Monthly archive

June 2017

Program Notes: the Dark Night of the Soul

in Opinion

Gwen Orel
Features Editor
Montclair Local

Program Notes: In the theater, program notes provide further background on the play, or the playwright, or the director. They can be historical and informative, or personal and allusive. In this series, I’ll comment on what I’m writing and thinking about. This week: Dark Night of the Soul, or How MKA Helped Me Feel Better About Life.


Last Thursday night I couldn’t sleep.

Was it politics that kept me awake?


Was it global warming and the fate of the earth?


It was discovering unsubscriptions to my mailing list.

I was sent into a full-on state of anxiety by noticing that the mailing list for my site, New York Irish Arts, has been losing subscribers. (That’s; please make me happy and sign up.)

I was sending out an eblast late at night to offer tickets to Symphony Space’s “Bloomsday on Broadway” the next day.

Bloomsday, June 16, is the date on which James Joyce’s “Ulysses” is set, named for its protagonist, Leopold Bloom.

Among the celebrations in New York are a Bloomsday breakfast, readings from “Ulysses” at Ulysses Folk House downtown, and readings by actors and writers at Symphony Space titled “Bloomsday on Broadway.”

It’s always fun, and I’d planned to take the day off.

Good thing, because I was wide awake when the sun came up.

According to my search engine, I’d googled “how many unsubscriptions is normal” before I finally nodded off.

I tried to figure out what .02 percent of 2,100 is (high school was a long time ago).

I found a site that advised bloggers not to take unsubscriptions personally.


Even as I spun out from the mailing list to the general feeling of FAILURE FAILURE FAILURE running through my head, I knew it was silly. I knew that not being hugely proactive to grow my list didn’t really mean I was going to die alone, subsisting on cat food.

But that’s where my mind went.

Haven’t published dissertation yet — check.

Unmarried — check.

Credit card debt — check.

I thought my first Program Notes might be about accepting awards next week at the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists annual reception. And at some point I planned to describe being on a panel at MSU this winter. You’d think both of these things would have occurred to me and cheered me up. They didn’t.

Every now and then, as I lived through my dark night of the soul, a cat came over to sniff me.

We’ve all been there.

So, now that the sun’s out, I thought maybe it would be more useful to write about this instead.

I described my sleepless spin to a friend on Saturday night, after a production of J.M. Synge’s “The Aran Islands” at Irish Repertory Theatre.

Philomena laughed and said “Only Thursday? Don’t you have these all the time? Doesn’t everyone?”

That’s probably the best thing anybody said to me.

What I’ve realized: late night “I-haven’t-done-enough” panics are normal. Especially for writers.

The phrase “dark night of the soul” is the title of a 16th-century poem. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, “In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”

Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” includes the lines:

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found…

for which thanks a lot, Andy, I’m doing my best with moisturizer. But point taken. Seize the day.

But worrying about time isn’t really a gendered thing. John Keats wrote a whole poem about it:

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain…

Ultimately, Keats feels better by thinking about it a long time. A good long think didn’t help me.

Other people did.

After my pity party ended (scared Mom by weeping at her), I got up and went to the city for Bloomsday. I might have skipped it to sulk, but I had planned to see the play by MKA playwright-in-residence Robert Gelberg in the city too, so I had to go.

At Ulysses, people were happy to see me. I had a pint of Guinness. I did some interviews.

Aedin Moloney, who has been performing Molly Bloom at Ulysses Folk House for years, has just released a two-volume CD, “Reflections of Molly Bloom.” It includes the full Molly Bloom soliloquy, and music by her father, Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains.

She said she’d been working on it for years, and decided it was now or never. Deadlines are good, really. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

After the readings at Ulysses Folk House, I went to see Gelberg’s “They Say We’ll Have Some Fun.”

The teens’ optimism and enthusiasm were just what the doctor ordered. Optimism. Remember optimism?

But you know … anxiety is not only not gendered, it’s not really age-related.

Keats was only 25 when he died. When I was in high school, I remember some late nights worrying about college admissions. Or whether my best friend hated me. Or whether I’d ever get boobs.

With time, some worries vanish. With time, all worries diminish.

