The letter home

April 25, 2014

In 1977 and 1978 when I was 10 and 11 I went away to camp in New Hampshire at Brookwoods which is a camp owned by my mother’s Brother-in-law’s family. Many of my cousins where there and it was a wonderful experience until my second summer when I became ill and spent a week in the infirmary.

I didn’t go back.

I found this letter to my mother in my “Life-Box” that she diligently kept for all of her kids along with a few other fun ones like one where I informed her that one of my sisters, who shall remain nameless, was sitting at a table full of boys, all by herself.

What a wonderful brother I was!

It was a Christian camp so I’m sure they were all gentlemen.

What I love about this one in particular is how I’m telling my mother how much I love her and miss her and then I go on to to tell her something that probably freaked her out and had her call my uncle to get on the phone with the camp and do something quick!


I don’t remember if my parents came to visit that weekend but I do know that I never found any cave with an air-pocket. People at the camp were famous for pranks and telling stories of creatures in the woods and having you search the camp for a left handed wind sifter or some non-existing gadget. Somebody probably told me about the cave and it became my mission in life to find it.

It was a wonderful experience that I remember fondly and I hope to visit it someday and reminisce.  I did an incredible amount of backpacking, boating and learned many things that I still draw upon today.

Mercy Street

April 24, 2014

One of my favorite songs is Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel.

I had stopped listening to the album a long time ago, but a new favorite singer/songwriter of mine, Richard Shindell, does an amazing rendition of the song and it got me pondering the song all over again.

The original came out in 1986 when I was living up in Erie Pennsylvania, on my own for the first time away from the cloisters of New Jersey where I grew up.

I’ll simply describe the period as very Holden Caulfield.

However, I do have one vivid memory of Mercy Street that I can recall to this day, as if it were yesterday.

I was in my car, ok my parent’s car, parked on some sketchy street heading to an incredibly raw, steel-mill-town gym, called Erie Gym on West 26th Street close to an old cemetery. It was far in from the lake in a residential/light industrial neighborhood and my 1984 Honda stuck out like a sore thumb.

I had joined this particular gym to work out at because the brand new gym at the college wasn’t hard core enough and the owner of the place that I had joined, a woman, could bench almost 400 pounds, which was really hard core.

The day of my memory was overcast, just like the way I remember most of my days in Erie and I’m sure that the particular time of day was one when I should have been studying, or doing something with pledge brothers, but it was definitely a moment of time to do what I wanted, and that’s what I liked most at that time of my life.

So, in my memory I’m sitting in the driver’s seat looking down the street towards the gym and the song Mercy Street comes on the radio. I was fixated. Time stood still; the works. I see myself from behind myself, which is weird and I can’t say that it was the first time that I heard the song but I can say that its the first time that I really listened to the song.

I know that I eventually owned the the album “So”, on casset, and it truly was and is an amazing collection of songs, but the one line that catches me the most in all of its songs and is a top 10 for me, is the line “in your daddy’s arms again”.

The words are chilling to me. Besides evoking nostalgic thoughts of childhood, they make me think of those final moments of life, undoubtedly painful, where we look inward to give ourselves strength to get through the unkown.

The words seems so simple but are so deep on so many levels.

The line conjures up a time in life when your entire being is capable of being carried by a strong and powerful man, yet not the age of infancy when most men don’t really care to handle young children. It’s one of life’s in-between times. This one, a time when you could still climb on your dad like a monkey, yet you were old enough to be aware and communicating. And for dad, it’s a time that you’re fun to hold, easily lifted on the shoulders, put on the counter and basically a time to be a super human strongman to be admired.

Then, like now, the song makes me think of my dad.

Me in my dad's arms

Me in my dad’s arms

Those hop-on-pop memories, shoulder rides and boosts to somewhere were intensely comforting and in a painful moment, something I think could be recalled to gain comfort, as the song suggests.

Now, unlike then, the song also makes me think of my son.

