Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"In fact, I think we may have driven into the brownstone district."

Day 2, cont'd.


The final hundred miles to North Bergen, New Jersey, where our hotel was located, were appropriately the most grueling. Why should it get easier? We passed a giant building that said "Nestle" in giant blue letters on the side, and I began to speculate as to whether it was a factory or a distribution center, shortly before we passed a smaller building with wide, sweeping windows that appeared to be on the same property. Inside the building, backlit by what must have been 1,000 watt spotlights stood what appeared to be a giant vat, and we decided that this building was the actual Nestle Factory, which, though not marked by any signage, must surely have doubled as a fun tourist attraction for Jerseyites, or at least bored schoolchildren on field trips. We marvelled momentarily at the thought of thousands of gallons of molten chocolate percolating inside a big, brass pressure cooker.

I began to feel the comfort of the home stretch, imagining that this factory must be the beginning of what must be vast urban sprawl, growing further and further out of the giant industry of New York City- vericose veins of business branching out and out in search of cheaper real estate and softer blood cells to contaminate and render unattractive.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be an anomoly, as, aside from a few shopping districts and gas stations, the densely potholed, divided expressways, rust iron and corrugated steel of the Garden State's North Bergen were still a good sixty miles away. Presently, I focused my attention on driving rain and rude truckers, and as I felt my car hydroplaning every twenty seconds due to the next divot in the road, each one longer and deeper than the last, I hunched further and further over the steering wheel, feeling not unlike any number of stereotypical images of old men or women behind the wheel, my heart rate rising rapidly as Rebecca grew agitated aloud as she attempted to decipher the final, most confusing directions so generously bestowed upon us by the inhuman, cold and calculated brain of Mapquest.

I began to second guess, to question myself: "What the fuck am I doing right now? Why am I driving in New Jersey at one in the morning? Wouldn't it be weird if I died out here, 1,600 miles from home?" I began to think that Rebecca's mother would think that I had done it on purpose- taken her daughter from their happy home to commit a strange murder-suicide.

Finally, we sensed the nearness of the city; not from traffic- the highway was surprisingly empty, even for a Tuesday night. But, what do I know about traffic out east? The big rigs were still problematic, and the rain and puddling hadn't ceased, so tensions still walked a tight line in the car. I took a risk and exited the expressway to the other, unnecessarily divided part of the expressway- luckily- just in time to make the exit to the city highway that we needed to be on. According to my odometer, we were a mere two miles from our one-way, 1,596 mile journey.

As soon as relief began its washing effects on my mind, the sense of security was quickly swept away by a tide of fresh anxiety and worry. We had found our way to North Bergen, to be sure, but now to find the city street to turn onto. I crossed a horribly ugly steel, brown bridge, wondering if it was completed, or if mine would be the car that would finally buckle the ancient girders, imagining a disastrous death of stinking Jersey river and toppling I-beams. I looked off to my left- was that the skyline? It was too rainy and foggy to tell. A fine welcome, indeed.

We found the city road to our hotel, but I mistakenly took the way marked "Trucks Only." Some sort of out of the way, lesser traffic, wider lanes number that terrified me to no end. I felt we were surely lost. It just didn't feel right. I pulled into some sort of gas station and asked a cabbie and his partner the way. They looked at me awfully, and Rebecca lustfully, and gave me directions that were clearly a brush-off. I thanked them and faithfully took the way they prescribed.

Minutes later, I felt that they weren't lying. I spotted a Radisson. The hotel district! The hotel district? 'District' implies more than one, correct? I could see no other hotels around. In fact, I think we may have driven into the brownstone district.


Allie D. said...

... vericose veins of business branching out and out in search of cheaper real estate and softer blood cells to contaminate and render unattractive.

You have without a doubt described exactly how I feel about urban sprawl.

Excellent writing, Jonathan! I'm loving this story.

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