104 Montclair, NJ: Divisions

[Downtown Montclair]

My friend Sean had driven me over from his house in Weehawken to visit Montclair. As advertised, Montclair felt like a town that was both a suburb and a dying industrial city or inner city with troubles.

The upper part of town (literally the north end and on a hill) that we drove through to get to the museum had big homes, cafes, book stores, plastic surgery centers, SUVs in the driveways, and people wearing sweaters that read "Dartmouth" and "Bucknell." Downtown, chain stores filled Montclair's old storefronts. We passed a lot of arts-related businesses or organizations. A furniture store was housed in what looked like it was once an art deco cinema from the golden age of theaters that Hopper painted. The Bohemian Restaurant looked like it was named for the ethnicity but now might refer to locals' lifestyle.

When we got to the other side of town, we found shorter streets, smaller rundown houses carved up into apartments, rusty cars, and the Baptist church. We had come here for Sean's favorite soul-food place, but it was closed, so we went next door to a place advertising "original St. Louis cuisine." Posters of St. Louis's athletic teams and African American entertainers adorned the buff-paneled walls. The service was St. Louis slow, too, though, and after waiting 20 minutes without anyone taking our order, Sean and I left.

Just as the Hopper painting here was one that failed to capture my interest, so too was the town.

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