Writings on diverse topics for a range of publications over the years:
“Trenton’s City Beef Delivers — Despite Shortages” (Cover story, U.S. 1 Newspaper,
What started as a story about the last steer standing (so to speak) in Trenton, N.J.’s once herd-dense meat-packing district suddenly took on timely relevance during the COVID-19 crisis:
How could City Beef & Provisions — a business with origins back to 1903 — survive when its major institutional clients (such as corporate and college cafeterias) suddenly cut their orders to the bone? And when even obtaining supplies became problematic, with major wholesale meat processing factories closing due to rampant coronavirus infections among workers?
But City Beef has survived and even thrived — with its traditional family and individual customer walk-in business stepping up to the rescue.
“Rocky Hill Health Spa Donates Masks to Borough First Responders” (Montgomery News website, and May 2020 print edition)
Linda Huang’s massage, reflexology and facials studio in the little village of Rocky Hill, N.J., has been among the “non-essential” enterprises closed by state decree during the coronavirus pandemic.
But despite ongoing business expenses without earnings, the Chinese-born entrepreneur is not embittered. On the contrary, in April she generously donated large supplies of medical-grade face masks to Rocky Hill’s emergency responders.
Says Huang: “God bless America!”
“Blue Moon of Kentucky: Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys,” National Recording Registry (Library of Congress website, published March 2020)
Kentucky-born singer, mandolinist and bandleader Bill Monroe — now universally celebrated as the “Father” of the bluegrass music genre — was a major figure in early country music, during the folk revival and, interestingly, in the evolution of rock ‘n roll.
How so? Because the early “rockabillies” — Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and others — were huge fans of Monroe’s edgy, exciting style of country (“hillbilly”) music.
Indeed, Elvis performed a rocking version of Monroe’s 1947 waltz hit “Blue Moon of Kentucky” for his career-defining first single record in 1954. (It proved to be only the first of innumerable covers, not only by bluegrass performers but pop stars as diverse as Ray Charles, Patsy Cline and Paul McCartney.)
The story of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” illuminates the crossroads of country and rock, a major juncture on the roadmap of American popular music.
“Hulk Hogan Tells of Steroid Use in Wrestling” (New York Times, July 15, 1994)
I’ve long had an interest in pro wrestling as a cultural and business phenomenon. The ring action may be “faked,” but its popularity — and its profits — are very real.
So, I was delighted when the New York Times let me cover the sensational steroid conspiracy trial in Federal court of wrestling promoter Vince McMahon and his Titan Sports Corporation.
Terry Gene Bollea (a.k.a. “Hulk Hogan”) was one of the prosecution’s star witnesses. But Bollea honestly testified that he’d had a doctor’s prescription for anabolic steroids and that McMahon had never purchased the drugs for him nor ordered their use.
Perhaps it wasn’t surprising that, in the end, McMahon and his company were found not guilty on all charges.
This is the best short-form, breaking-news item I’ve ever filed (as a freelance “stringer,” I didn’t get a byline but that’s totally okay).
“D&R Canal Midpoint Mileage Marker Restored” (Montgomery News, November 2019)
A congenial exercise in investigative and advocacy journalism.
No scandals were uncovered here: Just a century-and-a-half old mileage marker, toppled from its position on the 44-mile long tow path of the historic Delaware & Raritan Canal (now a popularNew Jersey state park).
Park personnel and a contractor specializing in antique masonry did a commendable job retrieving and restoring old “22/22” to its rightful site. (Access the Montgomery News issue from link below, then scroll to pages 9 and 17):
“Nate Stuckey’s Garden of Spiritual Delights” (U.S. 1 Newspaper, July 17, 2019)
Nathan T. Stuckey grew up as a Mennonite farm boy in Kansas. As he completed his advanced studies at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Rev. Stuckey saw little, if any, connection between his past as a farmer and his future as a pastor.
But then, by happy serendipity, he was given the opportunity to develop a small-scale sustainable agriculture operation at the school. Now it imparts spiritual lessons to its student-workers.
“Jeff Snyder: twisting traditions and turning out tunes” (Princeton Echo, April 2019)
Jeff is director of computer music at Princeton University and also a Midwest country boy.
When not teaching, advising students (and occasionally appearing with them in concert) or even inventing musical instruments, he melds classic country music with synth and other electronic sounds via his alter ego with stage band — Owen Lake & the Tragic Loves
Jeff Snyder has thus created what is arguably the world’s first computer music / classic country fusion. Best of all, it’s not a spoof but a bounty of serious and entertaining sounds.
“The Original Fake News: ‘War of the Worlds’ at 80” (U.S. 1 Newspaper, October 24, 2018)
It was the biggest event in American history … that never actually happened.
On the evening of October 30, 1938, the Mercury Theater on the Air, led by soon-to-be-legendary actor-director Orson Welles, presented a radio drama adaptation of author H.G. Wells’ science fiction classic “The War of the Worlds.”
In this version, instead of the murderous Martians landing in the English countryside and converging on London, they touched down in the quaintly-named but very real village of Grover’s Mill, N.J., near Princeton, and then marched on New York City.
The script was structured as bulletins interrupting a program of music. According to popular myth, the show terrified millions of listeners who had tuned in after the introduction and thought they were hearing actual breaking news about horrible creatures wielding heat rays and poison gas.
The panic may not have been nationwide, but it did spread in viral pockets. Eight decades later, the event provides powerful lessons for our modern age of internet rumors and social media manipulation:
“Here Lies the Body of Abraham Stryker Who Departed this Life in 1777” (Montgomery News, October 2018)
Timed to a Hallowe’en theme, this is the little-known story of some important early Dutch settlers in Central New Jersey and their family burial ground.
What will be this historic cemetery’s its fate, now that the surrounding land has been sold and a new office complex is being erected around it?
(There’s a happy ending — scroll to page 19 of this PDF):
“The Human Face of the Infrastructure Crisis” (U.S. 1 Newspaper, August 24, 2016)
What happens when a beloved local coffee shop owned by an immigrant from Eastern Europe loses — literally overnight — 40 percent of its business because a bridge on a heavily-used road is closed for replacement, and then the state doesn’t have enough money to finish the project?
After a painfully prolonged delay, the new bridge on busy Route 518 was finally completed and the coffee shop managed to stay in business. But this New Jersey story previews the ominous infrastructure crisis facing all America:
“The Vinyl Frontier” (The Echo, April 2015)
The Princeton Record Exchange is known as “PREX” its customers, some of whom travel scores and even hundreds of miles to browse its bins.
This bricks-and-mortar music and movies store has gone against the retail tide by not selling its CDs, vinyl records and DVDs on-line. And it’s thrived, becoming a must-stop destination for legions of listeners and collectors: