Saturday, October 31, 2015

Who is beholden to whom?






Saturday, October 31, 2015

I hate political endorsements.
Mostly they have nothing to do with the candidates, and everything to do with the people doing the endorsements.
This is particularly true when politicians, unions and other prominent citizens wade into the middle of this race or that.
In most cases, a politician who endorses is usually sending a message to his or her following that this or that candidate can be trusted “to do the right thing,” and by “right thing,” he or she means the candidate will do what the politician wants.
Unions have the same philosophy. A union endorsement has nothing to do with a candidate’s ability to do a job in office, but on what side a candidate will stand when it comes to negotiating contracts or other issues the union finds attractive.
This is why I tend to vote for people who do not have a lot of endorsements, and yet seem uniquely qualified to actually perform the job they are running for.
This is particularly true in school board elections, where I want a candidate to be sympathetic to teachers, but someone who isn’t going to sell out the school district simply because he or she feels beholden due to a union endorsement.
This is even truer when it comes to political heavy weights wading into the middle of a school election, blurring the line between separation of power.
Since I live in Jersey City, I have very few choices in the election since at least three of the four candidates are so heavily weighted down with endorsements from politicians, unions and even developers.
So turned off am I by the endorsements, I’ll most likely vote for the one candidate without any.
In Bayonne – where I cannot vote – the matter is more complex, partly because there are so many more candidates running for a number of different terms of office.
Most people expected the mayor to refrain from endorsing any candidate, so that there was significant disappointment when he did. This is partly due to the fact that most the candidates running supported his election two years ago.
The union endorsement is even more confusing. The union issued a questionnaire to determine who they would support – looking for candidate positions on things such as Core curriculum and testing, issues more relevant to teachers and potential employment evaluations than actually educating kids. While I mostly agree with teachers on both, I have a problem with unions stacking the board with pro union board members when the community foots the bill.
Some candidates posted their answers on line, and candidates such as Gina Garofalo-Irizarry seemed to show sympathy for union and teachers’ concerns without completely promising to sell out the school district to give the unions what they wanted.
A teacher, herself, she seemed to understand the issues better than most of the candidates I saw, and appears to be running to actually do the job. Some of the other candidates running in Bayonne are so slick with their campaigns, you’d think they were running in the Presidential primary, spending a small fortune on campaign literature as to raise a question as to why they need to spend so much for what is one of the most thankless jobs in government. School trustees put in long hours and often get grief for their efforts.
So you have to wonder if the slickest campaigns are really designed for higher office later on, and that candidates who spend a lot are looking perhaps for a slot on the city council in the future.
I have a lot of friends in the Bayonne school board race, people I trust, and believe are there for the right reasons. In most cases, these are people failed to get the endorsement of mayor or union, such as Garofalo-Irizarry, and yet seem to be more qualified in most cases than the people with the endorsements.
In Jersey City, I’ll be voting for “the other Gina,” and knowing that if I was in Bayonne, I would be voting with the same aim at having someone who is beholden to parents and the public, and not those who gave endorsements.
But then, I always go with the underdog, just like I am with The Mets in The World Series, hoping against hope that the best candidate actually wins.
 
 



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Another piece of Jersey City gone



