Sunday, October 17, 2021
Thursday, October 7, 2021
It began with the rain in New York...
Which flooded parts of my hometown in New Jersey...
I was moved by the quick action of many neighbors to help those in need.
Days later, the banks of the Hackensack River, whose high tides had been unforgiving, looked idyllically lush...
The juxtaposition between New York and New Jersey seemed heightened in September...
I love these contrasts in my daily life.
Later in September, on a return visit to Citi Field, my wife and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary with family and friends. I didn't ask for the OK to post photos, so here's simply the back of my daughter's jersey (I'm wearing the "Varettoni 35" jersey, a great gift from my great friend Joe). My daughter had the jersey made in honor of my late Dad, who was nicknamed "Chick" when he played semi-pro ball...
I celebrated my birthday on Sept. 27 by watching the sun rise on the beach at Asbury Park...
And, finally, on Sept. 29, our family attended a wake in Tenafly at dusk to celebrate the life of a remarkable woman, Carmen Unanue. May her memory be eternal.
Saturday, October 2, 2021
If social media has taught me one thing about life, it's to reaffirm how ordinary I am.
Which is why one of my favorite writers is Wallace Stevens, an ordinary life insurance executive who wrote some of the world's most extraordinary poems.
It's his 142nd birthday today.
I love the fact that Stevens spent the bulk of his career as an executive for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. He used to scribble notes for poems on his walk to work every day in Connecticut. I often do the same while sitting in the back seat of a New Jersey Transit bus.
Often, I also take cell phone photos. So during the pandemic I paired some of my images of New York with haikus.
I thought this was unique. But then, as I've learned, I'm never unique.
Some quick Internet research shows that The New York Times asked readers to write haikus about the city and received thousands of submissions for National Poetry Month in April 2014. This was subsequently turned into a book.
Even more recently, in April 2021, Peter C. Goldmark Jr. (retired president of the Rockefeller Foundation and executive director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) published "Haikus for New York City," featuring illustrations by his daughter.
Still, in the spirit of the birthday poet -- who lived in New York from 1900 to 1916 and who, like me, always loved the city... I offer this tribute to him today.
to poet Wallace Stevens.
Stars on the ceiling.
Passing souls on marble floors.
Virus fills the air.
Cotton candy skies.
42nd Street in March.
Clouds, before the storm.
Buildings filled with light.
The Queensboro Bridge in pearls.
Cars hasting nowhere.
Found hidden in Queens.
New York in miniature,
still larger than life.
V (after E.B. White)
New York compresses
all life into a small space,
adds music. A poem.
Greetings from Ghost Town.
Shadows among the living.
Invisible. Times Square.
Fifth Avenue saints.
The enemies of darkness
gathering at dusk.
Fountains, flags, and lights.
a riot of hope.
East 43rd Street.
Relentless, billowing steam
stirs man's shuffling pace.
Fish out of water.
Whimsy turns the dim world pink.
Park Avenue art.
Buildings watch me walk.
I look up and catch their stare.
Nosy, jealous glass.
Unlit Christmas tree,
an emperor without clothes,
awaits the spotlight.
Forgotten men find
a marble sanctuary
on beds of cardboard.
Sunday, September 19, 2021
This is why I love New York.
I went for a lunchtime walk last week and was able to touch the ‘86 World Series trophy, say hello to Mr. Met, watch artist Joe Petruccio at work, buy a 35th anniversary t-shirt for Nancy, see the KAWS sculpture on temporary display at Rockefeller Center, and stroll down Broadway as David Byrne’s “American Utopia” prepared for its reopening this weekend and where Carmine’s restaurant proudly rolled out a red carpet to welcome back customers for the first time since the pandemic.
Friday, September 10, 2021
|Empty Sky Memorial, Liberty State Park, NJ, 2020|
I'm reposting this from last year, having again updated a Pinterest site of photos and stories recalling my former Verizon colleagues and their heroic response to 9/11. You can reach it at https://www.pinterest.com/bvar/verizons-response-to-911/.
Here are links to a half dozen related personal posts on this site (from most recent to oldest):
- 9/11: A Lesson in Accountability
- Revisiting My 9/11 Diary Pages
- New Insights on Verizon's 9/11 Recovery Efforts
- A New Generation Runs to a Crisis
- 9/11 Memoirs of an Invisible Man
- How Long Until the Elmos Show Up at Ground Zero?
My friend, Fay Shapiro, also kindly published this and other posts from PR people on the CommPro.biz site earlier today.
I hope you can make sense of it all.
Even 20 years later, I can't.
Sunday, August 1, 2021
July 2021 was a month of remembrance... and discovery.
Remembrance of two people who died recently, and another who died last year.
Discovery, in thinking about them and in reading obituary details, of how great an impact their individual lives had on so many others.
First, summoning the memory Msgr. Eugene Boland, I recall a priest who was my mother's pastor for many years and also the best friend of my beloved uncle.
At Msgr. Boland's funeral Mass at St. James in Totowa, I learned that his middle name was Mary -- which he was very proud of. It engendered his a lifelong devotion to the mother of Jesus.
His other two lifelong devotions were, first, to his extended parish family at St. James, where, according to Msgr. Boland's obituary, he baptized 1,364 infants, witnessed 470 marriages, administered First Holy Eucharist to 2,864 children, attended 37 confirmations, and grieved with 1,249 families. And, second, to his family and homeland in Ireland.
