conference of liberal lawyers that President Bush's rise to power was similar to the accession of dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler."

Just to be clear, the judge did say: "I am not suggesting for a moment that Bush is Hitler. I want to be clear on that, but it is a situation which is extremely unusual."

The judge has been considered liberal by observers. But I don't think this Guido hangs out in Seaside Heights at Temptations.

What happens when you Google "new jersey guidos republican"?

This Sept. 2, 2004, post from the Village Voice's strip-club blog pops up, which was trying to gauge strip-club patronage among Republican National Convention delegates.

The club's normal weekday summer crowd consists of couples looking for adventure and "Guidos from Brooklyn and Queens," as one cab driver described them, so the wave of suits means either that a) Wall Street has returned from the Hamptons (an event, according to my customers in the champagne room last night, that is not due to take place until next week), or b) the delegates, perhaps fired up by Zell Miller's declaration that "God is not indifferent to America," had come in for another night of spiritual fulfillment.

But the Guidos here came from the outer boroughs, not New Jersey. Again, no indication as to political leanings. On, a quick survey of the fan-sent writings and Moo's writings reveals little politically. It seems the world of politics doesn't penetrate into these parts of Ocean County, to Temptations (right) or the Surf Club.

Moo perhaps says it best in his "NJ Anthem."

This is the weekend that we show the rest of the world what we are made of.
It's time to show the New Jersey haters out there, how we party.
They don't know what it's like to be part of the energy of Temptations on a Saturday and Sunday night. ...
We don't want to dress up, we want to dress less.
We want to show off the fact that New Jersey men and women are in the best shape.
It's time to put all of the petty bullshit behind us.
Turn off the damn t.v. Get off your ass, and get to the Jersey Shore.
It's weekends like this that last forever.
There are no excuses. Party like a rockstar.

Something tells me that the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, Sen. Jon Corzine (D) and Doug Forrester (R), could have trouble cracking this voting bloc of undetermined importance.

What could they promise these Shore hard-cores?
Trenton-subsidized gym memberships? New Army Corps of Engineers appropriations to help protect Seaside from storm surge? A toll-free Garden State Parkway?

I'll be waiting eagerly for new Census data.


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