Posts Tagged ‘Bayonne’

The Year Santa Claus Brought the Trains

Monday, December 25th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Trains! Trains! Trains!

Trains! Trains! Trains!

     Long ago and far away, in a bustling, friendly North Jersey place called Bayonne, a young boy (about 5) clambered out of bed in what seemed like the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

     He opened the bedroom door and entered a world of light and laughter and clinking glasses and aunts and uncles and … trains!  Trains! And tracks. And …!

       Oh! Oh! Oh!

    It was explained to the hyper-excited boy trying not to wet his pajamas that Santa had been there and brought the train set and set it up, but was coming back with more presents so the boy had to go quickly go the bathroom and then he could play with the trains for a few minutes and go back to bed and be quiet not to wake his baby sister sleeping in her crib.

       And so he did.

       He expanded on those trains and surrounding accessories for another dozen years with the aid of Santa, parents and aunts and uncles for many more Christmas Eve visits. The layout expanded to cover a side of the living room around a Christmas tree in another, larger, home until eventually, at the “request” of his mother, it moved to the basement.

        Then the boy went off to college and life.

       Those trains, the Lionel New York Central passenger line, are still in good shape, in storage now in a big box in the basement with all the rest, after the long run in Bayonne and a revival bringing joy for that boy’s own two sons some four-plus decades later in Middletown, N.Y.

        That Christmas Eve with Santa’s two-stop visit returned vividly to that young boy’s mind as he listened to the news last night, now some seven decades later. A reminder of a simpler time. 

        A time of family, community, innocence, hope and peace. A time worth remembering and, perhaps, removing from the boxes in the basement.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Goodbye, Tony; Hello Again, Baseball

Thursday, July 27th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack …”

“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack …”                 RJ Photography

   I think I’m making this a thing. In a world of TikTok, Twitter (no bird!?), streaming and binge-watching, the world we live in is more and more like a stream of consciousness experience.

    So, let me report on the past week in which two events affected me in a personal way, the first being (1.) the death, at 96, of the legendary Tony Bennett who seemed determined to go on forever, singing standards despite Alzheimer’s and being decades older than his collaborators and 70 years removed from his first big hit, “Because of You,” which I sang as an 11-year-old in front of Mrs. Godlis’(?) 6th grade class in P.S. #3 in Bayonne, N.J., for reasons I can’t remember but a memory which still fills me with warm feelings, as does the memory of an old friend, the late, great musician, Hal Gaylor, of Greenwood Lake, who backed Bennett up on bass on many recordings and, like Bennett, was also a wonderful artist, the kind of person you wish could just go on forever, unlike the (2.) Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect, charged with the murder of three young women and suspected in many more on Long Island between 1996 and 2011 and who, it turns out, police in Suffolk County had a solid description of (as well as his truck) within days of the discovery of the bodies 13 years ago but (3.) were too busy covering up an assault by their police chief to bother doing anything about it, which is kind of like (4.) what Chief Justice John Roberts did when asked to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the lack of any code of ethics among the ethically challenged justices, a decision which (5.) prompted the Senate committee to propose Legislation to set ethics rules for the court and a process to enforce them, including new standards for transparency around recusals, gifts and potential conflicts of interest, which (6.) all the Republicans on the committee voted against because the party is too busy (7.) in the House of Representatives trying to manufacture an impeachment of President Joe Biden somehow connected to his son Hunter, who (8.) agreed to plead guilty to tax evasion charges and unlawful possession of a weapon, with no jail time, which (9). a judge questioned and delayed and Republicans said was a sweetheart deal because of his dad being president, which (10.) is pretty much what the Education Department says it’s looking into regarding Harvard’s legacy admissions policy wherein top colleges give preferential acceptance treatment to children of alumni, who are often white (and sometimes rich), a practice which has been under fire since (11.) the Supreme Court last month struck down the use of affirmative action as a tool to boost the presence of students of color, which was in stark contrast to (12.) the same court’s recent ruling that Alabama had to redraw its district voting lines to more fairly represent black voters in the state, an example of reasonable thinking which stands in contrast (13.) to BiBi Netenyahu’s increasingly autocratic Israeli government, which voted to remove the “reasonableness” of an action as something for Israel’s Supreme Court to consider, a vote which (14.) has led to massive anti-government demonstrations and (15.) strained the relationship between Israel and the U.S., which has historically been strong, much like that of American men and baseball, a bond which (16.) drew four relatively new friends (me being one of them) to a minor league baseball game on a Thursday night in Dutchess County, N.Y., to see the Brooklyn Cyclones (a Mets farm team) meet the Hudson Valley Renegades (a Yankees affiliate) on a comfortable summer night billed as Halloween in July at the ballpark, where hot dogs and caps came with the price of admission, peanuts and Cracker Jack were also consumed and the home team lost because of one horrendous inning by the starting pitcher, several bad base-running decisions by other Renegades, a couple of questionable umpiring calls and a leaping catch at the wall with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning by the Cyclones’ right fielder to take a game-tying home run away from Spencer Jones, the Renegades player everyone says is the next Aaron Judge, who (17.) reported to Tampa, to practice swinging again with the toe he injured a while back breaking down a wall in right field in Los Angeles while taking a home run away from the Dodgers, who used to play in Brooklyn where the world-famous roller coaster called the Cyclone is located and (18.) who says there’s no symmetry in this world?