It’s normal. Several friends commented sympathetically on the Facebook post where I wrote: “3:20 a.m. and feeling full-on anxious.” And there was Philomena’s remark: “Doesn’t everyone?”

Obituary: Amelia “Amy” Hatrak

in Obituaries


Courtesy of the Hatrak family
Amy Hatrak

Amelia Amy Hatrak (née Callas) died peacefully in West Caldwell Care Center on June 16 at the age of 89. She lived the majority of her adult life in Montclair, where she left an enduring legacy in the arts and education.

Ms. Hatrak, who was known as Amy, is survived by her former husband Theodore (Ted) Stevens Hatrak; her children, Christopher Stevens Hatrak and Melissa Decker Hatrak; and her siblings, George Callas of Brielle and Stephen Callas of Washington, D.C.

She was born on July 22, 1927, in Milltown, to Agnes and Stephen Callas. She graduated summa cum laude from The College of New Jersey in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree in education, and minor in fine art.

Ms. Hatrak was one of five education graduates from the state of New Jersey chosen to teach the children of American military stationed in Germany after World War II. In Europe she married her college sweetheart, Ted Hatrak, who served in the American military in Italy. The couple bought a home in Montclair and taught school in Essex Fells and Montclair, and eventually opened The Academy of Musical Arts in Montclair where Ted Hatrak was creative director. They also were active in the Montclair Operetta Club where Ted served as musical director.

Between 1962 and 1965, the couple welcomed two adopted children into their home. The couple divorced amicably in the 1980s.

As a young woman, Ms. Hatrak was a showroom model for Oleg Cassini, who created some of the most famous looks for Jackie Kennedy. Through her work with the Montclair Junior League she became an early director of the Israel Crane House Museum, and was instrumental in creating their docent program. She was a coauthor of “Fanny Pierson Crane: Her Receipts” and “The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook,” and contributed a food column in the now defunct New Jersey Good Life Magazine. She furthered her education at the James Fenimore Cooper Museum and the New York School of Interior Design. She was a guest lecturer at historic homes throughout the country on 18th- and 19th-century American domestic arts and food.

She later became a interior designer and won The Preservation award from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for her work on Burrage House in Boston. She served as president of the Friends of Barnet sister-city organization. She won Woman of the Year in the Arts from the Montclair Women’s Club, The Rosemary Circle Award from the Herb Society of America, and an annual award is given in her name by the Garden Club of Montclair.

A funeral will be held on Saturday, July 8, at 10 a.m., at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 73 South Fullerton Ave., Montclair, with a reception to follow at 191 Alexander Ave., Montclair. All are welcome. Memorial donations may be made to The Amy Hatrak Memorial Fund at

Historic commission readies recommendations on Lackawanna Plaza

in Business/Land management/Planning Board
The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission met on Thursday to draft its recommendations regarding the proposed redevelopment plan for Lackawanna Plaza. The members are, from left, Caroline Kane Levy, David Greenbaum, Jason Hyndman, chair Kathleen Bennett, and Stephen Rooney.


During a four-hour meeting, the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday night began hammering out recommendations for the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan, aiming to force developers to preserve the heritage and incorporate the “DNA” of the landmark train station into the project.

In painstaking detail, the commission discussed changes it wants made in the first draft of the redevelopment plan, which critics claim that as written will dwarf the station and permit developers to destroy some of the site’s historic elements, such as its former train sheds. The plan now calls for a minimum 40,000-square-foot supermarket, 350 apartments, retail space, parking and open space at the Bloomfield Avenue site, two parcels that span Grove Street.

At the meeting Carmel Loughman, a Township Planning Board member, implored the commission to carefully pore over the redevelopment plan and tighten its wording so that Pinnacle Cos. of Montclair and Hampshire Cos. of Morristown don’t have any leeway to eliminate any of the station’s historic elements.

“I view you guys as the guardians of this historic building. … I feel like you need to be firmer, in my view,” Loughman said after hearing some of the commission’s suggestions.

Time is of the essence for the commission, because it needs to provide its input to the Township Planning Board before that body’s meeting on Monday. That’s because the Township Council fast-tracked the creation of the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan, taking on oversight of the plan’s creation from the planning board.

The council wants the planning board’s recommendations on the proposed redevelopment plan, drafted by Phillips Preiss Grygiel LLC, in time for the governing body’s July meeting.

