NJ Mother thrown out of Laura Bush Rally

Not local news for us anymore but Sue Niederer, a mother who lives up the road from our old house in Pennington, was thrown out from a Laura Bush rally in Hamilton, NJ.

When Bush mentioned the troops abroad, Niederer shouted, “When are yours going to serve?” referring to Bush’s 22-year-old twin daughters, who aren’t in the armed services.

“Seth died for President Bush’s personal vendetta” his mohter says in a seperate interview with the local paper. Seth Niederer was married less than six months before he was shipped out to Iraq and leaves behind a 25 year old widow.

Back “home”

We made it back to rainy New Jersey late yesterday. Before unpacking, we let some of our neighbors know that we’re planning on pulling up stakes to move to San Francisco. It really starts to hit home when you tell families that you’ve been sharing your lives with that you’re going to be pulling away.

After unpacking and eating take away Chinese, we finally hit the sack around 11 pm. Jet lag set in on the kids with first Julia, then Tyler making their way to our bedroom for some company. After several attempts of telling them to try and get some sleep, at 4 am Izumi turned over to see both Tyler & Julia, quiet as can be, side-by-side between us in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling, eyes wide open. We finally gave up at 5 am and got up to fix some breakfast.

Julia just came by and said to me, “How’ya doin'” in a perfect New Jersey twang, I think it’s time for us to move on.


The phrase is from a note sent to my father who, after living over 25 years in Japan, is amazed at the overt confidence of the advertising he sees on video tapes I send him from America. If you think corporate American advertising is overt, you should see New Jersey!

The difference between the East Coast and West Coast is dramatic but at least you know what you’re dealing with here. “Have a nice day!” on the East Coast may be rare but at least they mean it. On the West Coast it could be code for, “Get lost!”

On the flip side, people here are always trying to dig at you just to let you know they’re paying attention. Wear the wrong shirt to work and you’ll hear about it for weeks. I still haven’t worked up the nerve to bring out the Oxford given to me by Izumi with the embroidered Mickey Mouse silhouette since the last time – good grief!

Yes, American culture is certainly more confident, even more so in NJ where I have learned the expression “bustin’ your chops” which means what someone just said to you may have been a total dig, really inexcusable, and perhaps even offensive but they said it anyway as a sign of affection and endearment.

I just finished watching the third season of The Sopranos and the tension between truth, dare, and humor keeps that show humming along a dramatic thin line where you never know when someone’s going to take it too far and all hell breaks loose. Takes issues like I’ve discussed above to the nth level and then shines a spotlight on them to see what melts. Great television.

4th Fridays in Pennington

Starting yesterday evening, the Pennington Borough Business Council has started organizing something their calling, “4th Fridays.” On the fourth Friday of every month, the stores downtown get together with events and free food & drink to entice people to hang out downtown.

Yesterday was the first 4th Friday and two colleagues from work, Greg Merkle and Chris Caine came to play with at the Bread & Breakfast coffee shop. Chris (with the headband) plays with Bob Jones (blond hair, closest to camera) in a band called, “Two Worlds Apart,” and Greg (up on stool) plays on his own. One of Greg’s techniques is an amazing mix of strumming, plucking, and percussion work on the fretboard that creates a multi-layered mix of sounds that are hard to belive they come from one man. For a sample, you can check out the video.

New Jersey Indiscrete


What do you get when your state is wedged between New York City and Philadelphia? Lots of people with too much money and a need to spend in extravagent ways to one up their city friends. The enormous houses popping up all over the state are nick-named “McMansions.” Peter Ryttel, a colleague visiting from Boston, spied this this little number. Note the mini-SUV up on the poop deck.

The name on the stern is the cherry on top, “Indiscrete” indeed!

