Archive for the 'New Jersey' Category

What I Learned at My Family Reunion

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Last summer I went to a family reunion in New Jersey. It was a gathering of relatives on my father’s mother’s side. My background is Russian, Polish, White Russian, and Austrian. This particular part of my family was in the baking business in Poland. Read a bit of the history that a cousin of my compiled. I never knew anything about it before. Now I do. It’s pretty cool:

The Herschlag family of bakers in Dembitz, Poland, dates back to that area to the mid-1800s.  The family name, Herschlag, is common in the Alsace (also known as the Alsace-Lorraine), the strip of land between France and Germany.

The bakery that our immediate relatives left behind in Dembitz continued to be run by other family members.  In doing Internet research I came across a story about Dembitz that took place in 1941 during the Nazi occupation.  The story told of the Jews being forced to move into one section of the town, a kind of forced ghetto.  Later they were ordered to line up on a certain street, between two points identified by house locations.  One of the houses was that of “Abraham Herschlag, the baker.”

The first Herschlag-owned bakery in the U.S. that I know about was in Long Branch, New Jersey.

The second bakery was located on Rockaway Road in South Jamaica (New York), around the corner from Uncle Bennie’s house on Shore Road.

The name of the bakery was the Meyer and Herschlag Wholesome Sunlight Bakery. Meyer was a cousin we called Uncle Cohen. He put up some money for the bakery.  The name “Wholesome Sunlight” probably was the name of the bakery when they bought it.

Please Don’t Pick on New Jersey

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Jersey_ShoreOK, I think I’ve held my tongue long enough. I’m from New Jersey. I’ve heard my fill of jokes about my state — the accent, the big hair. And now there’s Jersey Shore.

I don’t watch Jersey Shore, but I’ve heard it wallows in the dark underbelly of the Garden State. Just as my home state was starting to get some respect, a new reality series comes around to screw it up. My guess is that the show focuses on a bunch of declasse working-class kids, because they’re an easy target. Like Jerry Springer East.

For other folks who don’t watch the show, I found these popular one-liners to give you a sense of life in Seaside Heights:

“I don’t eat frickin’ lobster, or anything like that, cause they’re alive when you kill it.”

“I am like a praying mantis … After I have sex with a guy, I will rip their heads off.”

“He’d bang a Gatorade bottle if it had a pulse, at this point.”

Do you watch the show? Whaddya think?

Yes, You Can Be Gay and a New England Yankee

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Born and bred in New Jersey, I somehow developed a fascination with New England. So I came to college in Boston and subscribed to Yankee magazine. Yankee, which is marking its 75th year in 2010, is the official magazine of New England, and I was a subscriber for decades. That is, until a few years ago when the publication re-conceived itself as a blah house magazine, hoping to lure more readers. I promptly stopped my subscription. More recently, the magazine has returned to its roots with the contents I’ve always loved — stories about New England. But that’s not to say Yankee hasn’t entered the 21st century. This month’s issue features recipes from the LimeRock Inn in Rockland, Maine, owned by gay couple P.J. Walter and Frank Isganitis.

Find Out Who’s Turning 50, 60 in August 2009

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Among the celebrities and other public figures turning 50 in August 2009 are:

Jonathan Franzen, author, The Corrections
Apollonia, singer
Magic Johnson, basketball star
Rosanna Arquette, actor
Marcia Gay Harden, actor
Jeanette Winterson, novelist
Rebecca De Mornay, actor
Danny Bonaduce, actor, The Partridge Family

And turning 60 are:
Richard Gere, actor
Gene Simmons, musician
Rick Springfield, musician
Shelley Long, actor
Martin Amis
, novelist
Keith Carradine, actor

5 Random Things About Me

Monday, July 27th, 2009

1. Call me crazy, but I don’t plan to read any vampire fiction.

2. I come up with Get Rich Quick ideas all the time but almost never execute them.

3. One day I would like to live in Colorado, Paris or Los Angeles.

4. I often judge a Chinese restaurant by its hot & sour soup.

5. I am on Twitter. The biggest thrill thus far was when writer Susan Orlean direct-messaged me. (Orlean wrote The Orchid Thief, on which the film Adaptation was based).

Friday Links Variety Show (July 24, 2009)

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Gay and gray (with cool photos)

Do-it-yourself funerals are catching on

How to enjoy your boomerang kids

How to plan an amazing road trip

5 Random Observations

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

My random observations are:

I got a $40 ticket last night for having an old (by 15 days) registration sticker on my car. Forty bucks! That makes me soooo mad.

I get Twitter now. It took me a while, but now I get it.

I’m going to Cape Cod this weekend to see my good friend Rob. I am taking the Canine Prince along. We should have a blast. Lobster, ocean, lots of conversation.

I’m reading Facebook for Dummies. The problem is, even though the copyright is 2008, it’s already outdated. I am looking online to see if they offer updates on the book.

I don’t like to buy clothing online but I bought some stuff recently from L.L. Bean and it actually fit! This is the shirt I bought.

The Best Thing I Ever Learned from My Dad

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Our parents leave us all with legacies. Some parents’ legacies are life-affirming and positive, others not at all. I want to tell you about the best thing I ever learned from my dad.

My parents died a very long time ago — my dad when I was 16, my mom when I was 27. Today I’m 51. But I’ve been thinking some about my childhood and my father, now that Father’s Day 2009 is almost here. Let me set the scene: I grew up in the small town of South River, New Jersey, where my dad owned two businesses on Main Street, a news market and a liquor store. He inherited these stores from his dad and operated them with his identical twin brother. (I once heard that customers who’d shopped there for years never realized there were two different guys behind the counter.)

My little sister and I used to spend some Saturdays at the news store. Although we were behind the counter and helped to do stuff like make sure cartons of cigarettes were always kept in stock, we were mostly having fun, not truly working.

My dad’s store was an old-fashioned place. It was long and narrow and dusty. The wall on the left was covered, floor to ceiling, with neat rows of newspapers, magazines and comic books. The right side featured cigarettes and cigars, every candy bar and confection imaginable, and a freezer for ice cream. A big, boxy Coke machine required you to lift up a lid and reach into icy water to retrieve a bottle of soda. Vintage advertisements featuring old Hollywood stars papered the walls. A tangle of burnt-out neon signs was stacked in the bathroom. A telephone booth at the very back of the store had an accordioned door and a little wooden seat. This was the 1960s, long before any of this antique stuff was considered valuable.

For a kid, the area behind the front counter — basically a dim, narrow alley that ran almost the entire length of the store — was a place of exotic treasures. I couldn’t believe the stuff we’d unearthed there. I found a leather catcher’s mitt, so old that it was made in a style that no one used anymore. We found boxes of sparklers and other fireworks. Some were duds but many still had sizzle. My dad’s store sent out film to be developed (remember that?) and we discovered a multitude of envelopes containing printed pictures that customers either forgot to pick up or didn’t care enough to. It was fun rummaging through the images of parties we’d never been invited to, backyards we didn’t recognize, people who were complete strangers to us, except that now we were holding their intimate family photos.

And now we’re getting to the part of the story where I tell you about the best thing I ever learned from my dad. At work, my father was funny and outgoing, the life of the party. He could speak just enough of a variety of languages (Polish, Italian, Yiddish) to be able to hold friendly chats with most folks. (My dad had an entirely different personality at home — nearly silent — but that’s another story.)

Since my dad’s stores were right in the middle of town, everyone eventually found themselves there, including the bums. Bums were what we called homeless people before someone coined that more genteel term. The bums were unkempt, and they drank out of paper bags. And this was the days before the panhandling you see so commonly in American cities. These bums were men, except for one woman. (We didn’t call her a bum; she was just crazy. One day she withdrew a bunch of money from the bank in paper coin rollers and handed it out on the sidewalk in front of my dad’s store.) Anyway, the bums hung around the store a lot. My dad didn’t discourage it. In fact, he had the bums do odd jobs for him around the store or he’d send them on errands. It took a long time for me to realize that this was my dad’s way of giving them a little money without embarrassing them.

I remember one year around Christmas I was with my dad when he went up to the mall to find a particular country/western record album. My dad had no interest in country/western, or any music for that matter. I asked him what it was for. He told me he was buying the record for one of the guys because he’d mentioned how much he liked this singer.

The legacy I received from my dad was a lesson in treating everyone the same. He was a friend to all, including the bums. My mom, on the other hand, was judgmental and could be a snob. I inherited both of these qualities in equal parts. I’m proud to say that I’m friends with the homeless people (bums) in my neighborhood. But not all of them; I pick and choose (that’s my mother’s influence). I like to think that, one day, my dad’s qualities will ultimately win out.

An Ode to New Jersey

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Few people wax rhapsodic about the state of New Jersey. But it IS my homeland, and it’s come to my attention that I’ve been neglecting my roots lately. It is time for a post about New Jersey.

What can I say? New Jersey was extremely formative for me. I spent my first 18 years there. Then I moved to Boston to go to college and never lived full time in the Garden State again. Here are three interesting facts about New Jersey:

The state of New Jersey is shaped like a crooked elbow

New Jersey is the birthplace of many important people like Jon Bon Jovi

I wrote my first screenplay about a small New Jersey town that tries to fight off a big-box store.

What Constitutes Perfect Weather for Humans?

Monday, May 25th, 2009

When I was in college in Boston back in the late 1970s I traveled home to New Jersey most summers. One summer I took some science courses at Rutgers. Since I had been a weather nut all my life, I chose Meteorology and Climatology. I can’t say I remember much from these classes, except for this:

70 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for human beings

Today is one of those rare days. Hovering right around 70 degrees. A perfect Memorial Day.