Monday, November 30, 2009

Crosstown by taxi in rain

Crosstown by taxi in rain. The driver had a gym bag on the passenger seat. He was talking on his personal cellphone. Hung up & said to me, "I gotta stop at the corner for a second." He pulled up in front of a corner store, opened the passenger side window, & a guy walked over & handed the cabbie some money, the cabbie reached in the bag & handed the guy a few packs of Newports. Had a little side business going, but if you want the cheaper ciggies, you have to wait until he's driving in your part of town. As far as I'm concerned, I didn't see anything.

At the clinic, the receptionist told me my shrink had opened his own waiting room away from the main one. The main room had Oprah on TV. I went to the new room, no TV, a woman took my appointment paper & handed me a card that said she was a licensed social worker. She didn't seem to be doing any social work. "We have coffee," she said, pointing to a drip machine & pot I could smell contained old & burnt brew. Fortunately, I'd brought a Smithsonian magazine. I was the last patient. We rushed through. I couldn't identify the WQXR classical music he plays softly. Game I play every appointment. He asked me if was drinking. He always asks that. "I don't drink," I said once more. Never been my thing. It was my mom's thing, which is why he asks, & it didn't give her the personality of Elwood P. Dowd. The last time I was anywhere near tipsy was three years ago, slurping champagne from a bottle at the WFMU Christmas party in celebration of a staffer's engagement. I remember the most recent time I was more or less drunk: A warm summer night in the early 90's, drinking Long Island ice teas on the balcony of a friend's condo in South Brunswick, a neighbor yelled at us to shut the hell up. I slept it off on her couch & the next morning her husband, who had conked out early & snored loudly, made silver dollar pancakes.

Afterward, I walked the 15 minutes downtown in a drizzle to the Main Library. I had a list of three books, all available, checked out a total of five, walked across the street & caught the #52 bus, which drops me a block from my apt. I should use that bus more often. The 6:15 bus, near the start of its route, was nearly empty. If I get on the wrong #52, it takes an alternate route away from my neighborhood, & I'd have to get off as far away as the walk I was avoiding. Also, the little, clean Dunkin' Donuts by that stop near the main library & courthouse closed & moved two blocks away into a gas station across from the hospital, Same conscientious owner as the regular DD by the Branch Library. It'll do fine at the new location.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

South Amboy NJ

Coal dumper, South Amboy NJ.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

asparagus soup

A nice tenant on the first floor attends a church with a monthly food pantry, bringing an elderly woman from this building to it. Whatever they don't want, they leave on the radiator by the steps. I've seen some odd food left there. Today's the oddest. There was a box of organic multigrain oat cereal, a five pound bag of grits, two jars of imported Indian mango chutney, & powdered white cheddar asparagus soup from Plentiful Pantry in a cute take-out style box with a handle. Plentiful Pantry is a Utah-based company that sells its products online & at specialty food stores & is not cheap. I have no idea how the church obtains these items. I took the soup.

(Someone took the chutney.)

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Charlie Weis

I'm not a huge college football fan. I dabble at Yahoo pick 'em, watch at least parts of games every week. Got pulled into a great Alabama-Auburn game yesterday, rooting for Auburn because who the heck wants to root for Alabama? Nor am I a Notre Dame fan. When I was a kid, the two most popular college football teams in Jersey were Penn State & Syracuse. Rutgers didn't figure much; it was "tradition" & little else. Lots of ND fans, but they were a peculiar bunch, like belonging to the Knights of Columbus at an Irish-American parish. You half-expected the Notre Dame marching band to put their instruments down & stepdance across the field. Maybe they did. ND became (& still is) my chosen basketball team to beat UCLA, because UCLA hates that no matter where the two teams are ranked. I am a college basketball fan, & every season one of the first things I do is try to reassure myself that the Bruins cannot win the National Championship.

But I hope ND coach Charlie Weis is fired, & quickly. Notre Dame games are always on TV. I don't know how many parts of Notre Dame games I've watched over the past three years where they were out-coached, out-motivated, or both. Too many. The two qualities Notre Dame football almost always had through the Lou Holtz era were first rate coaching, & motivation worthy of a religious cult. They get smacked down annually by USC, no surprise. As with Big 10 teams - which ND pretty much is now is but for stronger academic requirements - it'd take a crazy year for them to be better than the best team in Pac 10, Big 12 South, & the SEC. (This would've been a good year to try). But Navy? UConn? A horrid Michigan? So it goes. & if one hates Notre Dame, it's like hating the Yankees - so much more fun seeing them lose the big ones when they're good but not quite good enough.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Excellent photo series recently added at Corbis:
Sister Jean's Soup Kitchen, Atlantic City NJ

Atlantic City's less fortunate go to Jean's Kitchen for a meal and something more: hope. Her guests include homeless, senior citizens, veterans and low-income families --- including many children. They have one thing in common: they are hungry and they rely on Jean Webster's Kitchen for what may be their only nutritious meal.

Sister Jean’s Kitchen is the only program in Atlantic City providing meal service to an unrestricted population for unrestricted periods of time, while offering informal referral to needed social services.
I have opinions on what went wrong with legalized gambling in Atlantic City, save them for another post.

Hardy varieties of flowers still blooming here, & I heard crickets the other night in the sun-warmed places around the bank parking lot. There's a rose landscapers plant - hardly call it delicate-looking - that never gives up. It's like the bush was bred for the tundra.

