Wednesday, July 17, 2013

King of Candy Apples

The king of candy apples no longer reigns over only candy apples. Fruit now includes bananas and pineapple, the coatings not just sugary glaze but chocolate and sprinkles.
The Bolivian music was thumping so loud you could not hear yourself think, much less somebody speaking right next you. Intensely summer. We’re in a heat wave. The colorful costumes added to overall trippiness on the day. Latin American Festival at Exchange Place.

Who knew candy apples were South American. Show of hands. Even Spanish?  I did not. In fact, seeing them in summer startled me. I associate  Candy Apples with fall. Apples are an autumn fruit. In fact, apples sold now are probably from last year’s harvest, the bottom of the barrel, unless they are flown in from the lower hemispheres, where they have the alternative universe’s sequence of seasons, somewhere like South America… hey now, hmmm. Every fall, in October, before Halloween, there were candy apples – a hard shell of sugar glazed, Very shiny, translucent amber. They were at Parkway School, in whose gym this autumn festival was always held, the whole town went. It was where we bought our pumpkin. The days were shorter, the air cooler, World Series talk. Not now, Candy Apple. Not Summer! Has the world gone mad?

The King really widens the definition, in terms of coating and fruits coated, a more permanent and institutionalized version of desert fondue. In this heat, the chocolate and glaze were not melting. They reminded me of sculpture. Cavity and diabetes inducting sculpture, but sculpture nonetheless. Moderation recommended.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Henry VIII: Then & Now

There’s no longer any doubt that summer has arrived in Jersey City. I’ve seen Shakespeare in Van  Vorst. The Hudson Shakespeare Company is  at it again, this season presenting the rarely performed Henry VIII.

Considered a history, the play is the next in the sequence after Richard III and is believed to have been coauthored with John Fletcher, who collaborated with Shakespeare his other later work,  The Two Noble Kinsmen. Like Kinsmen, Henry VIII is a problem play.

I’ve only read it once and didn’t really like it. It’s Shakespeare’s most ahistorical history. The Henry VIII story is well known – against the ruling of the Pope, he divorces his barren first wife, Katherine, marries Anne Bullen in the hopes of siring a male heir to the throne – but the Shakespeare play either ignores or white washes the darker turns of this period of reformation history, the executions of his wives – Bullen and Sir or Saint (depending on your Christian denomination) Thomas Moore – the star of A Man for All Seasons, the penultimate –and not ahistorical – play and film of the same events.



Shakespeare was a royalist, although his pandering towards the political power structure of his day was never purely blatant – criticism of the power abound, even if partially concealed and watching the performance I became more aware that Shakespeare was well aware of the audience – the play retells the birth of his  major patron, Queen Elizabeth, yet barely notes the break with Rome, which gave birth to the Church of England, which was part of the wave or “Protestantism” sweep across parts of Europe. But England’s break was not just more political than theological (compared with Lutherans), but gradual and it took a few decades before subjects and the aristocracy fully embraced non-Roman Catholic Anglicism. These tensions are just boiling below the surface of the play, and Shakespeare – most likely a recusant catholic, in other words, a panderer to the ruling class who was careful not to let his personal beliefs prevent him from pleasing his royal funders – sometimes seems coy about these tensions.

My guru in Bardolatry, Harold Bloom,  calls Henry VIII more a dramatic poem than a play, and also that it has great roles but no great characters. The performance of the play, by a company adept at identifying and expressing the myriad of subtext Shakespeare contains, raised my personal rating of the play several notches. It was much better live than read – which is really more the exception than the rule, especially with the problem plays, perhaps two thirds of the oeuvre – and even though it is talky and not much happens – what really happens – the bloody schism from Rome, Henry’s brutal attempts to hold on to power – doesn’t happen onstage or even off-stage, but in the real world and those memories were still fresh in the audiences when Henry VIII premiered, exactly 400 years ago this summer.

The rainy season persists in our Climate-changed world and this was my first Gazebo Bard. I’ve been lucky enough that the only outdoor Shakespeare I’ve seen has been on clear nights.  Inclement weather forces the Hudson Players to perform their play under the gazebo.

Even more so than the obscurity of this play, the weather thinned out the audience considerably. The setting of the play gave the performance an off-off-off-broadway feel. Actors pretend to make eye contact with the audience, especially with Shakespeare which is so filled with asides – and this one has a Prologue and Epilogue where the audience is specifically addressed – the audience is an acknowledged, if not active, participant in the proceedings. Within the forced intimacy of the Van Vorst Park Gazebo, shrouded by the often heavy intermittent rain, the performance gained an avante garde intensity. Everyone there – less than a dozen, alas – had a front row seat. We were all groundlings, although well behaved. It’s weird to be about three feet from an actor playing a character, changes the entire aspect of theater. One gazebo gain though was audibility – you could hear every word (and occasional fumble) of the text. Sometimes during these outdoor performances one has to strain to catch the phrase against the sounds of traffic and dogs barking and passing pedestrians shouting into their cellphone.