(PS: Cracker Jack boxes are now smaller, but come in a pack of three ($4) and the “prize” is a code to some online game. I preferred the whistle.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

     

Republicans Wage War Against the Truth

Saturday, July 8th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

3B0E6801-9810-44D0-B32F-0019DC5ED924“The truth shall make us free.”

   That was the motto of Adelphi College, my alma mater. Still is. Been around since 1896. It’s a good one, I think, as mottos go.

    Of course, it’s also a bit selective in that, today, it would preclude any loyal Republican from attending or teaching or in any other way participating in activities at such a socialist opponent of  free-speech.

    I know. That makes no sense. But neither do today’s Republicans.

    The problem arises today mostly in the minds of Republicans who confuse “free speech” with the right to say anything they feel like, without regard to the truth and certainly without regard to the repercussions of the lack of truth in their statements.

    But that’s not the end of it. They also don’t want people pointing out the fact that they might be spreading misinformation, or, heaven forbid, even lying. People like social media fact checkers or independent fact checkers or even government employees such as FBI agents or health care officials.

      Republicans have even found a Trump-appointed judge in Louisiana to say that officially for them.

       Last week, Judge Terry A. Doughty granted a preliminary injunction saying the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other government departments must stop communicating with social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”    

      “Protected free speech.” Like misinformation on Covid-19 or vaccines or election fraud. The judge, whose ruling will be appealed, said the government, which might well have factual information on the matter, should not inform social media platforms about the possibility of dangerous misinformation being spread on their platform.

     Now, much of this fear-mongering, conspiracy spreading and outright lying is caught by independent fact-checkers, be it simply other users or researchers or non-profit agencies. But they say the government agencies have never pressured social media companies to remove content, simply alerted them to possibly dangerous, non-factual content.

     Of course, non-factual content has become the entire Republican Party playbook since it swore allegiance to Donald Trump: Obama’s birth certificate, Hillary’s emails, Hunter Biden’s laptop, Mexico will pay for a wall, COVID’s not serious, stolen elections, January 6 didn’t happen, the mainstream media lies.

      I’m not aware of any Republican court challenge to the right of the free press to print the truth about Trump et al. It may be a bridge too far right now. Of course, newspapers printed long lists of Trump’s lies in office. Not that most Republicans, especially hard core MAGA Republicans, were concerned. They believed the lies. There’s the rub.

     A classmate of mine at my high school alma mater, Bayonne High School, has a theory on how even those who recognize the lies can unwittingly help them gain credence.

