Friday, September 23, 2022
Saturday, September 10, 2022
|Me and a photo of the artist, using a "Warhol Effect" filter.|
It's only fair I appropriate his style.
Nancy and I took a road trip to Pittsburgh earlier this week, ostensibly to see the baseball Pirates host the New York Mets.
On our way to an afternoon game, we crossed paths with the Andy Warhol Museum. I was excited to see the works of this New York City legend, not realizing that he was born in Pittsburgh. Also, not realizing that I was about to enter the largest museum in North America dedicated to a single artist.
The experience was a head-spinning, comprehensive portrait of the artist. To me, it was a portrait with flaws.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room. The photo below, in one of the main exhibit areas, is a work by Keith Haring, who painted over a papier-mâché sculpture Warhol had purchased.
|Haring's elephant, unfiltered.|
I love it. It's Keith Haring being Keith Haring and nobody else.
Then I looked around at what I thought were Picassos on the walls. They were works by Warhol in Picasso's style. Warhol, it seemed, tried to be like everybody else.
I looked at all the photographs on display, taken by other people and manipulated by Warhol. Then I watched some screen tests (filmed, silent portraits of visitors to Warhol's Factory studio in New York). Some on video, and many of those surrounding Warhol in black-and-white photos, seemed to be broken people. I read about suicides in the fine-print captions of various screen-test participants, actors in his films, and subjects of his art.
On one hand, Warhol produced work that seemed to exploit other people. He mastered the art of appropriation, taking possession someone else's work or image. As Warhol himself once said, "Art is what you can get away with."
On the other hand, his art put a spin on banality to create something with more meaning and permanence.
With ambivalence, I also watched a few videos of Warhol while there. He seemed elitist. In real life, I fear he'd make sure I knew I wasn't one of the cool kids.
|Andy appraising Nancy while giving me side-eye in another room.|
But then I noticed more layers to his life: His collection of kitschy folk art was heart-warningly "normal" (to my worldview, at least), like a visit to my guileless mother-in-law's house in Nutley, New Jersey.
|Front of Warhol's Mass card.|
Warhol was only 58 when he died. I'm in awe of his accomplishments in his too-short life.
I'm older than that now, and I've never done as much hands-on for those in need.
Also, all my creative and artistic achievements could fit in a single folder in one of the filing cabinets on the entire floor of the museum devoted to Warhol's archives. All seven stories of the museum in Pittsburgh display only a portion of all Andy Warhol's creative work.
I'm a weekday commuter to New York City, fated never to be world-famous for 15 minutes or eulogized by a pop culture icon. As I write this on a Saturday morning in New Jersey, I'm watching Bugs Bunny cartoons and Nancy is reading the news.
I take small comfort in the fact that I lead the type of ordinary life Andy Warhol might have appropriated to turn into art.
Following are some scenes from the exhibition.
Ordinary people imitating art...
Warhol's extraordinary art, including "Elvis - 11 Times"...
The obligatory gift shop in the lobby, and the world's last (and most decorated) pay phone in the basement...
Leaving the museum, we walked across the Allegheny River on the Andy Warhol Bridge. The homeless, hungry and friendless were pan-handling; the tourists pretended not to notice.
Several love locks attached to the grill of the walking path were numbered Master locks. With the right combination, these locks can be easily removed should love prove not as lasting as art...
Sunday, September 4, 2022
|Wesley Lake, Asbury Park|
Last week (Aug. 29-Sept. 3), I had fun taking over the Jersey Collective Instagram account. And you can too! There's a story pinned to that site with more information about how to apply; another story pinned there will take you to more information about the new "New Jersey Fan Club" anthology.
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Today, such a magical mystery tour might take them to American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, where they (and now YOU) could ride in an air-conditioned cabin on the Dream Wheel, a 300-foot Ferris wheel, or stroll through an indoor rival to an Octopus' Garden, or film ski scenes for "Help!" at an indoor slope in the middle of summer. I'm not generally a fan of malls, but this one makes me feel about 58 years younger.
