Monday, December 18, 2017

Sears Wish Book

When the Sears Wish Book would arrive in the mail when I was a youngster, it always sparked awe when I would stop to consider the variety of their offerings. It was impossible to look at the entire catalog in one viewing so it tended to linger on the table where we left the mail and in the living room for days after its arrival.

Today it is no big deal, and with the advent of "Drop Shipping" any company can potentially sign enough deals with manufacturers of various sizes and cobble together an online version of Sear's Wish Book. What they can't duplicate is the feeling of anticipation surrounding the catalog's arrival in the mail. This common feeling and the sight of the catalog in neighbor's homes is beyond replication in our modern day where the niche is the goal, not trying to serve everyone, everywhere in these United States, anything their hearts might desire. I especially liked examining the pre-fabricated homes which could be purchased. It gave me a sense of what people in the late 19th century might have been thinking as they turned away for a moment in their minds from shopping at their rural general stores and contemplated what they might have delivered from Sears. Same thing going on today with Amazon, only faster and without all the emotion.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving is a holiday that sticks out in my mind and allows me to easily recall occasions going back for almost as long as I have been alive. It's the diversity of the gatherings and the locales which makes for this remembrance. I have also had many different roles: from being the host to being a guest, to being a stray with no where else to go. It truly has made no difference in my mind, these were all Thanksgivings. It's probably part of the reason I like the Peanuts version of Thanksgiving and the subtle lessons it teaches about being a good guest and not caring if your host is serving jellybeans, popcorn, and buttered toast. Being seated at a table with a turkey on it sure is better than working, which I did one year while I was a restaurateur, and infinitely better than having no place at all to go.

Funniest Thanksgiving was being a guest and the host knowing I was good in the kitchen so for some reason she put green food coloring in the mashed potatoes. I simply smiled and said they were delicious. Still makes me some smile over twenty years later. Most poignant Thanksgiving was on Plum Island in Massachusetts, north of Boston, having dinner with a family I knew nothing about and would never see again. They were working class with young children but had room at the table for two more strays. To me, this will always be my touchstone for the true spirit of Thanksgiving. No hesitation on their part about asking us to join them and no regrets on anyone's part for the pleasant time we spent together.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Jet Age

It began as a time where men wore suits and ties, and the few women who did fly wore gloves.

In my mind this era reached its architectural zenith with the TWA terminal at JFK. Terminal 5 as it was known had gates close to the street. Years later with the advent of Jumbo Jets, this made centralized ticketing and security checkpoints difficult. "Likened to a bird taking off, the TWA Flight Center at New York’s Kennedy airport comprises four vaulted concrete shells perched lightly on the ground. There are few walls; instead, the exterior is dominated by canted banks of windows."

The TWA terminal at JFK airport has been called an icon of mid-century cool. Now it’s being reincarnated as a hotel.

Let's not forget the architect of this late 1950s project: Eero Saarinen.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Frost On The Pumpkins

The phrase was first given wide use by James Whitcomb Riley,  the "Hoosier Poet." He lived 1846-1916.

I had to look it up because tonight we are expecting frost and we have a pumpkin on our front stoop. I also like the notion it belies, one of autumn and the first feel of winter. No matter that the days are growing shorter, there is still light enough for morning commutes, but not enough for the 5:30 AM walk with the dog. We usually walk with impunity down the middle of the street guided by street lights, with only the rare early morning commuter or late night reveler returning home to demand we share the road.

As hard as the early walk can be it remains my favorite time of day. It's a good moment for planning the day and mulling over the first ideas which pop into my mind. Today I reflected upon the forty years I have been gone from Ridgewood. I count the time from when I left for college in the fall and not from the time our house was sold the following spring. Might just be a fascination with round numbers or the actual realization of being in a new environment.  I come upon this feeling while sitting in the college library reading a book and marveling at the foliage. Yes, I was in a new residence and there was no going back to the old one. It was the same day I started formulating an idea that took me years to articulate: You can go home again, but only for as long as it takes you to remember why you left in the first place.

I make no apologies for holding a contrary view to that of Thomas Wolfe, the author of You Can't Go Home Again.  I can go home each and every time I make a blog post. When the post is done then I am gently reminded, in my own words, as to why I left. It's very straight forward in retrospect. It follows what I was taught in the Ridgewood Public Schools about how important education is to the public good and humanity as a whole.

If this sounds like a lofty ideal, then you are right. We were explicitly taught in school, at home and by the people in our community that we are better together and that is how we attain the most good for the most people. Sadly, there is less emphasis on community these days and more on the gains we ought to achieve as individuals. At least that is what I see, hear, and read about in Ridgewood.

Maybe the recent furor over bullying in Ridgewood represents a watershed, a moment we cannot turn back from and one which certainly nobody wishes a return to. That's how I am hoping it will turn out. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be. With any luck on my next visit home, either literally or figuratively, I'll have some answers and an observation for use in this blog.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Trick or Treat

As a youth I believed it was better to be on the receiving end of the Trick or Treat equation. Now that I move to the door upon hearing the doorbell ring and dispense candy, I believe it is better to give than to receive.

