The Day After Tomorrow

Not much to say this week, readers.  I’m sitting here in my room, using electricity for the first time since Monday night, when Hurricane Sandy barreled across the east coast.

Sure, it was funny on Sunday.

Compared to other people in the neighborhood, and my friends and family across the tri-state area, I got off easy.  Walking through the rest of downtown Jersey City, I saw some serious devastation.  Almost anyone living south of Columbus Boulevard and east of Jersey Avenue was flooded out.  Entire rooms were put out on the sidewalks for garbage pick-up.  I even saw one poor guy bailing out his car.  I’ve tried to help where I can, but now that the power’s back in my building, we have to assess our own damages.  Hot water and heat are spotty, so keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have to replace our machinery for the second time in a year.

I’m very proud of my neighborhood, though.  This has been a very scary, stressful week, but everyone is conducting themselves just as good-naturedly as they always do.  I had friends helping me, and was eager to pay it forward to others.  It gives me hope for what will likely be a difficult few months ahead for the neighborhood.

As the utilities return, so does a sense of normalcy; hence me updating the blog.  And since Halloween did just pass, and since power has now been restored, I am going to be sure to spend tonight engaging in one of my most favorite acts of normalcy.  It’s a hallowed Halloween tradition.  I think you know what I’m referring to…

I can’t think of a better way to shake off the post-storm gloom, can you?

~ T

A Tree Groans In Jersey

Back in September, the neighbors and I thought it might be nice to have a tree planted outside our building.  You see, virtually every other building on the block has a tree in front of it.  Ours was the only bare spot on the block.  So, I filled out an application, which very explicitly explained the conditions that would prohibit planting: trees must be at least twenty feet apart, and plantings can not interfere with the underground gas and water lines.  That was it.  Simple, straightforward, and sensibile.  I got a consesus of what kind of tree we would like, and I cut a check and mailed the completed application in before it’s October 1 deadline.  As the winter loomed, we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

About two weeks ago, I got out of the shower and was greeted with the sound of heavy demolition.  I looked out my window to see two construction workers taking a circular saw to the sidewalk in front of our building.  At long last, our treehole was being carved out!

A week later, I was again getting out the shower and the phone was ringing.  I answered it to hear a Jersey City Parks Department employee on the other end.  She told me that because of the placement of gas and water lines, they would be unable to plant a tree for our building.

Staring down from my window to the three-foot crater just beyond my front door, I asked, “Did the men who work on this think of that before they tore a hole in my sidewalk?”

There was a beat of silence.  “That will be replaced.”

“And the $100 check I sent you over two months ago?” I continued.

Another beat.  “We will refund you the money.”

I thanked the woman, hung up, and put some pants on.

So, sadly, we continue to be an arboreal blight on the neighborhood.  Come springtime, hopefully we’ll get some planters for the steps and windowsills.  And maybe by then our own private pothole will be filled.  If it took them three months to dig it, who knows how long it will take to fill.

~ T

Everyone Has A Basset Hound Day

I tend to operate on a fairly routine schedule during the work week.  I leave my apartment around the same time each morning.   At least twice a week, I come across the same amusing sight on my walk to the PATH.

There is a man in the neighborhood who must be a professional dog-walker.  That, or he has the largest apartment in town.  Each time I see him, he is holding tight to half an Iditarod team’s worth of huskies.  Big, gorgeous, silver and white, proud, healthy huskies.  Ears perked up, backs straight, tails held aloft in that trademark comma shape.  These dogs know what they look like.  They own the sidewalk.  They know you’re looking at them, but they don’t give you the satisfaction of acknowledging it.  They’re just throwing their near-lupine perfection out for the world to see.

Also tied up in the man’s tangle of leashes each and every time I see him is a basset hound, AKA the world’s saddest looking dog.  I don’t mean “sad” as in “aww, how cute” sad.  I mean “sad” as in “oh, that’s a shame” sad.  This dog just looks like the pits.  He’s short.  He’s heavy.  Everything’s drooping.  His eyes are bloodshot.  There’s a bit of drool sometimes hanging off his bottom lip.  The poor thing even has kankles.  And here he is, forced to take his morning constitutional with the triathletes of the canine world.  This would be like throwing that face transplant lady into the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  It just doesn’t seem fair.

The point is that whenever I see the dog-walker with his pack, I save my smile for the basset hound.  Occasionally, he (or she, begging your pardon) glances up at me from the fatty folds of his/her brow.  I have no idea if I’m making this dog’s day a little easier, but I hope I am; because some days, you’re the husky and other days you’re not.


~ T

Turkey Lurkey Time

I came across this story on New Jersey’s local news site, courtesy of The Jersey Journal.  Apparently, I was out on my first waterfront run of 2009 when it all went down.  I have to say I’m a little disappointed I missed it.

Turkey leads cops on wild goose chase
Monday, April 06, 2009
A wild turkey created a stir in Downtown Jersey City yesterday afternoon when it appeared at Eighth and Monmouth streets. The turkey led members of the police’s Emergency Services Unit – and local residents – on quite a chase, at one point perching itself on power lines high above the street.
Crowds gathered outside homes in Downtown area. Some people snapped pictures on their cell phones.
Some members of the crowd were confused and rooting for the fowl, saying, “It’s not Thanksgiving time” and “Leave him alone.”
The bird was finally popped with a tranquilizer dart. While still woozy from the tranquilizer, the bird flew briefly to a nearby rooftop and then swooped low to the ground. As police moved in with large nets to pick it up, the bird scampered into the woods behind Dickinson High School, witnesses said.
It was not clear if the bird was caught as of press time.

So, now there’s a doped-up rogue turkey hiding in the underbrush mere blocks from my apartment.  I think this is how urban legends are born.

~ T

Can I Get An A(men)?

Tonight I upheld my New Year’s resolution to get more involved in my community by attending a double-bill of debate for the Jersey City Board of Education and the Ward E City Council seat.  Actually, to call it a debate would imply that it was moderated and had some semblance of order, which it didn’t.  There are half a dozen competitors in each of these races, so giving them all three minutes to respond to a question meant that a total of five questions got to be put before each panel before time was up.  Oh, and here’s an idea: if you’re going to have time limits, enforce them.  Just tossing that out there, Lady with the Obnoxious Egg Timer App on Her iPhone Who Never Said Anything Once It Rang.  Honestly…

In any event, the Board of Ed candidates were only minimally inspiring.  Lots of talk about streamlining the budget, auditing the schools, rooting out administrative corruption, blah blah blah.  Very few specific, concrete solutions to these sprawling issues were given.  Look, I’m no Secretary of Education, but if you want schools to improve, you only have to do the following:

1) Hire people who love to teach

2) Hire people who excel in using creative, new ways to teach even the most basic, rudimentary lessons

3) Equip them with whatever resources they need to execute this methodology

The video below is my Exhibit A.  I guarantee that if you sat every currently enrolled kindergartner in front of this video at the start of every day, you’d see some drastically improved SAT Verbal scores eleven years from now.

I rest my case.  Hallelujah.

~ T

Loew’s Down Blues

Last Friday I trekked deep into the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City for a concert.  I had read in the local paper that the Loew’s Theater was presenting a concert of local blues artists, sponsored by Jersey City Magazine.  Not necessarily a blues aficionado, but always looking for something new, I decided I’d check it out.

I was accompanied by five of my cohorts from kickball.  You’ll hear much more about them come springtime.  We met at the PATH station at 33rd Street after work and journeyed out together.  As Hoboken residents, the longer commute made them nervous.  When we started traveling above ground for the last leg of our voyage, they were positively astounded.  Amateurs.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to act as the tour guide for too long because the Loew’s Theater is right across the street from the Journal Square PATH station.  We got to our seats with plenty of time.  None of us being particularly well-versed in the blues, we waited for the show to start with open ears.

