What does What Exit? mean? Click here.

Not a Haiku; more a cri de coeur
Almost got TMJ at the DMV; got there mid-day. The series of my reactions to the throng I then encountered:
  1. They must not be open yet
  2. There must be a picket line
  3. Oh, damn.
Had an excellent Polish meal in the old neighborhood
My Mom has now entered her 89th year, and we rightfully celebrated with a nice mid-week dinner at Rozmaryn, on Olden Avenue in Trenton, a short walk from Saint Hedwig Church, a Polish national parish. We grew up in that neighborhood, and it has retained a Polish character for many decades. The food was very good, and Stolat was sung (twice). All in all, a very nice and warm experience. Kudos to Rozmaryn for the excellent and personable service, and the excellent value. Try them if you like Polish or any East European/Balkan cuisine.

From Paradise to Superfund - The Passaic River by Mary Bruno

The Foolhardy Manor is an improv troop with Jersey roots who play at a couple of venues in NJ and NYC. Check them out.

Identity theft tips for Garden State residents.


  Pine Barrens Tour with Dave Hart
Cape May Photos
from Summer 2010
Road Trip to Atlantic City

Do you renew your auto registration online? It's secure and pretty easy; just make sure you have your auto insurance info handy.

We Own the Night - uplifting video on Newark program; God bless Newark, and God help her.

Route 130 has many venerable old buildings; it's an old highway and business artery. This business, alas, is now defunct:

Gluten Free Gloriously - Baked goodies in Stirling, NJ

New Jersey Foodtowns investing in Solyndra solar panels
Clever and informative treatment of a topic of obvious importance.

Grounds for Sculpture is a diverse collection of outdoor sculpture on 35 acres, graced by a contemporary eatery. 18 Fairgrounds Road, in Hamilton, New Jersey.

Five A.M. Thinking is a blog worth reading, by @Trailsampler.

Patti Smith's Private World

An interview with Jersey girl rock goddess by Rachel Wolff of The Daily Beast about her art retrospective and intimate memoir of her years with Robert Mapplethorpe.

Route 206 after strong rains recently
Had occasion to visit my parents in Trenton, and chose to come back the scenic route, rather than that expeditious but all too familiar NJT/GSP route.

Rubber-neck Delays
I'm past the anger that would always bubble up when EVERYONE in the freaking world would have to slow down to ogle damaged lives and property, but still have to at least say this little bit about it. I think it's kind of pathetic and stupid. OK, that's it for the rest of my life. Thanks for letting me vent.

RU climbs into top 25 on at least one of the Polls
Rutgers football program has a freshman at QB, but Tom Savage has proven himself up to the task of running a major league offense. Coach Greg Schiano, who has taken the program to five bowl games in a row, is a good recruiter; there is so much talent in New Jersey; in the past it has just flowed out of state. This has been reversed, and the eventual success seems inevitable.

Paul Rudnick has, according the New York Times Book Review, a collection of 'uproariously self-deprecating essays' based on his life as a gay Jew whose roots extend into our beloved Garden State and New Yawk. Seems like a worthwhile read, but what do I know? I'm from Jersey.

Jersey Boy Brian Williams does us Proud
In an email interview from a dimly lit place in Afghanistan, Brian Williams looks forward to his MRE and shares his opinions on the war there.  He relates how he feels it 'essential' to be on the ground in order to properly cover these wars. One noteworthy line in this Web 2.0 world: "For all the pejoratives attached to the MSM label, it also means we have the money and means to get over here and report what we see and experience." He's also a hoot; his cameo appearance on 30 Rock recently was spot on.

The Grapes of Wrath, and Reflections on the Joads
The classic class-conscious book of John Steinbeck is being presented as a play at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, from October 21 to November 15, 2009.

I confess to only having seen the movie treatment, with Henry Fonda as the star. Oh Rose of Sharon! The play reminds me that perfectly righteous and productive people such as the Joads were, during the Depression, brutally pushed to the wall because they had no safety net; the term didn't really mean anything in the US until the 20th century, with Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin, FDR, building an expansive support infrastructure with legislation and new agencies. Granted, people are suffering now; it's another sad moment in history, but people in general have recourse to more options, yes, still small solace to anyone who is currently in dire straights.

