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Kearny Recreation American Legion baseball tryouts

The Kearny Recreation Department will hold American Legion baseball tryouts on Sunday, May 6, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mitchell Baseball Field, located behind Franklin School – rain or shine.

All Kearny resident boys currently in grades 9 to 12 are eligible to tryout. Please bring a glove an no metal cleats.

A copy of a birth certificate and proof of residency are required at the time of tryouts. There will be registration fee for all selected players. For further information, call the Kearny Recreation Department at 201-955-7983.

New revenue stream to benefit waterfront




By Jeff Bahr

In keeping with their efforts to promote the revitalization of the Passaic River and its surrounding communities through awards distributed by their “Community Improvement Fund,” a group of 70 area companies known as the Lower Passaic Cooperating Parties Group (C.P.G.) awarded a $50,000 grant to the Hudson County Division of Planning for the reexamination and updating of the 2005 Hudson County Open Space Plan.

On April 20, dignitaries including Hudson County Executive, Thomas A. DeGise; District 9 Freeholder, Albert Cifelli; District 3 Freeholder, Jeffrey Dublin; and Harrison Mayor, Raymond J. McDonough, were on hand for the “Big Check” presentation that took place at the Passaic Waterfront Walkway – an eye-pleasing stretch that runs adjacent to the Hampton Suites and Inn On Passaic Ave, Harrison.

PHOTO BY JEFF BAHR/ Planning Director, Massiel Ferrara, reflects on river’s growth/possibilities


According to a press release prepared by the Hudson County Division of Planning, the funding is imperative to keep the program moving ahead.

“In order to continue fulfilling the County’s goals of increased preservation and accessibility to open space, recreation, and to the waterfront, the 2005 plan needs to be updated,” it reads.

“This is one of many projects that we hope to do in the coming years,” said Mayor McDonough of the study.

Stimulus to ‘Buc’ up business

Photo by Ron Leir/ Interim Township Manager Kevin Esposito (l.) with business owners Peter Poz (c.) and Kevin Horan.


By Ron Leir

BELLEVILLE – The doors to the Township Chambers opened promptly at 9 a.m. last Thursday and in they came.

Within the first 15 minutes, about a dozen business people from Belleville streamed through.

What was the buzz? Was the Township offering tax breaks? Low interest loans?

Nope. It was a million dollar giveaway.

But hold on. Lest you think the Belleville treasurer has money to burn, you’d better hear a fuller explanation from Mayor Ray Kimble and the Township Council who, earlier this month, heralded a township “economic stimulus plan” which, they said, “will assist Belleville businesses in developing new customers while rewarding existing customers in the first cross-promotional event in the history of our Township.”

That means that the Township will be helping businesses and businesses will be helping each other.

To that end, the Township will be printing more than one million “Belleville Bucs” – that is, coupons “designed to look like a dollar bill” with the imprint of the Township’s public school mascot, “The Buccaneer,” on the front of each “bill.”

On the flip side of each “Buc” will be the names of Belleville businesses – categorized generically as “food,” “service” and “merchandise” – who register for the program.

Here’s how the “cross-promoting” will work: Each of the participating businesses will pledge to distribute the Belleville Buc coupon – redeemable for $1 off a $10 purchase or 10% off total purchase (minimum of $10) – to up to two other business owners from their shop or office.

As an example (as explained by a Township flier), “a restaurant business enrolled in the program may distribute to their customers a $1 off Buc from an area car wash or clothing store.”

“We … hope that together we can all help our businesses grow and prosper while our residents benefit from the promotional savings,” the Township flier says.

The concept is the brainchild of Interim Township Manager Kevin Esposito.

“I was speaking Councilwoman (Marie Strumolo) Burke on a Sunday and she was telling me she’d been at a local pizzeria restaurant that Friday night and their business was suffering,” Esposito recalled.

To try and get more customers, Esposito said, businesses take out long-term ads in weeklies and/or trade journals – sometimes at a cost of between $2,000 and $3,000 a year and that’s hardly chicken feed for a small concern to put out.