The giving of candy is more rewarding, even if the candy not one of the five major food groups. It makes me forget my aches and pains, and gives me pause for some reflection.

As I watch the troops of kids and their adult chaperones make their way through the neighborhood, I vividly recall doing the same, except I don't remember any adults. I could have a faulty memory, but it was Ridgewood circa 1960s/1970s, and as children we did go outside and make our own mistakes sometimes. Gathering as much candy as we could certainly qualifies as a youthful transgression. No doubt we were gladdened by the hunt and the competition to keep up the pace of acquisition. For days on end afterwards we got to decide what to eat and what to throw/give away. I know parents around town who secreted some of the candy themselves, mostly so kids wouldn't have belly aches from eating too much candy and to many chips.

Now I am left only with the aches of age and the pains of reminiscing too much about times which occurred well over forty years ago. I recall that after the eighth grade the charm of roaming on Halloween had lost its charm. Most kids stopped around this time. Probable it became just too easy and we also didn't want to be seen around little kids. Either way I am heartened by the giving and won't ruminate too much about the easy pickings of days gone by. The well worn phrase: "Trick or Treat!" still makes me smile.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Better Place

We all want the world we live in to be a better place.

It doesn't take a love of the Beatles or an incessant nostalgia for 1960's and 1970's to understand where this comes from. Even when there are days you don't understand what people are going through, you still can be compassionate.

We can also be aware that the traditional practices of social interaction which have brought us to 2017 probable will be replaced in the coming years as more people come to understand that currently our society values corporations more than people or the environment we inhabit. Ironically, corporations were created by people and later given standing so that their continued profits, no matter the social cost in pollution and ruined lives, were not to be disputed. Please remember this is not a Socialist or Capitalist position, only an observation that our world hungers for community as opposed to unbridled individualism.

Yes, a new theory of value will displace our current outmoded ones. For instance, clean air, clean water, friendship, and community are all working their way into the popular vernacular. These are examples of real wealth, not the phony MBA theories being taught in our graduate schools and the arcane metrics they espouse.

When the time comes and you feel the processes you engage in and undertake, and the results you achieve are more important than meeting an arbitrary monetary target then you will have created a better place for yourself and those around you. Imagine that.

Monday, October 16, 2017

There's More To Life Than Being Happy

The title of this post was inspired by a recent TED Talk I watched by Emily Esfahani Smith

She says Life is about belonging. To me this rings true. It's like when I first went into our local Italian butcher shop. The owner was waiting on me and plying me with samples to entice me to buy. I had ordered $80 of delicious looking food and had pulled out my credit card to pay. The owner then had to put an end to our bonhomie and tell me that he only accepted cash. I was a little flustered but the owner saved the day by telling me I could pay him next time.

Imagine that, "Next Time."

I regained my composure after he said this and told him I would be back. He insisted I take everything and to not rush on his account. This made us both very happy. He had graciously offered his delectables and I had accepted. We both tacitly had agreed that we belonged with one another and to one another, and had cemented this bond over his fresh mozzarella.

It's often the trivial things which offer to me the best explanations of what Life ultimately means.  I don't doubt for a minute that there is more to Life than being happy. I also don't think we ought to be made miserable by our surroundings if we can help it.

I have had this sort of courtesy which I just detailed extended to me by other people in my neighborhood. Each and every time I have gone with my gut and accepted their kindness. Usually it's nothing more than a trifle or a platitude, though every instance has momentarily lightened my heart and helped me to forget the aches that come with Life's late-in-life storms. It's the feeling of affiliation that's driving these interactions. We don't necessarily stop and chat just to make ourselves feel happy, but that is often the end result; the unintended consequence of acting human and finding a bit of happiness for our trouble.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Gig Economy

The "Gig Economy" originated with the first child who walked across the street after a snow storm and rang the doorbell of their neighbor to inquire whether they wanted their sidewalk shoveled. Or maybe it was raking the leaves from their lawn or cutting the grass and bagging the clippings.

According to The Atlantic magazine: "In the late 1970s, 77 percent of high-school seniors worked for pay during the school year; by the mid-2010s, only 55 percent did. The number of eighth-graders who work for pay has been cut in half." 

To hear people talk today about the Gig Economy it's if the rise of contractors in society is something new. Kids were the original contractors, negotiating for their jobs and manner of payment. The fact that this is now a term for describing adults and not children is what is novel. When it involved children there was still a safety net for the children, namely, they had a home to return to and a school they were required to attend. Now that this term has been appropriated and celebrated by corporations it is something else for us all to ponder.

When as children we worked outside the home we were not contemplating our retirements or how we would pay for our healthcare. Today as adults we all have to consider the issues around the "defined retirement" plans being replaced by 401k accounts and the variety and complexity of healthcare options. When you add the need for contractors to be constantly selling their services it can be overwhelming for the average person. No small wonder we have a huge segment of society,  according to the U.S. Census Bureau, opting out and having a doctor declare them disabled. This government bureau goes on to state that as of 2017 there were nearly 40 million Americans with a disability in 2015, representing 12.6% of the civilian non-institutionalized population.

