Saying goodbye after 20 years of Outpost drum circle

In September 1999, I began my drum circle, sponsored by Outpost in the Burbs, held at First Congregational Church in Montclair. Today I am announcing that, after 20 years, I have decided it is time to stop. 

I am very proud that many drummers tell me that they discovered drumming and each other at my circle. When I started, there weren’t a lot of public circles, but today there are (happily) many wonderful drum circles to attend.

I still believe in our circle, but I have realized that there is a life cycle to everything, and it feels as if our cycle is ending. I’m sad and disappointed, but also proud of my awesome collaboration with the Outpost (thanks Steve Cutaia) that brought so many people into the world of drum circles, and I’m especially excited to attend the many wonderful circles all over New Jersey.

The happy irony is that I’ve never been busier leading my circle for organizations who hire me, including schools, senior citizen homes, libraries, Turtleback Zoo, churches and synagogues, and addiction facilities. I look forward to continuing that wonderful work.

My heartfelt thanks to all those who attended my drum circle for 20 years.


Cedar Grove


Stand up against pro-gun talking points

The local reaction to the Montclair Republican Club's desire to put up a Second Amendment mural across from the anti-gun violence mural at the underpass near the High School has mirrored the national dialogue. As such, it also reflects the extent to which political gun-rights organizations like the NRA and Republican Party have succeeded in their effort to convince a small but significant number of people of the following:

  1. Current gun laws are sufficient, but are not enforced.
  2. All gun-control measures involve taking guns away from law abiding citizens, while leaving them in the hands of criminals, because criminals don't abide by the law and will keep their guns.
  3. U.S. cities/states with stronger gun control measures experience greater violence (due to no. 2 above).
  4. In countries with stronger gun control measures and lower incidents of gun violence, there is no relationship between the two.
  5. All gun-control measures should be rejected because there is no cure-all.
  6. All gun-control measures should be rejected because knives, bats, shovels, rocks, etc. can still be used to inflict harm.

These are all patently false. We may never change the minds of the hardcore believers in these fallacies, but it is no more our job to prove them false than it is to prove the truth of climate change or evolution.

But, here's the point: these public exchanges are critical, because for everyone who posts a comment, many more follow those comments, whose minds are still open to joining the ranks of those determined to demonstrate, advocate and vote our way out of our current national nightmare.




Why do Freeholders persist with ICE contract?

I’ve been to a number of Freeholder meetings over the past year to ask that they end the ICE contract. Many people from Newark and the Essex suburbs have made the same request/demand. 

To my knowledge, no one has come to the mic and said “Lock ‘em up, the extra money helps keep my taxes down.” I’ve also never heard anyone say “Lock ‘em up, the extra money keeps our parks looking spiffy.” One thing I’ve never heard, guaranteed, “Yeah, lock ‘em up, they’re all from s***hole countries anyway.” 

Yet the freeholders persist; they maintain the contract but express no opinion about it. They could end it, but don’t. Do they think locking up people for the crime of being undocumented is a good thing? A bad thing? How would we know? Going to a freeholder meeting is like a visit to Easter Island. 

Any other elected official from president to town councilman will tell you what they think. Freeholders seem to have no such desire. If they say that collaborating with Trump and ICE is a good thing, they sound like Republicans. If they say the contract is bad, they upset Joe DiVincenzo. What to do?




Polluting garbage trucks bad for neighborhood

I live just north of the Department of Public Works. Every Saturday morning, the first thing I do is check the wind.

If it's blowing east, west, or south, I'm okay. One of my neighbors will get it. If the wind blows north, I shut the windows and the doors. There's no sitting outside on the back deck.

It's recycling day, which means that from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., the DPW will pummel the neighborhood with noxious exhaust fumes, spewing from garbage trucks.

I love many things about this town and community, but in an age of environmental concern, this is an embarrassment.

Earlier this week, while walking my dogs, I was chased inside by the intense exhaust coming from a truck exiting the DPW. All of North Fullerton Avenue was buried in a diesel fog.

This may be a liberal town, but its disregard for the air we breathe is worthy of a Trump loving climate change denier.

The high school is here. Two elementary schools. The football field. Our kids are here.

My suggestions are: purchase recycling trucks that use clean air technology.  If that's too expensive, turn off the engines when not in use. There are plenty of no idling laws on the books. 

Still no good? Then please remove the sign on the building telling us to enjoy breathing in the clean air. On Saturdays, we don't have any.




Train-track fencing could have saved others

Thank you for your article on NJ Transit - "Fencing added around Watchung Station". It is also helpful — albeit painful — to see the statistics of NJ Transit fatalities and injuries summarized on available reports of fatalities.What is shocking is the fact that NJ Transit is still investigating itself regarding these fatalities; and that information about these deaths in Montclair is unavailable to the media through an examination of the 'black box' railroad agencies are required to send to Washington DC's Federal Railroad Administration.You mention our son in your Sept. 12 article: Tony Anastasopoulos, 17 years old in August 2002, struck and killed by a NJ Transit train just west of the Watchung station.Here is our story and urgent advice to the township council and the governor of the state of New Jersey

Walking with two friends — 14 and 16 year old girls — our son with two teen girls climbed the embankment and entered the Watchung Plaza trestle just west of Watchung Station as a shortcut to Watchung Plaza.The trestle built in the early twentieth century remains neglected and dangerous. Rotting wooden blocks placed about 2 feet apart as cheaply as possible underpin the steel laden tracks.As designed the trestle leaves no room for a pedestrian, worker, or anyone to escape an oncoming train by side stepping the passing train.

In Tony's case, the Montclair-Boonton Line engineer made a scheduled stop at Watchung enroute from Hoboken to Montclair State.The teens walked in single formation: Tony's girlfriend in front, another girl -14 years in the middle, and Tony at the end to warn the others in case an unscheduled train appeared from behind.The middle teen caught her shoe in between the wooden blocks and she could not move.The shoes had silk ties wrapped the lower ankle. The ties had to be broken to free her foot from the trestle and the oncoming train. Tony wrestled with the shoe looking ahead seeing the engineer start the train and accelerate toward the two teens.He fought to break the ties and picked up the girl in his arms and placed her on the side of the open embankment by the trestle.Tony then had to clear "3 short steps to safety" reported the Montclair Times.But the train accelerated too fast and it hit the side of his face hurling him off the trestle onto Valley Road.This fatality, like others mentioned, was investigated by NJ Transit Police employees paid directly from Transit. The 'witnesses' cited in the TAP article are invariably train crews, and various NJ Transit spokespeople.The engineer testified that he thought the teens were playing a game of "chicken" and following NJ Transit protocol they were deemed "trespassers" on private property.Transit decided to put up a No Trespassing sign 3 days after Tony's death.

We filed a complaint in state court on behalf of the estate of Tony Anastasopoulos vs. Mahoney, et. al.NJ Transit refused to place a fence on the embankments like the article states they did this past June 18 at Bruce and Appleton Roads. They could have put that small amount of fencing up in 2002 and possibly saved the lives of neighbors and friends who have perished since and extended it from milepost 15 to milepost 11.9 which covers Montclair stations. In addition, if anyone, the governor, the town council, NJ Transit higher ups, and the media are serious about making NJ Transit accountable for safety, it is paramount to begin with (1) stopping the agency to investigate itself; (2) fine the agency when it does not obey the federal laws and submit the black box in case of fatalities; and holding officials accountable by withholding public taxpayer funds until NJ Transit complies with federal laws regarding determination of pedestrian deaths.