After spending the night pondering the plight of the area’s shops and offices still fighting to rise above the national recession, “I thought of this plan,” Esposito said.

To get locals on board, Esposito said he – with help from Councilman Vincent Cozzarelli – visited some 300 businesses and talked up the plan with the owners. A number of those owners stopped at the Municipal Building last Thursday for the first day of registration.

Among them were Peter Poz, who has run the Belleville Hand Car Wash on Washington Ave. for the past decade and who is betting that the stimulus program will help him grow new business; and Kevin Horan, proprietor of Finish Line, a Rutgers St. graphics company, also hoping to increase his volume.

Leslea Piscatowski, who, with her mother, Pat Clark, has operated Uptown Dance Studio on Union Ave. for two decades, calls the Buc plan “a great idea – it’s nice that the town is doing something for local business and I wanted to get involved. And I like the idea of businesses supporting each other.”

And Nelson Arce, a self-employed Franklin St. accountant, said he was “glad to see that Belleville is trying to help small business owners. … It’s a start in the right direction and if it works, other towns may look to implement it as well.”

Arce, who serves as president of the Suburban Essex Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses in Belleville, Bloomfield and Glen Ridge, said that many regional retail and commercial firms are still “struggling” these days. “Thank God I have a service business – that keeps my overhead low; I’ve seen a lot of Belleville businesses – mostly restaurants – go under because they have a lot of overhead, and they’re dealing with perishable goods plus high rent – but I’ve also noticed a lot of new businesses opening up. I think in the long run, it’ll all work out.”

One local business that’s expanding is The Motorcycle Mall, which has operated in Belleville since 1977. It held a grand opening for its new location at 655 Washington Ave. this past Saturday.

Back at the Municipal Building, Esposito is holding up on printing those Belleville Bucs for the moment. “Let’s give it a few weeks and see what kind of response we get. I’d like to get 150 as a good starting off point and go from there,” he said.

By the end of the day, “just under 40” Belleville business owners had signed up for the stimulus program, Esposito reported.

As a further incentive, the Township plans to schedule a seminar, “Secrets of My Success,” at the Belleville Public Library where successful Belleville business people will be invited “to share some of their strategies for success with our Belleville business owners,” the Township flier noted.

Additionally, Esposito said he’s conferring with Essex County Freeholder Brandon Gill on “ways we can improve our downtown business district” and he’s pushing for Belleville to host a “Business Development Seminar” that will outline how business owners can improve their building facades and how they can apply for loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In the meantime, Esposito said, the Township will be mailing notices to those business owners who didn’t show up last Thursday that they can contact his office at the Municipal Building to secure a registration form.

“I want to get out the message that Belleville is business- friendly,” he said.

Kearny’s Lopez recognized as top cop in dept.

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Kearny Police Det. Ramon “Ray” Lopez is the department’s 2012 “Cop of the Year.”


By Anthony J. Machcinski

With the media sensationalizing the wrongs sometimes attributed to police officers, Kearny Det. Ramon Lopez is one of the officers fighting to buck that trend.

During a 14-year career in the Kearny Police Department, Lopez has earned the reputation of being one of the hardest working and most dedicated officers on the force. On April 13, Lopez’s dedication paid off when he was named the Cop of the Year in Kearny at the annual PBA ball.

“It’s a high honor being selected as ‘Cop of the Year’ because it’s an award that comes from your peers,” said Lopez, who was also presented two unit citation awards and an exceptional duty bar for three separate incidents in 2011.

For one of the citations, he was one of several officers credited with foiling a Quick Chek robbery; for the other, he was part of a team that tracked down and captured a man accused of exposing himself to high school track girls.

The exceptional duty bar was awarded for his offduty work in apprehending four would-be thieves during two separate searches of the flooded box factory on Hoyt St.

The Cop of the Year award is conferred by a valor committee of five officers from every part of the department.

