Everywhere you look in Linden there’s a dead zone.All the while people are zipping along in their cars, riding on trains, running for busses and intensely living their lives in the seams between the dead spaces.Don’t get me wrong, I like Linden and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the city and getting to know a few people who call it home.But it is very different from what I’m used to. It would be hard for me to settle there.
First, consider the enormous expanse of parklike cemeteries, stretching from the east side of Linden Avenue across Route One to Morse Creek, where another dead zone begins; the Bayway Oil Refinery, where plants do not grow!The cemeteries and the refinery are within sight of one another across Route One.The cemeteries are full of trees, birds, flowers, small animals, shrubs and lawns, but there aren’t many people who are alive there to appreciate it.The barren tank farms and catalytic crackers of the refinery operate 24/7/365, providing gasoline, diesel, heating oil, agri chemicals and plastics to a huge region.After 1909, when Standard Oil fired up the first distillation device (back when it was called a “still”), the Morse Creek and everything in it died from the toxic byproducts in the crude oil.When 576,000 gallons of fuel leaked into the Arthur Kill downstream in 1990, Exxon argued that they should pay no reparations because everything in the spill zone was already dead.They settled for $15M and three years later sold the refinery to Tosco Corporation (now Phillips 66).If a disaster takes place in the cemeteries, perhaps the operators would try to make the same argument since their resident customers are all bereft of life.
There are more automotive graveyards in Linden than anyone in the city would ever need.All up and down Route One there are blocks of auto wreckers, truck repair shops, used tire garages, junkyards, and used car lots. Bring out your dead and bring them to Linden!That’s the credo in this Requiem.
There are so many obsolete things in Linden that are rotting, disused, abandoned, disregarded, rusting and falling down that it gets overwhelming.I’m usually enthusiastic when I see some patina on a building or spy some vintage machinery, but there’s so much decay, dirt and disorder at every turn, it eventually wore me down.
Maybe cities like Linden are why people say they hate Route One.I get it.They must pass through them in order to get where they’re going, but they don’t like to be reminded of death and ugliness.I have a friend who told me that she used to cry as a child when she traveled past the Bayway Refinery because it smelled so awful.As she wept, she wonderedhow could anyone live there?
The rancid smell came from the largest catalytic cracker in the world.Built in 1943, it was essential to helping the Allies to victory in World War II by providing high-octane aviation fuel, diesel fuel, and butyl rubber.Since then, it has supported our domestic lifestyle with gasoline, fuel oil, fertilizers and specialty chemicals.Looking around Linden, it is easy to see the enormous cost of our industrial progress since the 19th Century. Love it or hate it, it deserves a look.Linden should be acknowledged as an integral part of our cultural and economic fabric, even though it might be easier to roll up the windows, look away and speed up a little until you get past the stink.
The music, “Refinery” by Topher Jones is an electronic dance music track released in 2007.Even though Jones is from Belgium, I thought the droning, throbbing, pulsing qualities were a fitting tribute to all that is still alive in Linden.
Here’s a strange factoid addendum…. In 2009, to the surprise of many, a disoriented Florida manatee named Ilya was found swimming in Morses Creek following a Nor’Easter storm. It was theorized that the warm water from the Bayway Refinery may have attracted him there to seek shelter. Ilya was successfully and returned to Florida- not via Route One, but in a C-130 cargo plane. Sadly, he was killed by a watercraft in the Florida Keys in July, 2019.
Peter Evans NJ Linden Sep 09, 2022 Cemeteries Factories Nature