Today had a good energy, at least at the outset. I want to capture that feeling, that sense of purpose and excitement that I began the day with, without compromising this post to say how I feel right now. The difference was made when I hauled out the camera to upload the photos I took this afternoon, held and beheld some of the implications of the camera in my hand, and almost had to throw up. I should’ve given this camera away, not kept it, gotten the new one. I have been too magnanimous.
It is impossible to write about the energy then without reflecting on the roiling anger and frustration now. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that this cannot be the simple story of a simple walking tour in search of furniture. Perhaps we shall begin again to try to go back to that moment, for that moment was real and is captured, in part even on film. Just as the moments captured so often before on film are also real. Before before. No matter how poisoned or sullied they all have become, how washed in the hot blood of betrayal. This is not getting any easier.
A line is a good way to begin again, no? This morning I decided it was time to get some furniture. Oh, I have plenty of furniture, don’t worry about that. But I lack some living room accouterments, specifically a couch and a nice comfy reading armchair. I have been wrestling with the idea of getting Craigslist to fulfill these needs, daunted by the twin threats of bedbugs and my own lack of a truck or ability to haul seriously large furniture toward my domicile. Surely Craigslist is infinitely more affordable in its offerings, but would the delivery and warranty of a new couch be worth the extra cost? I have yet to decide, but thought walking to various furniture stores in the region might help set my mind in order.
Thus, I headed out on a clear fall day, clear and getting colder, but not yet frigid. It was frigid a few days ago and I got sick, but things are much improved and reminiscent of good days in San Francisco. My first stop was in Highland Park, just around the corner from me, a place so close I’d been surprised I hadn’t noticed it on my first few trips into the quaint downtown in my new town. 212 Raritan. As I approached, I became more and more certain I should’ve seen this as a furniture store until, just then, I saw it was… now a bookstore. In fact, the same bookstore I’d idled in a few days back. Nighthawk Books. Formerly a furniture store, now quite different. So it goes.
So I turned around and crossed the Raritan, this time meaning the River and not the Road. The view across the river looked like this:
And my own walk across looked like this:
There are these strange buckets of flowers that drain naturally onto the pavement of the bridge below, permanently soaking the shadowed areas of said cement with something between a puddle and a pond. The flowers are bright and cheery, but the water is annoying enough to make me question the effort at beautification. Or at least prompt a larger effort at drainage.
In any event, the walk was bright and sunny and I soon concluded I didn’t need the extra (third) layer I’d brought just in case. Periodically I stopped to observe how New Brunswick looks in the daytime as I approach it.
Note the Rutgers banners lining the lampposts all along the avenue. It’s almost required for any place of business in either NB or HP to carry a logo or sign or some indication of their support of the institution. I’m not sure if it’s because all of their income comes from students or people directly related to the university or what, but it inculcates a good bit of school spirit for my adopted debate program, if nothing else.
Anyway, I kept trudging along, eventually passing the train station wherefrom I may someday commute:
On my way to the designated cluster of furniture stores whose addresses I’d carefully copied, I was almost tripped by a consignment shop with little bits of furniture out front. My eye was caught first by a nightstand, then by a small chest of drawers, and five minutes of negotiation later, I’d acquired two pieces of furniture I’d not set out to get. Still, it seemed like a good omen and I was very satisfied with the price. I promised to come back with the car by day’s end to pick things up and quick-stepped toward the cluster.
The first of the places proved to be under renovation, recently vacated by its furniture-bearing former occupant. So I was 0-2, but with the unexpected bonus of the place I hadn’t researched. The next place was intimidating just to walk into, but I persevered anyway, overwhelmed by lavish displays that seemed sorely out of place in the largely immigrant neighborhood in which the store was situated. I felt the fabric of a couple couches, somewhat wistfully, well aware that the lack of price tags indicated the old adage… “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” I hightailed it out of there before the staff could ask me what kind of an impostor I thought I was.
The next place, just a bit up the road, was so intimidating I didn’t set foot. Not so much because the items looked overpriced, but rather they looked frilly. And overpriced. The whole place seemed assembled by a rejected Disney princess who was consoling herself on her dismissal with an abundance of floral antiques. Not a pretty sight. There may have been a couple reasonable looking lamps, something else I’m in need of, but it just wasn’t worth the risk of being attacked by the overall atmosphere of stepping into the middle of a dainty doily.
And thus I booked it home, passing back under the overpass on the way to the bridge:
And arriving home to pick up the Prius:
(My place is the front-right corner of this building, ground floor.)
I paused just briefly to reflect on the lush greenery of my new neighborhood:
And then drove through the middling traffic to retrieve my new wood items. But not before jotting down the address of one more place, a discount furniture place in nearby Edison that seemed to have relatively reasonable prices on nice new living room material. After the quick pick-up in NB, I headed once more back across the Raritan, followed the directions, and wound up in an industrial area of my greater region only to find a for-lease sign on the building I’d been directed to. Yup. Three of the five furniture stores I’d sought today were permanently closed.
When my Dad came out here a few weeks ago, he’d been impressed by how much wealth and success and prosperity seemed reflected in the entire east coast and especially parts of central Jersey. He’d commented on it repeatedly, noting the construction and newness of many of the buildings, especially those associated with the school or the hospitals nearby. But it takes an exercise like today to realize that things here aren’t exactly peachy. I see plenty of commercial real estate boarded up, lots of subtly shuttered places here and there with Princeton phone numbers vainly calling for new enterprise. But the turnover of so many places still listed on the internet map as functional locales with numbers and even websites, this puts it into relief. Maybe furniture is disproportionately affected by the recent change in economic climate, which would certainly make sense, but maybe it’s most everything.
By nightfall, I was home and unloading my new nightstand and drawers, not yet to the point of sudden rage at the indignities of this particular camera and all I have been made to endure. I was exhausted, a bit of a backfire to my new plan of walking a lot and improving my general fitness. Heartened to see that the last of the dishes had shown, that things were coming together, if ever so slowly. I still lack soft furniture on which to flop. I still lack a feeling of being home.
Miles walked today: 3.8