Union Terminal Cold Storage lobsters catch Pudge

Pudge was a relatively rare bird — an overweight junkie. He lived up in the Heights near Barney’s candy store. When I first met Pudge he was doing deliveries to office buildings for a Journal Square restaurant, until typewriters began to walk out the door, anyhow. His next job was pumping gas just outside the Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel.

One Friday afternoon, a tractor-trailer hauling lobster tails got to Union Terminal Cold Storage just to late to be unloaded, and so had to layover on Henderson Street. Led into temptation by visons of $100 a case freight, early Saturday morning Pudge trudged over from the Shell station and popped the lock on the truck. Opportunity was not as easy as it had seemed; a security detail was watching. The guard car came speeding down 12th Street. Alert to the changed circumstances, Pudge dropped his burglar tools and sprinted into the Holiday Inn parking lot with the trucking company guards nearly nipping at his heels. Fat as he was, Pudge outran them, got inside of the motel and there disappeared.

The Jersey City Police, Port Authority Police and the Holiday Inn watchmen searched for Pudge, but could not find him.

Anybody else — any normal person — who’d had such a close call would be praying wherever they were hiding. Praying, “Please, dear God, have mercy an’ I promises t’ never do anytin’ like dis again!” Not Pudge. That evening, just after sunset Pudge did the if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed routine. This time, a beefed-up patrol had guys out of sight in a number of locations. After beginning to work on the lock, Pudge spotted security headed towards him and began to run away — right into the arms of a guard approaching from the opposite direction.

Every time I walked past the courthouse on Newark Avenue that summer, I’d see Pudge out front with a lawn mower.

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Lucky Sheehan and Ambiance

One particularly unusual day at the Tunnel Bar was the Saturday afternoon that a bodybuilder (male) walked in wearing a pink dress. He proceeded to skip about the place. He announced in an exaggerated voice that he was struck by the tavern’s unique ambiance and intended to stay until closing.

This was the early-80s; diversity had quite definite limits in Downtown Jersey City. I was concerned that the new arrival’s interactions with the locals might tend to the tempestuous. I informed the visitor that Saturday was an early day and so I was going to lock up in a few minutes. He replied that he just loved the area’s architecture and wanted me to provide like a tour or something. Just then a crud-encrusted wino known as Lucky Sheehan made his appearance. I told the tourist that I really didn’t know the neighborhood, but Lucky had lived here all his life and could be his guide. Lucky whispered something in his ear. The delicately attired muscleman said “Thanks, but no thanks” and then left.

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Deadlier than the male?

The wife of a truck driver at White Rose Frozen food — where Don Nagle, karate expert and Jersey City Police officer had a part-time job — drank in my father’s tavern on Henderson St. and in the bar down the block on Grove St. One day, displaying wear and tear, she bounced into my father’s bar. I asked her what had happened. It seemed that she’d caused some sort of ruckus in the other dive and the police had been called. Probably knowing that her husband was a local guy and so not wanting to place the woman under arrest, the uniformed cops took her to St. Lucy’s Church, where it turns out Don Nagle had a secret office. Don was there with a few undercover police. The woman told him that she wanted to leave. Don told here that she was going to stay there until her husband retrieved her. She then spontaneously launched an attack on Don Nagle, grabbing him by the hair. The other police jumped up to pull her off of Don. In the ensuing melee, she escaped and proceeded to the Tunnel Bar for R&R.

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Whenever a wino new to the neighborhood bounced in to buy a bottle of Thunderbird

Whenever a wino new to the neighborhood bounced in to buy a bottle of Thunderbird, before bagging, I’d carefully cradle the flask in my hand while scrutinizing the label. I’d then say, “My, December 12th . . . That was a very good week.”

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Bookmaking was considered a profession in Jersey City PG (Pre-Gentrification).

After the publication of an unauthorized biography of Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop appeared on a television talk show as an apologist. He explained that even though what was printed might be “facts,” the truth was so stretched that it was no longer recognizable. The host asked for an example. Bishop said that the author wrote that Sinatra’s uncle was a bookie and has that down like it was a bad thing. Back in the old neighborhood, bookmaking was considered a profession.

