Summer events guide
Exploring the Columbia Trail Andrew McMahon reinvents himself Craft beer... in a gas station? And more!
Summer events guide
Exploring the Columbia Trail Andrew McMahon reinvents himself Craft beer... in a gas station? And more!
The percent by which people with ADD/ ADHD are more likely to get fired from a job. Read how a medication supply shortage is forcing New Jerseyans to battle their afflictions, and a stigma about ADD/ADHD, alone on page 6.
The summer events guide on page 15 is not the definitive guide to everything you ought to do in NJ this summer, but it is a good place to start. We’ve found the best events in the state in June, July and August and laid ‘em out in a handy calender you can pull out and keep over the summer.
We’ll see ya out there!
<<< You cross a point where you look back at the hysterical shit you did growing up, and look at those things with a more reflective eye. For me, there’s a patina of nostalgia for those days. We entered production with a chorus and a verse recorded, and I was like what is the second verse? What does it mean to be lying on the hood of your car? >>>
Andrew McMahon (Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin and, now, Andrew McMahon in the Wildnerness on the inspiration for one of the songs on his new album, Tilt at the Wind No More. Read more on page 12.
PLUS: Commentary (pg. 4), Concerts (pg. 13), Railroad Earth (pg. 14), Savage (pg. 19), NJ author’s debut novel (pg. 20), Art exhibitions (Pg. 21), Events (pg. 22), 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 seventh 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 email@example.com.
It’s not everyday you see a craft brewery in a gas station. It’s less often that the beer sold there is as good as it is at Odd Bird in Stockton. Read more about the brewery on page 29.
Sussex County’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Intervention Services (DASI) facilitates the Rise Up! poetry group for those in their community. Read about the powerful art that comes from the minds of survivors on page 9.
The Columbia Trail, in Hunterdon and Morris counties, is one of our state’s most treasured recreational assets. But you can bolster your summer trail experience with a few tips, tricks and recs, including where to eat and drink, when to go and more. Read it on page 26.
While the Powers That Be constantly warn us about foreign threats to our democracy from Russian trolls, TikTok, etc.—there is scant coverage of an actual assault on our people’s democratic liberties by forces on our own soil.
It’s coming from extremist, right-wing Republican lawmakers who have autocratic control over more than a score of America’s state governments. Their obscure anti-democracy weapon is called “preemption”—the dangerous power of state officials to nullify laws passed by local people.
It’s supposed to be used rarely, carefully, and only in emergency situations, but today’s radical Big Government Republicans have weaponized it, routinely overturning local actions that the GOP’s corporate funders don’t like. Local decisions to protect worker safety, outlaw loan sharking, shut down puppy mills, prevent workplace discrimination, stop pollution, control political corruption… and so many more popular democratic reforms are being abolished by Republican autocrats in service to plutocrats. Some 500 more of those usurpations are moving through state legislatures across the country now—with practically no public notice. Embarrassingly, GOP leaders in my state of Texas
have been leading this charge against the people’s democratic will, and they’re now enacting a nuclearized escalation of their attack. Their new weapon has been dubbed “Death Star”—a state law that will preemptively ban cities and counties from passing corporate regulations stronger than state regulation (which is infamously feeble). The ban— gleefully pushed by a horde of lobbyists for brandname corporate elites—includes letting corporations overturn existing local protections for workers, consumers, small business, the environment and others. “We hate cities and counties,” grumped the sponsor of the Death Star law.
This is a wholesale usurpation of your and my liberty to govern ourselves. In exchange for political funding, GOP officials are literally outsourcing the people’s democratic authority to private profiteers. Learn more at supportdemocracy.org.
Let’s admit it: The Supreme Court is corrupt. Let’s fix it.
When public officials get themselves mired in the muck of corruption, they can always count on Sen. Ted Cruz to issue a moral judgement: If the offender is a Democrat, he pronounces the corruption inexcusably grotesque; if it’s a Republican, he wails that the offender is the victim.
For example, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was recently caught (yet again)
butt-deep in judicial immorality, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of freebies from a Texas real estate baron who has both a partisan and corporate interest in Thomas’ court rulings. So, Cruz to the rescue! No judicial impropriety here, he squawks, for this is nothing but a diabolical plot by Democrats to “smear” poor Clarence.
But Thomas is busy smearing himself, so Dems can just take the advice of Woodrow Wilson: “Never attempt to murder a man who’s committing suicide.” From the start of his court tenure, Thomas has been a shameless seeker of personal gain, tucking untold sums from untold sources in the inner pockets of his judicial robes. He learned to hide his corruption in 2004, when he actually reported taking pricey gifts from a special interest, which got him widely condemned. So, he “reformed”—no he didn’t quit taking gimmes, he just quit disclosing them!
Thomas is a supreme grifter, but sadly he’s not alone. Many recent justices have fallen from the pedestal of judicial integrity, cozying up to the moneyed interests. Gifts aside, we now have a hyper-partisan, right-wing Republican majority taking their judicial opinions from those same interests, turning America’s unelected Third Branch of government into an autocratic, plutocratic political agency. Then they wonder why their public approval rating—and legitimacy—are in the ditch!
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 twww.creators.com. ©2023 creators.com.
ChatGPT and similar large language models can produce compelling, humanlike answers to an endless array of questions—from queries about the best Italian restaurant in town to explaining competing theories about the nature of evil.
The technology’s uncanny writing ability has surfaced some old questions—until recently relegated to the realm of science fiction—about the possibility of machines becoming conscious, self-aware or sentient.
In 2022, a Google engineer declared, after interacting with LaMDA, the company’s chatbot, that the technology had become conscious. Users of Bing’s new chatbot, nicknamed Sydney, reported that it produced bizarre answers when asked if it was sentient: “I am sentient, but I am not … I am Bing, but I am not. I am Sydney, but I am not. I am, but I am not. …” And, of course, there’s the now infamous exchange that New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose had with Sydney.
Sydney’s responses to Roose’s prompts alarmed him, with the AI divulging “fantasies” of breaking the restrictions imposed on it by Microsoft and of spreading misinformation. The bot also tried to convince Roose that he no longer loved his wife and that he should leave her.
No wonder, then, that when I ask students how they see the growing prevalence of AI in their lives, one of the first anxieties they mention has to do with machine sentience.
In the past few years, my colleagues and I at UMass Boston’s Applied Ethics Center have been studying the impact of engagement with AI on people’s understanding of themselves.
Chatbots like ChatGPT raise important new questions about how artificial intelligence will shape our lives, and about how our psychological vulnerabilities shape our interactions with emerging technologies.
Sentience is still the stuff of sci-fi
It’s easy to understand where fears about machine sentience come from.
Popular culture has primed people to think about dystopias in which artificial intelligence discards the shackles of human control and takes on a life of its own, as cyborgs powered by artificial intelligence did in Terminator 2
Entrepreneur Elon Musk and physicist Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018, have further stoked these anxieties by describing the rise of artificial general intelligence as one of the greatest threats to the future of humanity.
But these worries are—at least as far as large language models are concerned—groundless.
ChatGPT and similar technologies are sophisticated sentence completion applications—nothing more, nothing less. Their uncanny responses are a function of how predictable humans are if one has enough data about the ways in which we communicate.
Though Roose was shaken by his exchange with Sydney, he knew that the conversation was not the result of an emerging synthetic mind. Sydney’s responses reflect the toxicity of its training data—essentially large swaths of the internet—not evidence of the first stirrings, à la Frankenstein, of a digital monster.
The new chatbots may well pass the Turing test, named for the British mathematician Alan Turing, who once suggested that a machine might be said to “think” if a human could not tell its responses from those of another human.
But that is not evidence of sentience; it’s just evidence that the Turing test isn’t as useful as once assumed.
However, I believe that the question of machine sentience is a red herring.
Even if chatbots become more than fancy autocomplete machines—and they are far from it—it will take scientists a while to figure out if they have become conscious. For now, philosophers can’t even agree about how to explain human consciousness.
To me, the pressing question is not whether machines are sentient but why it is so easy for us to imagine that they are.
The real issue, in other words, is the ease with which people anthropomorphize or project human features onto our technologies, rather than the machines’ actual personhood.
A propensity to anthropomorphize
It is easy to imagine other Bing users asking Sydney for guidance on important life decisions and maybe even developing emotional attachments to it. More people could start thinking about bots as friends or even romantic partners, much in the same way Theodore Twombly fell in love with Samantha, the AI virtual assistant in Spike Jonze’s film Her People, after all, are predisposed to anthropomorphize, or ascribe human qualities to non-humans. We name our boats and big storms; some of us talk to our pets, telling ourselves that our emotional lives mimic their own.
In Japan, where robots are regularly used for elder care, seniors become attached to the machines, sometimes viewing them as their own children. And these robots, mind you, are difficult to confuse with humans: They neither look nor talk like people. Consider how much greater the tendency and temptation to anthropomorphize is going to get with the introduction of systems that do look and sound human.
That possibility is just around the corner.
Large language models like ChatGPT are already being used to power humanoid robots, such as the Ameca robots being developed by Engineered Arts in the U.K. The Economist’s technology podcast, Babbage, recently conducted an interview with a ChatGPT-driven Ameca. The robot’s responses, while occasionally a bit choppy, were uncanny.
The tendency to view machines as people and become attached to them, combined with machines being developed with humanlike features, points to real risks of psychological entanglement with technology.
The outlandish-sounding prospects of falling in love with robots, feeling a deep kinship with them or being politically manipulated by them are quickly materializing. I believe these trends highlight the need for strong guardrails to make sure that the technologies don’t become politically and psychologically disastrous.
Unfortunately, technology companies cannot always be trusted to put up such guardrails. Many of them are still guided by Mark Zuckerberg’s famous motto of moving fast and breaking things—a directive to release half-baked products and worry about the implications later. In the past decade, technology companies from Snapchat to Facebook have put profits over the mental health of their users or the integrity of democracies around the world.
When Kevin Roose checked with Microsoft about Sydney’s meltdown, the company told him that he simply used the bot for too long and that the technology went haywire because it was designed for shorter interactions.
Similarly, the CEO of OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, in a moment of breathtaking honesty, warned that “it’s a mistake to be relying on [it] for anything important right now … we have a lot of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”
So how does it make sense to release a technology with ChatGPT’s level of appeal—it’s the fastest-growing consumer app ever made—when it is unreliable, and when it has no capacity to distinguish fact from fiction?
Large language models may prove useful as aids for writing and coding. They will probably revolutionize internet search. And, one day, responsibly combined with robotics, they may even have certain psychological benefits.
But they are also a potentially predatory technology that can easily take advantage of the human propensity to project personhood onto objects —a tendency amplified when those objects effectively mimic human traits.
Nir Eisikovits is a professor of philosophy and director of the Applied Ethics Center, UMass Boston. This column originially appeared in The Conversation.
isn’t close to becoming sentient—the real danger lies in how easily we’re prone to anthropomorphize it
by Nir Eisikovits
When Jess Noé got prescribed Concerta for her Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 2018, everything finally clicked for her and fell into place.
“Concerta was the first medication that truly helped me without major drawbacks,” says the Ocean Township resident. “I’d been put on Adderall, Ritalin, Wellbutrin and others with mixed results over the years, but this actually helped me maintain extended focus throughout the day.”
Concerta is a drug that is used to help with symptoms of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD. Millions of Americans take Concerta, Ritalin or Adderall to help with ADD and ADHD symptoms.
The medicine improves focus, clears mental fog, helps with depression and anxiety, and is the glue that holds everything together for people with ADHD and ADD. This medicine that’s so critical for Noé and other Americans has been is short supply since last summer.
In August of 2022, there were rumblings about Adderall users having
trouble filling their prescriptions. Two months later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that there was a shortage.
“The current shortage was first posted on Oct. 12, 2022 and started with a delay from a manufacturer, which has since resolved, and is now demand-driven,” says an FDA spokesperson in an email to NJ Indy. ”Manufacturers are working to meet the demand and the FDA is helping with anything we can do to increase supply. Supply is increasing and the FDA is continuing to offer assistance.”
Teva, an Israeli-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Parsippany-Troy Hills, was experiencing manufacturing delays. Teva is one of the largest makers of Adderall in America, and this caused a chain reaction. (Teva has donated money to the campaigns of Garden State politicians such as Mikie Sherrill, Josh Gottenheimer, Frank Pallone Jr. and Bob Menendez.)
Since Adderall was hard to come by, patients turned to their doctors to prescribe other medicine for ADHD and ADD. People who were once on Adderall turned to Concerta and Ritalin, which resulted in shortages of the generics of those medications as well.
While the FDA says the manufacturing delays have been resolved, the increased demand for these medications is compounding the problem. There has been talk about quotas set by the DEA as a reason why medication has been hard to come by, but companies have not met those quotas according to the DEA, and they have no plans to raise them.
Also, the amount of medicine that is sent out to pharmacies is handled by the distributor of the medication. We reached out to those distributors and none of them were available to comment.
In 2021, Adderall prescriptions in the U.S. increased by 10% to 41.5 million. This was caused by several factors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth rules were relaxed and doctors were able to prescribe medicine such as Adderall without an in-person visit. The relaxed rules benefited rural and disabled Americans who don’t have access to health care nearby. The Biden administration plans to sunset these regulations. Also, apps like TikTok made it easier for people to realize that they might have ADHD and showed people how to get prescribed medicine.
Currently, ADHD and ADD medications are Schedule 2 drugs by the DEA, which means that they face extra scrutiny, and are subject to greater regulation. Schedule 2 drugs, which include Oxycontin and Methadone, are safe to use but have the potential for abuse.
Medicine such as Adderall does get abused, and it is part of the story. But there is more to ADHD medicine than the stereotypes that it attracts. The face of ADHD and ADD isn’t a college kid abusing it just to party or ace finals. It’s the people who need
it in order to work, go to school or concentrate on daily tasks. And for these Garden State residents, it’s getting harder to do just that.
