Archive for the ‘Blogfinger interviews’ Category

President LIncoln poses for a photo with Paul Goldfinger on the boards of Ocean Grove.

President Lincoln poses for a photo with Paul Goldfinger (Blogfinger.net) on the boards of Ocean Grove. 1864.

Pres. Abraham Lincoln visited Ocean Grove once  when he agreed to an interview with Blogfinger.   We met him on the new boardwalk .   He walked around and said, “Goldfinger, the world will little note nor long remember that God-awful hat that you wore today.  But just remember that four score and seven years ago this nation was founded……Hey Blogfinger, how many years is that ?”

He said, “You know, some day Mary and I will come back here to stay in a tent.  But I won’t  go on the beach if you allow Grant to smoke those horrid stogies. I hear he visits his sister by the lake, but, you know, that’s not really his sister,  Ha ha ha.   He likes to drink,  you know.  Hey Finger, you know what I’m saying?   I’ll come back if you can get Springsteen to play in the Auditorium.  I hope you get a hat like mine—very distinguished.”

Lincoln stayed for awhile longer, asking if the HPC is still annoying people in town.

He said, “In Washington we can take a drink once in a while.  What’s wrong with you people?”   Then he rode back to D.C. on the NJ Transit train where they gave him  a senior fare,  a dirty martini and a hot pastrami sandwich on rye, with a pickle.

When he got back to DC he went to a reunion of Hessians who remained here after the Revolutionary War.  In this rare recording you can hear Lincoln singing along to that 19th century ditty called “Gimmie a Beer.”

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Blogfinger interviews Igor and Aaron at the OG Bake shoppe. 7/18/19 Paul Goldfinger photo ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor

Igor Timkovsky is a Jewish immigrant from Russia. He believes his family was part of the great Diaspora of the Jewish people  (as was my family) which brought them to western Europe, probably Italy, perhaps 2,500 years ago.  Their lives were difficult through the Middle Ages. They experienced the Inquisition, forced conversions, Crusaders, black death, ghetto life, invasions, poverty, and religious suppression.

The Diaspora Jews were forced eastward in the 15th to 16th centuries, and Igor’s family settled  in the country of Belarus, east of Poland.

When Hitler invaded Russia, many peoples scattered, especially the Jews.  Igor’s family escaped into the Ural Mountains for safety from the Nazis.  There were some places that the Wehrmacht failed to reach.  During WWII many of his male relatives were lost in the war as soldiers, and  other  relatives were swept up by the Holocaust.

After the war, small numbers survived, and some then migrated to Israel or the US.  Igor was born in Belarus in 1962.

In 1992, thanks to a family reunion program for immigrants sponsored by two US Senators, Igor, his wife, daughter and parents escaped Communism and emigrated to NYC, Washington Heights, where they live now.

He had been an engineer in Russia, but here he got a masters degree and became a social worker.  His son Aaron was born in 2006 and will be entering public high school.  He is a bright young man, personable, bilingual, and with a strong and obvious attachment to his Dad.

Igor discovered Ocean Grove a few years ago and “fell in love” with this “amazing town.”  To see the Grove  through the eyes of an immigrant is very special. He enjoys walking on the boardwalk at night. He loves the “friendly, polite, and cultured people.”    He says that Ocean Grove feels “safe and comfortable” for his family.  Aaron, age 13, told me during our interview at the OG Bake Shoppe that he” loves” the way that they get here so easily:  bus, train and the walk over. They are currently vacationing, staying in a hotel near the beach.

But during a  July, 2017, afternoon, something happened to cement their feelings for the Grove.  Igor and Aaron were swimming in the ocean.  They were seemingly fine, but “suddenly” they were apart and had drifted farther out than they thought.  Igor quickly discovered that he could not touch bottom and he managed to join up with Aaron.  It seems they were caught in a rip tide. They had one boogie board to share.

