Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Saint Jude Feast Day

 

Happy Saint Jude Feast Day
Congratulations to everyone completing
 the Saint Jude Novena today.
 Peace and blessings be unto you.
 




 


Saint Jude Thaddeus

Pray For Us

And for all who invoke your aid

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

McGovern, Marlo & Me


Me and my boyhood chum Guy Hartman rode our bicycles to the new development on the other side of the park to meet Marlo Thomas. She was the star of That Girl, my favorite sit-com. Guy’s father was a teacher and a Democrat and Marlo was campaigning for George McGovern. Our friendship faded sometime after High School. Guy worshiped Ronald Reagan, and to this day is a registered republican. I guess we all have our own ways of rebelling against our Dads. My father supported Nixon – until Watergate – but in 1972 Nixon was his man. I not only supported McGovern, I campaigned for him in my grammar school mock presidential election.

My father may have leaned Republican, but he was not a right winger and was proud that he always split the ticket. He made sure to vote for candidates of both parties every election. Unlike Guy’s dad, who put a sign on his lawn supporting the national, state and local Democrats every autumn, my father never even wore a button. I like to think that my McGovern support was some kind of rebellion or an early sign of maturity regarding a worldview, but the reality probably was more likely that Sister Henora wanted us to hold a mock election and my homework assignment was George McGovern.

Nixon ruined my childhood. My brothers – they had long hair, participated in war protests, went to rock concerts and smoked pot – fought all the time with my father. Their clashes disrupted the family. They made me sad and nervous. When I entered my teenage years in the wasteland of America’s malaise era, I followed these unhealthy role models. Nixon was a point of contention that tore my family into The Blue & The Gray. John F. Kennedy’s picture hung in every classroom at Our Lady of the Visitation, usually under Pope Paul VI. For years, we thought he was a saint and some kind of American co-pope. Even though he lost, the Sisters of Charity never forgave Nixon for having the nerve to oppose our beloved martyr, the Irish-American Lincoln.

My father liked Nixon, a lot of people did. He came from a genuinely working class background and had the Ike connection. Nixon always scared me, those dark eyes and big head that quivered when he talked and he hated hippies. I remember when I was a kid in the backseat of Mr. Hartman’s car – a white tornado – and him pointing and saying there’s a hippie. Guy and I gawked through the window. This beautiful young woman, with a fringe suede jacket and long blonde hair and a guy with hair just as long and a beard. They were lying on a blanket near a motorcycle. For a very short time, hippies were even rarer than black people and you had to go to New York City to see a living example. From the news stories about rock festivals on TV and the footage of cops beating on kids during a protest, you knew that nonconformity existed, but that notion was only a vague idea to me until I saw her long blonde hair and fringe jacket.

I remember most Life Magazine in doctor and dentist offices. I was one of six kids, seemed whenever one went for a visit, we all went. I read the magazines. Glossy pictures of the Vietnam war. Violent images, dead mutilated bodies, terrified Vietnamese in muddy clothes and wide straw hats, and the exhausted soldiers whose eyes were dark and hollowed out, like Nixon’s. The protestors seemed a lot more fun and onto something more relevant to me than Nixon or the soldiers or those club-wielding cops. They listened to the music my parents were always turning off. That hippie woman in the park was beautiful. I had only an inkling of an idea of what sexuality was, but I was convinced she epitomized it, just as I instinctively knew she intended to vote McGovern.

Before Watergate, many people loved Nixon. Democrats did not trust him and certainly had no love for him, but among the adults there was not yet the absolute and universal hatred for him. I remember Carl, the local mechanic, owned the Texaco, the neighborhood gas station, telling my mother – “I wanted to vote for Bobbie Kennedy, but after he was shot they had nobody else but Humphrey.”

Humphrey could not inspire confidence. One factor was the Democratic Convention that year, when the whole world watched police and protesters battle in the streets. Nixon promised law and order. The WWII Generation, permanently scarred by their Great Depression childhoods, had an obsessive yearning for stability. The chaos of the Chicago Convention ensured that Humphrey would lose, and with his demise went the 1960s legacy of the New Deal: the New Frontier/Great Society. America was polarized, but not like today where Republicans and Democrats seem to barely talk to each other. My father and Guy’s father were pals. Political parties were incidental. Young people and old people were the ones at each other’s throats. The polarization was solely generational, least that is the way it seemed through my childhood eyes. I had yet to meet a wobbly or a young republican. The younger generation – 18 year olds first got the vote in 1972–hated Nixon. The older generation believed in respecting the president, regardless of your personal feelings about him or who you supported during the election.

By 1974, everybody hated Nixon. After years of social upheaval and constant battle over civil rights, the draft, the war against communism, the length of hair, recreational drugs and premarital sex, old and young finally agreed to despise Richard Nixon together. The president lied to the people. When that became undeniable and the corrupt old man resigned from the highest office in the land, the resentment was universal. Hating Nixon did not immediately end the hostility between my father and my brothers, but they finally had one less thing to argue about. The healing began. However, one national custom was discarded into the dustbin of history – respecting the president just because he held the office. Post-Nixon, even if you like and support whoever is in the White House, nobody respects the president just for being president.

I remember writing a speech, reading it to my family at the supper table before I recited it to the class. It was probably about stopping the draft and the war. Thou shall not kill. I’m sure I somehow tied McGovern into the catechism we learned every day– Jesus being a beacon of compassion –we said our fathers, hail marys and glory bes before every class throughout the day. I’m positive we had to make a Catholic reference even in the secular activity of elections. McGovern may have gone on to lose in a landslide to Nixon, but he won the 7th grade vote. I like to think it was my speech. I was one of the classes cut-ups so maybe the nuns were trying to channel my energy into something positive. I wish I could remember my Nixon jokes, I’m sure they killed.

I loved That Girl. I can still sing the theme song from memory.

Diamonds. Daisies. Snowflakes.

That Girl.

Chestnuts. Rainbows. Spring Time.

It’s that Girl…

Her name was Ann Marie – Marie was her last name. I always found that way clever. She moved from the suburbs – Brewster – to New York City to follow her dream of becoming an actress.

That Girl was the first sitcom to feature a smart, single woman. She was not the career girl that Mary Tyler Moore would be, but she was smarter and more interesting than Gidget. She had a doting widowed father, and a steady boyfriend – Donald, a magazine writer. Beautiful, friendly, funny – That Girl was the only adult show I liked, except for the Evening News and Star Trek and some occasional Channel 13 broadcasts that would inexplicably fascinate me. I never watched That Girl as a teen or adult, it did not become a college obsession like the Odd Couple, subject to bong-induced, post-modern deconstruction. I’m sure That Girl would now seem utterly dated and lacking humor to me, which is maybe why I avoided the reruns as I grew up. That Girl remains preserved as an unblemished ideal in my personal amber. Ann Marie is eternally good, friendly and fun to be with – appealingly unaware of her sexuality –enthusiastic, sincere and loyal. Marlo Thomas went on to make feminist made for TV programing like “Free To Be You and Me.” She married Phil Donahue and still appears in the occasional acting gig. Her most prominent role these days is as spokesperson for St. Jude’s Children Hospital, which her father founded.

The houses in the new development belonged to folks definitely from a higher economic bracket than my family. The houses were bigger and nicer. One of the major neighborhood news events was when a film crew came to shoot a scene for What’s Up Doc, a Barbara Streisand movie. Just a few years before, we caught frogs in ponds where the new development now stood. My house and Guy’s, were part of the first housing developments on the woodlands and celery farms of Paramus. When we graduated high school, all of the farms and nearly all of the woods were gone.

The party was on a redwood deck. Me and Guy were the only non-adults. Us being there was a big deal, made possible only due to Guy’s father’s connection to the local party and my success with the Parochial school electorate. I am sure that this was a fund raiser and everybody there had contributed so they could meet That Girl. Marlo probably went to similar events throughout the state. New Jersey was in play in 1972 and would ultimately vote Nixon. I have no idea whose house it was. I never knew anybody in the new development, the park was a boundary separating economic classes. I was unequivocally from the neighborhood where the houses had no redwood decks.

Everybody was waiting for Marlo. When she arrived there were gasps, applause. I remember she gave a short speech, then said hello to everybody, one person at a time. She seemed very down to earth –her hair was longer than Ann Marie’s, whose hair ended with a bob several inches above her shoulders. Marlo’s was as long as that hippie girl’s in the park, but black as a raven’s.

She smiled at me and said I heard about you. She was stunningly beautiful. I mumbled something about George McGovern and how much I loved That Girl. I can still see her, leaning down at me and looking into my eyes, shaking my hand and smiling at me, her black hair bursting with sunlight. I heard about you.

