NJ Indy March 2023

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PLUS: Celebrating women’s agency, creativity and individuality in dance

How a flag-burning episode galvanized a rural NJ community

Art studio presents new opportunities for artists with disabilities

NJ sisters build a mini media empire around geek culture


You love music, you love Asbury Park and you love making a difference in our community. What better way to show your love than a contribution to the Asbury Park Music Foundation (APMF)

APMF is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization committed to making 2023 brighter for under-resourced students across Asbury Park, Red Bank and beyond. We're also the home of the official MUSIC SAVED ASBURY PARK® merchandise!

The proceeds from the sales of the Music Saved Asbury Park merchandise help fund music education programs, instruments and performance opportunities for under-served youth in the Asbury Park and surrounding towns.

“Music education isn’t just about creating musicians; it helps cultivate problem-solving skills, fosters creativity, and promotes academic excellence," says Tom Donovan, Executive Director. “The Champions who support this program are not just supporting music education but investing in the success of their communities"

M u s i c C a n C h a n g e L i v e s , a n d Y o u C a n T o o
M U S I C S A V E D A S B U R Y P A R K ®
"Let's wake up tomorrow and change a kid's life. There is no better endeavor."
@asburyparkmusicfoundation V i s i t A s b u r y P a r k M u s i c L i v e s . o r g t o s h o p o r d o n a t e
-Tom Donovan, Executive Director


Years since the Talking Heads’ iconic Remain in Light came out. Keyboardist Jerry Harrison and session musician Adrian Belew will revisit the album this March in Jersey. Read more on page 10.


In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) MeenMove is hosting a Day of Dance at Riverview-Fisk Park in Jersey City, featuring five powerful performances by female choreographers. (Cover photo: Katelyn Halpern and Dancers, by Mike Fernandez) Read it on page 13.

Death of the Fox Brewing is not only slinging good beer and coffee in Clarksboro, it’s taking on the state’s dumb brewery rules. See more events on page 30.

Sussex Borough Community Advisory and Economic Development Committee Member on the origins of the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric she’s heard at meetings in Sussex County and beyond. Read more about the LGBTQ movement in rural Sussex County on page 6.

PLUS: Commentary (pg. 4), Music: Shannon Hawley and Rachel Ana Dobken (pg. 10), Events (pg. 18) A unique gallery in JC (pg. 24), NJ artist designs Devils Jerseys (pg. 26), Best bites in the state (pg. 27), Vegan, pop-up pies from Parmagianni Pizza (pg. 28), Poetry (pg. 31)

NJ Indy is a collective of local writers and creators. We live around the state, but the paper is headquartered in Stockton. Publisher is Matt Cortina. If you want to write for NJ Indy, email him at matt@njindy.com. Any typos in this issue were put there as part of a secret code. See if you can figure it out. Errors or corrections, please email the publisher. We occasionally publish satire; if you can’t tell what’s satire, just assume all of it is.

This is the fifth edition of NJ Indy. Future editions will magically show up at select locations throughout NJ on the first weekend of every month. For more, visit njindy.com. All content is ©NJ Indy, LLC 2023, so don’t steal it, but we don’t know who would. This issue is free. If anyone charged you for this, let us know so it doesn’t happen again.

To respond to anything in this issue, or just to get something off your chest, email editor@njindy.com.

Studio Route 29 in Frenchtown provides equipment, space, facilitation and, most importantly, opportunity for artists with disabilities to create. Their first show is open now, and already artists from their studio are selling work and exhibiting elsewhere. (Karyn Tettemer made this painting). Read more on page 15.

Katya and Tatiana Stec, sisters who live in NJ, built All Ages of Geek, a multi-platform media production company, from scratch to cover all things geek—comics, games, movies, music, anime and much more. Read more on page 22.

<<< I’m saying this with all honesty: Whatever Fox News said yesterday, it’s what they’re talking about the next day, in the town meeting... [in] commissioner meetings, council meetings. It’s really bizarre.>>>
Katelyn Halpern and Dancers; Credit: .2 Media

No one needs another outrage to worry about, but here’s one that could literally be your last worry: Our hospitals are killing us.

Not that the staffers are going room to room snuffing out patients, of course, but hospital owners and top executives are nonetheless killing thousands of ill Americans entrusted to their care. They are doing so by deliberately short-staffing their facilities and shortchanging the sick and injured people they’re richly paid to serve.

At the core of this outrage is a fatal structural flaw in our health care system, namely that these are no longer “our” hospitals. Instead of being public or nonprofit entities for the common good, focused squarely on patients, hospitals today tend to be private operations controlled by corporate profiteers. Pitting patients against profits is no way to run a hospital, for it means money will ultimately rule over health (and over life itself). Ask a nurse.

These dedicated professionals are the solid pillars of American health. More than doctors and way more than administrators, nurses make a hospital function, providing the primary care and constant, on-site monitoring that are the essence of an ethical, healthy system. Yet,

thousands have already fled the work they love, another third plan to leave this year—and thousands more are going on strike.

Why? Because the profit system demands massive staff cuts, leaving way too few nurses to meet the basic needs of patients, causing burnout among nurses... and unnecessary deaths of the people they care for. A damning 2021 study revealed that forcing fewer nurses to tend to an ever-larger caseload effectively killed more than 4,000 New York hospital patients in the previous two years alone.

Yet, the corporate powers insist on treating nurses just as a cost to be cut, arguing that hospitals must have “staffing flexibility.” In other words: cut nurses, raise profits.

Sick? Injured? Dying? Call Wall Street!

Your doctor is out and unable to see you now. Not out for lunch or out on vacation—but out of medical practice.

America’s perverse health care system, which sublimates care to the profiteering demands of the Wall Street speculators who essentially own today’s system, has been driving out hordes of nurses, pharmacists... and now doctors. These practitioners take their Hippocratic Oath seriously: “First, do no harm.” Yet again and again they see corporate managers of hos-

pital chains, physician clinics, etc. doing severe harm, routinely slashing staffing levels, eliminating services, rejecting low-income patients... and raising prices. All to prop up the profits of rich, absentee investors.

A prominent physician recently wrote that in 2021 alone, four times more doctors quit the profession than joined. He says his colleagues are demoralized by “the diseased systems for which we work.” The disease is money. The primary measure of “care” is now how much profit the system generates for its uncaring corporate owners, so one’s health is largely dependent on one’s wealth. The morally abominable result is that hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths are occurring each year. Yes, profit-based health care is a killer.

It’s time to be blunt: For-profit health care is the creation of profiteers and the politicians they buy. It’s insane to let their greed dictate the allocation and quality of this essential human need. Luckily, a better way is right in front of us: Medicare. This enormously popular public program of universal coverage for each and every American over 65 has proven to be an effective and fair system that is far cheaper and much, much more caring than Wall Street’s privatized scheme. So, let’s eliminate the profiteers by extending Medicare to all of us—every woman, man and child in our society. To help, go to: ourrevolution.com/issues.

Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes “The Hightower Lowdown,” a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com. ©2023 creators.com.

Why are we letting forprofit health care kill us?

The water in East Palestine, Ohio, is rainbow colored. Obviously, that’s not as fanciful as it sounds (Not. Now. Skittles!). As you’ve surely seen, local waterways, air and soil have been contaminated in the wake of a train derailment and subsequent cleanup plan that involved burning a massive volume of vinyl chloride in the Ohio community, and we don’t know the full ramifications to human or ecological life quite yet.

I mean, if we trust officials (the same ones who were in charge of preventing this from happening), it doesn’t sound so bad. The Ohio EPA says municipal water is safe to drink—though major grocer Giant Eagle announced it’d be pulling bottled water sourced near East Palestine (just to be sure), residents are justifiably skeptical (perhaps because of all the dead fish and chickens) and, yeah, there are sheens of multi-colored contamination in waterways, likely caused by oil from the derailment.

So, that’s very bad. It could’ve been much worse. For instance, if the train was carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG), and it derailed in a densely populated area like, say, Camden or any number of South Jersey communities, an explosion could happen, it could be huge, and the toll on human life could be devastating, not to mention the environmental and climate toll such an event would take.

And yet, even as the news from Ohio is still developing, plans to do just that—to transport LNG in untested rail cars through South Jersey communities—is in the works. Mankind, fucking get it together.

Can we be so blinded by profit that we’d risk loss of life—in communities already unduly burdened by environmental issues? (History says… a-YUP!) How can we continue to elect limpdick politicians who can’t stand up to industry in the face of obvious infringements on our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Now look, I don’t want to make the issue any more complicated than “Let’s not have literal bombs bouncing up and down on old New Jersey railroads”—that’s the synopsis and the argument in one sentence—but here’s a little more context anyway.

New Fortress Energy has put plans in motion to build a natural gas liquefaction plant in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, and ship that shit via rail 200 miles to an export facility, likely in Gibbstown, NJ.

Transporting LNG by rail is dangerous, well, we’re assuming it is, because it’s never been done before in the U.S. … because it’s likely very dangerous. It would likely be carried in outdated tankers that have never been tested to carry such a volatile substance, and if a mere fraction of these trains—which often extend upward of 100 cars—explodes, it’d unleash the power of the Hiroshima bomb. And lest you think derailment is a mere possibility, there are about 1,700 such instances each year, and the frequency of these trains could be up to two times per day.

OK, so we shouldn’t do it right? That’s generally been the stance of the federal government and regulators, but Donald Trump, a noted idiot, suspended the ban on LNG transport by rail in 2020. The Biden administration has said it will reinstate the ban, but (at least as of this publication) it

has delayed doing so. Perhaps—and not to sound too conspiratorial—it’s because the Biden administration has vowed to increase LNG exports to Europe to lessen dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

Which brings us to the export terminal. The Delaware River Basin Commission, made up of the governors of NJ, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and a rep from the Army Corps of Engineers, and which is charged with overseeing industry on the river, recently extended the permit for a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy to build the export port in Gibbstown. Now there’s some judicial back-and-forth and uncertainty about the permits going forward— and some uncertainty about the plant in Wyalusing—but the bottom line is, New Fortress may, at any time, renew its push to carry LNG by rail, and without intervention from state and federal regulators, this plan forged in capitalist hell can continue. Which is where we come in. You can ask Mayor Pete (who’s looking like a real good presidential candidate right now) and his Department of Transportation to deny the special permit and to finalize the rule that permanently bans LNG transport by rail (do so at linktr.ee/nolngbyrail).

And we can ask our great “green” governor Phil Murphy to follow up on his promise to do everything in his power to kill the plant in Gibbstown—which would start by building a time machine and going back in time to deny the permit extension for New Fortress. Because if we’re serious about environmental justice and our green futurePhil, Joe and Pete, then we simply can’t do this.

Credit: NTSB
Don’t you think now’s a good time to ban companies from transporting explosive liquefied natural gas in untested rail cars through South Jersey?

Season 3, Episode 4 of the HBO series

We’re Here opens on a sun-beaten field crammed with pickup trucks. We get a quick montage of scene-setting visual shorthand: black T-shirts with bald eagles, MAGA hats, stickers of the Confederate flag.

Into this scene strut Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara in eye-popping plumes of glitter and confidence. The camera cuts to onlookers. It’s all suspicious squints and zero recognition. We assume that these folks are not regular viewers of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Bob the Drag Queen surveys the scene. “I think I am closer to Manhattan than some parts of Brooklyn, time-wise,” he observes, “but it really feels like I’m in Idaho.”

“This is not the Jersey shore,” Shangela agrees. “This is inland Jersey.”

Sussex County, NJ, to be specific. The episode follows three folks from the NJ Skylands as they take on their first drag performances under the encouraging gaze of their new drag mothers. Filmed in late summer 2022, the episode dropped this past December. It’s had some time to sink in.

Now, the LGBTQ folks of Sussex County have some things to say. The story of queer life in NJ’s northernmost county didn’t begin last summer after a montage of farmland and Trump flags. It started in 2017 with a 16-year-old Parks and Rec fan. It reached a crisis point last year with the repeated desecration of a church’s Pride flag. And now it is bigger, stronger and, against all odds, more joyful than HBO’s cameras captured.

‘In Sussex, it’s very 1949’

Sussex County is rural, overwhelmingly white, and Trump won almost 60% of the vote there in 2020. These characteristics encourage certain assumptions about who belongs here and who doesn’t; who gets to feel seen, represented, safe. As Ashley Craig says, “In Sussex, it’s very 1949.”

Craig is one of the three people who tried drag for the first time in the Sussex County episode of We’re Here. She’s grateful that her own family has always been accepting, but she knows that many people aren’t so lucky.

“We’ve had multiple kids who have come out to their families and stay on our couch, because their family said, ‘Absolutely not. Either you’re straight, or you’re gonna find another place to go,’” she says.

Craig came out as a lesbian at age 19. There are still people in the neighborhood who no longer speak with her family, unable to condone the family’s acceptance. To many people, no one is born queer. Being queer is a deliberate choice, an unnatural one.

“That’s the sentiment I feel is very alive and well in Sussex County,” Craig says. “It’s that, well, you choose to be [queer], or it’s equal to something like pedophilia.”

In an environment like this, putting up a Pride flag isn’t a cheerful decoration for the month of June. Queer visibility feels vulnerable and scary out here in a way that’s alien to denser areas like Morristown or Jersey City, where businesses plaster Safe Space stickers on their doors.

Flash back six years ago, and this was even truer. In 2017, Zoe Heath was a 16-year-old high school student in Vernon, a Sussex County town 10 minutes from the New York state line.

She remembers growing up queer in Sussex County. Obergefell v. Hodges may have made marriage equality a national reality in 2015, but the Supreme Court decision hadn’t changed the everyday experiences of LGBTQ people in rural NJ. There was virtually no queer visibility in Sussex, much less positivity or acceptance.

Luckily, Heath was, and still is, a relentlessly energetic organizer and activist. “I spent my prom money going to a leadership conference in D.C.,” Heath says. “I watched Parks and Rec and I was like, I want to do that. Like, I was not the average teenager.”

Heath founded her high school’s GayStraight Alliance. At 16, she was also the vice president of the local National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter, where the seed for Sussex County Pride began. One of NOW’s six core tenets is LGBTQ rights, which Heath’s chapter hoped to practice with an event honoring LGBTQ Pride. In 2017, no such event existed anywhere nearby, especially for youth—something that Heath knew well as her school’s GSA founder.

“Morris County Pride didn’t exist,” she says. “Montclair Pride didn’t exist. It was either New York City or [youth] would go up to the Catskills… which is not possible in Sussex County when you’re a child.”

So Heath and the NOW chapter president made the plan for the first Sussex County Pride, which wouldn’t be an event so much as a mini-rally, a dream, and a lot of youthful enthusiasm. Heath and the other NOW members figured that even if the “event” was nothing but a few of them standing on the Newton Green holding Pride flags, it would still be enough: a chance to make history in Sussex County.

“Even though we’re always aware of present dangers, we weren’t really thinking about that,” Heath says. “We’re just like, oh my gosh, we get to do this really cool event—like, have gay people in Sussex County, visibly and openly. Let’s show people in Sussex County that queer people do exist here. And that we’re excited to be here.”

A small group gathered in the middle of Newton, the county seat. Then the people came: those who spotted the event on social media or who were simply driving by, saw the first Pride event in Sussex County history and pulled over to join in. But the group that made the biggest impact on Heath were the families, kids and parents who hadn’t known that an accepting community existed there.

The importance of Pride is hard to explain to someone who isn’t queer. Although every LGBTQ person takes a different route to knowing and em-

‘We’re here… and we ain’t going any-fucking-where’
How a flag-burning ignited the Sussex County LGBTQ community
by Chip O’Chang
Nicole Yori-Gibson

bracing their identity, many of us don’t come to it easily. We in the millennial crowd probably first heard our identities used as playground insults, synonyms for freak, monster, not-us, mistakes of nature who did not deserve belonging. Faced with knee-jerk hostility before we understood why, some of us chose repression and the closet, a devil’s bargain trading selfhood for conditional acceptance. Others chose the scarier, lonelier option of pointing to identities that had become synonymous with pariah and saying, “Yeah, that’s me,” and then suffered the social and societal consequences.

