Continued Success for Singer Celebration!

singer-celebration-dlv-dec-17-2016-v2

One of the popular events I host each month is Singer Celebration. I’ve written about it on this blog elsewhere, but I thought I’d mention that there is a big Holiday Edition of this event coming up this Saturday night.

Details: Singer Celebration, Sat, Dec 17th, DLV Lounge, 300 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, NJ. 9pm to midnight. SINGERS are welcome to come and sing a favorite Jazz, Blues or Holiday tune with my swingin’ band! It’s a great opportunity to meet lots of other singers from the area.

And if you are interested in live music performances in New Jersey, please look at my Facebook page: @CarolDeminskiProductions. There you will find a list of events.

Another place you can find more information is Carol Deminski Productions. I have music videos, photos, along with other tasty goodies you will enjoy!

We will continue on with Singer Celebration in 2017 too….

For the January Show, we will have an amazing Featured Jazz Vocalist!

singer-celebration-dlv-jan-14-2017-v3

For the February Show, our Featured Vocalist will be a fabulous Blues singer!

singer-celebration-dlv-feb-2017

 

 

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Singer Celebration – THIS SATURDAY – Aug 27

Me and Michael - Priory April 27 2016

Carol Deminski, MC and Lead Singer with Michael Mittelsdorf, Drummer

 

SINGER CELEBRATION is this Saturday, August 27th, at the DLV Lounge, 300 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, NJ. The action starts at 9pm; there is No Cover.

There will be a fantastic 8 piece band, including: piano, bass, drums, guitar, trumpet, saxophone, trombone and clarinet! We also have a terrific Featured Vocalist, and numerous singers… hopefully, including you!

Come on out and join the fun! Sing a jazz song with us, and meet the other singers and musicians in this wonderful community.

The DLV is a cozy place which regularly hosts live music. I’m glad we are part of their line-up. I look forward to seeing old friends, and meeting new ones. See you there!

DLV Postcard - final resize

A Pax on our Houses – or – Endless Winter

The latest snow-hurricane, storm “Pax” has passed, and we hardly had a moment to breathe here in New York City when another dumping of snow is upon us.

Will Winter ever end?

Normally the weather is not of interest to me as a blog topic, but I know I’m not the only person feeling an abnormal amount of cabin fever right now.

The average high temperatures for our area at this time of year should be around 40 degrees. We haven’t come close to that, it seems, in weeks. Certainly not on average.

And I’m sure we’ve had record amounts of snow this year too.

You’d think with all this time indoors that I’d somehow be more productive, but no. I’m as lethargic as a bear in her den, still waiting for Spring.

Still, as the days click by, the sun stays out just a little bit longer. The sun is setting around 5:30pm, and that sunlight holds a lot of promise for the thaw to come.

NJ As Non-Site – Show at the Princeton U Art Museum

NJ as Non Site - Show Entrance

NJ as Non Site – Show Entrance

The New Jersey as Non-Site exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum came to my attention in the New York Times Arts section a few weeks ago. I guess it’s ironic that I’d find out about the show through the NY Times since one of the themes of the exhibition is New Jersey’s proximity to New York City, and yet how the landscape is totally outside the urban center. (What’s even more ironic is that I was reading the NY Times in California, where I had traveled on business… but we can only have so many degrees of ironic separation here.)

Today I made the trek from Jersey City, down the NJ Turnpike, over to Route 1, and then over to Route 27 into the heart of Princeton… far from any urban center or major highway which are the primary subjects of the show.

Maybe this suburban remote location for this “boutique” sized exhibition is fitting because the museum attempts to mount a show about a subject that is much larger than the space afforded – the exhibition composes two small galleries in the museum.

Of the images on display in the show, this one is the most striking:

Nude

Nude

Beside this photograph is a video showing how the artist (in the photograph) is building a miniature “landscape” on his own body. You cannot see it well in my version of the photograph above, but in the video we see him building tiny walls on top of a dirt foundation, brick by brick, built on top of his torso.

We don’t see the artist’s whole body in the video, just the close up of the “building site” each brick is perhaps one inch… the finished image (above) is the final result.