Then Guy and I left on our bicycles. I seem to remember that we would only be allowed to meet her. I do not remember even being offered refreshments. There was nobody else our age, or even close to our age, like a teenager, there. Just adults, just parents. Back then kids were best seen and not heard and when seen, the briefer the glimpse the better. Mingling between generations was contrary to the social norm and unlike today, the constant presence of children was not tolerated. Being allowed here was a privilege. Lingering was not permitted. But I had met Ann Marie, the personification of my earliest romantic yearnings. She had smiled at me and looked into my eyes and said I heard about you. I met someone who was the closest thing to an angel I could imagine and all because I supported the candidate my father opposed.

What if our nation could have been spared the 2nd Nixon term? What if the healing needed after the 60s occurred a decade earlier? McGovern would have continued and strengthened FDR’s New Deal, which Carter let flounder than Reagan decimated. At the time, what bothered me was only how most adults, like my father, could vote Nixon when such a lovely goddess as Ann Marie liked McGovern?

A That Girl episode I’ve never forgotten was when she was going to cast her first vote. She took it very seriously, had this stack of books on government and politics she studied before making her decision. Ann Marie was always comically earnest and relentless enthusiastic. Thanks to Google, the episode: "Secret Ballot" has this synopsis: “Ann gets excited about voting in her first presidential election, learns all she can about the system, but won't tell her father who she's voting for since it's a secret ballot.”. As I got older, my father and I argued about a lot of things, but never politics, which we talked about a lot. We were both avid newspaper readers. He supported Reagan, I did not. My life was crazy in the 80s. I did not like Dukakis and had voted for Millicent Fenwick. The fall of 1988 I was on again with my on again and off again girlfriend. One night as she undid her bra, she said that Bush will never care about people like us. My record of voting for the Democratic candidate for president remained intact.

My parents would bring me along when they voted. I always wanted to go. There was a mini-voting booth for kids to play in, you would push the tiny lever down and a red x appeared in the square alongside the name of a non-existent candidate. Voting was held at the local grammar school, Parkway School named after New Jersey’s famous toll highway. I went to kindergarten there. My first vote was for Governor. I pulled the lever for the socialist candidate. Chalk that decision up to the vanity of youth.

I’ve never missed an election. Unlike “Secret Ballot,” I have no problem saying who I voted for but I really prefer revealing my vote only if I can explain my reasons why and be prepared, that could take a while. America’s disgrace is that voter turnout plummeted through the 80s and 90s. I will never understand why people do not vote, even though a lot of my friends do not even register. How can somebody not love the act of going to the polls and being alone in the booth and realizing, however imperfectly and filled with compromise, that the act you take expresses your political philosophy, which is just the civic outgrowth of your personal view of life itself. Yes, you have to select someone who only comes closest to your view because no candidate will embody it completely, but perfection, like paradise is meant only for the next world; all we have in this one is each other. Not voting leaves me dumbfounded.

McGovern passed away this week, hailed as a decent man, a real Midwest guy. He is an inspiration. I liked his demeanor but he just could not connect with voters on a national scale. He could not sew together the tears that split apart the uneasy coalition of progressives of his era – the unions, the anti-war protestors, and the identity political groups of minorities, feminists, gays and the poor – part of the problem was that the leaders of those groups lacked the foresight to overcome their egos and personal biases to achieve goals that transcended their narrow, single-issue ideologies. The inability of progressive leadership to work as a coalition impeded the progressive movement, making them unable to prevent the wealthy and right wing to make Reaganism and income inequality to be the law of the land. We may still suffer from many of the failures to engage support for McGovern – he was the last candidate to offer a policy for redistribution of wealth – but perhaps some of his political lessons were learned well enough to help win victories for Carter, Clinton and Obama.

Nixon refused to debate McGovern. Astounding now to think an elected leader could get away with not  confronting the candidate of his loyal opposition (although Bloomberg was able to pull the same stunt when bought his re-election (s)). McGovern famously debated an empty chair, and said that Nixon “was listening,” a wisecrack about the news about wire tapping that was beginning to leak out, a steady trickle of malfeasance and corruption that grew into the Watergate tsunami. A debate between McGovern and Nixon would have shed some light on the issues of day – the way those issues were eventually decided not only cost lives by prolonging the Vietnam War, but continue to form many of the current parameters of our politics. The positive though is that Nixon was the last presidential candidate able to duck a debate.  The recent Obama/Romney trilogy of interchanges was extremely positive in terms of showing us the contrast in rhetorical styles and giving us a sense of where the two men stand on many of the leading issues. Some credit can be given to McGovern for the fact that debates between presidential candidates is now a mandatory component of the process.

