Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Trenton, My Trenton

TRENTON -- If this town ever took a deep breath and just relaxed every once in a while, people like the guy who got in my face yelling and yiping that it's illegal to take his picture might not pound the pavement looking like he's going to explode.

What the dude failed to realize is that he was selling incense sticks on the North Broad sidewalk near Franvito's Pizza. In other words, in public. I told him I have every right to photograph him in public. He got in my face in a huff saying I had to ask permission just to take his picture. He had an "I'm right!!!111!!! You're wrong!!!111!!11!1 I know I'm right and I'll never not be right!!11!!1!" attitude like a total schmuck. 

After a minute or two I walked away.

For the record, here is what the law says about taking pictures of people in public:

Even on public property, you can’t photograph somebody who has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Basically, that means you can’t snap shots of people in the bathroom, a dressing room, or similar places. Ask yourself: “Would the average person expect privacy?” If so, don’t take a photo.

Indeed, standing on cracked sidewalks amid the blaring voice of a Bible-thumper and selling sticks to cover up the smell of pot does not constitute "bathroom" or "dressing room" or "similar places."

For the record, I *was* taking pictures today of anyone and everyone who looked unique at the crossroads of Trenton. It's at that point where Broad Street becomes North or South and where State Street becomes East or West. During the work week, Trenton's crossroads are alive with 25,000 state workers and hundreds of city natives and druggies and mentals and wounded vets and oldies and pimps and hawkers and prostitutes and homeless and jobless and lifeless and cops and pigeons with mohawks ... and an incense-burning Queen who is "Nuts For You."

Indeed, the human condition is in full thrust at the crossroads of State and Broad in Trenton, even on the weekends minus the 25,000 state workers.

I spent 2 hours walking about State and Broad, Broad and State. I took a ton of shots of the angry black Bible-thumper who yelled into the wireless mic that was powered by a generator. Every so often he'd approach the table that was set up and hold the mic to the mouth of someone who would read Bible passages that corroborated whatever the yeller was yelling to anyone who was listening, and usually it was no one in the crowd. Today's theme was Cain and Abel and how God didn't want Cain to kill Abel but that you gotta work really hard to not get to that point where you want to kill your brother because that kind of rage is like a lion waiting at the front door. Or something like that. All of that mumbo-jumbo religious gumbo is in one ear and out the other with me. Although, I do love the Oasis song "Guess God thinks I'm Abel," which is a great song that defines the Gallagher brothers who, no doubt, have been the lion at each other's door.

At one point I leaned against a car while taking pics of the Pentecostal Bible-thumper, and a woman waddled up and chided me for not respecting her property. I did feel bad. She said something about being Christian and how that relates to respecting others' property, but I didn't quite understand what she was saying. I just made the mistake of leaning on the car to keep my balance while I took the photo of yeller-man. I apologized.

Meanwhile, there were so many outstanding photo-ops. I love it when Trenton's older folks bunch up and just sort of stare into the great void of life to pass the seconds of an existence that for them died years ago. But hey, it sure beats the heck out of being lonely on a sunny Saturday. I wandered up North Broad to the bus stop to take a few pictures of folks sitting down; one woman rolled a cigarette like a pro while the guy next to her was a walking version of R.P. McMurphy just before Chief did him in. Snapped the owner of Franvito's sticking his head out of the window to watch the activity on the sidewalk, and then stumbled upon the incensed incense seller who has that look of the killer lion at the front door and who's always right, never wrong!

When one side of the crossroads got boring I crossed to the other side and spotted a woman with a great smile lighting an incense stick. I asked to take her picture and after a little cajoling she agreed. Her name is Queen, and she lit the stick in front of "Nuts For You." She's been open about 6 years with varied success. State workers keep her in business despite the outrageous rent, but the bigger problem, she said, is that locals barely support her. And that's disappointing. She sells nuts and ice cream and sweets and that kind of stuff. I just don't get the locals. Here's a black Trenton woman with a business, and she struggles to survive. Another Trentonian, Barbara Horne, who is as sharp as a whip when it comes to business, opened Liquids and Eats a few years ago on South Warren, but a lack of support from the local community doomed her. Makes no sense, although "Trenton Disease" has something to do with it -- unless it's you makin' it big, you don't give a shit. Anyway, I left the Queen and walked down to Front Street and made a right then made a right to go up South Warren back to West State, where I made a right to head back to Broad. I stopped to take pictures of the cool works inside the Uncommon Arts Gallery then walked to the southwest corner of State and Broad in front of Dunkin Donuts to look for and snap more unique people and situations.

