Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What's The Schmatta?

This blog post is entirely frivolous. Back to the hard stuff next week.

Hillary Clinton wore this outfit to a Fire Island event, part of a tour of gay locales arranged by Cher to benefit the presidential campaign.

It's not the first time that she has chosen a sturdy-looking get-up. Some of her recent jackets have had a near-upholstery quality, reminding me of the modest cover-ups I saw on a bunch of women in Seattle one year. Their long dresses made of heavy woven fabric revealed no curves.

This is an observation, not a judgment.

Unlike Cher, who at 70 can and does dress in gossamer and bugle beads, Hillary at 68 retains what appears over the years to have been a certain disdain for fashion. I share the feeling. I may have been one of Bill Cunningham's biggest fans, but it was his blue workman's jacket I coveted, not the couture he knew and photographed so astutely.

As a girl in the 1950s, I knew a 36-26-36 figure was optimal, but I was perhaps ahead of the times in having the more straight-up-and-down shape that later became more general (before implants and waist training produced the cartoonish forms we see today).

In 1977, I was asked to be in a wedding. I made my own velveteen jacket and long skirt, but thought I needed to rein things in underneath with a corset (very popular at the time). I tried some on, but they made no discernible difference and they pinched. Here I am with the bride, being very happy without one:
Me and Linda

Now that I am well past the three-score and ten mark, I have the prudish notion that unless we are talking about Cher or Tina Turner, older women should not display their limbs (Victorian tone intentional). Mine tend to be hidden away under denim and chambray, but if Hillary wants to go for tweed and boucle, it's up to her. Think of it as Chanel without the passementerie.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Whoopee! I Skipped the Trip!

I never won the lottery, but getting an invitation to "Skip the Trip" this month made me almost as happy.

My driver's license was due to expire in September. A friend had promised to take me to the Motor Vehicle Commission office in South Plainfield and I was pretty sure I could assemble my six points of identification.

But then the Skip the Trip letter arrived! All I had to do was fill out the form, enclose a check for $24 and drop it in the mailbox. The MVC promised that within ten days a new license would then appear with the photo and signature from my old license. It came even earlier and now I am set until September 2020.

Never mind that I don't really look like the image from 2012 and will totally not look the same in 2020.

I wondered whether the MVC figured out that I no longer have a car or perhaps anyone my age was exempt, the way a person 75 or older can opt out of jury duty.

It turns out that as of August 2013 all drivers are eligible to Skip the Trip except for these categories:

If you possess a Commercial Driver License (CDL) or Graduated Driver License (GDL), have an active suspension, have a Temporary Visa Restriction (TVR), have a boat license or boat endorsement, if you are required to have an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, or the MVC requires a new photo to be taken in-person, you are not eligible to renew through the mail at this time. 

The program began in December 2012 for drivers born on or before Dec. 1, 1964 and was then expanded in August 2013. I'm not sure how this jibes with recent reports of long lines and waits at the MVC offices.

You still have to be "invited" by the MVC to use the Skip the Trip option, which is what made me think it was special. Anyway, it happened to me, I sent in the form and the check and now all I need to do is win the lottery so I can afford either a Smart car ... or a Tesla ... maybe a Viper .... or all three!


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Be On Alert For Crime

A couple days ago, I received a call from Plainfield Police on my land line. The message was to lock my car doors and not to leave any valuables visible inside.

I haven't had a car since 2008, but when I did, it was in a locked garage at night. Only once did I have a break-in and that was due to my negligence in leaving the garage unlocked. Someone stole my camera, which set me off to local pawn shops with an image of it, but no one had it. My understanding at the time was that stolen goods tend to be moved out quickly through "fencing" operations.

I wanted the camera back mainly because it contained photos of my sunflowers, which were spectacular that year, The thieves disdained my L.L. Bean rain jacket with plaid lining, probably a slam on my taste in fashion, but I still wear it on stormy days.

