Life: June 2007 Archives

On our last backpacking trip, Matt brought his guitar with him on the trail. At night, by the campfire, he jammed out a few songs he knew, but also admitted afterwards he wished he could learn more sing-a-long type rock songs. So I thought about it and tried to put together a list of the most popular acoustic guitar rock songs.

My list was small, I came up with:
Bon Jovi, "Dead or Alive".
Barenaked Ladies "If I Had A Million Dollars".
Simon & Garfunkel "Only Living Boy In New York".
Dobie Gray "Drift Away".
Men At Work "Land Down Under".
Dave Matthews "Ants Marching".

Then it got me thinking: "Who would know other good songs to play?"

I thought back to my early years in Hoboken, listening to Patrick Fleming play guitar at Moran's. We had some great nights listening to Pat strumming his six string. Patrick has left our lands for Austin, where I hope he is doing well. After Patrick left, Will O'Connor has been playing at Moran's, every Friday night.

I figured Will would be a pretty good expert to ask, and I emailed him the question (and included my list of songs): "What are the most popular acoustic guitar rock songs in Hoboken? What gets the crowd amped up & interested in singing along with you?"

Will emailed me back: "Though I've grown to loathe these songs at this point and will only enjoy playing them for crisp $50 dollar bills. Drunk people will always sing along to: "Brown Eyed Girl" - known among solo musicians as "B.E.G.", as in, "You better BEG me to play it." -- and "Sweet Home Alabama" -- which I'm less likely to flat out refuse, but which has grown very tired for me in the live music bar scene."

Will included these songs, with a few comments:
John Denver "Country Roads," "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" & "Rocky Mountain High" (especially if you're camping)
Steve Miller "The Joker"
Creedence Clearwater Revival "Looking Out My Backdoor" & "Proud Mary"
Irish Traditional Drinking Song "The Wild Rover"
Don McLean "American Pie" (it's an endurance test, but people love to sing along)
Joe Jackson "Is She Really Goin' Out With Him"

There you have it.



I changed the last names in this entry with the first letter and last letter of their respective names, an a asterisk (*), to protect everyone's identity.

They say, "You can't go home again."

I was in the Philadelphia suburbs for my mother's 65th birthday brunch. My entire family, other relatives and my mother's friends were at the gathering - sadly I showed up about 90 minutes late because of my late start from Hoboken.

I spent about 2 hours at the brunch, and when it concluded, it was 3pm and I was on the road again, headed back to Hoboken. While on the PA Turnpike I passed by some familiar landmarks, as I always do, and my mind drifted back to Richboro, where I grew up.

I lived in Richboro from 1975, when I was three to 1985, when I was thirteen. It was a land of rolling farmland, dotted with small "developments", which were enclosed communities of homes designed by Toll Bros. My school was Richboro Elementary, and most of the kids in my neighborhood attended the school. It was a young community, with lots of families starting soon to be angst-ridden, cynical, Gen X kids.

But during that time we were just kids. Having fun. I have written a few of the stories of my youth on the blog, and Richboro, to me, is home. It's where I, as a person, developed into the man I am today. I may live in Hoboken, but my heart is in those Philadelphia suburbs, and never left.

I saw an exit on the PA Turnpike, and thought, "Let's go back to Richboro." It was Sunday, 3pm, and I had a free afternoon. It took me about 30 minutes and a moment or two studying my map - I never drove this way to Richboro.

When I arrived at 87 Deborah Road on Sunday, in the cul-de-sac, I barely recognized it. My father planted four trees in the front lawn, which at the time were barely twigs. Two were removed and two were enormous after 32 years, both flanking the driveway. Strong, full, majestic trees were outside of my childhood home, providing a soft shade that I stood under while I just...gazed.

I think I stood outside my house for a good 10 minutes, just staring at...everything. Images and memories rushed back to me in the cul-de-sac. I felt very emotional, it just was overwhelming. I felt like I was in a time machine and was just waiting for Doug, Paul, Steve, Mike, Victor and Kevin to show up and start a ballgame again.