My son was on my shoulders most of the time that we were together outside as we explored new places or when he got tired. He was a perfect companion for a day of adventure on board or off. This was all but true for a brief time, until he became too big to carry and now being someone who far exceeds me in stature.

After hearing the Shindell version of the song I did some research into the origins of it and found out that Mr. Gabriel wrote it about the life of a poet named Anne Sexton and referenced a poem by her entitled 45 Mercy Street. Apparently Ms. Sexton had her fair share of troubles to contend with and she might have been in need of some mercy.

What I also learned from my research is that the line “Kissing Mary’s Lips” has nothing to do with the Madonna. It happens to be the name of Ann Sexton’s mother.

The Madonna image always freaked me out a little but I had grown to accept it. I’ll have to see how the new image settles in.

My son in mine

My son is just about the age that I was when I heard the song and started to conjure the “daddy’s arms'” image for myself. Everyone has their own list of “classic lines” from songs and I doubt that it will ever be one of my son’s, but maybe some popular singer of his generation will redo Mercy Street and he will find the line all on his own.

I have a photograph of my father and his father in my room from when my father was about two and he’s in his fathers arms. Of the photos that I know we have, a bunch of them are from when my grandfather had taken my father to an airport to watch the planes. In most of the picutures he is boosting my dad up on a fence railing or just holding him. What’s sad is that my grandfather died when my father was only two and that the few memories that my father has of his father, were mostly in his father’s arms.

Through the eyes of teenager

February 23, 2014

Tonight I got a chance to spend some time with two of my old high school friends, one of which I see often now that he moved back to town and the other that I only see once in a while when he comes to visit his parents.

When you look at our lives now, they couldn’t be any more different from what they were back then, when we were all thick as thieves and just about to embark upon life’s long journey, scattering hither and fro.

Yet, for some strange reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, being together tonight offered me some additional moments of childhood, not in the form of memories but in the form of new experiences seen through the same eyes that I remembered seeing them through with these two guys, a very long time ago.

We all look old now, but the age becomes invisible when you’re with people who knew you when you were young.

The jokes, the innuendos, the completely relaxed atmoshpere absent any pretenses or hidden agendas. It was very nice.

I’m sad to say that our childrend are now the ages that we were, when we were together all the time.

I can only hope that my son has a bunch of friends today that he will still get to see when he’s almost 50.

It feels like putting on a favorite old pair of jeans that by some miracle, fit just like they did when you were 17.

It strikes me as curious, how when we do look back at the people in our lives that we went out of our way to stay in touch with, it’s the people who know the “real you” that you want to stay in touch with the most….The ones that you can still be yourself in front of without any explainations required.

Not that you could ever explain it anyway.

So, this evening, when my old friend said with a smile to me that, “you’re still the same as you were back then”, I was happy to hear it.

He may or may not have meant it in a good way, but either way, it sounded nice.

I have actually been woried lately that I changed as I grew older.

Apparently not.

Rhymes of a Mountain Man

February 22, 2014

Today I received a book of rhymes in the mail, or better yet a booklet of rhymes, that I had ordered online from Purpora Books in Comox British Columbia.

The booklet had been written by my great grand father Henry James Blurton who came from England and became a pretty well known outdoorsman during his time and even managed to have part of a river named after himself.

Blurton CreekTo me, it seems like he was a renaissance man of the backwoods, because besides publishing at least two books of rhymes, he was also a recognized photographer and had even exhibited his pictures of the Canadian wilderness at the Wembley Exhibition in England in 1925


Besides writing rhymes, Henry also wrote more technical pieces about mining and prospecting and had been a game warden at one time known for being strict but fair. Once, at a dinner, he was said to have commented how the wolf, which was really out-of-season venison, was done to a turn, knowing full well what it was.

Amazingly, he lived this rugged life after being educated in England at St. Edwards College and attending prep school at St. Peter’s School in London.

RMM CoverSo the story goes, he met the queen once when she was visiting Candana.

