I grew up in Paterson, NJ, and I wouldn’t change that for anything, I mean, within reason. It was one of the best experiences I ever had. I don’t really know about now but back then, it was everything. Equal parts beautiful, diverse, exciting and dangerous (in some parts more than others). Not Crips and bloods dangerous, but enough to get your adrenaline flowing at times. Low income but high in neighborly treatment. House parties every weekend, block parties at times, your occasional, considering that occasional can mean almost daily, fist fight for your common dumb ass reason but not many shootings. Hardly any. You know what it meant when people circled, (toke toke pass) and for the record I never toked there, just passed. “More for me” was the common theme, no peer pressure. We weren’t rich so sharing was definitely a must. One joint for about 8 to 10 people. If the schools were better, I would have raised my child there. Not because of the fighting but because of the diversity and in some small sense the adversity. It really shapes people. If you can handle it, it will definitely make you a better person. People can live in their segregated, fenced in, barricaded neighborhoods, but they don’t know what they’re missing, albeit they will also wake up with nothing missing (in their home), which is a plus, I mentioned Paterson was a poorer neighborhood, but they will always be this scared, less adventurous, cynical of different people type person. They will have these perceptions of people that live in these towns that aren’t justified but are perpetuated because of a few rotten apples, like wall street guys aren’t worse. Some of those guys will steal the gold off your fillings if you fall asleep wrong. They do make gold fillings right because in Paterson they were aluminum spray painted gold. No, Paterson was an amazing experience, at least when I was growing up. From the drag races by Universal (the factory complex, not where Mickey Mouse lives, is it Mickey Mouse or?) to watching Kennedy beat some other HS football team and the the fist fight afterwards. To the house parties that lasted until 6 the next morning to doing the walk to your favorite diner with your buddies, which simply means going out at around 11 at night and walking to the diner for a glass water while we bullshitted, ours was the 7/11 (I know that’s not a diner, I did say we were dirt poor, right). Here are some luminaries of Paterson: (not necessarily born there but raised there or hung out there (or maybe drove through there?))

Bruce Arians (born 1952), head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jacob Bigeleisen (1919–2010), chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project on techniques to extract uranium-235 from uranium ore. (First time someone from Paterson “extracts” something and doesn’t get arrested)

Gaetano Bresci (1869–1901), weaver and anarchist, assassinated Italian king Umberto I (can’t all be great but how many cities can boast that one of their alums killed a King)

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1937–2014), boxer whose triple murder conviction was later overturned, subject of the Bob Dylan song “Hurricane” and the movie The Hurricane

Lou Costello (1906–1959), comedian, actor and producer and part of the comedy duo Abbott and Costello (used to be a boxer, no joke)

Larry Doby (1923–2003), Hall of Fame Major League Baseball player and manager who broke the color barrier in the American League

Edward L. Masry (1932–2005), attorney whose firm was behind the case featured in Erin Brockovich

Greg Olsen (born 1985), tight end for the Carolina Panthers

Joseph D. Pistone (born 1939), FBI agent and author who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family, as described in the film Donnie Brasco (grew up there and it served him well)

Frankie Ruiz (1958–1998), salsa music singer (everybody knows Frankie)

That’s to name a few…. Gaetano was a dear friend or would have been if he didn’t die in prison in 1901. Ahhh, the joking around while plotting coups and drinking espressos. He was a kidder that one, don’t let his anarchy paint him the wrong color. He had a light side…. I have no idea what I’m talking about. All I know is that he offed a King…. pretty crazy. Paterson, you learn all kind of skills and you’ll never know who you will meet, generally, I mean don’t hang out in alleys at night or you’ll meet a mugger, but besides that it was plenty diverse.