Perhaps because of Man For All Seasons, our perception of the actual king is cartoonish, a narcissistic ruler driven to dictatorship by his appetites. Kingship is a sacred duty, the problem the king faces is that means necessary for maintaining power are contrary to the Laws of the Judeo-Christian God who has granted him the throne.

 As portrayed by Bradley J. Sumner, we get a very pensive king who is gradually realizing that his court is besieged by corruption and betrayal, who is unhappy to deal with the lack of male heir issue. He becomes more and more antagonized, given to sullen silences, enhanced by the Gazebo-induced intimacy, made the audience fully aware of the strain of responsibility the ruler must bear. While not unfit for the throne like Richard II, Henry seems unsuited to wisely confront the issues of his day –France, lack of an heir, relations with the Church (although as mentioned, Shakespeare ignores the whole excommunication issues). Sumner makes us believe in a king who is realizing that he may be unsuited to his fate, but determined to do the best he can. When he hooks up with Ann Bullen – “a woman most dainty” -- at party, which is all set up by the corrupt cardinal Wosley, he is a horn dog, but later when Wosley’s corruption is revealed and Henry sentences him, this conflict inside him, the fact he cannot deny the adulterous guilt and when he finally realizes Wosley’s malfeasances and condemns him to the tower, part of him is blaming the Cardinal for bringing out the worst in him (who is he kidding, the audience wonders, yet in this version even this act of self-delusion becomes understandable). This Henry glowers from the throne, sometimes slumping over with frustration. The physicality of the acting made us understand the conflicts eating away at him, only hinted at in the text and yet the conflicts are only logical, given the known history of his reign – conflicts the original audience of the play were all to cognizant of. Sumner made Henry VIII credible as a person, a very human king that encourages our empathy, a striking contrast to our preconceptions of this monarch, and perhaps closer to reality, or at least more recognizable to the perceptions of the original audience for which the play was first intended.

Henry VIII was written after The Tempest, and Bloom says it is a farewell play – the main speeches by   three main characters Katherine of Aragon (Noelle Fair), Duke of Buckingham (Joshua Triplet), and Cardinal Wosley, David C. Neal – all of whom are executed – are all farewells, essentially last words. Bloom says Shakespeare was saying farewell to his “late career talent,” which I don’t quite buy but there is a feeling in this play that the author is saying a good bye. But I think it’s more of a good bye to a political world of the renaissance than his personal adieu. The world of the play, and the world the original audience lived in, where absolute kingship was supported by the innocent faith of subject, was rapidly vanishing from both stage and existence. My take is that the farewells in the plays are more a bidding good bye to those worlds than his art.

Buckingham’s farewell speech links 8 with the rest of the Henriad – Richard II, Henry 4 (parts I & II), Henry V, Henry VI (parts I, II, & III), and Richard III – the bard’s historical soap opera that reveal the intrigue of the court, shifting allegiances and power grabs between royal families and war after war – mostly with France, a bloody saga that I have (and recommend) reading in order and only by Triplet’s performance, not as I mentioned earlier by simply reading the play. The monologue references the earlier histories, reminding the audience of the backstory leading up to the present kingship saga, but also, as the actor talked about his impending execution – “divorce by steel” – he also gave credibility to what might otherwise baffle modern audiences –– “My vows and prayers, yet are the king’s and, till my soul forsakes, shall cry blessings  for him” – he is loyal to the king, even though he is being executed unjustly. Shakespeare’s audiences would understand this loyalty, which is the absence of separation twixt the personal and the political, but also the adherence is not just to an individual ruler, but the order of that world (God is in his heaven and the king is on his throne).

The most moving and – and involved – Farwell came from  Noelle Fair as Queen Katherine. At one point, when the corrupt Cardinal Wolsey, begins to sentence her in Latin, “No Latin” she cries, adding “A Strange Tongue makes my cause more strange.”

Wolsely is trying to persuade her to stop contesting the divorce, which she refuses to do. Now, by bringing in the Latin, Shakespeare is also making a political statement, since a major reformation issue was what language services and scripture should be in. Shakespeare was one of the translators of the original King James. Fair’s performance, emotional, gripping,  overcame an inherent contradiction – she is standing up for her rights as queen, thus is feminist, but her cry for justice comes within the context of a misogynist system, where an infertile woman can be condemned to die.  “We are a queen or long have dreamed so, certainly a daughter of a king.”

Katherine was the daughter of the King of Spain, and the marriage with Henry ensured the peace between the two countries. Spain of course remained aligned with Rome and soon after the premier of Henry VIII, would fight a prolong war with England. Katherine’s plea for her life is also a plea for political stability and that stability is the larger order for the universe. Her love for Henry is genuine – and Fair makes that known – but also the love is the love of duty, the support of the larger system is not just political in the temporal equivalent of preferring liberals over conservative. The system for Katherine is the nothing less than the entire order of the universe, earth and heaven. Henry’s rejection will result in a turmoil she as a royal has a God-given responsibility to prevent. Unlike the Katherine of History, in the play, she dies a natural death – something that bothered me when I read the play and I can still imagine the audience of the time snickering. In the play, she has a dream vision where there are ghosts and visions of a royal processions, all the props of royal ceremony. In the Hudson Shakespeare Company’s version, the dream sequence, the queen and the king, both garbed in flimsy white robes, perform a romantic dance, an insightful touch, also a remedy to a the budgetary infeasibility of producing a royal procession. The dreamed dance also played to the intimate strengths of the gazebo setting.  