I came to learn all of this because for the last year or so I have been trying to track down my Canadian ancestry, of which I have two lines through my mother. First, my mother’s mother being 100% English by way of British Columbia and then my mother’s father whose mother was 100% French, born in Port Felix Nova Scotia with the maiden name Boudrow (Boudreau).

Now, posessing this little booklet, I actually feel a connection to my English great grandfather much moreso than I did before it got here. The piece clearly looks as though some individual had laboriously typed it out on a manual typewriter and I imagine that it was he.

I  picture him personally typing out each copy in a snow covered cabin, sitting at his desk somewhere off in the woods of British Columbia and now, almost 70 years later, here I am scanning one of the documents into my compter while sitting at my desk in the suburbs of New York City.

How could he have ever imagined that?

There is a lot more to the story that I want to share, but I’ll save that for a later date. First I want to read this booklet of rhymes very carefully and I still want to track down whatever other writings, photographs and articles I may be able to collect.

The Okanagan Historical Society has a number of articles about him that I hope to research as well and both the Harvard and Yale libraries have full copies of the Society’s annual magazine going back to the 1920’s. It may take a while but I’ll get copies of them all.

If you stumble upon this post becuase you have been searching for him, or know anything about him, please do leave a comment.

I’m not dead

January 31, 2014

No, I’m not dead.

I just took some time off-line.

Facebook had gotten out of control for me.

With its belabored, oftentimes ignorant, political rants, random pictures of starving animals, stories of death, disaster, and for causing wasted hours at playing voyeur into the lives of people I may once had known but at this point, didn’t really care to “friend”.

Yes, it was nice to see what people were up to, but it ultimately became pathetic to see how hard some people were trying just to present themselves as something that they really were not and everyone knew it.

It got tiresome…

So, I decided to commit Facebook suicide and I deactivated my account.

My wife said that it was weird how all of my pictures faded from her Facebook. Like a ghost, I was there one minute and gone the next. She still sees me all the time so she got over it fast but it makes me wonder if anybody else misses me on their Facebook or if they ever even noticed that I was gone?

Oh well, it’s a small price to pay to be clean of the addiction known as Social Media. I never did really start to Twitter much, but to me now, it too seems like an opiate for people that thrive on drama and a need to be intimate. An opiate that’s awfully hard to kick.

Somehow, miraculously, without Facebook for 6 months I’m still in touch with most of the people that I care about and I don’t feel much of a loss over the rest.

Just before I gave it up, I ran into a Facebook friend that I had not actually seen since high school nor did we ever communicate directly. The only thing we ever did was friend each other and I can’t recall who “friended” who. Yet, from that point forward we both knew what was going on in each others lives as if we were related. Most of it I never noticed but some of it, I couldn’t help but follow.

So, what I think could have turned out to be a nice encounter with an old pal turned out to be an awkward 5 minutes and I felt as though I had “too much information” once again.

I knew about the gravity of his personal problems just as he knew my current lot in life, which then, as now, is quite happy. It made me feel guilty and I certainly didn’t want to talk to him about it then, at that moment, in that location or ever.

I couldn’t even think of a way to bring it up without sounding pitiful and small, talking about the weather or some obscure recollection from our collective experience.

And that was it. I gave it up. I pulled the plug.

I couldn’t go offline completely, as work requires me to maintain a professional presence but I could completely give up writing anything about myself in the public domain.

For me, Facebook had morphed my love of writing into a love of “checking in” and its embarrassing to think back of how trite I had become.

Now, after about 6 months of abstention, I’m ready to write again but this time try to only share things through a well-filtered lens, and only on certain subjects.

I will be writing short stories, vignettes, spoofs as well as a few other random musings but I’m no longer going to share my every move with a haphazard collection of “friends” that I managed to collect yet never truly connected with.

If you have read this I thank you and I hope that I present a few things that you find entertaining in the near future.

Free Will is the root of all evil…

October 10, 2010

We live in such a schizophrenic world.

