Today I went to the Newark Museum. My intention was to see my favorite painting by Edward Hopper. It is “The Sheridan Theater”:
As with all paintings by Hopper, I love this for its loneliness, nostalgia and carpeted plushness. It generates a lot of emotion and raises a lot of questions for me. Didn’t everyone live amongst cocktails in silver glasses, velvet drapes, plush carpet, sleek, sreamlined furniture, and satin lounging gowns then? A Roxy Music-like lifestyle perfection must have settled over all of life during the 1930’s
I took the NJ Transit Northeast Corridor line up to Newark Penn Station. Usually, I then take the light rail to Washington Park, but this time I decided to walk. I guess Broad Street used to be a busy center. Most everything is boarded up now, or just little remnants of life.
Washington Park is usually the same – just a handful of drunks standing around. Not this time! The park was full of people and most of the Firemen were drinking Miller Genuine Draft. It was a pretty nice looking picnic,
with just a few drunks, like this guy:
Newark is not a popular place. It is not Atlantic City. It’s poor, but it’s not the loud, sleazy 1970’s Times Square of the New York Dolls or Warhol. Newark is just empty. There are apartments over the storefronts, just as there are in New York.
In 1970’s New York, we knew that drug addicts and prostitutes lived in those storefront apartments. Today, in “cleaned up” New York, we know that bright young designers and brokers have moved in. In New York, you always know what’s going on. But in Newark we don’t really know for sure what is going on, and who lives in those apartments? And what they are doing? Maybe they are sitting there, all day long, above some abandoned shop, dust collecting on the windows. The feeling of apartment dwelling is a feeling of lowness and loneliness, like listening to “The Tenant” or “Obscure Alternatives” by Japan or Bowie’s “Low”, or an Edward Hopper apartment scene:
In Newark you see back alleys with half-torn down department stores that are left to decay.
There are no-name boutiques on main street, dusty, dated looking mannequins greeting the passers-by, wearing tacky sequined party dresses that nobody would wear to today’s, or tomorrow’s parties. There are stores that advertise “lingerie and girdles”. Inside you find pink nylon pajamas and slips. Who buys this stuff? Maybe they get visitors from 1965 who creep down from the fire escapes of the Hahne and Company Dept. store, at night. These zombie housewives buy the girdles and then creep back into their abandoned stores and buildings by day to disguise themselves once again as mannequins.
This is a diner in Newark that I love to visit. It is always open, and you can sit at the counter and have a sandwich for about $5. Today I sat at the counter and drank my tea while white layer cake with thick coconut icing languished under a glass dome. I listened to the waitress crack jokes with the Mexican dishwashers about how she didn’t speak Spanish. They told her about some guy who didn’t speak a word of English. In fact he didn’t speak Spanish either. He just didn’t speak. They all thought that was very funny. It’s the kind of place where you can just sit and just not speak.