I think it’s quite beautiful.

The curator’s description of the show:

New Jersey was one of the principal laboratories for experimental art after World War II. Between 1950 and 1975, a host of innovative artists flocked to the state’s most desolate locales. There, in its industrial wastescapes, crumbling cities, crowded highways, and banal suburbs, they produced some of the most important work of their careers. The breakthroughs in sculpture, conceptualism, performance, and land art that New Jersey helped catalyze are the subject of New Jersey as Non-Site, which features more than one hundred works by sixteen artists.

It is neither incidental nor accidental that artists came to occupy New Jersey in the years after World War II: much about the state resonated with ideas and themes already in the air. Intrigued by its people as well as its landscape, artists found New Jersey both informative and revelatory. Whether they crossed the Hudson River to collect materials, forge a political movement, or stage performances, artists seemed to agree on one thing: peripheries like New Jersey provide critical leverage not available in cosmopolitan centers, an unfamiliar perspective that disables convention and expectation alike.

Behind artists’ commitment to New Jersey lay something specific: difference. For more than a century, New Jersey’s identity has been measured in terms of its difference—not to mention its distance—from New York. Long considered New York’s “other,” New Jersey was one of the first “other” places that artists explored in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a period when many, including those featured here, started to abandon the insular world of the studio for the environment at large.

Here are some other images from the show:

Bayonne - photograph of landscape sculpture

Bayonne – photograph of landscape sculpture

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Photograph on a NJ beach with oil drums

Photograph on a NJ beach with oil drums

Unfortunately, the depth of this show and its subject matter is not conveyed in the limited materials on display at the Princeton U Art Museum in “New Jersey as Non-Site.”

New Jersey’s urban landscapes are iconic and inspirational on many levels. There were too many things “left out” and what remained was a smattering of rock sculptures, photographs of landscapes, and other objects that did not hang together cohesively enough for me, as the viewer.

As a life long resident of New Jersey, I’ve always had conflicting views about my home state anyway… so it’s no surprise I’d have a mixed reaction to this show.

The show will be on view only a few more days, until Jan 7, 2014. Entrance to the Princeton Art Museum is free, and always worth a look.

Not a Hundred Dollar Day

dollar bills

 

I had a personal appointment, but I was running early (somewhere in the NJ suburbs.) It was afternoon and I hadn’t eaten, but dashed out the door thinking I might be late (I always do this, worrying about traffic, and I’m always early…). I found myself looking for a place to get a quick bite, and so it was that I found Dave’s All American Cafe.

Dave’s All American sits to one side of a pot-hole filled parking lot. The “other side” of the parking lot is a slab where there used to be a pizza place that crumbled until someone knocked it down. Oh, and the cop car that is usually parked watching for speeders coming off the highway. There was a cop car when I went into Dave’s; he was gone by the time I left.

When you walk into Dave’s, the first thing you see is a bank of three refrigerator cases filled with bottles of soda. I don’t know why, but I instinctively pulled out a bottle of Diet Cola Beverage, and it’s a good thing too – I soon found out the fountain wasn’t working.

But, before you get to pull your bottle of soda out of the refrigerator case, the first thing you’ll really notice at Dave’s when you open the door, is the smell of grease. (I noticed while I sat in my seat I did not hear the whir of a ventilating fan coming from the kitchen…probably not a good sign.)

Now, I’m from New Jersey after all, and these places dot the landscape. And I could lie to you and tell you that I did not eat anything there, but I was hungry, and I did. Besides it was either this place or Johnny K’s – some re-fabbed bar and grill that USED to be the town’s main diner (formerly known as The Windsor). Johnny K’s would have offered me a crappy salad for twelve bucks, so I opted for Dave’s.

Dave’s has two waitresses, an older woman in her mid to late 50’s with long grey hair in a pony tail, and a younger woman in her late 20’s with a nose and lip piercing. These ladies do not wear uniforms, they’re dressed in street clothes, but you’ve already figured out Dave’s is pretty casual on the dress code, right?

I sat down with my bottle of soda, and the two ladies were talking to each other, and to their regular Eddie, a very rotund gentleman with a full head of white hair sitting in the far seat at the counter. The ladies are rolling silverware into napkins and placing them into a wicker basket.

