Sunday, July 26, 2009

History of the Jokers lair

I went up to Seton Hall again yesterday, this time to take up a bed. Actually I came back with oldest son and never delivered the bed so really what I did was to take the bed for ride. But I digress.

We visited the exterior of the Jokers Lair. We couldn't get in since the real estate agent wasn't around. So we checked out the building and the neighborhood.

It looks a lot like the google street view except the 1 story building on the west side of the block has been knocked down. While there, I noticed there was a smoke stack with "HERTZ" written vertically down the stack.

Now the amateur historian in me kicked. I had to know what this building was. Off to the interweb.

First try searching for anything named Hertz and not about rent-a-cars. It's not easy, Hertz rent a car darkens the Google sky.

Subtracting rentacar, I eventually I found this with the following description of the Max Hertz Leather russet buffing company of Newark, NJ.

THERE are many firms engaged in manufacturing within the boundaries of the city of Newark with productions so enormous they would startle any who had not made themselves acquainted with the facts in all their various forms as they exist at the present time, when considering the productions of these great industrial concerns throughout the cities of the United States. There does not readily come to mind a more creditable Newark house than the firm of Max Hertz, manufacturer of russet leather, located, office and factory, 54-78 Oliver street. The business was established in 1892, and Mr. Hertz is the largest russet buffing manufacturer and dealer in the entire country. He manufactures russet buffing, rough splits, russet grains for the automobile, furniture, carriage and bookbinding trade, The trade in pickled splits is also extensive. The premises occupied consist of a three- story structure 225x50 feet, a four- story building 100x25 feet, an L- shaped building 60x150 feet, and also a one-story building 225x50 feet, and gives employment to from 50 to 70 men. Plans are now being prepared for the erection of more buildings, owing to a large increase in all goods manufactured by this firm.

The factory is modern and up-to- date, and the product turned out is sold throughout the United States and exported in large quantities to Europe. He has representatives who sell his goods in all countries. Max Hertz, the proprietor, always shows an obliging disposition, and is ever ready to do his share toward any civic proposition, with the advancement of Newark as its aim. He has telephone connections, 2671 and 2672 Market.

This is from the 1912 book "Newark, City of Industry" which Google Books scanned. I'm guessing that the building still standing was part of the "erection of new buildings" since it is 4 stories and bigger than 100x25. So the building is less than 100 years old.

So what once "Buffed Russets" is now home to Artists and the "Detox the Ghetto" sign . Fascinating.
Now I'm stuck wondering what ever became of the "Leather Russet Buffing" industry? I'm guessing "Buffed Russets" were big on stage coaches.

So I think we worked it out so that the Joker's Lair is a contingency only and that original apartment, adjacent to school is the first choice.

While there we became enamored with Ironbound. It's like a Portuguese South Philly with a NY flavor. We had dinner at the Casa Nova Grill on Ferry. It is a poor man's Fogo de Chao and so for $20 I had the all you can eat meat on skewers. It was good.

Generally I like the area and it is night and day compared to just a few blocks away in downtown Newark.

I'm still not convinced this is the place for a College sophomore though.

Pictures here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I took oldest son back up to school last week as he has a job there. It was impossible to find work here knowing that in August he was headed back to Seton Hall.

This year he headed the apartment route instead of dorms and was going to get an apartment with two room mates in a tower complex adjacent to school. We thought everything was set and he was going to move in last week when the apartment suffered some undisclosed water damage.

So instead of moving in he stayed with some friends that had room this week and as is typical with oldest son, on Thursday we got a call for a whole new plan.

The tower was somehow out and an "artists loft" in Newark was in.

Needless to say, we are a little apprehensive about Newark so it was off to the interweb with the address. First we looked in Google Maps and what came up on "street view" looked remarkably like the Joker's Lair from Batman or place where they might hold "fight club". Apprehension is rising.

Next we looked in and that's when we found this. Not only is it the Jokers Lair but the Joker is making some sort of political statement.

Apparently some of the "artists" had some left over paint so they wrote "MY MEMORY GETS IN THE WAY OF YOUR HISTORY" on the roof of his potential future home in block letters.

hmmm. I am not making this up. This is actually written on the building's roof.

First of all what does that even mean? You have to be like 19 to write on the roof of a building and if you are 19 YOU HAVE NO MEMORY nor HISTORY. What do you remember? President Bush? (the second one). Second, that the best you could come up with? Howabout putting some advertising up there so you can MOVE OUT OF THE LOFT? I heart Shoprite. That's what I'm thinking of writing on my pool cover this winter.

So this place is conveniently located by public transportation then right? Well sort of. The Newark train station is a 15 minute walk away and there you can catch a train to NYC, but for Seton Hall you have to take another train and then walk another 15 minutes to school. Two 15 minute walks, two trains, that's has to be an hour in and an hour back everyday, in the rain, snow, what ever.