Coincidence, maybe. This is not to disparage anybody with a disability, only to point out that given the alternatives of being an adult contractor in a brutally competitive global economy, this is a course of action that many people consider.

Landlines Versus Phubbing

40 years ago teenagers would monopolize their family's landline telephone with endless one-to-one conversations. While today with the 10th year anniversary of the Smartphone's preeminence in our culture, a new method for teenagers to communicate with one another has emerged: Phubbing.

According to reliable sources on the Internet:

phubbing. (PHone snUBBING) The constant use of smartphones and lack of human interaction. For example, "phubbers" are people in the company of others who are endlessly texting or checking e-mail.

I have seen this firsthand with my nephew and with a slew of co-workers who believe that being available to an incessant barrage of tweets and messages makes them more valuable employees. In both cases I feel there is cause for worry. This is not my nostalgia for a simpler age. It is more like the declaration of the news anchor from the 1976 American satirical film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, Network:


I can't say that I will ever reach this level of hysteria though it is disturbing and contrary to all I hold to be good and true. How we ever got to this sorry state of affairs is something I will have to give some more thought to and comment in another post. For now, simply ask yourself if you know a Phubber or are one yourself. If the thought of leaving your home without your smartphone leaves you feeling somewhat disconcerted you might be contributing to this problem.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Kenneth Humiston RIP

Mr Humiston was my Math teacher senior year at RHS. His deadpan humor made the lessons easier to understand and remember. He was also a well-known soccer and basketball referee. Here's part of the obituary. I substituted a picture of him from our Class of 1977 yearbook. It's better to remember him in his prime, especially since I hardly recognized his more recent photo. Forty years away from his classroom will do that.

Kenneth W. Humiston, 87, of Saratoga Springs and Chateaugay, New York and formerly of Oradell, New Jersey, died peacefully at home October 2, 2017.

Born in Chateaugay, New York, he was the son of the late Kathleen (Harvey) and Clarence Humiston.

He graduated from Plattsburgh State University and received his Masters Degree from Pennsylvania State University. He taught mathematics for 35 years at Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, New Jersey. During those years he officiated soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball. He was past president of the Bergen County Soccer Officials Association and past president of the Bergen County Umpires Association. He was a member of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials.

He proudly served for two years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Toul, France.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Do Americans Still Read?

Back in the halcyon days of youth my we read to our parents. This was after they decided that they had been reading to us for long enough so it had became our turn.

Reading became a habit for me after I learned to piece together words into sentences in the first grade. Not long after this I began to dutifully go outside, no matter the weather, and retrieve the NY Times from the driveway. I may have only read the Sports pages, after a cursory glance at the front page, but it was reading and sports writers like Leonard Koppett and Dan Daniel were very literate and would be called bibliophiles today. Later in my life I would read Sam Lacy, W.C. Heinz, Ring Lardner, and Dick Young.

Leonard Koppett, New York Times

Sam Lacy, Washington Post

W.C. Heinz

By the time I reached High School I would read the Wall Street Journal my father brought home each night, after he had read it on the train from NYC. Vermont Royster wrote for the WSJ Editorial page in those days. he had studied Latin and Greek. He received two Pulitzer Prizes and his Christmas and Thanksgiving editorials were reprinted every years since he wrote them. 

Funny how no female sports writers are on my list. Mostly because they weren't allowed and when they were the treatment they endured was nothing short of a travesty.

I have often wondered what kind of journalism requires one to navigate the sweaty, smelly confines of a locker room? I guess that would be the definition of a Sports Writer.

Now we live in a more visual society as opposed to the tactile one of my youth, where the ink from the newspaper remained on your hands as a reminder of your reading endeavors. Children might still read to their parents today but it's probable from a tablet or phone. I'm not sure this is an improvement. What's more, at this risk of being labeled an incurable nostalgic, I would also say the quality of the writing isn't the same either. Whoever heard of a Sports Writer today who had studied Latin and Greek? No writers come to mind with this sort of pedigree, male or female. Though I am sure I could be proven wrong in maybe one or two instances nationwide. That's saying quite a bit as New York City area has 11 major sports team, including the Liberty of the Women's National Basketball Association.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Truth Resonates

You usually know the truth when you hear it. Maybe not initially but a few hours or days later it dawns on you that what you heard, you saw, or you read was the truth. Call this striking a chord, or an idea or phenomenon which repeats itself in your mind, that is what we call the truth.

Here is a famous photo of someone telling the truth. It pained him mightily to tell us the President Kennedy had been mortally shot in Dealey Plaza in Texas. This is as apparent today as it was over 50 years ago.

Once he reported the news it checked the clock to make sure he had got it right.

 This is how it felt this mornig after hearing about the passing of a Rock n Roll Hall of Famer named Tom Petty. He was only 66 and had been with the same band for 40 years. Often times we think people will be around forever, that is, until they aren't. 

Music writer Bob Lefsetz gave the following as part of a eulogy for Tom Petty:

Once upon a time music was art.

Tom Petty made art.

Today I was in Reseda.