“He’s been impressive from the first day he came in here,” said Kearny Police Chief John Dowie who sat on the panel that interviewed Lopez for a job in 1998.

Dowie recalled his notes from the interview in 1998 when he described Lopez this way: “He had excellent answers to situational judgment questions posed to him. He was very confident, excellent with his bilingual ability. Stuck me as a mature individual.”

“The five of us that sat on that panel that day had the same reaction,” Dowie remarked. “Everyone on that panel was impressed.”

Always willing to help out in a tough situation, Lopez has jumped into action on several occasions when needed during his police career and done the job well. Several incidents – the 2009 jewelry store murder/robbery, a 2010 bank robbery ring, and a kidnapping that was solved within hours of the initial report – stand out as examples.

“I was always told if you do something, to do it right,” Lopez explains. “Regardless of what it is, put 100% into it and you’ll never go wrong.”

Lopez’s ever-constant drive to help out anyone in need to the best of his ability assured Dowie that the addition of Lopez to the force was a good one.

“It makes you know that you were right when you selected him. He’s a great asset to the police department,” Dowie said.

While the award and congratulations went to Lopez, the detective believes that it should be shared with other members of the police department.

“It’s all about teamwork,” Lopez explained. “It’s not like you want to take the glory for any specific thing. I’m not like that. I believe in teamwork.”

Beyond the teamwork, the camaraderie with the other officers is one of the facets of the job that Lopez embraces.

“It’s like an extended family with the guys here,” Lopez said. “Some jobs you dread going every day. I look in my rearview mirror (of my career) and see 14 years go behind me like it was nothing. It’s a job I love going to and with guys I love working with.”

Lopez’s passion for the job as well as his connection with the community help Lopez in solving many crimes.

“You have to have that rapport with the community,” explained Lopez, who mentioned that through his connections in the community, he and his fellow officers have been able to jump on crimes quickly. “(The members of the community) are our eyes and ears. We rely on them as well. If anything happens, you want them to call. It’s a great thing that when you need them, they’re there.”

Lopez’s connection with the community has been built on incidents such as during the Halloween weekend snowstorm in 2011. Kearny Police received a call about a person who had passed away during the storm. With snow and debris covering much of the dead person’s property, Lopez was forced to navigate over fences and through debris just to get into the house. After conducting the investigation and knowing that family members would be coming to pay their respects, Lopez cleaned the snow and debris off the porch so that they could make their way into the home.

“You wouldn’t believe the phone calls and compliments that we got about (Det. Lopez),” Dowie remarked as he told the story. “It spoke volumes.”

As the volumes of compliments continue to come in about Lopez’s work, Lopez continued to deflect glory while reflecting on his career.

“I work with a great group of guys,” Lopez explained. “It’s been a lifelong dream for me (to be a police officer). I was able to achieve what I was shooting for.”

Fake shooting improves campus readiness at Bloomfield College

Photos by Jeff Bahr/ Bloomfield Police arrest fake shooter; end standoff



By Jeff Bahr

As part of its yearly obligation to demonstrate emergency preparedness, and thereby maintain its accreditation, Bloomfield College conducted a campus-wide simulated emergency on Wednesday, April 18. The exercise began with a fire drill at Clee Hall at noon, followed by a shooter-on-campus scenario in the same building at 12:30 p.m.

The Bloomfield Township Office of Emergency Management and the Bloomfield Police Dept. worked in conjunction with Bloomfield E.M.T., the Bloomfield College Emergency Response Team, and two volunteer actors (playing the shooter and hostage).

Bloomfield College spokeswoman Jill Alexander said that another mock drill, also designed to test preparedness, had been performed in 2011.

“We had one last year that dealt with a chemical spill,” said Alexander. “It took place at College Hall where the Science and Math Departments and Chemistry and Biology labs are located. We brought in the head of the Chemistry Dept. to simulate a spill. It’s a learning process for us. Hopefully we’ll never have to do it for real. I think it’s important for the students to know that we’re prepared and that we work in close cooperation with township emergency officials.”

