Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Hamlet in Suburbia: Why I Love Photography


Here's another shameless self-promotional photo of me (far left, which is as political as I dare get when posting here), holding a copy of the new "New Jersey Fan Club" anthology with some co-contributors.

We had gathered this past Saturday at The Corner (top right), a great little shop/studio in picturesque Flemington, NJ, to talk about photos published in the book... and what prompted our love of photography.

For me, it always comes back to Dad. He bought an Olympus 35 while overseas with the Navy, then took family photos in the ensuing decades. My Mom, sister and I used to love to gather in the family room to watch his slideshows. And now it occurs to me that exactly two years ago, I posted here about recovering Dad's slides from his 1955 trip to Barcelona.

Which I still haven't visited.

Several veteran news photographers who were artists at their craft also inspired me, and tolerated my questions, when I began my career as a reporter. I'm thinking especially of the late Tom Lynch. I once posted about him here. I still haven't collected and displayed his photos, as promised.

I'm also thinking of Chris Sheridan at Catholic New York, and Ken Lauben in my days as a corporate publication editor. I searched for Ken just now, and found his obituary. Nearly three years ago. I had no idea.

The older I get, the more I wish I could stop time. Which is why I love photography, and why these words from the recent finale of the TV drama "This Is Us" so resonate with me:
"We're collecting these little moments. We don't recognize them when we're in them because we're too busy looking forward. But then we spend the rest of our lives looking back…trying to remember them."

Anyway, since The Corner is owned and operated by the talented photographer Dave Norton, I booked a session with him so I could update my social media profile photos. Here's me, still left of center and wearing Dad's old tie, on Saturday, July 23, 2022, pretending the person in this image will never age:

Lord knows, I try to keep up with technology and social media... and I do love taking cellphone photos (preferring the camera I always have with me to the Canon I hang around my neck when going on photo-shooting adventures with friends).

As I explained to those attending Saturday's event, I even dream about these things.

This month, while in bed in suburban New Jersey, I dreamt I had created AI chatbot modeled after Dad, so that he and I could still have text conversations today, even though he died in 2005.

As our "conversations" grew more vivid, in my dream, I noticed that photos of Dad began appearing on my Google Photos feed. I had never seen these images of him before, and I couldn't fathom who took them. Dad was rarely in the family slideshow photos because he was always behind the camera.

One last photo stood out among the others. It was my Dad and Mom standing side-by-side, facing me, like the man and woman in Grant Wood's "American Gothic."

Scrawled on the bottom of this image, hand-printed in the same small lettering Dad always used when writing captions on the outside corners of his 35mm slides, was this message:

"Avenge My Death!"


Thursday, June 30, 2022

My Favorite Sister

It's my favorite sister's birthday today.


Well, OK, Sue is my only sister, but I'm pretty sure she'd be my favorite if I had 100 sisters.

Even though we live separate lives in separate states, I've been able to visit her this week.

My younger sister and I spent the day together yesterday, a rainy Wednesday. With outdoor plans scuttled, we went to see the new "Top Gun" movie. Sue had already seen it, but she wanted to see it again, and she thought I'd like it.

I loved it.

I was almost moved to tears during a few scenes. Silly me. I managed to keep my emotions in check.

I rationalized that I was so sentimental because it was my first visit to an actual movie theater (with a big, live audience to boot) since before the pandemic.

Also, it was my first visit to a movie theater with Sue since we were kids.

We saw "Jaws" alone together during a family vacation at the Jersey Shore. The MPAA had generously rated "Jaws" as PG, but my parents probably only allowed us to go because underage Sue would be there to chaperone me.

Sue doesn't remember this long-ago outing with her "big brother," probably because it pales in comparison to her many teenage adventures as one of the cool kids.

Throughout our young lives, Sue was popular and confident, while I was awkward and shy. Yet she always defended me. She has always had my back.

Even today, Sue's loyalty is unfailing, and we're still different people. I don’t think many others, meeting us for the first time, would peg us as brother and sister.

More to the point: Although I'll always be physically bigger and grayer, she's the bigger person.

Yesterday, as Sue's husband drove us back home after we had watched "Top Gun," he turned to her and asked, "You didn't cry again in the theater, did you?"

If I'm ever going to be as caring and as loving as my little sister, I'm gonna need a bigger heart.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Showing a Little Faith, Friday Night in Hoboken

St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church, Friday night in Hoboken.

"Church buildings never pass judgment. They simply remind us of transcendence amid ordinary life."

The quote above is from my reading Friday night at the Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken.

