Gail, at Scribal Terror, tagged me with a Meme, the point of which is to have each of the tagees say four cool things about his or her hometown. Not being flush with content at the moment, this came at a pretty good time. Here we go.
I was raised in Kearny, New Jersey (pronounced, “CAR-nee”).
Over the last few years, parts of Kearny have been seen nationwide, because many of the Sopranos’ location scenes are filmed in the town. For example, every time Tony and his crew sit outside “Satriale’s Pork Store,” they are sitting on Kearny Avenue, the main street in Kearny. “Satriale’s” is actually a closed-up auto parts store. Several Kearny scenes (and those in nearby towns) appear in the opening montage as well. It’s great sport playing “I Know Where That Is” when watching the show.
One of the best things about growing up in Kearny was its proximity to New York and Newark (Newark was considerably nicer when I was a boy). Both were a short bus ride away, or one could drive to Newark or New York in ten and twenty minutes, respectively (not during rush hour, of course).
The proximity to New York was a very big deal back in the days when New York’s legal drinking age was eighteen and Jersey’s was twenty-one. Which, of course, meant that we were schlepping into “the City” at age 17 (with “appropriate” proof of age), starting at about age seventeen. We could be in places like McSorley’s Old Ale House in no time. The dark side of the drinking trips into New York was the death-defying drives back to Jersey (a product of the stupidity and recklessness of youth). When I think back on that now, I get a cold chill down my spine.
On the other hand, Kearny was just far enough away from Newark and New York to provide some of the advantages of living in a “small” town. (See below)
An “Ethnic” Small Town
Kearny was heavily populated with Scottish and Irish people (mostly Scottish), many of whom had parents or grandparents who immigrated to the U.S. to find work in the large thread mill in town. Over time, these folks sponsored their relatives, so it was not at all uncommon to find one’s self surrounded by people speaking with a thick Scottish accent. The town had (and still has) a Scottish butcher shop at which one can buy things like meat pies and haggis (I’ll take a Pasadena on the haggis), and it also boasts at least three fish and chips restaurants, an Irish-American Club, a Scottish-American Club, two pipe bands (one Scottish, one Irish), a place to buy bagpipes, kilts, and kilt stuff, and a store that specializes in darts and darts stuff.
Aye, ‘twas a bonny town, it was.
The “Av” (short for “Avenue” and pronounced something like “eeAv”)
When I lived in Kearny, shopping malls as we know them today had not yet been “invented”. So, when we became too old to play in the street or in the playgrounds, we hung on Kearny Avenue, (the “Av”, which was the main street that ran through the entire town and continued south through Harrison to the Newark border and north through North Arlington, Lyndhurst and Rutherford.
Once all the guys got driver’s licenses and access to cars, we would spend hours and hours and hours “riding the Av” between Harrison and Rutherford (Back then, you could ride the Av all day for a buck’s worth of gas). The stated purpose of all this mindless driving was to pick up girls, but that happened about as often as an asteroid strike.
If you stuck with this scintillating piece long enough to reach this point, this is the part where I am supposed to tag four people. I am curious about the hometowns of several bloggers, but knowing that some people get cranky when tagged, I will invite anyone who stuck it out this far to jump into the pool, either in the comments or on your own site. If you decide to post it on your site, please send a trackback, so we can check out the post.