Tonight I drove down Mulholland.

But one thing's for sure, I'm free fallin'. Out into nothin'.

But tonight Tom Petty didn't leave this world for a while, but for all time.

And I just don't want to accept that.

But I have to.

We all have to. Plus, try to recall the sweet memories, though tinged with sadness, that these musicians left us with.

October Gardens

It's hard for me to believe but it had been 25 years since I last had a hand in a garden. Not that I had many opportunities living in the NYC area and other urban settings. Though this last spring I knew it would happen as our new place already had a working garden and could easily handle an extra set of hands or two.

Now it is October and we are picking the last of the tomatoes and peppers. The herbs and medical plants are still with us too. During the summer we had an abundance of mulberries, black and white. It's funny how so few people appreciate the taste of mulberries and there were countless yards with trees filled with berries that nobody picked. This goes hand in hand with the fact there are countless streets throughout America named Mulberry. As James Thurber once wrote, " You could look it up!"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Smart Ageing Economy

What is a Smart Ageing Economy? It's one in which we celebrate the products, services, technologies, and systems that help improve life for all of us as we age.

It would appear on the surface to be a a straightforward idea. Instead, people as they age are subject to a series of humiliating circumstances, sometimes referred to as Ageism.

"Ageism is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic. The term was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.

Yes, people grow more frail, their backs like mine might be arthritic, but the "new old" are not without positive attributes and in no way deserve to be singled out for a phenomenon which eventually happens to us all.

They are generally happier than their younger colleagues and possess more realistic expectations now that the accumulation of years has offered them wisdom to accept that which they cannot change. They now understand it's ok if everything and everybody doesn't work out as planned. They know to simply move on to the next plan or series of challenges. It's a hard task but once learned, just like the lessons served us by humility, it gives insights into life that bring joy amid the uncertainty and everyday stress of living.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dr. Raymond Bitzer RIP

I'm feeling very out of touch with the goings on in Ridgewood as I only heard yesterday about the passing of my lifelong dentist. It didn't matter where I lived, I would always made it a point to return to his office. If I had seen another dentist in the interim I would usually have to mention how the other dentist during my initial visit had wanted to remove all four of my wisdom teeth. This happened on more than one occasion and Dr. Ray's response was always the same, "Do they bother you?"  and "Make sure he is going to save the teeth next to the wisdom teeth." It was Dr. Ray's way of not criticizing someone in the profession and to gently remind that he had been watching my teeth all my life. My wisdom teeth have never bothered me and remain inside my mouth. This is just the way things work sometimes. Fortunately, I have always had a touchstone to gauge the wisdom of dental practitioners, and still do as I regularly visit his son, Bruce who has been a long time member of the practice.

Dr. Raymond L., Jr. of Ridgewood, died suddenly on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. He was 88 years old.
Born on July 17, 1926 to the late Raymond L Bitzer Sr. and Helen Bitzer, he grew up in both Haddonfield, NJ and Ocean City, NJ. 
He was a WWII Navy Veteran, and attended the University of Pennsylvania where he received both his undergraduate and dental degrees. He graduated with honors and was inducted into Omi Cron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society. He was also a member of the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Restorative Dentistry.
Upon graduation he moved to Ridgewood, NJ and set up his private practice. He has been practicing dentistry in the Village for the last 60 years, and the last 28 years with his son Bruce. He also served on the faculty of Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Dental Medicine for many years.
He was a golf enthusiast and member of both Ridgewood Country Club and Pine Valley Golf Club. He was a longtime member of West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, NJ.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jeune Blocher Bitzer. His daughter, Jane Bitzer French of Ridgewood, and grandchildren Olivia, Mark Jr, and William. His son Raymond L Bitzer III of Cincinnati, Ohio and his wife Barbara (Fran) and grandchildren Katie, Liz and Amy. His son Bruce W Bitzer and wife Laureen of Ridgewood, and grandchildren Jennifer and Bradley. And, daughter Barbara Bitzer Kruger and husband Len of Delray Beach, FL.

40th Reunion Photos

I took a hiatus and had the blog in private mode for a few weeks while I determined what to do with the hundreds of gigabytes of video in my possession from the 40th Reunion. Not to mention the hundreds of photos sent to me and posted on Facebook.

To go from a situation 5 years ago where we had essentially no video of either the band's performance, or that of the attendees, to one where there is more than one person can easily edit is actually a good place to be.

I have also personally been dealing with various illnesses and setbacks which needed my full attention. More than one family member remains in chronic pain with little on the horizon that I can do about it except get on with my own life. This realization falls upon each of us at some point in our lives and there is no one truism or course of action that is best for everyone. All I can suggest is you find solace where you can, endure what you must, and make plans for the future. You can also look at these pictures of happy people.

Jane Ratliff and Maureen Weiner

April Reedy, Rhys Dill, Eileen Turner, Laura Saltamach

Cindy Neidig and younger brother Jeff Neidig

The Mt Carmel Cohort.
From left to right: Frank O'Connor, Caren O'Neill, Roy Townsend, Rob Lane, Paul Eppley, Lynn Smotzer, Eileen Turner, Mike Mulhern, Barry Gainey, Chris Richard, John Frazza, Tom Clark, Eileen Turner

Kathy O'Connell with hands on hips. Jill Bristow seated.

