Howars, Butlers, Braineys & Etchie

Back in the day having a butcher in town was a super convenience. It still is but the trade has moved into the back offices of Costco and the major supermarket chains. Cutting meat and knowing how to use, cook, and store it can make all the difference to your menu.
We went to Howars market when I was a kid. My parents had an expense account there so we could stop by and pick up food to be added to the tab they paid monthly. Bill Butler was the man behind the butcher counter to the far left when you walked through the door. He would cut your meat, tell you how to cook it, and give you a laugh all in a short time. You paid at the old fashioned cash register on your way to the door that leads to River Road. Mr. Butler was a staple, we all knew him and followed him to his own shop when he parted from the market to form the deli that still carries his name.
The Brainey family moved in and also lived across the street from us. Mr. Brainey, a great guy with a big smile, would always talk to his customers while they were in the shop. Super nice, the market couldn’t have been handed to nicer people.
Etchie, remains to this day, a character only some of us know and which I think I can reveal to the world. You see Etchie was a fictional character we made up to mess with people when we were kids. Never real, we made those around us think he was a real person. Mr. Brainey was a favorite target and he played the game well along with us whether he knew it or not. We would walk in and he would ask, “Where’s Etchie?” Usually we would say he had to go home because his mom was calling for him but he was never around. I am convinced there has never been more time spent on a fictional character since Godot.
Harmless and homeless Etchie was our place to play without hurting anyone or ourselves. These were the free days before the internet and cellphones when you could mess with people for a laugh that didn’t hurt.
Today still, some wait for Etchie to show up.
Peace, chris

Navesink or Shrewsbury?

We lived on the corner of Black Point Road and Avenue of Two Rivers. The rivers that were at either end of the street are long, traveling about 8 miles inland where they connect with Swimming River. Flowing East, they combine at Sea Bright then pour into Sandy Hook Bay. They are a story in and of themselves and affect everyone who lives near them. Whether you like it or not, the rivers are a part of your life around here. Like the ocean they feed, there is no avoiding them, and I would say no reason to.

 

Barely a day went by in our house when there wasn’t a discussion about the water. We were water-people who lived on a hill overlooking both from our roofs vantage point. Our house was high relative to the surrounding area and would have been perfect for a light tower or the cupola my dad built but never positioned on the roof. One of my greatest pains in cleaning out the house where I grew up was deconstructing the dome he spent so much time, money, thought, and effort to build. It weighed a ton and was in disrepair short of the copper. I had no place for it and am not skilled in a way to fix it. Out it went into one of my old friends’ dumpsters. (Thanks, Bob Wellner, for all your help.) Deciding what stays and what goes is about as easy as choosing which river is your favorite. For me, while I lived only a short distance to the boat ramp, the Shrewsbury is my favorite. I never liked the bustle and pollution of Red Bank, which the rich and famous seem to enjoy along the Navesink. Funny, my sister was one of them.

 

My maternal grandparents lived on the Shrewsbury. I spent a lot of time with them on the water, having fun, which is why I am partial to that river. It was never a pain point for me but a joy, exploring and spending time with my grandparents.

 

Life around water is as much about perspective as it is experience. We all know water can be dangerous and have its own agenda when stirred by larger forces. For me, it has always been a welcome constant. Water proves the point that the greatest source of uncertainly we have is other people.

 

Times pass, people do too.

 

Peace, chris

One Boat Going, Dammit

My parents kept their boat at Pauls Boats in Rumson. They were friendly with Pete Pauls and his wife Dot who were the owners. They had two sons, Nippi and Pete. We all skied together during the winter in Vermont after the boating season had ended every year.

Young Pete and Nip ran the dock which pumped gas, sold bait, and provided guys a place to waste time bullshitting with other guys about boat stuff only they cared about or understood. There was a snack bar on land in the building run by some long-haired guy;) He had a pinball machine in there I fell in love with. It was a great place to hang out as a kid. I did a few summers and helped the guys rent the boats, clean them, or bail them out after it rained.

The yard had about 20 rowboats you could rent on a half or full-day basis. You would rent the boat with or without an engine, then buy some bait from the small shack on the dock. Damit, the parrot in the shop. would say “one boat going” and off you would go fishing in the Navesink. Not a bad way to spend a day on a good river. The boats were returned and secured next to one another in separate space in the water. Secured together with lines and clips they were a floating car lot in the water.

Some days we would all get in the water and play rowboat tag. Swimming between, around, and under the boats touching someone to make them “it.” We had fun, the worst part being if you scratched yourself on a barnacle under a boat or on a piling, or if you couldn’t swim, Yes, in the 70’s we played games in the water and didn’t know how to swim. You could never do this now. Swimming underwater is something you don’t do in the Navesink anymore. And who would even think of going in the water without swimming lessons?

This was only 50 years ago. Somehow that just doesn’t seem to be so very long.

Peace, chris

Look Both Ways

In 1974, my dad was hit by a car on River Road in Rumson. It happened in front of the Rumson Pharmacy and What’s Your Beef?” It was early on a Monday morning.

 

He rallied back as the doctors prepared to pronounce him dead at Riverview. I was in school at Forrestdale, where they took me to the principal’s office. They told me the news and said my mom and sister were at the hospital. “Your dad has been in an accident, but he was ok” is what I remember being told. So they sent me back to class. I finished my day and afterward played in a school basketball game. Later, while walking home, Jimmy Scalzo, saw me and asked what I was doing on Black Point Road. He told me how badly my dad was hurt. He took me home, where I waited for hours until someone showed up to give me the news. Mom was a mess, and so was Karen, I was lost. 

 

Dad survived and had a messed up back and neck for the rest of his life. We all felt some effects from the accident but none worse than Dad. Years of therapy would never provide any answers to what played out that day for any of us. That’s life. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual or a way to look back and find the things that made us the way we are. We had direct and collateral damage. I can say it didn’t help us. 

 

He got $100k as a settlement (like $400k today), which the Red Bank Register put in an article titled “Farber Gets $100,000,” like we had won some kind of lottery. No dollar amount could pay for the collective pain and suffering my dad and family would have as a result of the accident. It was a defining event for our family.

 

The circus was about to begin, and we would each have our own ring with Mom as the ring mistress. 

Peace, chris

Garbage Truck Summer

I had a great career in my adult life. I worked my ass off, had some luck, and a good idea or two that helped some businesses along the way. There were some lows but mostly progressive highs. My best job though was working on the back of the Rumson garbage truck during my college summer vacations.

After high school ended, my dad took me down to see Bill Murphy – he ran the road department, and everything needed to keep Rumson clean. He kind of looked like Kenny Rogers in The Gambler at the time but didn’t sing or gamble. I had been accepted to college, but who knew if I would show up, continue forever, or finish, so this was an excellent place to start something. I was a bit of a legacy, too, as a cousin worked on the road department. I was in.

I hung off the back of a brush truck for the next four summers with various friends, it was fun. We started early and ended at four, which left some time to do something before dark. For us, it was making more summer bucks painting houses, going to the beach, or just waiting for tomorrow.

When you pick up brush, you’re not loading household garbage. Brush are the remnants of plants, trees, grass clippings, and stuff people would throw out from their shed. Only Rumson would have classes of waste. On the brush truck, knowing what went on behind the blade holding the garbage is essential; a fire in there could be quite a problem.

I remember coming off of Sailors Way one day heading East on Rumson Road. Smoke had started to ease out of the back of the truck. By the time we got to Bellevue, it was pouring out like we were the car showing up at the parade in Animal House. We stopped, and there was only one choice, we had to dump the load. The fire trucks arrived, cops, and everyone who gets excited to see an emergency as long as it is not happening to them. We literally dumped a burning bunch of shit in the middle of Rumson Road while the fire department put the fire out. It took a couple of hours, and we had to clean it up when it was over, but this day was done.

Later, we were asked if we set the fire. Like we would strike a match on a truck, carrying 20 yards of garbage going 30 miles an hour down the road? I think it would be quite hard to do and would have qualified us for circus work with Ringling Brothers or a place in Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant song. No way.

Peace, chris

Piping Rock, Pop 

One of the kids I grew up with figured out how to break into the electrical box that controlled the lights at the ballfield. It was at the Piping Rock field one day in the early 70s. This happened while we were hitting pop-flys. It was dusk and time to go home, but controlling the lights was just too much power not to try. So we turned them off to see what dark looked like. Unfortunately, we did this as one of my friends was settling in under a long, fly ball. The lights went out, and the ball hit him in the face. It was terrible, but we laughed anyway. We were young and stupid and proving it every day. He didn’t look too good for a couple of weeks, and we had to own up for it. We were reminded that we could have blinded him through fits of screaming and yelling by our parents.

 

The gang of kids on my street were always in trouble, I was a part of the mayhem most of the time but liked to remain a little distant. The fear of getting the shit beat out of me by my father just too influential. We wanted to reach the point just under where the cops would get involved; that was our sweet spot. As budding teenagers, we would make it to the real Rumson police station on Center Street in a few years.  Almost blinding one of our own on this day was good enough for us.

