Greg says he has an uncle from Cherry Hill.

 

 

I grew up in central New Jersey...a small town called Middlesex. They manufactured some sort of atomic bomb part there, timers or something. There are huge areas of the town that are dug out and fenced off. This is where my friends and I would play when we were young...the contaminated land provided ideal hills to sled down! The land provided an ideal place to hide and rummage around. Besides, it didn't make much of a difference because they built the Catholic church I attended on an overlooked contaminated sight! They stuck the dug up contaminated dirt in some junkyard, ineffectually covered with plastic tarp held down with tires. I lived a couple blocks from the junkyard. I lived a block away from Lincoln Blvd. which was the long factory strip. In the 80's these factories were constantly blowing up, everyone evacuated. In the summer there was always a sickly smell of synthetic vanilla and latex. The town had a 'duck pond', some pathetic hole where kids would fish and feed the ducks. Factories upstream on the Raritan River would dump some crap in the river every couple years and it would kill off everything in the town's beloved pond. Joe O., some half-wit Special Ed kid, would entertain everyone by going out into the middle of the pond, find a floating carcass of a fish and take a meaty bite out of it.

When I was eleven or so, I started hanging out in the woods...my new home. Chris K. and I would drag various garbage into the woods and set it on fire. Sometimes we made dummies of kids we hated and set them on fire. We once found a headless doll with a pentagram scrawled on its chest...we set that on fire in glee! Someone threw their bowel movement in the fire...it didn't smell very good. Chris's mother would always comment that we smelled like smoke. Our excuse always was that we were hanging out with Paul O., an older burn-out kid who smoked cigarettes. Paul was an epileptic, if I remember right.

Around age 12, with the introduction of heavy metal and newly sprouted pubic hair, lighting fires wasn't enough. Over the scummy little stream that divided Middlesex and Greenbrook, some guy raised chickens. Chris's new obsession was to go across the bridge and try to slaughter as many chickens as he could. I never went along, I thought it was a terrible idea. I would wait under the bridge feeling bad, but also laughing at the squak squak of chickens running around and the occasional scream coming from Chris. Chris always came back empty-handed...he was a scrawny bony and gawky and couldn't even hurt a chicken! He soon recruited Joe O. to join in on the chicken killing party time. Armed with a can of blue spray paint and a machete, not even Joe O. could kill a chicken...he only managed to spray paint one blue.

One time Chris and I were collecting crawdads under the bridge. He collected a huge handful, went to the top of the bridge and threw them at the a passing pick-up truck. The truck immediately screached to a stop and we went running down the hill into the woods with some beefy white trash running after us yelling, "YOU FUCKING KIDS!". We hid out in the woods, holding in our laughter as he fumbled around looking for us, cursing "YOU FUCKING KIDS". After an hour he went back to his crawdad splattered truck.

There was an old abandoned nursery next to the woods. They rented out a few houses on the land, a few of them being vacant. Chris and I would break into these houses. In one small house we found a soiled pair of Wrangler jeans, a Mr. Bill t-shirt, some tampons. We broke into the greenhouse which had a basement full of 1950's equipment and a closet full of homemade wine. We didn't drink the wine, the caps were all rusted, the bottles covered in filth. Joe stole a huge old chainsaw out of the supply cage. He took it back in the woods and stuffed leaves in the gas tank. We made a little clubhouse out of a fertilizer shed, hung up Playboy pictures. We would go and smoke cigarettes there in the summertime, whiffing up the sweet corrosive smell of fertilizer. There was a green abandoned trailer there as well. We broke in through the back, having to slide through the piss and come stained mattresses stored there. It seemed this family suddenly decided to leave one day, because everything was in its original place...calendar on the wall (1981), suit in the closet, silverwear in the drawers. It eventually got destroyed by Joe who smashed all the windows in with his machete. Joe went on a rampage and decided to smash everything. Someone called the cops and we hid on the roof of one of the buildings, fleas and bugs dropping down on us.

There was a fake leather couch somewhere along the path that went through the woods. We would sit and smoke cigarettes on it. One time I decided to throw my cigarette on the couch and walk away. The pleather quickly ignited. It felt good walking away, knowing that I was going to cause a lot of damage. I went back a few hours later and the couch was a charred skeleton, 50 feet of surrounding brush was burnt black.

- Gregory Jacobsen

 

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