Late night. McKinley#1, Bob Brierly, Jim Perez, Tim McGill, Bill Nolan, McKinley#2, and Mark Brown

The Pavillion

The Big Tent

Sunday, July 23, 2017

40th Reunion

The reunion appears in my mind now as a dream, an American Dream. The day was filled with all the late-in-life storms you would expect from a gathering of people in their late 50s. There were moments of grief, shock, and then an awesome demonstration by the band of all that is good and true about this country.
By assembling as many as 12 musicians at one time on the stage and then for each to play with such care and consideration for one another, the Alumni All-stars showed us all that yes we can work in unison. We can answer the call. We can project an image of how Americans when they decide to put aside their differences can perform together as one and accomplish substantial feats of courage, civic-mindedness, and lofty idealism.
Most importantly, the band answered the question of why we hold reunions. We have reunions in order to remind one another that no matter what happens we are all in this life together. Therefore, it behooves us to accept this responsibility and act upon it with the greatest kindness and understanding that we can imagine and then dream about how well we answered this call and set an example for future generations to come.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

You Can't Take It With You

Last words attributed to Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer:

I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me.
I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.
This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead.
Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.
What is the world's most expensive bed? The hospital bed.
You, if you have money, you can hire someone to drive your car, but you cannot hire someone to take your illness that is killing you.
Material things lost can be found. But one thing you can never find when you lose: life.
Whatever stage of life where we are right now, at the end we will have to face the day when the curtain falls.
Please treasure your family love, love for your spouse, love for your friends...
Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbours.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Pitching In

As Seth Godin will tell you, "Pitching in requires a different kind of focus, and the generosity and humility to actually get something done."

It's also called volunteering, civic duty, donating your time.

We have a tremendous group of people pitching in to make our RHS Class of 1977 40th Reunion a reality this coming 22 July at the Oakland, NJ Elks Club. We choose to have a BBQ and concert, Rain or Shine. It seemed like a nice change from the usual hotel environment, and any money left over we'll donate it to The Elks Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs. This is how the Elks describe their work:

Tucked away in the hill of the Ramapo Mountains, Elks Camp Moore offers a fun filled vacation away from home for children with special needs. A week at Elks Camp Moore is a remarkable experience not soon to be forgotten. The primary goal of the camp is to further develop the recreational and social skills of each child. In a relaxed and accepting atmosphere, each camper experiences new adventures, lasting friendships, and opportunities that promote independence and greater self-confidence.

This is not an easy task and the patience it requires is more than many people can muster. Though not the Elks! Tip of the Cap for focusing on what needs to be done and showing us all we can't simply rest on your laurels if we are serious about addressing the needs of our communities.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Album Covers

49 days and counting until our 40th Reunion.

I've been having fun posting the album covers from our youth. Remember when a look through someone's albums could give you insight into the type of person you were with? Albums were precious because they were relatively expensive so care had to be taken before a purchase. The album itself was studiously gone over inside and out. Bands took pride and some fiendish delight in designing their album covers so fans would have fodder to argue about. The music was played until you knew it well and was a barometer for the feelings in the room at the time, whether you were along or entertaining friends. It was a communal experience and nothing like current times where everyone walks around with headphones and nobody knows what each other is listening to. Admittedly, the Top 40 format of our youth left much to be desired, with its incessant playing of the hits over and over. Though at least we could decide together if a hit song had a nice melody or a harmony you felt compelled to sing along to, if only in the privacy of your car or shower.

I do miss those times when everyone knew what was the hit of the moment. Too much dreck today and too many choices. At least for a moment at our reunion I know I will be with people who shared my musical upbringing. One more good reason for attending. Buy your tickets early!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Inventing The Future

Whether we realize it or not, we all are given a multitude of choices and decisions to make. Most important among them is that we are given the opportunity to invent our future everyday. Hope you see a 40th Class Reunion in your future. Hope you are able to capture just for a moment the way you felt when you first saw this picture all those years ago. It might inspire you even as the thought of seeing old high school friends can frighten. What's it matter how hard those days seemed at the time? Reunions are over in a flash. This coming one will be no different. Make sure you give yourself an opportunity to create some new memories.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

51 Days Till the RHS Class of 1977 40th Reunion

The countdown continues to our 40th Reunion. We are at 51 days till the big day. We'll have a photo booth where you can add props and have your picture taken with old friends. If anyone can take a picture as cool as Joni Mitchell smoking a cigarette you will be awarded the highest accolade we can find. Please order your tickets early and tell your friends, especially those whose social media habits might not be advanced enough to find us on their own. Thanks!

