A Percent for the Arts: Needed in Jersey City

On the evening of June 14, 2017, Jersey City arts advocates crowded the city council chambers and dominated the public comments segment of the council meeting. Speaker after speaker approached the microphone and articulated the integral role of the arts in the life of the city. Arts contribute to the local economy. Arts improve the quality of life. Arts capture the culture and history of the city. Arts matter.% for the Arts

Investment is pouring into Jersey City, and development is transforming its neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the arts are suffering. Many arts organizations rely upon the largess of real estate interests for studio and performance spaces. A pathetically small amount of state dollars earmarked for the arts finds its way to Jersey City.

(For a fuller analysis of the current state of the Jersey City arts community, see my recent article published by Strong Towns.)

Prior to the city council meeting, organizers passed out several hundred red shirts with the slogan “% for the Arts” printed on them. Citizens proudly wore the shirts throughout the meeting. The speakers and organizers were motivated and energized.

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The Albertine Prize: Proving Literature Matters

Last week, I received an invitation to attend the cocktail reception and ceremony for the inaugural Albertine Prize. This marked my first attendance at a literary award event. You might say that I was excited.

I’ve described the refined, serene, and daresay magical qualities of Albertine in a past post. I’ll not bore anyone with a refrain. If you love books and literature, do yourself a favor and visit Albertine.

The Albertine Prize was awarded to the “best” translated work of contemporary French literature. Hoping to generate interest in the award and French literature, Albertine compiled a shortlist of books and posed the question to readers: which is the best book? Through a series of online voting, Bardo or Not Bardo by novelist Antoine Volodine was selected as the winner. Both Voldoine and his translator J. T. Mahany received awards at the event.

Albertine Winners
J. T. Mahany and Antoine Volodine, winners of the first Albertine Prize (Courtesy of Albertine).

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Riding the Model Train in Binghamton

On Memorial Day weekend, I woke at the crack of dawn and boarded a bus destined for Binghamton, New York to see an old friend for the first time in five years. To me, that city meant little more than name on a highway sign. My friend was visiting his family in Western New York.  Since Binghamton sat equidistantly between my friend’s and my respective home bases, we agreed to rendezvous in New York’s Southern Tier.

i81ny17Since we had no plan for the day (aside from catching up), my friend suggested that we visit the local planetarium at the Roberson Museum and Science Center. Having just launched a company producing custom globes (Global Creations), he might have been searching for insight and inspiration.

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Lyndhurst: An American Masterpiece

For our tenth anniversary, my wife and I spent the day in the country, or what city dwellers would have considered to be the country near the turn of the last century (i.e. the Progressive Era). We planned a day trip to the Hudson River to visit Lyndhurst, a Gothic Revival masterpiece. A quaint and quiet adventure.

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Lyndhurst and the Hudson River in the distance, Tarrytown, New York (Photograph by Author).

After leaving our modest home in Jersey City, we made our way to Grand Central Station. Although bursting with commuters, tourists, and fellow day trippers, Grand Central Station never ceases to amaze and dazzle. Yes, pausing in the main concourse and gazing at the starry ceiling is a must-do for any visitor. However, I’m more fascinated by the elegant and functional nature of the train station: One can get a shoeshine, a bottle of wine, or a small gift or enjoy a meal or drink at the variety of eateries and restaurants within Grand Central Station. While immersed in its world, one feels deserving of certain status and respect. Simply put, Grand Central Station inspires. And entices me to stray from the intended subject of this post. Back to my original topic …

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A Saturday Visit to the Public Library

On May 1, 2017, the main branch of the Jersey City Free Public Library reopened literally after years of renovations. As I’ve feverishly worked on my book manuscript for the last eight months, I found myself unable to consult a needed book for an obscure fact or flip through a bulging vertical file to search for a newspaper clipping. Simply put, I had questions needing answers. And I needed the New Jersey Room Collection to provide them.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I stepped away from my writer’s garret and ventured downtown to address these questions and other new topics of interest percolating in my mind. Upon entering the library, I climbed the marble stairs to the third floor and the library’s most unique and valuable collection.

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Jersey City Free Public Library, Main Branch (Courtesy of Jersey City Free Public Library).

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