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We have recently returned from a really great visit to England, which we will likely post about here. I have a conference trip planned for San Francisco planned for later this week. Jolie is joining me for this. So this is proving to be a busy, fast moving and well traveled summer. Some highlights from this past week, however, entail visits to places closer to home – specifically to two delightful beach locations, one of which is intimately familiar and the other a first time experience. So, accompanying a really great weather week (sunny, in the low 80s F and with relatively low humidity), a beach visit seemed like a must.

And that is a good thing, as I love the beach!

So, on Tuesday, I packed my overnight bag and made my way back to Beach Haven on Long Beach Island to visit with my mom, my sister Pat (who was also there visiting) and our good friend Barbara. I was looking forward to seeing them all, but also to seeing the sand and the ocean. And to walking along the beach and to taking a dip in the ocean.

So, here are some photos from Tuesday, the day of my arrival, I left home just before noon and made a few pit stops along the way (most notably,in Paramus, NJ for a burger topped with queso sauce,  roasted green chiles  and pickled red onions), I arrived at just after three pm. My family was out and left me a note to welcome me down.

So, down to the beach i went. I was very happy to be there.

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When I returned to my mom’s house from this quick visit, I sat out on the back deck with a cold summer ale and a copy of the local paper (“The Sandpaper”). Then, everyone came back and greeted me. my mom then went into the house, where she’d been going through old stuff that was packed away, and came out to show me some things from memory lane – some old clay figures that I had made when I was a child and also, likely from the same era of my childhood, a part of a GI Joe set, a plastic mummy’s tomb piece. How funny to see these things that I had completely forgotten about after all these years.



The next morning, I happened to wake up super early, just before six am. I could have rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep. On the other hand, I’ve become enamored in recent years of early morning visits to the beach at around the time that the sun is rising. There is nothing quite like the experience of the beach at that moment. Trust me on this!

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So many thoughts go through my head when i am here or as I look at these photos. One thought is one of gratitude to be able to experience such a place. Another is nostalgia and the memory of people who are no longer with us, but with whom I stood on these beaches. I am not especially religious. I consider myself something of a humanistic pantheist, theologically speaking. But I understand the impulse of my mom’s local Catholic parish to see these beaches as a piece of divine creation and to use them as the site for sunrise Easter vigils. I can respect that impulse.

The other thought is this. I become more and more concerned with what we are doing to our oceans, and in fact, to our entire planet, with each passing day. I try to follow the news, including the science news, and it is often not very encouraging. We may be at a point of no return. I hope that that is not the case. Time, of course, will tell. This is the same beach, after all and the same small barrier island that was underwater following Hurricane Sandy back in the Fall of 2012. I’ve already posted about this earlier and posted about LBI’s recovery. But thinking ahead, and to a future of rising sea levels, This precious island may, like a beloved family pet, have a limited lifespan. And the thought of this is very unsettling.

But, at the immediate moment, I was simply very happy to be on this beach and in this moment and to be enjoying this moment of connection with nature – the sea, the dunes, the sand, the sea birds, and the shells along the shore, as well as the feeling of my feet touching the soft sand and the warm water. That part of the experience felt truly blissful.



As did the tranquil quietness of the moment – very few people around: calm, quiet, and with the sounds of nature surrounding me.




And I’m not exactly a surfer (though I do like doing a bit of body surfing in the waves) but I do appreciate surfers’ athleticism and their inherent need for a clean, healthy environment (something they share with skiers, hunters, fishermen, hikers, trail bikers and anyone else whose leisure activities require a stable natural environment, regardless of their politics. Some surfers, in fact, who are explicitly environmentally minded, have even started up a surfing based environmental organization. Kudos to them. Anyway, I am thinking of this because, as there usually are, there were surfers out in the water, early, trying to catch a wave.


As the early morning continued on the beach, I had another goal, and that was to look for sea glass. Jolie and I have been collecting sea glass for the past few years. Jolie is hoping that we can eventually collect enough pieces so as to craft a sea glass bowl with them. She is hoping to do something along the lines of this example, crafted and described on a blog called Debi’s Design Diary. 

sea glass bowl

To me, that sounds like it will be really nice. Since Jolie was not able to be joining us for this mid-week beach visit (because of work; I’m off for the next few weeks) I was especially wanting to bring her back some sea glass. I looked along the shore on several beaches. Eventually I found a beach that had a lot of shells and other debris from the ocean washing up to the shore. I knew that this would be the place to look.


I’m happy to say that after two days of intensive sea glass hunting, I was successfully able to find a number of pieces, including a somewhat rare blue piece. Here is my “haul.”


I was really happy to be able to bring these back to Jolie, particularly the blue one. When I first spotted it, it eluded by grasp. It was under the shallow water, but sea glass in that location is challenging to grab because of the water being in motion.

In addition to this activity, I also got to enjoy taking a quick dip in the water and also catching at sunset at the bay. The beach had a lot of different activities going on. I was also happy to have my sister join me for my afternoon beach visit.

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The next day was more of the same – up at the crack of down, and back to the beach, 7/11 coffee in one hand and camera in the other.

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After a while, I thought I’d might go down toward Holgate, that is the southern end of the island. When I got there, however, I learned that the beach continued to be closed because of erosion, a situation that has continued following Hurricane Sandy’s wrath. The area remains a bird sanctuary. Here is the view.





Finally, after my beach time was done, I made my way into town, where I saw these really cool retro bikes, bought an “elephant ear” pastry,  and picked up a plant for my mom. I also paid a visit to a few favorite shops, including a local craft shop and a novelty store that has been there forever called the “Parlor” (formerly the “Dollar Parlor”)

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The next day – starting out for some really amazing old school brick oven pizza at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. Truly a memorable lunch of pizzas, one topped with pepperoni and other with clams. The place had a real old school charm. There was even another food scholar there standing in line and taking a photo, obviously charmed by the place as much as we were.

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Finally, to our final destination: Hammonasset Beach State Park, in Madison, CT, to look for more sea glass.


starting with the nature center, and then – leaving our shoes behind – making our way toward the beach. Here, by the way, is a larger map, courtesy of Google Maps showing the beach’s location on the Long Island Sound.

hsp map


The beach, as you can see, was sizable, sandy, and facing out toward the blue ocean waters of the Long Island Sound. Jolie and I were truly happy to be here. Here we are, exploring for sea glass.


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After looking for about an hour, we were relatively successful, finding a total of six smallish brown sea glass pieces, along with a number of small, very smooth glass like sea pebbles. We kept a few of those, as well.


Before we left, I continued walking a bit further along the beach and out onto a very sizable jetty. A lot of people were out on it some walking and some using it as a sort of dock for fishing.


Once past the jetty however, the next beach featured a variety of rock coverings as well as thousands of small mussel and clam shells washed up to the shoreline. It was an amazing sight.

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Overall, then, this was a really enjoyable week of beach time. I was glad to be able to get into the water, and glad to also get a beach day with Jolie. Now, I’m looking forward to us getting a bit more beach glass and to seeing her craft a sea glass bowl. I’ll be sure to take a photo and to post it here when this occurs.

Just a quick post here about a recent excursion, in early March of this year, into one of our neighboring states, the great state of Connecticut: A day for Celebrating such things as a free Friday and start to the weekend, an anticipation of Spring being on its way (as a very harsh Winter in the northeast was winding its way down, and a birthday celebration in memory of my dad, who would have turned 85 this year.

So, a fun day planned, in spite of the lingering piles of icy snow still on the ground. Image

Our first stop – JK’s in nearby Danbury, CT for some Texas wieners. We’ve previously posted here about JK”s so there is not much to add, necessarily, to what we previously described. However, here are a few images; note the one of me with my drink. I had ordered a cherry Coke, and what they brought me, much to my delight, was a house made cherry coke, complete with a red maraschino cherry. It was literally the “cherry on top” of an already happy sort of road food/greasy spoon/comfort food eating experience.

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Moving on through snowy, picturesque Connecticut


We made our way to our next destination, Dotty’s Diner, in Woodbury, CT, for their fabulous donuts. This place, which we’ve also previously blogged about is charming and the very epitome of what is good about old school dining establishments. The donuts are arguably the best I’ve ever had – dense, crunchy on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside – in short, perfection.

Admit it – you want one of these now, don’t you? I know that I do.

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Jolie sure does look happy to have her’s.


Next destination – none other than  Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center in Middletown, CT.

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Jolie found out about this place and when she told me, I knew that we would have to go. Here’s a brief video that explains what this place is all about.


