7:00~1/13/12~Elijah’s Promise


At 7:00 tonight, I was just about to start cleaning up the kitchen.  It was the one at Elijah’s Promise, the soup kitchen in New Brunswick.

I volunteered for the dinner prep shift and, with a team of other volunteers and staff members, helped prepare a meal for almost one hundred people.

My experience at Elijah’s Promise was a very special one, and I will certainly be heading back there to volunteer again.

More about my experience tonight, and information about how to donate to – and how to volunteer with – Elijah’s Promise, will follow on the NSNJ site soon.

The Jersey Girl

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April is Poetry Month, after all…

So difficult to choose a favorite!




I had some extra-special treats to share with coworkers at lunch yesterday; I brought goodies from the Palermo Bakery and Monday night’s Sweet Sioree event at 4Sixty6, in West Orange, into work.  (As much as I love desserts, there was no way I could sample all of these delicious treats myself!)  We loved everything, but I think the red velvet with cream cheese frosting was my favorite.

Monday night, the club known as “NJ’s Vegas” was packed with brides and wedding industry professionals as they mingled about and sampled a seemingly endless supply of cakes and pastries from the Ridgefield Park bakery.

Though the event on Monday was catered toward brides (no pun intended, really!) Palermo’s is available to make their custom cakes for any occasion, even sporting events!  You can visit their website and blog for pictures and ideas. Palermo’s services the greater New York and New Jersey area, and they’ve most recently made special cakes for members of the Jersey Shore cast.

I don't know how any bride could not feel just like a princess with this gorgeous cake!




I’m heading over to the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick for a timely event called Poetry & Comedy Night.  April is Poetry Month, after all, so why not celebrate it and have a few laughs at the same time?

The evening will include a meet and great with authors, poetry readings, a curator-lead tour of the museum, stand-up comedy showcase, complimentary refreshments, and a 20% discount off of purchases made at the museum store.  Tickets for non-Rutgers employees and students are $6, Rutgers employees and students are free.

This event is one of many in the museum’s Art After Hours series.  For more information, you can visit their website.


Looks pretty quiet tomorrow.  I’m planning on a quiet evening of take-out food and will hopefully catch up on some movie watching.  Maybe I’ll finally get to see some of the Academy Award wining/nominated films from this year.  That would be great!

Cakes and more cakes from Palermo's.

Any recommendations?
The Jersey Girl

Those Mockingbirds @ the Court Tavern

Those Mockingbirds before their performance at the Court Tavern (and me)

Those Mockingbirds
In the mood to hear some live music the other night, I ventured over to New Brunswick to find out what was happening at the Court Tavern.  Four local acts played the night I was there, and my favorite discovery was the band, Those Mockingbirds.  New Jersey based (well, one member is originally from Connecticut, but shhh, we’ll let that go), Those Mockingbirds are energetic, professional, and best of all, their music is really good.

I met Addam Bird, the band’s lead singer who plays guitar and piano, while hanging out in the main room of the Court Tavern where on the walls there is an eclectic mix of decor including Christmas cards, baby pictures, and a gold record from The Smithereens.  Next to the bar there is a foosball table, a couple of pinball machines, and plenty of people singing along to old songs played on a jukebox.  One small TV sits at the end of the bar, but the focus here is obviously on the music.  Bird ordered a pitcher of beer for his band and we chatted for awhile about the band’s history, the new single they are releasing, and how fabulous New Jersey is.

Downstairs, bands were beginning to play so our conversation ended and I went to see the show.  The first two bands were a lot of fun to watch because they both seemed so excited to be on stage and have the opportunity to play their music for a crowd.  Those Mockingbirds played third and I was expecting that the band’s performance would match Bird’s charisma and energy, and of course, it did.  The previously sleepy crowd came alive when the band smoothly took over the stage to play their songs.  I instantly liked the catchy rhythms and was drawn in by their lyrics that were insightful and self-reflective, wanting to sing along even though I had never heard the music before.   Towards the end of their set, Those Mockingbirds performed an awesome cover of a Fleetwood Mac classic, “Never Break the Chain” (and I sang my little heart out with them for that song).

Addam Bird, of Those Mockingbirds, (possibly writing the lyrics for a new single?) at the Court Tavern

This performance at the Court Tavern kicked off a two month tour for Those Mockingbirds that will take them through seven states including Massachusetts and North Carolina and will end in Jamaica at the Rock Saga Fest.  Lucky for us, the tour will bring them back through New Jersey on May 8th when they play in Hoboken, so check out their website for details:  http://thosemockingbirds.com.  You can visit their MySpace page to listen to Those Mockingbirds music as well as subscribe to their humorous blog:  http://www.myspace.com/thosemockingbirds.

