Category Archives: Around Town

Personal posts — some social justice (Not in Our Town), some faith-related (Princeton United Methodist Church), some I-can’t-keep-from-writing-this

Comebacks that Count

You heard about Bill Baroni going to prison. That was not very long after he spoke at the Princeton Mercer Chamber. Now he has been exonerated, has written his second book, and gets to retell his story to the chamber luncheon audience on Thursday, June 2. As explained by Richard K. Rein, who made his own kind of comeback, from retirement, with TAPinto Princeton.

Photo provided by Bill Baroni. At this moment he was immersed in the Bridgegate scandal.

In this photo, provided by Baroni, he is answering questions about the Bridgegate scandal.

His first book was about weight loss. His second, about prison.

Buttons About Horses!

Yes, vintage and antique buttons can have horse themes. On Saturday, before you pour those mint juleps, help me celebrate “Derby Day” at the New Jersey State Button Society show and competition. On May 7, from 9 to 3. door prizes and displays will have a horse-racing theme, and admission is free.

It’s at Union Fire Company, 3926 River Road (minutes south of Lambertville). More than a dozen dealers and artists will offer buttons made from enamel, china, metal, and ivory — plus modern and vintage buttons made from fruit pits, rubber, and glass. At 11 am we will distribute favor ornaments, made by button artist Nancy DuBois. Exhibits on how buttons can embellish quilts and how to use buttons with children will be presented by Mary Jane Pozarycki and Susan Infosino. Helene Plank’s display shows how buttons can paint pictures.

See you there!

TCF Goes Online — and Green — on March 19

Allen Katz

Forty six years later, Trenton Computer Festival (TCF) returns. It’s still free, and still welcomes all levels of expertise, and still run by Allen Katz. Yet again for another year, it is online.

New this year: an environmental theme, as arranged by Karen Johnson, co-program chair. Frank Niepold of NOAA speaks at 10:15 a.m and Bob Kopp, co-director of Rutgers Climate Impact Lab, speaks at 3:40, but as before – a dizzying array of workshops are available.

Go to the TCF website to choose from 50 workshops including “How Computing is Changing Photography” to “How to Communicate for Climate Change — Challenges.” One of the names I recognize is John LeMasney, who is known for explaining tough technical skills to novices like me. On March 19 he speaks at 12:25 on a topic that continues to plague many of us — how to recycle electronic waste.

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Making sense out of crazy parking conflicts

Confused about Princeton’s parking madness? I’m smilling at Rich Rein’s analysis, always cogent and often, as in this column, entertaining. For this astute deep dive into the controversy he calls, as witnesses, “some of the most dedicated apponents of permit parking” naming homeowners on Hawthorne Avenue, Library Place, and Princeton Avenue.

Even if you don’t know – and don’t care – about this problem, it’s fun to follow how Rein makes his point. “People with parking often don’t want neighbors to get it,” he says. Rein founded U.S. 1 Newspaper and now publishes at TAP Into Princeton. The article: After a Deep Dive into Parking Madness, We Emerge — Not Recovered But At Least Recovering

Read it here and be persuaded. Or at least informed — about your supposedly liberal neighbors.

Dance again — at home!

Gabriella (Profitt) Cunha

If you love to dance.

If you like dance class but don’t like people watching you.

If you wish you could dance but don’t have time to get to a studio.

If you worry about getting hurt.

If you can’t find ‘the right teacher.’

If you yearn to dance but – to put it kindly – are ‘past your prime.’

Then you are like me.

For decades, I’ve been an eager but not technically proficient amateur dancer. In 1960, for one fabulous summer, I studied the Limon technique at the American Dance Festival. Over the years I studied dance whenever I could, wherever I could.

Two years ago I discovered Gabriella Cunha’s virtual “in home” Dance Workout class, offered by Martin Center for Dance on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.

Of ALL the techniques I’ve studied, I like Gabriella’s the best. Though she does not know Limon’s movement, hers is uncannily like his — organic, swinging, satisfying.

You may know that I am a former dance critic. Critics, of course, aren’t supposed to be promoters. But hey! I am retired. And at my age I get to do and say what I please.

Using modern dance concepts that beginning dancers can follow, Gabriella suggests modifications so that elder dancers (like me) can safely move. Her studio is a small room, so anyone can take the class in a small room.

I could go on and on — but here are some clips so you can see what I mean:

Here is a sample of the upper body warmup.

The shoulder warmup.

The foot warmup.

After the 45-minute class, Gabriella offers 15 minutes of stretching. I’m always intrigued by her insights on how the human body is put together. In addition to her expertise in music, ballet, modern dance, Reiki, and yoga, she is working towards a degree in naturopathic medicine. In her class, I feel safe.