 Bloom says, not an Iago but an Administrator. Indeed, his evil seems one of paper work and his undoing the same – paperwork is discovered implicating him colluding with France. Neal portrays him as simpering and pompous, and sort of dim – the cardinal sets up the king to meet Anne Bullen, then is surprised when they wed – and the actor’s trademark physical humor was somewhat more focused, perhaps because the role is more subdued as well as the natural constraints of the gazebo stage. In his Farwell, Wosley bemoans:  “Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, He would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies,” – which went written can sound like an individual so self absorbed he is not cognizant of the wrong he’s done, this portrayal makes Wosley more of a man who is flawed and weak, who set in motion machinations that were far above his ability to execute. Neal made the plea sound like a sincere repentance, and we in the gazebo were inclined to forgive.

Of course, this roller coaster of sympathy for the Shakespeare heavies is part of the fun – and power – of the bard. Characters often spend scenes appalling us only to die with our sympathies.

Henry VIII is an imperfect Shakespeare, with some careful editing – some scenes were shortened or lost and I think may have been shifted in sequence – Hudson County found the play’s strength. The ensemble always has a briskness to it is pace, which makes their productions always compelling and this one played like a royal soap opera, and you are caught up in the story. Also, the small company means multiple parts for some players – for instance, Emily Ludolph, lithe yet not as innocent as she appears as Anne Bullen in what is an under-written role, also plays a lady courtier of Katherine in the opening scene, which ties the entire play together, adding another layer of the intrigue and betrayals interwoven throughout what is essentially a royal melodrama. Casting also switches gender and Emily Dalton plays Sir Thomas Lovell, whose dialog basically states the action of the play to the other characters, which is obvious to them but no always obvious to this audience. This kind of gender switch up, softens some of the misogyny of Shakespeare’s era, and worked well here in this tale of a man changing wives.




England’s contemporary Royal Family is expecting a new heir and this play concludes with the birth of Queen Elizabeth. Besides Wolsey and Katherine, Bullen and other main characters here, Cromwell and Cranmer would likewise be beheaded and burned at the stake, respectively, by Henry VIII. Shakespeare knew his audience at the time would know this. Is Henry VIII an apologia for the king’s ruthlessness, a depiction that gives us a deeper understanding of the complexities of kingship, or a royalist polemic that whitewashes history, advising its contemporary audience to support the current regime? Well, it could be all of the above and certainly the controversies of Henry VIII are either ignored or understated. (Bloom: “Even the Catholic-Protestant confrontation is so muted that Shakespeare hardly appears to take sides.”).

The play begins with the question about why a “man can weep on his wedding day” and The Hudson Theater Company brought out the humanity of the ruling class caught in a paradoxical dilemma – how will power be maintained when an heir cannot be produced. Finding the truth in these characters made us modern day citizens of a non-monarchial democracy recognize ourselves in the tragedy that unfolds, but we also got a better understanding of how those subjects of a monarchy would have understood the same tragedy on the stage. 400 years may separate the Van Vorst audiences from those who saw the original summer premier of Henry VIII, but the Hudson Shakespeare Company enabled us to recognize the distance separating us from them is really not very far at all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Plastiq Passion Punk

They rocked from the start. But Weird. Wonderfully weird. Weird nonetheless. That was my first thought as Plastiq Passion, a punk quartet, tore into their set. The band’s name comes from The Cure, although at Groove on Grove they tended towards upbeat, up-tempo, melodic rock.

 Plastiq Passion are fun, but in spite of the oxymoron implied in their name, there was little of the irony and none of the nihilism, so often associated with all-women punk bands. That attitude has become cliché. The anger a pose.  Plastiq Passion was brash and edgy but also strange, infectious – accelerated garage rock, with poetic lyrics. No clichés. No poses.  





These cats can play. Ragged-around-the-edges but tight and in fact, that raggedness seemed intentional, part of the punk style of raw honesty, not some byproduct of musical amateurism. The songs weren’t just tossed off, they were exuberant and engaging and flippant. The attitude of these women was let’s get this party started. And a party was had.

They weren’t just replicating three-chord Ramones ditties, they were shaking things up with some shimmy-inducing surf rock riffs. The breaks were textured, a sonic sprawl and at the moment you think you are hearing some extended jam, the unit was back to the unadorned mission at hand – Rock  & Roll.

I had to restrain myself from involuntary pogoing.  Up-tempo punk pop, one song quoted Shakespeare in the chorus – “the entire World’s a Stage.” The hooks were fast and infectious, echoing surf rock and rockabilly, but still in the punk rock vein. Those same hooks, riffs, and licks punk rock has always quoted and reinterpreted for a new generation.  

