Archive for Piney

The Cycle of Seasons and My Life

Posted in Reflections with tags , , , on December 18, 2013 by Verge

Half a year.  What a difference.  We end Summer in anticipation of harvest.  It’s time to relax, time to enjoy what we have, time to enjoy family and friends.  Because others don’t have nearly the life we get to enjoy.  Others don’t even get to laugh, to smile, to be together.  Often, we take it for granted.


And Autumn sets in.   It’s odd we have such a reverence for the beauty of dying.  But we all know things end.  Leaves fall.  Life dies.  We learn to relish the beauty of inevitable end.

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As things get colder, things sometimes seem stranger.  Unusual and unexpected things can happen in the dark.  Things you never even knew were possible.  And sometimes they can scare the shit out of you.  It’s odd that I’m afraid of the dark.  Always have been.  Ever since I can remember.  And even more ironic that I now work in a pitch black dark room for a living, alone, isolated with my thoughts of what might take hold of me.

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sometimes it can really freak me out.  I know the movies I watched when I was younger were just entertainment.  All fun and games, right?   It’s not really happening.  But for some reason, I took things too seriously.  I believed those things might happen.   Something or someone might grab my ankle as I lay in bed one night.  And that would absolutely give me an immediate heart attack.

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So I try to remind myself it’s all an act, it’s all for entertainment.  People get hurt, but at the end of the story, everyone gets up unfazed.   Everything is still fine.  No one really gets hurt.  And we get to do it all over again next weekend.  Next movie in my life.

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The end of Autumn comes and permanent changes set it.  The cold inevitably arises.  But there are always traditions that make us all feel warm.   Like a family.  That always makes loneliness feel fleeting.  We’re all together…and happy.  So nothing could harm us anymore.  So, together, we look forward to the holidays, the new year, and amazing memories that have yet to be made with each other.

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And things are warm.  But winter storms arrive.   Things shut down.  We end up stuck at home, isolated from the world.  We don’t even want to go out into the frozen world outside.  It’s just easier to stay in bed all day.  Alone, in the dark.   That’s where it’s safe.   We can ignore the outside world, the reality of bad weather.

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But I don’t ever believe that Spring isn’t coming.  It will always be warm again.  Storms come and go, but the seasons never end.  You can’t turn back time.  There are no U-turns.   Instead, you move ahead, convinced that Winter will only last so long, that things will be brought back to life and are only temporarily frozen.   More memories will be made.  More pictures will be taken.  More blogs will be written (cause that’s what makes me feel normal).  More good times to remember together.  I have to convince myself that we should never be afraid of the dark.  I have faith that there will always be light after darkness.  Such brightness.


Winefest 2011 @ Valenzano

Posted in Daily Pictures, Friends and Family, Good Times with tags , , on September 30, 2011 by Verge

wow, I have been amazingly busy the last few months.  Working extremely hard on remodeling my house, which is coming along tremendously, albeit slowly.  I’m doing a ton of work mostly by myself, and mostly in the few hours after work before I have dinner and go to bed.  The weekends are usually filled with my part time job, and when I get a chance to breathe for a day, I have as much fun as I can.

Which brings me to Winefest 2011!  The third year in a row I’ve been able to attend, I highly recommend this event for wine lovers anywhere near South Jersey.  This year they even had 6 or so other wineries on board, which made for a tasting of nearly 100 different wines!

we finally got our own tent this year, which is the way to go! you get reserved seating, and 6 free bottles of wine, guaranteed tickets and parking, express check in, and it only costs a few dollars more than regular admission. We'll be back for sure.

we brought a pretty large contingency, with Kreg and Kat, Wendy and Jason with my niece and nephew, Molly and her friend...

...of course, my awesome parents, even my dad who off roaded his scooter through some vineyards to get to the all-you-can-sample wines...

...and me, trying my hardest to sport a scruffy Autumn beard, with Monika.

last year, we really wanted to check out the helicopter, but it was sold out. This year, we splurged and went for it!

so here we go. I've been in a helicopter before, but Monika hasn't. I can't say that flying over the Pine Barrens was even remotely as beautiful as flying over the waterfalls of Hawaii, but it's still like a roller coaster without a track.

