Monday, June 18, 2007

imagining new jersey


Across the river is New Jersey. I can see it as I walk along the trail next to the Hudson River. Most New York City maps omit New Jersey. Traveling into the city by car or train, one moves along on a freeway or through a tunnel, never seeing the actual streets and buildings of the towns and cities on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It is as if there is no knowledge, no naming for the folk who live there.

What is that city, I ask, pestering a friend as we walk along the Hudson Park trail. New Jersey, she says. I know, but what city? Hoboken, she says with a hint of a question in her voice.

I learn that a line where the Holland tunnel crosses the river from Manhattan to New Jersey actually goes on to divide Hoboken from Jersey City. Jersey City is across from the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan and Staten Island (the hill in the distance beyond the statue). There is a giant Pepsi clock at the edge of JC's new downtown.

Tallest building in New Jersey, someone at work tells me about the clipped office tower by the sign. Another says that Merrill Lynch built its headquarters there. Everybody said, why Jersey City? Now it is booming. Almost another burough of the city.

Partner is working at a hospital in Jersey City this summer, in the not so booming part. This is the poorest county in New Jersey, he tells me.

The water taxis cross the Hudson (or the North River) or move up and down it every morning, some moving faster than others, much like the rythym of commuters walking on land. Between me and the Westside Highway is a dedicated two lane path for bicyclers, serious joggers, and roller bladers. To get to the park path, I must cross the Highway, a six lane road as well as the fast path. The cars stop by light, but the fast path folk are in a zone of speed priveledge, which means that they ignore the yield to pedestrians sign, cursing us if we are too slow crossing while they are riding along.

Once past the noise of the highway and the rush of the joggers and bicyclers, I am walking alongside the Chelsea Piers. I must walk south past another pier and past the ruins of the early Cunard line pier, and then a garbage or sanitation transfer area, before I finally get to the park.

At that point, the river view opens up, and if the morning sun is out, the buildings on the Jersey side reflect the golden, sandy aura of sunshine splashing on their sides. At those moments, I could be looking at the New York version of scenes from 18th century paintings of the Grand Canal in Venice.

This morning, there is a gray overcast, with heavy, humid air. The Statue of Liberty is a dark spot in the mist, an asymetrical steeple. Floating through the middle of this is a large cruise ship. I look up river, and the tug boat is waiting at the spot where it will escort the ship to its pier.

A few people are standing on the deck, small spots of folk looking at cloudy Manhattan. On the other side, there must be last minute packing, someone looking into New Jersey.

Further south, the isle of m bends back, and as I look down toward the tip, I see the tall buildings of Wall Street and Battery Park. In the movie Sabrina, Humphrey Bogard looked down from one of those buildings, looking up river to the piers north of here, where the ocean liners docked. The Chelsea piers are where the movie On the Waterfront were set. These were all imaginary works.

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