Things To Do In My Poor, Post-Industrial College Town


Ah, New Brunswick, crown jewel of the northeast corridor, poster child for failed urban renewal and college depravity, that formerly bustling port on the banks of the Raritan River whose chief export is now an expanding university bureaucracy and steadily increasing crime statistics. This is the city whose fans chanted “F- – – the U.S. Navy” at a football game, the city with the honor of having been the home of the White Castle Harold and Kumar so haplessly sought. So what do you feel like doing?

Are you hungry? We could check out this sweet Mexican restaurant down French St. and then tell everyone how authentic and ethnic it was. “Real Mexican people eat there,” we’ll say, and we’ll think about how multicultural we are until we have to walk home through the neighborhood at night. Speaking of racial profiling, there’s plenty of that, if you’re into it.

We can go back to my dilapidated apartment in one of those old factory row houses that hasn’t been renovated since the Hungarian immigrants moved out a century ago. There, we can drink 40s on the porch, ironically or not, and sow the front lawn with cigarettes while feeling “gritty.”

Maybe later we can throw a house party, and you can help me pay the absurdly high noise violation ticket we will inevitably incur from the increasingly hostile and alienated police department who view minorities and students alike as destitute rabble that only responds to brute force.

You will learn that kicking out the random ghetto White dude you’ve never seen before and his entourage of mean-mugging thugs out of your party may result in theft, property damage, or personal injury, because they drove down from Elizabeth, bro, and like hell you’re going to ruin their night.

If it gets busted we could always hit the bars for awhile, you know, those fratty dives that aim for the “club” vibe and land somewhere in the ballpark of  “sleazy basement.” We can grind on blacked-out girls to soulless Top 40 pop until our heads hurt from the Coors Light, which is just so damn cold and refreshing.

Then, as we leave the place, we can exchange some unflattering and hostile words with another group of gentlemen, solely because they are walking in our vicinity, and seem, by all accounts, like they must be fought. This feeling will be inexplicable and relentless, and we will summon all of our “boys” to posture threateningly in their general direction.

Maybe we’ll lose this one, but its cool. You could be featured in a crime alert, just one more victim of an unidentifiable assailant and a meaningless crime in this absurd universe we inhabit.

You have a story now, that’s something right? It’s like that one time outside that pizza place when the center of the Rutgers football team punched me in the face. He was just fighting some random guy and I was trying to break it up. Because, you know, my drunken sense of profound moral clarity compelled me to take a stand against the vital, hot button issue that is violence among my peers. Imagine that. A friend joked, “Yes, the 6’5” 250-pound football player is the one who needed help in that situation.” I would argue based on their dismal record and low average yards per carry, I may still be in the right on this one.

Hey, morning man, how you feeling? Let’s grab a taylor ham, egg and cheese on a bagel, take the edge off. If you’re still down to chill, we could always, you know, explore the city’s incredible art culture, its legendary underground music scene, or the endless resources of world-renowned knowledge and learning right around the corner. We could catch a pick-up game of soccer in the park. There’s even this great bar a few blocks away, dollar pints, wooden booths, a real home bar if you know what I mean, where the jukebox plays Springsteen and you can always shoot a decent game of pool.

Sometimes I think New Brunswick the diamond, sometimes the rough, but never both. Depends on the day.

You should follow Thought Catalog on Twitter here.

image – Bob Jagendorf