A brief Q&A with Sam Finlay

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Finlay & Gage, SOMA’s’ new ‘string shop’ will celebrate their grand opening on Sept. 16 (from 11 til 5) at 1677 Springfield Ave., #19 in Maplewood.  It will be such a convenience and pleasure to have a music center in town for string players from professional to beginner.  The shop will rent, sell and repair stringed instruments. Sam Finlay, the manager lives in South Orange and here is a bit of Q&A with the renaissance man himself!
1  were you always interested in music? what instrument(s) do you play?  I started on viola in Junior high, took up string bass in high school & studied it in college, too.  While in school & for a while after, I played bass professionally.
2  what gave you the idea to open the Finlay & Gage stringed instrument store locally?  When I moved here, I was inspired by the level of artistry in the people I met here. When I saw the quality of instruments that the kids had access to and the fact that adults couldn’t get a decent repair without driving a distance, it seemed like I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t offer them something better.
At first, I thought I would just bring instruments from NY, where we have a large store. And then my good friend Matt Smollon, cofounder of SOMa film fest, showed me a location in Maplewood & it seemed like too perfect an opportunity to pass up.


3  what drew you to live in south orange?   My wife, daughter & I came here for backyards, sense of community, & school system. I grew up in the city and was looking for something a little different for my kid. I didn’t want to give up the city altogether, so this seemed like the perfect place.
4  who’s your favorite musician/band/singer? Beethoven, Charles Mingus, The Clash, George Jones, Clutch, Tom Waits, Frank Sinatra, NAS and the Wu Tang Clan

5  if you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be?As a musical instrument nerd, many of these folks might not be familiar to every reader. I’d like to hear what it was like to invent the Violin from Andreas Amati, what it was like to run a busy store in a city like Milan from the young maker Carlo Antonio Testore. Finally, the French inventor-instrument maker-broker Vouillaume seems like he would have been a hoot. I’d like to finish a bottle of wine with him.

6  what does success for Finlay & Gage look like?  I’d like the store to be successful, but more, I’d like for it to work to support a thriving musical community here.

7  what’s the most recent concert/show you’ve attended? I went to see South Orange royalty Mandy Gonzalez in beginning of the summer & she blew my mind. Soon after, I saw Clutch and Primus in Asbury park and they were incredible.

8  what’s your favorite place in the world?  That’s tough, but I would have to say my house. I love to be here with my family. Every time I get home I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
 
9  what would you like to see more of in SOMA?  I’d like to see more bike lanes, rehearsal spaces & schools in SOMA.
We all like to ride our bikes & bike lanes would make this area a lot less dependent on cars.  Rehearsal spaces for musicians make for excellent art communities – just look at Williamsburg in the early days. And as popular as this area I gets, it would be a shame if we forgot to build enough schools for all the kids who are bound to come with the families moving here.
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Cat Fisher’s Theater in the Park in SOMA

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Theater in the Park will be on August 12 in Founder’s Park on Valley St., in South Orange.  This fun event will have short plays on the main stage as well as all-day long events and vendors throughout the park.  Stay tuned for more details.  In the meantime here is a short Q & A with Cat Fisher, who is bringing it to life.

1  what gave you the idea to do the Founder’s Park theater event? I wanted to help bring attention to the park by hosting an event that was different from any other event in town, I have a very good friend who works closely with InterACT and so, with the help of Meara Franowicz, Theater in The Park was born.  It will be an all-day event with short plays happening on the main stage as well as interactive workshops for all ages – some going on during the whole event and some during scheduled times.  The schedule will be announced mid July.
2  were you always interested in theater? what character did you play in a school production? Other then playing the lead in Stone Soup in 2nd grade I have spent most of my time behind the scenes doing costuming for productions in high school and college.  My involvement with Theater in The Park is more administrative – I am leaving the creative to the more creative people.
3  what drew you to south orange? My (now) husband Andrew Kit; he was living here when we met and introduced me to the town.  He has a real passion for the community and helping to make it a great place to live.  I was a bit of a transient, moving around a lot with my previous job which lead me to Montclair, NJ.  From there I met Andrew and fell in love with him and this town.
4  If you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be? That depends if they have to be currently living. if not Ray Bradbury, Bill Murray and Tina Fey, If they have to be alive then replace Ray Bradbury with Tom Robbins.
5  what is the most recent Broadway show you have seen?  It was the limited run of Oh Hello! staring John Mulaney and Nick Kroll.
6  have you attended any shows at the Papermill, Burgdorff and/or Luna stage since coming here? if so, what production?
I have seen The Little Mermaid at the Paper Mill and I have been to a few events at the Burgdorff (mostly fundraisers.) I have actually never been to Luna Stage but will check it out now!  InterACT performs at the Baird; they just finished Sister Act and Once Upon a Mattress and will be announcing next year’s shows at their annual fundraiser as well as the Theater in the Park.
7  who’s your favorite band/singer? This is always a hard question, there are so many to choose from and I have always avoided narrowing it down to just one.  For the sake of keeping it easy I will say Jenny Lewis because I find her so fascinating and her music always puts me in a good mood, and that would include her old band Rilo Kiley.
8  what’s your favorite place in the world?  This is a really hard question but I have to say my parents house – it is the house I grew up in and it will always feel great to go home. They live in Royal Oak MI a Suburb outside Detroit.

 

 

Loving the scenery & greenery

If you need a Spring, Summer or Fall fix of gardens, lush landscaping and two beautiful homes, there are two spots in Essex County that are definitely worth a stroll or two.

Greenwood Garden in Short Hills, NJ  Greenwood Gardens link

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and Van Vleck in Montclair, NJ  Van Vleck link

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Q&A with MAPSO bookfest mastermind, Robert Lasner

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photo courtesy or Gregory Burrus

Robert Lasner is bringing the first ever Book Festival to South Orange & Maplewood on June 9th & 10th.  Please find a bit of Q&A and a link to more info at the website link to BOOKFEST website

1  what gave you the idea to do the MAPSO bookfest?

LSD. Actually, I was at Play Day in South Orange in 2015. Walking down South Orange Ave, which was filled with booths, games and people, reminded me of the set-up of a book festival. I have run my own press, Ig Publishing (www.igpub.com) for fifteen years, so I always have books on the mind.

2  were you always a writer and editor?

I started writing poetry when I was in high school, but wasn’t serious about it. I actually had a featured poem in the high school English yearbook my senior year, but to show how you little I cared at the time, the only reason it made it in was because they forced us all to write a poem for the yearbook because they didn’t have enough submissions.  I got serious about writing in college, after reading Yeats, Pound, and especially, TS Eliot. It was Eliot in particular who made me look at language in an entirely different way.  I didn’t get involved in the editorial side until 15 years ago, when I started my press.

3  name your three favorite books

Hard one, as books that were very influential to me when younger, like Tropic of Cancer or Ethan Frome, I haven’t picked up in years, so I don’t know how my older brain would feel about them. There are also the books I publish, which almost feels like shouldn’t count, or should count more, I don’t know. At this moment, I’ll go with Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Ask the Dust by John Fante, & Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsu.
4  if you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be?
I’m not a big fan of wanting to meet this celebrity, or this famous person from history, mainly because, while you might admire their work or accomplishments, you have no idea how interesting they would be to talk to, or how much of their public persona is real. I’ll go with Pete Townshend, because he seems quite chatty in interviews, any one of the Three Stooges except for Joe because he wasn’t funny, and Albert Einstein, not because of his genius, but because he used to do these public events where he would talk on stage to thousands of people, accompanied by a pretty girl, like a magician with an assistant, and one of those pretty girls was my grandmother. Einstein actually wanted her to go on tour with him, but my grandparents were engaged, and my future grandfather didn’t want her to go. A few years ago, before she died–my grandmother lived to be almost 100–she told me, I should have gone on tour with Einstein first, then married your grandfather when I came back.

5  do you read on kindle?

Only manuscripts for my press, mainly so I didn’t have to print them out. For “real” books, nothing beats holding paper in your hands.
6  what are your thoughts on Amazon in three words? Rules Don’t Apply
7  who’s your favorite band/singer?  The Who
8  what’s your favorite place in the world?  A place I’ve never been
9  are there any movies that you liked much better than the book? if so, which one?
Not really. The closest was John Huston’s version of The Dead, which matches the power and intensity of the James Joyce story on which it is based. I read the story first, and was amazed that the way I had imagined it in my head when reading matched the images on the screen. Perfect story, perfect film.

 

Founders’ Park South Orange

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2 ADDING ELECTRIC AND WATER (for park events and water fountains)

3  SIGNAGE – add park name, Founder’s Park to an attractive sign near entrance

4  UPGRADED FENCING

5  PARK CLEAN-UP & PLANTING – (year 2) taking place May 20.

6 PLAY AREA  – Add benches, tables for adults between swings and street and add more swings, slides & fun play structures to entice kids

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7  WALL OF BUILDING NEXT DOOR  – Paint a mural on the wall

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8  GAZEBO AND SHUFFLEBOARD AREA – Eliminate black top and replace with grass or matching cement.  Paint or re-stain Gazebo, Good spot for 2 large permanent flower planters or some landscaping to perk it up.

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9  VIEWS

Improve views  around side perimeters of park.  Add smaller trees and other flora and block out industrial views on either side of park (skip laurel, ground shrubs, etc.).   Have a small dedicated Garden area with a unique layout and flora that might attract people like Cherry Blossoms in Branch Brook Pk.

10  PROMOTIONS & EVENTS

Summer events – BBQ,  Arts, Sculpture, Theatre, Music, Movies, Foodtrucks, Picnics, Bocce and other games…

 

THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Those interested in joining the AHNA and volunteering at its second annual park clean-up and planting day on Saturday morning, May 20. Visit www.academyheights.weebly.com or find the AHNA on Nextdoor.com.

The AHNA was established in 2015 by local residents, David Kraiker and Ken Krasner. Andrew & Catherine Kit, Linda Cappaze, Robert Lasner and others have also contributed significantly to the mission of “preserving the integrity and serenity” and raising the profile of the neighborhood. It numbers more than 200 members. Although young, the AHNA has already made its mark, working closely with the town on projects like the proposed 4th & Valley development  and 320 Valley St. as well as Founders Park.

New Trails in Watchung Reservation

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The Union Co. Dept. of Parks & Recreation hosted a meeting and presented a Trails Master Plan that has been developed for the Watchung Reservation.  This plan will create new trails and open the Watchung Reservation to mountain biking. The meeting was held on Tuesday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. at the Trailside Nature & Science Center. The map above shows proposed biking trails in light blue, hiking trails in light green and horse/hiking trails in purple.

Reps of the Parks Department and its trails planning consultant explained the plan and answered questions.  Those attending had an opportunity to offer their input on the plan. A similar meeting was held last October, primarily for mountain biking enthusiasts.

The Trails Master Plan includes the construction of 13 1/2 miles of new trails which will be restricted to mountain biking only.  The new trails will be spread throughout most areas of the park.  Portions of the Sierra Trail and other existing hiking or equestrian trails will be shared by all users, including mountain bikers.  Some sections of existing hiking trails will be closed.  Debate is still ongoing regarding possible effects on wildlife and neighboring property.

The Clarus in downtown Maplewood

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Tom and Jennifer Carlin, Maplewood residents and local chef/restaurateurs will open a restaurant and bar at the Clarus in Maplewood, the mixed-use development rising at the site of the former Post Office.  Tom & Jennifer, the husband-and-wife team behind the Gladstone Tavern in Gladstone, signed a lease for a roughly 4,000 square-foot ground floor space on Friday.  The restaurant and bar will open its doors in the summer and will occupy much of the retail space in the new development joining two other signed tenants, Starbucks and BCB Bank.
The developer, Joe Forgione is negotiating with other potential retail tenants for the remaining space. He said there has been a great deal of interest from a variety of businesses, but wanted to ensure that tenants would not compete directly with other local businesses and would “bring vitality to Maplewood Avenue.” Forgione helped secure the liquor license for the venture and it will need to be approved by the Maplewood Township Committee (which acts as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control.)

All apartment residents on the second and third floors will have access to amenities including a state-of-the-art fitness center, yoga and spin studio, package center, resident lounge, billiards, and a beautifully-designed luxe lobby with double-sided fireplace. A digital, fitness-on-demand personal trainer will also be available 24 hours a day in the virtual fitness room. The building also includes a 20-car parking garage “with an electric car charger, personal storage space for residents, secured bike storage, and elevator service.”