Tag Archive | "New Jersey"

And the Word is…???

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As we ponder the origin of things, aside from “The Word,”* we sometimes wonder how the various States of the Union came by their names. When England decided to colonize America, noteworthy citizens received grants from the King, in order to develop what later came to be known as the United States of America. William Penn, who was a Quaker, was granted a tract of land in a heavily wooded area.  That land was named in his honor thusly: Penn = the man + Sylvania (in the Romance languages) = woods.  Hence, Penn’s woods became Pennsylvania.


As logical and contemporary for its time as the naming of Pennsylvania may have been, the origin of “New Jersey” may date back to the Roman Empire. One of the largest Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France was named “Jersey.”  In Latin, that translates to Caesarea.  By this reckoning, Caesarea Insula translates to Caesar’s Island.


One of the prominent native sons of the Jersey Islands was Sir George Carteret (1610-1680).  In 1664, George was granted the territory, in the New World, between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers.  This land was then christened “New Jersey” in his honor.  Interestingly, the city of Carteret in New Jersey also bears George’s surname.


To take this one step further, I suppose that anything that carries the famous Jersey logo can be translated from or back to its original Latin.  We can have the Caesar cow, the Caesar tomato, Caesar corn, and of course, the Caesar shore.  Sitting right there at the shore, in Atlantic City, is a casino that bears Caesar’s name as well as a commanding likeness, a statue of the celebrated Emperor, standing guard above the casino’s entrance … probably against those gifted enough to “read cards!”


_________________

* "The Word", for those who require clarification, refers not only to The Word of God,
but to the Godhead Himself (i.e., "I am The Word."). 

Christie Proposes State Takeover of Atlantic City

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In his promise to restore fiscal sanity to the State of New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie announced a proposal that would impact the gambling industry.  He proposed to sell off the State’s racetracks and use the resultant funds to reinvest in Atlantic City, whose casinos are struggling to run in the black, and not the red.  We’re talking about profit figures on balance sheets, not the colors on the roulette wheels.


A major renovation that began well over twenty years ago swept Atlantic City, depositing more and glitzier casinos and hotels and nicer supporting businesses (i.e., restaurants) in the surrounding area.  These structures displaced some of the seedier aspects of the shore town, but not all.  Beyond the lights of the Boardwalk onto which many of the casinos open, Atlantic City is still not a place that the average citizen would want to walk at night.  What our Governor aims to do is model Atlantic City upon Las Vegas, bringing more than gaming to the area and transforming the city into more of a family-friendly resort.


Sounds like a plan, right?  Wrong. Christie’s proposal has divided legislatures along regional lines and cast serious doubts in the minds of some New Jerseyans.


Northern New Jersey legislators view the proposal as a plum handed to Southern New Jersey Senator Joseph M. Sweeney (D-3, Gloucester County).  As the New Jersey Senate President, Sweeney hopes to pass the plan.  However, this proposal has Northern legislators crying for equal time.  They are requesting the same consideration be given to the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park sports/concert complexes.


It sounds like the North versus the South.  I thought the Civil War ended at Appomattox, with both sides wanting to divide the spoils.  But if you’re not a legislator and just an Everyday Joe or Jane, how does Christie’s plan affect you?


For one thing, it’s going to affect your pockets and pocketbooks.  The plan to buy out a failing city and restore it to its glorious past relies heavily upon … you guessed it! … taxpayers’ money.  And that’s not the end of it.  The plan compels Atlantic City to cede most of its land directly to the State.  The State, in turn, would set up a commission to manage everything of a public nature that takes place in the municipality.  This includes everything from policing the streets to collecting the garbage.


If the proposal passes, does this mean that Atlantic City’s local government would be abolished?  Who needs corrupt local politicians when we can pass power onto Trenton, with a State Commission to oversee the community — particularly when Trenton is one of the most corrupt capitals in the United States?  Should the proposal pass, the Mayor of Atlantic City and his cabinet would become unemployed.  This would have them collecting unemployment benefits at a time when the State needs every penny to resolve its fiscal problems.