Commissioner David Greenbaum said that the planning board’s redevelopment subcommittee had recently met and found the proposed Lackawanna plan wanting. That subcommittee includes members of the HPC, the planning board and the council’s economic development committee.

The subcommittee looked to successful re-adaptive uses of historic sites, such as Fanueil Hall in Boston and the High Line in Manhattan, as models for Lackawanna Plaza’s future, according to Greenbaum.

“I think that’s the important thing, leveraging the train station both in its structural form and the idea of a train station, in the design DNA of the new development,” he said, rather than just envisioning Lackawanna Plaza as a mixed-use commercial property.

The subcommittee also discussed that if the developer was not able “to comply with this particular vision for the property, that perhaps it may be best if the town encourage another developer to take a crack at it who would be more respectful and mindful of the value of this historic asset in our community,” according to Greenbaum.

The commission’s recommendations try to put teeth in the redevelopment plan’s language, so there’s no wiggle room or ambiguity that will permit destruction of the station’s historic assets.

For example, currently the redevelopment plan says “preservation and adaptive reuse of historic features and structures on the site is recommended to the extent possible.” The commission is recommending that the word “recommended” be changed to “required.”

The commission also wants the plan to leave open the option of the project’s supermarket, which will replace a closed Pathmark, being built on the site’s east parcel, now a surface parking lot, “so as to provide maximum flexibility for preservation of the Lackawanna train shed.”

The proposed redevelopment plan only describes the train stations as being listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Commission Chair Kathleen Bennett talked about the importance of the plan listing all the station’s bona fides, including the fact that it is listed in the state’s Register of Historic Places and its designation as a key building in Montclair Center Historic District.

The commission also wants more clarity in the redevelopment plan regarding TD Bank, which is not part of the redevelopment site even though it adjoins it.

“What happens if TD Bank decides that location is not viable?” commissioner Jason Hyndman said.

The commission also wants working changes on the redevelopment plans so that the station’s existing masonry piers and steel and concrete canopies will be preserved.

And in another language tweak, the commission wants the redevelopment plan to say that the view to the station’s former waiting room, now home to Pig & Prince restaurant, “shall be maintained,” rather than “should be maintained to the greatest extent possible.”

In addition to Loughman’s remarks, the commission heard criticism of and suggestions regarding the redevelopment plan from two additional residents, Michael Peinovich and Frank Rubacky.

Peinovich, who lives on Cloverhill Place, said that the redevelopment will bring traffic to his tiny street and will threaten the very culturally diverse Pine Street neighborhood. Lackawanna Plaza is in the Fourth Ward, represented by Councilwoman Renée Baskerville, and some of its residents have been clamoring for a supermarket to finally replace Pathmark, which closed in November 2015.

“Renée has been seduced by the fact that there’s going to be a supermarket [as part of the Lackawanna redevelopment],” Peinovich told the commission.

Cloverhill Place, which runs north and south between Claremont Avenue and Glenridge Avenue, has a neighborhood group that is working with a new organization in town, Vision Montclair, to fight several redevelopments, including Lackawanna Plaza. Cloverhill residents are going to suggest to township officials that either their street dead-end at Glenridge Avenue or be made into a one-way street so it doesn’t get traffic from redeveloped Lackawanna Plaza, Peinovich said.

The commission was asked to weigh in on the redevelopment plan by its member and representative on the planning board, Stephen Rooney.

“I felt we needed to get into it right now,” he said.

Hyndman volunteered to put together the commission’s recommendations, incorporating the suggestions of Loughman and the two other residents, over the weekend so it’s ready to be sent to the planning board in time for its meeting on Monday.

The Historic Preservation Commission will later draft a formal resolution with its recommendations to give to the council.

Local author debuts book in Montclair

in Arts/Books

Montclair resident Charles Joseph’s “Chameleon,” a collection of poems and stories, came out on June 21. To celebrate the release, Joseph is holding a poetry reading and open mic titled “Verses on Church Street” on Sunday, June 25, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Java Love, 49 Church St.