 “Don’t be so tragic, why don’t you be irresponsible, just like me” came the chorus of Irresponsible –, the narrator  recommending lust is the answer, damn the consequences – a sly rocker,  transgressive and brisk.


Then a power ballad – at least it started off a slow, pop ballad  with heart-wrenching, meaty chords, where escape is offered as the answer to save love “Let’s Drive Away, Feel Like We did once Before,” Jessica Chaos, who handled vocals and guitar, pleaded with her throaty voice – sort of gravely Wanda Jackson. The song shifted to a rave-up that pumped up the crowd, before cascading back to the pop ballad, replete with Tom Verlaine inspired licks (reminiscent of Elevation).

In addition to Chaos, who handles rhythm guitar and lead vocals, the band includes: Deborah Sanchez, guitarist, Christine Simon on bass, and Stacey Lee on drums, who was having a great set, propelling her band mates into rip-it-up rock territory. This faster, poppy punk returned for the set’s conclusion, which erupted into cataclysmic feedback. Marvelous noise, the way a set of unabashed and unapologetic punk rock should end. Much of the crowd was on their feet and applauding.


What a fine punk band! What more can be ask for on a humid summer evening? The predicted rain never fell. The Groove on Grove Rock & Roll was splendid. Plastiq Passion respects and reenacts many of the traditions of Punk, but they shoved those traditions forward too.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jersey Side Ducks

Perseverance, adaptability, survival… family of mallards along the banks of the Hudson, just like us, coping with the realities of the Jersey Side. The father is the one brightly colored, notice how the mother is in-between he and the off-spring. Freud might agree the symbolism is not arbitrary.  They all seem to be cleaning themselves, or watching the father do so and learning. The toxicity of the oil and muck that accumulates on thier feathers is unimaginable... but is their survival any less so?



The ducklings do not seem that small. I guess they will be free of the nest come early fall, meet somebody nice down south (mallards may not actually migrate, but if you’re looking for ornithology you’ve come to the wrong blog).

I always think about this particular family, some of its gene pool anyway, have made these Jersey City inlets their home for eons, escaping predators even before they were able to avoid Lenne Lenape hunters or resist the lethal side-effects of the  industrial revolution, where they lived on the front lines for its entire rise and fall.

And here in our waters, they still are, just like th waters themselves,  early becoming mid-summer, still living their life, still oblivious to what we do except when it comes to adapting to the changes we inflict – the bloodlines of the ducks unable to learn how to clean off oil are no longer here – but even that oil is different, the industry is long gone. Yachts and speed boats docked in the nearby mini-marina probably account for much the current pollution, not to mention the tug boats, barges and luxury liners.  And construction, luxury housing and hotels now populate this stretch of bank, between Newport and Exchange, between a mall and surrounding development and the financial district and surrounding development.

There’s a jetty, likely man-made, protruding into the river and is closed off, by a fence. Construction equipment and supplies are all around. The plank these ducks are using is probably results form the construction. The board seems to shimmer, moving with the tide lapping onto the river shore.

We live in a city that has this wonderful view of another city. We live in a city to gaze at a river, ponder a skyline. In the nooks and corners, we see remnants of what use to be here, the nature that still determines our pains and pleasures, that defines the truth of mortality we can only ignore temporarily. Are we not these ducks, possessing experienced obliviousness to the rise and fall of civilization, so we can focus on surviving and helping our loved ones to adapt? All we really can know we know is now.



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Meeting the New Boss

To quote The Who: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.

I like The Who as much as the next lover of classic rock, but their lyrics often cannot stand up to scrutiny, and Won’t Get Fooled Again is no exception. The only thing about the new boss that is ever the same as the old boss is the boss part. Just like when push came to shove, Townsend preferred getting older to dying, bosses are never exactly the same.

After a muck and mire campaign that even exceeded the inexorable mud slinging that is customary for Jersey City elections, upstart Steve Fulop won an upset victory in May (Jersey City’s election laws are bizzaro), and was inaugurated into office July 1st. Former Mayor Healy supporters and long term Jersey City residents, particularly the born and bred, echoed The Won’t Get Fool Again sentiment and such a cynical view is not without precedence or justification in our city, our country, our world (and the entire Alpha Quadrant).

To not acknowledge, however, that the inauguration of Mayor Steve Fulop as an indication of the beginning of a new chapter in our city (if not our galaxy) is to have a commitment to cynicism that is obtuse – a syndrome not exactly rare round these parts.

