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August 10, 2016













with NJ Discover's Tara-Jean Vitale on our 1st visit to Tent City

with NJ Discover’s Tara-Jean Vitale on our 1st visit to Tent City

with the eloquent and accomplished musician Michael B.

with the eloquent and accomplished musician Michael B.


I’ve just finished watching film maker Jack Ballo’s ‘The New Destiny’s Bridge 2016’ for the second time in as many days. I had to; it’s above and beyond being a journalist, but being more a humanist. I reckon it would’ve been just as easy to take my review of the first version a couple of years ago, dress it up a bit with some Roget’s Thesaurus substitute words and present it to you. Who’d know? Better to take that review as it was, and maybe re-issue it down this paper a spell. Because much is the same. It is Jack’s enduring commitment, devotion to the homeless people of Tent City and to humanity’s unending scourge of homelessness that is so evident in this beautifully crafted story. It’s a candle that burns beyond its oil. There is no beauty in homelessness, but in the soul of people who see it, and try to solve it.

There’s a wooden horse outside my window. I’ve just ceremoniously put on my western hat and ran outside to jump on. I’m galloping into the sunset of introspection and homelessness. We are a funny species. I’m not laughing. I think we’ve been in the Garden of Eden all this time; we just don’t know it. There have been fellow humans talking about homelessness, poverty and hunger for a little over 2000 years. It doesn’t go away it just gets worse, on a grander scale. I don’t know anymore. I never did. We need the Jack Ballos’ to keep fighting, sharing, and moving us emotionally and spiritually.



I worry about a recent study by a couple of government scientists that give the good old human species about 30 more years. They came up with some formulas taking into account food, water, climate change, energy, and the most important, social unrest. How is it the top 88 richest people in the world have their combined wealth exceed the poorest 3 ½ billion fellow humans. This creates social unrest all around the world.




a familiar scene with Minister Steve

a familiar scene with Minister Steve

Angelo keeping warm in his tent. It still was so very cold.

Angelo keeping warm in his tent. It still was so very cold.

Homelessness is part of the formula. Basic human rights of food, shelter and medical care from a very rich world. My story of enlightenment begins four years ago when I never understood homelessness. It was abstract, distant and the subject of a two minute NYC TV segment a week before Christmas. It was very cold and someone living in a cardboard box died from exposure. I felt bad.  I do know that every human starts out life the same way.

Four years ago, my new friend Sherry Rubel took Tara-Jean Vitale and me as NJ Discover reporters to visit Tent City in Lakewood. It was another cold snowy day. We met Minister Steve and eventually Jack and many residents. Tara-Jean and I debated homelessness in the car going home that day. Tent City was 22 miles from our comfortable insulated suburban worlds.  I’ve never been the same since.



with accomplished visionary film maker JACK BALLO

with accomplished visionary film maker JACK BALLO

one of my 'favorite tents'

one of my ‘favorite tents’


I needed to feel, be involved and understand and to be more human and less suburban. I entered a brave new world of social conscience. That’s why I marvel at Jack Ballo’s work. It’s all fitting and proper that I reviewed the first film a few years ago. I love the institution of movie making and its illumination of our world with the ability to teach, educate, and bring our world closer together. Hey everybody, go see this movie and set yourself up to feel what it’s like to be homeless and be filled with despair.

Jack painstakingly took a different approach to storytelling of Tent City from the first version. He looks more into the lives, souls, hopes of the residents. They’re just like me and you; no difference except circumstances of privilege and perhaps luck. There is a theme more easily recognized in the new version; the desire of people to have basic shelter, self-respect and dignity. President Lincoln lived in a log cabin and he was fine with that. In essence, it was a tiny house and the film exposes us to the promise of tiny houses; the concept growing in practicality every day. And our friend Sherry Rubel very much involved in the state wide quest to build tiny house communities.


with photographer and Tiny Houses activist Sherry Rubel at an exhibition of her Tent City photography.

with photographer and Tiny Houses activist Sherry Rubel at an exhibition of her Tent City photography.

with Minister Steve Brigham; an appropriate backdrop

with Minister Steve Brigham; an appropriate backdrop


The movie themes carefully the importance of making people feel they are part of society with its concomitant feeling of self -esteem. Jack Ballo strives to teach us that. Inherent in Jack’s film, is the message to be promulgated; we all need to see this; to feel the pain of homelessness. One of the most moving scenes for me (Jack was brilliant in documenting this) was the lit Christmas tree at night, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ playing gently. The scene could’ve been anywhere. A simple beautiful Christmas scene. But it was a homeless tent in obscure corner of Tent City.  Riveting for me. It should be riveting for you. Homelessness hurts us all.

