Friday, May 28, 2010

Three Cheers For Newark! And Soccer! And Harrison!

Wednesday night, I made a pilgrimage to the new Red Bulls Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. I went with my friend Terry, who is our school's varsity soccer coach and a hugely knowledgeable soccer fan. What I have to report is exciting for a number of reasons.

First of all, there is exciting news for residents of New Jersey that live on the North East Corridor Train Line. Newark, New Jersey-- usually known for its riots and political corruption-- just recorded its first homicide free month in forty years. You can read the article here and I highly recommend browsing through the comments; one man claims that the only reason for the lack of shootings is that it "rained all month" and njbratty's multiple paragraph reminisce is priceless . . . here is a sample:

Now days I may be Ugly and fat ;C X-D but certainly at 15 till 30's i was Just Another Good Looking Chick :) (lol) I cant say in my entire Life that in Newark I got Miss respect in any way shape or form -- remember i was 15 years Old and walking just alone . * wink

It goes on and on. But the point is: Newark is a destination again. It's a big city with great food, some excellent museums, a performing arts center, easy access to an excellent soccer stadium, and-- if you're there in a rainy month-- fairly safe.

Perhaps the drop in crime and the upswing in image is due to Newark's well-spoken young mayor, Cory Booker. Booker, who played tight-end for Stanford, is known for his "feud" with Conan O'Brien and for his crime fighting stunts. To get an idea of what Newark politics was like before Booker, I highly recommend the documentary Street Fight, directed by Marshall Curry, which details Booker's 2002 campaign against the completely corrupt but totally charismatic machine politician Sharpe James.



We were headed to the stadium via Newark; it was supposedly a short walk or PATH ride from Newark Penn Station. The most stressful part of the trip was in the New Brunswick train station; we wanted to catch the 5:14 express (37 minutes) but there were long lines in front of the ticket machines and the woman ahead of us in the regular line was paying by CHECK. She even took the time to fill in her little ledger to ensure that her account was balanced. The wonders of double entry bookkeeping.

We had to jump on the train without tickets, so we suffered a five dollar penalty. We would have been on time, but we stopped for beer-- I'm not sure if this is the tradition elsewhere in the country, but in New Jersey, whenever you ride the train, you drink beer from a paper bag. Though we were late because of the beer and the check writing lady, having beer made us not mind the five dollar penalty and the check writing lady.

The train was an air-conditioned double-decker: clean and new, and the A/C was critical because it was 96 degrees outside. The only rough patch on the train was when Terry named all thirteen Major League Baseball parks he had visited. I concentrated on drinking my beer while he performed this feat-- note for next time, I should have bought a 40 instead of a 24 oz. can.

There are advantages and disadvantages to traveling with me.  I like to read. This is a disadvantage when I ask, "Would anyone like a little history of the area?" and someone makes the mistake of saying,"Sure," and then I ramble on like an autistic version of Rick Steve for twenty minutes. But it's usually an advantage when you're heading somewhere new because I do my homework. In this case, I had printed out a couple of maps,and researched a number of cheap authentic restaurants in the vicinity of the train station. Unfortunately, in the rush to get beer, I left all that information on the counter. We were in Newark, and our information was here:


So we had to wing it. Ferry Street is right next to the station and it has some of the most famous Portuguese places and a festive atmosphere. We would have sat outside-- there are plenty of patios and outdoor tables, but it was 96 degrees. And there hadn't been a homicide in over a month, we didn't want to press it.


We went to Iberia Peninsula, which is one of the more well known places and sat at the bar. The restaurant is rather impressive inside: high ceilings, an endless bar, and a wooden old world feel. Sitting at the bar worked out well for us, though I'm not sure why. We had eight beers and two appetizers: shrimp in green sauce and some calamari, and after four or five of the wait staff perused our bill, they handed it to us. The total was 22.50, which seemed odd, because the two appetizers should have cost twenty dollars. I asked if it was correct and the bartender said, "Happy hour." Not only was our bill cheap, but the dude next to us-- who seemed to be some sort of backpacker type, maybe German (oddly, he didn't know the difference between a mussel and a clam, and thought scallops were oysters) gave us some of his mussels and clams out of the giant pot of seafood he ordered . . . he didn't realize the portion was going to be so huge. When I told my wife this, she said, "You took food from a stranger?" and when she phrased it like this, it did seem kind of stupid. I guess sometimes stories like these end with you being in a strange dirty hotel in a bathtub full of ice and your kidney is missing, but like I said, murder is down in Newark, so maybe organ theft is down as well.


We could have taken the PATH to Harrison, but from Ferry Street it's an easy ten minute walk to the stadium-- just across the Passaic river-- and you can see the stadium the entire time. We didn't get shot once during the walk, although the waterfront is pretty grim here.  The stadium is surrounded by abandoned lots and empty warehouses (although one is used for PATH parking) but supposedly the area is soon to be developed.

