Notes on “The Meadowlands”

– Amanda Marshall

Snake Hill:

  • “Back to America’s first West – making a reverse commute to the already explored land that has become, through negligence, through exploitation, and through its own chaotic persistence, explorable again” – pg. 15
    • Landscape has become unrecognizable, changes and becomes new
  • “When the sky is clear, the water in the far-off creeks and rivers shines through the reeds like a sheet of aluminum foil that has been crumpled and the n spread out again” – pg 14
    • The area is an industrial wasteland. He referenced nature to industry.
  • The Meadowlands area perpetual mess, no matter what renovations happened to it. Throughout history it was chaotic – pg. 16
  • “It is not a real city,” he added, “”It is not a small town, but something strangely in between. … The new roads rarely stay smooth for long in the Meadowlands.” – pg. 17
    • Connection to how the natural side of it is not wild but not urbanized either. Somewhere in between.
  • The meadowlands are only five miles from the empire state building – pg. 18
  • The citizens and people are embarrassed of it, but they were the ones that created it – pg. 19
  • The meadowlands has a history of being terrifying and contempt with the people. Used to be infested with snakes and people would go snake hunting – pg. 21
  • It seems as though the landscape is stubborn, and perpetually salty or grumpy at how people try to alter and control it. – Pg. 23
  • “The meadowlands is notorious for train crashes” – pg. 24
    • The environment is harsh. Fog causes crashes.
    • “Reminded of how inaccessible the meadowlands are”. Emergency team couldn’t find the train wreck.
  • “Today, a good portion of the hill is gone.” – pg. 26
    • The glory/highpoint of the area is gone. It was destroyed. Connection to how the area as a whole has been degraded and trashed over history.
  • The conversation with the mayor reflects of a different, past time. Connection to how the wild areas of the meadowlands recall to a different period in history as well. When America was full of wild landscape and people painted pictures of the area. – Pg. 28
  • Love in “ugly” things. There is something endearing found. – pg. 30
  • The author is seduced by the historic, things that are now lost, and strange. – pg. 32

An Acheivement of the Future:

  • “The number of animal species on hand for the first Meadowlands settlers was comparable to the number of cars on the turnpike on a Friday night before a holiday” – pg. 37
    • Another simile to industry. Comparing nature to a non-natural entity
  • Extensive change. The Meadowlands seem to be a character that keeps changing hats, but each one has the same stubbornness of a grouchy old man Pg. 39
  • “The Hackensack was dammed upstream in 1902, increasing the salt water content in the Meadowlands. Meanwhile, the meadows were catching on fire more often.” – pg. 40
    • More change. People try to “improve”, but make the area worse.
  • The cedar stumps are like the stump of the hill. What once was glorious was leveled and destroyed. – 40
  • “Schuyler mine, the first successful mine in America.” – pg. 41
    • Forefront in industrialization, altering the environment
  • “When he finally fired it up, the contraption looked like a giant chicken drinking water…” pg. 42
    • Another example of comparing industry to something natural
  • “The pump was destroyed in a fire in 1768, and the mine was eventually shut down.”- pg. 42
    • The Meadowlands are in a very old part of the country. Something that old has a long time to accumulate tragedy.
  • Newark is the capital city of the Meadowlands – pg. 43
  • The factories in Newark flushed all of their bi-products into the streams and the meadows – pg. 44
  • Wesley Hyarr was influential and historical. From the Meadowlands. He was strange and came from a strange area. – pg. 45
  • “The greatest inventor ever to live in Newark, Seth Boyden was also one of the greatest American inventors” – pg. 46
    • Built the first locomotives, invented an air gun, a rifle, an electric clock and more. – pg. 46
    • For many years after his death there was a parade to honor him – pg. 47
  • “For McGyllycuddy, the Meadowlands spat in the face of progress” – pg. 49
    • Like how people “spat” at the Meadowlands in the first chapter
  • “Only those with a highly artistic sense, and the ability to forget the evil sanitary influences lurking beneath the waving reeds and grasses, can appreciate these beauties.”
    • The Meadowlands are an acquired taste
  • “If it was left to an American to solve a problem which the genius and science of the Old World have labored at for hundreds of years in vain.”
    • Pattern of ethnocentricity in America
  • All “improvements” seem to make the area worse

Gone with the Wind:

  • This book is a love letter to a polluted swampland
  • “It had recently undergone a typical Meadowlands experience.”
    • A typical “Meadowlands experience” is full of tragedy and chaos
  • “The area’s undevelopability has kept it relatively free of sky-scrapers and tall buildings. All over the Meadowlands, there is uninterrupted panorama. It’s the Big Sky Country East.”
    • Large contrast to New York
  • Le Magnifiue – pg. 66
    • Strange, tragic area but with a valiant brilliance, breeds similar people
  • His anecdotes always end on a sour note. Humorous. Pg. 72