Now that Google is sentient (and litigious), I should be careful with this post. According to a publishing agreement, I can't repost chapters of the new anthology, "New Jersey Fan Club."

But, in response to friends, I can say I greatly enjoyed reading from my photo essay, "Finding Religion in New Jersey." The people with me in the photo below are especially wonderful and talented, especially editor Kerri Sullivan. Not pictured is Hoboken's mayor, Ravi Bhalla, who was especially gracious to us all on Friday:

You should follow these accounts on Instagram!

Since the theme of my reading involved religion -- or, more accurately, faith -- it was a bit bittersweet to bring up the topic on the evening of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe vs. Wade. So many friends on social media were expressing heartfelt feelings of disillusionment with institutional religion.

With all this in mind, below is an excerpt from what I read -- about my hobby of taking photos of New Jersey churches. In the anthology, this passage is prefaced with the note that churches have "graveyards," while "cemeteries" are burial sites not on church grounds: 

Churches connect us with past generations, and nowhere more so than at a church with an adjoining graveyard. 
In New Jersey, the dead outnumber us. Over 96,000 people are buried in Totowa, where I grew up, a borough with a population of only 11,000. 
Recently I took Mom to visit Dad's gravestone there. "I'm getting tired, Bob," she said to the ground, not to me, for both our names are the same. "I want to go home." 
Everything dies, and our graveyards are haunted with memories.  
Meanwhile, their churches testify that there’s more to life than this, and they affirm our innate belief that love lasts forever.


"New Jersey Fan Club" -- which includes contributions from dozens of writers, photographers, poets and artists -- can be purchased online at Rutgers University Press and elsewhere, or in real life at local bookstores across the state.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Finding Religion in New Jersey

On Friday, June 24, I'll be reading from my chapter in the anthology, "New Jersey Fan Club," published this month by Rutgers University Press.

I'll be joined by several of the authors and editor Kerri Sullivan at Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken, beginning 6 p.m. You can reserve a free ticket here, and find more information about the book here.

My chapter is a photo essay called "Finding Religion in New Jersey," and below are the photos I use to tell my story.

Stop by to say hi. Or email me at varettoni@gmail.com with any questions.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg

Today would have been the 96th birthday of the poet who saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness.

I have a great affinity for Allen Ginsberg. Although we are polar opposites in terms of personality and poetic ability, we at least share a complicated love of both New Jersey and New York.

Ginsberg was born in Newark and grew up in Paterson. His father was a local New Jersey poet and high school teacher, and Ginsberg went to Columbia University. He intended to study law until he met up with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassaday and William S. Burroughs in New York.

His words and legacy still have vitality in the Garden State, especially at The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson. Yearly, this great organization sponsors the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, and yearly I enter poems for this competition every January only to learn that nothing I've submitted merits even honorable mention in May.

The 2022 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award Winners were announced last week and, sigh, I'll try again in January 2023. Meanwhile, on what would have been Allen Ginsberg's 96th birthday in June 2022, I can easily publish some of these entries without anyone's permission.

As Ginsberg once observed, "Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture." He also urged others to follow their "inner moonlight" and "not hide the madness."

With that in mind, following are four examples of a few of my previous submissions, illustrated with my photos 🙂

---------


Scenic Overlook

 

This is a dangerous place to stand:

Cliffside in Paterson, in the descending dusk.

 

Past the highway below,

in the remote city skyline at my feet,

I see a house fly alight on your thigh.

 

It's 40 years ago, and you are lying at my side,

languid and nude.

The signs didn’t warn me of this.

I find it a dizzying view.

 

The fly rubs its hands, obsessed, plotting its next move,

until shooed in a flash by a dismissive twitch of your flesh.

Decades disappear, just as fast,

as cars on Route 80 flee to the west.

 

I look to the east.

Behold this precipice, these wounds, dark and deep.

With a breast of the new world eclipsed on the horizon,

 

40 years later:

I still watch you while you sleep.


---------



My Last Words to Vincent

 

In a cornfield in the middle of a dream,

I recognize the countryside.

This must be Arles.

 

I’ve never been to France in real life,

but I know what I know.

Cue the murder of crows.

 

In the distance, a man reimagines the scene on canvas.

It's a matter of hours before he shoots himself

and takes three days to die.

 

He works as if possessed.

I want to run to him, tell him his work will endure,

but the crows won't let me near.

 

I shout, "It's not too late!"

He turns his head; I take his photo.

It captures the long view of both of us:

 

Imaginary proof of all our useless dreams.