And, it’s each individual’s unique array of opinions that is the DNA of this mass-schizophrenia.

With so many issues dividing us, so many individual interests to appease, what’s a global society to do?

I think that it all boils down to free-will and and how free-will forms our opinions.

If God had wanted, He could have made us all love Him and He could have also made us all get along.

But He clearly did not do this when He created free-will.

For without free-will our love for Him and each other would be wonderful but meaningless.

Is being forced to love the same as loving through your own free-will?

For love to be true, there has to be free-will.

And so, this thing we call free-will seems to be at the root of all of our problems and stands in the way of so many things in so many ways.

The list is too long to even start.

Is free-will therefore evil?

Is free-will the Devil?

I guess it’s all how it’s used…

My Future Exodus

September 30, 2010

I feel as though we are on the verge of a mass-migration.

This migration is going to consist of people who have stopped being upwardly mobile that feel as though the dam is cracking and its time to go.

The change in thinking is in large part thanks to the Great Recession.

We now have downsized incomes, downsized credit lines and meanwhile local governments keep raising the ante.

Of course people with children want their schools to be the best.

And it turns out that people with children end up taking the political reigns of their communities.

And, people with children can always justify spending money when it benefits the children.

This includes having state of the art facilities, top-notch teachers and environments that are intended to replace the nurturing that they themselves continuosly fail to provide their children.

I don’t blame the children.

Collectively we do need to provide great opportunity for all children and also care for each and every one of them no matter what their individual “issue” may be.

And, no matter what the cost!

Which is why people with children will tend to migrate towards these high tax areas in order to give their children everything that they deserve; which they do! Willingly!

This migration in turn drives up the taxes in those areas even more and then the ante goes up once again.

And as the ante goes up, people will fold.

When I fold I’m going to go where the land is cheap, the taxes are low and thanks to technology, where I can still get every television channel and a cell phone signal and where I can do all of my shopping via the Internet with next day delivery.

Why don’t I go now?

Because my son is still in school.

The Legend of JoJo the Jackrabbit

September 5, 2010

Once upon a time in a big field west of a large forest, a Jackrabbit named JoJo grew up in a lush Strawberry patch. JoJo was a very lucky Jackrabbit who came from a wonderful family that was always very nice to him but JoJo turned out to be a bit of a wild rabbit, hopping around from place to place and usually getting into some sort of mischief….

Not far from the Strawberry patch where JoJo grew up, was a Rasberry patch where a girl bunny rabbit grew up named BeeKee. She was also a really lucky rabbit from another great family and like JoJo she too was a bit of wild rabbit at times but the two of them never met even though they played in the same field for all of their childhood.

Amazingly enough, JoJo and BeeKee even went to the same elementary rabbit school but never knew each other and they were only one grade apart for over 7 years until JoJo got sent away to bad rabbit reform school. JoJo even knew some of BeeKees friends, but he didn’t know BeeKee at all.

When JoJo was young a young rabbit, he had big dreams. JoJo thought that he was going to grow up to be a rich rabbit and that everything was going to be easy in life. All JoJo wanted to do was to set out and see the countryside and happen upon his fortune.

BeeKee, on the other hand was content with living in the field and was happy staying at home and being with all of the rabbit friends that she had grown up with. BeeKee had lots of really good friends and the longer that she stayed in the field, the more friends that she made. She was a great friend to have too, because she always cared about her friends and they cared about her too.

JoJo on the other hand, didn’t have many friends around home since he was not interested in staying in the field. His friends were all from faraway places making him want to get out of the field as much as possible.

So there they were, growing up so close to one another and yet never knowing one another.

During one of his journeys away from the field, JoJo met a bunny that he thought he wanted to start a family with. He married the bunny but there was a lot of trouble in the place where they settled. They did have a wonderful little boy leveret (which is a baby rabbit in case you didn’t know) that JoJo adored more than anything else in the entire world. But JoJo’s bad bunny ways and his wanderlust to see the countryside didn’t quite fit in with the way that his son’s mother wanted things to be, so she and JoJo decided to part ways.

