Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Same Street Friend Of My Childhood

He was a mathematical genius in my 10 year-old eyes
Somehow he was always able to calculate tax
Had the total to the penny
Before we got to the check-out

That was when all we bought was cola and cream pie
Now he buys crack
And I pay down a mortgage

So many days spent together
Planning for a future that never came to be
Paths diverged, then disappeared from view
If he walked past me today 
I wouldn't know what to say

We stood on the sidelines 
Watching our friends fall over the edge
One by one
Never thinking for a moment
Our day, too, would come

Some days I'm hopeful something will open his eyes
And he'll come back
As if he was temporarily in storage

It wasn't too long ago I saw him from my 40+ year-old eyes
I searched his arms for needle tracks
He asked me to loan him a twenty
I held my tongue when I wanted to shout

Friday, March 29, 2013

Automatic Disqualification

My pic of the Capitol Building, Washington D.C (2011 - I think it still looks the same)

One of my fundamental beliefs is that just about every person paying taxes in the United States should be able to hold a public office, with one key exception.

That exception pertains to a specific privilege that less than 1/10th of 1 percent of United States citizens enjoy. It is the pleasure of never, not once, ever having applied for a job.

Granted, probability factors dictate that there are people who have never had to apply for a job due to being blessed with an entrepreneurial bent at an early age that saw them go from lemonade stand to mowing lawns to neighborhood aluminium recycling king to scrap yard owner, but not only are those people far and few between, but in all likelihood  those types have no interest in holding public office.

The people who have never applied for a job that I am singling out here are the children of privilege.

I know children of privilege - people who have not only never had to apply for a job, but people who have never had to ask themselves a question that the majority of Americans have had to ask themselves at least once in their lives; "Which bill do I pay first?"

A question which is usually followed by "Which company has the lower late fee?"

This may sound preposterous to some, but I seriously believe that anyone who has never had to carefully fill out a job application or craft a resume so that it presented them and their skills/abilities/talents in the best possible light, and never had to hope that whoever reviewed said submission at the company they were applying at liked what they saw, and then, when the call finally came inviting them in for an interview, never had to worry that they handled the call just right, and when they showed up for the interview, they handled coming in right - not late, for god's sake, but not too early so that they didn't seem desperate, and of course, if a person has never, not once in their life had to hope that the person that actually interviewed them for the job liked them - how they looked, spoke, sat, fidgeted or didn't fidget, etc.,  thought they would be a good fit for the company, a competent, productive addition to the staff - if a person hasn't had to endure that at least once in their lives, then they not only have zero idea what it takes to be a real citizen of the United States, they have no actual working idea of what it takes to be a part of a free-market economy based on Capitalist ideals.

It's that simple. People who have been handed everything since the day they were born, who have been blessed with never once in their entire lives having to wonder how they were going to come up with enough money to put gas in the car, or how they were going to get the only decent business-like clothes dry-cleaned and presentable, or who have never had to hope that the background check doesn't go as far back as that one stupid incident at the Burger Barn when they were 17...well, those people lack a key qualification, a key insight, into what it really means to be not only an American, but a real human being.

If you didn't have to apply for every grant for college you were eligible for, and some you probably were not, and still had to take out a boatload of student loans, you're disqualified too.

The only exception is military service. I come from a military family - my Father, Mother, myself and both of my brothers all served in the military. It's a crap job, and until you get some time in service and rank, everybody with one more stripe or bar than you is your boss. Being born to privilege matters not an iota. Hell, I knew a few guys in basic who came from money, and when the D.I.'s found out, they were much harder on them than the rest of us - so that's their only way in.

Of course, this might present a problem for the United States Congress. All 535 voting members are pretty much millionaires - The average Republican is worth $907,104.00, and the average Democrat is worth $990,508.00 (you read that right - the average Democrat is worth more than the average Republican).  