---------

 


100 Words (Exactly) About Writing

 

On a blank page,

I can do I anything.

 

I am bold.

The way you always wanted me to be.

And I can make you love me.

And you would never leave.

 

You would never leave,

And I would never wonder.

Because I create new worlds,

And conjure you at will.

 

Here we are at dusk in New York:

 

We are ghosts,

Playing chess in a vest-pocket park.

Phantom dogs roam at our feet.

Occasional cars form shooting stars

Along the FDR.

 

On a blank page,

I wait forever for your next move.

On a blank page,

I never lose.


---------



How I Imagine Santa’s Workshop

 

I can drive there,

our old car warning of a baby on board.

The valets are penguins, of course.

 

And, once inside,

I am surrounded by pets

who have died:

 

the dogs, just as gullible;

all the ageless hamsters

I replaced on the sly.

 

The one and only Spy Cat,

hero of our made-up stories,

eyes me coldly, inscrutable to the last.

 

I tell them all,

“I have come to take you home.”

Ted, the talking bear, awaits our return.

 

In your bedroom, alone.


---------

See you (I hope) at the 2022 Ginsberg Award Winners’ Reading, February 4, 2023. It will be at The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in The Hamilton Club Building, 32 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Paterson, NJ.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Poem: The Andromeda Strain

It’s springtime,

and I am my widowed mother’s caretaker.

 

In my boyhood home, during a rainstorm on a Saturday afternoon,

I watch a movie Dad used to love.

 

The plot unfolds slowly, without special effects,

like my father's life.


These days, I can’t concentrate on any one thing,

so I search online to read about the lives of the actors.

 

As the wise-cracking female lead lights another cigarette,

I learn she died of cancer nearly 30 years ago in Ontario at age 62.


The cerebral male lead was 84, living in a nursing home in California,

when he died more than 15 years ago of complications from Alzheimer's.

 

That was a year after the director died,

two years before the writer died.

 

A third actor is the "odd man," the dispassionate unmarried male

who can carry out orders about thermonuclear destruction.

 

He too died at his home in California, just weeks ago, at age 91.

He never married in real life, either.

 

In real life, I realize this storm will pass before the ambiguous ending,

so I gather my tools.

 

Soon I will kneel before my father in the sun.

I will tend his garden until the day I die.


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Short Story: The Prophets of Grand Central


“More people with white privilege are learning about racial dynamics and social justice terminologies than ever before. They are awakening to the fact that their white privilege has protected them… This work is not about those white people ‘out there.’ It is about you. Just you.”
— Layla Saad, “Me and White Supremacy” (2020)

By Bob Varettoni

It was the morning after Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s dress to the $35,000-a-ticket Met Gala, and Robert Anderson thought nothing in the world made sense anymore.

He didn’t belong anywhere. Even here, sitting in a car behind the same couple he shared an inbound commute with for many years.

The car was about to round the corner of the Lincoln Tunnel helix, promising a view of the New York City skyline.

The driver and his wife were Robert’s neighbors in a wealthy suburb of New Jersey. They owned a small business at the South Street Seaport and after driving through the tunnel, they’d drop Robert off in Midtown, blocks from his office, before continuing south.

This long-standing arrangement was about to end. His neighbors had informed him of their retirement plans the day after Russia invaded the Ukraine. The commute had grown longer each day, with roads filled with nastier drivers the longer the pandemic endured. His neighbors had grown tired.

In the dawn gloom, with the car at a standstill in rush-hour traffic, Mrs. Neighbor applied makeup by the light of the mirror on the lowered passenger-side visor. She was prattling about what she had gleaned from media coverage of the Met Gala.

As usual, Robert sat behind her husband. This gave Robert the best view of the skyline as it flickered between the moving traffic in the adjacent bus lane.


The mirror’s faint light and the dirty rear window allowed Robert to catch a reflection of his face superimposed over the skyline across the Hudson River. It was as if he were a subliminal message in an advertisement.

Robert was staring blankly at a kinescope version of New York. The city stared blankly in return. It seemed to Robert that everyone his own age, everyone he had relied on and who had supported him, was giving up.

“I don’t even belong here,” he thought again. The car completed its sweeping turn toward the E-ZPass toll and slowly edged its way into the tunnel.

“Hell, with tiles,” Robert said, once they were under the river. His neighbors didn’t hear since they weren’t paying attention to him.

--------- 

Outside the tunnel, the car made better progress along West 40th Street.