The mark of a profession is specialization and so it was in Jersey City. Numbers (the illegal lottery) runners didn’t work sports or horses — with rare exceptions. My father was one of these Jersey City PG (Pre Gentrification) professionals. (He’d profess with pride the mention of “the three O brothers” in the Kefauver Crime Hearings the way someone from the Back Bay might casually mention both grandmothers being DAR.) As luck would have it, someone quite a few notches up from the regular “quarta straight an’ a dime box an’ I’ll even up with ya on the foist” clientele started stopping by my father’s candy store everyday and playing what were fairly substantial amounts for the time, and paying then and there in cash. One day the Jersey City gentleman asked if he could place a bet on a basketball game. My father was about to say that he didn’t handle sports, but then thought that sending a good customer away was not the best of ideas. Instead he’d just accept the wager and then as a service walk around the corner and hand it over to one of the many other industrious individuals, each with their own niche, that were all over the Downtown Jersey City of the time.

After the novice gambler left, someone hanging out asked, “Big Boy, you’se takin’ sports now?”

“Nah, I’m just gonna han’ it over ta Crazy Charlie. This new guy’s so good like, I didn’ wanna do nothin’ to chase ‘im.”

“Lemme tell you somethin’ abou’ tha’ guy. When it comes to basketball, he’s like uncanny. Whud’evah team he bets on is like cursed an’ they’s jus’ boun’ ta lose. If I’s was you, I would’n even botha throwin’ over the bet.”

“Thanks, but he gave it ta me so I gotta place it.”

Walking to the sports bookie, on a whim my father decided to test his friend’s advice and go instead with the opposing team. As the season wore on with bet after bet, the basketball fan proved indeed to be followed by a dark cloud. With one or two rule-proving exceptions (paid out of pocket), every pick — even those that seemed well thought out — worked only if spun 180 degrees.

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The Jersey City PG (Pre-Gentrification) plan – Buy now, pay never

Once someone makes the existential choice of substance abuse, next is the practical matter of financing this new lifestyle. Since in Jersey City PG (Pre-Gentrification) rock stars and heiresses were few and far between, adventurous locals had to rely on their own ingenuity.

One imaginative fellow somehow got hold of an expensive looking suit and a late model Cadillac. He then proceeded to a Journal Square jewelry store and made certain that the clerk saw the car parked nearby. After being shown a diamond ring, the director and star of this little drama simply grabbed the pricey item and ran out the door, leaving the car behind as a puzzle for the police. Wending his way to the North Bergen cliff-side home of a dealer in rare powders — one known as T — he exchanged the glittering stone and its gold band for $225 worth of cocaine.

T — always wanting to impress the ladies with his prowess (intellectual or otherwise) — related to a female companion that he’d very quickly sold the ring for thousands of dollars. As luck would have it, the pretty Miss also knew the original acquirer and told him the tale. A feud ensued, Hudson County’s own little ring saga of the gutters, that ended with both T’s and the thief’s arrest.

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The Protohippy’s can of worms

Back before the dump behind the Statue of Liberty’s back had been turned into a state Park, the Protohippy (as luck would have it, a first cousin to the Uberhippy) was on one of his bench warming breathers between stretches of serious crime and hard time. He’d taken his son to the wasteland on the Hudson for a day of fishing. The Protohippy got a shovel from the trunk of his car and began to dig in the grainy, grimy soil in a search for worms to use as bait. He unearthed an old these-boots-are-made-for-walking example of feminine footwear. Sliding the flat metal of the shovel under the boot, he lifted it out of the hole and then tossed it to one side. As the dirt inside the upper portion of the leather crumbled and fell out, a human leg bone was to be seen.

As the sense of honor of career criminals finds particular outrage in violence against women and children, the Protohippy did something that he’d regularly would not; he called the police. Once the cops determined who it was that had summoned them to the scene, the Protohippy found himself in handcuffs being brought to the station.

