I remember when I got the job. I just got done working a temporary job for an outfit called EWB Productions. They were producing a promotional film for AT&T about their new computer operating system called Unix. At the time Unix was super top secret stuff. I had to sign a release agreeing to keep everything secret, a promise I kept for 30 years. Since Unix is the operating system which makes the Internet work and that is common knowledge today, I feel I'm under no obligation to keep what I did secret anymore.
I was hired by EWB because they couldn't find a real secretary (makeup and curlers type) who knew how to operate an Apple II computer complete with Peachtree operating software. They thought they would try a recent college grad. Since I wrote for the Iowa State Daily when I was in school, they figured I was the man for the job. You had to memorize codes to make Peachtree work, because back in the day, there were no mouses (mice) attached to computers. Everything was done off the keyboard.
What I did was transcribe from a Dictaphone. I got fired when I went on a job interview and gave EWB as a reference. Then I learned it was a no-no to be a bad boy and job hunt when working for a temp agency. (rub my nose in some cowshit please!).
Back to the job interview at Trane. It was with Chuck Walker, a no-nonsense black guy who was a junior officer in Vietnam. I don't know if he was a Lieutenant or Captain, but he was up front with the action. Racial prejudice, is a time-sensitive thing. The further back in time you go, the more prejudiced white people were, and I was pretty prejudiced by modern standards, but I kept my mouth shut. I told the truth on the job app and said I last worked as a secretary. He told me there won't be any secing here, rather there will be a lot of sweating, and they were hiring me to lay me off. I did get laid off four months later, long enough to get unemployment.
(forgive me for posting another half-finished article. Come back in a day or so. Promise to finish it. Physical therapy is in an hour so I got to get out of here.)
Well it's the following Saturday and I have been back to work for a week. Been really busy.
Back to the story about Joe and the characters on Tremont Street.
I got hired to work in the coil area as an assembler. My job was to screw little metal plates to the coils so they could secure the tubes that carried Freon from the compresser to the coils that transfer heat from houses on central air conditioners. At first I dantilly tried to put each screw into the holes and was falling behind. Joe came up and said "grab a hand full of screws and shoot 'em in. If they hit the floor, so what. If you can't find a hole, press down and make a hole." That was all I needed to know to keep up and we became friends.
Soon I went to his house on Jersey Street, met his girlfriend Lorrie and his son, little Joe and we began to regularly hang out together. The relationship survived the time I got laid off at the plant. We have been seeing each other ever since then.
Back then the first block of Jersey Street between Home Ave. and Tremont St.was a nice place/ Old ladies kept plants on their stoops, which they swept regularly. Everything was neat and clean. I liked going to the Jersey One Tavern on the corner of Jersey and Home and the Veterans' Tavern on the corner of Tremont and Jersey.
Even back in the 1980s when Joe and practically everyone else in the area of working age worked in the factories, heavy drug and alcohol use was the norm. Lorrie used to tell her boyfriend to go down to the bar and get some crank. I was like, "What's crank?" Joe would say its shit that keeps you up and gets her off her ass so she will clean up and do some housework. When she didn't want crank, she was looking for more cigarettes.
At parties there would be plenty of food on the grill and of course there would be lots of beer and shirtless, bearded men drinking it. The pot would also come out and everybody would smoke until they got stoned. In addition to these things, we'd occasionally break out some Jack Daniel's or some Spirytus alcohol. Spyritus is something they drink back in Poland and the countries which formerly made up the Soviet Union. It's 192 proof grain alcohol. It has to be "rectified" to get to be this strong, meaning it is treated with lye during the distillation process, which makes it two proof stronger than Everclear which is only 190 proof. Unlike Everclear, Spirytus can be drunk straight up because it has a much cleaner and smoother taste, kind of like vodka, which is what it basically is. I have a buddy at work from Russia who tells me that in the old country, soldiers, students and other 20 and 30 somethings don't usually drink 80 proof vodka unless they are wimps. Real youths in the old country drink straight up rectified grain alcohol when they party. The old timers also use it to make a local version of brandy by mixing fruit and fruit juice with the booze and letting it ferment in the bottle for a while before drinking it.
No, you don't have to be Polish to drink the stuff, and this video proves it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKqfoZQ_Nwc&feature=related (it also proves the stuff exists) You can buy it at Landmark Liquors, at the Capital Plaza shopping center on North Olden Avenue in Ewing, where Foreman Mills is located. To show you how badass powerful this stuff is, watch this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WycQ3aTGnN0&feature=related also, here's a clip about underage drinking in college that they would never put on Campus PD. It features the closest thing made in the USA, which is Everclear. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=On_m3V7ZMtE&oref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fresults%3Fsearch_query%3Deverclear%2B%26aq%3Df&has_verified=1
Needless to say, exceptional indulgence in partying South Trenton style will rot your brain out. That tends to knock most people who grew up around here out of commission by the time they reach middle age.
Fast forward about 30 years. Joe no longer works at Trane. He became an alcoholic and no longer works anywhere. He gets SSI, for over $700 per month as well as food stamps. He is 58 and qualifies medically. He had prostate cancer and they fried his hips by giving him too much radiation. He now walks with a limp and can walk only for short distances.
But he is not the real super mooch. He's just a garden variety Trenton mooch.
It takes his neighbors across the street to take that honor. There is a mother living with her daughter and they also have several roomers in the house. Both mother and daughter are heroin addicts and they are both on SSI. The roomers are on general assistance from the county. Everybody gets food stamps.
The daughter is a crack whore and screws black gangbangers in the basement for drugs. Everybody walks around with that expression that Stepinwolf once described in a song as "tombstones in their eyes". All junkies itch like hounds from the heroin and have that thousand yard stare.
Mommy gets a rental subsidy from Section 8. Basically, Uncle Sam pays the rent. They get a subsidy from the state to pay their electric bill. It shows up on your electric bill as "universal service surcharge". That's what it is for, to subsidize gas and electric service for the poor. They get heating assistance from the LIHEAP program on top of this. They get free cell phone service from the government. They advertise this program on local TV channels. You get 250 minutes a month free. On top of this, they have a caseworker that actually goes to the store and buys them groceries and transports them to their house.
Boy, wouldn't it be great to have the government put you up so you can live in a house and do drugs and alcohol all day.
As you guessed, that part of town is no longer so nice. The park across the street from the Hungarian Reformed Church on the corner of Beatty and Home is better known as Needle Park. The area has become a regular ghetto and shows up frequently in crime stories in the Trentonian.
Neighborhoods like this gurantee that there are many more welfare kings and queens like Joe's neighbors out there. Maybe one reason why our taxes are so high.