Those numbers are compliments of OpenSecrets.org

I'll concede that a number of the members of Congress have actually earned their wealth, but I'll also point out that a large percentage did not - they were born into money, and have always had money. They went to the finest schools and got every break and privilege that goes with...being born to money.

And they can afford to buy elections.

If your name is Rockefeller (as in Jay Rockefeller, D/W.Va.), you are so far removed from actual work I am willing to bet you have never even seen a job application. 

Hell, if your name is Rockefeller or Kennedy, even if it's just coincidence, you're out.

Of course, that's just my constitutionally protected opinion, sprinkled with just a bit of envy. Wish I never had had to apply for a job. Must be freakin' sweet.



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Anything Can Happen But Probably Won't

                                 The Indian on Endicott Street, Lakewood Co.

Grab a hold of this moment as if
It might be the single best moment you will ever know
Though it's doubtful
Tomorrow you might fall off the edge of a cliff
Or, while crossing the street in your bare feet stub your toe
Though it's doubtful
Someday you may end up in a morgue cold and stiff
With a tag tied to you inscribed with the name "J. Doe"
Though it's doubtful

Most everything is possible, most everything is probable
What so many people seem to miss
If that everything is doubtful too.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Name Game In The 21st Century

                                                           Hudson Station, Manhattan

Somebody once wrote that 10,000 monkeys typing for 10,000 years would eventually produce Shakespeare. Well sure, with the help of auto-correct and spellcheck.

That little adage refers, of course, to coincidences and likelihoods and whatnot. Tonight, I got to experience a weird sort of coincidence/likelihood.

Wednesdays at BW3's mean trivia, and as I had nothing going on, I was there.

About halfway through the first round, two guys took the two empty bar stools next to me. They looked like they had just gotten off work and their line of work appeared to be auto-repair, as both of them were in grease-covered clothes and they both had greased-smeared hands and such.

Eventually, we got to talking, as I am the gregarious type and well, honestly, I needed some input on a question. 

Turns out, both of these guys were indeed mechanics, but that's not the point. The point is their names.

As most people who know me are aware, I am a huge baseball fan, and people who really know me are aware further still that one of my all time favorite players is former Kansas City 3rd baseman and first-ballot Hall of Famer George Brett.

So when I go to introduce myself to these two mechanics, and they introduce themselves back as George and Brett, I naturally recoil a bit and do what anybody would in my situation.

I laughed. Well, to myself. What are the chances of meeting two strangers at the same time who introduce themselves as George and Brett? What are the chances of that being significant to anybody? 

Okay, admittedly, in this part of the country, better than average. But what's the average? And still, it's kinda freaky.

It was even freakier when George told me he was born in Kansas City. 

Okay, not so freaky. There were probably a lot of sons named George in Kansas City 30 years ago, and a lot of Brett's too.

And that got me thinking. How many brothers are there in New York named Derek and Jeter? Probably quite a few. In ten years in bars all across Manhattan, guys are going to be introducing themselves thus; "Hi, I'm Derek, this is my brother Jeter."

Oh, it's going to happen. You know it is. It used to be Saints we were named after, then it was politicians, maybe war heroes. Then actors, followed by musicians. Now it's sports stars.

Somewhere in this country somebody is expecting a son, and they are seriously considering naming him Obama Leonardo or Justin Lebron. I'd bet money on it.

In twenty years, you damn well know there are going to be a few more Beyonces and Taylors out there than there have ever been before.

It's a good thing that Tiger Woods doesn't go by his given name. Can you imagine the golf courses of America a few years from now crawling with guys named Eldrick?

