Sunday, March 25, 2012

This Big Bruce Train

Ever since Bruce & his E Street boys did take after take, searching for the sound of emotional largeness that eventually combined the sonic lushness of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with the incandescent textures of Roy Orbison and Blonde on Blonde, Bruce has never been afraid to appropriate varied sources to help form a singular aural experience. Time has only made him more ambitious, playing with synthesizers on Human Touch, molding a needed truce between his ensemble bandleader intuitions and his persistent wanna be Woody Guthrie complex on the Seeger Sessions and more recently on Working on a Dream’s Outlaw Pete, assembling a nine minute opus that accomapnies a tall tale about a mythical cowboy with strings and choirs and othe studio effects, bringing a boyishly exhilirated pulp sensibly to an Aaron Copeland homage.

All sorts of sonic accents –  drum and bass loops, penny whistles, raps, samples (from Alan Lomax) seasons Wrecking Ball, a collection of neo New Deal songs praising egalitarian ethos, with blistering rockers – We Take Care of Our Own to rocking dirges with both Celtic and industrial overtones, like Death to My Hometown. But the most fascinating appropriation and aural composition is the amazing Land of Hope of Dreams, one Bruce’s most ambitious – and accomplished – recordings.

I love train songs, and Land of Hope & Dreams – is probably the best new train song since Josh Turner’s Long Black Train (I could be wrong about this pseudo-stat). Bruce’s vehicle interest has been and always will be the automobile (Wendy doesn’t seem to be a mass transit kind of gal) and in his only other train song, Downbound Train (from Born in the USA), the train is a figment of an outsider’s imagination, becoming an ominous symbol of doom, similar to Folsom Prison Blues. For his second train song, Bruce creates an aural pastiche where the train becomes an allegory for America, and he does so by audaciously co-opting two train masterpieces – This Train aka This Train Is Bound for Glory, and People Get Ready.

Bruce wrote Land of Hope and Dreams written in the late 90s and some amazing live versions are available. Essentially the song is a suite – an introduction, two stanzas, an extended call and response sequence making up the body of the song, leading to an emotional climax and a coda. The studio version is truly an audio composition, a conglomeration of musical samplings, effects absent from the live takes. Usually a band will try to recreate a studio cut live, or if they’re feeling contrarian totally switches the arrangement from studio to stage. Many other examples show an artist trotting out new material on tour, refining it, basically rehearsing it before committing the track to tape. Bruce foregoes these two traditions; he doesn’t just mess with the arrangement, which he does only slightly, but essentially creates an aural poem. This version of Land of Hopes & Dreams can never be recreated on stage, it is as much a creature of recording technology as Outlaw Pete from Working on a Dream, and to a lesser extent, the more minimalist predecessors as Philadelphia, the Human Touch album and the more synthesizer folk mash ups on Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils in the Dust.

First we hear a lone black gospel voice repeating “This Train” until it is soon joined by a muted choir. Then we hear the beat – a bass with minimal percussion – and it sounds like a classic hip-hop sample. Bruce is obviously making a tribute to two African American musical genres that have and continue to shape music of our land and the world. But as those elements start rising, the plucking of a banjo emerges – album credits say it’s Bruce! – bringing in folk and mountain music. You realize that you also have been hearing organ swells – a sound that bridges Gospel with Soul and R&B. But when the intro melds into the opening of the song, you hear that organ-rich E=Street sound – the shore band sound on Classic Bruce and Southside Johnny album. Not only does this opening serve as a spectacular pastiche of American song, Bruce places his E-Street sound at the center, a culmination of the People’s Music.

He sings:  “Grab your ticket and your suitcase/You don’t know where you’re goin now/But you know you won’t be back/We’ll take what we can carry/Yeah, and leave the rest

The theme is escape, something Bruce has been thinking about in public since Growin Up and was the basis of his first major hit and signature tune, Born to Run. Here, the couple, apparent refuges in a landscape, which except for the train they have boarded, is one of anxiety and danger. The couple swears allegiance, not just to each other, but to hope, which Bruce believes is a virtue: “Well I will provide for you/and I’ll stand by your side/you’ll need a good companion now/for this part of the ride/leave behind your sorrows/let this day be the last/tomorrow there’ll be sunshine/and this darkness past.”