Before they had a chance to panic, two OG lifeguards were at their side. One said to Igor, “Would you like to join me  on a trip to the shore?”  The other one gave Aaron a forceful shove with his board, and he quickly found himself on the shore.

Igor was overwhelmed with gratitude for the way the OG guards saved him and his son.  He wrote letters of profound appreciation to the life guards at bench 3 and 4–OG  Beach Patrol  and he even wrote a book of poems (2018)  dedicated to those guards, expressing  how he feels about what happened and about his love of this town. Even now, two years later, he cannot stop talking about it.

Igor is a Blogfinger fan, so he contacted me about his book Ocean Betrayal.

His book has 24 pages and 8 original and charming poems, punctuated by drawings and photographs. It is especially remarkable because English is Igor’s second language. We will post one of his poems soon.

If anyone is interested in contacting Igor about his book, just email Blogfinger and we will forward it.


ART GARFUNKEL  “A Heart in New York.”


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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Donna Fox has always loved the beaches at the Jersey Shore.  She grew up frolicking in the surf at Wildwood Crest where her mom took many action photos, some of which are represented in Donna’s new book,  Jersey Girl.

These days, Donna takes her four year old son to the Ocean Grove beach where they explore this part of the Shore.  Donna, a teacher,  continues to see the Shore through a child’s eyes, relishing the treasures  and “gifts” to be found,  the smell of the ocean, splashing in the surf, and digging in the sand.

Author Donna Fox at Nagle's for Blogfinger interview. Paul Goldfinger photo. © Dec. 10, 2015.

Author Donna Fox, a Jersey Girl, at Nagle’s for Blogfinger interview. Paul Goldfinger photo. © Dec. 10, 2015.

She says, “Jersey Girl has grown up knowing and loving the sights, sounds, and feel of the Jersey Shore.  She appreciates and notices every gift a day at the beach brings. ”

The illustrations were done by Ocean Grove artist Sue Gioulis and by Maria Lynskey.

Donna and her husband Brad  have had a home in Ocean Grove since 2009 when they won a Beersheba award for their restoration.

The book is being launched on Saturday, December 12, with signings at the Comfort Zone on Main Avenue in the Grove (12 pm to 2 pm) and at Carla Gizzi’s gift shop in Convention Hall from 6 pm to 8 pm. Her book can be purchased at the signings , at her web site   Jersey Girl web site link  , or online at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com.

We first met Donna six years ago when BF interviewed her after she won the Beersheba.  This time we caught up with her at Nagle’s on Main Avenue, one block to the beachfront, where we took her portrait.   It was important to set this photo at a place where you can actually step outside and smell the Atlantic Ocean.

Donna had to get special permission to use a lyric from Tom Waits song “Jersey Girl”   (“Down the shore everything’s all right.”)  But that lyric sentence says what Donna’s book is all about.

Bruce Springsteen made the song famous, and so that is what we will use for this post. We wish Donna good fortune with her first book, and there will be more to come.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the E STREET BAND   Live (album 1975-1985)






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Ocean Grove boardwalk. North End. 2012. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

Ocean Grove boardwalk. North End. 2012. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Woodward and Bernstein are not available to Blogfinger, so we rely on local sources of information. Yesterday we interviewed our own “Deep Throat”–a homeowner from Ocean Grove with a long history in this town. Since the Washington Post won a Pulitzer while using anonymous sources, I guess it’s OK for Blogfinger.

In an interview yesterday, a Grover offered his/her opinions about a number of town issues including the suspicious mess at the North End. Let’s call this Grover “Deep Coat” (or “DC”  for short.  Let’s assume that “DC” is a him)

Deep Coat has lived in this town for nearly 40 years. He has seen it go from “deterioration” during the 1980’s and then a bright “rise” in the 1990’s and finally downhill trends in recent years.  DC recalls when the town was being improved in the ’90’s by investors, especially “gay men” who came here from New York and who invested in homes in the Grove. He says that many early investors have left or are thinking about it.

