Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coming Up: St. Ann's Feast in Hoboken

Don't call it a festival. Don't call it a street fair. It may resemble either or both, but in Hoboken, this is the mother of all feasts. It celebrates the city's patron saint, brought to this country by those early settlers from Monte San Giacomo, the little hill town from where the original Italian immigrants to Hoboken came.


I took part in my first festa last year, so I didn't know what to expect. I found my way to St. Ann's Church at 704 Jefferson St, coming too early on opening day and having to return hours later for the opening event and the food. I won't make that mistake this year. I'm told Italian parties do not necessarily start on time. This is scheduled to start at either 5 or 7 P.M.--I've read both--on Wednesday July 22, and I'm opting for 7 P.M. There will be an opening ceremony on the steps of the church and music and food until late at night. The festa will continue, with breaks of course, through the weekend and the next, winding up with a procession on Sunday July 26.

Among the food booths, the most famous is the one run by the ladies of the church itself. They have a closely-guarded recipe for zeppoli, and you won't find any better anywhere, even in Italy. The price is right, and the proceeds will go to a good cause.

I hope I see you there.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Amateur Night

The 24-hour cable news services had a field day when Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina went AWOL for four days. Even more when they got word from his office that his wife didn't know where he was and didn't care. The story got juicier when his office sent out a statement that he might be hiking in the Appalachians. Gossip had it that during the summer solstice it is the custom in the Appalachians to hike--get this, Puritan America--in the nude.

Talk about juicy! He was spotted in the Atlanta airport getting off a plane from Buenos Aires. No nude hiking at all, just the chance of hanky-panky in South America. The governor was on the spot. He had some 'splaining to do. Under the pressure of coming up with an explanation before the cameras, he caved and told his story.

The cable tv commentators, a bloodthirsty and sometimes heartless lot, went wild. Here was hypocrisy in high places, a Republican of all things, admitting to having an affair. As if Democrats in high places don't do such things. Red meat!

A friend who has long been a defender of the practice of extramarital sex emailed me this: "He is setting 'recreational sex' back 40 years." An interesting take on the practice, but hardly an unbiased view of the situation. For one thing, Sanford wasn't involved in recreational sex. Unlike my sophisticated friend, he is clearly a debutante in the field. He had become involved physically with a woman outside his marriage and, falling in love, became all befuddled as men in such situations can do. Cameras rolling, he apologized to everyone he hurt, and seemed to be compelled to include everyone he had ever met. In truth, his actions hurt himself, obviously, for the staid gentleman was clearly falling apart before our eyes; his family and maybe a few close friends. And what hurt them was not the affair but the very public, very clumsy confession.

Not for a minute could the affair he described, and the subsequent revelation of emails on cable TV and the Internet, be considered a casual dalliance (or recreational sex). While Keith Olbermann couldn't resist intoning excerpts of the purple prose with New-Age music swooping in the background, my inner sentimentalist--the woman in me--said, "Yeah, very funny, but I wish that had been written to me."

His wife is on record as having kicked him out two weeks ago. What choice did he have but to go to Argentina and cry with his mistress for a few days? Well, I get that, but anybody who has even been anywhere near a situation like this lays careful plans. The wife didn't want to know, but something very tidy must be done about the staff--and if you're the governor, the constituents. It wouldn't have been that hard. But we're talking about a man who's out of his head, however temporarily (one hopes), and not using that particular part of his cerebral cortex for thinking.

What of his political future? Unlike those talking heads who confront me almost every evening, I'm not gonna say I know. I think he'll soon retire from what we call public life and get a life of his own. A few politicians have survived their scandals--I can think of a very public one who seems to sail through life failing upward in this area over and over. But Sanford broke the cardinal rule in a country full of people who say one thing and do another. He told the truth. In Washington, that's known as a gaffe, even in a minor situation. But this was pretty major.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Finding Myself in Cyberspace

Last weekend I got an invite to join twitter. It had to happen. I've heard so much about twitter, and the more I heard the more confused I have become. It seems you can send a tweet from your cellphone (if you can send text messages). Why you would do this I can't understand--just letting everybody online know that you're riding a bus and looking at a kid with green hair or you're shopping for fish at Fresh Market. Now, if something momentous happens on the bus or at the fish counter, then you might be a hero for putting it online, but in my life such things don't seem to happen to me.

