Wednesday, August 31, 2011

shrink wrap

Probably set a record for a shrink appt today,  Scheduled for 3:30, taxi came about 3:05, arrived at clinic by 3:20, no check in line, doctor came for me 3:25, we were done in ten minutes, called for cab, that came by 3:45, at 4:00 I was walking into CVS back on my side of town. All this, if cabs are tardy, traffic bad, doctor running late, can take over two hours.

I walked around corner from CVS to Pathmark, not my usual supermarket, hurricane power failure had wiped out the entire refrigerated & freezer sections. No frozen, no dairy, no meat, all completely empty. I was there for coffee filters. Don't know if that happened to ShopRite, about 1/4 mile up the road, but probably on a different grid.

Talking to my landlord Monday about a tenant here we'd both like to see go. Landlord thinks I have special connections to SSD/rental assistance recipients, that I could recommend tenants. I know very few people on SSD,  a few old online friends, I tend to avoid them locally.   But I wouldn't recommend this building to anyone except a painter who would appreciate the high ceilings.  If your impression of SSD recipients is of bored people hanging around outside drinking beer from paper bags, my building would confirm your impression. This neighborhood is alright, but this building looks ghetto in the afternoon.  Two blocks away, at Bridgeway House, where I went through two short rehabs, you'd get a very different impression, of active people, functioning at varying levels, but taking classes, discussion groups, doing art (some of it quite good),having social hours with games  requiring interaction & mental stimulation,  younger people  hopefully headed back into the job market learning computer skills, some go on to college. Bridgeway tells & teaches you to get a life, even if it's scaled down & has to be as routine &  stress-free as possible. Sitting around drinking beer all afternoon is not acceptable at Bridgeway.  In fact, it would get you kicked out of the program.  Boredom is bad therapy. Bridgeway (& therapy) teach you that there are two kinds of poor judgment - what affects you only, & what affects others, & you have to be especially observant of the latter. That is what I dislike about some of the tenants in my building. Their poor judgment can be dangerous to others. One guy here has a big round ugly head containing a brain the  size of a walnut, & most of that comes from his reptile ancestors. He's never learned that when his brain tells him to be an asshole, he should tell it to shut up.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irving Street

The ivy-covered building on the left is my former residence. This is  more serious flooding than what wiped out Rahway Public Library a decade ago. Rahway has always been a flood-prone town. Historically, the worst flooding occurred in the downtown area where the river becomes a tidal estuary,  but a massive Army Corps of Engineers levee project largely alleviated that.  Now due to upriver development & increased runoff,  many of Rahway's residential streets go underwater & more homes are flooded.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Flood in Rahway

Irving Street yesterday in front of my former residence in Rahway NJ. My building is on the right,  surrounded by water, the branch of Rahway River  swiftly flowing  right to left between the buildings on the left & down to rejoin the river. Once the river comes over the bank on a street behind my old apt building & flows through St. Mark's RC Church parking lot,  what you see here occurs in under five minutes. (photo by Kimberlee Garland Cavarretta)
 River flooded twice during the ten years I resided there.  This photo doesn't quite capture it.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sturm und Drang

Hurricane Irene.  Power went off here around 4:30 am, I was in bed in darkened room listening to the wind & the radio. Late this afternoon power was still off.  I went out to look around, see if 7-11 was open & get some coffee. Right up the corner the traffic lights were working & all the apt buildings had power. I thought, shoot, that's on my electric grid, which means maybe just my building is out, & if that's so it's a very low PSE&G priority. I bought some coffee, walked down Morris Ave. past Copacabana Diner & Burger King, didn't see any serious tree damage & no signs the Elizabeth River had flooded. Got back to my place & the power was on. I asked "Mr. I don't know," a little old guy on the first floor who may or may not be as stupid as he acts (I think much of it is habitual survival instinct from wherever he used to live) how recently the power had come on. He didn't know.

There was some local flooding & fallen trees around Elizabeth, but it was mainly  Sturm und Drang, beautiful noise, not much more damage than we get from severe thunderstorms.

Frank's leaky illegal moped
Unfortunately, I have to deal strongly with another tenant here, a beer drunk with terrible judgment.  Yesterday, before the storm hit, he was out front with a completely illegal gasoline-powered moped. The laws regulating street-legal mopeds in Jersey are so narrow & strict  you might as well just get a motorcycle or motor scooter.  You can't even ride an electric razor scooter on public street or sidewalk here.  I pointed out to Frank that the police could, & eventually will confiscate the moped, he'll never get it back, there's a city garage somewhere in Elizabeth filled with illegal motorized vehicles. More likely, Frank will either crash the moped or just break it.  It's a piece of crap, converted cheap Walmart Chinese bike. I said I didn't care what he did as long as he didn't bring it in the building.   Around 10 pm last night, I smelled the strong odor of a gasoline/oil mix. I went into the hall. Frank had parked the moped on the landing between the first & second floor.  The whole building stunk of it.  I took some photos. I wish I could've bottled the smell. The only reason I didn't call the police then & there was because Irene was blowing in.  I could hear distant sirens.  But I cannot let it pass.  This man is dangerous to the building.


