Blurry Military Park in Newark

Record Store Day. Independent Bookstore Day. Free Comic Book Day. Oh yes, ladies, gents and non-binary fam, ’tis officially the season to explore, engage and enjoy the community you call home.

I know, I know. As spring is still struggling to find its step and Memorial Day beckons at the end of the month, our thoughts turn more toward summer vacations and getting away from the routine and familiar grind of our daily lives. But I’ve decided to take a different tack.

Since I already had a major vacation holiday this year, it’s unlikely I’ll be traveling anywhere far for the remainder of 2017. But that’s not a lament as it has come to my realization that on August 1st, I will have resided in the Garden State for 2 whole years. And in those 2 years, my knowledge of my new city and state has grown … but at a glacial pace. So I’ve devised a way to change that.

For the next 3 months, leading up to my August 1st anniversary, I am making a concerted effort to gain more first-hand knowledge of the state I now call home. You’ve already read why I’ve chosen the city of Newark to hang my hat, but I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I have so much more to learn. And with that commitment, I want to know more about what the region has to offer, and hopefully, in the process understand how the Garden State has come to produce so many truly innovative minds.

Now, part of my strategy for this great undertaking will be deliberate, and part of it will be played by ear. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in 4 decades (and a recent trip abroad) is that life’s grandest moments reside in both worlds. So for the month of May, I have some wonderful plans to dive into Newark and her immediate environs. And boy does she have a lot of environs!

May

This upcoming weekend (May 5th) is the kickoff of Brick City’s First Friday event. A major step forward for the city’s arts and small business community, I anticipate a little stroll down Halsey way, snacking on a feast for the senses and learning more about some of the shops I’ve always planned to visit since I moved here, but have never made the time. Following this, I’m looking forward to a few trips to Hackensack for some creative professional networking, another en masse “movie night” with Mel Brooks at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, a walking tour of Downtown Newark, and a first-hand examination of the many coffeeshops of Montclair. I may also throw in a trip to the Fortress of Solitude for Free Comic Book Day and my first all-day visit to the Newark Museum (as opposed to only attending specific events there in the past).

June

It’s a lot, I know. But that’s just the start. For June, I have plans to finally make my way down to Red Bank. Maybe stop by Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, grab a meal at JBJ Soul Kitchen, and amble around all the funky shops, galleries and Streetlife exhibits that make Red Bank worthy of a day trip. Also on the horizon for the official kickoff of summer, I hope to take a trip to the beach and see what the hubbub is all about along the Jersey Shore. That plan is still is its early stages as I’m not much of a beach person, but as you know, I do like to go outside my comfort zone from time to time. And never let it be said that the unfamiliar can only be found in a distant, far off land.

July

As for July, I haven’t decided in what events I may partake, but I can tell you a music festival will likely be among the road trips. And while June will see a bit of exploration of Central Jersey, I’d like to venture down to South Jersey for a weekend or two in July to see what it has to offer. I keep hearing about dinosaur “ground zero,” and I’m definitely the type of person to spend hours wondering the corridors of little known or little appreciated museums. Stay tuned for more details on those adventures.

And well, that’s it, dear readers. My three-month plan to expand my knowledge of the much-maligned state of New Jersey. If you told me 10 years ago I’d be calling Newark home, I’d have laughed so hard in your face I would’ve lost consciousness. But life is the one that truly gets the last laugh. It’s forever presenting you with fascinating, frightening and far-fetched possibilities and telling you to make magic. So here I go, ready, willing and determined to enjoy the state I’m in.