Ordering some inexpensive flannel shirts online. I don't get to the two good, clean rummage shops here often enough to grab nice ones when they arrive, & the two decent new clothing discount stores downtown (Walmart quality & prices) don't stock many - they're more into selling cheap knockoffs of designer clothing for teenagers. I have noted a small but hopeful tendency among certain high school kids to dress more creatively yet simply, the beginnings of a counter-gangsta conformity trend (?) that (I think) is coming out of L.A. It looks like a combination of urban & suburban, maybe skateboarder culture creeping in. Some are even shaping baseball cap brims instead of the knucklehead flat style that practically advertises the adolescent wearer* flunked English because he couldn't read the reasonably hip, easy books the young, friendly female teacher assigned. I don't pay much attention to that stuff. Perhaps Carrie, my City of Angels (not the baseball team) connection, can enlighten me.

*Same guy who looks utterly baffled by the gadgety little media player he probably stole.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Hungry & the Heartless

Corzine, Christie disagree on emergency funding for feeding the hungry

PATERSON -- With the recession draining the budgets of soup kitchens and food pantries around the state, Gov. Jon Corzine today said he is working on an emergency proposal to dig up more state funds for organizations that help feed the hungry.

But Gov.-elect Chris Christie — who had called for a freeze on new spending before the legislative session ends and he takes office in January — said he is leery about expenditures by the outgoing administration as the state grapples with a projected $8 billion budget deficit.
Of course, I support Corzine. But I recognize there's two sides to this. Christie isn't unsympathetic, but he takes office in a month & doesn't want any new decisions on spending before he gets there. The state already contributes. Demand has increased & prvate donations haven't kept pace. My gripe is about the kind of online comments this topic generates, & the deteriorating situation itself.

The people decrying government "give-a-ways" of a necessity as basic as food, & demanding private charity do more, are just as likely to say the charities themselves are bunch of commies, including Catholics, because they don't discriminate enough among the hungry & feed the undesirables, drug addicts, drunks, & illegal immigrants. Or maybe they want more Bible-thumping on the menu, which even the Salvation Army doesn't lay on too heavy. All of the larger food pantries look for some verification of need from those expecting to pick up a box of food every month. Some of them give first-timers an emergency bye. The kitchens, the free meals & Saturday sandwiches are available to all comers. Not even many people who can afford only the Burger King value menu want to sit down & share a simple meal with the needy & homeless just to save a few bucks. But on the other side of the serving table & in the kitchen are volunteers who drive in from the 'burbs to help out, signing up for regularly-scheduled duty.

Even in the current economy, there's no legit reason food pantries in Jersey should be short & free kitchens unable to pull together large enough pots of stew, with bread, & a donut for dessert. Americans waste food like nothing else, in restaurants, in supermarkets, in home kitchens. Dunkin' Donuts tosses 30 gallon garbage bags of edible cake donuts - the kind without fillings - into the dumpsters, & the birds & squirrels gather daily to tear those bags open. It's logistically difficult to collect the prepared food while it still can be eaten; organized donations of canned goods are more sporatic than on-going for civic & religious groups. So supermarkets collaborate with food pantries to make it easy for those who don't want to dig through their kitchen cabinets or buy extra & deliver it themselves to a collection point. They'll add any amount as low as a dollar to a shopping bill & purchase & donate the food for you. Nobody has to actually rub elbows with the poor to keep them from starving. Of all our social problems, the collection & distribution of much more food to pantries & free kitchens in an economic downturn is possible, because it's something Jerseyans will do if they are constantly reminded & given convenient opportunities to contribute.

Many of those "poor" are unemployed or underemployed working folks with families, not eligible for food stamps, but behind in their mortgages & other bills. Would you want to choose between feeding your kids & losing your house? Or selling a reliable car you need to find employment? There are thousands of seniors relying on cheap or free senior center lunches to help make ends meet, & those lunch programs may rely on The Community Food Bank of NJ for some of the food.

Put it this way: Anyone who thinks state guvmint does too much to feed the hungry has an even greater obligation to pick up the slack. Except for the anonymous heartless bastards on the comments pages.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A ride to the library

Last evening, my friend Gina, who lives a couple of blocks away, picked me up & we drove to the library & supermarket, five minutes away by car. Gina's offered to do this for years for my convenience, & we rarely get to socialize (we'd also enjoy hanging out & watching TV on a weeknight) & I never took her up on it. She's heard me gripe about not being able to check out enough books & carry enough food at one time. The whole errand trip took about 90 minutes door-to-door, & I can knock 30 off that by choosing & reserving books ahead of time, & having a shopping list for Shoprite rather than Pathmark. Shoprite has a much faster checkout & better deli counter. My list wasn't much longer than when I walk, but it had heavy stuff & bulky stuff. I also checked out five books. I may not read them all. Gina got some essentials & I'm sure paid less than she does at the pricier supermarket near her business. Plus something tasty her other store doesn't even carry. It'll really be worth her while if her brand of cat food is on sale.

When we carried the stuff up here, I showed her the other room, where the ceiling had to be repaired, disorganized storage now but can be turned into useful space with the addition of the same heavy duty snap-together plastic shelving she uses in her basement. If I just separate the boxes of books from everything else in there, it'll fall into place. For all my clutter, I once had a simple filing system that allowed me to locate any document & paperwork. The individual files were messy, but I knew a desired document was in a specific labeled file & all I needed to do was dump it out dig a bit.

With a little more effort I could usually locate a book. Mainly I want access to my art books, small collection of rare poetry & Jerseyana, & books by friends. I've carted boxes of fine books to poetry readings to find them good homes. Just take 'em. I 'm not a true bibliophile, never was. When you read & have lots of interests, you find books you want at cheap prices. Before the Internet, I valued reference books of all sorts. But it's been a long time since I've been tempted into Bag Day at a large library book sale.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Canned Soup

Last fall, Campbell Soup started an ad campaign that said its Select Harvest soups were “Made with TLC” while labeling Progresso soups, from its rival General Mills, “Made with MSG.” Progresso responded with its own campaign, and then both companies complained to the advertising review division, which recommended withdrawal of some ads from both sides.

