Monday, July 18, 2011

Destination: Union City

I’m still a little intimidated by the Jitney Buses to take a decent picture, but that is not preventing me from taking the buses.

Also known as the tiny buses, shuttle buses and roach-coaches, these are the small buses – they look like the kind casinos use – that travel up and down Newark Avenue and cost $1.50.

Where do they go?

Turns out they go all the way to Fort Lee and a street called Bergenline Avenue, considered a major cultural district.

So, I decided to explore and after talking with some friends and acquaintances, I decided on a course. I would go see Union City and that portion of Bergenline Avenue. A diner was recommended me on 32nd Street, the Four Star diner. It was a nice day so the plan of action was Jitney there, and walk to 49th Street where I would pick the Light Rail up and return to Jersey City.

It’s the local version of the Northwest Passage.

The Four Star was classic American Diner; large windows, chrome facade, red accents inside and out. I had a great lunch, an egg white omelet with turkey sausage and ice tea. Probably better than the J.C. diner, up there with the best of what the Garden State offers. Just a great diner. Five stars for the Four Star!

Union City was so cool. Really enjoyable North Jersey city. A faded industrial past is noticeable, but the present is tropical day glo.

Narrow sidewalks, mainly independent businesses selling all sorts of stuff. Small shops. Mom and Pop. Except for a Dunkin Donuts, no chain stores. What a pleasant relief!

Very Spanish city. Make that Mucho. I was told that in the 50s and 60s, Cuban émigrés began to locate here but more recently, there’s been a “Cuban Flight,” as the second and third generations of those immigrants did like so many groups before, achieve economic success and move away from their urban roots. What has replaced them are émigrés from other Hispanic nations. There is some truth to this but how much truth is questionable. The fact though is that it seemed no single Spanish group dominated. I’m not saying that that is better than our fair city, but it was a refreshing change of vibe for an afternoon at least.

Viva Hispania Diaspora!

Jewelry stores named after saints. Zena, what kind of store is that? Food from various countries – I noticed a lot of Peruvian restaurants… a Columbia Pizzeria (?) that also served Tex-Mex and Mexican; it looked great but I had no Zantac with me. I know, I know, yet I go to a diner. What can I say, I like diners and I don’t like to challenge my dormant ulcer.

Celia Cruz way – famed Cuban singer, how cool is that.

The city is fun, funky and friendly. I’m sure the impression by some would be, it’s not even like we’re in America. That’s balderdash. No Spanish Nation has a city with representatives from such a diverse selection of countries. Even Miami is unable to make such a claim. I would suggest only in America can there be folks from so many different Spanish speaking nations together in one community. Also, American flags predominated by far, although I wonder how much of this proliferation was due to Independence Day only a couple of weeks earlier. Ponce De Leon Bank. A multitude of Hispanic cultures call Union City home, but this was one of the examples of a tribute to somebody from the true Mother land, Spain.

The Light Rail Station beckons. It is believed to be the only underground station on the transit route.

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