Skip to comments.JerseyPride.com: A site for Shore eyes [New Jersey rules, your state drools]
Posted on 02/23/2007 8:29:46 AM PST by Incorrigible
|Jeff Kauflin, 25, who runs the Web site JerseyPride.com. (Photo by George McNish)|
NEWARK, N.J. _ Jeff Kauflin was in his first year of college in Vermont when it hit him: People don't think good things about New Jersey.
The mere mention of where he was from elicited chuckles from Kauflin's New England classmates at Middlebury College. Then came the ``What exit?'' jokes and references to the mob, big hair, toxic waste dumps and that smell along the Turnpike.
``It wasn't really until I got to college that I realized the bad rap New Jersey gets,'' said Kauflin, a native of the state.
Somebody needed to defend the Garden State. Kauflin decided to do it.
Inspired by a group of New Jersey students at his college, Kauflin decided to start a Web site devoted to defending the nation's most maligned state.
In 2002, the Ramsey resident tracked down an investor who owned the unused domain name http://www.JerseyPride.com and paid him $200 for the rights. Then he started building his site, posting photos from around the state, listing famous Jerseyans and all the things he could think of that make New Jersey great.
To his surprise, people started to respond. Current and former New Jersey residents e-mailed their pent-up feelings for their home state. Folks sent in photos of themselves wearing New Jersey T-shirts everywhere from Paris to Afghanistan.
A surprising number of people also sent in photos of their New Jersey tattoos, most of which featured the unmistakable outline of their home state permanently marked on their biceps or ankles.
``There really is a lot of Jersey pride,'' said Kauflin, 25.
JerseyPride.com recorded nearly 250,000 page views last year. Almost all the traffic comes through word of mouth, said Kauflin, who has since graduated and now works for a Manhattan marketing firm.
Kauflin shows off a stack of e-mails from his site's users thanking him for giving them a place to talk about New Jersey. They wax poetic about the Shore, the diners, the weather, the food and the state's history. They also blame New York and Philadelphia for overshadowing the state and contributing to New Jersey's low self-esteem.
``Without New Jersey inventions, modern civilization as we know it would not exist,'' wrote one fan, who listed all of the inventors who have come from the state. ``It would be a wonderful thing if the world could experience `a day without New Jersey.' Perhaps then the unearned superior attitude of so many regarding New Jersey would be re-examined.''
Even Vincent Curatola, the actor who plays Johnny Sack on ``The Sopranos,'' sent a thank you and reminisced about growing up in Englewood. He said he worked as a paperboy delivering papers to Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and other Jersey celebrities who inspired him to go into show business.
``My wife Maureen and I love living here. New Jersey truly affords us the best of both worlds,'' Curatola wrote.
Kauflin said most Jerseyans love their state, though they may be afraid to admit it.
``I just wanted to provide an entertaining site and get people excited about New Jersey,'' Kauflin said. ``I think I'm helping people who live in the state to express themselves more _ and at least be able to say they're from New Jersey.''
Kauflin has some competition. The Internet is littered with well-established anti-Jersey sites.
There is IHateNewJersey.com, which says ``Everyone hates New Jersey and that's a fact! Now tell the world why you hate New Jersey ...'' and offers a message board for people to vent.
There is also JerseySucks.net, where the motto is ``Jersey Sucks: It Just Does.'' The site offers ``Jersey Sucks'' T-shirts at $17 a pop and mails out a free ``Jersey Sucks'' bumper sticker with every order. (The Web also includes a similarly named JerseySucks.com site. But it is owned by a British Internet promotion company and refers to the island of Jersey in the English Channel, which apparently also has an image problem.)
JerseyPride.com occasionally gets venom-filled e-mail from Jersey haters inside and outside the state.
``People are rude, you pay a ton of money to live here and get nothing special in return, car insurance is outrageous, the beaches suck and you have to pay to get on them and the weather is horrible,'' read one recent e-mail from a Jersey native. ``The state has nothing to offer.''
Kauflin shrugs off the e-mail and the other profanity-laced messages he fields on a regular basis. He believes the Jersey jokes and criticism are actually a sign that the rest of the nation is jealous of the Garden State.
``I think it's cool. We're important enough to be talked about. We're important enough to be on people's minds,'' Kauflin said.
``We're always in the middle of the action,'' he adds, launching into a list of the state's assets. He admits he occasionally sounds like an ad for the New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism.
The Garden State has no bigger cheerleader than Kauflin, who can recite obscure facts about the state, regularly wears his Jersey Pride T-shirts and sleeps with a picture of Washington crossing the Delaware over his bed.
Born in Ridgewood, he grew up in Ramsey. He was raised by his mother, who works in a doctor's office, and his stepfather, a fifth-grade teacher.
In college, Kauflin enthusiastically joined Middlebury College's recently revived Lovers of the Garden State club. The group, known as LOGS, was run by Michael Kirkland, a fellow student from Summit.