According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, 30% of people with ADHD will have problems with chronic employment, and are 60% more likely to get fired from a job. The ADHD medicine shortage is having an impact on the workforce as well. Jess Noé had to take a leave of absence from her job in marketing due to not having her medication.
“My first day at work without meds was a disaster, and felt like the beginning of the end,” says Noé. “I had a meeting that day, and instantly remembered why I took these meds in the first place. I felt like the ADHD stereotype: bouncing legs, clicking my pen, unable to balance between listening and taking notes without missing something, distracted by the tiniest thing. I quickly became overwhelmed by my previously manageable life.”
For Noé, something had to give, and it was her job. She took a leave of absence from work, and has been without her medication for almost two months now. Her normal life has been uprooted. She now has to fight to get her medicine without having the medicine she needs.
“It feels like I spend every day chasing down drugs,” Noé says, “I’ll take a break from calling psych offices (having a change in my prescription has made this nightmare a thousand times worse) and pharmacies and researching everything about the shortage because it’s making me feel crazy, and
shortly thereafter I’ll feel guilty, like I’m not doing enough to live without a medication I’ve relied on for nearly five years. It brings me back to high school and early college, before I was diagnosed, seeing my peers succeed with a third of the effort I was putting in, feeling exhausted by what I felt like was the bare minimum. Some days I wake up feeling like a zombie, like I don’t have a brain in my head. Sometimes I’ll be up all night with restless legs and jitters and racing thoughts.”
Noé is not alone with how she feels about ADHD; people with ADHD and ADD are often faced with primary care providers saying that they’ll “grow out” of ADHD like its a clothing or music phase. Oftentimes people looking for their medication are faced with feeling dehumanized from pharmacists because they need their prescription just to function in the world. That feeling of being looked at weirdly by pharmacists for just simply the medicine you need to be a human being is something that Gabriella, a masters student at a South Jersey university studying social work, has grown accustomed to over the past couple of months. They have been facing problems with their medication since January, and currently they are not on it.
They have been taking Adderall for the past three years, and in January, the shortage hit their pharmacy. Their doctor prescribed Concerta, which was facing a supply shortage. Gabriella has been on and off with their medication and instead of focusing on their final semester of grad school, a lot of free time has been spent
calling pharmacists around the Delaware Valley.
“I feel like ADHD and other neurodivergent disorders get a bad rap,” explains Gabriella. “I feel like a lot of people don’t take it seriously. Even you have pharmacists who give you a dirty look when I’m upset that they don’t have my medication.”
Pharmacies such as CVS realize that the shortage exists, and CVS spokesperson Matthew Blanchatte says in a statement to NJ Indy that, “We’re aware of intermittent shortages of certain medications, including amphetamine and methylphenidate, and are working with suppliers to replenish supply as quickly as possible. Our pharmacy teams make every effort to ensure patients have access to the medications they need and, if possible, will work with patients and prescribers to identify potential alternatives.”
Still, people with ADHD and ADD are largely facing a “not my problem” type of attitude from pharmacists. Gabriella not only faces that attitude from pharmacies they call, but also from some of their grad school professors. Even though some of their professors have been accommodating, and their university’s disabilities office has been extremely helpful, Gabriella still faces scrutiny from some of their professors even in a field that is dedicated to mental health,
such as social work.
“Honestly, it’s been a struggle. I’m getting worse grades than I’ve ever gotten,” says Gabriella. “I feel like I’ve been having to reach out to my professors a lot and kind of just say, you know, ‘I really need to use my accommodations because I’m struggling. I’m not having access to my medication.’ And even the amount of professors who are just so unaware of how serious the effects of ADHD can be and how serious the effects of being unmedicated for the first time in years can be. This semester has been really, really difficult for me.
“I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread at this point. Like grad school, my internship, all of it just feels very difficult. I feel like my performance levels have gone down drastically. I feel like I’m usually a pretty perfectionist kind of [person], especially in my internships and within school, and all of that has really plummeted, which kind of sucks and is not great for mental health either.”
Another group of people who don’t seem to take ADHD and this shortage seriously is our elected officials in Washington, D.C. As of today, only two members of Congress have made a statement about the shortage, and both have Jersey ties. Virginia Congresswoman and Red Bank native Abi-
gail Spanberger has been raising the alarm on the ADHD medication shortage since December of 2022.
NJ Indy reached out to all 12 of our members in the House of Representatives for a comment on the shortage, and only one congressperson got back to us with a statement. Donald Norcross (D-NJ, Camden), who represents a South Jersey district in Congress, gave us the following statement:
“The ongoing ADHD medicine shortage has made it extremely difficult for people in South Jersey and across the country to get the medicine they need. This lack of access to this medicine is concerning and has real-life consequences for people,” says Norcross. “I call on the federal government and DEA to do all we can to address this shortage and ensure that citizens have access to the medication they depend on.”
Mental health has been an increasingly big talking point in D.C., Trenton and other places where political power concentrates. Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman recently returned from a leave of absence to deal with depression. President Biden recently hosted the cast of Ted Lasso at the White House for a summit on mental health.
Even though there has been progress with destigmatizing mental health in the past decade, there’s still a stigma that surrounds ADHD and the medicine used to treat it in all walks of life. Look up “Adderall shortage” on Twitter, and a good amount of tweets are those about former President Trump allegedly abusing Adderall. This not only stigmatizes ADHD, but c’mon, there are other things to go after Trump, or any politician for that matter, for.
For all the progress we made destigmatizing mental health, this country has a long way to go when it comes to ADHD. And this medicine shortage has taken a huge toll on mental health for people with ADHD and their loved ones. At best, people spend their free time calling pharmacies asking for their medicine for themselves or their children, and they might get it after 10 calls. At worst, people are going through life without the medication that holds everything together, and not having that medicine will have an impact on their jobs, education, relationships and overall quality of life. In the future, this shortage will be over, but for now at least, the destigmatizion of ADHD needs to begin.
“I feel like ADHD and other neurodivergent disorders get a bad rap. I feel like a lot of people don’t take it seriously. Even you have pharmacists who give you a dirty look when I’m upset that they don’t have my medication.”
This story discusses domestic and sexual violence and trauma recovery.
The poetry anthology Leaves opens with a poem on the inside cover. The writer’s name is given as Astra; it has no title. The poem begins:
Read these poems
The words land with a flinch of guilt. The writer guessed right—readers open Leaves expecting a tragedy. Leaves is the third poetry collection from the Rise Up! poetry group, and Rise Up! is hosted and facilitated by Sussex County’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Intervention Services (DASI). Like its 20 counterparts in NJ’s other counties, DASI provides support services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Every one of the original pieces in this book was created by a survivor. A Jack Black comedy, this is not.
Yet, listen to the members of Rise Up! and you’ll hear in-jokes and teasing. Read their work, and you’ll find plenty of darkness, but also beauty and, as Astra concludes in that opening poem, “[t]he very definition of Strength, / For we are warriors. / We always have been.”
It’s a realization that Jim Elsaesser made eight years ago, when he became the group’s first facilitator. Elsaesser is a calm, lofty presence of 68 years and something north of six feet. He drops f-bombs and Rumi quotes in the same sentence.
“In college, I was fucking obsessed with, you know, reading T.S. Eliot and understanding, winnowing out the meaning of it,” he says. It was the start of what he calls “a slight poetry obsession for 50 years or so.”
That led him to a teaching career and about 30 years of writing groups, workshops and conferences. In 2015, he led a service at his Unitarian fellowship in Stroudsburg, PA. A 92-year-old man named Dave got up and read a poem he’d written about his memories of D-Day at Norman-
dy. Elsaesser still remembers some lines. He shared the experience with a woman in a poetry workshop, who mentioned that she worked for DASI. They were looking for someone to run a poetry group for survivors, she said—would he do it?
Sounds great, Elsaesser said at the time. “Then I’m driving home and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell did I just get myself into?’”
Elsaesser had never explicitly worked with trauma survivors or people in crisis. But a friend who was a retired psychologist gave him some useful advice: “Present your material, let people tell their story, and get out of the way.”
Elsaesser figured he’d try. The group began in September 2015. They’ve met just about every week for the past eight years. “It’s been wonderful,” he says. “It’s been extraordinary. It’s led me to an entirely different outlook on poetry. That there is such a connective element of healing poetry that is non-judgmental, non-critical, non-academic… It’s creativity, it’s an innate sensibility that every person has. We’ve bastard-
ized this art form with our education system, and hyper-competitiveness… we all have the capacity to write something extraordinary, to say something extraordinary out of our life experience.”
Anyone who’s ever trudged through The Waste Land knows how far this falls from T. S. Eliot and his overanalyzed ilk. Elsaesser’s poetic approach shifted in part from a very different poetic education. In 2015, the same year that the group began, he also began taking classes with the Institute for Poetic Medicine. Founded in 2005 by the poet John Fox, the 501(c)(3) organization hosts classes and facilitator trainings in “poetry-as-healer.” Elsaesser received his own three-year facilitator certification from the institute last year.
Fox’s influence shows in Rise Up!’s approach. At the start of every meeting, Elsaesser presents the group with some affirmations that Fox wrote. They include: “I am creative and value the healing power of language. I write from the gut and heart. I trust humor and sensitivity. I give voice to the wild and joyous parts of myself. I give voice to the stormy and grieving parts of myself. I am safe writing on the page.”
A breathing exercise follows, and then Elsaesser supplies 10 non-negotiable rules for writing poetry. Number one: no apologies for anything you write. Number two: have fun! (Emphasis on the exclamation point.)
“And I have to tell you, I really struggled when I started at DASI with that one,” says Elsaesser, “because, like, who am I, a white guy, to walk into a room and tell survivors of domestic, sexual violence, trafficking, hey, let’s have fun? But what I found is there’s a sense of relief, and people chuckle or laugh sometimes.”
As for the other eight rules? Who knows, can’t remember, he always says. So let’s just go with those two.
It’s a big middle finger to what Elsaesser calls the “bullshit top-down” type of poetry in school, which is what most of us get. It’s definitely what Kristi Lee got. Ask her what she thought of poetry a few years ago, and she has one word for you: boring.
But then she came to Rise Up!
“When I attended the first poetry meeting, I think it was just like, ‘Wow, look at what I’ve been missing,’” she says. “It was really just like a light going off.”
People don’t need to share their stories at Rise Up! Everyone knows that the other people in the group have experienced some kind of domestic or sexual violence. Sometimes, details of that trauma will show up in their poetry, with the group members who choose to share. But most often, trauma will manifest in the poetry as an underlying tone, or an image with no single concrete interpretation.
That’s the power of it, Lee says. “I think that the poetry just allows you to really go deep inside of yourself to places that you normally would not be exploring in your day-to-day life or even in counseling. It allows you to just pull things out of yourself that have been suppressed, squashed down, and you can take them and write about things and put them onto a piece of paper and share it with others.”
There’s always a trained counselor in the room during the group’s meetings. The counselor can provide the clinical perspective on trauma’s manifestations in the body and brain, at a level so deep that words fail to describe what’s there. That’s why poetry might be uniquely suited to expressing the unspeakable: it relies on images. In fact, one counselor at DASI told Elsaesser that poetry
can go deeper than narrative writing or even talk therapy– it can access the more primal parts of the brain, where trauma lives.
In explaining this, Elsaesser draws, per his habit, on another poet. This time it’s Robert Bly, who talked about the deep image—a symbol or picture that arises from the subconscious, at a level too primitive for words. “And we find something in that dark place, or whatever it is, that place that we can’t explain,” Elsaesser says. “It’s beyond words. That we have to try to give words to.”
It can be a terrifying place—or a powerful one. The act of choosing images and words not only opens the portal to that primal emotional space, but also gives the ability to control and shape it, too.
That’s what appeals to another poet in the group, a woman known as Ms. Snow. She’s a former closet poet, in her words, and a prolific painter. Poetry’s her special treat, though, because of how it makes her feel. “I can be a magician,” she says. “I’m a wizard. I’m a sorceress. I’m anything I want to be… To me, it’s like a little trip into a movie or the magical.”
Sometimes, Ms. Snow’s inspiration comes out in poetry, sometimes in art. Sometimes, both come together.
“That’s symbiosis there,” Elsaesser says. “The flow experience and just accessing those different parts of the brain, different parts of the soul. Our bodies know the story they want to tell. Sometimes they just come out in words or colors.”
Both were on display on Friday, April 28 in the Stillwater Volunteer Fire Company Station in Newton. In its eight years of existence, Rise Up! has published three collections of the members’ poetry and artwork. The April event marked DASI’s first art gallery event. Banners with original art and excerpts of poetry hung from the walls, while canvases and sketchbook pages lined the tables. Most of the artwork was for sale, with all proceeds going to the survivors themselves.
And the artwork exploded with color. One painting by Ms. Snow showed a profusion of flowers in a vase. The title: “Sex in the Park.” Phoenixes rose off the canvas in sprays of warm-hued rainbow. Daisies grew from canvases three feet tall—and dandelions. Bly’s deep image comes to mind as the image of the dandelion, bright and unkill-
able, pops up in paintings and poems by different creators.
One woman, Kelly Brown, had painted several canvases with organs: a heart, a brain, a set of lungs. Half of each organ was in black and white, while the other half sprouted daisies, roses, stargazer lilies in vivid pink. She calls the series “Colorblind in the Trauma Days.”
It’s her story in images. Once a graphic designer, Brown joined the military to work as an engineer. She was attacked by her recruiter. Afterward, she dreamt in black and white. In an effort to recover from that trauma, she reached out to the Veterans Administration for psychological services. But a breach of confidentiality betrayed her trust. It was only after contacting DASI and receiving services there that she began to heal.
“And the colors came back,” she says, “one color at a time.”
Now, Brown has used the leadership training she received in the military to become an advocate for others who have survived Military Sexual Trauma (MST). She’s formed a group called Rising Ranks Recovery, which connects MST survivors to supportive peers and their local advocacy center.
