Since I’ve lived in New York for over ten years, I am now an official New Yorker. This is who I am and I love it. I can show you where to get the best bagel, how to accidentally-on-purpose run into Jon Stewart, and why the West Village contains everything you would ever need. But when someone asks me where I’m from, like before I moved here, I tell them. And they’re like, “Huh?” Then they usually laugh. Because the name of my hometown is funny. It’s Peapack. I am not making this up. It’s derived from a Lenape Native American term meaning “marriage of the waters.” I’m not sure which waters got married specifically, but there sure are a lot of ponds and streams around.
I’m from that northern part of New Jersey where you never have to lock your door. With dirt roads and hiking trails and houses spread far apart from each other, with cows and horses and places where you can pick all sorts of berries. The house I lived in when I was little has a backyard that was just miles of woods. It was located at a high enough elevation to see the Twin Towers on a clear day. This was in Gladstone. Then we moved to Peapack, which was a whole three-minute drive away, where the population is about 1,200.
My hometown isn’t technically one town. It’s a set of twin villages, called Peapack-Gladstone. You can find data about it on this very cool website, which you can use to find out lots of random things you’ve probably never wondered about your own hometown. Like how much sunshine your town receives or what everybody’s profession is. The most commonly used home heating fuel and suchlike. Or how people get to work.
I’m not sure why these two towns got combined together like that. There are other small towns in the area, like Far Hills and Chester and Sea Bright (well, that one’s down the shore, but still) and they all stand alone. It must have been the water wedding thing.
I’m also not sure if people from small towns have different personalities than people who grew up in cities, but I think they do. When I meet someone new, most of the time they tell me that I have a Midwest vibe going on. Which I think just means that I’m a friendly neighbor. I like having the whole small town thing happening without actually living in a small town, because I love New York. I like knowing my neighbors and how the fruit guy gives me free plums and petting the scrunchy-face dog from down the street. Connecting with people and places. These are good things. But at the same time, I can see any type of live music or the funniest comedy or the ultimate indie film, all right outside my door.
And, yes. I pay the price. I am aware that for the same amount I pay each month in rent, I can own a five-bedroom mansion in wherever. But does wherever have seventy-three different kinds of gelato?