Springsteen conjures up an American idyll as he introduces the titular chorus: “Big Wheels Roll Through Fields/Where Sunlight Streams/Meet me in a Land of Hope and Dreams.” They are not there yet, but they are closer. He echoes the dream all progressives believe in – the dream of a better tomorrow.

Then the next segment of the Suite begins where Bruce sings what the Gospel Singers chanted when the song began, and as the choir returns Bruce leads the, with this This Train being the call, and Bruce’s egalitarian, neo-new deal vision manifested in the response. “This Train carries Saints and Sinners/This Train carries Losers and Winners/This Train Carries Whores and Gamblers.”

In Land of Hope & Dreams, Bruce appropriates the basic melody – which he airs out and adds a back-beat – of This Train, as in, This Train is Bound for Glory. The Glory the original refers is the glory of heaven, i.e. the paradise for the elect and worthy, a paradise not of this world but the next. But Bruce introverts the original metaphor, thus adopting it into his all-encompassing egalitarian vision.
Most versions of the classic This Train  begin: "This train don't carry no gamblers, this train/
No crap shooters, no midnight ramblers."
This Train is performed by a wide array of artists, from the folk music master Cisco Houston, probably my favorite, to such diverse folks as the Delmore Brothers and the Staples Singers. In the 90s, perhaps the most recent version, was by Rockabilly stalwart, Sleepy LaBeef. Rumor has it that Bob Marley even recorded a Version. Of course, Bound for Glory is the title of Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, although as far as I know, no recording of him singing this song exists.
This Train is a gospel song and is also one of the oldest train songs. Trains are a mutable metaphor, which is probably why there are so many of the damming things (I honestly have more than four hours of train songs on my computer and I have yet to rip all my CDs). I get goose pimples thinking that the first train metaphor was metaphysical.
Bruce tends towards gnostic Christianity: God is everywhere and in everyone. His faith is purely egalitarian. Bruce’s update of This Train is really not a rejection of the original, but a correction.
As the song concludes, with some interplay the Gospel Singers and a fading of the full band to the more sparse arrangement that opened this mini-Copeland-esque opera, the voice of Michelle Moore, featured in various spots throughout Wrecking Ball sings the other great train as heaven metaphor song that completes the mash up, People Get Ready, by the great Curtis Mayfield, the classic version being perfumed by his band, The Impressions.
As Land of Hope and Dreams shifts to the last portion of the suite, the coda reprises the intro, Bruce ending his litany of all the losers and outcasts forbidden to board the original This Train by declaring, “You Don’t Need No Ticket,” quoting Mayfield’s memorable lyrics: “People get ready/ there's a train comin'/You don't need no baggage, just get on board/All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'/You don't need no ticket, just thank the lord.
Bruce’s vision is more in keeping with Mayfield, whose song – remarkably, a top 10 hit upon its 1965 release on the secular R&B charts – “Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner/For there is no hiding place against the kingdoms throne.” The Mashup and pastiche feel of this spiritual-based tone based poem is that Bruce points out the musical similarities between This Train and People Get Ready, and the latter is really not much other than a slower tempo arrangement.
Woody Guthrie’s Farm Labor Train and more recently, Dave Alvin’s Jubilee Train – train metaphors are always ripe to espouse new deal ethos. Land of Hope and Dreams combines both the Christian spirituality of train as heaven and the political we are all in this together train metaphor, building on past traditions to form a fresh message relevant to our own troubled times. What sells this song, making it truly transcended is one very special sample, serving as the climax of the entire enterprise as well as the segue between This Train and People Get Ready – and that sample is ClarenceClemmons, may his name forever be praised!