Composed of a few dozen New Jersey students, LOGS met weekly on campus to discuss all things Jersey. The group's motto was ``Semper Jerseus Semper Fi'' _ Latin for ``Always Jersey Always Faithful.''
``We didn't do much. We'd kind of just sit around and talk about New Jersey,'' Kauflin said.
At the start of each meeting, members saluted the New Jersey flag and recited their pledge, which was belted out to the tune of Bon Jovi's ``Livin' on a Prayer.'' (``I pledge allegiance to the Garden State,'' the pledge begins, ``to thy beautiful land from Mahwah to Cape May; To thy 24-hour diners and thy full-serve gas and to the Boss, of course ...'')
JerseyPride.com started as the college club's online outlet. After graduation, Kauflin maintained the site as a labor of love and watched it grow.
He still sells the club's Lovers of the Garden State sweat shirts, along with JerseyPride.com's New Jersey T-shirts. The proceeds help pay the fees to keep the site running.
``I would say I'm breaking even,'' Kauflin said.
Kauflin said he hopes to write a book one day about all that is good about his home state. Until then, he's happy just to act as New Jersey's online ambassador.
And for now, he has no plans to live anywhere else.
``Unless I meet someone I really love and she refuses to move to New Jersey,'' Kauflin said, with a smile. ``Even then, I'll probably stay around here. I love it here. I'll probably be here forever.''
(Kelly Heyboer covers higher education for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. She can be contacted at kheyboer(at)starledger.com.)
Not for commercial use. For educational and discussion purpose only.
You got a problem wit dat?
Thanks. I'll add his site to my jersey community sites.
Bump for later.
When I was a Seaside Heights lifeguard I found the Nu Yawkas and Penns_in_the_necks kinda civilized!
Jersey? What exit?
Lol, don't worry, I would NEVER leave Long Island for NJ =)
"Then came the ``What exit?'' jokes"
I'd bust on Jersey, but I live near Cleveland.
Woe is me.
It's telling that when the tolls between PA and NJ were made one-way, you don't have to pay to enter Jersey. But you do have to pay to leave.
I live in PA and we are embarassed by the weather-related traffic debacle last week where cars were marooned for up to 20 hours.
However, we feel a bit better because that is similar to typical rush-hour traffic in Jersey.
We have a very simple rule: its a rouble to get in, but two to get out.
Viktor Suvorov, Inside the Aquarium.
The Boss? Not only is his politics way out of whack, his songs suck. Perhaps you need to pick ANOTHER singer from New Jersey to represent your pledge. One who isn't known for sucking...
I lived in NJ for 52 years. A beautiful state when you explore it. But the taxes, government corruption, and cost of living are crushing.
That's why I now live in Southern Delaware. Low property taxes, nice people, beautiful beaches, low car insurance,smaller government.
But, please, don't tell anyone.
That smell along the Turnpike is a cloud of Aquanet. It's not as bad as the Axe "body effects" slicks that cluster on the waters off the Shore, though.
ooooh... I heard about the traffic jam. You have to learn to celebrate it, the way we celebrate our burning river.
But we still haven't found a way to celebrate the Eternal Joke:
The Cleveland Browns
I moved to southern New Jersey from Western New York in 1981. I love it here but do miss the mountains. I had no idea how beautiful this state could be once you get out of the damned cities.
Yes...it's called bail!
Sometimes the Jersey jokes and the pavlovian "what exit" responses get under my skin. But at least your abuse was funny.
The only bad thing about it, is that it hasn't seen an honest politician since Ben Franklin's son was appointed colonial governor in the 1760's. Since then, it's been one thief after another, and the only question has been which group of thugs is pulling the strings.
The state legislature has open contempt for the voters, and take every opportunity to remind us all to know our place, shot our mouths, and hand over the cash.
Clean up Camden, then get back to us.
I see you spend a lot of time in the "beauty needs" aisle at the A&P.
Absolutely! It's called the Garden State for a reason, afterall.
I grew up on Long Island and after we were married we were transferred to South Jersey(Brick). Hated it but a few years later, after living in a few other Atlantic Coast states, we were again transferred back to NJ. This time we sttled in Cherry Hill and we adored it. Our stay was short lived and off to Cleveland we went. Fabulous people but I couldn't wait to be transferred yet again.
Here we are on the coast of MA. for 25+ years and this is where my heart is.
Ew, another blue state!!! We're surrounded!!!!
poor choice of words after the passage of the civil union law.
That sounds so wonderful but there is one word that destroys all that "Eden"
and that word is....
for the Great State of New Jersey
Besides everyone of quality shops at the ShopRite.
The best thing to come from New Jersey was Mrs. IrishCatholic.
...she made me type this or she would make me drink "Take-a-Boost."
Oh yes, Biden is a big fly in the ointment. But he is up for relection next year, and he needs to be retired.
He only comes to Southern Delaware rarely--the libs all live up north.
Brick is a great town, Safest town in the Nation.
Yep, those are deadly.
Jersey is and always will be a "LEECH" State!
They Leech off of NYC in the North and Phily in the South.
Location, location, location! :-)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.