I liked the slow seasonal transition from the warmth of summer to the desolation and futility of cold winter. It was a passage for me. When I let my guard down and drifted into the lives of these precious people, Jack reminded us that the courts were constantly after Minister Steve and the residents. There are many scenes when cops in traditional uniforms or shirts and ties are there to arrest and act on the wishes of the town. Eventually the township and the county won out. I remember going to court with them at Ocean County Court House and hearing the judge’s decision.


after the first Destiny's Bridge Premier with Rosemary Conte and Minister Steve. It was Rosemary's Easter Sunday Concert 5 years ago that first made me aware of homelessness close to home.

after the first Destiny’s Bridge Premier with Rosemary Conte and Minister Steve. It was Rosemary’s Easter Sunday Concert 5 years ago that first made me aware of homelessness close to home.


Jack’s ending is powerful and destructive and I’ll leave it at that. He craftily infuses wonderful music to accelerate our emotions.  I was riveted by his story telling and sensitivity. Actually I want more. I need to know about these fellow humans. One more comment that had me thinking and delving deep into the strains of my cellular honesty. The film tells the story of Lakewood, NJ, but in reality, it’s the story of any town in New Jersey or America. I’m reminded of a quote from ‘Casablanca,’ my favorite movie of all time. Humphrey Bogart is Rick, and Ilsa comes into his bar in Casablanca. He drinks almost to oblivion and says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Of all the towns in New Jersey, they walk into Lakewood and set up Tent City. I was honest with myself. If Tent City appeared a mile from my house how would I feel? How would you feel? Is there any suburban town that would welcome them? I am upset with myself. I’m not perfect. Jack’s film continually makes me think and feel. It will do that to you and carpet you through many human emotions. So go see it and celebrate humanity’s hope and promise as well as the harsh realities of our existence. Jack leaves many uncovered, undraped soulful mirrors for us. Thanks Jack.   I just got off my wooden horse. My hat is gone. I brushed the suburban dust off.



Facebook LINK:

Wednesday, August 17 at 7 PM – 9 PM

House of Independents

572 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, New Jersey 07712


August 1, 2013

Tent City in Lakewood. The Movie Documentary ‘Destiny’s Bridge.’ A Movie Review and Personal Journey to Involvement. Premiere August 7th at Two River Theatre in Red Bank By Calvin Schwartz August 1st 2013



Rosemary Conte singing at concert for Tent City on Easter Sunday 2012 in Lakewood
Rosemary Conte singing at concert for Tent City on Easter Sunday 2012 in Lakewood


Right off the top of my frontal lobe, I need to say that this amazing documentary by filmmaker Jack Ballo, ‘Destiny’s Bridge,’ where he spent a year of his life recording the lives of the homeless in Tent City, Lakewood, is having its world premiere at Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey on August 7th.

Journeys to sensitivity and understanding sometimes begin innocently with little fanfare and symphonies. On Easter Sunday 2012, I attended a concert of awareness for the people of Tent City in Lakewood passionately put together by Rosemary Conte. With my son, we filmed the event for NJ Discover. I had no concept of what Tent City was and the fact that around 100 humans were living in tents for years without electricity, heat or basic amenities because Ocean County has no shelters for the homeless. Tent City was 24 minutes from where I’ve lived for 24 years but that didn’t register in my frontal lobe. While listening to the music close to the staging area, a bus of Tent City residents arrived at the far end of the plaza for food and clothing donations. Minister Stephen Brigham brought the tent residents in his yellow school bus; that scene was still far away from me in several ways. I stayed with my son but saw people holding empty plates waiting on a food line. An image of President Herbert Hoover’s Great Depression flashed across my unsympathetic retina. Close to the musicians I remained.  It seemed the thing to do. When I got home that night, I forgot about the hungry homeless and talked to my family about the special Jersey musicians I heard for the first time.



