None of these things would have happened in ye olde Garden State.
Thanks to Rainbow Cloudjumper, I even have the hashtag #NeverInNewJersey to complement this ongoing trend.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had an entirely new set of examples. (For examples A-D, click here!)
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT E
This catalog, from Central Oregon Community College, landed in my mailbox the other day. I giggled as I scanned its front page offerings.
I can’t remember exactly, but I seem to recall my local New Jersey Community College brochure looking a little more like this:
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT F
I recently went to a clothing/item exchange where a group of eight women all brought things from home that they no longer used or needed. When I arrived, I was shocked to find my friend’s living room transformed into a GoodWill-style shop. It was ridiculously impressive and I walked away with an entire bag full of quality wares. This isn’t even the #NeverInNewJersey part (though it certainly gets an honorable mention)!
As I was unpacking my spoils, I noticed a strange scent. Was that… could it be… cologne? One of the items I brought home was a lightweight running top that was likely menswear.
It was probably the faint remnants a pleasant, manly deodorant, but the point is, it stood out so drastically because: NO ONE HERE WEARS COLOGNE. I sat next to a guy at a film festival last week (benefiting the local environmental center and which required filmgoers to bring their own cup if they wanted anything to drink…#NeverInNewJersey honorable mention #2) and almost choked on his spicy aroma.
Coming from the land of gold chains and Axe body spray, I never thought I’d say this, but: I don’t miss it one bit.
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT G
All you need to know to understand this final exhibit, a Facebook group chat, is that I now live in a town boasting a beautiful river and waterfront amphitheater.
Stay tuned – I’m sure it won’t be long before I run out of alphabet letters!
This doesn’t look good. I should probably make the prudent choice and turn around. I’ve still got all week before the new job starts.
Rain turned to sleet, then snow, as I wound my way from Bend, Oregon to nearby Mount Bachelor, the city’s crowning jewel. Every winter, thousands of locals and tourists flocked to the snow covered mountain to…shred…powder…or something.
When I moved from New Jersey to Bend last June, I made several promises to myself:
Try all of the winter sports: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill skiing.
In other words: Do all of the things that petrify me. As of this month, the only two left on my list both involved skis. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Mt. Bachelor rewards new skiers with an incredible deal via their “Ride in 5” ski lesson package, complete with equipment rental.
Because people swarmed to the mountain on weekends like Go Jules Go to compliments, I decided to attend my first lesson on a Monday. I had already talked myself out of it for two weeks. The memory of my one and only other downhill skiing experience was still powder fresh in my mind.
I was 11, and somehow, in the course of two hours, managed to: drag my mother off the chair lift, crash into a fence, and fall down a ditch, requiring a pimpled, teenage rescue team. I’d always been considered an athletic kid, but apparently this was limited to swimming pools and soccer fields.
This past Monday, I turned left into the Sunrise Lodge parking lot, clenching and unclenching my jaw. Ten foot high piles of snow blocked any form of signage.
Seriously? They don’t tell new skiers where to go? This is a sign. I should just go home and hug my dog.
Eventually -on the third attempt- I made it to the proper parking lot and found the check-in and rental office.
“You look excited!” the check-in employee exclaimed. He had clearly been born with a snowboard attached to his feet.
“That would be the sheer terror,” I retorted, feeling the wild look in my eyes.
“Oh no, you’ll be great! Let me just make sure I have all of your information… And what is your weight, my dear?”
I swallowed. I knew this was coming. I didn’t even lie, lest I increase my chances of death from 99.9% to 100%. Besides, it was printed right on my new Oregon driver’s license [because despite the endless smiles and generosity, they are MONSTERS here].
I was sure to tell everyone at the outfitting station that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my eyes darting frantically from the rows of skis to the exit sign.
“I think Matt Damon wore these in The Martian,” I marveled at my borrowed ski boots. They were harder to get on than pantyhose after a steamy shower.
“NASA actually used ski boots as the model for their latest expedition.”
My head shot up and I looked at the guy who’d just made the remark.
“I don’t care if you’re yanking my chain,” I said. “I choose to believe you.”
“Do you want a helmet?” he called as I headed outside, shockingly heavy skis in tow.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“You mean we’re not just practicing how to take these on and off today?”
I’d been certain that, in a package of five lessons, lesson one was simply: These are skis. See you next time!
He laughed and walked over to a giant wall of black helmets. “I think it’s a good idea.”