Meanwhile, back in the field, Beekee was busy making even more friends.

So, even though JoJo hated to leave his son, he went back out into the wilderness to wonder around some more. He had fun for a few months but then realized that being close to his son was the only important thing in life so he found a nearby hole to crawl into and set up camp. Fortunately, it was back in the field where he grew up, and not far from where his son was living.

Things got pretty boring in his rabbit hole so JoJo decided to head out and visit a cave that he used to hang out at when he was a younger rabbit. It was a big cave where lots of bunnies would go called Chrones Cavern. When JoJo’s mother heard that he was hanging out at Chrone’s Cavern she wasn’t very happy. She had heard that there were a lot of Biker bunnies that hung out there and even though that used to be true, the bad Biker Bunnies had long since left and the place had turned into quite the respectable establishment.

So, as JoJo would go to Chrones Cavern, he met BeeKee for the first time. He thought BeeKee was very nice and she would always listened attentively to his tale of woe. She listened to him tell her how he had wanted to wonder off and make his fortune and see the countryside but now he realized that there were much more important things than money and that his son bunny came first.

Apparently BeeKee thought that these were fine qualities in a JackRabbit and she continued to talk to JoJo and be his friend. If he had been a shallow rabbit at one time in his life, to her he seemed like he had changed.

One day, when BeeKee and her friends had destroyed the hole that they were living in with all the social gathering they had there, BeeKee asked all of her friends frp, Chrones Cavern to help her move to a new rabbit hole in the next town over which was owned by a police rabbit friend of hers. She asked JoJo if he could help too, but he couldn’t because he had his son that night and he didn’t want to miss any time with him.

Feeling sorry that he couldn’t help out, JoJo bought BeeKee a housewarming gift, which BeeKee must have thought was very sweet because she invited him over to her new rabbit hole for a really nice dinner of carrots and cauliflower.

Being a bachelor rabbit again, JoJo jumped at the opportunity and seeing what a wonderful dinner BeeKee had prepared he thought that he had died and gone to rabbit heaven.

That night as JoJo left, he rubbed noses which BeeKee to show her how much he appreciated the amount of care that must have gone into making that dinner.

And from that night forward, they became the best of friends and JoJo knew that BeeKee was a very special rabbit for she always let JoJo do the things he needed to do and be with his son. Over time she became good friends with JoJo’s son as well.

So, as the months rolled by and the friendship grew, it grew into much more. Slowly at first, but it just kept growing.

It wasn’t always easy…and JoJo had a lot of things to worry about during those early years but BeeKee was always there for him.

It took a while for JoJo to get things together, but BeeKee knew that if she let JoJo do what JoJo needed to do, that he was really a pretty good rabbit deep down inside and worth sticking around for.

And so JoJo fell in love with BeeKee and knew that he had found a rabbit that loved him for who he was, that would let him travel the countryside when he needed to and who even helped out with his son when he was away.

And even though BeeKee had never traveled much before she met JoJo, she started to travel to far away places with him so that he could get it out his system and she quickly learned that going places was really fun too and now they do it all the time.

She also found JoJo funny.

The other rabbits didn’t know that JoJo was a funny rabbit when he wanted to be; but BeeKee knew.

So now, JoJo and BeeKee have the best of both worlds. They live close to the Strawberry Patch and the Raspberry Patch where they grew up, they are close to JoJo’s son, which is so important to both of them, and they travel to far away places and always have lots of fun.

And after 10 years of being the best of friends they decided to get married and to spend the rest of their lives together hopping around, rabbit foot in rabbit foot, looking for adventure wherever they go.

 So, the moral of this story?

Is, you don’t need to look very far to find love. Sometimes it’s right next to you and you never even see it. But, when you least expect it, there it is. Right where you’ve been all along.

American drivers need to move over and get out of the way!