He says that “greed” is mainly responsible for “destructive” happenings that began when old hotels morphed into “flop houses” and boarding houses in the 1980’s. The next such trend was more recent when those old buildings were turned into condos without parking. He calls that the “condoization” of our town and he sees that as dangerous to the Grove’s future.     He blames the Camp Meeting Association and the the Township Committee for allowing ugly big box condo’s to be built without parking and without following the original Master Plan of 1990 to have the entire town zoned for single family homes.

Deep Coat traces the start of the condo trend to the first conversion of an old hotel near the ocean at Ocean Pathway—a precedent setting project that was done despite violating construction/zoning rules in town and over the objections of an Ocean Pathway citizens organization.  He identifies the developer who did that, but we will not provide that name at this time without verification.

He also points to the current dramatic increase in property taxes which are occurring without concomitant improved services. DC says that this problem  will be a major source of discontent that will contribute to a downward slide.

Deep Coat is a home owner who watches home values carefully. He says that there are over 60 properties for sale in the Grove and that more homeowners will be selling as they see the rising taxes and the developing downward trends including the “mess” that will occur if the North End plan is implemented as currently approved. He predicts horrible parking problems and congestion, especially  near the beach if the NERP is  built.  This may cause him to sell and leave town.

Regarding the NERP, he says that WAVE consists of Ocean Grove residents—-especially investors from the Camp Meeting Association— and that is why they are not so eager to release their names. He thinks that they don’t care about the town, and he was harshly critical when Mary’s Place was mentioned.    DC believes that a compromise could be reached to allow a significantly downsized NERP to be implemented.

Regarding the Ocean Grove Home Groaners Assoc, he says that they used to be strong advocates in this town 30 years ago, but the current version is weak-kneed and missing in action.

As for what to do about the OG prognosis, he echoes the Blogfinger position, that only a public outcry led by town groups such as the HOA joining together to fight these tendencies might be effective.    He thinks that might stem the tide, but he, sadly, is deeply pessimistic.

We asked him who the good guys are in town, and he had trouble coming up with a few names. We need more names on that list. 

Smashing Pumpkins:


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Mt. Hermon Way. Ocean Grove homeowners want to know:  Blogfinger file photo ©

Mt. Hermon Way. Ocean Grove homeowners want to know.  Blogfinger file photo ©

Blogfinger wanted to have Mr. Bernard Haney, Neptune Township Assessor,  take a look at our readers’ issues as they weighed in by commenting at our post called: “Just Wondering: Are we in for a major increase in property taxes?”  Here is a link to that post:

Just wondering about prop. taxes

He has agreed to participate in this online interview-discussion format, so we are beginning here with our questions and then Mr. Haney’s first comment to be found by clicking on “comments” below.

BF approached Mr. Haney with these questions:

  1. There seem to be wide variations in the amounts of increased appraised value for different houses, even when expressed by percent increase.  Citizens have reported increases ranging from 11.8% up to 50%.   One woman told us that her house went up by $200,000. Another went up by $40,000. You can read the comments yourself.

— So the first  question is:  How do you explain the wide differences in the percent increase from house to house?

  1. People are worried about the tax increase that they anticipate will occur as a result of these appraisals.  Can you explain what their reasonable expectations might be regarding the tax implications for homeowners?

—–Please explain the factors that go into the tax determination so that those who don’t know can hear it from an expert?

  1. What effect will these appraisals have on the resale value of their homes. Is there any data on this question?
  1. For those who did not get their appraisal letter, how can they arrange to get one?

Mr. Haney preferred this email approach to a live interview.  So he got the ball rolling with a comment this afternoon.  Go to the “comments” page by clicking on “comments” below.

The goal here is to help clarify and educate our readers regarding the process, so please go to the comments section to offer opinions and/or questions for Mr. Haney that would further that objective.

