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.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

2 New Books Inspired by New Jersey

Author Fred Rossi reads from "Jersey Stories" last weekend
at Halo Roasters in Springfield.

Last weekend I stumbled into a book signing.

I had stopped for a cup of coffee before heading home after taking church photos in the Springfield area (more about that later).

It was fate.

Fred T. Rossi, a writer and journalist since the 1980s (in other words, the better version of my PR self), was standing in the corner, telling stories about New Jersey.

Fred is the author of "Jersey Stories," published last year and subtitled: "Stories you may not have heard about people and events in New Jersey history."

Here are just a few of the questions answered in his book:

  • What did Mundy Peterson from Perth Amboy do that made history 150 years ago?
  • What was it like the night that Martians invaded New Jersey?
  • What was it like having Albert Einstein as a neighbor?
Of course, I bought a copy. You can too: email for information.

My favorite chapter, "Let's Make a Record," describes what it was like when a teenage Bruce Springsteen from Freehold recorded his first songs. There's another interesting chapter about how New Jersey towns got their names. And then there's a chapter about the Addams Family creator who lived in Westfield.

Right now, in the aftermath of today's bomb cyclone and with "Jersey Stories" as a reference, I'm toasting the birthdays or actor Gordon MacRae, born this day in 1921 in East Orange, and astronaut Wally Schirra, born this day in 1923 in Hackensack.


Now, about those church photos.

I post photos of churches every Sunday on my @foundinnj Instagram account, and I wrote about that as a contributor to a soon-to-be-published book about the Garden State.

The book, "New Jersey Fan Club," is scheduled for release on June 17 by Rutgers University Press.

It's (quoting the editor, Kerri Sullivan, founder of the popular @jerseycollective Instagram account) "an eclectic anthology featuring personal essays, interviews, and comics from a broad group of established and emerging writers and artists who have something to say about New Jersey. It offers a multifaceted look at the state's history and significance, told through narrative nonfiction, photographs, and illustrations."

After seeing the list of talented contributors, I'm immensely proud to be even remotely associated with this anthology. You can find links to purchasing information on Kerri's website.

Anyone who preorders or places a library request for "New Jersey Fan Club" can get a free sticker as a thank you for the support. Simply place an order before June 17, and email a request with proof of purchase to

Thank you, Fred. Thank you, Kerri. You've brought some sunshine to this cataclysmic weather.

And here's to you, Gordon and Wally. As long as we in New Jersey have anything to say about it, you will never be forgotten.

Monday, February 28, 2022

A Dozen Roses for New Jersey

'Tis the cold late afternoon of the last day of the cruelest month of the year. (Sorry, T.S. Eliot, you were always wrong about that.)

A few weeks ago, I posted a valentine to New York City (where I work), and I wanted to end the month on a heart-warming note, posting some love here for where I live (New Jersey).

New Jersey has its charms, and here are a dozen images from February 2022 to prove my point.

First, some perspective: entering the gates of St. Peter's
Greek Catholic Cemetery, off Passaic Street in Garfield, 
and then looking back at the chapel, yesterday at dusk.

Two historic locations after a snowstorm, Feb. 13:
Dey Mansion in Wayne and the iconic red barn
at Historic New Bridge Landing in Hackensack.

Two views of the NYC skyline at sunrise from
an NJ Transit commuter bus: left, stuck in NJ Turnpike
traffic; right, from the Lincoln Tunnel helix.

Two more from New Bridge Landing during a "birthday
party" for George Washington on Feb. 27: left, the actual new
bridge; right, historic re-enactors play music and dance. 

Two artistic reinterpretations of images via iPhone apps:
left, the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop in Ridgefield Park;
right, an AI mashup of an image of the Jersey shore.

One former church, left, now the Art Center
of Northern New Jersey in New Milford, and the current
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Passaic...
on the evening of the Russian invasion.

Monday, February 14, 2022

A Valentine for New York City

I captured the image above while sitting in the back seat of a New Jersey Transit bus, stuck in traffic on the NJ Turnpike, during the morning commute to work last week.

I didn't mind the delay. It gave me time to enjoy the sun rise over the New York City skyline.

