Chill’n and then Grill’n in the Fatherland

Main road through my home state.


After leaving Malvern and the Youngblood’s event we drove the 80 miles northeast to my hometown of Newark, NJ.  Newark, America’s 3rd oldest major city (behind Boston and New York), fell on hard times in the 60’s — the 1860’s.  That’s right friends.  It wasn’t the race riots that afflicted many an urban core in the late 1960’s that did it.  The city could have recovered from that.  No, Newark, it turns out, had been a major commercial and industrial center providing goods to the South during the Civil War.  When that war ended the demand, and thus the need for supply dried up.  Gone were the glory days of author Washington Irving (who lived in Newark for a time), Seth Boyden (inventor of patent leather and malleable iron), and the times when Washington’s army aided by the native Lenapi tribes would encamp along roads running through my neighborhood.  Replacing them were a century of modest growth and decent figures.  Instead of Steven Crane (Newark’s most famous author) we had Philip Roth.  Instead of Major General Stephen Kearney (hero of the Mexican War) was had Ed Koch (born in Newark).  Instead of… Well, I can’t think of any famous antebellum singers but we did seem to luck out in the post-war years.  Newark gave birth to Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah, and even country singer Eddie Rabbit.  Take that, Boston.

I must speak highly of the city where my father was born and raised and I was raised (born in Camden/Cherry Hill).  I lived in this fine community for 30 years and I truly enjoyed growing up here.  Newark is a city rich in history and is particularly known for many neighborhoods replete with architectural gems.  For instance, the house I grew up in was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  How many people can speak that sentence and mean it?  I know the state takes a bad rap from a lot of people.  A Canadian friend once said to me “I don’t get why so many people hate New Jersey.  I wouldn’t judge all of Indiana on the wrong turn I took in Gary once.”  I know what he means but still we New Jerseyan’s are a proud people.  We’re not at all rude but you don’t want to cross us.  It’s like insulting someone’s mom.  Just don’t go there.  We like the place.  You got a problem with that?


Days 14-16/Family Time

As if I needed a reason to visit my family, we arrived just in time for the wedding of my niece.  Hey, it’s a wedding.  What more can I say?


On Sunday we attended a graduation for another niece.

On Monday we decompressed.

Day 17/Celebrating our Freedom

On Tuesday we visited the Statue of Liberty!  You know, friends, having grown up here it amazes me to say that I have only ever been to the top of the pedestal and never the crown.  Wanna’ know something else crazy?  I’ve never been to the top of the Empire State Building.  Shocking.  I used to go to the top of the Twin Towers all the time.  Sadness.

I really wanted to take the kids here.  About a month and a half ago Karla went online and ordered tickets.  Had we been able to come back in November we could have gone all the way up but alas, it is not to be this time.

If you have never visited this place, please plan to come.  There are many times in my adult life when I feel a sense of hopelessness about our country and a touch of disgust that the American Dream is dead.  But when you come to a place like Liberty Island it all comes back to you.  One cannot escape the surge of filial patriotism that wells up in your chest when you look up from the ground at her oxidized frame and call to mind the words of Emma Lazarus from her “New Colossus”: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free…”

I stood there gazing up at this marvel of engineering and gesture of friendship between two nations, this sight that greeted so many millions seeking a bit of freedom and a new homeland.  I had moved to Texas and felt a bit of that sense of adventure, a sense that we were the new frontiersmen.  I could relate to those huddled masses.  Heck, our car is currently packed to the gills with Grill’n tee shirts.  Surely we ARE the new huddled masses.

And then my children looked up from the base of the pedestal and said “Hahaha.  I can see her butt!”

The ferry ride back and forth to New Jersey was nice as well.  Fun fact: Liberty Island is in New Jersey.  So there, New York.

Day 18/More Decompression

Folks, we still have another 8500 miles ahead of us.  Will you fault us for another day of rest?

Day 19/ Event #8

Barbara and Johanna, Grill’n & Chill’n in Newark!

We actually worked in a Grill’ & Chill’n event here!  Although there are some 50+ Christendom alums in the Tri-state area only two registered for an event.  That’s fine.  More booze for me, I mean, more alcohol for me?  Whatever.  The two lucky alums who joined us are Johanna Provenzano and Barbara (Hester) Byers, both class of ’95.  Johanna, like me, did not finish her degree at Christendom.  Barbara (my sister) not only finished but has an AA (’93) as well.  If you were paying attention Barbara and Johanna were classmates.

Instead of a cookout (the “grill’n” part of the title) we opted that the two friends, Karla and I, and Barbara’s husband Ron would dine out.  Johanna took the train over from Brooklyn and we all headed to the Spanish Manor, a great Mediterranean restaurant where we enjoyed a fine meal and much sangria as only the Portuguese  can mix it.  We also opted to nix the traditional interview portion for our Facebook Live! feed and replaced it with something radically different.  Barbara and Johanna had bonded over a common love of the late disco queen Donna Summer.  After dinner we played a round of Carpool Karaoke to Summer’s On the Radio.  Enjoy the clip.

bbNot wanting Johanna to take the train back at such a late hour Barbara and I drove her to Brooklyn.  Remember how I mentioned never having been to the top of the Statue?  Turns out Barbara had never been to Brooklyn at all!  There’s a first time for everything and from the center span of the 133 year-old Brooklyn Bridge at midnight on a summer weekday I was happy to see my big sister enjoy her first trip across Roebling’s masterpiece.  On the way home we returned via the Holland Tunnel, the 1927 vehicular tunnel under the lower Hudson River.  Fun fact: the Holland Tunnel was named for Port Authority chief engineer Clifford Holland and not, as some have speculated, because it was a gift from the Dutch.  But hey, 1927!  The late night traffic gave Barbara and I an opportunity to continue our earlier discussion of the nation’s aging infrastructure.  And as if aging car tunnels weren’t enough of a hassle for the good people of this area, just the day before a man had driven through the Lincoln Tunnel, had a panic attack, and abandoned his car in the center tube walking back to New Jersey and snarling traffic for hours.  Only in New York and New Jersey…

That’s what it’s all about, friends.  Not only did we bring together two alumnae who hadn’t seen each other in a while but we got to share our love of the road, of this beautiful land and her amazing cities, of engineering marvels, and of family.

Our time of “rest” is almost at its end.  We’ll be back at you tomorrow from Connecticut and the home of Liz (Higby) Kelly, ’99.  This will be a blast!

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