Ocean City NJ

Aftermath of September 1944 hurricane

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

buzz buzz

I accidentally buzz cut two strips on the back of my head when the 1/4" attachment on the electric clipper popped off without my realizing it until a big clump of hair went into the sink. Two choices: buzz cut it all or let it be for the week or ten days until it grows in enough.  I let it be. I can hide it with a baseball cap, but I keep forgetting to wear one. Since it's at the back of my head, I'm spared any funny looks.  A young tenant in his twenties sitting on the front stoop noticed it & became alarmed. He has a buzz cut & said, "I can fix that for you." I said, "You know, I don't really care what anyone thinks." That stopped him for a moment, confused. Then he smiled & said, "Man,  I can really respect that attitude."

I will have to cover it when I go crosstown to the shrink's appt  & the main library on Wednesday.

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Hurricane Irene

My friend Gina had planned on weathering the storm at her boyfriend Jones' place in Asbury Park. Second floor condo a block or so from  beach.  I mulled that over for 24 hours & wrote her, "I got a bad feeling about this. Maybe Glen should stay with you this weekend. You could be surrounded by water with the power out." A storm of this type, intensity & path ripped up the Asbury boardwalk in 1944. They had already changed their plans. The Frank Sinatra Jr. show in Ocean Grove was postponed, so she's bringing the jungle off the balcony down there & coming back to Elizabeth. Anyway,   the governor added Asbury to the mandatory evacuation.

There really no predicting what this storm will do. Depends on how big the tidal surge is & when it happens; how intense the winds are & for how long; how much rain falls on the rest of the state - a lot of rain in a short period pushes streams & rivers over their banks.

Gina & I are on the same electric grid, so we have no advantage there from being near each other.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Metropolitan Man

"What are you reading?" X-Ray was wearing a peach linen blazer. 

I said, "Just seeing who's playing the Cape this week."

"Tamar Terry's at the Crab Trap."

"With her Happy  Hammond," I added.

"You'll be glad to see her."

"And vice versa." I said with a wink. "What brings you to the steamy mainland?"

"Glee wants to see you."  That's Glee Gleason, co-owner of Anglesea Bar and Grill. His other job is Hospitality Consultant for some Atlantic City Casinos. Nobody's sure what the job involves, but Glee meets a lot of celebrities doing it. "He says you never answer your phone."

"I forget to turn it on." I reached into the pocket of my guayabera, pulled out the cellphone. & pressed the on button. It played a few bars from "Summer Wind." "Oh yeah, there's his messages. I don't want to drive over to the island now."

"Leave the driving to me," said X-Ray. He walked over to the truck, punched a button, and the flatbed began tilting toward the ground like a ramp. He walked back to my car, reached next to the steering & put the Metropolitan in neutral.  "You got your keys and wallet?"


"Then relax, baby, I'm taking a scenic route." X-Ray pulled some chains off the flatbed, hooked under the front of the car, went back to truck, hit another button, a motor started up & the chains slowly winched the car on to the ramp. I put the newspaper down and sat up.

"We ever done this before?"

"You asked me that the last time we did it," said X-Ray as  the car clanked level  on the truck chassis. X-Ray walked around the back of the truck flipped up some wheel locks,  climbed into the truck, put it in  gear,  drove out of  the driveway, out of Blue Lagoon Trailer Park,  made a left on Route 9, then a right on Wildwood Boulevard, crossed under the Garden State Parkway, heading out across the great marshes between the mainland & the sand bar holding the Wildwoods-by-the-Sea above the sea.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Watch

Haven't been feeling well emotionally & physically. The two tend to get go together in depressives.  But my mood is lightening with the prospect of Hurricane Irene arriving here later Saturday.  Yes, it will cause misery for millions in Jersey,  especially in ocean & tidal areas, & has  the potential for catastrophic damage. Nothing one can do about it, so may as well observe it all with interest.

Irene's current path leaves open the strong possibility that it will directly strike New Jersey. A direct hurricane hit on Jersey is an extremely rare occurrence - direct meaning the storm eye  makes landfall here. For a hurricane to do that, it has to either stay at sea & bend west as it approaches Jersey - unlikely,  or straddle the coast up from Virginia, keeping hurricane strength - part of the current path forecast. If a hurricane moves inland, it may remain a devastating storm especially in the mountainous regions of Virginia & Eastern PA, causing widespread major flooding & wind damage,  but  it downscales to tropical storm strength quickly. If it skirts the coast offshore  it pushes in storm surges, high surf, & hurricane force winds & can wipe out homes, piers, boardwalks,  causing massive damage, but it still isn't a "direct hit."

We're used to "cry wolf" weather reporting here.  But  if  Irene comes across Delaware Bay as a fully-developed hurricane,  what happens  will not be in the experience of most South Jerseyans no matter how weather-savvy they believe they are. A hurricane is not a noreaster. A hurricane is a noreaster crammed into 3 hours.  . Noreasters tend to wind themselves up in the vicinity of Jersey.  Hurricanes arrive here in a condition of unwinding. What may take an approaching noreaster two or three tides to do with high water,  a hurricane does in minutes.  We Jerseyans may have some difficulty imagining a 10 foot storm surge riding in on top of a high tide.