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bob is dead.
A neighborhood icon, the former fireman apparently died in his home late last week.
His family has lived in this neighborhood for generations, and so his passing is a loss to local history. A scrounger in the best sense of the word, Bob often collected items from various estates, often coming up with curious items he sometimes could not sell, such as the remnants of a famous actor who long fell out of the national spotlight.
I remember his having historic photos of when the tire and car industry destroyed the local trolley system, as part of its campaign to get more people to drive in the 1950s. He had images of the trolley cars being dumped into the New York Harbor.
His was a living memory of that transition time when Jersey City turned the corner from its post World War II industrial past to its financial district dubious future.
Although a firefighter most of his life, his personal roots were blue collar, and he stood on the wrong side of a wave of change that altered this world forever.
I met him and his wife almost from the day I came into the neighborhood, and from them, I learned about how Maxwell’s coffee plant in Hoboken used to dump its grounds in the meadows at the bottom of the hill, just across the highway – part of a perverted landfill scheme that hasn’t yet amounted to much except to bring the smell off coffee out in extremely warm days.
He and his wife owned several houses in the area, but lived across the street from us in a building with multiple units. They were always suffering through city regulations that they complained the illegal conversions elsewhere in our neighborhood did not have to comply with. They apparently didn’t know the right city inspectors to bribe, or simply refused to, being more honest than many of their counterparts in the city.
Over the years, they maintained a large truck in which they transported goods they bought at auctions, and the bottom floor of the rental building and a significant portion of a house they owned a block away, were hives to odd items they tried to sell at flea markets around the area.
They were always coming up with interesting items, and for a time, held a semi-regular sidewalk sale on the corner during warm days, drawing small crowds.
Several years ago, Bob’s health started to deteriorate, and he began to need oxygen – one sign of impending doom. Such people rarely last long once their lungs fail. But he held on. But this put a burden on his wife, who had to care for him as well as other members of their family who inevitably moved in with them.
For the last year or so, I saw Bob only once, on a particularly warm day. He was seated on the stoop of his house taking in the sun. He looked happy, but in that fog that end of life always brings. And like others I had seen, I knew he was seeing an end we could not so easily see.
As with my friend, Hank, Bob didn’t leave without leaving signs – such as a plastic fireman’s hat on the street near where he lived. One day last week, we all heard the sound of bagpipe’s playing Amazing Grace. Nobody knows where this came from. We’d never heard it before, and haven’t since. Perhaps this was one more message since had Bob opted for a fireman’s funeral; bagpipes would have played that song.
The neighborhood is significantly lessened by his passing, the loss of one more piece of the past none of us can recover, one more sign that the Jersey City that once was is fading away.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Back to what future?



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

So where are the flying cars?
This is the year that Marty McFly came to when he came “Back to the Future” in the second of the series of movies filmed in the late 1980s.
He encountered flying cars and other such stuff, most of which has not transpired.
What we got instead is a William Gibson version of the future – where we as people change, not in particular the external fixings.
Visionaries of the past painted a number futures for us, but most falling into two basic modes: external change, and internal.
Flying cars are part of the external change.
Computer technology, the internet, cyber warfare and the other stuff of William Gibson novels, are the other.
We, of course, are also getting a bit of the Mad Max, Waterworld or Tank Girl future, where we have so degraded the planet that we must use internal technology merely to survive.
Many of our leaders deny global warming because as Gore put it, it’s an inconvenient truth. But recent reports suggest that some leaders of the oil industry not only knew about the impacts, but embraced them, possibly altering the environment intentionally in order to access untapped reserves in places then frozen over near the North Pole.
I wouldn’t put it passed them.
But the technology itself scares me.
We keep talking about going green, and then expand our devices that depend on rare minerals we must wage wars to gain access to. The most recent example is the find of rare minerals under Afghanistan.
We give up paper – which is a renewable resource – only to create mounds of unusable out of date computers. We replace the 100 watt filament light bulb with new energy efficient bulbs that when broken can puncture the skin and cause death, or spread poison into the soil of landfills that the old variety did not.
Still more terrifying is the use of cloud and other data storage to replace bound books and other material storage, creating a situation where everything human kind as gathered could be wiped out in even a small nuclear incident or some other cosmic disaster.
I’m told an asteroid is about to pass near by us even as I write this.
We’ve given up letter writing for emails –which vanish at will. In fact, we won’t soon be teaching cursive writing at all, which makes me wonder, how people will in the future sign documents? Will we have to use a retina scan or a thumb print, or will future generations degenerate to the X that our less educated ancestors used?
The FAA finally put limits on larger drones, adding one more page to the chapter called ‘What the hell were they thinking when they unleashed this piece of crap on the world?”
While all this might make me sound like I'm anti-technology, in truth, technology isn’t often an improvement – it is often merely a change.
Some technology serves to create problems and provide the cure for the problem it creates – such as the assembly line – which set the stage for rapid Nazi weapons development, and later allowed America to overcome both German and Japanese military advances. But ultimately, workers trained for assembly lines got replaced by robots, or slave labor in other countries. Now, the trend is to train kids to embrace technology, jobs that will vanish the way assembly line jobs did as soon as we perfect artificial intelligence.
This is also a week where we here in Jersey City have embraced things like Uber taxis and Airbnb, building a network of convenience for some and lack of regulation for others. Uber exists partly because traditional taxi services failed to embrace new technology. Airbnb exists because government cannot control the one basic principle behind all these so called technological improvements: human greed.
Karl Marx mistakenly believed that workers would eventually unite to overthrow corporate masters. He was wrong on two key points. He said people can control the means of production and then have power. But people never have control long, and Marx also failed to see that people do not want to revolt, most want to become the masters. This was also the failing of Franklin and Jefferson when the government allotted plots of land to settlers in the Ohio Valley, only to find some bought or stole lots assigned to others in order to build petty empires.
We cannot overcome the basic flaw and perhaps we are foolish if we try.
So where are the flying cars? They’ll be here when people really want them. For now, we’re happy with an Uber app.