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

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Steve Valk.   Photo by Paul Goldfinger ©  Ocean Grove, NJ

Steve Valk. Main Avenue in Ocean Grove, NJ, August, 2014.  Photo by Paul Goldfinger © Ocean Grove, NJ

Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

We interviewed Steve Valk last year in Ocean Grove  and we discussed his fascinating work in Germany with a new field called  “social choreography.”  He is an innovator and a social scientist who is interested  in how our communities can function in order to help people live better lives.  His ideas have  culminated in some tangible results.

Here is a link to our 2013 article about Steve:    Steve Valk 2013 BF article

Last year our conversation was about his concepts, but this time we met at the Bean to talk about Ocean Grove. I have long been interested in how this fascinating small town actually works:  its evolving demographics, its institutions, and its progress or lack thereof.   What are the dynamics that propel those who live here and how they relate to each other, their history, and to their town?

Steve has a unique perspective, having summered in OG for over 40 years and now  looking at it from the vantage point of living in another country. He can see the town through a special prism that might interest those of us who wonder about this place that we call home. It’s such a small space and it has some unique properties that make it a fascinating case study.  Valk is a thinker who is seriously considering studying Ocean Grove towards a Ph.D thesis.

He  is the Director of the Institute of Social Choreography in Frankfurt.  His most recent project there has been to create a residence for those who have no place to stay, where urban bee keeping is done.  Those who live there, even for short periods, are engaged in the business of bee keeping. It is a startlingly creative idea to keep the homeless sheltered and productive.

For our Ocean Grove discussion,  Steve had to first go back and talk about his history in the Grove.  He needed to do that to establish a baseline for our current topic.    As a boy, he was impressed by the relationship back in the ’70’s and ’80’s between the Grove and Asbury Park.  Many Grovers, although mainstreaming the religious life, would seek variety in Asbury where they could hear major New York dance bands in the Paramount Theatre and where they could go to Mrs. J’s, a sort of biker club near the Stone Pony, where rock was heard.  He says that Grovers needed that Asbury link, and that sister city mismatch  was attractive to home buyers who liked both sides of the coin.

Back in the Grove, he had young friends to hang with, and even though the town was in a state of “decrepitude”   (NY Times)   in the ’80s–into the /90’s, all the “good stuff” was still happening: the beach, the Great Auditorium, the religious life, the music, and the eateries such as the Sampler and the Grand Atlantic  where “half the town ate.” (Although both those places eventually closed, so that was  a blow.)

Valk also began to notice the appearance of gays in  town  and he was impressed that there was no discrimination against them and that they brought life to the community.  He says that the “transition” which occurred in the late ’80’s into the ’90’s was “a serious change for good.”

Soon he worked himself up to the present time where he now finds Ocean Grove to be “functioning very well.”  He recognizes  the changes that continue to occur but he sees a dynamic process that merits analysis.  Valk  finds that the town consists of “multiple separate resonating vertically integrated layers” including, for example, the Methodist community, the lifeguard/firemen , the merchants, the retirees, the part-time young families, the singles, the gays, etc.  He says that there are “activists” at each level who create motion vertically,  and “that ‘s what makes the town work.”

He has high praise for the Jersey Shore Arts Center where he walked in one day, not expecting much based on the outside appearance , but inside he loved the space and the “excellent arts community—-a collective project for the people.”   He wondered why the Camp Meeting Association was not supportive of that Center.

He admires Blogfinger because he sees us crossing the vertical barriers and examining those components  in our articles, augmented  by the music and photography.  He believes that such enhanced vertical integration, such as he also saw at the Arts Center, will make the town better.

Steve Valk feels the same way about the Camp Meeting Association which has its core mission, but it also crosses vertically.  Steve thinks that the townspeople tend to underestimate the religious life here.  Valk  goes to Sunday services—he comes from an old OG religious family.  He says that if outsiders were to listen to some of these visiting preachers, they would hear “great orators  with radical ideas.”    For example, the speaker last week has an extraordinary congregation consisting of over 700 addicts that he helps.

Regarding  the Ocean Grove gay community, he is a strong advocate for that group.   I think he sees Europe as being more open to the gays than in America.  Germany, like many European nations, is more socialistic , and there is more money available for programs focusing on social improvements.

