Helping a friend move some stuff to an apartment in Atlantic City is as good a reason as any for a road trip. Getting behind the wheel every now and then is fun.

This stretch of the Autobahn Gardenstaten is where NJ’s version of the Ruhr Valley begins. I’ve never seen the famous (and gigantic) German industrial area, so I can’t compare, but this one is pretty darn impressive. With the airport on one side, the seaport on the other, and a forest of factory smokestacks as far as you can see, it’s like a blue-collar version of Manhattan.

It always reminds me of the opening shot of Blade Runner. It also always makes me wonder if NYC should have traded all these dirty industries for a cleaner but less diverse service-based economy. It’s no fun to live next door to a filthy factory, but it’s also not great to have your entire workforce pushing paper, sweeping floors, flipping burgers, or performing in one-person mixed-media shows.

Large-scale manufacturing will never return to New York, but perhaps more could be done to encourage small, clean, “boutique” manufacturers that can employ those who don’t have the skills or desire to work in an office job. A more diverse range of industries would be good for NYC.

(NJ Turnpike, near Newark Airport)