31 December 2014


My dad was an active runner for less than 20 years, beginning in 1977 at the age of 46 and continuing until illness sidelined him at the age of 64.  He was an avid competitor, continually challenging himself in literally hundreds of road races, including 40 marathons.

Jersey Shore Marathon - 1980

Boston Marathon - 1990

New York City Marathon - 1991

I spent some time these last few days of the year scanning the many dozens of photos that my dad had kept from those days.  I combined them into one of those photo mosaic collages.

Click on this photo from the 1993 New York City Marathon to see the photos

23 December 2014

Atheist Scientific Doctor Children's Research Hospital?

Last month, actress Marlo Thomas appeared on NBC's Today Show on behalf of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Memphis research and treatment center dedicated to finding the cures for catastrophic diseases in children, founded by her father Danny Thomas in 1955.  The segment, which included a family who had been helped by the hospital, was wholly unremarkable save for one innocent remark by host Natalie Morales, followed by a brief retort by Ms. Thomas. Watch below.

“Colin’s story is just another example of the incredible work, the miracles that are performed at St. Jude…”
 “It’s not a miracle though, it’s science. This is what we do at St. Jude…”

The exchange is mild, honest, and relevant - doctors absolutely deserve credit for their amazing work and the dedication that provides them with the insights necessary to advance towards the goal of eliminating childhood disease.  And the spot was the typical kind you see during the fundraising season.

I didn't give this incident a second thought until I began to see the exchange pop up on Facebook and various blogs as a triumphant thumb to the eye of religion.  Are atheists really applauding this? Does the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital want talk of miracles banished from their bio?  That's weird.

Here's an excerpt from the Hospital's web site:

More than 70 years ago, Danny Thomas, then a struggling young entertainer with a baby on the way, visited a Detroit church and was so moved during the Mass, he placed his last $7 in the collection box. When he realized what he’d done, Danny prayed for a way to pay the looming hospital bills. The next day, he was offered a small part that would pay 10 times the amount he’d given to the church. Danny had experienced the power of prayer.

A couple of years later, doing better but still struggling, Danny Thomas prayed to St. Jude, one of the twelve apostles and the patron saint of hopeless causes, promising that if he found his way, he would one day build a shrine to St. Jude.  A decade later, after achieving international stardom, that shrine took the form of the famous research hospital named in honor of the martyred saint.

I would ask nonbelievers to take a break from their victory lap to compose a letter to Marlo Thomas, asking her to remove any mention of St. Jude from the hospital and charitable foundation that bears his name.  My suggestion would be to rename it Atheist Scientific Doctor Children's Research Hospital.

Just watch the donations pour in then.

13 December 2014

Choose and Cut Your Memories - 2014 Update

Here's an update to a post I wrote in 2008 - and last updated in 2009 - about our annual visit to Shadow Hill Farm

One of the nice things about having the Christmas tree in the family room - in the corner between the fireplace and the T.V. - instead of the living room where we used to put it, is that we are able to enjoy it more. And not just during the commercials!

As I have been sitting here looking at the tree, it occurs to me that in the last several years, we've never had a bad one. I can't remember one scrawny, needle dropping, flimsy-limbed fir in at least the last ten years. [make that 15 years now!]

The reason must be that we always choose and cut our tree at Shadow Hill Farm on Grandview Road in Skillman. I can only think of maybe two years since the mid 90s when we purchased a tree elsewhere - and in at least one of those years I believe it was because the farm didn't open!

The setting - at the top a hill at the edge of the Sourlands - is gorgeous and serene, the proprietors are friendly and helpful, and the trees are top-notch!

But, of course, as I sit here and look at the tree - all trimmed out, and tricked out, with ornaments and lights - I don't really see the Christmas tree at all.







12 December 2014

Amwell Road Bypass

Did you find the Sourland Mountain Tavern?

When I first saw the reverse of this postcard, I thought about all of the larger older homes located along Amwell Road in the vicinity of the village of Neshanic.  

It didn't take too long to realize that there was no place like this near Neshanic.  It then occurred to me that the tavern didn't need to be near Neshanic at all - that's just a postal address.  I live near the intersection of Beekman Lane and Triangle Road, yet for the first ten years we were here - before the Hillsborough 08844 post office was established, our postal address was Neshanic Station!  So forget Neshanic.

