by Chris R. Morgan

NJ postcard

I guess, for the sake of narrative clarity, I should start at the beginning. Or at least that’s what I would like to do. It’s not that I can’t remember the path that led me to be here, it’s that I find myself remembering several. Perhaps this is the burden that befalls all Great Men in those rare moments of perplexity. It is daunting, my position, make no mistake. But surely you want to know and so let us work through this together.

I know it’s easy to see me here, under the golden dome of the State House, and accept how truly inevitable it all seems. “Governor Morgan” has an effortless ring to it, in ways sonorous and supernatural. But of course things are not always so dead set when one has a firm handle on history, and mine is a strange one and a dizzying one, I admit that. We like to think that the path to power is paved straightly and smoothly, through civic virtue, or at least careful vetting. How childlike it all seems now that the Revelations have come to pass.

Power, I’ve learned, is not something someone simply wants, or even seeks out. Turns out it’s a lot like inspiration. I’ve lived in New Jersey for all but two and a half years of my life. Looking out the window of my train as South Orange begat Orange begat East Orange, it did not dawn on me to take the reins of its infrastructure. At Action Park, dodging flailing limbs and stifling screams of emotional ambiguity, guiding the collective destiny of its people seemed the highest order of implausibility. It’s something that simply … came about, almost entirely on its own cognizance.

Perhaps it was at the diner, late August, an hour or so before closing. I was the only one at my table, surrounded by more than one many-peopled tables, mostly people who were much younger than me. They were, in large part, happy, or at least very eager. Eager to get on with the night, eager to say their goodbyes, eager to have the last word in their breakup conversations, eager to test the strength of lifelong friendships by persuading someone else to cover all the coffee. Eager, in other words, to move on. They were college kids, saddled with the self-declaimed misfortune of being brought up here, a place where they are intent on spending an ever decreasing amount of obligatory downtime. People around here know that eagerness well. They wear it tensely and half-fixed on their faces, not certain they want to completely conceal it. To most it is the look of irrepressible youth; to me it is the look of a witling plant with half-torn roots. It is the look of knowing what to trash but not what to grasp. They wanted to banish themselves, and suddenly I wanted to help them. I remember next that Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon” started playing, whether it came from the diner speakers or from my chocolate cake rush I can’t recall, but it started growing so loud as to take up space. I remember breaking into song, spoon in hand around the dining room, I remember a waiter taking out his ukulele and following me, I remember being physically removed, and I remember no one was behind me when I pranced through the streets.

Or perhaps it was when I regained consciousness some indeterminate time later, encircled by a kind of people I can only logically assess as Pineys. I’d never set eyes on such a people, nor had they ever set eyes on someone like me. Still, they took me in and we met an awkward but not uneasy middle ground in our linguistic disconnects. We bonded over moonshine, they offered me sustenance with tire fire barbecue. Soon they grew to be comforted by my eloquence, enough that they invited me to advise their Elders Council. By the time they offered me to join, however, I had regained by northern restlessness. I had taken to leave, but when I looked back, they were right behind me. Far be it from me to tell them how to live, I persisted, made my way back up the Parkway. Every time I looked back the following seemed to be larger. By the time I had come back to Union County I was standing atop a Land Rover, willingly donated and horse-drawn for effect. I wanted to stop when I got home, but they wanted to push forth. I got them pizza, but they were still unsatisfied. So I led them to the Mall at Short Hills, for want of anything else. We came, they carried me in, we acquired Teslas, iPads, and Cheesecake Factory before the panicked staff and shoppers could entirely torch it.

The rest remains a blur, to be quite honest. Tumblr flame wars, specialized trucker hats, massive and riotous rallies, a Steppin’ Out cover feature. All of it leading toward my now inevitable rise to Trenton’s hallowed halls of power. There were hitches along the way, of course; like questions of my legitimacy. Some subpoenas were brought forth, some cases heard, some opinions handed down. They are on a pile TO BE READ, next to my even larger pile of unsolicited memos luminaries send me in hopes that I will condense them into decrees.

The morning after, though, I awoke suddenly imbued with a great sense of power. The power that builds muscle of a very spiritual kind, that allowed me to ask where, exactly, the state’s supply of dynamite was and if there was enough that could be applied to every bridge in the state. Turns out there was. We’ve added nice plaques to each of them.

And it is the same power that moved me to undertake my greatest policy success of freeing the sex workers of their bondage with proper business permits and loan approvals. There was a raised eyebrow or two at the decision to give them quarter in Alpine. Paul Mulshine raised his the highest. In setting the new tone of my administration I decided it was best to engage than to brush off. I told him straight that we had to set higher standards in New Jersey starting at its lowest social rungs and working our way skyward. A better quality of brothel invariably engenders a better quality of school, which begets higher property values, and just an overall more potent quality of life known heretofore to only very few of us. It’s really a matter of freedom of personal choice; the freedom to choose to trickle up rather than down; and the freedom to choose to be either be the most respected political columnist in New Jersey, or to take an extended vacation to the FunTown Pier amusement park detention center.

I cannot remember when the wall came up, or whether it was an extension of my policies or the policies of outsiders. But we’re content with it, in spite of what you may have heard regarding food shortages, cholera and foot-and-mouth outbreaks, complications regarding NJ Transit’s transition to a monorail system, or the fact that Freedom of Speech is relegated to the comment section of Frankly I’m comforted. I’m comfortable with the fact that there are exceptions to generally accepted ways of being and doing, and that those exceptions begin once one crosses the Delaware or the Hudson, or beaches in from the Atlantic Ocean. New Jerseyans are a boorishly concrete people. We are affirmed as much as we are isolated, defined as well as categorized. I guess if having an existential meltdown every day is your idea of fun in Delaware far be it from us to stop you. We’re a bit busy here building a distinct, if not necessarily objectively better, world.