Thursday, July 14, 2016


You can micro-manage places
to death, sometimes. They lose
their lifeblood. I often felt that
way about Princeton, later in time.
A prestigious community, I guess.
A perfect place then to demonstrate
corporate do-goodism, or smooth
and easy state-run policing. Two
instances : UPS gets new hybrid
delivery vans, two in the entire
state, to be test-driven and tried
out. One of them is assigned to
Princeton, to the UPS guy, Dave,
who does the entire downtown
area. It's displayed on the truck's
side, that it's a 'new, hybrid' clean
vehicle, etc. Dave says it's sent
to the Princeton route so that
people can see it so displayed,
on public use. He hates it but
has to use it. At each traffic light,
red, or any stop of more than
momentary duration, this vehicle
is designed so that it shuts down;
no idle, no pollution. Then, to
go again Dave has to touch or
press something and it re-starts.
He said it drove him crazy.
UPS, by the way, is fairly
crazy itself  -  Dave says the
rules and the management-snooping
of his daily driving are many: no
left turns are allowed with the trucks,
the routes are mapped out for right
turns only; the ring of keys must
at all times when not driving be on
be on Dave's fingers - he has to put
his index finger through the key-ring
loop when he exits the truck, which
must be locked at all times not
being driven. He can only leave
the truck from the right, 'passenger'
side; never the left, traffic side.
Dave says management is often
out with 'spy' cars, just observing
drivers to see that they abide by
these rules. Any infraction can
be written up as a violation. Too
many violations, you are
suspended, or gone. All this, of
course, while productivity agents
are also out watching the driver's
delivery/walking speeds, wasted
efforts, loss of time. So, he's
fighting the clock, the burden
of delivering packages, and the
assorted tactics of productivity
and efficiency nazis. (After 20
years of local driving, Dave's
now turned in his road days
for an inside management job).
Goes to show. Princeton gets
all the glory. Another point: on
Nassau Street, there's most usually
a police car with a cop in it just
watching things go by. This was,
some years back, also a test-tactic,
Princeton prestige, for police
license-plate scanning cars. The
cop didn't need to do a thing  -
just turn on the dash laptop, and
wait for it to beep or buzz as a car
went by. Any vehicle/driver with
outstanding warrants, violations
or other identifiable problems,
would be flagged by the plate-scanner.
That too was a Princeton test-run.
I think lots or all of the police cars
have that now. So, anyway, think
about it: from a UPS point of view
how commercial is it to publicize
and 'get credit' in the finest of
places for your corporate 'doing
good'? Must have plenty of value;
same with the cops  -  demonstrating
only the best and the finest. That's
another variant on being 'fine-tuned'
to death. What really could go
wrong in a place like that? But,
you micro-manage something to
those extent, the life-blood is taken
right from it.
Fifty years ago, if you walked
down the hill along Witherspoon,
past the old Princeton graveyard
on your right, and down to where
there was an old white church and,
across from it, a beat-up Chinese
restaurant  -  which most people
really would have thought twice
eating at, to your left you'd get
to the black section of town. 1960's
version I mean. Simply a neglected
and run-down section where the
people were OK with that and made
it fir their finer style of life. It had
been the old servant quarters of
town   -  all those in-home day
workers and stuff, and before
that it was the area of the homes
 for the free'd local slaves, where
they settled on their own, after
liberation. Weird stuff, but true
 -  Princeton had been a very
Southern style town, very, and
with slaves. In the 60's, it was
pretty vivid to look at  -  homes
and yards, big trees, broken down
cars and stuff everywhere. Very
cool. It's all gone now, having
been torn down in the 70's and
replaced with row houses,
complexes of interconnected
small places and apartments.
Now, years on again, the black
people are all gone and it's all
Mexican, Peruvian, Hispanic
anyway  -  an entire other and
distinct culture. Also vivid, but
so different. Depending on what
I did and how and where I walked,
I'd get up to Small World Coffee
about 6:30, as they opened. If I
was early and it was really cold,
they'd allow me in the back door
to stand in and warm up until
they opened. I always had
notebooks and stuff write or
read, so none of that was a
problem. What was curious,
always, and what was Princeton's
dark secret a well, was how,
about 6:30 or even 6, the buses
from Trenton and New Brunswick,
each of them a different direction,
would disgorge their streams of
10, 20, 30 Mexicans and Hispanics,
more than the ones who lived here,
for their behind the scenes kitchen
jobs in the almost countless small
restaurants everywhere. The
USFoods Co. trucks, from Perth
Amboy, the fish trucks, from
Philly, the garbage haulers  - from
whatever points, they'd all be in
early, doing their activity, in the dark
or the new day's early light. Cleaners,
cooks, servers, everyone busy with
the set-up for another day of serving
the white tourist crowd. Princeton
prided itself on authentic elitism, but
the dirty, dark secret was how it was
all done by imported, or not, Hispanic
tier labor, at whatever pay rate went.
Crowds of little people, milling the
early morning streets  -  with all their
chatter and jabber and laughter.
It was quite the sight to see.
I use names here; a lot of people
became my friends. It was an
exquisite place and no one ever
really knew what to make of me.
The townspeople just figured I
had something to do with the
university, and the university 
people knew me from the 
bookstore. On either side of
that fence, I never said a word. 
I was the complete outsider, 
the man from another place. 
One guy thought I was a leftover 
on-the-road beatnik type, 
scribbling my notes and 
reading books all the time. 
A micro-biologist chem lab 
guy befriended me because
to him I represented another 
world, a loose-fit, out of 
round personage; a writer 
guy because he thought 
I was writer, a publishing guy
 because he just assumed I was 
published, a beautiful 
woman, for a time, and
I only slightly hesitate to 
say this, in one swift segment 
of a month's time, fell madly 
in love with me. She was only 
a tad older than I was. Talk and 
words, no more. This all sounds 
so funny now that I ought to be 
laughed out of the room, but it 
was true and it happened, and 
having little to do with anything  
I did.  She had a great history, and 
plenty of  stories behind all that too, 
but I only mention this now, with 
little detail. Being done with it
was actually quite a relief. Pure
Princeton exclusivity, all the way.
When she finally did get the 
realization that nothing 
was to be, it was one of the 
saddest and most awkward
moments I experienced. She 
almost immediately, believe 
this, within two months at
the very most, sold her home, 
and went off to California with
some old guy she met. I'd still
see her little clutch of coffee
friends each morning; I'd ask
about her, they'd tell me about 
her, and they'd go visit her too.
Cross-country travel, to them
all, was like eating a donut. In
this fashion, I spread my contacts
and got to know many. All the
Scotts and Alans and Dans,
Steves and Walters and Marys 
and Janes too. Very strange and
very wonderful world. The 
funniest of it all was how, 
in this later period of my life, 
I finally both learned and 
realized how NOT to 
micromanage my life.
I had become tired and 
straitlaced and plain; a 
shelf-load of references and
memories that, I realized, 
I was too close to losing touch 
with. Somehow those seven
years brought me back to myself,
that whole new skin thing.

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