“I’m not gonna argue! Safety first,” I replied as he jammed a 47-pound bowling ball on my head. I had flashbacks of a similar moment preceding my epic mountain cycling fail. He tightened the chin strap and I waddled outside, almost an hour early and feeling utterly ridiculous.
By the time my Australian instructor, Rohan, introduced himself, I was so antsy to get moving that I shouted,
“I’m Jules! It’s great to meet you!”
Because it was a quiet Monday on the slopes, there were only two other first-timers in my class, a couple from Brazil, who chose to spend their week-long vacation away from their hometown beaches and…learning how to ski in central Oregon. I sized them up. We were all going to die.
The lesson was two hours long, and much to my dismay, in under an hour, our downhill ski instructor announced that we were going to ski downhill.
After nearly falling on Satan’s conveyor belt, which jerks you forward as soon as you place your skis on it, Rohan decided it was time for the real deal. The ski lift. The part I had been dreading since my summer ski lift tour.
“I’m not gonna lie,” I confessed to Rohan as we boarded the lift. “I’m glad these snow pants are waterproof.” I glanced skyward and said a prayer.
Rohan held my arm as we disembarked and miraculously, I didn’t fall. By the second and third rounds, I was launching off on my own with all of the confidence of a newborn giraffe.
“Looks like you two ah friends nowah,” he said in his Australian accent, nodding towards the chair lift.
“I might even let it take me out for dinner,” I grinned.
At some point, Rohan had to tell me to slow down and prove I was still in control on the turns.
“Wheee!” I cried as I flew past him and he laughed in spite of himself. When we hit the bottom of the hill, I said, “Admit it. We’re the best class you’ve ever had.”
“I’m very impressed,” he smiled indulgently. “It helps that you’re all athletic.”
After spending the better part of my 37 27 years in New Jersey, not far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, I moved to Bend, Oregon last June. I was pretty sure I’d completed my Oregon transformation by the time I embarked on my first backpacking trip in September.
One of the most fascinating things about moving across the country has been observing the utter lack of jadedness among my new neighbors. And how, in a town of over 100,000, EVERYONE KNOWS EACH OTHER. I find myself constantly sending the New Jersey crew texts like, “I don’t remember what a car horn sounds like,” and, “Someone just BOUGHT MY GROCERIES,” and, “[Sara] and I just realized we went out with the same guy.”
In fact, this happens so regularly that I’m about to fill an entire blog post with examples FROM THE PAST WEEK ALONE.
I instinctively lifted my foot off the gas pedal and gripped the steeling wheel. My car slid backwards as I stared in the rearview mirror, wondering when the pick-up truck behind me would realize what was happening. Before or after we collided?
I can’t believe this. I cannot believe this.
The truck narrowly missed me, charging up the steep hill while I reached a trembling hand toward my hazard lights. As if it was my poor, low-riding, two-wheel drive Acura’s fault for not being able to overcome central Oregon’s lack of snow management.
F$&@%. What am I going to do?
Over the coming days, I moved countless boxes over icy sidewalks, painted walls and ceilings that felt like sandpaper, and waited for my couch to arrive so I could collapse at the end of each long day in anything other than a cold, metal camp chair.
And my couch did arrive. …Three weeks later.
I also checked my inbox repeatedly for any updates on a job offer I’d accepted earlier in the month. By the second week of December, with the apartment still in partial chaos and no news on the job, I flew to New Jersey for my twin niece and nephew’s Sweet 16, a.k.a. A New Circle of Hell that Requires Its Own Blog Post.
Throughout the last few scattered and uncertain weeks, I kept myself sane by continuing my marathon training and French lessons, binge watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and creating the greatest calendar the world has ever known.
I also became an expert in cheap furniture assembly…
…learned how to paint ceilings in high heels…
…spent my first Christmas without my family…
…learned I can no longer party like it’s 1999…
…and attended my first drum circle, along with 66 other women.
Though life kept marching onward, a familiar soundtrack accompanied every moment. Am I doing the right thing? Will I like this new job? Is this really the proper place and time to spend all of my savings on furniture plant roots? Will I ever find TRUE love? Why is Uncle Jesse looking at me like that?
It seems I forgot to read the fine print on the “Live Your Dream Life!” manual.
Despite taking a series of ballsy actions over the past year (like quitting a steady corporate job, selling all of my stuff, and moving across the country), building my dream life has felt a bit like parasailing. You experience the thrill of soaring freely through the air, all the while still tethered to whatever beliefs, constraints, and values you had before. Crippling insecurities, societal expectations, questionable past decisions… they don’t go away the minute you decide to spread your wings.