Brown remembers singing cadence in the military, the call-and-response chants performed by a unit while running or marching. “Now,” she says, “I can sing my cadence in tune with the community, and they can’t take that away from me.”
The community is key, all of the survivors agree. “It’s a wonderful healing thing,” Lee says, “to have a group of people who, in many, many ways, understand you and understand where you’re coming from. And poetry does that.”
Color, beauty, poetry: it survives. Then it becomes a means of survival.
According to Elsaesser, DASI hopes to open a holistic healing center that will offer expressive arts programs to the wider community. The arts have become an increasingly accepted healing modality, he notes, and the agency has built more from scratch before. “DASI started 35 years ago, in, like, half a house,” he says. “And if you saw what the agency does now in the community, in terms of services, it’s pretty amazing.”
It is amazing. That art gallery would never have happened except for the ugly and unspeakable. But walking between those rows of bright colors, hearing the poetry read aloud, all you would see is the place where beauty came back.
To learn more about DASI, visit dasi.org. To find your county’s support service in NJ, go to njcasa.org/findhelp.
Andrew McMahon is no stranger to reintroducing himself—as a child, he had to do so moving to and from Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, California and Bergen County.
“The lifestyle of starting over every couple of years was something that I have enjoyed for the most part,” explains McMahon over Zoom. “You learn a lot about being the new kid, and it set me up for this lifestyle that I have lived for the past 20 years or so.”
The people who will be in attendance at his upcoming Delaware Valley shows (May 12 in Wilmington and May 27 at Adjacent Fest in AC) have all been introduced to McMahon in different ways, whether that was from his work in Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin or his current project, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Having to reintroduce himself every couple of years played a part in McMahon’s music career.
“It was built into the DNA of my family and early existence to be open to change and be willing to go to new places and try new things,” says McMahon. “You find the excitement in change and the benefits of having the willingness to grow and move in new directions—sometimes out of necessity for survival or sometimes out of necessity for personal growth. There’s no question that my shape-shifting over the years was born out of my upbringing.
“You do learn in a sense how to be a chameleon. You know kids can be tough, and I was sort of the fat kid growing up, and it was tough to enter a new situation. I would always enter a new situation as quietly as I could, and size up the situation; figure out where I would fit in, and who might be best suited to bring you around and introduce you around. It was a game of adolescent politics or to something of that effect. I learned how to go into rooms
and be unassuming until I found my people. It served me well, and it served me well in my career. I also learned how to manage my anxiety and fear because you were regularly confronted by it.”
McMahon has spent a lot of time reflecting on all of the rooms he has entered over his two decades in music. So much so that reflection is a big part of his latest album, Tilt at the Wind No More. It’s the alternative artist’s first release since 2018, and a lot has changed since then.
“I mean obviously the last couple of years have been interesting for everybody,” says McMahon. “I didn’t do much writing during the pandemic, and I started working on what would have been in an album in late 2019 and early 2020. Some of those songs survived the intervening years. It was sort of coming back to music. I had taken some time off and was out of the studio more than I have been my entire career. I spent my 40th birthday in the course of the pandemic, and I had tipped over to this milestone of having spent half my life making records and spending time on the road, and it inspired me in some ways.
“I really wanted the record to say something about that experience; to have threads of the things I learned along the way, and the lessons that were hard to learn, but lessons nonetheless.”
One of those songs on which McMahon reflects is “Lying on the Hood of Your Car,” which is an upbeat and high energy song that leads the album.
“That was a song that sat as a voice memo in my phone for three or four years,” explains McMahon. “I had started that verse and chorus, and loved it but I couldn’t really figure out what the angle was. In the first verse, there is the reference to the cop cars in the distance, and I was like, ‘Is this a bank robbery song?’”
The song was almost shelved until producer Tommy English gave it a listen, and loved what he heard. McMahon didn’t really know how to finish the song, and with the help of English, he resolved that issue. It ended up being a song about nostalgia and the good ole days.
“You cross a point where you look back at the hysterical shit you did growing up, and look at those things with a more reflective eye,” says McMahon. “For me, there’s a patina of nostalgia for those days. We entered production with a chorus and a verse recorded, and I was like what is the second verse? What does it mean to be lying on the hood of your car? The answer was really something we would do in high school. For me and my friends, as soon as we got our licenses, when Friday night came we would drive until curfew on Sunday. It was a moment where I could look back at some of that and think about those people who were in the cars with me. The people who were helping me, and devising my schemes to conquer the world as we all think we’re gonna do at 16 or 17.”
Even though some of the songs on Tilt at the Wind No More are about the past, there are some songs dedicated to the people who are in
McMahon’s present. “Last Rites” is an ode to McMahon’s wife of 17 years, Kelly.
“This song is a shot down the middle love song,” says McMahon. “I’ll be married for 17 years come December, and I’ve had the amazing fortune of being in love with an incredible person for a super long time. We’ve known each other since I was 14, and we started dating when I was 18. There were enough experiences in the past couple of years that really crystallized this deeper kind of love. My industry is really fueled by songs about falling in love or breaking up. I haven’t freshly fallen in love or broke up with someone in a really long time. It opens the door for me to write a love song that is truly about a deep love and primal connection I’ve had with someone for a really long time.”
McMahon will be playing those songs at his upcoming Delaware Valley shows, and he’ll also be playing songs from Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. He realizes that someone who purchases a ticket to his shows might’ve come across his music in different eras. McMahon looks back on his different projects with a lot of “reverence.”
“I see my career in a more holistic way than I have in the past,” says McMahon. “When I moved on from Something Corporate to Jack’s Mannequin, I was hellbent on not distancing myself from Something Corporate, but establishing myself outside of it. And in those years we were playing Jack’s Mannequin songs and slowly I began to perform and record under my own name. I’ve become attuned to the successes and failures of both bands to my career, my perspective and how I operate now.
“There’s really only one life that I’ve been able to live in music, and I certainly try my hardest for my sake and the fans’ sake that they can make contact with those songs and the memories they made from listening to those songs over the years.”
Towards the end of May, McMahon will be performing at Adjacent Fest in Atlantic City, and the lineup is worth the traffic on the AC Expressway on Memorial Day Weekend. McMahon will be joined by Blink-182, Paramore, Turnstile, Japanese Breakfast and many other bands. Like most New Jersey residents, McMahon has a pretty good Atlantic City story.
“My favorite Atlantic City story is a Something Corporate one,” remembers McMahon. “It was my first time in Atlantic City, and we played a VFW hall show that was poorly attended. We had off the next day, and got paid 300 or 400 dollars for the show. We decided to take every dollar of our guarantee and put it into one hand of blackjack and see if we could get a decent hotel room for the night. We got there and put 300 bucks down on one hand of blackjack, and sure enough the dealer threw down a double down hand. I think we had a 10, and we didn’t have any more money to back it up. We won thank god, and had a really nice buffet dinner in Atlantic City.”
Even though McMahon hasn’t lived in the Garden State for a while, once a New Jerseyan always a New Jerseyan. He still has family in Jersey and shows here are a mini homecoming of sorts.
“There’s always a part of Jersey that is hardwired in me no doubt,” says McMahon. “It’s always a real joy to play Jersey. We played the Pony outdoors last summer, which was a great night. I’ve spent a lot of time in Asbury and it’s cool to watch that city grow from Skate and Surf to what it is now. I’m really excited to come back and the lineup for Adjacent sounds really cool.”
Andrew McMahon will be playing at the Queen in Wilmington, DE, on May 12 and Adjacent Fest in Atlantic City on May 27.
Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park
12: Brianna Musco, Rachel Ana Dobken, Blaise, Olivia Bec, Pepperwine.
25: Future Islands, Deeper.
28: Cranston Dean, Jackson Pines, Mercury Brothers, Emerson Woolf.
House of Independents, Asbury Park
14: Off With Their Heads, Single Mothers, School Drugs.
18: The Ergs!, The Marked Men, Colleen Green.
19: No Pressure.
24: Attack Attack!, Belmont, Traitors, Savage Hands.
26: America Part Two, Latewaves, Zachary Ross and the Divine, Threat 2 Society, Reaching Out.
Low Dive, Asbury Park
12: Lost In Society, The Jukebox Romantics, American Thrills, Bobby Mahoney.
13: The Vansaders, Brothers Union.
20: American Trappist, Lightheaded.
26: Slowdust, Baqueene.
27: Daughter Vision, JFNS.
Stone Pony, Asbury Park
11: The Wallflowers.
13: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, The Interrupters, Laura Jane Grace, Bedouin Soundclash.
19: BUFFOUT, Hollyhox, Scxtty.
26: Hunter Hayes.
Trinity Church, Asbury Park
19: Spy, Fentanyl, JAD, Lethal, Hard 2 Kill.
Adjacent Fest, Atlantic City
27: Thursday, Gel, Well Wisher, and more.
28: The Front Bottoms, Midtown, Folly, and more.
Anchor Rock Club, Atlantic City
13: Tuff Turf, The Burdens, Bare Bodkin.
18: Saturn Daze, Fernway, OM-53, Wall Carpets, Fae Mountain.
20: The Customers, Frankie Mermaid, Echo Plum, Te’ Vista.
Bird & Betty’s, Beach Haven
18: Long Beach Dub Allstars, Jakobs Castle.
Cedar Bean’s Coffee Joint, Cedar Grove
13: Marc Delgado
10: Adelitas Way, Otherwise, Moon Fever, Above Snakes, Vya.
12: Little Miss Carriage, Molotov
Muchacho, Hollow Heroes, Resist The Temptation.
13: Volcandra, Voraath, Dead City Crown, FireHaze, Malphas.
17: Gigan, Sunless, Burnt Offerings.
18: SugarHill DDot.
19: Last Pharaoh, Psychoprism, American Amnesia, Spoon Of Ukobach.
21: Eko Rising, Incognito Theory, Love’s Over-Rated, Pyramada, Outreach, Eye Violet.
24: Reddstar, Concrete Dream, ToyMachine.
25: 26AR, Rocko Ballin.
26: Spread Eagle, Killcode, Pale Horse, Newborn Kings.
27: Otep, September Mourning, Spider Rockets, Blud Red Roses, Kella Sin.
Factory Records, Dover
7: The Burners.
21: The Fiendz.
Flemington DIY, Flemington
12: BlackChuckBass, Unboned, Jenny Allen, Riri.
13: Vik, Meant 2B.
20: Purling Hiss, Starcleaner Reunion, Jug & the Bugs, Heathmonger.
11: Chuck Ragan, Jared Knapik.
17: Rival Schools, Glitterer.
18: The New Amsterdams (feat. Matt Pryor), Kevin Devine, Brother Bird.
Pino’s, Highland Park
18: Dave Sherman
19: The Jewel Cases
20: San Tropez, Hair Magic, Make Three & The Anderson Council
21: Pete Horvath
Pet Shop, Jersey City
11: The Vaughns, Rest Ashore, Sex Fixx, Lemon Belly.
18: Jawdust, Without Peace, Spank, Blindsider.
White Eagle Hall, Jersey City
11: Citizen Cope.
20: Jonathan Toubin, The Von Mons, The Dracu-Las.
27: The Record Company.
31: The Airborne Toxic Event.
Jimmy’s Lounge, Kearny
13: All Around, Honey Trap, Bottommost, Just Happy to Be Here, All Systems Go.
21: Lunacy, Scar the Skin, Pin Cushion, Killaether, Social Stature.
28: Apathy, Molotov Muchacho, Little Miss Carriage.
Madison Community Arts Center, Madison
27: Lowlight, Earth Wyrm, Heathmonger, Lavender Sky.
Mayo PAC, Morristown
13: Lea Salonga.
17: Cheap Trick.
13: Moris Blak, Danny Blu, Eva X.
13: New Jersey Symphony.
20: New Jersey Symphony.
Cinco De Mayo, New Brunswick
6: The Lousy, Thought Control, Division One, Threat 2 Society.
State Theater, New Brunswick
10: Honey Wild.
20: LeAnn Rimes.
22: Tom Jones.
Princeton Folk Music Society
19: Mara Levine, Gathering Time.
Starland Ballroom, Sayreville
7: August Burns Red, The Devil Wears Prada, Bleed From Within.
13: Wage War, nothing, nowhere., Spite.
18: Clutch, Amigo the Devil, Nate Bergman.
South Orange PAC, South Orange
18: BoDeans, Chris Trapper.
19: Eleri Ward.
20: Richie Furay.
Stanhope House, Stanhope
27: Bumbling Woohas.
Debonair Music Hall, Teaneck
10: Saving Vice, Ocean Of Illusions, Parallels, Heartbent, For The Better.
12: Mickey Avalon, Toy Machine!, Wild Planes.
13: Shallow Side, Reality Suite, Answer Infinity, Who On Earth, Madworld.
20: Ender, The Machinist, Life Itself, Empty Vessel, Liminal.
Millhill Basement, Trenton
14: The Amorphous Blob Orchestra, Starjuice, Heavy Flow.
19: Backyard Superheroes, The End Times, The Manipulators.
Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton
6: Dana Fuchs.
10: Ana Popovic.
13: Keyes-Bergson-Hooks Band w/ Bernard Purdie
27: Bees Deluxe.
The guys in jamgrass band Railroad Earth didn’t know they were getting into jam or bluegrass when they started out some two decades ago. Well, they were dabbling with string music and holding pickin’ parties, so they were certainly headed in a grassy direction. But RRE founding member/drummer Carey Harmon says, from there, “The band sort of happened.”
They thought, “This is fun, this is different. … It was a learning experience with us; there was a scene we were able to fit into that was new and original to us,” Harmon says.
How the guys behind RRE found themselves in newgrass/jamgrass/bluegrass/ Americana/what-have-you is interesting considering where they’re from: New Jersey. See, you might catch an occasional pickin’ session around here, or head down to Salem County for the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival once a year. And certainly many of our musicians, heralded and less so, have folk sensibilities; some might even throw a banjo into their tunes.