After this revelation, I remained stumped.  It was when I sought the assistance of a long-time resident that I realized where I had gone wrong:  I had forgotten the true, original route of the historic Amwell Road!  The road I had been searching is really the Amwell Road Bypass, constructed about 25 years ago between the intersection of East Mountain Road and Marshall Road, and shown on the map below.

To find the Sourland Mountain Tavern, we need to traverse the old Amwell Road, which today has been renamed to become extensions of both East Mountain Road and South Branch Road, and is shown on the map below.

Once I knew where to look, it was easy to find this private home near Foothill Acres on East Mountain Road.

For some reason, I think I could go for a spaghetti and chicken dinner right about now, how about you?

11 December 2014

Sourland Mountain Tavern Postcard

Here's a postcard I picked up recently.  This house still stands in Hillsborough, but it is no longer a tavern/restaurant.  Have you seen it?  I have!  

Not many clues here.  I must admit, I needed to contact a lifelong Hillsborough resident to locate "The Ideal Resting Place" - by the way, that phrase itself is a clue!

One last hint: the postcard may be from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, or 80s, based on the address, but probably not any later.  Think you've got it?  Answer tomorrow.

04 December 2014

19th Century MeetUp at Belle Mead

"My darling:  Just before I left the house this morning I received two letters from you, one postmarked July 3 at Philadelphia & the other July 4 at Belle Mead.  I was glad to hear that you are feeling better."  So begins the letter written by thirty-one-year-old patent attorney Edmond Brown to his wife Mary on the evening of Thursday, July 5, 1894.  Just two ordinary people engaging in typical 19th-century communication - no Facebook, no Twitter, no email, no texts;  an era before the ubiquity of the telephone when your arrival by train at your destination could easily precede the posted announcement of your travel plans!

Mr. Brown was writing from his New York City office to his wife who was staying with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. James. L. Brush, in Plainville - a small village in Montgomery Twp. which has since been subsumed by the Carrier Clinic's East Mountain Hospital.  Mary had recently been in Philadelphia but was feeling poorly.  It was hoped that a short stay "out in the country" would restore the twenty-nine-year-old city-girl to good health.  Could either husband or wife have known that Mary was as much as two months pregnant with their first child who would be born in February of the next year?

Plainville is just a short carriage ride from Belle Mead Station
 as depicted on this turn of the century Somerset County map.

After encouraging his wife to take her medicine, and describing how he eventually was able to get some relief from his hay fever by trying a new remedy ("I feel like another person today"), Edmond Brown continued the letter by laying out his travel plans.

Southbound passenger train at Belle Mead Station.
"If you hear the train, remember that your husband is passing by within a few miles of you."

The next day he would take the 11:30 from New York to Philadelphia, conduct some business, and return the same day on the 4:34, passing through Belle Mead at 6:46 pm.  If Mary had a message for him, she should write it out and have someone bring it to the station.

Northbound, approaching Belle Mead Station
"I will be out on the platform of the car as it stops, and on the lookout for a letter.....tell Harry to stand on the station platform, on the side of the track away from the station, and to look for me on the platforms of the cars"

Belle Mead Station, looking north

If Mary desired a brief visit, it might be possible for him to disembark at Belle Mead, and then catch the 8:10 pm train from Flagtown Station to continue to New York.  Considering the travel time by horse-drawn coach between the stations and Plainville, this would have to be a very brief visit, perhaps only a few minutes.  Between this paragraph and the concluding one, there is a two-sentence disclaimer, probably inserted just before sealing the envelope, advising Mary to not be bothered with any of this just to please him.  Perhaps on reading through his letter, Mr. Brown felt that his plans sounded too much like orders.

"If you want to see me, dearest, very bad, and can arrange with somebody
 to drive me to Flagtown to get the 8:10 p.m. train from there to N.Y.,
 send me word and I can stop off at Belle Mead & come up to the house for a little visit."
Finally, we are left with this last paragraph.  In my opinion, unmatched in the era of the emoji. Read and enjoy:

Dear little wife - I don't dare to make my letters too affectionate for fear you will think I am missing you so much you must hurry back - and yet I must tell you that I love you, darling, and long to have you with me again.  But I want you to stay there as long as it does you good, and then come home, to your own little house & to your husband that loves you so much, and let him try with all his heart to make you happy.  May God bless you, darling wife, I love you, dear, dear, little girl. - Goodbye - Your Husband