I could still remember when my brother, angry at me for not bringing the net inside, threw a hockey stick like a boomerang at me, nailing me in the back of my legs from a good 50 feet. I remembered our days playing baseball, with home plate at the Tr* house, the corner of our front yard first base, our driveway was second base, and the Ga*'s was third base. I remember our days when the cul-de-sac was our private rollerskating rink, we would roll out a boombox, and put on 93.3 WMMR or 94.1 WYSP and listen to Van Halen, Rush, AC/DC, KISS, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin.

I was home again. For a brief moment, I felt like between two worlds. The world of the present and the world of the past. I could have sat outside all day, just watching the world go by yesterday, but the world of the present beckoned me, and my brief moment in the past was interrupted by a car passing me and driving into the Ga*'s driveway. I wasn't sure if it was Mrs. Ga*. It was a good 25 years that I last saw her. I was standing near my old home, with my camera out, and red truck quickly drives up Deborah road, and into the driveway - it was Mr. Ga*, I thought.

I approached them and called out, "Hi, do the Ga*'s still live there?"

The woman challenged me back with, "Who's askin?!"

This wasn't the response I imagined. But, as much as I moved away 22 years ago, Richboro is my town. I don't care if I was gone for 55 years, I grew up here and feel like the land still remembers me, if not the people.

"I'm Sean I. I grew up in the house over there.", I reponded as I walked closer.

The man quickly rushed towards me with an extended hand, "Well i'm Mr. Ga*!", he said with a smile. It took me only a brief moment, and I recognized my neighbors from those years past. Mrs. Ga* started to get emotional, to the point of tears. When I left them I was a stringbean 13 year old. It was a very nice feeling to see them, and we chatted for about 15 minutes, going over each of our family history and what everyone did with their lives. We all had a good laugh the Ln* family were always a bit of the "odd duck" family in the neighborhood, and the kids were always torturing them with pranks for years.

We said our goodbyes, and I got into the car, and drove around the rest of the neighborhood slowly, just taking in how everything was eerily familiar, but so very different with the changes to the landscaping and trees.

I past by the Sh* house and look at the driveway. In it is a white mercedes, and it could have been the same car from 22 years ago. I parked my car in the driveway and see a BMW with a "Lawrenceville" sticker in the rear windshield. Yep, the Sh*'s still lived here. I got out of the car and knocked on their door. I hear the door unlock and peeking out was Dr (Mrs). Sh*, my doctor and neighbor. She has a confused look on her face, and asks me, "Can I help you?"

I smirked and give her a wink saying, "Recognize me?"

The moment of confusion turns to clarity and she opens the door, coming out to greet me with a kiss. She's shocked, seeing a boy that used to be the poster child of ADD standing before her as a man. Her son, Ashish (aka "Sheesh", or "Ash"), and I were friends growing up, but as many friends do, lost touch over the years. Dr. Sh* and I shared stories for a bit, and she didn't look much different since I last saw her. Must be that Richboro water or something.

I told Dr. Sh* about my life, and that of my family. Showed her pictures from the brunch that day, and she marvelled at the kids and how great my mother looked. We talked about Ashish, and laughed over some good memories. I met their cute Alaskan husky, who was so very different than the crazy "Max", who was the chocolate Labrador Retriever that they could barely contain in the 80's.

I left the Sh*'s and stopped at the Lb*'s. I was feeling good and briefly did feel a bit strange showing up there. Eric - or as we called him "E" - was another childhood friend that I lost touch with. Like Ashish, it was just a matter of circumstance, everyone went their own way. Part of me almost felt like I shouldn't have lost touch, that somehow it was selfish of me to just leave like I did.

I rang the doorbell and Mrs. Lb* opened the door. She was much quicker to recognize me, when I said "Guess who?" with a smile and she responded with a: "Ooooooh myyyyy Goddddddd." She was home alone, and invited me in for a glass of cold lemonaide. We chatted, much like the others, and it was great to hear how everyone was doing in the Lb* family - which had SIX kids - and now she has a very large contingent of grandkids. Each child had their own story, and it was amazing to hear how they were all doing.

I left the Lb* house and got in my car.062507b.JPG It felt good to see how everyone was doing. I drove around Richboro looking at Mallard Creek, Richboro Middle School, saw that Richboro Elementary was no longer standing, and went to Tanner's Bros. Now Tanner Brother's is a family owned, small town shopping center. It has farm fresh food, dairy, breads, meats and sundries. It hasn't changed since I left, built from concrete blocks and supported by faded green painted metal beams. They have homemade icecream, and for $2.50, I got a double scoop of chocolate marshmallow and went over to the fence outside the store to look at the herd of cows that were grazing the field.