Even though he was a Nixon man, my father helped me with my McGovern campaign homework and taught me why voting should be loved. I guess McGovern/Nixon was the first presidential election I was aware of, my tiny step into the world of politics and adulthood. McGovern may seem like a tragic figure, but I’ll always be grateful to him. I learned an important lesson. Liberalism leads to beauty.
She's mine alone, but luckily for you...







If you find a girl to love,

Only one girl to love,

Then she'll be That Girl too...

That Girl!





Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tachair Bookshoppe Remembers 111 First Street

 
 
Tachair Bookshoppe presented a hyper-local piece of history that had national relevance Saturday night. Jersey City’s newly opened bookstore hosted David Goodwin, a Jersey City resident and urban historian who has completed his master thesis – Enter the Artists: The Early Years of 111 First Street.

The event was an appropriate complement the current exhibit at Tachair – A Fragile Utopia, Photographs of Edward Fausty Depicting 111 First Street.

111 First Street is the now torn down but far from forgotten former factory that became home to hundreds of artists during the Clinton era and is seen as a the most visible example of this watershed period that turned Jersey City from a depressed post-industrial town into an urban enclave for Gen-Y.

Goodwin’s Enter the Artists: The Early Years of 111 First Street is available online here.

The reading/talk was a sequel to one he gave a week earlier at the Jersey City Public Library as part of the Jersey City Artist Studio Tour. The thesis studies the historical process of gentrification in urban neighborhoods and the harbinger role artist play in that process. At the library talk Goodwin read the chapter on the rise of 111 First Street, Tachair Bookshoppe featured the final chapter – the decline and fall and utter demise of this exemplary artist work and living space.

Jersey City just finished its Annual Artist Studio Tour. The Kick Off Party was declared – best ever! (isn’t it always thus?) – as readers of Dislocations know, local artists and their art make up lots of blogs. 111 First Street has become the stuff of legend – a cigarette factory after years of being fallow and cities being abandon by white flight and the decimation of industrial America, in the late 80s artists needing affordable studio space, became our pioneering forefathers of the local arts, back in the days when the Newport Mall was new, there was a Woolworth’s on Newark Avenue and a PATH train ride cost 75 cents.

Artists being artists, they used the studio spaces as living spaces, which was against city ordinances. The building owner and municipal authorizes ignored the violation and encouraged an artist community that soon flourished in the building, which saved the entire district from completely succumbing to urban decay.

Upwards of 200 artists lived in this one-block edifice. But as the late 90s “Gold Coast” building boom of Jersey City rippled through the waterfront and powerhouse district, the building’s new owner, a Manhattan based real estate mogul, decided to kick the artists out for what our municipal government agreed was the greater good: a higher return on investment.

At Tachair, Goodwin gave an overview of the final clash between the artists and their landlord – guess who lost – EVERYBODY – the artists won their legal fees, were given two months to vacate the premises and 111 First Street was demolished, the developers submitted plans to build a 52-story luxury housing complex, mixed use property. Mixed use means a mix of upper class retail establishments. Affordable housing is part of the deal, but our city government keeps approving each new minimum of affordable units the developer requests.
 
 



Soon after the demolition, the economy went into the crapper and construction was postponed. The lot where this building has been fallow for more than half a decade.

111 First Street haunts Jersey City. Municipal authorities go out of their way to declare the government to be arts friendly. Examples of increased cooperation and support abound – as the kick off party at Tenmarc indicated. Funding is tight nationwide, so everyone understands that there’s more bluster than bucks coming from city hall. But developers ultimately pull the strings and artists agree that officials are not dependable allies. Developers have deep pockets. When push comes to shove, artists are expandable and politicians always seem to follow the money when they define what is in the public interest.

But it’s not just artists who are haunted by the dim outcome of 111 First Street, but the politicians and city officials. They understand that artists provide long-term quality of life returns and see the gaping hole at 111 First Street and at least on the surface, seem more willing to accommodate – and encourage developers to accommodate – artists and the arts than they may have been in the past. Artists are gentrification instigators and at the end of the process are priced out of the land they settled. At some level, authorities here are cognizant that maybe a change of pattern is needed and artists must remain so long-fallow lots like 111 First Street can be avoided.