The damage was already done. Unit sales in the General Mills category that includes Progresso (called, unappetizingly, ready-to-serve wet soups) rose in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with the same quarter a year earlier, said Information Resources, a research firm in Chicago.

But since then, unit sales of wet soups at both companies have declined every quarter. A UBS analyst, David Palmer, attributed the drop largely to the advertising battle.

Best Soup Ever? Suits Over Ads Demand Proof. New York Times
Like the campaign for governor in Jersey this year - more advertising, fewer voters. Progresso now says no MSG on cans, & introduced "high fiber" minestrone, which just means they put more beans in it & it's less watery. The "TLC" in Harvest soups went into a label redesign. (Guys still prefer Campbell's Chunky varieties, advertised during NFL games.)

Article doesn't mention that these soups are about $3 a can, & canned soup eaters do like to stock up, so just maybe the economy hurt business in 2009 & more consumers are dumping frozen veggies & shaking parmesan cheese into house brand condensed.

My two supermarkets are in working class neighborhoods, 1/4 mile apart on the same street. Both are the kinds of stores where many shoppers have the weekly flyer spread out on the cart's baby holder, & a frequently heard phrase is a budget-conscious wife saying to husband, "Not that one, get the one on sale." Pathmark sells a lot of $3 soup when it's for sale under $2.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

East Orange NJ

Suburban Cocktail Lounge

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A Cathedral for capturing Catholics

Elizabeth theater goes from vaudevillian to vocational
The building’s current incarnation as a community center where religious services take place has its new owners hopeful that the renovated Liberty Center will become a positive force in the heart of Elizabeth Avenue.
Puff piece. I walk past this theater every so often, watched the renovation take shape. The route also brings me past some of Elizabeth's struggling, historic mainstream protestant churches, including the old but inclusive St. John's Episcopal downtown. There's some tough, rigid fundamentalists behind the bright marquee of The Liberty, but you have to look closely because they don't want to give it away in the slick marketing (that's why it's called a "community center"). Hispanic Catholics are one of their important target demographics, & to aid in attracting them these protestants have built themselves a fine & fancy cathedral. Yes, a church. But it is a Catholic agency doing hard, daily outreach to homeless here, & Catholic Pax Christi organizing lonely defenses of immgrant rights outside the isolated detention center in the warehouse district. I notice that, too.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Shirt

Thanks, Gina & Glen, for bringing me a swell present of an official Sun Records tee from your recent trip to Memphis.

Beautiful day. Made the supermarket-library circuit on foot for light exercise, picking up milk & one book. The library was busy at 4 on Sat afternoon. Neither Pathmark nor dollar store sold a simple little vegetable brush.

I wonder if full size e book readers will ever be inexpensive & libraries carry e versions of books?


Friday, November 20, 2009

The NJLM Convention

About ten years ago, when Jersey's economy was better, my friend Joe invited me to accompany him to the Annual New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference for a day & evening. I asked why I should be interested in this huge Atlantic City convention event. He said he couldn't describe it, I'd have to see for myself, promised it'd be worth the trip, & would hardly cost a dime if I avoided the slots.

Joe did a lot of graphic art, newsletter, & brochure work for towns & public agencies, & the convention was a great place for him to informally network. I don't know the Italian word for schmooze, but whatever it is, Joe is very good at it.

It was an experience. For nearly 12 hours we wandered around, eating & drinking our way through a variety of open bars, hospitality suites, & corporate-sponsored buffets. Joe's out-of-pocket expenses for the trip, beyond gas, tolls, & parking, were the cost of a shared cab ride with some tipsy municipal employees, & the $20 it took him half an hour to lose at a $5 roulette wheel.

When we arrived in A.C., Joe found a way to get into the exhibitor & vendor hall at the convention center. Everyone else had convention passes dangling from their necks. We left there carrying several large bags of free office supplies, plus free baseball caps, teeshirts, & a variety of oddball items. Joe collected, studied, & critiqued brochures like paintings in an art museum. We took a free jitney back to Caesar's & deposited these in Joe's SUV. Joe asked around regarding later activities, organized a flexible schedule in his head, & we went out for a boardwalk stroll & admired the ocean for awhile. It was a fine November afternoon on the Jersey Shore.

After that it was pretty much all party. Joe met a guy headed for an Irish pub about a mile from the casino. The entire pub had been booked by a utility company. We hitched a ride. I never saw a bar so crowded, even on St. Patrick's Day. We could barely squeeze in. Somehow we managed to obtain a pitcher of beer, declining the bottom row scotch, & made our way to the back room. During this slow journey I encountered two writer acquaintances from Union County being propped up by the surrounding crowd, like a rush hour subway car. They said they were having an excellent time at the convention. Miraculously, we found two empty chairs in the back room, where a table contained a stack of corned beef sandwiches & condiments. One chewy bite told me I shouldn't take a second, I skipped it. We left when the crowd thinned enough to reach the door directly. A taxi pulled up, & Joe quickly asked the people who'd called it if they were headed for Caesar's & wanted to split the cost. They said yes & yes, & off we went.

Back at the casino, Joe played the wheel & we listened to a slick show band. Then we easily crashed a banquet hall buffet sponsored by a large bank by arriving just after it opened, with Joe chatting up a credentialed attendee as we passed a security man at the door too bored to check invitations - as Joe had predicted. It was not an open house event. There was a live jazz combo on a stage, carving stations for turkey, ham, & roast beef, a variety of tasty hot & cold finger food - I recall the baby asparagus on the veggie table. We wrapped & pocketed some pastries for snacking on the ride home.