I took a deep breath, and had one of those long, drawn out sighs, like my soul was free of burden. I was at peace with myself, and as hectic and crazy as my life can be, this was as close to a spiritual, calming experience that I have had in a long time. I was standing under the trees, eating ice cream, looking at the cows just like I did in 1980 with my family. The sun was setting, and a warm breeze would brush against my face. Everything was all right with the world, if just for this moment.

I was home again.


| 1 Comment

I read this in the news today:

"More than $10,000 of jewelry and other belongings were stolen from a Hoboken residence, reports said.

Police said the burglar entered the Bloomfield Avenue apartment by unlocking the door through a broken glass window pane sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

According to reports, the victim estimated that jewelry worth $10,000, a $1,300 laptop and $120 in cash were stolen."

It sounds a lot like the same kind of job that was done at our apartment 2 years ago, in 2005:

I'm not sure where on Bloomfield this happened, but considering we were on Garden & 6th - and robbed in a very similar manner (with my roommates laptop stolen). I would bet its the same guy. I hope the police are able to catch this punk.

I called the police station, and spoke to the detective bureau at 201-420-2110. I explained what happened to us 2 years ago, and it sounded very similar to how we were robbed & what was stolen. At our crime, the robber moved objects which they got fingerprints from, and we never heard from the police again if they caught anyone.

Their reponse to my call?

"Do you know how many robberies happen each day in Hoboken?", the police officer said.

"No. How many robberies happen each day in Hoboken?", I deadpanned.

"Quite a few." he replied with a dismissive tone.

So much for our tax dollars at work.

Would it really be that hard for the police officer to say, "Thank you very much for that information, I will give it to the detectives working on the case, sir."

Wouldn't that then encourage a person like me who called in - trying to help - instead he just made me more bitter about our city government and left a negative impression of the Hoboken Police Department.

I didn't get the guy's name, but I should have.

Originally uploaded by Furey
In the last few weeks, I knew that June 16th weekend was going to be a weekend where I got my first taste of real outdoor camping & backpacking. Last year, I had an experience in "car camping", where we drove to a campground, unloaded our gear, and camped about 20 feet from our vehicles, along with about 60 other people. I wanted to really get outdoors, away from "civilization" and other people for my next trip. Matt told me about Team Hike. A group of guys who hiked various trails for the last 17 years, about 3-4 times a year - even in winter (That's "Team Extreme"). I told him that i'd like to go on his next trip, and it wasn't a problem, the more the merrier was their attitude.

Before the trip began, I started doing my research. If you don't know, I have a tendancy to analyze things (perhaps over analyze, in some regards, like buying a condo...), and I started to read and read and read all sites. I searched on Google for "How to Backpack", "How to prepare for a Hike", "What to bring backpacking for a weekend". Stuff like that. The basic stuff like "Tent", "Backpack", "Boots", "Water", "Sleeping bag" were all coming up, but I didn't want to be caught unprepared out there. I made a list, shared it with Matt, and he told me what he thought. I kept reading over and over how weekend backpackers always overpack, and I tried to whittle down my list of gear to little as possible.

Packing wasn't too bad, but I did run into a snag. My sleeping bag was a regular sized bag. It wasn't a compact one, and I kept telling Matt over email that my backpack must be too small, the sleeping bag wouldn't fit. Without a visual, Matt didn't understand. When he came over to look, he pointed out that the backpacks he was familiar with were designed to be more compact. I didn't know this, and we decided to lash the sleeping bag to the backpack. It wouldn't be a major problem, just a bit awkward.

On Friday Matt and I were joined by Dan, who he met on Team Hike and also lived near Hoboken. We drove up together (leaving at 3:30pm) to Wind Gap, PA, taking 78 the majority of the way. It should have taken us less than 2 hours to get there, but 78 was a mess with construction. We got there about 6:30.

I discovered that in hiking there is something known as "Trail Names". Matt is known as "Popper" and Dan is known as "Hummer". When we got to the parking lot we were joined by "Spugs" and "Gramps", who are the original members of Team Hike. Gramps maintains the Team Hike website. Spugs hasn't missed a single trip.