      If memory serves me correctly, Dr. George Lakoff was valedictorian of the BHS Class of ‘58, my class. He went on to become a highly regarded cognitive linguist and philosopher at University of California, Berkeley. A smart guy.

     Lakoff says, “Without knowing it, many Democrats, progressives and members of the news media help Donald Trump every day. The way they help him is simple: they spread his message.”

    He likens it to telling people not to think about an elephant. They can’t get rid of the image.

        “When arguing against the other side,” Lakoff says, “don’t use their language because it evokes their frame and not the frame you seek to establish. Never repeat their charges! Instead, use your own words and values to reframe the conversation. When you repeat Trump, you help Trump.”

       Trump’s barrage of outrageous claims has grown with each new report on his criminality and incompetence. It is being buttressed by a coordinated Republican assault on the truth, aimed at schools, think tanks, the news media, as well as the Biden White House.

     Republicans frame it as a fight for the First Amendment. Don’t buy it. This is a fight for the truth.

     And the truth shall make us free.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

(Adelphi College was founded in 1896. It became a university in 1963, the year I graduated with a degree in English, but not before I graduated, meaning I am part of the last class to receive a diploma that says Adelphi College.)

(Dr. George Lakoff’s views on politics, language and your brain can be found at https://substack.com › @framelab).

 

A City Boy’s Tips on Country Etiquette

Friday, January 13th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

If you flatten it, you replace it. That oughta be the rule of the road.

If you flatten it, you replace it. That oughta be the rule of the road.

 For most of my life, I’ve lived in small cities (Bayonne, Binghamton, Annapolis, Middletown) and one large town (Wallkill), which is really a mall-dotted highway surrounded by housing complexes. Throw in a few years living on college campuses. Basically, it’s been city or community living.

    When you live with a lot of other people close by and you want to be relatively content, you learn the rules of the road, the do’s and don’ts of getting along. Mostly, it’s mind your own business and don’t make a lot of noise.

     A few years ago, I moved to the country, a bit of upstate New York between the Hudson River and the Catskills that is often protected from major weather issues by the imposing Shawangunk Ridge.

     Country living means owls, woodpeckers, coyotes and starry skies, oh my.

     It’s nice. Well, usually. It’s quiet. Usually. In any case, it most definitely has its own rules of the road. Things a transplanted city boy ought to know. Something I call country etiquette.

     The notion (see how I used the word “notion“ instead of “idea“?) that there was such a thing as country etiquette grew out of a recent conversation about a not uncommon country experience.

     A couple of years ago, our quiet summer evening at home was disrupted by a loud squealing of tires and a loud thud. Right in front of our house.

     We rushed out to find a car sitting in a culvert in front of our house, a distraught young woman sitting behind the wheel and our mailbox on the ground, post and all. I don’t recall who called 911, but state police arrived quickly, talked with the driver (who was shaken but not hurt), someone called a tow truck, we went back in the house and eventually everything was back to normal, except for the mailbox. Its career was over.

      In short order, we replaced the mailbox and occasionally wondered what happened to the young driver. I suspected alcohol may have been involved.

     A couple of weeks later, the whole scene repeated itself. Nighttime. Squeal. Thud. Car. Culvert. Young woman driver. Unhurt. Mailbox kaput.

     Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. Same follow up. Police. Tow truck. Mailbox flattened.

      Again, we replaced it and the new one has survived ever since. But here’s the thing. Neither driver offered to pay to replace the mailbox (they both got out of their cars and talked to us) or to have it repaired. Now, it seems to me that a basic rule of country etiquette ought to be that if you wipe out someone’s mailbox (and get caught at it), the decent thing to do is to make it right again. Pay for a new one.

      And that’s what got me thinking about other rules of country etiquette. What are some things to help someone new get along with neighbors who may not live right next door? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

— Having a handy supply of eggs is nice, but keep your chickens in your own yard as much as possible. Free range doesn’t mean the whole neighborhood, or, especially, the busy road.

— Don’t shovel your driveway snow into the road. It’s only extra work for the highway crews and it’s dangerous.

