Friday, November 30, 2012

Impermanent Impressions

 
One of the shovel-ready projects of the halcyon days of the first stimulus package was street scaping of downtown, which spread through many but not all parts of our fair city. A misnomer of a term, street scaping refers to replacing sidewalks, not actual streets, although repaving followed.  Some sidewalks, no matter how old and as close to dilapidated as concrete can get,  just could not be replaced, reasons why I do not know. Instead, cement patches cover the gaps like spackling, giving the sidewalk a little more life. It’s not a permanent solution, but even full-on scaping is not forever – what is forever anyway, Jersey City barely survived Sandy, what happens when the sun goes supernova?
Unlike the scaped sidewalks, with fast drying cement and police protection, no one puts an imprint but the patches, personal statements are made, become part of the impermanence. Our love may not last forever, but it will last a while – as long as the sidewalk is another matter.  


Another Killing of a Neighborhood Bookstore

 
 

 
End of December and that’s all she wrote. Merry Christmas, now drop dead. The Barnes& Noble on 6th Avenue & 8th street, well known to Jersey City residents as the closest bookstore to any PATH station, is being forced to shut its doors and fire its employees.

We’ve all probably bought something to read there, it was too convenient to resist. The announcement of the closing is less than a week old. Well, go there while you can; lots of stuff is marked 40 percent off. More sales are promised. Say your own good bye and pay witness to a way of life that is no more.
More than 30 years ago now, I bought A Vision by William Butler Yeats at this store. The rare prose work by the Irish bard, A Vision spells out his theory on automatic writing, among other mystical concepts. I remember buying this book and I remember reading it through College so I must have gotten it early on; it was one of those works that seemed next on the list, after having gone through The Beats and French Symbolists. A Vision was one of those breakthrough modernist works all aspiring writers had to devour, or so I believed. A very heady read. I don’t remember anything much else about it now really; and to be honest, it was not the influential work I anticipated it to be. A little too modernist if you get my drift. I haven’t read it in at least 20 years, although it will always be in my library.

I do remember buying it though. I was with my buddy Tony and some other of our New Jersey crew, back in the day. Going into the City, hanging out in the Village, often it was like hit some bookstores, grab some pizza and see a concert at maybe the Palladium (American Academy of Music) or CBGBs or some other place. Tony went to school at NYU, but we had started hanging out a little more in the city as High School ended. I worked the year between High School and College. Sorry, exactly when I bought A Vision escapes me. Plus, I think the store was a Brentano’s back then. This was a very long time ago, but a memorable book buying experience.

I wanted to get this book and we spent time browsing, but I couldn’t find it. Unlike the bookstores in Bergen County, this store had three levels of books, not just a single floor. Huge – back then there were no book super stores, booksellers were basically a shop with an inventory selected by individual store owners. Tony said I know it’s here. He disappears, comes back with it in hand. I bought it; it’s still on my shelf. How long ago was this? Well, the price on the book is $3.95 and there’s no UPC code, i.e., before the age of scanning. At the time it was important to me, it had to be read. I remember the excitement of getting it, holding it, like forbidden fruit from the tree of existentialist knowledge. This was not a book sold in the Suburbs, nor was it meant to be read by a reading novice. A Vision was well beyond high school English classes, this was a read that was up to my intellectual ambitions. A Vision may have been the first book I ever bought in New York, which back then probably held additional if subconscious significance. Throughout the 80s, about once a month, I would make a pilgrimage into New York to buy books – the Strand, which survives, but also the Barnes & Noble on 19th & 5th, which was their flagship store and until the 90s, their only store. This store, which certainly was a B. Dalton by the Reagan era, was a constant stop; other stores too, but they are long gone now. Either just for books, or making a bookstore stop part of an excursion into the city, I bought a lot of books and New Jersey reading offerings were just a wasteland. I’ve been going to the 6th Avenue store a long time. I’ve gotten older, gone through many changes, read many books and through all the phases, not a year has passed without at least one stop here to browse, to find something to read, to seek out that year’s (or month’s) A Vision.
 