We get our gear on, and hiked about 1.8 miles from the parking lot to our campsite for Friday night which is called "New Tripoli Campsite". It's great. Its far off the trail, with a big stone firepit, three large logs around it, and plenty of flat area for the tents. No one was there, and we had the campsite to ourselves.

Everyone busted out their tents, got their beer/alcohol (which is technically illegal at this part of the trail) and we started the campfire. I have said it before, and I will say it again, but it is my firm belief that if campfires were illegal, no one would camp. Everyone gets out their inner pyromaniac, and loves to partake in getting a fire going. These guys made the most of it, breaking out meats, fish, shellfish, and appetizers that were pre-made & marinating the night before. Since the hike was less than 2 miles from the parking lot to the campsite, it wasn't too hard to carry a bit extra baggage Friday night - knowing that your pack would be much lighter on Saturday afternoon for the hike.

We ate, drank and were joined by Fallon, Grant, Rocco and Hicks who came later with their own food in tow. Easily one of the best outdoor BBQs I have been to in a long time. Popper even hiked with his guitar, and was busting out songs that had us laughing, singing and clapping. At 2am - TWO AM! - two more of our hikers joined us after they were at a Stevie Nicks concert with their wives. They got harassed for it as soon as they showed up by an off-key warbling by everyone: "Just like the white winged dove / Sings a song / Sounds like shes singing / Whoo... whoo... whoo..."

The guys were all in their late 20's to mid 30's, most married or engaged, and some with kids. They were the same kind of guys that were in Delta Tau Delta at Villanova - just fun, laid back and loved to get their drink on. Even though it was my first hike I felt like I was included right away, and joined in with the various bantering. I was able to hold my own with the movie quotes ("Milk was a bad idea...") and discussion of the upcoming footballs season to the various jokes and gags that crop up when you get guys together. Popper learned why you don't drink and then try to saw wood - due to a poor position of its axis, his decision to stomp on the branch to break it and getting clobbered by the branch that flipped up and nailed him in his right temple. Concern quickly turned to laughter after that one, with Matt taking a 10 minute break recovering.

We were up Friday until about 5am Saturday morning. Slept a few hours and left the New Tripoli campsite around 11am.

Saturday's hike was...tough. Now this was my first hike and I have nothing to base it on, except that the others in the group kept reminding me that other hikes weren't this hard (remember, 17 years of hiking with some of these guys). There were parts of the hike where we had to skip along rocks with a 40-50 pound backpack. You make a mistake and slip and it meant a very severe injury (look at the pictures for some examples).

While on the trail I kept thinking two things:
1. I am SO HAPPY I got my Asolo boots. I was thinking of just using gym sneakers, and read far too many times about backpackers getting sprained ankles. If I didn't have a backpack, i'm sure sneakers would have been ok enough. The boots were the best $160 spent on the trip.
2. You seriously needed to be athletic to do this trip. I don't care what age or gender you are, but this wasn't an easy hike. More than half of the trail were filled with rocks that required very good dexterity to navigate especially with a backpack. Most of my trail walking was me looking down at where to place my next step, so that I didn't twist an ankle.

Saturday's hike provided a few scenic views. We made it to Bake Oven Knob & stopped for lunch. We met other hikers there and Webelos scouts. We noticed thunderstorms in the distance and we decided to make haste towards our next camping site which had a shelter.

Along the way, I developed a blister on the ball of my foot and Spugs was quick to help me, since he had some experience with this and also was known as "Doctor Feet" on the trips. He broke out some Dr. Scholl's moleskin plus padding (I discovered later that I had moleskin in my first aid kit), and I was ready to go again.

Also, Spugs and Gramps were smart enough to stash three coolers of water & beer at another parking lot along the trail (mid way between New Tripoli & Bake Oven Knob). We were able to load up on cold water, cold beer and ice. We put the coolers back into the woods and would pick them up on Sunday. That really helped because I was thinking of bringing a lot of water, and left a 4 liter bladder in my car when Spugs told me about this.