According to a recent Rolling Stone interviewwith Bruce promoting the album, Clarence was feeling poorly after recording with Lady Gaga, postponed a session with E-Street, went home and had what would prove to be a fatal stroke. The record producer added a solo from one of the live versions of Land of Hope & Dreams to the finish the track. Ironic and tragic that Clarence’s last studio solo would not be with for the glory of E-Street, nonetheless the sample of the solo enhances the pastiche nature that is the foundation of the Wrecking Ball version.
The solo comes in as the lush mesh of musical influences – gospel, folk, E-Street Rock & Roll – are on full throttle. As Bruce intones This Train carries Lost souls etc… ; as the litany bills Bruce is wailing into one of his trademark howls (pulling out this town a winnnnnner!); and he begins to sing not just about the passengers but the train itself – This Train, Hear The Steel Wheels Singing/This Train, Bells of Freedom Ringing.
Referencing this classic American dream image (also Bob Dylan’s Chimes of Freedom, which Bruce has also covered) – bells of freedom – the song reaches it metaphorical heaven on earth metaphor and as Lincoln continues to remind all Americans, that our country was and is The Last Great Hope For Mankind. Bruce takes two Gospel classics, and by filtering them through his gnostic vision that makes, at least for the purposes of this song – and our current political realities -- obsolete the separation of the spiral and the material. To underscore this message of freedom, Clarence, now in Glory himself, gives us what is tantamount to his last E-Street solo. What the listener is reminded of is not that the technical prowess of Clarence’s playing, but how distinctive it was, how easily his emotional warmth is conveyed by his playing. There’s no mistaking who is playing. There’s no mistaking Clarence Clemmons!
In the RS interview, Bruce talks about crying when he first head the mix. As John Stewart, who conducted the interview, says, it’s a powerful moment. When I was first hearing this song, thinking what a clever take on This Train, Bruce began his wail about the actual land of hope of dreams, getting to the bells of freedom line, Clarence appears suddenlly, unexpected but pefectly, as if from heaven, emerging through the now multitude of Aural Americana. Alive again, in our ears as he is in our hearts. The man who in the 70s returned the saxophone to its rightful place in Rock & Roll, the Big Man. Clarence made E-Street one of the few integrated Rock Bands of the 70s, and his presence in climax of this song echoes the hip-hop and Gospel references of the introduction.
Real tears appeared in my eyes when I first heard this song; it’s so moving to hear Clarence in this context, to hear one last solo in this multi-layered homage to American song and the human spirit. I’m sure I’ll be able to hear this solo with getting teary eyed and chocked up, but it sure hasn’t happened yet. It is simply, a musical moment of supreme magnificance. Consider for a moment, everything Bruce is doing in this song – the studio confections, the blending of musical traditions, the rewriting of two major, well known and beloved, Train songs and in it he interweaves a tribute to not just a comrade but a highlgy recognizable figure to popular culture as well as someone loved by the audience of the record. Bruce doesn’t play it safe. Just the attempt is admirable enough. That Bruce accomplishes these goals, balances them all, conforms them to his vision, augments the traditions the song is built upon, is remarkable. Land of Hope and Dreams is one of his great recordings, one of the few in his latter career that stands up to his heyday masterpieces.
The song begins with a couple on a train, and the fellowship needed to pull America out of the shit hole 30 years of Reganism has dumped us, emanates for the couple on the train. All we have is each other. Bruce, in his liner notes –taken from his eulogy for Clarence – writes: Clarence was Big and he made me feel Big, think, love and dream, big.”

