Six Reasons Why Nashville is the Music City

1. The best bar bands in the world play in Nashville’s honky tonks.

2. Records

Nashville record store

Ernest Tubb Record Shop. If it ain’t here it probably ain’t country.

Jack White’s Third Man Records

3. Guitars

Carter Vintage Guitars

Taylor Swift's guitar

Taylor Swift played this one

4. The Mother Church of Country Music

That was the name given to the Ryman Auditorium during the 30+ year stay of the Grand Ole Opry. The building itself dates back to 1892 when it was called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. It was renamed the Ryman upon the death of Thomas G Ryman who raised the funding for the building. In addition to sermons, the Ryman, in its early years hosted music like John Philip Sousa’s Band and speakers that included Susan B. Anthony and Booker T. Washington.

The church of country music

The Opry left the Ryman in the 70’s for seemingly greener pastures. The old auditorium underwent a renovation in the 90’s and still serves as a downtown venue for a wide range of music. This fall’s schedule includes UB40, Boz Skaggs, Ben Folds, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kesha. Jason Isbell is booked for a week of shows and the Academy of Country Music Awards presentation is this week.

Historic Nashville music venue

5. The Ole Opry is still Grand

When the Opry left the Ryman it moved a few miles outside of downtown to an off-highway location. It built a bigger and more spacious facility, but no doubt lost some character. But once you get inside….

The Opry is a pretty unique show. It features multiple acts that do two or three songs at the most. On the night I attended there were 11 performers in a two hour time frame. But this isn’t amateur hour talent show, there were Grammy winners, County Music Association award winners, even one Country Music Hall of Fame member. And it’s a live radio show that you can hear on WSN Online There’s even a live radio announcer reading commercials after every couple of songs.

Before I went to Nashville, I would have told you I’m not that interested in country music. I’ll never say that again.

Nashville's Grand Ole Opry

Riders in the Sky

6. The Legend of Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

Just a few of many

Cash Museum, Nashville




(Photos are from the Johnny Cash Museum)


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A Season of Ballpark Food

Citi Field, Queens, N.Y., home of the New York Mets

Citi Field food

Pat LaFrieda filet mignon sandwich. Delicious. But costs about as much as an upper deck ticket.

the classics

Pulled port sandwich

Blue Smoke pulled pork. Tastes much better than it looks in this picture. This was a late inning buy. The staff had lost interest in presentation.

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater, N.J., home of the Somerset Patriots

Burrito Bowl

Burrito bowl with beef brisket and roasted tomato salsa

TD Bank ballpark beer stand

and for a chaser

Healthy plate

Considering that I ate all this other stuff, I didn’t think a stop here would help that much.

Arm & Hammer Park, Trenton, N.J., home of the Trenton Thunder

Thunder food guide

Palisades Credit Union Park, Pomona, N.Y., home of the Rockland Boulders

Japanese in Rockland

Chicken teriyaki and dumplings. One of the best ballpark meals I had.

Skylands Park, Augusta, N.J., home of the Sussex County Miners

hot dogs

The best straight-up hot dogs I had were at Sussex County


Best deal of the summer. (And they’re every bit as good as they look.)

Miners sausage

Italian sausage with peppers and onions. In a state where there is an Italian deli on ever block, they could do a lot better than this. By the way, I went to several Miners games. I didn’t eat all this at one game.

Yogi Berra Stadium, Little Falls, N.J., home of the New Jersey Jackals


Jackals gelotti

funnel cake

Yikes! Look a the sugar on this one.



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Trump’s Little Whorehouse on the Prairie

At the very end of the 19th century, some 100,000 or so prospectors made their way north toward the Canadian Yukon in search of their fortune. Most of the participants in the Klondike Gold Rush came away empty handed. It has been estimated that gold rush mineronly about 4% found gold. But some others learned they could make a fortune off of these fortune seekers. Because when some of the guys did score some gold dust, they might go over to the nearest pop up town and look for some loving. And that’s when they’d head on over to Fred Trump’s place.