This location was the rare non-mall B. Dalton. When Barnes& Noble expanded in the 90s, they bought B. Daltons as their Mall outlets –competing with chains like the also defunct Walton’s Books –complementing the Barnes & Nobles Super Stores. That was before the advent of Amazon, when B. Dalton and Borders blossomed like Dandelions in May, choking off many independent bookstores in their wake. The B. Dalton in Jersey City closed twoyears ago when Barnes & Noble eliminated its Mall outlets, and this store officially became a Barnes & Noble, the only non-superstore left in the chain
 
 

This is a profitable bookstore. There used to be half-dozen bookstores within 10 blocks of this store; since about when Clinton left office, this was the sole survivor. Physical books may be shrinking in aggregate sales, but there is still a sizable customer base, enough to sustain a store, especially one in such a prime location, the corner of a major thoroughfare with high pedestrian traffic, not to mention a decades old retailer possessing a well-established, large and loyal consumer following. Back in the day, the selection was always hipper here than in N.J. B. Dalton’s (NYC carried “A Vision” !) and they competed well with the downtown independents, carrying poets and noir and new writers, giving places like St. Marks Book Store (which still survives), Posman’s Books (gone), Cooper Square Books (gone) or Spring Street Books (gone)– they come immediately to mind – a run for their money. As the neighborhood changed, the children’s section expanded, much to the joy of the new Village moms and dads in need of a convenient place to take the kids and pass on a love of reading. The decimation of book stores seems to have ended with Borders closing – this year a new store actually opened in Jersey City! – there have been no reports of further consolidation by Barnes & Noble. Why is the Barnes & Noble on 6th& 8th closing?
 

Greed, pure and simple. A large sign promoting “The Nook,”Barnes & Noble’s e-reading alternative to The Kindle, seems to indicate that the bookstore chain fosters a lethal viper in its breasts, encouraging the demise of their own brick and mortar progeny. But E-Reading and online retailers are not the culprits in this slaying. An employee told me that the person who owned a cluster of buildings – which included this Barnes & Noble – in the neighborhood recently died. The store lost its lease. The employee said a lot of stores in the neighborhood had already closed. The new owners and their developer friends have other ideas for what Greenwich Village should be. A healthy and reasonable return on investment was made by renting these buildings to merchants, creating a unique, and long-thriving, commercial district that helped to make this neighborhood desirable – to live in and visit – and take the PATH to. But community is a consideration insufficient to prevent enacting a scheme devised for an even bigger return on investment. Thus are the motivations driving urban planning in Bloomberg's New York.
 
A glance down 8th street proved the employee right; more store fronts were dark and empty than lit up and filled with customers. The holiday shopping season has started and 8th street – all independent stores, shops and boutiques – is now practically a ghost town. New York was known for its stores, now the only stores that are left are the same chains in any Mall, and you have to travel far from 8th & 6th to buy from them. The hat store, shoe stores, the funky t-shirt stores, the head shops, weird jewelry – they were still here in the summer, now all of them are boarded up. Why leave NJ to shop? Merry Christmas 2012!



Maybe chain stores will open outlets here, but I doubt it. My bet is that 8th street will soon be absorbed by NYU, which has metastasized throughout the body of the Village and its growth shows no signs of slowing –anyone remember The Bottom Line? In any event, 8th street as we knew it is gone. The owners of the property housing the former B. Dalton were making a decent profit with this last remaining bookstore in the neighborhood. There was always a line at the check out counter. The store provided a useful service to its community. But bigger profits can be made with another enterprise. Quality of life, not to mention tradition – these things matter not; what drives our society is one aspiration: maximizing profits. If the lease goes to another retail establishment, the closing of this non-super store bookstore was really short sighted – this has been a business here for decades, bringing people into the neighborhood, creating economic activity – another store of any type is not guaranteed to replicate that success. Bookstores may be hardest hit, but they are not the only retail segment impacted by internet commerce. All brick and mortar stores are in some degree of jeopardy. That’s why I bet NYU has its sights on this and other surrounding buildings – your exorbitant Student Loans at work. Excessive tuition fees are way more profitable, especially in the long term, than honest retailing.
 
 


 So, this is the last Christmas for this bookstore. It will close at the end of the month. Half the employees have lost their jobs, the rest will be unemployed come January (there may be openings in the other NYC Barnes & Noble locations, although they weren’t hiring extra Christmas help this year). Any job loss should be mourned, but the loss of bookstore employment really stings because these workers sincerely love their jobs. Helping someone find what they want to read is practically a calling. Hand selling a book is nearly extinct. People who work in bookstores genuinely love working in bookstores and it’s truly tragic that through no fault of their own, a successful business is closed because of greed, because of soulless inconsideration, because of an unquenchable desire for more money. It is not that this store didn’t turn a profit, it’s just that a bigger profit was possible. Bookstores are not part of the New Order. Come the New Year, another thing that we took for granted, that we loved Manhattan for, that was part of our lives, will be gone, never to return.
 