Minister Stephen Brigham on that cold February day
Minister Stephen Brigham on that cold February day


Angelo putting wood into stove to warm tent
Angelo putting wood into stove to warm tent




Cut to January. Hurricane Sandy relief concerts were happening all over the Garden State. My past written words of support and admiration for Rosemary Conte and her wondrous musical and life contributions caught up to her; we became friends. She invited me to cover a Sandy benefit concert at McCloone’s in Asbury Park for NJ Discover. I interviewed her and then came an introduction to Sherry Rubel, concert organizer, photographer extraordinaire and Tent City activist.





with Tara-Jean Vitale from NJ Discover at Tent City in February
with Tara-Jean Vitale from NJ Discover at Tent City in February
with Michael as he wondrously plays the piano in front of his tent.
with Michael as he wondrously plays the piano in front of his tent.


Now it’s February. I’m at a place for coffee and conversation on a busy highway in East Brunswick, N.J with Sherry Rubel. Two weeks later on a very cold sunny day, Tara-Jean Vitale (NJ Discover producer) and I met Sherry across the street from the entrance to Tent City in Lakewood. We were packing TV cameras and microphones for our day in a new world. Patches of pure white snow from the night before looked like special effects. The dirt road was frozen; so was I emotionally. A thin veil of disbelief at my surroundings settled subtly around me. It was numbing; humans in the second richest state in America existing like this. Then I met Angelo, an endearing eloquent resident who invited me into his tent, briefly excusing himself, while I stood immobile and incredulous on how cold it was in the tent.  He went outside to chop wood for the wood burning stove which was not warming the tent well.  His bed was made perfectly. At that moment, in such brutal cold, where humans sleep and exist in the Lakewood winter, I thought about never being quite the same again. And I’m not. Something inside me aches (a soul?) from being overwhelmed. An hour later we interviewed Minister Stephen Brigham, a twelfth generation American. Illuminating and inspiring to us, he’s been devoting much of an adult lifetime to the cause of ‘Destiny’s Bridge;’ a journey to finding suitable and dignified housing in a self-sustainable community of homeless humans. I like using the term ‘humans.’

It’s not within the scope of this article to do self-intestinal excavation and journalizing my time at Tent City.  But a few months later, I was back there with filmmaker Jack Ballo and had a chance to meet residents and talk and listen. Uncovering his wealth of character and poignancy, I met Michael, a long time Tent City resident with his wife Marilyn. He was able to bring a piano from his home before it was lost and kept it under a tarp like on a baseball field in a rainstorm. He played Beethoven and Procul Harum, ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ for me. Enamored and drawn to his depth and warmth, I drifted far away standing close to Michael; I was still numb from months earlier at Tent City. It was cloudy and mild this day; easier for Michael and all the residents to sleep at night. But it is all hard; a very hard rain. I need to yell; maybe it will help me understand how and why in 2013 here in New Jersey this exists. Everything I saw that day after listening to Michael play the piano was visually a whiter shade of pale; hard to explain; perhaps a perfect segue to review the documentary, ‘Destiny’s Bridge.’


Minister Stephen Brigham.
Minister Stephen Brigham.




I’m not a Siskel or Ebert. On the other hand, I have evolved over my tech noir years of ‘Casablanca,’ ‘From Here to Eternity,’ ‘On the Waterfront;’ where perhaps I’m now a contender to talk about movies. Part of the evolution side effect is a bit of snobbish attitude to viewing movies; can’t waste time watching ineptitude in film making and storytelling. Movie making is an art form and a great gift. The works of quintessential movie makers fascinate me. I’ll notice eye-brows moving and the wispy windy sounds of a tree next to a window as two characters are staring at the moon. I take it all in; pure cinematic absorption. I need to learn, emote and feel. Looking back, motion pictures have helped congeal my views of the world and changed my life. Watching ‘Casablanca’ for the 44th time some years ago formed the basis of my first novel.

So when I previewed the movie ‘Destiny’s Bridge’ a few weeks ago, I found myself instantly riveted into the world of Tent City. My emotional ties developed quickly with the residents; sensitive caring humans looking for dignity and respect in a cold world. Jack Ballo seamlessly weaves their stories and interconnectivity of existence; how they depend on one another. I can say it was beautiful film making; vivid photography heightened the stark reality. You will learn about the harsh human condition of homelessness from this documentary.

Yes, it is an exquisite film which means sensitive, emotional, real and poignant.  Back to my being a snob about movies; I’ve since watched it again. You may need to do the same; the film delivers a powerful message about homelessness and Minister Stephen Brigham’s vision for a future. Then Jack Ballo’s treatise on the lives of some of the people; you grow fond and bond with them, maybe wanting to reach out and help. You care about their lives. The film is beautiful because it makes you feel something inside. It evokes. I love when I’m evoked to emote by a film.