The open mic will offer other local writers and poets an “opportunity to show their unique voices,” according to a release. Featured writers in addition to Joseph will be Rebecca Weber, B. Diehl, Damian Rucci, Cord Moreski, Attorious Renee Augustin, Jon Poppe, Kendall A. Bell, and Moly Tov.

Township seeks bids for flashing crosswalk lights

in Pedestrians/Police/Public Safety/Streets and Roads/Transportation

Roughly two weeks after a resident was struck and killed while crossing Grove Street, the township is soliciting bids for six flashing lights for pedestrian crosswalks.

Montclair plans to purchase “six rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB) units for installation at various pedestrian crosswalks as needed,” according to the township website.

The quotes are due on July 14 by 4 p.m. One of the conditions of the purchase order is that the lights be delivered within 60 days.

The request for bids follows the June 7 death of Mary DeFilippis, who was struck and fatally injured while crossing Grove Street at Chester Road while on an evening walk. That stretch of road is dark, according to residents, and the township has asked PSE&G to install more lighting there.

According to one resident, the driver who struck DeFilipios said she didn’t see her in a crosswalk.

Each of the lights the township is purchasing “shall consist of two self-contained solar engine assemblies (includes energy management system); on-board user interface; wireless communications; batteries and solar panel; four light bars (two mounted back to back for each post) and two side-mounted pedestrian actuation assemblies (one for each post),” according to the township website.



Montclair High School Class of 2017 graduates

in Education/Montclair Public Schools
Neil Grabowsky/For Montclair Local
Members of the Montclair High School Class of 2017 toss their mortarboards into the air at the end of Thursday evening’s graduation exercises.


The stage of the Montclair High School amphitheater on Thursday evening was a sea of blue caps and gowns, dotted with gold honors sashes, as the Class of 2017 bid farewell to their high school days.

The 494 graduates received their diplomas amid cheering and applause from an audience that overflowed the amphitheater seats and out onto the sidewalk and the school grounds.

Thursday’s commencement exercises marked the 150th graduating class from the school.

Julianna Wittmann, the student consortium president, officially welcomed the audience to the ceremony. “None of this would have been possible without the dedication of our teachers and administrators, and the support of our friends and family.”

To the class, she said, “I urge you all to treasure the memories forged in these halls, and take them with you on whatever path you’ll soon be heading down.”

She said that the student consortium had had a busy year, organizing different events for the student body. “And probably the most exciting event would be covering teachers with whipped cream outside of the high school, to help raise money for the Mini-Thon.”

She finished, “Our class has had a great four years. And I know we will all be going on to follow our passions and have successful futures.”

“I am so grateful that you all could join us today as we recognize and celebrate our 2017 graduates. On the day of graduation, I am hopeful for two things. One of course, is great weather. And it appears that the weather gods smiled upon us,” said MHS Principal James Earle. “The second is that our graduates, their families and guests arrive safely to celebrate their successes,” Earle said.

To the graduates, he said, “Completing four to five years of high school can be challenging. But if you end up here…if you end up here today, receiving your diploma, celebrating with your classmates and receiving support from your family, and friends, you are in the right place,” he said to loud applause.

He finished, “Your high school journey is almost complete, and the principal of Montclair High School can’t wait to see what you do with the next phase of your life.”

Benilde Little, the author of the novels “Good Hair” and “Who Does She Think She Is,” and a Montclair resident for 18 years, was the guest speaker.

“You’ve grown up in this lovely bubble of Montclair, with people from different races, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. This is a beautiful thing. This is a challenging thing.”

She also recounted how, graduating from college as “a golden girl,” she was heartbroken when she flunked out of graduate school. That led to a series of career moves, including  that eventually led to the publication of “Good Hair,” her first novel. The novel became a smash bestseller upon its release, in spite of 14 rejection letters.

“Here’s one thing that I want you to do, graduates. And I promise you, that if you do this, you will be a better human. Take Montclair with you. This diversity, this crazy quilt,” she said as the audience applauded, “this crazy quilt is what’s best about Montclair, what’s best about America. Your experience growing up here, the good and the bad, has given you a gift you probably don’t see now. Why would you? You haven’t known any other way. If you take this gift into the world, you will shine.”