 


 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Loose Leaves

A cold front moved in and the leaves fell. Seemed the descent came in a swoop. If you look at the fallen tree pictures in the Sandy Coverage, you will see that the leaves are still green. Walking around during the Thanksgiving Weekend, the now almost entirely brown leaves were in a constant flurry, hissing in the wind, scraping in swirls against the concrete of the sidewalk, crackling beneath the shoes as you walk, settling on the lawns and being pushed into piles.

There was a snowstorm the week after Sandy. Temperatures now feel more winter than autumn. I suppose turning brown, dry and crisp and falling is not unusual for late November, but I swear this was the first time I noticed such a sudden and near-unified rush to the ground; this was no gradual baring of the branches. Get off now, stop hoping for summer to stay, we don’t have time for autumn, winter’s here already. Who are you going to believe, the calendar or our climate changed seasons?
 

Late autumn fills the nostrils. That woodsy odor, like peat or oak, a musty, rustic fragrance signaling impending winter. Advent. Holidays. Snow. More snow… frost then ice. Spring is a long way off, even Lent. You want a cinnamon flavored beverage. You may desire warmth, but the brisk air is bracing. Chilly is better than gelid. Be used to it by and by, but now it’s new again and startling and not entirely unpleasant. These bare branches will be with us for months. Starkness is truth.

Since it seemingly happened so sudden, and over a holiday weekend, it’s understandable that piles accumulate, intermingled with Jersey City litter. Too windy to rake or blow today, let them fall, let them be. Like the marking of it, time too is inevitable.

 
Walkin' through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feelin' like a stranger nobody sees
So many things that we never will undo
I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too
From Mississippi by Bob Dylan



Last Leaf by Tom Waits


I’m the last leaf on the tree

The autumn took the rest

But they won’t take me

I’m the last leaf on the tree

 

When the autumn wind blows

They’re already gone

They flutter to the ground

Cause they can’t hang on

There’s nothing in the world

That I ain’t seen

I greet all the new ones that are coming in green

 

I’m the last leaf on the tree

The autumn took the rest but they wont take me

I’m the last leaf on the tree

 

They say I got staying power

Here on the tree

But I’ve been here since Eisenhower

And I’ve out lived even he

 

I’m the last leaf on the tree

The autumn took the rest but they won’t take me

I’m the last leaf on the tree

 

I fight off the snow

I fight off the hail

Nothing makes me go

I’m like some vestigial tail

I’ll be here through eternity

If you want to know how long

If they cut down this tree

I’ll show up in a song

 

I’m the last leaf on the tree

The autumn took the rest but they won’t take me

I’m the last leaf on the tree

I’m the last leaf on the tree

I’m the last leaf on the tree

Friday, November 23, 2012

Double Decker Tow


 
 
Keep this from the tourists. Even the double decker buses break down and have to be towed. You cannot see them too well, but there are actually three guys underneath the elevated front end of the bus. The tow truck was big and bright. The tow truck is more impressive than the double decker bus.  I hate those double decker buses, without good reason, I have nothing against tourists. Maybe they were so identified with London than when they started showing up in the isle of Manhatto, I mistook their appearance as solely one of anglophilia. But they are probably a lot of fun, if are not as jaded as someone who grew up dreaming of New York City and then when she became part of your life having to learn how to cope with her constant betrayals. Double Deckers are just like any vehicle, they sometimes are unable to drive away and need to be towed. I’ve never seen it though before tonight.



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tunnel Diner Calling

 I’m at the Holland Tunnel on the Jersey Side. I’m calling from a diner. I want to see you. I’m running out of dimes.


I wonder if the pay phone was removed before or after this diner closed. It’s been closed a while, think a couple years ago or so I took a picture of this closed diner. What a beautiful, classic neon Diner marquee. Tells us all we need to know. At the exit of the tunnel, 14th street in Jersey City, the desolation that borders the Hoboken border. Just because the diner is closed, why should the pay phone be made defunct? Oh that’s right, everyone has a cellphone. Let’s hope it is working next time the car breaks down in the Holland Tunnel and they tow you to Jersey City. I realize this building has been fallow for a long time now, hard to believe some business couldn’t seen an opportunity here, what a location. In fact, I noticed it (but not the pay phone) two years ago. They sold the diner sign beneath the tunnel sign since then.
 
 
I don’t want to go back to the city. I’m here now. Tell me where you are. I’ll bring you a coffee and an egg sandwich.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn II


 
I am a vampire film enthusiast and love the Twilight Films. I wrote about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 last year.

