Sunday, August 07, 2016
My favorite non-fiction writer, EB White once wrote a column for The New Yorker called “Farewell to 49th Street,” signifying that point in his life when he was giving up his urban existence for a more permanent abode in the country.
His essays talked about the summer trips to
Maine, but this point in
time would be his final move to a place that he had prepared for his
For me, moving from the western slope of Jersey City Heights to Union City is as significant, a charge so dramatic after nearly 20 years in the same location, I know just how Mr. White felt, wanting to remain at the same time needing to move on.
I hadn’t intended to move to
Union City at all, nor knowingly purchasing a
house from the former police chief. Those things simply happened.
The fact that the house was built in 1885 brings to me a deeper satisfaction that I can only describe as coming home.
I grew up in a Victorian era house – and until this move – I had lived as long in it as any other, leaving it only in my teens when I embarked on my short but dramatic life of crime.
The irony of buying a house from a police chief is not lost on me, nor is the fact that being near 45th Street and Bergenline Avenue, I have returned to an even richer piece of my past, since Union City looks and feels very much like the Paterson I grew up in during the 1950s and 1960s.
Perhaps this is the reason why it feels so good walking to the Light Rail each morning or across town on
45th Street, into West New York and
finally Weehawken where I can overlook the
Hudson River and Manhattan.
There is a kind of peace in all of this, and a sense that this is where I belong finally, after so many years wondering and wandering.
This comes at a time when I have lost one family – the uncles and aunts that were more like brothers and sisters, passing on all in a rush so that I have wound up an only child for a time, only to find a whole batch of wonderful half brothers and sisters I knew nothing about prior to this.
I think about my grandfather (on my mother’s side) and my father as I walk down 45th Street to the river, and back along 46th or 48th, depending on my mood, wondering if they, too, had wandered most of their lives before coming to a time and place where they could find peace, too.
I think the Victorian house was just that for my grandfather, while I have yet to learn just at what moment in his life my father found peace.
This journey we take is more than just one through time or even space, but inward to find something we have kept secret for our entire lives and may not have known about until we stumble upon it, nor are we completely aware of our need for it or what it might be until it presents itself.
I say hello to 45th Street because it brings me back in time and makes me think of those people who have always been most important to me, the bad people like Leonard (the bully from when I was a kid) and the not so bad people who I went to school with and still cling to the original place of their birth, to the grand people who like me wandered far and wide, only to return, if not physically, then in their minds, to the place where we all started, and finding at the core of 45th Street or Crooks Avenue, some special something that defines life, our life, and the world in which we live, and gives us meaning we never expected to have.
Street. Welcome home.