To those fellow suffering citizens, we offer our thoughts and prayers. We can get through this tough time; we've done it before. Let's keep that native American optimism.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
Due to consolidation, the Navy base at Lakehurst, McGuire Air Force Base, and fabled Fort Dix are to be renamed to "Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst". Now, doesn't that just roll off the tongue in lilting fashion?

Good natured ribbing of Conan O'Brien by Mayor Cory Booker of Newark
Funny; of course some people thought it was serious.

A good day for Rutgers Football Grads
That great team that knocked off Louisville some years back and helped earn Greg Schiano Coach of the Year showed some of its stuff yesterday in several NFL games; Brian Leonard, Ray Rice and Kenny Britt all shone for their respective teams. Not sure whether the Scarlet Knights will ever rise to those heights again, where they were in the Top Ten rankings, but sometimes we cherish what we get and don't hike our expectations in an unreasonable way.

Russian Billionaire Owner of NJ Nets?
How soon before they're called the 'Nyets'?

Treasures of Memory, Nationally Acclaimed
I had the pleasure of running into Sandra Stewart Holyoak, of the Rutgers Oral History Archives, at the fourth annual Veteran's Appreciation Reception at Rutgers Cook College recently. She and her staff were there in force. We spoke about the annual meeting on May 15th, where the Stephen E. Ambrose Oral History Award will be presented to Ken Burns, the man who made The Civil War, Jazz, Baseball and The War (about WWII). We had a great conversation, where she regaled me with tales of Shaun Illingworth's interview with Studs Terkel, among other tidbits such as a sneak preview of the honoree in 2010. It's a good one!

Do you know of the Rutgers Oral History Archives? Their mission, from their web site:

"The Rutgers Oral History Archives is an enterprise to record the personal experiences of:

  • Rutgers University alumni and/or New Jersey residents who served on the home front and overseas during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War
  • Men and women who helped shape the history of Rutgers University as students, alumni, faculty, staff and in other roles
  • People with a story to tell about some aspect of New Jersey's proud history, its towns and cities, its diverse populations, organizations within the Garden State and/or social/cultural movements and events"
I had been interviewed by her second in command, Shaun Illingworth, over the course of a leisurely and very personable, yet efficient, interview that lingered over four hours a couple of years back. The vector for this engagement was the fact that I maintain an archive site for Rutgers FIJI and was wont to ask for permission to publish extracts of some interviews they had made with Rutgers alumni of the WWII generation, the original impetus of the project as I understand it. Permission was graciously granted, and during the conversation I was asked if I wanted to be interviewed, due to my vet and alum status. I readily assented and hope to be online someday; they have a large backlog to process.

This project is one of the best archives of its kind in the US. It's a pleasure to be associated with such an esteemed organization, and I look forward to the meeting. I am a History major, after all!

Starting March 1, Hands-free Phones Only in NJ
You stand to pay $250 if caught using a cell phone in your car, the most punitive such fine in the US. Next on the list: eating and applying makeup?

Goodbye Jason Kidd
The bittersweet tenure of a guaranteed Hall of Famer with the Nets was a brief glimpse of what might have been. We would like to thank J-Kidd particularly for the first championship run of the Nets in their NBA career, because of its occurrence right after the 9/11 attacks. The thrilling turnabout that he, Keith Kerry and Kenyon gave us helped us to get our minds off that severe local wound, for which we will always be grateful. (And don't tell me he shouldn't have been MVP that year!)

Are we on the cusp of a significant reversal?
The worldwide demand for foodstock commodities has been driven by several factors: increasing affluence in Asia, continued population growth, decline of food production in some areas, and the interest in non-petroleum fuels (such as E-85). There is also the prospect for a short-term depression of housing stock prices at least in some areas of the US. Is it possible that farmland, now much more valuable, can 'encroach' on residential acreage, and thereby reverse a decades-long trend in New Jersey? That's what some are saying.

Free Range Hens and Friesians in Freehold
This site details the benefits of buying eggs from Star Cross Stables, which seems to be oddly-named until you visit this site, where we learn that they also are in the business of Friesian Horses & Sport Ponies

Nice article about Willie Cole in Huffington Post
Newark native tells how finding a common castoff iron in the streets of Newark 'changed his life'. If you haven't seen his whimsical, thoughful work, give yourself a treat.