Monday, October 19, 2015

A taste of wine




August 24, 1969

I got the call last Friday before my duties were done.
The ward sergeant yelled for me to come to the phone. Since I never get calls on base, I thought it must be serious.
I thought it might be my mother or my girlfriend.
I envisioned that time I came home from school to find my uncle Pete on the front porch with news about my grandfather’s dying.
So all more was the surprise when the voice on the other end of the line was Pauly’s.
“Are you coming home this weekend?” he asked.
“Yes, I have a pass,” I said, wondering what this was all about.
My pass was suspended last weekend because some idiot got sick and I wound up on a helicopter flying over some large field in New York State where they had a concert going on. We didn’t land. But I saw the whole mess from the air while clinging to the strap, scared shitless about falling.
I heard a few days ago, Hank had been there and got flown out sick.
Perhaps he’d gotten ill from the trip to the shore two weeks ago Pauly had orchestrated, and from which I was still recovering. This made me wonder what he was up to.
“Perfect,” he said. “Wear your uniform.”
Then, he hung up.
Vince drove us north and left me off at the George Washington Bridge Port Authority building like he normal did when we went awol during the week. I took a train to the other Port Authority in Time Square because I didn’t know the buses out of
Hackensack as well as I did the ones I took back and forth from New York to Paterson with Hank.
When I got home, my uncles told me I had a phone message and that my friend said it was urgent.
Pauly answered on the first ring.
“Are you home?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Good, we’ll pick you up in the morning,” he said, and then after a slight delay. “You have your uniform?”
“Yes,” I said. “But why…”
But he was already off the line.
The next morning, someone rang the front bell.
I remembered two weeks ago when I warned Pauly not to come to the front door after he, Bill, and Bob had rousted me out for the trip to the shore.
Through the glass this time, I saw Bob instead of Bill, and down at the curb, Bob’s VW Beetle with Pauly in the passenger seat.
My uncles wanted to know where I was going wearing my uniform. Since I didn’t know myself I couldn’t tell them and hurried down the front stairs and somehow managed to cram myself into the Beetle’s back seat.
“Do you mind telling me why I’m dressed up to go trick or treating?” I asked Pauly when Bob pulled the car into traffic.
“We have a dinner engagement and the girls told me we have to bring wine,” he said.
“I don’t get what that has to do with me?”
Pauly turned and looked at me.
“None of us are old enough to buy booze, and all the people we rely on normally won’t buy us any,” he said.
“That’s because you still owe them money,” Bob pointed out/.
“A small matter,” Pauly said.
“Not to them. Especially because you also owe them money for pot.”
“So where do I fit into this?” I asked. “I’m 18. I’m not old enough to buy booze either.”
“Ah, but you’re wrong,” Pauly said. “What right minded patriotic store keeper would deny you, one of the boys destined to serve country over seas?”
“I’m not going over seas,” I said, although I knew I was still disputing the orders that had me slated for Vietnam.
“Ah, but the store keeper won’t know that.”
“So you want me to lie?”
“Lie? That’s such a harsh word. Fib is better.”
“So it’s still illegal for him to sell me booze, whether I’m a soldier or not.”
“True. But he’ll sell it to you anyway. He wouldn’t deny you with your short hair and your uniform.”
“Damn you, Pauly. Why are you always getting me wrapped up in your schemes?”
“Scheme? This is no scheme. We have several young ladies who are cooking their hearts out for us as we speak and all they ask of us is to bring them a few bottles of wine.”
“Now it’s a few bottles…”
“Hush, boy. Let’s not bicker over this. I’m not asking for you to pay for all the bottles yourself.”
“You want me to pay?”
“But not for all of it.”
“Why should I pay for any of it?”
“If you imbibe of the food, then you should share in the expense of the drink.”
“I don’t recall anyone inviting me to any dinner.”
“Another petty detail. How can anyone refuse you when you’re bringing the drink?” Pauly asked, displaying once more his usual circular logic.
“You might as well just do it,” Bob said. “He won’t let you out of the car until you agree.”
So I agreed.
Pauly had Bob pull up around the corner from the liquor store so that the store keeper wouldn’t see us together.