16-year-old Friedrich Trump, grandfather of Donald Trump, arrived in the U.S. from Germany in 1885. If you are just counting cash, Grandpa Trump was an immigrant success story. But, like some of his descendants, he had an erratic relationship with the truth and with the law. Trump lied about his age to become an American citizen. He built one of his first establishments in Washington state on land he didn’t own. On his way up to the Yukon he set up a canteen on a dangerous mountain pass known as Dead Horse Gulch. It got its name from the number of dead animals that lay strewn across the pass as a result of owners who whipped them to exhaustion. What did Trump serve at his canteen? Horse meat. Today we might call it road kill.

gold rush

Trump started out in New York working in a barber shop. After a few years he headed west seeking his fortune. His first venture was to buy a restaurant called the Poodle Dog, which he later renamed the Dairy Restaurant, in the middle of Seattle’s red light district. David Cay Johnson, author of The Making of Donald Trump, describes another of Grandpa Trump’s early ventures: “On a piece of land he didn’t own, right across from the train station, Friedrich built a hotel of sorts—one intended mostly for, shall we say, active short stays, not overnight visits.”

But where Trump made his real money was in gold rush territory. He opened a restaurant called the Arctic with a partner in the town of Bennett, British Columbia. Bennett was a way station for fortune seekers headed north. On the menu was salmon, duck, goose and swan. High end stuff for gold rush country. And it was open 24 hours. But, alas, it was no place for family dining. An ad in the Bennett Sun in 1899 mentioned the “private boxes for ladies and parties.” These boxes came equipped with a bed and a scale. We know what the bed was for, but the scale? I found this answer in the Canadian news magazine Macleans:  “’Ladies of the night’ often hiked the trail in skirts, and they stayed at the Arctic Hotel to entertain gold diggers, using a scale to weigh gold powder for payment.”

A new railroad line eventually bypassed Bennett. Trump disassembled his restaurant, loaded the lumber onto a barge, and reopened in Whitehorse, the terminus of the rail line.

Pockets full, Grandpa Trump hightailed it out of gold rush country in 1901 amidst rumors that the Canadian Mounties were about to begin enforcing prostitution and alcohol laws. He headed back to Germany where he married Trump’s grandmother. But he didn’t stay long. The Germans, determining that he had left to avoid military service, tossed him out. So he picked up his 80,000 marks (estimated to be the equivalent of a half-million Euros today) and headed back to New York where he made the first Trump family real estate investments.

Was the Trump family fortune originally earned on the backs (or should we say some other body parts) of the sex workers of the Yukon? No one really knows for sure whether the profits came from the roasted duck or the ‘sporting ladies.’

Much of what we know about Trump’s grandfather comes from the research of Gwenda Blair, author of the book “The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire.” That book was written in 2000, long before we thought Trump was a serious Presidential candidate.

Trump himself has denied the whole story. He claims his grandfather was of Swedish descent. But it is believed the Swedish heritage claim was started by Trump’s father who, during the years between the world wars, had a number of Jewish customers for his real estate business and wanted to hide the German heritage of his parents.

When he finds out there is money to be made, Trump might change his tune. In true Trumpian entrepreneurial fashion, some Canadians are trying to restore the Arctic and make it a tourist attraction. Imagine the lure, for the American tourist in particular, of getting to bring the family to the site of our 45th President’s grandfather’s whorehouse.

(Photos from the New York Public Library public domain digital collection.)


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Scenes from the Jersey Shore

Ferris wheel view

Sunset over Wildwood, from the top of the Mariner’s Pier ferris wheel

shore marina

Sea Isle City near Townsend’s Inlet

Stone Harbor beach

Beach entrance, Stone Harbor

salt marsh

The Wetlands Institute, Stone Harbor

Wetands Institute bird house

Wetlands Institute, Stone Harbor

Avalon bay

Sunset over the bay in Avalon

Wildwood beach

The beach in Wildwood



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Glass in the Garden

Chihuly exhibit

New York Botanical Garden

Summer 2017
Chihuly glass

Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower

Chihuly glass

Red Reeds on Logs

Chihuly glass

with duck and ducklings

Chihuly glass

Macchia Forest

Chihuly glass

Persian Pond and Fiori

Chihuly glass


Chihuly glass

White Tower with Fiori



Chihuly glass

Sol del Citron


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Oh the Things Thomas Edison Thought Of

like the phonograph

Edison phonograph

Edison’s first sound recording was of himself singing Mary Had a Little Lamb. But the inventor saw the phonograph as something with far more uses than just recorded music. Among his suggestions for future uses of the phonograph were:

  • To record books for the blind.
  • Letter writing
  • Record and preserve the last words of dying family members.
  • Speaking dolls
  • The teaching of elocution
First phonograph record

The first phonograph ‘records’ consisted of a sheet of aluminum foil wrapped around a cylinder

and the light bulb

Site of Edison's Menlo Park lab

This tower stands at the site of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park, N.J., lab which was built in 1876. The original tower was built in 1929 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the invention of the light bulb. That tower was destroyed by lighting and was replaced by this one which was built in 1938. Atop the tower is a replica of the Edison light bulb.