Goodwin pointed out that the 111 First Street story was an aberration of what had been the process of gentrification. After the artists move into an area – economic activity arises –bodegas, supermarkets, coffee shops – retailers and services and other residents follow, by professionals like teachers (or trade magazine writers) – solidly middle class or lower middle class professionals. The upper classes and trust funders may eventually rule the roost, but the process is gradual and along the way, taxes are collected, libraries and schools are opened or improved, infrastructure refurbished. The artist is at the forefront of a tide that lives the collective quality of life boat.

Now, it’s no so clear cut – rent control laws are some protection against population displacement, so middle and lower classes can still call places like Soho or the West Village (or downtown J.C.) home. Studio space – artist workspaces – carry no such tenant protection. When the lease is up, developers decide their fate. It is important to remember that this pattern is not entirely planned, is probably organic and certainly evades any sort of time-table.

When the property owner decided to legally evict the artists and replace the 111 First Street structure with luxury housing and an upper-class shopping district, several of gentrification’s Stations of the Cross were skipped.The (2005) demolition shortened that neighborhood’s road to Calvary: going from condemn to die straight to being placed in the tomb.

Goodwin’s study examines the impact of artificially changing the urban renewal cycle. The fallow 111 First Street lot is not just a tombstone-like reminder that artist workspaces are gone, but the elimination of the subsequent progressions, such as bodegas, restaurants and affordable rents. Things are not utterly dire in the Power House District portion of downtown Jersey City. The Warehouse cafe is a superb coffee shop – but let’s not kid ourselves; between Downtown and the Waterfront – there is more barrenness (albeit with very groovy cobble stone streets and embedded railroad tracks) than things to do. There’s next to nothing and this nothingness is next to wealth-created desolation. When was the last time you hung out in the boutiques at the Trump?

I was in 111 First Street once. It was probably after 9-11. A sunny day, late Spring if I recall right – the first of the year’s T-shirt weather days. There was a bulletin board outside this cool old factory building. It was before the blog days so I had no camera and didn’t come home and write up something fun or insightful (sometimes both!) A car parked nearby and a friend I knew from the gym – a tattoo artist – emerged with some friends. She lived there. She saw I was interested so gave me a brief tour.

There was a huge kiln – I’m not sure what else to call it – in the center of the building. You could see all the floors from the inside. The floors were like levels wrapping around a hive. The hallways had three walls, the third wall being an open-air view of the kiln and of course, the other followers. The collective vibe of the design was undeniable and yet, the original purpose – a cigarette factory – was visibly intact. Her studio was a wide open space, a kitchen area and bedroom flowing into a work space where she did tattoos – quasi legal at the time – and adjacent to other area where that was an easel and canvases and such – illustrations and art for her non-skin work. 111 First Street was memorable and special. I can still recall its wonderful vibe.

 



While the final chapter of the building (and the Thesis) was tragic and legalistic, it makes for compelling reading and the Tachair audience and was riveted throughout. The Thesis has clear and often spritely writing that regardless of the documentary intent and academic context of a “master’s thesis,’ Jersey City’s idiosyncratic color and culture of corruption cannot be obscured: In November 2004, the fight between the artists and the owner developed a dark, potentially deadly facet. A fire started in an empty studio on November 7, 2004 setting off the sprinkler system…the arson unit declared the fire to be an act of arson, and two employees of New Gold Equities were arrested on arson charges in December…”


 Goodwin was unable to verify if convictions resulted from these arrests. The suspicious fire eventually led to a court ruling removing the historical designation of the building, thus allowing the developer to evict the artists and tear down the structure. “Several suspicious details surrounded the fire in 111 1st Street. The fire broke out a day before a court hearing in which Goldman would have sought a legal declaration that 111 1st Street was unsafe.”

 During this end-game period, off-duty police, hired for “security,” began barring the press from the building. The 111 First Street story was a popular local news story and Goodwin provides a delightful survey of those journalistic highlights... Example: “The New Jersey News reporter escorted out of the building by the police said: We called the landlord to get permission to enter the building but it sounded like the landlord didn’t want us there...” The actions of the off-duty police lent evidence to the claims that the police served as hired muscle for Lloyd Goldman and New Gold Equities to control access to 111 1st Street and harass the artists and the tenants.”