Robert reflected on newly familiar sights. The city was barely recognizable from the one he had fallen in love with during his first rides to work three decades ago.

On Eighth Avenue, they passed the new sleek, silver version of the Gray Lady headquarters. Then, passing Seventh Avenue and into the Garment District, a familiar sight: the giant Needle Threading a Button statute on the corner of “Fashion Avenue” and 39th. Installed in the 1970s, it would soon be refurbished, Robert had read.

Approaching Broadway, they passed a narrow pedestrian plaza named after Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel. It was filled with 14 oversized thin-bodied sculptures, in a diversity of colors, with oversized hands. They reminded Robert of aliens from the science fiction stories he read as a boy. They seemed to be waving hello.

A block further, the car approached the southwest edge of Bryant Park, a corner named after the inventor Nikola Tesla. Out of habit, Robert shifted sides in the back seat, positioning himself for an easy escape before his neighbor turned right to head south on Fifth Avenue.

Robert had an ulterior motive in sliding closer to a view of the sidewalk. Some part of him anticipated the temporary backup in traffic in the middle of the long block between Sixth and Fifth. Here, outside the former American Radiator Building, Robert tried to catch a glimpse of the receptionist in the grand lobby with 30-foot ceilings.

This woman had red hair, in curls, and she often wore floral-print dresses. Her desk faced West 40th Street. It was as if she were on display through the large ground-floor windows.


Once, long ago, she had seen Robert in the car watching her. She winged her elbows, shielding her eyes with her hands to cut down the glare and get a better view. Then she smiled at him in return.

Today, this lobby is a shell of its former self. Gutted and plain. In 2022, it is an uninspired annex to a Gothic Art deco black-bricked skyscraper that had inspired a Georgia O’Keeffe painting in 1927. If Robert had looked up at the setback terraces above the lobby’s base, he would have still seen gold-accented allegorical sculptures of matter transforming into energy.

Instead, Robert looked where he used to see the red-haired receptionist. Both she and her ornate surroundings were long gone. In fact, he could barely see through the large front windows, now plastered with signs identifying the site as a community college.

“What community?” Robert wondered, this time in a whisper.

Hoping for an angel, he found only a ghost.

Then Robert was in motion again, riding past a row of blue rental bikes bearing logos of a bank, until his car pulled over on the corner of Fifth Avenue. He slipped out the back seat, outside the former Knox Hat Building (a quaint Beaux arts structure now subsumed by the headquarters of another bank) and wished his neighbors well.

Happy birthday, Mister President,” sang Mrs. Neighbor.

“Thank you!” he replied, surprised and touched that someone had remembered.

---------



Robert began the familiar 10-minute, half-mile trek to his soulless office, dubbed Commerce Place, at Lexington Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets.

Walking north on Fifth Avenue, he passed the marble lions of Patience and Fortitude guarding the front entrance of the main branch of the New York Public Library. The street sign called it John Bigelow Plaza, after the historian who had edited the complete works of Benjamin Franklin.

At the start of the pandemic, the library decorated the lions with oversized hospital masks. But, these days, masks were optional, and Robert noticed that most on the already-crowded sidewalk, including the statues, were maskless.

Most everyone was also younger than him too. They walked while staring at phones or talking to others through wireless earbuds. Or, like Robert, sometimes talking to themselves.

One hurrying white man, who reminded Robert of himself when he was younger, tried to walk right through him from behind, as if Robert were a ghost.

Minutes later, minutes older, he was standing in the shadow of One Vanderbilt, a massive skyscraper that had opened during the pandemic. Robert had been one of the first to tour its observation deck. Its ground floor was home to yet another bank, and its lobby featured three untitled statues of what again reminded him of aliens from space. These elongated, silver-bodied sculptures were armless, not as welcoming as those in Golda Meir Square.

Opposite that was Robert’s favorite building in New York: Grand Central Terminal.

He neared its southwest corner entrance on 42nd Street under the watchful eye of the gold-leaf Vanderbilt Eagle, a 3,000-pound iron statue perched on the viaduct that circles the terminal. A marker outside the entrance explains it is one of 12 such eagles that formerly graced the roof of the original Grand Central Station in 1898.

“F*ck America! God bless my dick!”

This startled Robert. He hadn’t noticed the wild-eyed man wearing sandals and a dirty red t-shirt.

The man was approaching passersby in front of the entrance. Most simply averted their eyes and kept walking. He flailed his arms and shouted again.

“F*ck America! God bless my dick!”

The man defiantly shook his dreadlocks and stood right in front of Robert, almost touching him.