 

I am avoiding many names here as everyone involved is possibly reading this, and I don’t want to create trouble for them with their wives and kids. After all these years, still protecting our own is ok with me. I suck for a lot of reasons, this is one of them. Do you think I would have all of these stories to tell if I wasn’t trusted enough to be there when trouble arrived? No way! Being an outsider and an insider at the same time is what I was good at. In a few years, when we were referred to as the Wolfpack in Rumson, I would be glad I was a little more distant.

 

Update on farberisms. I have had so much fun doing this for the past couple of months. As a retired, cancer, free, impotent, orphan, I needed something to do with my time, it has been great. The genesis of my writing has always been around career and cancer so this has been a welcome change. I will keep it going but start to shift back to these themes a little. I have a lot to say and a place to do it, I hope you’ve enjoyed the couple of minutes we spend together daily. Seeing all the familiar names brings back a lot of good times and the desire to have more.

 

My following on social is mostly on Linkedin and Twitter, but this experience has been for Facebook friends dealing with seclusion. My site is running well, and we are turning our efforts towards Junk In The Trunk, which will be an online store to sell stuff and support charity. My site, farberisms. will support it. I spoke to a trademark attorney yesterday who asked me what farberisms. is about. After 10 minutes, I was done explaining what I write about and no further along with the definition, just where I want it.

 

Peace, chris

Wiseman’s Sea Bright

This iconic store was in the middle of Sea Bright when I was a kid. It was a toy store, confectionery, and newsstand. One of those “you can find it at” places right in the center of town across from the public beach parking lot and a little to the right. I think it was owned by two brothers but was always a stop when we were in town. You could buy a bus ticket, milkshake or a dirty magazine when it was open. Everyone knew it; not everyone went in because of the mags, which weren’t very public when I was a kid. Still, it was a town staple.

A friend of mine raves about Wiseman’s egg creme. He hasn’t had one in almost 50 years but can describe it so well you can taste it. You feel like you’re sitting on a spin stool at the counter and drinking it in along with everything else from soo long ago.

And that’s the quality of small-town stores, people, products and experiences. Sea Bright had and has that quality. So does Grafton, VT, for me. Think about those small towns and what brought you to them and soon you will miss them more than ever.

Peace, chris

Don’s Ride on the Magic Bus

Why would you recommend taking a drug out of nowhere? The question here is what are you trying to fight or avoid. We have a right to know if our leaders are sick and what they might be suffering. In my executive days, I was provided a complete physical from Mass General by State Street. They wanted to know if I was healthy. They also had a life insurance policy on me in case I wasn’t going to make it. As a senior guy at the bank, they wanted assurances that they were paying for was going to be around, and compensation if it wasn’t. I gladly bent over for the good doc to finger out if anything was wrong. I was ok with both.

 

It would only be a couple of years after I left the bank that I learned I had cancer. I was working at Scivantage trying to fix problems even hydroxychloroquine couldn’t make a dent in. In business, you can’t fix stupid or borderline criminal, and SVI had both. Looking back, I believe it is where I got the toxins that would cause my cancer, but that’s another story.

 

Don’t worry, nothing is going to happen is like believing you can lose your virginity twice. Taking drugs to see what might happen is stupid—kind of like letting someone else provide the most critical numbers on your tax return. Go figure.

 

Peace, chris

Mansion on the Hill

There are still remnants of my dads’ family floating around Sea Bright and my moms’ frayed family in a more magnificent Long Branch. But there are no more Farber’s in Rumson.

 

The new dawn in my family starts in Tinton Falls. (The earth trembling just now was my mother and father rolling over underground at the cemetery in Middletown). My parents thought Rumson was a step up from Sea Bright. They also thought Tinton Falls was a step down from Rumson. My sister-who is buried next to my parents – didn’t care. She said, ”Live wherever you want. Who gives a shit?” It’s funny how that came from the one who lived in a big home on the Navesink after a stint abroad.

 

Understanding what is essential takes some living, which is hardly an original or new way of thinking. Where you live only makes a difference to the collective bunch who think where you live is essential. As we age, we often widen our perspective on life. One of the things that does is allow you to justify how a life’s worth of decisions and actions come together, kind of like a plan. The result is being able to reconcile what we did wasn’t random.

 

Living where you are isn’t important. What goes on in what you live in is.

 

Peace, chris

 

 

The Good Life

What is vital to living a good life? I say, living without reservation. To be able to feel when it’s almost over that you have no regrets.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to experience that because I do have regrets, and I am sure they will not go away before I am gone. Regrets are lesions that are painful all the time. Not incapacitating, but like an extra ten pounds, they drag on you, a constant reminder they are there.

I don’t want that for my kids or anyone else. So for me, that’s the mission from here on out – to live a good life and spread the word on how to do it.

Peace, Chris

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