Archive for the ‘the beginning’ Category

Rigor mortis

Monday, October 8th, 2018

I know know this: Bobby Orr killed Bernie. Many decades ago I always thought it was his mother. Bobby Orr is dead now too. He died in a drug deal gone bad in New York City and they found his body in a back alley in the first stages of Rigor mortis.
Glenn was fearless. His whole life he was fearless. Since the moment he came out of the womb he was punching, kicking, cheating, stealing and fearless.
Somebody put Bernie’s stiff dead dog body in a bucket. He stood straight out in an advanced stage of Rigor mortis. And not only that but his eyes were wide open.

Somebody told me that Bernie was in the backyard dead. When I went back there to believe it, I wasn’t expecting him to be standing straight up in a bucket, staring at me with wide unblinking eyes. This was, without a doubt the scariest thing I have ever seen in my life.
I ran out of the backyard. To this day, I always wondered who:
1. Put Bernie in the bucket.
2. Took Bernie out of the bucket.
3. Disposed of Bernie’s dead body.

I come to this conclusion. It was either Gunk or Glenn but most probably Glenn. Because he was more fearless than Gunk.
Technically, Bernie was a family dog but he seemed to be with Glenn the most.
The dog was named after a truck driver that my mother banging at the Carteret Holiday Inn. She met him at the bar there, He was married with kids and on the road all the time hauling truckloads of cheese from Wisconsin to New York.

The Holiday Inn in Carteret stood on the edge of the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 12. It had a huge oversized sign that stood separate from the building. You could see this sign from miles and miles away.
This was the same Holiday Inn that Carol Dooley worked at as a housekeeper for awhile when her and Rebel lived with us before they bought property at Pioneer Plantation.
A few years later this was the same hotel where Barb and Gene held their wedding reception.
And then perhaps a decade after that, this was the hotel I used to sneak in the back door and empty the ice machines for my 8 coolers of Lobster that I used to sell for Beverly’s boyfriend Ronnie.

Bernie (the dog) would wear a denim jacket. I think it used to be Bonitas but she grew out of it and Glenn put it on Bernie. (the dog) So he was a cool dog and that’s probably why Bobby Orr killed him.

Bobby Orrs father was a notorious coke dealer/mobster in Carteret.
He drove a big maroon Cadillac and was always getting pulled over by the Carteret police.
One time, me and my brothers decided to have a porch sale and our mother let us put all our stuffed animals outside for sale.
Bobby Orr walked around the corner, stepped up to the porch, announced that he was “Taking them all.” He then produced a fresh fifty dollar bill to pay for them.
We jumped for joy but our happiness didn’t last long as Joan our mother called Mrs. Orr to investigate and as it turns out he took the money from his fathers stash. Turns out nine year old Bobby Orr was walking around with at least a thousand bucks on him.

Narrow leaf cattail
(T. angustifolia)

I’m in the middle room and I looked out the window to see this:
Glenn was leading a small gang of kids down the middle of Whitman street. Bernie (the dog) was one of the members of the gang as he trotted next to Glenn with his denim jacket on.
Some sights from your childhood you never forget. This was one of them. It was also around the time that Bonita had given herself a haircut. Fuck Bobby Orr. This was a good damn dog and he didn’t deserve to be murdered.

Usually around five o Clock one of us would go out the side door and ring a cowbell. This was a signal that it was dinner time. With nine siblings if you missed dinner you probably didn’t eat.
Here, on this sweltering Summer day in Carteret, Glenn and the gang, that included Grant, were holding a bunch of “punks” that they had just cut from the railroad tracks. “Punks” were the tops of these huge wild weeds that grew over 7 feet tall in the fields by the trestle.
When they dried out you can light the end and it would slowly burn down like a cigar. Punks were particularly handy when we had fireworks or to light cigarettes.
Carteret, a place where you can hear life going by so quickly without you. The constant line of low flying 747’s landing at Newark airport only a few exits away. The ghostly howling of the Turnpike only a block away.
The freight trains screaming and creaking into the late night.

The great gas station heist was still a few years away. Billy Danielle always knew that Frank Zappa was god. He raced pigeons then and to this day he still does, although like everything else it’s become digital. The pigeons have a Radio Frequency Identification tags on them.
I saw Billy a few months ago and he works at an oil refinery off exit 13 now.
His paycheck is so large and complicated he had no idea how much he makes an hour when I so impolitely asked him.
At this time there was still a log cabin in our backyard. Carol and Rebel gave it to us for Christmas one year. One time I caught Glenn drinking and smoking in it. This is because he drank a whole jar of pickle juice as a child.
But now back to the more shocking moment of this story. Bernie (the dog) is dead. He is in a bucket, stiff as a board with his eyes wide open behind the pool. Fin.

Sleep Log #612

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

i have been

sleeping alot. is there such a thing as too much? too much time travel? too much darkness? well surprise these dreams were filled with sunlight and the sunlight wasn’t from a nuclear attack on nyc. one year ago i asked where would i be now. and here we are. sifting through the ashes of change. M&J bought a new house but in this dream it was a skyscrapping building overlooking the Judahque river. the river was the brightest blue so J wanted to paint the walls orange because #graphicdesign and M was out on the deck yelling down to shawn by the bright blue river. he hasnt shown J his tattoo yet and confided in me that hes scared as hell about her reaction. he is holding a dunkin donuts cup filled with JD and coke. K is also drinking in this dream and telling me that she is a partial therapist, part time theologist, adaquaited numerologist, bi-partisian contracTOR, elo-marine-bio-garderner, flOWER grOWER (please help me my dream is starting to lose)control. that is what we love about (isn’t it) dreams? )anything can happen) M&J are in the spaceship now, my ‘new’ car cant fly like theirs but its history is starting to come out. You know how like, when you are with someone and their history starts coming out?(exposed) as they circle the skyscrapper in Hoboken by the blue river, M is telling us about the lion.
s t o p.
here is where the dream loses it. i realize its a dream but let it roll. thank you for all these colours now. thank you for all the fears i have recently conquered. nothing was handed to us on a silver platter but its amazing how we can all help each other. waiting at the airport. a cat in a pool. anna and her friends bowling in wedding dresses. getting my tie caught is a screen printer. burying my brother. cursing the snow in july. missing my mothers birthday. remembering my fathers death (to the exact hour)3pm june 11 1971 and knowing at that moment, even though he was in boston, that something was wrong. marine biologist. brand new drill. painting the attic floor. my new friend the vending machine, and coffee maker. Powdered forgiveness.

Last year two old friends passed away. I hadn’t seen either of them in many many years. Decades. Several decades. Yet they were, like most old friends are, always there. One lived in Elizabeth NJ, was my old boss, the other was my best friend when I was growing up. He moved to Phoenix Az a long time ago.
When they both found out they were dying they made it a point to contact me. I tried texting but they insisted on talking by phone. Both of them mentioned all these crazy little funny things I did and said when we were friends. They said I helped them. They said I was funny and kind. They were glad to have met me and be friends with me and sorry that life had split us up. When I get down on myself I remember that.
they* were both in the dream. sitting on the edge of the balcony of M&J skyscrapper by the blue river. sipping cokes. looking down at the busy city street below.
Dream over.

Sleep Log #15

Sunday, July 1st, 2018


writers blog:dry humid desert. empty for weeks
solution: make an assignment
Assignment: unemployment dreams
Begin: when it all finally happened it wasn’t like losing jobs that I had in the past. That sudden splash of cold water in your face-that dizzying blurred shock. In the past: One time walking down the streets of New York in a total haze. The financial numbers going thru my head. I’ve always been on the verge of total bankruptcy. Living paycheck to paycheck. But still, when they told me, I smiled and thanked them for the opportunity to work with them, the two short Jewish guys. I firmly shook their hands. Turned around and ran for the door before the other employees could see me.
There’s a certain amount of embarrassment to getting laid off. Although there shouldn’t be. The ones who should be embarrassed are the ones that lost the big accounts. Greedy negotiating or lack of salesmanship killed this place.
Canvas4death
Now: For a long time I had seen the end coming here. I had witnessed the first tiny leak in the hull. Shrugging that off as just something that happens in business. Each year more people jumping ship until towards the end it was just Gabby and me. Clinging on to the railing, our bodies half way deep into the salty rush of bankruptcy ocean. The builder of the boat unseen for four long years. Tangled in debt. Exhausted of credit.
So it wasn’t guillotine swift but it still hurt. I gave my everything and failed (or so I thought)

In all of the dreams nightmares of unemployment it is dark warehouses from my past. It is dreary and almost apocolypstic in nature. It is a David Lynch movie. Black and white. Filmed on streets of abandoned cities. Graffiti on brick walls still dripping wet. You are always alone. There is never anyone to help you.

Your new coworkers have blank faces and mumble instructions for your new tasks. You don’t understand. They shake their heads and walk back into an office probably to report you.
I’ve always thought to myself that money is the solution to all problems. Money equals happiness. But it is, as Forest Gump so simply says, one less thing. There are people in jail for the love of money. There are people dead from greed. Wars have been fought for wealth, It is somewhere written that cash is the root to all evil. The moral of the story is this: everyone finds out the hard way that money isn’t the absolute key to happiness. Respect money. Manage it well and you can live a good life. Try to get, hope for, pray for, inherit a good work ethic.
I had finally found a break, a paid vacation, sleeping in, staying up late but I couldn’t enjoy it. Finding a job is more work than actually having a job. The interviews. The revamping of resumes. The searching. The searching. And of course, the searching. Write a cover letter that will grab their attention in the first few sentences. Cliche is boring!
The real nightmare was reality. My car on the edge of total death. Every day a little older and who hires old people anyway? So fear is reality. Again. Fear triggers these nightmares of worthlessness, self-pity and creates these streets of industrial gloom in my dreams. Every job I’ve ever worked comes back to visit me. Decades before the dot com bust I delivered newspapers, tried painting, assembly lines, pumped gas, drove fork trucks down skinny warehouse aisles, poured five gallons plastic containers of bleach, loaded trucks on wind swept zero degree shipping docks on the overnight shift. Punched in. Punched out. Met a slew of the strangest people.
This is the thing: Suck up your fear. Walk thru the door. Shake their hand with power and knowledge. Smile with wisdom. And if you don’t know what the fuck they are talking about, nod your head in agreement and say you do. Fake it till you make it. The dots will always connect. They always have somehow for me.

we ended up here

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

we ended up here, up here on these
cliffs and ledges up here on the verge
of our autumns winter The patch of grass
we grew together almost too green and lush
here where the perfect pavers interlock
perfect stone walls and it all holds the
perfect town together This american flag flying
dream. Perfect.

we survived the blizzards of winter so Now
she plants bulbs and dried out seeds she stole
from her past lives Down in the shadows of
fluorescent studio basements and the giggling
children painting fiery sunsets they never saw

we ended up here in the layers and three dimensional
backyard of towering trees creaking in the winds
and sounds of jet engines and sirens The butterfly’s
and bees hypnotize Who are we?, we ask to wake up
ghetto-less in sun drenched bed sheets Who are we?
never escaping the late night train whistles and laptop
glow.

this cage is the clusterfuck of north Jersey
twisting turning dizzying asphalt
smokestacks and steeples line the horizon of
the industrial revolution from generation to generation
factory workers walking home to hot soup a long time ago
and we now under the same sun birthing a new era
that will plant grass and flowers and stop for a moment
to watch a plane deep blue fly by overhead.

Grandpa

Thursday, March 1st, 2018


I’ve always been a firm believer in the “It takes a village” approach to raising children. When I was much younger at least I remember we had quite a village at home. Two grandfathers, two grandmothers, aunts,uncles and cousins and friends everywhere.

Then there was that dark period where it seemed everybody died. Grandpa Hartman (pops) was first, my father followed a year later, then his mother died while visiting aunt Gerry a short time after that. Then I remember my mother handing me the phone and it was my cousin Dennis crying and lost that his father, my beloved uncle Jay died of a sudden heart attack. Grandpa Gill died in 1972. All this happened within two years. I was only allowed to view Pops funeral from a distance, my fathers too. I never actually went up to the body and knelt down in front of it I guess because everyone was scared I was going to flip out.
I wasn’t close to flipping out. I was contused at all this death. Who understands death at nine years old?
Actually my most memorable event at the Dooley Funeral Home in Westfield was this huge Grandfather clock that chimed every fifteen minutes. And the chime was something I remember from a movie. Very eerie and lonely.

Both Grandfathers scared the hell out of me. They were both huge men, demanding, stern and their presence in a room was sometimes overwhelming. Both were extremely respected in their community Westfield. Pops of course, owned the Westfield Sewing Center and was a huge presence downtown on East Broad street. Grandpa Gill was a highly respected police officer. He started when cops used bikes, not cars to chase criminals and was even considered a folk hero by the entire town that knew him. Both were smokers, drinkers and fierce womanizers, loved cars and lived a full life.

Pops would sit on the front porch of Whitman street all the time. He always had and was offering me a pocket full of hard candies. I never accepted them. I don’t know why. Once he asked me to “go to the trains in Westfield” I dint know what that meant. Was it the railroad track we crossed over in Clark when we drove to Westfield? He asked me three times one day. Just me and him. Butch come to “trains in Westfield” No thanks. My mother even begged me to go with him. I just refused. I regret that today. Turns out it was an annual model train show they held at the Westfield Armory. We never bonded, I think as kids should with their granfathers. He was very grumpy and surrounded on the porch by stamped out Pall Mall cigarettes which he chain smoked. He drove an old station wagen and the back of it was just filled with unorganized shit. The Westfield Sewing Center when he owned it was also an unorganized nightmare of frick frack. Yet, when a customer came in looking for something specific, he knew exactly where it was. The basement of the store was also another childhood nightmare. Dark, mysterious and one time I saw a mouse trap and I said “that it, I aint going down in the basement again.”

Grandpa Gill was also known to be a bit grumpy. One time when he was very sick with shingles, he had a bed in our rec room and lived there for quite awhile. While I now know shingles could be very painful I never understood then why he was so angry and grouchy. One time I called him a “crab” and he got up out of bed and chased me in his pajamas outside and into the street, In my early childhood, the 1960’s he retired from the police force, a Sargent and purchased a house on the lagoon in Lavallette NJ. These were, without a doubt some of the best memories I ever had. There was fishing, a boat, the beach, and all the kids slept up min the refurbished addict. Carol and Rebel always seemed to be there too.

It takes a village so if you have that chance, be there whenever you can.

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

December 17
The best way to describe it is like being the last person on a sinking ship

Margaret Hartmann Memories

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Margret Hartmann Robarge. Circled. With her father, mother and 10 siblings. Our grandfather George is standing, second from the right next to his mother Clara.

(click here) Margaret Hartmann Memories

This is Margaret Hartmann Robage (circled in photo) memories of her childhood. Dictated to her daughter Leatrice in August and September 1966.

The Nerve Brooke Marie Cordray

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

The Great Escape

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Jim McSherry was always our leader when we were young. We were mostly bored out of our minds desperate to find something to do. There was no technology, smart phones or video games as you have heard from us old timers ad nauseam on social media. We did do a lot of interesting things but in between those adventures mostly I remember walking to the Shopping Center to get a coke or a snack to start the day. Along the way we met with other members of the gang that lived along this route. So totally boring and mindless it seemed to me that I would spend the rest of my life walking to Carteret Shopping Center with this crew.

I thought I always had a plan in the back of my mind but it seemed too selfish and stupid to share to anybody. It was my secret.
My first love in life was the New Jersey Shore. I was carried there as a toddler by my parents, and was taken there in my early years by aunts, uncles, sisters and their boyfriends. Something magical happened to me when I sat in from of those endless rolling waves. It was mesmerizing inner peace and freedom. It attacked all of my senses, the salt air, the hot sun, the sand between my toes. This was always my heaven on earth.

As our fearless leader Jim McSherry was the one that started the football team (he was quarterback), he was the one that initiated side street baseball. He told us where to go. He told us what to do. If you didn’t listen or do what he said you were shunned mentally from the “gang” He was also much stronger than us and apparently a good fighter. (later on he did join a boxing gym and fought in the Golden Gloves).

One day James Vincent McSherry began our daily routine walk to the shopping center with a plan. We listened intently as he explained what his old brother had recently done, we would now follow. The plan was to walk to the Woodbridge train station and take a south bound NJ transit train as far south as it would go which was Bay Head. From there we would hitchhike a few miles north on route 35 to Belmar. Belmar was a quaint little shore down. This was the McSherry beach of choice. You see each family in New Jersey had adopted a favorite beach to visit. I know for the Hartmans it was Point Plesant and the Gitter enjoyed Bradley (Bagel) Beach. Stuff’s family went to Seaside Park. Jim McSherry was our leader and Belmar was “his” beach so Belmar it was.

Belmar was unique in a way that they had huge wooden lifeguard boats that they turned over at night. We could tunnel underneath them at night to create a place to sleep. A couple times when we did this adventure we actually rented a room. Today I still wonder where all the adults were. Our parents for one thing, allowing us to travel by train 50 miles south, hitchhike and rent a room to stay over night. Also, what kind of responsible mature adult rents out a room to a group of teenagers all obviously under the age of 18?

So what stuck in my mind was that this great adventure and rebellious plan actually worked. This beach escape became a permanent fixture in the back of my mind. As the gang went on to different high schools and some of us to college we separated. It happened swiftly and without warning like life usually does things. I don’t really remember saying goodbye to anybody. Life just happened. If I would have known that our very last walk down to Carteret Shopping Center was our final, I would have done things so much differently. I would have a taken camera and lined us all up in front of Krausers holding our cokes and snacks in a cheer. I would ask one of the passing adults to snap our photo. Then I would individually hug each and every one of the gang and wish them well in life. “Bless your journey, whatever it may be.” I would say with tear filled eyes.

I struggled greatly in an all boy High School dominated by geniuses and talented sport playing fellow students. They had trophies with their names on them in the huge glass case out in the reception area of the school. The administration had a flawless reputation to keep. We are the best and nothing else. They hung up newspaper clippings on a board by the trophy case demonstrating that greatness. I was just barely getting by with my grades and at home it was now 5 years since the death of my father and almost pure chaos had kicked in. It was also around this time I started to drink. I drank to get drunk. This was a fine escape.

I was delivering the Star Ledger in the early morning my first three years of high school and I adored getting up early to do this. There was something magical and QUIET about being the first one up in a house loaded with 12 children. (at this point Barb had moved out and three step brothers had moved in). I loved the complete stillness of the early morning when I walked my route. Sometimes I would see stuff in neighbors garbage that I took. I found a cool wooden box hand engraved which I still have today filled with concert tickets. One time I found a box filled with National Geographic magazines and I picked up and took it home.

It was in these magazines I discovered the world. How huge and beautiful it is. There was something bigger, more important and much more beautiful out side of Carteret New Jersey.

I had concocted a plan and it was to run away from everything. I would save enough money for a one way ticket to Hawaii, pack nothing, fly there and then spend the rest of my life there. Since Jim McSherry had taught me that you can sleep on the beach that was my plan. I would stay on the warm beaches of Hawaaii until I could find a small job, maybe washing dishes and then just work my up. I told myself I wouldn’t tell anybody where I was. I would have just vanished with a new life.

With no internet checking flight prices and departure times was done with a phone and at times my vision of living on a beach in the Pacific ocean seemed unrealistic. But I was determined and several times I had saved a couple hundred dollars in the bank for my plane ticket but then “something always came up.” I don’t know whatever happened to this plan to escape. It got lost in the rough and tough tumbles of life. It was still always there, though, whenever I got frustarted or lost a job or fell behind on my bills.

It was only in writing this now and remembering that I realize a very influential friend has been gone in my life since I turned 20. It was one hot day in the Summer that Jim McSherry knocked on my door and said, “I’m leaving now. We’re moving to Arizona” His father had asthma so bad that the doctor told him that moving to Arizona would be the only left to save him. So Jim McSherry moved away and started a new life. He came back to visit a few times and I went there once to visit him in Arizona State University but it was never the same. He was on the other side of the country and so was his imagination, his laughter, his impersonations, his animated story telling and all the magic that he brought to any friendship.
Now he is slowly dying from congestive heart failure and I ask that anybody who reads this to say a prayer for him and his family. He is a great man.

POV #6

Friday, April 21st, 2017


E X P A N D the P H O T O