“No use tempting fate,” he explained, and then put some money in my hand.
“What kind of wine do you want?” I asked.
“Use your judgment,” he said.
“I don’t know anything about wine,” I said.
Beer, I knew. We could buy nearly all the watered down low alcohol beer we wanted on base. But wine was a mystery to me.
“You’ll figure it out,” Pauly assured me.
Less than confident, I went into the store. The store keeper was busy with another customer and so I wandered up and down the aisles staring at labels that were meaningless to me.
A moment later, the clerk – an elderly man with gray hair and classes – asked what I needed.
“I need some wine,” I said. “For a dinner.”
The man looked me over and my age easily registered in his eyes. But so did some deeper sadness I didn’t understand. He seemed full of pain, especially when he looked at my uniform.
I thought he was going to throw me out. But instead, he smiled.
“Where you stationed, boy?” he asked.
I told him.
“I just finished basic training,” I said. “I’m waiting to ship out for advanced infantry training.”
“My son trained there,” he said, sounding said. “They sent him out to Fort Sills. He was artillery.”
I thought he was going to ask me if I knew his son. But he went mum about it, and looked even sadder than he had.
“What kind of wine did you need?” he asked.
This was like asking me what lay on the dark side of the moon. I shrugged.
“Whose the dinner with?” he asked.
“Some girls I know,” I said, although in truth, I didn’t know them.
“Ah, a shipping out dinner,” he said. “Then you’re going to need something special.”
He brought me to the counter and then produced a wide green bottle with dust on it.
“I was hoping to buy two bottles if that’s possible,” I said.
“Not a problem,” he said, and found another bottle equally dusty. “My son had this kind of wine for the party when he shipped out. It’s fruitier than most wines, but I’m sure the girls will like it.”
I tried to pay, but he wouldn’t take the money.
“It’s my gift,” he said. “If you come back safe, then you can come tell me how you and the girls like it.”
I tried to thank him. He shook his head.
“Just enjoy,” he said.
I made my way out to the car.
Pauly was ecstatic.
“See!” he told Bob. “I told you it would work.”
Bob drove off grumbling.
I felt bad for the old man, but couldn’t say why. I also felt like I had misled him, though in truth, I did have orders for Vietnam, orders that I would not likely have to follow.
Bob drove to West Paterson and through the winding streets on the western slope of Garret Mountain. He pulled into a driveway that already had several cars parked in it.
“We’re here,” Pauly said. “Let me take one of those bottles.”
I suppose he wanted to get credit for bringing in the booze. So I handed him one.
Alf was there. So was Garrick. I didn’t know the women until Pauly introduced me: Jane, Ann, and Margaret.
Pauly was apparently dating Jane.
Ann was some kind of chiropractor, and Jane was in training to become one.
They had incense burning, and a buffet set up on the table with cheese, crackers and other stuff.
They told us to help ourselves.
“That’s caviar,” Ann told me, pointing to a plate with black stuff on it.
Following the example of others, I put some of a few crackers and some crackers on a plate and sat down in one of the chairs.
I was way out of my league here and I knew it.
I felt embarrassed without having done anything.
Then I bit into the cracker and nearly choked.
The caviar tasted awful, but I couldn’t just spit it out in public. I saw a similar reaction on Pauly’s face, and Garrick’s, and Bob’s. Pauly handed us each a glass of wine, and I gulped my down to wash the horrible taste away.
But the wine lingered on my tongue like an old memory, and for some reason, I kept thinking of the old man, and his son.
Somehow I got through the rest of the dinner without totally making a fool of myself, mostly by keeping quiet, drawing some notice from the three girls who commented that I didn’t talk a lot.
Later, Bob drove me home without Pauly, who went off with Jane.
I finished out my pass the next day in Washington Square Park, just taking in the sights and listening to David Peal sing.
But I could not get the old man out of my mind. I still can’t now that I’m back at the hospital. I keep looking at the wounded veterans who have come here from Vietnam and wonder if any of them was the old man’s son. But I know better. I know that while I’ll be going home soon, his son never will be.
And I keep tasting that wine.