Essentially, then a large, flea market style shop for collectors of toys, t-shirts, old magazines, vinyl records, and other fun objects from the past, Wild Bill’s is the sort of place where one could easily spend an entire day perusing its many contents. We were both awestruck by all of what was there, including

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posters galore; here I am with something I actually once owned – the famous 1970s Farrah Fawcett red bathing suit poster. Also,

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a wide range of dolls, action figures, monster/movie character replicas, and bobble heads – all to appeal to collectors.

Also, lots and lots of sports memorabilia


as well as games. Here, in my opinion, is one of the greatest action games of my 1960s childhood, the beloved game of “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots.”


There are even a small number of retro arcade video games on hand. Here’s Jolie with a game she fondly remembers – Centipede


While she didn’t actually get to play it, it was fun to just be in the presence of these games, as the memories that they trigger are pretty vivid.

Oh, and speaking of memories – when I was a kid, I was – like many kids my age – obsessed by Evil Knievel. I know in my heart that the moment in which Fonzie jumped the shark on Happy Days, he was paying tribute/being directly influenced by Knievel and his spectacular motorcycle jumping stunts. Anyway, I was very happy to find this.


Making our way up and down the aisles of the Center, we also discovered that there were some slightly hidden, truly quirky works of art on display, such as this life-sized diorama in the back, one signifying something non entirely clear; is Wild Bill perhaps a postmodernist?


These pieces were a bit clearer and helped to convey the essence of Wild Bill’s

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Finally, we decided to make a few purchases. And, the man working the register was non other than Wild Bill himself. Here he ism, represented on the outside of his center.


I opted for a laminated, signed poster of the character Rat Fink, the hod rod driving rat character created by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. I’m such a fan of Ed Roth and Rat Fink that whenever we go to join up with Jolie’s dad at “Back to the Fifties,” the large car show held each spring at the Minnesota State Fair grounds, my car t-shirt of choice is my Rat Fink shirt.


Truly, Big Daddy Roth’s influence looms large; his aesthetic ties in directly with things like 60s garage rock, B-movies, rockabilly, and so many other markers of total coolness.


The other notable purchase was of a copy of a National Lampoon, the subversive humor magazine that had its heyday in the 1970s. I used to read these very regularly during my high school years and they truly gave the 1970s a much more satirical edge than it might have had otherwise. I picked up the September 1977 “Grow Up” themed issue. The highlight is probably the darkly and deeply) funny comic story by Gahan Wilson called Grown-ups Can Do Anything,” a comic that gets more and more hideous with each panel.


Gahan Wilson is, in my opinion, a genius.

Following this really fun visit, we were not quite ready to return home, as we still had one more place to visit. And that place was the Pez Museum, which is located near New Haven in the town of Orange, CT.


The Pez Museum is basically a series of displays of Pez dispensers and other bits of Pez history, connected to an active Pez factory.

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This was all fun up to a point, though after the wide-ranging a quirky collection of stuff at Wild Bill’s, after a while, looking at Pez dispensers started to feel slightly repetitious. Still, it was an interesting and particular example of one form of pop culture from past to present, and worth the modest price of admission. Now, neither of us actually really like the taste of Pez, so we wound up not purchasing any souvenirs, which is what they are set up to sell.

Then, after a brief stop at the Danbury Fair Mall where we picked up a bottle of a really fine balsamic vinegar at Wiliams-Sonoma,


we also picked up some nice cupcakes from Crumb’s Bake Shop for something we had planned for later in the day; as I had mentioned, March 7th was my dad’s birthday.


I have somewhat recently established a new tradition for my dad’s birthday, and it is based on a food memory. My dad introduced me to the wonders of Asian cuisine and one thing I specifically remember is him introducing me to eating pu pu platter, which is essentially an appetizer combo served in Asian restaurants (sometimes with an open flame for sticking meats on sticks over the flame for some extra cooking). I still enjoy eating these. Now I rely on getting a take-out pu pu platter from a local Chinese place. they do a good job, and we definitely are happy with the outcome.


After our little pu pu feast, we then enjoyed the cupcake, which served as my dad’s birthday cake.


So, that was our day!  And seeing these pictures makes me want to back to nearly all of these places again. Maybe I can find some more National Lampoons and enjoy its subversive humor over another Dotty’s Donut. That would be a very good thing.






Hello everyone!

We realize that we have not posted anything new in a while, but we plan to post several new entries in the week ahead. in the meantime, this is a quick report about an enjoyable Saturday visit in mid-September to a familiar old place as well as to a place that we had not gone to ever before.

The new place to check out – The Newburgh Brewing Company, which is across the Hudson River from us in the city of Newburgh, NY, and located very near the Washington Headquarters national historic site, the grounds of which were a military fort commanded by General George Washington during the war of American independence.  The brewery is located in what appears to be an old manufactiring site, and is a reminder of Newburgh’s industrial past. The brewery has a large taproom with long tables, a bar area and various play objects. As soon as you walk in, the place gives off a cozy and welcoming vibe. I tried the Newburton IPA and it was really good tasting with a lot of body. And for lunch, I enjoyed one of my favorite bar foods, a bucket of mussels drenched in a yummy sauce made with a cream ale, garlic, onions, & fresh herb – in short, perfection! Jolie contented herself with a delicious grilled cheese sandwich made with bacon and goat cheese; and we each had a side of fries (seasoned with rosemary and garlic). A great lunch.

Washington Headquarters

sign for Newburgh Brewing Company Washington Headquarters


My NewBurton IPA Newburgh Cream Ale Mussels Tom in Brewery Jolie in BreweryRosemary & Garlic fries beer hall Artisanal Grilled Cheese  hello


While we were waiting for our lunch, we spotted a pile of board games; naturally, Jolie amused herself with a round of the board game Perfection.

Perfection 1 Perfection 2 Perfection 4Perfection 3

She seemed to enjoy that😉 as well as the round of Donkey Kong Jr.

Jolie playing Donkey Kong Jr

After all, can anyone really resist the allure of a retro arcade game?

Here, also, is the panoramic view from the hill in Newburgh where both the Brewing Company and the historic site are located; you can see our hometown of Beacon and also Mount Beacon across the river.

view from Newburgh

There is no doubt that we will plan future visits to the Newburgh Brewing Company

leaving the brewery

Following this hearty lunch, we decided to return to a place that we enjoy visiting in the Fall months and that is a local pick your own farm, DuBois Farms in Highland, NY. The last time that we had been there, the farm had been flooded badly because of Hurricane Irene and it was a very muddy experience. But this time around, the sun was shining and the temperature was a wonderful 70 degrees Fahrenheit  (21 degrees celsius) – in short, a gift!

DuBois Farms sign

pears Jolie at the farm crowd at DuBois

pumpkin patch plums fruit mix

While we are there, we always treat ourselves to a doughnut, as these are freshly made and really enjoyable


Donut closeup Tom and his donut

It was nice, after we got home from this enjoyable afternoon across the river having some freshly picked fruit – some of our Fall favorites in fact – to munch on throughout the week.

fruit mix at home


Strawberry Festival in Beacon, NY 2013

Yesterday was Strawberry Festival day here in Beacon, an annual event sponsored by the Beacon Sloop Club. We only had a short amount of free time but were determined to go. It was a gorgeous day here, and so, off we went.

The Strawberry Festival is an annual event sponsored by the  Beacon Sloop Club, a local activist organization that began in the late 1960s and has had as its focus the cleaning up and the revival of the Hudson River, which was filled with a variety of industrial pollutants. Legendary folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger, who lives very close to Beacon, was one of the founders. The park itself where the festival is held is one result of the dedicated efforts of the Sloop Club, having been transformed from a waste site to a lovely waterfront park, with views such as this.

riverfront park view at dusk

The Strawberry Festival – in which volunteers lovingly prepare such treats as strawberry smoothies and orders of strawberry shortcakes from locally farmed ingredients – is an annual event featuring music, food, craft vendors and local non-profits sharing information about their cause, and the sales of the strawberry treats help fund the Sloop Club. The shortcakes are amazingly good.

Here are some images from the day, showing the festival in progress as we arrived.  After first stopping by the farmers’ market, which sets up each Sunday, we then made our way to the festival. As we entered the park, we spotted Pete Seeger performing some songs. What a treat to be in his presence! We stood for a bit and watched the performance. Eventually, we made our way to the tent to purchase our tickets for the shortcake. The long line also presented the opportunity to grab some lunch. I opted for some pad thai and a shrimp roll from the Sukhothai stand, and both items were delicious. Jolie opted for some deep-fried ravioli, and those were excellent, as well. But the true star of the day was our orders of strawberry shortcake – featuring a warm crumbly crust, moist, fresh strawberries and topped with a cool dollop of whipped cream to balance out the warm crust – a fantastic signature dish!