Walden Swamp:

  • They go on a “different” breed of expedition. Old Industry is not usually explored, or not defined as explorations – pg. 78
  • Instead of describing beautiful scenery, he describes the trash. Opposite of normal expedition descriptions. – pg. 80
  • Carp are very hardy. The fact that carp are the only species of fish he sees shows that the water is low quality – pg. 81
  • First time he actually called something gross – pg. 83
  • The terrain is tough and confusing. Another example of how maps of areas can be neglected. Especially areas that people deem “uninteresting”, even though it’s an area in which people live. Not like Yellowstone which is thoroughly mapped. – pg. 91

Valley of the Garbage Hills:

  • “The big difference between the garbage hills and the real hills in the meadowlands is that the garbage hills are alive.” – pg. 96
    • Opposite than expected
  • Older dumps were poorly dug and suffer leachate issues. Example on pg. 96
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, “Trash is Beauty” – pg. 104


  • “The Meadowlands owes its longtime reputation as one of the most disgusting areas in America mostly to three things: Trash, industry, and mosquitoes”
    • 2/3 caused by people
  • Easy to become a prized Entomologist. Did not need expensive training nd schooling, just experience. – pg. 108
  • “Every hour has its task, every moment has an opportunity” – John Schmidt/Smith – pg.109
  • “Salt hay farmers who were still operating profitably at the time didn’t appreciate the state entomologist cutting ditches through their fields”
    • Conflict of interest
  • Solicitans, they’ll hit your hard. They’ll give you a wicked bite. I don’t care if it’s day, storm, night. They’re gonna light on you and they are gonna bite you. They’re a pretty nasty mosquito.” – pg. 118
    • Hardy like the area in which they live
  • “Touring mosquito-infested areas of New Jersey with Victor is like touring a red-light district with a vice squad detective.” – pg. 120


  • This old man is adorable – pg. 128
  • “I am convinced that it would be a blessing if when our time comes to go, it would be on the wings of a hawk. Oh, well, as Peter pan said, “Death must be a wonderful adventure.” – Leo Koncher – pg. 132


  • “If a guidebook to the flora and fauna of the Meadowlands is ever written, it will have to include a chapter on bodies and their identification.” – pg. 142
  • “If the Meadowlands were a nation, the Hoffa story would be its great national epic…” – pg. 143
  • “I couldn’t get over how much the lichen looked like bloodied, amputated limbs.” – 153
    • Book discusses perspective a lot. Perspective on what we find beautiful and worth our time. Past experiences effecting how we see things.
  • “That day, as we dug, a British Airways jet swooped out from the clouds over us on its way to Newark as if it were an anxious bird protecting her nest.” – pg. 154
    • Another example of comparing something industrial to something found in nature
  • The Penn Station was destroyed. Like the Meadowlands, everything has a hayday, and everything falls
  • Robert Sullivan has crazy reporter social skills – pg. 161
  • Lady doesn’t care about Penn Station. Another anecdote on perspective and differences in opinion. – pg. 163


  • “Watson is convinced that Europeans appreciate the Meadowlands more than Americans, though he’s not certain why” – pg. 167
    • Different cultures, different perspective. Another point on perspective.
    • “But here at ground zero, Watson saw grandeur.” – pg. 168
  • History as twisted as the pollution of the land – pg. 177
  • “The Skyway was America’s first superhighway” – pg. 178
    • The first of any new technology is usually the worst

The Trapper and the Fisherman:

  • “For a long time, environmentalists were nearly extinct in the Meadowlands.” – pg. 187
    • It seems like the Meadowlands are were they are very much needed
  • People remember the pig farms with disgust, but the people who actually live there are nostalgic about them. – pg. 187
  • “But Smith spends his days riding around on the old dumps, out in his pontoon boats…” = pg. 189
    • Someone has to
  • Different people love the same thing in different ways. Smith and Sheehan both love the Meadows but express it in different ways. They want different things for the Meadows. Phragmites argument. – pg. 192
  • “But we’re the ones who screwed it up!” – pg. 197
    • Finally someone says it
  • “I’m not gonnna be happy until I can stand on the shore of the Hackensack and see the same thing that the Indians saw.’ And I mean, that’s just not gonna happen.” – pg. 199
    • Smith is a realist and I agree.
  • Disagreements have a habit of setting back restoration projects
  • “’It would be a unique experience,’ Smith says, ‘imagining it. The backdrop for your campfire is the New York City skyline.’” – pg. 200
    • Even fixed up the Meadowlands would still stand out from other natural places


  • “Oh, Meadowlands, What will become of you if your reeds eventually lift you up and dry you and shake off your remaining swampness and transform you into yet another meadow?” – pg. 203
    • Would a healthier Meadowlands lose its appeal?
  • Not sure what to make of the ending. What point is he trying to say? Is that what the author is saying in the title “Point-no-point”?

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