I returned to the office in February, after an Omicron-imposed work-from-home hiatus, and I've realized over the past two weeks just how much I missed the city.

Here are two Instagram posts with some context:

And here are three more images from just one day: February 2, 2022.

This is a footbridge over the FDR I hurried across at daybreak. It was Ground Hog's Day, of course, and the image here is over-exposed. I didn't see my shadow:

This is Grand Central Terminal a little later that morning. It's one of my favorite places in the city, and February 2nd also happened to be its 109th birthday:

This is St. Patrick's Cathedral even later that same morning. Police had begun gathering on Fifth Avenue (I had crossed Park Avenue accompanied by officers from San Francisco) for the funeral of NYC police officer Wilbert Mora. He was only 27 and had been shot and killed along with officer Jason Rivera while responding to a domestic disturbance on January 21.

New York is complicated.

It isn't like anywhere else.

I love that it has depth and substance and beauty, even when drained of color.

“To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.”

Scene from the 1979 movie, "Manhattan."

My view from the same location, returning on Feb. 12, 2022.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

2 Poems: Experiments in Creativity for Fun, Not Profit

Ghosts playing chess in New York City
Poetry is a monetarily thankless pursuit.

This past weekend in 1845 the New York Evening Mirror published "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. "It was a huge sensation," writes The Writer's Almanac. "Abraham Lincoln memorized it, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a fan letter to Poe. He was paid $9 for 'The Raven,' and it was extensively reprinted without his permission."

Yet as monetarily thankless pursuits go, I find poetry more rewarding than, say, sports betting (where seemingly all Internet advertising directed at me insists my interest should lie).

I must be the wrong demographic for poetry. I admire Emily-in-Paris Peyton Manning, and question the Caesars-Sportsbook Peyton Manning who shills for a business based on customers losing money.

Lately, I've stumbled upon poetry in unlikely places. Listening to music this past week, I'm been enchanted by Lin-Manuel Miranda's outstanding lyrics from Disney's "Encanto" and Taylor Swift and, an old favorite, Paul Simon.

"Miracle and Wonder," an audio book of recent Malcolm Gladwell interviews with Simon, examines the intriguing premise that there's a type of creativity that improves with age. Not to diminish the conceptual breakthroughs of young artists, another type of creativity requires experimentation over time based on an accumulation of knowledge. Writing earlier on this topic, Gladwell examines a study of how Picasso produced his greatest works at the beginning of his career, and Cezanne at the end.

I write poems simply to try to contribute something. Steve Jobs once said that people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity by creating something of worth and putting it out there.

Below are two latest efforts I've submitted to poetry contests. Which I never win. I'm like Charlie Brown running to kick off with Lucy holding the football. I always wind up flat on my face, but then I'll try again next year, against my better judgement. Perhaps, with more experimentation, someday I will create something of value.

I revised the following poem based on a prompt from Paterson, NJ's poet laureate Talena Lachelle Queen. During a virtual poetry workshop earlier this month, she read the poem "On the Other Side of the Door" by the late Jeff Moss, best known as a composer and lyricist on "Sesame Street." It's largely a young adults' poem, beloved by educators -- and, hey, Taylor Swift even wrote a song with the same name.

It inspired me to write a few lines that improved a poem I had written last year, based on a photo I took at the height of the pandemic lockdown (the image posted at the top of this page). Here's my submission to the 2022 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, sponsored by The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College:

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.


Arno River, 50 years ago

Below is another experiment, based on something I wrote years ago. I submitted it to the "100 Days of Dante" poetry contest, sponsored by the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing with the Society of Classical Poets.

My original sonnet had stanzas loosely suggesting Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. I was inspired to revise several lines last week when I discovered the first photos I ever took (now fading 35mm slides), from 50 years ago.

Dad had let me borrow his camera, and my little sister and I were with my grandmother and uncle in Italy.

One day we visited Florence, and I (unknowingly) took blurry photos of the Ponte Vecchio, where Dante, who began his own epic journey in middle age, saw young Beatrice in the late 1200s. He fell in love with her at first sight. She died soon afterward of The Plague, but she inspired his writing forever:

Dante in Reverse


Adam was a madman; and paradise,

a fraud. In only this do I believe:

the rhythm of your heart. Oh Beatrice,

your eyes alone could prove infinity.

