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!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why a 40th Reunion? Part Two

Started off wanting to hype the idea of our 40th RHS Class Reunion but got side tracked. Luckily for me this led me to reading and thinking about the craft of writing itself. Here is what I've learned today. Some writing is original, some is inspired by others, and there is the kind you simply quote. This resembles life itself: you have some original ideas. some ideas you remembered spoken or written by others, and an idea or two you recall in its original form.

Sometimes when writing an author purloins an idea from someone else and reworks it in his or her own style. Sometimes they just take the idea and give no credit. It's more satisfying and honest to do it the first way because with age, wisdom and a new perspective you can show your insight into what someone else has written or said. You can understand them in ways you were previously unable to.

When you put your own thoughts down on paper, inspired by the work of someone else, you are at least silently acknowledging them for taking the time to transcribe what was on their mind. It would be great if your thanks could be transmitted to them but in many cases this is impossible. They are either from another era or too far away, and might not want to be bothered in any case. Writing like most art forms is done for its own sake, when it is done well. It reflects upon itself and offers up nuggets of advice and observations. The author simply has to get it down on paper before they forget or think too much about it and realize it's not the greatest thing ever written. No matter. Better that the words on placed out there for others to decide. Here is the quotable observation:

All we have is each other

And that's enough. It has to be.
It's all we've ever had.
The challenge is in realizing this and working with it, even when we're secretly hoping for something more, some external force.
You and me, kid, you and me and a few billion other folks.
We can treat each other as if it matters, because it does.  --Seth Godin.

Hang in there for news about the reunion. It won't be long now.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Never Waste a Good Exit

Saying your goodbyes whether they are the last day of a job, at the end of a party, or to someone you know who is dying, are never easy to make.

Saying goodbye is toughest when you don’t know if you are ever going to meet again, if you are ever going to say hello again.

Have you ever told someone you admired them and then never seen or heard from them again? I have done this out of a sense of gratitude for an example someone has set, for something I have seen them do when they thought nobody was looking, and just because I knew it would brighten their day. I expected nothing in return and reaped the rewards of feeling you are living an authentic and honest life.

True friends don’t say good-bye, they just take extended leaves of absences from each other. Another way of looking at our forthcoming 40th Reunion. If you attend you will be able to say you were there.

Moving on is much simpler than all that you leave behind in terms of friendships. Come to the next reunion ready to make your exit, while at the same time anticipating all the coming entrances you could make in the future.

Hello, 2017!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Laughing At The Past

It takes a strong disposition to laugh at the human condition. We witness good and bad everyday of our lives. We experience good and bad everyday. There is no avoiding it.

It takes all of our energy and attention to keep our attitude, our mood, from bottoming out. This is important because we want to be around when things gets better.

When we were in high school that was the sum total of our lives. Then we grew older, hopefully wiser, and came to our own conclusions.

One day we might even realize how close the meaning of Life resembles the time we spent in high school. Yes, that time when all of our attention was focused on what was immediately around us, who was around us, and what they said and did.

It dawned on me today that at all times and everywhere no one forgets where you came from and no one forgets who you are.

Might as well concede that we are all in it together.

My suggestion is to find a time to visit with those people who knew you when you were young. Do it before you grow much older. Take the time to laugh at what you did together, how you
felt, and what you experienced since those days.

Find some time to laugh with your old allies from high school. We are working hard as I write to produce an event where you will be able to laugh at what occurred in the past. There will be familiar music, good food, and a pleasant outdoor setting in the middle of July.

Save the date: 22 July 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

How-To Maintain Hope In Our Lives

The Sufi mystic Rumi writes about how we can all maintain hope in our lives : "Look as long as you can at the friend that you love.”

These are strong words and do not come gift wrapped. Hope never is easy to maintain but it wouldn't possess such restorative powers if it did.

So whether you plan on returning for a RHS Class Reunion or simply return to your old yearbook, stare hard at those old friends. Some you will never see again, some you will intend to see but won't, and some you can make a point of seeing again and again this coming July 22nd 2017.

Together we are better than when we are alone or isolated. We can cultivate our sense of hopefulness in ourselves and each other by understanding we are all in this life together. Life's journey is made slightly more easy when we make the trip with others we know and mutually support.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

When Life Was Different.

Before we had all of our class reunions we first had to live some life. I won't say it was better, but it was harder, and difficulty yields character.

When it snowed we reveled in the drifts wearing multiple layers of clothing and sledded where ever we could find a hill. We shoveled the sidewalks of our neighbors for money, and our own home as a duty. I like to tell the story of how my Dad would have us shovel our sidewalk before he went to work in the morning. He took the train and usually walked down Glenwood Road to the Hohokus train station. If we pointed out that nobody else had shoveled their walks yet, we would be met with a glare which said, "Just do it!" 

When it snowed a great deal we listened on the radio for school closings. The radio stations would read them over and over, and we would listen until the good news of a day off was certain. A snow changed the tenor of an entire day. Books and homework were placed to the side and we would venture outside to see who else in the neighborhood was out playing around. Sometimes there were huge snowball fights that might last for hours and included building forts and stockpiling snowballs. It all would last for as long as it took us to get too cold or hungry to continue.

Now that we are older and far removed from the simple pleasures of a snow day, it makes me want to hold onto these memories even more. I can't have that same feeling again but I do find it reassuring to think about them. I can treasure the memories and be glad in being able to recall them. It's even better when I can do it in the company of friends who were there with me at the time.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Robots and Reunions

Robots will never replace High School Reunion organizers. Never!

Robots will replace many repetitive jobs in this country and around the world. Fortunately, the job of a reunion organizer is not a job slated for automation any time soon.

This post is not intended to make light of the huge number of jobs now being accomplished by robots or the millions of jobs robots which they could potentially do in the future. That is a serious issue which must be addressed by our society, but not in this post.

Our RHS Class of 1977 possesses a good number of people who at one time or another have been bitten by the bug to organize or be a part of a reunion committee. Next year's 40th reunion team leans heavily on all the efforts of previous reunions. If you are lucky that is how it falls and your reunions only grow better with time. The intangibles are what can be passed down through the years, another name for mistakes and successes. Robots can't pass on what they have learned as well as humans and in my lifetime probably never will.

Hope you are planning on making it to our BBQ next summer. Details will follow in the new year. Just mark down Saturday, July 22nd 2017 as the day we next gather as a class and marvel at how we have changed through the years. By a 40th reunion nobody truly kids anybody as to whether they look the same as they did in high school. Though we all can reflect upon what is different now, who we miss, and with any luck what our 45th reunion will be like.

Our 40th reunion will have feature (Rain of Shine) the original members of the band who played so well at our 35th reunion. We will also have a few surprises which we'll become public the sooner we get to the big day. You will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cost of Living in 1970

It would take me a while to try and remember each and every price quoted here. Though they are fun to ponder. I couldn't tell you what a postage stamp costs today because I rarely use them and they don't have the price on them, only the word, "Forever."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Henry David Thoreau

The first time you hear Thoreau quoted is usually when you are young and impressionable. This is not surprising since he lived just shy of 45 years and wrote many of his best works while young and impressionable himself.

I read and re-read Thoreau beginning at about the age of 25. He was in his late thirties when he completed writing his seminal work, Walden. In it he tells the story of his time living in solitude on a piece of land owned by his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts. Perusing his epic now I can hear in his words the wonder and impatience of youth. His questioning of societal attitudes and what it means to be alive provides me with guideposts even to this day. Gandhi and Martin Luther King credit Thoreau for helping them formulate their ideas on non-violent activism.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Yes, step to the beat which you hear. Life is too short to act in any other manner.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

RHS Class of 1977 Network Effect

I am writing today about the lofty notion of consciously tapping the potential in our class. The aim is to make a lasting set of changes in our world. By this I mean a non-partisan effort which seeks to inspire and motivate positive actions and good deeds in each of our local communities. The end result would be a daily series of small efforts whose goal is to improve and build up, rather than criticize and nitpick.

Sounds incredibly simple and naive, right? Well, it actually is when you pause to give it some reflection. Though doesn't this sound familiar and like the kind of talk which used to be commonplace when we were growing up?