While waiting on the line and then while eating, we enjoyed the sounds of the musicians who were playing. The music was generally a variety of folk styles; I was particularly impressed with a bluegrassy banjo player who spoke and sang with an authentic southern drawl. I didn’t catch his name (or spot any signs giving the names of the performers), but he was really good. I hope that he enjoyed his day playing in Beacon.

It was also fun to run into a bunch of friends, many of whom are local activists. And it was inspirational to see the work of the various activist and environmental organizations on display. As we were leaving, I wound up both with a Clearwater button and an anti-fracking bumper sticker, as well some literature for an anti-fracking rally in march in Albany taking place next week. As someone who cares about the future of this planet, I support this cause and am leaning toward going. The Strawberry Festival is, after all, not simply about strawberries; rather, it is about the ability of all of us to have a healthy planet on which to grow all sorts of healthy foods.

But to end on an optimistic note, and again to go back to Pete Seeger, here is a reminder of what is possible.

entering the park Pete Pete (2) Pete close up sloop club strawberry tent tom with red ticket strawberry shortcake tom and cake jolie and cake volunteer tom and Jolie river

folk singers (2) folk singers banjo picker pete telling stories long line tom and jolie (2)

ban fracking

Saturday’s lunch – the Wildfire Grill

A quick blog entry, but we were so enthusiastic to have found this place, that we wanted to give them a positive mention. Out running errands last weekend, we decided to check out a place we had just read about in a local publication. It was a good call. The place: The Wildfire Grill, in nearby Montgomery, NY. (Here is their Facebook page.)

The Wildfire Grill

The Wildfire Grill

We enter, and realize that there is a party going on in a side room and the place is pretty busy. We agree to be seated at the bar, which actually allowed us the fun of watching the kitchen through a bar window.

wildfire bar window

We order our drinks – a soft drink for Jolie and a Long Trail Hibernator (Scottish Ale) for me, and enjoy the cozy ambiance of the place. The bartender was friendly and explained the beers well. The place also seemed to have a very extensive set of wine to order, but it felt like a pub, albeit an upscale one, and so a beer was in order.

Tom in Wildfire

Jolie at lunch

After a short wait, our food begins to arrive. First, our appetizers of bread and some creamy butter, as well as an order of cheddar bacon potato skins. They were perfection. In fact, the entire meal was. This was all relatively simple pub food, but it was pub food done right. Every bite was deeply flavorful. And this restaurant also seemed to be very oriented toward locally grown ingredients.

potato skins

Lunch: for Jolie, an order of four cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, and feta cheese) pizza. We both love pizza and this one was excellent. The photos (which I took very quickly, and in low light) do not do this place justice.

Wildfire Grill pizza

And my lunch? I thought back to the pleasure of the lunch I had at Les Halles Downtown and went with a special menu item: an order of mussels sauteed in a wonderful Thai style, coconut/lemony broth.  Oh, man, it was good. Even Jolie, who doesn’t like seafood, tried a bit of the broth and agreed that it had an amazing flavor.


We saved just enough room to split a dessert – a pecan/walnut apple crisp, topped with some vanilla ice cream.

apple crisp

A great lunch!  So, if you are ever in the area of Montgomery, NY and are wanting a nice meal of either pub food or perhaps something a bit more upscale, this is your place. We’ll be back.

Putting on our Snow Boots for a Weekend in Manhattan

In early February this year, Jolie and I did an overnight visit to Manhattan. We had tickets for a show by the band The Residents on Saturday night and booked a nice hotel room in Midtown so as to stretch out our time there. Everything was all set. And then Mother Nature intervened.

weekend storm map

This was the view from inside our house on the Friday of the big storm.


As a result of this heavy blizzard of snow, we were, initially, up in the air of what would happen. Would we be able to get to the city? Would the show be cancelled?

Thankfully, after shutting down overnight, the Metro North got all the tracks cleared of snow and debris, and the Residents, after having to cancel a show the night before in Northampton, MA, posted on Facebook, on Saturday afternoon, that they were in the city getting ready to play. Whew, relief! So, after clearing out our driveway, and making sure our vehicles were not stuck there, we were all set.

After a pleasant and relaxed ride, and a short walk through Times Square, we were at the hotel, the Shoreham, which all in all, was very nice. As a bonus, they offered a glass of champagne upon checking in. I gladly accepted! I toasted to the fact that we had made it down there without a hitch.

Here's to the weekend!

Here’s to the weekend!

So, after a bit of relaxing in the room, we made our way back out, to grab a quick bite (some hearty Irish pub grub), and then to the show.


Z Deli

a toast

Jolie at dinner

ordering fish and chips

Finally, we arrived at the club, Stage 48, which was way over in Hells Kitchen, on the far west side, and made our way in. We were happy to be out of the cold and able to wait for the show to start. We simply made our way onto the floor and waited.

before the show

We were also pretty impressed with the look/style/vibe of this very modern club. Here is another image, from the club’s website.

bar area - Stage 48

bar area – Stage 48

Now, about the show that we were about to see? Well, we’ve both been Residents’ fans for some time. Jolie and I certainly like a lot of different forms of music, including by bands of a more experimental nature. And the Residents are certainly quite original and experimental. Originating in Louisiana and shrouded in the mystery of decades of anonymity, they gravitated toward the San Francisco, where they, along with a few other like-minded performers, created the (now, sadly defunct) record label, Ralph Records. Many years ago, I purchased a copy of this record.

Ralph Records compilation record

Ralph Records compilation record

Here’s a small sample of the Ralph Records’ aesthetic

This – along with a few other records that over time either made their way into my record collection or that I somehow got exposed to – helped to open my musical tastes toward experimental/electronic/free-form music. Jolie and I are happy to be fans of just about all of the performers on Frank Johnson’s Favorites. And of the Residents in particular.


An example of the Residents in action – their rendering of Elvis

And another – from a few years back

The show was thus a lot of fun. There were three Residents on stage, and as is always the case with them, they performed with their identities concealed. Their instruments  consisted of an electric guitar, some keyboards/sound files (they once upon a time used tapes, but now made use of an Apple laptop and vocals. Their music , and their performance of it, was trippy, odd, catchy, unsettling, thought provoking and often riotously funny – all at the same time. Here are a few images from the show; before the Residents took the stage, the only thing there to prepare us for the Dadaist experience to come was the set – some musician stands and a large Christmas themed inflatable prop of Santa and a snowman.

Residents stage set

Residents on stage one

Residents on stage two

Residents on stage three

Residents on stage four

crowd at the Residents

Residents guitarist

Randy Resident

Residents laptop

And at the show’s closing, the Residents paid tribute to their best known, and most iconic image of the eyeball by hoisting an inflatable eyeball tree. Great way to end things!



After the show, we more or less abandoned our plans to catch a cab back to the hotel, as it wasn’t so bad out. Nevertheless, we were glad to be in the warm, comfortable confines of the hotel.

One last comment about avant-garde music. Many years ago, when I was probably still in high school, and visiting with my sister and the man who would eventually be her husband, my future brother-in-law, who’s got great taste in music, introduced me to this classic, for which I will always be grateful.

The next day started, as it so often does, with a favorite hotel ritual – a coffee and newspaper. The hotel offered both a Sunday NY Times and a complimentary cappuccino or espresso. I had the cappuccino, and it was really good.

paper and coffee

For breakfast – we decided on an NYC landmark, the legendary Carnegie Deli

Carnegie Deli napkin    Carnegie Deli exterior

Nothing like a hearty breakfast of a sturgeon omelet with home fries or a cheese blintz to make you feel really full pretty much for the rest of the day.

Carnegie Deli omelet


The Carnegie Deli is famous for many reasons, and as such, it has a long history of attracting celebrity customers; as we looked up, Jolie noticed that she was sitting right next to the Gene Siskel autographed photo.

Gene Siskel

I had  Larry Hagman and Kiss right near me.

Larry Hagman and Kiss (2)

Anyway, I love the Carnegie Deli and the traditions that it represents. I am a fan of working class, Jewish-American culture, particularly as it existed in earlier decades in NYC’s working class neighborhoods. I was thus saddened when Jolie brought to my attention this article. But, my hat is off to the Carnegie Deli and the legacy of its founding fathers.