Another thing to take under consideration is the following question.  Would appointing a State Commission to replace elected local officials set a precedent? And, would the current casino revenues paid to the State be jeopardized once the plan is incorporated and implemented by our — cough, cough — oh so honest State legislators? Will this plan be put on a ballot for the electorate to approve, or will it simply be shoved down our throats?


Clearly, there are many concerns and questions to be resolved before endorsing a plan that represents a real gamble with taxpayers’ money.  How odd that our Governor is all for this plan when, in his words spoken in an address to the horse racing industry, he said, “[We] cannot subsidize a failing industry.” Whether it is horse racing, casino gambling, or OTC betting, working class people struggling to keep the roofs over their heads do not have the surplus money to blow on games of chance.


If the State of New Jersey needs more revenue to become solvent, it should not consider bailing out failed cities.  It should go to the heart of the matter by finding ways for the private sector to start employing the legal citizens of New Jersey, with the accent on “legal.”

The Revolution Begins in New Jersey

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In what could be the brush fire that ultimately engulfs an entire forest, New Jersey voters turned out in surprising numbers yesterday to defeat proposed school budgets throughout the state.  With reported turnouts of more than double the previous year, New Jerseyans gave a resounding “No” to more than 55% of all proposed budgets statewide.  In some counties, such as Somerset and Hunterdon, virtually all proposed school budgets were defeated.


In a typical year, voters approve approximately 70% of all school budgets.  This year, however, concerned by escalating property taxes (among the nation’s highest) and a continuing economic downturn, voters eschewed the pleas of local school boards and officials.  Additionally, the election results send a clear message to elected officials at the local, county, and state levels that the New Jersey populace agrees with Governor Chris Christie that it is time to tackle the heretofore untamed monster of rising salaries and costs associated with providing benefits and pensions to educators and government workers that threatens to rob future generations of their American dreams.


Pension and health insurance obligations for retirees from school districts, police departments, municipalities, and county and state government loom as drags on future economic growth and shackles on future taxpaying citizens of New Jersey.  To make matters worse, many of these same people may choose ultimately to leave the State after they retire, selecting for their residences low-tax states that have been more fiscally responsible and have not mortgaged their futures on unfunded pensions and other liabilities.


When the bill on these future liabilities comes due, the taxpaying residents and businesses of this State – if there are any – will certainly be less than happy that decades past of elected, appointed, and hired officials and leaders have squandered tens of billions of taxpayer dollars for fear of being branded as anti-education, anti-law enforcement, anti-environment, or any of a number of other “sacred cows” that have been created in this State and elsewhere.  Those future residents will wish that previous holders of the public trust had taken on the unions and entrenched interests that too often dictate policy in our State, reduced expenditures, eliminated excesses, and funded mandates.


The reality is that there is but a tenuous connection between dollars spent on taxpayer-funded programs and results.  If spending money could produce results, the schools in Newark, Elizabeth, and Camden, to name but a few districts, would be producing world-class scholars.  Sadly, taxpayer dollars are to those who spend them nothing more than “other people’s money.”  A significant proportion of school budgets past have been spent on infrastructure including artificial turf playing fields and other athletic facilities that rival those in professional sports.  While such facilities may be desirable, their impact on student education is dubious.  School administrators and government officials at all levels need to treat such expenditures as if the funds used were their own.  Were that the case, we would surely witness a level of fiscal responsibility heretofore unseen in our State.


And so, as taxpayers we can hope with some justification that the 2010 school budget elections may provide the spark to help us begin to retake control of our shared financial destiny.  Sweeping changes are needed, as well as leaders with the fortitude to propose and oversee them.  It is not, however, easy or painless to oppose a “sacred cow,” much less the herd with which we are faced.  If we as a State do not seize this opportunity, however, many of us will be among the retired teachers, police officers, and New Jersey government employees who relocate to Delaware, North Carolina, or another state that has been more diligent with its taxpayers’ money. 