“F*ck America! God bless my dick!” the man shouted, louder and with more urgency.

“Jesus!” Robert exclaimed, then hurried past, hands covering his face, since the raving stranger was unmasked.

Robert escaped into the terminal and joined a crowd walking down a long brick-tiled ramp. This led first past a wide marble-arched entrance to the dining concourse, and then to a similar entrance to a grander place: Grand Central’s main concourse.

The sight of it brought to mind his 7th birthday and his first visit to Yankee Stadium. His dad had elaborately tipped a cigar-chewing fat man in a ticket booth on 161st Street in exchange for field-level seats. Emerging through an archway in the concession area, holding his dad’s hand, Robert’s first view of the impossibly green, expansive baseball field gave him goosebumps. How could something be real and, at the same time, bigger than life?

Grand Central’s concourse evoked the same feeling, and Robert took in the moment.

Before him, in the great hall, he saw a flock of commuters dressed in various disguises. Some could barely hide their claws and teeth amid the anarchy of the poor and the homeless. Masked, elderly wanderers looked lost and walked tentatively, heads down, like geese on thin ice. Itinerant travelers wore distracted faces.

Robert looked to his right, toward a corner ticket booth like the distant one at Yankee Stadium. Brass bars separated buyer from seller, and it advertised “Official Grand Central Terminal Guided Tours.” These had ceased when the pandemic started, and perhaps would never resume.

Enshrined in front of the ticket window, a man slumped upon a cart full of his possessions. Robert recognized him, a familiar beggar. His forehead rested squarely on the marble countertop, and he was fast asleep. With nowhere else to rest unobtrusively at this hour, this was his temporary home.

Instinctively, Robert averted his gaze.

The West Balcony to his left, he had read, was a replica of the Grand Staircase at the Paris Opera House. Robert had never been to Paris, but years ago, in a moment of romance on this balcony, he had kissed another red-haired woman who still haunted his dreams. On the vaulted ceiling above them, dimly lit motionless stars with images of the zodiac outlined in faint gold paint had conveniently suspended time.

The concourse ceiling was an odd, self-contained universe. Its mural jumbled east and west, so the constellations were in reverse of their proper order. When Robert had visited the observation deck at One Vanderbilt next door, he looked down on this very spot to imagine the heavens from God's point of view.


This morning, Robert began his diagonal walk across the concourse, from beneath a double-reverse image of Orion toward the immortal winged horse Pegasus. Along the way, he passed the four-sided opal-faced brass clock above Grand Central’s circular information booth. He skirted the East Balcony, which was now a retail showroom filled with upscale electronics manufactured by suppliers who violated Chinese labor laws.

A line had formed at the foot of this stairway, with people waiting for the store to open. Robert observed three tourists from the Far East and a man in a weathered VFW baseball cap. The veteran wore shorts, displaying a prosthetic leg, and he nursed coffee from an Anthora ­­— a blue, white and gold Greek-themed paper cup that read “We are happy to serve you.”

Last in line was the man Robert perceived as the younger version of himself, the one who had nearly knocked him over in front of Patience on Fifth Avenue. The man was engrossed in his cell phone, watching a news video of Marilyn’s ghost, dyed blonde, posing on a red carpet.

---------

Robert Anderson’s birthday journey was near its end.

He entered another marble-vaulted hallway that would lead to an exit, with his office across the street on Lexington Avenue. This Graybar Passage derived its name from Elisha Gray and Enos Barton, founders of the electric company that had originally leased the adjoining Art deco building.

He slowed his steps. The acoustics here made it an attractive venue for street musicians. This morning it echoed with the words of a young woman.

She was sitting on the marble floor, her back against the wall, next to upscale bodega signs for coffee and cold beer. She had surrounded herself with plastic tote bags filled with books.

Despite wearing a short black skirt, the woman splayed her legs, with the toes of her white sneakers pointed toward the ceiling. Her black tights were embossed with white skeleton bones, corresponding to the legs of her hidden flesh. Her lips were vibrant red.

She was reading aloud from one of her books: “More people with white privilege are learning about racial dynamics and social justice terminologies…”

She looked up as Robert approached. Their eyes met. He kept walking, and she kept reading. After a few indecipherable words, she increased her volume and Robert heard, “This work is not about those white people out there.” One pause. “It is about you.” Another pause. “Just you.”

Robert did a double take. He glanced back to see the young woman, head down, her face buried close to the open pages of her book. She seemed oblivious to her surroundings, and they seemed somehow to be alone. He stood dumbly for a second beside a storefront window advertising the next generation of wireless service, then headed again for the exit.