In a space of a week, Jersey may experience both an earthquake & the eye of a hurricane. What odds would Vegas have given on that?

Morey's Piers in Wildwood, which operate the main amusement & waterpark attractions there. announced they're closed Fri, Sat & Sun, a huge economic blow before any damage even occurs. The beach is so broad there that any damage will probably be limited to rides & buildings rather than the piers themselves.

Jersey has had some memorable storms. I  vaguely recall Hurricane Donna in 1960 as a lot of rain & wind,  but it wasn't as bad as the panic it caused. The two worst in living memory are the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane that ripped up boardwalks & piers & destroyed hundreds of houses, & the 1962 March Storm, perhaps the single most destructive storm in modern Jersey history, a slow-moving noreaster that piled up successive high tides over two days, with pounding surf & gale force winds. Everyone who lived through it at the shore, or saw the destruction first hand afterward, as I did as an impressionable kid, ever forgot it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I've felt  at least three earthquakes, but the one today is the only one I knew was an earthquake as it happened.  My chair began shaking rhythmically. I stood up, felt nothing, sat down, the chair was still shaking. I was pretty sure it was an earthquake. I tried not to  think much of it. My wind chimes didn't  jangle. Nothing fell off shelves. Jersey  gets localized quakes in the ancient faults that  don't get reported in the news for a few hours.  But then the guy on the talk radio station said, "Did anyone of you feel that earthquake?" So I knew they felt it in downtown Manhattan. Meanwhile, I was trying to call the landlord on behalf of an old lady downstairs with a leak in her wall, no doubt the result of shoddy repairs by the  unlicensed plumbers the landlord uses, & the cellphone screen said, "emergency calls only." So I turned to newsradio & discovered it  was all through the region, centered in Virginia.   Turned on the TV, but that coverage was already tedious - a mild shaking with no damage is a lot of New Yorkers on the street saying, "I was  at _____ doing_____when I felt it. "

Except for some airport delays & evacuations & temporarily closed tunnels,  this earthquake is an east coast novelty, even humorous news.  Californians scratch their heads.

Want something to worry about? Right now Jersey is smack in the middle of the path for Hurricane Irene on the five day  storm track cone.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Jerry Leiber

the lyric half of the songwriting team Leiber & Stoller, has died at age 78. They had their first hit before they were twenty. Hound Dog. Kansas City, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown,. Riot in Cell Block #9.  Love Potion #9. Jailhouse Rock.  Don't. Poison Ivy. Is That All There Is?

Nickolas Ashford, half of the songwriting, producing, performing, & married duo with Valerie Simpson, also died. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wildwood NJ

Chuck's Round-up Restaurant

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hershey's Kiss-off

Foreign students walk off Hershey’s factory job in protest

Hundreds of foreign students on a State Department cultural exchange visa program walked off their factory jobs in protest on Wednesday.

The J-1 visa program brings foreign students to the country to work for two months and learn English, and was designed in part to fill seasonal tourism jobs at resorts and seaside towns. The 400 students employed at a Pennsylvania factory that makes Hershey's candies told The New York Times that even though they make $8.35 an hour, their rent and program fees are deducted from their paychecks, leaving them with less money than they spent to get the visas and travel to the country in the first place.
Hershey's excuse is that it doesn't operate the plant, but don't think that it wasn't part of the plan on how to exploit foreign workers & avoid hiring Americans. The plant was probably rushing to produce Halloween & Christmas candy so it could go back to one shift next month.

If you spend any time at Atlantic coast vacation towns during the summer, you encounter many  young foreign workers.  Are they exploited, too? Yeah, in a way, but really no different than local seasonal workers. The Jersey shore has a such a year-round economy now that local high school & college students no longer  depend entirely on hotels, motels, & the boardwalk for summer jobs but many still do.  It simply doesn't pay for young people from outside the shore to move there for the summer & work the boardwalk. It never did. But many still do.  They crowd into apartments too crappy & distant from the beach to   be rented to vacationers, work their shifts, party or hang out on the beach in their spare time. Working as a maid, waiting in restaurants, bar-tending  - jobs with gratuities - have the potential for good earnings. But for most it's a break-even or slightly ahead proposition.  I met a young Irish woman working in Wildwood's only used book store. It was her second year at the store. She didn't have a  tan. She was a night-clubber.

I don't know what bill-of-goods was sold to the workers at the Hershey plant, inducing them  to come to America & work in a factory.  A factory is a factory no matter where it is.  Workplace conditions are probably better  in America than in China  (I wouldn't swear to it for all factories, 'cause I don't know) but you still have to keep the product moving down the line.  We're already Europe's Third World workers, underpaid, non-unionized, poor   benefits compared to many European countries.  Yet, even that isn't enough for American companies. So they import  foreign  students from China & Turkey & Eastern Europe.

Dauphin County, where Hershey is located, has an official unemployment rate of 7.7%.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Kollege Hi Jinx

Bullshit! to the idea of BCS football players getting paid. That's not reform. Reform would be downscaling some of the financial incentives for the colleges, coaches, administrators, bowl committees, & NCAA itself.

