Friday, October 30, 2009

Steel Beams & Big TV

Huge television screen on the outside of a building, glaring Asian lettering on 32nd street heading west, workers unloading steel beams from truck to finish the skeleton of edifice.

Metal Man

Metal Man. Wonderful sculpture. Remember when we had hopes of real live robots. What happened to my robot? What happened to my jet pack? Promises, promises. Actually, this is an Artificial Intelligence Unit, who dresses up like a classic robot and stands perfectly still for his art. He doesn’t want to be human, he wants to be a statue. He could shut down for the same effect, instead he keeps his battery running just for the challenge of acting motionless.

Klieg Lights

I thought these Klieg Lights were shining for the Hamilton Park Green Market, which has been moved to a sidewalk by the condo building that used to be St. Francis Hospital because Hamilton Park is taking so long to renovate. But then I saw them shining again. They always look sort of cools, those beams swiftly swaying back and forth in the sky, but then you get close to them and the illusion is gone.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Looking Through a Fence

Is there anything lonelier than looking through the fence of a building entrance. You can only poke a finger or two into the holes, but there’s nothing you can touch beyond the fence holes. Cement everywhere, cinder blocks, garbage bins, whatever is done here doesn’t need you. Ever feel this lonely, before you answer do you know if you’re inside looking out or outside looking in.

Loew’s Litter

Litter from the throwaway culture that preceded our own disposable culture at the Landmark Loew’s Theatre in Jersey City. What looks like white mucus is actually faux cobwebs. It’s the Halloween season. Hudson County’s only revival movie theater had a weekend of scary flicks. I caught Rosemary’s Baby, which I never saw on the big screen. I still think the movie is over-rated, but the dream-sequence when Mia Farrow is raped by the incubus loses just about all its intensity on the small screen. That was edge of your seat, intelligent film making. Loew’s presents cinema (and a growing number of other entertainments) during the un-air conditioned months. Air Conditioning was unable to be restored so far during the restoration of the Movie Palace. I hadn’t noticed this display case before, obviously of the litter found during the extensive refurbishment of the theater, an entirely volunteer effort. I love the old packaging, the pop culture debris as evidence of actual lives.
This lobby picture isn’t so great but it does reveal a contrast in time. The grandeur of going to the movies, back when the place was first built, when people dressed up for the cinema and smoking was allowed in doors. The immense chandelier hovers over the space made even more expansive by the large mirrors on the walls. Now, everyone is casual and they line up at a make shift snack bar for pop corn, candy, water in bottles, soda in cans. Bicycles are alongside the wall. I wonder, if 50 years from now, will a post-apocalyptical Newport Mall Cineplex feature a similar contrast.

St Jude Lane (15th & Grove) – History & Mystery

I posted a piece on a hidden part of Jersey City, the nine-day event among Catholics of the Saint Jude Novena, which has been part of the fabric of our town since the 1930s. I decided to pay a visit to the Saint Jude statue at the old Saint Lucy’s church, over on 15th Street & Grove, past the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, the border-town section (the border to Hoboken) of northeast J.C. The church was shut down in the mid-80s, although some of the buildings house the Saint Lucy’s homeless shelter. The Saint Jude statue has obviously been kept up, it looked recently cleaned when I was there, a well tended garden and candles, all evidence that someone is still praying to Saint Jude here.
One of my favorite pastimes is going to the New Jersey Historic Room at the main branch of the Jersey City museum, on Jersey Avenue, where I did some research on the Saint Lucy controversy. I had heard stories from some of our old timers. Catholic Churches and other church properties are actually owned by the Archdioceses, not the individual parishes. The church was built in 1884 and included a school, rectory and convent but by the 1980s, the school was closed, the church was in disrepair and the only service being held there was the Saint Jude novena on Tuesdays, which according to one story began in 1933. When the archdioceses made the decision to close the church, it was no longer a parish and in fact was being administered by Father Hugh V. Fitzgerald, then pastor of Saint Michael’s church (Father Fitz passed away in 1999 and the block of 9th street where the church is located was renamed Father Fitzgerald Way). The shrine was moved on April 6th, 1986 and a long outcry ensued. I spoke to the musical minister, which means she plays the organ during mass, at the time and she said things were so heated that the police insisted on giving her an escort to the new church. An organization was formed, the “Crusade to Save St. Lucy’s Shrine of St. Jude Committee,” and although unsuccessful, a city councilmen was a member and it certainly caused a lot of controversy. A non-archdioceses priest, who was from a church in Bombay (yes, Bombay, INDIA!) began to hold illicit St. Jude Services at this statute, attended by reports of “hundreds” of former parishioners. How long this went on, for or when it stopped, I can’t seem to determine.

