Monday, August 30, 2004

Asbury Park: A perfect day for ruins

Not much to cheer me up on the Asbury Park boardwalk yesterday. A sunny, warm Saturday in August, quite warm until one caught the sea breeze a block from the ocean, nearly perfect weather headed toward a balmy boardwalk evening.

From the crumbling Casino Pier to Convention Hall there were few businesses, those all serving food or drink. A new bar had opened. The Mayfair hadn't died. Howard Johnson's was serving, if it still is a Howard Johnson's. And along the veranda of Convention Hall pier, a makeshift Tiki Bar that actually seemed to be doing well. The beach was nearly empty except for clusters of people around two lifeguard chairs. The beach next to Convention Hall was a lively scene, mostly gay men who looked like they went there regularly, along with a few families, maybe 100 people. Weren't nearly that many on the beach the last time I visited, two years ago for a live broadcast by Glen Jones. But Jonesy attracted another 100 to the HoJo's. In that respect, the boardwalk has not gotten better.

In the old days, well into the Seventies, people poured out of sedate Ocean Grove on late Saturday afternoons. Now the two boardwalks do not connect; The boardwalk on the south side of the Casino is ripped up, the pier shuttered. That section was once very active, a bottleneck with a restaurant & beach shop that collected caricaturists & various peddlers. There's still a restaurant on a small pier, & it's probably a bargain to eat there with an ocean view.

So Asbury Park remains a whole lotta gimme with a mouth full of much obliged. This was obvious in the Cookman Ave. business district, more than half vacancies but with several attractive restaurants. Most visible were the real estate offices sprouting up with signs touting soon-to-come half-million dollar loft condos. We'll see who bites on those. Commercial property is overvalued, whether from greed, desperation or impatience. But houses on the oceanside of the railroad are a relative bargain, & I saw many homes that are nicely renovated or in the process of being fixed up. These sit on the same streets with grotesque, boarded up edifices like the Metropolitan Hotel & run down but inhabited properties. Buying into Asbury Park is still very much in the homesteading phase. Crime is high. Wherever I go, I observe with the eye of someone looking for a place a place to live. I found a slightly down-at-the-heels high rise apartment building with balconies, obviously renting to people of modest means. I hope these residents aren't uprooted altogether by gentrification. Because a lot of people - mostly blacks - will be pushed back west across the tracks, where they all lived when Asbury, like Atlantic City, maintained de facto segregation. Asbury Park has a high crime rate, & crime rates are lowered only by investment in single family homes, at which point property owning taxpayers get tired of being burglarized & mugged, become more possessive of their neighborhoods, & demand better police protection.

I saw two great success stories. The Empress Motel on Ocean Ave. has been completely renovated into a gay-oriented hotel & club. The Paradise Club has been open for some time, the motel just reopened. I don't see how it can fail; it's the only establishment of its kind I know of on the Jersey shore. The owner, music producer Shep Pettibone, would be wise to put a plastic bubble over the pool for off-season patrons. The other winner is Moonstruck Restaurant. Located in what had been an old style guest hotel facing Wesley Lake, Moonstruck has three stories of outdoor dining on each of its old-fashioned verandas. The place was packed, with a steady stream of customers coming from Ocean Grove across a pedestrian bridge. The nouveau American cuisine is reputedly excellent. From the outside, It's one of the most charming restaurants I've seen on the Jersey shore. Both of these businesses are visionary models for what is possible in Asbury Park.

I'm not sure how crucial the Springsteen connection will be for the city over the long run. Asbury Park has of necessity had to inflate its musical importance. The town has an excellent live music scene, but it never has wielded wide influence. It was an enclosed, provincial scene even back in the Seventies. Bruce helped preserve the clubs but he couldn't save Tillie & The Palace. The Stone Pony exists in a self-congratulatory fantasy. Nils Lofgren was headlining Saturday night, one night only. Opening for him was Vinny "Mad Dog" Lopez with a version of Steel Mill. Nils has better stories to tell about Keith Richards than about Bruce, & the last I heard "Mad Dog" had a day job at a golf course. A small line of devotees snaked in for the late afternoon band. I heard them playing outside, an awful song about The Stone Pony & meeting Bruce in 1995. Jersey shore clubs from Wildwood to Keansburg are unapologetically guido. & face it, both Bruce & Bon Jovi are essentially guidos. For that sort of thing, I recommend Martell's on Point Pleasant boardwalk, which also has an aphrodisiac raw bar.

Say hello to my next bike, a 16" 3 speed Dahon folding bike. I know it looks odd. But it can be carried on a bus, or a NJ Transit train during rush hour.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Tokens are not a "rock & roll" group. They started out as tin pan alley neo doo wop. I suppose the BIg hit "Wimoweh - The Lion Sleeps Tonight" could be considered folk-pop. The Weavers did that song, & I sang it around Boy Scout campfires. I went to see The Tokens at free outdoor concert in Rahway because they have their original lead singer, Jay Siegel, who can still do the falsetto - if with less power. I was mainly interested in seeing a guy who was part of the team that produced The Chiffons' "He's So Fine," The Happenings' underrated "See You In September," Randy & the Rainbows, & - Tony Orlando & Dawn (The Tokens were the original Dawn). Good lounge show, jokey, not particularly slick.
It's unfortunate that Joe Renna is running for Union County freeholder as a Republican in a year the despicable George W. Bush is heading the ticket. Joe is more a traditional Labor Democrat in his views than most elected Democrats, & I told him so when we met twice today at outdoor concerts in Elizabeth & Rahway. During the several years I worked for & with Joe in his graphics business, I can't recall us ever having a serious disagreement over important political issues or co-called "family values."

I didn't vote for Jim McGreevey in either of his gubernatorial primaries. He was the annointed choice of too many Jersey bosses, & he paid dearly for letting himself be used by them. I voted for Rep. Frank Pallone in one of those elections. McGreevey seemed to be a good Mayor in Woodbridge, at least until he allowed a county park to be created on Smith Creek in Sewaren, formerly a location I considered magical, completely wrecking what had been a "brown fields" tidal zone well along in the healing process, turning a uniquely lovely waterway into a big ugly ditch. I've never trusted Jersey Democrats or Republicans in environmental matters. Had it been up to Republicans, Smith Creek would now probably be lined with high-priced condos like Shark River in Belmar. Let the "market" make the "improvements." Democrats think they're doing something for the "people" by ripping out wild tidewater vegetation, forcing a malnourished lawn on to weak, sandy soil, installing a public water fountain & restrooms, & making the place accessible only by car. Either way, there's a lot of money changing hands. ALL of the undeveloped areas around Smith Creek should have been designated as wildlife sanctuary with at most a nature boardwalk & bird viewing platform. Sewaren already had a comfortable & popular waterfront park, boat ramp & riverwalk. Any Sewaren resident who thinks the new park is a good thing is blind AND ignorant.

The Democratic Party in Jersey is in great need of reform. The cream does not rise to the top; unless one is a billionaire with ethics of acceptable quality. Perhaps Sen. Jon Corzine, the ultimate pay-to-play politician (he pays his own way & raises money for other Dems), is independent & strong enough to use the Governor's office for something better than dispensing patronage & other favors. Let the unintentionally absurdist performer Rep. Menendez have the Senate seat; faced with national security issues of highest importance, maybe he'll lose interest in who's running Jersey City. Our Senators have usually (with two notable exceptions) been guys who kept their noses out of the toilet bowl.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Great idea. Would be a perfect collaboration with Haiku Against Bush.

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Monday, August 23, 2004

"It is the responsibility of...every evangelical get serious about re-electing President Bush."
- Jerry Falwell (The New York Times July 16, 2004)
God is not a Republican.
Or a Democrat.

Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others on the Religious Right claim that God has taken a side in this election, and that Christians should only vote for George W. Bush. The Bush-Cheney campaign even told volunteers it was their "duty" to make church directories available to the campaign.

How has the love of Jesus, the Prince of Peace - and his good news to the poor - been distorted by the pro-war, pro-rich political agenda of the Religious Right? Our faith has been hijacked, and it's time to take it back!

Click below to sign our petition and send a message to America that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, and that the Religious Right does not speak for you. Remind America that Jesus taught us to be peacemakers, advocates for the poor, and defenders of justice.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A long & nice day at Lake Owassa