— When driving, wave at people walking along country roads. It’s neighborly.

— Walkers, please wear reflective clothing at night. It’s awfully dark out there sometimes and the roads are often winding and have no shoulder. We’d like to get to know you.

— Don’t let your dog walk on the road side. Preferably, don’t walk your dog on the road at all. Some drivers are less attentive than others. (See reference to mailboxes above.) And yes, clean up.

— Slow down for people at their mailbox. (A personal peeve of mine.) You can even wave.

— In fact, slow down in general. Posted speed limits are not merely suggestions.

— Be patient with a farm tractor on the road. He’ll be out of your way shortly, or he’ll pull over as soon as he can. He’s working.

— Be honest at roadside honor stands. Act like there are cameras in the trees.

— Free stuff at the foot of a driveway is really free. If you want it, take it. Someone always does.

— If you’re not going to back up a lot of traffic, be nice and let people back out of their driveways. It can be tricky sometimes.

    That’s what I came up with so far. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section.

    While I’m at it, I figure I might as well add another feature of country living — a potpourri of handmade road signs. Here are a few I noticed this past year:

— Corn maze, hay ride, pumpkins, pickles, sweet corn

— Beef sale

— Fresh garlic

— Sunflower patch, mums, hay for sale

— Farm fresh eggs

— U pick pumpkins

— Fresh key lime pie, 

— We buy ATVs dead or alive

     Like I said, nice.

     ‘Til next time at pet-friendly Tractor Supply.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

They’re Still Trying to Ban Books

Friday, September 16th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos    

The Bayonne (N.J.) Public Library

The Bayonne (N.J.) Public Library

 One of my favorite places to hang out when I was growing up in Bayonne, N.J. was the Bayonne Public Library, a magnificent, sprawling stone and concrete structure (with columns and a courtyard) that offered solitude and satisfaction for all manner of tastes. It looked important, which it was. It was a storehouse of what we knew, what we thought we knew, what we wanted to know and it was all free for the reading.

      What a deal.

       Alas, not everyone feels the same way about libraries and books. Books have been burned and banned for centuries by those who fear what they don’t understand and by those who look to control what people know and believe.

      The book-banners are alive and active in America today, encouraged by a political party that has abandoned any pretense of democratic governance in favor of a fraudulent code of moral conduct. Reasons why books have been banned or challenged in the past include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language. Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians.

       Today’s Republican Party essentially exists to protect whatever power it has by banning anything that threatens or offends the biases of its increasingly bigoted base of support. Books are high on that list. They can combat bias through knowledge, promoting greater understanding. That’s not helpful to a party built today on fear and mistrust. Accordingly, the American Library Association has declared that its theme for the 2022 Banned Books Week, which runs September 18–24, is “Books Unite Us; Censorship Divides Us.”

       It’s an effort to combat renewed efforts to remove “dangerous” books from libraries around the country.  As always, the best way to engage in this battle is to shine the light of truth on it. Books are not the enemy.

        What I have done in the past is post a list of books I have read that I have also found on various internet lists of banned books (some to my surprise) and invite readers to comment and offer titles of books they have read which also have been banned somewhere. It generally provides an excellent, eclectic reading list. It also tends to provide a sense of common purpose.

          My list, in no particular order:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

        — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     Let’s fight this together. Knowledge is power. Tell me your banned books in the comments below or via e-mail and I’ll include them in a new column for those (like me) looking for new reading material. And thank your local librarian.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

The Thing is, Our Kids are Hurting

Friday, July 15th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

4B3579A5-977A-4D42-8A85-FF3AB80B3A7D

 “America, where I start my day with prayer, meditation and an active-shooter drill.”

    I’m not generally a meme guy on Facebook, but I posted that brief observation the other morning. The thing is, it wasn’t just some unsolicited comment on life in general. It was actually true for that day.

    Being a creature of habit, prayer and meditation have been part of my routine for some time. On this day, instead of offering the news as a follow-up, YouTube presented a video on the “Three things to do if confronted with an active-shooter situation.”