An original flier from the “Crusade to Save St. Lucy’s Shrine of St. Jude Committee.” Notice the date, 5/86—the shrine was moved in April of that year. The valiant effort wants to Restore all Services to Saint Lucy’s. I wonder if this meant mass and other parish services, because at the time the church was only offering the perpetual novena to Saint Jude. I love the language, “The True Shrine of Saint Jude H.Q.”

I’ve been to this statue a couple of times, but not very often. But this was the first time I noticed the street sign, St. Jude Lane. I usually notice these sort of things. But I don’t know when it was erected. These signs, which denote that a portion of a street has been renamed, not the entire street, are made by proclamation of the city government. Basically there’s an official proclamation, a street sign paid for and erected, often accompanied by a ceremony. I went down to the City Hall to see what I could find out. They had no record of this sign, but to be fair, there is a gap from the late 70s to the early 90s, transfer to computer from paper and all that. One of the pieces I found was a display ad, in the Jersey City Reporter, from the “Crusade to Save St. Lucy’s Shrine of St. Jude Committee,” which lists “St. Jude Lane.” However, in my brief conversations with folks who witnessed the 1986 events, no one remembers a sign and in fact, insists that there wasn’t a sign. I could have probed further, and perhaps I will—I am just curious what sort of wording was used in the proclamation to rename the block. One of the traditions of Saint Jude, the patron of lost causes, is that when a prayer is answered, tribute should be paid. That’s why in the classified sections of newspaper you will see ads of the Saint Jude Prayer. In thanksgiving, one pays tribute to the devotion. For the time being, I like to think this street sign was a politician urged to pay tribute to the saint, as well as to the people who fought to keep the church open and more than half century tradition alive at the place it started (it is still going on Saint Michaels, where the “inside” shrine is located.

In front of the base of the statue are metal boxes. I lifted the lids. Inside were candles. Burning. Someone made the boxes with sufficient ventilation so candles can burn, but the flames were not extinguished by the wind. The box was clearly built or modified for this purpose, to house and protect devotional candles. The official novena may be elsewhere, but somebody is still praying at this Saint Jude Statue.

The property is still owned by the Archdiocese even though the church is fallow and no longer sanctified. Then there’s inconspicuous plaque, St. Jude’s Garden, with 06—is that the date, I wonder, when the Garden was first planted? Or named? Is the name official? The Garden is simple, but apparently well tended. Is this all volunteer, who paid for the plaque, the city or the archdioceses or a private donor. Is this under the auspices with approval of the Archdioceses? I find it all very curious, but I don’t really want to act on this curiosity, at least for now. All these clues indicate that a spiritual practice is taking place and it’s easy to understand why, St. Jude is a powerful Catholic icon, has been for centuries. Who is doing it, how it is funded, is there a connection to the events surrounding the closure of the church 20 years ago? The answers may be interesting, but why mess with somebody’s faith? Acting on that curiosity would simply impose and intrude on somebody’s private spirituality.

St. Jude, one of the apostles, was a cousin of Jesus. The statue has the classic depiction, resembling familiar iconic images of Jesus Christ, but older. The pointy thing above his head is the Holy Spirit, the tongues of fire that appeared above the heads of the 12 Apostles on the Pentecost.

His hand holds a Mandylion. a miniature image of Christ. According to Eusebius, a Greek Christian Historian, in his work, “Ecclesiastical History,” King Abgar of Edessa (which is now in Turkey). on hearing of Jesus’ miracles, sent an envoy to Jesus. Abgar had leprosy. Supposedly, Jesus pressed his face to a cloth, impressing on it his visage, and Jude brought it back to the king. Other versions, apparently, according to the book, “Jude – A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort,” by Liz Trotta, have been around and involve paintings of an image of Christ, but not the face in the cloth bit. After the Pentecost, according to Eusebius, Jude did travel to King Agbar of Edessa and cured him of Leprosy. Jude also traveled to Persia, Armenia—were he is credited with founding the first national church, Syria and Lebanon, where he was martyred by being beaten with clubs, which is why he depicted holding a stick.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1952 Truck on Coles

1952. That’s what the guys told me in the garage, I think they were father and son. Surf Rock was being played, the younger guy had chosen the CD. It was classic Surf Rock, made more than a decade before this dude was born.

