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Category: Opinion & Reader Forum

When Halloween wasn’t scary at all

In today’s paper, you will find Halloween safety warnings as well as news of community efforts to provide “secure” trick-or-treat environments for the little ones.
While I understand the modern-day concerns, oh how my heart aches for what used to be.
Somewhere (I tried to find it to illustrate this column but couldn’t, so you’re in luck) is a photo of me in what was my all-time favorite Halloween costume. I was a leopard, with full spotted suit with long tail, hood with ears and a full face mask, the kind you are now warned not to put on your kiddies because it limits their vision.
I wore the outfit when I was 6. Which was the first year I went trick-or-treating. And it was without adult supervision.
Does this shock you? Back in the day, it was normal.
I guess there was safety in numbers, with mobs of kids roaming around our apartment complex on their own.
The Pru as it was known (it was owned by the Prudential Insurance Co.) covered an entire Newark block and was divided into five courtyards, each with multiple hallway entrances. The buildings were all six-story walkups, two apartments per floor. I don’t know the exact count, but there had to be hundreds.
And that’s where we’d be all night, climbing stairs and knocking on strangers’ doors. Most of the time, we’d be in little groups, but I recall more than one Halloween when my friends had all gotten tired and headed home, and I continued, at least for a little while, all by myself. Knocking on strangers’ doors.
The thought of danger never occurred to us. The idea of razor blades in apples was unheard of. Neither did all the treats have to be in their original wrappers. In fact, the most prized ones were those that the giver had handcrafted themselves, napkins tied with bows and filled with loose candy. Horrors!
As I said, this started at age 6. And all the way to 8th grade (which is when I decided I was too old to trick/treat anymore), we kids were out on our own.
As far as I recall, nothing untoward ever happened to anyone. (I know that some of my readers are also former denizens of Down Neck, so if I’m wrong, and something awful did occur, please let me know.)
Until I hear of anything, I will continue with nothing but the happiest memories of Halloween, a night when the only thing that scared us was another kid jumping out of a doorway and shouting, “BOO!”
— Karen Zautyk

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:
With all the money they spent on installing the new traffic lights on the Dejessa Bridge between Lyndhurst and Nutley to make the traffic better, they turned it into a nightmare for drivers. Traffic is backed up in the morning for two hours and two hours in the evening and it would take you more than 20 minutes to pass the bridge. The businesses are suffering from people trying not to drive that way anymore. This needs to be fixed – that light should have a much shorter time. Let’s do the right thing for a change.

Nadia Armout
North Arlington

Fetch, Bullet, fetch!

Last week, I noted my deep affection for animals (except monkeys; monkeys creep me out; they are too much like people) – for birds and fish and even insects (except roaches and waterbugs; they are too much like . . . ).
If I had the money, I would buy a small farm and bring there all the stray creatures
that no one wants. In the meantime, I must make do with house pets (cats, dogs,
clams) and the occasional feral fauna that come to my door.
I have had one such visitor all summer. At 11 p.m. or so, I will turn on the backyard
light, and there he is. Waiting patiently on the doorstep to be fed upon kibble and bits of Entenmann’s golden loaf cake.
He has gotten quite plump, and is now larger than any of his species that I have ever seen. (The Entenmann’s might be at fault there.) Where he spends his days, I haven’t a clue.
At first I thought that, despite an obviously tiny cranium, he must be incredibly smart to find his way back to my door every night. Then I did a bit of research. Seems that all he has to do is follow the trail he left the night before.
Now, this is not exactly the cutest creature, but at least I don’t have to keep him on a leash or clean a litter box. However, he doesn’t provide much companionship either. You can’t pet it (ick!) and I have failed in my efforts to teach him to fetch, sit up or come when called.
He is a wild untamable beast. If he could move at rate faster than three inches per hour, he might even be dangerous.
As the weather cools, I fear he will be leaving. Online, I found info that most of these
creatures do not hibernate but die in autumn. However, they are all hermaphrodites (which explains why I have heard him arguing with herself about whose turn it is to take out the garbage), so all of them lay eggs, and these should hatch in spring.
Maybe come May, Bullet’s offspring will come here to feed.
That’s what I call him. Bullet. Not for his speed, of course, but because he is, after all, a slug.
— Karen Zautyk
P.S. Speaking of critters: The groundhogs that live in the park along Passaic Ave. in Kearny have been out feeding in the mornings, putting on their winter weight in preparation for hibernation, and they graze perilously close to the curb. At least one has already been squashed by a car.