Friday, October 16, 2015

A brave new world?




Friday, October 16, 2015

I heard on the news this morning about how rail road companies are guarding against people wandering onto tracks and how to detect objects on the tracks that might derail trains.
Maybe I’m a little too much like Mark Twain in that I am nostalgic for a simpler and more innocent past.
As a boy, the tracks were always my pathway to some other world, some better place, a connection that if I touched the metal I could feel in Chicago or San Francisco.
I wandered tracks every chance I got. In fact, the tracks came out on Crooks Avenue allowed me to go to downtown Paterson or downtown Passaic, depending on which way I turned. I often crossed them during my walk to junior high school. Later, when I cut high school, I often wandered down to the freight tracks, hopping on a train that took me north to places like Mahwah and Suffern.
People have always gotten hurt on rail road tracks, a fact of life that in the past did not matter nearly as much as it does today.
Sociologists note that as a society moves from working class to middle class, they become more protective of its kids – part of the social conflict underway currently in America.
I wrote about a playground this week that is not a playground, but a health center, a gated community with rubberized floor and a variety of devices kids have to be educated to use before they are allowed to play there.
In the past, playgrounds were risky places, where kids learned the most basic rule of life: how not to get hurt in a harsh world.
Our movement into middle class also brings up the battle of Planned Parenthood – and the massive amount of abortions it does yearly. In the past, families had lots of kids, and kids often did not survive out of childhood. Like most mammals, we managed to maintain society through breeding. A more protective childhood allows most if not all kids to survive, and so like Huxley’s Brave New World, we select sooner who will be allowed to live, doing away with the pain of losing a child after being born.
The video tapes that right to life activists doctored were far less offensive for the presumption of Planned Parenthood’s ghoulish selling of body parts as was the tone and attitude un-undoctored that showed just how uncaring these defenders of women’s rights were: they cold, calculating and unsympathetic to the idea that they wield the power of life and death. They have become the technicians in the Brave New World who do not see themselves as playing god, but merely stamping out defective parts on an assembly line. This is offensive.
This, of course, is mostly a middle class problem. Immigrants and poor still tend to overproduce babies, and thus continue to concept that more is better for the survival of the species.
The other reason for over protected middle class children has to do with the expense of raising kids these days. Medical and educational costs have been inflated by a greedy system and so each kids becomes nearly as precious as parents seem to see them, and to lose a child to some unfortunate accident on a playground or a rail road track is to lose an investment that cannot simply be made up by having another child.
Over protected kids, of course, produce spoiled, self-indulgent adults, who assume that because they were treated special in childhood that they must be special in the real world, and so we get this concept of entitlement: they can do what they want to do when they want to do it, regardless of the impact it has on others around them.
Some anthropologists have also noted that the safer a society feels the more stupid and reckless individuals become. Intelligence is a survival mechanism, something that is often produced in order to overcome danger.
Until 9/11 America has largely escaped many of the dangers faced in other parts of the world, a perfect breeding ground for an overly careless population. And because many grew up with the parents protecting them, they submit more easily to state mandated Homeland Security measures that turn America into one vast prison, subjecting us to searches we would not have tolerated a generation ago all in the assumption of keeping us safe.
I miss the rail road tracks. I miss the idea that I have to look out for myself and protect myself, and cannot rely on some parent or government to make the landscape so safe I never encounter danger.
But as train tracks get closed off, and cars are built so they can run themselves, we grow less intelligent and more reliant on social institutions or the computer apps to do our thinking for us.
It is very sad.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lipstick on a pig




