I am writing stuff, yay! I have a few I started writing for the April A to Z challenge, which is good because my laptop shit the bed, but I then decided they won’t work for that project, therefore I am posting one now.
Bloomfield Ave (CR 506) has always seemed like a road I couldn’t get away from. I have friends from around the country and their view of NJ is as distorted as mine probably is of their stomping grounds or as distorted as my view is of anywhere off of the two coasts.
To most residents, New Jersey is split into sections. There is West Jersey, where you can find farms, orchards and rafting along the Delaware river. South Jersey which encompasses the Pine Barrens, a place filled with sandy soil and miles of pines, also, home of the Jersey Devil which I found a description of for your reading pleasure: The Jersey Devil. Designated in 1938 as the country’s only state demon, the Jersey Devil is described as a kangaroo-like creature with the face of a horse, the head of a dog, bat-like wings, horns and a tail. For more than 250 years this mysterious creature is said to prowl through the marshes of Southern New Jersey and emerge periodically to rampage through the towns and cities. I don’t know much about this area since there isn’t much there and I haven’t slept with anyone around there, but does your state have a designated demon??
Next, the Shore points along the coast, where anyone I have encountered has spent spur of the moment and well planned visits waiting in hours of shore traffic, cruising the boardwalk wasting time in arcades, renting small houses with pebble lawns and sunning out on the scalding sand. I love the shore, though my first exposure to the beach was in Florida Keys, on pristine white beaches, NJ’s grittier, raucous version has grown on me. Last there is North Jersey, which is the area that everyone means when they describe the worst of NJ stereotypes, smoggy manufacturing, sulfur laden swampland, harsh urban landscapes and the stench of mob corruption. It also includes the towns that grow out of cliffs, maintain some of the nicest land reserves and borders NY state, but no one really talks about that part.
North Jersey is where I have spent most of my adult life, it is where Bloomfield Ave stretches from the infamous crime laden streets of Newark to the well landscaped yards of West Caldwell and Little Falls. It has always felt like a barometer of NJ at it’s core. I moved in West Caldwell when I was around 8 or 9, into a four bedroom house with an in ground pool and swing set out back. It was the first time I had regular meals, clothing that wasn’t first worn by other older kids and my own room. My new digs included emotionally bereft grandparents, a community that had only about 4 darker than cream residents and a school I got to go to without breaks due to bruises. I went to Middle School off of Bloomfield Ave. My friends and I ate pickles out of giant barrels and shared calzones dipped in gravy here. I hung out with cops in the station when they picked me up as a runaway while they waited for my grandparents to pick me up and I played games at Kawinis Ovals’ field.
My first apartment was in Bloomfield, which is working class and closer to the Newark than the Caldwells, with smaller well maintained postage sized yards, more apartments and homes for rent, great diners and plenty of immigrants that are climbing up the ladder with grappling hooks. That population brings plenty of diverse eateries to order from and a sense of hard-working pride; I always felt most at home in this town. During my drug use years I spent a lot of time around N. 6th St in Newark but never lived there. I hung out with Godly dealers that carried weapons and bibles and clever whores with short skirts and sharp nails but they also had hard won advice and comforting hugs. It was cheaper to live there but it was too close to my own beginnings to hang my own hat.
There is Montclair with it’s bohemian artists pushing against the edges of the poverty that clings on the edges of it’s gentrification. Montclair has some of the most expensive and grand homes a few blocks from the Ave, which houses cafes, galleries, boutiques, chicken & ribs shacks, and a liberal college with all that entails. My first real job was at the Whole Foods in Montclair, but I did my shopping at the Pathmark down a few blocks that is next to the laundromat and hair shop where you can pick up your choice of hair for your next trip to the beauty parlor. On my way to the bus stop I made way to many detours to Montclair Book Center. When I was young it had a cafe with amazing cheddar sandwiches and a record/music section that was always worth a perusal but even today it is a booklovers playground. Wall to wall to ceiling double stacked books with handwritten signage and hidden treasures to be found.
I got pregnant the first time in a house off of Bloomfield Ave. in Caldwell and took the bus home to my Bloomfield flat. I got pregnant the second time, ten years later, in an apartment on Bloomfield Ave. located in West Caldwell and was driven home in his Land Rover to another apartment in Bloomfield thats’ backyard bordered Glen Ridge, a town that can mark it’s borders and pretension with the gas lamps that line it’s streets.
When my second child was 2, my partner and I moved into yet another town on that street called Verona, our apartment was literally on the Ave, over a beauty shop catering to the over 70 crowd run by an eccentric but well-meaning man, next to an amazing trattoria and across from one of the county’s best bagel places. It is a town filled with old Italian families, Catholic churches and an amazing 50 acre park; where you can see brides having their pictures taken on the picturesque bridge over the ducking laden pond, strollers pushed by mothers along the three-mile loop, in very similar workout gear and children laughing at the big playground that hugs the edges.
It is only a little over 11 miles, but takes at least 35 to 40 minutes to traverse, goes through 8 towns and I can trace most of my adult life along its path.