Altitude Sickness

Goodbye hot city

By Brady Crain

I am back, and thank goodness for that.  Living in a non-air conditioned top floor apartment in Jersey City was a little too warm for my blood.  Okay, it was a lot too warm for my blood.

I did love the neighborhood thoug. I would walk a mile through garbage and glass strewn streets past shady and angry looking characters, past empty lots, destroyed buildings, and children playing in a very nice municipal pool, past the very nice Bergen/Newark Light Rail Stop, and come out in Liberty State Park, a gorgeous huge meadow park with miles of trails, and amazing views of the city, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

I really love New York, and Jersey City presents the best of New York, for my money.  It has a great, nice little downtown, fantastic restaurants, good bars, and more jazz musicians and artists per capita than anywhere else in the New York boroughs (they can afford to live there; rents are about as expensive as Burlington or Killington). It has the grit that I really love in a city. Also the residents are really nice when you look them in the eye, say hello, ask them how they are doing.

Newark is another story, of course. If Jersey City is gritty, Newark is a sandstorm. But both of them are about to pop. The five boroughs of NYC have no open lots left, very few buildings left to renovate (and no one is going to tear down the assisted housing projects in alphabet city, so those tear-downs will remain in perpetuity). NYC is so built out that my developer friends moved to Baltimore and started building that town up.

I emailed them pictures of Jersey City. You have open lots and giant tear-downs and big rehab-able warehouses a quarter mile from a gorgeous state park, a ferry to Manhattan, and light rail stop that goes right to the PATH station. Someone is going to make a ton of money in this place.  It already happened in Hoboken, and once Jersey City is built out in five to 10 years, Newark will be all that’s left. After that, all the poor people will have to move again, possibly to Huntington, Long Island, or further away in New Jersey.

I only had one Jersey City cab driver scam me (left the meter off and tried to charge me $8 for a ride that had cost me $5 the last three nights in a row), but in Jersey City if they don’t turn on the meter, your ride is free, so I got out of the car and walked away.

He yelled “I have been cab driver 28 years, this is $8 ride.” I told him ,“If you’ve been driving 28 years, you know to turn on the meter.” I saw him reach for it several times, but not turn it on.  His loss. If you try to cheat me, you don’t get any money or a tip.

But otherwise, I found the entire trip to be lovely. There is a hilarious rule on the NYC subway where if your dog fits in a bag, you can bring the dog onto the subway. I saw many ingenious uses of this rule, but the two best were quite amusing. The first time, I was on the Journal Square PATH train and a huge, jacked up, very imposing looking man got on the train. The hilarious part of it was that he had a pit bull in a shoulder bag.

An enormous pit bull. I’m betting this dog (it looked rather old) was between 70-100 pounds, and was sitting placidly in what looked like a huge old time over-the-shoulder mail bag.

In normal circumstances, an enormous man with a pit bull might make me a bit nervous, but not only was the pit bull in a bag, but the man was carrying a yoga mat.

The second genius dog maneuver was by far the winner. It was an older woman who in a rocket science-worthy maneuver, cut the bottom out of a shopping bag that was big enough that it almost touched the ground when she carried it.

Her dog walked beside her, inside this bag. I kid you not. Pure genius. “If your dog is in a bag you may bring it into the subway.” There you go. It is in a bag.

Another fun element to this trip was meeting a long time Facebook friend, Paul Cripple, the band leader and guitar player for one of Manhattan’s true  hardcore punk bands, Reagan Youth, a band so hard and obscure that before the internet you could only find their tapes at swap meets. They toured the world then slid into obscurity, returning to relevance toward the end of the Bush years. They are now back, occasionally touring, and are making killer music.

Back in the day, knowing about Reagan Youth was something that made you legit. This band is a very important element to our culture that no one really knows about. Paul Cripple and I met on Facebook by being on a conversation with common friends, and having guinea pig profile pictures. We counseled each other through the losses of our various guinea pig friends. We finally met in the West Village, and walked around in the 98 degree heat, having a blast and talking like we had known each other for decades.

A true long time Avenue D refugee and aging punk rocker, he talks in a thick New York accent and yells every word because of the ringing in his ears. We stopped into a huge guitar store to get out of the heat and jam a little, and the guys selling guitars recognized him. The guitar salesmen watched as I finger-picked a guitar designed for my virtuoso friend Sean Harkness. I couldn’t have been more legit if I was Keith Richards (and for my money Paul Cripple is way more legit than Keith Richards).  I managed to resist being all fanboy about it.

While I had a fun, saw some great live music and wonderful old friends, it was simply too hot.

After one night in my cool Killington apartment, 90 percent of my nerve pain is gone, and that, my friends, is both a literal and figurative relief, because I am ready to get back to running.

Vermont celebrated my return with two rainbows in four hours, and I thank her sincerely.

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