While this blog is not New Jersey themed, I do happen to live here, so I’d like to share this NJ blog I found with you. There is a new movie coming out called, you guessed it, “New Jersey: the movie”, and it’s really interesting if you’re want to find out stuff about NJ. The trailer is composed of lots of short cuts, going from one scene to another; but essentially, they are trying to peg where the dividing line is between North and South Jersey. The journey must have been pretty interesting.
Being a transplant from Brooklyn NY, KENSINGTON, to be exact. I am intrigued by the concept of this movie, to say the least, because I am almost totally unaware of New Jersey culture. The extent of my knowledge stems from browsing those “Images of America” books while trying to keep track of Little Drake in one of those big box book stores. I guess the closest bond I’ve ever had to a place would be there, though, I disliked living there. I wanted to live in the “country” and thought New Jersey was where I had to ultimately go, and so, it eventually happened. Sadly, I ended up in Elizabeth, NJ and while I’m not putting it down, it’s still a city and if I had to live in the a city, I would rather it be in Brooklyn. Don’t get me wrong, Elizabeth is steeped in history, but I really wanted to live in the “country”. We live on a nice dead end street, but outside of my immediate block that “nice” quiet block feel disappears. The sidewalks are narrow, broken and a safety hazard. When LD was first born, I envisioned myself strolling with him in the stroller, getting some exercise, fresh air and UV rays. To my chagrin, I spent my time, much like a mountain climber, trying to navigate the sidewalk, endlessly pausing to lift the stroller over potholes, uplifted slabs of sidewalk and the always disgusting, loads of dog poopie. At every bump I was crossing my fingers that LD would not wake up. Definitely not Littletown, USA. At least a mountain climber can take in gulps of fresh air while spiraling up a mountain peak. Me? I’m just spiraling out of control. What’s so bad about the city, you ask? Two words, “congestion and suffocation”.
Ah, as I write this, I keep trying to get a feel for my own roots. I grew up on Louisa Street in the Kennington section of Brooklyn, that is by Church and McDonald. No, NOT “McDonald’s”, McDonald Avenue. My family had been there since 1964 or there abouts, living in what we called a “railroad” house. It was a two family home, and we were semi connected to another house on one side. The rooms in our first floor apartment were laid out one after the other in a line, and this is probably why it was a railroad house. We had a nice backyard, cemented over. My dad had corn growing in two wooden crates, set on platforms made of two pieces of wood. One year my mom had a watermelon vine growing out of an old refrigerator drawer, with the actual watermelon sitting on the bench of the picnic table and benches my dad made with his own hands out of weather treated wood and pipes (for the frame). It was all connected, benches connected by a pipe frame to the table. Ingenious. Painted brick red. We had… yeah, I say, “had” because after my mom passed away, my father sold the house to renting neighbors, a nice Indian family. He owns a construction company, so I found out that he gutted the place for renovation to accommodate his family, which was just as well because it was basically in it’s original condition.
My dad was great at fixing and renovating himself, but as he got older and my mom got sicker, things were left the way they were, without the yearly fixing up and sprucing up. In those days, you made do with what you had. My dad could make anything. He made our barbecue out of an oil drum from his daytime job. (He worked at Ft. Tilden for the Army. Well, that’s closed now.) He designed and welded the iron frame together himself out of, I believe, a bed frame from a high riser. He cut the drum in half, all the way around, lengthwise, with a blow torch. After it was all done, you could still see the melted metal all along the edge. With that blow torch, he cut out the nooks that would hold the grill in place. The grill was, I believe, old oven racks… but I really do not remember what they were because they looked perfect. He put a shelf into the top half of the thing…. but I think it needed to be empty if he closed the cover. This was one HUGE BBQ. He grilled up steaks, chicken, franks, hamburger, corn, whatever… all at once. But usually, he did the chicken first because it needs to cook longer, but he could make all the chicken at one time. I have great memories of those BBQ’s… and my dad bbq’d outside in any season, in the rain, in the snow. No wonder, my favorite taste is from a CHARCOAL grill. These gas ones do NOT cut it at all, in my eyes… and taste buds.
You know, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank someone tonight. While trolling the net for cool old tyme Kensington photos to better illustrate this post, I came across Kensington (Brooklyn). A treasure trove of stories from growing up in my old neighborhood. Seeing pictures, listening to stories of the old neighborhood, and in my time there, I was transported back. What a trip and looks like there are well over a thousand posts, so I’ll need to get a jump on that. The blog is a private, team blog. Did I get that right? You must be a team member to comment… and I guess, write articles. I’m definitely going to email the link to a family and friends. I’ve really enjoyed Ron Lopez’s stories, too… thanks so much!
I must say that this evening (really started this afternoon) I had the feeling that I did not belong anywhere. I never thought much about a possible bond that I might have with a “place” that I called home. I’ve spent so much of my adulthood, moving around from place to place, too. I never felt as if I belonged anywhere. Even here. I’ve been here since approximately 2003 and it’s hard for me to feel planted… you know what I mean? I still have that transient feeling about me. I don’t really decorate, though I do little things, but mostly the things that are supposed to be finishing touches, not my whole decoration deal. Sigh. Well, I came across this blog and realized that I am bonded to the place where I grew up. I can now see why my childhood friend still lives in the same house as her parents, only on the top floor. She, CAMILLE, must really have that old neighborhood in her blood. My problem is that I’ve spent so many years not recognizing it in my own. Oh, well. I need to be here. The Drake is here and his job of 30+ years is here, so for sure, he never would’ve come to Brooklyn, and by extension, we never would have conceived our Little Drake… so, God works in mysterious ways… as they say.