Tag Archives: home

How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 2

17 Jul

By the end of the first part of this essay I’d made my way to Jersey City and bought a point-and-shoot camera. Jersey City was where I lived, but not my home. I had no home, unless it would be the virtual world of intellectual activity.

What that camera allowed me to do was to connect my intellectual world to Jersey City itself. It’s not merely that Jersey City is where I live and so where I conduct that intellectual activity, but that Jersey City itself became the subject of that intellectual activity. And more.

It’s 2004 and I return from my conference in Chicago with a camera full of photographs of Millennium Park. I turned them into an online exhibit that my friend (and one-time teacher) Bruce Jackson put online as a working paper. And I shelved the camera. Except every now and then I’d get it out and walk around taking photos, mostly of this and that.

In the Fall of 2006 I decided to photograph signs: street signs, billboards, signs on cars, storefronts, and, of course, graffiti tags, which were plentiful.

dumpster with tags.jpg

I decided they might be particularly interesting. After all, this mural was just across the street from my apartment:

jj-elephunt.jpg

What if there were more like that? Continue reading

How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 1

15 Jul

On that last, not really. I voted for him and made a small contribution to his campaign and I did one or two others things. But I didn’t spend 10, 20 or more hours a week volunteering for the campaign nor did I bundle big bucks for his campaign war chest. Still...

* * * * *

What is home? That’s a tricky one. I think of Johnstown, Pa. as my hometown. I was born in Pittsburgh, but that’s only where the hospital was located. I spent the first three or four years of my life in Ellsworth, Pa., but I don’t remember those years at all. Johnstown is the place I remember. Actually, a suburb in Richland, Twp. just outside Johnstown proper.

That’s where I went to primary and secondary school and that’s where I returned during summers when I was at college in Baltimore (Johns Hopkins). When I graduated with my BA I remained in Baltimore, summers too, getting a master’s degree and working out my alternative service (those were the Vietnam years) in the Chaplain’s Office at Hopkins. At the same time my father’s job moved the family to Allentown, Pa. No more returning to Johnstown. My hometown could no longer serve as my home.

From Baltimore I moved to Buffalo to pursue a Ph.D. I was as comfortable living there as I’d been since living in Johnstown, and it’s only recently that I’ve felt that kind of comfort here in Jersey City.

Why? There’s an easy and obvious explanation for my comfort in Buffalo. Though I was studying in the English Department at SUNY (the State University of New York), and liked the department, my real intellectual home was in a running seminar hosted by Prof. David G. Hays, in linguistics. Hays and I clicked as I’ve never clicked with any other thinker. Continue reading

Dance to the Music: the Kids Owned the Day

6 Dec

It IS, after all, about them, no?

Here’s the scene: A middle school auditorium in suburban New Jersey. It’s late Saturday afternoon on the second day of a dance competition. The auditorium is filled—but only loosely—with young dancers and their parents, other family, and friends. They’re all waiting for the last performance of the competition.

Some hip hop comes up on the sound system and a few of the dancers begin moving to the music. Some of them are standing up from their positions in the audience and are dancing in place. A couple others, at the far left and far right down front, are dancing in the outside aisles. More start joining in.

Down front, in the center, the action photographer—the guy who’s there to shoot photos of each dance number so they can then be sold to parents—is sitting down front on his high swivel chair. He’s smiling, swiveling in the chair to survey the scene, and he starts clapping on the backbeat.

That’s me.

Now another hip hop number comes up and, in a whooshhh! dancers get up out of their seats, rush to the aisles, and the aisles are jammed with kids joyously dancing. Five, six, eight, eleven, fifteen years old, a few older. Even the dancers waiting in the wings on stage for the final number, they danced too.

All dancing. 100, 200, maybe more. Dancing.

It was wonderful.

It made the day

How so?

Competitive dance.

What’s that?

What it is is an industry. There are some 200 companies in the USA that hold dance competitions, regional and then, in some cases, national.

Oh, You Mean Like Dancing with the Stars, only for kids?

Something like that. I don’t really know how it works because I’ve only seen this one day’s worth. What was going on that afternoon is that various dance studios would enter students in the competition as solos, duets or trios, small groups and so on, and they’re divided into a bunch of age groups so you don’t have four year olds competing against fourteen year olds. Continue reading