The Founding Fathers

Carnegie food items

Following this yummy breakfast, we made our way back to the hotel, rounded up our things and checked out. Luckily, we were able to keep our bags at the concierge desk. We were then free to wander. And there was one place in particular that we wanted to go, following the snowstorm and that was nearby Central Park, which we figured would be glowing beautifully following the snow. That prediction proved to be correct. And, given that it was a Sunday and it was above the freezing mark, the sight of people enjoying the park in winter was for both of us pretty evocative of childhood memories of wintertime play.

Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park Central Park

Tom and Jolie in snowy Central Park

After a few pleasant hours strolling the park, the rest of the day basically consisted of crossing over to the east side of Manhattan and then making our way down to Lexington and 53rd, to a fine little place called Melt Shop. We were very happy to give their grilled cheese sandwiches and side of “shop tots” a good try. Everything was quite delicious!

P1710088 Melt sandwich Jolie at Melt Melt window


The day in Manhattan was clearly coming to a close.

fancy building exterior

snowy Park Ave

Lexington Ave

Blue Manhattan

street steam

Manhattan canyon - black and white

food stands

cab blue

But, not before on last taste treat – a cupcake from Sprinkles Cupcakes, a place that we spotted earlier in the day. The verdict? Not bad, but not great. But a pleasant enough way to end the visit.

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Seasons at Clarence Fahnestock State Park

This past year, in late Spring (around the end of May) I was celebrating the feeling of completion as a very busy Spring semester came to an end, and the sense of Summer was in the air. And summer was literally in the air, as the temperature hit the upper seventies and the air began to feel more humid. So, by the afternoon, when things were at their hottest, I could not resist the urge to head toward the lake at nearby Clarence Fahnestock State Park, a large wilderness area that contains part of the Appalachian Trail, and to make my way down to these large rocks in the water.

rocks in water Fahnestock

While there, in order to cool off, I kicked off my flip-flops and cooled my feet off in the water.

feet in water

This felt great and cooled me right down.  Now of course, in addition to the cooling effect of being near the water, I was also drawn, I suppose, to the opportunity for some quiet time in nature, particularly after caught up in a rather hectic schedule over several weeks. Nature is truly restorative. Nature is also a reminder of what is true and real. Nature is a wise teacher, in a way, and we are smart to allow ourselves to be taught by it.

These rocks and the water in which they sit are at the end of small peninsula on Canopus Lake, which sits among the 14,086 acres of parkland here in New York State. To get there, I go east on Route 301 and park in a small lot. In the summer time, there are often a few folks there fishing. Here is a view of the lake from the sky.

Fahnestock from above

Incidentally, this is what those two rocks look like in the Winter snow. I was there very recently, and here’s how they are.

Canopus rocks in snow

What a difference half a year makes. That said, I love this park, in particular, and enjoy it year round. For about the past two years, I have been taking a route to work southbound on the Taconic State Parkway, which is a very old highway that dates back to the 1930s. The Taconic twists and turns its way through some really magnificent landscapes in counties ranging from Columbia down to Westchester. And at a certain point, it cuts right through Fahnestock. So, when I am driving south, I am always wanting to take a detour into the park and to see it under varying conditions.

Going back to these two rocks in the water, then, this particular pair marks the location of where my journey with Fahnestock – which is ongoing (and there is so much more we have yet to explore here) – began, just a few years back.

park map - Fahnestock

On one Summertime visit to the park,  back in 2010, after discovering that the park was there, I focused a bit on the picnic area near Pelton Pond and on what is a fun rock climb for a great view of this pond. (And note, I now, thankfully, have much better foot ware than my New Balance runners for such tasks as this.)


tom atop the rocks

Pelton Pond from the rocks

the blue of the pond

There is a short trail that goes around the pond, and I wound up walking a good amount of it.

trail sign

The Pelton trail, though, proved to be a nice introduction to this park.

tom on trail

pond trail

A later visit here took place in early November, 2011. We had gotten a bit of late October snow, and so I was eager to see how the park might look with a white coating. It was on this visit that I discovered the Winter Trail.

snow below trees

red tree white snow

winter park sign


I realized that the trail path was a series of twisting downhill steps, back to the edge of the lake. And so, down I went.



white dusting going down the trail

Once down at the water’s edge, the view was magnificent:

at water's edge

the beauty of the lake


snow at lake edge

Being down here surrounded by such natural beauty was great. I allowed myself a bit of time to drink it all in. I then trudged my way back up the hill, and made another visit to the rock formation at the edge of Pelton Pond.

pelton rocks november

view from Pelton rocks

rock edges

This time around, I didn’t do a lot of walking around the pond trail. But I really enjoyed the view from high up on the rocks.

on the rocks

This reminded me somewhat of childhood visits to Central Park and the opportunity to climb on the rocks there; though I am not really a rock climber, in the same way as those who make this their routine practice, I can certainly see what the appeal of rock climbing might be.

(I also checked out the small picnic shelter here in the pond picnic area. Inside it, a sign indicates that it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which under the leadership of President Franklin Roosevelt, put a lot of Americans to work during the time of recovery during the Great Depression. My hope is that we can, in the near future, employ scientists, engineers, and other types of workers, in the same spirit as Roosevelt, helping to stave off the worst effects of climate change on our planet.)

stone building

picnic shelter sign

picnic benches

One of these days, hopefully some time this Spring, Jolie and I can come back here for a picnic, followed by a bit of trail walking. If so, I’ll update this entry with some more images.

Finally, here are some images from a most recent visit to a much more snow-covered Winter Park. Again, when I was there, I didn’t see anyone else on the trail. The highlight was going down toward the snow-covered lake and walking across what I believe is called the “rail bed” which thus spans across and allows for a truly scenic view of the icy lake.

snow on tree

frozen lake Jan 2013

snowy along the trail

white snowy trail

rail bed in snow


frozen lake 2013

snow covered lake

trees in the freeze

one last view of the frozen lake

Finally, it was back up the snowy trail. It wasn’t nearly as tough to go back up the hilly, snow covered trail as I anticipated that it might be, but I was certainly happy when I was done.

back up the snowy trail

Finally, here is a short video that I found on Fahnestock.

Interested in joining us some time for a walk here? Let us know, as we’d love the company.

Back in mid September of this past year, Jolie and I decided to spend the day in our old stomping ground, Jersey City, I was born and raised there and after living in a few different places, was back there again at the beginning of the new millennium when Jolie came into my life. We got married and for a few years lived in a second story apartment, near Journal Square. Here’s a photo of the main room.

Oakland Avenue apartment

Not much to look at, but the rent was very cheap and the location was near public transit and the Path train into Manhattan.

Well, after a few years together as renters, we finally bit the bullet and relocated to Beacon. And while we both do love it here, we also both periodically think about the places where we grew up, that is, the places that shaped us in fundamental ways. Since we’ve moved here, I’ve only had a handful of occasions to return to Jersey City. And, truth be told, I had, for a time, been feeling a tad ambivalent about Jersey City, and about the blue collar world that I grew up with there. I had been feeling that I had moved on from that world and that there was likely no returning to it. To quote the band R.E.M., I had in a sense “lost my religion,” that is, no longer seeing the world as I once had. I had been also thinking that New Jersey was, in certain ways, no longer the same – that it had grown, perhaps, more crass, more commercialized, as well as more built up than it needed to be, and that, in essence, it had lost quite a bit of its character. And, all of these impressions made me feel a bit sad or at least wistful. And yet, there was something in me that yearned to reconnect with this place, to reclaim it and to make it my own, and compatible with the life I now live. So, my goal for this Saturday afternoon was to go back and to reconnect.

Incidentally, I’ve been listening a lot, lately, to the Kinks’ masterpiece LP from 1968, The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, and it is very much an object of reflection on the passing of time and on how we remember the past. Suffice it to say, the not entirely nostalgic, but still somewhat obsessive thinking of Ray Davies about his home of England is something I can easily relate to, in terms of my own reflections on the place where I grew up.


Driving down via Tonnelle Avenue and then Kennedy Blvd on very familiar turf, we made our way toward the parking garage at Journal Square. We figured that we would park there for the day and then make our way around the city. What we were not counting on was that the garage would be nearly full because of the Jehovah Witness ceremony taking place across the street.