The  students are paid, in free tuition, free room & board. In Div. 1 basketball, baseball & football, it's also a guarantee you'll be at least scouted & assessed by the pros if you put up numbers worth noticing. Hypothetically, all college sports are equal, so if football players are paid, lacrosse & field hockey players would want in on the action, too. 

Anyway, most college student jobs pay pizza & beer money.  The U of Miami "scholar-athletes" wanted  (& believed they deserved) jewelry, V.I.P. seats at exclusive clubs, yacht rides, parties at mansions, & prostitutes.  How much they gotta be paid for those, to keep up  lifestyles to which they want to become accustomed? After all, their talents generate billions in revenues for colleges, TV networks,  the NCAA,  & make lots of people very rich.

Can you see some kid, some heavily-recruited high school All American football player, big shot star attraction in his home town, who turned down Notre Dame & Penn State because those programs are too "clean,"  being pleased with a  $200 per week stipend? That maybe pays for  his cellphone & porno flicks.   Oh yeah, what else you got for me?


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Didn't  have a shower here for seven days.  A couple of those days at least the lower spigot in the tub was working, & the toilet water line  was turned back on every night.  Sponge baths. The landlord finally replaced a bunch of old pipes in the wall. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wildwood NJ

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I was watching a video of the Left Banke ("Walk Away Renee") rehearsing a new song & thought, "They had forty freaking years to write a new song & that's the best they can do?" It didn't even have a harpsichord.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dinosaurs of New Jersey

The Star-Ledger's resident screwball, Paul Mulshine,  discusses how Jersey's Tea Party is even screwier than him:
It’s starting to look like the tea party’s in the bag

On the phone, RoseAnn Salanitri sounds like a nice lady. But then you go her website called “Conservative News and Views.”

There you will find prominently displayed a novel she has written titled The False Prophet. The false prophet in question is the pope. He’s plotting to obtain the DNA of Christ from the Shroud of Turin so he can clone the Antichrist.
Some of them are running against conservative legislators from the right! Others have pretty much sold out to the "moderate" (Christie/Trenton) wing. Then there's Rose Ann, ex-Catholic who doesn't care if she angers & alienates Roman Catholic Mulshine. Wouldn't surprise me if Paul was a paid-up member of Opus Dei. But I don't know any Catholics who take that  antichrist shit from protestants. Or, for that matter, any who believe the universe is 10,000 years-old.

(Most non-Catholics  think of the Pope only  as the elected head of the Roman Catholic Church. To ascribe sinister, metaphysical meaning & motives to his office would be acknowledging some perverse version of what he represents to Catholics. One  point of being a protestant is that we don't have  to believe any of that in any form. )

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Free School Supplies

Backpacks, supplies will be distributed to 6,000 Elizabeth students

ELIZABETH — Thousands of children who might otherwise return to school next month without proper supplies will not enter the classroom empty-handed.

On Tuesday,for the third year, B4K, an organization that advocates for education reform in New Jersey, the United Way and the Elizabeth Development Co., a nonprofit economic development corporation, will distribute backpacks filled with school supplies to 6,000 Elizabeth students in need.
Something about this seemingly positive, innocuous article that reads like a cut & paste press release set my political jive antennae vibrating. A mere five minutes of Google search revealed that B4K (B4NJKids) is a rather mysterious education "reform" group, anti-union, pro-Chris Christie, with a Director who sits on the boards of two Catholic schools. The group has produced a pro-Christie video & buys internet ads that show up on other pages after the web page tracking cookie buried in one's browser remembers one has visited the B4NJKids site. The organization is is not listed as a partner on the County United Way website.

Elizabeth has many poor & under-privileged kids; I'm hardly suggesting they not receive free school supplies. But we should always be aware of who seeks  influence in public schools & education policy  (I'm aware the NEA is already there, but so is  an elected Board of Ed), & avoid as much as we can  in these lean times the corporatizing (or branding) of public schools.  Those gifts may be Trojan horses. Once they're in it'll be the dickens to get them out. & keep an eye for B4NKids, that organization's real  goal may be to  bust up public school systems & create special interest charter schools that have taxpayers paying for what were  private schools with  limited  scope, that is, parochial, using union-busting as a wedge issue. More on that later. 

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wildwood NJ

Christine "The Friendly" Hotel

On one of my first trips to Wildwood I stayed in a hotel like this one with a woman named Christine. I 'd hoped it would be an enjoyable experience of "old" Wildwood, but the bed & bathroom left much to be desired & there was no a/c.  Only the location was good.  On  subsequent visits I switched to a regular motel,  never again with Christine.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

David Carroll - Perfidia

A quintessential example of a 25 cent rummage shop record: An album nobody wants until someone wants an album nobody wants, which could be never. Any charm at all it might have (the organ & female voices save it for me)  probably is  enhanced by it being  scratchy & in mono.

I guessed the date of the LP as 1961-62 because some of the keyboard parts sound like a  Univox or Clavioline,   forerunners of the synth given renewed popularity in songs such as "Runaway" & "Telstar."