This post is one big spoiler. The final film in the series was one of the most bizarre and ludicrous movies I’ve ever seen, my mouth was agape through many of the scenes. Here are my impressions

 

 “I was born to be a vampire.”

Quite a day of firsts for Bella, starlet of The Twilight Saga, the teens as vampires (and some minority werewolves) franchise. As you may recall from the first chapter of the last installment of the Twilight films, newly married and preggers from the one time and only time she had sex (apparently of any kind) with Edward, she was about to die giving birth to the half nosferatu/half mortal baby when Edward in one of the weirdest and creepy for all the wrong reason scenes  in all of contemporary cinema, Edward sucks his wife blood, turns her into a vampire (the films are vague on many bits of vampire lure, such as how they become one), so she can survive child birth. So, first day as vampire is the first day as mom, not to mention the first ever mom of a half vampire baby. Except for a thirst for blood, which she satiates by suppressing the urge to attack a rock climbing mortal, instead wrestles a cougar, she enjoys the speed and strength and heightened senses of being a vampire. Best of wall, Edward loves her.

Twilight is not the first vampire to use blood sucking to sustain immortal youth as a metaphor for sex, but there’s a very creepy sub-textural obsession with virginity that distinguished the first four (or was it five, I’ve lost count) Twilights. But having drained that concept for all its worth, and having their love consummated, Bella can now be the vampire she was born to be and attain heightened senses and agility, but will she use these power for? To be a mom and Edward’s beloved. If Twilight’s agenda has a moral lesson, it’s completely retro. She’s Dawn Romney without those pesky charitable foundations to distract her.

I liked the earlier Twilight films mainly for how seriously they took the teenager experience. They obsessed on the teenage experience of obsessive self absorption. Luckily a baby doesn’t complicate matters, it just enhances the self-absorption. Career? College? Why be so mundane. What sort of future do you want for your child? Whatever!

This Twilight is heavy on the Eros, compared to the other films, but there is something unsettling in its antiseptic depiction of sex. Why do we need a bedroom if we never sleep, asks Bella when she and Edward go to the new dream cottage in the middle of the Northwest Wilderness, which they go to without the newborn, who is being happily baby sitted by the Cullen vampire coven. Some beds are not for sleeping, Edward replies in a Barry White voice.  What follows is a beautifully shot commercial for Cotton Incorporated underwear and sheets, as Edward and Bella get down to some serious love making, vanilla and romantic, without even a smidgen of raunch, or of course, reality. What woman, in what I think was about a week since birthing the baby, doesn’t feel all sexy and in the mood? Right… The cottage is a modest two story European model that probably only cost a few million and is decked out in Nordstrom. Are all Vampires rich or  are they just the 1 percent? This is their separate house – given to them by the coven, who live in another mansion in the other part of the woods. It’s not that films are materialistic – they seem to support the primacy of romantic love – but the obvious wealth of these characters is taken for granted, their materialism is beside the point, which may be worse. There’s no explanation of why these vampire are able to sustain such a lavish lifestyle, and even the mortal friends of Bella – completely absent in this film – all seem to be from middle class families who shield their teenage offspring from economic realities. There are the Native American wolf-boys, but there’s no mention of their apparent poverty is just a matter of choice… because you know, they’re Native American werewolves. What do you mean entitlement; wealth is just the way things are.

It’s one thing to take the teenage expiree seriously, to cinematically make that experience universal. But to also adopt, without question or qualm, teenage ignorance and arrogance, that’s quite another. It’s a little sick. Although appalled I also find it appealing, even though I fail to understand that appeal.

I like Kirsten Stewart, although I do not think she is very talented. The role doesn’t call for a range of emotions, so the material lacks opportunity for her to exhibit any chops she may possess. But she has presence, is beautiful, and the rest of the ensemble is likewise endowed with ultra-photogenic looks and limited powers of emotional expression. The character suffers from low self-esteem – she lives only to love and be loved by Edward – and in an obvious contradiction – she is utterly conceited. She’s obsessed with the self she loathes, unsure of anyone who loves that self, yet ready to attack anyone who loathes or even doubts the convictions, of that self. It takes a man like Edward, strong enough to be chaste until marriage, yet smart enough to attend high school geometry classes for an entire century, to win with a woman as conflicted as Bella.

