That turned out to be quite glorious. Well, I exaggerate for comedic effect, as so many people throughout my life have failed to understand. I made it over to Journal Square in Jersey City to do some payphone hunting. In particular I saw an image somewhere a long time ago that showed an old wood phone booth at a place called… P.J. Carney’s, I think? Jeez, I already forgot the name. No no it was P.J. Ryan’s, that’s it. And to be precise it was P.J. Ryan’s Squared, which is their second of two locations in Jersey City. I thought I went to the wrong one because the place just did not feel old enough to have a phone booth. But there it was, right by the front door. Inside was a non-working rotary dial phone… not a payphone.

Mission accomplished, a tiny bit of joy achieved, but I wasn’t done. I walked over to John F. Kennedy Boulevard, which I take to be a main strip in that area, and found a surprising quantity of working phones. I think I found five working and 2 not. That’s a lot of phones for what looks like not even a half mile of road. Most were owned by NewTel, a payphone service provider whose phones are relatively common in this part of the country. I saw a few NewTels in Atlantic City and Philadelphia but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one around here even though they say they are based in New York.

NewTel is known to me as the company that most brazenly blankets its phones with stickers encouraging you to call toll free numbers which would connect you to people who will help you find Food Stamps, Suicide Prevention, Alcoholics Anonymous, and other cheerless services. These calls, which are free or the caller, earn NewTel (or whoever owns the payphone) about 50 cents per call. This explains why some payphone owners so aggressively encourage users to call these numbers. That 50 cent charge, known in the industry as “Dialaround Compensation”, is paid by the company or entity that owns the toll-free number.

I’ve heard from reliable sources, however, that the only two entities still processing payments for these calls — the American Public Communications Council and the Payphone Clearinghouse — are most likely going to cease doing this sometime next year, if not sooner. It is not clear what would happen next but it might be possible that payphone owners solicit these payments themselves.

I got to Journal Square via the World Trade Center, where I saw for the first time the antiseptically squeaky clean space called OCULUS. It felt like the moon base from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I stayed just long enough to feel like the place just never ended. I had seen Oculus from outside a number of times. My first thought then, as now, is that it looks like an enormous, unpleasantly spikey vagina. Like a lot of people I find that once a thought like this enters my mind it will never go away. Lamentations, then, for the designers of the Georgia Peach Diner on Queens Boulevard. I have seen that illustration as an accidental vagina ever since someone pointed the uncanny resemblance to me over 10 years ago.

I did not open my eyes to it until I was heading out but that area around Journal Square was pretty seedy. As in, what the hell was I even doing there? Oh, right. Payphone hunting. There was some interesting architecture around, with a standout being the old STANLEY theater. There was also a striking old LOEW’S movie theater, but I think it might have been closed or renovation.

But all in all I might have been wise to keep my visit to the original plan of just hitting up the P.J. Ryan’s, which is basically right in the PATH station.

Earlier I got scammed by what might be the only payphone at the World Trade Center. This phone was not in the hyper modern Oculus but, perhaps more appropriately, in the subway station below. This phone swallowed to of my hard-earned quarters before failing to connect my call. Scandal at the WTC!

OK, then, time to go home and leave this ghetto coffee shop to its ghetto night ahead.

Here is a decapitated plastic doll I spotted the floor at a Goodwill store in Journal Square. Taking the picture and slipping the camera back into my pocket felt like I had stolen something. Maybe I had.

Decapitated Doll at a Goodwill Store, Journal Square

Decapitated Doll at a Goodwill Store, Journal Square