     Talk about a cold splash of reality first thing in the morning. The thing is, the advice was pretty good. The other thing is, I had to admit it was actually stuff to remember the next time I went to the supermarket:

  1. How to hide (behind something solid enough to stop bullets; 2. How to run (not in a straight line and not with the crowd); 3. How to fight (aggressively, like your life depends on it,  because it does.)

    How did we get here?

    Growing up in the early ‘50s in Bayonne, N.J., we didn’t worry about active-shooter drills. We had nuclear war drills. Go down to the gymnasium, gather around the walls, get down on the ground facing the wall all rolled up in a ball on the gym floor. Just in case the Russians decide to drop an atom bomb on us. Other kids in other schools did the same under their desks.

      But we didn’t really think we’d need this lesson anytime soon, like maybe the next day. After all, it had only happened twice and both times someplace else called Japan. We had no real sense of what we were hiding from, nor did anyone at the time realize that what we were “learning” was a waste of time.

      Today’s kids don’t have that gift of naïveté. TV news routinely reports on active shooting incidents in schools and elsewhere in the United States. Social media is full of it. Kids today take notes during active-shooter lessons. They know, like some of the kids in Uvalde, Texas, how to quietly call 911 on their cell phones when they’re hiding in the back of the room trying not to talk too loudly, lest the shooter hear them.

      The thing is, this is not what school is supposed to be about. Come to think of it, there are a lot of things school should be about, but, in much of the country, isn’t.

      School should be about honest history and geography and how the two are related. It should be about learning to read as much as possible and to think for yourself and how to separate fact from fiction. It should be about how to manage your own finances and do simple household repairs. It should be about basic health and nutrition and learning to live in and contribute to a multicultural society.

       Yes, it should be about math and language and science and art and music, too. Cooking even. Not fighting for your life.

       The source of greatest anxiety for me in eighth grade was worrying about stepping on my partner’s toes during Mrs. Spiegel’s class in ballroom dancing. I survived. 

         The thing is, we’re laying a world of trauma on our kids today. I fear it’s going to take a lot more than prayer and meditation to fix that.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.      

When Everyone Speaks Ukrainian

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022


By Bob Gaydos

AZ FLAG Ukraine Flag 3' x 5' - Ukrainian Flags 90 x 150 cm ...

  I’m not Ukrainian. At least, I don’t think I am. That slight doubt exists because I spent my formative years (I hesitate to say I grew up) in Bayonne, much of which was like someone scooped up boatloads of people from Eastern Europe and replanted them in Northern New Jersey.

    Which, of course, is what happened.

    Our next-door neighbors were Ukrainian. A family a few houses down was Ukrainian, as well as one across the street.

     We were (are) Slovak. Or Czech. Or Russian. Or Polish. Or, most likely, some combination of the above or other Slavic nation. Amidst this polyglot of Eastern Europe a short bus ride from New York City, everyone seemed to speak the same language. It didn’t seem to matter what the nationality of the person was, my grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles all seemed to be able to converse with them.

        A stroll down Broadway with my grandmother on a chilly (“zimno” in Polish) fall day would produce a lot of smiling head nods and “dobre, dobre.” Good, good.

        It was all Russian to me.

        So was the mass I served as an altar boy at St. John’s Greek Catholic Church, which my father’s family attended, and at Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church, which the other half of my family ( and I) attended. In a city of churches, Eastern Europe was well represented. Including Ukrainians.

         This nostalgic trip down memory lane is prompted, of course, by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the outpouring of support and admiration for the courageous Ukrainian people from other peoples around the world. No matter the language, everyone seems to understand Ukrainian all of a sudden. And no one, except apparently Belarus and North Korea, is speaking the same language as the leaders of Russia.