Tuesday, October 13, 2015


We live in a brave new world – and if I can mix my metaphors – one filled with doublespeak.
In particular the concept of sharing, which is not sharing at all, but taking, and where the concept of “greed is good” seems to continue to benefit the wealthy over everybody else.
We get a lot of talk about entitlements for the poor and working class, but hear very little about how entitled the most affluent feel when it comes to following rules.
In my city, we have abated projects that cater to the rich, while saddling the cost of schools and county on the backs of more traditional home owners. This appears to be a kind of urban renewal, in which traditional owners eventually get driven out by higher and higher taxes, which in turn allows their properties to be redeveloped – if not into insanely high residential towers, then instead into two family homes that are really three or more. Still worse is the fact that what replaces the idea of The American Dream of home ownership is a new wave of rentals. In truth, homeownership has been a dinosaur since the Reagan Era, when those who own homes became sitting ducks for local taxes.
Of course, new comers to the city have an argument that they are taxed at a significantly higher assessed value than residents who have lived in the city for decades. But this is something of a false argument since new residents knew what the cost of taxes would be coming in and over the long run have invested much less to the tax base than those living in the city for decades.
The latest schemes involve a pack of whacko drivers scooting around the city pretending to be taxi cabs, only they are not regulated by anybody, and so we live with a pointlessly ineffective government who cannot control anything that happens with these vehicles until they have done whatever evil they have done.
This is kind of underground economy, selling services the way drug dealers do, providing ways of getting around laws that have not yet caught up with technology. This greed is called sharing, when in fact drivers – who believe they are getting a good deal – are exploited in order to provide services to an elite too indignant to wait for traditional cab services. Instead of providing apps for cabs, the city throws up its hands and sighs, saying it can do nothing.
The latest scheme most benefits the wealthiest in our city. Properties with the most elite occupants are suddenly becoming hotels, sponsored by some national organization that does not honor zoning laws, and while fully taxed, benefits those who need the wealth the least, people who have already established themselves and seek to eek out a bit more capital on their residential investments. Many of these are real estate companies or developers, who are doing business in the pretense of offering underground service. This is not sharing in the way hippie communes meant it.
This concept of sharing is nearly atrocious as abatements in steering even more wealth to the rich, if not quite as unfair as the tax structure associated with capital gains – where people who actually do hard work to make their money must pay a higher rate than those who make their money by investment.
The concept for the city is that somehow some of this new found wealth will trickle down to other less fortunate people such as local business. Trickle down didn’t work under Ronald Reagan because wealth tends to horde wealth, and while tourists that use these facilities might spend locally, it won’t be in my hometown, it’ll be across the river in NYC. We of course are trying to mirror New York, but as President Obama once pointed out in another context, it’s like lipstick on a pig.
In the end, all we are really seeing in one more aspect of wealth distribution in which the wealthy benefit most.
This concept of sharing might be best compared to the Soviet model of socialism: those on top do best, the rest have to suffer whatever inconveniences the system imposes.


