Thursday, October 16, 2014
Leave it to us to stumble over the cat people of Ocean Grove during our last stroll there before making our way home last weekend.
And for them to have migrated there from our neighborhood in
Jersey City was
even more remarkable.
We were making our way down into the side streets off the beach for a glimpse of the Victorian era houses that lined either side when we came about Barbara and a number of others pulling weeds and cutting back the grass where it encroached on the sidewalk.
Their Victorian was as big and magnificent as those to either side of it, but in sadder shape, and with multiple cats in every window.
Although Barbara’s family had moved from
Griffith Street in Jersey City in 1959, she still recalled
fondly growing up there.
“It was as good place to live and go to school,” she said.
She and her family still come back to tend the family graves in the cemetery on
“It’s a wonderful place,” she said, referring to the graveyard. “We like wandering the paths afterwards.”
She inherited the house when her parents died and it’s been a struggle ever since.
“We just can’t keep up with it,” Barbara said, testifying not just to how exclusive Ocean Grove is with its wealthy families and its expensive bed and breakfast places, but also to the plans for nearby Asbury Park which has delusions of grandeur as the city father’s dream of turning the hold vacation of the working class into something exclusive, if not as push as Deal, then at least, upscale as Long Branch, where people like Barbara (and for us that matter) would not be welcomed.
“We have volunteers helping us fix up the place,” Barbara said, suggesting that she may have had some warning from the city, and openly pointed out neighbors who object to having the house become a haven for local stray animals – especially cats.
“We’re thinking about moving to Delaware,” she said, one more migration of the working poor from a state that caters to the super rich and the extreme needy, the wealthy new population raising property values to the point where ordinary people can’t afford to live here, or pay the taxes if they are like Barbara and got their house free and clear – this also the future of Asbury Park once the new development moves in, city fathers rubbing their hands in anticipation of getting new revenue from the condos.
This won’t affect Ocean Grove much, since it is historically a religious community and has already become an enclave too exclusive for the working poor to afford. But in
Park, where building after building has been
demolished in an economic game of musical chairs, old families may be driven
out one by one along with the iconic institutions the city fathers are too
ashamed to maintain.
Bruce Springsteen’s line from “Provin all night,” came to mind then: I’m working real hard to get my hands clean,” showing the struggle to fit in with this new world full of clean hands.
But Barbara’s hands are covered with dirt from hard work, something that seems very alien to the new world this place has become.
Yet as poor as these people were, they insisted we live with something from their garden, and loaded us down with tomatoes and plums, which we at later at our first meal back in