The rain slashes at the night time street of downtown as I walk back the three blocks to my car, up Newark Avenue, across the wet pavement on fire with the last of the lights – this not a weekend so that this part of the planet resembles a closed carnival illuminated but not populated, somewhat sad, mostly glad for the lack of rush that this place usually displays, after the old working families had been displaced by socially ambitious who launch themselves from this side of the Hudson River to the other side each morning, only to make reentry by night fall. Even the PATH station looks like an old stage coach stop, with newspaper and fast food wrappers blowing across it rather than sagebrush.
This place has even changed from when I first got here, a 20-something year span in which the economic engines went crazy drawing back the children of those who fled this part of the world when I was younger, children aching to rebuild their lives as urban entities after being humiliated by suburbia. We live again in the age when growing up means coming to the city, where social media can’t quite create the illusion of sophistication when accessed from afar, and though many of those who come here still feel as isolated as they did out there in the wasteland, and perhaps more so, they feel more connected when they pass strangers on the street to and from those places that allow them to pay their way in the world. But on nights like this, when the streets are slick with the spilled colors of lights that no one needs illuminated, we all come to realize that they have bought into another wasteland, one that puts them shoulder to shoulder in a comic versions of Charlie Chaplin movie, all going through the motions until they are all contained again in their small boxes, leaving the street strewn with their waste and the shimmer of ghosts like me who still make our way in the real world.