With the popularity of Family Guy being what it is, There is also the possibility that in a few years, there will be a lot more Megs and Brians running around. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chasing Down The Memory Of Endless Possibilties

                                            Pic taken near Colorado Springs, Colorado

We walked
For hours never thinking any of us would ever get tired

We Talked 
About anything and everything that anyone desired

The days were always over before we got started
Shadows playing on the walls of objects contorted
Trees became ogres that scared the fainthearted
Every sound we heard was unrecognizably distorted

The voices that called us home
We heard but we disregarded

Those short sweet summer days 
In which we felt so wholesome
We failed to cherish
Such is the injustice
Of home

You can reconnect
With those that share your memories
With those that recollect
Each of you are treasuries

Of carefree days and footloose ways
life's buffet

Monday, March 25, 2013

At A Club In L.A. With A Woman From Belgrade When I Was A Prick

                                   Friendly looking sort in the Nevada desert

This tall pale woman was swirling across the floor
She was wearing a dress
Nobody wore dresses in clubs in LA
I couldn't peg her accent

She had two names tattooed across her wrists
When I asked about them she told me they were her kids
They were there to remind her what it is she has to live for
Whenever she gets to feeling that she can't go on anymore

I asked her matter of factly
If suicide was a frequent impulse
She replied 
That at one time
She believed
It was 
Her only way

In my head I tried to count all of the tiles that made up the dance floor
I prayed the DJ would cut the song short and play something she hated
Damn 12" release of This Corrosion by Sisters of Mercy was merciless
I didn't know how much more I could take of this

DJ let the song play through
Followed it up with Devil Inside
Fcuk you INXS, I love that song
Then he segued it into Bang A Gong

She told me about the father of her children
Told me
He had been a Yugoslavian
Of dubious allegiance
To the League of Communist
So they threw him in prison
And let him rot
To death

I asked how she had made it to the United States
If she had been married to an enemy of the state
She told me she had been a member of 
The Yugoslavian Olympic team in 1984 and had won

After her second child was born 
And they took her husband away to his eventual death
She systematically traded on her fame  
Giving herself to seventeen different officials

Then Kylie Minogue's voice
Got us off the dance floor 
She asked me my name
While telling me hers
I thanked her for dancing
Made a quick retreat
I wanted a good time
Not a recounting of scars

A Day & A Night Out & About In The Ironbound

The Ironbound Community welcome sign across from Newark Penn Station at Edison and Ferry Streets

Newark, New Jersey does not exactly have what would be called a tourism-friendly reputation. Point of fact, the term "friendly" is rarely used in any way, mean, or form to describe Newark. 

That may be due to many factors - the memory of the Newark riots of the '60's still lingering, the high incidence of poverty, or maybe Time magazine labeling Newark "The Most Dangerous City in the Nation" in the mid-'90's.

Times have changed. A bit. Sure, every Mayor of Newark since 1962 has been indicted on criminal charges, except for the current Mayor, Cory Booker (Who may well be the most over-qualified politician in America - Stanford, Yale Law, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford AND he was named to the USA Today All-USA high school football team back in '86...geez) and sure, the overall crime rate could still use considerable improvement, however, as nearly everyone in Newark I met stated, it's much better than it used to be.

Of course, at one time Newark had no place to go but up.

I write all of that as a preface to my visit to Newark, and specifically to my exploration of The Ironbound neighborhood in the city's East Ward. With well-meaning intentions, I was told by several people that when I left Manhattan it would be best if I went from Penn Station to the hotel, and pretty much just stayed there.

That, of course, is just not my thing. The first night I was in Newark I took a short stroll around the neighborhood and decided I needed to see more - much more. 

   The far western edge of The Ironbound - the area is hemmed in by railroad tracks, hence the name

       Homes made of brick...a sure indication of where the shop owners and business people lived

One of the easiest ways to determine where the people who owned the shops, taverns and other local businesses in a city or town lived is to look at the materials used to build the homes. Brick was sturdier and safer than wood, and thus more expensive, so most of the people living in brick homes were in the higher tax brackets. The Ironbound does not have a whole heckuva lot of brick homes, a clear indication of the economic status of the general population that settled the area.

