Thursday, July 28, 2016


I used to walk around NYC
thinking about, early on, why
everyone didn't live there; and
then later why they all ended
up, instead, staking territory in
the 'suburbs' and moving out.
It was an endless conundrum
to me, and it really took a while
to understand what was going
on. People from Brooklyn,
and Queens, the Bronx, and
Staten Island, and Manhattan
too, they'd start showing
up in places like or around
Avenel. Or the environs of
Woodbridge anyway. Trying
to find the answer, over
time it did become apparent.
People age, and they just
begin wanting different
things: space, room, energy,
safety, (there's never
any safety, but, hey, why
leave the best for last?)...
You wake  up one day,
you're 45. Living out in the
crummy end of the W50's.
First, a long time ago, you
lived in the Village, then that
got too pricey, you moved to
e24th, for a while, then a bit
on the Stanton or Essex Street
rung, and then, finally, the staid
yet crummy, decaying w50's
Two kids, basic job, no longer
using the city for its amenities
or exciting things. they're
unaffordable. Worried about
the rent, kids' schools, tuition,
money, no car, no place to go.
Suddenly, all the things you're
supposed to be living in the
city for are passing you by.
Nothing more to say, nothing
more to do. Then you move...
That's how people end up in
places like here, I guess. We
get a lot of new oddballs, still
with New York license plates
for a while. You start seeing
them, you watch them getting
used to the place. They've
never had a lawn before, or
garbage carts, roller wheels,
hoses, hedges, any of that,
let alone a car and a driveway.
All that 'new world beckons'
stuff just slapping them in
the face. Avenel. Colonia.
Port Reading, Rahway,
yeah, even Perth Amboy.
Not the choicest of
locations, any, but surely
home. And it's a very nice
thing; perhaps hard to give
up the city, but then better
with time, as things become
your own. Strangest thing in
the world, this progression.
Princeton wasn't much like
that. People who moved
there had the mortgage
bracket which enfolded
completely different numbers.
The million dollar threshold,
for one, was just a starter.
So it was different. If they
had a New York place,
God-damn they still had
it. My friend, Barry, at
the Princeton Record Exchange
- started in 1969 as his own,
living and vital hippie fantasy.
Still going, great guns, lo all
these many years later. It's
all his, and it's huge. He remains
completely in the background,
hidden, except for staff and
some, no one ever even sees
him, business-wise. He'd be
there, early, 6am mornings,
already in his office inside.
Truck or van outside. I'd see
him around  -  he owned a
few other properties, acquired
over the years, and so had a
real estate concern too. Also
pretty much keeping him hid.
He was known as a bit of a
crusty crank, always walking
around with a cup of coffee in
his hand (Panera was a tenant
of his in one of his buildings on
Nassau Street, so I always figured
 'free coffee' was part of the rent),
while cursing the 'three dollar 
coffee' down the street,
which I'd buy. He'd point out
my penny-foolishness.
One day, in NY, I was walking down
Third Avenue, up about 19th
street, and there's Barry, steaming
past me. He was walking really
fast, to my slow amble, and was
as surprised to see me as I was
to see him. We saw each other
at about the same moment.
This was about three years
ago. He said 'I'm on my way
down to the movie house at
11th, for the film festival
showing today; I've got to
get there before they close
the advance ticket window,
otherwise there will be a
long line later. If you want
to walk fast with me. We can
talk and have a few beers.'
That was funny to me. He's
a thick, bulky guy, muscled,
not fat, and to see him fast
walking, in the normal 3/4
cargo shorts I'd always see
him in, was funny. He reminded
me of the rabbit in Alice In
Wonderland  -  'I'm late, I'm
late, for a very important date...'
We got where we were going,
the corner of 11th and 3rd ave.,
(AMC, Village 7), and as he
dashed for his ticket window he
motioned me into the bar on the
opposite corner, called 'The Pour
House', where he kept a tab.
He finished up, we took a
corner window table (it was
open to the air). I said how I
was surprised to see him, etc.
Asked what he was doing here,
and more  -  he said he and his
wife 'kept' an apartment in the
city, in the w40's. He said how 
he was often here, and was 
way into films, watching 
indie movies, the entire set-up 
of the varied film-festival 
showings, all over the city,
this being but one example. He 
was, right then, a perfect
example of that other gumption
I knew of, that sort of bolder
Princeton gumption spreading 
itself perfectly over places, 
and somehow re-defining 
both. It was funny, and I 
really liked him for it  - 
just speaking his mind 
and living perfectly among
different worlds. He asked 
questions then, about me, 
as I'd asked about him. And
say what you will about him,
but he pulled no punches nor 
held anything back, We 
got 'rid' of the subject of my
job at the Princeton bookstore
in a few quick lines  -  he was
not impressed and didn't think
much of it. Then we got to 
'what do you really like, what 
makes you?', and I started on
about the Studio School, all my
other lives just down the street 
from there, my art, my painting 
and writing, photography, etc.
and this is where I get lost, 
because I've seen this before,
a hundred times, the pure and
mercenary act of people in
business. They might as well 
say, 'Look, if it isn't business, 
I'm not interested.' I told him 
he could see my stuff anytime, 
it was online, constantly posted, 
sold occasionally, etc. He said,
'I'll be perfectly frank with you,
I wouldn't go there, I'm just
not interested in any of that. 
It would mean nothing to me.'
Yes, I remember those words
as if etched : 'It would mean
nothing to me.' Well, then.
Lets have a another beer. We
did; he went in to see his film,
we said goodbye, and parted.
I mention also, he asked me if
I followed films, and the festivals,
and asked if I'd like to see this one.
In all truthfulness then, and still, 
I did say I had no interest in
films or movies, and couldn't
much sit still for that period of
time in someone else's storyline.
But that was after what he'd said,
and the two should really not be
connected. I'd spoken my real 
mind in response to films and
movies just as  -  I guess  -  he
spoke his about a lack of any finer 
interests in art or any of its 
sensibilities. Except 'film', I
guess, which DVD's he sold 
as well. It was difficult for me
to speak my real mind to him, 
yet I did, and uncomfortably
too.  He seemed to speak his 
without a second thought. The
funniest thing, as we parted, he
asked me to someday soon write
him a breakdown of my ideas about
his business (the famed Princeton
Record Exchange), what things it
should be doing and what ideas
or strategies I may have for their
merchandising future. Always
business. The coffee is pricey, but
at least here the beer was free.

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