February 7, 1980
The world must think me craze for my early morning runs up River Drive, passed Rosey’s Bar at Passaic Street where Babe Ruth drink in and eat hot dogs, passed the tiny brick estate no one has lived in since the police put up the crime scene tape around it, now full of ghosts and decay, passed the always percolating chemical plant with high gates and signs warning ordinary people to keep out as green liquid oozes out its pipes into the river, passed the Tavern at Monroe Street, the line of neatly kept houses, the insurance agency, Outwater Hardware where Pauly used to work until he got lazy, passed the lot the after empty lot of one-time used car dealers whose inventory has long since been shipped over seats, passed the Cameo catering hall and its rather suspicious mob-like twin which changed its name every few months but never loses the dark cliental that does business there, some of whom still linger there at 5 a.m. when I pass.
Some forever-serving mayor of West Paterson is said to own land long this river side near the Outwater Lane bridge, passed the gas stations and the overgrown property whose use had long vanished with the name on the signs, property that state needs to steal if it is to rebuild the bridge, but can’t get because the mayor won’t settle on a price.
Sometimes I cheat and stop at the newly constructed Dunkin Donuts on
for coffee rather than wait for the next stop a mile more up the river at the
silver-sided Service Diner and the . Dundee
On most days, I stop there and walk a block before jogging on with the old dock right across the street. It’s just too big a temptation to resist letting myself down onto its gray planks to sit and sip my coffee.
People job in other places like Rutherford, but I seem to be the only one brave enough to take on Garfield, and so catch the curious glimpses of people as I pass, some like the secretary at the insurance agency flirting with me on my way back, most are either shocked or want to mock me, calling after me in terms my grandfather’s father might have understood, like “get a horse,” my routine as regular as the ducks although unlike the ducks or geese, I do not fly south in the winter except on weekends.
The river is more of a lover to me than many of my lovers had been, the rhythm of my life locked in its embrace, my heart beat and breathing moving fast as my feed pound asphalt and gravel along her banks, the oil-backed winged creatures my siblings and my friend who greet me every morning.
Today, I look like a turtle, bundled in knit hat and gloves, and with a scarf up around my neck so even my mother might not recognize me from any distance. But those who know me and my daily routine, wave: postman, barber, salesman, even some sad young women driving by in their warmth of their cars, faces of the world locked up in boxes of metal and glass, missing out on the intimate embrace the river give me, even on mornings as cold as this.