Hard times

It may be that the economy’s on the upswing, but New York City’s homeless people might argue with that analysis. So, too, might the folks I encounter nearly daily in central New Jersey.

As my son and I walked along Canal Street and up Second Avenue in lower Manhattan, a few days ago, we saw more homeless people than I remember seeing in NYC for a while, including a young couple camped out on a sidewalk in late morning, the girl sleeping on a pile of blankets while her companion stayed awake and kept watch.

Next day, early in the morning, at a park along the Raritan River in central New Jersey, I saw what has become a familiar sight: three homeless men, wearing all of their clothing (including winter parkas in 80 degree weather, as they left a small, wooded nature preserve in Highland Park where they apparently spend the night and then headed toward a long-established encampment along the riverside in the shadow of the New Brunswick-Highland Park bridge.

I believe that many of us these days are so distracted by our own lives and other issues — that the problem of poverty, both urban and rural, has faded from our view. There’s a feeling, I think, even among well-meaning and caring people, that food pantries and government programs and volunteerism have got the problem under control. But, just walk around Manhattan these days, just visit rural Virginia as I did last fall, and drive around the old section of my old hometown of Yonkers, New York, and it’s clear that as the rich are getting so much richer, the poor are getting so much poorer.

Here’s Woody singing his “Hobo’s Lullaby” —

Here’s Dylan, singing Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times” —

And here’s John Prine, singing his classic song about being invisible and lonely, “Hello In There” —

Songs of summer

It’s the summer solstice, so of course I’m thinking about the Drifters…and Sly and the Family Stone…Springsteen…and even Tom Waits…

Yep, I’m thinking about songs that make me think about summer.
There are others, of course, including “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran and just about anything by the early Beach Boys.

But I’ve been in Brooklyn a couple of times in the past two weeks, and as I rode the J train over the Williamsburg Bridge and along the elevated tracks I heard this great summertime song, a hit for The Drifters, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and performed here by the great Dusty Springfield:

Last weekend we were at the Jersey Shore, on the Raritan Bay side of Sandy Hook, with the little dog Roxy, a collection of short stories by Stephen King, and a cooler equipped with sandwiches, cherries and white wine.

Here’s what I looked out at when I wasn’t reading, eating, playing with the dog or sipping wine:
sandy hook

And here’s the song I heard, even though there wasn’t a boardwalk in sight:

And then I heard this song, drifting in upon the soft bayside breeze:

And as I looked out on the water, the sunlight dipped and danced on the rippling bay, and I heard a voice ask “What makes the water glimmer like that?” and I replied, “It’s a school of diamondfish.” Then the sun slipped behind a big white cloud, and the diamondfish all dove out of sight, and music drifted across the water from a beach club across the bay, and Tom Waits began to sing this song:

Finally, just because, here’s Sly with his Family Stone:

A horse is a horse (of course)

I just took on an assignment to write a podcast script, geared toward children in fourth-grade, on the topic of “Famous Horses and Dogs.”

When it comes to dogs, I’m thinking about FDR’s famous pooch Fala, Rin Tin Tin, Snoopy, Lassie, the Hound of the Baskervilles and Superman’s dog, Krypto. Wait, I forgot Huckleberry Hound and Deputy Dawg!

Deputy Dawg

Deputy Dawg

Huckleberry Hound

Huckleberry Hound

For horses, so far I’ve thought of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s famous steed Traveler, Fury, Trigger, Black Beauty, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Pegasus and — of course, of course — Mister Ed!

I think Mister Ed had to be just about the most amazing horse ever. Yes, some of these other horses did stuff like winning the Kentucky Derby or galloping into battle, but how many of those other horses could talk? And, yes, I remember that Supergirl owned Comet the Super-Horse. Don’t believe me? Here’s visual proof:

Supergirl rides Comet the Super-Horse as her cousin Superman looks on.

Supergirl rides Comet the Super-Horse as her cousin Superman looks on.

But none of these horses or dogs had Mister Ed’s winning personality. And none of them could sing. Here’s Mister Ed singing “Empty Feed Bag Blues” —

To Be Continued…

Here's a photo -- from the outside looking in -- of To Be Continued Bookstore in Metuchen, N.J., where I'll be reading on Friday, June 28.

Here’s a photo — from the outside looking in — of To Be Continued Bookstore in Metuchen, N.J., where I’ll be reading on Friday, June 28.

I’ll be reading excerpts from my satirical novel “Rip” on Friday, June 28, at To Be Continued Bookstore, 431 Metuchen, N.J., as part of the town’s month-long “Junebug ArtFest.”

coverforamazon

I’ll be appearing with two other authors — I’ll start reading sometime between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Store owners Sergio and Karen have copies of my book for sale — and I’ll happily sign any copies they sell. Admission is free. For more information about the event and/or the bookstore, call 917-686-6056.