We headed upstairs to the hospitality suites, stopping briefly in a few dull ones before hitting the affair hosted by Linden Mayor John Gregorio, in a corner suite with an outdoor balcony & lovely view. Gregorio was a familiar face & a gracious host in his tailored suit, personally greeting everyone coming through the door; his attitude was that if you knew where he was located, you were welcome. Gregorio had been mayor since the Sixties, excepting a period out of office while incarcerated. We met some people we knew, & a number of attractive women I recalled worked at Linden City Hall when I had lived in that town. The hors d'oeuvres were first rate, unfortunately, we weren't very hungry at that point. I had a top row martini mixed by somebody there who had mixed plenty of them.

We thanked the Mayor, moved on, & spent the rest of the evening in the Union County Democratic suite, where we again encountered the Irish pub writers, & assorted freeholders, & future gay Gov. Jim McGreevey, who was staying close to State Senator Ray Lesniak, who occupied the room's only comfortable chair & looked exhausted & hungover, eyes closed, rubbing his forehead, he probably felt like saying, "Oh, shut up, Jimmy & find me some aspirin." Joe & I had such a pleasant time there we lost track of the time & it was midnight when we headed back north.

Joe, I realized, had imbibed almost no alcoholic beverages, drinking wasn't his thing, or mine. We were more interested in the food & people-watching. He was sober. I was mildly buzzed from a few cocktails. But he could barely stay awake north of the Asbury Park exit on the Parkway, it became truly frightening after awhile. I offered to drive him the rest of the way home when we reached my place. He declined. The next day he said he might have pulled over & napped for awhile, he couldn't remember. He had gotten home intact. I hadn't seriously doubted he would, but I worried because I liked his wife & kids.

I've heard the Conference is no longer the big party loaded with freebies it was, when thousands of Jersey's city & municipal employees - the paper pushers & keyboard tappers - shared hotel rooms for a night, partisan divisions put aside for some generally harmless fun amongst one's own kind while attending seminars & panel discussions like "Emerging Technology and Its Effects on Local Telecommunication Tax Revenues." Too bad in a way. Take away their titles & they're mostly just office workers & managers with modest salaries, & most stay only one night & hang out with co-workers expecting no more than free drinks & fried shrimp & an evening playing the slots or catching a lounge show in Atlantic City, which is there for having a good time.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009


Nothing in newspaper today regarding a terrible accident up the block yesterday. So it didn't involve a police chase. I knew something was happening somewhere up that way when a bunch of emergency vehicles raced by during rush hour, but my apt faces a side street & once they get past my corner they're gone, & this street connects with a major street a short ways in that direction. There was more car horn honking than usual. Later, when I got ready to take a walk up to 7-11, I looked out the window & saw the police had blocked off the street at my corner & were detouring traffic. This was maybe 90 minutes after the event.

I passed it walking to & from the store. There were at least a dozen cops, uniforms & detectives, still on the scene, the whole intersection yellow-taped. Had to ask a cop where I could cross. "Follow the tape until it ends, " he said. A funky older taxi, probably owner-driver, had been blasted nearly on to a sidewalk , & around the corner on the cross street were two more cars, one embedded in the side of the other. Couldn't figure out the sequence, but it was the accident everyone on this stretch of road expects everyday, the way the knuckleheads come through here. One of those cars blew through a red light, & that car or one of the others was speeding. I'm sure the police sorted it out, they get these kinds of crashes often enough on U.S. Rt 1. This street is almost as crazy as the one I used to live on near very dangerous intersection; the police in that city at least occasionally parked a contraption that radars cars & flashes the speed to try to slow drivers down, & I think it worked.

I'm not completely incurious when I hear fire engines or see police questioning someone. But while I resided in downtown Rahway, I realized that the vast majority of the time there's nothing to see. So if you ignore what appears to be "action," the odds are very good you've missed nothing worth looking at. Entirely different from noticing something that ought to be reported to 9-1-1. If someone had told me there'd been a big accident up the street, maybe I would've gone to 7-11 a little sooner. Or maybe not.

Apotheosis of the Rose

Have to go all the way to Iowa, the Salisbury House in Des Moines, to view this Joseph Stella painting. Decorative, spiritual, fanciful, & modern at the same time - & painted in 1928.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kinsey Millhone

When I first read a Kinsey Millhone novel in Sue Grafton's alphabet series, I made the mistake of not going back to "A" Is for Alibi & reading the series in sequence when she didn't have a new book out. Not only would I have kept track of which ones I'd read, I'd also remember plots better. They all take place in the 1980's, story following close upon story, into newest book, "U" Is for Undertow. I was more than halfway through "O" Is for Outlaw before I was certain I'd already read it.

Private investigator Millhone lives very modestly in rented cottage behind a house, owns only one all-occasion dress. She usually wears jeans & a black turtleneck. Sometimes she earns a fat fee, but routine work is her bread & butter. She runs three miles every morning, goes though phases with gym workouts, loves fast food burgers & fries, & eats just about whatever gut-wrenching Polish dish gets served up as the daily special by the owner of Rosie's, the bar up the street. Her only close friend is her landlord, Henry - & old man & former baker who feeds her good home-cooked meals & gives her sound but usually unheeded advice.

I don't read police procedurals or novels about serial killers (except Tim Dorsey's series featuring lunatic Floridian dispenser of deserved justice, Serge A. Storms). I began a J.A.. Konrath novel last night promising humor. In the first few chapters it felt like a procedural, introduced two serial killers, ten Chicago cops were slaughtered, & the protagonist's mom & fiance were taken hostage with intent to torture & kill them. I closed it.


