The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

This was the first year that I tried to grow zinnia flowers from seed in the little garden patch that my landlord lets me tend during the spring and summer. I planted the seeds in a sunny, fertilized location in mid-April, and before long there were green zinnia shoots greeting me in the morning sun of early Spring. Unfortunately, within a month or two, the local insect population found out about these growing shoots, and just about devoured the whole crop within a few weeks. I tried spraying some stuff to stop them, but I didn’t want to use anything too poisonous, so I stuck with the more “organic” bug remedies. Unfortunately, these bugs were not impressed with my environmental concerns. They just wanted their zinnia leaves.

After a while, I realized that I just wasn’t going to grow zinnias in that spot, so I got out a little shovel and transplanted the handful of ragged stalks that still seemed potentially viable. Unfortunately, I had to put them in a more shady spot, although in an area where there seemed to be fewer insects. Some of the young plants floundered, but 4 or 5 managed to put out new leaves and carried on with their growth cycle — albeit at a slower rate.

The summer season here was not especially sunny, there were a lot of cloudy days, and so my mending zinnias were in no hurry to blossom. Finally, right around Labor Day, one plant managed  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:43 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Food / Drink ... Photo ...

Here’s a little look inside of a craft distillery at night. The location is the Silk City Distillery in Clifton, NJ. They make and sell small batches of bourbon, rum, rye whiskey and vodka. On weekends they often invite the public onto the premises, where there is a small lounge and bar selling cocktails made with their liquors.

This is the view on a Friday night; the production facilities are closed for the day, but the bar is open (over the right, out of sight of the camera), and is serving libations. Some of the customers have reported in on Yelp, and they generally like this place! So, if you live in or near Clifton, this might be a nice spot to spend an hour if you are old enough to drink, and can hold your liquor — they only have hard alcohol, remember. And also remember not to drink and drive — Uber and Lyft can get you into and out of here with minimal fuss.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:07 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

 »  continue reading …

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Saturday, July 7, 2018
Photo ...

It’s after 10, and the local Oriental restaurant has closed its doors. The staff has cleaned up and gone home, but it looks like the proprietor’s family has decided to take a break and review the day with each other, before locking up for the night. I like this scene; there’s something almost Edward Hopper-ish about it (yes, I’m thinking about Nighthawks and Automat, two of Hopper’s more famous works).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:48 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Saturday, May 26, 2018
Photo ...

Say what you will about the relative merits of cites versus suburbs, cities can be interesting places where you can sometimes see the unexpected. Suburbs, not so much. So, a few weeks ago, I noticed something seemingly amiss at the site of the former Bordens milk factory along the Morris and Essex rail line, which I ride to work on occasion. This site was abandoned by Bordens long ago, and after changing hands several times, it is now used by the City of Newark and the Newark Police Department to store and repair some of their many vehicles (there also appears to be a horse training ring for use by the Police mounted squad).

The object that seemed out of place was a bus, hanging over a small dirt cliff in the yard, nose down. The bus is marked for the Newark Recreation Dept. It’s not surprising that Newark Recreation wanted a bus to transport children and families to its various activities and offer occasional road-trips outside the city. What is surprising is that the bus is not being used these days, because it’s stuck hanging over a cliff at the former Bordens facility.

How did this happen? Was it an accident? If not, what would inspire city personnel to leave a bus this way? Was it still usable? And what about that bullet-hole on the front windshield, drivers side?

I have not read or heard any explanation for this situation. So I’m just going to share it here, as another example of our cities providing spice to life; they give us unexpected flavors now and then. I’m sure that this bus is somebody’s headache; but it’s not yours nor mine, so for now, just enjoy!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:45 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Food / Drink ... Photo ...

I recently posted a pic of a pirogi store next to a Mexican restaurant in Clifton, NJ. That was on the north side of town. Way down at the other end of “the big C” (on the map, Clifton is shaped like a “C”), down along Route 21 and the Passaic River across from Rutherford, is a venerable eatery known as Rutts Hut. This place is so historic that it earns its own Wikipedia page.

Here’s a shot of the take-out section of Rutts at night (there is also a bar and a sit-down restaurant on the other end). It’s late, but people are still lining up for fries and “rippers” (hot dogs deep fried in oil). Rutts is definitely a part of my childhood, and is definitely a local institution!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:58 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Photo ... Society ...

The adjacent cities of Clifton and Passaic, NJ were once the home to a variety of eastern and southern European families, many of which emigrated from Europe between 1900 and 1920 so as to find work in the many mills and factories in the area. Today, most of the factories are closed, and most of the Euro families have moved on to more distant suburbs. But northern NJ still has a diverse economy with a continuing need for cheap labor, and over the past 30 or 40 years, this has attracted a wide variety of Latin nationals to settle in the older neighborhoods in Clifton and Passaic where the Polish, Italian, Hungarian, etc. groups used to live. The Puerto Ricans came first, but today the predominant group seems to be the Mexicans. (Also, there is increasing Middle Eastern settlement in the northern areas of Clifton and adjacent South Paterson, e.g. Lebanese and Syrians).