After a day of questioning, the Jersey City Police were certain that the Protohippy had indeed just happened upon the grisly find. When they went to release him, long after the first officer had gone off duty, it was found that none of the standard keys would work in the cuffs. For some hours more, calls were made to various precincts to find some way to release the prisoner. Finally, a motorcycle cop was located who said that he had keys that would open anything. Anything is very hard to prove, but he did have a key for the cuffs on the wrists of the Protohippy that day.

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Roger Rajesh Chugh has found himself back in cyberspace, and he’s not happy about it.

An embarrassment returns to the Web
Republican ‘remakes’ state official’s ex-site

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Star-Ledger Staff

Roger Rajesh Chugh has found himself back in cyberspace, and he’s not happy about it.

Chugh, the No. 3 official in New Jersey’s Department of State, shut down his personal Web site in March after it became an embarrassment for Gov. James E. McGreevey, who appointed him. The site had exaggerated Chugh’s stature in state government and included personal-ad-style descriptions of his appearance and his fondness for Broadway shows and candlelit dinners.

Now the Web site is back, under new ownership — and what looks at first glance like self-promotion is actually a mocking reminder of the flap. It has photos of Chugh and glowing words about him (“Read Roger Chugh’s inspirational biography!”), but also includes news articles and commentary critical of him.

“Somebody’s playing dirty,” Chugh said.

The McGreevey administration is trying to figure out if there’s any way to make it go away. The Governor’s office has asked the attorney general’s staff to review the matter.

The new proprietor of the site is Anthony Olszewski, who ran the Web pages for Republican Bret Schundler’s campaign for governor last year. Olszewski picked up the rights to the Internet address (www.rogerchugh.com) for $15 a year after Chugh let it lapse.

“Everything is legal. I have no plans to take it down,” said Olszewski, a registered Republican from Jersey City. He said he has never met Chugh, and Chugh said he does not know Olszewski.

Schundler and the state Republican Party said they have nothing to do with the site.

“Nobody suggested I produce the site; nobody paid me,” said Olszewski. And he asked sarcastically why the Democratic administration is unhappy about it.

“Is there something wrong with me pointing out he (Chugh) still works for the state?” said the Web operator. “If they’re ashamed of that, I don’t blame them. But I don’t see how it’s illegal for me to point that out.”

Kevin Davitt, a spokesman for McGreevey, suggested the site’s new operator may be violating the law by including a link to New Jersey’s official state Web site.

“Obviously it’s disturbing — possibly illegal,” Davitt said. “It’s absolutely deceiving.”

But cyber-law expert Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University in Manhattan, said there is almost no way for government officials to control who links to their site, and it appears that nothing was done inappropriately when Olszewski obtained the Chugh Web address.

“They probably have to suck it up and live with it,” Moglen said.

Olszewski runs a number of Web sites, including an unofficial Jersey City site (www.getnj.com), and previously worked on Web pages for Schundler’s unsuccessful campaign against McGreevey.

Coincidentally, Schundler’s former site (www.Bret2001.com) also has been taken over by an outsider — it’s now being used as a come-on for sexually explicit material.

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City Web site under police investigation

City Web site under police investigation

Originally appeared in The Jersey Journal

By Daniel Schiff
Journal staff writer


Jersey City’s official Web site is now the focus of a police investigation.

The Jersey Journal reported in Saturday’s editions that www.cityofjerseycity.com, the municipal government’s official site, had a banner promoting former Mayor Bret Schundler’s campaign for governor on its Liberty State Park page link. As of 10 p.m. Friday, the banner linking computer users directly to Bret2001.com was still on the site.

But by Saturday, those hoping to log on to the city’s Web site were unsuccessful. The site was down, and remained unreachable as of last night.

Mayor Glenn Cunningham yesterday said that the Jersey City Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit is now looking into not only who posted the political banner on the city government site, but is also probing the mysterious disappearance of technical equipment used for operating the Web site.

“Whoever put up the banner was wrong,” Cunningham said. “It’s not legal to put up a political statement on an official city site.”

Cunningham denied the possibility that Bret Schundler’s campaign was involved with the Web ad or the missing equipment.

“It’s the work of a zealot,” he said.

A Schundler spokesman said last week that they (the Schundler campaign) had nothing to do with the posting of the banner on the site.