Having been roped into Facebook in a similar fashion a few months before, I decided to go to twitter and see what the difference might be. On twitter you're only allowed 140 characters, and they start counting for you as soon as you start typing in the message box. But as soon as I registered, twitter revealed a mailbox of my friends who are also registered, some I haven't heard from in years. I tweeted a couple, but it didn't work because they have to have included me on their tweetlist.

This is gonna take some time. I've gotten so I nonchalantly post over on my "wall" at Facebook, and write on other people's walls. But to make twitter work, you have to post those tweets, 140 characters and no more, all day long. Who's gonna read? I have no idea.

I'm good with blogs. I have three of them. The only one I update on a regular basis, say, three or four times a week, is this one. I consider it my Open Letter To the World and I'm comfortable spilling my guts here whenever I feel so moved. This usually takes the form of a little essay on what I'm doing, where I've been, or where I'm going--and it usually relates to life for a newcomer in Hoboken.

But it always relates to finding myself. That's the theme here, if you haven't picked that up. Some early posts collected historical anecdotes about growing up in Hoboken, and through them I picked up a following of sometime visitors and sometime commenters. Sometimes I write about a local restaurant or review a local theatrical performance or a movie I've rented.

I'm pretty sure I can use both Facebook and twitter to direct people here to read my meanderings and comment. Maybe I can get famous. Maybe I can sell ads. Maybe I'll find my true calling in cyberspace. Maybe I'll get a newspaper column out of this.

But whether or not I do, I'll probably blog til the end of my days.

Oh, and by the way, that wasn't the last installment of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. There'll be a follow-up tonight and another on Thursday, with the women discussing their emotional damage from the series. This I've got to see.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Housewives" Again, Real Or Not

This is the last time I'll post about The Real Housewives of New Jersey, at least for a long time. I promise. The final episode, a post-mortem in which we see some of the unseen footage and catch up with the "wives" for some personal commentary, will air tonight. Whether the series will be picked up again is doubtful, but it will surely be rerun endlessly.

I found this from a review after the very first episode, written by David Hinckley in the New York Daily News: "So I finished watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey, which is about as real as most of the cleavage on the show, and I was thinking to myself, 'Good Lord, what a piece of trash. That was awful!'

Then I put on a Sinatra record and thought about it and realized the problem wasn’t the show at all. It was me. I wasn’t letting myself smell the roses.

What I should have thought was, 'Good Lord, what a piece of trash. That was great!'"

Exactly. It's nothing to get upset about, and since we really can't identify with anybody, we can watch as if it was a new cage of exotic animals in the zoo. Beautiful, interesting new species, something like human beings, but not quite. At least not exactly like anyone we know.

Caroline is the Alpha of the group, the matriarch. She is devoted to family, meaning those who are related to her or married to someone who is. She allows Teresa in the family for some unknown reason--she finds her amusing, her children adorable, and it may be that their husbands have some business together. There is some mystery in that Dina talks about a husband, but he is never seen. I assumed he was in jail, but have been disabused of that notion by reading the Internet. They are separated and he is living openly with another woman--and he would understandably have nothing to do with the show.

Along comes "Danielle." We later learn that the name is phony, like a lot of other things about her. She is beautiful, pampered, and determined to break into this little group. Her opening is a budding friendship with Jacqueline, who is married to Dina and Caroline's brother. Jacqueline is vulnerable and finds herself caught in the middle between the expert manipulator Danielle and the family talons of the others who are inclined to "protect" her. Danielle decides from the first that Dina is the Alpha whom she must depose to get a position of power.

