Newark. The name sounds like a strangled, abortive attempt to say New York, with most of the letters in their proper places but the sound coming out like a drunken hiccup all the same. People make jokes about New Jersey’s lack of sophistication as compared to its neighbor across the way, and it’s Newark where those jibes find their fullest expression: the miniature skyline, the LaGuardia-in-a-can that is their airport…it’s like a Manhattan where all the positives are stunted and all the (many) negatives cast giant shadows.

As a native, I feel justified in talking about my hometown this way, and I’m not alone. You don’t see people with the Woody Allen/George Gershwin attachment to Newark that you do in our cousin. For the record, if it helps, I think that attitude toward New York overlooks a whole of of rotting garbage on the sidewalk and knifings in the park, but people seem to be content in letting them have their delusions, so I won’t argue.

If New York is the abusive codependent that you keep crawling back to no matter how it mistreats you, Newark is the uncle that hits you with his belt but also draws the only paycheck in the family so he gets away with it. My hometown gets things done, shipping and flying and such that beknighted Manhattan wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. We take in people who can’t afford the dream across the river, give them menial jobs, and spit them out like used chewing gum.

It was at the tail end of my own personal chewing and spitting that I was asked–well, told–to move something rather sensitive from the airport in Newark to a waiting fancy hotel in lower Manhattan just off Wall Street. I had one hour.

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