Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Dear reader, as 2007 draws to a close, let us visit the Clarks of New Jersey and see with our own eyes a scene of domestic bliss. The year was full of such moments. We are hopeful they will multiply in 2008, contributing to a house of laughter and tranquility. Can there be more to hope for, dear reader? Perhaps, perhaps not.

In the final minutes of the year, let us also contemplate the great closing line from "Vanity Fair," William Makepeace Thackeray's masterpiece: "Which of us is happy in this world. Which of us has his desire, or in having it, is satisfied?"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Kid Stuff

Caption: Theo and Natalie wish you a Merry Christmas.

Christmas is a time of gifts. Our children don’t know it, but they are the source of some pretty good gifts – I was going to say “the greatest gifts,” but let us be honest with each other, dear reader. The greatest gifts are expensive and include major investments such as a new kitchen, or a trip to an expensive golf resort.

Our children – Natalie, 2; and Theodore, 5 – have given us the gift of poetry; they say the funniest things. Keep in mind, the written word can only give an approximation of the actual comments delivered in sugary sing-song voices, full of wonder and childish enthusiasm.

Here are some of those gifts.

• Natalie, walking into Daddy’s office and seeing a Catholic nun on the television, turns to her dad and says: “That’s Cioc Bernice.” Cioc Bernice loves you, right Natalie? “Yeah,” and she smiled.

• Theo, reading over the shoulder of his mother, asks: “Why does this say ‘Sports Thursday?” Because it’s Thursday, and this is the New York Times Sports section. “Is there a Sports Sunday?”

• Natalie, pointing to the brand name “Church” that appears on the toilet in first floor bathroom, asks her mother: “Does this say ‘potty?”

• “Desarations,” said Natalie, pointing to Christmas decorations. No it’s Decorations. Deco. “Deco.” Ray. “Ray.” Shuns. “Shuns.” Now say, decorations. “Desarations.”

• Mom tells Theo she’s not giving plastic toys for Christmas, because of lead paint. “But if it’s from Santa Claus, it won’t have lead,” he responded, faithfully.

• Practicing for a visit to Santa Claus, Natalie sits on her dad’s lap. What’s your name? “Nat.” How old are you? “Three.” What do you want for Christmas? “A present.”

• Theo explained that a dinosaur has 100 bones. Daddy wasn’t so sure. “I’m telling the truth.” Would you ever lie to me? “What’s a LIE-DA-MEE?”

• After learning how the New Jersey Lottery Winning Line BINGO scratch-off card is played, Theo says, “Dad, I’m glad you bought this bingo card.” I’m glad you’re glad, Theo. “I want to go to a store that sells a lot of them, so we can buy them.”

• Do you know where Santa Claus lives, Natalie? “Yeah; New York City.”

To all readers everywhere, The Clarks of New Jersey wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

# # # Reader Participation, Holiday Version # # #

What’s your favorite funny line from a kid? Please share it with us.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"A Trip to Gotham City" or "The Christmas Miracle"

Caption: The M&M store in the background should be called the S&M store, for the pain it inflicts upon willing visitors.

A tour of the M&M store in Manhattan, a reunion with long lost Aunt Elanore (a.k.a. Tita Norie), and a dashing car-chase through a crowded parking garage stand out as highlights from our Dec. 15 trip to New York City.

“Why does the Empire State Building keep moving?” asked five-year-old Theo as we approached the skyline.

We were the first to arrive at the Best Western on 48th Street, so the Clarks of New Jersey took a tour of the M&M store – the most unnecessary store in all of retail, unless you like M&M logo golf balls. Still, it was packed. Two employees with bullhorns stood at both ends of the escalators, encouraging the cattle to keep moving, as to avoid nasty and litigious pile ups. Yes, dear reader, the Christmas spirit was in full flow!

A word about Tita Norie: She is Margie’s cousin from St. Louis. Her personality is cheerful, funny, engaging. She works for Bunge – the world’s largest something or other in the soybean processing industry. Norie brought thoughtful gifts for the children, and led Theo by the hand through crowded Times Square to and from Virgil’s restaurant on 44th Street. We hope Norie can some day visit us in Metuchen.

After saying good bye, we walked to the parking garage, retrieved our car, then met the most depressing traffic jam ever encountered by this family. The garage exited onto 50th Street heading toward holiday-jammed Broadway, there was no opening whatsoever, and cars we’re crawling. But that was the least of the problem, because pedestrian traffic – unending and unsympathetic – on the sidewalk in front of our car made any activity on 50th Street moot. It looked hopeless.

Then came our Christmas miracle!

An ambulance begins inching his way down 50th street, lights and sirens blazing. To make way for this new catastrophe, a bus pulls over onto the sidewalk in front of us, crashing into the side of an adjacent building and destroying its awning. Now, our way is completely sealed off by the side of the immobilized bus. As attendants rushed to the crash scene, Daddy seized the opportunity. He put the car in reverse, and headed to the other end of the parking garage, against traffic and amid howls of protest from parking attendants.

The 49th street exit was in clear view, when a small angry man with white hair jumped in front of the car to block my exit. (Apparently, this garage was engaged in some kind of business feud with the other garage.) He looked like he would not let me through, even if it kills him. Margie pleaded with him. Then we told him about the bus, then another attendant pointed toward the blocked exit. Finally, grudgingly, he said “you can go.”

Was the angry man inspired by divine, Christmas angels? Dear reader, who can tell? But the Clarks of New Jersey witnessed a transformation as dramatic as that of Ebeneezor Scrooge or George Bailey. Except, it was real!

For all we know, the bus is still there on the 50th street sidewalk blocking the exit of the garage.

Do you have a Christmas miracle story? Please share it with us.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Clarks of N.J. Join the YMCA

Caption: Theo, Nat and Margie, before dad's prodigious sleep.

If a member of the Metuchen YMCA, let’s call him James, had walked into the men’s locker room at 2:20 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 1, here is what he would have seen. Casey, Theo and Natalie fumbling with clothes, shoes, lockers, shoes and swimsuits. And, oh, by the way, James would have also seen Margie. That’s right – all four of us were in the men’s locker room organizing our gym clothes!

It’s a long story, but let us turn our eyes from this scene of familiar disorganization. There were plenty of other happy moments to record for posterity. All four of us enjoyed our first day as members of the YMCA. We remained to the very end of the “Family Swim,” then we discovered that there’s really no difference between “Family Swim” and “Open Swim,” and we didn’t need to rush.