So there has to be great food shopping around there then right? None that I could see.

So is it safe? I found this.

Ohh good, rape and murder are down.

Perhaps I'm missing something? What exactly is the draw of living in a loft and sharing a kitchen and bathroom with 8 Kramers?

Perhaps He'll get to meet the Joker? (Listen, I've been meaning to talk to you about where you park the Joker Mobile and your henchman coming and going at all hours of the day and did you eat my Frosted Flakes?)

Maybe it will be a learning experience, I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Anthony's Funereal

It's a four day weekend for me. Sort of. The rough week wrapped up Friday at the wife's cousin's funereal.

Not exactly a fun day off. The funereal was well attended as Anthony was popular and friendly. I followed a motorcycle in the procession. We went early for the "family" viewing before they closed the casket for the remainder of the viewing. I'm not sure why they did that because as they say in South Philly, "He looked good".

At least that's what they say at Nunzio's, our family undertaker in South Philly. At Nunzio's, you bless yourself, quietly view the body, find a circle of friends and family, do you best Silvio from the Soprano's impression and then say "He looked good". Except my cousin Joey, who doesn't enter the room with the body.

At funereals we get to see family we haven't seen in a while as well. My wife's cousin Dale was there. Well, he was Dale, now he's Armond. The family isn't quite used to calling him Armond yet so his name comes out Dale-I-mean-Armond. Dale-I-mean-Armond didn't recognize my 23 year old niece. The last time he saw her she was wearing outfits with winnie the pooh. Quite a difference.

My wife spent her time trying to match-make 23 year old niece and funereal worker Ken. "He's good looking, has a good job, you should give him your number". It seemed a little inappropriate. Dale-I-mean-Armond brought one of his workers with him and he seemed to be hitting on 23 year old niece. More inappropriate.

There was a funereal Mass as well. The older I get, the more Mass becomes a play on a stage. There's lights, music and actors in costume on a platform. This Mass had two priests, and older one and younger. The Younger enunciated all of his lines like he was Sir Laurence Olivier in Hamlet. He was the exact opposite of Father Mumbles. It was a first class production with a full choir and alter boys and Younger was going for a Tony.

They had Incense too. They lit the incense and circled the casket with it all the while shaking it back and forth. I never understood that one. When the incense comes out, it's a thin line between religious ceremony and Voo-doo.

And then there is the kneeling. Up down up down and I keep bumping into the pew in front of me. Airlines have adjusted seat widths over the years to accomodate larger rear ends but pews are the same distance between each other as when we didn't have enough to eat. By the second round I did the half kneel, half sit. Knees on the kneeler but rear on the seat. I was waiting for Sister Jasmine to come up behind me with a clicker and then wrap my knuckles with a ruler.

The procession for Anthony's funereal went all through the main line from Malvern to almost Devon on US 30 in the middle of the day. It was a long procession with about 50 cars.

Nunzio likes to race with the procession. Most of our family processions start in South Philly and and end up in Yeadon at Holy Cross Cemetery. Once Nunzy gets the procession out of the congestion of the city, he drives at nearly 50 till just outside the cemetery. It's quite a sight as the hearse flies over railroad crossings, almost getting air. It's like he says to himself, what the hell, are they going to pull us over for speeding? I guess not since we are already running red lights. You might as well go for it.

In the end my wife had to go back to work at 4 and we were concerned that the shore traffic was going to kill us so we skipped the luncheon and headed back.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


It was a rough week with a couple of sleepless nights over a confrontation with our neighbors over our dogs.

We knew of a problem a few years ago when when we left them and my brothers dog alone in the house with the windows open for a night. They barked non-stop until we got home. We had complaints and someone called the homeowners association who came by for a "random inspection".

I really don't blame them, it was a bad situation but one we considered a unique event.

Then this week we learned of a letter being solicited for signature. One neighbor wouldn't sign it but volunteered to air the others complaints to us. I was presented with the unsigned letter and a handy stack of all the laws pertaining to dogs for our township.

I'm not going to publish the letter nor go into details. It was harsh. I took it as threatening. It was inflammatory and over the top. It was a breech in protocol, like a "double dog dare you" with no "I dare you" preceding it.

After simmering for a few days and cooling off, I did take some time to talk to people about what was going on and they had similar stories that went like "We, it's not me you know but X did say to me that he had trouble". I took this a sign that people did have a chronic problem and now we are working towards fixing the problem.

Our relationship with some of the neighbors may never be the same, but we are fixing the barking problem.

Either way this adds tension to my home. The measures taken with the dogs is borderline cruel and they have no idea what is going on (I didn't show them the letter). Policing the dogs has become a full time effort that the boys may or may not have an interest in. Heck, if asked, they may have even signed the letter. Tension.