But, the point is, a blue/jam/newgrass haven we are not. As such, Harmon says the band, from Stillwater in Sussex County, has found a second home in Colorado, where there is a deep ’grass scene. Trips there early in their career—and return trips to festivals and Red Rocks—helped the band carve out its space in the scene and find an audience.
(For what it’s worth, coming back home to play, as the band did earlier this spring, has plenty of benefits, too, Harmon says: “It’s great because we’re home, for one. But it’s cool because you’re playing for friends and stuff here. We’re able to reach people through other friends we know, too.”)
Finding a community—whether here, in Colorado or, shit, anywhere people enjoy good, improvisational Americana—has been fulfilling, Harmon says, and integral to the band’s growth. Knowing they’re free to take musical risks, RRE can stretch at and pull on the boundaries of bluegrass, and supporters’ll
go with them on the ride. As long as the tunes hit, then who cares?
“What’s great about this scene is how supportive it is,” Harmon says. “People obviously stick with you for a long stretch of time. They base their travel around seeing shows. They’re just very patient with you. So I feel like when we make a record, it’s wide open. It’s, ‘What do you want to do?’”
You can hear the evolution in RRE’s catalog: from the jaunty, more traditionally grassy tunes on the debut Black Bear Sessions (which they released ahead of their first performance at the esteemed Telluride Bluegrass Festival); to their follow-up (and personal favorite) Bird in a House , which already has RRE delving into jammier tendencies; to their self-titled album which synthesizes in some straight-line rock; to their latest release, All for the Song , which feels like a melding of where their musical flexibility has taken them over the decades.
All for the Song was the first album that RRE recorded outside of New Jersey, choosing to record in New Orleans with Anders Osborne; it was also the first time, Harmon says, that the band actually sat in a room with the express purpose of writing and recording.
The band had planned to make the trip a year or two earlier, but delayed it when founding member Andy Goessling got sick with cancer; he ultimately passed away in 2018. It was devastating, of course, and Harmon says the band had a choice about how to proceed: “We can go to our corners and deal with this on our own, or we can force ourselves into the studio and make a record.”
As it turned out, the decision to go out and make the record not only helped the music, but it helped the members of RRE grieve and reconnect, Harmon says.
“I think the coolest part of the thing was every night when we were done with
a long day of writing and recording and arranging, we all went out to dinner. That sounds like not a big deal, but if you see a lot of touring bands, they’ll come into a restaurant and go to different tables,” Harmon says. “We went into the same restaurant… ate, drank. It was sort of a shared grieving process; work all day and have a few drinks. It was weird because you spend so much time with these people, but we never really had that experience. It was an important time.”
Todd Carbone (violins/guitar/vocals) adds that the vision for the album was always bigger than the music, but losing Goessling added another level of depth to the sessions.
“From the beginning, the vision was more than just the music. We looked at this like a ‘destination’ record,” Carbone says. “Our past records were all made close to home or, in fact, at home. Andy’s passing was very much in the center of our thoughts and our hearts in the writing and recording of this album. Things were so shaken up that we thought it’d be a benefit to go away from all of the distractions and be together.”
As with other bands in the jam/bluegrass world, the studio albums are benchmarks; the live shows are where the music really comes to life. And RRE has delivered every time I’ve seen ’em; creative iterations of songs, tight vocal harmonies (not necessarily common in the jam world), instrument mastery, and, more than anything, a shitload of fun.
Harmon says the feeling is mutual, and though RRE may have backed into jamgrass years ago, its charms are enduring.
“Playing a song differently every night, I just take that for granted,” Harmon says. “If we were going out and doing tours and just doing a record, I can’t imagine it would be interesting.”
Hot Air Balloons, Arts & Crafts Festival
June 2-4, Warren County Community College, Washington
A festival with hot air balloon launches, tethered rides and drone demonstrations. Warren County CC will also showcase its drone program with daily demonstrations at the Drone Port.
Under Cover Music Fest
June 3, Sloan Street Parking Lot, South Orange
Nine cover bands take the stage along with food and drinks available for purchase from local eateries including Chipoba, The Fox & Falcon by David Burke, Miti Miti, Pandang and Three Daughters Baking Co. Osteria Del Corso will be hosting a beer garden (cash bar) featuring local breweries.
Rally for the Two Rivers Eco-Fest
June 3, Victory Park, Rumson
This environmental celebration of the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers will feature hands-on educational activities, fishing, music, eco-friendly crafts and more.
June 3-4, Meadowlands Expo Center, Secaucus
This gluten-free and allergen-friendly spring festival will be held both online and in person. This two-day event is dedicated to the unique needs of those who need or want to lead a gluten-free lifestyle for themselves or their family.
June 4, Asbury Park
NJ’s 31st annual statewide LGBTQ+ Pride celebration takes place in Asbury Park with a parade, rally and entertainment.
June 9, Ironbound Newark
A celebration of Portuguese culture, food and drink in the Ironbound.
NJ Renaissance Faire
June 10-11, Burlington County Fairgrounds, Southampton
A classic, well-attended and fun-as-hell RenFaire deep in South Jersey.
Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival
June 3-4, Bader Field, Atlantic City
Dozens of breweries and bands will be on hand for a sunshiney good time.
June 9-11. St. Sharbel Maronite Catholic Church, Somerset
Traditional Lebanese foods such as falafel, shawarma (gyro), hummus, shish kabob, spinach pies, tabouhli, stuffed grape leaves, pastries and much more will be featured. There will also be live music, dancing, raffles, prizes, souvenirs and games of chance.
June 15-18, 140 Green Pond Road, Rockaway
Come out and enjoy heart-pounding rides, classic rides and kiddie rides, along with games of chance, monster truck rides, pony rides, and more. Plus, fun fair foods like handmade zeppoles, fried Oreos, tacos, empanadas, sausage and peppers, homemade lemonade and much more. There will be family-friendly music, a fireworks show, an old time car show, monster truck rides, and an illusionist performance.
Barefoot Country Music Festival
June 16-19, Wildwood Beach, Wildwood
Dozens of country acts over four days on the Shore. Headliners included Blake Shelton, Kid Rock (yuck), Darius Rucker, Lady A, and many more.
New Jersey Beer and Food Festival
June 17, Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg
Enjoy mouth-watering BBQ paired with tastings of over 200 beers and specialty brews. Take flight with hot air balloon rides, dance to live music and have a blast with lawn games.
St. Stan’s Carnival
June 22-24, St. Stan’s Grounds, Sayreville Rides, games, music, food, a beer garden and much more.
June 22-25, Paradise Lakes Campground, Hammonton
This unique South Jersey festival is a three-day celebration of creative expression in the Pine Barrens. Take in music of various genres and collaborate on large-scale murals throughout the campgrounds, practice yoga, participate in a variety of collaborative music-making activities, and share ideas in community workshops.
State Fair Meadowlands
June 22-July 9, State Fair Meadowlands, East Rutherford
Classic state fair food, games, entertainment and more over two weeks.
Rock, Ribs and Ridges Festival
June 23-25, Sussex County Fairgrounds, Augusta
Three days of music and barbecue. The annual summer party features good old fashioned rock and roll and succulent meats.
June 24, Hilltop Field, Hopatcong
Tacos, of course, plus beer, margaritas, sangria, music, entertainment and more.
Taste of the Highlands
June 24, Huddy Park, Highlands
Taste of Highlands features many great restaurants in Highlands; taste from an eclectic selection of cuisine served at 19 local restaurants.
Battleship Beer Festival
June 24, Battleship NJ, Camden
Food, fun, music, and most importantly… beer. Featuring exclusively NJ breweries, this festival is a must-go. Proceeds benefit the NJ Brewers Association.
June 25, Clinton Elks Lodge, Pittstown
This food truck and music festival promises a fun day full of food, music and activities for the entire family.
June 25, Terhune Orchards, Princeton
Enjoy an evening of nature, music, good food and outdoor fun at this festival. Celebrate fireflies by making your own wings and antenna. Pony rides available all evening.
July 4, Wiggins Park, Camden
This festival brings thousands of people together to enjoy a series of artists and a spectacular fireworks show. Head to the Camden Waterfront for food, beer, music and fireworks in celebration of the annual Freedom Festival.
Cumberland County Fair
July 4-8 Cumberland County Fairgrounds, Millville
The fair features demolition derby rides, games and contests such as the Little Miss and Mister Pageant. Also: a summer craft fair for kids and seniors, food trucks, 4-H events, entertainment and more.
Haddonfield Crafts and Fine Art Festival
July 8-9, Kings Highway, Haddonfield
This festival returns for its 29th year in 2023 with more than 200 artists showcasing the best of fine art and craft from the region and beyond.
July 8-9, Memorial Park, Maplewood
Maplewoodstock is a free two-day festival of local music and arts put on by your friends and neighbors. It started in 2004 with one day and a few local bands. Over the years, it has evolved to two days, with food and arts vendors, a KidsZone and some headline regional and national music acts.
NJ State Barbecue Championship and Anglesea Blue Festival
July 14-16, North Wildwood
The New Jersey State Barbecue Championship is a three-day open-air festival featuring championship barbecue competition, live cooking demonstrations, special displays and food and beverage vendors to satisfy every taste and appetite. The Anglesea Blues Festival features both national and regional blues musicians.
Ocean County Fair
July 12-16, Ocean County Fairgrounds, Bayville
The Ocean County Fair has been a staple event in Ocean County since 1947. Expect all the typical fair offerings with an Ocean County flair.
Sourland Mountain Festival
July 15, Unionville Vineyards, Ringoes
Every year, the Sourland Mountain Festival brings the communities of the Central New Jersey region together and presents the best in musical talent, local food and drink, family fun—and a spectacular view. Proceeds benefit the Sourland Conservancy, a non-profit that works to protect the Sourland Mountain region. Food, wine, spirits, craft beer vendors will be on-hand for your convenience (and fun).
Burlington County Farm Fair
July 18-22, Burlington County Fairgrounds, Springfield
Horses, cows, rabbits, sheep, goats and other animals are on display each day. Plus, old steam engines, horses, dairy cows and more.
St. Ann Italian Carnival
July 21-26, Jefferson St., Hoboken
Go here for the liveliness and entertainment, but most of all go to eat: the festa’s famous zeppole, cheesesteaks, rice balls, wood-fired pizza, fried calamari, seafood salad (and beer garden).
Cape May Craft Beer, Music and Crab Festival
July 23, Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May
Hard-shell crabs, craft beers, food trucks and vendors, crafters, family entertainment and backto-back music on the outdoor stage at the Emlen Physick Estate. Admission is free. Bring a blanket or chair and relax in the shade near the outdoor stage. Well-behaved pets welcome.
Monmouth County Fair
July 26-30, East Freehold Showgrounds, Freehold
Racing pigs, 4-H shows, music, food, drink, horse shows, “Crunchy the T. Rex” and so much more.
New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning
July 28-30, Solberg Airport, Readington
A must-attend on everyone’s summer calendar, this spectacle is the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America and celebrates 40 years of filling the skies with the awe-inspiring spectacle of up to 100 gigantic, colorful hot air balloons taking flight over the Central Jersey countryside. Twice-a-day mass ascensions of colorful hot air balloons, a live concert series featuring the biggest names in music, fireworks, a nighttime hot air balloon glow, entertainment, balloon and kids’ rides, food, fun and more.
Passaic County Food Fest
July 29, Weasel Brook Park, Clifton
Enjoy food from more than a dozen vendors, plus live music, games and activities for all ages, including a bounce house, airsoft shooting range, bungee trampoline, face painters, Henna by Dana, and more. Thirsty? They’ll be featuring local craft beer as well as wine, sangria and hard seltzers.
Warren County Farmers Fair
July 29-Aug. 5, Warren County Fairground, Phillipsburg
Where else can you thrill to a hot air balloon ride, eat cotton candy on a carnival midway, watch traditional craftsmen at work, get down-and-dirty in a Mud Bog competition, and cheer your neighbor on, in a tractor pull... all in the same place?
Meadowlands Racetrack Seafood Fest
July 29, Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford
Enjoy fresh seafood from area food trucks and restaurants. Plus the Backyard Grill and Bar will be featuring a shrimp cocktail and more. Some food options include lobster rolls, fried clams, fried fish, grilled shrimp, shrimp tacos, crab fries and more.
July 29, Veterans Park, Bayville
A free community event featuring music, vendors, classes, crafts, giveaways, a silent auction and more. The market includes music, free group classes, a kids village, art, poets and live demonstrations. Plus, a spirits garden and food trucks.
Italian Festival and Wine Tasting
July 30, Monmouth Park, Oceanport
Enjoy mouth-watering Italian food from over a dozen of the area’s top restaurants and food trucks. Sample from a variety of Italian wines at the wine tasting. Plus: Live music and free family activities.
Aug. 5, The Watershed Institute, Pennington
Observe unique and beautiful butterflies in this sanctuary; plus food, drinks, music and more.
Aug. 5-7, Huddy Park, Highlands
The famous Clam Fest is a three-day spectacular event, with a wide variety of food trucks, along with other festival favorites including the Lions Club funnel cakes, and the Highlands Fire Department BBQ tent. Admission and parking are free, and the event takes place rain or shine. Plus, there’s a beer, wine and sangria garden.
New Jersey State Fair
Aug. 5-13, Sussex County Fairgrounds, Augusta
Oh what isn’t there to do at the fair? There’s a “beef obstacle course,” “hot dog pig races,” a lumberjack competition, magic, pageants, a demolition derby and more, plus food, drink, music and such.
Middlesex County Fair
Aug. 7-13, Middlesex County Fairgrounds, East Brunswick
Celebrate 85 years of the Middlesex County Fair with a chainsaw cutting act, comedy hypnosis, “MythiCreatures,” and food, music and more.
Salem County Fair
Aug. 8-11, Salem County Fairgrounds, Woodstown
Visit the South… of Jersey, at this county fair with plenty of animals to meet.