Then Natalie enjoyed what to her was an exotic hydro therapy during which she stood in a tiled room and let water fall from a specially designed faucet over her back, washing away her stress. It was the first such experience for little Natalie, and she eagerly looks forward to her next “shower,” as most of us call it.

Casey performed heroic feats of strength in the exercise room, where several flat screen TVs broadcast sporting events to inspire members to new levels of exertion. This place is fabulous. And we all enjoyed meeting our tour guide, Maddie, who helps out in the babysitting room occasionally.

Finally, this is going to sound like an exaggeration, but Casey slept a full 13 hours Saturday night. It must have been all the swimming.

Note to friends and relatives: When you come visit us, there’s a good chance we can secure guest passes for you. We ask only that you follow normal locker room protocol.

# # # Reader Participation # # #
Is there anything better than 13 hours of sleep? Anything in the world?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cut it out, Natalie!

Caption: Natalie, with scissors, and Kara on Friday morning.

Theo likes to draw pictures. Whenever he sees something interesting or exciting in the great wide world, his hands soon begin to itch, and his thoughts turn quickly to the idea of reproducing the scene with pencil and paper. If his muse appears away from home, he will often ask to return to his dining room table, where he can strike while the iron is hot.

His pictures have won the praise of his parents, his relatives, friends of his parents, even professional art directors in New York City.

Natalie is a bird of a different feather. She, too, likes to produce little works of art while sitting at the dining room table with her “Kuya” – the Filipino term for older brother. But where Theo likes to draw, Natalie likes to cut.

“I want to cut,” she says to her mother, several times during the day. Margie grabs a few sheets of paper and hands them over to Natalie along with little pairs of safety scissors. Natalie knows what to do with them. She’ll cut lines and shapes and circles. This morning she used a special pair of zig-zag scissors to make a remarkable shape.

“She’s very good at cutting,” says Margie. “Most children her age can’t do that.” I don’t know if the matter has been studied by scientists of early childhood education, but looking at the intricate shapes and tiny slivers of scraps that pile up on our dining room table and carpet, I am inclined to believe that Natalie is indeed a prodigy in this area.

# # # Thanksgiving Day Arts & Crafts Supplement # # #

At Miss Margie's Day Care, Theo made a Thanksgiving Wreath out of a paper plate. The wreath carried this heartwarming message: “I’m thankful for the whole world!”

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween in Metuchen

Caption: From left: Maggie, Theo, Kara, Luke and Natalie

Halloween has many charms. Neighbors open their doors to their neighbors. Gifts are exchanged to promote social harmony and general happiness. People look beyond the profit system, some of them skip work altogether. And everyone turns his back on conventional fashion.

I ask you: Why can’t every day be Halloween?

Theo and Natalie certainly enjoy Halloween. At school, Theo’s first Halloween parade was a graveyard smash – the children beamed with pride in their costumes on the stage as parents snapped digital photographs.

When Daddy returned home from work, a dozen children were tricking and treating on Voorhees Place, including Kara and her brother, Kyle. Theo and Natalie milled about, carrying candy containers filled to capacity. “They’re done,” said Mom.

A word about Natalie's kitty-kat costume. This black-and-white classic has seen more tricks than any Halloween costume in Clark family history. Madeline Clark Davidian wore it for two Halloweens, Theo wore it for three, and Natalie has now worn the family heirloom twice. Kitty-kat costume, the Clarks of New Jersey salute you!

Several waves of children came to 56 Voorhees Place during the evening. The prize-winning costumes were those of two boys, about 11 or 12, who dressed as old ladies, with canes and gray hair. Theo watched from the safety of the living room as strange children crowded our tiny front porch, which is ill-designed for tricking or treating. On one occasion, a witch and Edvard Munch’s The Scream were momentarily trapped between the storm door and the front wall, effectively blocking several other gouls and princesses. No one was injured, however.

After the excitement, the children returned to their nightly ritual – books upstairs in Theo’s room, moderate rough-housing with Dad, then a song and milk for Natalie downstairs, then a reading from “Charlotte’s Web” for Theo, then good night.

# # # Recurring Feature: Reader Participation # # #

The best Halloween costume I ever saw was that my brother, Dan, when he dressed up as Tiger Woods a few years ago. What was the best Halloween costume YOU ever saw?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Waiting for Mimi

Caption: Mimi, on the night of the St. Mary’s High School class of 1957 reunion.

At about 11 a.m., the interrogation began. “When is Mimi coming?” Have patience, Theo and Natalie. Your grandmother will be coming later in the afternoon, sometime around 3:30 p.m. Theo had a follow up question: “When is Mimi coming?”

At 2 p.m. on an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon, the children and Margie are standing outside, looking hopefully down the street. At 3 p.m., Kevin Donahue from across the street comes across to visit. The children are pre-occupied. “When is Mimi coming?” they ask.

Finally, we get the call from Mimi: “I’m on Amboy Avenue, and I’m about to turn into your street.” By this time, though, the children are reading a book with their mother in the living room. Only Daddy is outside to greet her.

Mimi is visiting Metuchen in advance of her 50th High School Reunion – St. Mary’s of Perth Amboy. She’s coming to spend the night, and she’s bring bags of gifts, a matter of great excitement for the children, who peek out the door at their grandmother and her treasures.

(We will pass over Mimi’s reunion, the bulk of which occurred while the Clarks of New Jersey slept. Perhaps you will learn more in one of her mass e-mails.)

On the following day, the children were excited to bring Mimi to Edison’s Skylark Diner, where our waiter Ehab’s professionalism ensured that Mimi’s eggs would be loose, just as she likes them. Later, while Margie engaged in group meditation, Dad took Mimi and the kids shopping for Theo’s Halloween costume. Ever-generous, Mimi plucked a pumpkin placemat off the shelf for little Natalie – “It’s only $2.99,” Mimi said. Natalie developed an inseparable attachment to that placemat by the time we got in the checkout line. That’s when we discovered the actual price of the placemat: $12.99!

Still, Mimi paid for the placemat. Generous Mimi, the Clarks of New Jersey salute you!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friday Night on the Train

Caption: Theo and Natalie play no part in the following narrative.

On Daddy’s train ride home from work late Friday night after a long day at the office, the train suddenly jerked to a stop just outside of Secaucus station.

I and my fellow passengers – mostly New York Ranger fans wearing Ranger jerseys returning home from the Garden – waited a few anxious moments, then slowly rolled on.

