Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reviewer Training

Another busy, but very enjoyable day: Picked Aline up at 10:15--early--for the twelve noon reviewers' orientation, but we managed to be late, anyway.
I had gotten directions--no, "directions"--from both Google and Mapquest and they screwed me up royally.  There's no point in enumerating all the problems for me driving to a destination 62 miles away, but--well, we were late.
When we finally got there, it was good.  (I did, however, have to squelch a burning desire to kick whoever decided the day before a major holiday, with lots of traffic, was a good time to have people travel across state.  Okay, simmer down, Mimi.)  With a power point presentation and a printed packet (love alliteration!), we were introduced to play reviewing for the New Jersey Association of Community Theatres (NJACT).
The idea is to have two trained reviewers attend shows by amateur companies (Equity productions can not be reviewed) and, from the information submitted, the organization presents Perry Awards to the winners of each category.  These include not only acting, but direction, set design, choreography, costumes, and many others.   Should be fun, aside from getting to each venue, that is.
We were back in Little Egg by 4:30 and Aline suggested dinner at the Chinese restaurant near the lake--her treat.  I happily accepted and had pork with string beans, of which I took half home.
Didn't get in until almost 8:00, then had a Skype call from adorable K., the little jumping jack--so squirmy he's getting!--whose Daddy said had just been talking to his Aunt Ellen.  I called same and we had a good talk; she's looking forward to Spring Break, starting tomorrow.  I talked to her sister also, and will be with her today, so was contacted by all four of my faithful, ever devoted children.
Oh, wait, you say, that's only three?  But I'm sure the errant child will repent and get in touch for this major holiday, so I can say "Happy Easter" to his precious little girls.  Even though they're flying back from Japan to Singapore?  Well, sure.    

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Maritime Museum

I had asked Aline if she'd like to go to old Bordentown (Victorian houses, little shops, very historic) yesterday, but because it was cloudy and cold, I suggested we defer it and I looked for something else.  Put "New Jersey museums" in the search engine and I stumbled over the Maritime Museum on Long Beach Island.
Now, I'm no fan of maritime history, lover of the sea though I am, but I thought it was worth a look, so--after an expensive lunch at one of the fancy and cutthroat eateries on the island (hamburgers were fifteen bucks), we found the place across from the bay.
What a treasure!  It's incredible, starting with the fact that it's free of charge.  Without going into an enormous amount of detail, I can say it entails records--written, in photos, and via electronic, artifacts--of what seems to be practically every shipwreck off the New Jersey coast, as well as other Jersey shore-related events, up and down the whole coast.  There are vast stores of information on the Morro Castle fire, the Texas Tower disaster, and a trove of other Atlantic Ocean/New Jersey related topics. The artifacts on display just boggle the imagination. They include vintage photos, uniforms, newspaper articles, dishes and personal possessions from sunken ships, life savers and vests, DVDs and a multitude of other items. There's a whole section on deep sea diving, one devoted to Absecon Island and Atlantic City, another on WW II, and so on and on.  There's a lending library, Internet access, and "a complete set of USLSS annual reports from 1876 and 1915," whatever that is.  All this is arranged with great intelligence and imagination in what looks like a converted house, but is clearly pretty newly built.
When we walked in, we looked for a place to pay admission, but there isn't any--it's free.  There's also free single-serve coffee and incredibly, we were each given a number of DVDs gratis.  I received twelve, including "Shark Attack, 1916" and "the Lucy Evelyn."  This was after we met the owners--aside from three other visitors, the only people there--Deb Whitcraft,* a former Beach Haven mayor, and Jim Vogel, whom she introduced as her  husband. 
Without stretching this out too long (hey, that never bothered you before, Mimi), I can say we stayed until after 4:00, talking with Deb, who's been collecting for 42 years.  I'm going to ask Kelly, the Little Egg library manager, if she'd like to arrange for Deb to present there.  Will also do a piece for The Breeze, June issue.    
Everything in this remarkable place is arranged and presented with great intelligence and imagination--we loved it! We'll be back often, that's a cinch, and would highly recommend it to others.
Got a call from Betty and we had a nice chat.  Today, Aline and I are going up to Mercer Community College for orientation as NJPerry Award reviewers for the theatre company.  You can be sure I'm going to submit a requisition to LETCO for mileage; this one trip alone will total 130 miles and, of course, I'll be driving when we travel to shows.