Saturday was long & very nice day at Lake Owassa. Small lake - maybe a mile & 1/2 long - way up in northwest jersey, not long a ride except we were caught in traffic for the big Sussex State Fair. A WFMU DJ friend has been renting a lakefront cottage up there for the past few summers. Really is charming place, on the side of a hill so that the front door (from the road) enters a nice size family room, off that a small bedroom, kitchen & bath, & the other bedroom is downstairs. Slate steps lead down to the Lake, where there's an old-fashioned wooden screenhouse & a dock. Similar houses all around the lake, a few bigger & winterized, some smaller, most almost hidden back in the trees. It took me back to an older New Jersey, an earlier time in my life. Because of the threatening weather for later in the day not many people showed up. But the weather was fine, just not sunny. I spent a lot of time sitting on the dock with my legs in the cool water. Later, DJ Tamar offered to row me across the lake to a swampy area, & as we went across I was sitting in the stern holding a cocktail. Tamar didn't even break a sweat. Motor boats & water skiing allowed, jet skis not allowed, no motors permitted after dark. If it had been hot I would've gone for a swim. I'm not keen on lake water; I can sense the presence of protozoa. There were children to keep things moving along, Later, us grownups sitting in chairs in the dark by a glassy lake, unfortunately the radio music never stopped long enough to enjoy the crickets, & the frogs I know had to be croaking out there. I drove up from Jersey City with Chris T, who offered to drive me all the way home so we stayed a little longer. The rain started about 15 minutes into our ride home after 11, but we made it OK. No Hurricane Charley.

I would find life at most lakes dull after a few days, but with the big fair up there substituting for a boardwalk, & the roadside stands with fresh corn & other goodies, & a little diner up the road for breakfast, some rummage shops here & there, & the lovely little cottage with the familiar musty scent of a place that's shuttered all winter, & the quiet nights ("We all sleep late," said the DJ's wife), & the small sailboat & rowboat & canoe, & that screenhouse, I think it could be a tolerable week.

I'd never heard of Lake Owassa New Jersey until few summers ago. Lake Owassa is next to Culvers Lake, which I did know about, mainly for the odd Sunday services conducted from a barge, organ & all. On a map, both of those lakes look like ponds compared to Mohawk & Hopatcong. Butfrom its shore, Lake Owassa is large enough & very lovely, a reminder of when northwest NJ really was isolated. Before Interstate 80, when Route 15 was a two lane road (now Rt 181) winding up past Woodport cove of Lake Hopatcong, the "new" development of Lake Shawnee, to the left hand turn down a steep drive to neat Lake Mohawk, where my grandparents had a lakeside chalet among hundreds of larger & smaller chalets on the surrounding shores & hills, each discreetly separated by trees & natural rock. The five mile long man-made lake was conceived, designed & created by a single visionary developer as an upper middle-class summer ghetto. It was a very long drive to Lake Mohawk in the 50's & 60's, we never stayed overnight. I'd rarely gone past Sparta through dairy farm country up to Newton. To this day I have never been to Stokes State Forest. Now Rt. 15 is a four laner to Sparta, & there's not much scenery until you're past Newton. It doesn't feel at all like "Lake country" anymore. But Lake Owassa still does. A privately-owned "association" lake, serious development ended there years ago at under 300 houses. The large majority of those houses are still seasonal, & there are plenty of the old fashioned Pre-WWII lake cottages with their dockside screen "houses." The mustiness of the cottage I visited, common to all vacation places - ocean & lake - that are closed up for the winter, induced a flood of childhood images.

I was surprised to learn that all but the top 2 1/2 feet of Owassa is a very old natural lake sitting in a glacial depression. The rest of it was created by an active beaver dam that apparently has been there for at least 125 years. There is no human dam at all; just some flumes built to control lake depth. The beaver dam is in a swamp at the south end of the lake. Unfortunately, I only got to the edge of the swamp via rowboat; one has to portage any boat over a narrow wooden boardwalk connecting the east & west shores of the lake. If humans had not taken control of the lake, much more of Owassa would probably have silted into marsh by now. In my lifetime, I've actually seen smaller ponds disappear altogether by this process.

Oddly, despite it being a natural lake rather than a flooded valley like Lake Mohawk, the current version of Hopatcong, & all of Jersey's reservoirs, the major legal problems encountered by Owassa residents were over prior ownership of the land under the lake. But the major benefit of Owassa being entirely natural is that the owners' association is not liable for any downstream damage should the beaver dam fail. & so many famiies have been at Owassa for generations that there is a continuity & a tradition of beginning & ending the season that no longer exists at Jersey's larger lakes & over an ever-increasing portion of the ocean & bayshores, which are now suburban communities. Owassa opens summer as a community before the 4th of July with an Association meeting & sailboat races & ends it around Labor Day with the same two events.