Your Happy Place

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Recently, I spotted an article listing the happiest States in which to live.  The article referred to States of the Union, not states of mind … although the two do seem inextricably intertwined.   Guess what?  According to that article, good old New Jersey was very close to the bottom of the list!


As you may have guessed, Florida and Hawaii headed the list of happiest places to live.  One of the reasons is no doubt the warm and mostly sunny weather. The Garden State, by contrast, attracts weather patterns that are largely unpredictable.  We’ve had winters with some 60-degree-plus days and as I write this, we’re gearing up for another dump by Mother Nature to the tune of 18 inches of snow … on top of the 8 we had in Central Jersey four days ago and the one that has left the poor residents of Cape May without power for three full days!  One point in our favor is that we do experience all four of the seasons … something that friends of mine in San Francisco with their year-round 62 to 67 degree weather think they’re missing out on.  Me, I’ll take Frisco any day over this Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde Jersey weather!


If you were not aware of this, Jersey’s state tree is the red oak, symbolic of the people who live here.  You have to be sturdy and strong enough to survive in the State with the densest population and the highest property taxes.


Back to that so-called happy place (please).  Another requisite to being happy, as per that oh so savvy article, is having a comfortable and affordable home.   Well, Jersey loses again in that quarter, as our housing costs are extremely high!  It used to be the American dream to own one’s home, but for some of us, that dream’s become a nightmare.


Here’s hoping that our new Governor Christie can make a difference and clean up some of the mess with the property taxes … and why am I now humming the old Who tune whose ending goes, “Meet the new boss: same as the old boss”? I must say, though, that I was a little stunned when our new Governor only threw a pizza party to celebrate his inauguration.  The pizza in this State is, at the risk of making a horrible pun, from hunger!  If pizza makes you happy, New York is the crown king, and I don’t mean upstate New York, either.  But hope springs eternal with Mr. Christie now at our helm.  Maybe he can shake some of the rats out of State government, the ones that have been poisoning it for decades.


For sure, he can do nothing about the horrendous traffic.  The roads are so ridiculous here normally, that when it snows heavily, exits on major and secondary roads are closed and you are left to wander aimlessly, like the Lord’s people in the desert before He took mercy upon them.   Even owning a car here can be quite costly, since the Garden State has some of the highest insurance rates in the nation.  On the plus side, while we’re wandering aimlessly looking for an exit within shouting distance of our destinations, we’ll never go hungry or run out of gas.  How can we?  Strip mall after strip mall after strip mall adorns our highways and byways.


As an antidote to the bland mediocrity of strip malls, Jersey boasts more than 600 roadside diners, some of which have even survived the Great Depression.  They include the White Rose, the White Diamond, the White Tower, and the White Manna.  I can’t understand the propensity for all of this white, unless the names do homage to the white bread on which sandwiches before my time were invariably made.


The diners began as abandoned trolleys, electric streetcars, and railroad dining cars that were refurbished and transported to busy neighborhoods.  You know the old saying about diners, don’t you?  “A diner is a place where you can always get a good breakfast and never get a great dinner.”   Many diners serve the hungry masses 24 hours a day with cheap and hearty American fare, such as hamburgers with Jersey tomatoes, freedom fries, and fresh Jersey eggs for breakfast.  Ernest Hemingway was said to have enjoyed the BLT’s at the Summit Diner in Summit, but maybe it was the key lime pies that called him down to the Florida Keys.


Traversing the Jersey Turnpike can be a little lesson in history.  The names of the rest areas recall famous New Jerseyans or Americans who have made noted contributions to our citizenry.  The names include:


  • Thomas Edison, the innovative inventor who needs no further introduction,
  • Clara Barton, the teacher who instituted the State’s first free school and later was instrumental in founding The Red Cross,
  • John Fenwick, who established the first Quaker settlement,
  • Richard Stockton, one of the men who’d signed our Declaration of Independence,
  • Alexander Hamilton, a noted military figure who fought in the strategic Battle of Trenton,
  • Woodrow Wilson, our 28th President, who received his education at Princeton University,
  • Grover Cleveland, who served as our 22nd and 24th President,
  • Molly Pitcher, the heroine of the Battle of Monmouth, who followed her husband into that battle to give water to the thirsty soldiers, and
  • The literary contingent encompassing but not limited to the great poets Walt Whitman and Joyce Kilmer, as well as James Fennimore Cooper, one of the authors of the “Leather Stocking Tales” genre of early American literature. 