Cunningham spokesman Bill Ayala attributed the sudden shut-down of the city’s site to a routine update. He said the site had been scheduled to be down as early as Friday so that the city’s new webmaster could update the site for the new administration. As of Friday night, the site still listed Schundler as the mayor.

Ayala said the site will remain down for several days.

The flashing, multi-colored banner ad appeared at the top of a page that details the history of Liberty State Park, and says, “wanna stop paying Parkway tolls?” In an instant, it changes messages, reading, “Vote. Schundler 2001.” Those who clicked on the flashing message were taken to the Schundler campaign’s official site, Bret2001.com.

A number of users who accessed the site were upset to see Schundler’s ad, which many suspect was placed on the site just before Cunningham entered office on July 1. Still, Cunningham is trying to downplay the incident’s importance.

“It’s number 51 on my list of important items for the city,” he said.

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Seventh Grade Art Class

One afternoon during seventh grade, I was in the art room with a few of my classmates (all guys). We were talking with the instructor and somehow the subject turned to photography. He said that what he found particularly interesting was that it was a completely new art form. While speaking, he placed an 8 X 10 black and white photo on the table. It was a nude shot of his girlfriend standing by the bathtub. For some reason or reasons unknown, one philistine brought this to the attention of his grandmother. The next day, she phoned the school’s principal and (in tears we were later told) reported the incident. So ended this phase of my cultural edification.

The art teacher really was very talented. Another photo that he showed us was what he considered to be his best painting to date. Mediterranean wine jugs in brilliant colors danced on the canvas. Nearly forty-five years later, in my mind I can see that just as clearly as the image of the pretty brunette.

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The Irish Sweepstakes

When I was a kid, now and again there was talk of distant relatives winning the Irish Sweepstakes. Nobody ever actually knew one of the lucky; it always was a cousin of an aunt’s in-laws who’d emigrated to Australia. I don’t remember anyone betting on it either, though the illegal lottery was Jersey City’s traditional cottage industry and my family’s business.

There was a scam where people would receive letters that they’d won the Irish Sweepstakes, but needed first to pay some sort of custom duty before receiving a check.

An imaginative local soul purchased a gizmo that allowed transmission over a nearby radio. His mother was using the vacuum cleaner while listening to her favorite shows. He announced from the next room, “We interrupt our broadcast for important news: Mrs. McGillicuddy of Jersey City has won the Irish Sweepstakes!” She then — vacuum still in hand — rushed to tell her son of fortune’s favorable turn. Seeing the microphone and his mirthful grin, an enraged Mrs. McGillicuddy proceeded to thrash him with the vacuum cleaner hose. Now incapacitated by fits of laughter, the apprentice to comedy was unable to make a retreat.

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Only those with experience should apply

Back in the mid-1980s, I was walking to the Tunnel Diner in Jersey City from the 15th Street side. A car came up 14th Street from the direction of the exit of the Holland Tunnel and sped into the diner’s parking lot. A small group of young people popped out of the car. Two proceeded to drag a very unconscious young woman off of the back seat and onto the asphalt. Two others ran into the diner and began to yell.

“Call an ambulance! Call an ambulance!”

Paulie, a veteran heroin user, just happened to be having coffee at the counter.

He got up and looked out the window at the hysterical women standing over their fallen comrade. Paulie went over to the take-out section.

“Gimme a big cup a’ water with lots ov ice.”

“We don’t sell no cups a’ . . .”

“Git outta my way, y’a ape!”

Paulie pushed past the diner counterman, grabbed a big plastic cup, filled it with ice from a bin and then cold water out of a little tap. He walked out the door and over to the woman lying on her back on the ground. He unbuttoned her blouse. Those standing nearby now began to shriek mindlessly. Paulie poured the ice and water all over the woman’s chest. He stood back. Like Lazarus heeding Christ’s call, the figure suddenly sat upright and looked around in confusion. The friends helped her up and, with ice cascading from her hips, back into the car. The two in the diner ran out and jumped into the car. They all took off, heading up 14th Street and towards the Turnpike.

I was still inside waiting for a coffee to go when Paulie returned.

“Damned kids don’t know how to maneuver.”

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