         The sad reality of this misbegotten display of pride, power and paranoia by Russian President Vladimir Putin is that, while Ukrainians will obviously endure tremendous loss and suffering as a result of this invasion, ordinary Russians, who also wanted no part of this war, will suffer as well. Russian soldiers will die as well as Ukrainians. The worldwide outpouring of support for Ukraine has isolated Russia, again, from much of the rest of the world. Even those who speak the same language, want no part of Putin’s war.

         It’s been some time since I visited Bayonne and I understand if has changed quite a bit. But the churches are still there and I’d like to think that some of the children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren, of the neighbors who used to smile and nod at my grandmother on Broadway are still there and all still seem to speak the same language when they talk about Ukraine, shake their heads sadly, and say, “Bozhe, Bozhe, Bozhe.”

My God, My God, My God.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

   Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.  

          

         

 

Pizza, Sinatra, Fairy Tales and Hope

Monday, December 6th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Deep dish vegetarian pizza. Well done.

RJ Photography.                                     Deepdish vegetarian pizza. Well done.

   “Fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you. If you’re young at heart. For as rich as you are, it’s much better by far …”

     Sinatra was in fine voice as I opened the door to Pizza Plus to pick up our regular order: A large, deep-dish vegetarian pizza, well-done, light on the cheese, with fresh garlic instead of onions. 

      It’s always the same pizza. It’s almost always Sinatra. I am a fan of structure, routine, tradition, whatever you want to call it. Something to look forward to. I think it builds memories, something to look back on. 

      On this particular pizza day, the Sinatra song playing took me way back to 1954. That’s when I graduated from the eighth grade. Our graduating class sang the song, in excellent harmony as I recall, as part of the commencement ceremony. 

  We even remembered the slight pause at the end of the song.

      That reminiscence took me back to the teen years that followed in Bayonne, N.J., and the memory-building hours spent in ice cream parlors, soda shops, candy stores around town. Diners, too. And the music on the juke boxes. The kind of music that’s always playing when I pick up my pizza in Pine Bush, six decades and 65 miles removed.

        The trip down memory lane also reminded me that the pizza place was actually an old-fashioned ice cream parlor when the building first opened some time in the 1980s. A little synchronicity, no?

         Warm memories and continuity are reassuring, especially in a society that appears to have lost its way. Remember, it wasn’t always like this. It won’t always be like this. Hang in. Enjoy the moment. And do what you can to make things better. (more…)

Country Life (and more) Midst COVID-19

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Bob Gaydos

THE REPORT … emus, swans, secrecy and third parties

A couple of new neighbors. RJ photography

A couple of new neighbors.
RJ photography

  I’m a city boy. Bayonne, Binghamton, Annapolis, Middletown. Not big cities, but places where most stuff you need was in walking distance, there were downtowns, buses (in varying degrees), lots of kids, stickball, cats, dogs, and people you might nod and wave to. No emus.

      Today, I’m a country boy. Pine Bush. Burlingham actually. Slightly upstate New York (about 75 miles from the city), but definitely not urban or even suburban. It’s nice, except for the stuff you need not being in walking distance. The pandemic has made even that less of a nuisance since we’ve discovered that you can order anything online to be delivered to your door. It eliminates the human connection, but society has been working on that for some time now.

       Back to the emus. One of the pleasures of country living is the abundance of non-human neighbors. In the past I’ve commented on eagles, coyotes, owls, woodpeckers and the variety of visitors to our bird feeders (still just two cardinals). But that’s chicken feed compared to the menagerie we’ve seen on just one local road over the past few months.

       In the four-and-a-half miles under discussion, we have seen: Two stunning black swans, two emus, flocks of chickens, one beautiful white swan, one peacock (please get off the road)  a pig, two score of horses, herds of cows, four white, domesticated geese, Canada geese galore, a llama, several sheep (please stay off the road!), a blue heron, grazing herds of deer, a bull and one outspoken burro. A recent addition — a mare and her foal. Most of these are permanent residents we look forward to seeing regularly. Toto, we’re not in Bayonne anymore. By the way, I’ll give a shout out here to any reader who can identify this road.

       Hint: It’s in Orange County.