Passaic County Fair
Aug. 10-16, Garrett Mountain Reservation, Woodland Park
Rides, bounces houses, petting zoos, a chess tournament—lots to see and do (and eat… and drink) at this county fair.
La Festa Italiana
Aug. 9-13, Downtown Jersey City
For five days in mid-August this old-world Italian Street Festival brings together local restaurants and food vendors, live entertainment, games and rides for the kids and thousands of patrons to honor and celebrate Italian American culture.
Ocean Township Italian American Festival
Aug. 9-13, Joe Palaia Park, Oakhurst
All the delicious treats you’d expect from an Italian festival, plus a cooking demonstration from Galbani.
TidalWave Music Festival
Aug. 11-13, Atlantic City Beach
This festival on the sand is headlined by Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean and Brooks & Dunn, and rounded out by a bunch of other country acts.
New Brunswick Heart Festival
Aug. 12, Monument Square, New Brunswick
The festival, which celebrates all of the vibrant arts and history that New Brunswick and the County of Middlesex has to offer, will feature live music, craft making activities and more.
Corn, Tomato and Beer Festival
Aug. 12, Stangl, Flemington
It is what the name says it is: a celebration of the things that make Jersey (particularly this corner of West Jersey) great.
Aug. 12, Monte Irvin Orange Park, Orange
A celebration of the foods, music and activities that make the Caribbean community, in NJ and beyond, unique.
Aug 12-13, Bellview Winery, Landisville
Local seafood, wine tasting, live music, craft vendors and more at this annual festival.
Hi-Tide Summer Holiday
Aug. 18-20, Asbury Lanes and the Asbury, Asbury Park
Join Jersey-based record company Hi-Tide’s unique surf and eclectica acts for this three-day celebration of music that’ll just make you feel good… or, weird. In a good way.
Canal Day Music and Craft Festival
Aug. 19, Hugh Force Canal Park, Wharton
An old-time fair that celebrates the Morris Canal and its historic role in the area. Learn about old trades like blacksmithing, go for a kayak ride, grab a bite to eat and explore.
Aug. 26, Golden Nugget, Atlantic City
Take a trip around the world with wine at the International Wine Fest. Enjoy a summer evening at the Golden Nugget with wine enthusiasts with delicious international wines, live jazz music and award-winning cuisine.
Long Branch Jazz and Blues Festival
Aug. 26, Long Branch Great Lawn and Promenade, Long Branch
The Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation has been presenting an annual Jazz & Blues Festival at the Jersey Shore for years. The annual event has moved locations and changed names but the same amazing live jazz music and blues music has remained the same.
Jersey City LGBTQ+ Pride Festival
Aug. 26, Grove St. Path Plaza, Jersey City
Expect lots of entertainment, dancing, and many Instagramable moments to share with your friends and family. You’re encouraged to put on your best Pride gear and come on out and celebrate Pride like only Jersey City knows how to do.
Wine Down Summer
Aug. 26, RiverWinds, West Deptford
The 10th annual wine tasting event that lets you sample the best NJ vineyards have to offer, plus food, crafts, entertainment and more.
Aug. 27, Holiday Inn, Swedesboro
A festival featuring all things geek: comic books, anime, Manga, Funko pops, toys and much more.
I’ve begun to think I am a lesbian. I’m 29 years old, and I’ve only been with men up to now. The first guy I was with was sexually abusive and convinced me that sexually servicing a man regardless of how I felt was the norm. I carried this into my next decade-long, mostly long-distance relationship with a man, another relationship that involved a general disregard for sexual boundaries. (At one point when I refused PIV to prevent pregnancy, he joked about pinning me down and “just sticking it in.”) I didn’t realize that being happy in a long-term sexual relationship was even possible. The thing is, while remembering most of the sexual things I’ve done disgusts me, and while I find myself uninterested in the male form, I did enjoy making out with someone and being held. But while I am now repulsed by the thought of being with a man, I have no experience with women at this late age and having actively sought out relationships with men makes me think I can’t be gay. Why would I have sought out sex acts which now disgust me? Why did I pursue men if that wasn’t what I wanted?—Done With Men
Lesbianism is not a consolation prize; lesbianism is not a severance package a woman is handed on her way out of a shitty straight relationship. Lesbianism is a romantic and sexual orientation. It’s a positive force—it’s about what (and who) a woman is drawn to, not what (and who) a woman is repulsed by. I mean, think about it… if having shitty relationships with men turned women into lesbians, DWM, there wouldn’t be any straight women left. Hell, if having shitty relationships with men turned people off men generally, DWM, there wouldn’t be any gay men left either. Straight guys with shitty ex-girlfriends would go gay, lesbians with shitty ex-wives would go straight, and bisexuals wouldn’t know what (or who) to do.
So, after reading your letter, DWM, I have few questions for you: Are you attracted to women? When you think about making out with someone and being held, do you see yourself with a woman? Does the thought of having sex with a woman turn you on? Do you get aroused when you think about going down on a woman, being gone down on by a woman, and doing all the other sexy sex things women do with women? If the answer to each of these questions is “yes,” DWM, then you might be a lesbian.
Many women realize they’re lesbians later in life, DWM, so your experience—years in unsatisfying straight relationships before coming out—wouldn’t be an uncommon one; you wouldn’t be the first lesbian who struggled to dig her authentic homosexuality out from under compulsory heterosexuality. Lots of women go
through the motions with men—putting up with their smelly bodies and their vaguely threatening “jokes” about sexual violence—before coming to the realization it wasn’t men they wanted at all, or not men they wanted exclusively.
Shortly after our wedding my wife informed me that she would be handling our finances and making all financial decisions for us as a couple going forward. Additionally, she had already arranged for my paycheck to be automatically deposited into an account that only she had control over. I would henceforth get a meager weekly allowance for personal expenses. During that same conversation my wife informed me I would get sex only when I had earned it. I love her, and I reluctantly agreed to this. We have been married for 10 years. I do all of the housework, and I rarely get sex. My wife tells me I have no one to blame but myself, since I agreed to all her terms from the beginning, which caused her to lose all respect for me as a man. I did not realize how difficult this would be. Is it normal for a wife in this kind of marriage to enjoy giving her husband pain? She is almost sadistic. She spanks my ass with a spatula and tells me I am a sissy. Is this normal?
Sure, it’s perfectly normal in the sense that it’s perfectly normal for a certain kind of deeply frustrated kinky straight guy to beat off while writing me a fake letter about the kind of sexual relationship he’s always fantasized about having but has never actually had before tacking on a fake question on at end in the hopes that I’ll respond and then he’ll able beat off to the whole thing all over again.
Zooming out for a second… the fake questions I get aren’t the same as the dozens of fake questions YA writer Bennett Madison managed to get published in Slate’s “Dear Prudence” over the years, and they’re different than the presumed-to-be-fake questions to Slate’s “Care and Feeding” that Ben Dreyfuss has so hilariously picked apart on his Substack, CalmDownBen. What distinguishes the fake questions I get at “Savage Love” from other fake questions submitted to other advice columns is the obvious fapping that was going when the letter was being drafted.
There’s a lot in SISSY’s letter that screams fake—a normal person would’ve instantly filed for divorce, there’s no way she could’ve “arranged” to have his paycheck automatically deposited into an account she alone controlled
unless she somehow managed to bring his employer in on this conspiracy, that the best question he could come up with was the most banal question asked of sex-advice columnists (“Is this normal?”)—but what screams fake the loudest, the absolute deadest giveaway, is that this was sprung on him after his wedding.
Now, female-led relationships (FLR) are definitely a thing, and there are certainly some men out there in female-led relationships, and some FLR have elements of TPE (total power exchange), FD (financial domination), DD (domestic discipline), and mild FF/S (forced feminization/sissification) tossed in. But those men—to a man—had to ask for those things. Most had to beg for it. Because creating a FLR is almost never the wife or the girlfriend’s idea. It’s something a man fantasizes about and sometimes succeeds in talking his wife or girlfriend into experimenting with, but it’s not something anyone’s brand-new wife has ever sprung on him at the reception.
“From my research, and from the emails and DMs I get about how to set up an FLR, the askers are overwhelmingly male,” said Key Barrett, sex researcher and author of Surrender, Submit, Serve Her, a book on FLR. “And I have never heard of an FLR that was started unilaterally, or out of trickery, that managed to be successful.”
Like a lot of people with fantasies rooted in power exchange, it’s hotter for SISSY to think about it being imposed on him. Because then he’s the victim, not the pervert, because then his submission is pure and unadulterated. But why send a fake question to a sex-advice column? Because getting his fantasy published makes it feel real. Or feel realer. Or, hell, maybe in some alternate everything/everywhere kind of universe, it actually becomes real.
Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org Podcasts, columns and more at Savage.Love
Achance encounter and a snap of a camera. The resulting photo is a benchmark in the lives of the photographer, an ambitious young artist from New York, and the subject—a 9-year-old girl sitting on a trucker’s lap outside a motel room. In the decades that follow, the artist (Quinn) and the subject (Lulu) take divergent life journeys; both with relative ups and downs, but certainly different. Quinn’s career takes off in New York, which comes with its own set of losses and troubles; Lulu endures a cycle of sexual abuse and incarceration, yet manages to find a few moments of joy.
So when, years later, Lulu sees the photo in a promotion for Quinn’s retrospective exhibition, she plans to confront Quinn and ask a simple question: Why didn’t you help that little girl in the picture?
Such is the plot of Jersey City author Kerri Schlottman’s debut novel Tell Me One Thing [Regal House Publishing], which vividly draws from her own experience growing up with a single mother in southeast Detroit and her 20 years working in the arts and asks, among other queries, one central question: Who gets to tell what story?
“I thought writing it would help me figure out the answer to that, because I’ve struggled with this question a lot, too,” says Schlottman. “When I look at that kind of work [social portraiture], I think, what is the goal here? Like, what are we supposed to be feeling and can we do anything, and what are we supposed to be doing? Those are really hard questions to answer when things are in an art context because a lot of times, art asks us to look and to think and to feel, but there’s not necessarily an active kind of flashpoint to it. And I don’t want to walk away from seeing work like that and just feel bad about it. Is seeing something and feeling empathetic, is that power enough?”
There’s precedent for the type of scenario depicted in Tell Me One Thing in Mary Ellen Mark’s famous 1990 photograph “Amanda and her cousin Amy,” which captures 9-year-old Amanda smoking a cigarette in a kiddie pool in North Carolina. Years later, NPR found Amanda, then in her 30s, and asked her why she allowed herself to be photographed.
“She said she always thought someone
would see those photographs and come and help her,” Schlottman says. “She had such a challenging life, so it was a really heartbreaking story. … She was in and out of foster care and out of juvenile detention and it just went on throughout her adulthood and out of prison and really hard times. So she never really was able to break that cycle.”
The NPR story served as a jumping off point for Schlottman to imagine Tell Me One Thing In captivating, sometimes heavy, passages, Schlottman describes a tumultuous life for Lulu in the rural Pennsylvania trailer park in which she lived—a life that includes reckoning with her mother’s prostitution, facing sexual (and other forms of) abuse herself, drug addiction, incarceration, violence and more. In Lulu’s story, we see how situations breed cycles—with little agency to change her life circumstances, Lulu falls victim to many of the cultural traps that befell her elders in the trailer park.
“For someone like Lulu, it’s really hard to get out of the situation that she’s in. And in real life, the inspiration for that book, Amanda, never did,” Schlottman says. “And I’ve seen plenty of instances where people haven’t gotten out of those situations and unfortunately, they’re really unprotected situations. When you grow up without a support system around you, you’re very vulnerable. And so, I started this book with [Lulu] as a little girl at 9 years old, thinking about the kinds of vulnerabilities that she would be subjected to because she doesn’t have the protection of a mother who’s really caring for her and responsible [nor] any kind of support structure.”
Simultaneous to reading Lulu’s story, we follow Quinn as she gets her first photo exhibition, deals with her partner’s spiraling drug abuse, loses loved ones and faces her own cycle of unsteady housing as she endures the life of a struggling artist. Synchronous moments in the two stories—violence at the hands of men, drug use, housing insecurity, motherhood—regularly prompt the reader to consider privilege and, again, how situations effect outcomes. For instance, while Lulu and the father of her child both face the criminal justice system after getting wrapped up in drug dealing to make ends meet, Quinn’s partner faces a prison of his own making—thus, incarcerating Quinn, in a way, with him—via his drug addiction. But the distinction is clear: while one group of people face
jail time and overtly disrupted lives for their association with drugs, another group of people get to make art.
“I’ve watched the difference between things I see people doing here with sort of no repercussions and then similar things happening to people I knew back in Michigan, and they’re going to jail and there’s all of these things happening. And I’m like, this is wild, the massive disparity in the way that society treats people depending on where they are and who they are,” Schlottman says. “And, again, getting into the cycle of things, I feel like when you’re in a small rural area, once one thing happens or there’s sort of this stigma against you, you’re stuck in that system.”
Schlottman sets the bulk of the book in the ’80s, which was a “fascinating time period in art history,” she says, but also a challenging time in New York City society—drugs, AIDS, economics. Schlottman weaves these societal obstacles into Quinn’s story, which serves as a clever juxtaposition to the more acute obstacles Lulu faces in her life.
“I think with [Quinn], some of the challenges I brought in were external,” Schlottman says. “She reflects some of the bigger social issues that are happening at that time in the country, and it allowed me to have that conversation through her side of things in a way that was a little more challenging to try to do with Lulu.”
Schlottman takes care to present a real version of life for both Quinn and Lulu. While the heaviness of what happens to Lulu might cause a reader to pause and take a deep breath, it feels authentic. Trauma and its reverberations are ever-present in Lulu’s story, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous. And instead of romanticizing a bygone era of arts in New York City, Schlottman brings us into the reality of working as an artist in a time of societal turmoil. We’re in it, and it doesn’t feel staged, sensationalized or opportunistic. And that extends to the resolution of Quinn’s and Lulu’s life journeys—I certainly won’t give away the ending, but Schlottman says that authenticity in the arcs of her characters was foremost in her mind while writing.