The Ironbound area of Newark is a perfect example of ethnic succession in action. The majority of the residents that settled the area originally were unskilled manual laborers from Germany, Lithuania, Poland, or Italy. The architecture of most of the homes and businesses is simple, a testimony to the built-on-lowest-cost-per-square-foot frugality.

As the children of the first or second generation of immigrants earned college degrees or acquired skills that allowed them to move up and out of The Ironbound area, other people seeking low-cost housing moved in. By the mid-1950's, the Ironbound area was largely an African-American neighborhood.

The African-American population migrated into the West and South Wards of Newark and now people from Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries have made the area their home.

Immigrants from Portugal had arrived as early as the 1910's, and today the area is well known for having a considerable percentage of the population that is of direct Portuguese descent. 

In the 1930's Galician Spaniard's fleeing Franco's fascism in Spain settled in The Ironbound, and recent years have seen large numbers of immigrants from Brazil and other Portuguese or Spanish speaking areas, so there is a decided Iberian feel to the neighborhoods.

     The influence of Spanish architecture motifs is clearly evident in remodeled row homes in The Ironbound

The Ironbound area was never cursed with the giant public housing monstrosities that well-intentioned civic leaders foisted upon large cities beginning in the 1930's. Public housing in The Ironbound consisted of a few low-rise developments that maintained the architectural integrity of the neighborhoods they were built in.

Classic row homes in The Ironbound. Note the lack of air conditioners on the majority of the windows

The Ironbound is one of the very few areas where I did not find isolated mansions situated on large, walled in lots. I didn't actually find many typical single family homes, a clear indication that the early settlers were most likely the poorest of the poor, without the money for such indulgences as yards, back or front.

Wrought iron balconies have been added as an accent to many of the row homes

It's a far cry from the suburbs of the west. Whenever I visit any east coast city that was built before the development of the automobile I always wonder how people managed to live in such close proximity to one another without going nuts.

  Iberian peninsula influence seen in the tile facing that has replaced brick facing on some homes

The approximately four square miles of The Ironbound are easy to navigate. Ferry Street is the main boulevard, running just about down the middle of an irregular rectangle bounded by the Passaic River to the North, Newark's Liberty International Airport on the South end, and railroad tracks near N.J. routes 1 & 9 to the east and still more tracks near McCarter Highway to the west. 

Shamrocks in the windows for St. Patrick's Day
                            Telephone lines criss-cross a residential street like a spiderweb

While the area has clearly earned it's nickname, "Little Portugal", walking through the old neighborhoods it's easy to see that the place is actually quite ethnically diverse. I noticed a number of multi-tenant mailboxes on apartment buildings that listed surnames that indicated origins that spanned the globe, names as varied as the Iberian Amador to the Polish Zimny.   

          Luso-Americano is one of five Portuguese language newspapers published in The Ironbound

The Ironbound area boasts one of the strongest and steadiest economies in all of New Jersey. There are very few vacant storefronts or abandoned commercial buildings to be found. The great majority of the businesses naturally cater to the taste and needs of the Portuguese or Spanish speaking inhabitants, which is especially evident in the restaurants.  

I'm fairly sure you'll need to actually go to Spain to find more Spanish restaurants

Which is terrific for someone like me who absolutely loves Spain and everything, especially the food, that is Spanish. There are over 200 restaurants in The Ironbound area. The first one I ate at was Casa Vaca, when I was in Newark in May of 2012. It set a high standard.

               A castle in Spain...or a gargantuan Iberian restaurant/events center in New Jersey 

Just a few blocks from Newark Penn Station is The Iberian tavern and restaurant, a large restaurant in a large building made to look like a medieval castle. When I state large, BTW, I mean 500 car parking lot large. Along with it's sister restaurant the Iberian Peninsula, it is a Newark institution. Don't eat for a couple of days before paying a visit though, as they serve you a ton of food (delicious, too).