As big as a train that is as big as a Land of Hope and Dreams

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Occupy Union Square

Maybe I did see a sign and not just a sign of an AmericanSpring? On my usual jaunt through Union Square taking a meandering route through Manhattan Island on my way home to the Jersey Side and saw Occupy Wall Street had set up shop. The news had reported there was some demonstration activity here – which is only keeping with tradition, the labor union (the park is name for the nation union not the labor union) movement, civil rights movement, anti-war movement and dozens of other protests have coalesced on this stretch of park – but the recent protests, from what I was led to believe by the news reportage that the protests were mainly about the slaying of Trayvon Martin in Florida, the so called Million Hoodie March.
Whether it will prove to be the blessing or the curse of the OWS movement, in keeping with its  big tent attitude, the occupiers encompassed the public outrage about the latest race-based shooting and organized protests even though it seems at best tangential to the themes of economic justice prominent in the OWS agenda. What I surprised me, what I had not been aware of, is that the regardless of the Trayvon Martin protests, OWS seems ensconced in the park. The hand written signs, the hippie vibe, all reminiscent of the downtown location.
I liked the guy in a box, which had a think outside me sign on it. A saxophone and guitar player improvised, people were dancing. The park is almost always crowded; it’s a place to coalesce, especially on a Friday with summer-like weather, which brings out the droves, anyway. The usual numbers either absorbed the OWS or were absorbed by them; it was hard to tell exactly who protesters who were just regular neighborhood residents were. Everyone hanging out together just to enjoy the day, which only reinforced the 99 percent message. Of course the more than a dozen cops standing nearby by the main conglomeration of tables and signs was the tip off of who among the bohemian crowd were political undesirables. We live n different times, and a different N.Y. You can act on your right to assemble as long as you remain under surveillance by a contingent of police officers (I didn’t take a picture of the cops, they were too depressing).

A vendor I know told me the occupy people had been there for about a week. They were bothering anybody. Union Park basically has a large swath of lawn and paths with park benches aligning the paths, in addition to a dog run and statues and is surrounded by wide sidewalks and it is on the sidewalks where the vendors and a famous Green Market do their commerce. At the southern tip of the park, on the cement, the crowds coalesced. The difference between here and Zuccotti park is the latter isn’t a public park and can stay open 24/7, but Union Square is a public park and closes at midnight (the city that never sleeps, what a load of bilge water) and the vendor said there is always a chase or some kind of skirmish between the police and OWS supporters who want to encamp the closer it comes to the wee wee hours.

What gave me the most hope was the single, handwritten poster, about the collective needs of OWS in Union Park – sugar free drinks! – but while not first, there among the list was * REGISTER TO VOTE. Lack of hierarchical leadership, the unwillingness to state specific goals or how to achieve them politically and the willingness to be an umbrella organization for a range of issues, fracking, public school funding, anti Afghanistan war, and now, the Martin shooting – these are all aspects of the movement that induces skepticism, in me at least. Please understand, I am in solidarity and skepticism is not a hanging offense. Political change requires the balancing of idealism, pragmatism and compromise and I’ve wondered if OWS understands that balance. But seeing the Register to Vote line gave me hope, instilled in me a new respect. Indeed, we may be in an American Spring. OWS is finally cognizant – no matter that it was only a mid-point position in a list of agenda items – that this a presidential election year and the indisputable fact, that political change is not only about shifting paradigms and changing consciousness, but using the electoral process to affect that change.

Branches Out of Sync

I don’t think I turned the heat on once during Feburary or March. This winter there were more days I didn’t wear gloves than needed them; sulrey not a single week where you needed gloves every day and night. A winter jacket sufficed, didn’t even have to zipper up most days. We anticipated inclement weather that never came. Old man winter is dead and Global Warming killed him. Is this the new normal?
 Usually, Spring takes her time, a gradual but wonderfully inevitable entramce. This year, it was like a hotel banquet room and before everyone from the office christmas party had left, the fraternity bcheloar party started. Spring’s arrival was about as subtle as that naked hooker jumping out of a cake, then landing on her knees as she reaches for the nearest zipper.

By the second day of the new season, daytime temperatures reached the low 80s. Pollen satuares the atmosphere. Hay fever reaches epidemic proportions.
The trees are out of sync. Branches have not caught up with each other; some are bare and stark, others support a full bloom. Blossoms have been tricked into being. Leaves have to bud first. I took these pictures on Thursday, the contrast being the most evident then. By Friday I noticed that buds now dotted many of the branches, yet many petals had already fallen. The pace is accelerated but the first flush of Spring I fear will be tarnished. You know, in April, when together leaves and blossoms fill the horizons and winter’s starkness is firmly elimenated by this colorful fecund pageant. With some branches seasonally empty while other branches flourshing robostly the scene instead seems depraved, a May/December romance. Something in the air, some can’t resist giving into the urge to bloom while others are unable to comply. Love the one you’re with. If Spring is rushed what will this mean for Summer?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Flux Town

 Jersey City – The smoke may have cleared but the search continues for both the bodies of the victims and the perpetrators of this violent attack, which took place last night in this sleepy neighborhood of a once great factory town… okay, only kidding. 

