There’s one comment I’ve heard on occasion from readers: they love the locations I created in Last Exit In New Jersey. Most of these remarks are from beyond the Garden State borders, though even a few natives think I’ve made up some of these towns and places. I’ve even been asked how do I come up with this stuff. I mean, seriously… Bivalve? Cheesequake? Really?
Yes, really. Every location in my story actually exists, pretty much as described. There is in fact a Bivalve, New Jersey, a Maurice River, a place called Cheesequake. There is indeed a Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and it is in fact divided in two by the Parkway. The numbers in the chapter headings are the actual latitude and longitude for each specific location; if you plug them into Google Earth or any GPS navigation you’ll find yourself at the Route 9 White Castle or an empty stretch of beach… or twenty-three miles offshore. Or one of these places:
Point Pleasant NJ
Little Ferry NJ
Spuyten Duyvil Creek Bridge
Vince Lombardi Service Area
Cheesequake Service Area
Montvale Service Area
Newark Airport (Okay, now they call it Liberty.)
Route 1 and 9 (NOT Route 19!)
New Jersey Turnpike
Garden State Parkway
Holy Sepulcher Cemetery
Nike Missile Base (located on Sandy Hook)
Paramus Park Mall
Garden State Plaza
…and so much more.
Yes, I may have added a dock here, a building there, I may have fictionalized specific boatyards and homes, but other than that every town, highway, tackle shop and shopping mall I featured exists as described, both in appearance and any history mentioned. Even the nautical headings, speed and distance are correct and accurate and the specific buoys are the very ones currently rocking and gonging away along the coastline. There’s only one geographic detail I took a writer’s liberty with: the water depth in Piermont, New York. Sadly, Piermont has shoaled in further and further over the years, so docking a boat with any significant draft at anything other a high moon-tide is nerve-wracking at best.
In the coming weeks I plan to post details, pictures and the history of some of these places, as well as some of the locations I’ll be featuring in No Wake Zone. Get ready… you’re going on a tour of the REAL New Jersey! (And it’s not what you see on MTV.)
UPDATE 1/26/11: Check out Highlands Blog; it’s a highly enjoyable hyperlocal blog about Highlands, NJ and its surrounding areas.
Posted in Book, new jersey, writing
Tagged Bivalve NJ, Brielle NJ, Camden NJ, Cheesequake Creek, Cheesequake Service Area, East River, Elizabeth NJ, Garden State Parkway, Garden State Plaza, Great Adventure, Hackensack River, Harlem River, Hillsdale NJ, Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, Hudson River, Last Exit in New Jersey, Liberty, Little Ferry NJ, Maurice River, Millville NJ, Montvale Service Area, new jersey, New Jersey Turnpike, Newark Airport, Nike Missile Base, Paramus NJ, Paramus Park Mall, Parlin NJ, Piermont NY, Point Pleasant NJ, Raceway Park, Route 1 and 9, Route 17, Route 4, Route 46, Route 80, Route 9, Route 9W, Rumson, Rumson NJ, Sandy Hook, Spuyten Duyvil Creek Bridge, Teterboro Airport, The Meadowlands, The Pinelands, Trenton NJ, Vince Lombardi Service Area, White Castle
Heading north or south along the Garden State Parkway exists a stretch between exits 144 and 145 that carries with it an ominous bit of urban folklore. You can’t help but notice as the Parkway appears to cut straight through the middle of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. As a kid, every class trip to Great Adventure down in Jackson involved the entire busload of us collectively holding our breath as the wheels passed over the blacktop cutting between the rows of headstones, the whole while praying there’d be no brake lights to slow us and then gasping for air once we were past.
Holy Sepulchre is a vast necropolis, covering over 20 square blocks. Half the cemetery, including the main office, is located in East Orange, but half of the cemetery lies in Newark. As with any cemetery dating back to the mid 1800s, it is brimming with fascinating history. But what it is most known for to most travelers passing along the Garden State Parkway is how this main artery splits the cemetery in two, with some graves (and their occupants) resting mere feet from the shoulder of the roadway. This had led to much speculation as to the fate of the departed who had been laid to rest beneath where tires now roll. Were there once graves there, and if so, were they moved, (a gruesome thought) or worse yet, were they merely paved over like some highway version of Poltergeist. Is that length of Parkway just waiting to be sucked under by vengeful souls fed up by the sounds of Honda Civics and SUVs ruining their eternal slumber?
Well, kind traveler, not to fear! The truth is no bodies lie beneath the asphalt, nor did they ever. In its early days the cemetery occupied only up to what had been Laurelton Road, where the Parkway was eventually built. It wasn’t until after the Parkway had been constructed that the land on the other side was purchased and the cemetery expanded, creating the appearance that the Garden State Parkway cuts straight through the center.
Now you know.