A heartbeat later, he was bumped from behind.

Robert felt something warm against the back of his neck. He let out an inarticulate cry. He thought he was being mugged and flinched to withstand another attack.

When none occurred, he reached behind him in the mugger’s direction, but grabbed only air. He turned to see a pair of skeleton legs retreating toward the main concourse. The woman’s hurried footfalls made no sound, and she was reaching behind her head to gather her ponytail, which had come half undone.

Frantically, Robert fingered his neck and felt a sticky substance.

He looked down at his hands and saw proof of life and evidence of where he belonged.

When he examined the red on his fingertips, he found lipstick where he had expected to find blood.

# # #


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Sorry I Haven't Written Lately - Happy Mother's Day!

After last year's flurry of activity during National Poetry Month in April, I haven't posted on this blog lately. What a difference a year makes, in so many ways.

In April 2022, I wrote all of one poem, but I can't print it here because "this is a family publication" (as a recent viewing of "All the President's Men" reminded me).

I plan to post soon about my hometown, its 100th anniversary celebration, and the odd history of our local Burger King. In the meantime...

---------

Even though I haven't written, I did at least call my mother every day in April.

And now that it's Mother's Day Eve, I can post my favorite photo of her and me... the one where I'm grabbing a handful of her hair with a maniacal smile on my innocent face.

There are better old photos of Mom. Like this one of her mugging for the camera in Clifton, NJ, in the 1950s. But I'm not in any of those!

I've posted here before about Mom's extraordinary beauty, and she still looks and acts much younger than her years. She turned 90 a few months ago.

Mom doesn't like the impermanent beauty of cut flowers. Over the years, I've given her just about every other kind of Mother's Day gift and probably every "Peanuts"-themed Mother's Day card that Charles Schulz ever produced.

For this year's gift, I've signed Mom up for a Storyworth account. This is a service that, once a week, will email her (aka "me") a question about her life, which we'll answer by email (after I ask Mom about it and record her thoughts). At the end of a year, these 52 stories will be bound into a keepsake book.

My daughters gave me this gift last Father's Day, so I'm almost finished answering a year's worth of questions about myself. In line with the Mother's Day theme, this week's question about my own life is, "What is a favorite memory of your mother?"

My answer will be about the parish festivals years ago at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on Lanza Avenue in Garfield, NJ. It was my mother's family parish when she grew up, and all the Masses there were in Polish.

A favorite memory of my childhood was watching Mom and sisters in traditional peasant dress, joyously dancing polkas at the annual parish festivals.

With a big smile on her face, she would beckon me to join her. Even then, I was the world's worst dancer. I hopped around with Mom on the temporary stage in the church parking lot. Her skirt billowed, accordion music blared, and the crowd sang and cheered.

For me, was a fleeting moment of pure delight.

Thanks, Mom. You'll always be a handful, but you've always encouraged me to join in the dance.

May 2022


Sunday, April 3, 2022

What's in a Time Capsule?

Top, from left, former mayors Ann Subrizi,
Frank DeBari and Roger Lane join current
Mayor Mike Putrino in unfurling and raising
a 100th anniversary flag today.

I posted on Facebook today about the opening event in New Milford, NJ's 100th birthday celebration:


Of special interest to me was the unearthing of time capsules buried behind the flagpole in front of Borough Hall for the town's 75th anniversary in 1997.

What's in a time capsule from 25 years ago?

Among artifacts were aerial photos of the town, and neighbors are already making plans to update those photos today using drones. Also of interest: old advertisements and giveaways from local businesses, the Fall Preview issue of TV Guide, family photos, photos of town events, and a single-spaced typewritten page detailing the good works of three neighbors.

This was signed by Kent Raptopoulos, and it concluded: "You who are reading this in 2022 please pause and think of us for a moment and remember to be a good neighbor and build your own warm memories."

Two things especially caught my eye.


The first was a cigar case, proclaiming "It's a Boy!" It was placed there by current borough attorney Kevin Kelly after the birth of his son.

The other is a baseball signed by Sanjek Korrey.

One of the event speakers said it had been handed to her 25 years ago by a boy who said, "Here. This autographed baseball will be very valuable after I become a major leaguer."

I'm fairly certain Sanjek Korrey will not be on a major league roster when the baseball season opens later this week.

But Sanjek, wherever you are, I admire your spirit. You are an all star in my book.

1920s favorites served at today's reception: Baby Ruth bars and
pineapple upside down cake.