Friday, September 16, 2016


179. DON'T GET 
When I was about 10, the first
time I saw Newark I nearly
jumped out of my skin,
needed a diaper again,
couldn't be contained. We
were driving to my Aunt's
house in Rutherford or
Lyndhurst or whatever
it was. My father came
down off the Rt. 21 ramp,
for McCarter Highway to
Broad Street, and when
I saw that I was a goner.
I was just a long, broad
street (really!) and it
seemed crowned at one
end, whatever year this
was, by the Prudential
Building  -  a big, tall
building in Newark terms.
It was white, kind of
windowless, about 15
stories. It wasn't in
any way traditional, nor
did it, in reality, add
anything 'nice' to
Newark, architecturally.
More it was bunker-like.
But it represented the
modern day, the entire
new 'Kennedy' thing
washing over the
otherwise tired old
world. Whatever it
was, it sort of now
defined the street,
realigned the eye and
such. Around it were all
the usual and far more
traditional old-style
masonry and brick
buildings, shopping
emporiums, those more
massive sorts of store
fronts there used to be.
The Prudential Building
just sort of re-defined all
that, saying sort of that
Newark could stand up
to the modern day if
and when it wanted to.
A broad thoroughfare, it,
along with Market Street
where they crossed, was still
sort of hungover from the
heydey of the 1940's when
Newark right there was the
black person's jazz capital  -
club after club, theaters
and recital halls, all the
big names. WBGO, a jazz
powerhouse radio station
-  still around, but a ghost,
just not a white ghost. The
Robert Treat Hotel, and some
other, famous, black people's
hotel way down the other end.
I forget the name right now.
Segregated stuff, but almost
yet by choice too. Leave it to
Prudential to erect a white
travertine marble facade,
as if attempting to break up,
right there, a dying black
culture with some 'Whitey
Insurance Company' gibberish.
That hotel I couldn't remember
just came to me - Riviera Hotel.
Still there, about 90 bucks a
night now, really a legacy too.
They don't mention the old
days too much around there,
mainly because there are no
old-timers still around. The
young kids doing things
there now don't know
a savage sunspot about
any of it.
Broad and Market, man,
once upon a time that was
state-of-the art hip stuff :
Beats and coolcats. Artists
and junkies, all rolled up.
A passel of big, famous
stores, and that gilded,
gold-domed city hall.
Hugh Addonizio, one of
those eternal 'crooked
mayors of the world club'
guys, he's forever engrained
in my mind from these 1960's
years. He probably sat on the
toilet and shit payoff money
-  there was so much of it.
The chemical companies,
the insurance rackets, the
brewery people, the leather
and glove-makers people,
(Newark was once the
thriving capital of those two
industries), all those people
tearing down all that old
stuff and rebuilding, getting
rich on the transformation.
Now there's a surface rail
line, all those rights-of-way
that had to be bought off.
Largess. Bribery. Money.
The modern day, still floating
on that decrepit sea of the past.
I found it was all about a 
sense of place -  it didn't 
really matter where that 
was, but if one could grab 
an idea of 'place' from 
somewhere, and make
it ones's own, that's all
it took. Avenel never really
had that -  that just wasn't 
there. Any 'sense' of anything
present was only of something
I'd given it, made up, or attached
to it myself. In Newark, and 
New York, in both instances, 
all became much different for 
me. They definitely had 
'place' and I adapted to 
each, quickly; making 
them my own as best I 
could. Actually, it could 
be anywhere  - if you're
from Dubuque, or, say, 
Elmira, the sense of 'place' 
which they represent 
can beckon and grab 
you. I bet even 
Laramie can do
that. It doesn't even
then have to be 'place'
by real terms. Just 'place'
in some virtual world of 
the mind, like computer
stuff today sometimes is;
Old Newark was quickly
disappearing, yes. What else
was new; around these parts
everything was getting gobbled 
up. Knocked down. Everyone 
wanted 'new'  -  that cleaner,
highway style of the 1960's,
flat slabs, little decoration, 
no glass, or lots of glass. 
No longer were there 
decorative cornices or
swirling motifs and finely 
detailed windows and
doorways. Everything was 
a flat plane, interlocking
boredom. In  Paramus, they
erected, in some shopping
center, some gigantic affront,
a Macy's or an Alexander's or
something, and upon the big
facade they plastered some
hideous, abstract splotch of
what they called 'Art'  - as if
a shopping place, of junk, 
had any claim to be claiming 
'Art', and they called it the 
'world's largest mural.' As if 
it was some Green or Roman 
masterpiece. New Jersey 
schlubs are such stupid 
freaks. Like those Bergen 
County girls with the big 
earrings who talk with 
that funny flat accent 
and are always staring
at their 'freshly done' 
nails. Ever so slowly, 
they manage to transform 
everything, soon enough, 
into nothing at all. Like a 
new, modern-day alchemy.
and with people to 
defend it all too.
Newark they just let become
a black ghetto. Self-destruct.
Jersey City, in much the 
same way, was allowed to 
fester and  crumble, with 
South Asians and Hispanics 
fighting it out. Paterson too.
By 1980, all three of those
places had hit rock bottom,
taking everything else down
with them. And all of that was
only North Jersey, I'm leaving
out, so far, Trenton and Camden
 and New Brunswick too. No real
showplaces, any of them either.
Epidemics, fatherless homes and
abandoned babies and pregnancies,
crack cocaine, AIDS, and a hundred
other versions of living deaths.
You don't need me to line it all
out, there are a hundred books
on these subjects to tell you
about all these towns and 
personalities who let all this
happen. I've already mentioned 
a few; here are two more: Peter 
Rodino, and Kevin Gibson.
Don't get me started.

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