 While a deliberate act of demolition, this was no attack.
Change is a constant. Life is an endless symphony of flux. If we lived in a rural area, an agrarian culture, our daily landscapes would be determined by the patterns of the season, as such, predictable year in and year out. You know when to reap and you know to sow; fields turn brown then green. Weather affects urban folk, but not to that extent, mainly in what we wear or if we’re rooting for the Jets or the Mets.

Our greater flux is our city. Even before gentrification put a new gleam of greed in the beady eyes of developers and politicians, construction and destruction was for cities, as constant as the weather, although far less predictable. You walk by this corner – Manila and First, even now I cannot recall precisely – and you think when did this happen, why are they tearing what appeared as a perfectly adequate building and what will they replace it with and if whatever replaces it will negatively impact your cost of living.
There it is, reduced to rubble ready to be hauled away; indisputable proof of change. You see a building being built and then it is there and you think of the building, admire it, process how it is occupying the space that was there and doing so makes you forget the memory of that space before the existence of the edifice. Not so with destruction. Demolition invites narrative. You wonder about the destruction and what the building used to be there for, and who used the buildings, what were their moments and experiences that occurred there? When did this happen? When was the last time it was whole? When was the last time you saw this in use? Then you think what will be built, did you read about this potential change somewhere? The internal narrative changes from piecing together the past to anticipating the future.

But what the truth is that life is change, and be it nature or civilization, flux not stability is the constant rule of mortality. You and me, we come and go but our city is never finished.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Platform of Green

St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday. I like going to theparade when it is on the weekday; my recent offices have been nearby so I watch some and after work go to some packed bar and tip a few to the emerald isle.
With a Saturday St. Pat’s I find it best to head the other way—far from the Manhattan madness. The idea that this parade is some kind of religious celebration is simply ludicrous. I got off at the train station in Ridgewood New Jersey that morning. I was on a mom visit. That night there’s a very good Irish Pub where I met with up with friends, all of us having grown up together. I arrived in the suburbs in the morning and there across the track on the other platform was a large, growing cluster of green. Young adults, most in t-shirts even though the weather feilt a little too cool. Saturday St. Pats means the NYC Streets are filled with more kids from the suburbs, even the ones who never cut school.

Them heading in was why I was heading away. I was happy as they are to trade places for the day.

The first time I went to the parade was in College, doing what these kids would be doing, boozing it up and having fun. By sunset, everybody’s trashed, staggering towards one last round or staggering back from that last round towards home. Those green t-shirts be so fresh, their attitude not so buoyant when they return. More than some will have vomited before another St. Patrick’s Day marked off their personal datebook of their life. But they will be doing it together, with friends.  They may not be reading Yeats and think Morrison is a Vans sneaker, but they are touch with the deeper messages of Irish Culture this day celebrates – joy of friendship – the fun and satisfaction of being together on this mini-adventure of partying in the city streets will survive far longer than their sobriety of this morning.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sign of an American Spring?

I last went down to Zuccotti Park in December. The Occupy movement has been sporadic of late; in the winter, following NYC’s dictator in chief Bloomberg’s lead, a nationwide sweep of all encampments took place and the general consensus was that the movement should go into hibernation until the Spring – this is just my impression of what I heard on the news – when then we will have an American Spring similar to last year’s Arab Spring where uprising caused change to occur throughout many nations in the Mideast.

Fragmented is too strong a word, but so far the 2012 OWS activities became a little too local with protests, for example against the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies or anti-fracking. I share their opinions on these issues, but it is my humble opinion that they tend to distract from the core issues of a more just and compassionate economic system – worker’s rights, universal healthcare, debt forgiveness – that this country needs. These platitudes are easy to spout and easy to support but to effect change requires involvement in the electoral system and the more difficult involvement in the process of policy making. Using the OWS to further political change in ancillary issues no matter how just distracts from the core change needed and dilutes a movement whose leaderless structure and unspecified agenda naturally causes confusion. The focus should be on policies that will end the economic war on the poor and middle class.