To this list we can add William Halsey, who was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and was often referred to as “The Bull,” a moniker he picked up during WW II for his zest in fighting the Japanese.  Last but not least, we cannot fail to mention Vince Lombardi, who played football at St. Francis Preparatory School and later at St. Cecilia, a Catholic high school in Englewood.  Vince grew up to be a great football coach who led Jersey’s own Giants as well as the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins.


Lest you think all is rosy in the Garden State, nay!  We have our share of gangs in the urban areas as well as our own Devil, for whom our hockey team is named, and the reason why people keep looking over their shoulders in the Pine Barrens.  We are the fifth smallest state in the Union blessed with, at the risk of repeating myself, the largest population! Our geography is diverse, although much of it is swamp, and you can see this for yourself as you break the speed limit flying down the Garden State Parkway from Little Egg Harbor to all points south.  On more solid turf, our Kittatinny Mountains comprise the largest mountain range on the East Coast.  Along the Atlantic shore, there are miles and miles of resorts, while our farm land is shrinking (sorry, but Rutgers U’s educational farms on Cook Campus don’t count).  We are in close enough proximity to make a quick visit to New York or Pennsylvania, and I’d pick the Big Apple if I’d had my druthers.  I’m not sure how many of you know this, but Jersey’s topography was carved out by the Wisconsin Glacier 150,000 years ago.


Back to finding that so-called happy place in which to reside.  As you may have guessed, solid employment is a major consideration and in this respect, Jersey falls short of the mark.  We used to be a buzzing hub of manufacturing, particularly pharmaceuticals, but the second-world nations have taken over much of our manufacturing, thanks to the greed on all fronts.  Although jobs are still scarce, Lennox china has been made here since 1889 and has a discount retail outlet in Cranbury.  Maxwell House coffee got its start in Jersey, and the Campbell’s soup company originated in Camden.  UMDNJ is still our principal teaching hospital, and it remains engaged in the research of innovative medical treatments.  Bell Labs, now Alcatel, has headquarters in Murray Hill, Union, and Holmdel. 


This state also has lots of agriculture with its tomatoes, cranberries, peaches, Winesap apples, Jersey sweet corn, string beans, blueberries, pumpkins, strawberries, spinach, squash, asparagus, and melons.  Points just north of West Cape May boast at least six vineyards, because the climate and soil mimic that of Sicily, where some of the world’s tastiest wines are made.


Although we are a pretty small State and not, perhaps, the happiest place to live, it still has lots of exciting milestones:


  • The first radio signal was transmitted in Princeton in 1840
  • The first baseball game was played in Hoboken in 1846
  • The first Boardwalk was built in Atlantic City in 1847
  • Thomas Edison created the first phonograph in 1887
  • In 1921, the First Miss America Pageant was held in Atlantic City
  • In 1931, the George Washington Bridge opened
  • During 1941 to 1945, Fort Dix processed 1 million draftees for WWII
  • In 1951, the New Jersey Turnpike opened
  • The Meadowlands opened in 1976 as a sports/entertainment complex
  • Casino gambling was legalized and began attracting high and low rollers alike, in 1978
  • Christine Todd Whitman was the first woman to be elected Governor (1993)
  • The New Jersey Devils captured the 1995 NHLS Stanley Cup


Jersey has its faults, but many of us who reside here love it, a happenstance that puts me in mind of a quote of Abraham Lincoln’s.  It’s an interesting take on the state and States of our happiness:


“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Corzine, Christie, or Daggett?