Rutgers 85, Kean 49

An early season blowout by Rutgers women, but an interesting matchup. Rutgers, of course, is an excellent program coached by the famous C. Vivian Stringer, who puts together a great team every few years but can't seem to time the team to a year when Tennessee or UConn aren't better.

Kean University is the Div. 3 state school around the corner from me. The Cougars have a strong program & coach, nationally ranked again this year, were terrific last year, & receive no media attention. I'd have liked to see this matchup midway last season when Kean was a well-tuned machine & Rutgers was breaking down under pressure at both ends of the court. Kean wasn't surprised they went to Piscataway & lost, but they were surely disappointed they didn't score more points. Just not big enough. The Cougars go back to Div. 3 now & stay ranked.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I like to think that most of our presidents in fairly recent history, & even the unsuccessful candidates, admire them or not, had resumes establishing why they merited the position. Nixon believed he merited it too much, but his qualifications were undeniable. That makes Sarah Palin's appeal to a large part of the right wing a puzzlement to me. An honest resume from her would have to include her high school employment, it's so thin. She has no intellectual distinction, a lousy grasp of language, no success in business or as a legislator of any importance. She's untraveled & uneducated because she lacks curiosity. It's obvious she's never been much of reader. WYSIWYG, although Palin continues to blame "media" for making her appear as the person she clearly is. Now she can add Oprah to the list.

Harry Truman, from a most modest background, had learned the nuts & bolts of government at the county level before serving ten years in the Senate. It was only by comparison to F.D.R. that Truman seemed unqualified for the White House. He was. Roosevelt may not have confided in his V.P. , but Truman knew what the president's job entailed.

I don't understand why conservatives want Palin to be president. Why do they want to do it to a nation that elected their hero, Ronald Reagan - who took office with experience & stature, & decades of deep interest in national issues & policy? Do they hate America?


Monday, November 16, 2009

Servicio Puerta a Puerta

I am so glad to be home. I am cold & hungry. The stars misaligned for a simple plan. I walked four books to library. Heavy. I am wearing a Foley catheter - I'll write on the pros & cons of that later this week, but this one chaffs a bit & I don't enjoy the walking for the heck of it so much. & I'm underweight & I need to keep more food around - any food, junk food. I liked having several books around to choose from as my next read. So I decided to take out four books, go to the supermarket, which had good sales, get some extra snack & canned stuff plus 1/2 gallons of juice & milk, indulge myself with a cab home. Pathmark bakery has crullers half the price of Dunkin' Donuts & just as tasty, I nibble through one over the course of day, dipping it in cold milk.

In the checkout, I got caught behind a young couple who presented the cashier with a stack of coupons plus two six month old rain checks from another Pathmark that were ultimately determined invalid. When I was done, I called the only cab company on my cell list & was told it would be 1/2 an hour. Not the usual ten minutes. This was for a 5 minute ride at most. I had to wait. But I figured I would sit on the bench outside, start reading one of the books, & it would go quick enough.

An idling armored truck was parked in front of the bench pumping exhaust. It was there for a long time.

The cashier who'd rung up my order went home. The air became chilly.

The other person waiting for a cab, an old lady with a cane & enormous amount of groceries filling two shopping baskets was picked up by another company.

A car from the Latino Cab arrived for someone, the driver gave me his card. I said I'd try him next time.

I called Yellow Cab again. The dispatcher didn't remember taking my call. I said it had to be Yellow it's the only taxi number on my phone. He said, "Sorry, I'll send a Red Cab right now."

A few minutes later a red Latino Cab showed up. Nice driver, they usually are. He helped me load my groceries. "Are you Yellow Cab?" I asked.

"Same company, " he said, "but we're Latino, we're red."

"I don't care where my drivers come from, " I said. But with the huge Hispanic population of Elizabeth, there has to be a cab company that guarantees Spanish speaking dispatchers & drivers. (Now I see in the phone book they have identical ad size & copy, but in English & Spanish).

Five minutes later I was home. Too much money for the distance, I think. Definitely too much for the wait.

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Have to make a bunch of phone calls & appts in a few minutes.

Sunday evening, there were half-a-dozen fire engines outside, people gathering, looked like something major was happening up the street. I stuck my head out the window, none of the fire personnel were rushing around, although something was going on in the next block. Excitement of that sort doesn't interest me much anymore. But unless they started unrolling hoses, there certainly wasn't anything to see. So I closed the window. Eventually the vehicles all left, several responding to another call.
Took care of the most important call. It required important decision. Made two other related calls, one, though disappointing, at least gave me the answer I needed for planning on how to get to a doctor's office in Newark. The other can be resolved today or tomorrow. pestering the urologist office I went to last week to fax on what few records they have for me.

I had to accept that "convenience" was not possible, & that I was attracted to a specialist in suburban Millburn because the scenery is better, but in all other respects it would create additional hassles I couldn't justify. I know I can get to the huge medical office building in big, bad Newark. It's a bus/taxi mile from the train station, adjacent to the hospital where the doctors practice & teach, & there is special transit there if I can match appts to the scheduled trips, which I couldn't do for the long intake appt. Did talk the scheduler into 10 am rather than 8:30, so I could avoid rush hour.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sea Bright NJ

Ship Ahoy Motel & private beach club.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Whenever there's a serious or even moderately strong coastal storm, Sea Bright NJ gets battered. Sea Bright is a narrow, developed barrier beach south of Sandy Hook, the northernmost part of the Jersey shore. In other places on the shore where there's beach front homes, you probably wouldn't think of parking in someone's driveway & using their private path to the beach. You could get arrested. Shore towns are supposed to provide reasonable public access to a public beach, & there have been many lawsuits to make them do it. Sea Bright, which has nice little downtown, has a public beach & parking, & you can have a good day & evening there in the summer.

