Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Contrarian folds

I should recount how I met The Contrarian, it's a story I enjoy telling. I had a weekly show at WFMU in the early 90's, moderately late, probably, 11 PM to 2 AM, could have been earlier, I don't recall. I received few phone calls at the station that weren't requests for music I was never going to air, like Santana live in concert. Some listeners had the erroneous impression that I used to be a hippie. Anyway, the Elvis memorial first class stamp had been issued, it was a big deal, & that day I'd walked into the Rahway post office & encountered a bad Elvis impersonator (are there good ones?) performing in the lobby, & was relating this on-the-air. My reaction? I was delighted. I thought there should be regularly scheduled entertainment at the post office. There hadn't been any since the zombies of Lyndon LaRouche had stopped setting up their tables in front of post offices. When I went to music, the phone rang, it was The Contrarian, who resided in Rahway & had also been amused by the Elvis hoopla. We chatted about this & that. I learned he was a regular WFMU listener (later became a staff volunteer & occasional DJ), a recent grad of Notre Dame, & was editor of a local weekly paper, a thankless job where you attend far more zoning board meetings than high school basketball games. He didn't request any music, but if he had, it would have been a choice punk song worth the suggestion, maybe something by The Misfits or Fugazi.
Time marches on to 2003. We're all starting blogs. Why not? It's easy enough. We're jeenyuses. Just post & they will come. The Contrarian has moved from Rahway to Jersey City & back to Rahway. He's married Mrs. Contrarian. He gets up at 5 am for a daily dose of chlorinated pool water. He has his favorite blog subjects. But he really waxes poetic on two. I understand his thing for railroads. We both consider PATH an official train ride & sit in the front car. We wish we could take light rail from Long Branch to Seaside Park. He complains about Amtrak but he's committed to the concept nonetheless. What I suspect he really wants to write about is the decline of old time machine politics in New Jersey. Get The Contrarian started on Hudson County & he'll describe Frank "I am the law" Hague's mausoleum in Holy Name Cemetary. He'll freely discuss his time working for former Hudson County Exec Robert C. Janiszewski. Discretion requires he not reveal much of what he observes & hears now.

Say what you will about the power of George Norcross down south or Joe Ferriero up north, it ain't how it used to be. Heck, it ain't even how it was ten years ago. Sharpe James is gone, but Newark requires a machine & Mayor Cory Booker knows it. Factions beat each other up in Plainfield, & over what? Problem is, if you build a machine on the old model you probably wind up in prison. It's the old machines, like the old locomotives, that intrigue The Contrarian. He doesn't advocate them, mind you. But they generated a lot of great stories, & still do.

The Contrarian looks in mirror now & sees a conscientious father & husband, property tax-paying homeowner, leader in his Church community, still a competitive athlete. He can see coach for some kid's sport or Cub Scout leader coming over the horizon. He's got a busy job for which he's probably overqualified & overeducated at this point. It's a good life to have, but you gotta set your clock by it, & other stuff drops off the edges, like a blog. I won't be surprised if he writes a book someday. Likely, it'll be about railroads or Jersey politics.

Thank you for the kind words. The Contrarian is sorta like Michael Jordan circa 1993-- officially retired but not closing any doors at this point. I checked my blog and I have about 4 or 5 new entries scheduled over the next 8 months.

With Rahway celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, I am unearthing a treasure trove of photos and cool documents that have never seen the light of the digital age.

I wish I was locked in a room for 2 weeks with my laptop and a calendar so I can pen a few hundred blog entries. Heck, half of them would be about cool things in Rahway history.
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