Older waitress to younger: You know, I wish we had those fancy paper bands people put around silverware. It would make them look so much nicer.

Younger waitress: I don’t think so. They’re fine like this.

They kept chatting for another few minutes, so I interupted.

Me to younger waitress: Excuse me, can I get a menu? You do have them, right? (I had my eye on a specials board above the doorway leading into the kitchen, hoping it was not the entire menu.)

Younger waitress: Sure.

She finishes rolling two more silverware packs and then goes to get a menu, and puts it on my table. Then goes to get my cup with ice.

The older waitress finishes rolling the silverware and puts them around on the tables and at each empty seat at the counter. The younger waitress stands behind the counter eating soup out of a paper soup container used for take out orders.

Me to younger waitress: I know what I’d like to order.

The younger waitress looks at me, you know… in a way to let me know I’ve interupted her lunch, and puts the soup container down and picks up her order book and comes over. She looks at me, but doesn’t say anything.

Me: Uh, I’d like the grilled cheese and french fries please. Does he make that with American?

Her: nods.

Me: Oh, okay, good. Yes, I’ll have that, thanks.

She writes it down and takes the ticket into the kitchen.

While she was taking my order the older waitress sat in one of the seats at the counter and emptied the tip jar onto the counter. There was a large stack of bills and coins.

A couple walks in the back door and seats themselves. Neither waitress goes over to them.

The older waitress starts counting the money like a bank teller into a single pile. She counts it slowly, then shakes her head.

Older waitress to younger waitress: This is not a hundred dollar day. You said you thought this was a hundred dollar day, but there’s no way. Look at this… this isn’t a hundred dollars.

The older waitress picks up the stack of bills again, and this time counts the money into piles. I can see, because there is nothing else to do but watch her, that the bills are all singles. I assume she is counting them into piles of ten. There are six piles.

The younger waitress gets my plate and puts it in front of me without saying anything, or asking me if I need anything, and walks back behind the counter, so she can continue eating soup.

The older waitress starts re-counting the money again. Now she is counting it into two separate piles. She is satisfied with her counting.

Older waitress to younger: Do you want thirty dollars for your register?

Younger waitress: Okay, sure. (She takes half of the singles from the older waitress and puts it into the register.)

Now the older waitress begins counting the change. She counts it repeatedly, and again starts stacking up the coins in small piles.

Eddie finishes his coffee, and bids them farewell.

Both waitresses smile at him, “Hey have a great day Eddie!” they say. “See you tomorrow!” they say, beaming at him.

Eddie leaves a five dollar tip, puts on his jacket and leaves.

The younger waitress stands behind the counter, in front of where the older waitress is counting the coins. They are sharing some secret joke about the coins. The older waitress puts one coin on one side of the pile, then puts it to the other side. The younger waitress laughs.

Older waitress to the younger waitress, putting the now counted coins back into the tip jar: I told you this wasn’t a hundred dollar day.

Me to the younger waitress: Uh, can I have my check please?

Younger waitress: Sure. She continues looking at the coins and playing the mystery coin game with the older waitress.

Eventually she gets me the check and I pay the bill.

I get up to leave.

Older waitress to younger waitress: It’s so slow today. It’s just dead in here.

Me to both of them: Thanks very much.

Older waitress: Sure hon. Come back again soon.

Oh the Humanity – Hurricane Sandy – Part Four

One Hurricane Sandy Story … from Jersey City

PART FOUR

This is the final installment of my Hurricane Sandy story. For those of you who would like to read the whole saga, begin with The Rushing of the Water, Part One; then Days of Darwin, Part Two; Lights Out, Part Three; and this piece Oh the Humanity, Part Four.

——————————————————————————

THE NEW NORMAL

A little over a month has passed since super-storm Sandy pummeled her way up the coast and smashed into the New Jersey shore and New York City metro area. For most of the rest of the world, they’ve probably forgotten the devastation that happened here and imagine our lives are back to normal.

They are not.