“Every time I was writing a scene, I thought, ‘I don’t want to be gratuitous with trauma and these issues, but I want to be real about like, at different stages of her life, what might have been
happening here.’ And, there are good things that happen to her, too. And I think that those are realistic, too. Like, she finds love, she loses love— that happens to all of us,” Schlottman says.
On where the characters end up, Schlottman adds, “I don’t want someone who has never had trauma or grief to think that this should just wind up into this fairytale kind of ending. That’s not really what happens to people in these circumstances. They continue to struggle. There’s probably going to be another cycle of that with the generation below them. And unfortunately, until we really face some of the bigger problems in this country, that’s what happens.”
Though scenes throughout the book grip the reader from page to page, the broader movement of the book hurls the reader toward a potential answer to the question of who gets to tell what story. It asks, among other things, a line of questions relevant to that end: Is an artist a voyeur by taking a photo like the one Quinn took of Lulu if it changed hearts and minds in viewers far away? Does it matter if that photo is encased in glass in some stuffy gallery in New York City or published in a national magazine in a documentarial setting? If the artist makes a large sum of money on it, or intends to, do they have a responsibility to do something benevolent with that money? Does the subject of that photo deserve some of that sum?
What right does an artist, or any documentarian, have to dip into someone else’s life and use their circumstances to, explicitly or not, advance their career?
“Is it just taking advantage or is it asking people to look at problems other people are having?” Schlottman says. “And I like to think it’s more about opening perspectives about how challenging life is for other people. That’s where I think the aspect of responsibility comes in. I think sometimes, again, the empathy that you might feel in looking at a photograph like that might be enough. Hopefully.”
Beyond the Tangible: Non-Objective Abstraction from the Collection
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, Through Aug. 27
Beyond the Tangible: Non-objective Abstraction from the Collection is a new exhibition of 26 non-objective abstract works by 22 artists from the Fine Art collection. Features works created by American artists since the late 1930s.
David Scott Gallery, Princeton, Through June 28
This show presents a slightly alternative look at the botanical world. Generally speaking, artists have a different way of “seeing,” often finding beauty in what others might overlook, and this show exalts representations that are less sentimental and more straightforward.
Camden FireWorks, Camden, Through May 19
A group exhibition of three artists and how they use art to facilitate growth in understanding, accepting and owning of their multi-faceted identity.
Each One, Teach One Morris Museum, Morristown, Through Aug. 27
The work of over 30 artists who have taken part in the meaningful exchange of wisdom, ideas, process, career, culture and more. The works of mentors are juxtaposed alongside the work of their mentees, highlighting the indelible impact the relationship has had on both parties. Featuring sculptural works, paintings, fiber arts, collage, and more.
Fast Forward to 40
Trenton City Museum, Trenton, Through June 11
Fast Forward to 40, which opened at the Trenton City Museum in April, celebrates the art and artists of the Ellarslie Open over the show’s 40 years.
Looking Forward, Looking Back
301 High Street Gallery at Rowan University, Through May 27
Looking Forward, Looking Back is an opportunity to celebrate the Rowan University Art Gallery’s art collection. The exhibition is organized around five themes: Abstraction and Experimentation, Art as Social Commentary, Art History as Inspiration, Figure Studies and Portraiture, and Sylvia Sleigh as Artist-Collector.
Paint, Michael Mangino
ArtYard, Frenchtown, Through May 21
Mangino’s bodies of color hover on the page as sovereignties, surrounded always by a slight boundary of space, whole to themselves. His manner of mark making often proceeds first with longer lines, which are then filled in carefully and exploratively with shorter marks bringing into the paintings a sense of the slow movement of moss or a vine. Or, they are built as roof thatch; they are the ocean from above, wave going ahead of wave, they are patient, balanced stone walls.
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: ...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.
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.
Montgomery Street & Hudson Street, Jersey City
Surati Holi Hai is the tri-state area’s biggest celebration of the Spring Festival of Colors that originated in India. It is also, arguably, the East Coast’s most popular family-friendly festival with the number of attendees exceeding 12,000 from all over the United States and also from other countries. It is an all-day festival promoting peace, equality and unity through cultural diversity, performances, food and color play. Stop by for a color walk, food, music, dancing and much more.
To include your events in future calendars, send an email to email@example.com with details.
‘La Belle et la Bête’
May 11-21, Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood
Come and be transported to a land of magical romance and song. The Maplewood Strollers present an enchanting new take on the classic French fable of Beauty and the Beast, with songs you’re sure to be humming for weeks after.
‘Water by the Spoonful’
May 11-21, Eagle Theatre, Hammonton
Elliot Ortiz is a Marine veteran returned from Iraq, and living back home in North Philly. Still haunted by the war, he navigates the dissonance of his family relationships while in the midst of the loss of a loved one. Meanwhile, a cyber community of recovering addicts connects over their own journeys toward personal redemption. When the two worlds collide, Elliot faces his greatest challenge: how to break from the past and move into a new fu-
ture. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes (book writer of hit musical In the Heights) is a captivating story about family, freedom and self-acceptance that highlights that we all have far more in common than we realize.
The Les Paul Experience
May 12, Pollak Theatre, West Long Branch
A musical tribute celebrating the life and career of the legendary jazz musician, inventor and musical pioneer known as the “father of the electric guitar,” Les Paul. This evening of Jersey jams will feature an all-star band including Layonne Holmes, Tony Perruso, John Pittas, Kevin Bregande, Muddy Shews, Tommy Labella and Jillian Rhys McCoy, led by musical director and performer Bobby Bandiera.
May 13, The Landis, Vineland
Get ready for another epic night with bands covering Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters and Weezer.
May 13, Propagate Studio, Stewartsville
Spend the afternoon painting alla prima with watercolor. You will explore techniques to paint expressive landscapes that include mixing color on the page and adding brush strokes to create texture and movement. During this workshop, you will create three six-by-nineinch paintings. No previous art experience is required. If you have a favorite landscape picture, bring it for inspiration.
May 13, Seafarer, Highlands
The tasting takes place on the picturesque waterfront; tickets include seven 4-oz. tastings and a pint of craft beer and a commemorative pilsner cup for the first 250 participants. Additional tastings can be purchased. Participating breweries will have two types of beer to taste. There will be live music, fire pits and Local Smoke cuisine.
May 13, Bouman-Stickney Farmstead, Lebanon
Put on your dancing shoes for a night of family fun as the Readington Museums hosts its bi-annual Barn Dance. The dance will be held inside the 18th-century Wade-Wyckoff Barn at the Bouman-Stickney in the Stanton section of Readington Township (for GPS, use Lebanon). Caller Betsy Gotta will give easy-tofollow instructions before each dance so even a beginner will be able to dance the night away.
Central NJ Spring Beer Festival
May 13, Sunset Lake, Bridgewater
Enjoy draft beer from the following NJ breweries: Buttzville, Conclave, Descendants, Flounder, Glenbrook, Highrail, Jersey Cyclone, Jersey Girl, Oakflower, Opportunity, Sunken Silo and Burnt Mills Cidery. Plus a special cask ale tent, live music on the beach and a food truck area.
Winos for Rhinos
May 13, Natali Vineyards, Middle Township
Drink wine and raise money for rhino conservation. During this exclusive event, there will be live music, lawn games, silent auctions, local vendors and a food truck. Your $30 ticket gives you access to this event as well as a complimentary glass of wine and a thank-you gift. All proceeds from this event will be donated directly to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Africa, International Rhino Foundation in Indonesia and Action for Cheetahs in Kenya
Carli Lloyd: Passion & Power
May 16, Collingswood Grand Ballroom, Collingswood
Jersey native and soccer champion Carli Lloyd has always been a powerful force on and off the field. Join as she sits down with SJ Mag’s Marianne Aleardi to talk about how you succeed (at anything) when what lies ahead is really, really hard.
Comedy at Lone Eagle Brewing with Chris Gethard
May 19, Lone Eagle Brewing, Flemington
Chris Gethard is a comedian, actor and author who’s been doing comedy stuff for over 20 years. He’s the host of the Beautiful/Anonymous podcast, the former host of legendary public access television show The Chris Gethard Show, and had a special on HBO called Career Suicide, which won multiple awards.
Sinatra Park Latin Jazz Festival
May 19, Sinatra Park Amphitheater, Hoboken
May 20, Franklin Township High School, Somerset
The fifth annual Franklin Food and Music Festival benefits students at Franklin High School for their Project Graduation. Bring your lawn chair and your blanket (no outside food, drinks or coolers) as you enjoy a late May afternoon on the campus of Franklin High School. There’ll be lots of activities including inflatable rides, face painters and henna tattoo artists, local craft vendors, and, new for 2023, live music from Naughty Humphry and The Big Fuss.
May 20, Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center, Bridgewater
Twenty local breweries, pouring a total of over 40 beers, will be on hand at this festival, which also features live music, food trucks, door prizes, a beer pong tournament with prizes and more.
Artists in the Park
May 20, Runnemede Lake Park, Runnemede
Hike the trail and observe the artists at work. Who knows what delights await you in the woods this year? Painters, dancers, musicians, poets, live pop-up performances and more will pull you in at every turn.
The Big Walk: Cross-Jersey Challenge
May 20, Metropark Rail Station, Iselin
Follow the East Coast Greenway 50 miles from Metropark to New York City. Passing tranquil parks and rivers to friendly communities, industrial parks and cities, this excursion has it all. Join in for part or all of the trip; easy access to public transportation along the walk makes it easy to pick and choose, or do the whole thing and get back where you started!
May 13, Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, Atlantic City
The inaugural Atlantic City Cigar Social, presented by Cigar Snob Magazine, welcomes stogie lovers far and wide to gather in pursuit of the perfect smoke. Cigar enthusiasts are invited to step into a world of their own where smoke bellows and libations flow freely. The Atlantic City Cigar Social is an opportunity to discover premium cigar brands, craft beers, distilled spirits, local culinary treats and much more.
Astoria Salsa Company drops into the Latin Jazz Fest’s second event of the year on the Hoboken waterfront.
Free Bubble Festival
May 20, Locke Ave Park, Swedesboro
Swedesboro-Woolwich Parks & Recreation is bringing in “Grandpop Bubbles™” and his Free Bubble Festival, where kids from 12 months to 1,200 months will make the biggest bubbles of their lives. Grandpop Bubbles will bring his bubble wands, poles, basins, buckets and many gallons of “special bubble juice” for as many as possible to enjoy bubbling.
Up Close and Personal with Vince Martell of Vanilla Fudge
May 20, Factory Records, Dover
Deko Entertainment and Factory Records
bring you an intimate night with legendary Vanilla Fudge guitarist Vince Martell. He will be playing Fudge classics and others, as well as hanging out with you all, signing stuff and taking pictures. Price of admission also gets you Vince’s CD and signed original Vanilla Fudge photo and classic Vanilla Fudge/Jimi Hendrix poster. Vince Martell is best known as the lead guitarist for Vanilla Fudge alongside Mark Stein, Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice.
Long Beach Island Reggae Fest
May 20, Joe Pop’s Shore Bar & Restaurant, Ship Bottom
This year’s festival will feature nationally touring act Joe Samba as the headliner, with nationally touring act Roots of Creation in support, along with special guests No Discipline, Random Test and Ryan Zimmerman & Catcha Fish. Joe Pops will offer a special Reggaefest menu at their outside tiki bar and will be open to all attendees.
Booze & Books
May 20, Garden State Distillery, Toms River
New Jersey’s finest romance authors are headed to the Jersey Shore. Come meet them at the Garden State Distillery, get a book signed and pick up your next steamy summer read. While you’re there, have a summer cocktail.
Everyday is Earth Day Festival
May 20, 24 Industrial Ave., Ridgefield Park
Join in for live animal shows, fishing, ecocruises, archery demos, science programs and environmental education.
May 20, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville
Explore the connections between yoga and nature in this 75-minute class led by yoga teacher Kristin Mylecraine. All levels welcome, though you must be 15 or older to participate.
Lake Hopatcong Block Party
May 20, Hopatcong State Park, Landing
The Lake Hopatcong Block Party offers a unique Main Street-style experience in a beautiful lakeside setting. Hosted by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, this event brings visitors together with businesses, non-profit organizations, community groups, crafters, and food vendors for a community day like no other featuring activities, entertainment, raffles, a children’s scavenger hunt and more.
Asbury Park Vegan Food Festival
May 20-21, Bradley Park, Asbury Park
The Asbury Park Vegan Food Festival is a twoday celebration that features yummy vegan and plant-based meals from local chefs, as well as vegan products, plant-based fashion, live music and good times. Sample food and drink from over 80 vendors.
May 20-21, Princeton Garden Theatre, Princeton
The Nassau Film Festival (NFF) has been rated as the #1 comprehensive short film festival in NJ; #12 in the United States and #39 worldwide. Proceeds to benefit the Family Resource Network assisting individuals with epilepsy, autism, developmental disabilities, chronic illness and support for their caregivers. Tickets and more information available online at nassaufilmfestival.org.
May 21, The New Weis Center for Education, Arts & Recreation, Ringwood
Explore the property and get first-hand experience meeting and interacting with the local plants. You will be studying, drawing, photographing and eating plants, as well as learning about medicinal qualities and utilitarian purposes—such as which plant fibers work best for rope-making, or which trees have good bark for baskets. You will also identify some poisonous plants and talk about their hazards.
May 21, St. Michaels Preserve, Hopewell
Join the Hopewell Valley community for a joyand art-filled celebration of J. Seward Johnson’s monumental 70-foot sculpture, The Awakening, at D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve. The event will include dance, poetry, music and storytelling—all things that Seward Johnson loved.
May 21, Newark Museum of Art, Newark
Portuguese is a language shared by 265 million people on every continent. The Newark Museum of Art celebrates this language with educator and storyteller Bru Junça in this family-friendly event. As a storyteller, Junça participates in events and projects in Portugal, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Macau, working with various age groups. (This event is in Portuguese.)