We didn't find out until the last episode, Tuesday, that, although Dina felt that she would be doing Jacqueline a favor if she could break up the bond between her and Danielle, it was Alpha Caroline all along who had been sabotaging Danielle. However, Danielle had so built up her fantasy that Dina was her main adversary, she assumed Caroline was just making that up. In the meantime, it was Teresa's party, and she took it upon herself to make the biggest scene, shrieking epithets--most of which were bleeped out--and trying to throw the table across the room. The older children were present (Teresa sent her little ones out) and so were the husbands, who for the most part let the situation unfold as it might. As a non-Italian Protestant, that really surprised me. I think Italian men understand when to stay out of a fight.

As to other non-Italian Protestants, one of my readers commented that he watched 15 minutes and realized he couldn't stand those people. He was watching the wrong episode. The good one came on an hour later. It would help to have some of the background by watching one of the fun ones, like maybe when Teresa is taking her oldest (about age 5) to a modeling agency and then to a photo shoot, or when Caroline and her husband are advising her daughter about a career. The one where Danielle joins the group for a dancing lesson is a hoot as well ("I used to be a dancer...").

Oh, they all run together in my mind now. I'll check out the Reunion episode tonight and then I'll leave it. Unless they do go into a second season.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not Exactly the Old Folks at Home

When onetime resident of Hoboken Stephen Foster wrote "The Old Folks at Home," he wasn't talking about The Real Housewives of New Jersey. These babes weren't even dreamed of in his day.

The cable show The Real Housewives of Orange County, itself a take on the new definition of the word housewife--as spawned by ABC's Desperate Housewives of a few years back, has taken on some interesting real-life, high-living wives in New York City and Atlanta. The Real Housewives of New Jersey is the last runaway hit in the series on Bravo.

We have to accept at the outset that none of these ladies would fit the definition of "housewife." Some aren't even married. The title is meant as ironic. We also have to suspend our disbelief that they might even be real. We have to have just a little bit of awe at the everyday goings-on in the lives of the very rich and not-so-famous. Even with their devotion to working for charitable causes, the kind of money these women shell out every day on themselves is staggering, and big money is part of the picture of their lives. They raise children, they love, they gossip, they laugh, and they are like rare birds in an aviary. You may call them shallow, but Lord help me, I like to watch them.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey introduced us to the world not unlike that of the women in The Sopranos. Although they're not mob wives, they live in suburban castles and they shepherd their children around between visits to the plastic surgeon and spa parties where they all watch each other get botox. There is, like Omarosa on Donald Trump's Apprentice shows, one among them who stirs up the pot--a woman with a questionable past, who states as her modus operandi, "Either you love me or you hate me, there's no in between." People who think like that are asking for it, and she gets it time and again, in front of everybody.

The New York Times review said this was the most entertaining show in the series. I was hooked on The Real Housewives of New York City, but I admit I like this one better. The matriarch, Caroline, is pretty, funny, and laughs a lot, and her sister Dina is a pistol, a beauty with brains and no patience with the foibles of others. These women are nothing like any real housewives I have ever known--certainly not in Hoboken--but there is a gloss to their days not unlike that of the rich anywhere.

This morning Bravo will air some of the earlier episodes, and there will be a marathon starting a 5 P.M. Eastern Time to catch up any newcomers and prepare us all for tonight's season finale, which, from the promos, looks like a doozy. At last we get them all together for a showdown, with plates flying, the dinner table overturned and everybody getting hot. Really hot. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Down Hoboken Memory Lane

People who grew up in Hoboken in the 1950s never tire of nostalgia, if Bobby Slezak is any example. He sent me this picture from the collection of the Hoboken Historical Museum last week, with the following comment: This pic of Jack O Dine's is worth a post IN THE ICE CREAM AND ROSES BLOG SECTION. Jac-O-Dine's is where the Demarest football players and cheerleaders did their dancing.

