Ever wonder why there's never any news on the weekends? It's because come 5:00 PM on Friday, all the respectable adults who write the stuff decamp to greener pastures. Maybe the most verdant of said pastures? Montclair, N.J.— a wondrous place a bit more than twelve miles west of Manhattan (20 miles as-the-car-drives), where legend has it that M.F.A. moms drive carpools and J-school dads coach Little League. This compact hinterland of the creative class (6.3 sq. mi., pop. 39,000) has got everything today's enlightened parents need to raise a brood of precocious little scribblers: six train stations with speedy service into the big city, a legitimate art museum, a bunch of scruffy cinemas (just try looking for The Host and The Lives of Others in Park Slope), and even diversity, both in the form of ethnic foods and ethnic peoples. So pack up the Camry, kids, we're going on safari through the suburban wilds of Montclair!
With help from native informants John Manners—a writer and the world expert on Kenyan runners (!)—and Dick Satran—a Reuters business editor who's married to Pamela Redmond Satran, novelist and founder of the 500-subscriber-strong MEWs (Montclair Editors and Writers) email group (Pam herself is away on a writer's retreat)— we've put together the following field guide of media-inclined Montclair residents. Feel free to take pictures, but don't get too close to the specimens; it's their day off!
Tyler Mathisen, anchorus CNBCus
Mathisen's just one of a bunch of financial-type reporters who call Montclair home. Wondering if that hot tip in your in-box is going to pan out? Along with Reuters' Satran, be on the lookout for Eric Schurenberg, Deputy Managing Editor of Money and a regular commentator on PBS's Nightly Business Report.
Peter King and Harvey Araton, columnistus athleticus
King, left (not to be confused with the blow-hard L.I. congressman—Go Team Jersey!), pontificates about pigskin for Sports Illustrated, HBO, and NBC, while Araton shares the classy Sports of the Times gig with, among others, lady Selena Roberts and not-evil-brother George Vecsey. But they don't just write, they teach, too! King, we hear, is a big part of the kids softball program in Montclair-land. Yep, if you lived in town, your daughter could be served batting practice by a real live S.I. writer—and not that creepy Rick Reilly guy either!
Andrew Rosenthal and David Jones, NYTimus majoris
In a town full of powdered Times staff, the biggest of wigs. Rosenthal, left, was journalism royalty from the get-go, emerging from the womb as the offspring of A.M. Rosenthal, the recently deceased Pulitzer Prize-winner and Times executive editor. Junior, of course, now edits the editorial page. The recently retired Jones was the Times assistant managing editor and the National Editor. Yeah, so basically every fact or opinion you've ever held about the news was Montclair-influenced at some point.
Jonathan Alter, Liberalus Newsweekus
Alter's been providing a steady moderate-lefty voice in Newsweek for some two decades now as a columnist and senior editor. But he's no girlie Democrat! Dick Satran—who "lives up the street" from Peter King, thus knowing a thing or two about sportiness—tells us he used to play Montclair ice hockey with the Alter-man. Meaning, similarly named and opinioned but totally insane Eric Alterman better watch out for the body checks!
Ian Frazier, Americanacus talkofthetownus
Frazier's been writing for the New Yorker since 1973; he shares a Montclair abode and two Montclair teenagers with novelist wife Jacqueline Carey. But the real reason Frazier is so important for amateur Montclairologists is his landmark phenomenological study of the subject, "Route 3: What I Saw on the Road Through New Jersey" (New Yorker, Feb 16/23, 2004); really, you should read the whole thing (cached by Google) before embarking on field work, but here's a taste:
At the foot of the driveway, right beside Route 3, the monastery has erected a shrine. It is a statue of Jesus on a white brick pedestal with concrete tablets nearby bearing the Ten Commandments. Jesus' arms are raised as if in benediction of the traffic; the position of one hand is such that a beer can just fits in it, a coincidence that jokesters take advantage of. I have often seen people, usually alone, praying before the shrine in the mornings and later in the day. They stand with heads bared and bowed and hands clasped at their waists, sometimes so deep in prayer that they seem to be in another dimension.
Now the bus turns off Route 3 at the Grove Street, Montclair/Paterson exit. It proceeds along Grove, stopping occasionally to let passengers out. When it pulls over, the branches of trees along the street brush the bus's top and side. To a suburbanite just come from the city, the scratching of branches and leaves on metal is the sound of being home.
Nicholas Wade and Charles Bagli, NYTimus minoris
It was hard to pick just two, but this pair is part of a serious contingent of Montclairites responsible for all those quirky non-hard news obsessions that actually make the Times worth reading. Wade, left, edits the Science section and likely knows more about rats, autism, red wine, and various combinations thereof than any civilian alive. Bagli is the super-prolific macro-real estate reporter; back in 2004, at age 50, he finished the Montclair YMCA 10K run in an impressive 47:30, which works out to 7:30 per mile.
David Carr, Bloggerus carpetus
Once a subspecies of the above, Times Oscar honcho Carr took Montclair pride to new heights of subversion this awards season. His blogger's valediction a few weeks ago—"Red Carpet Confidential," in the Feb. 25 print issue—began as follows:
BACK in the fall I went to the Museum of Modern Art for the New York premiere of ''Little Children..." I interviewed Kate Winslet, a movie star who doesn't act like one. Later we found ourselves on the sidewalk. We chatted about normal things — weather, children, spouses — and then she said goodbye to me by name, resting a friendly hand on my arm as she did. [...] Ten minutes later, she was in a black car going to dinner with the rest of the cast, and I was on my way to the 66 DeCamp bus queue at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, going home to New Jersey. Celebrity may be fleeting, but far less so than proximity to it. I could have told my fellow busgoers that the hand that held the bus ticket also beheld the light touch of the movie star, but whatever sparkle had been bestowed had evaporated.
Cute anecdote, right? Perhaps. But also the latest in a long tradition of winking Montclair nods to those in the know. Any guess where the 66 DeCamp Bus leads?
That's right, the pastoral fantasy every abused editorial assistant and starving freelancer has in mind, where men make news, women make novels and sometimes sculptures, and the kids get super educations, and connections. But it's a delicate ecosystem and long-time residents say the predators are swarming—"These days," Satran wrote us in an email, "the investment bankers are crowding out the writers. Writers now go to South Orange or Maplewood...."
And of course the town is overrun by the likes of Steven Colbert and other "entertainment industry" sorts. Too much flash for one small town! Weekend daydreams about settling down in a nice place with smart people? Always already over.