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Corzine Christie Daggett

 

In an election with national repercussions, New Jerseyans will go to the polls tomorrow to elect a Governor.  Many view the New Jersey race, along with the Virginia gubernatorial election and a Congressional election in New York state, as a referendum on the year-old Obama presidency and Democrat control over Congress.

 

As a not-quite impartial observer, I, as I am sure many of the State’s residents, have been amused by the nature and tone of the campaigns.  If you watch and accept as true his commercials, incumbent Democrat Governor Jon Corzine has done a fabulous job over the past four years – reducing property taxes, protecting the environment, improving access to healthcare, bolstering education, fighting unemployment, and leading an affirmative response to the recent economic downturn that has saved the State from disaster.  Of course, if you believe the ads of his Republican challenger, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, Corzine’s term of office has been a total disaster and Christie has the answers and expertise to solve the State’s problems.  Then, there is independent challenger Chris Daggett.  A former Regional Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection under Republican Governor Kean, Daggett represents somewhat of a wildcard in the campaign.  His candidacy could potentially benefit Governor Corzine by siphoning votes from his challenger, Chris Christie, and has led some critics to assert that that is precisely his motive in the race.

 

As the campaign has unfolded, the mudslinging has intensified, including apparent attacks by the Corzine campaign on Christie’s weight (yes, Chris – if not yet married – could have been the bachelor on More to Love).  It seems that candidates will do or say anything to get elected; only to renege on campaign promises once elected.

 

In this vein, I have collected and below present some advertisements by the candidates.  Unfortunately, independent Chris Daggett’s campaign had fewer resources, making his advertisements harder to find.  Yet, I feel that the ads below are a fair sampling of what the candidates were saying about themselves and each other.  I will attempt to caption them according to their content.

 

The following ad is a Corzine commercial targeting one of his core constituencies – liberal women concerned about women’s health issues and the right to choose:

 

 

 

The next ad is an anti-Corzine message distributed by the Christie campaign, appealing to his more conservative Republican base:

 

 

The next ad is a Corzine attack ad:

 

 

Our next advertisement is a Christie attack ad amateurishly mimicking Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone:

 

 

The next ad impugns challenger Christie by implying that he is fat:

 

 

The following example is a form of testimonial in which former Governor Tom Kean praises and endorses Republican candidate Christie using the famous “perfect together” expression that Kean had use in various state promotional advertisements:

 

 

Finally, this last ad is independent Daggett’s. It uses footage from a gubernatorial debate to suggest that he (Daggett) is, in fact, the favorite of both of his rivals:

 

 

I hope that you have enjoyed these ads and that they have enhanced your confusion as to whom you will support in tomorrow’s election. Whomever you are supporting, be sure to vote!

Diogenes, New Jersey and You – Perfect Together!

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Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man

Diogenes, for the uninitiated, was a Greek philosopher born in the late 5th Century, BC.  An influential member of a school of philosophy known as the Cynics, Diogenes believed in living a simple life of virtue in harmony with nature.  The image of Diogenes most familiar to the modern world is that of a man walking through city streets in broad daylight and carrying a lantern in search of an honest man.  Reports of Diogenes’ search efforts indicate that he did not find that which he was seeking.

 

And so, it should come as no surprise that on the morning of July 23rd, an FBI sting operation resulted in the arrest of 44 people in New Jersey and New York on charges of corruption and international money laundering.  Included among those ensnared in the FBI’s web were three northern New Jersey mayors, two members of the State Assembly, and a number of rabbis from Hasidic and Syrian Jewish communities in Deal, Elberon, and Brooklyn.  Additionally, Joseph Doria, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner and subject of FBI raids of his Bayonne home and Trenton office, complied with Governor Corzine’s request that he resign his position despite the fact that no formal charges against him have as yet been filed.