Once we got to the shelter we were joined by other thru hikers. One was "Chillout", I would hazard he was about 60+ years old, with white hair and a white beard. Thru hikers are the hardcore hikers who started in Georgia, and live on the "AT". I'm sure weekend warriors to him are like Benny's from the shore to the locals. He hung out with us, while the storm passed, and a few other thru hikers showed up also. Some were a bit...ripe. I'm fully aware of the lack of showers on the AT, but it was hard to sit next to them in a shelter during a rain storm.

Saturday night was a bit more low key. Everyone was really tired from the night before, and around the new campsite we had trouble finding wood & the rain got everything wet, which made starting a fire tough. We were joined by Manning who quickly got the name "Johnny Cakes" because he hiked in wearing a pink long sleeve button down shirt. He never watched the Sopranos and didn't quite get the joke, but we had a good laugh over it. He came from the opposite direction, at the end of our trail and parked there. He was able to bring us a case of cold beer, which was pretty sweet.

We drank some more, listened to Popper play guitar and made the best of it. This campsite wasn't as good as the New Tripoli one, but it did have a shelter that some of the guys opted to sleep in rather than pitch a tent.

We woke up at 7am, packed our things and hiked out. Lots of us were very hungover, and the hike to the last parking lot took about a hour and a half. Matt and I drove home and were back in Hoboken by 11am Sunday.

Now after all that here's the Top 5 things I learned backpacking:

Hitting The Trail


Last year I tried car camping with some friends, and I had mixed feelings towards it.

I liked getting outdoors, and enjoyed the campfire, friends and food, but didn't like being so close to other campers. I really wanted to get into the WILDERNESS and experience outdoors.

My buddy Matt told me of a group of guys he met 6 years ago while living in Philly. They were all in the same fraternity at Stockton State who go a few times a year for a weekend camping trip. What started as college thing spawned into 17 years of camping trips they call, "Team Hike". Matt met these guys while living in Philly about 6 years ago, and has been going with them when he can.

This weekend, we are headed near Hawk Mountain/Wind Gap, PA, and are going to do a weekend camping trip. I have my gear from last year, and had to buy a few other things, like a large internal frame backpack. I want to camp light, if possible, but also don't want to be caught in the middle of nowhere without the proper gear.

Do you backpack/hike? Maybe you have some advice for me. If so, feel free to email me or add your comments.

Here's a list of what i'm taking with me to last Friday (drive to main lot, park and then a 1.8 mile hike to camp, stay the night), Saturday (hike 6 miles to Bake Oven Knob Shelter) & Sunday (hike 1.3 miles to second parking lot, where we will have some cars parked to take us back to main lot). :

1. 2 Gallons Water (everything I read kept saying "Bring lots of water!")
2. 2 cans of Tuna (I have pita bread I can bring to put this on)
3. Hard Cheddar cheese & crackers (not sure about crackers here)
4. Peanut Butter & Jelly (I have these in "one serving" containers, can spread on pitas)
5. Cookies (again, might be "crushed cookies")
6. 2 Apples (nature's perfect snack)
7. Beef Jerky (good dehydrated protein)
8. Dried Apricots (good dehydrated fruit)
9. Granola Gorp (trail mix)
10. Bran bars (could be replaced by gorp)
11. Instant Oatmeal (2 packets for breakfast)
12. Freeze-dried dinner (could 86 this and just eat Tuna/PB&J instead)
13. Plastic fork (need 1 or 2)
14. Salt/Pepper/Mayo packets (for Tuna)
15. Travel Toothpaste (need just a small tube)
16. Travel Deodorant (meh)
17. Gum (maybe this could replace my toothpaste/brush!)
18. Tent Pillow? (Could leave this and just use clothes as a pillow)
19. Lash straps (never know when you need to lash)
20. Small towels (1 for wet, 1 for dry)
21. Sunscreen (muy importante!)
22. Bug spray (¡Dado, insectos, dado!)
23. Sunglasses (¿Por qué soy que escribe en español?)
24. Hat (我们改为尝试这)
25. Small digital camera (不, 我不喜欢这)
26. First Aid Kit (Ok fixed that sorry. Yes, we need a first aid kit, but I guess everyone has one and can ditch it)
27. Short Sleeve synthetic Shirt (Everything I read says avoid cotton clothing on a hike)
28. Long Sleeve cotton hoodie (Just in case it gets chilly at night?)
29. Shorts synthetic (Same idea here as #27)
30. Underwear (Yes, my lists include dumb things like this because I will forget to pack it and then i'm goin' commando!)
31. Socks synthetic (Remember "Commando"? I loved that movie. It was so bad, it's good.)
32. Sneakers/Hiking Boots ("Let off some steam, Bennett*.")
33. Toothbrush ("Remember when I said, 'I'd kill you last'? I lied.")
34. Sleeping Bag & Foam Pad (Sorry, got distracted. Yes, you need a foam pad because if you don't the cold ground will seep thru the compressed sleeping bag)
35. Tent (duh)
36. Flashlight (wanted to get a head-lamp instead)
37. Ziploc bags (for trash).