Friday, May 19, 2017

RHS 125th Anniversary

Ridgewood High School is celebrating in a big way tonight its 125th anniversary. They have a huge tent and expect around 400 people to attend. Let the good times roll!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Remembering Kent State 1970

"On May 4, 1970, Guardsmen attempted to disperse an anti-war demonstrations. They used tear gas, which some protesters threw back at the soldiers. Eventually, the National Guard opened fire. There were 67 shots in 13 seconds, killing four and wounding nine others.
The shooting happened after days of protests on campus about the U.S. expanding the Vietnam War into Cambodia. The city of Kent was declared a state of emergency and the governor sent the Ohio National Guard to the campus."

In the autumn of 1969 my Fifth grade class at Willard had a teaching intern who was attending Kent State. She was long gone from our classroom by the time of the shootings at her alma mater. We had half expected her to return to see us after she was planning to graduate that spring of 1970.
I can see now how that would have been impossible for her to do. I can only imagine how her life would have been changed and that events like her teaching internship might have seemed like from another lifetime.  
It takes a tremendous amount of optimism to be a teacher. Though sometimes it can take as little as 13 seconds of listening to the sound of gunshots to turn an optimist into a cynic and pessimist. I have always wondered how student teacher eventually turned out and if she eventually became a teacher. I have always hoped she allowed herself to believe that goodness pervades reality. Despite my wish, it wouldn't surprise me if the unintended consequences of her decision to attend Kent State and become a teacher had caused her to rethink every aspect of her life. 

Sunday, May 07, 2017

This Is Life

Back in the halcyon days of my youth my brothers and I were required to read to our parents. This was after our parents had decided that they had been reading to us for long enough and it had become our turn.

Reading had became a habit for me after I learned to piece together words into sentences in the first grade. Not long after this I began to dutifully go outside no matter the weather and pickup the NY Times from the driveway. I may have only read the Sports pages, after a quick scan of the front page, but it was reading. Later on in high school I would begin reading the Wall Street Journal which my father brought home each night after reading it for himself on the train to and from Hoboken.

Now we live in a visual society as opposed to the tactile one of my youth, where the ink from the newspaper remained on your hands as a reminder. Children might still read to their parents but it's probably from a tablet or phone, not a book. What does this seemingly small decision as to the choice of reading medium going to mean for the rest of their lives? Mercifully, I don't know for sure. It's different from my experience but not all together a bad experience. I'm willing to accept both but I still love the feel of a newspaper, with the added bonus that the ink no longer comes off on your hands and fingers. I also appreciate the different weight each individual book will has. When I pick up a heavier tome like my old Norton Anthology of English Literature the added mass causes me to pause and prepare myself to read. Given all the choices of authors and subjects which exist it's a good thing to reflect before engaging. The electronic media makes it much easier to skip around among topics and authors, without having to leave one's seat. I think the act of searching for a book, picking it up, and finding a place to begin or continue is lost upon today's generation. The search fills me with anticipation and even excitement. Flipping through the titles of electronic books gives me none of this. The books on my bookshelf tell the story of where I have been--"they're the story of my mind'' as the British Novelist Penelope Lively would say. The books I have kept reveal my life in countless ways a glance at my collection of electronic titles would never begin to indicate.

Saturday, May 06, 2017


The time in elementary school we used to have in which no college-bound goals were being pursued was named "Recess." That is how I describe those 25-30 slots of time. In junior and senior high school these times were referred to as physical education and we changed our clothes in locker rooms to engage in these activities.

In elementary school there were no locker rooms and the gyms were tiny. We were smaller then so I guess there wasn't the need for large open spaces.

I think anytime we were given a break from the grind of advancing to the next year in our schooling was good. We could have simply been sitting on our desks throwing a cotton ball around in complete silence and that to me was a fine way to break up the routine of our day. I actually think it was called "Silent Ball" because you weren't allowed to speak and if you dropped the ball you had to get off your desktop and sit in your chair. The game proceeded until two were left.  The final participants could be on opposite sides of the classroom. To watch these final moments of the game couldn't help but raise your heartbeat because you had to watch the action and control your voice. Hand signals were all that were allowed and the game was largely self-regulated in order to give our harried and over worked teachers some time to gather their thoughts and catch up on their paperwork.

Almost 50 years have passed since my last game of Silent Ball, and I don't know if the Ridgewood Public Schools still call this form of activity "Recess." I do know that I read about today's elementary school children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at an alarmingly high rate and can't say what the equivalent to this was in my day. Maybe it didn't exist, but who knows for sure?

I do understand that people today across all age groups tend to believe that our well-being can be measured by what we own. Though I would side with those people who think this is not a long-term route to happiness.

I would also suggest that our development into mature adults requires imagining life without material possessions and believing that we can actually be happy in a set of circumstances where opulence is not the end goal. In our Silent Ball moments we experienced the mild deprivations of not being able to speak or leave our seats on the top of our desks. We learned indirectly in these blocks of time called recess the time honored practice of being grateful for freedom of speech and movement. These freedoms we hopefully later discovered in our development into adults were our real needs.

