Archive for July, 2014


I’m old enough, and my memory good enough to recall a great deal of detail growing up in Newark, NJ during the 1950s and 60s. With these memories in mind, I study the world around me and have to chuckle. At times, it’s as if our society is rediscovering the wheel, then again, at times I’m amazed that my wheel still turns.

One observation which I find interesting is the current nutritional trends, and what information they provide – if any. Consider all the studies you’ve heard concerning the benefits or harmful effects of coffee consumption. I don’t know about you, but it boggles my mind. Some of the current nutritional mindsets are to cut down on processed food and eat local. When I was young, we adhered to these principles as a way of life. Processed food was in its infancy. And unlike today, for better or for worse, the mom of the family stayed home. Most did not know how to drive, and that didn’t matter because most families could only afford one car. Few moms worked outside the home. Their lives were taken up with raising the kids, maintaining the home and cooking. We are warned away from processed and junk food, yet grocery store shelves grow heavier and heavier with these items. Is there a bottom line at work here?

Another ‘new’ trend encouraged is to eat locally. While I was growing up that was the only option. Fruit and vegetables – veggies had not been invented yet – were not transported from all over the globe as they are now. In my neighborhood, fresh produce was available during the summer months sold from a horse-drawn wagon. During the winter the stores carried a minimal selection.

Those are the positives of my past which are far outweighed by the negatives, hence to purpose of this article.

During my youth, the fear of cholesterol was unknown. Of course it existed, but knowledge of its hazards was unknown and its effect, insidious. Food was consumed without a thought to sodium or fat content. Taste was all that mattered. It was a time long before the existence of ‘best by date’. The rule of thumb was: If the can wasn’t swollen the contents were fine to consume.

But all this is secondary to the primary reason I am living on borrowed time, although my food consumption has left its effects in the form of bypass surgery. The health concern most abused in my past was sun exposure. Today we have sunblock able to protect you from any damage the sun may try to deliver. When I was a kid we also had a means of protection and it was homemade. This was long before billboards began displaying that cute little girl having her bathing suit bottom pulled down by that delightful dog to expose her pale butt and tan line.

The means I used to shield myself from the sun’s harmful rays was a concoction of a few drops of iodine dispersed in baby oil. Where that was invented I have no idea. Did it work? No way! Every summer’s journey to the shore resulted in a bright red burn resulting in a mass of oozing blisters. Back then we were of the mindset that when you spent a day at the shore you had to get your money’s worth and we always paid the price. When we went as a family unit, on the way home I and my siblings would sit in the backseat of the old Chevy shivering from the intense sunburn. To this day we fondly refer to those sun-induced chills as suffering from ‘the disease’.

Once home, my mom would apply vinegar to our burned bodies. This remedy is actually documented as working, usually in vinegar ads. At night, after a day at the beach, slathered in oil and vinegar we were human salads suffering the pain of a summer outing.


July 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment


That’s Oxford, PA.

You can now find my novel, New Moon Rising, on sale a Bookplace, a delightful used book store owned by Virginia Beards. If you love books as much as I, and live in southeast Pennsylvania you owe it to yourself to visit this small treasure, not only for what great finds may come your way but to visit with Virginia.

Virginia taught literature at Penn and the depth and breadth of her literary knowledge is truly awesome. Pick up a book and there is a good chance she is familiar with the contents, or for one of the books I purchased, also knew the author. She is also an accomplished poet and her book of poetry, Exit Pursued By A Bear And Others, is available at the store.

Here is a link to the bookstore’s website.

Give it a try.

July 29, 2014 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment


  This piece is about my daughter, Lynn, and includes a video seen on WFMZ-TV (Channel 69) broadcasting from Allentown, PA. The video features Lynn explaining her work at a Rodale farm supplying produce to nearby St. Luke’s Hospital.

Lynn graduated from Pitt with a degree in urban studies, and during her stay in Pittsburgh – a city she fell in love with, became involved in urban farming, growing crops on vacant lots in the city. Since graduation she has had farming internships and graduated to field manager. The road of her farming career has been rocky with ups resulting in downs, but she persisted in her love for farming. Now she works for Rodale, a name synonymous with organic farming. My hope is that this stepping stone along the road of her farming life will prove productive and fruitful. From talking with her; I think it will.

Lynn is a millennial. The news is full of how rough it is for them to enter the life they were educated for and dreamed of. Many of their numbers must live at home, finding their future put on hold, not finding productive employment. But let us not forget that the future is built on the past, a past the millennial generation had no role in forming. We who, at times lacking patience and understanding for their plight, are the ones responsible for that past and the conditions that exist today. The millennial generation has inherited the world we, sometimes through greed, sometimes through incompetence, formed.

One side note, Lynn owns the tractor she’s seen starting, a veteran manufactured in the 1950s. Never thought we would have a tractor in the family.


Here’s the video.RODALE FARMING

July 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm 2 comments



While thinking about and writing my memoir, I have come to the realization it is to share our history with our families, to put down the words of our lives. Our lives, to varying degrees, help form the world around us be that world distant or immediate.

As a youth of perhaps ten, I recall sitting in our backyard one summer day when our neighbor came out. The couple living next door was an elderly Polish couple. The husband rarely left the flat, so seeing him outside was a rarity. While he stood there, much to my surprise, he began talking about World War I, how he recalled airplanes flying overhead. With my love for aircraft, I was immediately enthralled. If I had been thinking, I should have sought every memory he had of the war. I never knew if he served during the conflict, and if he did, on which side he fought. I asked no questions, but 50 years later I still can recall that conversation. That fact is testament to my lost opportunity.

The same is true with my parents. My dad was in the army in 1941, with his service almost completed. He told me that when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, he cried, for he knew then he would probably be in for the duration and he was right.

While my wife and I were living in Los Angeles, he came for a visit. Long Beach, CA was the home of the Queen Mary and we took him to tour the vessel. I wanted to make the pilgrimage for I knew he traveled from the U.S. to England on that ship. I’m sure he never expected to walk its decks again. During World War II he served in a supply unit and travel through Africa and then Italy. He did not see action and was strafed once while on a train by a P-51, one of our fighters – oops.

He didn’t talk about the war much and I didn’t ask; my loss.

The greatest regret I have about missing a personal glimpse into the past was talking to my mom about her life when she was young. She lived through the Great Depression and observed conditions on the home front during World War II and I never asked was life was like during those times.

For those of you who read this blog, do not make the mistake I did.  Ask your senior citizens about their past.  They have a more vivid experience with history than a book can provide.

July 25, 2014 at 12:56 am Leave a comment


Once, while listening to NPR, I heard a report on credit cards. The report stated that the average person has thirteen credit cards and carries about eight thousand dollars in debt. This was some time ago; I hope the numbers have improved. I must admit, that there are times when I have trouble getting my wallet in my back pocket because of all the potential debt lingering in there, but try to keep it under control. On hearing this broadcast, my mind wandered back to my youth, a time when people had the mindset that it was not so much that you lived without but you lived with what they could afford. It was a time less of envy and more of survival.

For most of my youth, credit cards did not exist. They started flourishing in the 60’s, so when I was young, they were not even an option. For paying bills, my parents didn’t have a checking account. When there was a bill that needed to be paid I was sent to the drugstore to buy a money order. It was the only way my family sent money through the mail.

In my neighborhood, credit was not as much a way of life as it is today. People lived on what they could afford. With the exception of houses and cars, you bought what you could pay for then and there. I must admit just writing about life without credit seems so foreign and unreal. Buying just what you can afford at the time of purchase seems like such and odd concept, yet that is the way it once was.