The rusty truck cab, was that going to be restored. Eventually they said, when the track down the other pieces of the truck.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Quote About Youth

“...I’ve had reason to believe there’s something after this, but I’m in no rush to find out what it is. I love life. Not as much as I did as a kid, of course, but how can you after Christmas and Halloween start to lose their buzz, and booze tastes a little too familiar, as does death, and sex isn’t such a new experience either? You’d have to have been a pretty miserable kid to be happier as an adult, and that I wasn’t. I was a carefree little shit who searched for duck nests and caught frogs and sat up in my tree house in the summer thanking God for my youth. I always appreciated youth. I remember being eighteen and driving around Rhode Island with my girlfriend Grace and a few of the guys, drinking beer and listening to the radio, and I pulled the car over and looked at everyone and I said, “Do you realize how great this is? We’re young!” And I felt it. And I still ache from it.

From The Comedy Writer, a novel by Peter Farrelly

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just Now

Just a band, just a city park, just an afternoon. Just passing through the melody, just glancing at the merchandise on the flea market tables, just catching a piece of the conversation from the closest strangers. Just a moment, just a glimpse of everyone here, just in this city park, for the first and last time.

Pecking Disorder

Squabs squabbling. Poking and pecking for their piece of the bread slice. I love the way the heads bob, the beaks are aimed and the feathers flutter. But, after the food is gone, the fight ends, the pigeon’s endless hunger eliminates grudges.

Jim Harrison Quote

“I thought, “She does her thinking out loud,” about Marybelle, maybe a new development in our culture, just as twenty-five years ago when I quit teaching I could see the onslaught of the new culture where everything including education had to be fun or amusing.”

From The English Major by Jim Harrison

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shrine of Saint Jude at Saint Michael Church on 9th Street

The Shrine of Saint Jude at Saint Michael Church on 9th Street. Every Tuesday, there are masses at 12:00 PM and 7:15 PM, adoration of the Holy Eucharist throughout the day, and special Novena Prayers to St. Jude and Veneration of a Relic of Saint Jude are conducted after the masses. It is called the Perpetual Novena, which means ever-lasting, and has been going in Jersey City since at least 1930. The statue and the shrine were originally in Saint Lucy church, which is way over north of the Holland Tunnel Entrance by the Hoboken border. The church closed in 1986 (although there is a shelter and soup kitchen that is operated by the Parish still under the Saint Lucy name, and the perpetual novena was moved to its present home near Hamilton Park.

What is a Novena? In Latin, the word means nine, and scholars differ as to why this number has mystical significance—some say it is the number of months Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, others say it’s the number of hours Christ prayed in Gethsemane the night before he was executed. Ancient Jewish Philosophers as well as Vatican Theologians and other religious Scholars uphold the sacredness of the number nine. The tradition is to pray special prayers (or do other religious acts, like receive communion) nine consecutive times. It is usually days, but can be weeks or any other designation.

Saint Jude, was one of the 12 apostles, died a martyr death, and wrote an epistle—the second to last book of the New Testament. He is called Jude Thaddeus, was a cousin of Jesus. He has exactly one line in the Gospels, at the last supper, where he is referred to as Judas (not Iscariot).

He is called the Patron Saint of Lost Causes & Desperate Situations, and believers pray to him as kind of the Saint of last resort. Actually, they don’t pray to him but pray for his “intercession,” which is a real Catholic concept that is dismissed by other denominations of Christians (not to mention Jews and Muslims when it comes to the practices of prayer).

In 1548, Pope Paul III, granted a plenary indulgence to all who visited St. Jude’s Tomb in the Vatican. According to some scholars, this edict indicates that a thriving devotion to St. Jude most likely existed for centuries before then. Records show that in 1153, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, requested that a relic of St. Jude be placed on his chest and buried with him. The Tuesday night devotion to St. Jude is not only more than half a century old in Jersey City, but it is a tradition more than 500 years old.