So the very concept of Pride offers many of us a personal revolution: the revelation that we don’t have to be ashamed.

For Heath, Pride’s historical roots speak to political revolution, too. As the T-shirt says, the first Pride was a riot. In late June 1969, the LGBTQ patrons of the Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn fought back against the police raids that were a regular occurrence at the time. Activists organized the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day a year later in commemoration, which evolved into the Pride March that has since spanned the globe.

This history can’t be forgotten during Pride month, Heath insists. What’s more, the revolution that started with a brick (or shotglass, or beer glass— sources disagree) thrown by a Black drag queen (or transwoman, or butch lesbian—see again about sources) isn’t finished.

“If I had it my way, Sussex County Pride would be a very political organization,” Heath says. “I am a very political person. I consider Pride to be very political. I have been accused of politicizing Pride… Pride will be political until people stop trying to make legislation about it. Until there are no more anti-trans laws, Pride will be political. Until every single trans child, every single queer child, is free of worrying about things like conversion therapy, Pride will be political. As long as there are queer suicides, Pride will be political. As long as there are hate crimes, Pride will be political. LGBTQ+ people don’t actually have protections under the federal government. The Equality Act is still dying in the House and Senate— as much as we want to rabble rouse about the Equal Marriage Act that actually doesn’t make gay marriage legal forever, Pride will be political. Until I don’t have to come out, Pride will be political.”

Pride on the Newton Green has grown every year since it started in 2017; the only exception was 2020… not solely due to COVID, but also because they also donated their demonstration permit to a Black Lives Matter rally.

Sussex County Pride left the auspices of NOW, got its own social media and launched political calls to action. The first Pride flag in Sussex County was raised in Vernon, Heath’s hometown, followed by Newton and Sparta.

Then, in 2021, SCP’s visibility exploded thanks to the nocturnal witchy NJ event Lunar Faire. Held on new and full moons during the warmer months, Lunar Faire draws an eclectic crowd of woo-woo practitioners, crystal collectors and glitter enthusiasts to outdoor venues around NJ including the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta.

The organizers of Lunar Faire wanted drag queens at their events; Heath, who knew them all, wanted a table at Lunar Faire’s Sussex County events.

It was a good trade. Sussex County Pride went from hosting one event a year to participating in four events in two months. Their social media presence, budget and network of performers and vendors rocketed upward. And, Lunar Faire itself donated over $4,000 to EDGE (End Discrimination Gain Equality), an AIDS service organization in Morris County. For a few months in late 2021, it felt as if queer people might find an accepting home in Sussex County, a place to feel safe.

led to a split in the United Methodists; Sparta UMC is a Reconciling congregation, a Methodist branch that believes in the full inclusion of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the church. For the better part of a decade, Sparta UMC has been highly public about its defiance of the Book of Discipline and its support for LGBTQ rights.

So, when Kubin and Harris discovered the Pride flag burnt and trampled outside the church on Jan. 2, 2022, the shock hit hard.

This wasn’t the first time that the UMC’s Pride flag had been damaged in some way. In years past it had been stolen a handful of times, and once it was torn down and thrown by the dumpsters. But the brazenness of leaving the flag’s melted remnants in the open and the hateful connotations of flag-burning conveyed a new intensity to the violence. This did not feel like a random act of teen boredom; it felt like an attack.

‘It’s the one group you’re still allowed to hate’

Two illustrative stats from the year 2022 for LGBTQ people in the U.S.:

• Tweets that mentioned “grooming” on March 29, 2022, the day after the instatement of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill: 7,959 (per Alejandra Caraballo of Harvard Law’s Cyber Law Clinic)

• Tweets that mentioned “groomer” in the seven days following the Club Q shooting in November 2022: 112,140 (Montclair State University)

Next to the Mohawk House in Sparta, off bustling-for-Sussex-County Sparta Ave., you’ll spot a defiant flare of color: the Pride flag waving outside Sparta United Methodist Church. The flag caught the attention of Jill Kubin and Sue Harris when they moved to Sparta from Morristown four years ago.

“We would drive past this church and be like, ‘Oh my god, they have a flag,’” Kubin says. “So when we started thinking about joining the church, this was the only choice.”

The Sparta UMC congregation voted to hang the flag about seven years ago. Their outspoken support for LGBTQ rights goes back even further to 1972, the year that the United Methodists’ annual conference added language to the Book of Discipline that they found objectionable. The statement reads: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“We’ve been trying to get it out for all those 50 years,” says Pat Schutz, a longtime volunteer with the church. “Every year, it comes up. Every year, there’s a lot of people who are so upset that we can’t get it out of there.”

The statement in the Book of Discipline has

The Sparta Police Department and the FBI investigated the flag-burning incident as a hate crime. At first the incident, horrible as it was, might seem too small to attract the attention of the country’s top law enforcement agency. But the burning of Sparta UMC’s flag took place in a national environment of escalating risk for the LGBTQ community, which included an increase in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, anti-LGBTQ demonstrations, and involvement of far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys in those demonstrations.

Sparta UMC replaced the Pride flag. It was burned again three months later.

Damaris Lira remembers witnessing the slow, creeping influx of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. She’s had a front row seat as a member of Sussex Borough’s Community and Cultural Events Advisory Committee and Economic Development Committee, as well as a Sussex County Pride volunteer.

“My involvement with the LGBTQ [community] is understanding how closely the struggles—women’s struggles, POC struggles, indigenous struggles—it’s a joint struggle against the system, against patriarchy,” Lira says. “Everybody needs to be an ally for each other and be there for each other if we’re actually going to get anything done.”

She first noticed a general level of heightened rhetoric in the run up to the 2020 election. The word choices from conservatives were oddly similar. Eventually, she realized that the comments came from one source. “I’m saying this with all honesty,” Lira says. “Whatever Fox News said yesterday, it’s what they’re talking about the next day, in the town meeting… [In] commissioner meetings, council meetings. It’s really bizarre.”

It’s no accident that Lira heard the same soundbites parroted from Fox News specifically. According to Pew Research, Fox News is the main news outlet for 93% of Republicans. Whatever Fox News pumps out, you’ll find floating in the collective conservative consciousness downstream.

And what it pumps out has become more extremist and polarizing over time. One of Fox’s favorite flavors of bullshit targets the LGBTQ community with a trope from the 1960s: They’re coming for your children. Media Matters analyzed Fox News segments in the first half of 2022 for anti-LGBTQ language and found that Fox produced anti-LGBTQ segments 106 out of 181 days.

Zoe Heath

And though NJ ranks highly for LGBTQ quality of life, the broader assault on the community is still felt here. Zoe Heath is no stranger to online threats and sometimes bizarre harassment from farright strangers. She’s been doxxed, threatened, even called a cult leader of Baal.

But the escalation of credible threats against her and Sussex County Pride reached new heights in 2022. “Our online threats increased tenfold,” she says. The police investigated an online threat that called for people to show up with their guns to the Newton Green. After the Pride event ended, someone stood on the Green praying a rosary for all of their souls. That was once a staple of LGBTQ harassment back in the ’90s heyday of the Westboro Baptist Church and its “God Hates F*gs” signs, but SCP’s events had never received that kind of bigotry in religious drag.

Heath sees a direct cause and effect between anti-LGBTQ rhetoric nationally and the threats in Sussex County. “For years, the Republican Party was talking about Black Lives Matter and riots as—ah, vote, they’re gonna burn down your Target,” she says. “And then that didn’t work. So now they’re using queer people as their scapegoat.”

She mentions a small weekly gathering in Sparta that many of my interviewees brought up: a collection of generally older men in lawn chairs carrying protest signs. During the pandemic, it was anti-mask and anti-vaccines. Now, like a mood ring reflecting Fox’s fixation of the moment, their signs have changed to protest the acknowledgment of LGBTQ existence in NJ’s new sex education standards—or, in their words, the signs are now anti-“groomer.”

Those people don’t bother Heath. Instead, “it’s these people who have come out of the woodwork in the past six to nine months, calling us groomers and pedophiles and talking about wanting to protest our drag shows, who want to bring their guns to the Newton Green,” she says. “That’s what really worries me. Because I’ve been doing this for a while. This isn’t new. But the constant anti-queer rhetoric that has been repeated on a national scale is new.”

Damaris Lira can even pinpoint a two-week period in the summer of 2022 when the tone shifted. She hosted a drag show on Main Street in Sussex Borough as part of her campaign for county commissioner. Would a drag show in such a public, exposed place go over well?

Good news this time: it did. People had fun, businesses on Main Street made money, nobody threw a fit.

“They welcomed us with open arms, you know?” Lira says. Then, Tucker must have said some real zingers. “Two weeks later, everyone was up in arms about our next show, which was just a regular show.” No drag queens were coming, but people called asking where they should protest them anyway. Anti-drag queen fever had hit.

Lira sees the same evolution in the right’s cultural targets as Heath. “You’re not allowed to be racist anymore, right?” she says. But if you are

someone who kind of liked the year 1949, and all the changes since then have felt like societal betrayals, you still need a nefarious agent to blame. Then you can “you know, dip your toe in a little bit of homophobia and then see if it’s OK.

“And unfortunately, that’s what’s happening right now… it’s the one group you’re still allowed to hate.”

‘I felt seen for the first time’

Some numbers from the Trevor Project:

• LGBTQ youth are 3.5 times more likely to attempt suicide vs. straight youth

• Trans teens are 5.87 times more likely to attempt suicide vs. the average of all teens

• Having at least one accepting adult lowers an LGBTQ youth’s risk of suicide by 40%

Simone Kraus is a resilient Sussex County transwoman who transitioned late in life. When she came out, she lost lifelong friendships and the dojo where she’d practiced for 33 years. Now in her 60s,

show’s producers agreed.

Ashley Craig hadn’t expected to add “drag queen” to her resume, but she had been selected for the Sussex County episode. Her memories of the filming bubble with love and positivity, especially the moment she was paired with Bob the Drag Queen. “That connection was instant,” she says. “And it was so magical. Because I just felt like they understood in that moment… It wasn’t just-for-TV magic. I felt seen for probably the first time in my life.”

One particular moment of connection stands out: the night that Craig and Bob drove to the city so Craig could see her first lesbian bar. Bob asked about Craig’s gender journey and Craig mentioned that she was looking into hormone replacement therapy and getting top surgery, a gender-affirming surgery that creates a flatter, more masculine chest.

Bob told the camera crew to stop filming. Craig remembers him saying: “I want this to be about you. And I want you to feel the love and acceptance on your journey without the pressure of these cameras.”

Craig decided to let the cameras roll anyway. She knew the importance of acceptance in the journey toward becoming yourself. Her friendship with Simone Kraus, whom Craig calls her “trans Oracle” only half-jokingly, was instrumental in helping her realize what she needed to embody her authentic self. “But what about the people who are gonna watch this show?” Craig says. “Who might realize, that’s me?”

with the hardest parts of her transition behind her, she sees her role as a guardian for the next generation.

“When I was hiding these demons, you know, being transgender and keeping this great secret, they were just my demons that I had to deal with,” Kraus says. “These young trans kids today have governments, laws, state governments going after them. How terrifying is that?”

She’s a fierce advocate for LGBTQ rights, especially for trans youth. So when she got word HBO was looking to scout locations for Season 3 of We’re Here, she agreed to help them find suitable locations and potential cast members.

The show tends to highlight rural places like Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, or cities in the Deep South like Selma, Alabama—places badly in need of what one show representative called “the transformative power of drag.” In January 2022, news of the flag-burning at Sparta UMC was painfully fresh. Kraus sent articles about the incident to an HBO representative as evidence of the climate here, along with suggestions for local LGBTQ people with powerful stories. She argued that Sussex County was the perfect place for HBO to film. After a scouting visit, the

The night at the lesbian bar turns into a major success—she quickly finds a supportive group of people, and her joy is visible. She looks a bit less enthusiastic, however, the day of the performance itself. Putting on the makeup, wig and seven-piece hand-beaded dress took seven hours, and Craig was electric with stagefright. Once she stepped out onto the stage with Bob to perform, though, the terror fell away. “Hands down, that two minutes of time was still probably one of the most impactful and powerful moments of my life,” she says.

After the song ends and she and Bob bask in the applause, Craig takes the mic. “To the deepest corners and closets in this country,” she says, “I hope you know that if you don’t have a support system at all, we’re your family now.” And the crowd erupts.

‘Sometimes, we have to create one for ourselves’

Months passed. HBO worked their post-production magic and aired the Sussex County episode of We’re Here on Dec. 16, 2022.

Afterward, Craig heard variations of the same feedback. Summarized, it goes: “We’ve always wanted a community, and thanks for trying to start that here.”

She was a bit abashed at first. Heartfelt as her onstage comments were, she hadn’t exactly intended to start a movement. But then, she saw the platform that the show had given her, and the lack of community that had defined her own queer experience. “I have known the struggle of not having that community and wanting it so badly,” she says. “And something that Bob said on the show was, ‘I’m

Sussex County Pride 2020. Credit: Nicole Yori-Gibson

trying to show her that, as much as we want to find that community, sometimes we have to create one for ourselves.’”

So she did, in the form of a 501(c)(3) organization called Homeward, which Craig calls “a safe place for anyone who’s ever felt different.” With both in-person and online meetings, resource shares, business spotlights and personal stories, Homeward is meant to be a place for people in Sussex County of any identity to find connection and support. In its January viewing party at Muckraker Beer in Franklin, Homeward raised over $1,200 for EDGE NJ.

Meanwhile, the volunteers of Sparta UMC had their own community-building plans. After news of the flag-burning went viral, the church received piles of replacement Pride flags. One person sent a check accompanied by a simple note: “Buy more fucking flags.” Behind the scenes, the UMC worked to create their own chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the country’s largest advocacy, education and support organization for LGBTQ people and their families and allies.

Ten months later, PFLAG Sussex County became one of the organization’s 400 official chapters and held their first meeting, which hosted a spectrum of queer identities, allies, local government, law enforcement and clergy. Though PFLAG meetings are confidential, they could tell me, “it was clear that these opportunities to speak openly with one another were very much appreciated and must continue.”

“I do sometimes wonder if the person or people who set the flags on fire realize what has become of the situation,” Jill Kubin of Sparta UMC and now PFLAG Sussex County says. “As a result or somewhat of a result of their actions, it has truly motivated us to take the cause up, and to make things better for people who are affected by actions like that. So, I kind of hope that whoever set these flags on fire hears about what that led to. It led to We’re Here being here. It led people to donate money and flags to our church, and lots of support came with that, too. It led to PFLAG Sussex County.”

‘We have to be the fight’

The LGBTQ people of Sussex County have made this choice over the years: connection over isolation, action over resignation, empathy over hostility—even with those who would erase their existence.

But why for, anyway? What is the danger of queerness to Tucker Carlson’s legions?

“It’s just fear,” says Damaris Lira. “Not in my backyard.”

“It’s change,” says Ashley Craig. “And in a place like this, they don’t want change.”

Chris Budin is a military veteran, a transman, a board member of the statewide LGBTQ advocacy group Garden State Equality, and a resident of Hopatcong since 2020. He didn’t grow up in Sussex, but in a place much like it—rural Rockland County, New York, where he internalized the regular stream of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that surrounded him.

“I know how toxic that mindset can be,” Budin says. “When you’re not considering someone as a human, you’re only labeling them as a thing that’s already been presented with such misinformation that there’s no [humanity] behind it.”

The question itself is degrading, but LGBTQ

people have been cast in the role of monster so often, they’re forced to answer it: how do you convince someone that you’re human?

Because to everyone else, we aren’t. We’re symbols. To the far right, we are incarnations of unacceptable change. We’re wild liberal ideas violating nature and defying God. To liberals, we are proof positive of open-mindedness. If an institution is hanging a trans pride flag, it’s a loud emblem of progressive acceptance. Our population is too small to have any political power of our own, and so we become field goals in the wider attempt to make a culture war out of drive-home grumblings.