He also points out: “In a more humorous episode, a tenant of 111 1st Street filmed a sizable group of Jersey City police officers, some in uniform, some in plainclothes, but all with firearms and badges, drinking heavily just outside of the building. One officer urinated on the wall of an adjacent building, and several officers staggered to their vehicles and subsequently drove away. After a meeting with city officials and Mayor Jerramiah Healy, the tenants’ association presented the video of the drunken police officers. Mayor Healy watched the video and stated that he personally knew several of the officers.”


The video entitled “Drunk Cops in Jersey City”went viral in 2008 and Goodwin claims it can still be found on YouTube.


Tenants organized an attempt to purchase the building, which of course was in vain. The Thesis raises questions about the lack of neutrality of the government, the power of developers, the limited rights of citizens and the short-sightedness of urban planning in Jersey City.

The discussion that followed, which grew out of a Question & Answer session was equally lively. Many in the audience remembered the building, the controversy and there were even some former 111 First Street tenants on hand. Goodwin said his intent is to provide an historical document of this unique building. Nostalgia strongly lingers for 111 First Street in Jersey City. Goodwin’s paper, and his Tachair talk, did more than wallow in fuzzy memories about a bohemian hey-day. In our post-industrial age, populations are returning to, and re-imagining urban districts. Displacing populations and catering only to the wealthy so developers can make bigger profits undermines any gains made by urban renewal. If the quality of life city living offers is not available to all economic classes, the city that results becomes the opposite to the one you tried to save. “Enter the Artists: The Early Years of 111 First Street,” may be as much a stunningly sober cautionary tale as well-researched – and entertaining – historical study.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saint Jude Novena

Today begins the Saint Jude Novena, worldwide of course but locally at Saint Michael’s Church, (252 Ninth Street) – where they hold a “perpetual” novena to Saint Jude every Tuesday. Novena is Latin for nine. There will be nine days of consecutive prayer for intercession from Saint Jude, culminating in a special mass on his feast day. October 28th.

 This novena has been going in Jersey City since the depression first at Saint Lucy’s, then moving to Saint Michael’s when that church closed. People still talk about the controversy when the Novena moved, which I blogged about here.
 
Other Saint Jude Blogs here, here, here and here 
 

Saint Jude – one of the 12 apostles, a cousin to Jesus Christ and the author of a short doxological epistles, the last epistle in the New Testament, appearing just before the Book of Revelation.
 Unlike many Saints, Saint Jude is not “owned” a single nationality. There are shrines and churches dedicated to Saint Jude in nearly every country in the world, including Italy, India, and the Philippines and throughout Latin America. Devotion to Jude crosses boundaries of culture, country and ethnicity.
 
 Here’s an excerpt About Aaron Neville’s devotion to Saint Jude from “A Sunday Vistior, 1997”:
 
Neville recalls how, during this difficult period, his mother told him about Saint Jude, the saint of hopeless cases. She also told him that she enlisted Saint Jude in her prayers for him.
 "My mother turned me on to Saint Jude. She was, like, devout to him. See my earring?" He points to his left ear. He looks down, clasping his hands. "I was going through changes in life. My mother saw me going through these changes, and she taught me Saint Jude's Novena and she
brought me to Saint Ann's shrine. She was always praying for us, you know, but I had to learn to pray for me, too."
Following his mother's death, Neville sought solace in New Orleans' spirit-filled churches. He visited Saint Ann's shrine daily, a cave like place where visitors climb the steps on their knees.
 
"It was a good feeling going up those steps, praying for a miracle," he says. "One day, I remembered my mother telling me about Saint Jude, and I started going wherever I heard they were having a Saint Jude Novena."
 Neville has dedicated each of his record-selling albums to Saint Jude. And he ends each with a hymn. "I think things happened the way they did for a reason," he says. "The best prayer in the world is 'Let thy will be done,' because God knows what you want. So say, 'Don't give me what I want; give me what I need.' There's a purpose for you being here, foreach of us being here."
 
 
 
 Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations. People pray for his intercession when there’s no other hope. There are plenty of websites dedicate to Devotions to Saint Jude. Pre-internet, in classified sections of newspapers, devotees to Devotions to Saint Jude would print their testimonials when their prayers were answered. Now you can find these honest and moving pieces online.
 
