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These articles were prepared for the April 14, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
From Poet Gerald Stern, Some Vivid Prose
Gerald Stern, the author of 13 books of poetry, won the 1998 National
Book Award for Poetry. Now Stern, a Lambertville resident, has
published his first book of prose. His memoir, "What I Can’t Bear
Losing: Notes from a Life," opens with his teenage memories of
Calvinist Pittsburgh, where all the good times shut down for the
Christian Sabbath. He reads from the book and signs on Thursday, April
15, at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble. An excerpt:
"The bars closed at 12 a.m. Saturday night – as if a whole city had to
be treated like fourteen-year-olds, as if the punishment had to start
exactly on time, 12:01, beginning of the true night, as if the street
cars and taxis would turn into pumpkins if the mice weren’t back in
time, as if – the religious rules of one group – a minority certainly
– were to direct the civil authority, as if one could go to sleep at
such an early hour, especially on spring and summer nights when the
moon sometimes broke through the filth and the rivers themselves
shone. . .
"Some of the more gluttonous religious caterpillars started their
Sabbath on Saturday sunset and some kept it till late at night on
Sunday. There was no unified standard as there is in Judaism, sundown
to sundown. But the tail end you could still feel and I’m sure many of
the prayerful went to bed on Sunday night still in a righteous
condition. In our neighborhood – in our world – there were weddings on
Sunday night at any of five or so synagogues and we went almost every
week. There had to be at least one wedding and we went from shul to
shul. I was in my late teens when we did this. I always shaved, shined
my shoes, put on a suit, necktie, and white shirt, slicked back my
hair, and gargled with some burning liquid.
"We had to put up with the ceremony, which was always boring, but it
was important that we be seen there. There was a huppah or not,
according to the orthodoxy of the bride. Upstairs, or downstairs,
there was food, drink, dancing, and beautiful girls, all open and
giving because it was a wedding and because we might be related,
cousins or what not.. . . We didn’t get caught because we acted as if
we belonged there. . . I quickly gathered the necessary details, made
friends with one of the older women, worked up a defense in case
anyone should recognize me, and adopted a persona and a history for
the evening: I was from Steubenville, Ohio, or Detroit or the Bronx. .
"One time, at the wedding of one of my cousins, where I was
legitimately invited, one of the faux guests – whom I recognized – was
caught in the act, kicked out and almost beaten up, certainly
humiliated. He looked at me knowingly and appealed to me with his eyes
But I couldn’t do anything. I was even indignant, now that I was on
the other side, but I did feel some sympathy. . .
"I stayed till the last dances, always got a bit tipsy, ate like a
king, kugels and cakes you can’t imagine, and as likely as not
accompanied someone home, or to her hotel if she was from out of town.
At one wedding, I met the sister or friend or cousin of [the] bride
and we hit it off immediately. She was from Ohio somewhere and her
parents, especially the father, kept a close eye on her. I took her to
the Webster Hall Hotel where she was staying, and we practically
consumed each other in the back seat of the taxi. She had her own
room, but her mother and father guarded her too well. Furthermore, she
had marriage on her mind and asked me the telltale questions – what my
profession was going to be, what my father’s business was, how I felt
about Ohio. My God, I was 20 at the most and my secret plans were to
go either to Mexico or France, write poetry, and get in touch with the
past. I hope she found what she wanted – I did. And though Sunday was
always melancholy for me, I came to understand it was because of those
two wonderful decades between 1925 and 1945, and I did everything I
could, and I do everything I can, to understand them and undo them,
even as, in memory, I love them."
Gerald Stern, Barnes & Noble, MarketFair, 609-716-1570. Free.
Thursday, April 15, 7 p.m.
Yardley Players seeks actors for "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" to be
produced at Washington Crossing Open Air Theater in July. Auditions
are at Kelsey Theater, West Windsor, on Saturday and Sunday, April 24
and 25 from noon to 5 p.m. Schedule appointment with Marge Swider at
Ritz Theater Company seeks actors for "Candide" opening July 8.
Auditions are April 26, 6 to 10 p.m., at 915 White Horse Pike, Oaklyn.
Master classes in preparation of "Candide" include a stage combat
workshop on Saturday, April 17, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and a vocal
workshop on Saturday, April 24, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call 856-858-5230
Christian Fine Arts Society seeks Christian poetry of 21 lines or
less. Send to Free Poetry Contest, 9588 Thornbush Lane Fishers,
Indiana 46038 or enter online at www.freecontest.com. Deadline is
Friday, April 30.
The Borough of Highland Park seeks artists for its monthly art
exhibitions. Contact Donna Como at 732-572-3400.
TV 30: Princeton Community Television has six-week training program
beginning Wednesday, April 28, to learn the basics of digital video
camera operation, lighting, sound, production, and editing. Register
at 609-799-2092. $20.
HomeFront offers mother’s day cards in exchange for a donation of $25.
The cards express that the contribution made will help make Mother’s
Day special for a homeless mother and her children in Mercer County.
Deadline is Saturday, May 1. Call 609-989-9417 for information.
Experience Works is searching for New Jersey’s outstanding older
worker. Businesses and individuals may nominate applicants age 65 or
older, a resident of New Jersey, and currently employed for more than
20 hours each week. Website: www.experienceworks.org. Deadline is
Friday, April 30.
New Jersey Audubon offers trips to lighthouses, Nova Scotia, Spain,
New Mexico, and Costa Rica. Proceeds from the tours benefit
conservation, environmental education, and wildlife research efforts.
For information call 609-897-9400 or visit www.nj-audubon.org/travel.
Mercer County College offers a five-week credit course, "Southwest
Photography Workshop" from Sunday, May 29, to Wednesday, July 7, in
New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. $1,200. Contact Eric Kunsman
at 609-586-4800, ext. 3835.
First Trenton Film Festival is recruiting volunteers for the May 7 to
9 event in downtown Trenton. Benefits include free tickets to
screenings. Call 609-396-6966.
Literacy Volunteers of America begins its next seven-week tutor
training course on Thursday, April 15, 6 to 9 p.m., at the
Lawrenceville Library. Call 609-393-8855 for information or to
New Hope Arts seeks volunteers for a broad range of activities
including gallery sitting, distributing posters, and helping to set up
the April Sculpture Exhibition held from April 17 to May 2. Call
215-862-3396 to E-mail: Newhopearts@aol.com
The Arts Council of Princeton is now registering for summer camp for
ages 4 to 12, Classes are in the visual and dramatic arts. Call
609-924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.
Voices Chorale invites children ages 5 to 12 to compose a piece of
music with a vocal element. Deadline is Saturday, May 1. Call
609-637-9383 or visit www.voiceschorale.org for more information.
Montessori Corner Schools is accepting registration for summer camp
and for the 2004-2005 school year for children 18 months to 9
years-old. Call 609-799-7990.
New Jersey Association of Realtors seeks entrees in the second annual
Poster Calendar Contest for students in grades three to six. One theme
is "What Equal Opportunity Housing Means to Me." Website: www.njar.com
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