She urged the graduates to broaden their circle of acquaintances to people from backgrounds different from theirs. “You know how to do that. Many people don’t.”
Little continued, “Many of you are leaving here feeling anxiety about the future. Some of you, many of you have not a clue about what you’re going to do from here. And that’s okay. Commencement means the beginning, not the end.”

She finished with two quotes. The first was from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

The second was from Kendrick Lamar: “We gon’ be all right.”

Cristi Kennedy, the class president, was the last speaker before the handing out of the diplomas. “A day that we thought would never come, and a day that came much too quickly.”

“To the Class of 2017, we made it. Over these past four years we have braved new friendships, stayed up way too late writing essays that were assigned to us weeks before, and we have dragged our sorry selves out of bed for zero period,” she said as the audience laughed.

“As the 150th graduating class of Montclair High School, we will forever be a part of history,” she said, highlighting the town and the school’s role in the history of civil rights, from Applegate’s being on the site of an Underground Railroad stop to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to the school in the 1960s.

And the school itself, was a place where everyone was part of a community. “At the end of the day, there was always going to be someone there to have your back. Someone to grab you a bagel because your lab took up your lunch period. Someone to send you classwork when everyone was sick the Friday of a music festival, or a teacher to sit with you for hours after school to review for the upcoming test. We are extremely fortunate to have been part of a special place, with a big heart.”

Lackawanna developers debut website, Facebook page

in Business/Commercial development/Community
Screenshot of Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment website.


Facing community opposition to their proposal, the developers of Lackawanna Plaza have launched a website and Facebook page outlining their plans “to revitalize” the site, which includes a historic train station and nearly vacant shopping center.

Pinnacle Cos. of Montclair and Hampshire Cos. of Morristown issued a press release Thursday about the new site,, and page,

The site “offers community members a new resource to learn more about the vision consistent with the objectives outlined in the Draft Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment Plan, which was prepared at the direction of Montclair Township’s Master Plan,” according to the press release.

The Facebook page aims “to keep residents informed of updates and ways to show support for the dynamic new vision,” the release said.

“The developers expect that area residents will visit the new project website to learn more and connect on Facebook to support the transformation of what currently exists as a barrier in the eastern end of Montclair Center into an attractive, inviting center of activity that facilitates the economic and social benefits of sustainable growth,” according to the press release.

The site says that the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment “will breathe new life into the Lackawanna Station shopping center and its adjoining parcels,” with “a new mix of uses, including residential and supermarket space to add vibrancy and connectivity to the area, while respecting the historic character of the original Lackawanna station terminal building.”

It also describes the proposal, which includes 350 residential units with a roughly 65,000-square-foot supermarket,” which will replace the Pathmark that closed in November 2015.

The press release on the new website was put out by Public Strategy Group Inc., a Boston-based public relations firm “specializing in issue advocacy and land use entitlement campaigns,” according to its website. The firm’s clients include Comcast Corp., The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Publix and AvalonBay Communities Inc.

The redevelopment plan has met opposition from residents who fear it will dwarf the historic train station, now occupied by the Pig & Prince restaurant, at the site. Opponents of the proposal also claim it has too much bulk and residential density for that part of Bloomfield Avenue, and that it will create traffic congestion.

The Township Planning Board is holding a meeting on Monday on the first draft of the site’s redevelopment plan, but it has said that it will not permit public comment at that session. The Township Council has asked the board for its recommendations on the redevelopment plan, and the planning board — on the agenda for its Monday meeting — says that the council will be the forum for public comment.

“Please note that the discussion is limited to the Planning Board and there will be no public discussion of the plan,” the board’s June 26 agenda says. “Public comment will be provided at the public hearing which will be scheduled by the Township Council.”

The Lackawanna Plaza website has a form and letter message in support of the redevelopment that people can fill out, which will then be forwarded to Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson, as well as the council and planning board, according to the site.

“As a resident of Montclair Township, I urge your strong support for the Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment proposal,” the form says. “This proposal will enliven the eastern end of Montclair Center by creating a vibrant mix of new uses within a walk-able community to provide housing variety and a convenient, affordable supermarket that area residents need … I respectfully urge your strong support to help this high-quality redevelopment proposal move forward to enhance the community for years to come.”

The Lackawanna Plaza website notes that “over two years of planning meetings and community input have informed the evolution of the Draft Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment Plan, which recommends specific objectives to support revitalization of this area.”

