Category Is... Downtown Newark, NJ!

About that Newark comeback! I was craving some danger and unpredictability because I want what isn't good for me. After flying for across the Arctic Circle and Mainland America, knowing that deep down I craved Newark's Historic Downtown, those feelings have never failed. Taking the PATH from New York City's One World Trade Center, sure I was ready for the realness! 


Calling Newark, New Jersey my home one year during 2012 to 2013, the chaotic Downtown always had me under a spell. I was curious to know what kinds of 'Ratchet Fabulouness' was 'Newark Happening!' My 21 year old self wasn't ready for the heat of the Downtown in Newark, let's just say race motivates the demographics of NJ's Historic core and that was made clear to me by my African American colleagues with their love and safety for me at the core of their intentions. Fast forwarding to December 2019, I boarded my NJ bound PATH train from WTC to Penn Station in Newark with all kinds of emotions going on in my head but in my heart I had so much love for Newark during my time living amongst the crazy. No 62 bus to Terminal B nor the GO28 to Broad & Market, I was going back to witness any changes, also to recapture the heat within the maddening vibe of Downtown Newark. Was I really ready? NW, I was OK! 

As my PATH train pulled into the Newark area I was getting my life, half filled with trepidation because the Downtown in Newark isn't for the faint hearted! Newark Penn Station came into view, I couldn't begin to describe how I was feeling in that moment as my PATH train stopped at the drop off platform just the same as it had many times before after my trips to NYC. I wasn't working, getting off the train as a visitor with enough time on my hands felt so damn liberating, nothing was going to stop my pursuit because I had grown a lot since my residence in Newark. Not changing one bit, Newark Penn Station still served the same vibe and for that reason I felt as if I had stepped out from a time machine. Starved of my McGriddle breakfast from the McDonalds at Penn Station I found those golden arches for myself to see such a sobering sight. Sat down with my nostalgic breakfast within that McDonalds allowed me to hear those 'off the wall' and 'real' conversations like before! 


Proceeding towards Broad & Market, I saw the same unfortunate souls that made up the scene around Newark Penn Station. My life in China has seriously had me wrapped inside a blanket of cotton wool, pushing be outside of my current comfort zone had me feeling some kind of way. Keeping my eyes on the prize I clocked the street signs and the same sights that remained, retracing the way I would walk from the GO28 in reverse I was fine! Keeping things direct I kept on course for B&M, being a Sunday morning it was quiet on the streets as I passed Newark's Prudential Center. I did see some new developments but from an overall stance things looked the same, I was getting all kinds of memories thrown back at me and that felt so great! I wanted to see one familiar sight, from my 'Downtown' and 'Ironbound' blog I wanted to capture the scene outside NWK's former Paramount Theatre. No second chances! NO! 

I got my desired view as I reached the once art deco style Paramount Theatre on Market Street. Back in 2012 I avoided the Downtown because those characters petrified me, but in the same breath I had a burning desire to take a closer look. The former theatre had definitely seen its last standing ovation long before that December 2019 moment but I didn't have any rehearsal time, I needed to get that photo no matter how sketchy things were feeling! It was bizarre to see new eateries along that street, the proximity Newark had from New York City meant that a rejuvenated Downtown would bring in new life, I wasn't feeling those new additions one bit! With a strong stance, the scene of 'Brick City' gave me everything that I had wanted because my eight year hiatus had felt like an eternity. Having mad flashbacks I remembered those mornings when I would walk home from the GO28 through Market Street, that piece of memory lane questioned the life experience I acquired. 


Like a smack in the face I fronted the cold and crazy intersection between Broad & Market Streets, now that first encounter after arriving into Newark Liberty in 2012 made an impressionable mark on my consciousness! Countless times I would change to one of the buses that would either take me to Ferry Street or just to Penn Station after the evening shift had finished, those twilight hours within the Downtown along Broad & Market were no joke! As clear as day I remembered withdrawing some money out from the ATM at Bank of America on the corner of Broad & Market, surrounded by folks had me on a constant guard. That 2019 Sunday morning made me feel more relaxed, only slightly because it was a more sombre affair. In another sense I was living my life, getting everything that I had missed from the buzz of Downtown, definitely like a drug I needed one more hit! I was high on that nostalgia!

I was expecting the whole inner core to be retrofitted, in one way I lived to see the same street shop fronts, I instantly remembered passing the bustling intersection from the confides of my NJ 62 bus. My airport commute had me going through Downtown Newark as it was the main artery road towards the McCarter Highway, as I stood in that cold December moment I felt content with that stance as I wasn't going to retrace that 62 bus route closer to the airport. Glancing over towards the same PCS street billboard I saw some of the usual faces. Casting my mind back to those nights and afternoons whilst changing the bus in Downtown I would see all kinds of people, but I didn't hear 'Lucy, lucy, lucy!' That street chant meant cigarettes were being sold on the down and low, such memories brought back from that crazy year! Going further back to 2012, I crossed over to walk along Market Street towards Military Park just like my NJ 62 bus every working day. Ey, the same shops traded! 


Pushing forwards I still had more to see before finding my way to my former Ironbound neighbourhood. Minding my own damn business, I kept my senses together as I approached Downtown's Military Park to see a certain sense of progression. The imposing Prudential buildings towered over that city street moment, I witnessed a mild spot of change as the NJPAC came into view. Never did I ever imagine that I would see a Starbucks in the heart of Newark's Downtown core! Not then, not today, not ever! Newark women always impressed with their inventive weaves and wigs, fast forward eight years I got my life as a lady passerby was serving a multi-coloured 'My Little Pony' styled wig! That lady in-question was definitely serving 'My Little Pony Realness!' Using that moment of 'Ratchet Fabulousness' grounded me, I knew the real reason why I had taken my chance to return! I needed to find Military Park! Get into it, B!

Military Park and the PSEG building were both places that I would pass every working day on the NJ 62 bus, I wanted to take some time to actually explore the area. In that 2012 moment all I did was star out of the bus window, never did I ever imagine that I would be standing in the heart of that park. That area stood slightly back from the Downtown Core, I sensed a new crowd of 'office types' and other arty people would be changing the face of this side of Newark. Out of nowhere as I looked up into the sky, a Newark Police helicopter circled the skies over the Downtown! I won't lie I was shook, regardless of that choppers reason for flying that Sunday morning it left me feeling a certain way for sure! Keeping that 'My Little Pony' slice of 'Realness' in mind I made my way back towards Newark Penn Station to cross the tracks into the Ironbound section. Feeling accomplished and thankful for the opportunity to return, I felt so proud of myself because Downtown Newark requires nerve! 

Who's Lucy? I Don't Know Her! 

Joseph Harrison 

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