       If you have the chance to name a restaurant serving Spanish food "Spain", do so

I didn't eat here, but I like the simplicity of the name.

This was the third business I saw in The Ironbound named after a ship that sank. Hmmm...

    Soccer is sport of choice in The Ironbound. This store managed to showcase a favorite team and honor St. Patrick's day 

      Oh those hot Latins...a store specializing in Brazilian lingerie, with a display honoring St Patricks day

Living in the western half of the U.S. where stores with window displays are rare, it is a treat for me to walk down a street and see block after block of large windows filled with goods intended to draw in consumers. The window displays of a store say a lot about the populace of a given area - stores don't waste their time displaying items that don't sell.

            The population of The Ironbound is largely Catholic, as is evident in many storefront displays

Some stores attempt to squeeze in as much of their merchandise as possible, almost as if they are trying to say "Look, we have something for everyone - even you!"

                                                       Quite the interesting cocktail table

Due to my profession I make it a point to always check out the furniture stores in the towns and cities I visit. There were a few small furniture stores in The Ironbound area - a mattress shop selling low-end mattresses (which struck me as ironic, as the Shifman factory, manufacturers of one of the finest mattresses on the planet, is less than two miles away), a small boutique selling what appeared to be early 20th century antiques, and the shop I took the above picture of - interesting, eh?

Wow...when I was a kid we had to go to a grimy arcade downtown and talk to a sketchy guy in a back room to have a fake ID made. I'm pretty sure this won't get you through customs though.

       A number of businesses on Ferry street are still owned by people of Eastern European descent

Two stores along Ferry street reflecting the ethnic diversity - Kalibats Drug Store and Vinhas Jewelers

When I'm on the east coast, I also look for any businesses that may have been founded by Lithuanian immigrants. As Lithuanians are not especially known for having founded many businesses, it always surprises me when I do find even one. For a moment I thought Vinhas might be Lithuanian, but I was wrong - it's Portuguese.

               Lusitania Savings Bank...hmmm...naming a bank after a large ship that was sunk in 1915

Sushi House wall mural. Serious skills and talent on display

Public art is, of course, a feature of a community that grabs my eye. By public art I mean art that is (or was) produced by a member of the public for either commercial use or as a personal expression (ie. graffiti).

I do not mean public art in the sense that some committee helmed by college-degreed pseudo-intellectual narcissistic asswipes spent tax dollars purchasing self-indulgent flights of fancy created by college-degreed flavors of the month for display in a public place.

Yeah, I'm looking at you Denver Art Commission. You suck.

                                               Sushi House in The Ironbound. 

Bright, colorful, and inviting, with the added bonus of doing an excellent job of drawing attention to the business and proclaiming what's on offer - what more could a business owner ask for? Bravo, anonymous mural artist, bravo!

                    Aquatic wall mural on a garage wall near a parking lot in The Ironbound

The Ironbound, or possibly Newark as a whole, is home to some extremely talented artists. There is absolutely nothing better that walking down a side street and being greeted by a bright and colorful mural that decorates an otherwise drab building or wall. 

                                   This dragon mural was nearly an entire block long

The quality of the public artwork is exceeded only by the diversity. There is a broad range of styles and themes on the walls and buildings of The Ironbound. It's really quite impressive.

                                   The history of The Ironbound on the side of a building

Even the public art produced as what can only be assumed to be a school or community art project has an energy to it. This wall has a great folk art feel, imparting a story and vibrantly expressive as well.  

   Tens and tens of these little stickers were slapped on light poles and dumpsters in The Ironbound 

Hell, even the ever-present band stickers are creative. The typeface is a bit overused (seriously, the dripping letter thing was stale by 1980, though if you were born after 1980 it may seem new to you) but incorporating Dr. Sagan's image is a nice touch.

Stencil graffiti at it's finest

Stencil graffiti has always struck me as too...static. There's just no energy to most of it. I like this particular piece I saw near Riverbank Park though. Of course, I like cats. 