According to the website, “This redevelopment enhances an underutilized property in a key location by fulfilling competing objectives of preserving important historic elements while introducing residential uses, two acre open space public plaza, pedestrian connectivity and a new supermarket to replace the vacant Pathmark supermarket. Most importantly, the plan synthesizes the township’s connection to its historic past and vibrancy with a new center of activity to ensure these elements resonate for generations to come.”



Track & Field: Montclair runners heading to Montana Headwaters Relay

in High School Sports/Sports - General

by Andrew Garda

Early on Saturday morning, June 17, five members of the Montclair High School track and field team gathered in one of their kitchens to get ready for a run. Despite the end of the spring track season, some combination of these five athletes plus two more have been getting together to run nearly every day of the week.

It’s not just to improve their times for fall cross country either, though there is that aspect. Dale Ross, Thomas Lee, Tillie Ferguson, twins Stefan and Sebastian Urquidi, David Aley and Aidan Ward have far more ambitious plans for the summer. This team of Mounties will spend part of July running in the 16th annual Montana Headwaters Relay over July 28-30.

The Headwaters Relay is a three-day, 232-mile team relay race through the mountains and valleys of Southwest Montana. The race route takes place almost completely on dirt and two-track roads, beginning in Three Forks and ending at Hellroaring Creek in the Centennial Valley.

For most of the group, this is at least the second time they’ve run the race. In preparing for the 2016 race they didn’t do quite the level of training they have embarked upon this year, and they also didn’t have enough kids for a completely high school relay team, meaning they had to add in some adults which, they argued, might have held them back a little.

This time out, they have kicked up their training — some are averaging between 55 and 60 miles a week, and plan to peak at 75 miles a week near the race date — as well as pulled together a full team. Still, they are focusing on cross country in the fall as well, and Montana is a good way to get into shape for it while experiencing some great vistas.

“The race is more enjoyable training than it is a race,” Stefan Urquidi said. “Obviously, we’ll keep up a pace that challenges you physically, because that’s what running is. But at the same time, you don’t want to have too much tunnel vision. You still want to look around and enjoy it.”

His brother, Sebastian, agrees.

“The primary objective is just to have fun,” he said. “Because when you get out there it’s really beautiful and if you don’t appreciate that you’re just wasting your time.”

Lee’s dad, Tom Lee Sr., was the one who discovered the Headwaters Relay, back in 2011 while looking for an alternative to the Ragnar Relay Series, which are similar runs put on across the country.

“The website was really bad, so he didn’t know if it actually existed or not,” Lee said of his dad’s first impression of the Montana race. “Then he called the guy running it.”

Lee Sr. first ran the race in 2012, and his son joined him in 2014 when the latter was in sixth grade. Ward, Aley and the Urquidis joined in last year.

This year they are adding Ferguson, who just competed in the 2017 Meet of Champions, running as part of the 4×800-meter relay team.

“I was just talking to Dale about it and he said I should do it [in 2017],” Ferguson said. “I’m just excited to be able to do this. Obviously it’s going to be good training, especially at that elevation and stuff.”

The group will have its work cut out for it.

The relay is broken up into three different distances, and start time changes each day. For day one, Lee says, the race starts at 6 a.m. and goes for 80 miles. Day two’s start time depends on how well you ran on the first day — last year Team Montclair started at 5 a.m. — and goes between 65 and 70 miles. Day three, you can start as early as you want, and the final distance is about 80 miles.

“You want to go early because of the BBQ at the end,” Lee explains. “Some of the teams are really fast so you don’t want them to get ahead of you because then they’ll take all the food.”

BBQ concerns aside, you have to make sure you pace yourself and stay hydrated. Montana’s temperature isn’t much worse than New Jersey, but due to the elevation and the arid climate, you dry out much faster.

There are also concerns with animals — Ward was chased by a cow last year and needed a pace car to cut the creature off — and last year there was talk of a detour due to wildfire.

It’s also easy to get distracted by the scenery and wander off trail, as Sebastian Urquidi did last summer.

“I didn’t get lost. I went exploring,” he insists.

According to everyone else, though, he was supposed to just run down the road and his only instruction was to keep on going straight. Instead, he made a right through an open cattle gate.