Now, from the comfort of my new couch, Suba-Ruby sleeping soundly in the parking lot, I feel my pulse finally beginning to settle. Though the past six months have brought wave after wave of change, and though I cried at my friend’s Thanksgiving table when talking about having to sell my old car often think I might capsize beneath it all, I know I’m home. Because that boat I’m tethered to isn’t my shortcomings or my past or my fears – it’s my heart. No matter where I go, I can’t be anywhere BUT home.
What are you hoping 2020 will bring? (Psst, I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. I’VE MISSED YOU EVERY DAY.)
The following entries have been recovered from the diaries of beloved blogger and former Jersey girl, Go Jules Go. Her current whereabouts are unknown. Presumably because, according to her new neighbors, “The service here sucks.”
Day 1: Arrive in Bend, Oregon. Apartment appears well-appointed, though several disturbing items were left on the counter. “Gifts,” the landlord claims. I remain suspicious.
Day 2: Attend first social gathering under the guise of celebrating someone’s birth. I do not trust these people. Why do they look so…happy?
Day 6: Forced to attend nudist retreat. My plans to go unnoticed thwarted by bathing suit, yet how else do I protect myself amidst the steaming pools of hippie tears hot springs? Must not show nipples weakness.
Day 9: Have risen at 6am for three days straight to engage in something called “trail running.” Zero alcohol remains in my system, yet I suspect they’ve slipped something into my kombucha. I feel…well.
Day 12: Small children and classical music-listening puppies surround me. I fear I am beginning to crack.
Day 21: Ford raging river and sustain 923 bug bites. My survival skills have improved markedly.
Day 30: Discover Trivia Night’s discount beer and tots. They are on to me.
Day 37: Have begun making strange hand gestures following outdoor pursuits. The situation is becoming increasingly dire.
Day 44: Learn the art of metalsmithing from a man who would not accept compensation. What drives the human spirit in this land of zero expectation?
Day 57: The hand gestures have become second nature; I can no longer fight it.
Day 63: Have accepted that I will never know real pizza again.
Day 70: Complete something called a “10k race”… “for charity.” Would have been charitable to not force feed participants hard cider 30 seconds following this strange event.
Day 71: Witness skinny dippers in a frigid lake. Oregonians must fear clothing the way I fear I’ll never stop watching The Hills on Amazon Prime.
Day 80: Trucker hat and race “tech” shirt. Uncle Jesse no longer recognizes me.
Day 90: Socks with sandals. All hope is lost.
This is the last known recording from Go Jules Go. If you have any information, please contact 1-800-CRY4HLP.
I know this because, despite being a New Jersey native, I’m spending most of April in one of my favorite states.
I can do this because I quit my job and now my life is filled with rampant lawlessness.
When I arrived in rural Maine, intending to volunteer on a friend’s farm sanctuary for two weeks, I didn’t immediately realize my cell signal had given out. A half hour earlier.
I diligently followed my friend’s instructions to “look for the next driveway after the sanctuary’s entrance,” where my cabin was located. Instead I saw train tracks and a sign that read, “Pavement ends.”
Being from what you might call a New York City suburb, I interpreted that to mean, “TURN YOUR CAKE ASS AROUND, JERSEY.” I did so happily, heading back towards the sanctuary’s driveway instead.
“Mud season” wasn’t just a cute saying. My non-all wheel drive sedan squealed for mercy as I attempted to haul her up the hill.
“Oh my GAWD are you f*@#&$ kidding me?” I imagined her saying. “I am sooooo going to need a pedicure after this.”
I had gotten AAA before the trip, though, and felt cavalier mildly confident. (Until later, when I realized I wouldn’t have even been able to call AAA if I HAD gotten stuck.)
Once I made it to the sanctuary, the owner looked confused. I explained that I couldn’t find the cabin. Apparently I was supposed to charge past the “Pavement ends” warning and go another mile or so to “the next driveway.” I felt silly explaining that in Jersey terms, “the next driveway” is usually measured in feet. Sometimes inches. I kept quiet and accepted her gracious offer to lead me there – something I knew she didn’t have time for.
Running a farm sanctuary is No. Joke.
“Thank you so much. Just a warning that I’m going to keep a safe distance from you going downhill.”
She smiled knowingly, casting a glance at my mud-spattered pansy car.
