Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Maxwell's, The Finale

Hundreds flock to Maxwell's to say farewell

It's been an extended farewell for Maxwell's, the great & perhaps incomparable Hoboken club, bar & restaurant, voluntarily going out of business rather than becoming a Museum of Old Alternative Rock. WFMU has had a long association with the club, & in its earlier days was also a popular gathering spot for poets.

What makes it more poignant is that it's also an overdue farewell to Hoboken, the gritty port city (See On the Waterfront), once known (when I was a teenager) for its excellent pizza & the attractive Italian-American girls hanging out on Washington St., becoming in the 70's & 80's a refuge for musicians & other bohemian types seeking cheaper rents in hundreds of backstreet railroad flats. Long past those eras.  Even the single yuppies who gentrified the city are largely gone, replaced by affluent couples raising their children.  Parking, always a problem, is now impossible. Driving to Maxwell's was always a hassle, not to mention it's not near the PATH station; you have long walk or bus ride.

I was 28 years-old when Maxwell's opened,  past my "club" days - I'd had enough of those by the time I quit rock a few years earlier. I'd be in deep denial if I said Maxwell's closing didn't make me feel my age. It tempers any nostalgic, celebratory feelings I have. For others, especially those in college in the 80's & 90's, Maxwell's was their musical prime, their touchstone. Also a very important venue for bands, with hip, knowledgeable audiences. The list of great bands that played there is astonishing, thanks to two great guys booking the bands.  I consider myself fortunate to have read poetry from its stage, at some benefit for a poetry 'zine.  But I also read at other Hoboken venues, other bars, declining working class gin mills  with backrooms appropriated by poets.  Those places are long gone also.

The grand goodbye for Maxwell's is deserved. It was a club that  made every other venue in Jersey feel a bit provincial once everyone got over the early idea of a "Hoboken sound." It was also a friendly place, always a neighborhood bar (as it had been) - you never felt that aspect was secondary;   proud of its role & history but not dwelling on them. The walls weren't decorated with autographed photos of bands - which would be opposed to the spirit of Maxwell's. Maxwell's went out with its spirit intact.

Monday, July 29, 2013


I don't know what it was about that dame, but whenever I was around her I packed my little Smith-Wesson J frame .38 in an ankle holster.

The last wiseguy laughed at the gun needed a knee replacement & five months of rehab therapy.

He got the replacement, but no therapy in prison, where he acquired the name, "Tilt-a-Whirl."

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Somers Point NJ

"Downtown" on Shore Road looking north.
1950 population: 2,480
1960 population: 4,504
On the mainland, across the bay from Ocean City, Somers Point is a peninsula surrounded on three sides by bay & marsh. This postcard is pretty much how I recall the town as a child in the Fifties. Outside of some motels & a honky tonk waterfront, it remained a sleepy, small town in the summer. I think my family began barging on Aunt Bella & cousin Cath in the Forties, for a week in early August. Cath, my godmother, has lived there on the same street her entire life; first in a bungalow, then moving across the street to a larger house after she got married & began having babies. In the Fifties there were cornfields on the edge of the town. & pine woods, & ferocious mosquitoes. Note the teenage girls in the lower right (click on postcard to enlarge).

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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Jesuit High School

My Dad's Jesuit high school teachers made him read great classic books to teach him to think for himself.

By the time he graduated he thought he didn't want Catholic priests telling him what to believe.

He walked out of the Church, never went back & never expressed a regret.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Carlos Danger, Private Sextitextigator

"I'm Carlos Danger, Private Sextitextigator."
"You look like Anthony Weiner, disgraced ex-congressman."
"No, really, I'm Carlos Danger. Says so right there on my card."
"That's a bizarre photo to put on a business card, isn't it Mr. Danger?"

 "Do I have a pistol in my pocket or am I just happy to see you?"
 "What kind of question is that, Carlos Danger, or whoever you are?"
 "Ask me if I have a license to carry a concealed weapon."
"I'm not the police, Mr. Danger."
 "Please, ask me."
 "Alright, Mr. Danger. Do you have a license to carry concealed?"
 "No. Now you have to stop & frisk me."
"I'm not going to frisk you, Mr. Danger."
 "What if I gave you fifty bucks?"