He eventually realized his mistake.

“I just kept going down the road until I got to this fork in the road and there was a bridge on one side and more mountains on the other side. It didn’t look right, so I stopped and thought ‘I should have gone the other way.’”

When not being harassed by cows or wandering off course, runners will get the chance to enjoy camping under the stars at night, as well as some sightseeing before and after the race. Last year’s destinations included Yellowstone and a side trip to Mount Rushmore.

The race is the big draw, though, as is the opportunity to run with a beautiful backdrop.

“The thing about Montana is, if we wanted to we could just do the same runs here [In New Jersey],” Sebastian Urquidi said. “But there’s something magical about going to Montana. Plus, I’m not paying for it, so…”




Local Voices: Robin Woods on garage sale season

in Uncategorized
Wikimedia Commons

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Yard and garage sale season!

I adore them and print out a list of local sales, armed with a vat of coffee, a trusted friend and neighbor along for the ride. Spouses are fine to bring along if you must, but they make a beeline to boxes of worthless CDs and broken electronics. Children tend to wander around, stepping on items carefully laid out on lawns. They frequently whine and need to use a bathroom, so leave them at home if you can.
Caveat emptor (I love it when I speak Latin): Not all yard sales are created equal.

The ups and downs of them are easily spotted by those of us who know that the saying “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” needs some tweaking. One person’s junk is usually just junk. Many items I’ve seen for sale needed to go into the trash, rather than on a sale table. I do love my tchotchkes, those adorable small decorative objects which collect dust or defy description: A mug with missing handle shaped like a toilet seat, or a travel alarm clock with no hands to tell the time.

You might not know that you must file an application and pay for a permit to hold such sales here in town. Do it on the down-low, and you

Robin Woods

run the risk of being fined by a fine code enforcement officer who’s on duty for the weekend. I’ll never tell, but be forewarned.

Please clearly mark each item with a price, even if it’s just 10 cents. When I see all unmarked items out on your lawn or in your garage, it makes me wonder whether you’re going to eyeball me to see how much you can charge me without being insulting or crazy, like asking $500 for a small lamp with shade. It could be Tiffany, which is highly suspect; but if you cut the power cord in half for some unknown reason then it’s just junk.

I beg you not to sell what I call Dead People’s Clothes, those frock coats and bustled gowns stored in mothballs for decades in your attic. One never forgets that aroma, and if you’re wondering whether moths have balls then you’re too young to truly appreciate yard sales.

Always bring cash with you. Don’t expect sellers to have an ATM or card reader in their sheds. Keep an open mind to what you see displayed, and don’t go crazy when you see an authentic hallmarked Rookwood vase priced at a dollar. Keep that poker face, loudly announce “I’ll take it!” and have a spotter watch over your pile of treasures. Some naughty neophytes seem to believe that you created a display for them to explore. It’s not Anthropologie, it’s just Anne’s pile of G-strings. Don’t ask. Please refrain from body checking me to snatch up the size 4 chartreuse faux fur bolero from my hands.

I think I love it, but I see a genuine gold, diamond and sapphire bracelet mixed in with costume jewelry. Score!

Robin Ehrlichman Woods is a writer living in Montclair.

Montclair’s “Frontline March for the Arts” postponed until August

in Arts/National Endowment for the Arts

The Frontline for the Arts march, originally scheduled for June 24, has been postponed until Aug. 12. Among the reasons the march has been postponed is that Congress increased the NEA’s budget for FY17, said Nancy Klein, public relations and communications specialist at Jazz House Kids, in an email.

While “this doesn’t change the gloomy picture for FY18,” it did make the march somewhat less urgent.

The new date brings the march closer to the autumn consideration of the proposed budget, which eliminates the NEA and the NEH altogether.
The call to action will be staged on the grounds of the Montclair Jazz Festival on Aug. 12.

There will be a dedicated tent, with materials about the NEA to distribute that show what it funds and why cutting it would be disastrous, Klein wrote. “The beautiful thing is that the Festival itself receives a pretty generous NEA grant, making it very easy to show exactly the kind of thing we all stand to lose.”

For interim actions, check the group’s Facebook page:

—Gwen Orel

1 2 3 10
Go to Top