The Believer

A Field Guide to Central New Jersey

A WRITER RETURNS HOME TO THE LAND OF FROZEN DRINKS, RED SAUCE, AND FIVE HUNDRED-DOLLAR EYELASHES

The Believer
Illustration by Joseph Gough

I’m driving past the dilapidated red barn on Pleasant Valley Road on the border of Marlboro and Colts Neck, New Jersey, ferrying my seven-year-old daughter to a pool party at Joey Martinelli’s house. The view is of tree-stripped low hills punctuated by colonies of pop-up McMansions, hastily built in the aughts and faced with Dryvit. Scattered among them are the remains of nineteenth-century Dutch farmhouses and Revolutionary War battle sites. There are no mature trees in McMansion Land, no; those are only in the distance, far away but there, still. This is Monmouth, the northernmost county of the Jersey Shore, one hour south of the Holland Tunnel, exits 128–117 off the Garden State Parkway.

On the Martinellis’ block, the yards are all meticulously landscaped, replete with topiaries, emerald green thuja arbor-vitae pruned in spirals, and the occasional stone lion. The street names betray aspirations they don’t quite reach: Lecarre intersects Coleridge Drive; Huxley Court runs parallel to Blake. Barbecue and grass cuttings commingle in the breeze…read more here.

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