Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Real Fountains of Wayne

A couple of weeks ago I downloaded the new Fountains of Wayne CD, Traffic and Weather. I don't normally go in much for pop music (although technically Fountains of Wayne are considered "alternative." Or are they "indie"? That shows how much I know.) Anyway, it's somewhat unusual that I should download an entire album like this but I like their music. I like the urban imagery and sometimes ironic commentary of their lyrics. But perhaps what really resonates with me is their name. You see, I grew up not 20 minutes from the actual Fountains of Wayne. Yes, it's a real place. They sell Fountains. In Wayne. New Jersey, that is.

Fountains of Wayne has something of a cult status in North Jersey so it makes sense that the band, which originated in New Jersey, would choose to name themselves after such a phenomenon. It's quite famous in those parts. Fountains and statuary from Fountains of Wayne can be seen adorning the exterior of Greek diners up and down the Rt. 46 strip. Whether you want to transform your Belleville backyard into the Piazza Michelangelo or create your own West Patterson Pitti Palace, Fountains of Wayne has the statuary for you! Want a naked David statue? They have it. How big do you want him? Venus de Milo? No problem! Would you like her with or without arms? But perhaps Fountains of Wayne's biggest claim to fame is their Christmas display. When I was a teenager it was the biggest spectacular west of Radio City.

People came from miles around to Fountains of Wayne conveniently located where Route 46 intersects Interstate 80 and Route 15 causing even more traffic and congestion for holiday shoppers at nearby Willowbrook Mall. Bumper to bumper cars would line the shoulder of the highway as each car full of families making their yearly pilgrimage would be waved into the parking lot as space permitted.

When you got inside you entered a tunnel-like structure with lots of colored lights, fake snow and white branches. It would open up into a Christmas wonderland where we gawked along with suburban families at miracle after Christmas miracle: a forest of aluminium Christmas trees in every color of the rainbow: flashing electric blue or entirely mauve and seafoam. Everyone of the Christmas cast of characters from Baby Jesus to Rudolph was represented as an electronic animated figure--sometimes in the same display. Christmas music was piped in adding to the absolutely dizzying affect of all the Jersey Christmas glitz.

I admit going a couple of times with a group of friends from high school. We would snicker about it over cheese fries and gravy at the Dakota Diner afterward, but secretly I think it appealed to the last bit of childlike wonder we had left in us about Christmas. Even today as I drive past I can't help remembering those years with bittersweet nostalgia.

Below are some pictures of the real Fountains of Wayne.

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At 8:35 AM, Blogger Red7Eric said...

That's so tacky, it's beautiful. I only know the one song from the band, Fountains of Wayne -- but have recently discovered (long after everyone else did, I realize) Rufus Wainwright, whose tunes are just dreamy ...

At 12:10 AM, Blogger Donnie said...

That's really cool, Michael! I've been a fan of FoW for a while, but never knew the story behind their name. Thanks. :)

At 2:04 AM, Blogger TCho said...

wow. i never knew that was a real place.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Koen Strik said...

really enjoyed your story, accidentely came to discover hackensack really is a place (also) after doing the song as a cover years ago. thanks for this trip on memory lane ;) greetings from Eindhoven Netherlands!


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