This year’s exercise, which took place inside a 118-bed residence on Liberty St., was viewed by reporters and observers from a raised deck at Siebert Hall, just to the west, across a courtyard. The Bloomfield P.D. Mobile Command Center was also situated here.

Bloomfield Police Officer Kevin O’Connell explained how the drill would be conducted after Clee Hall had been cleared of students and faculty. “The (Bloomfield) officers on patrol will get the call first,” said O’Connell, who emphasized that this first responding force would know nothing of the exercise before reaching the building. “When they arrive they’ll be briefed at the command center and they’ll take appropriate action.”

Authorities share information during ‘shooter’ drill.


At 12 p.m., as per the plan, a fire alarm was sounded at Clee Hall and a text message was sent out to students. “Clee Hall is being evacuated,” it said. “Residents currently in Clee evacuate now to B.C. gym. This is a required drill.”

Within seconds, the first wave of students exited the building. They were followed by more students until the building was fully vacated. A “sweep” team entered to make sure that no one remained and an “all clear” was officially declared at 12:25 p.m.

At 12:30 p.m., another text message accompanied by an e-mail blast (a mass e-mail) was sent to students. This one explained that a “shooter on campus drill” was being conducted and that students should “stay put.”

At the same time, a call went out to police. In less than five minutes, they arrived with sirens blaring at the command center set up beside Clee Hall. Deputy O.E.M. Coordinator Thomas Pelaia told reporters what would happen next. “They need five people to go in the building. They work in teams. They’re organizing that right now. They’ll check their real weapons before entering. They’ll be issued unloaded guns.”

Pelaia then told reporters that the shooter (played by Bloomfield College buildings and ground crew employee Heinz Nordmann) and the hostage (played by college staff member Crystal Maldonado) were already inside Clee Hall on the third floor. Pelaia said that a noise, similar to that of a gun being discharged, would be sounded from this location, and that screams would also emanate from this room. Teams are trained to “fix” on locations using audio cues such as these, said Pelaia, so these sounds would be very useful in helping them to track their quarry.

Toting fake weapons that looked frighteningly real, the five-member team (commanded by Bloomfield Police Lt. Richard Wallace) entered the building. For several tense minutes, we assembled onlookers waited to hear a gunshot but, alas, never did. The thick brick walls of Cleo Hall were likely responsible for this.

Suddenly, a man dressed in jeans and a camouflage shirt emerged with his hands behind his head. He was followed by a determined looking squad with their weapons trained upon him. The female “hostage” was seen walking just a few paces behind – thankfully, still in one piece. The exercise was over.

At a debriefing on the balcony of Siebert Hall, Bloomfield Police Sgt. Michael Cooper told reporters that things weren’t quite as easy as they appeared from outside. “It went well. The officers went in the way they were trained, but it was a challenging building with cramped quarters,” he said. “They found the shooter on the third floor in a dorm room, but it was very small; the room was very compressed – it was difficult. They performed very well.”

Cooper then explained how one of his officers referred to the building as a “fatal funnel.” In police jargon, this means “a space where you don’t want to be because it’s a particularly dangerous place to be (leaving oneself a sitting duck for gunshots),” according to Cooper. “Our guys had not trained in this building in the past. It was an eye-opener.”

“We would use tactics that we used today in a real situation if this had really happened,” said Cooper. “(However) we would have directed security to clear the entire campus.”

When asked if this exercise was intentionally scheduled to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the infamous Virginia Tech campus shootings, Bloomfield Police Sgt. Anthony Servedeo said it wasn’t but seized upon the moment to point out the importance of such drills.

“This is a problem-solving and critical-thinking exercise for us,” said Servedeo. “Every college and university needs to do this.”

Larry Bennett: An exalted ‘Exalted Ruler’

Photo by Ron Leir/ Exalted Ruler Larry Bennett in front of the Harrison/East Newark Elks Lodge on Harrison Ave.