I've studied maps of this area for a long time. Modern and historical. Pretty extensively. Even though the pilot points out Philadelphia and Atlantic City, I can pinpoint Atsion, Apple Pie Hill, the old rail lines, old saw mills, and other forgotten remnants of a once booming South Jersey industrial area reclaimed by nature.

surprisingly, there's still a lot of privately owned farmland in the area. One day it will be all condominiums, for sure.

we were in a much smaller aircraft than I've ever flown in, except I guess the hot air balloon we rode for my dad's birthday one year. The copter only held the three of us, and there were no doors and it was basically a big glass ball with a tail. I wondered what good a fire extinguisher would do us if we caught fire in this flying milk crate one thousand feet in the sky.

Monika smiles as she confirms it was worth the price to take a five minute chopper ride over the festival, kamikaze style.

this is the parking lot as we came back in for a landing. there's some grapes growing in there somewhere.

I know there are better pictures out there, but hey, this is all I've got time to document. After Winefest, we went to Kelly's to hang out and wind down. It was a hell of a day, to be quite honest. great times, for the third year in a row!

Hiking and Eagles

Posted in Daily Pictures, Good Times with tags , , , on September 14, 2010 by Verge

Monika works 7 days a week, which can obviously be pretty exhausting.  Especially because 5 of those days are spent chasing toddlers.  I can’t even imagine the patience and determination one needs to accomplish such a task.  Sunday she made it home by one.  I made her lunch, gave her free pick to do whatever she wanted that afternoon.

lunch (that's right, I took a picture of my sandwich. that's perfectly normal to me)

Monika called her sister because she had decided we were going hiking.  half an hour later, we packed up some things and headed here.

people dump garbage in the woods, we play on it


I collect stamped bricks with different names. I found three I've never seen before.

cool tree


here's a shot that includes the abandoned rail road tracks

monika was in charge of the phone

Later, when we got back to the house, the Eagles game was on.  Usually Kreg and I watch the game together all season long, but he was occupied, so I had to try to watch alone.  I’m not really the biggest football fan to begin with, but to try to watch it with two completely uninterested women really is quite difficult.

Oh, and it’s kind of a challenge when you don’t have cable…

untangling the antenna for the first time since January (the end of last season)

comcast with power boost really does make things move faster

Hi Def baby!

We made a pizza to enjoy while watching the Eagles suck! It came out awesome


Later that night, after the game, I pickled peppers (for real), but that is a post all its own.  Then, to an early bed because I had to be up at 5 am to go and work week one of the new season.

Keg & Barrel and Sisters Nightclub

Posted in Daily Pictures, Good Times with tags , , , on September 13, 2010 by Verge

I began to brew my own beer a few years ago when Kreg got one of those Mr. Beer kits.  Over the years, he and I have found time whenever we can to experiment with different recipes and methods.  Some batches are an amazing success and I’m eager to share a homebrew with friends who will be obviously thoroughly impressed at my amazing brewing skills.  Others have been dumped into the sewer, literally.

Not long ago, there was a home brew supply store down off the Black Horse Pike called Beercrafters.  They had ample supplies and a well learned staff who were pretty damn helpful.  I learned a lot there, and spent even more money.  For some reason, after 16 years, they suddenly closed, and I was left to search for a reliable shop that wasn’t in Philly or in Freehold.

Then, like magic, a new shop opened in the Berlin Farmer’s Market right around the corner from my house in Atco.  At first, there wasn’t a ton of stuff, but over the weeks, the bare shelves started to fill up with product.  And good product, tons of product I had never seen at the “other” beer supply stores.  So, I had found a new supply store and the brewing proceeded.

Now, when Kreg and I brew beer, we usually drink beer.  Brewing beer is exactly like drinking a lot of beer except that the stove is on and the entire house smells like beer, so guests don’t know it’s actually you reeking.  On several occasions, we had to make runs to the beer store on the day of the brew for some last minute supplies.

A few times I ran into a girl who was working the register and helping out customers.  The store really isn’t all that busy, maybe 2 or 3 people in there at a time, max.  So Gina was really helpful and pretty outgoing and really tried to make customers feel welcome.  Turns out, it’s her and her husband’s shop.  Pretty good motivation to be friendly and helpful.

So, with a nice buzz on, I noticed a sign on the register that said help wanted.  I asked her about it and she offered to take my information down.  I gave it up, not knowing the hours they needed filled, nor the cash it would be paying.  I just thought, “hey, what the hell, working at a beer making store would be pretty cool, right?”

Well, I didn’t hear from Gina, or her husband for at least  a month, and based on my social skills at that first interview, and the scrawl that would only pass for an application at a car wash or gas station, I figured they’d dismissed me all together.  Not so!  They called, and I now work at Keg & Barrel, the finest home brew and wine supply store this side of the Delaware River.

If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, I'm grabbing my Winchester and headed to the home brew store. Enough supplies to keep me alive for at least...a week.

This is the Berlin Mart interior. Filled with crap, tube socks, weird foods I would never eat and...

...the finest tee shirts money can buy!

The bathrooms have granite floors and marble sinks. that red thing outside the door on the table...Yep! that's actually a tip jar for the guy who thinks this is "clean."

Well, my first day was pretty good.  The staff I worked with were awesome, friendly, and totally helpful.  The customers weren’t too bad either.  I definitely know, for fact, I will have many a blog telling stories about the lively characters you’ll find at the Berlin Mart.  And, I’ll have a little extra beer money.  How convenient.

Later that night, we headed into Philly to Sisters Nightclub to celebrate the marriage of two friends to one another.  They were friends that Monika had met in grad school and are awesome.  Monika not only convinced them to get married where we got married (The Valley Green Inn, because it’s just damn beautiful), but also that they should use our photographer friend Kat to shoot their whole wedding.

sisters from the parking deck across the street

Jenn (the bride), Monika (hands off!) and Kat (photographer)

didn't want to take too many pictures in a club, but the self portrait is a must

Congratulations Megan and Jenny!  It just gets better and better, I promise.

Rail Road Hiking

Posted in Good Times with tags , , , , , on January 19, 2010 by Verge

Over the weekend, Monika and I went on two afternoon hikes.  In our haste, we forgot to charge our camera the first day, and the second day it was raining, so we have no photos of our excursions, which suits me just fine because the hikes were more about collecting the experience rather than a few photos.

It’s hard to explain why I am so enamored by old railroad tracks and trains because I’m not really sure myself.  I can be reasonably assured that trains have always been a fascination of little boys.  My nephew loves them and has a sizable collection, some of which I contributed.  Of course he watches Tommy.  I remember setting up train tracks in our basement every Christmas when I was a kid.  They were my fathers, and I still have them in my attic, although they haven’t been set up in years.  I don’t have a basement, but someday…

There were a lot of “right-of-ways” that ran close or through Atco.  Most of these were, in the beginning, for cutting down trees  in the Pine Barrens and bringing them to Philadelphia for the expanding city.  They also transported the glass that was made in several glass furnace factories located in the woods to the city for windows in the newly built buildings.

In later years, the destinations reversed, and trains instead hurried passengers from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in a trip that formerly took over a day to make.  In fact, nearby Berlin, formerly Long-a-Coming, was originally an overnight stop on that trip.  When the name of the local train station there began to confuse travelers, they changed the name from Stratford Station to Berlin, along with the name of the town itself.

There are two active lines that still run latitudinally through Atco.  One is right through the Center of town and has been there for as long as Atco has existed.  These days, it’s run by NJ Transit and can technically bring you from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia all the way to Atlantic city.  It connects with PATCO at Lindenwold and Amtrak at 30th Street.  There, you can catch the Northeast Corridor Line that will bring you from D.C. to Boston.

The other one is to the south of Atco and was part of the Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Line, originally called the Pennsylvania Atlantic City Rail Road Line.  I’m no expert yet, and I’m always reading more and more, but I think at one point it may have been absorbed into the Central Rail Road of New Jersey, and perhaps again reabsorbed into Conrail in the 1970’s.

This line still operates as well, but it is not a passenger line and I believe only transports freight.  It runs from Camden in the West to Atlantic City in the East and you’ll rarely catch a glimpse of a train running on the tracks.  We’ve hiked on this line a bunch of times and I’ve never seen a train running on it.  This is the railway that runs through the center of Clementon right next to Harper’s Pub, and through downtown Haddon Heights, where the original station still stands and is maintained by the local Historical Society.

We parked on the corner of North grove Street and Norcross road, and hiked east on the rails.  We’ve never been on this particular stretch of tracks.  We always bring a backpack and plastic bag to hold anything of interest that we find.  Although it’s against a lot of hikers creeds, we sometimes bring back items that we may find.  We’ll never destroy parts of history, but some old trash, rocks, or rusty rail road spikes aren’t exactly a piece of history in general, and are just cool little collectibles that I like to decorate with.