Some put their hopes in increased visibility. To know us is to love us, at least hate us less. “Every single time a straight person meets a gay person, their idea of the drag queen coming to make their children trans on TV fades away a little bit,” says Zoe Heath.

Me, I’m not so sure.

At my day job, my older coworkers have adopted a certain phrase for specific situations. By now, I can almost time it. They use it when they need to remind themselves of someone’s pronouns or when they get the thousandth reminder that non-binary is a thing. They say, with a little smile, a head shake, a sigh: “It’s a different world.”

Is it?

In the world of my childhood, a Central Jersey Catholic school in the ’90s, people like me did not exist. I didn’t have the phrases “LGBTQ community,” “transman,” “assigned female at birth.” Hell, I didn’t have dial-up internet until freshman year. I knew what my experience taught me: that I was freakish, out of place, a “he-she,” a “f*ggot,” the thing that an entire class could joke about like-liking. The shameful secret that the first girl I fell in love with hid from her parents. Now, we’re post-Schitt’s Creek. Marriage equality is the law of the land, X is an option on U.S. passports, and Esquire ran a cover story starring Elliot Page’s serious abs.

What has all of that visibility gotten us? 315 anti-trans bills in 2022. More hate, and hate turned into action: governors banning gender-affirming care, advisories from the feds that domestic terrorists are increasingly targeting LGBTQ people.

NJ’s laws protect queer and trans people against discrimination, but our protections aren’t impenetrable. We don’t live behind blue walls in NJ. We live on an iceberg that, like any other iceberg in the Anthropocene Age, might break off at any second and melt away— consider reproductive rights as an example.

Budin, like me, has trouble finding confidence in our alleged different world. “I’m not sure about anything,” he says. “I’m not sure because I see how quickly things change.”

But before you start looking for his just-incase bunker: “I’m also really hopeful because of the folks that I’ve met,” he says. “And the folks that I’m going to meet and the folks that we’re going to do really powerful work together [with].”

It made me smile and think of something that Zoe Heath said: “Queer joy is also a form of resistance.”

In these times, out here. Joy.

That’s the real aim of the drag queens credited with destroying the fabric of American society and other supernaturally powerful acts. Or, in the words of the drag queen Cookie Doh aka Michael Vogt, who hosts regular drag performances at the Stanhope House, she aims for “Cloud Nine, where you’re just giddy and happy… It boosts everybody up. You leave there feeling good about yourself. You leave there feeling almost like, I can take on the world.”

Everybody knows that drag is powerful. It has the capacity to drive old red-hatted men into fits of wild hysteria and bar crowds into euphoric cheers.

“It’s like your superhero costume,” Cookie Doh says, “your second identity, but it gives you the power… It gives you the confidence to really step up. Then when you start to train your confidence, and giving it to other people through your performance or hosting, it gives them the confidence, too.”

It’s something I got to see twice as of this writing. The January drag show at the Stanhope House was well-attended, I thought at the time. Heath had her table for Sussex County Pride, and Cookie Doh ran the show with verve and style. We witnessed a surprisingly thrilling thumb-wrestling contest.

Then I squeezed into the February show. Allegedly, the bar owner said that January’s crowd was 25% of this one. The hall monitor inside me wondered about fire code.

It’s electric in the air, in the tips that pile at the drag queens’ heels like lawn clippings. Joy. That’s what lives here, scratched from the earth like everything else in farm country, NJ. Fought-for and war-scarred, and better than hope because it’s already here, and it will grow.

Because here’s one last stat about Sussex County: in the last 10 years, it was the fastest-growing county in NJ. Change is coming no matter how many times we’re scapegoated. A new generation is coming full of queer kids who have not been taught to hate themselves, who will grow into powerful queer adults. We may not live to see the world they create. But we will be part of it, because we are here, now, clearing the way.

Or, in Cookie’s words: “We are not in a situation in our communities here where there’s gay bars, and we can just walk in and be OK. We have to be the fight. We are go-getters. We are leaders, we are people who are not scared to step up. … At the end of the day, we are Sussex County, and we’re not going anywhere.

“That’s who I think we are here in Sussex County. We are the change.”

Simone Kraus, Mimi Sashimi, Kay Gorgeous, Ashley Craig, Ditto


“I was the guy standing with the first guitar synthesizer and the audacity to say, ‘What if I play this with a knife and fork? What if I play this with a banana?’ That has always excited me,” says musician Adrian Belew.

It’s that propensity to make his instrument sound… not like that instrument that attracted plenty of collaborators over the years. In addition to his solo work and his long stint with King Crimson, Belew has worked with Frank Zappa, David Bowie and the Talking Heads.

It’s his work with that last iconic band that’ll bring Belew to Jersey on March 5. He, Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison and an 11-piece band will celebrate the band’s iconic Remain in Light album at the Starland Ballroom.

“I have just loved every minute of it,” Belew says of getting (parts of) the band back together. “When I first spoke with Jerry about it, we said the world needs something like we did back then. It’s a joyful, happy experience. People can get away from whatever’s been happening with their lives. … None of us adapt the role or try to take over the role of David Byrne. It’s really one big party.”

Belew got involved in the album when he was in New York City trying to gin up interest in his solo work; Byrne, Harrison and producer Brian Eno “kind of cornered me in the stairwell,” he says, and said they’re recording an album, could Belew play on it?

He waffled for a sec, but then ultimately decided to join in on what would become the Remain in Light sessions, which produced some of the band’s most well-known songs like “Once

in a Lifetime,” “Crosseyed and Painless,” and “Houses in Motion.”

Belew’s tendency to push the boundaries of song meshed well with Eno and the Talking Heads—in the early stages, their songs were feelings, rhythms, without guardrails that made it obvious where, say, melodies and solos should go. Belew let his instincts take over when he was called upon.

“I was going through sounds, and in the control room I could see them besides themselves, so I knew it was going to be a very good day,” Belew says. “They said go in, put headphones on and hang out until you think a guitar solo should happen.”

(You can hear his big, galactic-overdrive, eclectic bandsaw guitar cut into the rhythm about two minutes into “The Great Curve” for evidence.) Belew said the enthusiasm from the band and Eno came from the fact they were nearing their wit’s end trying to build songs out of the foundations they had set, and Belew’s energy was invigorating.

“When you make something that’s so unusual and different… [for instance], they layer one thing at a time. You lay one guitar lick and it goes all the way through the track and then they

combine different tracks. That idea was such a fresh, new idea. I could understand why they were flummoxed by it. I think David said with the songs being in one key, he wasn’t sure what to do singing-wise.”

You can go down a fun rabbit-hole watching old talks Belew has given on the nature of his musicianship; how he makes the sounds he does and how he approaches the task of fitting those sounds into music—that is, to harmoniously integrate unique sounds in a musical way, not just for the sake of being an oddball.

“I’ve always been invested in sounds, not notes so much. Never really cared for that. I’m a songwriter so I’m involved in melody, but as a guitar player, I thought why can’t I make the guitar do something totally different? Can I make it sound like something I’ve never heard before? That’s what I’ve done most of my life.”

As such, Belew has grown as a musician in the last four decades. So the show at Starland is not going to be a one-for-one reproduction of the album. It’ll be based on the band’s 1980 Live in Rome concert (which you can watch on YouTube), but Belew and the other musicians will play in the spirit of the album more than they’ll create a carbon copy of it.

And, more than anything, Belew promises it’s just going to be a blast.

“This is music to make you joyful. Just enjoy it and do whatever you want; it’s not gonna happen forever. We can only do so many shows and that’s it. Not saying we won’t do more, but we’re only able to cover so much territory. Folks, if I could I’d be everywhere at once, I would, because I’m loving it, too. I always joke I wish I had a clone, but then I’d have to look at it.”

Adrian Belew on recording ‘Remain in Light’ with the Talking Heads and revisiting it in Jersey this March NJ singer-songwriter Shannon Hawley: ‘Grief is a form of praise’

When NJ singer-songwriter Shannon Hawley prepared to record songs for her forthcoming album Starthrowers, she took to four wheels. Not a car, roller skates. The old school ones.

“Because I’m so intense in talking about grief and death, the way I would prepare to go into the studio is I would roller skate and sing songs really loud,” Hawley says. “And it felt so liberating, kind of associating my heart being open and joyful.”

That prep work paid dividends. For

instance, In the latest single from the album, “Mercy,” you’ll hear the story of the grief that comes when someone dies young—the first verse takes the perspective of Hawley’s paternal grandmother, who died of heart failure at 24 in Belmar Beach, and the second verse’s narrator is Hawley’s father, who died at 42 from a brain tumor. And yet, whatever prep work Hawley put into the recording session, whatever work she did to process her grief, transforms the tone from something that could’ve been sad, dour, tragic, etc. into something powerful and resilient.

“This isn’t like a journal entry. This is years and years of processing grief and knowing

that grief is a form of praise. To have lived at all, to have loved deeply at all is such a gift, is the point of life,” Hawley says. “That capacity to love that deeply is also related to the capacity to grieve.”

The name of the album, Starthrowers, alludes to Loren Eiseley’s essay “The Star Thrower,” in which the narrator walks along a beach and sees a man picking up starfish from the shore and tossing them back into the water, saving their lives, though there are many to save and many more dying on the shore or at the hands of others. The narrator is at first skeptical and then decides to join, to renew life for those

Jerry Harrison & Adrian Belew, ‘Remain in Light’. March 5 at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville; March 7 at Keswick Theatre in Philly; March 9 at Sony Hall in New York. More info at remaininlight.net.

starfish no matter how odd it looks, and opines more will come.

Hawley wanted to pay homage to the star throwers in her life, and to vow to be one for others, with the naming of the album “The title track ‘Star Throwers,’ it’s mine and my sister’s grief right after my dad died. My family swooped in and kept us alive, tossed us back into the land of the living to get us through. That was an indoctrination of being a star thrower. My life of service is to be a star thrower and to find others because it matters.”

Process, it’s clear, also matters to Hawley. She’d sing Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” in order to calibrate the energy she needed to sing the songs on her album. Hawley’s also a sound therapist and breathwork facilitator, which means she’s aware of the therapy, for lack of a better word, that comes with bringing awareness to breath and sound—a lesson she first learned living in LA.

“I’m a pretty sensitive person, especially with sound. I think that’s true of most musicians, and I was having a hard time with the noise,” Hawley says. “So I started going to these sound bath meditations and they helped relax my nervous system enough so I could cope. It felt like a great way to not get burnt out and offer something that really helped me, that really aimed my nervous system enough so I could get back to music. Breathwork I got into because I’m sensitive to sound but that’s too woo-woo for people, so I got into breathwork. Everyone can do it. Everyone has access to it.”

Starthrowers represents a change in sound for Hawley, whose debut album A Different Kind of Progress, came out eight years ago and features a unique, intimate sound that alternates between the sometimes caustic, sometimes playful Fiona Apple and the easy-going, feel-good folk of Mason Jennings. You’ll hear a much more powerful, electric sound on Starthrowers, thanks in part to producer Hector Gundlach, who has more EDM/House sensibilities and whose influence is felt in the vibrating synths on the album. It’s a fun mashup—folk scaffolding, pop ornamentation.

“The bones have to be good, then you get to play. It really felt like playing in the studio, and I wanted to be more playful. The [songs] aren’t heavy, but they’re very, very personal and very much like a healing journey and about grief and praise, so it felt really fun.”

Shannon Hawley’s Starthrowers will be released March 24, and she’ll play Count Basie Center for the Arts on April 1.

Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park

10: The Dream of When [?], Baron Praxis, Tide Bends, Matthew Pelli.

17: Keller Williams.

Bond Street Basement, Asbury Park

9: Liberty and Justice, Tear Gas, The Way Of, Cutdown.

House of Independents, Asbury Park

7: Bilmuri.

17: Magnolia Park, Arrows In Action, Poptropicaslutz, First And Forever.

24: Phoneboy.

Stone Pony, Asbury Park

10: Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, Bearings.

18: Hawthorne Heights, Armor for Sleep, Spitalfield.

22: Grayscale, Taylor Acorn, Worry Club.

Trinity Church, Asbury Park

25: Tony and the Kiki, Geena and Dragster, Padraics Joy, Traipser.

Anchor Rock Club, Atlantic City

4: Sleep House, Wallace, Tonight!, Robert’s Basement, Bare Bodkin.

18: COLD, Divide The Fall, Awake For Days, Sygnal To Noise.

19: Cro-Mags, No/Más, Jumpship, Gutter Drunk.

30: Victim of Suffering, Reaching Out, Conduit, Refinement, Shot Out.

31: Gunsmoke Sinners, Cthulhu Martini, Roy Wilson and the Buzzards.

Lot 13, Bayonne

11: Gates to Hell, Bleed, Damnations Domain, Gored Embrace, Weeping, Greater Pain.

Salty’s Beach Bar, Belmar

4: OC Rippers, Dusters, Kirkby Kiss, Fright, Operants.

Dingbatz, Clifton

9: Hatriot, Mindrazer, Deth Kaktus, Scarlet King, Scar The Skin.

11: MadWorld,Incognito Theory, Love’s Over-Rated, The Gypsy Souls, Our Marvelous Lives.

17: Saint Diablo, Seasons, Thanatotic Desire, Trenzer, Spoon Of Ukobach.

24: Kingsmen, Rise Among Rivals.

30: Weapons Of Anew, Honor Among Thieves, WHO on EARTH.

Factory Records, Dover

3/4: IZZ.

3/25: Reese Van Riper.

Flemington DIY, Flemington

14: the Gate (NYC/Philly), Justin

A Mank, ASPS, Advanced Corpse Materials, Cancer Cult, Ankylosaurus.

18: Miss Bones.

Freehold American Legion, Freehold

7: Reaching Out, Domain, A Knife in the Dark, Eyez Wide Shut, Negative Force, Curate.

Crossroads, Garwood

3: Brian Fallon.

5: Underdog, The Ice Cold Killers, Damage Done, Rest Assured?, Orlando Furioso, Police Navidad.

10: Richard Lloyd Group, Eric Harrison, Crash Chorus.

17: Tigers Jaw.

Pet Shop, Jersey City

9: Little Hag, Glenn Morrow’s Cry for Help, The Royal Arctic Institute.

White Eagle Hall, Jersey City

9: Copeland, girlhouse.

10: Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon & Punkadelick ft. Brian Haas & Nikki Glaspie.

12: Bayside, I Am the Avalanche, Koyo.

17: Railroad Earth.

26: Pop Evil, The Word Alive, Avoid. 29,31: Onlyoneof.

Jimmy’s Lounge, Kearny

9: Final Resting Pose, CPS.CPS.

CPS, Tweak Tweak, Daddy’s Closet.

18: Slapjaw, Putrascension, Enginehead, World Eater, Tear Gas.

Madison Community Arts Center

18: Forbidden Tropics, Nate Bo & Groove Syndicate, The Do Rights, Jackie June.

The Wellmont Theater, Montclair

11: Jerry Cantrell, Thunderpussy.

18: Regina Spektor.

22: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

24: Third Eye Blind.

25: Next, Amerie, AZ, Illtown Sluggaz.

Mayo PAC, Morristown

19: NJ Symphony Stars.

30: Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

31: Leslie Odom, Jr..

QXT’s, Newark

5: Wastelands, Threat 2 Society, Come Mierda, Gloves Off, Rabbit.

11: Street Fever, Ani Christ.

17: The Meteors.

NJPAC, Newark

4: Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet.

4: Smokey Robinson.

16: NJ Symphony Stars.

19: Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos.

23: Tedeschi Trucks Band.

25: NJ Symphony: Neeme Jarvi conducts Tchaikovsky.

27: Jill Scott.

30-31: NJ Symphony: Fauré’s Requiem.

Cinco De Mayo, New Brunswick

26: Never Again, Cutdown, Off The Tracks, Dead Last.

State Theater, New Brunswick

25: Patti Lupone.

21: Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra.

Princeton Folk Music Society

17: Rakish.

Starland Ballroom, Sayreville

5: Jerry Harrison, Adrian Belew.