Devotions to Jude crosses all Catholic nationalities. There are shrines and churches dedicated to Saint Jude in nearly every country in the world, including Italy, India, the Philippines and throughout Latin America. In thousand of churches, millions of Catholics every week pray for intercession from Saint Jude. He’s not “owned” by one ethnic group or culture, which is really uncommon. Devotions for most Catholic icons—for example Our Lady of Guadalupe (Hispanics), Saint Rocco (Italian) and Saint Patrick (Irish)—are mainly popular with specific nationalities. Saint Jude attracts devotions throughout the world, and by all accounts, these devotions rose up from the parishinors, they were not mandated by Clerical Authorities.

The Feast Day of Saint Jude is October 28th. On Monday (10/20), was the first day of the annual Novena to Saint Jude, culminating in the feast day Mass on October 18th. It’s a tradition in Jersey City, has been going on since at least the Great Depression (and probably in a less organized fashion for years before then).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Z’s by the Sea

Brice, Eric & Mia are Canadian artists and part of the “Art in Odd Places,” 14th Street Art Festival that is running through October. Their project was about dreaming, “increasing the awareness of dreams, and encouraging dreams in public places,” Eric told me. “Z’s by the sea” – or in Canadian, “Zeds by the Sea,” was the name of their project. They were giving out sleep masks in support of public napping—and dreaming. Participants decorate their own mask using wooden printer blocks—housed in a pretty nifty looking dream-like tower. Participants put on the mask and Brice photographed them, napping. I ran into them in Union Square park on a sunny afternoon last week. I loved the printer blocks. Print Making—it’s even older than analog. I wonder, since Union Square is pretty far from the sea, even the river, I wonder if the sea for the Z’s is part of the dream too. Actually, the exact title was "ZS By The C: A Radical Crafting and Public Napping Project." But it sounded more like by the sea. I salute their attempt to redefine the day dream. I love dreams, and I love naps, but I was meeting somebody so I only had time for a blog.

Black Out, Newark Ave, Northside

Since starting this blog, I just about never go anywhere without the camera. There are a lot of posts with pictures of our firemen and their shiny red trucks. I realize that a lot of these pictures are the same, firemen in their gear, near their vehicles. The images only appear to be the same. The reality is that each call they are responding to is different. The protocols followed—where the vehicles are parked, what gear is taken off the truck, who goes onto the scene first—are identical—they have to be in order to be effective, but in spite of general categories they may fall into, each emergency is unique. I whish I knew more about the procedures because then, each image could be accurately identified, this is the J.C. Fire Department implementing stage I, II, II, and so on. These pictures were after the threat had been ascertained, and the fire fighters are milling about and shooting the breeze waiting for the signal to leave the scene and go back to the fire house and wait for the next call. We have a great fire department in this town. Look at the number of the trucks, parked so traffic is blocked off and the job can be done. It was a nasty day too, gelid rain and wind and temperatures dropping to the 40s. I know a few of these guys, acquaintances mostly and they are just really great, nice folks. So professional and good natured, ask them what is happening and they’ll tell you want they know.

What happened? On Friday on the north side of Newark Ave, smoke came out of a Manhole and the electricity went off in the cluster of buildings in the center of the block. Turned out, there was a short in the cable, and later, PSE&G sent workers to replace the cables. According to one of the owners of Tender Shoot, the produce bodega, it took five hours for the electricity to return, in time for the evening rush. A minor emergency, one of the many inconveniences that happens. It’s not news that there was no disaster, or that the Fire Department was the first responders in a situation and quickly ascertained the nature of the emergency. Next time, we may not be so lucky, but that phrase is a cliché and untrue. Next time, no matter what the situation, we will be so lucky because our Fire Department will be there. They’re ready.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mercy Shows Jersey City

I hate television. Do yourself a favor, stop watching it now. Apparently, there’s a new hospital show that takes place in Jersey City called Mercy, and the other day, saw them film a bit of business. Director screams the body drops, somebody lets go a small weight of some kind from the fire escape above which lands on plastic garbage bags and two actor cops and one actor nurse kind of run from a faked parked cop car to the garbage bags. I guess they add the grit in post production. Build a set next time! Oh, I’m sure it helps the city’s coffers and it does employ people, and it was humorous watching real Jersey City Cops direct traffic away from the fake Jersey City Cops.