It was a painstaking meticulous project for Ballo; a year of his life for the desire to make a difference. I look at myself right now at this point in time somewhere in a universe. ‘Destiny’s Bridge’ has innervated and moved me; therefore a brilliant work. There’s sadness in the final scene looking down from high above; in some ways leaving that homeless world below but also heralding an awareness that much needs to be done.  All my above criteria for good movie making have been met; I call it a contender. Here’s thanking and looking at you Jack Ballo.





Important Links:






Advance online tickets for the film premiere of Destiny’s Bridge are nearly sold out!!

Best you order yours before the end of today. ($12 at the door) Wed. Aug. 7, 7p.m., Two River Theater, Red Bank. So much art & culture for such a low price!!

6:30 – lobby exhibit of photography by Sherry Rubel

7:00 – showing of this beautiful and important documentary “Destiny’s Bridge”

8:20 – Q & A; Introduction to the audience to filmmaker Jack Ballo, Univision Films; Minister Steve Brigham, and residents of Tent City featured in the film. Emcee is Dr. Michael Paul Thomas, Monmouth University.

8:45 – Reception, wine & cheese, piano music by Michael, a Tent City resident.

Photos for all on the Red Carpet.




May 30, 2012

Bluefin Tuna: Here, There and Radioactive. Bamboozle Asbury Park: I was there with an Asterisk. Backstage Pass: SONGWRITERS BY THE SEA. Strand Theater. Lakewood, NJ May 30, 2012

Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin Tuna


Did you notice the three topics of this blog begin with the letter ‘B.’ Of course there’s no real burning, bombastic, believable Bluefin tuna reason for the employment of the letter ‘B.’ It just happened and I went  with the basic flow.  I strived for ‘B’s’ all throughout school years; basic elementary, high school and lots of college (the equivalent of seven years. They’re reasons for that. A documented allergy in the late 1960’s to rice paddies and tropical foliage). So why do I have ‘B’ as a grade goal? Because I’m a realist; I was not put on this good earth (Pearl Buck) to get A’s nor was I supposed to be a Kentucky Derby jockey or miner for bituminous coal. Nor am I one of those folks who always win raffles, door prizes, lotteries, poker, or picking winners (handicapper) at race tracks.







Bluefin Tuna

tsukiji fish market and tuna. imagine $172,000 for one of these.



Fourteen years after we landed on the moon, I went to Monticello Racetrack with perhaps one of the great handicappers of all times. He never loses. Some people never win. Of course most people break even. We pooled our resources and bet on 23 separate horses to win in the first five races. It was a sure thing to win once but we didn’t.  Two years ago, my son and I took a Touchdown Club bus to an away game. Fifty-two seats on the bus. Fifty door prizes like tee-shirts and beer mugs. Two people did not win; my son and I. Inheritance of innate qualities is a fascinating subject. It makes me think of the old blood-brain barrier and why some people need a foot long hot dog or foot long Cheech joint. Speaking of hot dogs, I haven’t had one since 1975 when I slipped into a lonely Essex County foggy night, got off a train from New York City and became a Flexitarian (no red meat).





Bluefin Tuna

a Bluefin tuna. since they are almost extinct I couldn't find a real picture. not.



Since I do not eat red meat and believe my current colon to be worthy of a Life Magazine pictorial, I became an obsessive tuna fish connoisseur which meant travelling mostly up and down the east coast, looking for perfect waves and tuna fish. I’m a Jersey guy but found marvelous tuna fish salad in Owings Mills, Maryland. I’ve been known to travel hundreds of miles out of my way to salivate over perfect tuna. After years of going out of my way, I had the tuna analyzed; artificial sugar and a dash of ketchup; a bit disarming.


But soon a sister-in-law from Long Island came to the rescue; tuna fish with jalapeno and red peppers; heavenly stuff. Wishing there was no such thing as mercury; my tuna consumption went from three times a week to monthly. I miss my Bluefin tuna and the old days when the Good Humor man used to drive around pushing Toasted Almond bars.



Bluefin Tuna

sprucing up asbury lanes for bamboozle

Bluefin Tuna

setting up one of Bamboozle sound stages.