As of this writing, PATH trains from Jersey City into New York City (9th, 14th, 23rd and 33rd Streets) are not running on the weekends. It was only about 2 weeks ago that the PATH train which runs from Newark to World Trade Center re-opened. In fact, normally the PATH runs until 1am daily, and these days when the PATH is running, it only runs until 10pm. The subway from New York City to Brooklyn (the L train) was closed for at least three weeks, and people essentially had no way to get to work by subway if they lived along that train line.

If you are not from this area, it’s hard to imagine why that’s such an inconvenience. Try to remember, in the NYC metro area, we are talking about 100’s of 1000’s of people using these transit systems daily. Then add in the Christmas visitors who arrive in droves – from all over the world – to see the magic of New York City at the holiday time, take in a Rockettes show, see the tree, and yes, visit family in New Jersey, Brooklyn or elsewhere and you have an ongoing massive mass-transit problem on your hands. (That doesn’t stop the Port Authority from charging you twelve bucks to go through the Holland Tunnel in your car to get to Manhattan though…

I ran into someone today who told me that “the only good thing about having to move was that it went so fast because there wasn’t much to take with him. He and his wife lost nearly everything during the storm.” He gave a half-hearted laugh, which is heart-breaking. He said the worst thing he lost was photographs printed on paper which he cannot replace. He vowed to reach out to his friends during the holidays to ask them to share whatever photos they have as their holiday gifts to him.

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

I’m thinking back now to the days after the storm, and there are vignettes in my mind that stuck with me because of how human and decent they were…

Previously I mentioned how woefully unprepared I was for the storm. I had candles but no matches, for example. I was walking down the street to buy some food, and I stopped at my neighbor’s house. One of my neighbors is an older gentleman and his wife, and his children were there trying to use a hand-held plastic bucket to empty out the four feet of water that had accumulated in the ground floor level of his apartment. I suggested that it was probably dangerous to keep stepping in the water (this was the day after the storm) since we were unsure whether the electric was fully off or not. The man’s daughter had not considered this and stopped what she was doing. Later they did get someone to pump the water out for them.

In the meantime, we talked about how cold it was, and that we had no heat. I mentioned that I had no matches to light my candles, or even to light my stove, and the daughter ran into the house and came back out to hand me handfuls of matches they had gotten in a large box. I only accepted two books from her, telling her I’m sure I wouldn’t need more than that. She assured me they had plenty, and I promised to come back and ask for a few more if I really needed them.

The matches came in handy that night…and for the nights following that while I continued to stay in the apartment:

A group of candles lit during the Hurricane Sandy power outage

A group of candles lit during the Hurricane Sandy power outage

Meanwhile during the day, people emptied the entire contents of their homes and left them at the curb:

Furniture and other belongings left at the curb in Jersey City after the storm

Furniture and other belongings left at the curb in Jersey City after the storm

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The entire contents of an apartment left at the curb

The entire contents of an apartment left at the curb

Finally, the high point of my worst days after the storm was a kind of miraculous moment (for me). I was coming back from having bought a little food and I saw the hair salon near my house that I go to regularly. The door was ajar, and there was a generator outside but it wasn’t running.

I pushed the door open and the owner of the salon was sitting there warming her hands over a candle at the reception desk. The salon was empty. I asked her how she was doing, and she said the generator had stopped running and she wasn’t sure how she was going to get her business back up until electric was restored. She mentioned she hadn’t been flooded, and somehow, she added, they still had some hot water left in their tank. It was 4 days after the storm, so that was surprising.

Rita, I said, it’s been four days since I’ve been able to wash my hair. I don’t have hot water at home, would you mind washing my hair? Of course, she said.

I took off the hat I was wearing and she proceeded to wash my hair. It was an emotional moment because it just felt like all the disastrous, terrible things that had been bottled up inside me were threatening to come spilling out as she rinsed the soap and conditioner off my now clean hair.

She towel dried my hair and apologized because there was no electric so my hair would have to stay wet in the cold, no hair dryers. I was so grateful, I told her, and the lack of hair dryers didn’t matter to me at all.