No, CAN'T FIND ANY PIX OF ABELS, sorry to say. I LOOKED FOR IT. Allen Freed WAS THE KING OF ROCK AND ROLL, not Elvis...ALLEN FREED ROCK AND ROLL SHOWS PLAYED AT THE Fabian in 1956. HOBOKEN OFFICIALS WERE NOT HAPPY ABOUT THIS. They soon after banned rock and roll in Hoboken and Jersey City. We all know that the ban did not stick.

We did play TOMMY DORSEY RECORDS IN ABEL'S...SO RARE was played a lot. Mr. Abel opened up a dance section for us to dance, when we could not go to the St. Michael's Dance. A GREAT PLACE IN HOBOKEN HISTORY, gone BUT NOT FORGOTTEN...that was another great place.

ABEL'S will always be my favorite place.

The Jac-O-Dines is an old picture BUT IT LOOKS THE SAME AS WE REMEMBER IT.

Dennis (The Rabbi) Maloney, wrote this of Abel's in a post about Abel's a year ago: When we first went into Abel's the soda was 25 cents and it was a big glass. There was no dance floor and it was always packed in the back. People just didn't want to sit in the front on a stool, I guess.

Abel's is where you went to meet girls or girls went to meet boys, whatever! Abel's had those wall jukeboxes at first. Twenty five cents let you play three songs, I think. There was always popular songs
on the juke box.

Mr. Abel was a very patient man. He used to run the place with his brother, who later opened a place out in Newark, N.J. I think he had the other place on Market Street. The Hoboken store used to make up this real big ice cream dish that the three of us could never finish, and it cost a reasonable price. I think Mr. Abel got a kick out of seeing us trying to eat all that ice cream and getting sick.

Later on he added the dance floor by removing the wall from the store next door and charged for the dancing. Then he put a limit on the time you could spend in the store, or you could reorder another soda or whatever you were having. He actually hired a bouncer named Eddie the Criminal. This guy was a real nutcase. He thought he was a real big shot!! I would like a nickel for all the times he almost got kicked on his butt by someone. He knew who was impressed with his role and who was not.

Eddie really got married and spent his honeymoon in Abel’s!! Yep, the day he got married, he brought his new found wife to Abel’s for all of us to meet. Told you there were some weird people back then.

If you're a visitor from old Hoboken, you might enjoy this post or the one called "Days of Ice Cream and Roses" that the Hoboken Kid, Slezak, referred to above. You don't have to be b-n-r to enjoy these stories--they were coming into the blog from old Hoboken a year ago. and if you don't know what b-n-r means, there's a post about that too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What? You've Never Been to my Website ONCE?

For the information of some browsers who found this blog and think it's a website, it isn't. A blog is a journal of sorts, a place to sound off, blow off, piss off and generally exercise your writing muscles, if you have them. It may be a place you can convince yourself that your verbal output is actually the same as writing. I use it to display my breadth of knowledge about practically everything, while demonstrating a depth of wisdom at the other end of the scale.

I don't know why I write a blog. This blog doesn't have any mission statement in particular. It is about finding myself, whatever that happens to mean, and it is about Hoboken too. When I moved here in December of 2007 I knew almost nothing about Hoboken, but the more I wrote, the more I learned, and I picked up a smattering of followers in the process who helped me along by writing comments about what Hoboken really is, was, and maybe even could be. So far I love the Hoboken part; the finding I could do anywhere. But it would be different.

Many of you who click on "View my complete profile" are probably interested in the fact that I have two other blogs going, and a website. The blog "Finding Fair Hope" was a little play on words as I found myself in my old hometown of Fairhope, Alabama, and I still post over there occasionally. I started blogging with that one. I cut my teeth over there, thinking it would be a good way to plug a book I'd written, Meet Me at The Butterfly Tree, but I posted about everything from the meaning of life to the activities of the local political committees. I still keep up with Fairhope, and occasional post over there when there is something I want to say.