The stadium itself is a masterpiece. Terry said the design is based on smaller sized European stadiums (and he would know, he's been to a number of games in Europe, but thankfully, he didn't name all of them). It holds 25,000, and there's not a bad seat in the place. Wherever you are seated, standing, or waiting to get a beer (6 dollars for a regular, 9 dollars for a large) you have a fantastic view of the pitch. As I entered the bathroom, I heard a young man say to his child, "Never in his life did Daddy think they'd build this in Harrison."


Tickets were cheap-- 18 dollars for any seat in the stadium-- and it wasn't very crowded because it was an US Open Cup game, which is not part of regular season play. The Red Bulls have now advanced to the third round, and the generally second string crew that played looked excellent, creative and fast paced. They got out to an early lead and the Rapids never mounted much of an attack. If you care about soccer, you can read about the game and the US Open Cup here. If you care about grilled sausage, you'll be happy to know they sell chorizo sandwiches at the concessions inside the stadium.

I can't wait to take my kids to a game. I often take them to the museums in Newark (and we haven't been shot at, not even once!) and now I can add this to the list of convenient things to do there. We took the kids to a Somerset Patriots game the other night (minor league baseball) and though they were amused by the shenanigans and contests in between innings, they couldn't follow the ball when it came off the bat, so they really weren't watching a baseball game. With easy and convenient access to quality soccer, hopefully, they won't ever have to try to watch baseball again.

49 comments:

d-train said...

i think Red Bull is missing out by not putting their name on this facility.
Street Fight - i watched that about 3 yrs ago and said to myself and my wife - "there is your first African American President"
i was wrong, sadly. (isn't the other mayor in that documentary in jail currently?) good stuff.
Booker could though be our first African American AND gay president... that's just my theory.

Dave said...

he does humorously "confess" to being gay in the documentary-- if it's true, the news broke on g:tb.

zman said...

They have chorizo!?

TR said...

Z-Man: You should learn more about Newark, a town that is about 15 miles from where you grew up. There is an ENORMOUS ethnic Spanish and Portuguese population there. The heart of the Ironbound area (also known as one of the few places white people go to in Newark) is a cluster of Portuguese and Spanish restaurants. Authentic and delicious, yet informal and not pricey. Plenty of chorizo, plenty of sangria and plenty of camarones con ajillo. I strongly recommend going in the day to avoid being carjacked or murdered.

I learned all about the area from my wife's Peruvian relatives.

Squeaky said...

Dave, all the football stadiums in the UK that I have been to see a game don't allow you to take your beer to your seat. I know, very unamerican but everyone heads out at the half and tries to slam as many as possible. Even the ones that show up shitfaced prior to the game continue at the half. It definitely makes their chants sound better and is the main reason for all the fights among rivals.

Marls said...

Newark is still a sh!thole. A better sh!thole than it once was, but a sh!thole nonetheless. The Portugeese/Spanish area has been has been ok/nice for years, likely due to the fact that it has remained an insular community within the city. The area has done a nice job cleaning up the streets and getting folks to investing in arenas, but nobody wants to live there. Unlike parts of Brooklyn that have gone through a rebirth in the last 15 years, there are very few legacy housing options waiting to be renovated and reborn. Until semi-attractive housing options become available, nobody is going to want to live there, which is what is really required for urban renewal. You can put in all the nice rail spurs you want, but twice a week foot traffic from surbanites attending a devils or red bulls game is not going to fuel real growth.

TR said...

I think pottymouth Marls pretty much summed up Newark in a hurry. I suggest we discuss Newark, DE next week.

Anybody heard the new MGMT album? Thoughts?

Dave said...

that's it, for the sake of g:tb i am packing up my family and moving to newark.

i will run this by my wife later.

Igor said...

Does everyone here know how to pronounce Newark, DE?

TR said...

You don't spell it son, you eat it!

Igor said...

Newark, DE is where YouDee hangs out -- a terribly named mascot, but the "ass-kickin' chicken," while very silly, is way better than The Griffin.

zman said...

I know Newark has a big Iberian community, my point was directed to the stadium. I've never been to a ballpark that serves chorizo. I've seen brats, Italian saw-seej and peppiz, and regular old hot dogs. But sadly never chorizo. This might be enough to get me to go to a soccer game.

zman said...

I think it's "New Ark" like two words, even though it's written as one word.

Igor said...

The sausage/peppers/onions at Wrigley was tip-fucking-top. Don't mess around with anything else there.

Igor said...

Zman wins the prize. Which is a no-expenses-paid trip to Newark, DE. Enjoy.

zman said...

I'm in ... Delaware.

Igor said...

What did Delaware?