11: Life of Agony, Sick of it All, Coventry Carols, Omnism.

15: Epik High.

25: JXDN, Beauty School Dropout.

South Orange PAC, South Orange

5: Naturally 7.

18: Haley Reinhart.

25: Jimmie Herrod.

Debonair Music Hall, Teaneck

10: The Tossers, Old Currents, The Skels, Joe Billy Collective.

23: Slapshot, Sheer Terror, School Drugs, Dusters, Curate.

24: Angry Corpses, Revel at Dusk, Paralysis, Fear Gods, W70.

Millhill Basement, Trenton

10: Rubbish, Freezeheads, Dab Nebula, Bronco II.

17: Sour Station, Animal Instincts, Disaster Artist Band.

18: Wallcarpets, Downdresser, Squelch.

Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton

4: Dead Grass.

11: Peter Karp Band.

24: Chris O’Leary.

31: Billy Walton Band.

Credit: Bailey Anne Card

Rachel Ana Dobken learned from a young age that she should listen, quite literally, to her gut; her father was a doctor and an infectious disease specialist after all.

But she also learned to trust her gut, generally speaking, especially when it came to music. The multi-instrumentalist indie soul artist began to show symptoms of a love for music when she found old tapes of the Ed Sullivan Show.

“My mom was much more into rock and roll, and when I was very, very young, she gave me a ‘Best of Ed Sullivan’ tape,” recalls Dobken. “Which was The Beatles, Beach Boys, the Four Seasons, and the Rolling Stones. And I remember seeing these amazing musicians performing live, and having no doubt in my mind that’s what I’m gonna do with my life.”

Dobken followed through on it. She has her own solo music career, was a big part in making Transparent Clinch what it is now, plays drums in Low Cut Connie, and is preparing to release a new record and getting ready to play showcases at SXSW in Austin. The road for the Shore-area native wasn’t always easy, as she had to overcome anxiety and stage fright to get to where she is today.

“I had to put down music for a while because of it,” sats Dobken, “but I would always listen to my Walkman or CD player and have those visualizations in my head.”

Dobken is also a very spiritual person, and is a believer that sometimes there are just signs in life. One of those signs was a visit to a psychic when she was around 20 years old and which, she says, confirmed her path in life.

“I had a psychic tell me when I was about 20 years old when I was starting to sing in my classes ... ‘You need to keep doing this,’” remembers Dobken. “‘This is gonna take you far and will be part of your journey.’”

Even though the anxiety about music has subsided for Dobken, she still uses it as an outlet for her mental health, and views sharing and performing music as therapeutic.

“I think that music is my way of coping with external reality,” explains Dobken. “And I would say a lot of artists feel the same way. Music comes to me when I feel like I have something to say or something to get out. And a lot of times when I’m going through hard times in life, that is when things come out because I’m very cerebral. I

have a lot of thoughts going in my head all the time and if I don’t have a way to get them out, they will fester in there. I feel like part of my purpose on this planet as an artist is that I have the ability to take the human condition, human relationships and human comfort and communicate them in a way that other people can feel and relate to.”

Dobken does that on her LP titled When It Happens To You released in 2018, and in particular with the song “Learning How to Let Go.”

“So that song is pretty self-explanatory,” says Dobken. “The title is essentially the concept of not being able to let go and being compulsively obsessive about certain things. And knowing that people are telling you, ‘Hey man, you gotta relax and you get to let this go,’ and you know that, but still can’t help it.”

In the song “Beneath” off of the same LP, Dobken explores the topic of fakeness and, in particular, social media.

“That song is about humans as a whole,” explains Dobken. “We kind of exist in this facade-like world, right? We’re on social media and we choose what to broadcast to the world as a society and culture. There’s this Hollywood type of fakeness and nobody even really understands what they believe in. They think they believe in things, but are just following the trends. I’m here as a person trying to exist in a genuine way and I am hoping other people do too. A lot of people are trying to do that, but they’re either completely out of touch with themselves or they don’t understand that, or they don’t wanna live that way because they’re choosing to live the surface life.’

“But essentially, if you put it out there that you are a certain way and that you wanna find genuineness and you wanna find the real shit in life, and the real deep people and moments... I think

that’s why life is meant to be lived, right? Life, it’s not meant for us to be sitting around grinding nine to five living these surface existences and having these surface relationships. All the people in my life are people that I’m like, I wanna be down in the trenches with you and that’s the relationships I have. So that’s kind of what that song is like; an ode to me reminding people like, ‘Hey, be your most authentic self. Like, who cares about the rest?’ Because you’ll find those people and they will appreciate you more for being who you are.”

Dobken is looking forward to the future, and even though When it Happens To You serves as a timestamp for her, she’s excited about her upcoming release, Acceptance. She has been playing songs off of the record at recent shows like those at The Stone Pony and Bond Street Bar. Dobken worked with Paul Ritchie (The Parlor Mob) and Erik Kase Romero (The Front Bottoms), and bandmates Dan Haase (bass) and Erik Rudik (guitar) on Acceptance, and she’s excited about some of the special guests who appear on the record as well.

“I’m just thinking in every single way this record is superior to anything I have put out before,” says Dobken. “The music is a lot more refined and a lot heavier. It feels like I have trimmed the fat and am getting closer to the sound I want.

“I kind of did things piecemeal because I wanted to take chances in a different way. I was trying to work on batches of songs with different people. The music has kind of a little bit of everything. It’s like, heavier, grittier, and has my kind of sound with a more heavy, psychedelic experience.

“There’s a lot more fuzzed-out guitar, double vocals, etc., and my playing as a drummer, guitar player, and vocalist has gotten exponentially better.”

Credit: Elyse Janksowki
on Ed Sullivan, psychic premonitions, fake people and her forthcoming album

International Women’s Day of Dance celebrates agency, individuality and creativity

In the years since International Women’s Day was formally adopted by the UN in the ’70s, the celebration has gained more traction in the arts sector, particularly in the historically female-dominated field of dance.

You can see so for yourself on March 8 at 5 p.m., when MeenMoves artistic director Sameena Mitta celebrates this important day through the inaugural International Women’s Day of Dance at Riverview-Fisk Park in Jersey City. With local arts organization SMUSH Gallery as a production partner, the free one-hour event will feature five powerful performances by female choreographers and an accessible movement workshop—rain, snow or shine. Says Mitta: “Considering International Women’s Day happens only once a year, there is no other choice. Of course we should be celebrating every day, but this is the one day a year we have dedicated to it.” (For those who can’t attend in person (or are a little weather shy), the event will be livestreamed on Instagram @meenmoves.)

Located in Jersey City Heights, Riverview-Fisk Park is a clean, quaint green space with a lovely calm energy and a beautiful view of Manhattan. While it hasn’t seen many (or possibly any) dance performances, Mitta says that locals eagerly stop and ask questions during her company’s regular outdoor rehearsals. (MeenMoves Dance Center is located a couple of blocks away.)

“Everybody is craving art, and they want to know what we’re doing. If you share a little about what you’re working on, they turn around and start telling some of their personal stories about how the theme you’re working on relates to them.”

Mitta is hopeful that, as with her rehearsals, people will happen upon the event and be intrigued enough to stick around.

According to Mitta, dance is an ideal way to celebrate International Women’s Day because it provides a space for women to challenge traditional power structures, gender roles, and stereotypes—to assert their autonomy and agency.

“Through dance, women can claim their bodies as their own while expressing their

individuality and creativity.”

International Women’s Day is both a celebration of the contributions women have made to society and a reminder about the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality.

Mitta takes inspiration from the innumerable strong women she’s crossed paths with over the years, and is especially inspired by her mother.

“My mom is a fierce woman who taught my sister and I how to see ourselves as equals in the world we move around in. That base empowered me to set high expectations for myself and what I wanted to achieve. Working primarily for women throughout my career gave me the opportunity to see women in more powerful positions so I wasn’t always hyper-aware of gender inequities. But I knew they were there. I knew it was real. There are countless women in the dance community—both on stage and behind the scenes—that bring this world to life for us, and this is a small nod to each of them,” Mitta says.

While Mitta has self-produced her own work, this is her first foray into organizing outside her company structure.

“As a person of color who hasn’t always necessarily fit into any specific category, I want to be seen as somebody who’s helping pave the way for others. I think it’s essential, especially for younger generations, to see women and people of color and different abilities in positions of support.”

At the top of her priority list is giving female-identifying choreographers a platform while getting people outside during a time of year usually characterized by hiding from the winter. International Women’s Day of Dance is a celebration that’s uninterested in judging others and being judged. It’s a kind of community hug.

Host company MeenMoves is a dance-theatre company that explores the experiences of those who check the “none-ofthe-above” box; the misfits and outsiders who see the world slightly differently. Much of their recent work has been in screendance, and they

are currently working on a 10-year project that re-imagines a well-known collection of German children’s stories, Struwwelpeter, as a set of dance films.

“This is my happy place because I get to collaborate with composers, dive in deep with a solo dancer, and work with my wonderful videographer Alicja on something that lasts longer than just a one-night run.”

At the event, MeenMoves will perform Fe, which honors the strength of women navigating the challenges of modern-day migration, and asks: “What does it take to feel as though

Sokolow Theatre ‘Ballad in a Parking Lot’ JENNIFERCHINdance. Credit: Ellen Crane

we belong?” Spurred by the increase in racist attacks towards those of Asian descent, JENNIFERCHINdance will perform an homage to Chin’s Asian heritage and community entitled A Love Letter. Picking up on favorite themes from past work, New Year’s Rondo (Var. 1) by Katelyn Halpern & Dancers is a line dance designed to bring out variation in the cast of dancers “like long grasses blowing in the breeze.” Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble will present modern dance pioneer Anna Sokolow’s 1936 Ballad in A Popular Style, a celebration of rare moments of tranquility and freedom in the midst of the Great Depression, and a reminder of the sheer determination of women to forge their own paths.

In addition to the performances, audiences will be invited to take place in a workshop based on MeenMoves’ piece, Fe

“After witnessing performances by Lucinda Childs and Anne Theresa de Keersmaker who are both masters at minimalist dance work, I wanted to challenge myself to create my own minimalist piece. Over the past four years, I’ve developed Fe based on overlapping patterns of six, and the workshop will involve one of the dance’s underlying movements. The workshop will take place before the performance so audience members can approach the dance with a fresh, embodied understanding.”

Mitta intends to make this piece of simple yet powerful choreography a yearly workshop tradition.

Those interested in supporting International Women’s Day of Dance can send donations through meenmoves.com.


As Is

ArtYard, Frenchtown, Through May 21

Curated by Benjamin Albucker and Margaret Parish, As Is is located in ArtYard’s second-floor Lynn & John Kearney Gallery. The pair— Albucker is an antiques dealer and Parish is an artist — sourced many of the items from their own collections. Others are on loan from other collectors, colleagues, and clients. “This is just a show about beautiful objects,” Albucker said. “The beauty, inherent in the objects we assembled for this show, is a type of beauty connected very closely with particular geometry, color and texture. This is beauty from history, from craft, from its conversation with other objects. This beauty is devoid of trend and fashion.”

Cristina de Gennaro: Sage Drawings

Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, Through April 30

As the artist wandered the trails around Taos, New Mexico, she found herself turning her gaze downward towards the earth, drawn to the eroding sagebrush, weeds and parched soil of the high desert floor and focusing on mundane spaces rather than grand vistas and sublime sunsets. These “humble” scenes reference decay as well as regeneration and mark the day-to-day erosion of a materiality bound by time. She photographed then drew the organic systems, exploring tensions between pattern and complexity, beauty and chaos.

Ink, Press, Repeat

University Galleries, William Paterson University, Wayne, March 3-21,

Ink, Press, Repeat is the University Galleries’ juried exhibition of traditional and digital print media and book art by professional artists from across the United States. This exhibition presents a selection of contemporary prints and artists’ books by 50 artists from 22 states.

Saya Woolfalk: Tumbling Into Landscape

Newark Museum of Art, Newark, Through summer 2023.

With Saya Woolfalk: Tumbling Into Landscape, the artist has created an intervention exploring questions of identity and belonging in relationship to the land and multiple histories of the U.S.

vanessa german, ‘The Blood & The Animals, The Mirror & The Sky’; An ode to the unlanguage-able truth of is-ness, 2017. Mixed media assemblage. 77 ½ x 36 x 35 in. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery, NYC, on display at Montclair Art Museum

Spring is Coming with a Strawberry in the Mouth Studio Route 29, Frenchtown, Through April 23

Pieces that invoke thoughts of where we are and where we dream of being and also the death and mold and compost that comes into view with every tender sprout, growing in last year’s garden. Angst too! Itching for flowers, rushing towards new powers. The first smells of the berries of springtime waft. Poutily we droop towards our bursting bulb selves and poking our crowns above the frost we think we feel some sunny days.


Rowan University Art Gallery, Glassboro, Through March 25

SuperCellular is a site-specific immersive art gallery experience that combines sculpture, light, sound and moving imagery as a reflection of the astonishing and almost incomprehensible density and activity of the chemical molecules in our bodies. Inspired by neuroscience, cellular biology and genetics, the installation contemplates the complexities and intricacies of living processes and the mysteries of cellular interactions

You Belong Here: Place, People and Purpose in Latinx Photography Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, Through May 7

You Belong Here celebrates the dynamic expressions of Latinx photography across the United States. The exhibition brings together both established artists and a new generation of image-makers, who address themes of family and community, fashion and culture, and the complexity of identity in American life.

vanessa german: ...please imagine all the things i cannot say... Montclair Art Museum, Through June 25,

A large-scale, immersive, site-specific installation of mixed-media works by vanessa german—a self-taught sculptor, painter, poet and performance artist. german calls herself a citizen artist and is interested in art as a form of healing and protection, especially for African-Americans. Her primarily female power figures explore themes of strength, love and justice while engaging with the complicated history of race in the U.S.

Sameena Mitta. Credit: Maeve FitzHoward


Studio Route 29 presents new opportunities for artists with disabilities

Creation, everywhere, inside Studio Route 29 in Frenchtown.

There’s Christian Turner building a TV—very likely the only one of its kind.

“We’re adding, like, a little spy glass,” Turner says. “And I wanna add this as a trap door. Put your stuff in there and there’s a little door that opens. And you put things inside, like your phone in there. Then I want to add, like, a little square and it opens up like this and you put stuff on top of it, like a little shelftop.”

There’s Kate House working with green fishnet fabric, making a thistle.

Mick McDonough thought he’d try to make something new on this Wednesday afternoon.

“I was gonna really think about painting something different,” he says. “Like I saw a Rorschach picture that looks so unusual. … Just gonna make it a little different, that looks like a kind of shape that [no one] knows. It doesn’t matter what kind of pattern it looks like.”

McDonough’s a Renaissance man, House a Renaissance woman, says the studio’s Executive Director Kathleen Henderson. “He does weaving, painting, filmmaking. He does some audio work. He does all kinds of stuff, just like Kate.”

Theo Baransky takes me on a tour of the space, a collection of wide open rooms that house art pieces, work spaces, a woodshop, a

performance floor and a theater. Baransky’s in his right place next to a screen.

“So the movie screenings we do in Studio 29, it’s called Films for Friends. We named it after a company from Utah called Feature Films for Families. In fact, I sometimes for humor purposes call it Films for Families.”

Baransky’s work at the studio revolves around his interest and deep familiarity with B movies and B movie production companies.

“Theo has this real encyclopedic knowledge of B films and B production company logos, so he made a short animation, based on the logo of Films for Friends,” Henderson says.

His familiarity with the subject matter is, of course, impressive, but also enviable, says Studio co-director Hop Peternell.

“It’s amazing to see someone’s production who is so involved in their own interest,” says Peternell, also an artist. “I have specific interests that I might not let myself really follow to their end, and I would like to feel like I have that permission. And so being around artists who are giving themselves that permission is super inspiring.”

Peternell and Baransky are close; they text often and worked together on Baransky’s films. That’s not necessarily atypical—for a studio co-director to be close with a studio artist—but this relationship, and all the burgeoning relationships at Studio Route 29, feel a little deeper.