By Ron Leir


Laurence “Larry” Bennett just began another term as the leader of the Harrison/East Newark Elks Lodge No. 2326. Or, as they say in Elks parlance, he’s Exalted Ruler.

Well, no big surprise about that, right? Bennett, 59, is now serving his ninth year as Exalted Ruler of the local lodge and during that time, he was contested for the office only once.

But it turns out that nobody else in the Elks’ North/ Central District – encompassing Cedar Grove, Nutley, Belleville, the Oranges, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Kearny, Harrison and East Newark – can match that longevity record.

“Larry’s an amazing man,” said former longtime North Arlington resident Bob Whitaker, one of 11 district deputy directors for the New Jersey Elks organization.

Over the past decade, Whitaker has come to know Bennett as an Elks loyalist who “does a lot of work, no matter what you ask him to do. He deserves whatever recognition he gets. He does go above and beyond.”

Bennett shrugs aside the praise, saying that the team of volunteers he has assembled is responsible for all the good deeds attributed over the years to the Elks in West Hudson.

Ask about them and Bennett rolls out a list, probably as long as your arm.

At the top of that list, according to Bennett, is fund-raising on behalf of impaired children, supporting Elks Camp Moore in Passaic County, run by the state Elks organization at a cost of $1 million a year. Each summer, the Elks rotate about 600 youngsters with a range of disabilities through the summer camp for one-week sessions in the outdoors, “at no cost to their parents.”

“We also provide wheelchairs and hospital beds to the camp, as needed,” Bennett said.

Another big priority for the Elks, Bennett said, is veterans.

Elks members visit Veterans’ Administration hospitals in East Orange and Newark during Christmas and Easter holidays, bringing gifts and running bingo games. And the Elks arrange to bring veterans who are patients at Lyons VA Hospital to the Harrison/East Newark lodge for a summer picnic and trip to a Newark Bears baseball game.

Throughout the state, Elks lodges collect donations for the “Army of Hope,” which aids injured veterans in readjusting to civilian life and helps the families of veterans killed in action.

During Veterans’ Day observance in 2009, the Elks learned that the local American Legion post was scrambling to raise money to fix its badly leaking roof but was having a tough time of it.

“So,” Bennett recalled, “we got together with the firemen and Miles F. Kelly Suppliers, who donated building supplies, and we got a contractor, Denny’s Roofing & Painting, who did the roof work, and volunteers did the cleanup with help from John Cali of Cali Carting which provided a Dumpster. And the Elks wrote a check for $4,000 to the Legion.”

Elsewhere on the charity front, Bennett said the local lodge has done joint fund-raisers with the FMBA (Fireman’s Mutual Benevolent Association) and PBA (Patrolman’s Benevolent Association) and with the Harrison/ East Newark Football Booster Club.

“Since 2006 to the present,” Bennett said, “our lodge has donated $275,000 to charitable causes. We’ve only been able to do that because of the team we have in place and because the community has generously responded.”

The lodge has also loaned its meeting hall for use by outside civic and fraternal groups like the Lions Club, the Cancer League, the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and PTA (Parent Teacher Association).

During the Thanksgiving holiday, Elks members distribute meals to needy families and on Thanksgiving Day, they prepare and deliver hot meals to seniors and the disabled who are unable to cook for themselves. “Last year, we did 110 meals,” Bennett said.

At Christmas last year, the Elks supplied 25 needy families with clothing and toys, he said.

In the last three months alone, Bennett said the lodge donated nearly $7,000 to the Harrison Recreation Dept. — $5,000 to complete the redoing of the Harrison Little League infield with clay and the balance to various local recreation programs.

While Bennett didn’t mention it, Whitaker reminded The Observer that the Exalted Ruler “runs a districtwide soccer shoot contest for children underwritten by the Elks.”

Additionally, Bennett said, the Elks answers the call “when someone in a family is sick and the family can’t pay the medical bills or when someone dies and there’s no money for burial expenses or when people are left homeless and lose all their possessions due to fire.”