In addition, there’s an immature criticism of President Obama I find utterly distasteful. There is simply no sense of giving credit where credit is due, no recognition of how powerful and well funded the right wing is. Not that our President is above criticism, but have you seen the republican slate of candidates lately. What about a third party some say; sounds great, but don’t start with the highest office in the land. Change is not going to come in four years; the New Deal didn’t happen in the time it takes to get out of High School.  If we elected a Bush II we can elect a freak like Santorum. That potential outcome will be devastating and the idea that a republican president would be no different than Obama is arrogant stupidity. I find no sense of proportion in the criticism of Obama, their drastic ultimatums leave no room for discussion, thus display an anti intellectualism I always find distasteful. I expect it from the right; from the left it is sad and frustrating.
But, I’m observer, not an activist and everyone has an opinion. But, seeing this what seemed like new stencil on some of the ruins near Jersey City's waterfront gladdened my heart.
This piece of street art I find pretty right on, it echoes 19th century political cartons were the images contained in the piece add to an overall narrative, each possessing a meaning that adds up to the political message conveyed. The Roman numerals are the date OWS started. The Bull is a sign of Wall Street, power to the people fist pulling on its nose ring. Not sure what that means exactly, or the significance of the keys to the kingdom or the eye in the pyramid, which is on our currency. Something to do with Free Masonry I once heard.

I love the unfurling flags. Progressives are reacquainting themselves with patriotic symbols, embracing them, no longer surrounding them to right wing demagoguery. Wherever this Flag is flown we take care of our own sings Bruce on his new record. Maybe this is street art stencil is a sign of a reawakened OWS and our American Spring. The weather has been warm, the 99 percent are still here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Construction Losing Face

Construction progresses, destroying a piece of temporary by design street art, a face fated to reappear.

This huge red piece of construction equipment and an attachment several stories high has been on this lot for a while. The other day more workers were there, things were getting down to business. An apartment buildings, just what we need, more condos. No renters the foreman told me.

The machine is a pile driver, but it is drilling into the ground instead of driving the posts for the foundation. There will be no basement here, no excavation. The reason for the drilling is that the area is residential that the vibrations it might could cause could cause damage in addition to the obvious noise and annoyance, already considerable. Holes are drilled, posts are put into the hole and concrete will be poured in, creating a foundation for the construction of a building.

Sure, I miss the face but just think, the artist will soon have a much bigger canvas.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jwoww Encounter, Newark Avenue

I worked at home today and for lunch I popped out for a turkey burger and the new Bruce Springsteen record, Wrecking Ball, now on sale. New Bruce… isn’t that a holy day of obligation in New Jersey?

I went to the Barnes and Noble near the WTC.

On my way home, west on the Southside of Newark Avenue, at the northern corner of Barrow, a woman is holding a large video camera, has an antenna, near a guy with a microphone, they’re looking south on Barrow. Who are they and what are they looking at. Suddenly, three, four others, with SLRs, lenses being pointed like blunderbusses towards a distant turkey. The microphone guy mutters something into a tiny microphone pinned on his collar,  murmurs spread among this gaggle of paparazzi, which now numbers more than a dozen. They are no longer interested in Barrow, everyone now gathers near that high class store that sells over-priced doggy products.
There used to be a kid’s clothing store in this spot. Jack’s. One of those Newark Avenue fires, something about the electrical system – oops! an accident, why are you asking? – cleared out that ghetto fabulous retailer from our midst, and it was replaced by this yuppie emporium for ostentatious spending on your pet. Downtown becoming another Soho, never! Well, developers have other ideas don’t they. With the Jersey Shore now part of our national image  perhaps Downtown can now become something worse than Soho, what that might be I shudder to imagine.  

There is a real crowd of entertainment press now on Newark. The murmurs are louder, more excited. The lenses are aimed towards Jersey Avenue, shutters clicking away like a horde of crazed crickets.

No, they are not seeking to interview the first person in the neighborhood to bring home the new Bruce Springsteen in the old fashion manner of buying a CD in one of the few stores that still sell them.

 A yellow school bus is passing by, kids are all screaming “Hey Jwoww!

She walks toward me, a young woman wearing what seemed like three inches of make up.  Her walk was regal and slow. She is a conceited young person, which is not exactly rare or unforgiveable. The difference is though, she is a TV celebrity, famous for being famous. Her vibe made sure anybody near her was instantly aware  that she prizes herself above all others, above life, love and even truth. She looks older in reality than she does in reality TV.

I had my camera out and took a picture. How could I not. If it wasn’t a celebrity, I would never do to somebody I didn’t know or to whom I had not asked permission first. She sneered at my Nikon cool pix. I was treating her like some sideshow oddity.  For that moment I cared as much about her humanity as she did about mine. 
This world of ours must change.

I felt more sympathy for her than animosity. Our dismal culture is not her fault. The pounds of make up she wore were not due to her vanity, it was for the cameras. She needed it for filming, every actor does. The cameras there on Newark Avenue, now the near 20 or so "journalists"  who get paid to feed our insatiable thirst for celebrity news by reporting on a Jersey Shore celebrity sighting. They were not the MTV cameras. They were in that yuppie puppy store, whose lighting is less than optimum for filming, thus the need for massive make up. To my knowledge, no television show was ever produced in Jack's.

I was exhilarated and appalled at the same time. I have seen a few minutes of this TV show; it’s insipid crap but that never hurt neilson ratings before. Nonetheless, it’s exciting to be near somebody famous, somebody recognizable through media images, even when you could not care less about the celebrity or the utterly vapid reason that makes them famous. 

The appalling part was not her celebrity, or seeing a young person so willing to revel in soulless self absorption just to be a celebrity. Well, maybe a little bit. But more so that this circus was disrupting an otherwise pleasant walk up Newark Avenue on a sunny and warm late winter day; I don’t want to live in Hollywood or Soho for that matter.  The very idea is obnoxious to me. I’m not interested in celebrity culture or MTV and I resent this distracting display being thrust in my face, impossible to ignore. I do not want to know who that young woman is, wearing layers of pancake and blush, her pink nail polish bright enough to singe your retinas. The filming of a TV show disrupted the pedestrian traffic of our neighborhood’s main thorough. It is an intrusion, nothing less.  

I walked over to that ostentatious dog boutique after Jwoww glided inside. A large crowd soon formed by the store front. I couldn’t get a good picture through the window and I did not want to deal with going inside, but I did see Snookie. She wore a cute hat. She looked like just a kid posing for the cameras, self absorbed but not self aware, with too much money to spend and spending some of it on her dog. I have no reason to doubt that the authenticity of her love for her companion animals.  
I had mixed though mainly negative feelings about the filming of the Jersey Shore Spin-Off show in Jersey City. I’m not a television watcher, television has dumbed down our culture and MTV is among the worst offenders. However, I thought there may be a freedom of speech issue worth considering and how bad can filming be, it’s just for six weeks.

But now I feel much more negative about allowing this TV production into our town. Hoboken banned the production, and it sure seems like a wise decision to me today.
The police were warning the paparazzi not to block the sidewalks, they were basically ignoring the cops, swarming like famished sharks with the scrum just out of reach of their jaws. The police became nasty to everybody, including me, who was basically just gawking at the spectacle. The size of the crowd, while large, was not exactly dangerous, but if I was a senior citizen, disabled or a mother with an infant in a stroller or young child, I would have to exercise extreme caution. The JC police are usually as nice as can be, polite and professional men and women, especially on a sunny afternoon. Jersey City has great cops, friendly and helpful and almost always professional. This show, and the media gang it has attracted, made the cops on duty inconsiderate and surly.

An intrusion to our lives, our public space disturbed, and that’s just the filming. Today’s Jwoww encounter augurs ill for what will happen after MTV  broadcasts the Jersey City episodes of Jersey Shore to its global audience. I honestly dread our potential makeover.

And the new Bruce? Awesome of course. One song provided an especially undeniable synchronicity:
“I awoke on a quiet night
I never heard a sound
The marauders raided in the dark
And Brought Death to my Hometown.”

Death to My Hometown – Bruce Springsteen, 2012