New Jersey Technology Council Career Center

Garden State attracts Foreign Investment
I heard recently that New Jersey is sixth in the nation in foreign investment, and ninth in exports, befitting the diversity, dynamism and coastal location of this state.

Good Luck Ray Rice
The 5'9" cannonball is going to join his erstwhile backfield buddy Brian Leonard in the NFL. Although we will miss him, we think it is selfish to expect him to subject his body to that punishment any more than necessary. Let him cash in; the shelf life of a football player is not a long one; let him reward his mother for bringing up such a sterling child. His father was killed in a drive-by when he was six, and his mother raised him pretty much herself, giving him the structure to succeed. God bless single Moms.

Update two years later: Rice has started a couple of games for Baltimore, and has already scored a couple of touchdowns. He and Brian Leonard are doing just fine in the NFL, and both deserve their success, along with a number of others who have earned their status under Coach Schiano.

Do You Like Butterflies?
This site covers 'Field Notes of the New York City and North Jersey Butterfly Clubs'. (They also dig moths and dragonflies). Also check this article about Trina Paulus of Montclair.

White Lotus
Rutgers Targum recently highlighted a successful New Brunswick business, White Lotus Home, which sells organic mattresses, bedding and other home furnishings. This is a business model we can all appreciate. In business for 26 years, they use local materials to make healthy products. In an era characterized by a high incidence of health problems among our children, the thought of resting one's head on an all-natural, healthy pillow should provide an extra measure of comfort.

NJN recently interviewed NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram. She discusses how everyone involved in a serious crime will henceforth be asked where they are from, in an effort to do something about illegal immigrants with a criminal past. This is in part a response to the horrific schoolyard killings in Newark this past summer. Since everyone is asked, the question is ipso facto not 'profiling'. More emphasis is also being placed on sharing immigration status and criminal conviction information; for example, corrections officers will be able to access the ICE database to support possible deportation. She also disclosed that the state is seeking cooperation from social networking sites to find out whether convicted New Jersey sex offenders have created profiles on the sites. Milgram said Facebook had already responded, and she was 'cautiously optimistic' the rest will respond.

Stand and Deliver
This program, another excellent product of Newark boy Steve Adubato, was "founded in 1999 by the Caucus Educational Corporation to teach young adults to communicate clearly and with passion." The culmination of each year's work is an evening of student performances, the 'Night of Eloquence'. Sadly, almost fittingly for this troubled time in Newark, one recent honoree was also a victim of horrendous violence not so long ago, the schoolyard shootings, Terrance Aeriel.

Please patronize these friends of CDEIS.COM:

The best in North Jersey


Five years ago Greyhound Friends of NJ began a partnership with Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility to help greyhounds learn a new way of life, and to help young non-violent offenders get a new lease on life, by learning to care for another living being, thereby gaining a sense of self-worth and accomplishment that does not relate to drugs or petty crime. Inmates compile a journal which accompanies the dog to its adopted home. This is a good news story, and we can always use them, and people, they are ALWAYS OUT THERE, but are not always considered 'news' in the tawdry world of 'if it bleeds, it leads'.

Nets Dancers train Senior Citizens

From YouTube and TVJersey, a clever implementation of a well-known video venue to aggregate 'TV Shows' and short articles for "The TV Station New Jersey doesn't have".

67-year-old Surfer and All-around Good Guy
I have known Bob Muroff for several decades now, and he is one impressive guy. A spiritually advanced person, and thoughtful neighbor. Read this article and you'll understand why. That's the kind of landlord we yearn for.

PEER is a web site in support of environmental defenders who work in the public realm. The site proudly boasts of its "distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country." This is information about New Jersey state government's dysfunction from the people in the trenches of the agencies. Among other resources, it provides a 'survival guide' to public employees on how to disclose practices or decisions that impact public health negatively, and still (hopefully but not always) keep one's job. The tradition of retribution against whistleblowers in this country by private enterprise and government alike is disgusting, in my opinion, although I am sure that sometimes there is a case of an employee's just being vindictive or covering up their ineptitude.