 Like all areas, The Ironbound has it's share of taggers with imaginations limited to expressing their identities and nothing else

It has never failed to amaze me how similar base graffiti is from city to city, town to town - hell, even country to country. I have seen tags just like the ones in the pic above everywhere, From San Diego to Marseilles.

       The Ironbound has a few well-kept parks with ball fields and soccer pitches.

A great indicator of how a community values the need for improved open space for athletic activities, community gatherings, and family get-togethers is the size and number of public parks in an area. The Ironbound has a fair number of parks, with plenty of space for activities.

                                   Unique backstop in a ballpark in The Ironbound

              Independence Park is over 12 acres of athletic fields, walking paths, and even has a bandstand. MSHA would admire the fire preventation regulations

   Holy Trinity Epiphany R.C. Church, formerly known as Holy Trinity Lithuanian R.C. Church. This building, constructed in the 1950's, replaced the original church built in 1902

Holy Trinity Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church was erected by Lithuanians in The Ironbound in 1902, back when the Ironbound was still known as The Neck and was populated by large numbers of Eastern European immigrants, primarily Lithuanians, Poles, and Germans. 

With the decline of the Lithuanian population and the increase in the number of Catholic immigrants from Portuguese speaking countries, Holy Trinity merged with Epiphany in 1992 and now Sunday services are held at 8:30 in Portuguese, in English/Lithuanian at 10:15, and again in Portuguese at 11:30. Weekday and Holy day services are in Portuguese.

   Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Memorial erected in 1990 adjacent to Holy Trinity R.C. Church

Lithuanians have a long history of wood-carving, especially of crosses and crucifixes  This memorial was created and donated by Mr. & Mrs. V. Kiukys and erected by the Knights of Lithuania Newark Council 29 in 1990.

There is a place in Lithuania that features almost 100,000 hand-carved crosses, effigies of Saints, Lithuanian patriots, and of the Virgin Mary. During the Soviet occupation the site was bulldozed a number of times, but each and every time it was built right back up by Lithuanians holding true to their identity and heritage.  

The doors of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Oliver St.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel offers services in English, Spanish, and Italian...and Latin. Yes, Latin.

St Michael's Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church

St Michael's is right next door to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Right next door. Growing up on the west coast, it was unusual to have multiple churches in the same neighborhood, even of differing denominations. Over the past thirty years I discovered that the further east one travels, the more common it is to find several churches of the same denomination but serving differing ethnicity's, on the same street, even four or five in a row

        Saint Casimir's Polish Roman Catholic Church, Nichols & Pulaski Streets, built in 1918

Church architecture has always held my interest. East coast cities have more churches per square mile than west coast cities, and the architecture usually reflects the country of origin of the original parishioners. The Ironbound's churches reveal much as to the roots of the area's founders.

Saint George's Greek Orthodox Catholic Church, Byzantine Rite, founded in 1932

Classic European Protestant architecture, now home to the Luzo-Brazilian 7th Day Adventist Church

                                  Wolff Memorial Presbyterian Church

This church was originally the Third German Presbyterian Church and was established on the corner of Madison and Ferry streets in 1863. In the early 1870's there was schism of sorts and the majority of the congregation left and formed a separate church, St. Stephens Evangelical Church. The pastor who took over with the remaining members of the congregation moved the church to this building in 1882. The church was renamed in his honor after his death.

St Benedict's Church, services now in Spanish and Portuguese

Saint Stephen's Lutheran Church built in 1874 on Wilson & Ferry, at the intersection known as five corners 

Recognize this church? If you saw Steven Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds, you saw the alien invaders slice off the steeple courtesy of good ol' CGI. Spielberg filmed quite a bit of the movie in The Ironbound.