 

Reminiscent of the Abscam investigation that brought down, among others, a U.S. senator and a congressman some thirty years ago, the sting operation producing yesterday’s dramatic arrests employed an informant, a failed real estate developer in trouble with the FBI as what has been termed their cooperating witness or CW.  The audio tapes procured by this “wired” informant will, no doubt, seal the fate of those arrested and be among the most hilarious examples of the stupidity of those entrusted with our faith and money.

 

Human frailty, as Diogenes discovered, knows no bounds; nor does human greed.  The FBI sting and subsequent arrest of these discredited leaders, both secular and religious, should reinforce in the public consciousness the need to carefully scrutinize those whom we elevate to positions of trust and authority.  And, to the voters of New Jersey, it should be a clarion call to elect and hold accountable a new generation of lawmakers committed to ending the political corruption for which the State – perhaps more so than any other with the exception of Illinois – is renowned.

 

If we as an electorate do not do so, then our collective stupidity exceeds even that of the political and religious leaders who, blinded by greed, were captured in the FBI’s sting operation.  We have been, yet again, alerted.  Let us go forward with the persistence of Diogenes to uproot the corruption that has made New Jersey its home. 

Stranger in a Strange Land

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Stranger

Nineteen years ago, my husband’s corporation, headquartered in New York City, distributed booklets to their workforce in preparation for the influx of their Asian brethren, both co-workers and new clientele.  A primer for understanding the mores of India, China, and other Eastern nations, the booklets were a proactive move to facilitate the integration of distinctly different cultures.   Unfortunately, when Corporate deigned to ship their employees out to New Jersey, no manual was provided to instruct die-hard New Yorkers in the art of integrating into what I had then referred to as “the wilds of New Jersey.”

 

Anticipating the relocation, my husband dragged me repeatedly to South-Central Jersey, journeying deeper and deeper into the Garden State in search of the perfect home.   Along routes that were then largely undeveloped, we whizzed by sights and other sensory slaps upside the head unseen in the City that Never Sleeps. Men sporting long beards and riding tractors through cornfields, horse farms juxtaposed with large manufacturing facilities, the air redolent of an odd mix of what makes the grass grow green and whatever the factories were spewing.  We passed strip malls, which did nada for me, for my battle cry had been, “Give me Lord & Taylor (Fifth Avenue) or give me death!”  In utter denial of the impending move, I’d shove a punk-rock tape into the car’s deck, using The Pogues’ rather earthy lyrics to belt out how I felt about leaving my beloved New York.

 

But leave I did.  My husband embraced home ownership, including that gleaming new barbeque grill and lawnmower, with glee.  Me?  I felt like a clam pried out of its shell …while still alive.  What strange land was this that existed a relative stone’s throw from the greatest city on Earth?   When I accidentally bumped my shopping cart into that of another consumer, she was the one who apologized profusely.  When I slowed my car to admire at the lamas (lamas!) living up the road from me, another vehicle pulled up beside me, its occupants asking sweetly if I were lost and needed directions.  I was lost, all right.  If someone pulls up beside a savvy driver in the city, she will roll up her windows and get the hell out of Dodge, or at least off Seventh Avenue.

 

When we drive, in fact, it’s a common practice to flip someone the bird.  The use of one’s middle finger has evolved, in the city, into a sort of tribal greeting, an obligatory ritual. It translates as, “I cut you off and you cut me off and now we’re even, so have a nice day.”  Here, such a gesture is akin to road rage, and was in fact pooh-poohed by Jersey’s then-incumbent Governor who benefited, ahem, from her private chauffeur.

 

Transplanted into the most congested State in the Union, I had to learn that “jug handle” was a sort of U-turn, and not what one particular and rather offensive relative-by-marriage gripped when chugging down his mass-marketed Chianti.  Yes, in Jersey, jug handles abound and are usually blocked off by accidents or construction.  Witness Route 1, from New Brunswick well through Avenel.  The Romans had to have built the Coliseum in a shorter time span than it’s taking these crews to widen and modern this *#$%*^ road!