Court Tavern
The gritty and moody, yet homey Court Tavern with its scuffed tile, red paneled walls, and a black bar stretching through two rooms on the ground floor level, is the only remaining music venue of its kind in New Brunswick.  The Court Tavern has an interesting history and right now, an uncertain future.

Bob Albert and his wife, Eileen, are the owners of the Court Tavern.  Albert’s father opened the bar on Church Street back in 1961 and shortly after, in the 70s, the area became known as somewhat dangerous and was a place most people wouldn’t visit after dark.  Businesses in that area had a high turnover rate and it was simply not a place where people came to hang out for any length of time.  In those days, the Court Tavern found its success as a daytime bar serving lunch to local judges and lawyers and because they loved the place so much, the judges and lawyers themselves advertised the Court Tavern to the jurors as a great place to eat.  Albert, who grew up in New Brunswick, had no intentions of getting involved with his father’s business, and had instead planned on becoming a reading and writing teacher.  However, Albert explains he didn’t have much of a choice when, “My dad begged me to come back and help him.”  So in the early 80s when the location of the Court Tavern was moved from one side of Church Street to the other, where it stands today, Albert began working in his father’s bar during the day and in another New Brunswick bar at night.  It was at this second bar where Albert met a lot of local musicians who shared with him their frustrations in finding a place play their music.  Though he admits he “can barely play a record” himself, Albert loves music and opened up the Court Tavern to the local musicians, providing a place for them to perform and rehearse.

A Court Tavern performance by Those Mockingbirds

For a while, the music scene in New Brunswick was really strong and you could find several bars like the Court Tavern where live bands would play on a regular basis, but today those other bars have all closed or left the area.  Albert says that his bar is the “last man standing” and while many people might expect that would be good for business, he explains that it is actually the opposite, “We don’t really have that music scene in New Brunswick anymore.  One bar certainly doesn’t make a scene.”

The changes in New Brunswick haven’t been the only struggle for the Court Tavern.  In 1997 Albert’s father passed away and Albert officially took over the business.  Along with the bar, his father left Albert tremendous amounts of debts that he wasn’t prepared for.  In recent years Albert has struggled to make ends meet, and a few times the Court Tavern looked like it would be closing its doors for good. “Every time it seemed like the place would go under, there was a public outcry to keep it open,” Albert says.  In fact, when they had trouble paying their city taxes, Albert’s wife sent out an email to friends and patrons explaining the situation and within a few hours, people came by the Court Tavern to bring the owners money.  Albert was astounded by this support, insisting that they he and his wife would pay everyone back.  The public support that the Court Tavern receives has forced Albert to change his own approach towards his dad’s old bar and see it for the historical music landmark that it has become.  He is determined to keep the Court Tavern open. “This town needs a place like this where creative musicians can get together,” he says.

Albert and New Brunswick residents are not the only ones interested in the Court Tavern’s future.  Patti Smith, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, learned about the bar’s financial struggles from her current bass guitar player and a longtime friend of Albert’s, Tony Shanahan.  Smith, who is known by many for the song “Because the Night” which she co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen, suggested that she participate in some way to help the Court Tavern stay open and the idea for a benefit concert was born.  A benefit concert for the Court Tavern will be hosted by Matt Pinfield and Leslie Fran at The State Theater on April 30th.  In addition to Patti Smith, The Smithereens (who I’m sure would like to see their gold record hanging on the wall at the Court Tavern for a long time), and the Slaves of New Brunswick, with Glen Burtnik, will play.  Tickets can be ordered through the State Theater here.  Following the concert on Saturday night, 30 bands will continue to play through Sunday evening at the Court Tavern, honoring its history and hoping to save its future.

Rock on and save the Court Tavern!

~Melissa 🙂
The Jersey Girl

124 Church Street, New Brunswick, NJ
Cover charges for shows are $10 and under.  The Court Tavern only takes cash, but there is an ATM located inside.
The Court Tavern is open for lunch and holds shows featuring the work of local artists about twice a month.

Got Art? (Zimmerli Art Museum)

If you are interested in spending the day admiring fine art and are in the New Brunswick area, then the place to be is the Zimmerli Art Museum.

I drive by the museum every week (on my way to the Monday and Wednesday night Spanish class I take on Rutgers’ College Avenue campus).  I’m usually pressed for time, invariably searching for a parking space, when I drive passed the museum, but the large, colorful banners hanging on the side of the building, proudly announcing the current and upcoming exhibits, invite me to slow down and see what is happening there.  With a springlike feeling (finally) in the air, I’ve slowed down my normally hectic pace to find out just what wonders our little local museum holds.

