Always check the crime stats before you go

from East Orange...

from East Orange...

Friends who are familiar with my penchant for risk-taking will not be surprised at this story. The conversation with them usually goes like this:

Me: description of my day.
Concerned friend: You could have been killed.
Me: Yes, but I wasn’t.
Concerned friend: You could have been killed.
Me: How was your day?

Yes, I’m kind of stupid. To begin our road trip, Dan is driving down from Boston and picking me up on the way. I took the train to East Orange, believing it to be a perfect place to meet – right on the Garden State Parkway and right on New Jersey Transit. But Dan was hitting major traffic and the wait was now going to be two hours.

..to South Orange

..to South Orange

While it is a beautiful place to walk around with quaint houses and snow-covered parks, East Orange is not a fantastic place for a white person to wait for two hours holding a laptop, lots of money, and a suitcase. Most of the delis on the main street said “open 24 hrs” and were boarded shut. I should have checked the crime stats and that would have been clear. Ahmoud, the guy at the pizza place, told me in his first breath that this was a “very dangerous place.” We had a nice conversation, though, and I think it would have been perfectly fine had it not been a Sunday and all of the stores closed. Here’s another interesting blog post on travel to East Orange.

I tend to think that the actual risks of being in so-called “dangerous places” are tremendously overblown, but being as conspicuous as I was I switched locations. Thanks to the ineffable Mark Grabiner, I discovered that just three miles (!!) away was South Orange, an upscale suburb with literally five cafes in view of the train station. I’ve gone from a deserted pizza place in an impoverished area to a high-end waffle shop with wifi, 3 miles apart. It’s a fucked up little world we inhabit.

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