“We become another kind of family,” says Henderson.

Studio Route 29 is a progressive art studio, which hosts with artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They provide art supplies and equipment to paint, draw, weave, sculpt and, generally, create, and—critically‚ they don’t instruct artists, they provide support and facilitation. The studio also has a gallery space for artists to show (and sell) work.

The distinction that Studio Route 29 works with artists with disabilities matters, but it also doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, but it does. Whichever way you slice it, art is art, and the focus is on creating a community and providing the opportunity for folks to create art that may not have had it in the past.

“For a long time people with disabilities have been kind of siloed in disability spaces. And their work has been shown in outsider art fairs, like in New York or Paris. And so the kind of way things are going is for more inclusivity, both in society and in the way their work and art are seen,” Henderson says. “In times past, you would see some signage on the wall that says this person is autistic or whatever, but now it’s really not necessary to; this person’s an artist and they’re here.”

“There’s an interesting line that we’re trying to walk,” Peternell adds. “We are here to extend resources to a population that has often not had those resources, but we’re also inter-

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ested in art, primarily. So the kind of structural direction that we’re moving towards is to extend the resources, but the interest that we have is in the art that happens. I think there’s this need to make a definition about a population because of the structural inequality and disenfranchisement, but then we don’t want to have that be the main frame in which we talk about the work.”

The studio’s first show (which opened Feb. 18 and runs through April 23), Spring is Coming with a Strawberry in the Mouth, is a case in point. Peternell, who curated the show, sourced work from outside studios and collections, and there is no distinction of the differing levels of ability of the artists in the show.

“This is an integrated show,” Peternell says. “So there’s artists who are disabled and artists who aren’t disabled in the show. We chose work that we were interested in showing.”

The exhibition also serves as a way to show Studio artists what they can make; though it’s clear from the creative output a couple months in, deciding what to make doesn’t quite seem like a challenge. And already, Studio Route 29 artists are expanding out of the studio’s walls. Michael Mangino, who lives in Pittstown and comes to Studio Route 29 with Del Val High School’s FIERCE program, an employment/independent living program for students with special needs (as some of the artists mentioned above also do), currently has an exhibition in nearby ArtYard, which Henderson calls a “sibling organization.”

Mangino’s paintings are stunning, affecting portraits of blocked, textured color. He’s prolific and works with great focus and vision. It’s hard to believe he hasn’t painted his entire life, let alone more than a year.

“He came here a few months ago, and we gave him markers and we gave him water colors and then we started giving him paints,” Henderson says. “His mom said he always loved to make art, but he never had the opportunity. I feel like, alright, I came here for a good reason.

Henderson opened Studio Route 29 last August after living out in the Bay Area, working as both an artist (which she still does) and for Cre-

ative Growth in Oakland, a pioneering progressive arts center that started in 1974. The artistic output of Creative Growth got Henderson’s attention before she started working there, but the climate of support within was captivating.

“When I first went to Creative Growth and I went in and I saw all the artwork, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this artwork’s mind-blowing.’ I was like, I just wanna be near this artwork. And then quickly I realized, oh, I just wanna be near these artists,” Henderson says. “Because they’re so open and generous. They’re such a family, they’re so supportive of each other. At Creative Growth, there’s this thing when someone finishes a piece, you hold it up and the whole room cheers. It’s like… if the whole world could be like that?”

Taking the concept to rural Hunterdon County would’ve been a heavier lift if it weren’t for the backgrounds of the Studio Route 29 crew, but also the support of the greater progressive arts community, and the local community here in Jersey.

“It’s been super exciting to be in a new concept. The Bay Area was such a great learning ground because those types of things were really established, but there’s amazing resources here like FIERCE, who have been great partners,” says co-director Lydia Glenn-Murray. “It feels good to plug in with preexisting things but also to hopefully be providing something that’s a little new.”

It does feel novel in this neck of the Jersey woods; or, if not novel, then necessary. While there are other programs that serve people with disabilities, which include art, many are geared— right or wrong—toward integration into everyday society. That’s not quite what Studio Route 29 is about; it’s more about the art, and the community and opportunities that come with creating art.

“It’s really nice for people with disabilities to have a place where they’re celebrated for who they are instead of trying to fix them or make them fit into society in a way that they’re not,” Henderson says. “And they can feel it instantly.”

Go to studioroute29.org for more information.

Clockwise from top left: Michael Mangino’s paintings hang in ArtYard | EJ Collins | A painting by Mick McDonough | “Hardcore Logo” by Theo Baransky

To include your events in future calendars, send an email to editor@njindy.com with details.

‘A Doll’s House’

March 2-5, Lauren K. Woods Theatre, West Long Branch

Monmouth University brings Henrick Ibsen’s scandalous 19th century masterpiece into the modern era. A Doll’s House follows a vibrant but sheltered housewife as she navigates a world in which women have no autonomy. As events spiral beyond her control, Nora’s journey of self-awareness builds toward one of the most controversial endings in theatrical history. Directed by Sheri Anderson.


March 3-5, New Brunswick PAC, New Brunswick

The tragic ballet tale unfolds against the ghostly backdrop of a Rhineland forest haunted by the fearful presence of the “Wilis”—vengeful spirits of abandoned brides. The beautiful peasant girl, Giselle, falls for Albrecht who conceals his identity to win her. The discovery of her lover’s deception shatters Giselle’s innocence and

Ikebana Workshop

March 4 and 18, and April 1

Flemington DIY, Flemington

Open to all levels of experience, this course will teach students how to create floral arrangements in the Ikenobo-school style of Ikebana, the oldest school of Japanese floral arrangement. The classes will involve hands-on learning of the techniques and structure used in several different styles of arrangement, and will also cover basic spiritual concepts behind the arrangements. Students will complete an arrangement in each class. Taught by Felicia Pan-Fea, certified Ikebana artist and teacher.

causes her to die of a broken heart. Albrecht is thrown into the hands of the merciless Wilis, but Giselle cannot bear to watch him die and returns as a ghost to save him.

Heart of Oneness Holistic Expo

March 3-5, NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

This event promises a weekend of healing, upliftment and transformation with over 140 unique metaphysical practitioners, empowering thought leaders, life coaches and organizations. Explore crystals, Reiki, aura photography, meditation, organic skin care, natural herbs, soaps, candles, visionary artwork, essential oils, psychic readings, angelic inspirations, sound healing, henna tattoo, oracle cards, mindset coaching and more.

Beyond Van Gogh

March 3-21, American Dream, East Rutherford

Completely immerse yourself in more than 300 of the greatest works of post-Impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh. In this experience, Van Gogh’s art is liberated from its two-dimensional

limitations into a three-dimensional experience that exhilarates every sense and brings to life one of the most influential artists the world has known.

Hammonton Lake Cleanup

March 4, Hammonton Lake, Hammonton

Join the Hammonton Green Committee and get outdoors for a couple hours beautifying this South Jersey community.

Downtown Toms River Irish Festival

March 4, Toms River

With entertainment by The Eamon Ryan band with the Ocean County St. Patrick’s Day parade committee. Tons of Irish fun perfect for the whole family.

DIY Prom

March 4, Old Post, Merchantville

Head Above Water Collective hosts this show featuring local DIY bands like Goalkeeper, Halogens and more.


Pardon My French

March 4, ArtYard, Frenchtown

ArtYard and the Frenchtown Bookshop are excited to welcome New Orleans-based vintage French jazz band Pardon My French! to perform at ArtYard’s McDonnell Theater. The quartet was inspired by the sound of Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet tunes as well as Eartha Kitt and Pink Martini favorites.

Chocolate Expo Spring Edition

March 5, NJ Expo Center, Edison

The Chocolate Expo returns to the NJ Expo Center with tastings and sales of chocolates, baked goods, specialty foods, cheeses, wines and more, along with entertainment throughout the day.

tree ID, sap ecology and tree biology, and visit the center’s tapped trees, where you’ll learn how to tap, collect and taste the sap, then see how the evaporator works. Finish with a blind syrup taste test in the covered pavilion, and then buy some to bring home.

A Taste of Morristown

March 6, The Westin Governor Morris, Morristown

The annual fundraiser of the Rotary Club of Morristown that showcases the diverse fine restaurants and eateries of the Morristown area. Plus, a wine and spirits tasting courtesy of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace and beer tastings from local breweries and bars.

South Jersey Players’ Dinner Theater

Tuesdays in March (beginning the 7th), Aroma Restaurant, Ventnor

Five one-act, 10-minute comedies, written by local and emerging playwrights Edward Shakespeare, Tom Chin, Jim O’Hara and Peter Dukatis. Local actors will bring these new works to life plus there’ll be a classical guitarist and comedian Scott Friedman will MC. Oh, and there’s a nice Italian dinner to go with it.

This might be your idea of fun. If that’s the case, we recommend Google (.com) to find out the details on pub crawls in Asbury Park, Hoboken, Morristown, JC and more. We’ll do what we do every March 17th since we left college: something else.

Living Mindfully: An Introduction

March 5, Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton

What exactly is “mindfulness”—what does it mean and how can practicing mindfulness and meditation help us live meaningful, content lives? Is this right for you? In this introductory program, explore these and other questions to demystify some misconceptions around meditation. Discuss and practice mindfulness approaches in a safe environment with like-minded peers, explore mindfulness meditation, and how to incorporate these practices into our day-to-day lives.

Maple Sugaring

March 5, The New Weis Center for Education, Arts & Recreation, Ringwood

This 90-minute program explores the process, history and ecology of maple sap and syrup. You’ll take a short hike to learn about winter

Mario Day Paint and Play

March 10, Propagate Studio, Stewartsville

Paint a Mario character and play vintage and modern Mario video games. Play on an NES, Super Nintendo, Game Cube, Nintendo 64 and Switch. Parents please hang with your kiddos for this event! Ages 6-plus.

Wind Chime Making 101

March 11, Blooms at Belle Mead, Belle Mead

In this workshop, you will assemble a wind chime using different metal shapes and beads to create a work of art. All items needed to make one wind chime are provided, including a small pack of beads. However, you are welcome to bring any special beads you may like to add to your piece.

Jersey City Mural Art Walk

March 11, Journal Square, Jersey City

This art tour includes the murals on the west and south sides of Jersey City. This walk will start from Journal Square and go south, passing through the neighborhoods of McGinley, Westside, Bergen-Layette and Greenville, before turning north and returning to Journal Square.


March 11, South Mountain Reservation, West Orange

With distances for everyone, this trail party is open to runners and hikers of all ages and paces. Runners/hikers can sign up to squatch 11 miles, 20 miles, 33 miles or 50 miles. You will be supporting the South Mountain Conservancy with this trail party. Check out Sassquad Trail

Running for more info.

Mozzarella Stretch with Burrata

March 11, Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrence Township

First, you’ll experience the fun of making your own fresh mozzarella as you are guided through the steps to stretch curds into tender, sweet mozzarella. Learn the tips and tricks to avoiding tough cheese. Then, learn how to make a rich, creamy burrata from the curd. Complete the class with a cheese tasting, comparing these fresh cheeses to cave-aged Cherry Grove Farm cheeses.

Isabella Rossellini’s ‘Darwin’s Smile’

March 11-12, ArtYard, Frenchtown

Isabella Rossellini’s new one-woman show reconciles two worlds that are often at opposite ends—art and science. Isabella explores how empathy, that is at the base of acting, is also necessary for the studies of animal behavior (ethology). The show is both a lesson on evolution and acting. With humor and simple, innocent devices she plays on stage dogs, cats, chickens, peacocks and, of course, Charles Darwin. Darwin’s Smile is an opportunity to learn while being entertained and laughing all about the art of acting and complex scientific theories.

New Jersey Collector Fest

March 12, Wayne NJ PAL, Wayne

Join fellow pop culture fans and meet amazing comic artists and special guests. Check out the incredible vendor room featuring the very best selection of cool comics, toys and collectibles from vintage to modern and hot.

Tapestry Weaving 101

March 12, Calgo Gardens, Freehold

Discover the art of tapestry weaving, learning the techniques necessary to design and assemble your own custom wall hanging. Local artist Juliana Iglay will be your instructor for this exciting and creative little-known craft. She will teach you the basics of tapestry weaving using a frame loom and an assortment of yarn, fibers, and other materials. Your finished tapestry will be attached to driftwood for hanging.

St. Paddy’s Day Pub Crawls Brotown, USA

Somerville St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March 12, Downtown Somerville

Back for its 30th year, this edition features bagpipe bands, step dancers, marching bands, civic groups, youth groups, emergency services apparatus and so much more. Don’t forget to stop at one of the many restaurants and bars along Main Street before or after the parade.

Pilobolus - The Big Five Oh!

March 12, NJPAC, Newark

The celebratory program is a milestone in 50 years of groundbreaking dance from the uniquely feisty arts organism. Physically and intellectually, Pilobolus engages and inspires audiences around the world through performance, education and creative consultation.

Kenny Davis Quartet

March 12, Metuchen Public Library, Metuchen

Free jazz! Kenny Davis Quartet includes Kenny Davis on acoustic and electric basses, Eddie Allen on trumpet, Luciano Minetti on keyboard/ piano and Jerrett Walser on drums.

‘Embracing Imperfection: The Art of Wabi-Sabi’ Closing Reception

March 12, Galerie Westerhoff, Metuchen

In the closing reception, join cone9colab and Galerie Westerhoff artists for a unique creative experience, including a walking meditation, wabi-sabi talk and a Sumi-e ink painting session.

Art of Iftar

March 12, Muslim Center of Greater Princeton, Princeton

This experience celebrates the customs of Ramadan and Iftar. Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims across the globe. Muslims abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset. The meal that is eaten to break the fast at sunset is called Iftar. So come join in for Iftar as you learn more about this sacred month, its traditions and the foods that go along with it. Guests will enjoy tasty bites from Khan Baba Restaurant and Hills of Herat, insightful conversation, and personalized name calligraphy during this interfaith gathering.

Red Hot Chili Pipers

March 12, Grunin Center for the Arts, Toms River

It’s The Red Hot Chilli PIPERS—not the Peppers!—a nine-piece ensemble consisting of pipers, guitarists, keyboardists and drummers —who have been rocking the world from New

A weekend-long festival that will celebrate, challenge and explore the life, legacy and work of novelist and Newark-native Philip Roth, on what would have been his 90th birthday weekend. Designed to appeal to audiences of all backgrounds, whatever their level of familiarity with Roth’s work, the program will include star-studded readings, conversations, comedy, controversy, and debate that will explore the significance and impact of Roth’s unique literary legacy.

Philip Roth Unbound NJPAC, Newark

York to Beijing to Melbourne and everywhere in between with musicianship of the highest order and a passion for pipes that will leave you breathless. The band has four music degrees from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and all the pipers and drummers have played at the top level in bagpiping.

Harlan Coben Book Signing

March 14, Books and Greetings, Northvale

It is what the title says it is.

Dublin Irish Dance presents ‘Wings’

March 16, Mayo PAC, Morristown

Featuring world champion dancers, Ireland’s finest musical and vocal virtuosos, and original music and choreography, this Celtic celebration thrills audiences with its transformative emotional and imaginative energy as it showcases Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.

For the Culture Art Show

March 17, Mercer Community College, Trenton

The For the Culture art show is curated by a group of creatives based in the Mercer County

area. Designer Shahedah Williams from The Butterfly Ave and celebrity hairstylist Mara Salonika have teamed up to create a show dedicated to hair and fashion inspired by icons in pop culture. This event will highlight spoken word, and other artists based in the Mercer County area. Proceeds of this event will be going to Prom Scholar Inc.

Saltwater Fishing Expo

March 17, NJ Expo Center, Edison

Kick off saltwater fishing season with awesome, useful seminars on a variety of topics, and you can buy tackle, book fishing trips, buy fishing boats, spend some time in the fishing simulator (we’d go just for that) and more.