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Corn Dogs

All but two of the current Repug presidential candidates - Romney & Huntsman -   believe  it's better to be a rigid ideologue than a competent leader & legislator. Bachmann has stated this openly. She seems to have no record of legislative success going back to her Minnesota senate career, where she lasted only six months as assistant minority leader, unable to cooperate even with Repug colleagues.  Ron Paul is a wonk nobody has ever expected to work toward consensus.  These types  are ruinous when they get into local positions of power, like mayor. Individually, large legislative bodies are usually good places to warehouse them, their influence  is absorbed & minimized. But we've seen what happens when there's too many of them; they  halt the legislative process without offering any way to get it moving again other than unconditional surrender.

Left ideologues are angry at Barack Obama for not being a stubborn ideologue himself.  But most of us on this side are pissed off more because we don't like where he positions himself before he even tries to negotiate a compromise. We wonder what principles he actually holds that he's willing to defend. Even Hillary Clinton has principles. I can't, for instance, imagine her putting vulnerable American children at  greater risk. I have some idea, on domestic issues at least, where she would draw a line in the sand. Sure, she'd put a lot of stuff on the auction block we wouldn't want to see auctioned off, But we'd have a pretty clear sense of what she intended to protect, She'd  be traveling around & reminding  the Democratic base that she was doing it.  One of Obama's problems is that he's better at explaining why he does what he does than at explaining what he's doing.

It's on the so-called "social values" issues that Repugs are increasingly losing touch with reality. Most Americans support marriage quality  or  partnership rights for gays & lesbians & an end to discrimination. Despite a variety of misgivings about abortion, most Americans support access to safe, legal first term abortions; very few take the hardcore stance of  Rick Santorum. As a matter of social values, most Americans believe wealthy Americans aren't sharing the sacrifice & contributing their fair share of taxes, &  want them to pay more as part of any budget deal.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

C Snookies Room

There's two general points-of-view toward  the show Jersey Shore. One is  that it's terrible for New Jersey & the Jersey Shore. The other is that it typifies one aspect of boardwalk town sleaziness. I pretty much go with the latter. I don't like how it inflates the its particular sleaziness, but the characters are not inauthentic.  They aren't caricatures; they only play them on TV.   The semi-fictional "reality" show drives some Jerseyans into spasms of denial, just as the totally fictional but plausible The Sopranos did. New Jersey grows plenty of the  types from both programs. A lot of Jerseyans want the state's image to be the one projected by a slick magazine, New Jersey Monthly; affluent middle-class; hip, expensive restaurants; fashionable boutiques; classical music & jazz that musicians play without breaking a sweat; features listing the state's best & most exclusive divorce lawyers & cosmetic surgeons.  Well, that's true, too. I can draw you a map for a tour of Jersey that avoids everything sleazy or potentially offensive to easily-bruised sensibilities. It can start or end at a Victorian bed & breakfast in Cape May City. Seaside Heights is not for those who need to control their environment & like everything muted. On a good summer evening, a good boardwalk is the "11" setting on the Marshall amp.

A boardwalk store displaying  cheaply made pink bikini bottoms with "Kiss Snooki's Ass" printed on the rump is just offering the more topical version of the  timeless "Italian Bitch" tee shirt hanging on the racks inside.  Of course, a motel with no pool that relies on nightly walk-ins to light the "No Vacancy" sign will put "C Snookies Room" on the letter board marquee. Seaside Heights attracts people who want to "C Snookies Room" because Snooki Polizzi  herself would want to see it & stay at that motel if she weren't Snooki. Doing business on & around the boardwalk is about selling some stuff different from  what you sold last year  & yet the same.  People that return to Seaside Heights & Wildwood boardwalks year-after-year (proportionally few of whom stay for a week in Seaside Heights & Wildwood proper -  most  stay in towns north & south of the boardwalk) are just as adverse to radical change as the readers of New Jersey Monthly.

Jersey Shore didn't create a culture, it just branded one that already existed & will continue to exist when the show is over. Jerseyans resent, with some justification, the branding of the entire shore with a culture that exists in only some of the towns.  On shore vacations, I center myself in convenient proximity to the big, raucous Wildwood boardwalk, but I also spend an afternoon in sedate downtown Stone Harbor, have dinner at an affordable outdoor restaurant on the Cape May Mall,  enjoy  the county zoo, prefer a beach at the Hereford Inlet end of North Wildwood, take a cruise on the Lewes ferry, & visit two lighthouses, My favorite tacky shell/souvenir shops aren't even on the boardwalk. & I've always  avoided the bars where people like the cast of Jersey Shore hang out. Those bars have lousy DJs.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Crazy stox like a hooker's drawers"

Actual New York Post headline  today.

Say the  forecast is for a foot of snow tomorrow. Even though you know the roads will be plowed in  a matter of hours  you go to the supermarket & buy twice as much food as usual, & the store has jacked up the prices of snow shovels & sidewalk salt, & there's a temporary shortage of milk despite milk being abundant & cheap.  Turns out there's only 3" of snow. The following week you buy half as many groceries & the snow shovels are on sale.  The week after that there's a water main break & with the jams & detours it takes you an hour to reach the market instead of the usual 15 minutes. The delay makes you anxious, maybe next week it's a flood,  so you buy twice as many groceries. When are we gonna realize that's how the stock market operates day-to-day? But the massive buying & sell-offs are computer generated.