I have never been much of a lake person. I was introduced to both lake & seashore vacation ways as a child, through the then elite middle-class culture of Lake Mohawk - my grandfather had been one of the first in on that deal - & the generally egalitarian beaches & boardwalks of Atlantic City & Ocean City NJ. Lake Mohawk was simply too quiet, had too many old people, too many "rich" kids, icky muck on the bottom, no tides, no shells, no big waves, no crowds, & everyone there loved that year after year you were with the same people, & the people were all approximately like you, which meant affluent, middle-class mainstream white protestants. Ocean City had a good deal of this sense of entitlement also, but it really was at the core a small "city" & you got on the beach without needing a personal invitation, or even paying admission at that time. Of course, my love of boardwalks is legend, & that love has a lot to do with my grandmother, who as a young Irish colleen traveled by train from Philly to Atlantic City because you didn't need to bring a lot of money or be a protestant to have fun there. It made such an impression on her that she retired to A.C. in the late 50's, & I believe she never saw the rundown old resort as it really was (you get a strong taste of this in the Louis Malle film, "Atlantic City" & in Bob Rafelson's "King of Marvin Gardens.")

Lake Owassa is so much more modest than Lake Mohawk. Mohawkers (as they referred to themselves) looked down their noses at Hopatcong, with its amusement arcades, public beaches, hanburger shacks, taverns & bait shops, so they probably felt the same about all the minor private lakes that had functional "cabins" rather than swiss chalets, & clubhouses rather than country clubs. According to my mom, Mohawk even had a lively winter scene, which required some kind of effective central heating in one's second home during the Great Depression. Regardless of what it now costs to buy into a Lake Owassa, waterfront or uphill, on the rare occasions property is for sale, the many original cottages show that it is not a community comprised only of wealthy people. The cottage my friend rented had hardly changed since it was built. Kitchen & bathroom appliances had been improved, although both spaces were completely utilitarian. It had a big, ancient, still-working, wood-burning furnace (perhaps there was an electric hot water heater), wood paneling, steep slippery slate steps leading to the lake, & an old floating dock. No rustic fireplace. No additions. No large double-pane picture window overlooking the lake. I didn't see an air-conditioner. I loved the place. It occurred to me that the snobbery of Lake Mohawk, & my boring grandparents, & their boring neighbors with the even larger chalets & pseudo-cabins, & the stuck-up kids who hung out at the "village" (where the diving boards were), had in fact ruined lakes for me. The only lake experience I ever enjoyed, aside from Boy Scout camp, was the one time my dad rented a place for a week at big Lake Wallenpaupak in the Poconos along with a motor boat & water skis. I slept on a screen porch & met some ordinary kids from a nearby semi-permanent trailer camp who like me were into patching up giant truck tubes (free then, expensive now), flipping baseball cards, & collecting deposit bottles to feed our addictions to Nehi soda. The next time I stayed at that Lake, I was in a house back in the woods, miles from a main road, without a boat or a car, tormented each night by the lights & sounds of an arcade on the far shore.

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Monday, August 16, 2004

Why pity the gay & lesbian "Log Cabin" Republicans, closeted in a political party that loathes them, that is epoxy glued to the bigoted & theocratic Christian radical right? & consider the examples set by so-called "moderate" Republicans such as Tom Kean, Christine Whitman, George Pataki, Mike Bloomberg, shamelessly hypocritical apologists all for the Levitical administration of George W. Bush.
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Sunday, August 15, 2004

McGreevey: Dis-abling a disability

"Disillusion, lying. laziness, sadness, physical pain, and grief for lost love do not fall under the American legal definition of disability; a significant impairment to major life function. Yet who among us has not, in fact, been disabled by such labels? The inability to accept one's circumstances, or tell the truth, or stop putting things off, or manage pain, or go beyond affairs of the heart - although not legally defined as disability, do nevertheless represent socially perceived failures that condition individual nonachievement."

Jim Cohn, "Mahamudra: Ancient Indian-Tibetan Social Theory" The Golden Body

If no one has yet proposed that until this past Thursday Governor Jim McGreevey was living & trying to cope with a profound disability, let me suggest - more than that I am certain - that this is exactly the case. Regardless of what happens to him legally, or whatever political shenanigans he engages in between now & the date his resignation becomes effective, he has already begun the healing / recovery process following a revelation of self; that is, he is dis-abling his disability. His marriage, his fantasies of heterosexuality (common among older queer men, closeted or not, because they believe the lies straight people tell them), even his political ambition, all dis-abled him. Now, facing life without a family, without a home or job, he can afford to be honest. "Now that you got nothin' you got nothin' to lose." The old McGreevey is becoming invisible, he's "got no secrets to reveal." I don't quote this with Dylan's youthful cynicism. The crippled energies McGreevey set in motion three decades ago gave out last week. How that specific moment came about doesn't much interest me. We can begin seeing through it now. I don't need explanations, justifications, or proofs. As truths lifted out of context, the evidence will be a mishmash of statistics & pornography. Let the news media "report" the "scandal."
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Friday, August 13, 2004

McGreevey: A Tragedy of Two Selves

I thought Gov. McGreevey's enemies had hacked Yahoo.