It is our love that has unraveled all.

It haunts my sleep. At first, a stolen glance,

with stars beneath my feet. And then, I fall

from you toward earth -- my dream, a graceless dance.

Before I land, my senses gain control.

Alone in bed, I fear the rustling sound

of insubstantial leaves, like wind-swept souls.

My heart (alive or dead?) seems strangely bound.

This is the slow, uneven beat of Hell:

I have loved you always, but never well.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Using 6 Words (and an Image) to Tell a Story

Sunset, facing East, reflecting off Queens.

I'm fascinated by six-word stories. (I consider hyphenated modifiers two words.) 

Entire website ecosystems promote the practice.

There's a masterclass for hopeful practitioners.

Then there's me and my photos. Following are twelve six-word captions. There's more at #6wordcaption on Instagram.

Reflecting on First Avenue's infinite possibilities.

Returning home in March 2020, forever.

I stood alone, surrounded by history.

Gazing at Bethlehem's Star over Teaneck.


Suspended between NYC and New Jersey.

We all used to be puppies.


Mom, waiting for me to return.

I will never understand my cat.


Morning drama at the East Balcony.

Found a waterfall on 51st Street.


Pedal swans waiting for tonight's storm.

My grandfather's workshop, which never ages.


Saturday, January 8, 2022

I Can Be a Hero...

On exhibit at Fotografiska NY in 2020:
Ellen von Unwerth's photo of David Bowie and Kate Moss.

... Just for one day.

Have you ever had a social media post go viral?

I experienced that on a small scale earlier today, with this Twitter post of a throwback photo of the epic Jersey City mural by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra:

Bowie's artistry deserves universal praise, so tributes on what would have been his 75th birthday meant something to many.

What I particularly admire is how Bowie remained productive, provocative and relevant as he grew older. I only wish I could be as creative.

His song "Life on Mars" gives me chills. I parroted it (without reference to Hermione Farthingale's hair) as part of a writing exercise this past April (read more here and here). New Jersey poet Alicia Cook had provided a prompt to write a poem with the line "life only exists where there's water."

I naturally thought of Mars. It was also days after the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Minnesota. So for my exercise, I wrote this "Eight Line Poem," named after the song that immediately proceeds "Life on Mars" on Bowie's "Hunky Dory" album.

Is there life on Mars?
Life only exists where there's water,
in lakes hidden below the icy surface.

Here on earth,
it's a God-awful small affair.
Life only exists where we let it:

Take a look at the lawman
beating up the wrong guy.

As I grow older, I've grown to appreciate the limits of my creativity... and relevancy. But every once in a while, I write something or post an image that means something to someone else.

I love the magic of that.

Social media—as dangerous as it's proven to be—is also empowering.

One of the most extraordinary things in my life is that I'm able to publish without permission.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Enzo the Sloth Is the Artist We Need in 2022

A sloth painted this.

Upside down, on his back, holding a brush between two toes.

One grown daughter had ordered this painting by Enzo the Sloth via Etsy as a Christmas gift for my other grown daughter. She loves sloths (and dogs and black cats and T-Rexes) in the same whimsical way her dad loves penguins.

This proved to be the perfect gift for her.

Enzo, naturally, took his time with the project, and there was a bit of a scare he wouldn’t finish by Christmas.

The artist came through, though, to the delight of our entire family.

I’m no expert on sloth art, but I believe this might be Enzo’s masterpiece: a wonderfully expressive self-portrait of the “Enzo” the artist dreams of becoming.

It looks like he’s skateboarding, bringing to mind a BuzzFeed story about what Emma Watson said made her fall in love with Tom Felton while making the “Harry Potter” movies:

“I walked into a room where we were having tutoring,” Emma explained. “The assignment that had been given was to draw what you thought God looked like, and Tom had drawn a girl with a backward cap on a skateboard.”

In Enzo’s self-portrait you can see his two curved toes with arms spread as he speeds through mid-air toward a magnificent, graceful landing. He’s blithe and unencumbered by physical limitations.

There’s no looking back for this sloth.

Enzo is my inspiration for 2022.

A photo of Enzo, masterpiece in progress.