Without the eyes of anyone on us, in our own spaces — I and the other students can feel like a dancer again. If you are a young beginner or an older person who used to “take class,” I invite you to join us. The classes are “a la carte,” come when you can.

For information, DouglasMartinArts@gmail.com or 609-937-8878.

Smart Connection

I had never heard of Christopher Smart, though as an English major I should have. My passion was Renaissance and 20th century poetry, and I kissed off the 18th century with one semester.

At the Poetry Circle at my elder residence, Stonebridge at Montgomery, curated by my new friend Hope, some read selections and some listen. Yesterday the coincidental links were giving me, as a wanna-be English teacher, delight. Perhaps “time present and time past” lurks in lots of poems, but every poem read that day — by Joyce, by Len, by Lois and by me — seemed to connect to that subject. Len’s contribution, a poem that he wrote to go with one of his collages, was even called ‘Connections.’

My contribution was potentially daunting: ‘Burnt Norton,’ the first of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I had lived into these lines in college and choreographed a dance about them:

….Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
….

Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always presen
t.

but since I’d handed out copies and distributed the reading, everyone happily dived in to share Eliot memories and favorite lines. So satisfying.

Then Nancy came up with a long but wryly amusing selection written by 18th century poet Christopher Smart. Drat, I thought, that’s the only poem read today that doesn’t have something to do with time. It doesn’t have a connection to the others.

I like connections. Sometimes I allow myself the belief that they are arranged by a higher power.

This morning I reached for my daily devotional guide, couldn’t find it, and absentmindedly opened a book that I hadn’t allowed myself the time to read, Lawrence Block’s’ The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, given me by button friend Ann Wilson, who promises that ‘buttons’ are featured in the plot. Fast skimming to page 19 and, lo, there is Christopher Smart, explained as a contemporary of Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith. Says the first person narrator: He was unquestionably talented, but he was also mad as a hatter, and given to fits of religious mania that led him to implore his fellows to join him in public prayer. “I’d as soon pray in the street with Kit Smart as anyone else in London,” Johnson allowed, but others were less tolerant, and Smart spent the better part of his mature years clapped in a cell in Bedlam, where he wrote a line of poetry every day.

I choose to believe that it was not a coincidence that I picked up that book, read to page 19, and found the connection to what Nancy read the previous day.

You may believe what you will. And I won’t ask you to pray in the street.

M

This Policy Bit Back

Edward Tenner’s “Why Things Bite Back” investigates the unintended consequences of tech revolutions. Better football helmets encourage more violent play, antibiotics breed more dangerous bacteria, imported wildlife that overwhelms native species, and so on.

I wonder if Tenner would include standardized aptitude tests in his lexicon of bite-backs. I had heard that the Educational Testing Service — one of Princeton’s largest employers — has had to defend its mission and tactics on various fronts. But I had not heard this history of why the College Board wanted to develop the SAT. As published in Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac for today, June 17.

But the biggest proponents of intelligence testing were college officials who were concerned about the rapid influx of immigrants — especially Eastern European Jews — to their student body… These college officials believed that immigrants had less innate intelligence than old-blooded Americans and hoped that they would score lower on aptitude tests, which would give the schools an excuse to admit fewer of them.

How wrong they were.

I would like to get self righteous, but before I point a finger, I need to look at my own heritage. I need to admit that I inherited a very dark pot of prejudice. I’ve scrubbed it up, but I’m not the one who should call the kettle black.

Use stillness – or movement- to meditate?

I choose “move.”

Told by a shrink that I really really need to find a meditation class, I dabbled in various mindfulness techniques but never found one I could stick with. First, because I am Christian, and when they start talking about chakras, I get an uncomfortable feeling about polytheistic religions. I am fine with however anybody else wants to worship their God or gods, but I need to keep my own wandering and curious spirit reined in.

I choose “move.”

Second, I don’t do “Same.” Routines are supposed to be calming, I’ve been told, because you don’t have to make those minute by minute decisions. (Decision making is another of my weaknesses.)

Third, most meditation techniques emphasize quiet stillness. Since for all my 80 years I have probably had undiagnosed ADD, I have trouble sitting still.

Nevertheless, while I yearned to hear the still small voice of God, to experience the “still point of the turning world,” I remained mired in a “place of disaffection…distracted from distraction by distraction” [Burnt Norton, T.S. Eliot.]

Seven weeks ago, I found my answer. On weekdays at 7 AM and on Saturdays at 8 AM I zoomed for Wake-Up Meditations led by — amazingly — a member of my United Methodist church, who had been tapped to be the lay leader of the Adult Education Ministry Team. Claudio Lamsa Da Silva has studied a wide variety of meditation techniques.