Then the conductor’s voice came over the train’s audio system. Here’s what he said, word for word:

“Attention passengers do NOT push the buzzer. Pushing the buzzer is a federal offense. You will be incarcerated and fined. Pushing the buzzer can cause harm to you and to every single passenger on this train and to every member of the crew. And if you push the buzzer button, the train will stop and police will board the train and ARREST EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE TRAIN.”

That last bit caused a bit of a chuckle, and Daddy recognized the conductor as a genuine comic talent.

A few minutes later, the conductor was back on the loudspeaker.

“Passengers, if you look out the right side of the train you’ll see the finest hockey stadium in the United States of America.” It was the shiny new Jersey Devils stadium in Newark. The Ranger fans groaned in protest.

Conductor of the 10:11 Trenton local, the Clarks of New Jersey salute you!

# # # CNJ READER POLL # # #

Which topics would you prefer to read about in this Web site:
a) Daddy’s commute
b) Hockey news
c) Theo and Natalie

# # #

Monday, October 01, 2007

Special Report: Aaron Clark Turns Three

Caption: Aaron (foreground) collects candy from the pinata.

The Clarks of Metro Denver - Dan, Tedra, Aaron and little baby Elena - celebrated Aaron's third birthday Saturday with presents, games, candy and a late-night trip to downtown Commerce City for Mexican food regarded as the best in the area by readers of the Denver Post.

Here are some of the highlights:

• Rapid response weather planning: The party was set up as an outdoor gathering at a park near the Clarks’ home, but the winds began to howl – knocking over full 12-oz. cans of soda and sending party favors and plates across the central plains states. Undaunted, the Clarks of Metro Denver led the troops indoors where the party played out happily. A good time was had by all.

• Cute kids: Little baby Elena is an adorable child with a happy attitude toward life. And Aaron is a sweet boy who loves his family, and looks just like his dad looked back in 1974. “Angelic” is a good word for him.

• Memory lane: Yes, dear reader, there was also time when Dan Clark, all 6-3, 230 pounds of him, was angelic. I remember those days well. My sister, Diana, and I were about 9 or 10, and we competed aggressively for his affections. Sometimes one of us would bribe him for his precious gifts of time and attention. Now, golf brings the two grown brothers together naturally, but back in the mid 1970s, Diana won more battles than she lost.

• Architecture note: The Clarks of Metro Denver live in a remarkable house – a classic mountain-style wood and stone design with hardwood floors, a semi-circular staircase, views of the golf course plus all the modern amenities. Of special interest is the high-definition television. Here’s an actual comment from Dan about the quality of the picture: “If it’s not high-definition, I don’t even want to watch it anymore.” That’s high praise!

The Clarks of Metro Denver hosted me for four nights as I attended the Ace Hardware Convention. They treated me like family, even better. Dan, Tedra, Aaron and baby Elena: the Clarks of New Jersey salute you!

# # # Reader interaction; sponsored by Mucinex # # #

What’s your favorite Dan Clark story?

# # # Mucinex Fights Mucus! # # #

Monday, September 10, 2007

First Day of School

Caption: Mrs. Fischer delivers her pupils, including Theo, to their parents each day at 2:48 p.m.

Theodore woke up early and dressed himself in his new back-to-school outfit, a bold-striped shirt that was a few sizes too big, dark socks and utility shorts. A lot of kids are familiar with day care and mini-camps, baby sitters -- but Theo hasn’t had any of that extracurricular stuff. He’s been home schooled since birth.

In other words: Sept. 10 was a really big day for the Clarks of New Jersey!

I’ll end the suspense here. Theo had a great day. His teacher, Mrs. Fischer, handled the children wonderfully. Theo was very shy to her at first, but when we left him standing against the wall and waiting for the other children to arrive, he was smiling. And when we picked him up, he was strutting like a peacock.

He didn’t say much about school at first, but after dinner, he began to describe all the events in chronological order from 12:12 p.m. to 2:48 p.m. The stories, the trips up and down the stairs, the group visit to the nurse.

Among other things, he was introduced to the euphemisms of inter-departmental mail. “We put paper in the teacher’s mailbox. It was just a basket, but they called it a mailbox,” he explained.

Sept. 10 was the first day of what will be years of state-sponsored learning, testing, and indoctrinating for the sensitive little fellow. Pleasant experiences in the early grades are crucial to a gallant run through the system. So Mom and Dad are thrilled that Theo’s formal education got off to such a good start.

“I wish I could go to school in the morning, afternoon, and after afternoon.” he said. “I really want to stay there for a very long time.”

He really said that. (All quotes and statements that appear in CNJ are guaranteed accurate.)

At 6:15 p.m., Theo was still wearing his nametag, written in his own hand. He's in dreamland now, but his parents are too excited to sleep.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Point Pleasant Beach

Caption: Scenes from a summer day in New Jersey.

The summer is winding down. Everywhere we go, people tell us: "I can't believe the summer is almost over." And yet, this is the way it has always happened, and it will never change. "One season cometh, and another passeth way, but the earth abides forever." That's from the Bible.

The Clarks of New Jersey do not lament the passing of the seasons. Instead, we enjoy them while we may, gathering rosebuds, etc. There is not much to say about our recent trip to Point Pleasant Beach. It was a Friday. Daddy had the day off. And the traffic on the Parkway was fine until just pass the Asbury Park exit. Lifeguards forebade swimmers from entering the ocean because, again, "the sea was angry that day my friend." And the children enjoyed collecting shells.

But look at these photos! There's Natalie climbing on the railing. There's Theo running on the boardwalk. A trio of Clarks cleans up in the public shower. And the two guys prepare our delicious funnel cakes. More than any words, these photos will give you an idea of our day in the sun.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Visiting the World Capital of Fun

Caption: Theo admires the art exhibit in the Lipstick Building.

The stock market fell dramatically on Thursday. How dramatically? So dramatically that Theo and Dad blew off their normal Friday responsibilities and spent much of the day sightseeing in New York City. Who knows how many days we’ll have before the global markets implode? At least we’ll have this day to enjoy the world capital of finance in all its glory.

The 10:20 a.m. train left right on time, and we arrived in a soggy and raw New York City with two umbrellas and a back pack stuffed with healthy snacks.