New Art, Dead Industry

Artists behind folding tables, their art on top of the tables, in the lot across an all-decked out Morgan Industrial Center. I love walking around this little nook of a Jersey City neighborhood, once known as the Jersey City Warehouse District. The factories and warehouses and industries here, built the United States into a country that could free Europe. Then of course, Ronald Reagan took our nation’s wealth, consolidated into bulk of into one percent of the population, and allowed these industries to move over-seas, removing the blue collar mostly union worker from the middle class. We don’t make things in America any more. The factories and warehouses are closed, some are land marked, some are being turned into luxury apartment buildings, and some are art gallery spaces like Morgan, until they become condo-ized I guess. The art reminds me of a daisy springing up in a sidewalk crack, a tiny sign of hope. The real art though is what these warehouses and factories used to do, the people they used to employee. And it’s not just here of course, it’s all across the country, reminders of what our nation used to be.

Sculpture in Lobby

Shoot, here I thought Exchange Place meant basically the Hudson river waterfront between Pavonia and Liberty State Park, but it turns out, the area between Pavonia and Exchange Place is now called Harborside. In honor of the ghosts of harbors past apparently, not even the ferry docks here now. The official map of the Artist Studio Tour misprinted the location of this Victory Arts Project “Constructions in the Sunken Garden Sculpture at mack-cali atrium.harborside 3. It’s to the left of Montgomery Street not to the right, as the map indicated. I’m wandering this neighborhood of de-humanizing glass and steel canyons. No art tour signs in sight, no people in sight on the block, except for some really sleazy guys who are condo sellers in the luxury condo building, a hideous glass structure for the hideously wealthy I suppose. The salesmen were really creepy guys, the very idea of giving somebody directions or the fact that I hadn’t known that the ugly buildings that have sprung up are named after the architects. They should be named for the bribes given by the developers to the city officials that approved these haphazardly positioned monstrosities. So, I was in a bad mood for this sculpture show, although I found out the invaluable information that the semi mall, the ugly office buildings and such, north of the Path Station, is actually called Harborside. The sculptures were kind of lame, had some native American themes of some sort, in this sunken lobby. I read about in the paper earlier, I thought it would be interesting, the pictures looked interesting. And you know, the pictures I took look pretty good too. A little more lame in person, but the mood was wrecked from the a-hole condo salesmen in the big, glassy ugly building. An illegal bribe is the only explanation for this building, it’s on Greene south of Montgomery. Tell you one thing about this pre-fabricated, sterile neighborhood—Exchange Place and Harborside (please!), it ain’t Jersey City. No exhibit of sculpture is going to change that sad fact.

Lex & Taylor

Note this under: who knew. Or, under: something else I didn’t know. I always wanted to go in this building. Turns out, I probably could have long before this. The Lex Leonard Building, also known as the Lex Leonard Gallery, hosted a few differernt artists at Art Tour. My buddy Taylor Silwue was having a party for his short story collection, Dancing with the Devil, some of which will be the basis of films that are expected online, coming to an internet near you sometime soon. I should have taken better notes (or notes), but I just took pictures of the interesting masks in one gallery, a horror heavy metal goth diaramoro, photographs and paintings and authentically recreated front desk with attendant for a studio system within a pretty cool space.

Antique Reflections

As of September, Antique Reflections, a jewelry and antique emporium on Columbus Ave closed and moved to Chelsea across the river. The store’s focus has intensified on jewelry – Fine Antique & Estate Jewelry – Sterling Silver & Enamel Objects -- Bought & Sold – Jewelry & Sterling Silver Repairs.

Visit the new Antique Reflections at 40 West 25th Street/Gallery 232 (2nd Level). Call: (917) 674-7812,

I bumped into proprietor Pat Bustamante, (pictured here with Eric Chiampas, a business partner), who told me that had closed. She explained: “There wasn’t enough action on Christopher Columbus, and in Chelsea, you get more of the tourist trade.”

Made me sad, and like the name of the store, reflective. I’ve known Pat and her husband, Joe (also a partner in the new establishment), for more than a decade and a half, not because I was a jewelry or antique customer, but for videos. Movie rentals. They operated Video Rent-All, they were the mom and pop behind this mom and pop business, the best one in the neighborhood during this now bygone era.