We came across a horse farm that we never knew existed, and a woman in her forties was out back feeding the horses.  We said hello and asked if the half dozen horses that were there were all hers.  She said that she only owned one of them so I guess she was boarding the rest.  The horses came over to the fence to inspect the visitors (us) and we really wanted to pet them, but resisted.  Although the woman seemed nice enough, we were in the Pineys, and you just never know what kind of people you’re going to encounter.  There were a few men on the other side of the field that glanced our way, so I wasn’t about to invade anyone’s space.

There are old telegraph poles that run down this line, and I’m always looking for an intact insulator cap, which I have yet to find.  These lines have been hiked so many times over the years that a really good insulator cap is impossible to find.  I did find one that was in pretty good condition, but in two pieces.  There are always little shards and chunks that you can pick up, and I pondered whether or not my friend Eva, who is a glass blower, would be able to melt down this type of glass and make something with it.

Further down we ran into some people riding quads and they were nice enough.  A brief hello was all that was exchanged and that was fine with me.  Off the tracks a little bit, we found the remains of an old house of some kind.  There was a well that had been filled in, and a pretty good sized foundation.  around back was a few steps and a porch, and I wondered if this had been a station at some point.  It was made of concrete blocks that kids had clearly moved around and stacked up in various ways, and there was a pole nearby that must have provided telegraph, phone or electricity at some point.  Abandoned buildings are always a treasure to find.

I also found one really unique find.  It was a ceramic insulator cap that was still attached to the pole that had been downed.  I had to unscrew it and although it had a few chips on the rim I was amazed that no one else had come along and taken it before me.  Clearly the pole had been downed for some time and all the other caps had been taken.  I’m going to use it either as an ashtray or a candle holder.  We hiked probably a mile down and a mile back, and called it a day.

On Sunday, we wanted to look for signs of the old Williamstown Brach of the Pennsylvania Reading Line which, as far as I can find, had been torn up in the mid 60s.  It’s not hard to find where it ran and there are still signs of it on satellite images that I have looked up.   Plus, there’s still a section of town called Williamstown Junction with a little store called Junction Liquors, so that really narrows it down.

We’ve been back here before when geocaching. There’s an old weigh station of some sort that is along the path of the old rail line.  A little exploring turns up a ton of really cool, interesting remnants.  For some reason, when they tore up the rails of this line, they also tore up the ties, so there are huge piles of rotting rail lroad ties all along the right of way which you can recognize by the obviously artifically raised ground.  We found the concrete and wood remains of an old mile marker, the actual sign long gone.  There was another building back here as well that must have been some kind of station.  Huge sections of brick had been toppled, but it was at some point a sizable building.  At some point there was a lot of garbage being dumped back there, and that yielded some pretty interesting old bottles.

That day was raining, but it didn’t stop us from exploring.  We looked all around this patch of wood before stumbling into the back of a rock and sand supply yard nearby.  We hiked our way through the yard without incident and out onto New Brooklyn Road, which is loaded with curiosities.  All the houses on this street are from a different time, and one of them has a little farmer’s market out front.  We had to stop and take a look inside the barn that was there because it was just too damn interesting.  There was a barn cat inside that we did not disturb.  After poking around for a few minutes, a older gentleman, probably in his 70s, came out of the house to talk to us.  We bought a small bag of tomatoes from him for 2 dollars because they looked good and we needed them.  I forgot to ask the old man what the deal was with the sign on the barn that said “New Jersey Devil Scull.”  That alone warrants a return trip.

We hiked up the tracks back to our car parked at Williamstown Junction and headed home.  For our troubles we acquired:  1 cermaic insulator cap, 3 glass insulator caps, 5 interesting bottles, 9 iron screws, 2 iron bolts, 3 iron nuts, 1 piece of talc, 2 pieces of limestone, 1 flintstone, 15 glass marbles, 2 very heavy can-shaped weights, 6 assorted couplers, a pile or iron spikes, a pile of coal, and one bag of tomatoes.

Exploring places that are abandoned or are the remnants of a long ago reminds me how fleeting life is.  And just being there is proof to me that I’m not squandering what little time we all have.  It should be spent with people we love, doing the things that make us happy.  The rain and threat of crazy Piney’s wouldn’t stop us from going hiking this weekend, and it never will.  Tell us if you’d like to join us sometime for a hike and some exploring…and remember your camera.

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