Her New Jersey!

Igor said...

What did Tennessee?




Whatever Arkansas!

Igor said...

Where has Oregon?






Idaho, Alaska!

Michael said...

I've heard a lot of good things about the portugese resturants and scene in newark. I am definitely going to check that out. I ventured to newark back in march to check out a UFC event. that was like thunderdome.

Dave said...

what's round on both ends and high in the middle?








Ohio!

Michael said...

I also think that the hot dogs at Wrogley are the best that I've had. ngs. But the brats at the Brewers stadium were the best brats that I've had at a stadium. Dennis partook in the "special sauce" that they have at the condiment stand and said that it was exceptional.

Dave said...

zman, i don't get your comment on sentence of dave (and i've already been complimented twice today on what a great sentence it is-- if you haven't read it, you are missing out).

Michael said...

Wrigley is known as Wrogley to the locals...

T.J. said...

What the hell has happened with the Mets? They just swept the Phillies and didn't allow a single run?

I've been to Newark once. To the international terminal of the airport. It was a level of hell I was unfamiliar with.

Igor said...

I spent the night in the Newark Airport one night two summers ago. Slept on a chair by the baggage carousel because by the time Continental got done soiling themselves trying to get me home, it was really too late for anything. As for the airport, if they'd had any flights to Hell, I would have hopped on one in a hurry.

d-train said...

i'm an international man of mystery, and a continental airlines guy, so i find myself in more often than most. i think the airport is pretty solid, especially the int'l terminal.

did get lost in newark proper, or shall i say, PROP-AH! once, with a friend of g:tb chris m. en route to the meadowlands. we defied death, made our purchase, and carried on.

zman said...

Whenever I think of organized "Walks For [fill in the blank]" I think of the Seinfeld where Kramer goes on the Walk For AIDS but won't wear the ribbon and everyone gives him a hard time and then Hank Azaria comes in out of nowhere and yells "Who does not want to wear the ree-bon?!?" and Kramer gets beat up.

zman said...

Newark International was my closest airport growing up. We never actually went anywhere but we picked visiting family up there or at the train station in Newark. It wasn't until I was a teenager and actually traveled to another place when I realized that airports and train stations normally aren't situated in post-apocalyptic environs with homeless people, crack whores, dudes selling stuff out of the trunk of their car, cops in helmets and flak vests, and condemned storefronts.

Geoff said...

Igor...seems like you missed another opening for your Pan Am/TWA coffee Tea bit...followed by the explanation of the joke in painful detail.

Geoff said...

Zman, Hank Azaria wasn't in that episode. I'm aware that this is an insignificant point and I could have easily let it go...but I'm a dick. Just say "Queensbridge" and we'll call it even.

Igor said...

Geoff, I graced Gheorghe with that joke too recently. I'd say maybe another month or so, then I can bring that puppy back. And the explanation -- that's really what the people clamor for.

Geoff said...

IGOR!!!!

zman said...

The Bridge is over.

d-train said...

twa tea joke...i don't get it.

Mark said...

AHL, Geoff. Which is about the same reaction I had last night when Artest made Sager say Queensbridge. Of course, he followed it up (once Artest was gone) with "where they don't have shot clocks". Sager's a dead man the next time he travels east.

zman said...

Definitely not Hank Azaria, but close.

http://tinyurl.com/2vx4v9b

Dave said...

zman wins the award for "the most obtuse comment ever posted on sentence of dave and then explained on gheorghe."

grand prize: one bag of circus peanuts.

zman said...

Great! I'm working a diorama and I ran out of circus peanuts! It's too big to get it out the door in one piece so I can't bring it to OBFT.

KQ said...

wow. As you would say in GTB land, pour out a little for Gary Coleman. (no pun intended.)

zman said...

Wuchoo talkin' bout KQ?

rob said...

gary coleman? my people mourn today.

KQ said...

Rob is black?

zman said...

Al Davis has apparently filed a "grievance" seeking $10 million from JaMarcus Russell. I assume this "grievance" was not filed in federal district court as last time I checked "sucking" does not satisfy Fed. R. Civ. P. 8. To the extent that Mr. Davis brought suit in N.D. Cal., I look forward to reviewing his filings on ESPN.com.

rob said...

i do have mad rhythm.

zman said...

And flow. Don't forget about your flow. Like the Nile.

TR said...

Stu Scott is dressing like he has two bad eyes tonight. And his barber should be fined for the yarmaluke fade thing he did to Stu.

zman said...

Nate Robinson's tattoo coach should be fired as well. The 8-ball/Bentley logo mashup on his Adam's apple is atrocious.

zman said...

In other news, Glenn Ordway is working on his diatribe for his next show: the Sox should trade Beckett and move Bill Hall from the outfield to the starting rotation. It's an economic move.