The inauguration was accompanied by festive, well-attended party that deserves to become a tradition. Blocks were cordoned off, grand stands set up, straw hats made of Styrofoam with Steve Fulop’s name on it were handed on. A large poster of the Fulop visage hung on the side of a building; an Uncle Sam on stilts meandered through the crowd. City Hall was bedecked in Old Glory bunting. Red, white and blue everywhere. The competitive anxiety part of democracy is over – the election – and the difficult part of democracy has yet to begin – translating ideals into effective policy – and the Fulop inauguration party let us as Americans do what we do best – perform crass displays of patriotism and sincere acts of neighborliness.
I flashed that legendary Mayor Hague and legendary city mayors like him probably held these sorts of coronation parties, a splashy city-wide event filled with patriotic decorations. I imagined as the people of the city ate, drank and danced, their leaders congregated in smaller groups, in corners and back rooms of City Hall (closed to the public for the event), and in whispers made patronage deals and secretly formalized the new administration’s pecking order . Unseen, the gears are put into position. There’s a new city machine in town and everyone whose business is government (which is everybody, but others more than you or I) is finding out how they will be benefit or suffer.

The people had a nice event, got to see in person people you know mainly through Facebook. It was a fun party that broke up the routine of what would have been just another Monday evening. The splashy, unprecedented street gala succeeded in leaving no doubt that a new mayor and new era, begins now.
All politics are local the saying goes and in his inauguration speech the new mayor echoed the old chestnut that there is no republican or democrat way to clean streets, which is good-sounding rhetoric but total bullshit. The tax rates used to fund government are distinct to each party. Does your political ideology and subsequent policies favor the haves or the have nots? The poor and middle class, or the wealthy? What political ideology on a national level does it strengthen or undermine?

City Machine: Which Side Are You On?

City machines bring out votes; Hague made sure everyone voted for FDR and guess what; we got a hospital still in existence. More importantly, Hague and mayors like him, by using their ability to command their loyal blocks of voters, enabled FDR to carry states in the Electoral College. City Machine made the public support of the New Deal visible, especially important since those economic polices, that saved the nation from depression, created the middle class and a social safety net, and most importantly, saved Capitalism from itself, were all opposed by Republicans, who tried every trick in the book to make sure wealth was concentrated in the hands of the few.

City machines get things done, and what happens locally once determined the national agenda. The thing is, city machine politics are necessary and more often than is commonly admitted, for the social good.

Fulop’s inauguration was the public recognition of a new city machine, and with the resurgence in American cities and a new generation (Fulop is totally Gen X) taking power, one wonders, not if, but how this new city machine will influence the national agenda (and the history of the Alpha Quadrant).

After WW II, with the growth of suburbs, city machines gradually lost their political muscle. The glory days of Tammany Hall were long gone, rampant corruption – the other side of patronage – enriched, but eventually thinned the management rank of City Machines, as corruption scandals and lawsuits further weakened the grip these political organizations had on both their own territories. They were unable to extend their influence to the suburban municipalities that blossomed in Post-War America.

 National opposition politicians not beholden to these weakened city political machines, like Nixon and Reagan, were elected and implemented policies that wrecked cities and decimated the working class. Factories closed as federal policies, already impeding unions, encouraged investors to exploit cheap labor costs by moving factories overseas. The blue collar ranks, the bedrock of cities like J.C., underwent an economic suppression that was tantamount to class genocide.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century. City living became popular again. Younger generations did not share the collective racism of the World War II and even Baby Boomers (a more complicated less obvious prejudice that I will no go into here). The white flight that occurred throughout the last half of the 20 century was reversed, multiculturalism was embraced and the alternative lifestyle opportunities city living offered became mainstream. Archie Bunker died, Archie’s Place went condo, Jerry Seinfeld moved in. A mixed-raced politician was elected president, with no memory of Vietnam era politics and who rose to power in part by working through the city machine of Chicago politics.
About 75 percent of Jersey City who could vote, who voted in the 2012 Presidential election, did not vote in the Jersey City mayoral election. But somebody else pointed out to me that Fulop won – he got about 52 percent of the vote – because about 5,000 more people voted this year than in the last mayoral election. Now, I haven’t done the research to verify these stats, but they sound true. You have to hand it to the guy, he inspired enough people to go out and vote for him who most likely would otherwise sit out the election. He deserved the win on that basis, despite the reality that the vast majority in his city are indifferent fools who have no respect for or appreciation of freedom. I’ll never understand not voting.

Jersey City is a Democratic city – even though it once elected a Republican mayor, Brett Schundler – and its mayoral election, is technically a Democratic primary. Incumbent, Jerremiah Healy, was painted as a machine politician with machine having the pejorative connotation it has long acquired. He also ran a terrible campaign.

He ridiculed Fulop as a carpet bagger, that he doesn’t know Jersey City because he’s only lived here 13 years. This misstep was offensive, rejected by voters and proved fatal to his campaign. He was appealing to bigotry. Born and Bred Jersey City types can be narrow minded and have a you’re not from here attitude. I got this same ignorant attitude from them when I moved here 20 years ago and still get it today – but not so much now, not just because I’ve lived here long enough that I’m easy to ignore, but that those born and breders are not as opposed to change or newcomers as they once were. There has been a lot more change for the better than the worse (in some ways, this city could not have gotten worse!), and there was just too many newcomers to sustain their unjustified resentment.