That's when I noticed incensed incense man. I had a feeling he was following me. I also got the feeling he was starting to whisper to some big dudes to rough me up. I watched him whisper to one dude standing in front of the record store, and then the big dude looked at me, so that's when I decided it was probably time to head to my car, which was parked on  East State over by the gyro shop. Before I made the final decision to go, incensed incense man had walked toward me and stood there, as if to alert the big dude exactly who he was talking about: me. And that's when I started walking to my car. In a homicidal city, I don't want to be the next victim. As I headed to my car -- and truth be told, I'd been walking for 2 hours and was worn out so it wasn't just being nervous about a Bubba kicking my ass -- I noticed some kind of ceremony at the cemetery. Curious, I crossed the street to check it out. Men and women were dressed in Revolutionary era garb and reading odes to people like Isaac Smith and James Francis Armstrong, two men who helped shape the future of Trenton by investing in the water supply system and the first library and first schools and so on and so on. The ceremony looked like it was open to the public, so I walked into the cemetery and listened for a few seconds then snapped pics and shot video.

It was actually kind of cool to hear the "wives" of these men share their husbands' histories while shedding light on another notable figure back then: George Washington. And then the funniest thing started to take place: A sound system in a car that was 6th or 7th in line at the red light heading west on State was absolutely thumpin' and pumpin' the bass, just humpin' the entire area with its noise, ruining the ceremony, and everyone in the ceremony -- actors and audience -- looked over a few times to see who or what was making that ruckus. Isaac Smith was rolling over in his grave. Either that or he was beat-boxing.

I was done in the cemetery. It really was time to walk to the car and head home. I made a left to walk east on State and noticed incensed incense man about 2 blocks away. This was starting to get a little freaky. I crossed the street to walk on the south side of State. I walked past him and a few of his buddies and nothing happened. I drove home. At least I planned to. I did actually drive home and park but decided to take an amble up and down South Broad Street. It had been entirely too long. I took about 50 more photos.

What I noticed wasn't the people, but the new businesses that are springing up on South Broad. A few years ago, South Broad business was dead. But now there is life with a place called Mr. Munchy's at the corner of South Broad and Thunder Road; they grill their food outside for passers-by to see. There's a dessert shop that opened and at least 5 or 6 other places that I don't remember seeing a few years ago. That's a good sign for South Trenton. Let's hope those new owners succeed.

I took 121 photos during today's sidewalk jaunts in Trenton. Here are 50 or so. Click to enlarge. For another photo journey through Trenton last year click HERE

Woman yelling at no one

Oldie but goodie

Waiting for the 609, or the 613 or one of the buses

Thumpin' the Bible

And more thumpin'


Thump it!

That's not Gretzky or Messier ... or Fuhr

Crosstown traffic


Waiting for the 613 or the 619, or one of the buses

Sun dress on a sunny afternoon

Franvito's Pizza


Queen. Hey, Trentonians, how 'bout you support her!

Smiley McSmile inside Queen's "Nuts For You"


Can you dig it?
I gave him a quarter to have enough bus fare

Lovely day for a walk by those who are in love

Germany in Trenton

Trentonian in Trenton

Punk-rock pigeon

(insert caption here)

There's art in Trenton, if you look hard enough to find it

I'm glad I found it


Fun in the cemetery

Isaac Smith's "wife"

Isaac Smith's "wife" portrayed him as a hero

Ceremony in the cemetery


Look, my Isaac drew!

Not sure who he was playing

James Francis Armstrong's "wife"

... and the crowd she entertained


Time for the city to put up a new sign

Time passes so slowly in Trenton

Universal Barber Shop

Mr. Munchy's grilling on the sidewalk

There used to be a Puerto Rican record store on South Broad

What restaurant district?

Dead bird

The headline says it all

He takes photos, too. Will feature him on blog

More broken sidewalks and South Trenton buildings

Trenton, My Trenton
Elaine Benes would have hawked this South Trenton store