Because one of our initial plans was to grab some dosas at one of our favorite hole in the wall restaurants, but it being still morning, we decided simply to walk around, past some old landmarks and reference points from when we had lived in JC. For example, the old C-Town, where we used to occasionally buy our groceries; you could always get a good deal there on Middle Eastern ingredients, such as dates and other dried fruit, pistachios, ground lamb, or large cheap jars of tahini.


Ahh, memories! Also, we walked past the landmark Lowes’ Theater, which was saved from the wrecking ball, thankfully, by a dedicated group of community volunteers and now hosts a variety of programs. Not much seemed to be happening at that moment.

Lowes theater

Also, various reminders of Jersey City’s multiethnic richness

Phone cards

Here we are in another favorite place – Neida’s Bakery, where we grabbed some nice Cuban/Puertorican pastries

Neida's Bakery

We made our way down Bergen Avenue, past various historical sites (i.e., a neighborhood that once upon a time was a Dutch colonial village) and made our way toward my college Alma Mater – Saint Peter’s College (now known as Saint Peter’s University). I’m a proud member of the Class of 1985. In the time since I have graduated, I have been back there on various occasions, and for a while taught there. The college – like Jersey City as a whole – has been through a variety of transformations during this time.

at Pope Hall - SPU

SPU - Quadrangle

I must admit that the hallways and cafeteria of the one building looked very much the same.

spu caf

SPU hallway

After walking around the SPU campus for a bit, we made our way back toward Journal Square; along the way, we passed another old haunt, the VIP Diner, which is a neighborhood institution. We’d used it for bragging rights when we used to take visitors to eat there, as it was a filming site for the Sopranos TV  show, back when that show was filming all around northern New Jersey.

VIP diner

Moving on, we then figured that we were ready for our yummy dosa lunch; if you’ve not ever experienced a dosa, it is essentially an Indian cuisine crepe and is used to wrap around a variety of fillings. When well prepared, they are incredibly delicious. And at Dosa Hut, they are prepared extremely well. So, off we went.

Dosa Hut

Jolie with dosas

Tom's dosa

inside the dosa

I am getting hungry just looking at these photos again. Anyway, afterward, we just kind of walked around near where Dosa Hut is and took things in. The neighborhood there has experienced a large influx of South Asians, and it now very much reflects this, and has made Jersey City even more multicultural; I celebrate this fact!


Newark Ave


From there, we made our way down Newark Avenue and in the direction of our old address. And on the way, we spotted some pretty well done street art, on part of a long wall along the state highway.

Courthouse location

the place

Lizard head


star wall


zeba dean

Sufficiently impressed with the fact that some talented local street artists were around and demonstrating their creativity, we made our way back to Oakland Avenue, the location of tour old apartment (the 1st photo here). Now, in addition to having been where Jolie and I once lived, it was also the same street where my dad once had a business, an auto parts store called H&W. Imagine our great surprise when we discovered that the old store was now a local Democratic Party headquarters and thus part of the Obama campaign! As an Obama supporter, I was happy about that. I was also happy because while my Dad may have been more conservative than me, he was a Democrat all his life; somehow, then, his old shop being now used for this purpose seemed appropriate.

H&W building

What was also nice is that the campaign workers who were inside were really nice about letting us in and seemed a bit intrigued to be meeting someone with a bit of knowledge about this location and its history. It was an amazing feeling to be back inside this place, after many years.

inside Dem HQ

Oh, incidentally, here I am from when I was around eighteen or nineteen, working part-time for my dad at the auto parts store. I’m with my dad’s two friends – Sal (who had a business next door) and Louie (who was a firefighter and also worked in my dad’s store, as a deliveryman); they were awfully nice guys, and real characters. They seemed to be on a first name basis with just about every bartender within a three mile radius of the shop.

Sal Louie and me

Moving on, we were impressed at what seemed to be some new, modern looking buildings going up around our old street.

We then made our way up toward the Jersey City Heights, the neighborhood in which I grew up.

Heights sign

As we walked along Central Avenue, a main commercial street for this neighborhood, a lot of memories came back to me.


Ah, Rizzos. What a great little Italian deli/bakery, one of a number in JC

Another old neighborhood standby – Pizza Master’s. As we walked past, we saw my old friend Richie sitting inside eating with his daughter. It was nice running into him there.

Pizza Masters

A bit further up, we treated ourselves to one of my favorite city refreshments – a flavored shaved ice.

shaved ice stand

Jersey City shares this, and perhaps other features, in common with Panama City, and likely other major cities throughout Latin America.

When we were kids, we used to get our snowcones down at Anne’s Candy Store; but the street vendors actually shave the ice by hand and then give you your choice of flavor; I opted for mango this time around.

mango ice

Moving along

Garden State News


Silon and Podowitz

This next shot – the corner of Central and Congress and location of two longstanding Heights businesses, Goehrigs Bakery and Kay’s Spring Garden – also shows another one time Sopranos shooting location.



Every city needs a few dive bars, and Ralph’s Tavern is about as divey as they come; but, God bless it!

As an aside – and on the topic of Jersey City dive bars – the old Tube Bar at Journal Square, which disappeared some time ago, is the stuff of legend and is the location for a cult recording of prank calls (which inspired the writers of the show, The Simpsons) and became the basis for this indie film.

I mentioned Anne’s Candy Store (aka Congress Sweet Shop) earlier; here it is – it’s now a daycare center. But again, I have a ton of memories, of being in the store and buying a pretzel or a snow cone or soda and of dealing with Anne and Joe the proprietors, or with Anne’s relatives who periodically worked there. Anne and Joe were characters, particularly Anne, who could be very temperamental, particularly with kids. But they were fundamentally very decent, hard-working people and I have nothing but fond memories of them now.

Anne's Candy

This of course meant that we were now at Sherman Avenue, which is the street where I had grown up.

Sherman Avenue

Again, seeing houses where my friends had lived brought back a flood of memories.





Finally, the old Conroy family house (the one on the right)


The memories of this street – of the people and events that were here, of the fun and games that happened here on a regular basis, of the sights and sounds and even smells  – will be with me forever.  For example, this driveway


at the end of the street was at the O’Grady family’s house. And this driveway was the world to us, particularly in winter time when we’d ice it down and go sliding on it. If you didn’t have a plastic sled, a piece of linoleum would do. And the thought, now, that a bunch of kids in a neighborhood could spend hours entertaining themselves in such a makeshift way is one that is also accompanied by a sense that kids no longer really do such things. The world has changed; parenting methods have changed with generational shifts. Kids today are much more tech savvy and perhaps more formally trained toward achievement skills than we were back then, but kids are also a bit more coddled and more filled with anxiety about things like grades and college applications (not to mention, paying for college, perhaps for their entire working lives). The generations that rebelled were later perhaps less naive when having kids of their own, but many became helicopter parents. I’m not judging, merely observing it. But these are the sorts of thoughts and reflections that come to mind when I see this driveway and reflect on the passing of time and on the realization that none of my old friends and neighbors, as far as I can tell, still live here; neither do I, of course.

By the way, the painted bases for stickball are no longer there, even though the sewer plates  (i.e., home plate and second base) are still there. Here is the view looking down the street toward home plate.


Sadly, it seems that kids have forgotten stickball, and it is now mainly played by middle age guys in semi-formal leagues in places like Brooklyn and the Bronx. I hope it comes back one day, as it is such a great and evocative game.

Moving on, we made our way up to the top of the street, where we crossed North Street and made our way into another playground, Washington Park, which straddles both Jersey City and Union City and has a section that overlooks Hoboken and the Manhattan skyline.

entering Washington Park

second park

Nice to see that the section of the second park that we used to call the “swing park” was still there, and that the swings and other equipment had been refurbished.

swing park

By the time we got to the third section of the park, there was some sort of carnival like event taking place. We just passed through and didn’t really partake in carnival activities.

park carnival

Actually, I found myself much more interested in watching the skillful play of a group of Latino guys playing football (i.e. soccer). It had been a while since I played in a soccer game, but there was a part of me that would have liked trying to play with these guys. Of course, though since they appeared to be younger than me and much more skilled with a soccer ball, I probably would have suffered some humiliation.

futball players

Moving on, we crossed the street and into the part of the park that overlooks Hoboken and NYC. There is also a walkway bridge to the highrise building, called the Doric, which is right across the park. As kids, we used to hop over the wall and play on what we called “Hoboken Hill” and underneath the Doric. There were all kinds of litter strewn trails and even a few makeshift forts on that hill and some of these eventually became a sort of campsite for the local homeless population.