But I never got that stretch north of downtown to Sandy Hook. There,"beach front" homes are not on the beach. They're separated from the ocean by a state highway, a high rock & concrete seawall extending north into Sandy Hook & south into Monmouth Beach, & an artificial beach that has to be replenished & duned at great expense to the state & federal governments. The wall & beach are there to keep Sea Bright from disappearing into the ocean. The home owners on the other side of the highway "own" the part of the seawall directly across the street, with private stairways & decks & a walled off beach & keep out signs. This never made sense to me.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

simple things

The rain never came. All day long with the clouds & wind I thought something fiercer was on the way. The street diggers prevented an escapist nap.
Scorpio: To reduce the amount of stress in your life, you need to hand things over to someone you trust. Delegate some of your tasks at work or at home to another person who could use the experience. You can't worry about adding stress to their life by doing so -- right now you should just be concerned about creating a few calmer, quiet moments in your own day.
Yeah, sure. We're all surrounded by people who could "use the experience" of bearing our stress so we can be calmer. I just kept it simple.

1. Looked in on Gina's cats. They were fine. Meanie was pouty because she prefers having a human in the house. Borrowed $3 quarters from Gina's change jar for possible #4.
2. Called city agency to send some info on how I can get around the city more conveniently.
3. E mailed sister.
4. Ran load of laundry (A good thing to do next when you're in doubt what to do next. )
5. Charged cellphone battery.
6. Read my friend Rob O'Connor's thoughtful piece on Jack Kerouac.

storm cam

Here's a good Jersey shore live cam to watch the storm, sponsored by an Ocean City NJ surf shop. Choice of IE or Firefox. It pivots to different views.

Good thing I'm up & wide awake. A guy is jackhammering the street (8 am) & I'm merely pissed off rather than enraged.
After checking out what she's wearing, do we want to listen to Amanda Peet? Isn't Bill Murray lots more annoying than funny? I've become so uninterested in the second half hour of Letterman. Kid scientists is still a good bit.
Nasty flock of starlings out front, attracted probably by the dirt piles from the gas company street dig. But they couldn't get at the dirt because guys are working around it. Frustrated birds.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fixing the ceiling

Headline of the day: "Suspicious powder on NJ Transit train in Rahway was Ultra Slim-Fast"
On the edge of a coastal storm, "Cloudy with a few showers. High around 50F. Winds NE at 20 to 30 mph" doesn't quite describe how bad the weather is. So I took a taxi home from the same location I'd walked back from two days ago.
Called my sister at 7 am to get her opinion on two options I had for dealing with a problem today. As soon as I asked, "Did I wake you up?" I realized what a dumb question it was. My sister has to do some serious partying or be on vacation to sleep that late. By 7 she's running a load of wash before she does whatever else she has planned for the day, which is why I didn't hesitate to phone her at that hour. She's also a Virgo to my Scorpio, for you astrology folks. It's an uneasy relationship but one - I recently had to concede - was not only necessary & useful, but which had been divinely appointed as a love her & you'll get even sorrier, buster matter. So I was stupid not to lean on her Virgoan big sister point-of-view when that was exactly what I did not have & she had to offer: The 7 am phone call.

Anyway, what we decided kept me home a few more hours, & as luck would have it, I was still here when two guys showed up to fix the ceiling in the other room, where a radiator leak upstairs had knocked down plasterboard, They finished by the time I did go out. I hope the quick work doesn't mean shoddy work, because I'd like to put stuff under the repair. I had desperately resorted to invoking my sister to get the repair done, I didn't know how else to pressure the man in charge of assigning the job. Personally, I like him, & he does have a lot of responsibilities.

"You know, Louie," I said to him on the phone, "my sister may have some reason to visit me sometime & she knows the kind of mess to expect from me. But if she saw that ceiling, she'd go ballistic & probably call the landlord or the city building inspector right then no matter what I said."

Louie went, "Oh?" But I could hear the concerned tone. This was a new piece of information about me, & a warning I'd delivered with some conviction in my own voice, like, maybe I don't have the temperament to deal with this but I know someone who does. You don't mess with somebody's sister. Less than a week later, after two months of forgetting about it or stalling, the ceiling is fixed.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009


St. Martin's Day (or Martinstag or Martinmas) is November 11, the feast day of Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me."
It's a good legend about sharing. There was no reason either of them should freeze. Jesus, as the beggar, wasn't demanding Martin go naked.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brahms' String Sextet No. 1

I had a harder day today than I deserved. I learned what happens when neither a hospital's attending specialist or attending primary doctor are in my HMO.; the two doctors the hospital handed me. & the only specialist in my HMO in this large city with a large hospital is very old & has an office over a beauty parlor in not very pleasant location, & the next nearest ones I can possibly get to are in Millburn & Newark & aren't affiliated with this large local hospital. & I have to immediately switch specialists. Those other specialists aren't required to accept me as a patient, although fortunately I'm permitted to contact them without a referral.

But I did get through quickly enough to a service rep at the HMO & she did explain clearly what I needed to know.

The owner of this apartment building should put a No Loitering sign out front, & the sign should be intended for the miserable alcoholic guy from the third floor who was standing unsteadily out there at 11 am & asked me for a dollar. I'd just walked home because it was a nice day & I needed to clear my mind & think rationally, & I also saved myself return trip cab fare & picked up some decent orange juice on sale.

Now I am going to listen to Brahms' String Sextet No. 1.