Just as I put my hat back on my wet hair, the lights in the salon came on. “Oh!” Rita said, surprised. “Oh my god!” she said, again. Then she went rushing around the salon to check all the electric, and unbelievably, the electric for that street had been restored… just at the moment we finished.

We were both so overwhelmed by the simple act of the lights coming back on, we hugged each other. I walked home feeling like I was part of some strange miracle. It was like I had seen a glimpse of what can happen when people are good and kind to one another.

 

Days of Darwin – Hurricane Sandy – Part Two

One Hurricane Sandy Story … from Jersey City

PART TWO

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, October 30th, there was no water in the street. There was no rain, and if I recall correctly, no wind. Hurricane Sandy had left town.

I had no electric in my house, so I had no way of getting news to understand the severity of the storm. I assumed, in my naive and uninformed bubble, that the New York metro area had gotten some flooding, sure, but probably all else was fine. I was still operating under a “this was probably a little worse than Hurricane Irene from last year” assumption.

THE SITUATION WITH THE CAR

My first business was to check on my new car. If you recall from my previous post, the car was parked on the street a few doors down from my house, and I watched in desperation the previous night during the surge as the water crept up the wheels.

As I approached the car, some leaves and bits of mud clung to the doors. Not a good sign.

I opened the door and expected to see soaking wet floor mats, maybe soaking wet seats, or who knows what. But no. The car was dry inside. I couldn’t believe it. I put my hand on the floor of the car because I couldn’t understand how it was possible the car hadn’t flooded. My hand, and the floor of the car, were both dry.

I slid into the driver’s seat and stuck the key in the ignition. I thought even if the inside didn’t take on water, it was still possible water came in through the muffler pipe. I turned the key, and, the car started. It didn’t sputter, stall, or make funny noises. Somehow, my car had been unharmed from the storm.

If the car had been parked ten feet closer to my front door it would have been totaled. What saved the car was the height of the street at that particular point on the curb, along with the design of the Honda Fit which sits higher off the ground…both extremely lucky coincidences for me.

AND WHAT ABOUT GAS?

As I pointed out in my previous post (The Rushing of the Water) I was woefully unprepared for the storm. I had about a quarter of a tank of gas and didn’t fill my tank before the storm.

Once I realized my car was okay, I decided to get out of Hudson County and go further inland to find an open gas station, and maybe get something to eat. I figured I’d be having breakfast at a diner within the hour. You have to remember I had no clue about what really happened during the storm. My car was working, and driving to find gas and a hot meal seemed like a logical next step.

So I drove up the ramp to get on the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 14C (the Holland Tunnel exit). And in a purely New Jersey moment, even though basically all of Jersey City and Hoboken and who knows how much of Hudson County had no electric, the freaking toll plazas on the New Jersey Turnpike WERE OPERATING. You had to “check in” at the toll booth to get on the Turnpike. (Again, I did not realize the irony of that at the time, but later it annoyed the hell out of me.)

Once I got on the Turnpike though, the scene was anything but normal. The Turnpike was deserted. I was the only car on the road. The road looked like a tornado had been through the night before. There was extensive damage from mud, grasses caked onto the center-dividing guard rails, and small branches strewn across the road. Amazingly, the Turnpike work crews were already there and began their clean up.

I drove as far as exit 12 and got out at Carteret. There were no open gas stations nor were any stores open. I realized at that moment there was no electic there either. I kept driving and figured I’d head further inland, toward Rahway or further if needed. But as I approached the border between Carteret and Rahway, there was a police cruiser and a blockade of cones across the road. I immediately realized the Rahway River had probably overflowed its banks, which it has done in the past, and flooded their local roads. There was nothing to do but turn around and drive back to Jersey City … through the toll booth that was fully operational in Carteret, and again through the one operating in Jersey City.

What I had accomplished, was using half of my scant remaining gas with my unproductive adventure, and a growing realization that the storm was much worse than I had ever imagined.

New Jersey’s Cultural Zenith: The Diner

Ahh, New Jersey.  Home to the infamous diner, the cultural heart of my home state.

You can go anywhere else in the United States, and they don’t understand how to DO a diner like New Jersey.  I would bet we have more diners in New Jersey than any other state.