The phone call made me wonder whether a certain area was being targeted or it was just a general warning. In West Seattle where my daughter lives, the local blog has a "Crime Watch" section which includes what they call out there "car prowls." My feeling about having a Police Blotter or Crime section in the newspaper was that it gave residents more of an advantage in knowing where and what kind of crime was prevalent, but it tended to be a thorny issue in Plainfield. Officials complained it made the city look bad.

When I was a reporter, one of my first assignments was to "pick up the blotter" at eleven police stations on Saturdays. It was quite a trek through three counties, The desk officer in the more rural towns usually just said, "Nothing to report" but in Plainfield, the only urban center on the route, there was a wire basket with copies of police reports. As a Plainfielder myself, I was interested to know when there was a rash of purse snatchings on Park Avenue or some other trend to watch out for.

The sensitivity over crime reports one year led to the banning of the word "Plainfield" in headlines, though of course it was in the dateline. No matter how many "good news" stories were published, reporters caught hell when bad news surfaced. Some politicians tried to strong-arm editors by demanding coverage on what they called "good news," even if it was just some puff piece publicity around election time.

Eventually the newspaper dropped "cop runs" altogether, so the only crime news that got published was what police departments faxed over. As news outlets reduced staff, crime coverage dropped even more. Nowadays, by the time a major crime story comes out in print, it has already appeared online and in social media. In Plainfield, neighborhood associations may warn online of crime trends and offer crime prevention tips. One such tip is not to leave purses visible through back door windows and of course, leaving valuables in an unlocked car is just an open invitation to thieves.

If you are not receiving police advisories by phone or email, you can sign up on the city web site for the Plainfield Mass Communication System.

As they say, forewarned is forearmed.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Money, Crickets, Heat

I got a big hug from someone whose name was on the list of unclaimed property that I wrote about last Saturday. She started the process to make a claim at missingmoney.com and I hope to hear the outcome someday soon. Another person saw her friend's father on the list and alerted him to make a claim. The list was published again in the Aug. 26 Courier News, I put all the Plainfield names on my Aug. 20 blog post. The situation made me recall another instance of money owed to city residents. In 2006, the tax collector at the time wanted to move more than $800,000 in tax overpayments into surplus to balance the books. Taxpayers protested when they found out, one being Councilman Cory Storch, who was owed $3,000. Former Councilman John Campbell claimed he was owed $8,000 and campaigned to get refunds for all the affected property owners. Despite his efforts, only $29,919 came back to taxpayers and the balance went into city coffers in 2007.

I heard my first cricket on Aug. 18, as i walked home from a Planning Board meeting. It's a harbinger of Fall, but since then the temperature has remained quite high. Crickets "sing" at different rates according to the temperature, slower when it's cold and faster when it's warm (see article here). The sound is caused by stridulation, rubbing wing parts together.

Snowy Tree Cricket - Oecanthus fultoni - male
Snowy Tree Cricket - BugGuide.net

I ordered another tower fan from Amazon to help us get through the ongoing 90-degree weather, but it dawned on me that climate change is a real threat to older people and public health policy must reflect that fact ASAP. Turns out it is already on the radar as noted in this Environmental Health Perspectives publication. Here's more from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
Kind of scary!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Women's Equality Day

Womens-Equality-Day-180x300.jpg (180×300)

I find it amazing that it was only during my mother's lifetime that women gained the right to vote.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was certified on August 26, 1920. My mother would have been ten years old that year.

From the National Women's History Project:

At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.

I wonder what Bella Abzug would have to say today about a woman running for president of the United States, albeit under somewhat of a cloud. Both the Democratic and Republican party presidential candidates are viewed by some as among the worst ever. 

While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are at the top of their respective tickets, there are candidates all the way down to the local level to consider. Between now and the Nov. 8 general election, women can ponder how they want to use that hard-won right to vote. 


Boys & Girls Club Has A New Location

Just this month an elected official said, "The reality is, our young people have nothing to do."

The Boys & Girls Club of Union County might beg to differ.

The Plainfield club held an open house Thursday at its new location and the young people themselves were its best advertisement. Zaire, 17, said he has been a member for four years and the club is where, he said, he learned "to present myself in a very respectful and intelligent way."
He is an Emergency Medical Responder with the Plainfield Rescue Squad and plans to have  a career in law enforcement and communications.