The Carlos Danger Theme



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Mary Tree burning

A year ago someone concluded a knot in a small, stunted tree in West New York NJ was the image of the Virgin Mary. This being a predominantly Hispanic Catholic area, it immediately became an object of veneration, devotion, a shrine to the Holy Mother. People traveled hundreds of miles to gaze at it. Fresh flowers were placed around it every day, votive candles burned day & night. Some devotees left notes requesting favors.

Last week a votive candle ignited something, which spread to the tree, & it went up in flames. The sight must have been horrifying to believers, even demonic.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

always something a little strange about poets

I know a few people who have done everything they believe they need to do to be considered poets. MFA, organizing readings, attending workshops.  publishing nicely-crafted pieces.  I am unable to think of them as poets. I suppose they are. But they lack something. They are too ordinary (I don't mean it in a bad sense regarding lifestyle); perhaps too caught up in current events - their view is essentially journalistic; some spiritual component missing, which doesn't imply a belief in a deity or deities. There's always something a little strange about poets (& often in a really good poem) throwing one off-balance, if briefly. You can't learn it or fake it.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Long Branch NJ

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

A buck & a fist tap

Gave a buck & fist tap to the big guy on the front stoop, pronounced him my bodyguard. He's more likely to put it toward some 7-11 chicken wings than a beer. He also lives across the hall & one night knocked on the door because I'd left my keys outside in the lock.
 Pre-pubescent daughter in B&H store commercial tells her wuss dad she has 700 FB friends, demands new computer, & calls him "so 20th Century."

The proper parental response is to say, "Technologically-speaking, I'm sending you back to the 19th Century."
My a/c is trying. But I don't have a machine I expect to cope all that well with day after day of high 90s & not dropping below a humid 80 at night & never a gusty thunderstorm.
Teed off on my Methodist pastor brother on FB today for posting a "Put back prayer in the schools. Share this if you agree" graphic.  I commented, "Sure, but them all pray; Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans. Let the atheists read something, too."   But even that isn't what I mean. Anyone can pray anytime, anywhere. There was always something wrong about compulsory Bible reading & the recitation of the Lord's Prayer to open a public school day.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013


So Bobby - you know,
Bobby Dylan, said to me,
"You can call me Zimmy."

I said, "Cool,
& you can call me Bob."

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Maybe it's better the Zimmerman acquittal generates a week of anger rather than the 24 hours of satisfaction if he'd been convicted. Proves nothing we didn't already know. As this trial went to jury, a woman in Florida was sentenced to twenty years for standing her ground against an abusive, violent husband violating his restraining order.  She fired four shots into the wall & ceiling to back him off. Didn't even hurt the man, just scared the hell out of him. She has a 14-year old daughter. She is African-American.

In Newark NJ George Zimmerman is last type of person you have to worry about if you're Black. Because the Black-on-Black violence is appalling. You can be shot while ordering a slice of pizza, hanging out in the schoolyard on a summer evening, or walking to the corner store for a bag of Skittles.  Your neighborhood may be infested with sociopath gangbangers. If it is not, they may drive through it anyway looking for a carjack opportunity or someone on their hit list. You may  resemble the person on the hit list. If you protest against this injustice, the injustice of living in fear, without adequate police protection & economic opportunity, if you demand the punks leave your neighborhood, then you will surely live in fear for your life.  If you go to a supposedly safe area, the strip mall across from the hospital complex on Bergen St., the manager of International House of Pancakes might be shot & killed just as you're sitting down to your meal of Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity pancakes.

An irony of the Trayvon Martin tragedy is that he, as a young Black man, needed to be "street smart" in a safe, predominantly white neighborhood, one in which George Zimmerman never would have been stalking me, as long as I looked like I belonged there.  & he had to be equally street smart in a poor African-American neighborhood, where his chances of being robbed & shot by another Black man were far greater.