The Zimmerli Art Museum, located in New Brunswick, NJ on the corner of Hamilton and George Streets, is one of the largest university-affiliated museums in the country.  It was founded in 1966 and houses over 50,000 pieces of artwork.  Museum collections include 18th to 20th Century American Art, 15th to 19th Century European Art, and The Gordon Henderson Collection of American Stained Glass Design.

Poster for the children's book artwork exhibit.

When I arrived to the museum, I wasn’t sure where I should begin and asked the advice of the museum workers.  They were extremely helpful and obviously proud of their exhibits.  I was issued a map, given a couple of pointers, and was sent on my way.

At the time of my visit, two special exhibits were Lalla Essaydi’s Les Femmes du Maroc, and a collection of children’s book illustrations portraying everyday life called, How We Live Now.  Each exhibit in the museum is distinctly displayed and presents itself as an independent experience from the others.

Some of the banners on the side of the museum advertising exhibitions.

The Essaydi exhibit of photographs representing Arab women, addressing gender issues including those of Essaydi’s own personal experience, contained a feature which allowed for visitors to dial a phone number while traveling through the large exhibit space and hear commentary by the artist herself.  After viewing a photograph on display, in many cases you could see a picture of the original painting that inspired the artist, and then you could call in to hear the artist explain her intentions, adding a further valuable, relevant dimension to the experience.  It was almost as if while looking at these works of art, I knew the artist personally, picked up my cell phone and dialed her to chat about the work.  It made the experience of visiting a museum (normally and understandably a very formal and proper occurrence) much more personal.  (My pseudo friendship with the artist was of no help, however, when about halfway through my visit a museum worker reprimanded me (albeit gently) for using pen to take my notes.   I suppose that I had become so engaged with the artwork that it hadn’t even occurred to me that a pen might be taboo.  I immediately switched to pencil noting, once again, that the workers were steadfast, and it was their appreciation for the museum and its works that propelled me onward to absorb as much as possible.)

The exhibit of children’s book illustrations was, by comparison, more intimate and cozy in its display.  The room was small and accessible and the illustrations were welcoming.  In the center of the room, there was a child’s size table and chairs with paper and colored pencils for young museum visitors to express their own lives and creativity through illustration.  I found the connection between viewing artwork and then also being encouraged to immediately create it to be a heartwarming feature of the exhibit.

My favorite exhibit was in “The Ferber Lounge” and it was called Sculpture to Create an Environment.  This was probably the most distinct and memorable exhibit I visited.  The room contained separate pieces of very large black sculpture that stretched from floor to ceiling or wall to wall.  They twisted and turned and took on lives of their own, as if they grew naturally from the room.  My initial impression was that they represented a forest.  But as I walked around the room, covering every possible square foot of space that I could, my perspective kept changing.  One moment I felt like a giant, too big for the space, and then when I took a few steps, I was suddenly lost and small.  There were few other people in the room while I was there so I could easily hear the soft humming of the lights and the irregular whirring of a ventilation fan and those noises reminded me of the sounds of a lazy summer night and the song of the cicadas.  I imagined what type of life might live in this “environment” and if, as a human, I would be a part of it, or if I would be intruding from where I stood at that point.  I continued moving around, and by the time I was through the entire room and about to exit, the natural and earthy feelings that the sculpture had initially evoked within me were transformed and the entire room, all the parts of sculpture, the sounds of the lights and fan, and the beings that I imagined would live in such a space, felt more like they were part of an amusement park and I left imagining water rides and roller coasters instead.

An art critic or expert, I (clearly) don’t pretend to be, but as a woman who enjoyed her afternoon at the Zimmerli Art Museum, I strongly recommend that you make plans to visit and explore for yourself.  Oh, and if you plan to take notes while you are there, bring a pencil!

Melissa 🙂
The Jersey Girl


The museum offers tours to school groups designed around current exhibits. In conjunction with the tours (that last about an hour), hands-on workshops and video presentations are available.  The programs can be adapted for students of all grade levels.

The museum also offers concert and lecture programs, as well as a gift shop and a café.  Gallery space is also available for hosting special events and parties.

Enjoy a cup of coffee or panini from Cafe Z on the patio in front of the museum.

M-F, 10:00 to 4:30

Weekends, noon to 5:00

Check website for holiday information, http://www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu/

$3 for general admission.

Admission is free for a member of the museum; a child under 18 years old; a RU student, staff or faculty member; or when visiting on the first Sunday of each month.  Special rates may also apply for group chaperones.

Additional Sources: