Archive for the ‘the beginning’ Category

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

Friday, February 3rd, 2017


A classic photo. You can find this photo in December 2016. Probably taken 10 or so years after World War II. Our father still has pimples and our mother very much in love. This is before Seton Hall college, the Korean War, taking on a business and 10 children. When they first got married they were able to get a free apartment above The Westfield Leader, the local newspaper. Having a cop for a father entitled you to some perks in those days and that’s how they got the apartment. The only catch was that they had to clean the bathrooms of the newspaper. It wasn’t an easy task as this was way before the digital age and the bathrooms were blanketed in black ink seven days a week.
In 1960 shortly after having their first child, Barbara they purchased a home for 12,000 in a budding new suburban town called Carteret. The New Jersey Turnpike was just built (1951) and it’s short ride to New York City made it a perfect nest for new families in search of the American dream.
The American dream consisted of a white picket fence that our father planted rose bushes next to. Our neighbors were steady thru out our 25 year stay at 121 Whitman street. (to be continued)

claustrophobia

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

this was our first summer
Under the canvas gazebo
Encased by the towering rows of impatiens,
petunia’s
and daisy
where 8 foot tall sunflowers leaned into
the bursting tomatoes conversations
deep in three Layers of balanced stones
where we met each morning Covered in cool shadows
starbucks coffee and melted wax from last nights candles
you, chasing the bees and butterflies and weeds,
me interrupted by the screaming locust trying to
understand my struggle with claustrophobia
“the last time i died…” i said, “i drowned
in a wave crushing ocean.”

synchronicity

Friday, January 27th, 2017