Monday, October 12, 2015

That wedding long ago




Monday, October 12, 2015

The boardwalk is a haven for weddings.
This day a few days after John Lennon’s 75th birthday is no different – although it took one complete stroll around Asbury Park and nearby Ocean Grove before I found it.
The weddings vary, from simple to ostentatious, sometimes with tiny tots in suits and ties as ring bearers, sometimes not.
The ring bearers when they do take part are usually dressed up, and uncomfortable, a fact that appears to make them misbehave. One kid last year -- part of a photo shoot on the beach -- shed his shoes and appeared to be heading towards the ocean tiny tuxedo and all when they corralled him.

These scenes and others remind me of the day when I was that small and my aunt, Alice, got married.
I was about seven at the time, and extremely jealous of Big Pete, who was to become my uncle.
Alice had filled in as my mother, when my mother was committed to Graystone – the now demolished mental institution in Morristown.
Alice took the job seriously, singing songs to me, reading stories to me, making me feel loved when I already felt abandoned.
Years later, after Alice’s untimely death at 41, Big Pete told the story of his first official date with Alice – how he first had to run the gauntlet of Alice’s very large brothers, only to discover that she was bringing me along on the date.

I didn’t serve as ring bearer the way these poor kids did in Asbury Park, but I was given the royal treatment at that wedding long ago, dressed up, and shown off, as if I really was Alice’s child.
For the family, this was one of the most significant events, the marriage of my grandfather’s youngest daughter, a woman that was his favorite, and perhaps the favorite of the entire family, all of whom seemed to love her as much as I did. I know her brother, Ritchie (who I later cared for when booze drove him over the edge – he never recovered from Alice’s death) celebrated her wedding as if it was his own. No two siblings were ever so close as those two were, and during her life, Alice managed to save Ritchie from himself, just as she saved me.

I guess it seems strange to think of ancient history while strolling Asbury Park, but I did, feeling the same sadness and joy as I did then, seeing something similar in the faces of the tiny tots who had been vested the duty to serve up the ring, symbol of future happiness for these couples.

Later, while seated on one of the benches on the boardwalk near the Stone Pony, I heard some of the sounds from another wedding (or perhaps it was the same) coming out from one of the seaside eateries, voices of hope, and joy, and though I could not see the bride and groom going through the rituals of a reception, I envisioned Alice, beautiful Alice, from that day when my whole world changed, and she went on to start a family of her own.

I cried that day as a young boy nearly as much as I did the day she died years later, sensing that things could not be the same.
And yet, hearing the joy in the voices of this Asbury Park wedding, somehow old wounds seemed to heal, and mingling in with the sound check from the Stone Pony’s outdoor act, the silly reception hall music, and the crash of waves on the beach, I was seven again, and no longer crying.