Early appt today (8:30, not that early), I had enough sleep to wake up before alarm clock. Had a short power outage. They occur often here, most last under a minute, this one clicked on & off & on again, a little worrisome. Followed as usual by sirens headed toward Morris Ave., I always figure a car hit a pole or shorted a traffic light box near the ridiculously dangerous intersection by Kean University's biggest parking lot. It's also one of the worst pedestrian crossings I know, involving left hand turn signals pedestrians can't see & drivers too impatient for pedestrians. The county in its wisdom put a playground & park on that corner. Last year I signed a petition to stop a bank & drug store from locating on the intersection. In a short stretch there's already two campuses of the school, an office park, a pharma plant, an NJ Transit train station, an historical mansion, a road 18 wheelers use to get from Route 78 to Goethal's Bridge. I could imagine how many more power failures this neighborhood would have with a drive-thru bank & a Walgreen's up there.

Monday, November 09, 2009

vast urban prairie

Detroit: Urban Laboratory and the New American Frontier. Interesting article (especially photos) on how Detroit is turning into a vast urban prairie with enough cheap open land, unemployed labor pool, & need for food to support farming. The city is so large - 139 sq miles, so poor, & so unmanageable that there's no hope of revitalizing it, much less trying to govern it, conventionally. Too much space to fill. It's become a canvas for visionaries, artists, innovative house renovators, & a few crackpots.

The Amish ought to consider migrating there, as Lancaster PA farm property values soar with encroaching development.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

screwed up

The United States Army knew Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was screwed up. Too screwed up to be a shrink, too screwed up to counsel soldiers, too screwed up to serve at Fort Hood, in Afghanistan, or anywhere. No doubt Muslims face prejudice in our armed forces. There are problems that go far deeper than what Muslims must experience, given the influence of evangelical protestantism on military life, throughout all ranks. It can tough to be a Jew or Catholic, or pagan or no preference in some units of the United States military. The Army has no excuse for Hasan. They kept this deeply disturbed man on active duty despite years of complaints & bad reports (& discharge patriotic homosexuals who speak Arabic). As this tragedy is investigated, we should expect a list of disciplinary actions against those responsible for pushing Hasan through the Army pipeline just because they needed more psychiatrists. Graduate students in social work at the state university up the street are put through more rigorously monitored examinations & internships than the Army apparently required of Hasan. Here's an opportunity to take the lid off & expose a whole bunch of festering problems.

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Bayville NJ

Nothing about this postcard proves it was actually taken in Bayville.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

victory parade

Watching the Yankees victory parade on TV would be tedious even for Yankees fans. There's the players on decorated trucks waving. Double decker buses carrying, one supposes, Yankees employees & their families. Parade attendees mostly between high school age & 30, when interviewed by reporters, half want to see Derek Jeter & the other half just shout, "Yankees, Yankees." Probably last call for Johnny Damon & Hideki Matsui. So it goes, up to City Hall where a fireman sings "God Bless America" & everyone gets a key to the city, including the assistant trainer & some people not even identified by a job. Jay-Z raps a second rate number with help from an Alicia Keys substitute, hip hop as a waste of the form. Then it's over. Aren't you glad you didn't go? Could be a big mistake, manager Joe Giraldi, changing your uniform number to 28 next season.

What happens to the official Phillies World Championship clothing?
Phillies title gear a hit far from World Series

Each fall and winter for the last three years, World Vision has sent to the impoverished around the world thousands of team championship caps, jerseys and T-shirts produced before the World Series and Super Bowl and then rendered unusable for marketing in the United States when teams don't win the title.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mr. Lucky Theme

Performed by Steve Rabb

Nice set-up. The A100 is pretty much the same as the more collectable B-3 & could cost half as much. An old Yamaha DX7 synth up top, sound of the 80s.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Why Do Catholics Do That?

Reading Why Do Catholics Do That? A Guide to the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church by Kevin Orlin Johnson (Ballantine Books, 1994). It has both the Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur, so it's an authentic document of the Pope John Paul II era. I was curious about exactly what Catholics are expected & required to believe & do if they are strictly observant & not "cafeteria Catholics." Also want a better understanding of the Catholic take on sola scriptura, which is at the heart of protestantism, & taken to absurd extremes by fundamentalists. Johnson begins with chapter on the place of "Tradition" (contrasted with "custom") in Church doctrine & practice. But just 45 pages in & I can see why he has the Nihil Obstat. He has to ignore a lot of Biblical literary scholarship & stay a single path through early church history. He's also too condescending toward protestantism, too much a generalist.

It's very different from Garry Wills' books. Wills is a dissenting apologist who explains why he remains a Catholic despite what he knows. Wills has a charming, almost devious way of sounding like a fairly progressive protestant in his Biblical expositions only to arrive at a "Tah Dah!" moment where you realize he's thinking & reasoning as a Catholic steeped in Thomas Aquinas. Could Wills convert to Catholicism based on what he believes now? I don't see how he could get through the Rite of Christian Initiation classes all parishes offer. He challenges the Church to kick him out.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Election Night

No great surprise Chris Christie beat Jon Corzine. He did it handily, without carrying Bergen County, & he carried Middlesex. Neither of the candidates was a strong campaigner. Corzine had so much going against him, not least of which was a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats. Very few Corzine signs on lawns of this Democratic city, with no local races cranking up the GOTV machines. Obama's young supporters didn't vote. Younger people never did in large numbers before Obama, why would they this year? Many of Obama's independent suburban voters went for Christie or stayed home. While Christie's win is played as a massive defeat for Obama, this was a Jersey election on Jersey issues, & the toughest issues were mostly not discussed. It wasn't about giving back the stimulus money. Christie is a "moderate" as Repugs go, from the North Jersey establishment of Kean & Whitman. He began appealing to the Repug hard right only when polls showed his comfortable lead slipping. We don't really know the man. He ran bland.