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What's your favorite place to view the New York City skyline from New Jersey?
Recently, I saw it from the top of the Ferris wheel at American Dream Mall (the top photo above, #nofilter).
I've also seen the city's skyline from as far away as the beach at Sandy Hook.
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Meanwhile, in Montclair, I attended a fireworks night (photo above, left) following a Jersey Jackals (love that name) game in July. Their season already over, the Jackals announced recently that the team WON'T be returning next year to Yogi Berra Stadium on the Montclair State University campus.
Teams to see on my bucket list: the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, Trenton Thunder, and Sussex County Miners.
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Looking back to winter (feeling wistful during this summer's heat and draught), I visited two personal favorites.
More recently, thanks to NJ Spots, I found a new (to me) park to visit: the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Vernon, with well-kept walkways through beautiful greenery. NJ Spots is a great resource for exploring New Jersey!
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|Press of Atlantic City file photo|
All these places are perhaps guilty pleasures. What places are on your Date Night list? Asking for a friend :)
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Here are three places I've dared visit:
The Devil's Tree tree stands alone in the middle of a large field off Mountain Road in Bernards Township. It remains standing because anyone is cursed who tries to cut it down, according to local legend.
The Devil's Tower is located on Esplanade Road in Alpine, where a jealous lover leapt to death in 1922. As every schoolgirl at nearby Academy of the Holy Angels will attest, if you drive or walk backward around the tower three times, you will face the actual Devil.
Along "Annie's Road" in Totowa, you will see roadside memorials for the ghost of a teenager (sometimes called the "vanishing hitchhiker"), dressed in white, killed late night in the 1960s by a pickup truck as she tried to find her way to safety along unlit Riverview Drive. Local legend says she had fled her boyfriend's car after an argument on Prom Night.
PS- if ANYONE can tell me exactly how to find the Gates of Hell in Clifton (I've looked twice), I'd appreciate it.
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Need an occasion to visit NJ's 3rd largest city? I recommend the Paterson Poetry Festival, Oct. 1-3 (more information available at Word Seed). Allen Ginsberg grew up in Paterson, and the Poetry Center at Passaic County College sponsors an annual awards event in his honor every February.
|A post here about the evolution of this poem|
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Church buildings can provide quiet inspiration, and they often have wonderful stories to tell. I wrote about that as a contributor to "New Jersey Fan Club," so here's another shameless plug for that book.
About this image: Someone told me there had been crosses atop the two majestic front spires of St. Patrick's Church in Elizabeth, but that the crosses needed to be removed in 1961 due to damage from the vibration of low-flying planes at nearby Newark Airport.
This ended my week posting at Jersey Collective. At @foundinnj, I'll continue to post sights from around the state and, every Sunday, another image of another church.
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Are You Scared? Are You Thinking That Maybe You Aren't That Young Anymore?
The disambiguation page on Wikipedia lists 21 possible references to “Thunder Road.” But as anyone knows who grew up in New Jersey in the decade of the ’70s, there’s really only one. It’s the song recorded by Bruce Springsteen in 1975. A song without a chorus.
It’s sometime after 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 9, 1976. I am standing right next to one of most unobtainable women on the Notre Dame campus. She barely knows me. We’re in Section 11, Row 7, of the Athletic & Convocation Center. I know these logistics because I still have the ticket stub in 2022, with its faded price of $6.50. More vivid is my memory of fair Rosie from Phoenix, AZ. The goosebumps and raised, wispy hairs on her bare, freckled arms almost graze my face as she raises her hands and we shout in unison, “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night. You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re all right.”
People magazine has named the actress Julia Roberts the most beautiful woman in the world five times, beginning in 1991 and most recently in 2017.
