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Obscured American: Chang the Owner of Jenny's Place and Dollar City

By       Message Linh Dinh       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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Jenny's Place, 2018
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The jokes about New Jersey keep coming. It has the third highest taxes in the country, yet ranks dead last in fiscal health. Its most successful residents flee.

Those who have never been to New Jersey still sneer at it, thanks to its mostly horrible depiction in the media, as in Jersey Shore, where a cast of morons defame both the state and Italian-Americans.

In a South Park episode, Stan Marsh rants, "Having neighbors from New Jersey is the worst. All night long, they keep me awake. They're either screaming at each other, or making some disgusting sex sounds. It seems that all people from Jersey do is hump and punch each other!"

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Living in South Philly for decades, I've had a different perspective on New Jersey. It's where the beaches and boardwalks are, a vacationy place, and where South Philadelphians move to, an upgrade from their tight rowhomes. Jersey also has a bunch of charming and fascinating towns, Bordentown, Pitman, Moorestown, etc., each one distinctive. Of course, there are also hollowed out ghettos, and too many sterile, strip malled bedroom "communities," with the local Wawas or QuickCheks their main social hubs.

After each Alcoholic or Narcotics Anonymous meeting, Wawa Warriors can shoot the sh*t in their favorite convenience store's parking lot, with all their worldly needs just a glass door away. Driving by in the dark, you can still see them standing there, because there's nowhere else to go.

Many Jersey towns are dry, can you believe it?! Luckily, you can always booze up at the very next town. My favorite bar in the entire world is Billy Boy's, in the Pine Barrens. I wouldn't mind just moving into that super fine establishment. They make an honest mashed, sell a dozen steamers for just eight bucks and their tacos are only a dollar each on Tuesdays. In spite of everything, there's still comfort, quality nutrition and probity left in the world!

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Oh, how can the universe not be eternally grateful to New Jersey for gifting it Frank Sinatra, Valium, John Travolta, disco fries and nobody Chuck Wepner, who actually floored Muhammad Ali (by stepping on his foot)?! That fight was billed as "Give the White Guy a Break."

PayPal me, Governor Murphy! I'm doing my best to send clueless tourists your way, and I'm not talking about drunk Quebecois either. They don't need no advertising!

It's hard to believe, but I only have three weeks left in this country, so even Philly will dissolve soon enough, much less New Jersey. Last week, I likely saw its beaches for the last time, and on the way back, I stopped in Millville, a town I had never seen.

Before Mike Trout made Millville famous and cool, it was dismissed as just another depressed Jersey town, with one website, HomeSnacks, even crowning it as the redneck capital of the state.

What stopped me was Jenny's Place, a bar with a wide, stark frontage, and a dollar store/Asian food market in the back. It appeared a supermarket had been converted. A large and mostly empty parking lot accentuated its barren loneliness. On the edge of town, it was surrounded by nothing.

Walking in, I found an old white guy at the bar, and a Chinese man behind it. There were three pool tables. The beer choices were limited and lame, with Stella Artois the only fancy option. Photos of happy clients, plus one of George and Laura Bush, jammed the back wall, above the liquor bottles. Potato chips, corn chips, beef jerky and sausage sticks were all there were to soak up the suds.

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By and by, many folks came in, black and white, with most there to shoot pool, and some were awfully good, too, though none could beat Chang Liu, the bar owner. Casually, he would clean up each table, at the first opportunity.

A white guy arrived in a white truck, with "PRIVILEGE" in white stickered onto the rear window. On a side window, there was, "DON'T LAUGH" Your Girlfriend MIGHT BE IN HERE."

A black biker showed up on an asskicking Harley, with rap liberally blasting "nigga," which prompted Chang to ask, "Why you play that, man? What if a white guy call you a n-word?"

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.

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