Lord, 16, said he got into the club by accident, but has since learned public speaking and now feels confident speaking before a large crowd of people.

"I give a lot of time being here," he said, including his birthday and Thanksgiving.

He is also aiming for a career in law enforcement.

Club members are not just part of the local club, they have opportunities to take part in national gatherings and to receive recognition for their accomplishments on many levels as well.
Lisa Sepetjian, director of Development & Marketing, said club members' successes are recognized at "Youth of the Year" dinners for elementary, middle school and high school students. Partial scholarships are awarded and the recognition is a "great honor" when applying to college, she said.
The club serves young people from age 5 to 18. When they arrive after school, homework is the first order of business, with tutoring as needed. The club has a computer lab funded by a grant from Comcast and features "brand-new, touch-screen computers," Sepetjian said. There is also a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program run by volunteers, she said.
DeAndre Hollingsworth,  office manager of the Plainfield club, said teens "feel a sense of belonging" and can attain skills in leadership, community service and civic engagement. He said 2,500 young people from all over the world took part in the clubs' 2016 Keystone Conference in Dallas where they were "treated as leaders" and enjoyed events every evening.

Club member Shaila, 16, said she had fun while gaining leadership skills.

"It forces you to interact with other people, but you end up enjoying yourself," she said.

Sepetjian said teens who have a bad attitude and are disrespectful are asked to leave the club, but one such individual has since become a mentor and is a "Youth of the Year" finalist. She attributed the turnaround to being in a place where a young person feels safe, engaged and respected.

Ron Brangman, Associate Club Director with the Union club, said the Plainfield club has a unique feature in its bike exchange. Bicycles for children of all ages are available. See the link below for Bike Exchange hours.

Brangman said club members can receive help with college applications and tours as well as job preparedness.

The Plainfield club is accepting members. For more information, see the Boys & Girls Club of Union County/Plainfield Club.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Parking, the Perennial Dilemma

Sorting papers tonight, I came across a resolution to hire Walker Parking Consultants to conduct a parking structure feasibitility study for downtown Plainfield. The cost was $60,750 and the time frame was one year. It was passed in February, so it's at about the halfway mark now.

Among the many considerations - location, capacity, construction cost - perhaps the most important is who will pay for it. The city could issue a bond or developers might be asked to pay.

Mirons warehouse before
 So far, the only major downtown developer is Landmark, which converted the old Mirons warehouse into 12 apartments with a ground-floor restaurant still under construction. That structure is on East Second Street and the west side of Gavett Place.

Mirons warehouse after 

On the east side, Landmark is completing a building with commercial space on the ground floor and 20 apartments on upper floors.

Landmark also developed two nearby Park Avenue buildings, one with 4 apartments over office space and another with eight apartments and commercial space at ground level. In the former Telephone Building on East Fourth Street has eight apartments. There are three mixed-use Landmark buildings on North Avenue and plans for retail use in the PNC Bank building at Park and West Front Street as well.

So it appears that Landmark developer Frank Cretella would especially benefit from a downtown parking facility.

He has approvals for 148 apartments and 12,300 square feet of retail space on West Second Street, but as I recall those plans include ground parking.

Landmark's early plans (circa 2006) called for high-rise construction behind the historic buildings on North Avenue, but the concept was dropped.

The downtown currently has parking in Lot 6, behind Bill's Luncheonette, in Lots 8 and 8A between Somerset Street and Watchung Avenue and in Lot 1 behind the former Strand Theater with an entrance off Watchung Avenue. As far as I know, plans to use the Union County Improvement Authority's parking deck off West Second Street have never materialized, though it was one of the promises made in 2013 when UCIA Director Dan Sullivan presented a $1.09 million check to city officials in settlement of disputed development costs.

It will be interesting to see how current parking permit holders fare if Lot 6 is chosen as the site for a new parking deck. It is very popular. Where will drivers park during construction?

Maybe more people will join me in getting around on foot.and boost the city's walkability score!