The Garden State gets a bum rap because many people who see it only see it from the New Jersey Turnpike or the northern half of the Garden State Parkway. Once you get away from the big roads, it's actually a lot more like New England than your average New England Resident would like to admit. Drew University, where I work, in fact has been used in movies and TV as a school set in New England or upstate New York.

Of course, there are problems, besides ones of the traffic and pollution that everyone knows about. There's a strong sense of home rule and some 500-odd municipalities (there's no unincorporated land like in many US states) which means 500 school districts, police forces, fire departments, etc. For a state this small, it's a bit crazy and is probably part of why our property taxes are some of the highest in the USA.

But hanging out in the Delaware Water Gap or High Point State Park or even the Jersey Shore makes you kind of glad that most people think we're the armpit of the nation and don't often think to vacation here.

Besides, with suburban sprawl and the cancer of SUVs, the whole rest of the country will be like the worst parts of New Jersey in 20 years anyway. Most modern American cities in the South or West are already suffering from endless sprawl, traffic and pollution. At least in New Jersey we have some fine small towns where people can actually live within walking distance from restaurants, shopping and entertainment.