Edison's light bulb

Edison was not the first to create a light bulb. But the earlier versions were expensive, didn’t last and used up large amounts of energy. Edison promised, “to make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” He produced a bulb that ran on a generator and lasted 13.5 hours.

One of the first buildings to be illuminated with Edison’s electric light bulbs was Sarah Jordan’s boarding house. “Aunt Sallie” was a distant relative of Edison’s. She left her home in Newark at his behest to run a boarding house in Menlo Park for Edison’s single employees (all male). It was the best lit place in town.

and the motion picture

the first film studio

Replica of Black Maria at the Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, N.J.

Black Maria was the nation’s first film studio. The slanted roof on the right side of the studio would open and allow the sun to shine on the stage. As the hour of the day changed the position of the sun, the staff would get out and rotate the studio to keep nature’s spotlight on Edison’s motion picture stage.

In 1894 a kinetoscope parlor opened in New York City. The kinetoscope was an individual viewing machine with which a customer could insert a quarter and see some of the films produced at Black Maria. Among the early titles were Blacksmiths, Barber Shop, Cockfight, Wrestling and Trapeze.

the kinetoscope

and the waffle iron?

sandwich grill

Edicraft sandwich grill

Edicraft was one of Thomas Edison’s companies that was housed at his lab in West Orange. Edicraft produced “electric servants” like the waffle maker below in the 1920’s. But alas, the Depression destroyed the market for luxury kitchen appliances and Edicraft went out of business in the 1930’s.

Edicraft waffle maker

Waffle maker

Edison's lab

Edison’s West Orange laboratory, originally opened in 1887, has been preserved as the Edison National Historic Park

Thomas Edison's desk

Edison’s desk

Edison machine shop

The machine shop in West Orange



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Slithering Through the Reptile House


Water monitor

Mertens’ Water Monitor

Reptile and Amphibian House

Cape May County (N.J.) Park and Zoo

Cape May zoo snake

Burmese Python

Cape May Zoo turtle

Leopard Tortoise

Cape May Zoo snake

Green Tree Python

Cape May Zoo alligator

Chinese Alligator

Cape May Zoo turtle

Chinese Box Turtle

lizard eating lunch

Red Tegu

Cape May Zoo iguana

Rhinocerus Iguana

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Film Review — Dawson City: Frozen Time

It’s the 1970’s in a remote Yukon Territory town. A guy with a back hoe is digging out a future construction site and he sees film popping up out of the earth. Lots of it. Fast forward to when it’s dug out, stored, clean up and processed and what he has found includes some 300+ silent movies for which no other copy is in existence.

Front Street

Front Street, Dawson City

The short version of the story behind this discovery is this. Dawson City, a Klondike gold rush town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, attracted tens of thousands of miners. At one time 40,000 people converged on this pop-up western town and it had three theaters. By the time first run silent movies of the 1910’s and 1920’s got to Dawson City they were two or three years old and this was the end of the distribution line. They were of little value to other theaters and no one wanted to pay to ship them back. So they got discarded and buried until this discovery.

An interesting story made fascinating by the way it is told by director Bill Morrison. This isn’t about talkies, so there’s not much dialogue. Occasional sparse sentences appear on the screen with some explanation. But mostly this is visual and the visuals are the clips from the movies that were literally unearthed in Dawson City.

Silent filmFor any period of history, there are a few classics that survive over time, whether that is movies or literature or music.  Most of us have seen one of the silents that survived, maybe Birth of a Nation or the Great Train Robbery. But these are exceptions and may not tell us what it was like to spend every Saturday night in the theater in 1915 or 1920. Morrison’s documentary does.

In addition to the film clips there are photos recovered from a photography studio that operated in Dawson City at the start of the century. Like the movies there are no words with these. There’s no names or stories. You see the faces, the clothes, the settings and you use your imagination to picture what is was like living in one of these boom then bust towns on the outskirts of civilization.

Morrison also shows us some rare historical footage recovered from newsreels that were shown in the theaters. For example, there is footage of the 1919 World Series with the infamous Chicago Black Sox.

If you are at all interested in film history, you can’t miss this. If you’re not you are still in for a unique entertainment if you can find it. I don’t think it will be coming around to your local highway megaplex anytime soon but it is enjoying a limited run at some art houses. IFC is showing it in New York. And everything eventually shows up online.

(Photos from New York Public Library Public Domain Digital Collection.)