He says that there are techniques that could be used in OG to promote better relations between the various groups in our town, some of which are quite insular. The town would improve more  if the  groups were communicating better.

He left on Saturday to attend an NFL pre-season game  (he’s a Pittsburgh fan) and to visit his friends in the art world.  Then it’s back to Frankfurt.

We’ll definitely see Steve again in the Grove.  He loves to bike all over, crisscrossing from  here to Asbury Park.  We asked him to reflect some more on his views about Ocean Grove and to consider sending those ideas to us for posting on BF.


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Phillip Smith.  Photo by Chris Lee

Phillip Smith. Photo by Chris Lee

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

Phillip Smith is no ordinary musician.  He is known world wide as one of the finest  classical trumpet players anywhere. When he isn’t performing as the principal trumpet for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, he plays in a variety of brass ensembles, such as the Imperial Brass with whom he appeared in July 2011 at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.*  Phillip has performed with the greatest orchestras, brass bands and wind ensembles all over the world.  He is on the faculty at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music.

Mr. Smith is good friends with Dr. Gordon Turk, who is the organist for our 11,000 pipe Hope-Jones organ and who is the producer of the incredible Summer Stars series held every July in the Great Auditorium.

Thanks to this relationship, as well as Phillip’s long history as a summer visitor and now part-time resident in Ocean Grove, we are going to have a unique opportunity to enjoy a Summer Stars concert organized by Mr. Smith for July 4.

In an interview this past week with Mr. Smith, we were able to discuss some special questions with him.  Phil (we are now on a first name basis) has been coming to the Grove since childhood for the summer fun, and in 2005,  he “took the plunge” and bought an OG cottage which he visits year-round with his wife, the soprano Sheila Smith. His other home is in north Jersey.   He recalls playing in summer rock bands at Convention Hall in Asbury Park when he was a youngster in the Grove.

Phil describes himself as a Christian, and his faith has energized his artistry as well as some of his musical choices such as playing with the  Salvation Army’s staff bands worldwide. During that 2011 concert in OG, he told the audience that there is “joy in Ocean Grove” and that being here “refreshes our spiritual souls.” He fondly recalls a musical moment when he stood in the far highest reaches of the Great Auditorium with Gordon Turk below on organ, and they played Bach’s  “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.”  Phil says that the sound was “other worldly.”

According to Phil, the Great Auditorium is a “fabulous building,” and the acclaim for its acoustics is well deserved. Phil looks forward to playing in the GA, although he admits that the heat can sometimes be a big issue for performers, especially those with delicate instruments whose tuning can be easily compromised.

The July 4 concert is called “I Love NY Brass Concert.” Phil is bringing some of the finest New York musicians  (see below) for this celebration of America and its music.  Phil said that he chose “people that I like and respect.”  The group consists of seven brass players (plus Dr. Turk on organ)  who will present a  mixture of classical pieces, Americana, Broadway and Disney selections, marches, and patriotic tunes including a tribute to the armed forces. There will be some special treats including a trumpet solo by Phil Smith where you can hear his exquisite sound,  as well as a two pieces where the brass and the Hope-Jones organ, with Dr. Turk on the console,  join together—you can imagine what that will sound like. I can’t wait.

Phillip Smith played Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.” when he performed here in 2011. That arrangement was written for Mr. Smith by his friend and colleague Joseph Turrin.  Phil is not known as a performer of jazz, but this song was very special to him because it reminds him of “his faith” and is a tribute to his father, Derek Smith, a renowned cornet soloist,  who was his first teacher.  Phil said that many performers wanted to use the arrangement, but the Gershwin family wouldn’t allow it to be published.  Below is a recording of Mr. Smith playing that arrangement with Mr. Turrin on piano.