I know I'm simplistic. But  I watch economic headlines on my homepage feeds change 180 degrees  every 24 hours. 25 thousand new jobs, up; fears about European debt, down; S&P downgrade may spur recovery, up; S&P rating anxiety in Asia, down; lower oil buoys market,  up; oil price rise jitters, down. I wonder if the stock market is all that mindless or it's really a relatively small number of people jerking everyone else  around. Maybe both.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Anarchy in the U.K.

Do street riots ever really improve the conditions that foment them? On the evidence one can can still see in New Jersey, they wrecked neighborhoods in which they occurred & made life even more miserable for the residents, with ruinous consequences that have lasted for decades.

The youthful rioters in England have certainly gotten the attention of the government, but if they are left with desolate retail districts, burned out & vacant stores whose owners are too discouraged & frightened  to return & rebuild,  they will find that they gained nothing except what they  managed to loot. They won't have brought Mark Duggan back to life or done him justice. They don't give a damn about Mark Duggan.
We're in the residential part of South Croydon and most of the worst carnage (including the burning of a furniture warehouse) happened about 3-4 miles away in West Croydon.

There was some looting closer by: a large electronics equipment store, a small jewellery shop and some other stores were broken into and looted within a block of the charity shop where I volunteer two days a week.

I was in the shop today and on the walk down the road this morning I could smell a faint smell like burning wood in the morning air.

Relieved to hear my new friend is safe.

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The Business

Dutch man allegedly funneled munitions to Iran, arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport

NEWARK — He operated out of The Netherlands. But according to federal authorities, the Dutch national brazenly flouted U.S. export laws again and again, directing cloaked shipments of American munitions from New York to Iran for nearly a year.

At least some of those munitions, authorities said, may have landed in the hands of the Iranian military.

Ulrich Davis, 50, a former manager of a Dutch freight-forwarding company was arrested this weekend while trying to board a flight to his homeland at Newark Liberty International Airport, authorities said.
A small fry in the international fraternity of war & death. They are Americans, Europeans, Asians, Arabs. But their nation is Hell, their business is killing, their ideology is profit. They are evil.They are secretive. We never hear about the major players, who hide behind their corporate names. We are serving them in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. Governments are afraid of them.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Suggestion Box

Oh please, Bossman, don't fire me. All I asked for was a clean bathroom, a safe ladder, & a week's paid vacation. Alright, I'll take a $3 an hour cut, donate my own ladder, clean the bathroom on my own time, & take an unpaid week off whenever you say.

What's that oh Bossman? ICE is making you fire the illegals? My kids are 12 & 14, they get outta school at three, they can work the swing shift minimum wage. That's almost like giving me a raise, Bossman. I'd sure be grateful if you'd consider it.

I was wrong Mister Bossman. I was sure the law stated I had two 15 minute breaks & 30 for lunch, but if you say no breaks & 15 for lunch, you must know the rules Mister Bossman, cause nobody smarter than you, Bossman.
Oh Uncle Freddy. thank you for letting me call you Uncle & not Bossman, cause I know we're family here & I do appreciate the $10 & box of candy you give me at Christmas.

I'm glad we're now on personal terms, Uncle Freddy, after I worked here ten years. I believe you that the stuff hanging off the ceiling isn't asbestos & that propane tank doesn't have to be outside the building, & it's O.K. to run this chemical wastewater hose into the creek out back.

I gotta tell you, Uncle Freddy, some of the folks are annoyed that you sent away the food truck & brought in those vending machines selling cokes & little bags of Cheetos for $3. Not me, mind you. I'll make you a list of the people complaining about it.

 (A series of posts at "Uncle Freddy" posted that unions had gone too far.  In the 1940's 34% of private sector workers were unionized. Now it's about 7% .  Could anti-union forces be any more successful  short of destroying private sector unionism altogether? Now that private sector unions lack serious political power in most states, public service unions are the focus of attack. They must also be eliminated.  Non-unionized private sector workers, their employee benefits dribbling away, their middle class wages stagnating for three decades,  are turned against teachers, cops, firefighters, even toll collectors,  hospital nurses & orderlies,  city hall clerks & janitors, anyone who tried to protect themselves with unions.  When workers are not unionized, they cannot say, in solidarity, "It might be fair to take a little away from them, if you share some of what they have with us, Spread it around."  But you know the  "savings" won't flow toward non-union workers as  lower middle class property taxes & more efficient government. That money will be be sucked up into air like a tornado grabbed it.  It's natural that non-union workers would feel angry at & envious of union workers whose wages & benefits  have not stagnated so much, especially  public sector workers with wages paid by taxes. Over the long run, punishing those union workers will backfire as workers lose all leverage with the bosses, including political bosses, who at least listened to unions - who advocate worker rights, education, & health issues generally,  in addition to the usual corporate suspects who've taken over both parties, Congress, the White House, & the Supreme Court. & since the corporations are global, they can suck the United States dry like a spider feeding on an insect. & move on to the future:  China & India.)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Metropolitan Man

I recognized the sound of the X-Ray Security LLC flatbed truck turning into the sandy drive of the Blue Lagoon Trailer Park, Rio Grande NJ. I was wedged into the backseat of my car parked in front of my neat doublewide reading the free Cape May Fun Guide.