Doric buliding and NYC skyline

nyc skyline view

The Hill

Incidentally, the Doric was well-known locally as being the place where the NY Knicks’ Phil Jackson,  who would later become a legendary coach for the LA Lakers, lived; it made perfect sense, given how close the Doric actually was to the Lincoln Tunnel and thus to Madison Square Garden. Since the Knicks were our local team, we liked knowing this.


Phil Jackson really had the 70s superstar jock look going on.

From this point, our plan was to take the light rail to Downtown Jersey City, check out the views from the waterfront, go see my old high school, and then basically call it a day. I was excited about taking the light rail, as I had never done that before.

light rail




When we arrived, quickly, at the Exchange Place area of Jersey City, near the waterfront, here was the picturesque view of lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center area.

view of lower Manhattan from Exchange Place

And here was the view of the landmark Colgate clock. An entire factory complex, including a Colgate factory, was once here on what is now prime real estate. You can see Ellis Island and even the Statue of Liberty in the background of this photo.

IMG_7677 - Copy

Anyway, here is another view, a bit more close up, of the lower Manhattan skyline, showing the Freedom Tower, which replaces the old World Trade Center’s “Twin Towers” which were lost on 9/11 back in 2001.


After stopping along one of the entrances to Liberty State Park,


we made our way in the direction of Downtown, toward Grove Street, and more specifically toward my high school Alma Mater – Saint Peter’s Prep school. Here are a few images of downtown Jersey City; much of the neighborhood – just like nearby Hoboken, with with it shares an architectural style – is now very much gentrified.

downtown street

ivy covered brownstones

downtown JC architecture

downtown JC street crossing


This next shot is of Ibby’s Falafel, which had recently been awarded by the publication New Jersey Monthly, the honor of serving the best falafel in New Jersey. Having eaten there in the past, and enjoyed the food there a lot, I couldn’t disagree.


Downtown Jersey City is also where the City Hall building is located; for a long time, Jersey City had something of an infamous political history, featuring a series of local, sometimes heavily corrupt, Democratic machines running the show. I think now that there may be only traces of this one time rather colorful history. It is said that kids in Jersey City grew up knowing how to talk about politicians the way kids in most places grow up talking about well-known athletes, and that is certainly true in my recollections (though we also knew how to talk about sports stars).

City Hall

Finally, over to the Prep. It being a Saturday, I knew that the school would be closed and that we would thus only see it from the outside.


Prep Gym

It actually felt really good to be back on this campus. I’m quite proud of this school and proud that I got to go and study there. In fact, it’s an excellent school and it did help prepare me for later academic life and for life in general.

sitting at the Prep

While we were walking around the campus, some of the runners from the Cross Country team were milling around and we got to chat with them for a moment.

After caffinating at Starbucks


we realized that our feet were pretty tired from all the walking. We decided, then, to take the Path train up to Journal Square. As we got off the train, we were reminded of another nice bit of Jersey City history, namely, the fact that the legendary Jackie Robinson began to break the color barrier in sports, and in Jersey City before he got up to play in Brooklyn. Hence this tribute statue.

Jackie Robinson statue

It had been, overall, a very satisfying day in Jersey City. I did, indeed, feel at home, and connected, and even happy, while visiting there. You can go home again, even if the memories that you have of what home might be may never quite be able to completely match what was once there or what is there now. As Ray Davies sings, in the Village Green album, “yes people often change, but memories of people can remain.” Anyway, I left feeling very good about this visit.

By the way, the title to this entry, for those who might be wondering comes from the Hoboken based band Yo La Tengo, one of my all time favorite groups, and from this truly gorgeous composition.

The song included these lines

Sometimes late at night
While runnin’ from the rain
Running from the voices
Filling up my brain
Now I wish they’d leave me alone
And let me be
To go off on my own
Let me be to go home
I feel like going home

I have a feeling that everyone sometimes feels the need to go home, wherever that may be.


As many here know, I grew up in New Jersey and maintain close ties to this state. I have family and friends who remain there, and my mother lives there, year round, just a short walk from the ocean. A number of our previous posts here have referenced New Jersey, and in particular, its delightful shoreline and its beaches. There is good reason for why its beaches are so beloved.

Anyway, following a busy summer this year,  I spent a pleasant shore weekend in late August visiting with my family back at the end of summer. The weather was very nice, and as I made my way to Long Beach Island, I decided to check in on a shore location where I hadn’t been in a long while. I’m talking about Asbury Park, the shore town made rather famous by this landmark LP

Walking around on the boardwalk, I could see that Asbury Park has been going through a building boom, and a lot of what was there seemed quite a bit more upscale and Manhattan-y. Nonetheless, a few things were familiar to me.

Paramount Theater

The Wonderbar, featuring an image of “Tillie,” Asbury Park’s iconic image

And the following two places – both of which are part of the Springsteen legend.

Madame Marie’s – a spot that is featured prominently in this song

And of course, the legendary Stone Pony, a place where Springsteen and his friends (like Southside Johnny) still periodically show up and play.

My boardwalk stroll and lunch of fried clams done, I made my way back to my car and toward LBI, my mind filled with thoughts, images and memories of the Jersey Shore, and what was, what is, and what was to be in this part of the world.

The weekend at my mom’s was basically chill out time. I arrived in the afternoon, said hi to everyone, and walked down to the bay to catch a sunset.

I was pretty tired that night, which was a good thing, because after turning in early, I also woke up super early the next morning, around 5:00 am, just in time to catch the sunrise at the beach. I don’t do that very often, but it is something that I highly recommend to do, at least once a summer, especially if you are at an ocean that the sun rises above.

So, here is the beach as you approach it as the sun is rising. This was at 5:33 am. I love the beach this time of day, as it is as calm and peaceful as a place can be.

Thank goodness for 7-11 and their hot coffee.

It was blissful to be able to walk along the cool sand as the cool air started warming up under the sun and to take in the beach’s calm, natural beauty. I was glad to have my camera with me.

I also managed to scoop up a bunch of nice shells and bits of sea glass. I have a bunch of ocean shells in a jar at work, reminding me when I am there of my beloved beach. Jolie has a growing collection of sea glass that we have both found;  eventually she will probably do something creative with them.

Anyway, after heading back to the house for a while, I would return later that afternoon, with members of my family, for a bit of family beach time. Here I am, sitting with my mom, in our beach chairs.

She and I have been enjoying the beach together for a long time! 😉

During this afternoon beach visit, in addition to taking a dip in the ocean, I also had, while taking a walk, an encounter with someone I instantly recognized – Chef Michael Proietti, who, as I recalled, had been a contestant on the Food Network’s show, The Next Food Network Star. This was his promo clip from that show.

And here I am, happy to be photographed with him. He is as nice and as cool in person as he was in his run on this show, and I wish him nothing but the best. I still hope that the Food Network decides to give him his own show.

Speaking of food, I also got to play chef that evening, offering to make what my brother-in-law once said might be my “signature dish” – steamed little neck clams and mussels, cooked with corn and chorizo sausage. It’s a wonderfully hearty dish, and I decided to also serve it with pasta and a pan sauce. I was happy to serve this meal to my family (mom, my sister, her husband and their daughter, and our uncle Lou, who was also down vacationing at the shore).

The next morning, I was up again pretty early, so again, I decided to do another morning beach walk. This time around, I threw on my swim trunks just in case the urge to go for a morning swim hit me. Again, it was very captivating and pleasant to be early to the beach.

So, a nice beach weekend this was. Before heading back home, I picked up a new pair of flip-flops, which happened to be somewhat reggae themed.😉

Also, on the way back, I stopped for a visit with my pal Jim, who lives in Point Pleasant, another legendary shore town. It was great seeing him and also seeing the Point Pleasant boardwalk; as with Asbury, it had been a long while since I had been there. I am also eager to meet up  again soon with pal Jim, as he is a good friend.

The following weekend was Labor Day weekend and given the holiday nature of this time, Jolie and I returned to LBI for one last summer hurrah before the Fall was to start-up.

As we did earlier in the summer, we got in a visit to the norther tip of Long Beach Island and its iconic lighthouse.

But, mostly what we did was what we usually do at the shore – take long walks, hang out at the beach, swim, and generally enjoy ourselves and our time there.

Anyway, cut to late October, 2012. Tropical storm Sandy took place, starting its destructive path in the Caribbean and in making its way north and west, hitting New Jersey and New York particularly hard.