Jacob, the wolf-boy who was her chaste boyfriend for one of the damn installments, imprinted the child upon her birth. Imprinting was not a lycanthropy Lawrence Talbot possessed. I is some kind of genetic blood oath, he’s sworn to protect the baby as if it is his own. The day after the birth – vampirism really helps t he recuperation process because Bella is able to run up the side of cliffs – Jacob first tells her, it’s not what you think and then says, in the same scene, you know I have no control over who I imprint. After the second line, I wondered, what does the screen writer think Bella is thinking? That her old boyfriend is molested the new born? The dialog in this scene was filled with unintended ickiness.

The baby is believed to be the first progeny of vamp and mortal married sex, a hybrid. One side effect is accelerated growth. She grows fast, faster than the Wonder Bread montage, and within three scenes is a pre-tween. She becomes like 10 in a week (in the time of the movie, as far as I can tell). Before this occurs, the child is photographed beautifully. I have to repeat myself. This is one of the most beautifully filmed movies I’ve ever seen. Everything and everyone looks perfect, especially the baby. Kind of a difficult achievement – look at how long a history we have of child photography – and to be noticeably superior, that’s pretty remarkable and noteworthy.  Even the Sears pictures look pretty good, you have to admit. The toddler is as breathtaking as the infant as is the pre-tween. No matter how inane the story or low-key the acting, the Twilight films are exquisite to look at. There’s splendor in every frame.

But back to the child. Will Bella breast feed? I’ve been wanting an answer to that question for an entire year. Vampire guys can still produce fertilizing sperm – enough to hit the target at first shot! – There must be some residual human biology working for vamp gals, no? Well, no. We never find out at least. The child is never fed. Not a Gerber’s jar in sight, or a mussy mouth or the highchair scene with cheerios in the plastic tray. This explains why there’s no pampers or diapers or changing scenes. No blood drinking either. Bella learns to control her thirst, but it’s never an issue for either the human or the vampire half of the offspring. She is never fed and never dirties a diaper and none of the vampire teenagers seem to care a whit. Lest you think this is some kind of characterization ploy, it is filmmaker superciliousness. They think the audience will not care when a contrivance – of technique, not story – is so blatant. Or is that the Twilight audience is so in on the joke that a demand for logic is actually anathema to them?

Or, is the lack of baby food and poo part of the sick, subtextural agenda Twilight seems intent on conveying? Yes, teenager gals, if you just find a dreamboat like Edward to love you chastely, when you do finally give it up under holy matrimony you will have a perfect cottage and a pretty baby to fawn over when you are not having intercourse (by the way, there’s no suggestion of any oral sex not to mention anything beyond traditional intercourse, because when two young people are in love and sexually active experimentation in pleasure never happens), and just like not having to worry about money or a career, there’s no child rearing chores if the baby is cute enough and wears the right clothes. Yes, all teenagers are born to be vampires.

This being a teenager film, before the jets and the sharks figure out how to get along, they must rumble. The rival gang here is the Volturi, who are euro-trash vampires. They have funny accents and do not shop for clothes at American Eagle, going more for goth cloaks that are a cross between a hooded bathrobe and a hooded duster coat. They hate Bella and that cute child, who they mistake for being a vampire child. Told in flashbacks, sometime in the middle ages, when villagers acted like Universal Horror film villagers, vampires out of loneliness would turn a child into the undead and when the child threw a tantrum, the thirst combined with the super strength and agility, caused mortals to die and the Villagers began to hunt vampires. In other words, Twilight vampires hate Let the Right One In vampires. The flashbacks only show female vamps with their medieval vampire children, the agenda against single motherhood being obviously telegraphed. Dakota Fanning, a bad vampire, is shown gleefully ripping off the head of the single mom vampire then tossing the baby into a pyre. She is under-used and when used is always the good girl, and you can the actress is having fun enacting some popcorn pathos in a rare supporting role.

But the child not a vampire child – a heart beats inside her chest – she is a half and a half, albeit one who has super strength, agility, the ability to implant thoughts in your brain and is cuter than any child known to human kind. The Volturi do not care, but the Cullens soon travel the world – Brazil is a hot bed for vampires, who knew – to get vamps to witness. That’s the term, witness. Witness what? The fact the child is only half vamp. Now the baby, at about a week or so, is able to leap into the air as a high a mountain, so one might assume that if she does have a tantrum you may still want to warn the villagers, but a child this cute and a mom and dad so photogenic, that must be impossible. The hope is that with enough vampire witnesses who see the cute baby with a beating heart, the Volturi will be convinced.  The witnesses, a colorful bunch that include an Irish Family, an American Loner, urban and rural Brazilians and two men from Transylvania, who hate the Volturi and are more overtly gay than the merely homoerotic Edward and Jacob.

