Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From the Wilds of NJ to Wild Allentown

Our trip begins at the the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street.  No trains to Allentown; we both hate driving so we're on the slow-boat-to-China, sorry, bus.  If we were Amsterdam-ers, we'd just hop on our bikes for the ninety mile trip.
Why Allentown, you ask?   I'm in an exhibition in a new gallery called "Soft Machine."  
I've exhibited my work at Allentown's Muhlenberg College, 
which is how the gallery director, Eva Di Orio, found me.

We leave the city behind us in a sullen mist.

The New Jersey "Meadowlands" are one part meadow, fifty parts not meadow.

The remains of the old Penn Station lie around here somewhere - one of the most beautiful buildings ever torn down to make way for one of the ugliest.  A social crime.
Old Penn Station, new Penn Station (stock photos)

 New Jersey may be the garden state, but here in the Meadowlands 
plants don't produce tomatoes.
Comments from Frank:  "Actually, elsewhere in NJ, they do. The great 'truck' gardens of Jersey produce fabulous tomatoes ( really). One hears of these red tangy round treats boasted about in Paris, albeit by pompous, bloated, jerkoff American a-holes - yeah, nothing like those Jersey tomatoes! - all the more annoying because there is a kernel of truth in their guttural ravings!"

We travel on a Trans-Bridge bus, and I can't believe my eyes when I see this 
bizarre logo on the rear end - isn't this kind of cartoonish stereotyping, if not illegal, at least 
really stupid?  

Hi - Yo, the Indian scout?  I've found a website that tells the grim tale like it is:

Going through Bethlehem, we see the dramatic remains of the old steel mills.
Industry, we hardly knew ye...

(stock photo)
 The good ol' days of molten metal, when men were men...

Next we breeze through Easton, a stately town, even in the rain.

The bus makes numerous stops - at Clinton our driver announces that the man in the front seat is going to get off and buy a ticket, so nobody better take his seat because, sez Mr. Driver,  "he'll be seriously bent out of shape, and I'll be even more bent out of shape.  
Somebody'll be sorry, and it's not going to be me!
Frank and I puzzle over his meaning.

As we enter Pennsylvania, I look up and meditate on a gigantic cloud-flower.

Then I look down and meditate on a gigantic problem, depressing evidence of an voracious vine invading the east coast, taking it down one plant at a time.  I've seen it in Montauk, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, and now Pennsylvania.  I can't find the exact name of the vine 
(anyone know?), but it's not unlike another invasive monster called the 
"Mile-a-Minute" vine, which is pretty descriptive.  It climbs onto other plants and trees, rare or common, steals their sun and their nutrients.  Like kudzu in the south, it's a greedy green demon obliterating the world, leaving a bizzare, blunted and sterile landscape behind.  
This plant has snaky tendrils that wave in the wind, sticking up like the fingers of wicked witch of the west, searching for prey.  Come here, my pretty!  
Let me devour you!

We enter Allentown - later we hear that parking lots are a major growth industry.

A tree grows in Allentown.

We visit Katie Heffel in her amazing space right next to the bus station, 
75,000 square feet of old factory space that she's planning to set up for use by artists.
Wow!  See her website for further info: http://silkcitystudios.com/ and also her blog: http://silkcityarts.blogspot.com/
Right now she's putting on a screening of video artists, including yours truly.

She takes us on a tour that goes on forever!  Allentown is wide open with tons of old factory space available.  Now if they would only reinstall train service, just like in the days before virtually the entire commuter rail system was dismantled in favor of highways, 
about the same time the old Penn Station was torn down...
Here is the gallery space called "Soft Machine" where I am showing three pieces in their 
second-ever show.  A beautiful space, full of light and art.  They have built a room 
within a room, called the Tube, 
where my piece "Gravitational Fields" is displayed.

Frank carefully studies the business card of the contractor in charge of renovating the building.

Good conversation at the opening

while the sun sets outside the window.

Later, we go to downtown Allentown where strange characters fill the sidewalks in the 
fabulous "Freak Fest."

where we have a glass of wine and wach fire dancing to the music of "Post Sputnik."

We stay overnight at the Holiday Inn with its helpful pool warnings and plastic trees.

Numerous houses in the area are surrounded by parking lots.

On our way back, we see the swollen Delaware.

In Bethlehem we come upon the remnants of a parade: 
the Latin American Motorcycle Association, and 

and a lnie of cars labeled MAFIA and emblazoned with the Puerto Rican flag.

Back in the Meadowlands, it appears the sun never shines.
In his song "State Trooper" Bruce Springsteen called this area
"where the great black rivers flow."
(Frank argues this point, saying that the rivers Springsteen referenced were further west.)

Our Transbridge bus flows right past all these cars, 
maybe because Hi-Yo is guiding us.  
Maybe they could use another tunnel to NYC, oh, wait, NJ's brilliant Guv' Chris Christie nixed that one.

Back in the big city.  A three hour bus ride for a 90 mile trip!  Why are there no westbound trains????
Well, thanks all you Allentownians for a fabulous and iteresting trip!


  1. Glad you enjoyed your trip to my hometown! I'm familiar with the space Katie is working in, but will look into it further. Thanks for the post.

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