 

When you really need all this traffic and car honking, it’s nowhere to be found. For the first month as a new homeowner in Jersey’s heartland, I could not sleep.  It was too damned quiet.  Birdsong rent the air, as did the gentle whispers of the pines in my backyard.  Gone was my nightly, familiar lullaby of screams, curses, boom boxes, and arguing beneath my window.   By daybreak, the quietude of the ‘burbs left me a wreck.

 

Bleary-eyed, I’d enter the supermarket for a yogurt en route to work, only find the entire process of food shopping also foreign.  Instead of going from store to store, as city dwellers shop for the best bread, the tastiest cheese, the freshest fish, etc., here I could get everything under one roof, everything but gourmet food, that is.  Gone also were the amazing bookshops such as the Forbidden Planet on the outskirts of the Village and the tiny independent book peddlers I’d patronized. Gone was the magazine shop in Grand Central Station, purveyor of journals on a dizzying array of topics from nations worldwide.  Gone were the little record stores where I could put my mitts on the hottest new artists as well as some truly fine literature written just for musicians.  Gone were the hot dog vendors, the pretzel hawkers, the dudes pushing the designer handbags that had just fallen off the truck, and oh, those guys selling warm chestnuts on a bitter cold Manhattan night.  Gone were the lights of Broadway, the lights of the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

Gone was St. Mark’s Place in the Village, where I could stroll unmolested long past midnight on a Saturday night, getting virtually anything I wanted (and everything I did not want) in a big city. (A warning to out of towners: for the love of God, do not attempt this on your own!).  Gone was the tiny lush pocket park tucked away beneath the shadow of the gorgeous U.N. building.  Gone, the miniscule ethnic restaurants up and down Third Avenue. Gone, the annex of the Whitney Museum, overshadowed by Grand Central, a little-known oasis in the Big Apple.  Gone, the buskers (musicians, singers, and stand-up comics) in the bowels of the subway, asking for nothing but an appreciative audience and some spare change from the commuters.

 

Nineteen years after my move to Jersey, I have gained a true appreciation for the State and its citizens.  All of that is best left for another article.  Appreciation notwithstanding, I remain a stranger in this still-strange land.  Manhattan flows through my blood like the water in the Hudson Bay, like the trains through the tunnels; it beats in my heart like the wild cacophony of the city streets.

 

Most of you probably choke when you drive through the Lincoln Tunnel.  Me, I cry.  I weep for the beauty of those aging tiles.  I weep with joy, I kid you not, when I am deposited into the gritty sunlight of the city of my birth, beneath the belly of the Port Authority’s mighty rabbit warren of a building.  I grin like a mad loon just to bop down the streets, shimmying like a frenetic ballet dancer fighting for a toehold.  The heart constricts in my chest when I pass the hole in the sky and the hole in our hearts where once rose the Twin Towers.  After countless plays on and off Broadway, I still thrill to see a show there, though a concert at the Beacon is more my cup of tea.  I still elbow tourists with not so quiet glee when clueless, they engulf me during my annual pilgrimage to the great Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.  Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” still stops me dead in my tracks in Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and every time my feet cross the museum’s threshold, I remember the day that I stumbled, speechless and humbled, upon the 90-foot canvas of Guernica, Picasso’s brilliant and disturbing masterpiece depicting the Spanish Revolution.

 

The dinosaur bones in the Museum of Natural History remind me anew that there were, and yet are, beings greater than myself to whom I am beholden for having been born into this magnificent city.  The sun coming up over Central Park, particularly in winter when it turns the starkly frozen trees to diamonds, still lifts my spirit inexplicably.  And the sight of that beautiful Lady of the Harbor, beckoning “your poor, your tired, and your hungry” makes me exceedingly proud to be linked to an old world that has made a new world struggling yet to reinvent itself.

 

To me, the ever changing and yet enduring face of New York City will forever be like the woman immortalized in the beautiful old Leonard Cohen song of the same name:

 

“And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers.
There are heroes in the seaweed.
There are children in the morning.
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror.”

 

Suzanne, or a die-hard New Yorker. 

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