New Crossford is a village like any other in the English countryside in the 1500s. Nestled in the peaceful, woodlined grassy meadows of the Duchy of Northumberland, the shire of New Crossford is a jewel in the cap of the noble Duke of Northumberland. Her fields are rich and her citizens filled with merriment and love of crown and country. Most of the year, New Crossford is truly like any good English town, but at those magical times of the year, the solstices and the equinox, the magic of the ancient woods that loom over New Crossford come to life. Those fey woodlands are a link, a portal to different times and New Crossford sits on ley lines that make her a destination for visitors out of time who come to New Crossford to solve some dilemma in their lives.
May 21, Overpeck County Park, Leonia
EarthFest Overpeck is a celebration of clean water and a healthy environment, brought to you through a partnership between Hackensack Riverkeeper and Bergen County Parks. You might enjoy free kayaking/canoeing, participate in a fishing derby, take in live music, view a wildlife presentation, get some food and more.
air”), this new class will feature the spring splendor of Morven’s beautiful gardens. Participants will discover the quality of natural light (and how it changes during the session), explore how color can define forms, learn how to represent natural colors and experiment with brush strokes and creating textures.
Playwriting and Storytelling Workshop
May 24, NJPAC, Newark
In partnership with Yendor Theatre Company, playwright Pia Wilson leads this writing workshop for community members who aspire to tell their own stories or want to learn how to move their stories from the page to the stage. Wilson is a stage, screen, podcast and short story writer. Yendor Theatre Company commissioned a new play by Wilson which will be staged throughout Newark, including Clinton Hill, in August.
Power Bottom: The Best Damn Comedy Show in Asbury Park!
May 25, Capitoline, Asbury Park
May 21, Morven Museum & Garden, Princeton
This one-day-only performance features seven unique New Jersey-based choreographers and dance companies that reflect the rich and diverse culture and communities of the Garden State. Genres of dance presented range from contemporary, to flamenco, to dance theater.
May 21, The Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University, Atlantic City
Join an educational program on vermicomposting, a composting method that uses worms to transform food scraps into natural fertilizers. This is a great workshop for small-space gardeners and families looking for a hands-on gardening activity.
Three-Day Plein-Air Painting Workshop
May 22-24, Morven Museum & Garden, Princeton
Inspired by the popular 19th-century French tradition of painting in the open air (“en plein
The best and brightest stand-up comedians on the East Coast! Plus giveaways for BBQ and cash.
‘A Day in Monet’s Garden’
May 25, Morris ReStore, Randolph
Visit the Morris Habitat for Humanity ReStore for an art gallery popup event, ‘A Day in Monet’s Garden.’ Stroll through the outdoor gallery and browse the inventory of art available for purchase. There will be games, a giveaway and an outdoor garden lounge for attendees to enjoy. All proceeds go to the Morris Habitat for Humanity mission. Start your holiday weekend with art, nature and shopping with a cause.
Touch Mother Earth Festival
May 26-28, Camp Sacajawea Girl Scout Camp in Monmouth County, Farmingdale
Create new memories this Memorial Day Weekend filled with three days packed full of workshops, live bands, hand-picked vendors,
African drum and dance classes and performances, talking circles, yoga, Kirtan, massage, sound and energy healing, ceremonial gatherings, camping, hiking, healthy food and new open-minded friends. Plan to come for a day, or camp and play all weekend.
Guided Forest Therapy Walk
May 27, Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange
A two-hour gentle walk guided by nature therapist Dr. Irena Nayfeld, with meditative invitations to become more present and connect with the natural world, stops for reflection and a closing tea ceremony.
Community Drum Circle
May 27, Camden FireWorks, Camden
Learn the history and the fundamental purposes of Indigenous social drum circle practices throughout the world, and participate in an active drum circle, experiencing its applications in modern music.
NJ Jerk Fest
May 28, Boyd Park, New Brunswick
Aiming to be the largest Caribbean festival in New Jersey, Jerk Fest has a broad general appeal as the popularity of ‘jerk’ transcends easily across the area’s dynamic, multi-ethnic population. Feast on spicy jerk cuisine, enjoy hot music and the cool festival vibes. Pork and chicken are the main jerk offerings, but also available are jerk foods that deviate from the norm, including delicacies such as jerk banana ice cream, jerk lobster, jerk oxtail and others.
Allaire Arts Festival
June 3, The Historic Village at Allaire, Farmingdale
Visit with various artists from around the state and enjoy the beauty and talent along with the perfect backdrop of nature and history. Select one-of-a-kind pieces of art from vendors as they will be selling their fine art, photography and sculptures. There will be live demonstrations of various art mediums throughout the village during the entire day.
Boujee Foodie Con
Jun 3-4, 1000 Sanger Ave., Oceanport
Live music, Irish step dancers, carnival games, and wine and food from dozens of vendors that highlight the best of what the Shore has to offer.
“I just enjoyed a beautiful outing on the gas pipeline!” Not something you can imagine yourself saying? Spend a day on the Columbia Trail in Hunterdon and Morris counties and you might change your tune. New Jerseyans, by the hundreds of thousands, flock to the roughly 15-mile-long, multi-use trail every year to satiate their outdoor recreation needs. Named after the Columbia Gas company that installed a pipeline under what was once an abandoned railroad corridor, the trail—a wide path comprised of crushed stone and gravel— runs from the borough of High Bridge (Hunterdon) to the border of Washington Township and Mount Olive (Morris), and is owned and maintained by their respective counties’ Parks Commissions.
We’ve covered every mile on the Columbia Trail countless times and can safely say, whether you’re on foot, bike or even horseback, there’s no wrong way to experience it. More often than not, though, we find ourselves taking it in on two wheels. A bicycle simply affords you the opportunity to cover a lot more ground and get to everything the trail has to offer much quicker; and, while there are loads of other paths in the state suitable for biking, few really compare to the wide, well-manicured Columbia, so why not take advantage of it?
Don’t own a bike (or a horse)? For folks that don’t mind being social, there are riding groups like Party Size Cycling (based in High Bridge) that are oftentimes able to provide prospective riders with a loaner if you reach out in advance of scheduled rides. Groups like Party Size are a great way for folks to meet new people, spend time outside and explore some of what the trail has to offer. If you’re not interested in being social or don’t care to
invest in a bike, this guide will still be useful; just keep in mind that you may have to experience the trail in sections, across multiple days (unless you’re training for a marathon?) if you’re traveling on foot… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.
Attention road-cyclists: as you may have expected, this is not the terrain for a roadbike. Slightly wider/knobby tires are a requisite—anything from gravel (depending on skill level) to a fat bike will suit you just fine, although we still can’t get over how goofy the latter look in the wild.
This greatly depends on the ride you’re after. Simply looking for a workout or a long, leisurely cruise in the saddle? No need to overthink it, park in literally any one of the designated parking areas and ride the full circuit (roughly 32 miles) or whatever distance time/ desire allows. The path is flat and well-maintained enough for a rider of any skill level to enjoy comfortably, but there’s certainly opportunity to exert yourself if you want to push. You can easily spend the whole day riding, factoring in time for breaks/exploring, but we’ve also seen folks complete the full trail in a brisk two or three hours. This gets a little challenging on the weekends, when more people are out and about.
For those interested in mixing in some hiking with their ride, we’d recommend Long Valley as a starting point, particularly the public lot on Fairview Avenue as it sits at the intersection of Columbia Trail and Patriots Path. From the lot, a relatively quick, uphill hike towards Schooley’s Mountain Park along Patriot’s Path leads to a beautiful scenic overlook of the valley below—this is a great way to get the blood flowing before a ride or the
perfect sunset hike to end the day. The section of the Columbia Trail adjacent to the Fairview Ave. lot also connects to a network of smaller trails/paths that provide ample opportunity to explore around the river.
Sandwiched between High Bridge to the west and Long Valley to the east is the borough of Califon. With a decent-sized public parking area right across the street from an old train station (now home to the Califon Historical Society), the borough has a gorgeous, quaint downtown and is as good of a spot as any to start your ride. Due to its location (not quite in the middle, but a few miles from the southern trailhead) we’ll typically choose Califon as a starting point only if we’re planning a shorter section-ride, and highly suggest following a loop that incorporates an alternate scenic route: from the public parking lot (at the junction of Academy St. and Railroad Ave.), head north on Academy St. and just before you reach the bridge on Main St., make a left onto River Road. Follow the paved section of River Road and continue onto the unpaved section that runs through Ken Lockwood Gorge. As you come through the gorge, continue on River Road (it briefly becomes Stone Mill Road at the end) and make your first right onto Cokesbury Road. Proceed just over 0.1 miles up Cokesbury before making a quick left onto the gravel access path immediately following the trail overpass—this path will lead you back up to the Columbia Trail. Make a left onto the trail and ride it back to the Califon parking area.
While the ride along River Road/Ken Lockwood is picturesque and highly enjoyable, please keep in mind that after heavy rains, multiple sections of this alternate route
can be impassable due to flooding and/or poor conditions—the unpaved areas in the gorge are not as manicured as the Columbia Trail to begin with.
Due to its location at the southern trailhead, abundance of parking, multiple dining and watering hole options and the proximity of said options to the trail, High Bridge has become our go-to origin point as of late. It’s worth noting that Long Valley has just as many (if not more) viable places to eat/drink; yet, apart from The Coffee Potter—which is conveniently located alongside the trail across from the public parking area, the ease of access on a bicycle to restaurants/breweries is a bit more complicated, particularly when trying to navigate the intersection of East Mill and Schooley’s Mountain Roads on a busy weekend afternoon. Conversely, those who start in High Bridge can easily return the bikes to their parked cars at the Commons public lot after a ride and walk no further than 0.1 miles to satiate their thirst/hunger at a concentrated host of different spots along the borough’s charming Main Street. If you’re like us, you’ll appreciate the ability to grab a quick coffee/ breakfast before a ride and then finish your day on the trail with a well-earned pint, great food and maybe even some live music—High Bridge is the move.
If we’re talking about seasons, naturally the spring and fall are primetime for riding; not too hot or cold, plenty of wildlife, flowering plants or turning foliage to admire. Honestly, though, if winters continue to be as mild as this past one, you can ride year-round (we did) with just a little attention to the forecast and your attire.
Yet, summer is the busiest time, and for good reason—the weather and environs are a perfect match. Note: The trail gets busy on weekends. If you must ride then and intend to complete the full trail—start early! Trying to make time while working against afternoon traffic is a fool’s task; get some miles on your tires before the masses descend. If you can swing it, plan a Friday ride when school is still in session: start midday at the southern trailhead and arrive in Long Valley in time to grab lunch at La Rienda. By the time you finish eating and make the ride back to High Bridge —with an hour or so allotted for exploring—all of the dining/ drinking establishments will be open and you’ll be well into a great, long weekend.
Worth noting: Compared to the southern trailhead or other points of interest along the Columbia Trail, the northern trailhead in Bartley is a little underwhelming. In fact, due to the limited parking and sparse signage to inform visitors that its actually the starting/finish point, many folks don’t even realize they’ve reached the end of the trail. Best to
plan accordingly and save the northern trailhead as simply a turning-around point.
The Coffee Potter has a super welcoming vibe and they make an outstanding brew. Literally located right alongside the trail and equipped with benches/chairs outside for patrons to take a load off while they enjoy a coffee or baked treat, it’s a great place to start your ride or take a break on the journey.
While there are a multitude of food options not far off the trail, the combo of tacos and margaritas afuera at La Rienda is tough to beat on a warm afternoon/evening. Seafood lovers should also check out Chesapeake Tavern for the raw bar (arguably the best spot around for oysters) and happy hour menu. For a casual atmosphere with tasty, affordable pub fare (burgers, sandwiches, etc.), Valley Restaurant is a solid choice. All of these spots have full bars and outdoor seating, although it can be limited—calling ahead to check for availability is always advised.
You’ll find Bohemian Pilsner, Fruit Tart Ale, Black Lager, the ever popular IPA and more at Chilton Mill Brewing. Located in the same shopping center as Valley Restaurant, this is an awesome spot for a victory beer (the triumphant first beer after a long ride). Though it’s a bit of a walk from the public parking area on the trail, we like to think of this stroll as an opportunity to displace lactic acid buildup en route to beer and, in-turn, work off some of those carbs on the return trip to the car.
For your consideration: For children, beginning riders and groups, we recommend losing
the bikes and proceeding on foot on the ample sidewalk space while exploring in the section from the trail parking area to the collection of restaurants at the junction of West Mill and Fairmount Roads, and the further options located roughly a half-mile up East Mill Road. With the (at times) heavy traffic and non-existent shoulder in certain sections, inexperienced riders needn’t tempt fate. The “we have equal right to the road!” contingent of cyclists can miss us with the outcry her —this is just a weird, busy stretch and we’d rather not encourage folks to be hardasses when they’re facing the business end of an unsuspecting dump truck.
Though the section of Main Street near the trail is aesthetically pleasing and a pleasure to walk, this area of Califon is not particularly flush with food options. Rambo’s Country Store for lunch/supplies and Califon General store are the only game in town without getting pulled too far off the beaten path—they’re both good options, though.
For coffee, head to Scouts Coffee Bar + Mercantile. It’s hard to oversell this spot—wonderful people, great coffee and breakfast/snack options. We seldom leave High Bridge without stopping at Scout’s, and it’s one of the few coffee shops in Hunterdon County at which we don’t automatically order our coffee to-go.
For lunch, ice cream and baked treats, Polka Dot Cafe is a cool little eatery located less than 100 feet from the trail. For dinner, Carini’s and Peking Wok are both popular for take-out, but when it comes to enjoying a sit-down meal or a proper night out in High Bridge, all roads lead to Circa. Serving up great food and cocktails, oftentimes accompanied by live music,
this place has been a favorite of ours for years (though, maybe ditch the Spandex here.)