* I was charmed to read on her card that Deb is also a "wedding officiant."  Presumably, she performs ceremonies on the beach, at sea, and--for all I know--as the ship goes down.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Roebling

The van tour yesterday was to Roebling, NJ, a fascinating place for a variety of reasons.  Our usual quartet went: Susan, Barb, Pat, and me, and I drove.  The van left from Tip Seaman Park, right here in Little Egg, which was unusual and much more convenient for us.
If I was the retrospective type--oh, that's right, I am!--I'd say Roebling illustrates the long, sad history of labor in this country.  It had been a thriving company town, thanks to John A. Roebling, who came here from Germany to establish his steel and wire mill in Trenton, then this hamlet (in 1904), which would carry on his name.
Thousands of workers, many from Hungary, the Czech Republic, and other eastern European countries, worked in the huge, twenty-acre facility.  In its heyday, the mill belched smoke, was exceedingly noisy, and naturally, dominated the town.
Roebling built brick homes for the workers: fairly modest, but decent, row houses for the laborers; larger, semi-detached homes for skilled tradesmen; and very large, quite impressive singles on the river for managers and department heads. I was fascinated to learn that, no matter the size, the homes contained only one bathroom.  And were the workers up in arms because of this?  Oh, no, they were thrilled by the fact that indoor bathrooms took the places of outhouses.
The museum--which had been the gatehouse when the mill was active--was modest, but interesting, and we had a competent docent, "Roy," as guide.  We learned that the mill was started in 1904, thrived for many years, had close ties with the nearby Trenton plant, and was sold by descendants in 1952.  Little by little, steel jobs went overseas--the reasons why are too long and involved to go into here, and the mill closed for good in 1974, putting an end to the dream of a decent living for those who relied on it.  Here's a good, succinct account of the town of Roebling:  
http://www.capitalcentury.com/1905.html
As for the trip itself, we endured the usual crammed-in-like-sardines van.  We had been scheduled to eat our lunches in the museum, but there was some mix up about that.  Therefore, we parked on the street next at the river.  It was exceedingly cold and windy, but I couldn't stand to stay in the van, so a few others and I went out to have lunch on the benches.  Brr--!
Got home an hour later than we were supposed to, but that was okay.  Went to the library after dinner and was pleased to have Aline come in.  We had a nice talk--she's been away for several days and I missed her--and made a date to go back up to Mercer County today, at my suggestion.  We'll tour Bordentown, also an historic place in this very historic state.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Accomplishments And Chickens

Wowee, I got a lot accomplished yesterday.  Went through the folders on my desk, weeded out paperwork, and re-organized.  Did the same with this year's receipts, assembling them into proper categories, and placing in large envelopes which I then put in the large rattan boxes in the study.  
Oh, that sounds simple and easy enough, a matter of mere minutes, right?  Ha!   It took me all morning and I still have plenty to do.  In between, I cut up several pounds of broccoli and put it to simmering in the slow cooker, along with canola oil, garlic, and seasonings.
I had a yen for chicken, so went to Acme, looking for leg quarters.  They had none, just breasts, so I drove up to Shop-Rite.  It was a madhouse, so crowded I could barely make it to the meat department, but I got the chicken, and escaped with my life.
That was the real chicken.  Stopped at K-Mart and bought--is my head on straight?--a fluffy pretend one that sings "Easter Parade," moves its head, and walks.  Rather than bring the lady who's having us for dinner on Sunday, mundane daffodils or tulips--she's pretty hefty and I wanted to spare her from having to plant them or feeling guilty if she didn't--I thought this would be fun. The kids will like it, too.  Hey, I like it.  
Put the chicken--not the fluffy one--in the oven to roast as soon as I got home, firmed up plans with Susan and Barbara for today's van tour, and called Linda K., at Rider, to ask about the info on life insurance I received in the mail.  I had forgotten, but she reminded me that, as a retiree, I'm insured for five thou.  I wrote my four children about it and now, I guess, will have to watch my back.


 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Bundy Case

It's so easy to come down on one side or the other when situations are clear cut, but often, the facts are shadowy, malleable, and subject to interpretation.
Such as?  Bundy vs. The Government of the United States.
As I understand it, the Bundys are ranchers whose cattle have grazed on government land for generations.  (Not incidentally to this story, the U.S. government is the largest landowner in the country.)  A new law was recently passed which forbids ranchers from this practice.  I believe the protection of an endangered species of turtle was the stated reason for the ban.
Bundy refused to obey, his cattle continue to graze on government land, and some have been seized.  Fees and fines against him have now grown to over a million dollars, which he refuses to pay.
Armed government agents are gathered near the ranch and so are self-appointed "militia"--private citizens with firearms.  The latter vow to "defend" Bundy if a shot is fired by the government.  That means a blood bath, possibly similar to the Waco horror so many years ago.
Ordinarily, this would be an easy call for Mimi, a progressive veering toward anarchism:  well-meaning private citizens against the criminals running the government?  Go, Bundy champs!
Hey, wait just a doggone minute.  I can never countenance violence except in the very extreme case when it's the only alternative if one's self or another person's is being threatened with serious bodily harm at that moment.  Add to that the caveat that it's used only up to the point where it stops the aggressor and not beyond. (I didn't go to Catholic school for nothing.)  This situation doesn't fill those requirements, so if I say I'm on the side of Bundy and the "militia" members, it means intellectually only.
But am I?  Let's suppose this isn't taking place in the romanticized-out-of-all-recognition west, involving a ranch and livestock, but instead, follows a scenario something like this:
In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a law is passed that disallows parking garages.  Of course, all casinos have such conveniences, but now they're illegal; patrons must park outside, next to the buildings, in all kinds of weather.  This has discouraged people from coming and cut down on profits.  Donald Trump protests--loudly--and lots of people around the country are outraged.
Take a look at the slot action on any given day:  It's fuelled mainly by little old ladies whose main pleasure in life is a monthly excursion to Borgata or the Golden Nugget or Trump's Castle.  They stoke those greedy little machines with their widow's mites in hopes of hitting it big for fifty bucks or so.  Who would not champion the right of these aging dreamers to get a little such enjoyment in their drab lives?  So we must form a human wall around Trump's place, say, and dare the government to enforce the law.  If they use force, we will respond with force...
But, uh, is this upholding the rights of little old ladies to act like idiots and throw away their money?  Or is it putting one's life on the line for a despicable, obscenely wealthy clown who would sooner kick those old ladies down the stairs than give up his parking garages?
Believe me, I can sympathize with the "militia" members who are standing dazed in the wreckage of what used to be (they believed, anyway, and perception is everything) the greatest country in the history of the world.  Where a guy who worked with his hands could earn decent pay and support a family and buy a house and have health benefits, then retire with a comfortable pension.  Where you could save a bit and accumulate interest.  Where you knew there was a big divide between those in charge of companies and those who simply worked there, but it was nothing like the yawning chasm that developed later.  Where you were confident when your country was at war, that it was a just war, waged only in defense and to promote democracy.  You knew that those who fought it included all citizens, the rich as well as the poor, because we were all in this together.
No more.  And the men and women with guns see themselves as defending a sacred trust: The kind of country in which they grew up and that they must restore, so their children can enjoy the good lives of good citizens.
Okay, they may have voted for Romney and they may be secret racists and they may link God and country without a lot of thought--but I tell you, I sympathize. They may be pining for a society that never existed, but I sympathize.  They're standing alone and afraid in a world they never made and, yes, I sympathize.
They were sold a bill of goods--the Brooklyn Bridge--and when they went to pick it up, they found it was immovable, bolted down with the most formidable rivets in the history of the world:  the alliance between government and corporations.
So am I "for" the Bundy side?  Oh, no, not really, but nor would I ever, in a million years, side with the great, bloated, more corrupt every day, force that now comprises the United States government.
Addendum:  I just read this by Lucy Steigerwald on AntiWar.com, which encompasses much of my attitude this whole troubling affair:
"Whether Bundy is in the right or not – and he is, and isn’t – the troubling part of some of the Waco comparisons is the feeling that if something happened to him or his family, there would be a crowd of people ready to justify the violence if it came from a government gun." 
Yes, there it is: If private citizens commit murder, it's a crime and a horror, but if it's done under some official sanction, it's understandable.  Reminds me of the latest Fort Hood shootings and the reports that authorities there are having to deal with such "violence."  It would be funny if it wasn't so horrifying:  Isn't violence their stock in trade?  



  

Incident At Italian Gourmet

An exceedingly rainy and blustery day.  I even thought about calling Betty and begging off our lunch date at Italian Gourmet, but didn't.  First went to the P.O. and mailed the boys' Easter cards and the wedding gift to New Zealand.
Early on, I was horrified to have my computer "seize up," an apt phrase, it seems to me, meaning I couldn't get it to do anything.  It was in a dead faint and I was frantic. Luckily, I was able to revive it by unplugging, then plugging back in--or something.
Met Betty and Helen C. at Italian Gourmet and we had a nice time.  I wasn't very hungry and simply ordered a Blue Moon and a bowl of soup .  I was surprised to see this came in a portion I would estimate to be a scant eight ounces, if that.  
Betty's salad and Helen's lunches came in larger dishes, but in the same design. We saw that the restaurant has changed its china to attractive, but deceptive, bowls and plates that flare out, so they look as if they contain more.  I questioned the waitress--quietly--and she sent the manager over. He was very polite and it was a cordial exchange.  The upshot was that he said they don't actually serve bowls of soup (seems weird) and that this was standard.  Seems to me the wait staff should be made aware of the minuscule portion and tell the customer up front.
There's chicanery afoot here, that's a cinch; I can just see some hotshot sales rep, fresh out of Screw The Customer U., selling the owners on tableware that will reduce portions and up their profits.
However, the bill came and I wasn't charged for the soup.  That wasn't my aim in questioning the portion--it was only $2.99--but it was a classy gesture and I appreciated it.
Will I go to Italian Gourmet again?  Sure: It's convenient and the food is edible. However, I won't order a bowl of soup expecting to get a bowl of soup.    
   

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Income Tax And The Sea

Got the income tax done, finally.  Instead of going to the blood-suckers at H & R Block, let alone a private accountant, I took advantage of the free AAUP service. This session was held--quite efficiently, too--at St. Mary's in Manahawkin and, after filling out a preliminary form, I was assigned to a nice guy named Bob.   Aside from the fact that I had forgotten my dividend form from Vanguard and had to go home and get it, it went smoothly.   I'm getting money back (not as much as last year, but I didn't have as many medical expenses), and I'm satisfied, as well as vastly relieved.
Stopped at Bed, Bath & Beyond and ordered the wall-hung hair dryer, which will be delivered to me at home.  Went to Shop-Rite for veggie items, Kohl's for Easter cards for the boys in Wellsboro, and Staples for a mailing cylinder.
Re the previous: For a wedding gift, I'm sending my great-niece, a veterinarian in New Zealand, copies of two large photos of my father (her great-grandfather), when he was on Villanova debating team and track team.  We're talking 96 years ago here, folks, and how strange it is to look at that person--a boy, really, still in his teens--and realize I know what was to come, but he didn't: a career as a civil engineer, marriage in a few years to a girl named Helen, a move to the New Jersey coast, six children, and an early death (at 51) in an accident.
Well, I guess it's a good thing we can't see the future.
Late in the day, I drove to the bay to be rejuvenated by the sea.  It was very windy and white caps were rolling in furiously, lashing the beach and throwing foam on the shore.  The noise was deafening and, fascinated as I was, I was also the slightest bit apprehensive.  What if the ocean should gather itself up, rear back, then decide to show the land who's really boss?  I wouldn't have a prayer of getting away and my bones would lie forever full fathom five...
Aline, still in Westchester, called and we had a good talk.  Ditto Betty and we made a lunch date for today.              
    

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hair Dryer

Did lots of small, but needed, chores, then went to Manahawkin.  Took the new hair dryer back to Kohl's--don't know why I bought it and never opened the box, as I definitely want a wall-hung one.  Went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and found they had none in stock, but could order it.  I should have, but foolishly, I thought I might be able to buy it cheaper elsewhere.  Went on-line and no, that's not the case. Called B, B & B and found I couldn't have it sent to the store, then pick it up, but have to go in.  Will do after I get my income tax done at St. Mary's.
Re that:  Boy, I never wait this long to have my tax return done.  However, I was so involved in the play and all--oh, gimme a break, Rosemary, it wasn't that absorbing--that I kept putting it off... Yes, my middle initial is "P" for "Procrastinator."  Every year, I've paid big bucks ($272 last time) to have my relatively simple tax returns done and I was determined not to this time, so I'm going to a free church-run place at St. Mary's in Manahawkin.  Let's hope this turns out okay.
I'm intrigued by an organization which rests on its members vowing not to buy anything (aside from consumables like food) for a year.  I'm thinking about it, even though I may not actually join.  Being in the process of clearing out, I'm constantly amazed at what I've bought over the years and I'm sick, sick, sick of all this stuff. I'm not a hoarder--am pretty neat, in fact--but this is a good-sized house and it's filled with such a huge accumulation.  All of it is usable and in good shape, but I don't need it, I don't want it, and I'm bent double over the weight of it! 
With that off my mind, I have news which is much more important than anything since the birth of the Tokyo Tot.  It's so monumental, in fact, that I devoted a whole post to it; see following post.   

Ellen And Gregg!

Wonderful, wonderful event: My darling daughter, Ellen, is engaged!  She and her Gregg called me on Skype last night to share the happy news.  He gave her a beautiful diamond ring, which she showed off and over which I oohed and ahhed.  I am so happy for both of them and of course, thrilled at the news.  I know her sister and brothers will like Gregg, as I do--it's so good I was able to meet and spend time with him in December.
It occurred to me that if anyone had told me eighteen months ago, I would have a beautiful new grandson AND that my precious Ellen would find the love of her life, I would have been incredulous.  But that happened, these wonderful things and they fill me with joy.
Congratulations, Ellen and Greg, two of my favorite people in the world!