I guess I am saying that for people to be truly happy they have to distinguish their wants for material things from what they truly need. In Silent Ball their were moments when we we desired to shout out to those around us that someone had left their seat in an attempt to catch the ball being thrown around the room in silence. We knew this violated the rules of the game, but we also knew the rules said we couldn't speak. This sort of thought provoking task I'm not sure our teachers had in mind as their goal for our recess time. It's nice to believe their were molding young minds, when in actuality they were trying to catch their breaths from the pace of tutoring young minds five days a week. I don't blame them at all. Sometimes the best things we can teach are by those examples we set when we are just being ourselves.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Jeff Neidig to Appear With The Band at our 40th Reunion on 22 July

This handsome young man with the lighting fast hands on the guitar has graciously agreed to sit in with the band on July 22nd. You will remember him as the younger brother of Cindy Neidig Myer, but after this show you will remember him for his musicianship and ability to play with our very own talented ensemble of musical showmen and women. It ought to be quite the show so get your tickets while they are hot!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Tradition of Excellence


How do we create a community, endow it with resources, and have it possess a generosity of spirit worthy of our the RHS Tradition of Excellence?

I do not speak for the Ridgewood High School Alumni Association (RHSAA). I created the forum on FaceBook long before all the founders of the RHSAA did the hard work of creating it in a legal manner. Kudos to people, like Michael Winograd, who setup the bylaws of the 501(c)(3), and his wife Siobhan, who is the current Secretary of the Board of Officers.

My suggested goal for the RHSAA is to anticipate and acknowledge the lofty and noble efforts which RHS graduates are truly capable of leading, engaging in, and promoting.

My hope is that the leadership of the RHSAA will acknowledge on all forms of Social Media, and in a coordinated effort, that we are all very fortunate to have graduated from RHS. That we owe it to ourselves to support programs which promote citizenship, decency, and respect.

These sort of activities by the RHSAA leaders are promoted today in the Distinguished Alumni Program and the Alumni Arts Show, to give just two examples. I believe if alumni from all corners of America and abroad were more involved in this sort of activity it would one day be considered as a normal course of lifestyle for all alumni.

What’s more, I believe there is a raw energy and power which the RHSAA possesses and can use to set a moral tone for the RHS Community and everyone we have relationships with. We would praise humility and moral rigor, in the best sense of the Western tradition dating back to the ancient Greeks like Plato and forward to Scottish Idealists of the 19th century. This is not say we would be exclusive, we would include all civilizations and simply be advocates of character. We would aggressively use all facets of Social Media to courageously offer an honest view of the world to our alumni.

Be glad to hear your thoughts in this forum or via IM.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Save The Date: RHS 125th Anniversary

Save the date: 19 May 2017 between 7PM and 11PM at Veteran's Field.
Party is sponsored by the RHS Alumni Association

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Modern Life's Small Joys

Modern life and it's "aggressive haste" as the German philosopher and Nobel laureate Herman Hesse once wrote, often robs us of life's subtle niceties and opportunities for leisure. There is more and more entertainment in our world but much less enjoyment as we are spurred on by our never ending to-do lists and quest to accomplish everything faster. Can we all ponder this point, for a moment a two,  and consider the notion that "more can be less" and the fact it might get us off the treadmill of Life? Instead, let's focus more on our everyday contact with nature and the people in our lives. You will have a chance to accomplish this soon, as on July 22nd  we plan to reunite, renew old friendships, and talk about the Farrah haircut pictured below.

You will also be given an opportunity to sit near a little stream in Oakland, NJ and just listen. This might be to the stream itself, the words of old friends stirring up memories of days long gone, or to the power of music created by our All-Star band.

What our 40th Reunion will provide is small joys. To again quote Hesse:

"Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys, and thriftily save up the larger, more demanding pleasures for holidays and appropriate hours. It is the small joys first of all that are granted us for recreation, for daily relief and disburdenment, not the great ones."

The day won't be all devoted to philosophic introspection. There will be numerous opportunities for belly laughs. The photo booth, with innumerable comic props, we are renting will give us all a chance to capture scenes digitally that we can laugh about for years to come.  

Other surprises will be announced soon!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Francis Xavier Nolan

He kept our town safe from fires for countless years. A current Fire Captain, Chris DuFlocq, offers a glowing tribute to the man who recommended him for his job:

"Besides being a wonderful husband to Helen and a terrific father to his family, 30 yrs ago this man (The Chief) made a life dream come true for me, and recommended me for a job at the Ridgewood Fire Department, RFD. I'm so grateful. Everyday I come to work appreciative for what he did for me."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Last Road Trip

A road trip can be planned or made by a spur of the moment decision. The longing the trip you aspire to make the more  planning is involved. A road trip is often depicted as a bunch f kids in a VW Microbus heading out for a destination where their mere appearance will stand them in stark contrast to the native inhabitants.

In your own mind, what would your last road trip look like and entail? Would it resemble a George Saunders remark about moves him in a work of literature: "depictions of goodness which are not fraudulent or sentimental" or would you rather aim for the perspective which only history provides?

In other words, do you want to make a road trip like no other that you have ever been on, or would you prefer to revisit the locales your former self explored in depth? If you aspire to the later then may I suggest you interest as many of you friends from high school and go to our 40th Reunion this July 22nd. You don't need a Microbus, though that would be quite an entrance to make, and you need have no fear that any of the terrible remembrances of growing up will repeat themselves. All you need to remember that this could be your last road trip and that it would be foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity to exorcise old demons and see how well everyone who attends is aging.

Trust me you are more resilient than you might imagine and nothing will be as chaotic as growing up is for everyone. You will find solace in the music of the RHS Alumni All-star band, the BBQ, and the picnic atmosphere which we will be creating. You might even find yourself brave enough to enter the picture booth we have hired and snap a picture with an old pal.

The day is guaranteed to make you stop and think, plus we have some surprises in store which people will be commenting about for months and hopefully remember for years. Go ahead and make it part of your plans. You never know if it might be your last road trip, or whether it might suggest to you that the next one needs to be entirely of your own choosing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Music and My Life Are Intertwined.

I don't know what to do about it, except promote the upcoming RHS Class of 1977 40th Reunion on 22 July 2017 at the Elks Club in Oakland between 3PM and 9PM.

So I'm telling you.

Tickets may be purchased at

Did You Ever Say Goodbye Knowing It Was Forever?

Did You Ever Say Goodbye Knowing It Was Forever?

If you haven't to this point then you surely will in the near future. It's just how life goes. Those who can forget ancient slights and solely remember the good times spent with a person, or a group like our RHS Class of 1977, are by my estimation much happier during whatever time they have remaining on this mortal coil.

What is the sense of carrier the burden of life's daily troubles? There are plenty more where those came from and the abandonment of petty differences is the correct course of action on many levels. Not that it is easy or without risks. Though as we age the benefits and unintended repercussions of trying to live such an idyllic life far out weigh any minor aggravations which might ensue.

Come to the 40th Reunion. It will not disappoint!

Monday, January 16, 2017

40 Years Ago: Hohokus Graduates of Last Students from RHS

Forty years ago a decision was made to prevent Hohokus students from attending schools in Ridgewood. I'm sure there was a way around it but for the most part the RHS Class of 1977 had the last contingent from Hohokus.

These kids lived in neighborhoods immediately adjacent to Travell and BF Junior High School, and for all intents were from the same background. Their fathers did the commute together to Hoboken on the train or rode one of the commuter buses to New York City. Their mothers mostly stayed at home, did the volunteer work all distinguished communities demand, and shopped in the same local stores.

What the decision makers didn't realize was how strongly the bonds of friendship and community were in Hohokus. To this day the graduates from Hohokus Public Schools identify with their town and one another in a way only they can truly understand. I imagine it's the same way people feel who have grown up in a small town together. Though I wouldn't know for sure, having grown up in the much larger Village of Ridgewood. I regarded the kids from Hohokus, once I finally met them at RHS, as though they were from just another elementary school. They fit in perfectly and had the same hopes and dreams as I did. When we all graduated together nobody thought they were anything but RHS graduates.

Times have changed since those halcyon days. I can't say what they consensus is now regarding Hohokus Public School graduates or even where they now ride the bus for their education. I do recall how one teacher, the taciturn Mr. Sweeney, summed them up. Mr. Sweeney used to teach driving as well as Physical Education, and one day we were in the Driver's Education car doing our rounds when the subject of Hohokus came up. He lamented the fact Hohokus would no longer be sending their children to Ridgewood. He simply said, "They are good kids." He didn't want to say much more than that because we were young and impressionable, and teachers regarded themselves as role models, who knew when to keep quiet regarding such delicate issues. But you could hear it in his voice that this was a terrible loss for future generations of RHS graduates.

Looking back on it now I think I know what Mr. Sweeney was intimating. It was the exposure to the intense, small town orientation which the Ridgewood students would miss, without even knowing it. There are countless differences between then and now, but that one attitude remains the same through the years, and has been a gap in the education of a Ridgewood Public School student ever since that fateful decision was made forty years ago. No amount of well equipped computer labs or athletic fields made of artificial turf can ever replace how the people of Hohokus regard themselves and view the world around them. It's priceless to see glimpses of it at our class reunions. They give each other knowing glances and always insist on having pictures taken of themselves separately, just like every other elementary school. I regard their affection for one another as very sweet and a small consolation for the vast number of changes which are imposed upon us all by the very fact of living. I hope they never stop feeling this way.

RHS Athletic Hall of Famer Chris DuFlocq

Yes, Duf still plays soccer. KGV Champs 2016 (16-3-1). These cagey veterans still have the desire and stamina to play a game most people gave up decades ago. The big smiles and spirit of friendship and community must make up for the sore muscles.

Martin Luther King Day

This day commemorates the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sometimes it's hard to imagine the self sacrifice he embodied as we have so few examples of this type of life today. Good that we have a day off to reflect upon his quest for jobs and freedom. One can hope that this same spirit and dedication which appears dormant today will commence to stir in people's veins.

In the mind of a child in the 1960s it was hard to comprehend why the request for justice would go unheard. Yes, I was not at the receiving end of discrimination and segregation. I had to listen and watch for myself what was happening in our country. Even that was not enough and still left me wondering why.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

The text of his speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. 

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 

I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!