I was thinking of the Jersey Shore debacle of a couple of years ago. Healy took heat for letting MTV film that awful show here, Healy said it would bring in needed revenue. What could be more UN-Jersey City than having that show publicize our unique mini-metropolis around the globe?

So, Fulop was not Jersey City enough but Jersey Shore was? This insipid allegation – as if Jersey City is so exceptional that it is not really part of New Jersey or America and everyone not born at Christ Hospital does not have the best interests of where they live now in their hearts – in light of his Jersey Shore approval (Hoboken rejected MTV’s offer) revealed the smart, well-read Healy to be intellectually inconsistent. His strategy backfired big time.

But Healy’s biggest mistake was that he did not have an adequate response to corruption charges. As is well known, there was sting operation that netted a gaggle of politicians and officials, including 13 from this area, for taking bribes from a fake developer. No one investigated developers who were giving real bribes, just the politicians and officials. Then Attorney General, Chris Christie headed, this massive take down and was able to parley it all the way to the Govenor's Mansion in Trenton and now onto national politics. Healy was never charged, but several of his associates were and were indicted and are still doing time. Fulop successfully, and quite frankly, with good reason, was able to tar Healy with corruption by association, even if actual corruption on his part never occurred. Investigators found that he never took a bribe, a point Healy repeated incessantly.

But Healy never went beyond that point, never addressed the larger issue of state-wide corruption, especially the construction industry malfeasance that sparked the investigation and entrapment strategy. Instead, Healy said he didn’t get caught and left it at that. Instead of getting bogged down on issue specifics, Fulop was able to make the former mayor – a smart, decent man who did a lot of good for this city in the wake of the sudden death of his friend and mentor, former mayor Gerald Cunningham – the main issue in the campaign. It didn’t help that Healy’s actions often invited aspersions, such as the photograph taken down the shore, of an inebriated, apparently naked Mayor.  

It wasn’t just Fulop’s winning of the campaign’s muck and mire competition that gave us a new city machine. A friend of mine, a middle-aged (older baby boomer) woman who liked Healy, had voted for him in prior elections, sat on some community board involved with the restoration of a downtown park a few years ago. Fulop was on the same board. She is pretty much old-school Jersey City, been here since the late 70s, acts like a born and breder, and is employed by a local church. Healy was a supporter of her church-related projects, where he and his family members often attend services (Fulop is Jewish). But she voted Fulop. Why? Fulop impressed her. She liked working with him. He was trustworthy and dependable. There was a personal connection, and while she liked his words, she saw his actions and acknowledged they had positive results.

Gen X & Yer’s were going to vote for Fulop, because he is one of them and innately they rightly believe, it is about time they collectively grab hold of a rein of power. But the notable numbers of the turnout (the 5,000 surge), that goes beyond generational solidarity. Fulop has made connections with others like my friend. Baby Boomers were never enthused about any mayoral race in the 90s.

But Fulop truly inspires millennial transplants, a population most other Hudson County politicians treat with benign neglect. He attends the art events, is generally supportive in spite of some slippery actions (dodging some issues is part of a politician’s job description), like his silence on the sound ordinance issue.

Fulop was absent during the controversial and highly contested hearings on the sound ordinance (as councilman, he left the public portion of the hearing on the sound ordinance, which still irks many who turned out for the hearings, although not enough to prevent them voting Fulop for mayor), resulting in the passage of a vague bill affecting only bars, not outdoor events, where much of the controversy arose. The outdoor event sound levels have not been regulated, and basically any complaint against sound can lead to the shutdown of an event – there’s no objective measure necessary, just the discretion of the police who answer the call. Healy was also silent on the sound ordinance issue, which was likewise ignored by our local media.

Fulop created a base, expanded that base, and can now use that base to advance in politics. Of course, a lot depends on, now that he is at the helm of the city machine, how Fulop wields that power to improve Jersey City, and those improvements have to be objectively apparent to residents and those not living here alike. Holding a city-wide party in the patronage style of a classic Big City Mayor augurs well for his first term. This city machine is younger and less blue collar than those of the past. The inauguration was a way to get people involved – at least present – it was a protest march with out the protest, a rally with a social media networking feel as opposed to a burning issue our passions can coalesce around. The new city machine may not be too new to fully define right now, but the fact that it is here is undeniable. The potential for change is exciting and I prefer to feel positive about it. Blame Scott Muni, he over-played The Who on WNEW when I was in High School.