 
 
 Here’s a selection of some.
 
 
 
...My daughter had run away from home with one of her friends. Both girls are 16 years old and out there without I knowing what going on with them or where they were. I was advised to pray to Saint Jude for help and I did. I asked for them to come home safely. In 10 days my prayers had answered and I am thankful. Thanks to God....Thanks again for making it all possible for my daughter to return home safely. I remain, yours respectfully,
 
-- Brooklyn, NY
 
 
 
Dear Fathers or Sisters,
 
...Saint Jude has performed a miracle. My daughter was diagnosed with cancer on January 14, 1997. She underwent chemotherapy and now is having radiation. She was sent a letter from the hospital showing no cancer. I am devoted to Saint Jude for many years. To me this is a miracle. I have prayed to him for many years. Devotee yours I am,
 
--Northridge, California
 
 
 I promised Saint Jude to publish a miracle if my two sons
 
were out of jail, and they are now out of it thanks to
 
his intervention. Could you publish it please?
 
Thank you,
 
--Orlando, FL.
 
 
 
Last year my son in law Daniel Riordan was diagnosed with an
esophagus malignant tumor. He also had a major heart attack, open heart surgery and a major stroke in a period of six weeks. We sent in for Novena's and masses to Saint Jude. His tumor is in remission and heart is good. He had another stroke but seems to be doing well. The doctors gave him six months to live and can't believe how well he is. We give most of the credit for this to Saint Jude and your prayers. Thank you so much. Please keep praying for him. You are always in our prayers.
 
Thank you again.
 
God and Saint Jude bless you.
 

--Buffalo, NY
 
 
 
 
 
 



 

Kristeann Fitzpatrick / Victorian Jewelry



Kristeann Fitzpatrick / Victorian Jewelry were both it in terms of title and/or description in the Jersey City Artist Studio Tour guide, part of a large group show taking up most of the Barrow Street Mansion. This jewelry display was off to the side in the hall.
 


 

Kristeann did not want her picture taken, nor did she have a website or email address. She was there with her mother. The display featured family heirlooms – the boy in the color photograph was her father -- and reminded me of when I was a child and rummaged through the attic and discovered artifacts from my family – thus American– history. You wonder about the individual and the context of the times in which they live. It’s a mystery –what was life like – but the only answer is that the different clothes, different pictures, personal items – a watch is a watch – only serve to show this person was as human as you are and we may think of the past in terms of events we learn in school and read about in books and use that knowledge to deepen our understanding of the present, how we got here. Our headlines tell us where we are in a history that is happening now. But those trips into the attic tell us something different as well, they have their current events and we have ours but the humanity is the same – we love and have family and friends and good times and bad and the amount of daylight and the amount of nighttime is the same on this date this year as it was this date a hundred years ago.

I wouldn’t trust my opinion on jewelry so why should I even attempt one here? The designs caught my eye – a subtle ornateness. The designs invoke the Victorian era, as did the antique chair and veil and photographs (even though one was in color). The feel was Steam Punk. I love faux-retro, by which I mean an imagined past that ignores accuracy in the service of a romantic reality. This could the jewelry you find in the attic. You feel wistful and melancholic. Nostalgic and sentimental even if the root is far from even your own past.

The fliers they gave out may not have had any contact information but they were wonderfully faux – printed on computer yet on thin “aged”parchment purposely made more delicate by singing the edges of the paper. A souvenir from the bygone years that existed only in dreams – no brick and mortar or cyber store – the handmade pieces appear like apparitions and fade without warning much like how our lives intersect with time itself.
 

 

Jazz Smile

Walking through Washington Square Park, not yet late to where I’m going. There’s a larger than usual crowd forming around a quartet –banjo, trumpet, saxophone, bass – some kind of old timey jazz. The song ends, there’s applause.

Starts up again – some claps of recognition – when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles at you – a warm autumn day – there had been cold rain, a drop in temperature earlier in the week – but today was one of those beautiful fall afternoons when the sunlight is tinged in gold. The trumpet rips into a jolly solo. I pause, worth it to be in the moment with the music. Crowds in the park around buskers are rarely mistaken. Smiles by definition are fleeting, disappear soon after they’re acknowledged. I realize that in spite of some realities arguing otherwise, optimism can be irresistible when there’s a park and sunshine and jazz.