      — By the way … speaking of shouting out. Mitch McConnell is probably wishing he’d kept his mouth shut last week. The Senate majority leader first said that Barack Obama “should’ve kept his mouth shut” instead of criticizing the Dotard’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Classless,” McConnell suggested. He got mocked all over Twitter and Facebook for this absurd comment, given the lack of class demonstrated by the person he was defending. Then, McConnell had to eat crow by admitting that, contrary to what he and Dotard were saying, the Obama administration had indeed left a detailed playbook on how to handle future pandemics. Dotard got rid of it. That’s what happens when lying becomes so automatic you do it as naturally as breathing. McConnell is a disgrace.

       — By the way … Kentucky, the state represented by Republicans McConnell and the foolish Rand Paul, both of whom have objected to further stimulus funds for people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, is one of the states most economically impacted by the pandemic. This from the Lexington Herald-Leader: “Figures released Thursday show that another 103,548 Kentuckians filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of initial claims since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak in mid-March to nearly 500,000, or 24 percent of the state’s total civilian workforce. Two analyses from financial technology companies show Kentucky is one of the most-impacted states when measuring the number of claims as a percentage of the workforce, and when measuring the percentage increase in unemployment claims from the start of the COVID-19 crisis.” But hey, Kentuckians, keep electing these yohos because, you know, they’re poking fingers in the eyes of The Man.  And you’re about to lose your old Kentucky home. 

        — By the way … A lot of state and local governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to make it difficult or impossible to get access to public records. Many are routinely denying Freedom of Information requests. Of course, at the same time, these governments are making major decisions and spending billions fighting COVID-19. Not a time when government secrecy should be encouraged. David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a California-based nonprofit fighting this trend, says, “It’s just essential that the press and the public be able to dig in and see records that relate to how the government has responded to the crisis. That’s the only way really to avoid waste, fraud, abuse and to ensure that governments aren’t overstepping their bounds.” Or to find out if they even have a clue as to what they’re doing.

        — By the way … Rep. Justin Amash, an independent Michigan congressman who had the guts and good sense to quit the Republican Party, has again come to his senses and given up his foolhardy and potentially damaging bid to run for president as a Libertarian. (You didn’t know?) Amash blamed COVID-19 (it’s become a handy multi-purpose excuse) for making it so difficult to campaign. Call it a mercy killing. He didn’t mention that maybe he had no shot at winning and the effort would mostly be an exercise in ego and spreading routinely rejected Libertarian views. He was running because of his dislike for Drumpf, which is commendable, but his candidacy would also have gotten votes from Republicans and others who don’t like Drumpf, but can’t find themselves voting for Joe Biden or another Democrat. Shades of Ralph Nader and Al Gore and Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein. This is no year for symbolic votes, people.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

On Going to the Movies, or Not

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Poster for Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic.

Poster for Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic.

I’m about a half hour into “The Irishman” — the part where Robert DeNiro throws a gun off a bridge in Philly. I don’t consider this a spoiler alert because, after all, it’s DeNiro in a Martin Scorsese film and you have to figure it’s gotta happen sooner or later. Anyway, I decided to take a break to write, because you can do that while watching movies these days.

So, obviously, I’m watching at home on Netflix and not at a movie theater because apparently nobody does that anymore. Well, maybe not as much. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I do know there are fewer movie theaters than there used to be and people are not going out to the movies as often as they used to.

White Hutchison, a company that tracks attendance at out-of-home entertainment venues, says the average person went out to the movies 3.5 times in 2018, spending a little over $30 for tickets. That’s a 28 percent decrease from the industry’s high of 5.2 trips by your average moviegoer to the cinema in 2002, the company says.

White Hutchison also says the downward trend is the result of all the other new entertainment venues competing to try to lure people off the convenience and comfort of their couches. The competition has convinced many moviemakers that only blockbuster-type “event” movies can do this and, again, the figures bear this out. The 10 biggest grossing movies of 2018 accounted for a third of all ticket sales and eight of those movies were offered in 3D and all 10 at IMAX theaters. And no, as opposed to the word I used referring to “The Irishman,” there’s not a “film” among them. They’re stories jazzed up with lots of special effects, action and/or cartoon characters.