Goulash and Camp Kilmer
During World War II, a large military camp was established near New Brunswick, Camp Kilmer, named to honor New Jersey native and World War I victim Joyce Kilmer ("I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree".) At war's end, a large tract of land, with many buildings, remained. (I remember actually taking some Geology labs in a 'quonset hut' during my Rutgers career). In 1956, partially encouraged by US statements, the people of Hungary rose up against their Soviet-imposed regime (cf Imre Nagy) and enjoyed a brief flush of freedom, until the revolt was brutally put down. As part of the aftermath of that incident, thousands of Hungarians escaped through Austria, eventually to the US, where a large number were housed at Camp Kilmer. To this day, a sizeable population of Hungarians is found in that area of New Jersey, although the demographics now reflect a large Mexican influx. One immigrant story supplants another, and so it goes in New Jersey.

New Jersey Farmer's Markets Listing

Surprising Statistic
Despite the long-term trend occurring nationwide of 'de-industrialization', which has produced sad phenomena such as the 'Rust Belt' in the Midwest, manufacturing accounts for $41.0 billion of the Garden State’s Gross State Product, the number 1 contributor to the state’s economy. Not that all is rosy, though: Manufacturing jobs lost from 2000-2007: 103,100.

Hardcore Jersey Quiz
(Scroll halfway down Tom Limoncelli's page for the quiz)

Battle of Trenton - 10 days that changed the world
New Jersey was only the third state to join the Union, and it is the location of what is considered the turning point of the Revolution against the British, namely the Battle of Trenton. It was a crucial and welcome victory because, by year's end, a good portion of the colonial army was entitled to go home, having served their agreed-upon tour of duty. If things had just petered out that year on that somber note for our revolutionary cause, the war would likely have ended, something that is not emphasized enough.

Due to family and farm commitments, many citizen-soldiers would have taken the option not to 're-up', as things were looking dark for the Revolution. An ignominious war campaign it had been to that point; during the early days, Washington was forced to withdraw rather than attack. After the successes at Boston, New York was taken over by the British, and Washington had to beat a strategic retreat through New Jersey, establishing an observation post at Washingon Rock in the Watchung mountains, finally to repair to Valley Forge 3, Pennsylvania to 'winter'; in those days, militaries would take the Winter off, as it was impossible to fight adequately and usefully due to hygiene and logistics issues.

Contrary to the war's trend to that point, the bedraggled colonists took a surprise offensive. Washington was forced to do something, and his plan maximized the effect of the Revolutionary force. They set across the Delaware River in the dead of night to surprise the wintering British and Hessian troops, claim a morale-boost, and keep the insurrection going, through to Yorktown, the French intervention with Admiral DeGrasse and French boots on the ground, and on to a glorious independence and the birth of a super-star nation. New Jersey is part and parcel of the American story, and it always will be.

One time it's a GOOD idea to use your cell phone while driving:
State-wide, use #77 to report erratic and unsafe drivers.

Sources of National Acclaim/Notoriety
More people may have heard of New Jersey in the last few years due to the popularity of 'The Sopranos', Bruce Springsteen, and the high profiles of the Rutgers football  team (thanks, Coach Schiano), and women's basketball teams (thanks, Coach Stringer and Gwen Ifill 4.) As the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers should properly compete with the Ohio States, Penn States, and other state university powerhouses for top athletic prospects, and may have finally gotten to the next level, as the football program is keeping at least some in-state talent.

Speaking of 'The Sopranos': James Gandolfini is a Rutgers grad, and has been prominent at Scarlet Knight football games, and who can blame him lately? His perpetual presence may in time serve as the counterpart to (Jersey Guy) Jack Nicholson, with his courtside appearances at Lakers games. He also has a new project, where he is using his fame to a good cause, in a new HBO series starting in September, where he (from the web site) "interviews ten Soldiers and Marines who reveal their feelings on their future, their severe disabilities and their devotion to America. The documentary surveys the physical and emotional cost of war through memories of their "alive day," the day they narrowly escaped death in Iraq."

Government-mandated information on New Jersey Doctors
Note the comments on that site about how malpractice information furnished by some doctors may not be complete.

The Interfaith Council for Homeless Families of Morris County applies a variety of approaches to ending homelessness, and is a good example of private efforts to address social ills. If you live in their area, consider pitching in. " Inasmuch as ye did it onto the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."

For New Jersey Transit, report any incidents or suspicious activity:

Nitro Girl of South Jersey
From entertaining 'roadsideamerica.com' site.