So put on your rose colored glasses for just a moment and let me propose we focus on reaching out to each other, be it in person, over the phone, or via the multitude of avenues which the Internet offers each of us. Use our 40th Class Reunion this coming summer as the reason for your actions.

The 40th reunion gives us all the perfect opportunity to compare notes, formulate ideas, and see what we could be doing together in the future. More reunions, of course. Though maybe we will come up with a solution or two to the problems we are seeing in our communities and the world today. There are no boundaries being set on your idealism.
Whether you want to call attention to your efforts or decide to keep the spotlight off you, the heart of the matter is being aware and understanding the essence of this philosophic idea.  

The best way to create the RHS Class of 1977 Network Effect is by being someone who encourages people to connect to each other and to help each other.

Go for it. Dare to be good.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

New Web Site for our 40th Reunion!

Please check out:

The ticket price and location will be announced in January.

We are getting the band back together.

This ought to be good! Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ridgewood, NJ "In Memory Of"

I started a new blog today with all the best intentions of any new project. It has plenty of mistakes, and those I accept and will correct. The information comes from the forum I created on Facebook dedicated to the memories of classmates, teachers, administrators, and RHS employees.

The responses to the Facebook forum were very moving and I thought the idea ought to be transferred to the part of the Internet not behind the gates of Social Media. In other words, a simple search will find the site for you, without having to be part of Facebook.

My favorite response to the In Memory Of site came from Jack Zerbe:

"I think our lost friends represent lives fulfilled. Even though some of these wonderful people left without a proper farewell, that they live on in our hearts and minds shows that they made a difference in many peoples lives. Our comments now are a delayed tribute."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

40 Thanksgivings Ago

40 years ago on Thanksgiving I was a Senior at Ridgewood High School. I attended what was then the traditional Thanksgiving Day Football game against the team from Fairlawn, NJ. Funny how things change. I haven't watched tackle football in years and feel sorry in a way for those who still find meaning in this brutalizing amusement. Bread and Circuses is what the Romans used to call these type of festivities.

40 years ago a band call The Band gave their farewell performance in San Francisco. They had been a hard touring group and they decided, as so few do, to leave on their own terms. They filmed it and invited all their friends in the industry. It turned out to be quite a film with a young Martin Scorsese providing the direction.

40 years ago we also had a new President getting ready to take office. This one was named Jimmy Carter. Fine man, less than memorable President. He is still active building homes for people who can't afford to do it themselves, even after he was diagnosed with cancer.

40 years ago a company I had never heard of, named Apple Computer, was formed. Now I am thoroughly enmeshed in the Apple ecosystem of computers and phones. We talked more when we didn't have these devices. We still communicate but we don't peer into each others eyes quite as much.

40 years ago I lived in a suburb of New York City. Today that same village still has fine public schools, but the barriers to entry and living in the village are now extremely high. I would imagine very few teachers in the school system can afford to live in the village, same for Postal Workers, and most other "good" middle class jobs. The town used to retain a middle class feel with only a few wealthier families, who didn't make as big a deal of their possessions, in order that they might fit in with everyone else. Today, they seem to want to flaunt their purchases in the vain attempt to distinguish their lifestyles and distance themselves from their neighbors. They also seem to spend time trying to convince themselves they earned everything their own by their own hard work. Truth be told they mostly inherited their money or had a relative show them how to game the real estate market and tax laws. No matter how much they drink they can never forget this, or the other truth that possessions don't make the person, only one's character can do perform that feat.

40 years ago I was working on College applications. My parents had saved the grand sum of $40,000 for each of their three sons so we could attend college and not have to take out loans. Today that same amount of money buys you much less. Most kids leave school with a ruinous amount of debt and one question, "Why did I let my parents and peers convince me that higher education was a good idea?"

40 years ago the movie, "Miracle on 34th Street" and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ushered in the holiday season. Now we watch what we want when we want. The old television watching habits are now called "Linear TV" and "Appointment TV." These are truly things of the past, but still seem quaint and reassuring if you are feeling nostalgic.

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you do what we did 40 years ago and eat some turkey with your family.