The North Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is almost extinct. I read awhile back there were only 25,000 left in the whole world mostly because of over fishing and disregarding international guidelines. A single North Atlantic Bluefin Tuna sold for $172,400 at the first auction of 2001 at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. Yes, the Japanese use tuna in sushi. And speaking of the Japanese, Pacific Bluefin Tuna has been showing up on our west coast carrying radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States; this is the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance. Researchers were startled about this. The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. And I love when they say, “But the levels still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Finally turning basically serious, there’s a video you all ought to watch about radioactivity, Fukushima and the tsunami which we hear so little about any more. There’s segue to Chernobyl where a million died as a result. Enough said. Here’s a YouTube link:

Dr Helen Caldicott – Fukushima Nuclear Disaster- You won’t hear this on the Main Stream News:

Dr Helen Caldicott Fukushima Nuclear disaster


Bluefin Tuna

Bamboozle by Convention Hall

Bluefin Tuna

A Bamboozle water delivery



Now to Bamboozle in Asbury Park last weekend: 100,000 people showed up over the course of three days to hear music from Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters and much more. I live 23 minutes from Asbury Park and could’ve even taken a train. A long time ago in a galaxy far away in Maplewood, New Jersey, I had my hand on a car door handle about to jump into a car of long- haired college kids and head to a similar weekend of music at Woodstock. A first fiancé warned me not to go; she wouldn’t be there if I did. So I didn’t; been lamenting 40 years especially since a first marriage lasted less than four years.

But Bamboozle was different. My wife blessed me to go (without her). But I’ve spent so much time these months going to countless concerts, musical venues, Backstage events, meeting musicians and covering, writing, filming, reviewing and reveling in this Jersey music world, that I felt energy is better spent when I can be the only media personality (NJ Discover TV) devotee.




Bluefin Tuna

Setting up Bamboozle

Bluefin Tuna

of course i couldn't fit both legs in batmobile. which means batman probably wasn't 6'5". phone rang. i answered it. pix at bamboozle


But I did go Friday morning to Bamboozle while they were finishing setting up. I walked around with my camera and took pictures and talked to early arrivers and adapters. And I absorbed some elemental energy; two hours later I was satiated and awarded myself an asterisk for being at Bamboozle. I’ve talked to lots of folks since; It’d be nice next year if I did go and even better if the Bamboozle hierarchy allowed the 100,000 people to walk down magical Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park and have dinner and check out art galleries and antique malls.








Bluefin Tuna

just before hitting asbury park i found this crow in the next town over in bradley beach






Now to this phenomenal acoustical Backstage event which I recently went to at the Strand Theater in Lakewood, New Jersey. Here’s the deal. Filled with emotion and wonderment at being there; introspective percolation and intestinal lining excavation produced the following (and its ‘funny’ the things that music and words make you think about. Powerful stuff-good music)



SONGWRITERS BY THE SEA.  The Strand Theater. Lakewood, NJ.  By Calvin Schwartz


Bluefin Tuna

backstage ambience at Strand



I was picturing something new, filling with anticipation and even uncertainty and whispering words of a long forgotten gut wrenching song, “What’s it all About, Alfie?” Why am I whispering words and not singing? Because I can’t sing and I wish I could since the time my Newark elementary school put on a musical play in the auditorium. A picture of then President Eisenhower hung just to the right of the flag. Kids who could sing got special attention and privileges. I wish I could sing.






Bluefin Tuna

Legendary Garland Jeffreys singing backstage close to audience


This night was special. I was driving down foggy misty Route Nine from Springsteen’s Freehold, New Jersey, toward Lakewood’s Strand Theatre for my first indoctrination into a wondrous backstage event. Alas, I can’t sing but I can write visually and sail through streams of consciousness and imagination. I was picturing things as my right hand negotiated a steering wheel. It was ‘conjure-up things’ city on a strangely empty highway.  Suddenly I was at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands (I still call it that). Seventy thousand fans were yelling “Bruce.”







Bluefin Tuna

Jerzy Jung. keyboard.




My seats were humble and I was without binoculars. Just to see his face up close would’ve been everything. All of a sudden, as I passed a diner and barren parking lot, I was in a small Vermont town where a veterinarian’s assistant was the mayor.  A group of 44 people were gathered on her green lawn in front of a porch that circumnavigated the house built by relatives of Ben Franklin. A musical porchfest was going on. I parked my car, walked over; everybody greeted me and I saw the lips of the singers moving and felt the exhaled breath of each word.  And I heard every word. They were singing just to me.  Relevance was my new favorite buzz word. The fog was thick; I couldn’t see the porch anymore.