The first stop: 425 Park Avenue, a.k.a Daddy’s office. Here, Peter made Theo a paper airplane. Peter is the advertising intern at Nation’s Restaurant News, and he’s a very likable college student from St. Josephs in Philadelphia. He sits next to me in the office. He really took the time to make Theo a high-quality aircraft, which had Theo’s name written on both wings. (You can see the plane in Theo’s right hand in the photo above.)

Marianne Wilson also welcomed Theo. She’s a great friend of the Clarks of New Jersey, and has for years supported the family with gifts and kindnesses.

Peter and Marianne: Thanks for being good neighbors. CNJ Salutes you!

Second stop: the Lipstick Building. Dad loves the art exhibit in the lobby of this famous Third Avenue skyscraper. Phoebe Washburn’s “2 BLT’s (Bought and Lovely Towns)” occupies the north and south end of the lobby. I think it’s remarkable. Hundreds and hundreds of wood scraps and two by fours, painted and nailed together to form a clump that resembles a busy city built on a volcanic island. I could happily study it for a full lunch hour, imagining how life might be different in all off its neighborhoods. Theo said he wanted to try to make something like it at home. It’s not a bad idea, I think.

Third stop: Sam Flax, the best art supply store in the city.

Fourth stop: The Midtown Restaurant on 55th street between Lexington and Third avenues. The hostess, a very friendly Indonesian woman with a 24-year-old daughter back in Indonesia, fawned over Theo as she admired his “big black eyes.” Theo just picked at his cheeseburger, but he devoured two deli-style pickles.

Fifth stop: Back to the office. With scissors, paper and markers, Theo made name tags for us both. Mine read “Ken.”

Sixth stop: The Disney store on Fifth Avenue and 55th Street. Did you know that this store, unlike all the Disney Stores in all the malls in America, is run by Disney World? It’s true. Dad bought a little car for Theo, who’s sleeping with it right now.

By the way: the DJIA and the S&P 500 stopped the bleeding on Friday. False alarm.

# # # Reader Participation Opportunity # # #

What stocks do you like? and why?

Monday, August 06, 2007

“Show us your trick, Natalie.”

Caption: Our little trickster.

For many months, Natalie has been very proud of her “trick.”

When prompted, Natalie will hyperextend her index finger by pulling back on it with the middle finger of the same hand. Can you picture that? Take a second to picture that. If you see something tricky, you’re not visualizing it correctly. It’s a very simple movement of the fingers, nothing more. Sometimes she does it with both hands simultaneously, but it’s still a simple move.

So, the other day in Natalie’s bedroom, Margie and Natalie are calling dad in to see her “new trick.” Dad is expecting something mild, along the lines of the finger bender. Maybe Natalie will hide her arms in her shirt?

Here is what I saw: Natalie was smiling, standing on the floor with one foot on her crib. When Margie said “go ahead,” Natalie began to climb. When she got to the top, she slowly positioned herself on the rail, half her weight on the inside, and half on the outside. She teetered there, stiff as a board, then plunged down toward the mattress, landing face first and bending her spine in a way that is too horrible to describe in this family forum. I rush to her aid with a cry of concern and pain, forgetting Rousseau’s advice in the earlier entry. Natalie, unharmed, rolls over and laughs.

“That’s not how you did it last time,” said Margie. Apparently, this trick was an improvisation.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"Once More Unto the Beach"

caption: Theo shows his winning form at the "Go fish" game on the boardwalk.

At Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., little five-year-old Theodore won a large, green, inflatable crayon at the fishing booth. Dad was extremely proud. "That's my boy." "Chip off the old block." So what if everyone's a winner at this entry-level carney game? One still has to land a fish. Well done, Theo.

He carried that crayon with him everywhere he went. You should have seen him. Proud as a peacock. He even dragged it into the diner on the way home, displaying it in all of its plastic glory to the waitress, who gamely played the role of amazed adult. Now if he'd only stop hitting his sister with it, we'd have all-around contentment.

How was the water? The sea was angry, my friend. So much so that the lifeguards called everyone out of the water, even Dad, who was hunting for mermaids between the waves. ("He could see them riding seaward in the waves, combing the white hair of the waves blown back as the wind blew the water white and black.")

Even little Natalie felt the power of the ocean. A wave raced up the beach and tripped her as she tried to escape its cold, frothy fingers. Somewhere, there's a good life lesson in there for Little Nat Nat.

# # # Reader Interaction Feature # # #

Where is your all-time favorite beach?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Our newest relative arrives

Caption: Elena looks a little bit like her father.

It seemed like yesterday when the East Coast Clarks assembled in front of a computer screen in Mimi's basement and learned that little Aaron, youngest member of the Clarks of Colorado, was expecting to become a big brother. Lo and behold, along comes Elena!

To pround parents Danny and Tedra, the Clarks of New Jersey salute you!

Here's some parenting advice from Rousseau:

"If [she] should fall or bump [her] head or make [her] nose bleed or cut [her] fingers, instead of rushing to [her] with an with an expression of alarm I will stay calm, at least at first. The harm is done; it is necessary that [she] endure it. All my fussing could only frighten [her] more and add to [her] sensibility. Basically it is not the blow but the fear of it which torments us when we are hurt. I will spare [her] this anquish at least, for [she] will certainly judge the injury as [she] sees me judge it. If [she] sees me running to [her] with worry to console [her], to pity [her], [she] will think [herself] dead. If [she] sees me keeping my cool [she] will soon recover [her] own and will think the wound is healed when it ceases to hurt. This is the time for [her] first lesson in courage, and by bearing slight ills without fear we gradually learn to bear greater ones."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Vacation 2007

The Clarks of New Jersey study dinosaur history at Yale's Peabody Museum in New Haven, Conn.

The car is loaded with suitcases and sandwiches, a golf bag and a baby crib. We're all gassed up. So come with us on a rather unorthodox vacation: a swing through Southeast Connecticut and Western Massachussetts.

The first stop: the Peabody Museum in New Haven, Conn. Outside the museum, Dad asked Theo if he wanted to take a picture of the 30-foot high Triceratops statue. "No," he said dismissively, "I'll remember it." Dad took the picture anyway. Inside, Theo makes no effort to contain his excitement. In the great hall of dinosaurs, his body unconsciously begins to jump up and down.

Next stop: Pepe's Pizza in New Haven. This place in New Haven's Little Italy is renowned as one of the best pizza parlors in the world. The Clarks of New Jersey officially recommend it, however, Margie complained of burnt crust.

