When I first picked up The Meadowlands I chuckled to myself. Being a resident of New Jersey I was familiar with the area, as well as all of the negative images conjured by its name. The first thing I noticed about the book was Sullivan’s writing style, the reading was easy and the thoughts were organized just enough to make sense. Being that I think in a similar manner I breezed right through the book.
Just a couple of thoughts which occurred to me in the first chapter:
- Traveling from Manhattan to NJ – Sullivan makes the trip sound almost effortless, the Lincoln Tunnel is hardly effortless
- Smokestacks – Truly a staple in NY-NJ travel, reminds me somewhat of this.
Sullivan goes on to describe, in great detail, the history of the Meadowlands. From the days as a supposed pirate haven, to the first iteration of the turnpike, to the many failed attempts at draining the land for farming and later using it to raise pigs fed from the food scraps of New York City. It is exactly this ever changing element in the Meadowlands which will protect it. In a time when New Jersey’s land is being developed as quickly as it’s turned over, the Meadowlands will remain the untamable wilderness, polluted though it is.
The last chapter conjures images of the Secaucus area which have been engrained in my head since I was a boy. In particular I’m reminded of a story my stepmother shares every once in a while. Years ago she owned a Mazda 626, all in all a pretty nice car, though after a few years she started having problems with the transmission. After taking it to the dealer to get it checked over she was presented with an estimate of about $2000 to replace the transmission. After mentioning this to a friend he offered to take her car into work and leave it on a side street in Jersey City, with the doors unlocked. He guaranteed it would be gone by the end of the day. Needless to say, she traded the car in on a new one. Unfortunately, though the Meadowlands might remain a wilderness for many years to come, the surrounding areas will have their shared reputation stick with them.