Hoboken in History
The city of Hoboken is worth exploring for a number of reasons. Perhaps most momentously, it was the point of debarkation for many of our troops in the American Expeditionary Force led by General "Black Jack" Pershing, to throw our shoulder against the bulwarks and push the Hun back from Western Europe. As Pershing himself put it, in an effort to rally our green troops to effective performance:

    "Our slogan now is 'Heaven, Hell or Hoboken by Christmas.'"

In addition, Hoboken was the site where 'On the Waterfront', with Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger and Karl Malden was filmed. You know: "You wuz my bruddah, Louie. Ya shoulda looked out for me a little." Ah yes. One more major claim to fame, at least for some generations, is the fact the Hoboken is the home town of 'Ol Blue Eyes', Frank Sinatra.

By the way, next to Hoboken is Weehawken, yet another lovely Native American name. On a cliff here, along the Hudson, the famed duel between Aaron Burr 5 and Alexander Hamilton took place, to the latter's mortal peril.

One of the country's top ten cultural destinations
is the Morris Museum, according to Museums New York, due to its recently acquired (2005) Murtough D. Guinness Collection of antique mechanical musical instruments ('automatons'). While there in Morristown, consider also visiting Washington's Headquarters, and spend some time perambulating The Green.

Comfort Food in Jersey City
Do you like grilled cheese and milkshakes, in a pleasing variety? Try MELT --- and just try to stay svelte!!

Newark - 40 years after life-changing violence
In the Spring and Summer of 1967, the US was torn by 164 disorders, of various levels of severity, in 125 cities, many of which involved a racial component. It was a tense time in our history, and the assassinations of 1968 caused this writer, at least, to wonder about the future survival of this country. Analysis of the three days of unrest in Newark, which suffered 26 deaths and hundreds of injured and arrested, seems to conclude that the myth of widespread sniper activity was not borne out by the facts. Newark is still making its way back from that nadir, and the recent election of Cory Booker, whom some have likened to our very own Barack Obama, gives reason for hope for the range of nettlesome problems that beset New Jersey's largest city.  This paragraph deserves a partner paragraph for balance, and so:

Newark - city of Culture and History
The NJPAC, Ironbound District, Newark Museum, and recently refurbished Courthouse show another side of Newark, beyond the stereotypes and negativity. Branch Brook Park boasts a larger variety of cherry blossoms than Washington D.C., and the Cathedral in Newark has a rose window (stained glass) that is second only to Rheims in the world. The Newark Museum has one of the few consecrated Tibetan sacred spaces outside of Asia, and during the grand reopening of the Museum some years back, the Dalai Lama reconsecrated it. If you enjoy the cultures of Asia, this is a must see museum.

A Love Note to Trenton
Trenton is where my personal story began, and it is a typical American story. My Dad came from a German Lutheran background in Maryland, and my mother from Polish Catholic.  Since, after World War II, my parents settled in Trenton, the Polish side predominated. Her people literally 'Came over on the boat' during World War I, and settled in the Polish neighborhood centered around Saint Hedwig's parish. This national parish, as they were called, offered Catholic Mass in both Latin (originally the only language permitted in Mass) and the 'vernacular', after Vatican II, Polish and English. Even when only Latin was allowed, our church choir filled us with Polish song during the various seasons of the Catholic calendar, with Easter and Christmas our favorite seasons. Saint Hedwig's had a significant event in the mid-eighties when Lech Walesa came to speak at our parish. The parish had built a statue in honor of a Polish priest who had been killed by the Polish Communist regime, a modern-day martyr to humanity. This priest had been a friend to Lech Walesa, who, if you do not know, was an important figure in the liberation of Poland from Soviet influence through the Solidarity labor movement which began in Gdansk. The area near the new statue was filled, on a bitterly-cold night, as we awaited the guest speaker. Finally, our patience was rewarded as Mr. Walesa appeared. After some remarks, we repaired to the church, where he spoke at length in Polish to the congregation. I was able to stand only a few feet from this history-making Pole, and my eyes welled up with pride, and recognition of the difficult recent history of my people.

