New Brunswick, My Second Home

New Brunswick, my second home.

Land of Rutgers, of hospitals, and oh yeah, of people.

Grease Trucks, bars, coffee houses, overpriced restaurants,
amazing reappearing disappearing theaters, culture and chaos, nestled
swank hiding out by Rt 18, J&J towers competing with the Catholic church, interlaced with railroad tracks.

Land of pimp cops, James Cahill, the People’s Party, Leviathan
hospitals, the ever-extending barrio where you feel lucky not to be
harassed in some culturally-appropriate bastardized-Castilian slang.
Drunken students and rallies and George St-Rutgers at two ends,
sandwiching yuppie establishments and barely subsisting businesses,
cleaved by Livingston Avenue.

Passion Puddle and Bucha-what Park, bridged by the AIDS Walk and
Take Back the Night. Frat Row and Hillel and the Catholic Center, the
student center as nexus.

The green hills of Cook feeding horses and cows while ignoring the
permanent rush hour of Rt 1 through the trees.

Streets lined with bottles, glittering like hidden stars, and the pagan, faerie specks in the mass of humanity of New Brunswick who take the time to look at her and love her and grow figs miles from the Cook farms.
I used to hate New Brunswick—the filth, the corruption, the
stripped husk of vitality, the encroaching eraser of urban renewal. But
she is beautiful. Her trees are beautiful and her grass and her
arson-laced buildings and her crumbling ethnic hair palaces and her shiny business towers and overpriced theaters and restaurants. There is no morality to evolution. It Is, and so Is New Brunswick, changing and
fading and regrowing, seasonally waning with the empty campus summers and waxing with the parties of the school year, quietly subsisting on the residents who are ignored by all those not trapped within her city limits.

I’ve always been glad I never had to live in her. But I did live
in her, I just didn’t sleep in her (usually). And now I know—I will
miss her East Coast post-industrial grittiness. New Brunswick, you are
art—challenging me, changing me. I will miss you.

I slide down Easton Avenue into the city of students, of
hospitals, of homeless, looking for a place to park my car. It’s 11:15pm
on the first summer night of spring. The bars are overflowing with
tightly-clad coeds looking for who knows what. I know the Grease Truck
Lot is barricaded by Rutgers fascists, so I cruise past Hamilton Street
into the thick of the partying. The cars are backed up the streets
desperately searching for rare spots. I finally give in and park in the
student center, several blocks from where I want to be. It’s 11:25pm.
I ponder if it’s worth it, going into the city to look for pagans huddled
round a table at Evelyn’s. I hesitate for several seconds and then say
what the hell—I don’t have anywhere else to be and it’s *night* and it
feels like *summer* and I’m almost gone. How am I supposed to write an ode to New Brunswick if I’m afraid to enter her in the height of
frenzy? So I don’t shy away.

I boldly traipse up College Ave towards the Grease Trucks, passing
still-sober students. We are, after all, a block down from the bars. I
practice toughness in my head, fantasizing about crashing a frat party
and then starting a fight, but I don’t hear so much as a catcall. It’s ’cause I look tough. Or ’cause I don’t fit into clothes from Aeropostale. One of those. I always wonder what those frat boys think, sipping generic beer on their porches, watching all the passers-by. Are they staring at me? Could they care less? Can they think? Do I not give them enough credit?

I enter the realm of the Grease Trucks and the drunkenness begins
to settle in, partiers seeping downhill from Frat Row into the sacred
grove of Fat Food. I pass a punk and stare up and down him
approvingly. Someone who doesn’t shop at the mall—or who at least has the decency to stick to Hot Topic. Up the dark side of Hamilton,
Birkenstocks crunching on the glass detritus of parties pass, the alcohol
molecules swirl around me, as if I could get drunk on the air, then puke
my guts out in the luxury of campus housing the next morning. Cigarette smoke gets trapped in some sort of inversion conversion thing, and the whole block stinks of frat party. I pass the house on the corner of Easton, two boys lowering a beer hose down to the cup of someone on the porch with reassurance that the hose is stronger than it looks. I laugh, strategically navigating between people with a party to get to, people coming from a party, people waiting to get into a party, and the glomulous cloud of partiers hovering outside of Stuff Yer Face for some reason unfathomable to me.

I escape into Evelyn’s only to be confronted by a warm blast of
air. My oasis turns out to be fucking hot compared to the street, but as
I spot the bobbing red heads, I know I’ve arrived in my corner of New
Brunswick. We chitchat and bullshit and argue over great hummus and
terrible fried food, about the incredible cuteness of Voltaire and the
politics of Rocky Horror and the obscene number of Beltanes we’re obliged to attend. An hour flies by and the bill somehow gets paid, though no one will take responsibility for it. We create our own post-Evelyn’s glomulousness on the sidewalk as we debate who will erect the Maypole (heheh) and if anyone needs a ride and who’s car is in what direction and where the jurisdiction of the Traveling Police Precinct paddy wagon lies. With the swiftness of molasses, we ooze towards the Grease Trucks as one, individuals switching positions and conversations easily. Forever goodbyes and hugs and insults and info are traded as we finally peel off one by one into the night. I ascend Easton Ave once again under a blood moon sliver of sky. New Brunswick, I will miss you. (Even though you often frustrate and puzzle me.)


Ed.’s note: Hillary is now in Arizona pursuing graduate work at Columbia’s Biosphere. Take good care of her, Sonoran Sunrise Grove!