Peculiarities: The Governor is absolutely certain he is gay & not just a man who enjoys diversity. But he seems terribly naive for a middle-aged closet queer, like he isn't very experienced at the double-life. In fact, McGreevey has demonstrated a good deal of unexpected political naivete as Governor. Trip to Ireland at taxpayers' expense & trip to Puerto Rico courtesy of a labor union. Personal flights on the state copter. Firing the State Police Superintendent prematurely. He was far too trusting of the party insiders who backed him, & they let him down because they're in it for the money & he's in it mainly for other reasons. Then appointing Golan Cipal anti-terrotism chief. After a year in office, McGreevey seemed to have learned how to handle his job, but the earlier mistakes were dogging him. I think of Abe Lincoln down in Springfield ordering his convention managers up in Chicago to "make no deals," as if they were going obey him. This is a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil policy wonk guy. If McGreevey had remained mayor of Woodbridge, a job for which he was ideally suited, he wouldn't have had to get married; no one really cared about his personal life. They laughed at the rumors over coffee at the Reo Diner on Route 35. Gay? Gays were just as surprised as everyone else; if it can be known, they'll know it's more than a hint of mint before everyone else. The important truth was that Mayor McGreevey was a workaholic who lived like a monk in a condo on a treeless street. But his ambition was to be governor, the party establishment determined that he would have the job, so the pressure from within & without to keep running after 1997 was irresistable. Jim McGreevey must have sensed he was headed for a reckoning somewhere down the road if he rose too high & lied to himself too long.

The governor would not now want to imagine having lived a life without his two daughters. Yet the tragedy is that 30 years ago Jim McGreevey was forced to choose between two authentic selves: the sexual being & the young man with big dreams & political ambitions. If he was even fully aware of making such a choice. Choosing the former would have made the latter impossible. What he wanted for himself, for his private life, was a conventionally middle-class domesticity. How bitterly ironic that most gays only want the right to have the same for themselves.
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Thursday, August 12, 2004

McGreevey: Which master was I trying to serve?

"....Yet, from my early days in school, until the present day, I acknowledged some feelings, a certain sense that separated me from others. But because of my resolve, and also thinking that I was doing the right thing, I forced what I thought was an acceptable reality onto myself, a reality which is layered and layered with all the, quote, good things, and all the, quote, right things of typical adolescent and adult behavior.

Yet, at my most reflective, maybe even spiritual level, there were points in my life when I began to question what an acceptable reality really meant for me. Were there realities from which I was running?

Which master was I trying to serve?

I do not believe that God tortures any person simply for its own sake. I believe that God enables all things to work for the greater good. And this, the 47th year of my life, is arguably too late to have this discussion. But it is here, and it is now.

At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is.

And so my truth is that I am a gay American. And I am blessed to live in the greatest nation with the tradition of civil liberties, the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world, in a country which provides so much to its people."
Gov. Jim McGreevey

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I'm liking the Africans in this neighborhood (apparently the landlords do also), & I don't even know what country they're from, but they're from the same one. & I swear there are more around than when I moved in 4 months ago. The families are two-parent, the children well-behaved, many are church-goers. The language is melliflous. A lot of the men drive taxis here, in Newark & in New York, because they & their friends from elsewhere stop by in their cabs when in the area. The women are lovely & they are not thin. What I don't like so much: I rarely hear sophisticated African pop music, it's mostly three chord, simple beat nursery rhyme stuff, very lightweight. Ain't it like that everywhere? & the men, many of them single, gather on the corner, front stoop & porches & talk very loudly, sometimes very very late. It sounds like argument but it isn't. But this gathering of "menfolk" seems as much a cultural routine as the slow evening stroll is for hispanic couples & families. When I come home late down Elm Street, I listen for the voices ahead near the corner. If I hear punk talk, I'm careful & I shift into my "walk," which I would describe as "short, white, middle-aged, alert, with attitude, therefore a neighborhood curiosity." If they are the African men, I know I'm good to get there without hurrying.