Bluefin Tuna

Guy Davis. amazing blues and harmonica






A sign on the roadside welcomed me to Lakewood. Now back in Jersey and about to enter the world of a porchfest on a backstage of an historic theatre. Slip me into the world of art deco and put me next to a radio to hear President Roosevelt or Mayor LaGuardia.  My anticipation was as thick as ketchup; the French banned this red food stuff in their schools; I remembered and smiled about the quirky randomness of my thinking. I was cylinder firing away because of my extreme excitement to be at a backstage event.  I was following maze like theater corridors and magic marker signs leading to back stage at the Strand Theatre. I was really there.


Bluefin Tuna

Garland Jeffreys singing


I’m a native Jersey guy who likes history. The Strand opened in 1922 when Lakewood was actually popular with the rich and famous of the day like Rockefeller. The theater was built with a sense of acoustics as many performances of the day were solo acts. And here I was, about to walk onto the stage of the Strand for a magical acoustics evening. The Strand was signed into the National Register of Historical Places in 1982. My tripod, mono-pod and TV camera were gently deposited on the floor as ‘Songwriters by the Sea’ co-founder Joe Rapolla greeted me within my first few steps on stage. In 2008, Joe Rapolla and Joe D’Urso created the concept of ‘Songwriters’ who performed then in Asbury Park at America’s Cup Coffee. After a year in Asbury Park, the concept grew in popularity with audiences and they expanded to Backstage at the Strand in March, 2009.





Bluefin Tuna

Joe Rapolla singing


I need to qualify my writing style; strictly from the gut and reflective how songwriter performers emote while the surroundings add ambience to my writing soul. Joe Rapolla’s poignant life and musical journey has already hyper sensitized my words and observations. Therefore, this is not a review.

For the first half, I decided to plant my TV camera in the back of the stage which was several rows away from the songwriters. I wanted to feel songwriter intimacy and connections being part of the real audience.  I flicked the camera on auto and spiritually drifted. The old renovated theater was dark and empty; light from the stage managed to illuminate the first few rows of seats.  Dimly lit chandeliers added to surrealism; for me a silence you could see. Silence was part of the history in the walls; Burns and Allen once performed here; so did the Scarecrow, Ray Bolger. I heard Gracie’s shrill voice.





Bluefin Tuna

attentive audience




D’Urso (remember we’re dealing with two Joe’s) introduced the first group of songwriters.  Cat Cosentino (from Oceanport and proud of it) and Bobby Mahoney (only 17 and therefore couldn’t avail himself of a real drinking bar in the rear) were the young rising stars. Tom Breiding is from West Virginia while Bill Toms is near Pittsburgh. Bill talked to us like we’re in his living room back home. “The hardest person to get to know is yourself.”  Then the song words , “I’ve made peace now with a stranger in me.” Backstage means stark silence except for voice echoes. He sang to me. Three rows in front, a man on the aisle rubbed his cuticles. Why write about that; because of the intimacy of backstage; sensitivity and in tune with the immediate world. I pinched myself; purist joy what I was part of; affluent, audible, flowing, meaningful words. I was back in the Meadowlands briefly, starved for wordy echoes.





Bluefin Tuna

Tom Brieding. Bill Toms. Cat Cosentino. Bobby Mahoney



Cat’s first song was dedicated to her parents; her voice melodiously electric. Bobby sang “A Delicate Fall from Grace;” which reminded of a whip ride back in Newark; that sudden acceleration.   Tom Brieding sang about finding one another as we drift between stars. What meant everything to me being backstage is I heard every resonating word. The singers told stories. “You talking to me,” then I told the taxi driver to let me be. I love backstage.  A man on the left, two rows down took a swig of beer; the bottle level was half-way.  Then I saw a leg wearing cargo shorts stretch out in the aisle, moving to the beat of the music; the calf muscle flexed visibly. Gosh, I was in an electronic hyper state. The Strand environment worked magic.  Then I whispered to myself (I also do that in states of elation), “Thank you Rapolla and D’Urso.”






Bluefin Tuna

backstage silence



Intermission and time to position the camera on the side of the stage; different absorption I imagined. Both Joe’s would sing. And Garland Jeffreys, a living legend; I was a few feet away. Guy Davis; unbridled energy and blues.  Jerzy Jung;( her real name) with keyboard inches away from me. Joe D’Urso, a Bronx native, sang, “I’ll prove it won’t be dark, all the stars will be out tonight.”  While singing ‘Chocolate Man,’ Davis touched the audience.(proximity and sensation). And to hear every breath Garland Jeffreys took while singing ‘Coney Island Winter,’ was nirvana. “Hey Mah,” I was in that place of magic. I don’t know where James Cagney came from. Maybe I do know. I’m backstage clicking my heels.