I love diners. I love everything about them – chrome exteriors, kitchy interior designs, 24 hour a day service, and the familiar characters you can expect to see when you visit an authentic New Jersey diner.

Greek History

Diners are frequently owned by Greek families.  This is why so many diners sport names like The Athena, Zeus, or Mount Olympia Diner.  I was introduced to Spanikopita and Moussaka dinner specials at “the diner.”

If you are in a diner called “The Plaza,” or “The Galaxy” you might not know if you are in a Greek owned diner or not, but the signals are there if you look for them.  If the owner frequently gesticulates with both hands, and yells at the staff in what-sounds-like-Greek (although everyone on the staff will swear he is not yelling) then you can rest easy you have found the real thing.

Two Eggs Any Style

All diners have a 24 hour a day breakfast menu. The very first thing on that page of the menu is Two Eggs Any Style ( TEAS).  TEAS comes with two pieces of buttered toast (white, wheat or rye) and home fries.  Any style means just that: scrambled, runny, sunny side up, over easy, over medium or over hard.

TEAS and all of the menu items will be cooked to order by your invisible Mexican, Dominican, (or other Spanish) kitchen staff.  You will never see them or meet them, but they are in there making the magic happen.  If you walk to the back of the diner and see some guys hanging out smoking a cigarette, you found them.

The Jersey Waitress, a breed apart

Diners also come with a friendly bunch of gum chewing Jersey waitresses.  These ladies are the roughest, toughest bunch you’ll find and they don’t suffer fools.  Many of them are adorned with a variety of tattoos, and you can sometimes count the number of piercings on both hands. 

These gals are extremely hard working and they rely on their tips to pay the bills.  They want to take your order, get your food to you quickly, refill your coffee or soda glass once and get you the bill. 

Do NOT linger at a diner table unless you are prepared to leave an ample tip!  These girls wouldn’t hesitate to cut you in the parking lot if you sit at their booth for two hours and leave a three buck tip.

To a Jersey waitress, everyone (male or female) is named honey, as in “What can I get you honey?”

Am I a “regular?”

You qualify for “regular” status at a Jersey diner if you eat at one particular place very often… let’s say at least once every two weeks or more.  You may also qualify as a sometime-regular if it’s a diner you used to visit often, but now only go several times a year.  As long as the owner and the waitresses who have been working there a long time still recognize you, you have maintained your sometime-regular status.

Being a regular has its advantages.  For example, if a regular comes and sits at the counter and sees a waitress he knows, she might turn to him and say, “the usual honey?” If he says yes, he will get a plate of whatever it is he always orders quickly and efficiently.

Forbidden Things to Never Eat at the Diner

If you know what’s good for you, you will never, EVER eat these things at the diner:

  • Surf and Turf – that lobster hasn’t seen water for a long time, and the steak will be grey, and covered with canned “gravy”
  • Sushi – this needs no explanation
  • Fruit salad – (exception: if you like canned marischino cherries in heavy syrup, go ahead)

Helpful Tips to tell if your New Jersey Diner is authentic

***   NO!   ***

  1. None of the waitresses chew gum or have tats. You overhear them say Please or Thank You.

  2. Looks “too clean;” no juke-boxes bolted to the tables; no spinning dessert cart

  3. No one is wearing a tee shirt or flip flops; patrons have all their teeth

  4. Waitress doesn’t understand the following: “I’ll have two over easy with white – OR – I’ll have the Alpine Deluxe, medium.”

  5. You wait more than 10 minutes for your food.

  6. Menu includes truffle oil, organic free range anything or Croque Monsieur.

***   YES!   ***

  1. Menu is at least 8 pages long.
  2. Dinner special: Spanikopita with a Greek salad and Jello or Rice Pudding for dessert.
  3. The waitress sees you and says, “Hi Honey, meet you at the counter. You want the usual?”
  4. Serves 12+ kinds of burgers with at least some the following names: Cheese Burger, Pizza Burger, Alpine Burger, California Burger. Of course all of these can be “deluxed.”
  5. License plates in the parking lot are 75% New Jersey, 20% New York, and 5% Other
  6. Offers milkshakes OR egg creams