Recent music aquisitions: Vaughan Williams Antarctica Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, based on his film score for "Scott of the Antarctic. Very atmospheric, the long Lento in the middle is heart-breakingly icy. & 8th symphony, a more positive late work with a first movement that could stand alone, & an amazing Toccata finale; Philip Glass, Violin Concerto, Ulster Orchestra, the first major work by Glass I've really enjoyed all the way through. Perhaps there are more; Gloria Coates (b. 1938), String Quartets 1,5, & 6. American who has lived in Germany for past thirty years where she done quite well. Her music comprised largely of glissandi, sliding microtonal string playing, tough to take at first. But underneath, all sorts of things going on that are more structurally conventional, & in this context quite entertaining. Also a fine painter; Charles Ives, Symphony #1 & Three Places in New England with Ormandy & Philadelphia. Robert Browning Overture with Stokowski. These are classic recordings. The "conservative" First Symphony, his Yale graduation piece, is recognizably Ivesian, although he doesn't quote any songs or do anything really novel or experimental, he's still tricking up keys & rhythms, breaking a lot of "rules" & no doubt annoyed his conservative teacher. Like his first String Quartet, it's still a strong, likable piece of music given the time & place. & he can write melodies & dances. Three Places is more "typical" Ives, short tone poems, & the "places" themselves are unexpected, like Gauden's statue dedicated to the Colonel & black regiment celebrated in the movie "Glory." Not so impressed by the Sixties sound, which is not very bright. Haven't listened to the Browning yet. The first three of these CDs are from Naxos. I have a few more eBay CDs ordered & paid for, & that's it for the year as I tighten my belt. Just 25 cent CD-Rs I make myself.

coming: impressions of Point Pleasant Beach on a beautiful saturday.
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Monday, August 02, 2004

I miss Wildwood

I barely recall my first two trips to Wildwood. The first was at the end of October, to a B&B, it poured rain all the way down on Friday night & the owners had sent a proxy to let us in. Next morning was bright blue, only four guests, the innkeepers were hungover from a high school reunion but the breakfast was fine. I decided I didn't like doing B&B at the shore. having to get up early & eat with strangers. The next summer we stayed at an old guest hotel in downtown Wildwood with a shared bath. It was inexpensive. I was with Christine & I remember almost nothing else about both those stays, they're like something I imagined or dreamt. I went back in 1990 with another woman, stayed two nights at Grey Manor motel, & had a terrible time, for which she apologized the last time I saw her, about ten years ago. In 1993, I went down with Megan & the motel had overbooked, so we got a better room off the third floor deck. That was my first really good time in Wildwood, too short, only two nights. I'm glad I persisted. We went back the next year for five nights, had a lot of fun, but I'd had it with staying near the boardwalk, & Megan didn't care, so we moved a mile up-island to the small, quiet Kismet in '95, which was being renovated by new owners. I don't know what they thought of us. I went back in '98 by myself & didn't want to come home. In '99 I spent a spring weekend there with a "friend," that was good, but haven't been there since. & every year both the Grey Manor & Kismet still send me their brochures.

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Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Festival of Colombia

Huge Colombia festival on Morris Ave. in Elizabeth today. I can't estimate crowds but if there were 15,000 I wouldn't be surprised. Much of the street was literally human gridlock, you couldn't move unless you pushed your way through. It was terrible for small children & strollers. Although the food stands seemed to be cooking, I saw few people eating - you couldn't find space to stand without having the food knocked out of your hands, unless you made it to a parking lot. The beer stands were doing great. The music puzzled me at first. On a stage at one end of the festival was a young woman who sounded like Aimee Mann except she was singing folk rocky songs in Spanish. At the other end a heavy metal was playing. The music ordinary, they looked like Bachman Turner Overdrive, they did all the guitar poses, & they were singing in Spanish. Inbetween, suitably latin music was blaring from speakers. On a side stage, a man ran on at the mouth radio DJ style ending with "Coors light." Immediately, dozens of people ran at the stage & the man tossed t shirts into the crowd, yelling "Coors light, Coors light." The cops stayed out of the crowd, congregating at either end of the festival. Had they gone in there & gotten jammed up, they may well have had their guns & radios lifted without even knowing it. Perk for men: Hundreds of beautiful, young Latino women in very tight summer clothes.

I walked back down there a few minutes ago, Morris Ave was covered curb to curb with litter, especially plastic beer cups. The street stank of beer. The Elizabeth DPW was slowly - even heroically - working its way up through this mess with shovels, brooms, & a large orange garbage truck.

"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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