We soon reached the small cabin, which was clean and well lit, warm from gas heat and equipped with the basics. Except internet. Which, I quickly began to realize, was going to throw a wrench into this whoooole plan. I checked my phone; still no service whatsoever.
“This mayyyy be a problem,” I said, feeling the panic start to rise in my throat, the extent of my remote location settling in.
Let me just text… No.
Let me just look up the nearest… No.
Let me just check the weather for tomorrow and… No.
I waited until she left to execute what would come to be the first of many, many strategies to try to make the next couple of weeks work out.
I’m just going to drive towards a town, and see when my service picks up. I didn’t even bother unpacking, just loaded Uncle Jesse (the dog) back in the car. As I made the first turn, my stomach flip-flopped, trying to memorize my surroundings. Holy god I miss Google maps. The sun would set in less than an hour, so after just a few minutes, I decided to give up and turn around in a church parking lot. The last thing I wanted to do was make the situation worse by getting lost.
As I did a U-turn, I noticed the church’s sign.
I decided to go back to the sanctuary -walking from the bottom of the driveway this time- and borrow someone’s phone to let my family know I had arrived safely. A volunteer was sorting vegetables and happy to offer her phone, so after I successfully texted Babs (mom), I helped sort produce for the next couple of hours, chatting and feeding Uncle Jesse stray bits of cauliflower.
Thankfully, my phone still worked as a flashlight, and we made it back to the car and our cabin. It was pitch black. As I unpacked the car, I caught a glimpse of the stars twinkling brightly – the way they only could when not overpowered by street lamps and cramped houses. I stood still, and for the first time in hours, took a deep breath.
Maybe this will all work out…
I finished unpacking, popped some potatoes in the little oven for Uncle Jesse, and cracked open a bottle of wine, deciding to make the most of my off-grid night. I’d sort out my phone issues in the morning.
Fast forward two days, and my phone -even with a new, more expensive carrier- still wasn’t working. Nor were my pseudo, DSW-purchased “muck boots,” which I managed to puncture by repeatedly tripping on a sharp rock while cleaning the rabbit houses.
Every two minutes, I thought of some reason I needed to use my phone, or get online. Upcoming bills I had to pay, friends with momentous events I had planned to check in on, ASMR videos on YouTube I needed to watch, travel plans I’d yet to make…
Shame washed over me in endless, sickening waves. I am so fu@*#^% soft. Here I thought, with my tiny living and frugal spending, I’d become so flexible! So strong! So adaptable! But 48 hours without a phone broke me, and after Sunday’s full work day, I fled back to my comfort zone, checking into a pet-friendly motel 90 minutes south, in one of my favorite parts of Maine.
“Does the dial go all the way up to ‘donkey’?” I asked Darla when I stopped by the next day to do laundry.
How would you fare if you were unexpectedly off-grid?
Earlier this week I told you about THOSE G.D. CHURCH BELLS that go off at ALL HOURS one block from my new apartment.
After four months in this neighborhood, I’m starting to wonder what the ever-loving chipmunks is going on. The church bells are just the beginning. Odder still, this town is a mere two miles from where I grew up, and yet it’s as if I’ve stepped into The Upside Down. Nothing here makes sense, and it’s starting to scare me.
Since everyone else seems to have accepted this lunacy as status quo, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.
Go Jules Go, keeper of peace, server of justice, lover of being alone and eating peanut butter straight from the jar without any interruptions thank you very much, HAS ARRIVED.
First order of business? Handing out citations to the town’s most egregious offenders. Aside from His-Church-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, behold:
A few weeks ago, someone left -I’m not making this up- a red package labeled “TNT” on top of a mailbox on my block. A passerby notified the police, and within moments, the bomb squad arrived. These cartoonish hijinx shut down my street and kept me from enjoying the eight cases of wine I’d just purchased from Trader Joe’s for an entire hour.
Hi. Meet my dessert. She comes from a restaurant around the corner from my apartment, where they also consider Bachelorette tea parties the height of merriment. Don’t they know it’s not dessert unless you hate yourself afterwards?
The town center’s crowning Christmas jewel, and the view from my living room all December long.
And last, but certainly not least…
I found this note in my mailbox on Tuesday, from someone I had only briefly met when I first moved in. “Phoebe” later revealed her question via text: “Hey, would you be interested in swapping apartments [from your studio to my much more expensive 1-bedroom]? My boyfriend and I just broke up :(.”
I’m sure this won’t be the last of the nefarious acts in my new topsy-turvy world. Stay tuned. Stay vigilant. Stay safe. Sheriff Jules, over and out.