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I spent a week at the Jersey Shore and all I ate was crab.

Crab legs

King crab legs, Sylvester’s Fish Market, Avalon

Crabmeat cocktail

Crabmeat cocktail with mustard sauce, Oceanside Seafood, Avalon


Bavarian pretzel stuffed with crab dip and cheese, Joe’s Fish Co., Wildwood

Shrimp stuffed with crab

Shrimp stuffed with crabcake. Joe’s Fish Co., Wildwood

Guacamole with crab

Crabmeat guacamole, Quahog’s Seafood Shack, Stone Harbor

Broiled crabcakes

Broiled crabcakes, Sylvester’s Fish Market, Avalon

Wetlands Institute event

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Future of Radio: Radio 2.0

Throughout this series of posts about the future of radio, I’ve made a point of how surprisingly well traditional terrestrial radio has hung on and how it has maintained its audience despite a plethora of digital alternatives. But ultimately few question the inevitability of the internet replacing the technology that was derived from Marconi in the early 20th century. One country, Norway, has already announced a date for the full replacement of FM transmissions with new digital audio broadcasting technologies.

Digital can free up radio in a number of ways:

  • There can be an unlimited number of stations.
  • On the internet there are no geographical limitations as to where a station can be heard
  • Broadcasts need not be live, and the audience can have the ability to listen when and where they choose.
  • Government regulation and fees go away as their control over bandwidth loses relevance.
  • It is far less likely that a few large corporations can monopolize whole markets as they currently do on AM and FM.
  • Radio can be available on an even broader set of devices than terrestrial radio already is and importantly, it can be available on the devices most commonly used by younger generations.
  • It makes broadcasting available to everyone, much as the internet potentially made everyone a publisher.

radio towerTraditional radio, despite having proved more entrenched than some other traditional media, nonetheless will face the same sort of digital transformation that other media have faced in the last couple decades. As the internet and the web became more and more popular and as the number of people with broadband proliferated, print and television in particular were often slow and awkward in making the transitions. The print media initially responded by taking what they published in print and posting it online. Only after they started to see their audience drift away to online information services, whether it be Google or Facebook, or even the Huffington Post, they began to realize that a digital information service required a different approach than a once a day print newspaper.

Radio’s first response to the digital world was similar. Put up the live stream of the radio programs that currently existed on the station. What came to be called Web 2.0 emphasized interactivity, personalization and on demand information.  Digital audio services have delivered some of these same qualities. Pandora lets you program your own radio station. Podcasting lets you subscribe only to the programs you want to receive and to listen to them at your leisure.  You can even ask a digital assistant like Siri or Alexa to play only the song you want to hear at that moment. Are we perhaps on the verge of seeing Radio 2.0?

But we should also keep in mind that terrestrial radio has not hung onto its audience because anyone thinks the century old technology is better. It’s because of the programming and specifically the local programming that is led by people who are part of the community. It has local news and traffic and weather, community service announcements and even local advertisements. Radio builds communities and it’s not just geographic but can be ethnic or age group or lifestyle communities. That’s all something that algorithms aren’t very good at. It’s a blind spot for digital news and digital video and it is likely to continue to be for digital audio as well.

broadbandCan radio 2.0 leverage the capabilities that digital offers while maintaining the characteristics that make radio unique? Here are a few possibilities:

  • As a community builder, radio is a perfect partner for social media. Not just as a way of promoting radio, social media itself could be a broadcast vehicle, or it could offer a kind of conference call environment that talk radio currently lacks.
  • Advertisers salivate over the potential for GPS to bring very targeted, perhaps even hyperlocal ads, to your smartphone. Can GPS be a kind of program selector for radio, offering one type of programming for someone in the car, another for someone on a hike in the woods and maybe some chill-out programming for people waiting on line at the DMV?
  • Many of the successful early web-based information services relied heavily on curation. Can radio be a curator of audio? Take podcasts, for example. As they continue to proliferate they become harder and harder to find and organize. Radio could fulfill that function and could broadcast podcasts on demand. It would even be a way of providing ‘stations” for niche audiences that want things like poetry or short stories.
  • As we approach a time of sensor equipped wearables, can your wrist band tell your smartphone delivered radio to play something with a beat when you’re exercising or maybe something dreamy when you’re sitting in the park?

But more than anything else, what I look forward to with digital radio is hundreds of stations, localized maybe even to the point of a neighborhood or a building, managed by local talent who are part of the community the stations serve. A little bit like the way radio got started.

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