Nobody knows how I get comfortable in the backseat of my car. It's a 1960 Nash Metropolitan convertible, beige yellow with white trim & white seats. I don't like driving it during summer. I might have to park it in places people are unappreciative.  I have a legal moped I never pedal. Legal except I had it modified to do 40 mph on a flat surface, & Cape May County is all flat surface. 

X-Ray stopped in the road, backed the truck up my short driveway, braked, shut off the engine, & got out. I knew he was packing a Colt Commander .45 ACP. I couldn't see it, but unlike some P.I.s you read in novels, he never assumes he won't need it. In all fairness, he mostly uses it like a sap. When you ask him how he managed to get a carry permit in Jersey without owning an armored truck company and wearing a ridiculous uniform instead of the Fitzgerald Irish linen sports coats, all he says is, "It's how I do business, baby." We're old friends. Totally opposite politics, but I like to think we conduct our friendship on a higher spiritual plane. I also like his wife.

X-Ray is a large man, over 6' &  I wouldn't venture a guess at his weight. His wife feeds him to be big.   I am 5'6", weigh 125, & my Indian vegetarian lady doctor tells me to eat more meat.     I should accept more invites to dinner at the X-Rays'.


Somers Point NJ

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Believe or else!

This use of religion in politics is a source of cynicism. It should raise alarms when the views of the Almighty conveniently match our most urgent political needs. A faith that conforms exactly to the contours of a political ideology has lost its independence. Churches become clubs of the politically like-minded. Political dialogue suffers, since opponents are viewed as heretics. And when religion becomes too closely identified with a detailed political platform, both are quickly outdated. Despite William Jennings Bryan’s best efforts, who now recalls God’s view of bimetallism?   - Michael Gerson
On the evidence, it's ludicrous to believc you have to believe in the Christian or Jewish deity to be morally qualified to hold elective office in America.

Politics is, as has often been said, the art of the possible. Which means it relies upon flexibility, compromise, change, cooperation. Religion often asserts not only what seems impossible (supernaturally, historically, scientifically, & in expectations of  human behavior), but in its stricter forms asserts it dogmatically, no debate, no compromise, no on-going revelation. In orthodox Christianity, revelation is closed, done, written, the revelation succinctly stated in several creeds. Of course, reason tells us this revelation, unbelievable as it sounds, & a matter of faith & even suspension of reason, says nothing specific about the debt-ceiling. In fact, it says nothing about democratic government, big versus small government, government programs,  Nor do the books that contain the revelation have anything to say about these. They have plenty to say about morality & ethics,  but even there we find contradictions, paradoxes, difficult parables, & "laws" we now consider unnecessary to obey if not outright barbaric.

How much does fundamentalist Christianity, the ultra-literalist manifestation of the faith  least open to differences of interpretation, to variety, contribute to the current  sorry condition of politics in America? It's sadly ironic that people who do not hold fundamentalist religious beliefs have applied its stubborn certainty to their political views. They definitely know what Jesus would do about the debt ceiling; he'd do whatever they'd do.

(Fundamentalists resist climate change science because they can't accept the eight known glacial cycles that have occurred during the developmental period of the modern human over 800,000 years, during which the most recent Wisconsin maximum glacial advance 20,000 years ago & subsequent retreat established widespread human presence & culture in the Americas before the time the Bible says  God created the universe. This makes them allies of the oil interests, which have to disprove major human-influenced climate change in order to preserve their power & profit. )

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

National Night Out

Tuesday was National Night Out, against crime & to further community & police cooperation.  Elizabeth held the event in Kellogg Park, a square block in North Elizabeth I wouldn't set foot in at dusk. When you hold a little festival in a park, & there's plenty of cops,  & the mayor is there, lots of self-congratulatory speeches, the whole thing wraps up before sunset, that's not quite  a  night out. By ten p.m. or whenever the Dept. of Public Works finished the cleanup you probably wouldn't want to cross  Kellogg Park even as a short-cut home. I'd be cautious about walking through any park anywhere in New Jersey at night. The urban ones could have  dangerous people lurking in them & the others might have bears wandering around.

Our mayor - who I liked  before I resided here - admits the city has a street drug dealing problem but won't publicly concede it's gang-related, so concerned is he that gangs rather than drug dealing wreck a city's image.  He sounds delusional.  But most people know Elizabeth only by what they see from the Jersey Turnpike - which is  ugly, people-less scenery  -  & from visiting the huge Jersey Gardens Mall & Ikea just off the Turnpike. So he may have a point there.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

So who won?