 “In my twenties,” he says, “I explored different ways of practicing monasticism through the lens of various religions…. I explored Hinduism in ashrams in India, Buddhism in Nepal, Zen temples in Japan, and Sikhism through my wife.” In 2005, he served as a monk in Zen monasteries in Japan and after that walked the 900-mile Ohenro pilgrimage alone in complete silence. ” DaSilva employs all these concepts, and his ecumenical vocabulary accommodates all religions, but I can be personally comfortable praying to God the Parent, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

As for the formerly despised Routine, I am a changed woman. No longer a night owl with disrupted sleep patterns, I conk early, awakening at 6:15 (or 6:30) to stumble into the kitchen for the prescribed lemon water and lukewarm tea. After tuning in from 7 to 7:30, I am able to be, as we say, “present in my life” and have set my intention to govern the day. This IS what I need to do to age well.

Most valuable to me, the fidgety dancer, is the chance to emphasize a particular thought with movement and touch. Some is the same and some is different every day, Monday to Friday, because each day has a different focus. The movement is easier to do than describe. Anyone interested, I encourage you to take advantage of the free trial for Daily Wakeup Meditation, currently May 31 to Jun3 4 at 7 AM Eastern Standard Time. The daily classes are ordinarily $10 but half that price if you go by the month. Email Claudio@reconcilewithlife.com for information and the link.

If you do, you will join me and people from around the world without having to leave your house. In Da Silva’s words:  We explore together the dimensions of our being (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) and of our living (relationships with others and with life) through breathing exercises, contemplative meditation and adjusting movements. 

Photos from Reconcile With Life web page and Facebook page.

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Dear dear Dr. Ruth

Here’s my confession: I’m such a Dr. Ruth fan. A couple of decades ago, when I was scheduling an interview with her, she left a message on my phone mail that I kept for weeks, delighting in that throaty signature voice.

Here is Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s prescription for Covid positivity, published in the AARP newsletter. Memo to freelancers: she pitched her own story. It wasn’t the editors’ idea but they bought it. Memo to photographers and stylists: This is how to make an elder look good!

Mem

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Wassail Memories

My family in 1954. I’m on the right.

Wassail – the drink and the song – evokes pungent memories. At Christmas my Senior Girl Scout troop went caroling to the Baltimore County jail. Singing our way, “Here we come a wassailing.. Love and joy come to you…” through the cell blocks, we tried not to be daunted by what we didn’t want to see.

Yet wassail, as a festive drink, is a jubilant memory. My parents made it by the gallon jugs for our four-hour Christmas open house.  Creating the base required simmering spices and sugar; later they added squeezed-by-hand juice and cider. I still have my father’s aluminum citrus squeezer.

Our house was small, so the nearly 100 guests came in waves – medical school colleagues from 1 to 3, friends of my sister and me from 2 to 4, and everybody else from 3 to 5.

Because the hot wassail was such a spicily unusual drink, the teen boys judged it “spiked” and claimed the bowl, ignoring the (delicately flavored with very good whisky) eggnog. Everyone looked forward to our Smithfield ham (an annual gift from a former med student) and cocktail shrimp (in the early ‘50s shrimp was not yet standard party fare).  

At these parties I learned to love to entertain.

When my parents brought wassail to me at college, I learned how much parents will do to help their children. They brought not just one jug of wassail, but enough for more than a hundred people. With the modern dance group at Duke University, I had produced the first-ever multi-art Yule Fest. We danced to Christmas carols, accompanied by a medieval combo plus recitations by drama students. After the applause, dancers came down the aisles of the ‘theater in the round’ with glass cups of hot wassail for all.

Here is the Figge family wassail recipe in the small quantity (with medium and largest quantities in parentheses). My father’s notes say the largest quantity will be enough for 50 people (if you also have 3 gallons of eggnog!)

Boil 2 cups sugar (8 cups or 5 lbs.) in 2-cups water (8 cups or about 1½ gallons water) for 10 minutes. Add

6 cloves (24 or48)

1 stick cinnamon (4 or 8)

6 allspice or ¼ t ground (or 24- 48 allspice

1 T grated lemon rind (or 4 or 8 T)

1 T grated orange rind (or 4 or-8 T)

1 T chopped ginger (use your judgment for larger amounts)

Cover, stand 2 hours. Put in gallon jug, preferably glass. (At this point you can store the base, outside if it’s cold).

On the day of the party, strain it into a large kettle and add

 1 1/2 cups orange juice (6 or 12 c) preferably fresh squeezed

3/4 cups lemon juice (3 or 6) preferably fresh squeezed

2 cups sweet cider (or 8 or 16)

Before you reheat and serve this, dilute with 2 quarts cider or water, by taste.