Trenton has had a good-sized Polish neighborhood for about a hundred years, due to familial ties which made it easier and safer to come from the 'old country' and make a go of it in the New World. What drew people, however is the chance to work, in the jobs available to low-skilled, non-native English speakers in Trenton's pottery factories and other industrial businesses. This industrial history traces back to the early days of the country, and the location of Trenton along the 'Fall Line', which describes an area of the country where one geologic formation gives way to another. Due to height differences between the geologic strata, we had a drop of enough height to make water power feasible. This in turn made many factories very economically feasible, to the point where, in the last century, Trenton could properly boast:    Trenton Makes, the World Takes. Among the output of Trenton one could also count such diverse items as Taylor Ham (Pork Roll) and Trojan Condoms, a combination which an off-color jokester might describe as 'the makings of a lovely low-budget evening'.

The Trenton story is now a different one,  but large chunks of history remain available. The Trenton Historical Society offers tours which are enlightening and entertaining.

Good Polish food in many locations
Trenton has a very good informal restaurant, with party space downstairs, on the corner of Brunswick and Olden caddy-corners from Saint Hedwig's. It's called the Amber Cafe. Try it. In addition to being a good restaurant, with a large party room downstairs, you have a whole deli with a large refrigerated and frozen section, as well as a large dessert counter, all there for you to peruse along with your pierogi.

In Linden, you have a huge delicatessen, with warm takeout as well on South Wood / Main. Down the street, I was able to buy Polish Christmas cards - Wesolych Swiat!

Also, don't forget the availability statewide of several quality Polish beers, mostly pilseners and lagers, such as Lomza, Piast and Zywiec.

A restaurant inspired by Eastern European cuisine, and with an inspiring personal story, the Blue Danube on Adeline Street offers, from its web site: "Eastern European cuisine encompassing the countries along the Danube River: Hungarian, Romanian, German, Polish, Czech. Stuffed cabbage, pierogies, chicken paprikas, beef goulash, sauerbraten, weiner schnitzel to name a few. Extensive variety of Eastern European as well as continental fare. Large portions at reasonable prices." If memory serves me right from my last visit there, the restaurant's founder actually swam across the Danube river to escape Communism and start a new life in the US.

Visit Northlandz in Flemington New Jersey

WHAT EXIT? While the phrase sounds as if it could have come from the classic Abbott and Costello routine "Who's on First?"1, the name for this section comes from the old Joe Piscopo joke based on the supposed crossing of his path with that of a fellow Garden Stater on the ferry from Delaware. According to Joe, she saw his Jersey license plates, and called out "You from Jersey? I'm from Jersey. What exit?" in a reference to our beloved (I guess) Garden State Parkway (GSP).

As a New Jersey native and person of Polish extraction, I've been serving life-long double duty for the nation on the comedy front, as a representative of a state and of a nationality that have been the butt of jokes for a long time.

The ethnic jokes are usually cookie-cutter slams that have been trotted out of that tiresome kit and applied to yet another nationality, so this is no big deal. The jokes are typically disparaging, but if you 'own' it, maybe it's not so bad to say it, so here's one example, without picking on any particular ethnic group:

"It seems a (pick your ethnic group) guy had an emergency recently because he had locked his keys in his car. A police officer arrived, and used a tool inserted into the window to open the door. It's a good thing too. It was a very hot day, and his poor family had been trapped inside there for hours."  Yuck, yuck.

On the state-of-birth side of the story, Jersey has been in the comedy spotlight for a long time, due to its proximity to New York City, with its media, entertainment and other cultural clout. It was easier to get a laugh about supposed provincialism in a town known to the audience than to reach for a parallel example from elsewhere, so cities in Jersey (and New York areas like the Bronx and Brooklyn, to be fair) got that dubious distinction. Toss in the fact that a lot of Jersey names seem to fit the rhythm of some jokes, like 'Hoboken', or 'Ho Ho Kus', or 'Hackensack', which are just a few of the musical names left behind by the Lenni Lenape / Delaware people, in addition to Manasquan, Matawan, Manalapan, Parsippany, Whippany, and others. On the Polish side of the story, the Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa, and the Polish Pope did a LOT to end the Cold War, in my mind, my generation's existential challenge, so there is ample reason for pride there, in my humble opinion.