 
Alice & Big Pete

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lennon-aid



Sunday, October 11, 2015

I like routine.
It saves me from having to think about stupid stuff.
So I get Chinese food on Friday, do my shopping on Saturday, and take a trip to Bubbles on Kennedy Boulevard on Sunday to do laundry (which an occasional trip to Secaucus if the JKF store doesn’t have The Times).
I used to go to breakfast at the Coach House on Saturday where I could look over the published copy of my newspaper and ponder the universal meaning of life.
Now I just stop in there for a cup of coffee to go before crossing the street to the Salvation Army where I search for DVDs to replace the VHS tapes I watch while exercising.
This week, I had a bunch of stuff to donate, especially a bunch of books – many of which I have acquired for my Kindle. I also sorted through my summer clothing as I changed for winter wear, and found some things are too old or ragged, or even too large for me to wear.
They had a book table out on the sidewalk with piles of interesting volumes that drew my eye even as I was dumping books inside. Between trips, I noticed the pile at grown and was attracted to several volumes I had not seen during my previous trip, volumes that seem to broach subject areas – such as history of New Jersey and poetry – that I’m always looking for.
I stopped and perused several of these until I realized that they were some of the same books I had just dropped off. The guy inside was bringing them out as fast as I could bring them in.
At least, I know my own tastes.
From there, I normally journey to the Shop Rite in North Bergen – going to the Big Lots store first, the dollar store and then the food store.
But half way down Paterson Plank Road traffic came to a halt. The road was closed and I was directed back up onto Kennedy Boulevard where more streets were closed, and traffic looked like it does before a major holiday.
I decided it was easier to go home and wait out the quagmire in the comfort of my own home – I’ve decided to learn all the songs of The Beatles’ first album now that I have an electric guitar again.
I guess I’m caught up with John Lennon again. He would have been 75.
It’s called making lemonade when life gives you lemons. Or in my case, making “Lennon-aid.”



Saturday, October 10, 2015

It’s inevitable.



Saturday, October 10, 2015

I knew with the threat of rain I was taking a chance walking into Hoboken yesterday.
But this had been a week from hell, where between finishing the debate video and getting my stories done, I had barely seen outdoors except driving from here to there.
I needed the air and to stretch my limbs and the walk from my house on the Western Slope of Jersey City to 14th Street in Hoboken did just that.
A few drops wet my brow during the walk in. But during the day, rain swept over Washington Street, making even my usual mid-day coffee ritual somewhat moist.
I lingered a little too long in the office, finishing up a few small items before the long weekend. This allowed seriously dark clouds to sweep over the city, and my journey up the viaduct from Hoboken, through Union City, proved more than a little challenging. The rain hit just as I got to the metal footbridge over the viaduct into the Union City portion of Washington Park.
So did the lightning, a terrifying matter since being in a metal cage (essentially) at an extremely high elevation seemed like a bad idea.
When I got to the other side, the deluge hit, and the best cover I could find for the moment was behind a large tree, whose trunk blocked out some of the torrential rain being blown towards me.
But I still got soaked, even putting my denim jacket over my head.
A woman jogger came passed me in a hurry. But until I saw her circle around again, I thought she was rushing for better cover. Soaked as she was in her green jogging suit, she seemed unabashed by the slash of rain and the claps of thunder.
Still I waited, rain dripping off the tip of my nose.
When the down pour slackened slightly, I decided to continue the walk, even though I was barely half way home.
As I exited the park, I saw the bus shelters, and realized I might have avoided some of the worst of the storm had I continued in the first place. The one on my side of Palisades Avenue was stuffed with two bicyclists and some young woman standing on the seat so as to not get dripped on. This left very little room for anyone else. But the shelter across the street only had one person in it. So I went and took cover there.
She was pleasant black woman from Hoboken, Born and raised there, she said, with a brief trip to Puerto Rico. She had been shopping on Bergen Line Avenue, got caught up in the storm when trying to change buses.
A number of buses passed but none were going to Hoboken.
She said her “sweetie” drove a tractor trailer truck up and down the east coast, getting paid well enough for them to continue to live in Hoboken. But she said she was being pushed out by the excessive rich people, the yuppies. Rents were going through the roof. Section 8 housing was being turned into market rate properties to accommodate. Businesses were no longer interested in selling to the poor when they had walking wallets stumbling around willing to pay high prices for everything.
She said she didn’t like the current mayor because the current mayor didn’t seem to represent anybody by the rich people, and could care less about people being forced out of town.
“We’ll hold on as long as we can,” she said. “But eventually we’ll move to Florida. I have family there.”
At this point, the rain has slackened enough for me to start walking again, and with my wet denim jacket over my head, I made my way towards the safety of the Western Slope, wondering if and when people like me will be forced out of Jersey City the way people like this person were from Hoboken.

It’s inevitable.