My Old Home Town Getting Trendy

I wonder if the place where you grew up can ever be trendy to you. To newcomers, maybe. But I’m not sure blue collar, working class Kearny can ever be trendy in my mind, even if the New York Times has christened it so. There’s something about Kearny being too familiar, too tied to childhood. Childhood is something you grow up from, something you leave behind.

That said, I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart right out of Kearny High, bought a house on New Lawn Avenue in Kearny, became a cop, and never left. He and his wife raised two kids. They are grandparents. Joe moonlights at Armitage Funeral Home as a pallbearer, for extra cash beyond his police pension. My mother was buried from Armitage in 2007; that’s where they’d staged the mob funerals on the HBO hit series The Sopranos. I’m sure she knew that, and it’s why she left instructions that we use Armitage over Eddie Reid’s, where my father was waked in 1959.

I feel as if know Kearny well, even though I haven’t been there in decades.

Clearly, according to the article, Kearny is a place where you can get a lot of house for not a lot of money. You can ride the DeCamp bus into New York city in 30 minutes. Newark International Airport is a reasonable drive, maybe 30 minutes an another direction, and the Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway are both accessible. They link to other major roadways that will take you anywhere. The shore is an hour away by car. There are lakes in North Jersey, and pine barrens in the southern part of the state. Some of the most economically challenged cities in the nation, places like Camden and Paterson, are an easy drive from Kearny. Newark has places that haven’t been rebuilt from the riots in the late 1960’s; my sisters and I used to go there on the bus for Saturday shopping and lunch in Hahne’s tea room.

Pretty good location. Good housing stock. Ethnically diverse, so good restaurants and shops. Stewart’s Market, a nod to the old Scottish days, has been open since 1931 and still sells haggis, blood pudding, and potted head. Al Stewart, a son of that family, was our biology teacher in high school. Now there are Peruvian markets as well, and Portuguese restaurants. We went to one after our mother’s wake, and they couldn’t have been nicer to us despite the fact that we visibly didn’t fit in with the locals enjoying food and drink at the bar.

Kearny has a lot to recommend it.

But I can’t call the town trendy.

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