The way a person received their pay was also different in my youth.   Friday afternoons, my dad was home from working at the tannery for hours, but he had to return Friday afternoons to get his pay. I would sometimes take a ride with him. You could smell his place of employment long before you could see it – Ocean Leather – gaining this name due to the fact that it was the only tannery at that time that could tan shark skins. We would drive around to the loading dock where drums of chemicals stood, the soil, stained shades of purple and green, was soil of an OSHA nightmare. Into the building we would go, past large rooms where various stages of tanning was taking place, and into the office. Here my dad was handed a brown envelope with bills and change and that was his pay. That’s the way people were paid back then, you actually held your pay in your hand. It was not electronically sent to your bank from which you electronically paid your bills. You were able to hold what you earned, actually see it.

Friday was also allowance day for me.   For completing my choirs, I received fifty cents a week, and when I could really control my spending – not wanting another airplane model or book – I turned those quarters into a dollar bill, real folding money, which I would immediately take to the cellar and hide – I don’t know why. To this day I can still recall the feeling that, with a quarter, I had money. With a quarter in my pocket, I’m okay. How things have changed, and how I remain the same. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

During my younger days I remember my dad saying, “Always keep two dollars in my wallet or else I could be arrested for vagrancy. If the police only knew how often I walk around with an empty wallet these days I could easily wind up behind bars, aha, but there is the MAC card and all my other credit cards with their lines of credit that keep me out of jail but could lead to the poorhouse.



July 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment


This piece revolves around my never-ending argument: Can you be taught to imagine? Is it something you just ‘have’, or is it something you can develop? Can you be taught to initiate that spark the gives birth to a story and leads you down that road of wonder? I have no formal training, and I’m sure it shows, in writing fiction, but my mind is crowded with ideas. Can this mental process be taught?

Now, those of you still with me are probably asking, “What the hell does this have to do with the title of the article?” Glad you asked, otherwise, I would have to stop writing this piece.

In order to give a story body, to provide a world to the reader, you need detail. The reader must be immersed in the world you create. See, hear and smell the story. The writer must spend his life being a ‘keen observer’, constantly aware of the world around and absorb, digest it and then someday deposit those observations within his work. I suppose the only genre where this does not apply is the genre I propose to write – science fiction. Here you sometimes need to create a world of the future, one that finds birth in your imagination and exists only there.

I recently finished reading Light of the World by one of my favorite authors, James Lee Burke. Coincidentally, the July/August issue of Poets & Writers had an interesting piece about Burke. If you love his writing as much as I do, I strongly suggest you read this fine article to gain insight into the man.

The setting for Light of the World is Missoula, Montana which also happens to be where Burke now calls home. The novel drips with detail of the geography, plant life and weather of the Montana. We are all familiar with the old adage: Write what you know. I’m going to make an addition: Write where you’ve been. I know this is not always possible, but I feel it helps to keep this in mind when setting the location of your story.

I try to locate my stories in areas in which I have either lived or at least visited. If I need to venture into unknown territory I use maps and research the area online. But I don’t think the writing rings as true as when you experience the area firsthand. However, for me, even if I lived in the location of the story I still find my writing lacking enough detail to bring the story to life.

I’m working on this fault.

Next, people watching.

July 14, 2014 at 7:09 pm 2 comments


I just received this offer for a free book on publishing from Savvy Authors and I thought I’d share it with my fellow writers. 

July 10, 2014 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment


In the scouts for years, I journeyed from Cub Scout to Boy Scout to Explorer earning the Eagle Scout award along the way, learned and explored many things a city boy would not normally encounter. One of the activities I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to go camping.
An hour’s drive northwest of Newark, New Jersey near Boonton was a Boy Scout campground. My troop would camp there several times a year, mostly in the winter. Cabins of various sizes dotted the campground. The only source of heat was a fireplace at one end of the cabin and cooking was done on a wood-burning stove. One winter, we had to melt ice for water. The weather had been so cold that the pipes to the old hand pump had burst. It seemed the harsher the conditions; the more we enjoyed the outing. City boys were facing nature head on.
On my first experience camping at the campground, we boys were going to cook a spaghetti dinner for Saturday night. The scout master wasn’t there, and none of us had ever cooked spaghetti before, but that didn’t stop us. We filled a large pot with water, put in the pasta and set it on the wood-burning stove to cook. A couple hours later we had one large noodle. That’s how I learned you needed boiling water to cook pasta.
The camping trips were formal outings organized by the troop. The less formal day hikes to the local Boy Scout area located in the South Orange Mountain Reservation, would be organized spontaneously, when a group of us were just hanging around with nothing to do. For a group of boys ranging from maybe eleven to thirteen, these trips were a real adventure. The beauty of these outings was that the city bus could take us to the base of the mountains. No adult input was required, once permission to go was obtained.
We usually caught the bus fairly early in the morning because once we arrived at the base of the mountain; it was at least an hour walk to the Boy Scout area. Sitting amongst commuters going to work or out to do some shopping, laden with packs and canteens and any other camping paraphernalia we thought we might need, we proudly displayed our badge of ruggedness. We rode through the Newark downtown area, then north through some of the blighted areas of the city, and then on to the more affluent suburbs. The bus would leave us in the shopping district of South Orange, where we would start to trudge up the hill to what us city boys considered wilderness. We hiked past stately homes with manicured lawns, a far cry from our homes in Newark. Finally, the houses were replaced with trees and the sidewalks with a dirt shoulder – we were almost there.
Our destination lay down a dirt road branching from the main highway. The area was large and open, set aside for day-tripping scouts to build fires and cook their meals. Across a stream bordering the area and up into the trees stood a few cabins for weekend outings. The cooking area was supplied with a generous amount of wood provided by work crews maintaining the reserve. For a bunch of boys who thought starting a charcoal fire was an adventure – this was nirvana.
Lunch was usually hot dogs and foil-wrapped potatoes and onions. The fire built to prepare these meager meals was immense to say the least. On hot summer days, we built fires large enough to heat the whole area during the dead of winter. Once everyone tired of throwing on wood, we had a fire too hot to approach to do any cooking. Either you waited for the flames to die down or had to find a very long stick to cook your hot dogs.
After our meals were consumed and the fire extinguished (I won’t go into how we boys would sometime extinguish fires), we set off on our hike. The mountain reservation was extensive with a variety of trails we could wander. Some were relatively flat, along a streambed, while others were more strenuous. One hike we often took was up a steep hill with the final climb to the summit a rock face. A spectacular view awaited, a view city boys could appreciate. When we later returned to the Boy Scout area, we usually built another fire whether on not we had anything to cook. With everyone rested, we began our trek down the hill to catch the bus home. Somehow the walk down always seemed longer than the walk up. By now we were all grungy and reeked with the smell of smoke, but we always enjoyed each other’s company and the time we had in the woods. After once again walking through affluence, we boarded the bus and made our way past the slums of Newark and finally to our homes. I treasured these outings with friends and took comfort in the fact that the solitude of a forest was only a bus ride away.

July 7, 2014 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment


Need that book for the beach you won’t be able to put down?

Give New Moon Rising a try!

Here’s a taste.

Chapter Twenty-Two


A phone ringing in the early morning hours is seldom a harbinger of good news. When Wade’s phone rang at two thirty-five in the morning, he came out of a peaceful sleep and with dread, reached for the receiver.

“Wade, this is Jeff at the lab.” The excitement in the young graduate student’s voice spoke of disaster before he revealed the reason for his early morning call. “It may have started. We have seismic activity along the whole Hawaiian chain. We have earthquake activity measuring 8.6 on the Richter scale. It’s the strangest earthquake, associated with the islands, anyone here has seen. The earthquake occurred at 4:20PM Hawaiian time. We cannot pinpoint the origin. It’s a series of earthquakes occurring simultaneously beneath the whole island chain. There have already been reports of tsunamis from Midway Island, the Marshall Islands, and the Samoan Islands. New Zealand, Australia, Central America, and China are all bracing for a giant wave. No one knows if the tsunami will be as bad as 2004.”

Jeff responded, “This is amazing! Earthquakes like this have never been described before. No one will know what to expect.”

“Jeff, try to calm down. Juliet and I will be at the lab as soon as we can.

Have the proper authorities been notified?”

“Are you kidding? Every lab in the world recorded this event. Damage reports are already coming in from Hawaii and the damage is widespread.”

“We are also getting signs of volcanic activity around the dormant volcano you instrumented on the island of Hawaii. There have been reports of ash spewing from several volcanoes on some of the islands that haven’t had activity for hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of years.

Wade’s thoughts instantly went to Foster on Oahu. “Is there any report of activity of Oahu?”

“Koolau volcano on Oahu is reported to be putting out ash and smoke.” Wade finished by saying, “We’re on our way, Jeff.”

Wade tried to control his own emotions as he turned toward Juliet. She had propped up her pillow and was listening to the conversation. Just from hearing Wade’s end, she knew that the news was not good.

With fear in his voice, he said, “It looks like it’s begun.” He went on to tell her all that he knew from Jeff as they hurriedly dressed and set out for the lab.

As they approached the Geology Building, every window was illuminated. Wade noticed that the parking lot was already half full as they pulled into his

organized and assigned specific tasks.

A group was told to keep track of earthquake damage and aftershocks. Another was told to track tsunamis, and a third group was told to monitor the Hawaiian Islands for volcanic activity. Constant contact was established with labs in Australia, New Zealand and their colleagues in Japan. There was an attempt made to contact the lab in Hilo at the University of Hawaii—but the lines were out.

With all the phones and computers manned, order began to emerge from the chaos. Wade had a chance to inspect the seismic tracings from the earthquake beneath the Hawaiian Islands. They represented not a single quake, but a long series of overlapping quakes. The location was difficult to determine. The earthquakes occurred at a series of points beneath the Pacific Ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. The character of these quakes fit into the scenario along with the other events that occurred, supporting Professor Humphries’ theory. They were unprecedented in modern time.

Wade stood in the lab, holding the tracings, and wondered about his brother and all the rest of the population of Hawaii, people in love with their paradise. So in love were the residents, that it may have cost countless lives to enjoy heaven on Earth just a little longer.

* * * *


Foster continued to work at the surf shop and Heather at the bed and breakfast although each had little to do. Heather took her baby to work with her and found time to feed and care for him while she accomplished her tasks. The working conditions were ideal for caring for the baby. In fact, Lulu gave him so much attention, that if it weren’t for the fact Heather was breast-feeding; he would need no care at all.

Although life went on, there was a pall hanging over the islands knowing that its days might be numbered. Foster had become close friends with most of the surfers who congregated on the beach and shopped at the store. A few that were originally from the mainland returned home but all the native surfers chose to stay. For the most part, they were young men who loved the surf and sun and little else. When asked about their future, almost to a man, they talked about quality of life—not quantity.

Foster was working behind the counter one day while Joe was grabbing some lunch when his friend Rich Loana entered the shop.

“What can I do for you, Rich?”

“Just wanted to see if you’d be interested in doing some surfing later this afternoon. The waves are supposed to be great today.”

“I should be able to get away around four. I’ll meet you on the beach in back of the shop.”

“Sounds like a plan, Foster. I’ll see you then.”

After Rich left, Foster thought about a conversation he had with Rich months earlier, when the news of what might happen to Hawaii was released.

He had had similar conversations with a lot of the surfers he had gotten to know. One conversation with Rich stuck in his mind.

He’d asked Rich, “What will you do now, Rich?” “What do you mean—I’m going to surf.”

“No, you know what I’m talking about. When are you leaving?” “I’m not.”

“You can’t stay here, it’s not safe.”

“Listen Foster, I was born on this island, it’s my home, the only place I’ve ever lived. And surfing is the only thing I know how to do. I don’t have an education. I don’t have a skill. If I moved to the mainland, what would I do? I’d be a bum the rest of my life. I’m a bum here, but at least I have a chance to do what I love. If this theory is wrong – no harm done. If its right, I’ll be doing what I love doing right to the end.”