A Voice for the Village Poetry Slam

March 18, Elizabeth

The purpose for A Voice For The Village Poetry slam is to show people it’s OK to have a voice. In this intimate slam, poets’ voices to broadcast everyday problems one may go through. Follow @parisstar._ on Instagram for location details.

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‘Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That’

March 19 and 25, Newark Museum of Art, Newark

This is a unique, can’t-miss, funny, heart warming, thought-provoking gospel musical play at Newark Museum of Art.

Frida Kahlo: Dreams, Demons and Devotion

March 21, The Hopewell Theater, Hopewell

Frida Kahlo’s paintings illustrate the anguish and passion of a fascinating, complicated personal and artistic life. The astonishing works of this Mexican and feminist icon will be looked at through the lens of her ethnicity, disabilities, and political activism, especially emphasizing her engagement with the natural world.

a pair of archaeologists who arrive on the scene, making a shattering discovery which will challenge all their beliefs about what is every truly real and what is imagined.

Reflections Art Salon Show and Sale

March 24-26, Prallsville Mills, Stockton

The historic Grist Mill will be turned into two floors of amazing art to experience. Come enjoy the collaboration of seven local artists working in diverse mediums. The show will open with a reception on Friday evening from 5-9 p.m., featuring Dan Kassel on cello, plus libations and appetizers. The event will continue on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. On Saturday evening, there will be an open “Poetry Share” from 6-8 p.m.

Photorama 2023


March 25, Middlesex County College, Edison

Join the NJ Federation of Camera Clubs for Photorama 2023, a day-long celebration of photography with professional photographer Roman Kurywczak, whose programs cover everything you need to know about nature photography. Learn about photography and get hands-on in the day’s closing session.

Resin Beach Board Workshop

March 25, The Bloomin’ Cottage, Phillipsburg

This beginner resin workshop comes with everything you’ll need to make a small resin beach board.

Scotch and Whiskey Tasting

March 23, The Madison Hotel, Morristown

Taste your way around the whiskey world with selections of Scotch, Bourbon, rye, American, Japanese, Irish and more while learning the secrets behind the craft from brand ambassadors and Masters Of Whisky. Expert hosts will guide you through a tasting journey that will delight your senses and expand your knowledge of this classic spirit.

‘Off the Map’

March 23-April 2, Kutz Theatre, Hackettstown

Denny and Claire have retired to the wilds of Central America, where they quickly discover that things are not as they were expecting, neither in their relationship, nor in their new property. A mysterious mound is discovered by

Hoboken Mac and Cheese Festival

March 25, Hoboken

This year, Hoboken Happy Hours’ Mac and Cheese Fest will be held as a food crawl (think bar crawl, but for mac and cheese instead). So, round up your crew, bring your family and get ready to take a tour around Hoboken to sample all kinds of mac and cheese creations from some of the best spots in The Mile Square—or perhaps, New Jersey?

KingKon IV

March 25, APA Hotel, Woodbridge

A quintessential hotel-style Comic Con featuring golden, bronze, silver, copper and modern age comic books. Tons of vendors with stock accommodating to all budgets—especially in

the current buyer’s market. Renowned artists Mark Morales, Ryan G. Browne and Johnny Desjardins will be ready to handle sketches and commissions. There will also be a nice assortment of Funko Pops and other collectibles.

Up Close and Personal with Carmine Appice

March 26, Factory Records, Dover

Deko Entertainment and Factory Records bring you an intimate night with Carmine Appice (Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy Osbourne and more). Not only do you get to enjoy a Q&A with Carmine as he opens his “Diaries” and covers his entire career, but you’ll also receive a copy of the 25th anniversary box set of “Guitar Zeus” and other goodies. Carmine will top off the night doing what he does best—which is setting up and playing behind the drum kit. Only a handful of tix ($100) available.

Montclair Film’s StorySLAM Series: Learning Love

March 30, Cinema505, Montclair

Each participant will have five minutes to relay their unique version of the theme. After presenting to a supportive audience, a team of judges will evaluate and score each story. This month’s theme is “As luck would have it.”

The Monmouth Food and Wine Experience

March 30, Molly Pitcher Inn, Red Bank

Enjoy cuisine from dozens of local restaurants and caterers, from appetizers to desserts. Sample fine wines, premium spirits, craft beers, specialty cocktails, hard seltzers and more—some from around the corner, others from around the world.

An Evening with Leslie Odom, Jr.

March 31, Mayo Pac, Morristown

Leslie Odom, Jr., best known for his Tony-winning role as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, performs a mix of jazz-influenced soul, pop, standards and more with his band.

Dark Force Fest 2023

March 31-April 2, Sheraton, Parsippany

From VampireFreaks, the same company that brought you ‘Dark Side of the Con’ and ‘Triton Festival,’ comes the next evolution in dark alternative events. For three days, they take over the entire Sheraton Parsippany, with top industrial, goth, metal, alternative bands from around the world.

A yoga experience unlike any other! Find calm in the Museum’s teamLab Sketch Aquarium, located in Animal Kingdom, while surrounded by tranquil sounds of nature and digital sea creatures. This special yoga session is led by Newark Yoga Movement.

NJ sisters Katya and Tatiana Stec run a multi-platform production and streaming service, All Ages of Geek, which, as the name implies, caters to all things geek—games, anime, games, books, movies, comics… really, anything you can geek out on.

But as it turns out, the key to competing in a media landscape where everything feels available all the time—a landscape in which the Stec sisters are active participants—might be an appreciation for where it all began. For Katya and Tatiana, that was Pokemon.

“Growing up, we loved Pokemon and roleplaying as the characters, which introduced us to writing and using prompts from Pokemon to create original characters,” says Katya. “The beauty of RPGs or games like Pokemon is they give the user the ability to name their character and Pokemon. Even if there are no customization options like the newer games have, giving a

name to the character was enough for us. It was a form of escape as a kid, to create these characters that became almost like friends to us.”

“One of the most appealing aspects of RPGs is the ability to be creative while playing the game,” adds Tatiana. “Like Katya mentioned, you are able to name your characters, making it feel even more like your own. Gamers are able to insert their imagination into the story as they play just by the simple feature of changing their name in RPGs. This helped us expand our knowledge on world building from games like Pokemon and also gave us a way to learn more about the characters we created through video games.”

So, there’s a lot to cover when it comes to what All Ages of Geek does, and not much space. There are podcasts, videos, articles, visual novels and more on a variety of geeky subjects (from Dungeons and Dragons to Star Wars to anime franchises and everything in between, like mental health and music) that live on a variety of platforms like Discord, Twitch,

YouTube, Spotify and more. They work with a team of producers, writers, content creators, podcast hosts, illustrators—in short, creators— to produce over 100 hours of this material every week. They fund it through Patreon, where they offer multiple tiers of support in exchange for escalating levels of the media they produce.

Whoof, that’s a lot to pack into a tidy paragraph, let alone to do in a week.

“The majority of work, plus all the videos uploaded onto Patreon, is run by Tat and myself,” Katya says. “ I always say that God gave us these talents and gifts to create a community-driven platform. […] God gave us these abilities and we’re utilizing all the resources He’s given us. We’re also Ukrainian and like our grandpa always told us, ‘Ukrainians work for the harvest’!”

“We also work with amazing freelancers from around the world,” Tatiana says. “We utilize websites like Fiverr and Upwork to connect with talent. We work well together so it is a lot easier for us to get stuff done. Our Patrons also

NJ sisters wrangle the wide world of geekdom with an eye toward representation, authenticity and fun

help us stay motivated as they love the content they receive. It definitely makes things worth the work.”

AAOG started as a small YouTube channel with picture book, manga and game reviews, and a website for writers to share their stories and accounts of how “geek culture helped them overcome life’s troubles,” Katya says. And though their current mission is rooted in spreading geek culture and producing media that enriches those experiences—which includes original content, which we’ll get to in a minute—the Stecs see an opportunity to provide a level of mindfulness to this melee of media in which we live.

“Let me tell you something, it’s not a lie when people talk about how the media can almost hypnotize you into thinking a certain way. The more dark and edgy content you watch, it starts to impact your own life, not just your interests,” says Katya. “It sounds weird, I know, but if you start absorbing all that content constantly, it becomes a habit and addictive. Netflix constantly pushes for that darker content, which at times can be enjoyable, but then you look deeper into the message and you’re like, ‘Yeah, what message are they trying to spread?’”

Recognizing that tendency influences what’s emphasized, or at least included, in AAOG media, Tatiana says.

“It’s incredibly important to have resources and solutions in all forms of media even if it is not a stereotypical ‘happy’ story,” Tatiana says. “Young minds consume media even if it is not marketed towards them. It is important to even have solutions for adults who consume media. No matter how you look at it, watching shows that have dark undertones will truly affect your personal mental health. That is why it is incredibly important to have those resources.”

It helps if you care about your audience, as the Stecs do, but also see the humanity in the characters and stories you create. The characters in their latest webcomic, “I Married a Monster on the Hill,” and forthcoming visual novel, have been in development for the 20 years the Stecs have roleplayed with them. That means the characters have evolved as Katya and Tatiana have. That not only leads to a care and deep understanding of the

characters, but a richness of story.

“With this roleplay we also have several unpublished stories that have led to an enormous almost separate-like world, with lore galore,” Katya says. “We’ve got political systems set up, extreme backstories, family trees, creatures, almost everything that has entertained us for almost 20 years. They are all original characters who have constantly evolved like us since we’ve been kids.”

“I Married a Monster on the Hill” was co-created and co-produced, as well as beta-read, by LGBTQ+ creators and features two LGBTQ+ protagonists, Bevvy and August.

“The two main characters came to life during a rough time in our lives, which truly inspired us to create this project to help others get out of dark times,” Tatiana says. “The project is meant to bring smiles on our readers’ faces while showcasing important topics of the world.”

“Bevvy and August, while newer characters, are heavily inspired by the LGBTQ+ married couples in our lives. We also saw a need for more LGBTQ+ stories that focused on healthy relationships rather than the drama you see on Netflix, and WEBTOON comics,” Katya adds.

They’ll add a visual novel— think an interactive, choose-your-ownadventure computer game—and a dubbed version of the comic, which requires thoughtful casting.

“With hundreds of actors auditioning, it is a great feeling finding the right voice for the character. Representation is the biggest thing when it comes to casting the right actor along with their feel for the characters personality and morals,” Tatiana says.

As for the actual dialogue, the world in which Bevvy and August live

and the type of people they are, the Stec sisters and their collaborators mine their own lives, rooting the story in reality.

“These characters can be forms of our own struggles giving us an outlet on how to handle certain situations, or they are simply just voices that pop up and say, ‘Put me into the story!’” Katya says.

“The psychology of all of our characters definitely comes from what we have been through in our own lives, people we met in our own lives, or just our own imagination,” adds Tatiana. “Sometimes you don’t realize where the characters come from until years down the line where you have an ‘a-ha’ [moment] discovering where their inspiration comes from. Creating characters definitely helped us deal with our own personal struggles as we have the control over the world and characters we built.”

Suffice it to say, there are layers to the Stecs’ story—and the stories they create. And for their growing audience (144K YouTube subscribers), they’ve also provided opportunities to participate in the worlds they help create— they’ve had interns from Kean and Rutgers and are keen to add freelancers on board who are passionate—nay, geeky—about something.

For more on All Ages of Geek, go to allagesofgeek.com.

From ‘I Married a Monster on the Hill’

Inside Jersey City’s unique, vibrant SMUSH Gallery, a ‘neighborhood oddity’ by Charly Santagado

Irecently met with Katelyn Halpern and Benedicto (Ben) Figueroa, the co-artistic directors of SMUSH Gallery. From its Polaroid wall featuring five years worth of artists and patrons enjoying events to its charming storefront window that’s always populated by some new artwork, SMUSH is one of the most vibrant art spaces in Jersey City. In our conversation, we chatted about the history, mission, goals and perceptions of the organization and the unique role it serves in Jersey City.

What is your creative background and how did it land you at SMUSH Gallery?

Katelyn: I came up as a dancer and choreographer and, I guess you could say, a creative organizer. Where I grew up in Austin, Texas, I was surrounded by artists—musicians especially—and the “let’s start a band” ethos was all around us. Organizing shows and making stuff was totally normal, and I put on my first evening of dance when I was 16, a benefit show for my high school dance department. We did every kind of thing and were really lucky to be in a place that supported us. I grew up believing that things were possible, and I can draw a straight line from that belief to the founding of SMUSH.

By the time I got to New Jersey in 2010, I’d graduated college with a dance minor, and had gotten to do a lot of theater and collaborating on performance—usually not performing but choreographing, co-directing, producing, that kind of thing. That was all in Houston. It took a bit for me to find my creative footing here, and I really hit my stride when I formed up a little dance company in 2016. Not long after that I was taking poetry workshops, playing with other parts of my art practice, and just generally learning to trust myself. That was fun.

SMUSH arrived around that time almost by accident. I hadn’t been planning to open an art space, but the opportunity was too good and the timing was right, so I said, “I’ll do a little experiment and see how it goes.” Working in Jersey City in 2018 was very exciting for me. I had organizational skills from prior art projects and some very intense administrative skills from being a high school teacher, and I wanted to be around people making art. I thought, rather innocently, “Why not make a place where that can happen?”

Ben: I’m originally from Union City and I started organizing arts events at age 19. First I organized a reading series at a place that no longer exists in North Bergen, and I’ve been writing, jumping in and

out of artist collectives, and making weird things ever since. As Poet Laureate of Union City for four years, I wrote a bunch of really wack poems for street naming ceremonies and stuff like that. I had to write a poem about beer for a historical marker they put on one of the first breweries in America, and another for a street naming ceremony dedicated to the guy who wrote the song “I Like To Move It (move it).” I also organized a lot of free community and art events for the general public.

I’ve been involved with SMUSH for a long time, and did a one person show at Shuaspace before it was SMUSH. Recently, we moved an armoire and were shocked to find a photo that had been hidden inside for years; it was a Polaroid from the opening night of my show in December of 2017, which was one of the last things to happen in the space before it became SMUSH. Once SMUSH took over the space, I started doing shows there and participating in events. I took on the role of co-director in the spring of 2021.

What is the history and mission of SMUSH?

Katelyn: The factual stuff is that our first public event, Slyce of Lyfe—an interdisciplinary poetry-focused open mic conceived and hosted by Marcus Emel, which brought in three features and others who could sign up on the spot, happened at the end of February 2018. A big impetus for starting SMUSH was that there was an existing art space at 340 Summit and the people who’d been running it were not able to continue doing so. Either someone

had to step in and make it something or it would implode and be lost to time. Shuaspace had been running for several years and when the organizers moved to Detroit, they gave use of the space to a couple of different organizers including the Jersey City Arts Council. I was invited to install a labyrinth on the floor made of ribbon and packing tape for the JCAST Fall 2017 Streets of Jersey City show so I had work in there before knowing the space would become such a significant part of my life.

As far as the mission is concerned, I kind of just want to read you the LOI [Letter of Intent] I wrote yesterday:

“Our mission is to equitably advance vibrant, accessible, high-quality, and thought-provoking art and culture experiences within our Jersey City community. Our vision is to inspire and connect artists and community across discipline, culture, and experience for a brighter and more compassionate world. We subscribe to the principles of emergent strategy as articulated by adrienne maree brown, notably the fractal principle which asserts that the large is a reflection of the small: building our tiny, radical organization into the most adaptive, resilient vehicle we can is the best contribution we can make to our troubled world.”

Is SMUSH a nonprofit organization?

Katelyn: Nope! We are not a nonprofit and choose not to be, not because we have or anticipate a lot of profit (hah!), but because the nonprofit structure is so cumbersome that it (in my estimation) shrinks the pool of people who can effectively participate, hold space and run things. The logical consequence of

Black History Month Open Mic hosted by Golden Light Poetry at SMUSH

these clunky requirements and the administrative bloat needed to satisfy them is that particular types of arts organizations or structures pop up and get funding. I believe that there are other ways to make and share art, and it would be nice if funders didn’t fear those models for their difference.

