A Trip to Jerseylachia

photo(15)The day after things seem calm in the other parts of the nation. The talk at the Oyster Bar was the usual chatter of the lunch time crowd, the place is turning 100 years old in a few days, the bluepoints are in, the kegs freshly changed out, and other than a few extra uniformed police, people moved about as they have been for some time and things seemed calm.
On the book of face, supportive messages and conspiracy links, a truce between the Yankies and the Red Soxs, same with Chicago and all Boston teams, which, considering when I was in Boston some dude was beaten to death for sporting a Yankees shirt, which were it the Mets, I could almost understand. So yeah, that happened. But support where support is due, and at a time of crisis we are all having to come together. I had walked down Boylston Street a thousand time, even given lectures at the library, the geography is not unfamiliar, this isn’t Kirkuk or a check point in Baghdad. But, in the city hardest hit by our current crop of Terror, things were calm and my having to journey was not as hectic as I had expected, getting on the train with ease, no increased security in the subways that I saw, perhaps since Gotham is so saturated by security already, it is something that has become but a usual affair.
This blogger decided to start the journey at said Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal. If eating a bowl of New England clam chowder at this establishment is not on your list of things to do, then put it on there. Alex the bartender in the saloon is exactly what you’d want from a bartender at such an establishment and while the rest of midtown turns into one gigantic theme park – save that the costumed characters lurking in Times Square are miscreant drug-addled, racist, sex offenders – and the rest of the area a madhouse of fake, the Oyster Bar remains that Old New York, the place with the details, the old stories, the salty characters who were real, and sitting there having a plate of oysters in the saloon (I always go for the ones from way out in Long Island or upper Brunswick) one can almost imagine Ford telling New York to drop dead, and the Bad Old Days when smart and talented people kept the city going, and commuters came and left leaving little trace.
Boarding the train, the blogger was surprised at the accommodations, leg room being important to me considering my height/weight/build. The seats are large, the legroom better than any bus in the country and certainly in competition with that found in the “special services” section of Chinese trains since The People’s Republic doesn’t have a class system but for more Yuan or Rimbindi or whateverthefuck they call their money, you can move ahead in the game of life and stretch out a little more than Yun Ji, the poor bastard commuting from Yangamanga to Wooniwana in order to work 24/7 making plastic whatevers for the export market.
The train left on time, and the connection to the Interweb strong, primarily because I have a hotspot, and all seems right in the world of travel. Texts are going through, and communication with the outside world has turned this into yet another office for me to work out of, which was somewhat the point.
photo(16)And so it is that the landscape directly outside of Gotham opens up. Now, for those unawares, you can take any train north of Gotham and what you have is nothing but the best vistas, the Palisades, Bear Mountain, West Point, the Highlands, the Catskills, and the occasional splash of diarrhea like Newburg (formerly the Paris of the Hudson Valley) and the occasional condo fart or river-view glambox of some rich fuck. Outside of that, I propose that the Empire service is a grand line. Then, while there is a Good Witch of the North, East is too lazy to be good or wicked, she’s nothing but a spray tan bitch in spandex and South is an indifferent witch, salty expanse the gate way of which is a fun park falling into the ocean, but West, the Witch of the West is Wicked, flotsam and jetsam, an unending knot of formerly grand cities, productive factories and wetlands turned into an environmental carnage that lasts from the moment one sticks one’s head out of the North River Tunnels until a few hundred yards from the Nation’s Capital.
Nature is not the only one with an ecosystem. Cities and society has one too. When that ecosystem is disrupted or otherwise interrupted or destroyed, what grows back is not the grand forest, as I have so often said, about forests, but the weeds. Mile after mile of ruined factory. Dilapidated once-grand town houses, row houses, churches, institutions of an older civil society either propped up or sagging down to the ground or, in what looks like the only industry left in this stretch of miserable land, being torn down, strip mined for resources. Even if that resource is landfill.
The wetlands have a sheen. A strange brackish marsh that reflects oil and goo. This is punctuated by blown out buildings and some kind of storage yards. This is the meadows of so long ago turned into pickled PCBs and composting cadmium. Beginning around Elizabeth, just after the Dismal Swamp and the smoking ruins of Newark, NJ the chain of wastelands is given a human face. Boondoggle banks and insurance towers, each built of the same blocks, the same house of cards spring up, in here and there a grand old structure is rotting or turned into condos, and then the parking lots, some made to look like buildings, others made to look like… parking lots, have replaced so much of the city that it is a wonder that the reinvention of the American city isn’t just the parking lot and perhaps we should have just let the Commies nuke us back in the Cold War in order to clear the land a little and allow us to build something we really wanted… which, I can’t think of what that is yet.
This landscape of utter crap, wasted resources, and poverty continued until just about Baltimore when it took a break, broke out into fresh lawns and gardens, and I suppose the Beltway was having some impact or other with these smart properties, however, before I could relax into a suburban bliss, the other Baltimore, the evil twin, took a shit in my eyes. Again, a drecktastic landscape, but thankfully it did not last and before long until we entered into the center of the city, with like a great deal of Baltimore retains those building blocks of a great city and the architecture of some value, apart from that fucking statue in front of the train station, which, if you know what I’m taking about is something you don’t want to “get in on it” on it. I wish I could spend a moment in the city, but needed to press on.
IMG_0177After Baltimore, the lands changed, and our nation’s capital emerged as a very expensive jewel set carefully and held into place by highways, the famous beltway,and surrounded by poverty that thankfully was out of sight from my train. Then, the sun waned and vanished under the clouds and darkness has taken to the land. There in the twilight are trees and fields and I am sure a landscape very different from our sad cold Northeast Corridor.
It has always struck me as to the waste of resources and spent energy is represented by this dismal chain of failed cities. The best stone, brick, and wood was poured into these cities from a yet-tapped and young nation, and for all this, these buildings, the institutions, and the life of the cities themselves lasted but a few generations, a blink of an eye when considering the hundreds of years it took each tree to grow into a span, thousands of years of sand for the brick, and millions of years for those stones. We have wiped them off the landscape and it was strange to see the new landscape emerge, one filled with holes where the context of other structures and networks of relationships those structures nurtured are removed and nothing else has come to take its place except for the KenTacoHuts, gas stations, and the “landscape of nowhere.”
This stretch of “oh the humanity” is not new to me. I hope tomorrow to be greeted with a new vision as I enter Atlanta, perhaps new forms that are built from new expectations and not among the ruin of a great industrial society, maybe the South Will Rise Again and surprise me, knowing what I do, I don’t have my hopes up, but I will enjoy seeing something new even if that is utter bullshit. At least it will place other things in some sort of context and maybe hint at new beginnings, as I saw seeds growing even in the deepest parts of Detroit and hope that they may yet sprout in Jerseylachia.

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