Krug's Tavern, established in 1932

Krug's (pronounced Kroog's as best I could make out) is a classic family owned tavern, and has achieved a bit of renown for it's food as well as the drinks. Their burgers are freakin' humongous, at least as big as the plate-sized burgers at the Ponderosa restaurant near Nenana, Alaska, if not larger.

The place is still owned by the LaMotta family. The place was opened by Frank Krug and eventually taken over by his grandson Gary LaMotta. After his passing his widow Ellen along with her brother-in-law Frank and sister-in-law Susan took over the day-to-day operations.

Yes, they are related to the Raging Bull, Jake LaMotta

If you are ever in Newark and only have time for one place to grab a burger, this is the place to go. It's on the corner of Wilson and Napoleon and well worth the effort to find.

             Blitz Sports Bar on Wilson and Kossuth. Karaoke on Tuesdays!

This corner tavern is now home to one of Newark's most popular and highest rated sportsbars. The building dates to the 1940's so it probably has seen a slew of taverns come and go (Note: I have no idea what a slew constitutes numerically).

   Vila Verde Bar Be Que, once the home of Anadia Grille, O REI Da Brasa, Churrasqueira Stop, etc.

   The Crystal Cafe package store and Go Go is now for sale...turn key, just needs a little TLC

The Crystal Cafe has closed it's doors, but if you have about half a million, you can purchase the property and open her right back up - it has everything you need for a bar & grill already in place, including a Broad C liquor license (I have no idea what that is, but I imagine it is something the state of New Jersey requires).

               John's Tavern operated for 33 years until the economy's downturn forced it to shut down in 2008

 Allegro is a Portuguese restaurant specializing in delicious seafood, but a long time ago it was...a tavern

A number of the old pubs have been re-utilized as restaurants. On the corner of Niagara and Kossuth you will find Allegro, a highly regarded Portuguese seafood restaurant. Over the years it has no doubt been home to a number of bars.

MMM Bello's opened twenty years ago on Market Street

My walk had taken me in a distorted circle back to the area in front of the Newark Penn Station, where I caught sight of an oddly named Pub & Grill, MMM Bello's. I went in hoping for some passable pub fare for dinner, what I got was a terrific evening of camaraderie with some great Newarkers.

            MMM Bellos was opened by Many Rebelo in 1993 as a place for the Soccer fans to gather

The place is part Spanish/Portuguese family restaurant, part neighborhood soccer enthusiast bar, as they boast both an extensive food menu, over 100 beers...and more European soccer club supporter scarves than I've ever seen outside of Europe. The place was literally draped in them.

Note: Do not walk into MMM Bello's and shout "Soccer is for pussies!". Just sayin'...

While sitting at the bar (Bartender on duty, John, who reacted to my complaint "Man, I'm starved" by instantly placing a large bowl of pretzels in front of me), I got the idea that it might be funny to stage a fight in a soccer bar with what could be construed as soccer hooligans. The only problem was, there were no soccer hooligans in the place, just a bunch of really nice people.

However, they were a spirited bunch, and I was able to get a great fight shot.

Tommy, some guys in the back I can't recall names for, Jack & Justyna, Paddy and CRB at MMM Bello's 

The guy holding the napkin is Paddy Shaw, who walked past me just after I took a seat and asked if there was anything I wanted to hear on the Jukebox. I replied that The Replacements would be great and he agreed - played 6 'mats tunes in a row, opening with Beer For Breakfast.

CRB with Justyna at MMM Bello's. Quite possibly the friendliest pub I've ever been in 

Paddy also used my cell phone to get a few pics of me with some of the patrons, including this great shot with Justyna of Jack & Justyna. She was great!

Sign observed as I headed back to the hotel, a reminder that I was definitely in Newark

All told, I enjoyed the week I stayed in The Ironbound. The people were great and the food was excellent. If you have an opportunity to pay a visit, I highly recommend it. Just don't go in wearing blinders - it isn't Beverly Hills and Ferry street isn't Rodeo drive, but it does have it's charms.