Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: Freedom Episode 10

TRENTON -- Freedom Green broke into double figures with his 10th episode that featured the new president of the Trenton Downtown Association (who is still really wet behind the ears), another Trenton City Council member (who is still really confident about her plans) and a mother (who is still really aching over the murders of her friends).

Christian Martin has run the TDA for a month, and while it seems nice to have a young guy in that role focusing on the future of a broken city, we weren't sold on the virility of his answers. Not that he doesn't have a vision for the many pressing needs of Downtown Trenton, but Christian, you've got to speak with more conviction or no one in this city will listen to a word you say and they'll try to walk all over you because you sound so sweet.

Verlina Reynolds-Jackson was the fifth city councilperson to appear on Freedom's show, which is great. The whole point of Trentonian TV was to build bridges with the community -- #JRC's vaunted "community engagement" -- and here's some dude named Freedom Green coming into the newsroom every Monday morning and interviewing the city's movers and shakers. Things like that didn't use to happen. I still like Verlina, and she talks a great game, but it's just lip service unless we see results. She talked about doing something with Trenton's many abandoned buildings, yet when I showed the photo of the Manex "Hollywood East" industrial horror at the Roebling Complex she wasn't quite sure what to say.

There wasn't enough time for me to find this picture of a building right next to the new park they're building on Perry Street. How funny is THAT going to be when the park opens next to a boarded-up roach motel?

Demetria Mason talked to Freedom six days after her appearance on "The Tyrone Miller Show." Like she did then, the mother of a college-bound wrestler had to choke back tears as she talked about the wretched state of parenting in Trenton.

Here are some photos from the production:

Freedom and Christian talk as Demetria prepares her notes

Christian needs to speak with more authority

But he seems like a guy with big plans

Verlina says she has big plans. But let's see if they just stay plans.

Verlina's and Freedom's footwear


Verlina's hands

Verlina after her spot playing on a tech toy

Demetria's footwear

Demetria and Freedom and the world's greatest waffle

Verlina consoling Demetria afterward; strong moment

And here is the 55-minute episode:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: "Words2Action" Episode 2

TRENTON -- Words2Action host and Southern Burlington County NAACP President Dr. Ken Gordon and guest Ewaure Osayande said the black-white thing has gotten so much worse since Obama became president, which is why there is so much anger in the black community over the death of Trayvon Martin and the insanity that followed.

"We've elected the nation's first African-American president, believeing that by so doing we would have reached a point in our nation's development where these concerns would no longer be concerns that our community would have to be concerned with. Not only has that not been the case, but we've witnessed an escalation of attacks against African people," said Osayande, a poet, professor, author of 14 books and founder and president of POWER.

"I believe ... a lot of people woke up on the morning after (electing Obama) and wished they had a morning-after pill," Gordon said laughing, "... and it became a reality that we have seen the backlash from ever since. When in history have we had the kind of disrespect to a sitting president that we've had?"

I'm still not really sure how Obama ties into the hot mess in Florida, but quotes like the ones above pumped the beating heart of tonight's discussion over Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman and blacks and whites and racism and the Castle Doctrine. Later in the episode, groundbreaking attorney Patricia Darden joined Gordon to offer the kinds of insights that lead to her receiving invitations to speak about legal issues. And why not? She was the Jersey's first minority federal public defender, the first female city attorney for Camden, a professor at Rutgers Newark Law School, and she has gained recognition for her role in the Abbott case. Darden provided some pretty damn good advice for today's young black men and women who might find themselves face to face with cops.

Here are some photos, and below them is the 55-minute episode:

What do you think of this episode? Watch it then e-mail

Rob Lowe: Born of Trenton

TRENTON -- The movies and TV shows that made and kept him famous -- "The Outsiders" and "St. Elmo's Fire" and "The West Wing" and "Parks and Rec" and "Californication" -- never would have come to life had Rob Lowe's great-great-great-great-great grandfather killed George Washington here in Trenton like he was paid to do.

"You mean to tell me my five-times great-grandfather was trying to stick it to George Washington?"

Indeed, Rob, and other quotes and emotional details like that came to life in the recent episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" as the blue-eyed Ohioan learned how the patriarch of his mother's side stitched himself into the fabric of American history. It's a story that dates back to 1754 in Furstenburg, Germany, where Lowe's six-times great-grandparents gave birth to the youngest of their eight children, Johannes Christoph Oeste.

Many years and thousands of miles later in Lima, Ohio, Johannes Christoph Oeste was known as John Christopher East. He went from being a piece of meat outsourced by Germany to the Brits to kill George and his troops in Trenton to being an unsung hero who helped fund Washington's victory over the Red Coats; from being a Hessian prisoner of war who was vanquished to Newtown, Bucks County, where the old Newtowner women cursed his existence, to being a lost twenty-something German who chose to build a new life in Ohio based on the American ideals of freedom. It's a superb piece of storytelling with so many twists and turns, and 236 years later it left Lowe on the brink of tears as he read a letter inviting him to join the "National Society, Sons of the American Revolution."

Lowe traveled far and wide on NBC's dime to untangle fact from fiction. His interview inside the church where Johannes Christoph Oeste was baptized in 1754 -- "where it all began," Lowe said in a choked-up voice -- was one of the highlights of the episode, as was the segment filmed inside Trenton's Old Barracks.