Fulop’s inauguration was the first time I saw him give a complete speech. He’s a good speaker. The Jersey accent is thick but we’ve all heard thicker. Nasally and a fast talker – probably too fast for a national audience, although I can just imagine the SNL parody – he comes off as well-informed and nerdy, more interested in pragmatism than ideology. The speech was well written, containing historical references (60,000 runaway slaves during the Underground Railroad era received safe passage through Jersey City) and a parable from the Talmud. It focused on creating one city from our diverse population and disparate neighborhoods, reminding us that is what Jersey City has always done. Some of the rhetoric sounded plagiarized from his campaign speeches – you won, dude, no need to harp on real and perceived corruption of the past – and while his emphasis on education was welcomed, his job creation promises were vague in detail. There was little said about those struggling with poverty or other economic issues, most of which are beyond the direct purview of a municipality-level leader. Overall though, he sounded like a Democrat, and depending on how the 2015 New York Times Sunday Magazine cover profile will read, he probably earned a speaking spot at the 2016 Democratic Convention. His is an act (if he can slow that down that speech pattern) that potentially could attract a following outside of Hudson County politics, a real rarity among our politicians (just ask Governor Schundler).

The other politicians giving remarks were Senator Bob Menendez and Governor Chris Christie, who until Sandy photo-ops redemption, was the anti-Christ for N.J. Democrats. Menendez rose through the political ranks of Union City and Hudson County, won his seats after Frank Lautenberg retired (Lautenberg reentered politics after the Torricelli debacle and won that corrupt gas bag’s seat). I have never seen Menendez speak. He was a bore, looking and sounding like a typical political fat cat. I was uninspired, but his senate voting record I generally support. If he ever has to face a formidable candidate, I hope it is in a primary and not a general election.

Christie was the real surprise. He recently underwent the gastro-surgery, but he still looks obese. Now, as readers know, I’m a New Deal Democrat. Writing about politics is rare for Dislocations, but not unheard of. I’m not tying to convince you to think otherwise than you already do about your political believes, I’m just interested in stating my thoughts honestly and those thoughts come from a progressive place. As such, there’s nothing I like about our Governor’s politics. His media appearances make me cringe. I’m embarrassed we are both from the same state and are both fans of Bruce. Christie is an anti-intellectual, obnoxious frat boy. But I got to say, live and behind the podium, giving remarks that were political in a general sense but resisted taking party or ideological stances, he was likeable. In person, my impression was surprisingly – I should say shockingly – opposite to what I heretofore felt. He’s a New Jersey guy, of the Suburbs (as am I). As speeches go – in form if not content – Christie was showing the new mayor and veteran Senator how it’s done. He won the evening's speechifying contest hands down. He’s formidable. He captivates. He’s a force to be reckoned with; now that Senator Lautenberg is on the other shore, there’s no New Jersey politician able to reckon with that force and I wonder how many on the national level could even try.

New Jersey Democrats are a lackluster bunch. On a national level, we’re taken for granted as a blue state, reliable but not fit to waste campaign dollars on. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate deemed to visit a Jersey City neighborhood was in 1972.  By voting in turds like John Corzine, our once blue state has been hijacked by Christie, and forget about purple – in truth we were always purple everywhere except the post-Reagan electoral college -- could go red if this trend continues. This sad state of the state politics, led to an opening for Christie to move onto the national stage, which fills me with fear. His ideology is dangerous and damaging, but debating ideas is not our nation’s forte. Christie is able to win over audiences and is not to be under-estimated. I look at my pictures of Christie and still cringe – I just don’t like the guy and my reticence feels visceral – and that reaction is totally the opposite of the one I had listening to him speak in person. Be afraid, America, be very afraid.

Healy received an endorsement by President Obama, which only made the election closer but still far short of victory. From a national perspective, the outcome of the Obama endorsement reveals volumes, and not in a good way, of the challenges progressive politics now face in the land that I love best. President Obama is a lame duck president earlier in his second term than any previous president. He just never seemed to have the courage of his convictions. Perhaps this decline started with his early abandonment of the “Government Option,” then he gave up the fight for a larger stimulus package – something most economists wanted – and signed a lower level of spending, whose positive impact was nil. Obama was reelected because Romney & Ryan were frightening and foolish, and let’s face it, Barack is a likeable dad and husband, and we’re used to him. But 2012 is so last year, with Republicans entrenched in the legislative branch, change much less hope has been nullified and Democrats, being in the white house, will suffer the blame. With the Drones and surveillance issues, Obama is eroding much of his base and his seeming inability to positively change the economy for workers (the Investor Class is doing swell), explains why his Healy endorsement fell flat and only bodes ill for the upcoming mid-term elections and the plight of working people like you and me.

 Earlier in the day on local NPR (WNYC), Fulop was interviewed and said Obama had not even called him with a congratulations. WTF? He said only Bill Clinton – ever stalwart – did call. What kind of show for Democratic unity is this that the new Mayor of a major mid-size city – a city with a growing population – gets ignored by the national party. Why wasn’t the vice-president on the dais to deliver remarks? Ignoring Fulop’s inauguration was just another example of taking New Jersey for granted attitude among the national Democratic Party.