Before we get to the rumble, the film establishes that these vamps are also a Legion of Super Heroes who is going to fight a Legion of Super Villains. See, these vampires, in addition to being stronger and faster and immortal, also each one has their own power. Bella can project force shields. Another shoots electricity, another manipulates “the elements” – which means fire comes out of his finger, but fire is not an element, but anyway – weaker vampire powers include origami, folding cotton sheets into wrinkle-free squares and the uncanny ability to select the right earrings for your perfect hair day (okay, these weren’t really powers). One vamp has the ability to predict the future, and warns Bella in a secret method by writing a note on a page from the Merchant of Venice. What I liked about this bit of business were the several close-ups of the edition’s title page – With Introduction by Harold Bloom – nice!

So Bella makes arrangements with Jacob for him to take the imprinted one if it looks like the fight is being lost

The rumble is set on a snowy field and looks spectacular, the good vamps, with their new cadre of motley freedom lovers and a pack of werewolves, face off against the euro-trash in their Goth cloaks, which are a lot more practical given all the CGI snow. The rumble begins, no stakes to the heart, the main battle technique is ripping of the head. So as heads are grabbed and detached and it looks like the Vulture. Are going to win, the half/half child jumps on Jacob as werewolf’s back and they flee into the woods and to a more interesting film.

Alas, it turns out that the Dream Girl vampire (the one who can predict the future for those not hip to the Legion of Super Heroes) was merely showing the future to the head euro trash vamp. Telepathically. The rumble was all a hallucination. When this was revealed, the theater audience burst out laughing at the film’s absurdity, but also acknowledging the audacious hoodwinking.

Then to reinforce her veracity, Dream Girl summons forth another Brazilian couple – from a Brazilian Tribe – turns out the gal is a vampire, but he is a half and half, a human mother being seduced by a vampire.

He can eat both human food and drink blood; he became a full adult within seven years and looks about 27, totally ripped in his loin cloth and head band, but is really over a hundred years old.

The Vulture are convinced the half and half is no threat and leave. I wondered if they chartered a plane to the northwest together, or were they all separate tickets.

So, this new half and half is not a vampire how? Long life, super powers, can also live on blood. The only thing a half does differently is have a beating heart and can enjoy human food. With the absence of diapers for the baby, I wondered if as they mature they will gain the ability to make pee and/or poo.

The film ends, with Edward and Bella, in each others arms in a field of wild flowers, no baby in sight, just their eternal love. They look beautiful together.

I wonder if they go back to high school. That’s how they met, but the weird thing is that Edward being a vamp was more than a century old. How many times did he take geometry? Can you imagine? At least go to college and study the classics or something. What will Bella do with eternity? Be with Edward, what else is there?

The author of the series is famously, a Mormon. Now, I am not trying to pick on that religion. Everyone has their own beliefs and the Mormon’s are no crazier than any other. But, some of the more famous Mormon tropes are their aversion to premarital sex and oral sex as well as their belief that Native Americans are some kind of lost tribe of Israel. Especially in this installment, the writer seemed to be letting us into some weird subconscious world with obvious references to her faith. I think obvious to us but not to her.  The half half GQ model Native American male at the end seemed a capper, but also the patriarchal nature of the vampire system, where the men make the decisions have titular power on both the American and European sides, but the women wield the most strength. Oh yeah, and there’s the weird sexual inhibitions infusing the vampire erotic metaphors. A montage of close-ups and underwear to portray sexual encounters, but to go out of your way to dispel any PG-12 notion of non-intercourse or extended foreplay, it’s just weird. No sex or vampirism before marriage, and single female vampires who make their own vampire babies are to be killed and their babies slaughtered. And how come the vampire male can still produce sperm (and apparently, attain and sustain an erection, if though they have no beating heart or circulatory system), but only with a human woman – a vampire woman cannot ovulate? What inspired these story telling choices?

You don’t have to go very deep below the surface to see the psychological phantasmagoria boil. Twilight has a very creepy subtext. I’ve happened to have read a lot this year about the Church of Latter Day Saints, not just the Romney coverage, but the great Harold Bloom book, the American Religion, which deals with the subject. I have Mormonism on the mind to some extent. I cannot escape the connections.

Do not take this as a criticism of the faith, or the film. There is weird shit going on in this movie and it has to come from somewhere. I am not the only one to comment on the potential references.