His funeral Mass was streamed so that so many back home could also take part. If you turn up the volume, you can hear and view the touching eulogy by his niece Noreen at the 22:30 mark.
Second, summoning the memory of Gerald M. Costello, I recall an editor who recommended me for my first job in journalism, and who subsequently hired me twice.
I learned much about Jerry this month, especially that I was hardly the only one whose career he had sponsored... including my friend Monica, who sat next to me at the funeral, and the Catholic Standard reporter in the pew behind us, and the many others who posted similar expressions of thanks on social media.
Jerry Costello's obituary, written by his daughter Eileen, was wonderfully detailed. His eulogy, delivered by his son Bob, focused on the impact of Jerry's life on his six children, 21 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. Bob also spoke of Jerry's love of music (which I had not known about), concluding with lyrics from Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" and applause from the congregation.
The photo here, from the funeral Mass program, includes Jerry's written reflection as he neared the end of his life and battled with Parkinson's disease.
Finally, summoning the memory of Arthur Leon Samuels, I recall my violin teacher who died last year.
Last November, a reading of Art Samuels' obituary inspired me to post a tribute to him here, reflecting on lessons he taught me that went well beyond music.
Early this July, I received an email from Project Write Now, a New Jersey nonprofit working to transform individuals, organizations, and communities through writing. It excited me to learn that on the third Friday of every month during the pandemic this organization has been hosting a Zoom Open Mic for writers to share their original works.
I edited my tribute to Art down to 750 words and gave the reading below on July 16, with the slow movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, playing in the background.
See you in September!
Saturday, July 31, 2021
In this summer of a zombie virus that doesn't die, the streets of mid-Manhattan can offer a bit of inspiration and beauty and hope.
I commute into New York City a few days a week, and here are some images of the unique sculpture garden I've found in walking to the office and at lunch.
Beginning at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where "The Commuters" by George Segal depicts three people waiting for the same bus since 1980, and it's perpetually 3 o'clock...
Outside the terminal, an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of Jackie Gleason, clad in his Honeymooners bus driver's uniform, looks out over Eighth Avenue, in a statue by Larry Nowlan, "Presented by the People of TV Land."
Heading east, past The New York Times building, I'm reminded of Dad. He spent many years working in the building behind the statue here. The aptly-for-Dad named "Guardian Superhero" is one of a pair of 13-foot statues by Antonio Pio Saracino at the entrances on either side of the plaza behind 3 Bryant Park.
Wandering north to Seventh and 53rd, there's a sign of hope, literally, courtesy of Robert Indiana. We're not in Philadelphia anymore...
Friday, July 9, 2021
So I eagerly purchased tickets to attend one of the various “immersive Van Gogh” experiences now popping up everywhere following the wildly successful Atelier des Lumières installation in Paris in 2018.
People I admire whose opinion I respect have also wholeheartedly recommended a visit.
Since I find it hard to be wholehearted about anything, I wanted to post these thoughts about my visit last night. Most of the images speak for themselves.
Yes, I’d go again: It’s great for date night. I imagine, earlier in the day, lots of loud, happy children running around, but that’s OK too. I would have loved the opportunity to have taken my daughters to something like this when they were young.
Bottom line: It’s an Instagram and people-watching paradise.
|Entrance, left; gift shop, right.|
I’d temper expectations, though, with these half-dozen observations:
- It’s essentially a high-tech slideshow (reminding me of the highly choreographed July 4 fireworks displays).
- It’s not totally “immersive” (with all the pedestrian activity and curtains and pipes and scaffolding and neon Exit signs).
- Mind all the wandering people holding up cell phones (including me!).
- Mind all the restless people on never-ending searches for the best seat in the house (it’s all pretty much the same, but I admire their motivation).
- There’s an app for all this (and it’s quite good, too).
- There’s a gift shop about the size of half a football field (peppered with AR app-enabled activations), and prix-fixe $36 parking at the Pier 36 site.
A half dozen promoters of expensive, immersive Van Gogh exhibits are now profiting off the work of an artist who only sold one painting during his lifetime.
I went to the “original” exhibit at Pier 36 near South Street Seaport. I won’t risk copyright infringement by mentioning the exact name. Rest assured, there’s another similar immersive Van Gogh exhibit on the other side of Manhattan on Vesey Street, or coming soon to a town near you.
I get — and applaud — that immersive art exhibits are tantalizing glimpses of the quality of the entertainment and educational experiences made possible by technology.
I just don’t get the same connection to the source.
Not everything is a show, and Vincent Van Gogh wasn’t a brand. His painting of crows over a cornfield in Arles has long had deep personal meaning.
To me, it had always been a suicide note somehow translated to canvas.
Until last night, when it was just another Instagram post:
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
|Leaving the building, two years ago today. (Kim Ancin photo)|
When friends at PRSA and IABC recently asked me to speak to their chapters about the basics of financial communications, I had to think back a bit. I now work in the nonprofit sector, at what Stanley would call an "eleemosynary institution."
I did PR for him when he was Government Affairs VP at NYNEX until his untimely death from cancer in 1997. A human dynamo, quick-witted and full of bluster, Stanley was one of the smartest (and most appreciative) people I’ve known.
|Mr. Speaker, circa 1980.|
He was the driving force behind transportation infrastructure investments that fueled New York City's growth, and he pushed for more money for schools, notably increasing state support for the City University of New York.