“This is how we’ve made the Elks a pillar of our community,” Bennett said. “I’ll always be an Elk because it’s important for us to continue to do this work. It’s also important to note that with the Elks, everyone’s a volunteer. No one gets paid. All donations go directly to services for the community.”

Whitaker said that Harrison/ East Newark lodge consistently ranks “in the top two in the district and among the top 10 in the state” for fund-raising efforts.

Bennett was recruited to the local Elks at the end of 2000 by two past Exalted Rulers, Richard Rukowski and James Geddes, then a trustee. “At the time,” Bennett recalled, “the Elks, like any other fraternal organization, was losing membership, money was going down. And these men were concerned we’d lose our lodge which, if that happened, would impact all the charities helped by the Elks.” (Harrison/East Newark lodge formed in 1965 after separating from Kearny.)

So Bennett joined and was quickly elected trustee and stand-in for Exalted Ruler. After being elevated to Exalted Ruler in 2003- 2004, Bennett said, “We put a team together and worked on fund-raisers and putting out into the community what we’re about – helping others.”

And the team set about injecting new, younger blood into the organization – an effort that continues today as the lodge boasts 338 members and counting.

“In the last six to eight months, we’ve brought in 20 to 25 new members, ages 21 to 35,” Bennett said. “As soon as they join, I put them to work. You make them feel they belong and, eventually, they feel comfortable being there.”

Tax-deductible donations to the Elks, a registered non-profit organization, are always welcome. “They can contact me at (973) 865-9990 or write a check to the Harrison/ East Newark Elks and send it to the lodge at 406- 408 Harrison Ave., Harrison, N.J. 07029, Attn: Larry Kelly, trustee,” Bennett said.

Meadows parcel is taxing issue

By Ron Leir


The borough is headed for a showdown with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) over an uncollected tax bill for the former Kingsland landfill parcel that’s left a big hole in the newly introduced 2012 municipal budget.

The Borough Council voted 4-2 to introduce the municipal spending plan on April 12, with Councilmen Mark Yampaglia and Steve Tanelli opposed.

Borough Council President James Hughes said the property was originally held by developer EnCap which, after going bankrupt, stopped paying taxes on the land in 2008, at which point “ownership reverted to the Meadowlands Commission,” which then took the position that the land was tax-exempt because it’s held by a public entity.

Since then, Hughes said, the tax bill for the 77-acre parcel, assessed by the borough at $14 million, has remained unpaid to the tune of an estimated $1.5 million.

“We could put it up for tax sale,” Hughes said, but the likelihood is there’d be “no takers.”

The property was targeted for residential development but the borough opted to change the zoning to industrial use, he said. However, the NJMC has the property zoned for open space/parkland.

Now the tax issue is in litigation but, at the same time, both sides are negotiating a possible one-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deal so the borough could hope to recoup some cash, Hughes said.

At its meeting on Oct. 26, 2011, the NJMC – after having previously filed a tax appeal in state Tax Court challenging the assessment of the property – approved an agreement with North Arlington to pay the borough $760,000 as a Payment In Lieu of Taxes.

That amount was to be delivered to the borough in installments, with $270,000 to be paid immediately, $280,000 to be paid a year later; and the $210,000 balance to be paid two years later.

But Hughes said the NJMC reneged on the agreement.

Asked for comment, NJMC spokesman Brian Aberback said: “The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission is committed to working with North Arlington to find a mutual resolution to this issue that is fair and equitable for both the Borough and the Commission.”

Acknowledging the action taken by the NJMC last October, Aberback added: “We are eager to meet with North Arlington officials to finalize the agreement for payment.”

In the meantime, however, the Borough says it’s being denied needed revenues to help balance its budget, which, as it’s now structured, calls for nearly $15.9 million to be raised in local taxation – about $1.5 million more than last year – to support total spending of about $20.5 million.

For the owner of an “average” house assessed at $319,000, that translates to annual property taxes of $3,391 or an increase of $332 over 2011, according to calculations by borough CFO James Mangin.