I started wondering about the state of cinema-going when I read that Netflix was making a blockbuster movie with Scorsese, DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, but was forgoing the usual 90-day window given to let theaters show the movie before offering it to Netflix subscribers, mostly streaming rather than DVD’s now. Instead, the movie would get limited release in select theaters and be available on your phone or tablet or smart TV in 30 days.

Wouldn’t theater owners be ticked off? I wondered. Yes, they would and are. Then again, Scorsese made the film 3½ hours long, which is tough to sit through without intermission, popcorn refill and bathroom breaks. Also, most theaters can only show it twice a day because of the length, cutting into potential profits.

Nonetheless, Netflix went through with this plan and “the Irishman” opened initially on eight screens in New York and Los Angeles. More were added a week later. It had good ticket sales and mixed reviews in select theaters. But it drew about 17 million smaller-screen viewers in its first week of release on Netflix.

What’s the point? I’m not sure, but this was certainly an “event” film because of the cast of characters in front of and behind the camera. Maybe that’s the point. What exactly do we mean by an “event” movie today? Forgive me here as I wander into a now-distant past to my introduction to movie-going. (It’s a long film. Let’s call this an early intermission.)

***

My mother loved to go to the movies. In Bayonne, N.J., where I grew up, there were six movie theaters in the 1940s and ‘50s. Not bad for a city of some 65,000. There was also lots of public transportation and the streets were safe to walk. If you wanted to see whatever movie was the latest hit, there was no problem. It was also cheap.

When I was old enough, my mom would sometimes take me along. She would also often buy whatever dish was for sale to continue to put together the full set. Gold leaf trim. I still have some pieces. For me — and my mom, I’m sure — going to the movies was an event, something to look forward to and enjoy a lot more than 3.5 times a year.

And star power? Here’s a sampling, in no particular order, of actors you could see on the big screen in the 1940s and 1950s: James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, Orson Welles, Gary Cooper, James Dean, Jack Lemmon, Audrey Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Tyrone Power, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck. Grace Kelly, Yul Brynner, William Holden, Tony Curtis, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Danny Kaye, Laurence Olivier, Robert Mitchum, Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello. (Don’t bother checking. I didn’t repeat anyone.)

When I reached my early teens and could go on my own or with friends (remember, the streets were safe to walk then), I looked forward to Saturday matinees. It usually included two westerns (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Randolph Scott, John Wayne), at least six cartoons and a serial (“Flash Gordon” or “Don Winslow of the Navy”). For a quarter. Popcorn was extra. Now, that was an almost weekly event.

Times have changed. Television ended Hollywood’s Golden Age. Smart phones, etc. are killing television. The streets aren’t safe. Popcorn at the movies is a budget-buster.

But also, while you can watch football on a phone today, you cannot see someone “act.” There is an added dimension when you share an emotional moment in a movie with a theater full of strangers that is missing on your couch. While they have connected us as never before, in some ways smart phones have also made us more isolated. As for the movies themselves, rewriting comic books for the big screen can only go as far as the characters (Batman, for example) allow. And, though spectacular visual effects may be big box office, they can’t replace the feeling of watching a grownup story portrayed by talented actors.

Which kind of brings me back to “The Irishman.” I’m hoping Netflix and Scorsese are right, in the sense that you can still make story and actor-driven (male and female) movies and make money today. (I can enjoy, but have a limited quota for whiz-bang and fantasy.) The head of Netflix’s movie division says to relax. “If everyone would just be calm and talk through it, over the next few years we’ll be able to find the right answer for everyone,” Scott Stuber said recently.

OK, so I’m going back to the movie. Still waiting for Pacino to arrive on the scene. If you’ve seen it, don’t text me.

rjgaydos@gmail.com