Like the advent of the automobile meant the demise of the blacksmith, Net-Flix, movies on demand, and all the rest of the new ways to access film, meant the demise of the video store. It’s a change I’ve accepted, but seeing Pat made me feel wistful about the recent past. See, when I moved to Jersey City in the early 90s, it was also the first time I had a VCR. Now, I’ve always been a film buff of sorts. Kind of a close third in terms of interest after literature and music; but that interest seemed well enough satiated by the films on television, the revival theaters that used to be in Manhattan, and the VCR that the girlfriend had at her place. My first place in J.C. was with another girlfriend, and the VCR became a central part of our lives for a few years or so.

Video Rent-All was the best of the half dozen or so video stores that were in the downtown neighborhood. The original location was across from the Grove Street path, a little shanty strip that included a disgustingly dirty gym and a check-cashing place and a space that kept turning over businesses—a chicken place, a jewelry store, a clothing store are the ones I remember. For whatever reason, the businesses seemed always badly run. There were hardly any customers and who ever was working seemed unenthused about being there.

Video Rent-All was different. Pat and Joe and the kids that they employed were always nice and fun and loved to talk movies. Their inventory was huge and diverse. Yes, they had the new releases but they had a very health stock of horror movies, foreign movies, classics. I would rent three movies at a time, several nights a week. I got my first Leonard Matlin Guide. Almost all of the films I had heard about, and more that I hadn’t heard about but had some sort of importance—either by some Film Commentary article or other scholarly mention or the fact they featured an actor, director or screenwriter that were better known in some other classic.

Video Stores were like re-imagined libraries. Browsing through the aisles, looking at titles, reading the copy on the boxes, many of them dusty. What an enjoyable experience it was. Sometimes, you knew exactly what to rent. It was in and out. Other times, you had to dawdle, speculate, try to remember the review you saw about the new French film that came out earlier in the year.

So many film memories come back. Finally seeing Fassbinder’s Querele, and finding it awful, even though in my younger years, Jean Genet was a favored author. The Paul Wegner’s Golem, a silent classic of German expressionism that was basically ripped off for Frankenstein & Bride of Frankenstein and the entire look of the Universal Monster Film Genre; Laura Antonellie films. Good lord, they had all these Humphrey Bogart films. A Touch of Evil. And what was that Kurisawa flick, Down There? one of his films set in contemporary times and based on an Evan Hunter novel if I remember correctly, about a kidnapping of the son of a wealthy man but the kidnappers mistakenly kidnapped the son of the wealthy man’s chauffer. Oh God, another film I rented a few times, the French contemporary classic, Baby Blue. Fellini, Passolini, a lot of Bergman, Persona stands out.

One film was only in the store. I can’t get any info on it, even as a google. I believe it was a student film. The budget was minuscule—they got change back from their sawbuck. Entitled Desolation Angels—no relation to the Kerouac Novel—it was filmed in Hoboken, where it was set and featured Christian Bale (I’m pretty sure it was him, if not, his doppelganger), years before American Psycho. This was a fantastic noir flick. The main character returns to town and his girlfriend says she was a raped by the Bale character, a rich kid. It seemed to be a case of date rape. The guy is not even sure if he should believe his girlfriend, but eventually hires a thug to beat up Bale, except the thug mistakes the guy’s best friend as Bale and beats the crap out of him. There’s emotional fallout, lots of guilt and jealousy and class conflict. Cassavettes-styled acting and realistic sounding dialogue. I’ve never seen this movie anywhere else and it was back in the VHS days. If you know anything about it, email me.

It was always worth taking a chance on a film at Video Rent-All because of these rare moments when you encounter a film without any knowing anything about it, completely pre-condition free, and being blown away. That intensely pure feeling of discovery is something that makes life worth living. I had similar experiences with Tarintino’s Reservoir Dogs and Kevin Smith Clerks. Although not as free of hype as Desolation Angels—I had read about them when they were released and both directors were considered young and hip. By the time they were on video I had forgotten why the reviewers raved. When I watched each of these films, I was completely engrossed. When the final credits rolled, I immediately pressed rewind and watched them again. I’ve been fans of both aueters ever since.

My experience with movie rental probably follows a common pattern. At first you are a huge customer and that fades after several months, then you just didn’t rent as often. The good thing about Pat & Joe, they would replenish their stock not with just a full selection of new films, but they would buy a lot of re-issues and such. They were like video courtesans—they knew how to entice and satisfy.