Aside from that, we still have love. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, Edward and Bella live eternally, have a very photogenic child and get to enjoy the simple pleasures being together in a field of wild flowers. What is the appeal of the Twilight Saga? An idealized world of romantic love where teenage consciousness is reality? That may be so. What I think I like the best, why I’ve followed this rather lame bunch but pretty to look at vampires, is how they blissfully ignore their own decadence.

 

 


 

Twilight: Breaking Dawn II

Scary 0
Creepy *****
Jolts *

Suspense 0

Believability 0


Total:  1.2*’s. I gave the star for Jolts because of the beheadings during the fake rumble. They weren’t jolting really but looked good. The creepiness though was for all the wrong reasons, but it was creepy nonetheless. Okay, it is a terrible movie. I loved it, at the time.  All the Twilight movies are like that though, as entertainments they may be a little weird, but they are consistently good, devoid of nutritional calories (the last is the cheesiest, a feat in and of itself) and quickly forgotten.  

 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy in Jersey City


Sandy… Sandy… Sandy… all you heard about or could think about or talk about… the days before and of course in the ongoing aftermath.


Electricity went out about 9:30 Monday night. Three days/three nights – the longest I’ve been without power in Jersey City. You’re not totally isolated of course, you have the phone and the radio, but the inconvenience keeps getting more aggravating and depressing. Not just the disruption of the routines, and worries of spoiling food or dwindling paper money supply but the essentials of life – eating and cleanliness – become central activities of your day, no longer the minor chores on your way to work and love. The radio reminds you of the many, many people who have it worse than you do loss of life, loss of home. Updates on the extent of the destruction and the progress of restoration. The former still outweighs the latter.

You get on with it, you deal. Hardship is part of the human condition, but is also temporary. You may become more appreciative of simple creature comforts, but lord, moment to moment can be sad and annoying. Time becomes grueling. You wait. The unknown eventually becomes known.

Sandy – seems the media is split between tagging this Super Storm Sandy or Hurricane Sandy – I think I prefer using her sole surname –anyway, Sandy is similar to 9-11 for Jersey City in this respect: there was a before Sandy and now there’s an after Sandy. Enduring the first typhoon that ravaged territory far above the normal tropical radius of this category of weather event has created new community awareness – or perhaps, a new awareness of our community.

I moved to Jersey City in the 90s and while I have dear friends who are born and bred Jersey City folks, born and bred Jersey City folks often indulge in their own type of snobbery towards any one who grew up anywhere else. This insularity sneers with a you-are-not-from-here bias, a faux superiority. This tendency is far from being exclusive to J.C. It is typical of many places, especially those with a deep-rooted culture that has fostered several generations and families. I know people living in the south for 25 years or more and still considered “Yankees” by their neighbors. After 9 -11 though, going through that ordeal together. I just didn’t see that attitude so much anymore in Jersey City.

I did see that attitude rise up though, post 9-11, even among the non-Jersey City born and bred but who had moved here pre-gentrification and now were looking at the new comers as the carpet baggers. Didn’t help any that most of the new residents, especially in downtown, were young, a new generation with a different style. Will they and their tattoos and different ways ruin the neighborhood? Make it less affordable? Blah blah blah. Prejudice is always the same, and seems one group inevitably uses the same prejudices that were heaped upon them against the group who follows. Maybe to feel like an insider you need to disparage an outsider. A lot of it has merely to do with age, as the deeper one gets into middle age, the more apt one is to resent younger folks merely for their youth. That was at the root of what I felt 20 years ago when Jersey City became my home and it sure sounds familiar when I hear my generational peers knock the Gen Yers now amongst us.

Sandy I believe has changed that. We have survived this together and the new comers are no longer new. As Bob Dylan says, “strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than those who are most content.”

God help those who move to town from hereafter cause they will have to hear about Sandy. You think this is bad, you weren’t here for the Sandy! SANDY!!! Some will always grasp any reason to appear superior. But I fear Sandy is far from the last word on devastating weather events. Pollution will not end tomorrow. Having spent our national treasure on fighting wars and giving tax breaks to the wealthy, we neglected to reinvest in our infrastructure, which is now crumbling and in need of repair. But we now need an infrastructure that can withstand our new weather realities. Repairing the old is insufficient. When the infrastructure collapses, the class war begins.

Sunday things started changing. The air was as thick as a soaked sponge. Windy… Monday morning… it’s about as windy as I can remember… I walked around some, the wind intensifying as you get closer to the Hudson River… Sandy had become a malevolent entity, a personage bestowing mounting dread – make landfall at 6, 8… announcements of voluntary evacuations, preemptory closings of schools, subways, highways… dread dominates.