Here is story of Rob Lowe's bond with Trenton:

Trentonian TV Production Notes: Dish, Contacto, Benci

TRENTON -- Poor Hilary. Poor Kirsten. It's always something with their Trentonian TV show "Weekend Dish." If it's not technical issues, it's Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo and his little $12,400 problem with the feds. Or in this case, it's both. Poor Hilary. Poor Kirsten. Poor Weekend Dish.

So yeah, the whole Benci thing went down about the same time Weekend Dish was supposed to air live. Benci surrendered and had an appearance in federal court at 11:30. We got the list of charges against the 5th-year mayor ahead of time and started to push information on and Facebook and Twitter -- and that meant Weekend Dish was the last thing on our minds at 9:45.

Worse, D'Aquila said tech issues threatened the start of Weekend Dish. Hilary did her segment from Mrs. G's, the first time she broadcast live on location -- and I'm proud of her for branching out and trying new things. Kirsten did her foodie thing at home. I don't know what the issue was, and I didn't really care, but D'Aquila sat about 8 feet from me and I saw the frustration on his face. He started to get super-pissed at 10:15 -- or 15 minutes after the show was supposed to have started. I don't know what he did, but he worked his mojo and rectified the issue by 10:20 or so, and the Dishers began. Hilary interviewed Judith Robinson, manager of the Princeton Farmers Market. I have only one suggestion, Hilary and Kirsten: upgrade your webcams. Go Logitech. Makes all the difference in the world.

The rush to cover Benci consumed us all day, and the last thing on my mind at 7 o'clock was producing Episode 10 of  "En Contacto Con la Comunidad" on El Latino TV en Vivo! I told host Carlos Avila to make the episode short and sweet. Get to the point with each guest and then get them out of there.

That being said, Gerald Truehart was the first guest. He's the newest member of the Trenton Board of Education, and because he does not speak a lick of Spanish, Carlos interviewed him in English. Truehart replaces Don Shelton and begins his term May 15. Truehart said he and Mayor Tony Mack are "good friends." Mack appointed Truehart to the board after what he called a thorough vetting process.

There are no production pictures of Weekend Dish. Here are a few from "Contacto" ...

Gerald Truehart and Carlos

Maria Juega of

Carlos and Miss Costa Rica Daihana Gamboa

Gamboa's accessories

Carlos and a Hightstown High student

Here are this week's episodes of Weekend Dish and En Contacto Con la Comunidad:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Trenton, My Trenton: The North Poles

NORTH TRENTON -- They arrived between 1880 and 1950 and built this chunk of the city along Brunswick Avenue between Olden Avenue and Mulberry Street and Princeton Avenue and New York Avenue. There is no landmark sign, but this part of North Trenton is known as "Little Poland." Slovaks, Slovenians, Czechs and Russians live here, too.

Little Poland is where you come to eat authentic kielbasa and pieroges and stuffed cabbage and "Best Rye Bread" and savory pastries and drink Polish fizzy lifting drinks at Cosmo Food Market and Rozmaryn's and Henry's and European Bakery and Villa Polonia. Little Poland is home to St. Hedwig's, one of Trenton's eye-candy churches, built in 1919 by Polish immigrants. Nine years earlier, Polish-born royal architect Fredryk Poszky designed the Polish Falcon Hall, a community center where to this day Poles congregate. Poszky fled Russia on the eve of the Communist Revolution, according to Wikipedia. Little Poland is home to the Polish-American Democratic Club, built in 1927, for the purpose of teaching young Poles about American politics "with the hope of getting them involved in politics."

The 2000 Census listed Polish people as 3% of Trenton's population of 84,319, about the same percentage in 2010, and in Little Poland they live on streets named after states (Ohio, Indiana, Vermont, Pennsylvania) or trees (Mulberry, Spruce, Pine, Myrtle).

I walked those blocks for about 90 minutes today and took these photos along with a video and audio clips.

The dome of St. Hedwig's in the background

Most posted bills in business windows are in Polish

A small Russian population lives in Little Poland

How long has this Yellow Pages been on the porch?

It's a Man's World (Gym)

Metro Goldwyn Trenton?

There are lots of flowers in Little Poland

And a handful of churches

Soon after that photo I crossed the street to walk along the north side of Brunswick Avenue. I stumbled upon an elderly couple gardening on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning.

Their names are Wesley and Christina Kamnisky. They have lived in Little Poland for about 50 years and had kids, whose kids are starting college, and they owned a travel agency and a fishing store. I asked Christina to say something in Polish:

The near building is the now-closed fishing store, and the travel agency is the corner building across the street. They've since leased that building.

Christina told me the story about these decorative fish that in a wire fishing net at the entrance of that building.

Here's a visual of how that electronic ladder works:

Christina also told me about a Polish deli that I hadn't heard about. It's across the street from Christopher Columbus Elementary School, right on the edge of Lawrence Township:

So I went there and bought this for early lunch: kielbasa, which was great, and Polish fizzy lifting drink, which was cold, fizzy and satisfying.

And here are the rest of the photos of today's adventure in Little Poland, North Trenton:

St. Hedwig's Church

I unknowingly walked into Lawrence Township. Oh, and "steamy goodness!"

Saw this Lawrence woman riding her board and clicked away.

Back in Little Poland, North Trenton, home of stately & tree street names

Man in truck on Pennsylvania Avenue

This little piece stopped the big machine cold

Damn fuel pump thing

Tried to get him to talk in Polish. He didn't understand my request.