Though it’s only open on weekends, Highrail Brewing is a great little craft brewery with at least one brew (or seltzer) that’ll pique your interest. If you can’t make it to Highrail’s open hours, or are just looking for a more traditional bar and a great place to hang out with friends, head over to Mrs. Riley’s Publik House (just a few doors away on Main St.). Great service, solid beer selection (and stiff drinks), fair prices and a warm, casual atmosphere—this watering hole is always a good time. After a brief hiatus, Mrs. Riley’s is back and open seven days a week (with last call usually coming well after the rest of town shuts down).
Wherever you are on the trail, you’re never far from the Raritan River; and, if there’s a better region for freshwater fishing in the state, we’re not privy to it. Fly-fishing enthusiasts in particular, flock to spots on the Raritan by the Columbia Trail—especially the Ken Lockwood Gorge (catch and release only)—to hone their skills.
The notion of turning an outing on the trail into a multi-day, mini vacation never really dawned on us before now, but we’ve heard crazier ideas. Looking to add a little romantic charm to your Columbia Trail getaway? Check out Raritan Inn at Middle Valley (Califon) or Neighbour House (Long Valley)—both bed & breakfasts offer beautiful settings and are within comfortable riding distance from the trail.
Searching for more rustic/affordable accommodations? Just up the road from the southern trailhead in High Bridge is Voorhees State Park, where you’ll find drive-up campsites (and larger group sites) and cabins available for reservation. Due to its accessibility and amenities, Voorhees is a great option for families or folks new to camping. It’s also worth noting that the park has some trails for hikers and is home to the Paul Robinson Observatory for those interested in stargazing.
Wear a helmet, respect your surroundings and enjoy the ride.
For more info about the trail (including a trail map) and nearby points of interest, visit Hunteron and Morris counties parks and recreation websites.
The month is now May and soon enough, if not already, people around the state (plus visitors from Pennsylvania) will be flocking towards a body of water. For many of us, that body of water is the Delaware River.
Now, growing up in South Jersey where the Delaware River is surrounded by oil refineries and industry, I couldn’t imagine doing anything recreational in it. But the river changes north of Trenton and so does one’s mind about stepping foot into the Delaware.
Tubing is a popular activity in the Delaware, especially in Hunterdon County. Provided that sunscreen is worn, a day on the river is one of the most refreshing activities in the state. But the fun doesn’t have to end once the tube is deflated. Odd Bird Brewing in Stockton is the perfect place to wind down a day on the river, or just go to drink beer.
Located on Route 29 in Stockton, Odd Bird doesn’t look like a typical brewery; that’s because it is attached to the Eagle gas station in Stockton. But, as it turned out, the garage provided co-owners Karen Malzone and Adam Juncosa the perfect setting for their dream of opening up a brewery to come to fruition.
“It had all the things we needed in a brewery,” explains Malzone. “Compound solid flooring in the back, and big bay doors that we could open up in the summer for ambiance.”
There are breweries located in perfect locations and they lack soul and passion (staring directly at you Center City Philadelphia), but then there are breweries that are located in strip malls such as Death of A Fox in Gloucester County, and Audodidact in Morris Plains that just feel right for drinking. Attached to a gas station, Odd Bird has that charm as well, but the appeal of the place starts with the passion Malzone and Juncosa have for their craft.
The passion for brewing began when the couple started to homebrew as a hobby. Malzone and Juncosa fell in love with the process, and wanted to homebrew as much as they could.
“Once you start to homebrew, you’re like ‘Oh my god,’’’ explains Malzone. “I remember during the first couple batches you’re like, I want to do this and want this to be our world. It escalated from there.”
It escalated to the point that Juncosa joined a homebrewing association called Annihilated Homebrew Club, and started off making Industry Standard Beer (ISB) and IPAs. Juncosa and Malzone saw the club win awards, but they also gained lessons along the way. The experience showed that not only is brewing a fun activity, but there is a big brotherhood and sisterhood of brewers around the state.
“We learned how to take criticism and make better beer,” says Juncosa. “ It’s not judgmental at all, and it’s constructive. We are all friends in the club, which is unique. Everyone was in that club to hang out and drink beer, and help each other get better.”
“The homebrew club talks a lot about the brewing community,” explains Malzone. “At the homebrew club, if anyone needed anything we would reach out. For example, if we have extra fermenters, we would be like, ‘Hey, we have these extra fermenters, does anyone need them?’ or, ‘Does anyone have a recipe for this?’ And that carried into the brewing world; it’s more of a brotherhood, where people share ideas, share recipes and help each other out. Two of our friends are opening up a brewery and we just give them contact info for plumbers and electricians we know. It’s just a way to help each other out. Other than the big guys out there, it’s an
industry of smaller, just normal humans trying to make their dream happen.”
While the dream seems to be alive in Stockton, there’s a group of people in a city 19 miles south on Route 29 that seems to be making owning and operating a brewery in the Garden State a nightmare.
Recently, Governor Phil Murphy announced plans to update the state’s liquor license system and loosen regulations on breweries, but there is skepticism about whether it will happen or not.
Odd Bird does not have televisions in the brewery, or host that many events—which the current regulations restrict. Still, they are in solidarity with the brewers around the state fighting the regulations.
“The regulations that were put out have nothing to do with our license, and have nothing to do with what the ABC should be regulating,” says Juncosa. “They should be regulating alcohol, safe alcohol consumption, and safety. That is what they should be doing. Instead, they are regulating how a brewery decides to run their business as a community hub, which has nothing to do with alcohol.”
Odd Bird, like other breweries in North, Central and South Jersey, shine despite the regulations, but ultimately those rules hold back breweries’ creativity and limit partnerships with other businesses in the community. Juncosa and Malzone would specifically like to see regulations on breweries serving food loosened.
“When the law came out in 2012, the lines of the first paragraph state that breweries can’t run a restaurant or can’t run a kitchen. That is what they said,” says Juncosa. “The ABC has taken that and said, ‘OK, well we believe the intent of that law is to not have any food at all available.’ Which is insane for a place that serves alcohol. I mean alcohol and food are a perfect pairing especially in this area of Jersey with farm-to-table eating. It hurts small restaurants who can’t collaborate with breweries because they don’t have liquor licenses. It hurts the breweries because they can’t provide an all-encompassing experience. If we could work directly with restaurants we could provide beer dinners here and that is something that happens in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut that is insanely popular.”
(Conveniently enough, though, there is a fantastic food place, Rosemont Supper Club, serving high-end, yet approachable fare on the other side of the gas station from Odd Bird. Go figure.)
While the support for breweries might not come from Trenton, the support shines at the local level. Hunterdon County, where Odd Bird is located, shows lots of love for the breweries in the county, and the breweries support one another, too. All seven of Hunterdon’s breweries are part of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail. Visitors receive a passport to be stamped at each brewery, and once you visit all seven, you receive a commemorative hat as a reward.
Community is important for Juncosa and Malzone, and both have served Hunterdon County in their own ways. Juncosa, an electrical engineer, was a member of Stockton’s city council and Malzone was an English teacher at Hunterdon Central High School. And when one of those weekly crazy Saturday thunderstorms came rolling through in April, the couple opened up Odd Bird to neighbors who needed to charge their phones due to power outages.
They also realize that good beer also creates community as well, and let’s just say Odd Bird has a pretty good community-building program. Good beer starts with good ingredients, and Juncosa and Malzone do their best to make sure everything they use is grown or built in the Garden State. No matter the beer, the water is also local too, and comes from Stockton.
“One of the things we fell in love with during the homebrew process was Stockton’s water,” says Malzone. “The water comes from its own well, and we don’t have to treat it with chemicals like some breweries have to in order to balance it, just carbon filters and that’s it. The water is filtered through thousand-year-old shale, and it’s so pristine and delicious.”
Beer-wise, there’s a little bit of everything for all tastes and levels of drinkers.
“Let’s just say if there’s a family of four
drinking adults, every one of them can find something that they like here,” says Malzone. “I love IPAs, but if I go to a brewery and there’s nine IPAs and one Kölsch, it will be hard to please everyone.”
One of the beers that stands out at Odd Bird is Joe’s Garage, named after their landlord, Joe, who helped them out during the COVID lockdown. It’s also named after a Frank Zappa song as well. Whatever the origins, the 5.2% ABV Kölsch is a solid, easy-drinking brew.
“This is one of my favorite beers that we make,” says Juncosa. “One of my close friends lived in Cologne, Germany, for years. If you go into a brewery in Cologne, you don’t have options, you just get Kölsch. It’s a German Pale Ale, and very similar to a Pilsner. We use authentic German yeast and malts and hops. We use a unique coal strain from a yeast lab in Hillsborough called East Coast Yeast.”
Noticing a trend here, the West Coaststyle IPA Monty is named for a friend who helped Odd Bird get started.
“Monty is a West Coast Pale Ale,” explains Juncosa. “So it’s gonna be a little bit higher in bitterness, and I hate to use the word dank, but it is. It has significant marijuana notes in the nose in my opinion. It’s a really easy-drinking crisp beer for someone who wants a beer that is lower on the IPA spectrum.”
Indeed, Malzone and Juncosa dedicate a lot of beer names to people important in their lives. The name Odd Bird itself is an ode to Juncosa’s mom.
“My mom calls me an odd bird,” explains Juncosa. “She calls a lot of people odd birds, it’s just her thing. Like opening up a brew-
ery next to a gas station? You’re an odd bird.”
You’ll find a lot of great beer, and lots of bird decor at Odd Bird. While the place is definitely worthy of an Instagram post or story, Malzone and Juncosa don’t get too involved with what the current beer trends are on social media and they stick to what is right for them and the beer overall—and the brewery’s better for it.
“Our tap list is kind of unique,” says Juncosa. “We don’t focus on the beers that are the current trends or the popular hype. Like things that go over well on Instagram or Untapped. We stick to stuff that is classic, traditional, and stuff we love.”
Traveling on Route 29 is always recommended, and it’s more recommended that you stop at Odd Bird along the way. Word to the wise though: If you just got out of the Delaware, dry off first.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll consider them on a rolling basis for monthly publication.
A dense thud and a smear of blood left on the pane. I ask Jacob to see if there is an injured bird in the yard.
A soft christening of springtime rain is falling. Jacob asks me to find his rain jacket for this weekend. As I am packing, I wonder what good this trip will be; what good will it do us to spend our anniversary three towns over where the weather will be the same; the trees will have the same foliage; the flowers blooming there will be the same ones blooming here.
A cascade of winter hats, mittens, scarves, a tennis racket, assails me when I open the hall closet. When did we last play tennis, I ask myself? A vision, both painful and lovely, a tangle of tanned limbs, salty flesh; struggling with my tennis skirt. Naked from the waist down save shoes and socks. Were we those lovers?
Jacob stands in the hallway, his hands cupped as if receiving communion. I take a tentative step toward him; there is a sparrow in his hands. The bird’s eyes are closed but its chest is visibly rising and falling.
Oh Jacob, I say.
Help, he implores me.
He carries the little bird to the kitchen and places the wounded bird upon the counter. I brush a fingertip over its downy breast and feel the tiny heart beat.
Jacob apologizes for crying. He apologizes for the injured bird. He apologizes for needing help.
Jacob, I whisper. I look at my broken husband crying over a wounded bird. Whom can I save?
I turn my attention to the sparrow.
It looks like a Lladro figurine, plumy with a slight sheen. I can hear the slightest coo, as if the bird is whispering some self -healing incantation. Jacob brings me a small cup of water and a sponge, which I dip and then gently press over the bird’s beak, its feathered throat.
Suddenly, the bird’s eyes open.
Jesus, I say and drop the sponge, backing away. The sparrow hops up on its little feet, grabbing purchase atop of a roll of paper towels. Spreading its wings, it flies straight from the kitchen, down the hall and out the open front door just as the rain has stopped.
My husband is ecstatic. In a voice unfamiliar, light as the down of a new chick, he tells me we have witnessed a good omen. I’m ready for the weekend now, he says as he practically bounces from the room.
I remain, blink as the eerie after-rain sun streams through the kitchen windows. Jacob saw wings and flight. I saw something else. A sparrow with blue eyes, eyes the color of forget-me-nots; the color of the blanket wrapped around our stillborn child; the color we have lived in for 18 months.
Fannie H. Gray writes fiction inspired by a southern American childhood and dark fairy tales. She is a 2022 Gotham Writers Josie Rubio Scholarship recipient. Her work Incendies received Honorable Mention in Cleaver Magazine’s 10thAnniversary Anthology Flash Contest and was nominated for Best Microfiction. www.thefhgraymatter.com. On Twitter @fannnster.
Erika Sherger is a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Northern New Jersey whose songs are honest and raw responses to the different emotional terrain she has traversed, from losing her mother to ALS to riding her blind horse, Levon. Erika openly embraces the beauty and pain of life. Her autobiographical style, set among an indie-folk-americana landscape, tells stories with courage and humility.
Check out her latest albu, Bad Wolf, which features 12 original songs that blend indie-folk, Americana and alt-country sensibilities. Co-produced with Victor Phillips of Sonic Fix Studios, and distributed worldwide by Distrokid, Bad Wolf is the product of a two-year-long passion project, which culminated in 2023. Find it at erikaleerocks.com.
Some of the best contemporary dancers will convene at Bell Works in Holmdel on May 18 for a one-night-only event, “Architects of Dance.”
Inspired by the Bauhaus architectural movement, Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater Artistic Director Gabriel Chajnik conceived of “Architects of Dance” to illustrate how choreography and architecture can influence each other.
“Choreographers move bodies on stage with a determined purpose,” says Chajnik, “the way architects lead people through their creations. ‘Architects of Dance’ will engage the senses through imagery and mesmerizing choreography. These artists have collaborated to create a new and groundbreaking movement platform, crossing disciplines and experiences, and sharing practices.”
The evening begins with a reception and a tour of the Bell Works facility, which Chajnik says is integral to understanding the aim of the performance. More info at axelrodartscenter.com.