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:
I’ve always respected Karen Zautyk and her excellent reporting. I still do, but my enthusiasm is somewhat jaded after reading her scathing attack against Governor
Christie. All the anti-Christie people call him a bully. He is at times bombastic and crude, but I believe he sincerely wants to help our state. He is the first governor to attack the sacred cows in state government. He desires to help save taxes. He is trying. Would Ms. Zautyk criticize a Democratic governor in the same caustic way? I think not.

John Drzymkowski
North Arlington

Let’s get tougher on animal cruelty

Federal wildlife officials are hunting the sicko who shot a pilot whale that beached itself and died on the sands north of Asbury Park last month.
The whale had suffered a slow, agonizing death from starvation after the bullet wound
left it with an infected jaw and it was unable to eat. Experts said it likely took about a month for the creature to succumb.
Under federal law, the culprit could face a $100,000 fine and a year in prison. Now
that’s a suitable penalty.
Unfortunately, and invariably, when some pseudo-human is found guilty in a lower court of a crime against an animal, they get off with a minor penalty, such as a “sentence” of community service. Usually, something like having to work in an animal
shelter. Which is the last place I would put such a person.
The most recent egregious example of this wrist-slap judicial mentality comes from
the Bronx, where 30-year-old Cherika Alvarez, was convicted in August of animal
cruelty for leaving her pet dog to starve to death in her apartment when she was evicted from same.
The animal’s corpse was found six weeks later. Authorities said the dog had tried to
survive on a diet of ketchup packets and garbage, and then wood chips and splintered
plastic. And razor blades.
According to the Daily News, “The pup’s body had no body fat and was so emaciated
that his remains had to be scraped off the floorboards.”
Alvarez appeared for sentencing last month. Her penalty? Twenty days of community
service. And she’s not allowed to own another pet for three years.
Standing before Judge Robert Sackett, she sobbed: “I’m really sorry for what happened. I didn’t mean for it to happen. . . . I learned my lesson. I would never even hurt a cockroach.” (My suspicion is that’s because she’s one herself.)
Until the courts get serious about crimes like this and start handing down jail terms, such wanton cruelty will continue.
Jail is not going to stop it entirely, since some humans can never be deterred from
barbarism. But decent members of society will at least have the satisfaction of knowing
that the punishment will fit the crimes.
— Karen Zautyk
P.S. I have often been accused of liking animals more than I like people. To which, I
plead guilty. Because of people like Cherika Alvarez.

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:

As a member of the Harrison Lions club I have been collecting money during our annual White Cane weekend since 1993. I have seen many changes with membership and the economy. I am amazed at the generosity of local citizens as well as those
who come through Harrison each day using the PATH, local businesses and our roadways.
During these times of a tough economy, people are still very supportive. Their generosity allows our club to make annual donations to the blind, disabled, and various others in need.
However, what really is awe-inspiring to me is the enthusiastic help from the youth of Harrison. Since 1997 our club has enlisted the aid of our local young people and most recently their assistance has been the necessary help for us to reach our fundraising
goals. Without their help we would be hard pressed to raise the kind of funds necessary to meet our goals. Most of these students along with their parent members or other adult supervision enthusiastically raised funds as early as 6 a.m. and still
completed a full day of school. Most days we read about not so great events in the community. This past weekend has surely renewed my hope in the human spirit.

Nick Landy,
President of the Harrison Lions Club

Double-dog dare you, governor

 

On Friday night, the AP reported: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is reconsidering his decision to stay out of the race for the White House in 2012 and is expected to make a decision soon, according to several people close to the governor with knowledge of his thinking.”
“Soon” could have been after press time Monday, in which case, this column will be moot, so just skip it and check out Around Town or the police blotters.
But, on the off chance he is still wavering, or if he has said “no” for the umpteenth time, I am compelled to urge him to go for it. The sooner he declares his candidacy, the sooner the country will learn what this guy is really like, and the sooner he’ll get his ample posterior kicked. (No, I am not going the fat-guy-joke route; David Letterman seems to have that nicely covered.)
While oft denying ambitions beyond the governorship, at least for 2012, Christie has been feeding his massive ego with personal appearances hither and thither, always before audiences who see him as some sort of political savior.
Last week, the gov fielded questions from a smitten (as might be expected, considering the venue) crowd at the Reagan Library. One woman pleaded: “I know New Jersey needs you, but I really implore you, I really do . . . I mean this with all my heart. We can’t wait another four years to 2016 . . . please sir, reconsider. We need you. Your country needs you to run for the presidency.”
Cynic that I am, I wondered if she were a plant. If not, she appears to have the IQ of one.
New Jersey needs Chris Christie as badly as it needs Snooki.
The governor, well-practiced in pseudo-charm peppered with flashes of humor (thank you, ghostwriters?) has managed to manipulate a fawning national media. They have not yet discovered the bully behind the smiling mask.
When he is in the constant presidential-candidate spotlight, it would not be long before charm and humor are replaced by the nasty snideness and condescension with which New Jerseyans have become far too familiar. It is time the American electorate were treated to that side of the man.
The gov is fond of saying things like, “I’ll respect you, if you respect me.” But he appears to equate any disagreement with disrespect, and — poof! — civility vanishes.
So please, gov, go for it. Throw your hat in that ring. The American people are waiting to adore you. Or not.
A presidential run may not earn you the votes you think you deserve, but it would offer something far more valuable: a long-overdue lesson in humility.
— Karen Zautyk