Suggestions? Complaints? Email me!


Meeting Time Changed...

| 1 Comment

Last minute switch-a-roo by the powers that be due to the election...

The meeting I mentioned in my post last week is now MONDAY JUNE 11.

If you have a free hour from 7pm to 8pm I could absolutely use the support to show the developers that this new construction isn't wanted by our residents.

The Gym

| 1 Comment

I attended my first condo meeting last night at the building.

They talked budget and some various issues. I found out my building has a tremendous cash reserve, and according to our accountant this is very rare for buildings in Hoboken that are our size (we have about 100 units).

I brought up, at the end of the meeting, the gym.

The gym in our building is about 500 sq feet, with equipment from the days when Pauly Shore was on TV. It is simply in dire need of refurbishment, everything should be replaced in my opinion. What they have currently is:

1. One elliptical machine (this is less than 5 years old).
2. Two treadmills (one in good shape, the other in fair-to-poor shape).
3. A Smith Press.
4. A Rack Cage.
5. Two adjustable benches.
6. One flat bench (in bad shape).
7. A set of hex metal dumbbells from 5-50 (very poor shape).
8. Two olympic bars, with full plate sets (one is on smith press, other in rack cage).
9. One multi-gym with leg press, bench press, lat bar pull down, leg raise/bar dip station.

Now if these were brand-new, i'd be floored. But you need to, dear reader, use your imagination here. They are at least 20 years old and very much used. I would hazard if everything was sold, i'd get about $5,000 for everything. You look around and just think, "This stuff is junk".

That's where I come in. The board wants to hear a proposal by me about how to upgrade the gym. They agree that the gym is great for the tenants, and a good investment. A key for selling or renting our units would be a good gym in our building. Even owners who may not directly use the gym can benefit from part of their maintenence costs going into repair/upgrade of common use items. Even at $10 per month per owner that would be $12,000 a year we could sink into upgrading the gym.

I don't have a budget (yet), but i'm trying to figure out a cost-effective solution.

What i'd like, in my dream of dreams, is to create a mini "Club H". I really like the gym, and the equipment they have. But I don't have $200,000 to replace everything. I will hazard that I have more like $50,000 to replace the equipment.

If I were to identify five key things to upgrade this is what i'd do:

1. Replace the flooring with rubber gym mats & repaint the entire room.
2. Replace one or two treadmills.
3. Buy a straight bar & an EZ bar that can be used with the plates used with the Olympic bars. I want to combine all the bars so that they just need one plate set to be used for each bar, rather than the monstrousity that they have now.
4. Replace the flat bench, adjustable benches, and roman chair. Buy one upright bench (I have used adjustable benches before and they can't match a good upright bench).
5. Replace the dumbbell set with a rubber hex set from 5-100, with a dumbbell rack.

New (gym strength, not home) treadmills can cost like $3,000-8,000 each. Buying dumbbells, from what i'm told, its just best to to go a sporting goods store and buy them there. Anyone know maybe a gym outlet store that sells wholesale? Maybe I could buy used gym equipment?

To me, those would be the most important replacements, because they are the most used items in a gym. Most people I see at Club H want a good treadmill or elliptical machine. With a good dumbbell, barbell and proper benches you can do an entire workout routine, you don't need machines (but i'd love to replace all of them, if I had the funds).

I have to also take into consideration all the owners. What would they like in a gym? I'm a guy, so my needs may be different than someone else.

If I had unlimited funds, i'd love to replace the smith press, cage, multi-gym and stations, too. But I have a feeling my five key upgrades alone will reach $50,000. Suggestions are welcome here!

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