Gradually, I went from renting 10-20 films a month to 5-10, or many months, 0-5. It wasn’t that consistent though, there would be periods where the renting would go up again. Then there would be months without anything. It just depends on what was going on in your life. In recent months, Net-Flix has been in the news for awarding a $1 million prize to a team who wrote a new algorithm to improve its recommendation system to 10 percent success. I’m not going into all the details, but basically the company found that once someone is a member for a few months, their rentals decline. They have seen all the films they had in their mind, indifference sets in. Net-Flix hopes a better recommendation system will improve customer retention. I was a big customer for Video Rental then went wavered between steady and inconsistent. I’m not sure if a recommendation system would work for me, but I do know that looking at the computer screen and counting stars is not as much fun as browsing with the aisles of cases and seeing what sparks my interest.

Video Rent-All moved to Columbus Ave right before they knocked down that shanty strip and replaced it with Grove Pointe. The store gradually switched over to DVD and eventually I was informed that VHS would not longer be available. Stores were practically giving away the damn machines so I too switched to DVD.

Soon after, Net-Flix began. I’ve never joined Net-Flix. I need another monthly bill like I need another hole in my head. Maybe if a sizable back log of films I need to see still existed, maybe I would join. When I was renting 20 films a month, it would be the thing for me. I’m no longer in that place.

I know a lot of Net-Flix members, they all are happy with the service. For me, I don’t find the whole mailing system appealing. I hate the lack of spontaneity. I don’t like the idea of planning a Woody Allen weekend that far in advance, scheduling while waiting for the discs to come in the mail. I liked the what I am going to do this weekend Friday and then just going to the video store on the way home from work. I also liked the atmosphere of Video Rent-All, it was cool place to kill some time, a kind of respite.

When I ran into Pat, she admitted that the store could not compete against Net-Flix. But she made a better point too. “It was the movies. They just aren’t as good as they were in the 90s.”

True that. There have been a lot of entertaining movies, a lot of good ones, many interesting and even a few great ones. But seriously, how many must-sees have you seen made in this century? Anything ground-breaking like Reservoir Dogs or Clerks? I haven’t. You miss something in the theater, there isn’t that sense of urgency to catch up.

Video Rent-All kept up. They replaced a lot of their VHS library with DVD versions, they maintained their quirky, cinephile instincts with foreign films, indies, reissues of classic films and had the TV shows, like Sopranos. They started some incentive deals, like extending the return by date, rent two, get one free. Finally, it was not enough and they added an antique and jewelry store, phased out the rental business and now moved out of the neighborhood. The new customers, the young and heavy renters, were joining Net-Flix and steady but inconsistent ones like myself were insufficient to sustain a business.

Within ten years, you won’t have to wait for the discs in the mail. With the click of the mouse, any movie ever made will be on your screen. Why argue with progress? Personally, I don’t think it’s progress to replace neighborhood businesses with national monopolies. That’s just me, I guess. Through more than a decade of renting at Video Rent-All, I never returned a movie late. Pat said I was the only customer to hold that record. I’m in now in the same record book as Chariot Race winners, Catapult champions and Blacksmith of the year.

Any Day Parade Marches Home

“This is the second stop on our Jersey City tour,” announced Tree, leader of Any Day Parade before the band got into their set, capping off the 4th Street Art & Music Festival. It’s more than a year now that I’ve been “following” this Jersey City band, praising them to anyone who will listen. The other tour stop was as the finale of Groove on Grove, nicely book-ending the series by being both opening and closing act.

I’ve seen them a few times now, I always make the effort or at least try. They write really terrific songs, are excellent musicians and together produce a unique, infectious roots sound. I love their music. It is witty and intelligent. They lean towards energetic country-rock, yet possess little to no maudlin self-absorption that can be endemic to this genre.

ADP was on tour in the Summer through September, playing gigs in the Midwest and Southeast, rare for a local bar band. One stop was a Lexington Kentucky bar, the first time Tree played in her hometown.

Earlier this year, they changed bassists and before the tour they changed drummers. It’s been a year of change and experience and one imagines, searching for the sound.