P.S. On Sunday, the Star-Ledger noted that, if he declares his candidacy, Christie would have to “hit the ground running.” Shouldn’t that be ‘hit the ground waddling”? (Did I say there’d be no fat jokes? I lied.)

We’ve got mail

To the Publisher:

Never forget 9/11/2001.
Never forget Bush at that instant: seven minutes of dumbfounded silence.
Never forget the next-day words of Bush, “Go shopping,” and EPA director Whitman, “The air is safe.”
Never forget “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” the 8/6/2001 memo of actionable intelligence that Bush didn’t act on, allowing thousands of deaths.
Never forget where Bush invaded in response: Iraq, where Saddam truthfully denied WMD’s – not Afghanistan, where Osama went then and al-Qaeda still trains.
Never forget the PATRIOT Act trampling the Constitution: warrantless wire-tapping, torture, detaining people without charges, etc., etc.
Never forget two no-bid contracts: Cheney’s with his KBR and Halliburton to get Iraq’s oil, and Giuliani’s with his Motorola buddies for the FDNY’s and EMS’s bad radios.
Never forget on Election Day: these and other Republicans never got Osama; Democrat Obama did.

J. Andrew Smith
Bloomfield

The warning signs are all there

If Monday were not production day at The Observer, I might have just turned around and gone home.
Something was trying to keep me from getting to the office.
First, the Belleville Pike bridge decided to close to cars just as I approached it from the west. (Why, by the way, is it ever closed?  What sort of vessel is coming up the river? The Intrepid?)
From past experience, I knew this would not be a short delay.
So I turned right and tried to wend my way to Washington Ave., Only to encounter red flashing lights and clanging warning bells at a gateless RR crossing on a side street.
I didn’t want to take a risk, so I stopped. And waited. No train. Lights and bells eventually ceased and I headed for Rt. 21-N, exiting at the Lyndhurst Bridge.
My intention was to take Riverside Ave. through Lyndhurst and into North Arlington.
Riverside was closed. Barricaded.
I started up Kingsland Ave.,
Kingsland Ave. was closed. Barricaded.
Finally, and nearly a half-hour late,  I arrived at the paper.
I logged onto my computer, and when I checked my email, this is what I saw:
Messages in Inbox: 666.
See ya next week.  I’m leaving now.
— Karen Zautyk

We’ve got mail

To the Publisher:
Sept. 11 reminds all firefighters of the loss of 343 members of the brotherhood of firefighting. A small example of the family of the fire department brotherhood is shown in just the small town of Belleville.
They are brothers: James, Charles and Thomas Murphy; George and Mike Sebarra, Ralph and Carman Castalano, Tom and Joe Lamin, George and Harry Scott, Robert and John Willie, and Stanley and Andrew Depczek.
Fathers and sons:  John and John Baldwin, Joseph Sr., Tom and Joe Lamin Jr., Robert Sr., John and Robert Willie Jr., Joseph and Mike Cancellire, Ralph Sr. and Ralph Castellano, Patrick and Patrick Dunn Jr., William and William Hand, Mike and Tom Sebarra, John and James Zaccone, William and Timothy Buckley, Joseph and Frank Thalhimer, and Mike and Ed Carr, Ken and Scott Langlands.
Grandfathers and grandsons: Walter and Walter Bersford, and  James and James Salmon.
And last, my family: Grandfather Harvy Ziggler, great uncle Mike Carr, Uncle Ed Carr, and myself Firefighter Vincent Abbott.
All were and are a family and brotherhood protecting and serving Belleville. This is just a small sample of how firefighting is in the blood.

Vincent Abbott
Retired firefighter
Belleville