The Poles were probably the most predominant ethnic group in these cities up through World War 2, and today a handful of Polish and later-generation Polish-ancestry families remain. And thus, you can see “ethnic stew” scenes like this: the El Mexicano restaurant sited right next to the Homemade Pirogi store on Main Avenue (they claim to have 17 varieties), just up a few blocks from the Passaic border. For the most part, everyone seems to get along. I would bet that the Mexicano gets a few tables of Polish-heritage customers, and the Pirogi place occasionally sells its wares to hungry Latin families looking for a different kind of inexpensive but filling cuisine. So, the ethnic stew of immigrants keeps on simmering in Passaic and Clifton, just as it has for over a century now!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:37 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Current Affairs ... History ... Photo ...

Out in front of the Essex County Courthouse, there is a bronze statute of Rosa Parks sitting on a bus seat. Rosa Parks, of course, was an American Civil Rights activist of the 1950’s and 60’s, and is famous for the December, 1955 incident in Birmingham, Alabama where she was riding in the “colored section” in the rear half of a segregated bus (there were many examples of such “Jim Crow” segregation throughout the nation). Ms. Parks refused to leave her seat after the bus driver ordered her to get up and move further to the rear of the bus, so that a white rider could sit down after the white section of the bus (just ahead of Ms. Parks’s seat) had become full. She was arrested for and convicted of disorderly conduct. While her case was on appeal, the local NAACP (in which Parks was active) and other churches and activists organized a boycott against the bus company by African Americans. About a year later, a federal court decision outlawed the segregated bus seating as unconstitutional.

I walk past this tribute to Ms. Parks just about every workday. Last week, I noticed that an overnight snow squall had left her face temporarily half white. It seems like an interesting photo, so I got a phone out of my pocket and took it. Rosa Parks, in black and white. It seemed like a good metaphor. Today, Rosa Parks and the many other brave Civil Rights activists who fought the crude and absolute segregation laws and practices that existed in the United States through the 1960s is not just a black hero; she is an American hero. Her story is woven into the fabric of what our nation is today. She belongs to white Americans of the 21st Century just as much as she does to blacks, and ditto for Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, whatever.

OK, I realize that what I just said does not fully and accurately reflect the reality of America today. I understand that blacks are still not fully free, not fully empowered to share the opportunities and advantages of living in the United States. I understand that even though the crude segregationist laws and practices of the 1950’s and early 60’s have largely been abolished, there still exist a wide range of more subtle social and economic barriers that prevent too many African Americans from being “just another American citizen, entitled to all the rights and participating in all the responsibilities that go with that”. I understand that Rosa still belongs much more to those women and men of color who struggle to flush out and overcome those barriers.

And yet, it was a good dream that I had there. In fact, it isn’t too different from the dream that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of in his famous August, 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. In fact, Dr. King’s dream specifically included Alabama, where Ms. Parks had made her stand while remaining seated:

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification”, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Let’s hope — and act — so that one day, the entirety of Dr. King’s dream will be fulfilled.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:27 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Photo ... Spirituality ...

At my office desk, I have a little “altar” hidden away on a shelf behind my computer monitor. This little altar reflects my own spiritual philosophy that God and reality are much bigger and difficult to grasp than any human system of understanding and belief can adequately deal with. And by “system of understanding and belief”, I include all religions, modern science, philosophy, art, literature, and “the voice of nature”. I think that the best that a “seeker” like myself can do is to listen to what all of them have to say, or at least as many as you have time for.

My little altar here is a tribute to the dynamic duo of world spirituality, Jesus and the Buddha. Obviously those two figures cannot represent all of the various “systems of understanding” out there, but they are two world-class heavyweights who saw things from very different perspectives. Jesus put his faith and emphasis in love and relationship, relationship between humans themselves and between humans and God. Jesus felt that humans could, with proper effort and with God’s help, achieve fulfillment and meaning in relationship and love. His vision of a “Kingdom of God” reflected his faith that humans were up to it, with God’s countenance. But the Kingdom that Jesus saw coming would require a lot of love, the kind of love that is a lot more than a Hallmark card sentiment. Jesus was not talking about sentimental niceness, but radical justice for the poor and oppressed.

The Buddha, by contrast,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:25 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, January 15, 2018
Food / Drink ... Photo ...

Did you ever make a mistake only to find out that the outcome of your mistake was actually quite valuable? That recently happened to me. I had bought a big supply of apples in late autumn at a big food market, where the apples were very fresh and quite cheap (50 cents a pound). And there were a wide variety available. Anyway, I couldn’t store all of the apples in my refrigerator, so I put a bag of them in my car trunk, given that it was late October and the falling temperatures outside would be just as good as any indoor refrigerator.

Well, turns out that the weather here got surprisingly cold right after Christmas, and stayed well below freezing for two weeks. Just a few days ago, I finally thought of those apples, and went to my trunk to bring them inside. It turned out that the freezing temps had frozen them solid, and when they melted, they were all mushy and shriveled and brownish. It looked like they would have to be thrown out.

But just for the heck of it, I put one in the microwave for a minute or two, just to see what would happen. I took out the now-hot shriveled apple and got a knife and spoon to cut the skin and taste the almost-liquified flesh. And turns out that it tasted fantastic!! A bit like a baked apple, but not exactly. The inside got very juicy and sweet, and was quite delightful. The only problem was that with all the juice, eating the apple could be messy; you need a plate or bowl if you try this. Also, you need to work to avoid the pits and hard spots in the core, as they easily get mixed in with the soft, warm flesh.

Still, I think that a frozen and re-heated apple makes a very nice and tasty snack, and I will try this little ‘frozen apple mistake’ recipe again in the future!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:22 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
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