Foster found that most of the native-born Hawaiian surfers he talked to had a similar attitude. They were determined to embrace their ‘hang loose’ attitude of life right to the end.

* * * *

Traffic through the shop was light, had been for months. Three-thirty arrived and Foster told Joe he was thinking of riding some waves until Heather came home. “I don’t think I’ll be able to handle this crowd all alone,” Joe said as he looked around the empty store. “Go ahead; get your butt on the beach.”

Foster got a couple good rides before Rich showed up. They rode together for a while until Rich caught a wave that Foster missed. Foster paddled back out to deeper water turned toward the beach and was preparing to get up on his board

It was 4:20.

He could see Rich on the beach taking a breather, when his friend suddenly fell to the sand. Foster thought to himself, “What the hell is he doing now?” Then he noticed branches falling from the palm trees. In quick succession, the roof of the shop caved in leaving a pile of rubble where the shop and apartment had been. He quickly paddled to shore, and as soon as his feet made contact with the sand, he fell to his knees in the shallow water. He looked up and down the beach and the few people still standing were holding onto a tree or other stabilizing object with looks of shock and disbelief on their faces.

The trembling lasted minutes, but it seemed like hours. Time slowed as the Earth shook. The violent shaking subsided, settling down to series of lesser and lesser ripples of movement. Foster ran around front and found Joe sitting on the grass clutching a blood-soaked towel to his head.

“Is this what we’ve been waiting for?” asked Joe. Foster pointed to the south. “What’s that Joe, a fire?” “If it is, it’s one hell of a fire.”

Then they noticed pillars of smoke dotting the horizon.

“I think some of our dead volcanoes have come to life. Come on, we need to get to the B&B. Although the trembling had ceased, the trembling of both

men had not. A mixture of adrenaline, fear, and awe fed emotions waiting for months to be released. Both men knew in their hearts THIS WAS IT.

They hopped into Joe’s jeep and began the short drive to the bed and breakfast. A drive that should have taken minutes, took nearly an hour. The narrow road was littered with tree branches and debris from collapsed buildings and clogged with people walking, stumbling in a state of shock, and not knowing where to go or what to do. Screams could be heard from some of the partially collapsed structures, but for now, aid was nonexistent.

Joe could see the column of smoke issuing to the sky before his business came into view. As they turned the last bend in the road, there stood the B&B, or at least what was left of it, engulfed in flames. The men felt relief when they saw Lulu and Heather standing in the parking lot holding the baby. Their clothes were torn and they were both covered in soot, but they were safe.

They parked the jeep a safe distance from the fire and approached the women. Lulu was in hysterics, sobbing and could not be consoled.

“Thank God you’re all safe. It’s only a building,” Joe said as he embraced his frantic wife.

All Lulu could say over and over was, “Oh no, no, no.”

Foster noticed Heather was also crying. He hugged her and his son. Through choked-back tears, she explained what had happened. “Lulu and I were in the kitchen. Thank God we had the baby with us. We were preparing tomorrow’s breakfast when everything began to shake. Things fell off the shelves and the ceiling started coming down. We made it out just in time before the whole place came crashing down and began to burn.”

Lulu stood listening, clutching herself and moaning.

“A few hours ago we had the first guests we’ve had in a long time check in, a young couple from California, along with their five year old son. They went upstairs to get some rest before they began their tour of the island. They never came out.”

They all watched the burning structure as it caved in further. As the flames singed the nearby palms, they knew it was also a funeral pyre. Both women sobbed as the men stood helpless. Oahu and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands were also helpless, caught in the grasp of a power that was no longer a theory.

Here’s where you can buy it.


July 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm Leave a comment


The literary journal, Still Crazy, has published my poem, Sunday Park Bench, in their July 2014 issue.

They describe their publication as, ‘A literary magazine written by and about people over age 50 but designed to appeal to thoughtful people of all ages’.

If you want to give it a try, here’s a link.

July 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm 1 comment

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