And I have a blog called "Finding Fair Food," which has nothing to do with fair food, although many visitors found that one when they Googled "fair food." It's a food blog, describing how I cook--I love to cook--and even providing the occasional recipe. It's beginning to pall on me, and I seldom post there, but I do check out the traffic every day.

Traffic is why I'm writing this post. There is very little traffic on my web site, which you can find here. On it you'll find pictures of me in various incarnations, a little biographical information, and shameless plugs for my two books. It's a good read, if I do say so myself (and if I weren't a bit of an egomaniac I would write neither blogs, websites, nor books). If you haven't visited the web site, do it now, and think about buying one of those wonderful books.

If you want to skip the web site and go directly to buy the book, go here instead. You'll notice the name of the author is slightly different from the one on all my blogs--my maiden name makes a good pen name, don't you think?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Marlon Brando Slept Here

You may not recognize this one, new residents of Hoboken--but you can't deny it's as impressive as that new piece of glitz that's been blocking the sidewalk on River Street for years and now is open, boasting crystal chandeliers and glamorous stars.

In 1954, there were a few little hotels in Hoboken, and some nice ones like this, the Meyers, where Marlon Brando and the other actors and technicians who were working on the classic Hoboken movie On the Waterfront spent a little time. I only wish the hotel were still around!

Thanks to Bob Slezak for the picture and the title of this post!

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Work Is Being Noticed

Sometimes it's frustrating to write a blog. You never know if your work is being noticed. The comments are thin on the ground, yet The Site Meter tells you that a few loyal readers return time and again. You go to their blogs too to see what's happening in their world.

This morning it was raining and just about the time I decided not to trudge to the gym, I decided to troll a few blogs, and I found a hilarious tribute to my diet on this one.

At least he doesn't show any cleavage.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Two Months After Reinvention

That title was come upon hopefully, after I received my borrowed Flip videocam in the mail. I had lent it out to a University of Alabama student because together we had created a video that I didn't seem to be able to transmit electronically so I sent him the whole camera.

It seems I am the world's leading expert on the life and work of Marietta Johnson, a 20th century visionary educator who lived in my hometown of Fairhope, Alabama. For more information about her, click here or here for websites, most of which I wrote, or buy my book which puts the lady in the context of her town and her times.

I got my camera back and made a little video of myself showing how I've changed since starting my reinvention program April 1. It was shorter than usual, less that three minutes, so I thought it would be relatively easy to post here. Wrong. I tried about ten times yesterday, using both my Internet servers, and was told there was an error in processing. I tried again just now and got the same error message.

Rather than leave you with nothing but a post about Susan Boyle's triumph and trials, I decided to put up a post about the reinvention, and you'll just have to believe me about how I look.

Since my personal reinvention is little more than an optimum-nutrition diet, I can report on that phase. After posting on the blog, discouraged, that I really wasn't losing weight, I followed the suggestion that maybe the reason is that I am retaining water. I followed up by adding a glass of water with fresh lemon every morning first thing, and added a couple of glasses of water during the day, and I think that helped. Although I have changed my way of eating and have been rather diligent, I have lost only six pounds in two months, but that is a respectable amount, and the weight loss is beginning to show.

I didn't get on the diet to lose weight, but just to change my eating habits. Everybody has a downfall if he has a weight issue; mine is not junk food, but snacks. Having done the Atkins diet for years, I convinced myself that nuts and cheese were not really fattening, so those became my addiction when watching late-afternoon television. I don't have to tell you that over time this has added pounds.

As for the rest of my optimum life plan, I do go to the gym four days a week and workout on the machines, and I live in Hoboken, so I walk everywhere and have a fourth floor walkup apartment. Hoboken requires a lot of fresh air and exercise.

I'm two months into the reinvention and have no plans to curtail the project. It's not a diet that I will abandon, I simply started to think differently about things. I can report that I am fine (I had no health problems anyway), I am happy (I've never been anything but), and that my personal reinvention is nothing more than a commitment to keep doing what I was, only in a better way.

One of these days I'll get that video working and show you how I look.