This neglect led to the rise of Christie and while his opponent seems like a good candidate (Barbara Buno or Bono, I forget) and Corey Booker seems like a shoe-in for Senator, Christie’s victory is a foregone conclusion and after Booker, who is the next in line among the ranks of N.J. Democrats. That would be Steve Fulop, which makes the whole inauguration even more problematic regarding the future of the Democratic party. On the NPR interview, Fulop said he is waiting to announce his endorsement for the NJ Governor’s race. With Christie’s win considered a foregone conclusion by the wimps and turds who make up the majority of the NJ Dem leadership, the concern is Christie will respond in kind once elected to anyone who made his second coronation even a little less ordained. All of Fulop’s fellow democrats supported Healy, so why should Steve be the first to turn the other cheek? It is really up the rest of the NJ Dems to extend the olive branch to the new city machine. Forget your ego, make new alliances. Stop being weak kneed numbskulls. Work for the common good

So, as we wait for that NJ Dem solidarity to adjust to the Fulop reality, our Mayor emphasizes that he puts the city first, an attitude agreeable to my myopic, self-centered brethren who are more afraid of a local “re-val” increasing property taxes than federal policies eradicating the middle class and letting the 1 percent get richer. Even the Hudson Pride Connection – so publically outraged that Christie is not budging on marriage equality, according to the news stories following the Supreme Court DOMA decision less than a week ago – were no where to be seen, no rainbow flag, much less a protest sign, to greet our publically homophobic Governor visit to our gay-friendly town.


Same as the old boss? Sorry, Pete. While Goldman Sachs, where Fulop used to work, is said to have paid for the inauguration party and funded his campaign – he was able to outspend Healy – he also cultivated grass roots support, motivating his base and now seems to have coopted most of the Healy base. Hey, we’re all Democrats ain’t we?

This new city machine is led by a new generation of voters – Gen X and Y (political differences between these two groups are not that clear). FDR and JFK knew how to appeal to these machines and these machines knew how to get the vote out for the federal candidates and in turn, the cities benefitted from federal policies that favored the working class, which made up the majority of their populations. Measurement of the success of economic policies was not the amount of national wealth – now concentrated in a smaller percent of the population than in the entire history of mankind – but how high the number of good paying jobs created and how low the amount of the unemployed remained.

Instead, we had a state and national party that took these city machines for granted. It’s obvious this attitude can no longer persist. Demographics shifted the tale, and J.C.’s machine is now at the vanguard of change. Statewide and national politicians now ignore us and the Fulop machine at their own risk – photo-ops at Liberty State Park no longer will suffice to guarantee votes, votes Fulop has now proven he can deliver. The implications of the Steve Fulop inauguration cannot be over estimated.

 The event itself was loads of fun. Vendors sold food for lower than typical street-fair prices -- $1 slice for Pizza, $1 for 4 Filipino ego rolls – free bottles of water – there was music before the ceremonies at two different stages – I caught some Gospel, some Salsa, a James Brown number by a high school band – and the ceremonies included a Marine Color guard, the playing of the MC anthem (to the shores of Tripoli), a young girl singing America the Beautiful, even a local poet reading a spoken-word piece about Our Jersey City. True, the conclusion was the cake by the Cake Boss, some cable TV show filmed in Hoboken everybody besides me seemed to know. I thought everybody was going to get a slice. That was not to be.

For all of Fulop’s talk of changing Jersey City’s Tale of Two Cities into the tale of one cities, there was a real apparent class division at the inauguration. There were barriers and a wrist band system and unless you were in the loop, you were regulated to the street and food vendors. Bloggers are not yet eligible for a press pass (I counted more than a dozen TV cameras in the press box), and the grand stands with the best view were seating by invitation only. There was VIP section of a friend of Fulop caste, and the rest of us had Grove Street.

But after the ceremonies, as the Friends of Fulop began to vacate the City Hall lawn and separated into their separate parties, far away from the plebes, proles and great unwashed, the music started. Ivan – son of Aaron – Neville was one of the featured acts, and I was able to stand at the side of the stage and watched one of the 2nd generation of Neville Brothers perform Iko Iko, a rendition that duplicated the original “Jokomo” arrangement by Sugar Boy Crawford. He also performed Sly Stone’s “Family Affair” in bluesy New Orleans round house style, as well as some soulful originals, one of which was so new he had to read the lyrics scrawled on a piece of notebook paper.

Only about a dozen or so watched Ivan, who played among a great deal of picture posing, general commotion and chit-chat by the political class getting ready to depart to their after-parties. I have to hand it to Fulop, he stayed on that stage. You do not invite a member of one of America’s foremost musical family to your inauguration and not give ample props. Right on Steve!


Probably the only time ever a Neville opens for a local J.C. act. The Milwaukees – “Steve’s favorite J.C. band "– came as night completed its falling and they were loud. These cats are great – arena rock without the arena – I wrote about them here, but I left before the end of the set. I had an enjoyable time, but politics, even when interesting and validates our hopes, exhaust. I was six blocks away, on Columbus where traffic was not blocked, made thicker by the detours created by the inauguration barriers.

In spite of this distance and the added noise, I could still hear The Milwaukees, every lick and lyric. I have never been to an outdoor event in town where the music was this loud. In fact, this was as loud as any concert I’ve ever attended, and louder than many of them. I’m not complaining. I like it loud.