Because of the provenance of both the 'Joisey' and 'Polack' families of jokes, I am not offended by them in the least. It's nice to get noticed, as the formerly shy high school student that I am will attest. So I therefore say to all and sundry who have gotten a laugh out of poking fun at 'my people': YOU ARE WELCOME. Hope it cheered your day. Since I love my heritage and my home state, I gladly accept my fate. (Actually, I'm kind of glad that New Jersey has an image problem--- it probably discourages people from moving here, and there are ENOUGH 2 people living here.)

New Jersey is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the US, due to its location to the main point of debarkation for immigrants during the 19th century, and the story continues to this day. Why, in the Edison area (central Jersey), there are about EIGHT different Indian sari stores within a two-mile stretch! Newark has its large Portuguese section, there are Italians, Chinese, Germans, Irish, Caribbeans, Africans, Latinos from all areas (Ecuador, Argentina, you name it). Thanks to a large Orthodox Jewish community, the Livingston area has extensive sidewalks, so the faithful can walk to their services, use of vehicles and other machinery being proscribed on the Holy Day. And on and on, ad infinitum, the American story writ large, writ small.


1Abbott and Costello were both Jersey boys; that wise-cracking metier was native to this region, so it fit well with Bud's patter. I remember hearing an old radio broadcast from the WWII era of this famous routine, which I had heard many times before. For those not familiar with the routine, forgive me for not going into it, so this next commentary may be lost on you, but anyway:

At the end of the routine, Costello becomes so exasperated that he says "I don't give a damn", to which Abbott replies cheerily, "Oh, that's our shortstop". Again, for me at least (and I suppose for others, given the routine's popularity), this was a 'boffo' finish to the routine, as it wrapped up the interplay nicely. I mention this because in the version I recently heard, intended for the troops, Costello is sensored from using 'Damn', I can only suppose, because that's not in the classic routine. Even in the depths of the slaughter of that world-wide war, some functionary, family name Milquetoast I assume, says "we can't have that". (Actually, the tightass probably didn't indulge in contractions, so he said "we cannot have that").

Costello says weakly in the sanitized version 'I don't care', to which Abbott gives his shortstop response, but for me it had no bite, and left an odd aftertaste. "I don't give a damn" was a better beat, the safe version sounded too short. (Again, I'd been sensitized to and spoiled by the 'good' version.)

2Actually, if you have never heard of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, you would be shocked to hear that even in the midst (literally) of this most densely populated state, there is a region of white sand, tall pine and uninhabited splendor. One night I was 'down the shore', as we say in NJ, and coming back late at night to Trenton, which caused me to drive through the Pine Barrens. There was no light source anywhere at one point in my trip, so I could pull over and could see the night sky in an unusually detailed way, compared to most parts of the state. This, with a gentle pine-scented breeze. A lovely interlude in an otherwise hectic 'modern' life.

3I read recently that the supposed squalor of the camp at Valley Forge was exaggerated. Granted, the 'Sunshine Soldier' and 'Summer Patriot' that Thomas Paine wrote about so eloquently in talking about the crisis would not have lived in those quarters, but at least some of the cabins were cozy and well constructed.

4Ifill had been the target of similar insult from Don Imus in the past, who called her the cleaning lady who covered the White House or something to that effect; not worth my time to look up the actual insult. As the story broke and was resolved by his firing, Ifill joined David Brooks and others on Meet the Press this year. In a masterful few minutes, she called out the too-easy relationship between Imus and several of the correspondents on that very panel, including host Tim Russert. To its credit, the Imus act also had a healthy and useful component of political content and commentary, interviewing many politicians. Imus was popular partly because he was good at using his market clout to help people sell their latest book. This is not to excuse his language though, which is, I believe, largely if not entirely driven by the profit motive and market share (and yes, mind share, for good or ill; the human 'bandwidth' can only simultaneously accommodate so many concepts and themes, so let's keep the crap outta there; whaddaya say, pal?)

5One author with an insider's view of history is Al Gore relative Gore Vidal, whose novel 'Burr' is rich in detail and character; did you know that at one point in his career, Burr wanted to start his own personal empire in the West? Also, check out Vidal's account of a disputed election in 1876, the Hayes/Tilden tiff, a negotiated outcome which traded Southern votes for the gutting of Reconstruction, necessitating a 'second Reconstruction' in the 1960's, as most of us remember.