Stone Harbor NJ

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Woman across the hall, who is not all there mentally & belongs in a group home or 24 hour care facility, nearly set this building on fire yesterday trying to cook something. Fire alarm went off, hallway was filled with smoke. I put on sneakers, grabbed my envelope of important documents & headed out the door, realizing my response time was still too slow. But not as slow as the fire department. Disappointing response time. They were beaten here by Louie, the landlord's guy. Fortunately, it was all smoke no fire. That lady's gotta go. But legally, maybe she can't be made to do what is clearly in her & our best interest. A social worker checks up on her once or twice-a-month, sometimes has to knock on the door for five minutes, &  never goes into the apartment. She needs to know what happened.   Eviction with no place to go except a shelter is not a humane option. A judge would never agree to it. A good temporary solution, not possible, would be to turn off her gas, remove any electrical cooking appliances, & enroll her with Meals on Wheels until there was an opening in an appropriate residential facility. There are worse possibilities than eating pre-cooked room temperature meals.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I've tried on off through the years to locate something specific in my hometown I could "mythologize,"never with success.   But Roselle Park (one square mile) is also quite close to New York City, & is a commuter town. I was allowed to go to NYC to see first run blockbuster movies with friends when I was teenager. The Port Authority Bus Terminal was at one end of 42nd St & the theaters were in center midtown. The Terminal itself was an eye-opening  zoo. I also spent a lot of time in one of America's most legendary resorts; Atlantic City, past its glory days & fading, still had an incredible boardwalk, The Steel Pier with the Diving Horse, major acts & traveling shows at Convention Hall, huge old hotels & newer what are now called "do wop" motels. It was, perhaps the opposite of   spending time in Las Vegas during the same years, the years of the Desert Inn, The Sands, The Stardust, The Sahara, as those famous places gave way to hotels  like The International. Whether Atlantic City on the way down or Vegas on the way up, one had to come away knowing one  had been in an incomparable place. By contrast, every thing is a small town is comparable to the same thing in another small town. When I describe my hometown, I don't have to name it.  The downside to the virtues of small town life is its insularity.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Wildwood Crest NJ

Duffy's On-the-Lake

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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Wasted trip downtown

Utterly wasted trip yesterday in Jersey steam heat to main library. Included encounter with one of the patronizing dimwits some libraries hire to staff checkout counters, a job requiring one-third the training & none of the energy needed to work a McDonald's drive-thru window.  My library card had expired end of June. No expiration date on card. No prior notification. You renew it & keep the same card. I show current photo drivers license. But they wanted a second proof of address. I don't happen to carry around a utility bill with me, although I have plenty of other identity proofs in my wallet. Because I had no valid card, I could not sign on to a library computer & print out or even point to an online bill or my bank page. The library requires money in library account to make print outs, & I have  money credited to the  account.  I left in a really lousy mood, vowing to myself to take  some kind of revenge if opportunity offered. Walked up to a store that advertised cheap sneakers, didn't like the sneakers, Waited for a bus & came home. I took my Senior  bus discount card out (Eligible as SSD recipient or age 60, I keep it in my wallet but tuck it into a shirt pocket when I plan on using it) & saw it had my address printed on it. DAMN! If had been in my wallet I would have seen it. 

Even the thunderstorms are gone now. Just day after day of hot humid July weather. Could be worse, Could be 100 degrees. 

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

The 4th of July

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Battle of Gettysburg Day Three

Most famous for "Pickett's Charge" on the Union center. Confederate General Longstreet, in command of this operation, objected to it. Preceded by a massive Confederate 180 cannon bombardment of Union positions, probably largest of the war. The bombardment was ineffectual, although it caused havoc & carnage on the far side of Cemetery Ridge. A morning Culp's Hill attack was also turned back  by the Union, as well as two cavalry attacks on the Union flanks.  Union casualties for the three days were  were 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, 5,369 captured or missing). Confederate casualties are estimated at 23,231 (4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, 5,830 captured or missing).

 Although the war ground on for three more years, it gradually became a war of attrition by the United States, which had all the advantages in manpower & industrial might, & one of stubborn defense by the Confederate states in the hopes that the North would grow war weary, Lincoln would be defeated for reelection, & some major European power would intercede. But the combination of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg defeat followed immediately on July 4th by the fall of Vicksburg - cutting the Confederacy in half, pretty much spelled doom for the traitorous slavers of the South. The Confederates never again had the resources to invade the North.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Battle of Gettysburg Day Two