April 21, 2010

I have grown tired of seeing people of all ages, sexes, races and creeds plodding along in the far left and middle lanes as if no one else on the road had anyplace better to be than behind them.  Is it ignorance, arrogance, obstinacy, or something else? Regardless, it seems to personify the American mentality of no-one-else-matters-but-me.

Granted they may be doing the speed limit, but they are certainly not following the law.

As New Jersey law requires:

On a multi-lane roadway, motorists must drive in the lane nearest to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway when the lane is available for travel, except when overtaking another vehicle or in preparation for a left turn. (N.J.S.A. 39:4-88)

And so, with much of our police effort focused on speeders and on people that drive while talking on their cell phones, I propose enforcing the law that already exists about staying to the right and do so just as vigorously as the others. Besides raising untold amounts of revenue, we could help rid the roadways of much of their congestion. 

Perhaps we can humble a few of those road hogs at the same time.

Possible Sale of Former Elm Street School Considered

March 27, 2010

(Reprinted with Permission)

After comments were made on March 23 by Superintendent Margaret Dolan about the possible sale of the Board of Education’s Headquarters on Elm Street, formerly the Elm Street Middle School and one-time High School, ideas have been bandied about concerning the possible uses of the property.

At a recent social gathering of local residents, ideas about what to do with the property ranged from low income housing, luxury condominiums and even to use the property for the long awaited parking deck project. As the conversation continued long into the evening, the debate got heated when people discussed losing the original structure and its historic importance to the community and its residents.

“We need low income housing in town” said one guest anonymously in fear of reprisal from other residents who he assumes would be vehemently opposed. “We spend so much money on our Mount Laurel obligation it’s about time we try to lessen that burden.” They added that Westfield’s homogeneous socio economic composition could be enhanced by letting working class families live in the center of town.

“That guy is nuts” commented another member. “What we need are luxury condominiums for senior citizens since they don’t have kids in school and they can afford to pay the already high taxes that Westfield has.” The idea of relieving the property taxes in town by converting a non-tax-paying property into a ratable seemed to be very popular with most attendees. By converting the property into a tax paying parcel the property could easily generate an additional million or more dollars per year that could feed the Board of Ed or other municipal agencies.

“Knowing this town they’ll take the money and hire more meter maids” said one person who obviously had no love for meter maids.

Putting a Parking Deck on the location could be a good use of the property commented a few people particularly in light of the Super Stop & Shop that plans to come to the intersection across the street. It is estimated that the Super Shop & Shop will bring an additional 500 to 1000 cars to the area per day and will strain an already overstressed parking environment.

One resident of Elm Street already has plans to capitalize on the new Super Market by setting up thier own private parking lot in their back yard. They anticipate making enough money in a year to pay at least part of their annual property tax liablity.

One commentator stated that coverting the school property into a for-profit parking lot could generate rent for the town as well as property taxes and would also allow the town to avoid the cost of building it themselves.  By putting the deck at that location it would encourage foot traffic through the town as people walked to the train station which should be good for the local businesses commented another.

“It’s such a pretty building with so much history” said a former teacher who worked there for many years in the 60s and 70s. People don’t know that there used to be a tunnel that went over to the playing fields that was filled in after it started to fall apart.  “It needs to be set aside as part of Historic Westfield.”

“It’s all about the Education Budget and those lifetime medical benefits” shouted someone from the back of the room.

No matter what happens to the property it’s clear that Westfield has a very large ditch to dig itself out of regarding its Board of Education Budget. “Since most teachers are unwilling to give into any concessions and would rather see the children suffer and lose out on their educations, it’s unlikely that the ditch will get filled in” said an unemployed bank executive who has been on unemployment for the last year. He added, “If our taxes go any higher I’ll be forced to move to someplace like Garwood or Kenilworth and have my children resent me for the rest of their lives” which was met by a collective sympathetic groan by everyone in the room.

Whatever happens, this is surely only the beginning of the debate.