However, between now and May 24 – when the budget comes up for public hearing and adoption – the mayor and council said they’ll be chipping away, hoping they can find ways to ease the pain for taxpayers without resorting to employee layoffs.

Councilman Mark Johnson urged residents to attend the next NJMC meeting on April 25 at 10 a.m. in Lyndhurst to voice their displeasure with the agency.




Sunday evening on NBC’s Dateline, Natalie Morales had a special featuring teens that had a hidden camera placed in their vehicles, as the parents watched. It was a test to see if the children would make the correct decisions in different situations when driving. The show was the second installment of a four-part series (airing on successive Sundays at 7. p.m.) that I highly recommend parents watch. I felt awful for the parents as the hidden camera followed as their children drove recklessly while talking on the phone and texting. In another segment, the children got into vehicles with a young teen actor pretending to be drunk. Peer pressure plays a big role in the decision making of young teens. Handing the keys of a car over to your child for the first time is a fear many parents have to face. Speaking to your kids, making strong rules, and enforcing those rules are critical. Have an open forum with your child and let them know that they can call with no questions asked and receive a ride home. With proms around the corner, now is the time to enforce rules and to keep your children safe. If you go on to the Dateline website, they have tips to help you create rules for your children. It only takes that one time for a tragedy to occur!

It’s sad to live life on the sidelines

Risk is a scary word. Maybe that’s why many of us choose to do so little outside of our comfort zones. Failure can be embarrassing and sometimes even painful – I won’t sugarcoat the truth – but so can standing on the sidelines. In fact, that can be the cruelest cut of all.

Think about it. How many times have you told yourself that a certain skill or endeavor is for “other people” not you? Be honest, did you really believe this, or was the assessment driven by your own insecurity? Whenever I’ve entertained this ridiculous notion it’s come from fear that I would make an ass of myself when I inevitably failed at something new. In other words, it was easier to dismiss something as being outside my realm than it was to face up to my shortcomings or perceived shortcomings. Nowadays, there’s probably some psycho-babble to describe this fear-driven response. In the 1960’s it was simply called “copping-out.”

The little lies we tell ourselves can be even more pernicious. Some believe that human triumph is mostly preordained and self-generated. This camp says, “Nothing succeeds like success.” If that’s true, then it’s only logical that nothing fails like failure. Sure, success can and does feed off of itself at times. But if we stop trying simply because things haven’t worked out for us in the past, our continued failure is assured. That’s the problem with this sort of dictum. It conveniently forgets that each and every human being is unique. It also ignores the fact that many of the most successful people in the world failed miserably, time and again, before success or any semblance of it came knocking at their door.

Personal fears aside, I wonder how anyone can be content sitting on life’s sidelines. Is it really better to risk nothing and end up with the “would have, should have” albatross of regret on your back?

When I look at the level of hero worship occurring these days, I’m saddened. Sure, not all are equipped to become great ballplayers like basketball’s Michael Jordan, and most of us will never rise to the intellectual level of an Albert Einstein. But does that mean we should become hopelessly awestruck by such people, and stand idly by because we can never hope to hit the same esteemed marks that they did?

A past generation adhered to a different maxim. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” they’d say without a hint of doubt in their voices. This group was every bit as uncertain as any of us, but with this truism acting as a steering force they’d plod on regardless – cognizant that success generally comes to those willing to take risks. Would these hope-for-the-best types fail every so often? You bet. Failure is an integral part of the human experience. But people of this mindset simply wouldn’t allow themselves to become paralyzed by fear. We can all learn from their example.

Through the years I’ve noticed a pattern. The people who are the least worried about looking like jackasses when they fail at something tend to go the farthest in life. Why is this? It’s a numbers game, really. Those who roll the dice by continually putting themselves out there improve their chances of making something stick with each attempt, while those who remain on the margins, safe, sound and irrelevant, create their own failure.