 From wikipedia.  A complex day. Union left saved by the initiatives of commanding officers with no guidance from headquarters, & by uncounted indvidual acts of valor by the soldiers.
After a lengthy delay to assemble his forces and avoid detection in his approach march, Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet attacked with his First Corps against the Union left flank. His division under Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood attacked Little Round Top and Devil's Den. To Hood's left, Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws attacked the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. Although neither prevailed, the Union III Corps was effectively destroyed as a combat organization as it attempted to defend a salient over too wide a front. Gen. Meade rushed as many as 20,000 reinforcements from elsewhere in his line to resist these fierce assaults. The attacks in this sector concluded with an unsuccessful assault by the Third Corps division of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson against the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. That evening, Confederate Second Corps commander Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell turned demonstrations against the Union right flank into full-scale assaults on Culp's Hill and East Cemetery Hill, but both were repulsed. The Union army had occupied strong defensive positions, and Meade handled his forces well, resulting in heavy losses for both sides but leaving the disposition of forces on both sides essentially unchanged. Lee's hope of crushing the Army of the Potomac on Northern territory was dashed, but undaunted, he began to plan for the third day of fighting.

Lee's sweeping attack on the Union left was better suited to the fast-moving skills of the late Stonewall Jackson, mortally wounded by friendly fire at Chancellorville. Longstreet, a competent & brave  but cautious officer,  had not favored engaging the enemy at Gettysburg. Longstreet took the wrong road to his attack point & had to backtrack. The attack itself should have been initiated farther on the Union left, which was very weak & may have opened up the command & supply area behind Cemetary Ridge, a situation Lee's missing cavalry would have uncovered. Still the attack nearly succeeded. The fighting in & around Devil's Den, a rocky outgrowth of Cemetary Ridge,  was some of the most ferocious hand-to-hand combat of the entire war.

An evening attack on the Union Right at Culp's Hill also failed, as Union defenses were too strong.  Periodic shooting continued there through the night into Day 3 with Confederate & Union soldiers hunkered down in close proximity.  Fresh water was scarce. The battle for Culp's resumed in the morning, initiated by Union artillery in advance of Lee's own schedule. The Rebels & Federals in that sector threw everything they had at each other, but the Fed prevailed, both side suffering massive casualties. There were mistaken orders given to Federal units & the Rebel units should have withdrawn earlier as the outcome became clear.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Battle of Gettysburg Day One

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. From Wikipedia
 The first-day battle proceeded in three phases as combatants continued to arrive at the battlefield. In the morning, two brigades of Confederate Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's division (of Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill's Third Corps) were delayed by dismounted Union cavalrymen under Brig. Gen. John Buford. As infantry reinforcements arrived under Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds of the Union I Corps, the Confederate assaults down the Chambersburg Pike were repulsed, although Gen. Reynolds was killed. By early afternoon, the Union XI Corps had arrived, and the Union position was in a semicircle from west to north of the town. The Confederate Second Corps under Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell began a massive assault from the north, with Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes's division attacking from Oak Hill and Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early's division attacking across the open fields north of town. The Union lines generally held under extremely heavy pressure, although the salient at Barlow's Knoll was overrun. 
 The third phase of the battle came as Rodes renewed his assault from the north and Heth returned with his entire division from the west, accompanied by the division of Maj. Gen. W. Dorsey Pender. Heavy fighting in Herbst's Woods (near the Lutheran Theological Seminary) and on Oak Ridge finally caused the Union line to collapse. Some of the Federals conducted a fighting withdrawal through the town, suffering heavy casualties and losing many prisoners; others simply retreated. They took up good defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and waited for additional attacks. Despite discretionary orders from Robert E. Lee to take the heights "if practicable," Richard Ewell chose not to attack. Historians have debated ever since how the battle might have ended differently if he had found it practicable to do so.
With the Union Army, under new commander George Meade, strung out on roads south of Gettysburg, Lee had some tremendous potential tactical advantages. But Lee did not have Jeb  Stuart's superb calvalry,  his eyes & ears,  which he had permitted to ride off independently, circling around the Union Army, in a movement  more grandstanding than anything else. Many historians  believe this resulted in Lee choosing the wrong place & conditions to do battle. I agree. In Lee's defense, he believed under the circumstances he had  to engage the enemy where & when he found them. He was in hostile territory,  not in Virginia close to his supplies.   He could not take a up a defensive position & wait indefinitely for the Union forces to engage him.


"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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