In addition to the recession & the state's economic woes, we had the sorry spectacle this year of a wave of corruption indictments against Democrats. In the middle of the campaign, Corzine showed he had no power over the South Jersey boss, George Norcross, who couldn't wait until after the election to topple Senate President Dick Codey, a popular Democrat in North Jersey. The Democratic Party has to get a better face on in New Jersey.

The surprise was Mayor Mike Bloomberg's narrow win. He needed to spend a hundred million to win. With a better financed campaign, William Thompson might have beat him. There was more resentment against his overturning term limits than he had thought, & he did poorly with minorities. NYC voters voted for term limits, & their will was ignored.

The Democrat has apparently won NY-23, the upstate congressional district where the national teabaggers, Palin, Glen Beck, etc., drove out the legit Repug candidate because she wasn't a lockstep wingnut & homobigot. But Obama carried the district last year. Even Newt warned them to let her to run her own race. Repugs had held that seat for like 100 years. Now they won't.

Virginia is a conservative state. McDonnell outspent & narrowly beat Creigh Deeds for attorney general four years ago. He only serves one term.


Took maybe five minutes to vote. I speed the process along by bringing the sample ballot & handing it to the poll worker to look up my name & address. Same old guy at the booth taking the ticket & saying, "Have a blessed afternoon" to every voter.

Election Day

An amazing blog post. Thuman Hart is so shocked, shocked, to discover there's gambling in the establishment (Hudson County Democratic Machine) that he's dropping his Democratic voter registration & registering as a Repug. So he becomes an instant RINO. But he's still not voting for Chris Christie. I wasn't even registered to the Democrats until I wanted to vote in a local city council primary & had to declare myself. When I did, the automated phone calls doubled at general election time. But even as a "registered Democrat" I'm not a member of the Democratic Party. A political party is an institution first & only secondarily a democratic process. There've been up to four Democratic Parties on the primary ballot in Union County, only one of which is the "regular" party that actually controls the Courthouse by fielding winning candidates in the primaries & generals. & that "regular" party does occasionally suffer defeats in local primaries by well-organized insurgencies, few of which offer any real hope for reform. They want their own hands on the controls. The Repugs in Jersey are weak because their machines are weak, not because they're too honest to win. If they elect a governor today, it's on resentment, & the party hacks will be lining up for (& receive) the spoils of victory: state patronage jobs. If Steve Lonegan's right wing supporters want power, then they have to do more than gripe about taxes, post nasty comments on the web, throw a few bucks at the candidate, & show up at one rally featuring Joe the Plumber.

Republicans in Union County, who do control some towns, couldn't even field a third candidate for freeholder. What if Corzine wins the statewide election by a few hundred votes that one additional local Repug candidate may have generated with a spirited campaign? There are debatable issues here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Humes Music Store

Unfortunately, had no reason to patronize this old sheet music store in the lively, predominantly Hispanic Morris Ave. retail district, I'm sure he had a great selection of classical miniscores. The owner had no walk-in business, & must have specialized in supplying church music. He was there every day wearing a jacket & tie. A few months ago he began taking days off & taping "closed today due to illness in family" signs on the door. It appears that the store has been sold, a sign mentions a new owner, but a lot of the shelves have been cleared. Online catalogue sales have driven famous sheet music stores out of business, like the one behind Carnegie Hall. Surprised this local one hung on.

Morris Ave. is now anchored by popular Colombian-flavored cafes, with beauty parlors & other service businesses, it's been getting through the recession without many storefront vacancies. In fact, there's been a good deal of renovating over the past year. If Elizabeth ever had a candidate for a commuter retail & residential district, the stretch of Morris Ave. between the train station & Kean University was probably it. But the city was uninterested in master planning around the underutilized train station plaza.

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cab ride

Later: Well worth the cab fare to see the shrink ($6 + tip, a bargain). He renewed my Ambien, filled out some forms. I surprised myself by walking all the way home, including a stop at a Supremo supermarket, my backpack so off balance afterward I realized I was walking like I was inebriated.
If you hate the Phillies & Yanks so much that you didn't catch Johnny Damon's tenacious 9th inning, 2 out at bat & steal of second & third base last night, your loss. No more baseball this year when the Series ends.

Ordered free Windows 7 Upgrade. Haven't bothered learning much about Vista. I have no printer or scanner plugged in. I was given a scanner a few years ago that I couldn't use with old PC. If it works on this one, I can get a basic cheap printer, model determined by cost of black ink cartridges.

Rutgers women's basketball opens at home against Stanford on the 15th. Only ten players on the Rutgers roster, & Epiphanny Prince turned pro in Italy. Epiphanny was the go-to scorer but she wasn't comfortable as court leader & no one else was stepping up last year, this Big East season must have looked long, difficult, & unnecessary for someone with WNBA aspirations.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

cheap jeans

Downtown. Bought cheap jeans, sweatpants, boxer shorts in a store I don't like giving money to. The sweatpants are thick & warm looking. I know they're slave labor clothes. Quick spin around large rummage shop, no decent flannels. Across street to buy two C clamps to stabilize PC desk top. Over to Family Dollar for two cans of Sunny Farm strawberries (great for smoothies, hard to find) & dish detergent. Family Dollar is an enjoyable browse, reliable chain about as close to a McCrory's as we have now, everything clearly priced. Hard to figure the Hispanic preference for grape-fragrance cleaning products. I think I will be quite tired in a little while.

No matter how well one treats them, after a certain amount of wearing & washing, one's "neat" jeans cross a threshold.

Cape May Point NJ

Happy 150th birthday, Cape May lighthouse.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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