A fitting maxim to lay the groundwork for achievement is “nothing succeeds like trying.” If you don’t believe this, just peruse the biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Alva Edison, Milton S. Hershey, Alexander Graham Bell, Susan B. Anthony, Bill Gates, Col. Harland Sanders, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Isaac Newton, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Winston Churchill, and millions of others who stumbled repeatedly on the path to success.

And be sure to toss two more noteworthy names into the mix: Basketball great Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school basketball team due to a “lack of talent” and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, who was expelled from school for being – get ready for it – “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.”

Surprised? Don’t be. But keep this in mind: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius is responsible for that bit of profundity. Which reminds me, I‘ve always wanted to try my hand at philosophy. Hey, you never know…

-Jeff Bahr

‘Khris’ening ‘Royal’ty

Khris Royal and Dark Matter bring Gumbo of music to Donegal Saloon


Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Khris Royal and Dark Matter entertain the crowd at Donegal Saloon on April 21


By Anthony J. Machcinski

The reputation of the music scene in New Orleans is great enough that thousands of people will take vacations to the Big Easy in order to witness some of the greatest performances of our generations. Those unable to make that pilgrimage lucked out when Donegal Saloon in Kearny hosted Khris Royal and Dark Matter on April 21.

The ever-talented Royal, who hails from the Crescent City, is a saxophone player who has become one of the up and coming musicians in this generation. With a passion to play since he was seven years old, Royal didn’t originally want to play the saxophone.

“I wanted to play trombone “The guy at the store said, ‘Your arms are too short (to play the trombone). So my mom suggested, “Well, if you’re not going to play the trombone, you should play the sax. Girls like the sax.”

Royal developed a love eventually had one of his early breakouts when going to see famous R&B and jazz singer Erykah Badu.

Khris Royal swings his sax, much to the delight of the crowd.


“I wanted to see Erykah Badu when she came to New Orleans when I was in high school, but I was too young to get into the show,” Royal explained. “Through an internship with school, we got to sit down and meet with her. After the show, I stuck around to talk to her and while they were having sound checks, she saw me and said, ‘Grab your horn and come play with us.’ That was easily one of the greatest moments of my life.”

However, the road to success wasn’t always easy for Royal.

“When I first started gigging with Dark Matter, it was really slow,” Royal explained. “A lot of nights, tips were so bad that I thought I’d have to get a real job, and I started thinking maybe the music was bad. But other members of the band told me to stick with it and it started to take off.”

Despite Royal’s initial thoughts, the music is far from bad. After attending the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, Royal refined his art at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. This experience in many creative arts schools allowed the young musician to not just fall into one particular style of music.

“One of my goals was to play as many different styles of music as correctly as possible,” explained Royal who described his style of play as a big gumbo. “I don’t want to be just funk or jazz. I want to be the guy you can call to do anything.”

Royal’s description of his style is dead on. With elements of funk, blues, jazz, and R&B, Royal’s musical gumbo provides the listener’s ears with the same satisfied feeling as a real gumbo provides the stomach.

Royal’s personal favorite song, “Big Booty Express,” showcases the full package. With a silky smooth background accented by Royal’s sax, the song resonates differently to different people who listen to it. Some listeners may be soothed by the background and soft jazz play while others may find themselves moving their head and their body to the beat.

It is this menagerie of feelings that makes this song one of Royal’s favorites.

“‘Big Booty Express’ gets everybody dancing while still dealing with some music on an intellectual level,” Royal explains. “It keeps it funky and keeps everyone dancing.”

The title track from the album “Dark Matter” also shows off Royal’s skill set. With a darker and heavier background, Royal and Dark Matter provide a performance that not only showcases Royal’s play, but also the play of the band as a whole.

‘Big Booty Express’ aside, Royal and Dark Matter provide many songs for listeners of all ages and genres to appreciate. After playing Donegal Saloon on April 21, Khris Royal and Dark Matter will return to New Orleans and play several shows around the Big Easy before gearing up for several nationwide tours this summer.

To listen to Khris Royal and Dark Matter, you can search them on Spotify, or to purchase t heir album, they can be found on iTunes or on www.Khris-Royal.com.