Dave Gross and Gina Sicilia
Dave Gross and Gina Sicilia. Sorry, still figuring out the low-light settings on my camera.

I was really impressed with the performers, all of whom are apparently well-known in the blues world, locally and at large.  I admit that I took a little bit of pride in knowing that they’re all Hudson County natives.  Christine Santelli had a great band backing her up, with particular kudos going to her incredible lead guitarist.  Santelli certainly had the proper bluesy tone to her voice, but either due to the sound system or her holding the microphone too close to her mouth, her words were a bit hard to make out.  However, when she closed her set by tearing through an Etta James classic, all was forgiven.  Enzo & The Bakers were a big, fun act with a very enthusiastic drummer.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing, pal.  Go for it!  The last act we stayed for was Dave Gross, a young guy with a genuine rock star presence about him.  He had some horns and guitars backing him up.  There was something vaguely Jeff Buckley about him.  He was later joined by vocalist Gina Sicilia, who I wasn’t wild about–probably because she interrupted my interest in Gross.

The lobby of the Loew's.  For real.
The lobby of the Loew's. For real.

But the real star of the night, the one that absolutely took my breath away, was the Loew’s Theater itself.  The theater was built in 1929, with the intention that it would be “the most lavish temple of entertainment in New Jersey.”  Well, just look at the picture.  The theater was apparently just that until the 1960s, when attendance began steadily declining.  By 1986, the theater was officially closed and was going to be demolished.  However, local community members took a stand and worked to rescue the theater and restore it.  It’s been a long time coming, and lots of work is still being done, but the theater is now showing classic films and hosting events like this concert.  Personally, I love it.  This is an honest-to-Jebus picture palace.  This is a living fossil of a bygone era of American society and cinema.  Anybody who loves the movies has to see this place.  I can’t wait until they show something I’m interested in.  A concert was one thing, but a film would be an experience.

For more on the Loew’s Theater, click here.

~ T

P.S: We finished the night at the Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory.  Because art and food are inseparable.

The Musical Mayor

This post will be the first in the I’m So Hood series; posts which will be all about my newfound home in Jersey City.  Expect interesting pictures, curious news stories, and other such local amusements.

I thought this story would be apropos, considering that a certain juggernaut of a talent competition returns to the tube tonight (though yours truly refuses to partake)…

The New Jersey section of Sunday’s New York Times alerted me to something that I was not aware of.  Apparently, Jerramiah T. Healy, Mayor of Jersey City, is a prolific singer.  According to the Times, Mayor Healy took a portion of his “Healy for Mayor, 2009” funds and used them to produce and release a CD of himself singing holiday standards.  This goes beyond being a simple personal pet project; Mayor Healy was interviewed and performed on a California radio morning show, and talked about his musical stylings, among other things, on Good Day, New York.

And what does everyone else in City Hall think of His Honor’s prodiguous talents?  Thus spake the Times:

Asked to describe Mr. Healy’s style, Mr. Gaughan teased, “He thinks he’s Frank Sinatra.”  Thomas A. DeGise, Hudson County’s executive, chimed in, “He’s a better than average bar mitzvah singer.”

Ouch.  Guess a free pass on your karaoke skills isn’t one of the perks of the mayor’s office.

The last thing that cracked me up was this:

Mr. Healy began singing as a child, when his parents would make him and his four siblings perform songs like “Who’s Sorry Now,” at family gatherings.

I don’t know how that song goes, but I can only imagine.

So, does the fact that my mayor so seriously considers himself a latter day Rat Pack crooner that he has gone to the preposterous lengths of giving away 10,000 copies of his self-made debut album bother me?  Hardly.  All I have to say is, “Sing out, Jerramiah!”

One contestant you won't see this season
One contestant you won't see this season

~ T