Monday, November 27, 2006

Jersey City Soul

I know Jersey City by its putrid smell. The elevator at the Ninth Street Light Rail station stinks of rotten eggs. That—and something worse. Maybe paint thinner. Or puke. Or both. Nobody seems offended but me.

Like capitalist worker ants, in single file, we march out of the elevator and pace up Congress Street to our respective homes. Most of us anyway. The others, downtrodden like me, take a detour to any number of corner pubs for a few cold ones before dinner.

I stop at The Corkscrew, my usual pit stop (WE HAVE BEER + YOU SHOULD DRINK IT!). Just the jukebox, bartender, and me. “What’ll it be, brother?” Enough with the small talk. Gimme the $2 Oktoberfest. I inhale the beer, but the throat keeps wantin’ some damn air.

“How’s dat city job treatin’ you, brother?” says Luke, the Tender of Bar, once my ass settles on the stool. “Still vertical,” says I. “I keep sucking those taxicab fumes and drinking this beer, but I’m still vertical.” Says he: “You know, at the enda day—dat’s wha’ counts.”

Amen to that. I get up and slip a quarter in the jukebox. Ray Charles, soul man, rewards me with his hoarse, sweeter-than-Jesus voice.

“You seen Pédro yet?” “Shit, brother,” Luke says. “Nobody’s seen Pédro. You know dat.” What the hell? Two whole days now the guy’s been MIA. Shit. Don’t tell me Pédro is trying to lay off the sauce. Jersey City ain’t for quitters.

Outside, at long last, night is falling. Somewhere else a dog barks, as a despondent me trudges home.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sick Inside

A white suburban kid in a black Suburban is keepin’ it real on wheels. Yankees hat on sideways, chains a-rattlin’, leaning out the window on Central Ave. Wearing a black shirt with gold lettering: THUG 4 LIFE. Yelling obscenities to the chicas.

Oh, yes. Welcome to Jersey City, baby. This ain’t boring, pale, gentrified Suburbialand. No, this is the place where we’re keepin’ it real for the betterment of (hu)mankind. This is where yo’ shit smells too!

Where I’m walking, the street is littered with litter. We got the debris of human consumption, like art, on display for the general public. You won’t see this at the NYC Met: McDonaldland burger wrappers carried by the wind. Oven Fresh Pizza!™ boxes trampled by pedestrians. DJ fliers for The Corkscrew (61 Congress Street; $3 house margaritas on Wed nights!). Payless and/or Target coupons. Used and abused condoms. A dirty syringe. More broken glass from 40 oz. bottles of malt heaven.

I can hear the Ninth Street Light Rail. Clouds above me start spilling their rain. Brrr. Feels more like sleet to me. Must be close to 30 degrees on this restless night. I hope it snows.

I take a detour to Fisk Park on the way home. From here, you get the view of lower Manhattan. I been there once. But this is home now. Jersey City, baby! For better or for worse.

Build yourself up, J.C. Make your boy proud. Gimme a happy ending.