In 1972, I leaned in to kiss Bobby Jean on her coral-red lips during a game of chess in her living room in Shrewsbury, NJ, where she’s lived forever. Bobby Jean’s all right; she always fit in. In 1974, I arrived on the Notre Dame campus 725 miles to the west, having never lived outside of New Jersey. I was immature for my young age. I grew a mustache to appear older; I didn’t fit in. By 1975, Bobby Jean and I were an uncoupled sonnet, doomed to be friends. Alone in my dorm room, like a Roy Orbison lyric, I donned corded, freakishly oversized headphones to listen to “Thunder Road” again and again. Eyes closed, haunted by Shakespearean ghosts, I’d imagine driving 725 miles to the east to rescue Bobby Jean from all the losers who pretended to love her. Just like me, I realized by the end of the decade. Just like me.
In 1974, Bruce Springsteen wrote “Thunder Road” at his living room piano in Long Branch, NJ. His band’s first two albums had made him a critical darling but still an acquired taste outside of rabid fans in New Jersey and pockets of Arizona. In August 1975, a stripped-down arrangement of the song opened the band’s next album, “Born to Run.” By October 1975, Bruce appeared simultaneously on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazines. In October 1976, he performed before 12,002 fans at the ACC on the Notre Dame campus. Soon thereafter and to this very day, when performing “Thunder Road,” he simply lets the crowd sing the lyrics beginning, “Show a little faith…”
In 2022, my wife of over 35 years is scanning celebrity news on her iPad after sunset in our living room in Hackensack, NJ. In the spotlight of a table lamp, Mary is sprawled across her favorite chair, her right leg hanging over one of the armrests, like Hyman Roth in 1974’s “The Godfather: Part 2.” “Listen to this,” she laughs. “Julia Roberts was once asked which song lyric described her most accurately, and she chose my favorite line from ‘Thunder Road’: ‘You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re all right.’” Mary laughs. “Isn’t that the best rock and roll lyric EVER?” she asks rhetorically, then adds that Bruce could only have written “Thunder Road” when he was young, because it’s filled with so much passion and promise. I tell her I disagree, then cross the room. Our eyes meet, and I brush aside a strand of her dyed red hair to steal a kiss. “Show a little faith,” I whisper. “I think you’re more beautiful than Julia Roberts.” Then I take Mary by the hand and turn out the light, revealing an ordinary New Jersey night.
“Baby,” I say, “let’s go for a drive.”
Sunday, August 21, 2022
|Generic politically correct photo of a diverse couple|
(courtesy of Ukrainian photographer Vitalii Odobesku)
Recalling Past Lovers (RPL) is a debilitating affliction, but it doesn’t have to be life-threatening.
You can learn to live with it.
Lethe 2022, now available in convenient tablet form, is designed to ease regrets caused by the disillusionment of passing time and the attraction of nostalgia.
For when you can’t sleep without dreaming of your former lover.
For when you can’t keep pretending your life is happier now.
For bleeding ulcers, because you’ve swallowed your heart.
We have endorsements:
“I love the memory loss that comes without having RPL,” says John. “Jane has vanished from my thoughts. Lethe 2022 even erased the remnants of her lingering scent.”
“Without RPL, I’m free to love again,” says Jane. “One pill provides relief, removing any doubt from my life’s choices.”
Potential side effects include:
• Lack of self-awareness
• Unrecoverable loss of time
• Delusional episodes
• Inability to learn from the past
Taken as directed, Lethe 2022 cannot guarantee the death of desire.
Should you encounter your former lover, you may experience dizziness and discomfort, caused by quantum physics and the entanglement of sub-atomic particles that can inflame the aches and pains still smoldering in your worn and aging soul.
As your doctor if Lethe 2022 is right for you.
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
I own a prayer book
that reminds me of Nonna,
the way she would recite from her hymnal
while rocking in her front-porch chair.
She whispered a string of sibilant “s”-s,
audible only to young boys and house cats.
The words themselves were beyond our reach
as my grandmother conspired with God.
So I’ve saved this book,
but I’ve never opened it.
Instead, I pretend I am young,
blowing seeds off a dandelion.
Facing the sun, lips pursed,
I watch particles of dust rise
from my book cover to the heavens,
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
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'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
Sunday, June 26, 2022
|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.