Pleasant Valley Road


My neighbor gave me an old mountain bike which I fixed up and took out riding this weekend. On Saturday I went into Princeton to a co-worker’s backyard BBQ party and rode back that evening. I had lights and reflectors but I wasn’t prepared for overcast skies and no moon which made it pitch dark. I hadn’t realized this while driving at night but the fireflies are magical, blinking off-and-on in the woods on both sides of the road and dancing in the darkness ahead – it was like I was flying in space. I nearly ran into a deer and only was alerted to him being there because of the sound of his hooves on the pavement.

Today, I went in the opposite direction, up Pleasant Valley Road over towards the Deleware River – absolutely beautiful farmland. I stopped several times to take pictures and was struck again by the stillness and calm around me. It reminded me of the landscape on the backroads of France, not a soul around, just the rustle of the wind through the trees. And to think I’m only an hour and a half from Times Square in NYC!

Memorial Day Parade


All the kids on the block entered as the “East Franklin Wheelers” in this year’s Memorial Day Parade. The usual suspects showed up, the couple on the bicycle built for two, the Pennington, Hopewell, and Titusville fire brigades, several troops of Brownies, Cub Scouts, tractors, classic cars, and the Delaware Valley PT Cruiser club.

Pig Roast

Yesterday, the Cirullo’s held their annual Pig Roast. They grew up in the area and the Pig Roast is an excuse to bring all their far-flung friends back together for a day long gathering interspersed with games of Quoits, a raffle drawing featuring “expensed” corporate giveaways [Merrill Lynch T-Shirt, Mettler Toledo swiss army knives] and many mugs of beer. More kids this year than last so the late-night crowd was only a few. I turned in early but we could hear the clanking of the Quoits on their pins late into the night . . . the sounds of Summer.



Thanks to Aunt Karen for the image.

They’re friggin’ everywhere in the neighboring town of Princeton and I can hear the din if I have the windows down during the drive home (on second thought, maybe I should keep the windows up). No sign of them in our small hamlet yet and the joke around town is that their too high-brow to be seen here.

At any rate, the re-appearence of Brood X, that has been lying dormant for the past 17 years is all the talk around time and the source of frequent humor.


Tyler gets started

The weekly harvests have begun at our local organic farm, the Watershed, where we split a family share that allows us to share in the food that they grow there. Most of the crops are harvested for you and all we need to do is drive down the road to fill up a couple of grocer bags full of wonderfully fresh and pesticide-free veggies. It’s fun to go with the kids because each week there’s always something that’s available on a “pick your own” basis. In May, it’s strawberries to be followed soon by rasberries and, *yum* blackberries. This week too were snap peas which are so sweet you can eat them right off the vine!

Julia in the strawberry fields

Summer is truly here as our neighbors, the Trasks, have yet again graciously opened up their pool which is unofficially known as the, “East Franklin Swim Club.” After a morning of picking in the fields, a dip in the pool is always welcome.

A bit of Fame touched our block this weekend as we heard the good news that the Trask’s daughter, Emma, who had been busting her butt for the last year on a Michael Moore film project not only was able to attend the Cannes Film Festival but also that the film won this year’s Palm D’Or.

Not only did Fahrenheit 9/11 pull down the world’s top film prize, it received a 20-minute standing ovation (a record in the film festival’s history) and was only the second documentary to win the Palm D’Or in 50 years.

As you may know, the film’s original backers have pulled out which prompted all kinds of conspiracy chatter and probably only helped boost the film’s profile. Disney’s recent punch in earnings was due, in a large part, to their theme park business and the most successful Disney theme park is in Florida. Some say that Disney didn’t want to jeapordize their cozy relationship with the Governer of Florida, Jeb Bush (the President’s brother) by distributing a film so openly critical of the President.

Disney just can’t seem to call any of the right shots in their film division. First they piss of Steve Jobs and send him, Pixar, and the Shrek franchise off in search of their own distribution channel. Shrek 2 opened last week to a “record shattering $125 million” for through this weekend. Now it looks certain that Fahrenheit 9/11 will be a money-maker as well. I recall Moore’s first documentary, Roger & Me, was extremely profitable because production costs on a documentary are so reasonable. Way to go Emma!