While we were spared Sandy’s destruction here in Beacon, seeing what was happening elsewhere, to places so familiar to me, was deeply painful. I was glued to the television news coverage and gasped several times while watching it. It felt a bit like the 9/11 attacks of eleven years ago. My immediate concern was with my loved ones and with their houses, but I also instantly felt deep sorrow for everyone who was seriously affected by this storm. And I started worrying that this is a sign of a permanently altered climate, a byproduct of industrial society and our steady production of greenhouse gasses. This will all need to be further examined. In the meantime, there was the need for some initial recovery to take place.

My mother, with my sister, brother-in-law and our dear family friend, Barbara (who is like another sister to me) got to return to my mom’s house, one week after the storm, so as to do some initial damage assessments and to remove what could be removed from the house. It was exhausting work, and brought everyone up close to the aftermath of disaster. A week later, I went down to the island to pitch in with the cleanup, and saw many scenes such as this.

or this (a corner pizza joint down the block from my mom’s house)

One of the most dramatic images was of these two houses, near the beach in the town of Ship Bottom, that had essentially collided into one another, given the blowing winds and water.

So, this is what a house that has been torn from its foundation looks like.


My observation now is that a few weeks after Hurricane Sandy has passed, the NJ shore and the NYC metropolitan area are in a slow, steady recovery process. While down on LBI, I saw a number of homeowners and business owners doing damage assessment and beginning the repair process. Things are slowly reverting to normalcy there, but there is still a long way to go. That said, the long-term challenges for a warming planet, particularly for those who reside in low-lying coastal areas, remain with us and are urgently in need of a large-scale concentrated effort by business, science, government and citizen activists and local communities as we attempt to meet such challenges. We are, literally, all in this together.

I also want to add that I was struck by both the awesome power but also the sheer beauty of nature during a quick visit to check out the beach. The beach was much cooler and windier than it had been in August and September, but it was still a happy occasion to be able to walk on it. Here are a few images of what it was looking like.

What a difference a few months make in nature’s grand narrative!

Finally, I wish to end this with two more videos; one, a bit more about LBI’s recovery.

And one more reference to the Boss, and to his song that seems very appropriate for this occasion.  My eyes filled with tears when I listened to this a few weeks ago, just as it did the first time I heard it.


This year, 2013, has not been much of a beach year for us. In case anyone is wondering, the Jersey shore as well as my mom’s house, are all in a recovery process. We haven’t been down much, but we were down at the end of July for a family wedding. I had an opportunity for a quick visit to the beach, and it was a really nice feeling being back. Here are a few images of my short visit to the beach.

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Tom and Jolie visit Detroit (and Ann Arbor too)

This year, we decided that our summer road trip would be to the city of Detroit. Our plan was to drive across Pennsylvania, then across northern Ohio and then make our way up to Detroit, where we would have several days to explore. And should you be wondering, why Detroit? The simple answer is that we were intrigued at the possibility of checking out a storied American city that may appear to be well past its past glory days. But I was also motivated by the rich history, including an amazing musical and arts history, of this place. And on that note, the mix CDs we made for this trip included lots of Motown and blues classics, as well as a bit of techno, gospel and lots of Stooges, MC5, White Stripes, Bob Seger, and Mitch Ryder, among others. I’ll thus post here about the destination part of this trip and later Jolie will be posting about some of our adventures on the way there and back.

So, in a sense, here is a group that was a catalyst for taking a trip to the Motor City. Their music inspires me, and the story that they represent, that is, of the merging of both black and white working class communities around art, music and social change is something that I wanted to learn more about.

The MC5

So, with a real sense of openness to the multiple possibilities of what we might find, we arrived midweek, stopping first in Ann Arbor before arriving later that night at our airport (which was on the outskirts of the Detroit Metro Airport). Ann Arbor is of course the home of the University of Michigan main campus, and as we drove through its neighborhoods, it seemed pretty studenty. We drove past what appeared to be the UM Medical School.

We found our way to the main downtown, parking next to a terminal that was set up for a farmers’ market, which was more or less shutting down for the day when we arrived. Also nearby was a marketplace (Kerrytown Market and Shops) which was inside of a refurbished old brick building.

Our plan was to basically walk around and to see what was there, and then to find a place to eat before heading to our hotel to check in. Toward this end, we totally lucked out, as we encountered a really cool, crowded street fair and then found a fantastic eatery.

First some images from the street fair.

We walked around this and checked out the various stands and items for sale for about an hour. The vibe was friendly and engaging, and we also wound up chatting a bit with a few of the political tables there – the entire political spectrum was being represented there.

Then, deciding on a restaurant, we both agreed that we were in the mood for something different, that is, for a cuisine that we may not have ever experienced before. And Ann Arbor being a university town, we were pretty sure that we could find something unique. It didn’t take long to find a place that specialized in Ethiopian cuisine. It looked interesting, so in we went.

After a slight bit of confusion about the menu (all items come on a large serving platter accompanied by a healthy amount of soft, pancake-like bread, which substitutes for utensils, and which is essentially either with or without meat and a few additional side dishes) we ordered our feast – it arrived, and it was amazing!

Each of these items had such a great texture and taste, and using the bread as a utensil was fun, but very filling after a while. Periodically, the server would come over and inquire as to whether we would like any additions of any particular items. We ordered a few additional bits, but really filled up and wound up with take out trays. Anyway, this is what eating this lovely food looks like.

So full after this!

Nonetheless, after a bit more walking, we still managed to find room in our digestive systems for a bit of ice cream.

So, the verdict on Ann Arbor – a fun place, with a lot going on! We looked forward to a return trip to check it out some more. Oh, and one other anecdote; as we returned to our car, there was a group of mostly men and they were doing a kind of drill march/step dance routine, right there next to the parking lot.

Finally, though, after a long day of travel, we very much looked forward to checking in to the hotel and climbing into this.

It looks comfy, right? It was, and it was good to sleep and to rest up for the next day, our first in Detroit.

The next morning, it was a bit drizzly out, and we decided that our first destination would be the Detroit Institute of Arts.

One of the things that we had wanted to see was the special exhibit there of photos taken by Patti Smith, known mainly for her music and her poetry. But the entire museum and its contents sounded very worthwhile, and were.

We also grabbed a bit of breakfast here, in their cafe.

Then, we checked out the Patti Smith photo exhibit.

Photography – while allowed in much of the museum  – was not allowed in this particular gallery. The photos here, simple black and white images taken by Patti Smith using a fairly simple Polaroid camera, were mainly of persons or of singular iconic objects, and I found the whole presentation deeply moving and inspiring. In fact, I recently ordered the book Camera Solo and have been enjoying looking at it on a fairly regular basis since it arrived in our mailbox.

Some more images from the DIA:

A nice little lounge area:

The museum also had a special exhibit of prints and drawings by the artists Matisse and Picasso, and it was wonderful. It was very happy given that Picasso has long been one of my favorite artists. Here is Jolie with a bit of cubist signage.

Finally, after a few very enjoyable hours here, it was time to head out. The rain had stopped when we went back outside, though it was still a bit overcast.

Our next stop – Dearborn, MI and the Henry Ford Museum. This was Ford territory, for sure.

First, a stop for lunch, at the landmark Buddy’s Pizza.

While this was not the original Detroit location, it was carrying on a tradition from the past. The place was homey and friendly and the pizza was excellent. We enjoyed it a lot. The wait staff was also really impressed that we had chosen to come to Detroit for a visit (we got that reaction a lot during the visit), and they encouraged me to walk around and check out the various sports and historical artwork and memorabilia, which I gladly did.

As far as the pizza? It was truly delicious!

After lunch, we found a used record/CD shop called Dearborn Music.

I can easily spend hours in places like these; but, given that we still had a full list of places to check out, our time in here was brief.

Our next stop: The Henry Ford Museum

The Ford Museum wound up being so much more and better than I imagined it would be. I was expecting a museum simply about cars, and it was this. But it was so much more. It was about the manufacturing of modernity and of a consumer society. This certainly appealed, deeply, to my sociological side. We spent hours here and took a ton of photos. Here are a few images from the Ford Museum.

Reagan’s Presidential limo (one of many there)

miscellaneous road signs

And along with this Holiday Inn sign, there was a replica of a motel room, exactly as one might have encountered it while on the road in the 1950s 0r 6os.

Lots of infrastructure on display here, including this recreation of an old toll booth

Also, this replica of an old gas station – it reminded me of the old station in New Jersey where my dad and uncle both worked.

There were also large trains in the museum,

as well as some historically significant airplanes, such as this used for Admiral Byrd’s arctic explorations.

