Mysterious cause of decline in Jersey City tourism revealed

Time for a minor confession: I have a fixation with World’s Largest Things. What those things are is a secondary concern. A 500 lb canary, a giant box of raisins, baseball bat or ball of aluminum foil, the world’s tallest woman or fattest pair of twins. Whatever. And second largest things might as well not even exist; I just don’t have the brain space to keep track of runners up. But the largest of a particular kind of thing? In the whole wide world? Fascinating.

Imagine, if you can, my excitement at finding out that the world’s largest cat was not only in Jersey City, it’s actually no more than five blocks from where I’ve called home for almost eight years. A World’s Largest Something, right at the other end of Seventh Street? How could I have not known about this?

I first learned of this alleged cat’s alleged existence from a detail sparse blurb on Weird NJ that at least provided a link leading to anna [im a jerk♥]‘s Weird NJ MySpace page (note that *I’m* not calling her a jerk, that’s her online alias.).

Says Anna:

Nineteen feet long… five-hundred pounds… made of fiberglass. It’s certainly possible this is not the World’s Largest Cat, but it deserves notice if you ever find yourself under the Holland Tunnel viaduct west of the Hudson River and Manhattan.

The cat dates from the 1950s, when it was rolled down Broadway in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was on the roof of a Jersey City truck stop beginning in 1965; then relocated “temporarily” to its present site in 1978.

Thinks me:
While I’m not quick to trust the journalistic integrity of someone just barely out of high school — no offense to high school journalists of integrity, mind you; it’s more of a guideline than a rule — that can’t be any more than half a mile from here.

And I grab my camera and head out.

Five blocks. Last house before the the train tracks that run under the ribbon of raised highway that feeds into the Holland Tunnel. And what do I find but… nothing.

I’m stunned. Maybe I got the address wrong, I tell myself, somewhat in denial to the possiblilty that I live a half mile from the World’s Biggest Nothing. In a once-tough-but-gentrifying neighborhood like this, I figure the culprit is a) pissy neighbors complaining about the cat’s impact on their property value, b) young toughs, possibly with the aid of incindiaries, or c) curious extraterestrials. Pseudo-journalistic integrity primed, i return home to find out what the Internet has to say about this mysterious disappearance.

And what I find is shocking.

First and foremost, this blurb in the NY Times, a news source I trust for the most part to at least do basic fact checking, confirms the following:

WORLD’S LARGEST CAT – A 20-foot, 500-pound vicious-looking cat in a Santa Claus hat, used as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float in the 1950’s, sits atop a clock repair shop in Jersey City. When it was still functional, its eyes rolled as it rolled down Broadway.

If the NY Times says it’s the world’s largest, in screamy ALL CAPS no less, it’s good enough for me. And confirmation that it was in the Macy’s T-Day Parade is a nice two-source fact check.

Second and secondmost, it appears Miss Anna the Jerk took her story verbatim from an article on roadsideamerica.com without so much as a citation, footnote or tip of the hat. Which is disturbing simply as a sign of the low regard this younger generation has for the intellectual property of authors/online journalists. I suppose it’s possible she wrote the story and they stole it from her, but since the photos on her story have their URL, I’m leaning toward my initial, knee-jerk reaction. Apologies available upon refutal.

Third and possibly most shocking, it seems the cat was never in the Macy’s Parade at all. According to RoadsideAmerica’s report, claims that it had been “prompted at least one angry phone call to [the owner], from an irate former Macy’s employee, who insisted that Macy’s never would have paraded something as cheesy as a giant cat with a Santa’s hat.”

Where to even begin? Never mind RoadsideAmerica.com, the New York Times ran a story with such a glaring error? An irate Macy’s employee? A World’s Largest Anything being called cheesy?!? The fact that none of this says anything about where the cat is now?

I head back to the scene of the crime. Which, interestingly enough, is at the time of my visit, also the scene of an accident. I arrive maybe 20 minutes aftera high speed impact between something like a Mazda and a the tail end of a pickup truck. There are three police vehicles there but no ambulances, and everyone that has that ‘I was just in an accident’ look to them looks unharmed and in relatively good spirits. But judging from the size of the debris field, it made quite a clatter. The group of onlookers is beginning to lose interest and return to what they were doing before the accident.

I pick my way across the street toward the giant cat’s last known wherabouts. As luck would have it, there’s a guy right behond me who opens the gate and goes into the yard, otherwsie guarded by a couple of junkyard-style guard dogs.

“Hey, uh,” I say,”did you used to have, like, a really big cat?”

“Yeah,” he says, with the slightest hint of a smile, like he’s been asked this question a gazillion times, but for whatever reason, today it’s less annoying than usual.

“Huh. Something happen to it?”

“It’s in the repair shop. You can read all about it on Weird NJ.”
Lessons learned from all of this:

  1. NY Times, if you don’t have time to check facts, you can always use the word reportedly. And while we’re at it, biggest and cheesiest are separate and distinct honors.
  2. While high schools may be in the habit of teaching the mechanics of citing one’s sources, a class in the repurcussions of plagiarism could potentially save any number of political careers.
  3. When planning a vacation, a quick visit to RoadsideAmerica.com may be helpful in adding some interesting stops along the way.
Advertisements

6 Responses to “Mysterious cause of decline in Jersey City tourism revealed”

  1. I think you’re looking in the wrong spot. I found a picture of it pretty close to where you found your miniature city in the marshlands. Giant cat near tiny city: coincidence?

  2. The world’s largest cat can fly, too? Who knew. Maybe it learned from that Chinese cat with wings. Proof again that no one remembers who comes in second place.

  3. have u ever seen borobodur temple? its a most great temple in the world.
    if you come to my country i will guide you to around. i fromes.

  4. Doug from RoadsideAmerica.com here — thanks for reading our story. Yep, we wrote the original. We’ve been out to see that monstrosity at least 5 times! Weird NJ has been there too, though it’s unlikely the sloppy borrower you mention is part of their staff. And we dragged a NYT reporter and photographer out to see the cat several years ago, so they probably can’t be accused of just sitting on a couch and scraping the web. These type of unofficial attractions are hard to track sometimes. They’re moved around, put in storage, sold, etc. When the cat is back on public display, we hope someone lets us know!

  5. Hi, Doug, and thanks for dropping by to validate the facts. I’d also like to commend you for doing a fine job of giving people a reason to slow down and have a look around during those tedious long trips in the family station wagon. Or, err, SUV. Sidebar: I hope I’m not going to be the cause of any heartache for Ms. Jerk; giving her the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think MySpace even has a button for autoformatting citations.

  6. The giant cat was there for years and just left recently. The best article was the one in the Hudson Reporter by now-Times reporter Andy Newman, written in the early 90s. I saved it. Maybe I can dig it up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: