I cannot emphasize this enough when I say….WHAT A YEAR! The past months have been in many ways a reminder on how to be humble and still be successful.
There have been so many people who have supported my journey here. This article is to announce the launch of WeekenderNJ, to thank those brilliant people who make up our WNJ family and to share why WeekenderNJ was created.
Like many others, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak, worry and horror. Life will never stop exposing inequities in our system, but with COVID-19, most of us, if not all of us, were forced to stare in the face of injustice and instability. To helplessly hear about family members, friends and neighbors affected one by one by COVID-19, virtual funerals, job and health insurance losses, illegal evictions, police brutality, and lack of leadership and accountability. What filled me with hope was the thought of connecting with others and reflecting on what each of us could offer to help our communities. WeekenderNJ was born out of this necessity to continue to help our neighbors and communities amidst COVID-19 and after. To report as local residents, as a co-operative. To bring real content that drives positive change, offers assistance and guidance, and to listen and provide a voice to all. To make people’s lives better through storytelling and community. And to be innovative, collaborative and unconventional. We intend to remain all these things.
The people listed below offer a daily reminder that we can each contribute to positive change in our communities more than we imagine.
Many thanks to Charlie Kratovil, Co-Founder of New Brunswick Today, who took my phone call, listened to my idea, and gave me numerous reasons as of why I should move forward with this creation, instead of talking me out of it.
Sam Carliner - without you this project would not have been possible. I want to express my personal gratitude for your effort, confidence and support. I am thrilled to have you part of the WeekenderNJ family and call you my friend.
Much appreciation - John Flora, Jill Pitman, Alex Centurion, Sara Sands, and J.Longo who joined the WeekenderNJ ride on the ten second pitch I gave to each one of you. I have so much love for you all and I can’t wait to see all the positivity that you will create in our communities.
Thank you to all our followers, and subscribers who made this launch and new journey so much more encouraging and hopeful for a better tomorrow.
And thank you to my family who always encouraged me to be in service to others and to dream as big as I wanted to dream.
We believe that we can help shape a better tomorrow. Where positive storytelling about our neighbors, community and businesses by sharing and publishing stories about and from our neighbors that makes up New Jersey. We are doing our part to make our communities a better place and hope you’ll come build this positive ‘world’ with us.
We are also always looking for our neighbors to be contributors and to participate in our ‘neighborhood spotlight section’ or suggest a story. Reach out and let us know how we can help you.
We will highlight more of some other positive projects we are working on in the months and years to come.
Welcome to WeekenderNJ’s journey. We are happy to have you here.
John Flora I joined WeekenderNJ because I have always enjoyed researching and writing for the benefit of the shared good. A few topics I look forward to exploring are climate change, public education, and the need for campaign finance reform in American politics. I'm the oldest of five, a new dad, and lifelong educator. Maybe that explains why contributing to lasting change has always been so important to me. Editor's Note: John Flora was born in Rahway, N.J. and spent most of his life in Hudson County, N.J. He obtained a B.A. from New Jersey City, an M.P.S. from George Washington University, and an M.A. from Columbia University. John is a GRAMMY-nominated music specialist and S.T.E.A.M. educator who has worked with students of all ages and abilities in the Jersey City Public Schools for seventeen years. In 2020 he ran for Congress on a progressive platform to change the political face of New Jersey's 10th Congressional District. He led all Democratic candidates across the state when it came to small donations as a percentage of his fundraising total in the Primary.
Someone once told me the only difference between a writer and someone who doesn’t write is that writers write stuff down. For a while I believed that. I took my like of writing as simply the fact that I did write stuff down.
This year, as we all face our challenges surviving and thriving in a global pandemic, I lost my Dad suddenly. He was diagnosed with cancer and passed away just 8 months later. His death has left a big void in my life, and I attempt to fill it daily with different things. It still remains, but I realized something that I had kind of overlooked: my father was a great storyteller. Not making things up, mind you, but telling you about something that happened one time. He kept it real, but made it interesting. Daddy bathed us in the history of our family through his stories. He recited baseball games and stats from memory like an encyclopedia. My father always knew a factoid or anecdote that fit in with the conversation. He weaved the most banal acts of life (going to the food store, working, standing in line) into a tale that kept the other party riveted from start to finish. Growing up I learned about things that I liked: presidential trivia, strange history tales, New Jersey folklore. I also had to hear from him total retellings of Brooklyn Dodger baseball games circa 1960 and other things I really truly did not (and still don’t) care about.
RIP Billy Tice, gone too soon.
To me, that is the difference between a writer and someone who doesn’t write. It is not the mere act of writing. It is the effort to place words carefully and tell the story. It is to notice the details and describe them as if the reader is blind. It is to emphasize the feeling at the right moment, so you and the ones who choose to read your work can find common ground, meaning, knowledge and - most importantly - leisure. (My Dad was a big fan of leisure and felt we didn’t have enough in our lives.) I am joining the team here at WeekenderNJ in the hope that you can find the same feeling my father and I shared as we sat at the kitchen table by the window, coffees in our hands, reading the Sunday paper. We would retell what we read and thought was interesting, peppering in debate and laughter. I aspire to be as good a storyteller as my father was. Please enjoy reading WeekenderNJ and make it part of your routine.
Editor's Note: Jill Pitman is from New Jersey and has always returned to the Garden State no matter how far away she has traveled. Her instinctive love for New Jersey and all of the state’s diverse areas, along with her passion for writing, have led her to the WeekenderNJ team after a lengthy departure from journalism. Jill Pitman was born in Bayville, Ocean County and currently resides in Elizabeth, Union County.
Sara Sands I have a confession to make: I am not from New Jersey. Visited for a colleague’s baby shower? Absolutely. Attended a ghoulish Halloween party with a separate room for the bar because apparently folks right over the PATH train have more bedrooms than roommates? Check. Ever claimed residency or ancestors from the 13th state in the Union? Never. So why am I here? New Yorkers, particularly those of us residing on the island of Manhattan, and New Jerseyeans like to pretend that we live on different planets. This couldn’t be further from true. We’re neighbors - a quick train, ferry, bus, or Uber ride away. So many of the wonderful people I have met in New York are from, move to, have family in, or commute back and forth to New Jersey. If the spread of the coronavirus between our two states and our shared claim to fame as the first pandemic hotspots in the US indicate anything, it is that we are inextricably linked. What happens to one of us has an impact on all of us. Isn’t it time then that we started acting like neighbors and not like estranged cousins that only see each other at Thanksgiving every five years? Consider this my friendly “How ya doing, neighbor? Just checking in” banana bread delivery. I’m reaching out to you and inviting myself in. We have so much to share with each other, whether it’s what’s happening in our schools, how we’re tackling homelessness, new ways for families to get outdoors, or ways for singles to connect to each other even during social distancing. We have to start talking and connecting, if we’re going to make our relationship about more than just cheap Southwest flights out of Newark. That’s what WeekenderNJ is about - building an outline community of neighbors that brings us together to share information, laughs, opinions, and, if you’re lucky, videos of our cats doing cute cat things. I’ll be chiming in every once in a while with an article covering everything from politics and public policy to comedy and tips on what to do in New York if you ever find yourself lost on this side of the Hudson. Reach out if there’s something specific you want to hear about! Looking forward to being our two-state liaison. Cheers, Sara Alexandra Centurion
Beautiful serene images, three different sites, what do they all have in common? The first one is a beautiful view of the ocean, the second one a gorgeous mountain view and the last one is a great view of the city on a clear day. The common denominator is that they are all taken in some place in New Jersey. Each photo coming from my phone, scrolling through the summer pictures, these are just a few gems. My name is Alexandra Centurion, I have been living in New Jersey my whole life. I grew up in Southern Bergen County, went to college and graduated from Rutgers. I did my graduate studies at the CW Post Long Island University campus and the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic. This is why I wanted to join WeekenderNJ, it's my love of nature and my home state. I have travelled abroad and enjoyed the beauty that the world offers and it has also given me a profound gratitude for the privileges that I enjoy living in New Jersey. I am a lover of nature, and frankly our world. I would like to see serenity and peace restored globally. I have always worked in health care and know the importance of health. Health in a holistic sense comes from the mind, body and soul being in balance. I have everything here. If I feel like a hike, it's a quick ride to the mountains. If I feel like a coastal getaway there is an abundant amount of beaches I can escape to. New Jersey is diverse and abundant with adventures. Cultural diversity is also such an important part of the dynamic living here. The food, amazing. I am always looking for fun new places to go and learn about. I chose to be part of this collaborative project to talk about issues that are current, vital and real. I also chose to participate to have a voice in a forum that cut out any biases and was just for everyone to enjoy and share. I think it is an exciting platform where we can all come in with our experiences and discuss and share them in a safe space. I am also here because we need fun so much now more than ever. We need to connect on a human level that focuses on our compassion and love for one another.