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Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"


by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
On days when a column topic is elusive, eavesdropping on other people's lives can result in a gem of an idea. But this time, I overheard an entire monologue that cannot be improved upon. Every word is already a gem.

Human speech usually has verbal punctuations - short pauses in place of a written comma - just a quick beat so your words don't run together like you're James Joyce's Molly Bloom. Unless you're from New Jersey.

In an airport waiting room, I was back to back with a woman from New Jersey who was talking at a stranger sitting next to her. The New Jersey woman and her husband had been in Los Angeles two weeks to visit one of their sons:

What's going on in LA? Whoever heard of pineapple on a pizza And these aren't pizzas anyway you can't get decent pizza outside of New Jersey.

My daughter in law she said to me 'cause I was cooking dinner God knows she never does My son he does all the cooking She says to me what's that you're putting in the meatballs, garlic? So I said of course whaddya expect I put in meatballs, pineapple?

I never had a piece of bread here I can't eat it cause it's not real bread They don't know how to make good bread Jersey has the best bread especially where we live in South Jersey I used to live in North Jersey and it took two years for me to like South Jersey and now well I wouldn't live anywhere else.

We live in a senior place that's all wooded just like Paulie's from The Sopranos Ya know Joe Pesci lives close to us that's how nice it is.

Next year my son's supposed to come to New Jersey He'll remember what good cooking is I made a German beef stew cause I'm half German and half Hungarian My husband here he's a genuine Italian from Sicily Not that he's from Sicily but his people are He's a neat freak He was a fireman so everything has to be in the right place ya know?

Nothing's out of place Neat he is I don't know how my son can live the way they do considering how we brought him up.

Would you believe my daughter in law has the washer and dryer outside? That's right outside Their place is so small our place has 8 rooms Imagine that our place is bigger than my son's She won't cook and she won't clean my daughter in law. I did all their laundry and next day know what? There it was again Piles of it Same stuff.

And my grandkids, they don't know how to eat The one had a Godiva chocolate and a glassa milk for breakfast Can you believe it? In Jersey we eat fresh vegetables Whatever they got at the produce farm We buy everything fresh broccoli zucchini whatever's fresh My husband's a diabetic so we don't eat dessert but the vegetables are good in New Jersey The tomatoes? Ummmmm. First thing my husband wants me to do when we get home is make him a tomato and onion salad.

Another day the same grandson had a piece of cake and milk for breakfast. What's that about? I don't understand how they eat out here Salad that's all they eat Except for that Godiva chocolate and the cake.

And my daughter in law has dogs They're nice dogs but they never get brushed and shed all over the place Even in the kitchen I wouldn't eat anyplace with dog hair all over the place Not us She went out my daughter in law and bought this big brush and brushed her dogs There was more hair on the floor than on the dog Big pile Big Looked like they had three dogs instead of two.

My son is so upset that two of his kids ya know they aren't that smart and it bothers him cause he's principal and he was a really good student his whole life So his kid is a C student So what? But it bothers him My son it bothers my son.

He shouldn't've married a girl from California But she's from here and so's her whole family.

He shoulda married a Jersey girl My daughter in law she says her sons will stay in California too and I said not on your life they won't.

My other son he lives close to me with his wife but they have no children.

This visit gave me agida.


Seriously, would I make this stuff up?

© Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus" February 17, 2017 column

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