Next stop: Mystic, Conn. After checking into our hotel -- the Inn at Mystic -- we walked to the Sea Swirl for ice cream and shakes. Natalie's red, white and blue crocs were a big hit with the clientele, some of whom asked for purchasing information.

Next stop: The Mystic Acquarium. WIth the exception of the bird cage, the Mystic Acquarium was a bit of a disappointment. From the rinky dink ray pool to the underwhelming penguin display, there wasn't much to write home about. Even the sea lion show was a let down. (Dad's comment: "That was about as entertaining as church.") But the bird cage stood out as an unexpected joy. Colorful little beasts flirting around all over, and kids chasing them with popsicle sticks loaded with bird seed. Let's not talk about the price, but suffice it to say I wish we had visited the historic Seaport instead.

Next stop: Sea View restaurant. Dad recommends the fried clams. Natalie shows more interest and takes more delight in the rocks in the parking lot than any of the fish-related exhibits at Mystic Acquarium.

Next stop: Alford, Mass. and the home of the Casarsa Family. Gary, Christine, Livia and Will again showed us the joys of living well, eating well and understanding the important things in life. The Clarks of New Jersey salute you!

Throughout the entire grand circle, Margie encouraged Natalie to become potty trained, with limited results. We're happy to report today that Natalie has shown tremendous progress.

Below are some pictures captured during the vacation.

Theodore becomes acquainted with brass skulls and the ideas of Charles Darwin.

Nat-Nat and Margie feed the birds at the Mystic Acquarium.

More bird feeding.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nat-Nat Turns Two

From left: Joyce, Margie, Natalie, Theo and Michael III.

Little Nat-Nat enjoyed a big celebration Saturday afternoon. Her second birthday was attended by Mimi, Poppy, Diana, Madeline, Michael, Holly from Milford, and, of course, Nat's immediate family.

As a matter of actual fact, Natalie's birthday falls on June 11. We celebrated two days early because of several interconnected dates and activities, including Luke Rivera's birthday party (June 10), Margie's birthday (June 10) and little Madeline's dance recital (June 9). It just worked out.

Except for the smoke from the fire pit, Natalie's party was a triumph! To all those who contributed: CNJ salutes you!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Light Dispelling Darkness

Caption: The Clark family gathers near the world-famous fountain of Roosevelt Park in Edison, N.J.

On Saturday, the Clarks of New Jersey drove 45 miles to Point Pleasant Beach for a day of sun, sand and fried funnel cake. (Remember the CNJ advice: you'll enjoy it more if you don't watch as it is prepared.) Credit to Aunt Debbie and Aunt Helen for the free parking, ride tickets and walking-around money. As this blog has noted before, there is nothing like getting the star treatment at Point Pleasant Beach. Debbie and Helen, the Clarks of N.J. salute you!

What's that? Yes, dear reader. Sunday was in fact the seventh wedding anniversary of Casey and Margie. The weather on June 3, 2000 was spectacular (as was documented on this Web site in a previous post). It was just as spectacular on Sunday, June 3, 2007.

To celebrate our love for each other, we did what most normal New Jersey couples do. We spent quality time together at a terra cotta sculpture featuring representations of the four horsemen of the apocolypse and the additional scourges of greed and materialism. Located just a stone's throw from the former home of Sonya Mizerak at 112 Thomas Place, Waylande Gregory's art deco masterpiece "Light Dispelling Darkness" was commissioned by the Works Project Administration during the Depression and masterfully restored a few years ago.

The Clarks of N.J. applaud the reconstruction of this classic work of public art!

As for our wedding anniversary, well, what more is to be said? A wedding anniversary is a very personal celebration. Dear reader, let us turn our eyes away from the Clarks of New Jersey just this once, and give them the consideration and the privacy that such a loving couple deserves on such a romantic occassion.

# # # Interactive Bonus Question # # #

What's your best wedding anniversary story?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Theo Turns five

Caption: With his sister Natalie, 1, Theodore celebrates “the Big Oh-Five” in his new T-Rex outfit.

Early in the morning on May 29, 2002, Dad and Mom hailed a cab on First Avenue and took a ride across the 59th Street Bridge to a hospital in Queens. Next thing you know, we’re celebrating Theodore Warner Clark’s fifth birthday at 56 Voorhees Place in Metuchen, N.J. Somewhere during that half decade, we came into possession of an adorable little girl with the most curious little voice and language.

Gentle reader, the Clarks of New Jersey Web site will not attempt to describe how five years can disappear in an instant; nor are the authors capable of explaining the melancholy feelings aroused by a child’s progression from toddler to little boy to boy. It is our role here simply to chronicle the events of a simple family.

With special help from Valerie Agtarap (Valerie, CNJ salutes you!), Margie led Theo and his classmates downtown to What’s the Scoop, Metuchen’s world-famous ice cream parlor. Gifts were exchanged, candles were extinguished, ice cream and pizza were consumed. Through it all, the children smiled.

When Dad arrived home from work, his freshly bathed son retold the day’s events, arms flailing with excitement and special emphasis given to the size, color and functionality of his birthday gifts.

# # # Special Interactive Feature # # #

Dad turns 42 years old on May 30. What would be an appropriate birthday message for him?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ninong Jerry’s Big Day

Caption: Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah T. Cunningham, trailed by Michael Cunningham, the groom’s brother.

Anderson, Ind. – Readers of the Clarks of New Jersey often ask: “Whatever happened to Theo’s godfather?” I am happy to announce that Jeremiah Cunningham, a.k.a. “Ninong Jerry,” was married last night to Jennifer Paige Simmons in Indianapolis. I am even happier to say that all of Jerry’s friends are thrilled with the match.

The Clarks of New Jersey send their very best to the newlyweds and extend an open invitation to them – or any Cunningham, for that matter – to visit us in Metuchen and enjoy its many charms.

Let the record also show that Dad performed admirably his duties as an usher.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Days Without Dad

Caption: Pupils of Miss Margie’s Day Care, from left: Maura, Theo, Kara, Luke and Maggie. (Not pictured: Natalie and Paulie).

While dad is engaged in a lengthy business trip and wedding event in Indiana, the rest of the Clarks of New Jersey are soldiering on as best they can. School is in session at 56 Voorhees Place. Shopping and dining continue as usual. Even chores around the house and yard are regularly maintained.

The secret is superhuman effort on the part of Mom, and she is to be commended for this effort. Certainly, Dad also deserves some credit for rallying the children’s spirits through twice-a-day inspirational phone calls from Indiana. But this post sends a special dedication to Mom. Margie Clark, the Clarks of New Jersey salute you!

In other news, dad shot a 90 at Edgewood Golf Club, and also enjoyed a leisurely stroll with friends along the White River and ancient Indian mounds at Mounds State Park in Anderson, Ind. Ah, but all is not sunshine and milkshakes for the 41-year-old trade magazine editor. Late last night, an unoccupied Nissan rolled backwards through a parking lot of Panera Bread and sideswiped dad’s rental car while he sat helpless in the driver’s seat. The accident required the attention of the police and several authorities at Hertz and American Express. Luckily no one was injured. However, on the following morning Dad woke up with amazing spider-like powers.


Do you have a favorite state park? Please post a comment with a recommendation for our extended family of readers and subscribers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Monument to Mother's Day

The Clarks of New Jersey, resting on the Dingmans Falls trail.

Yesterday, the Clarks of New Jersey traveled to Milford, Pa., world headquarters of the Clarks of Pennsylvania. We enjoyed a delightful trek to Dingmans Falls, where Theo and Dad reached the summit, looking down at Mimi, Poppy, Margie, Natatlie and Kate Solecitto, director of marketing for Red Devil, makers of King Kaulk and SandFast.

Other highlights from the Poconos include a visit to the world-famous Dairy Mart, and a gift exchange that brought five mini-dinosaurs into Theo's possession. Poor little Natalie was flu-ridden, but she still managed to greet Mimi and Poppy with a warm hung, a rarity for the shy little princess.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Scrambled Eggs

EASTER CELEBRANTS: (From left) Michael, Madeline, Natalie and Theodore.

Another Easter has passed. Who among us can look on indifferently as eager children hunt bright plastic Easter eggs stuffed with goodies and treats? Certainly not the Clarks of New Jersey!

Theodore and Natalie kicked off their 2007 Easter celebration on a Metuchen soccer pitch, where community leaders went to great lengths to promote the town’s municipal egg hunt. Later that day, the children joined their cousins Michael and Madeline at a private-sector event: the Clarks of Pennsylvania Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Family Reunion.

Aunt Diana took advantage of the mountainous Moon Valley Falls terrain to provide the children with a hunt that was both challenging for the advanced players, yet enjoyable for the beginners. Notice how the baskets above overflow in a miraculously even distribution of eggs. [Note to Aunt Diana: for this accomplishment, CNJ salutes you!]

Joining the event was the popular and beloved Sister Bernice Marie, whose antics are occasionally chronicled in this forum. Also participating was Bound Brook, N.J.-based Emily Fabiano, a former Rutgers University official who has provided companionship, counsel and comfort to CNJ since the late 1960s.

Monday, April 02, 2007

CNJ Blast from the Past

LUCKY DUCKS: The Clarks in transition.

Many readers have written the Clarks of New Jersey (CNJ) seeking highlights and stories from the early days. “This family of laughter and tranquility,” reads a typical letter, “how and under what circumstances did it develop?”

CNJ responds to reader feedback with “Blast from the Past,” a new feature that offers readers historical analysis plus full-color digital photography – all for the same incredibly low price!

Let us go back to the year 2005. We find the Clarks of New Jersey living with the Clarks of Pennsylvania (a.k.a. Mimi and Poppy). Mom carries Natalie in her belly, and Dad commutes to his job in New York City by bus, a two-and-a-half-hour ordeal – each way!

Despite the hardships, CNJ reflects fondly upon this three-week Pennsylvania episode, a transition chapter in the family’s relocation from 57 Main Street to 56 Voorhees Place. Highlights from this period include dinner dates at country inns, delicious desserts at Pocono ice cream parlors, and multiple visits to the Milford Fair (see photo).

Best of all, we lived under the loving eye of Theo’s grandparents, and with joyful anticipation of baby Natalie’s birth.

Those were the days!

Note to readers: Comment on this Blast from the Past for a chance to win a free ticket aboard the Friends of Milford Public Library Bus Trip to beautiful Passaic Falls in Paterson, N.J. (Lunch not included.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Metuchen Restaurants, etc.

Caption: Theo, left, has a lot of Uncle Danny in him.

The Clarks of New Jersey bolted out the door of Romano’s Macaroni Grill when the host described a 35-minute wait. “Isn’t it great to have Megumi’s as a resource in times like the present,” said Dad, a 41-year-old trade magazine editor.

Mom, a self-employed day care entrepreneur, agreed.

Off they drove to Megumi’s, Metuchen’s most user-friendly Japanese-Chinese fusion restaurant. (Note to reader: Objectively speaking, the finest Japanese restaurant in Metuchen is Mr. Pi’s. I suspect it’s the finest in all of New Jersey. In fact, I will argue right here that Mr. Pi’s is probably the best restaurant in the country, all things considered, and certainly the most pleasant dining establishment within driving distance of 56 Voorhees Place.)

Anyway, at Megumi’s, Dad wanted something that Theo was eating, and Theo declined to share. He kept his motives to himself, but his position was based clearly on the belief that there was very little incentive to share whatever it was that Dad wanted and a significant degree of amusement to be gained by withholding it.

The incident reminded Dad of a story that centered on his own dad – a.k.a. The Goose – and Dad’s brother, Dan. The story is reproduced here:

Once while driving between Indiana and New Jersey, little Danny Clark was eating gumdrops (or some similar candy) in the back seat, and the Goose wanted in on the action. Danny, a spirited youth of about seven, let it be known to everyone in the car that in the case of his gum drops, property rights must be maintained at all costs. The gumdrops belonged to him and he would have all of them as a matter of principal.

A few miles down the road, the Goose issued a statement. “I do not want a gum drop, and if given one, I will not eat it”

Outwardly, this had little effect on Danny. But the wheels were turning inside his head.

Then the Goose held out his hand palm up, and added to his previous statement. “In fact, if you put a gum drop in my palm, I STILL would not eat it.”

Now he had Dan’s attention! Like any curious, red-blooded seven-year-old, Danny couldn’t resist the temptation to put Goose’s statement to the test. Slowly, cautiously, Danny held a gumdrop over the open hand. He dangled it like Edwards’ angry God might dangle a sinner over the pit of hell. For miles the cat-and-mouse game continued until, lulled into a false sense of security, Dan placed the gumdrop in Goose’s hand, and let go.

Almost immediately, the cunning Goose thrust the treasure into his mouth, with immense satisfaction. The car erupted in howls – howls of laughter from third-party passengers (including Aunt Diana) and howls of protest from Dan, the gumdrop kid.

That’s the end of the story. Theo loved it. He asked for more stories about Goose (he calls him “Poppy,” of course). And he couldn’t get enough of them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Incident in Theo's Bedroom

Caption: Natalie, at 21 months.

Allow me to set the stage for an incident that sentimental readers might describe as “adorable,” and one that little Natalie’s proud parents would describe as just another in a long line of similar incidents that often go unrecorded in our family’s humble history. The time is 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, and the freshly bathed children are preparing for bed. On one side of Theo’s bedroom, Margie is reading to Theo from a book about salamanders. On the other side of the room, Casey is playing “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” with Natalie.

Suddenly Natalie makes a suggestion in a language only she and her mother can understand.

“Wahh,” she says.

Casey continues leading her through the various stages of Itsy-Bitsy Spider.

“Wahh,” Natalie repeats, becoming agitated.

Casey is at the part where the rain water begins to vaporize.

“Wahh,” Natalie repeats.

From across the room, Margie interprets for Casey: “She wants you to play Open Shut Them.” She says this as if there isn’t the slightest possibility that “Wahh” could mean anything else.

As soon as Casey begins chanting the phrase “Open shut them,” little Natalie’s face glows in appreciation and pleasure.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Spring Forward

Caption: Theodore Clark, left, and baby Paul Ferrigno enjoy their first outdoor recess since 2006.

Metuchen, N.J. — Because of the 23.4-degree tilt of the earth’s axis, human beings enjoy a regular and refreshing variety of seasons – at least we do in the Raritan Valley, where the Clarks of New Jersey live.

On March 20, the Northern Hemisphere (that’s us) will celebrate the vernal equinox, nature’s way of telling us that spring is here!

Warmth and sunshine arrived a little early last week, and Miss Margie’s Metuchen Day Care took advantage of the spring-like weather with outdoor activities that included, but were not limited to, driveway chalk drawing, worm hunting, bird watching and tricycle riding. Miss Margie believes outdoor recreation is crucial to childhood development, while television impedes the growth of the child’s imagination. For your forward-thinking views, Miss Margie, we salute you!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mighty Borough of Queens

In Elmhurst Queens: Celestine, Jocelyn, Natalie and Margie.

Across Manhattan and over the 59th Street Bridge to Queens Boulevard. That's how we arrived in Queens, the most ethnically diverse borough in all of New York. First, we stopped to say hello to Eli Spaulding, a youth minister at a Queens church that occupies the famous Elks lodge on Queens Boulevard. (Faithful readers might remember Eli from a previous entry: “Giants of the Midwest.”) He showed Theo and me all the interesting architectural details of the historic building, including a room that had some 200 young people standing, swaying and swinging to gospel music. (No thank you, Mr. Usher, we're just observing. Margie and Natalie are in the car waiting.)

A word here about the walk to the Elks building from the car in the parking lot. When Theo and I turned the corner, we were hit in the face with the most powerful arctic blast ever to knock me with a ton of bricks. The hood of Theo's IU jacket instantly ripped off his head, and his hair looked like it was being pulled from his scalp. I was shaken by the force and rattled by the noise. I also felt a momentary rush of pride in Theo – I expected him to wail in pain and fear, but my brave child was merely squinting. Collecting my wits, I picked up my son and held his stomach tight to my face, and advanced through the bitter gust to our sacred destination.

After Eli and the Elks Lodge, we visited the Queens museum and then drove ever so slowly across traffic-choked Roosevelt Avenue for lunch with Jocelyn De Los Santos and her baby Celestine (see picture). Jocelyn was a generous, cheerful and loving host.

Oh, mighty borough of Queens, birthplace of Theo, we love your grit, your social fabric, your urban charms!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bernice's Party Revisited

Three generations meet in Lodi, N.J. -- Casey, Joyce and Bernice

Another word about Sister Bernice’s 90th birthday party in Lodi, N.J.

A few days after the party, I came home from a late night of editing the February edition of Home Channel News magazine. I turned on the dining room light (see posting: Home Improvement) and found a note on the table. Immediately I recognized the clear cursive handwriting of Sister Bernice Marie.

Imagine, the loving swirls of her pen, the gentle crossings of her t’s, and the charming migration of her story from the right side of the card to the left side of the card, and you will then have a better understanding of the remarkable sweetness of the letter, and why it affected me dearly.

I reproduce the note here.

Dear Casey and Margie, Theo and Natalie Rose,

Joy, oh Joy! What a totally joyful, loving Birthday Party was mine this Jan. 21, 2007. To turn 90 is quite a milestone and a good many years to be serving our Lord. I must be doing a good job. Though retirement will be quite an adjustment, I am confident that our Lord will find ways to keep my life fulfilling. I found little Natalie so beautifully dressed, very amusing, a great change in her. She fell in at times with the other children enjoying herself. I was happy that she came close to me – allowing to be touched and not crying. She was adorable. Theo was seen only from a distance – sitting at the table near the sidewall with the other children. That was his spot this time to enjoy whatever he was doing. However, before leaving he did say a few words to me, which gave me great joy. I understand he is quite an artist with all the details involved. I am just wondering what that little mind will produce. May God bless and keep in His loving care and embrace each and every one of you. So gratefully, Cioc, Sister Bernice Marie.

Upon seeing the letter, here was Theo’s comment: “Why are there so many words?”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bernice's Bountiful Birthday Bash

Assorted relatives gathered to celebrate Bernice's birthday. Does anyone above look 90 years old? We don't think so either.

What happened in 1917? The Russian Revolution shook the world. The Danish West Indies was sold to the United States for $25 million and became the U.S. Virgin Islands. And in Portugal, three peasant children spread the word that they saw the Virgin Mary above an Oak tree in the city of Fatima.

And, also of historical significance—particularly for the Clarks of New Jersey – was the birth on Jan. 6 of Bernice Haduch. a.k.a. Sister Bernice Marie. Let us fast forward 90 years.

Bernice celebrated her 90th birthday at the Felician College in Lodi, N.J., this past weekend. The Clarks of New Jersey were there. So, too, were the Clarks of Pennsylvania, the Davidians of New Jersey, the Mizeraks of Bethleham, and assorted others. (See photo.)

Sandwiches, delicious cake, and charming well-behaved children combined to create an atmosphere conducive to pleasure and laughter. Following the party, Sister Bernice spoke with the author.

“I didn’t know so many relatives would come,” said Bernice. “Thanks for coming. Everybody, thank you!”

Bernice, who doesn't look a day older than 55, was asked to explain her youthful appearance.

“Clean living,” she said.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Big Game

Theo (left) and Natalie, at Metuchen High School’s gym.

As soon as we found our seats behind the Edison team, the referee called a technical foul on one of the Edison players, who displayed poor sportsmanship. He went to his bench and was threatened with expulsion by his coach if he said “one more word.” He said several more words, but he did not appear to be expelled.

It was one of many problems for the Edison team, and one of the many exciting highlights of our trip to Metuchen High School on Saturday for an enjoyable afternoon of high school basketball. (By the way: It was the warmest Jan. 6 in recorded history, 72 degrees.)

Metuchen trounced Edison. Doubled their score, in fact. I was very impressed when one of the Metuchen players grabbed a long rebound, took a dribble into the lane and dunked the ball in traffic. The Edison basketball program appears to be a complete mess. In the spirit of generosity, I will drop the subject.

Margie, Theo, Natalie and Casey snuck into the game for the very-low-price of $4 – the ticket taker gave us a break because it was almost half-time when we arrived at the gym. Theo and Natalie seemed to have a good time. They both sat in the bleachers in such a way that the seating area became a desktop for their drawing and coloring activities.


When Mimi and Poppy, the official Clarks of Pennsylvania, visited us on New Years Day, Poppy saw the “West Side Story” CD on the table and made an offhand comment – “Oh, I like West Side Story.”

This CD has never been a favorite of the Clarks of New Jersey – in fact, we hardly ever listen to it – My Fair Lady and Sound of Music get most of the play. But ever since Poppy’s recommendation, Theo has been listening exclusively to the West Side Story soundtrack.

His favorite song varies – it’s either “The Jet Song,” or “Something’s Coming.” This morning (Sunday), he pulled up a chair to the stereo and was mouthing whatever words he could. He was staring at the CD player like children of yore used to stare at the radio for Green Lantern broadcasts. Then he asked: “Dad, what’s a mother loving street?” – (lyrics from the Jet Song.)

And when Natalie hears the ambulance during the rumble song, she points outside to the street.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"A tongue in every wound of Caesar"

Theo (left) and Natalie, masters of clean fun.

For a little guy, Theo is pretty good at remembering song lyrics. He knows verses one and two of the theme song from the Polar Express, and the song ain’t easy. Consider this melodrama: “We were dreamers/ Not so long ago/ One by one, we all have to grow up/ When it seems the magic slipped away/ We find it all again on Christmas Day.” He refuses to recite this poetry to his grandparents and other relatives, but if you catch him at the right time, you can hear a sweet rendition of the song.

Also, and this is tacked on as an afterthought, we were listening to a song in the car on Saturday, and I described it as one of my favorites. When we parked the car, I lingered so we could listen to it. Later that day, Theo is in the basement playing with blocks singing the same song: "Give me the key Lord and free my soul, wanna get lost in rock and roll and drift away..." I was amazed.

But that’s just a lead in to today’s item. The following conversation occurred sometime over the holidays.

Dad: Are you ready to learn Mark Antony’s speech to the Plebians?
Theo: OK.
Dad: Friends, Romans, countrymen.
Theo: Friends, Romans, countrymen.
Dad: Lend me your ear.
Theo: Lend me your ear.
Dad: I’ve come to bury Caesar…
(Here comes the punch line)
Theo: I’ve come to bury Caesar, NOT TO PRAISE HIM (emphasis mine.)

The little noble Roman already knew his line! He just picked it up somewhere. In a few years, perhaps he’ll be able to move the very stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

Let us turn our attention now to the developing verbal skills of Natalie Rose. As an 18-month-old little girl, she can say, “Dada,” “Mama,” “Mimi,” and “up,” But she’s never so cute as when she’s pointing at the fridge and shouting: “Cheese! Cheese!”

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Home Improvement

The rustic Hampton Bay chandelier hangs in the dining room at 56 Voorhees Place.

Remember the Clarks of New Jersey before they were “the Clarks of New Jersey?” They were the Clarks of New York City – 63rd Street between First and York. That’s where Theo, Margie, Casey (and even Inay) enjoyed the great metropolis. Those were the days. We ate meals on a little bistro set from the Bombay Co. I will now take questions from the floor.

Q: How many bedrooms did you have?
A: Bedrooms? We didn’t have bedrooms. We had one small rectangle – 20 feet by 8 feet — in which we conducted all of our lives. Eating, sleeping, working, nurturing a newborn, entertaining relatives.

Q: So, wasn’t that terrible?
A: Terrible? It was glorious! The greatest city in the world surrounded us, comforted us, entertained us. Every day was an opportunity, an adventure, a conquest!

Q: What about your car?
A: Well, that was a difficulty. Although it is true that I became expert at shuttling the car around the boro of Queens and its alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules, I will admit that the car (a 1994 Saturn) posed a serious challenge to convenience and happiness. I don’t miss that part of city life. I love my driveway in Metuchen. It welcomes me always. Now, I believe I have time for one more question.

Q: Where were you on 9-11?
A: Everybody asks me that. I wish I could say I was some kind of a hero, but the truth is very different, and kind of bizarre. Because of a persistent scratchy throat, I had arranged a doctor’s appointment on Sept. 11, 2001. When I left work, I was aware that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. When I stepped into my doctor’s office at 34th Street, a small TV showed both towers in ruins.
I asked him: “Should we go through with this?” My doctor, who was younger than me, answered: “Might as well, You’re here. So, what seems to be the problem?”
“I have a scratchy throat.” And on it went. All that blood and destruction, and here I was complaining of a scratchy throat.
Margie’s story is a little more touching. She was a schoolteacher in Chinatown, which is not far from the financial district. She had an emotional day with her frightened children, and then she marched uptown several miles to our little apartment.
I’ll say this about 9-11, too. The weather was beautiful. Sept. 11, 2001 and June 3, 2000 -- our wedding day – are two dates that I’ll always associate with major events and beautiful weather. As long as I live.

No more questions. We have a dining room now at 56 Voorhees Place. That dining room has a brand new Hampton Bay chandelier. Margie and I installed it ourselves, with a little help from Joyce and Goose, the Clarks of Pennsylvania. Thanks mom, thanks dad. It looks great.