We were recently selected for The Field’s Pilot Program for Social Justice Practitioners in the Arts, which gives us fiscal sponsorship and, through that, access to some very useful grant funding. Not only will the potential funding strengthen our organization, but we are excited to have received acknowledgment for the work we do to advance social justice through the way we run things. It’s funny how when you start talking about art you start talking about money.

Ben: The reason we always end up talking about money when we talk about art is because so many people think that artists shouldn’t get paid for making their art. If that belief wasn’t so widespread, we wouldn’t have to talk about it all the time. We wouldn’t be so angry about it or feel so cheated like we have to fight or search or scrounge to find the money to fund those things.

Why Jersey City?

Katelyn: Because it’s where we live! There’s an idea in meditation/mindfulness that “this moment is the perfect teacher.” I switch the lens by telling myself, “This place is the perfect location.” Wherever you are is where you should be doing the thing that you’re trying to do because all places should have all the good things. [Laughs] If this is where we are, this is where we should do stuff. Not everyone agrees. Lots of people are fleeing to Brooklyn and farther. They may not feel that this is the place, but we do.

Being in the arts, I find it difficult to talk about Jersey City without mentioning New York. Jersey City is always in relationship with NYC in a way that NYC is not in relationship with us. Though we are so close geographically and we work with New York artists, Jersey City is distinctly not New York. So there’s that. There’s a lot of movement here—people moving in and out of town, money moving through, development and redevelopment. This makes Jersey City an interesting, often challenging, place to build an organization. It’s a place that wants your blood the same way that New York does, but without the international cache. It takes either a very laid back or a scrappy kind of individual to sustain things here.

Ben: I started out just being here making things, and I think the staying and making has now become a kind of resistance work. I was initially here because there was a big, vibrant arts community

that was very connected and supported. Over time, the city killed it on purpose and what survived was (obviously) the big art organizations and then the people who are doing resistance artwork and keeping small spaces alive. The people who keep making weird work, keep seeking out connections between smaller, underground arts organizations and artists.

ing based on what’s happening in the space. You will come in at some point. It’s unavoidable. We’re a neighborhood oddity in a really great way. I’ve witnessed entire families walking by with their eyes magnetized to the window. When they finally come in, they say things like, “Oh my god, we always talk about this place.”

Katelyn: And then I see them in the grocery store two days later.

What are your plans and goals going forward at SMUSH?

Katelyn: The main goal, which kind of has to be the plan, is to make what we do sustainable. Most immediately, that means paying ourselves for at least a portion of the work that we do, because until (literally) yesterday, all of the administrative and leadership work was on a volunteer basis. That is a death sentence for the organization. We can’t do that anymore with how much programming we offer. One way to make things more sustainable is by using creative approaches to get more money in the door through grassroots fundraising, grants, and fiscal sponsorship. Another is doing less work—running fewer programs. Already this year, we’re on track to either host or participate in around 35 events whereas in previous years it was between 60 and 80. We’re being a lot more thoughtful about what and how much we program. We want to maintain a feeling of fullness and quality while also setting ourselves up to do this for as long as possible.

What is SMUSH’s place in its local neighborhood?

Ben: SMUSH has old school Jersey City storefront energy, and is very different from a lot of other art spaces that are designed to look like some sort of Abercrombie and Fitch or Crate and Barrel flagship store with their huge, soulless panes of glass. It feels odd and really fun to walk up to a thing that could easily be a cell phone accessory store if we weren’t in there. Lots of locals eventually find their way in, even if it’s brief. Something finally gets them to walk through the door. A lot of times it’s the odd thing you pass while you take your kids to school or on the way to the train. “What the hell is in the window of this place now?” It’s a Pee-wee Herman Doll. It’s a TV set. It’s a person. Things are always chang-

Over the last couple of years, we’ve gone from seeing our primary value as being in the events we produce to dividing that value between those events and the space we hold in and for our community. I understand persistence to be of greater value than I did before. Part of that has to do with how rapidly Jersey City is changing. Skyscrapers are popping up everywhere, and the mayor is dedicated to thorough redevelopment of Journal Square, which is blocks away from us. Holding the space and holding our values in place is essential because we could very easily be swept away by the tide of these changes.

Ben: For this season, we have some pretty cool, big immersive installation pieces coming to the gallery under the theme of Climate Grief. Because these pieces take over the whole space, anything that happens in the gallery happens in the world the artists’ are creating. The artists we’re working with on these projects are creators that we have relationships with, and that we believe in and care about.

For upcoming events, shows and more info on SMUSH, go to smushgallery.com. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Begin, Again by Sarah Rose, Curatorial Fellowship in Dance (2022) Summer Community Potluck (2022)


South Jersey artist designs Devils’ gender equality jerseys

Like many other Devils fans, Millville-based artist Danielle Cartier will be arriving early to the Rock on March 7 to watch warm-ups prior to the Devils-Maple Leafs game. Warm-ups are a good chance for fans to try to catch a puck, get hyped for the game with the EDM music that blasts through the arena, and see their favorite players practice.

There will be a lot to see as well during the game: the Devils are good this year if you didn’t know and they’ll be facing off against a Toronto Maple Leafs team (also good).

That’s all small peanuts though, because Cartier has a better reason to show up, and get there early: The Devils will be wearing the practice jerseys during warm-ups that she created for Gender Equality Month.

Last year, Cartier noticed an application on the New Jersey State Council on the Arts seeking applicants to create Devils warm-up jerseys, and she applied.

“The Devils work with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts to find artists,” says Cartier. ‘That’s how I found out about it. Because I am always looking for things to apply for. I totally applied off a whim, and it was a super easy process.”

The Devils were also looking for designs to celebrate Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Lunar New Year and Pride.

But for something as noble as inclusion, there has been controversy surrounding the jerseys—in particular with Pride jerseys. Two NHL teams across the Delaware and Hudson rivers have been the main characters.

Ivan Provorov, a defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers refused to wear the team’s pro-LGBT jerseys during Pride night hosted by the Flyers. Provorov cited his religious beliefs as to why he didn’t wear the jersey. The Flyers, who practice in Camden County, did not reprimand Provorov. A few weeks later, the New York Rangers were supposed to wear pro-LGBT jerseys before their game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but refrained from doing so.

The Devils Pride night went on without a hitch and, for the most part, these things do tend to go over well with fans. All the MLB-affiliated minor league clubs in the state—the Somerset Patriots, Jersey Shore (Lakewood) BlueClaws

and Trenton Thunder—have Hispanic Heritage nights and wear special jerseys to commemorate it, and all have hosted Pride nights.

Even though Cartier grew up watching the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings due to her Michigan and California roots, she was stoked to be chosen for this opportunity to showcase her collage style of art to a new audience. She got into collage art when she was younger.

“Having your binders or composition notebook decked out in school was always me,” says Cartier. “One thing that stood out to me was that my science teacher in middle school did this thing where whenever you got a good grade on a test she would give you a strip of paper. What you would do is write your name on it with a cool design. It was like your graffiti tag in a classroom and I really liked that.”

Growing up, Cartier realized that she could communicate better using art than with words, and was drawn to the powerful ways that art can communicate a message. The gender equality jersey was the latest case in point of how she uses art to relay a message, including what the form/media of the art itself says about the subject.

“I relate to gender the same way that I relate to making a collage,” explains Cartier. “Like being able to construct your gender identity in the same way you make a collage. You take bits and pieces of what you like. What inspires you? What makes you happy? What keeps you going? And some pieces you discard. That is how I relate gender to collage.”

Cartier was able to take her love of collage and put it on a sweater. Even though the NHL has been creative with jerseys recently, there isn’t an art form like Cartier’s on a sweater.

When she got the call from the Devils, Cartier had a myriad of reactions; excitement, understandably, being the first one. She also told her students at Stockton University.

“I was so excited and so shocked,” explains Cartier. “Like I said I applied on a whim, and I when I got the call I was like, ‘Oh my god!’”

After the initial rush of excitement, Cartier started to get to work and focus on the devils in the details. She knew that she wanted to include collage on the sweater, and looked at previous jerseys for inspiration. She included her collage design on the Devils logo, but also the numbers as well. Compared to other artists, she had ample time to create her design. If she

was chosen for Hispanic Heritage Month, she would only have had a month for design. Still with any art form comes challenges; for Cartier it was the text.

“I was lucky to have made a few drafts, and progressed through it,’’ says Cartier about her design. “I struggled with the text aspect because I spent so much time focusing on the crest design and the text was difficult for me. I ended up doing what I always do, which is looking at a lot of sources. What I ended up doing was something that I tell my students, [which] is to look at graffiti font generators online. But then I was like, I just really want to do a collage-based text where the lettering is different sizes. I started to collect different varieties of each letter because I wanted each of the players’ names to look like a ransom note.”

Cartier is excited to see the jerseys up close, and will be lighting the Rock before the Devils game. The jerseys will then be auctioned off after the game and the proceeds will go to gender equality groups. While she’s excited for the opportunity, she can’t help but think about and thank the women who came before her, especially her teachers and her grandma.

“One of the things that makes me super proud is that my grandma would be so stoked right now,” says Cartier.



Camarão à Guilho at Lagar in Union

Chicken Kofta @ Hills of Herat in Martinsville

If you’ve yet to explore the food of Afghanistan, you need to change that; and there’s seemingly no better place to try it in Jersey than Hills of Herat, which served as our proper introduction to Afghan food. We sampled quite a few items from the menu—all delicious but were most impressed by the chicken kofta with naringe rice. “Ground chicken kabobs mixed with traditional spices.” When removed from the skewer, the chicken kofta may not look impressive, but when they taste as good as they do, who really cares what they look like? Essentially ground chicken patties, these Kofta were grilled to perfection— juicy and well-seasoned.

Palm Tree Bowl @ Planted Plate in Princeton

There’s a lot to like about Planted Plate in Princeton. It’s expansive menu includes original plant-based bowls, vegan substitutes for meat-based classics, plus salads, sandwiches, burritos, toasts and more. We opted for the Palm Tree Bowl on a recent visit: grilled jerk tofu, bell peppers, onions, pineapple, broccoli, kale, black beans, brown rice and a mango-coconut drizzle. It’s so damn satisfying—the sweetness of the pineapple and mango-coconut drizzle balanced with the bitterness of the kale and broccoli. Each bite feels substantial with the jerk tofu squares and black beans. Pour a little hot sauce atop this dish and you’ll be feeling alright.

We stopped into one of North Jersey’s many Portuguese restaurants, Lagar in Union, for a sampling of small plates recently. Everything we tasted was spot on—from the complimentary marinated olives to the batatas bravas (fried hunks of potato with a spicy pimenton aioli sauce) to the caldo verde, an umami-rich soup with slivers of robustly smoked sausage. But the star of the meal was camarão à guilho, shrimp in a vibrant garlic and paprika broth. The flavor will blow you away; the abundant paprika is floral, smoky and a little spicy, and while the shrimp themselves are easy to put down in a hurry, soaking up the broth with some crusty bread is about as perfect as food gets.

Gnocchi Portobello @ Vincenzo’s Ristorante in Middlesex

Fresh, al-dente gnocchi in a brown sauce (think marsala) with bits of prosciutto for extra flavor, tossed with large slices of sautéed portobello mushroom. This is pure comfort food, in the form of homemade gnocchi and a rich, earthy portobello sauce that’s pretty hard to stop eating. It’s a dish that fits the vibe of Vincenzo’s, which walks the line between white tablecloth stuffiness and too casual for a date night. It feels old school, the dishes are old school (try the vitello calabrese: sausage, hot cherry peppers and a little balsamic vinegar), and the experience, in total, is pretty enjoyable.


FOOD Vegan, Detroit-style pizza from the NJ pop-up shop

Parmagianni Pizza

vegan pies we’ve had in the past is the crust: light and soft on the inside with a perfect crunch on the outside. The thick square cuts look like they’re going to be heavy and filling but the body of the pie is so airy and delicious, we wish we bought more to sample.

If you often wonder, as we do, “When will someone finally reject this double-standard and craft our vegan buds a worthy pie that rids plant-based pizza of its stigma?” Well, friends, we’re pleased to inform you that the benevolent culinary artists behind Parmagianni Pizza have done just that, and we’ll never look at vegan pizza the same way again.

Resist the urge to plug “Parmagianni” into the Maps app on your phone—though they’re based in Asbury Park, no such brick-and-mortar business exists in Jersey. Parmagianni Pizza is only available roughly every two weeks at pop-ups that occur at a variety of businesses across the state. Our introduction to their product took place during a January pop-up at one of our favorite spots: Cats Luck Vegan in Neptune.

Parmagianni does Detroit-style pizza—rectangular, thick crust pies that resemble the Sicilian style that should be familiar to most New Jerseyans—and to date it’s the best of the style we’ve had, vegan or otherwise. At each event, there are two varieties available to customers: the classic pie called “two stripe life” and a specialty pie that rotates with each pop-up. Considering it was our first Parmagianni experience, we opted for the classic pie and it did not disappoint.

The construction was uncomplicated—

NUMU mozzarella, sauce, basil, grated Violife Parmesan on top—but the taste was exceptional (for any type of pizza). First off, NUMU and Violife are doing some next-level stuff in the vegan food space, so kudos to them for providing plant-based and lactose-free folks with really tasty products that come together especially well on this pie—you don’t miss the dairy at all. Onto the sauce: great consistency (not too watery), plenty of flavor, and it doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. The two broad rows of sauce give the pie a unique look and are the inspiration behind the “two stripe” name. Where this pizza really separates itself from the other Detroit-style and

Last month, I spoke with John Razzano, owner/ founder of Parmagianni Pizza, to learn more about his pizza-making process, what all goes into a pop-up event, where he sees Parmagianni in the future and more.

Why Vegan Pizza? What was the inspiration?

You go vegan for certain reasons, but you start missing some familiar things and pizza was definitely one of them. Before this concept was even a thing, this goes back five years, I was making circle pies at home, sort of like a New York-style or whatever; 14-inch, 16-inch pizzas. Then I’m trying different [vegan] cheeses and finding out what’s good, what’s bad out there—you learn really quick what’s good and bad.

I’ll just add that in New Jersey it’s tough to find the great vegan pizza. I mean, some people are doing it, but, once I started playing around and getting a little better at it, and getting the right ingredients… I got locked in, and the feedback I was getting from people, it just propelled me to go all in.

When did you start Parmagianni?

June of 2021. I did the first four pop-ups by myself; nobody else was an assistant. So I packed up my car—I didn’t have a trailer back then—and then rolled up to the place with everything that I needed. Pizza boxes, laptop… I had my phone with the little “Square” [point of sale] plugin on it and I’m using just one oven that I think I was borrowing. Yeah, I didn’t even own an oven at the time. So, Green Point Juicery in Morristown, the owner there, Eugene, he’s the nicest guy. He gave me my shot and he’s like, “Come anytime you want, use anything you want.” I carried his little oven that he uses to make muffins, brought it to the back and made my little setup. Originally I took pre-orders and was going to do

some walk-ins, but I quickly learned to just stick with pre-orders when working by myself because I couldn’t take orders and make pizza and fulfill pre-orders all at the same time. By the fourth [pop-up]—they were all at the same spot, Green Point Juicery—I was doing 40 pizzas only. Every pizza gets its own pan, so I had like 42 pans and I would space it out so that it was just two pizzas every 15 minutes or so, to give myself enough time.

How many people comprise the Parmagianni team?

Alex (Moscaritolo) I knew through another friend of mine, who actually introduced me to the Detroit-style pizza. Alex saw what I was doing with the pop-ups and he’s like, “I don’t know how you’re doing this by yourself. Would you like some help?” And I said, “Sure, definitely.” By the fifth event, he was helping me prep beforehand and then he’d show up and help me set up and then he eventually learned how to build the pizzas before they go in the oven. At that time we were only doing one event per month, but after I added Alex, we realized that even with two people, with walk-ins coming in, we couldn’t really keep up with the pace. So we had to add, I guess you would call it a “front of the house” member—somebody to work a front table and take the money; and that is currently my wife. When curious people show up and are like, “What is this?”...

