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  • I moved to Jersey City in September of 1979 to become a third grade teacher at St. Bridget's School. The night I arrived, City Hall burned, and Patti and I bought a couple tall boys and watched. Later she married a rich guy and moved to Arizona? I lived with Gary, who still lives in Jersey City, on Bright Street in a tenement building and we had lots of under-ten friends, black and brown, who came to visit because we bought them stuff at the corner store and were generally good fun. It was what most of the people I knew would call a bad neighborhood. I must have some pictures in a box somewhere.

    Just two blocks over from Bright Street was the Morris Canal, a septic, trash-filled waterway that stretches all the way to Philadelphia (I just found out) before emptying into the New York harbor, just a few blocks down from where I lived. There was a bridge of sorts over the canal -- you had to step carefully not to fall through the holes -- that led into the wastelands that had been the train yards back in the glory days, and then a couple miles further through the tall grass was Liberty State Park from where all the shots of the Statue are shot. I used to run this route a couple times a week.

    But if you turned left down the canal, there was a paved road that came down from the Lafayette projects (where many of my students at St. Bridget's School lived), almost to water's edge, next to the old terminal. It was in those days a wreck, with no windows, and tall grass growing up everywhere, surrounded by a fence. But from just in front of the terminal was absolutely the best view of lower Manhattan and the Twin Towers, so we sometimes drove down there on a Friday or Saturday night, armed with beer and wine and whatever, and slithered through a gap in the fence and had a little party right there on the Hudson. All of us drunk, Ivy League graduate, Catholic school teachers.

    One night the cops came. Like there wasn't enough real crime just up the way, people getting shot and killed (like some of our students later on), and every kind of drug, and politicians plotting in Italian restaurants. But they came down to the Terminal and shone their bright lights at us, and ordered us out the way we came, and told us never to come back or they would put us in jail. Or some shit like that, it's hard to remember exactly what they said, it was along time ago. So we left, and we didn't go back through the fence anymore, because we were Catholic school teachers after all, and one or two of us -- not me -- were actually charged to teach religion to our children. A couple years later they cleaned it all up and took down the fence, planted some real grass, and the ferry to the statue started running again. I got married and moved to Georgia and never came back.
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