PHILLIP SMITH  (trumpet) and  JOSEPH TURRIN (piano and arranger.)  Instrumental version of  George  (music) and Ira Gershwin’s  (lyrics) “Someone to Watch Over Me.”  From the musical “Oh Kay” (1926)

The concert on Thursday, July 4, begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Auditorium . Tickets are $15.00 each at 800-590 4064  or WWW.oceangrove.org.

Here is a link* to the Blogfinger article about that 2011 concert in the GA  including a video of Phillip performing Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.”  But the audio above is better quality.

Phil Smith performs  in OG

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By Charles Layton

My grandson plays on a hockey team called the Glaciers.

I love my grandson, and I love his team (Go, Glaciers!), but why would you name a hockey team after a natural feature that symbolizes extreme slowness? Would you name a team the Snails? The Sloths? The Drying Paint? I liked the name of his previous team. It was called the Blazers.

Here in Ocean Grove we have what strikes me as another example of an ill-advised name: The Albatross Hotel. Now an albatross is a large seabird which was feared as a bad omen by sailors of old. You didn’t dare kill one; it could bring down disaster upon your entire ship and crew, as happened in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Someone plagued with bad luck was said to have “an albatross around his neck.”

One of the worst names I ever encountered was in Ecuador. Mary and I once took a flight from the national capital, Quito, to the little Amazon jungle town of Coca, and the airline we flew on was called Icaro. That name, Icaro, is the Spanish rendering of Icarus, a young man in ancient mythology whose father built him a set of wings made from feathers stuck together with wax. When Icarus took to the sky, he ignored his father’s warning and flew too close to the sun. The sun’s heat melted the wax, the wings disintegrated, and Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

So if you owned an airline, would you name it after Icarus? I wouldn’t.

Icaro Airlines. Note the feathered wing design on the tail.

People on the American frontier had a tendency to give odd and laughable names to small towns. Tightwad, Missouri. Bug Tussle, Oklahoma. Spunky Puddle, Ohio. Possumneck, Mississippi. Hell, Michigan.

One wonders what life is like in Hell, Michigan. Is the road to Hell paved with good intentions? Are the people there Hellions? Does Hell ever freeze over? (I bet it does.) Do the residents of Hell get sick and tired of hearing the same old wisecracks? (I bet they do.)

How do town founders decide on such names? Alcohol might play a part. One thing is for sure, if Bug Tussle had ever had dreams of blossoming into a major metropolis, hosting the Olympic Games or becoming the capital of the state of Oklahoma, those dreams went right out the window as soon as it acquired its name.

Some people acquire or give themselves nicknames that are funny. The actors Slim Pickens and Rip Torn come to mind. I don’t think those pun names hurt either of their careers.

Ima Hogg, circa 1900

The amazing thing, though, is that, cruel as it seems, people actually do give their children joke names. Texas had a governor in the late 19th century named James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg, who named his daughter Ima Hogg. Ima was still around when I was young. In fact, her name was a joke among children all across Texas. We were told that Governor Hogg had had two daughters, Ima Hogg and Ura Hogg. Only recently did I discover that Ura Hogg was fictitious.

But Ima Hogg was for real. She was a pillar of Texas society and quite wealthy after oil was discovered on her property. She became a philanthropist and a noted art collector who donated hundreds of works (Picasso, Klee, Matisse) to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. She also established and managed the Houston Symphony Orchestra. She worked for equality for women, for the advancement of African-Americans and much, much more. She was hell on wheels, and you have to wonder whether living with that name helped drive her to such heights of achievement.

Ima Hogg died in 1975, much beloved and respected as “The First Lady of Texas.”

So, as Shakespeare said, what’s in a name?

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We were over at the “shoe exhibit” where we met Barbara Brennan, a photographer who was walking around the site, taking pictures.   We are starting a new idea at Blogfinger—obtaining audio interviews with Ocean Grovers.  Barbara was kind enough to be  our first subject and to share her feelings about the exhibit with us.       Paul Goldfinger, editor  @Blogfinger

Barbara Brennan. Ocean Grove, September 9, 2011. By Paul Goldfinger

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