Among my favorite displays here were those showing the evolution of the typical, middle class American kitchen.

So, these were some of the highlights. Of course, while certain things about this history – such as Henry Ford’s very conservative and nationalistic philosophy, his assembly line procedures, and the politics of labor vs. management struggles were pretty conspicuously absent, the museum’s many artifacts were truly fascinating. The visit here was thus very worthwhile.

Our next stop? Back to downtown  Detroit to check out Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play, and to see the surrounding neighborhood.

A view, approaching this, of the downtown skyline.

And then, some shots of the stadium and surrounding spots.

And of course, various Ty Cobb references to be found here.

At one point, I was standing in front of the stadium, having my picture taken, when one of the employees approached us. He was very friendly. I thought that maybe he was going to chase us away or perhaps he might let us in and onto the field. Instead, he offered us some beautiful images from his cell phone camera; unfortunately, we didn’t have our cell phone with us, so we couldn’t receive his offer. But it was very nice of him.

A short walk from Comerica Park was the landmark Fox Theater, so we went over to take a look. we only saw it from the outside, as it was closed during this visit.

The Fox is truly a Detroit landmark. It was opened way back in 1928 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. As one can see here, it is still very much used for performance events, just as it was when the various Motown acts performed there in the 1960s. And as with the theaters in Times Square in NYC, the Fox apparently survived Detroit’s economic decline in the 1970s by programming its share of kung fu and blaxploitation films – it would probably be a blast to travel back to that era for a showing of Cleopatra Jones or Enter the Dragon  at the Fox. That said, it is very good to see it going strong now.

a few more images from Downtown:

Then, as night began approaching, we wound up in a neighborhood known as Corktown.

Our intent here was to grab dinner at a place which is highly acclaimed by locals – Slows Bar-B-Q.

Unfortunately, they were pretty full and we were told that it would likely be a 2-3 hour wait for a table. The place wasn’t very big, and there was music playing, as well as all the chairs, even the bar chairs, filled. There were even some guys sitting outside who seemed to have gotten some food to go. So, while the food there looked very good, we opted to look elsewhere. Fortunately, we were able to find another barbecue place; that was what we were in the mood for. We actually went back close to the Downtown location where we earlier were and ate at R.U.B. BBQ Pub, and it was just fine.

Here I am enjoying a nice cold IPA with which to wash down my ribs.

After such a long, busy day, we were glad to get back to the hotel.

The next day’s main plan – visiting the Motown Museum.

But before describing the Museum, I should preface by saying that both of us love Motown and grew up on the artists associated with it: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas, Supremes, Jackson Five, etc. Their music is so much a part of the life of everyone who grew up in the postwar era.  In anticipating going to the Motown Museum, which is of course the site where Berry Gordy lived, worked and recorded all of these great artists, we knew that we would be touching very hallowed ground. So we were really excited about it.

First though, a few random images from our morning of driving back into the neighborhoods of Detroit, including some random and fantastic encounters with some fairly abstract street art, as well as signs of a Latin presence in Detroit.

and, tragically, various signs of obvious urban blight and neglect. Truly, the collapsed housing market has hit Detroit and other cities like it especially hard.

As the Greek philosopher Plato once wrote, “Any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another.” Be that as it may, seeing scenes such as these was a grim reminder of the growing class divide. I mention this and show these images because they are raw and they are real, and they are an undeniable aspect of a visit to a city like Detroit; but I’d chose a vacation trip to a Detroit or any other place that is real over an “escapist” Club Med style or Disneyesque vacation, any day.

Okay, enough editorializing. And onto the Motown Museum.

While photos were not allowed on the inside, I managed to get this shot of us in the hallway, which conveys just how happy we were to be there on this hallowed ground.

We were joined, on the tour, with various other tourists, including a very large number of members of a large, extended, very nice African-American family members who were there as part of a family reunion celebration (though two of their members, apparently unhappy that they couldn’t all tour with only family members, opted to wait outside). As far as the tour, it was great. We watched a short film about Motown and it was filled with much that was familiar. But when we were led upstairs to a central hallway, the tour really came to life. We had the most engaging tour guide you could ever possibly ask for. The Museum was filled with a variety of Motown artifacts. And while we were told a lot about Berry Gordy and his family, not much was said about the residential part of the house, even though we walked past open doors looking into rooms that remained looking as if it were still 1964 and the home of a young entrepreneurial family. Finally, we were led down into the basement recording studio, which still had an old mixing board, various old office supplies (including a candy vending machine; we were told not to use it but were also given an anecdote about which candy selection was preferred by a young Stevie Wonder. And in seeing where the house band (Funk Brothers) and singers set up to record, namely in a refurbished garage, you couldn’t help but be awed at how small and intimate a setting it must have been, and thus at how much it lent itself to the high quality of the music. You also cannot help but to think about how much more cold and processed so much commercial music is today, by contrast. I am grateful to have had this music of my childhood in my life and am thrilled knowing I got to see where it was made.

After the tour, we sort of lingered for a bit outside the Motown buildings.

As you probably noticed, this last shot shows the image of the late, great Marvin Gaye, whose presence was very much felt on this tour and in this house. Jolie and I have both long  loved his music; here is a fine example of him performing it.

Following the tour, our lunch was at a local greasy spoon for something as basic and hearty as chili dogs. These hit the spot, for sure.

And after this, we went to the site of another Detroit music shrine, namely, the Grande Ballroom. The Grande, which is now closed, is little more than a shell. But once upon a time in the later 1960s and into the 1970s, it was the premiere rock palace in Detroit. It is, for example, where the MC5 recorded their first album, Kick Out the Jams, back in the Fall of 1968. Just the day before, I had seen Fred Sonic Smith’s electric guitar, which was part of the photo exhibit as part of wife, Patti Smith’s, artwork. And here I was, at the place where the legends of Detroit rock, such as the MC5 and Stooges made their mark.

It was sad seeing such a historically significant place in such disrepair. One can only hope that someone – Iggy Pop, perhaps? – may eventually buy it and fix it up and perhaps even restore it to its past use.

As an aside, here is a video of the MC5 playing their anthem – lots of blue collar Detroit energy in this performance.

Finally, before heading back to our hotel to chill for a while, we wanted to check out one of Detroit’s historic districts, and went to the one near Wayne State University (which was also close to where we were the day before when we went to the art museum). We got to thus see some very magnificent works of architecture which have been well-preserved to the present day.

Oh, and speaking of Iggy, after a brief rest at the hotel, we wound up driving through his childhood hometown, Ypsilanti, MI.

I had been expecting, for some reason, that Ypsilanti would be run down, but it was actually pleasant and seemed lively. one description I had read of it had compared it to Brooklyn, NY, i.e., artsy,  filled with twentysomethings,and revitalized. That may have been the case; we only drove through it, but didn’t get a chance to get out and walk around to see it.

Anyway, having enjoyed Ann Arbor so much the night before, dinner was at Palm Palace, as we were decided on wanting some Middle  Eastern food. This was a good call; we had a great time here, enjoying meals of Moroccan chicken and marinated beef.

Once again, we left a restaurant with leftovers.

We then drove back to the Farmers Market parking location, as we remembered the location. This being the start of a weekend, Ann Arbor now seemed a lot busier. As we walked around, we realized how pleasant and attractive looking Ann Arbor is; here are a variety of images.

As we were walking, two students approached us; they were friendly. One of them asked if we would like to have a painting that he had made.

He may have been joking around in approaching us on this, but we accepted it and thanked him for it. I’ve had this in my car for the past two months; I actually do sort of like this.

Being that we had a full day of travel the next day, we decided to make an early night of it and to return to the hotel to try to get a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, after checking out, we headed to our final Detroit destination: an experimental arts site known as the Heidelberg Project.

The Heidelberg Project is essentially a large scale, neighborhood based art project which entails using paints, various materials, and reclaimed objects so as to turn an entire neighborhood (the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on the city’s east side) into a type of art canvas. It was initiated in 1986 by artist Tyree Guyton. When we were there, we met one of the other artists as well as volunteers, residents and tourists (one from as far away as France). Many of the images has a kind of quasi-religious folk art quality to them. Many also had a political message. The experience was a unique one, for sure, and helped us to conceptualize art in a whole new way.

Here are some images from this visit.

Finally, as we were leaving, we met one of the residents, who genuinely welcomed us into her neighborhood and who invited us up on to her porch, I asked her if I could take her photo, and she smiled for me.

So, thanks Detroit for a memorable and inspiring visit. One day we’ll be back!