I think this is going to have a some what happy ending since we are taking measures but it still may have lasting effects. We'll see.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A short history of the4th of July

Cooper River Marshall Tucker Band and Foghat


Party at our house, no fireworks. Kickball in the field.
Ocean City

Italy and Greece.

Party at home, Cooper river for fireworks only.

Cooper River Pat Benetar
Cooper River Cheap Trick

Cooper River - America
Marton - Craleys and Powells


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Faux Softee.

I still love getting the newspaper, especially on days when I have time to read instead of skim the articles.

Today's paper had this story about fake Mister Softee trucks roaming our neighborhoods. Apparently ruthless faux ice cream vendors are out there playing the famous Mister Softee jingle, having a fake Mr Conehead logo and worst of all selling imitation Mr Softee Ice Cream.

Who knew?

The article gives a dark glimpse into the world fake Ice Cream vending.

You have to love the quote:

"The children, they don't know the difference,"

Well they should. You know if it were Microsoft, they would spend all their time marking the ice cream as "genuine" and shaming people into buying only "real" Mr Softee Ice Cream. There would be no room for fakes out there.

or how about:

Franchisees notified headquarters and private investigators were dispatched.

What was this like? Teams of dark suited men with earpieces and sun glasses following ice cream trucks around the neighborhood in dark SUVs with tinted windows? Helicopters in the air? You can almost hear the banter on the radios: "Conehead approaching Elm, stay with him EagleEye", "I think I've been spotted", "Softserve, pick him up on Walnut".

Or undercover men working the fake trucks wearing a wire?

That sounds a little too expensive for an Ice Cream Co. It was more likely some rumpled old guy in a 10 year old Dodge Aries that had three different colored fenders or a better yet a windowless maxi-van.

Following an Ice Cream Truck.

With binoculars.

And a Notebook.

Hmm. It's a wonder he wasn't arrested as a pedophile. That would have been a little tough to explain and it's not exactly what you think of when you think "Private Investigator"

I also love how they found Mr Softee trucks parked in a junkyard in NY and went after them in court. You just know the Mob is involved somehow.

So, today on this "Christmas of the ice cream season", make sure you are getting real Mr Softee Ice Cream and not some cheap mob knock-off.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A sure sign of the recession

If Mount La-La had a center of town it would be the street where the post office, police station and library are. We broke off from another township in the 19th century and they got the "town" part. We got farms.

I guess that's why we don't have 4th of July and Memorial day parades. We have no where to host them.

However, this does not prevent us from showing our patriotism. The township usually plans small US flags along the drive between all the aforementioned civic buildings. Lots of little flags.

Well this year the recession must have hit the flag budget. There were still flags but it was sad sight to see so few of them spaced far apart. I must get a picture.

Like I have room to talk. I haven't even put up my US flag out front or the bunting.

It's been a quiet day so far. My wife is working a double and I spent the morning walking the dogs and doing lawn work.

Tomorrow we are planning to do the free Cooper River concert and fireworks thing with Foghat and The Marchall Tucker Band.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


The best thing about summer is that when I come home, I never know what I might find the kids doing. Yesterday it was Michael Jackson, Ham and fruit kabobs and, of course, dyeing their friend Noam's hair blue.

Actually it was blond by time I got home. Well, redish blond with the edges his natural brown. Yes, when I came home my son was bleaching his friend's hair. That wasn't the best part. The best part was when my wife got involved. She was worried about getting blue dye everywhere along with bleach so she stepped in. She helped bleach and re-bleach his hair. Pictures here.

He dyed it blue because his parents wouldn't let him have it blond. It makes perfect sense of course when you are the parent and are saying it, it's only after wards that you are saying to yourself "did I just tell my son to dye his hair blue instead of blond?"

Youngest son is becoming obsessed with Michael Jackson. He's been listening to nothing but and studying dance moves. He's also started rolling his pants up. Michael Jackson was the only guy on the planet that could get a way with "flood' pants. I guess you have to have high pants when you are paying that much for socks.

For Youngest Son's generation it's like discovering Star Wars. As they were growing up Michael Jackson's star was diminishing. He only knew Michael Jackson the alleged pedophile not the guy from Thriller. He has been scouring the Internet for MJ stories and was telling me all about the 50 degree lean in Smooth Criminal and MJ's Patent.

He thought I was holding out on him when I had the album Bad and he didn't.

Oldest son is calling it "The Summer of Michael Jackson".

They were so proud of the kabobs they made too. They rolled up Virginia ham around pineapple and melon and grilled them. There was one left, it was good.

On Saturday we are doing the Cooper River free concert with Marshall Tucker and Foghat followed by the fireworks. It's great since it is the county next to us. I feel like we are getting away with something. It's always a good time. Pictures to follow of course.