Seemed all your Facebook friends were on Facebook with updates and worries and even good advice (freeze bags of water).

All day the wind whistles and wails, I went outside … you could still walk, but barely… branches falling. I only made it a few blocks before the curfew. The gusts of wind shake parked cars. That was weird. The rain comes in sheets, bands they call it. During Monday night, there are periods of perfect stillness, no rain or even breeze. Then the squall returns with a vengeance, the gales roar and a million splinter-sized raindrops loudly crackle against the rattling window.
 
 
 
 
The first morning of no power is not so bad. My gas stove still functions, I can make breakfast.

Within a block or so I spot my first downed tree. First of many. Boughs and branches, tangled with wires draped between poles, now the wires are entwined with the fallen tree, sprawling on the ground.

I walk down to the river. The river surged in the middle of night, filling the streets near the bank of the Hudson, heading up several blocks, to City Hall, I heard. Intersections are lakes. Some cars pass through, others turn around. I wore boots. In some places the brown water is still a foot deep

 

 











This is further up Columbus, about a mile from the river. A friend of mine lives nearby, water filled the first level of his house. Jersey City is an isthmus, meaning lowlands. Basically, the perimeter of downtown is a flood zone. It’s just a matter of time when a Hudson River surge meets the flood zone waters. Water always seeks out other water.
 
Rainy, gusts of wind but nothing compared to the day before. Grim and gray. The Hudson is ugly, dark and disturbing. It seems so tamed, excavated centuries ago to make the bottom deep enough for big ships. The internationally known home of the landmark of our immigrant past – France’s gift of the Statue of Liberty beckons at the mouth of the river, which flows between the isle of Manhatto and the Jersey shoreline. River while you’re rambling you can do some work for me, sang Woody Guthrie, but that’s just an illusion. In spite of appearances, all rivers are wild rivers. Everyone – and every city –is at the mercy of Nature.
 
 
 
 This is the very groovy Warehouse Café, which was serving the day after the day after Sandy. See how high it is from the cobble stone street? The water rose higher than that, the owner told me, and filled the lobby area of the café.
This fish was on the sidewalk near the Warehouse Café. The surge brought depths of water sufficient to carry this fish ashore. Keep in mind, this fish lays about five blocks from the actual Hudson. It is not within flopping distance of the river.
 
 
 The area is around the waterfront – Exchange Place, our city’s“financial” district and the Powerhouse District is desolate, silt and gunk are strewn in the drenched street. Everything seems saturated, what isn’t stone or metal is muck. These blocks were flooded the night before. A brownish patina coats the lower portions of cars and buildings
 

 
 
Water Seeps up, like a fetid spring, through the cracks in the curb and sidewalks.
 
 

 
 This is what Post-Apocalypse looks like.
 
 
 
 


 

 
Everyone is shell shocked. The bad news keeps coming. Down the shore, the Atlantic ripped apart boardwalks. Subways and PATH flooded, service suspended indefinitely. We cope. We discover new supplies of patience we never knew we had. Hardly any cars on the roads, no traffic lights are working. We survey the damage. Did we survive or is this Purgatory? 
 
A military vehicle drives up Christopher Columbus.


 

 
Entire trees pulled out of the grown, the panels of the sidewalk torn asunder. Every block seems to have a fallen Tree or at least, large limbs.



 

 




 

 
On Tuesday Night, Helens Pizza is serving a limited menu. There’s a line outside. It’s the only place open on the utterly dark Newark Avenue.

 
PSE&G workers checking on one of the several gas leaks reported.

 
 
Wednesday morning I went to the Shop Rite. I’m not sure if it was running by generators or that it was part of the first section of the J.C. grid that got electricity, a corridor of energy that ran up 4thand 5th streets, fading a few houses east of Monmouth. People plugged into the outlets to charge their phones. There are outlets along the walls of the store, also around the edges of frozen food cases and amongst the thickening throngs of food shoppers, are people sitting along the walls, waiting. I recharged my phone there. A small group of people waited around the ice machine, applauded when an employee came with a cart of ice bags. I didn’t take any pictures at Shop Rite. People were tired and wiped out, hell; I was tired and wiped out.

 

 Electricity was beginning to return to different blocks. People found outlets and loitered as their phones charged.This cord was plugged into a street lamp post at the small concrete park on Jersey Avenue.
By Thursday the clean up began more in earnest. Garbage neatly piled; some places require a good pumping out and will be ready to go today or tomorrow, others the repair and restoration will be more extensive.