November 30, 2002

Jersey Dogs.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 6:20 pm

Sure. Coney Island has Nathan’s and the hoopla surrounding its annual hot dog eating contest, but here, on the other side of the Hudson River in New Jersey, we take hot dogs very seriously. Here is a review, which is not even close to being exhaustive, of some of the more memorable hot dog places in the state. Of those listed, Rutt’s Hut gets my vote. Order up a couple “rippers,” although I recommend having the chili as an appetizer rather than putting it on the hot dogs. In my view, all they need is some of Rutt’s special mustard.

Special mention must be made of Italian hot dogs, which I believe are unique to Northeast Jersey, and they are simply out of this world. Here is how they are made. I strongly recommend the “double.” I never met anyone who did not like an Italian hot dog.


November 29, 2002

The Foundry that Could.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 5:30 pm

I generally try to spend an hour or so walking in the morning before work. One of the good things about walking is that it provides the opportunity to notice unfamiliar things in familiar surroundings. On this day, I happened to glance down at the pavement and saw a manhole cover (as kids, we sometimes called them “sewer plates”), and it bore the name of the town where I live, the name and address of its manufacturer and the date of its manufacture/installation. I was surprised to see that it was installed in 1928. My interest heightened, I continued to look at the pavement, and I found several others dated the same year.

How strange it seemed to see something that has been walked on or driven on and exposed to the elements for almost 75 years and yet still looked as if it could easily do another 75. My mother, who has since passed away, could have walked across any of these manhole covers when she was seven years old. I realized that I have become accustomed to a world where things become obsolete and practically useless barely after the warranty has expired.

Each of the manhole covers was manufactured in a foundry in Harrison, N.J., which is a small town sandwiched between the two towns where I lived as a child. I did not recognize the name, and I certainly did not remember ever seeing anything that looked like a foundry in Harrison. How could such a foundry survive, when its products were made so well that they will likely last well in excess of one hundred years? Surely, the demand for manhole covers could not be large enough to sustain such an operation. Therefore, by two miles into the walk, I had concluded that the manufacturer of these things surely could not still be around and likely went out of business during the depression that was to follow closely on the heels of 1928.

I wondered about how things must have been in the foundry in 1928, what with the ubiquitous noise, fire, hellish heat and danger. I pictured men toiling in the midst of it all happy to be working, some of them, veterans of World War I, with fresh memories of the even more frightening noise, fire, hellish heat, and danger they experienced in the trenches of France. Are any of the workers still alive? What stories would they tell?

By mile three of the walk I had decided that I would spend some time learning more about this foundry, possibly to write something about it some day. I assumed that I would end up digging around in the local library and rummaging through old township records.

When I returned from my walk, I went immediately to the computer to jot down some thoughts. I, thought, as long as I happened to be sitting at the computer, I would take a wild stab at plugging the name of the foundry into Google, thinking that it may have been mentioned somewhere by someone, for some unknown reason, perhaps on a genealogy page.

So, I entered the name, “Campbell Foundry” and learned at once that not only did it survive the depression, but it remains a thriving business that has expanded over the years. While this revelation scuttled my plans of learning and writing about a long-lost industrial treasure, it made me feel good knowing that a company can make products that more than stand the test of time and not put itself out of business. I did notice, however, that the company’s web page contains a “Mission Statement,” something that today’s consultants have managed to convince companies (even those thriving for 81 years) that they cannot do without. Somehow I doubt that anyone in 1928 needed to be told what the company’s mission was.

November 28, 2002

More Than Just Turkey.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:41 pm

For more than a dozen or so years, Thanksgiving has meant more than gathering to give thanks and to eat a wonderful dinner. The completion of the dinner marks the beginning of the annual discussion to choose a theme for the upcoming Christmas Eve family grab bag. This has become about as difficult as choosing a Pope.

It all started years ago when we decided that a simple grab bag was a bit boring and predictable. It was nice, but still it lacked laughs and genuine surprises. So, we decided that we needed a gimmick and a catchy name for the event. So, the first year was the “Alphabet Christmas.” Each person had to buy a grab bag gift that began with the first letter of the giver’s first name. It wasn’t terribly creative, but it set the tone for future Christmases. Since that time, some of our themes have been:

“Elvis Christmas” (gifts relating to the King)
“Western Christmas” (Cowboy – Indian – gifts)
“Christmas on the Rock” (jail-related gifts)
“No Shit Christmas” (each gift had to smell)
“Harriet Carter Christmas” (we ordered about 12 Harriet Carter “Mystery Boxes”)
“Butt-Ugly Christmas” (the ugliest gifts one could find – it was a riot)
“Name that Tune Christmas” (gifts that collectively referred to a song title). My niece’s gift consisted of: two dice, a jar of Mrs. Dash spices, a cutting board and a flashlight. The song was Paradise Under the Dashboard Light. I was not quite so creative. My gift was a small Brookstone fan in the same box with a candle. The song: Candle in the Wind. Duh. It was a great deal of fun, particularly after a couple Christmas Eve pops.
“Christmas at the Beach” (lots of summer gifts)
“Survivor Christmas” We did this, pre-9/11, when the show was hot. Each had to buy something that someone would really need if stranded on a desert island. I bought a shoebox full of miniature bottles of booze. There were a few toilet paper gifts, as I recall.

Each year, selecting the theme becomes more difficult, and this year required a few extra drinks to get everyone properly oiled to unleash the creativity. For a while, it appeared that we might come up dry. However, after a couple hours, we got it down to three possibilities:

“Mafia Christmas.” This is not only fitting for a New Jersey event, but it also provided lots of gift possibilities.

The “Eighth Dwarf Christmas.” Each person would have to buy gifts that would relate their choice of an Eighth Dwarf, and we would have to guess the identity of the dwarf. Some possibilities for the Eighth Dwarf were “Snotty,” “Boring” or “Unwashed.” This one was my favorite, but the winner was…..[drum roll, please]

“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Christmas.” So now, I have to buy some gifts that collectively relate to an event in history. Fortunately, I have a bit of time to think about it. Excellent, Dude.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The Spendin’ of the Green.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 12:57 am

The 11/27/02, the Newark Star Ledger reported that New Jersey’s Democrat Governor James E. McGreevey spent in excess of $105,000 for a “trade mission” visit to Ireland, when he had originally estimated the cost of the trip to be approximately $20,000. The cell phone bill alone was $16,448. Add to that the $22,000 spent on being chauffeured about in a Mercedes, the $760 per night stays in luxury suites, and a family reunion for a dozen of the Gov’s Irish relatives (steak, Guinness and songs), and it is easy to see why the trip was so pricey. Faced with these numbers a spokesperson from the Gov’s office had the moxie to say, “Every effort was made to keeps costs at a bare minimum.”

Later in the day, the Gov denied that he intended to spend the taxpayers’ money and that always intended that the Democrat party would foot most of the bill. He expects the citizens of New Jersey to buy that, even though he fought for three months to keep the records of the trip secret. Sadly, however, he is quite right. After all, we are the John Corzine-Money-Talks State, the Torricelli State, and the State that invented the political trick of parachuting a substitute candidate into an election at the last minute, when the original candidate is tanking in the polls.

Don’t blame me. I voted for all the other guys.

November 27, 2002

Off We Go.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 7:24 pm

I’d like to thank my cousin Jack (I think) for suggesting I do this. However, I take full responsibility for any mistakes, nonsense, or boring blather that will doubtless appear here.

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