So who won? Partisan pro-Obama commentators painstakingly try to demonstrate that Barack bamboozled the Republicans. He did manage to postpone some of the pain. But the only "trick" he seemed to have pulled on Repugs was limiting future Medicare cuts to providers rather than recipients. Since the providers include  the companies & pharmaceutical interests  that help fill Repug (& Democratic) campaign coffers, politicians will weigh those cuts very carefully against their own bank accounts.  Overall, I think Obama took a large, & largely avoidable whuppin' that he'll have a difficult time explaining next year when it's not sufficient to trot out Michelle & the girls & lead crowds of college students in chanting "Yes we can." Americans are itchin' to  replace  the guy - Democrats, Repugs & independents.   Among Repugs only Romney doesn't come off as a whackadoodle, but as the primaries get going he'll increasingly have to sound like one.

But with the debt ceiling out of the way for the time being, we're back to the state-of-the-economy & news stories like Merck cutting 13,000 jobs even as their sales increased 7% last year. Merck is a major employer in New Jersey. There are three Merck plants in my county, & the corporate offices are out in West Jersey in an affluent town where a lot of Merck white collars  relocated when the offices moved  from Rahway, & maybe a few of them will learn what it's like to miss a mortgage payment  if they're ordered to  lay off themselves after  they cut loose the hourly workers with a "So sorry, we're restructuring."

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Hungry Freaks, Daddy

Rob O'Connor: Albums Celebrating Their 45th Anniversary! Part One!
You're probably wondering why I'm here - not that it makes a heckova lotta difference to ya.

Note it doesn't claim to be a "Best of" list. Rob rarely goes in that direction. Some of the albums Rob (most definitely not a teenager in 1966) selected were both popular & recognized as important at the time, some were semi popular & simmered for years as they gained stature, a few failed in their intent to establish careers, a number  were obscure & unknown for a long time (& generally still are).  One,  Yesterday and Today, wasn't even a "real" album in The Beatles' discography, just a mish mash compilation for the American market, but  clear evidence the fabs were on another level of three-minute brilliancy. The choicest, including his #1, were cultural time bombs.

Animalization by the Animals inspired  me  to play organ in a garage band & contained the first British Invasion single to drive my mom up the wall, "Inside Looking Out." Even  "Satisfaction" hadn't done that.

I don't remember what prompted me to buy Rob's #1,  the double LP Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention shortly after it was released. It was pricey & I had a minimum wage summer job. I hadn't heard anything from it. Maybe  it was the crazy album jacket, or I'd read about The Mothers in the Village Voice; they'd been playing  New York. I had a semi-bohemian new girlfriend who was game for just about anything, more adventurous than me in some ways, from a large Irish-Catholic family short on privacy. Our relationship was much more interesting creatively & sexually than it appeared from the outside. We were a sociable couple but also a very private us-against-the-world scorpio/capricorn match compared to our yappy friends. We kept up a front of suburban adolescent conventionality. We went to the Asbury Park & Seaside Heights boardwalks. We attended parties & dances. Her mom even approved of me.

Lyrics from Freak Out! generated a private language for us. She'd say, "You didn't try to call me." I'd answer "Why?" & we'd crack up to befuddlement of anyone who heard it. We recited or sang many phrases from "Help, I'm a A Rock"  "I remember doo doo they had a swimming pool" made no sense to anyone but us.  I'd call her "Suzy Creamcheese" she'd pretend to be insulted (She was no Suzy Creamcheese). We substituted "Wowie Zowie" for then-popular words like "cool" & "groovy." We grabbed lines from "Who Are the Brain Police?", "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here"  & "Hungry Freaks, Daddy." I loved the album but it didn't make much sense to me, seemed unconnected to anything in my experience or currently popular, except the oldies parodies & one blues rock protest song titled "Trouble Every Day." I  hadn't yet smoked pot.   But I was insatiably curious about music. 

Parts of Freak Out! were so whack they barely touched the realm of my musical knowledge, which was scatter-shot & not very extensive  but was broader than that of my friends.  Most of the rest was  familiar in one way or another but tilted, skewed, & warped, an aural equivalent of fun house mirrors.  Zappa's juvenile humor was always hit or miss, & some of the most pointed barbs were aimed directly at suburban white teens like me. They didn't sting as much as the implied California affluence of The Beach Boys, where every guy owned  a hot rod  & a little Honda cycle,  dated a willowy blonde named Wendy, & it never rained in L.A.  It was around that time I began to realize Jersey kids had attitudes.  Clearly I had much to learn about music. But here's where Zappa was honest. He made no claims to originality. Inside the album gate fold he provided a long list titled "These People Have Contributed Materially in Many Ways to Make Our Music What it is. Please Do Not Hold it Against them." & there among the groupies & other oddballs were  over one-hundred musicians & composers, blues players, jazz men, just about everyone who influenced Zappa (notable absence, John Cage), some familiar, many not. It was the first place I encountered the names of composers Edgar Varese, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Charles Ives. If you were willing to sort it out, Zappa had provided a syllabus for an informal course, "Music According to Frank Zappa," & was inviting, challenging listeners to explore his sources.The Freak Out! list has become famous over the years, many people reacted to it the same way I did. By the time I went to college that list had made a required freshman music appreciation course one of the most boring classroom experiences I ever had - which would've pleased Zappa.

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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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