When I last saw ADP in May, they were good—shoot, they’re always good—they were trying some new things, particularly in the song, Together We Fall, a dialog song—Tree and Larry Brinkman, the other guitarist, singer and songwriter, trade lyrics, taking the male and female role in this romantic tragedy. They had just put the song out on their second EP/CD and it seemed to swerve into a new, Emo-inspired direction—it was a hard-edged rock outing that ends in a hard-core, blues-tinged crescendo. I will get back to this song.

The comeback from the tour, the first “stop” on the Jersey City Tour, the Groove on Grove set, they had a new sound. The bass player has learned to bounce those notes like a country musician, and the new drummer propelled songs with fills and rolls. I hypothesize they have found the sound they’ve been searching for, or maybe it’s their songs that have found their sound. Tighter than ever, ADP played more as a unit than before, coalescing in a way that makes the whole more than the sum of the parts. In the Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, the young folksinger leaves the Minneapolis folk-scene for his first visit to Greenwich Village, returns a month or so later and his North Country peers are astounded by his newly attained skills, invoking the old Down to the Cross Roads myth. I had the same thought with ADP. Maybe their recent, extensive tour is their crossroad or perhaps they made a group field trip to that fabled intersection. A leap forward has been made. The twang has been ramped up, the rhythm section drives the songs forward with more purpose. Their inner Creedence is unleashed!

The Grove gig was on Wed. and the Fest gig was on Sat. and the set list was similar. On of their stand-by cover songs is their rousing version of that old war-horse, “Stay A Little, Longer.” It used to be in mid-set, sung by Brinkman. Now, it was the finale, the last song, with Tree and even lead guitarist, J.D. are taking some of the verses. These cats know they have found their sound—or at least got a lot closer to it—and they know they are playing great together. “Stay A Little Longer,” has become a victory lap to end their sets.

The Grove set was good. Never an optimum setting, made even less conducive by unseasonably chilly weather, but ADP soldiered on and entertained the small crowd. The Fest set though, I’ve never saw them better. It was a hot set. Their gaggle of friends, fans and followers—about a dozen or so twenty something’s—pretty gals and skinny guys—formed a semi ring around the stage, and there were dozens, behind them to welcome the band. They opened up with Broken Lamps, a rousing rock & roll ditty from their first EP. Haven’t heard them play this for a while. It rocked, the unmistakable message was delivered: we are in for a special night. As good as Grove might have been, this was something else entirely. The stops were pulled out. The band and the crowd shared an extraordinarily good mood. A home coming celebratory atmosphere pervaded. The relentless energy of the musicians grew, feeding off the enthusiastic audience.

Tree’s voice, brassy and full, seamlessly moved to the higher range. She was simply having a great night voice-wise. She can shout and holler with the best of them, then change on a dime and coo as delicately as a nightingale.

A new song—I didn’t catch the name and though I think I had heard it before, it was not like this up-tempo country rocker (again, Creedence), which also showcased some accelerated lead work by J.D. Now, there’s a cat ready for the big leagues. Another new trick was a country-blues song—a young banjo player was brought on stage and Larry played some stinging slide guitar. The interplay created a nice forlorn mood. When the band went to Together We Fall, the emo arrangement was softened, neatened up, made presentable. The pace sped up, a modicum of adrenaline added. The interplay twixt Tree and Larry resembled the song Jackson (June & Johnny). ADP can play the grunge punk, but it’s better when they countrified up a song some—it is more suited to their strengths and attitude.

The show ended with Stay A Little Longer. I’m never going to love this song, but it sure is an audience favorite. The crowd cheered the high-powered set, acknowledging the triumphant return of local musical heroes. As the song thundered to a crescendo and ADP thanked the crowd and they looked like they were going to call it a night, there was still applause. ADP did something I never saw them do before—an Encore.

Brinkman snatches up the acoustic guitar and sings one of his from the first EP, Hold On Me (a local hit for nearly 10 J.C. residents). Not only have they further refined their sound and were having a really good night, these cats have a new confidence and stage-manship. What ever they had has been made better by hours of practice and weeks on the road, playing for non-hometown crowds and I suspect, winning them over.

Welcome back and show us what you got! October night, sweet and warm. Dozens of neighbors flowing towards Brunswick, enlivened, uplifted and encouraged by the music of Any Day Parade. Fortified! Great music on a Saturday night. No better place to be.

ADP MySpace page here