“For vegan pizza, it’s pretty good”—a sentiment of which we’ve grown weary. Anyone who’s ever tried the stuff knows they ultimately judge vegan pizza by a different standard than traditional pies. Over the years, our experiences with it have varied: some bad, some forgettable, and then there have been a few tasty-enough iterations that were viable alternatives to non-vegan options—nothing that rivaled our favorite, traditional pies, though.
All photos by Alex Moscaritolo

it’s her understanding of everything and what goes into the process that’s really crucial. We can just keep working and she’s talking with people and handling all of that.

Not to denigrate other spots that do vegan pizza, but yours is the best we’ve had. What’s the secret—process, ingredients?

I think discovering Detroit-style, where the crust or dough is really the star of the show, and then you build around that. Mostly the comments are, “The crust is so good!” And then it’s up to us to build flavors around that.

So the process… it’s not fast. From start to finish, before you eat a pizza, it’s probably like, three days, or at least two days. Sourcing organic flour… I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody I use organic, but it’s always organic flour. I think that’s just a personal preference; I don’t know if I could feel or pick up on the additives or preservatives or whatever that’s in [regular flour]. The whole pizza probably won’t be organic because there’s some ingredients you can’t get, but the crust will always be organic. So, yeah, to answer your question, the process is important: knowing that it’s not going to be fast, taking your time, maintaining the temperature control along the way.

I’ve messed with the dough over the years. It used to be a two-day, 48-hour fermentation, but I realized I wasn’t really gaining anything out of that. Now it’s 18- to 24-hour, overnight fermentation in the refrigerator. So, if you want pizza today, you can’t have it today. If you want it tomorrow I can start making dough today and hopefully, tomorrow it’ll come out OK. The process is to put the dough in its own pan—that’s the true style. Once the dough is portioned out into pans, then it’s a series of dimpling to help that dough get to the shape of the pan and let it come to room temperature before covering. It does a four hour rise on its own in the pan itself—rising about an inch and a half—before it sees the oven.

Then it’s just a matter of keeping my other ingredients fresh. My sauce is just five ingredients: crushed tomato, salt, olive oil, sautéed garlic and a little fresh basil—it’s all fresh, made a couple of days before the [event] and then packaged, stored and transported correctly, and at the right temperatures.

How many days of preparation goes into each pop-up event?

Two, three days. It’s typically Thursday, Friday, Saturday, three days, and on the fourth day is the popup. I could probably get it done in one less day, but I space things out so I don’t kill myself.

How do you choose your pop-up locations?

It’s really a mix. Anthropologie (Montclair) was interesting because one of our customers is friends with the store manager in Shrewsbury. I guess our customer told her about us because I got a DM out of nowhere from the store manager asking what they needed to do to get us in there since they do popups in-store. She wanted to try something different, I guess; I couldn’t believe they were reaching out to me. Usually we seek somebody out, communicate with them and then bring them samples or something.

But every now and then it does go the other way, where word of mouth will get us [an opportunity].

It really does benefit both parties, though. I mean, we just did a pop-up at Cookman Creamery (Asbury Park) and they had one of their busiest Super Bowl Sundays probably in the history of their ice cream shop. We’re providing traffic for five straight hours just fulfilling pre-orders; and while people are waiting for their pizza, they’re browsing the store, they’re picking other things up and [supporting the business].

Inspiration for different specialty pies?

It’s a conversation every day, all the time, between everybody. It’s like, “I had a meal at a restaurant, it was so good! Can we make that into a pizza?” Like, that’s how we came up with a pear pie last time: Alex worked at a French restaurant once and they had a pear salad. We changed a few things around and made that pie. So the inspiration, I think, comes from everywhere. I mean, there are even pizzerias where you see them do something and you put your twist on it. Everybody borrows from everybody. We see people doing things that we’re doing, so I think the whole pizza industry borrows ideas from each other.

For me and Alex, a lot of inspiration really comes from growing up in Italian families— the meals we were accustomed to eating growing up. We’re both newly vegan, so we know what all the traditional food tastes like. We try to recreate our heritage.

Are you surprised by the growth of Parmagianni?

I have to give Alex a lot of credit here because he makes everything look really great on social media. He’s got the good camera, and he’s got a little film background from school. He’s editing photos and producing reels on Instagram and we’re constantly growing that way. That helps a lot.

Every month we’re gaining followers and pushing ourselves to get to that 100 pizzas sold (per event) mark. We hit 95 last time at Cookman Creamery, and I think we’re gonna hit 100 for sure at our next event at All Roads Vegan.

Where do you envision Parmagianni in the long run—operating under the same model or perhaps a brick-and-mortar location?

Well, Alex and I have nine-to-five jobs and those are still the primary focus; I guess you could call this a side hustle for now. I think if the space was right and the location was right and maybe there was a partnership, potentially we could do something. It would take a lot for me to leave my current nineto-five to do something full-time right now, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t get a brick-and-mortar and do, say, Friday, Saturday, Sundays. We’re always talking about it, we’re always looking at places and talking to people about how it is to run your own space. But, we’re sticking with the pop-ups for at least

the next couple years I would say.

Balancing these pop-ups with your nine-tofive gig seems like it has the potential to get overwhelming at times. What keeps driving you to do this?

We both sit in front of computers all day for work, but [Parmagianni] is a hands-on, creative outlet for us. It’s also a community building thing: collaborating with different businesses and seeing repeat customers is really the excitement of it. The good reviews just keep pushing us to be better.

Follow Parmagianni pizza on Instagram for updates/information regarding their next pop-up event, or check out their website here. This interview was edited for length and clarity.


Jersey Beer Tour: Death of the Fox Brewing in Clarksboro

For a county that is about as South Jersey as you can imagine, Gloucester County has been in the middle of it all when it comes to statewide issues: from the Deptford Mall/pig farm debate to its purple voting streak, to warehouse proliferation and more.

And with stricter regulations recently imposed on NJ breweries, Gloucester County is not only in the middle of the action, but has been leading the way, thanks to the folks at Death of the Fox Brewery in Clarksboro.

Death of the Fox opened in 2017 as a brewery and coffee roastery. Owner Chuck Garrity was inspired by visiting such places out West, where it’s far more common than here in NJ. Lo and behold, Jersey had a problem with it.

“Fortunately we are in a position where we already went head to head against the state to allow our coffee business,” explains Garrity. “We fought hard for that and the state initially pushed back and said, ‘You can’t do that,’ and we said, why, and they said, ‘Nobody has done it before and we don’t know how to manage that.’ Well that’s not my problem, and what I was looking to do was fully utilize my space and to be able to provide something that is appealing to both drinkers and non-drinkers; for people who love coffee as much as they love beer. It’s not necessarily a new concept. It’s new in this area. I was influenced by some companies on the West Coast that had a hybrid model so you know it’s not anything new. But in the state of New Jersey, if it doesn’t fit neatly into a tiny, little box, it’s a problem.”

Recently, Garrity filed a lawsuit against the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) that challenges the ABC’s special ruling on breweries. Those regulations limit advertising and events—from trivia to sports on TV—at breweries. It also prohibits breweries from coordinating with food trucks and a bunch of other asinine restrictions.

Needless to say Garrity doesn’t trust the process over in Trenton. He does, however, have a lot of trust in himself. Garrity left a stable job in health care technology to start Death of the Fox. Working in that field gave Garrity insight into government regulations, but also how to handle the details of business.

“I can see my creative vision come to frui-

tion, and that was too good to pass up,” says Garrity. “I could have stayed in health care another 10 or 20 years and then had a pension and try to do it 20 years later. There are so many unknowns in life, and I saw this so clearly that I had to do it.”

But before leaving the rat race, Garrity had to ask himself some questions that every entrepreneur should ask themselves: Who are you? Who are your customers? And what makes you different?

“I talk to entrepreneurs all the time and I tell them to make sure to know who your customer is, who you are, and what you are providing to the market that’s different from what is already out there,” explains Garrity. “If you can’t answer those three questions, then you might have a tough time with the business. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, it’s cool to open a brewery.’ Yeah, it’s cool to open a brewery, but it’s not a good enough reason to open a brewery.”

One way Death of the Fox stands out is by, as mentioned, serving both coffee and beer. On the coffee side of things, Death of the Fox has over 50 options for lattes. What also makes DotF stand out is their hours; they’re open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in a world where it’s tough to find a coffee shop that isn’t a Barnes & Noble Starbucks open past 5 p.m.

With Phoenix and Robyn blasting through the speakers, and the rustic feel of the place, DotF can feel more like a coffee shop than a brewery, and Garrity is OK with that. He wants DotF to be the place “where people can come that isn’t home or the office.” Garrity also enjoys the roasting process of the coffee as well.

“I love it because I can roast 50 pounds of coffee and have that available for sale that day versus waiting two or four weeks for a beer to condition and ferment out,” says Garrity.

Speaking of the beer, it’s pretty damn good, and well worth the time. Many of the beers at DotF have a coffee counterpart, such as the Butterbeer, and you can get both beer and coffee flights at DotF.

On the lighter end of the beer spectrum, there is the Hessian Session Kolsch, an ode to the German army that the Americans defeated in the Revolutionary War, at many sites in New Jersey, including nearby Red Bank Battlefield. It’s an entry-point beer, “much fresher and fruitier than your standard Coors Light,” Garrity says.

On the heavier end is the Moby Dick—The Great White Stout (8.5% ABV).

“It’s a white coffee chocolate stout,” says

Garrity. “It’s light in color, but it tastes like a roasty dark stout. We infuse it with the coffee that we roast here, which means 20 pounds of coffee are steeped in the beer itself. If you’re a coffee lover and you love beer, I recommend Moby Dick. It’s not for the faint-hearted though.”

There’s some fun on the taplist, too. The Cinnamon Toast Pale Ale (made with Cinnamon Toast Crunch) is unique and worth a pour—Garrity says 30 boxes of the cereal go into each batch.

For Harry Potter fans, there’s Professor Fox’s Magical Butterbeer. The beer’s slightly sweet, and a couple seconds in, the butterscotch hits you like a bludger in quidditch.

No matter whether he’s pouring something conventional or unique, the road to providing customers with a unique brewery experience starts and ends with taking proper care of the tanks and having good water quality for the beer. Even the location of the beer tanks matters to Garrity.

“We clean more than we brew,” says Garrity. “You have to get all the right chemicals, acids, things like that. Your brew day ends when you’re finished cleaning, which may take another hour to two hours, but it’s all part of the process.

“You have to have things like temperature control and make sure you are treating the water properly. I go to a lot of breweries and they aren’t doing anything to the water, but you can taste that in the beer. Beer is 98% water and you’re gonna taste that in the beer. If you don’t have a system to control the temperature, especially at this time of the year, when it has gone from 10 degrees to 65 degrees in a matter of days, it’s not good for beer. You have to have a good system to make sure that when the beer is fermenting it stays at a constant temperature.”

While Garrity continues fighting the state over its regulations, he’s also looking to the future, which includes a second location serving non-alcoholic beverages. Non-alcoholic beer’s having a bit of a moment, with the now-popular Dry January, new brands popping up left and right, and non-alcoholic restaurant nights or entire concepts opening.

“There’s a lot of momentum right now when it comes to non-alcoholic beer,” explains Garrity. “We’re developing things like kombucha and also a couple great non-alcoholic beers, and we will have things like mocktails.”

Go to deathofthefoxbrewing.com for more info.




Dead Man’s Hat

We want to publish your poetry and short fiction (up to 1,000 words) in the next issue (and subsequent issues) of NJ Indy. Send up to three submissions to Poetry Editor Kayla Harris at poetry@njindy.com, and we’ll consider them on a rolling basis for monthly publication.

(A Golden Shovel poem based on the passage, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep,” from the Robert Frost Poem, “Stopping by Woods an a Snowy Evening”)

A place to divvy loot and hide or bury, the antithetical graded earth where woods and unpaved roads converge, signs of life are scattered and few and far from lovely. Yammering crows, vultures spit hissing dark threats, ashen dust, snakeskin flakes, and unkempt trails taking unwary travelers deep, cellular dead zones one cannot but connect with dread, where eventually I find a hat without the head it used to have.

Evening falls, chills, snow promises an unnavigable trek, circling back to one foul spot, damned, mud-whorled, keep tripping over sticks, no, bones, and the muffled buffer of empty miles. Donning the cap, a perfect fit, and I have to know now my trigger finger will go through matching powdered holes before curling up in a cold moon’s shadow and I embrace and endure enforced, eternal sleep.

John Chmura is a transplanted poet who has put down roots in the pinelands of Whiting, New Jersey.

Between Our Names

My mother’s hands are inside of my hands

And I can feel it most when I’m rearranging the furniture or adjusting the thermostat. My sisters hands are the same and they say they speak to my grandmother’s ghost when they set the dining room table.

From the day I was born my mother was mourning her mother’s death

A decade of practicing rituals to keep her alive

Made her hands too worn out for soft cradling and lips too bittered for kisses

So she practiced the rituals of my grandmother’s ways. Our hands learned to hang art without a level.

Reupholster, rearrange, reduce a sauce, repot the flowers. My grandmother’s sewing machine only left the dining room table when guests came over for dinner. She was a homemaker but not a housewife.

My grandfather’s wife but not his lover, a secret I discovered. It wasn’t her barbershopped haircut or the grinning ways my mother and aunt spoke of her close girlfriends. It’s the way secrets are held between pages of a book like a keepsake cloth that disintegrates with death. And how the air is the only keeper of the breaths taken in ecstasy, and then vanish moments later.

When I was ten I dreamt I knocked on her bedroom door. When she opened it she draped a lace veil over me and told me that it was made from the strongest threads in the world. that I would not need it for a wedding that the veil was mine to use for games. I awoke a child inside of a woman’s body. Soft hips with laced stretch marks that felt like the silk of an egg.

Nicole Poko(she/her) is a NJ-native and owner of a café tucked onto a Main Street in a small town in Hunterdon County, NJ. She has a BFA from Montclair State University in Visual Arts and completed a post-graduate program at School of Visual Arts in multidisciplinary art.

Check it out: Windows of Understanding in Middlesex County

The name says it all. This public art project is intended to turn the windows of Main Street into literal windows of understanding through public art. In murals, window paintings, wall-hung portraits and more, artists share social justice messages, and raise awareness of issues, from unique perspectives.

“We’re here to bring a positive aspect,” says Tracey O’Reggio Clark, co-founder of Windows of Understanding. “We’re inundated with negativity in headlines and social media, [so we’re turning] Main Street into little windows of understanding and to shed light and uplift and celebrate it.”

Hiawatha Cuffee’s “Rise,” for instance, calls attention to the fact that 655 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents were incarcerated in 2020. Many of them may be family, friends or members of our own community who are reentering back into society. This piece represents the struggles that prisoners go through entering back into society and the hope that independence and freedom can be achieved.

Windows of Understanding is a collaboration between the New Brunswick Community Arts Council, Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of Arts, the Highlands Park Arts Commission, the Metuchen Arts Council and the South Plainfield Cultural Arts Commission. Organizers help facilitate the placement of local art in Middlesex County businesses revolving around a theme—this year it’s “Building a Healthy Community” centering on the topics of mental health, violence prevention, food equity and women’s health.

The project also pairs groups together to foster understanding; for instance, the New Brunswick High School Art Honor Society and the New Brunswick Police Department collaborated on a piece, creating channels of communication between these two groups. O’Reggio Clark says involving students is paramount to the success of Windows of Understanding.

“Essentially we learn the most from our youth,” she says. You can find out where to spot the work at windowsofunderstanding.org; there will be a closing reception on March 30 at the American Hungarian Foundation in New Brunswick.

Hiawatha Cuffee, ‘Rise’
W O R K W H E R E & H O W Y O U W A N T D o w n t o w n T r e n t o n C o m m u n i t y C o w o r k i n g S p a c e @Basecamptrenton @Basecamptrenton @Basecamptrenton Schedule a tour today 609.392.0203 247 East Front Street • Trenton, NJ 08611 www.basecamptrenton.com