Bluefin Tuna

Joe D'Urso





Then Do-Wop from D’Urso and the gang. He really corralled me all the way back to Newark, New Jersey, with the words, “Why must I be a teenager in love.” The power of backstage music, I thought. The Good-Humor man was selling this new ‘Toasted Almond’ bar.  Jerzy spoke about any woman or girl who ever felt unsure of herself. Soon, I was sitting around a fire place with a few fraternity brothers; Harvey had a guitar and was singing a folk song; ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’  I tried to sing along. They told me to stop.  I heard Rapolla’s wooden stool scrape along the stage. I was back on stage in awe, amazed at the clarity of the stool scraping noise.





Bluefin Tuna

Joe Rapolla





Every word from Garland Jeffreys was heard while he was way down in Spanish town.  And when he wasn’t singing, I watched him tap his feet to the beat. How many singers have I seen do that; certainly not from the running track in Madison Square Garden or standing chest to shoulder in a bar or in a park with a makeshift bandstand and hundreds of beach chairs as forward motion impediments.

Joe Rapolla talked about giving kids advice on love. “Don’t be afraid to throw your heart on the wind.” You’ll never know feelings of songwriters unless you are backstage.  All of a sudden Bill Murray pounded a clock radio alarm at 6:00 AM.  ‘Groundhog Day’ flashed. I didn’t want this night to end. Later Jerzy said that uncertainty wasn’t a bad thing. And the harmonica playing by Davis was riveting.  Jeffreys walked into the audience while singing ‘New York skyline.’ Everybody was singing now. Disbelief; I noticed the shadow that the microphone wire cast on the stage floor. It was a giant shadow.  Jeffreys’ voice was a giant voice.  ‘Wild in the Streets’ with all the cast closed this backstage event. When the show was over, I mingled with the singers. Accessibility was in the theater air ducts.  I thanked both Joe’s for their remarkable vision. And I marveled again about noticing the shadow of Jeffrey’s microphone wire. But that’s this incredible backstage world; heightened awareness and sensitivity beyond imagination.



Bluefin Tuna

Garland Jeffreys and me


Bluefin Tuna

the lonely silent darkened theater awaiting backstage pass



‘Songwriters by the Sea’ series is a musical atom; protons, electrons, neutrons firing away. My mind fired away and still does. It moves me to write impassioned commentary for people to escape from sedentary sofas. But what would happen to intimacy and interaction?  I thought of the word ‘secret.’ I also knew I was in a special place with special people for several hours and my atoms were musically innervated like never before.  Then I thought about my not ever being able to sing but it didn’t make a difference anymore. I was part of singing for every millisecond I was backstage.

Here is an old fashioned PS to this article. I went home and found Joe Rapolla’s cover of Elton John’s ‘Daniel.’ I listened several times in a row because I read his bio and I was still in that heightened electronic sensitized state from being backstage all night. So here’s a link:

And I’m still listening.




NOW HERE THIS:   a bit of an advertisement. I don’t do those very much here. BUT there’s a very unusual upbeat funny precious 2 minute video involving 102 year old Emily Cook who talks about the life briefly and then invites me back to her room. Not to be missed especially the last 23 seconds.   PLEASE  check it out and share it.


HooplaHa Videos and Article LINKS          Bluefin Tuna                                


Judy Feinstein: Female Pilot:

Judy Feinstein pilot:


Ida Gonzalez: A Mother’s Journey to Light:

Common Sense Approach to Common Sense:



Meryl Streep and Me:



 A Real College Pep Band Video (yes 85 seconds):


Also a very worthwhile cause to read up on:

 Butterfly Circle of Friends.




Facebook:  Cal Schwartz

Twitter:  Earthood



 book trailer. hey its 65 seconds long

 Vichy Water Book Trailer:                     



If on Facebook check out this NJ Discover site:Bluefin Tuna




Bluefin Tuna












LINKS TO VIDEOS.  Please Watch.

1.   ZOMBIE WALK   October 22, 2011

Zombie Walk Asbury Park


Nov 11, 2011

Veterans Day at NJ Vietnam War Memorial


Nov 19, 2011













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