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Tim Dingman: Why do we make art?

Why do we make art? There is no choice. You either don’t much care and, therefore, don’t bother, or you are driven and you need to make it. You need to create. It is simultaneously very self-centered and arrogant and absolutely selfless. You need to express yourself and inflict your voice on the civilian public at large and share and inform and enlighten. You need to bring the expression of what you believe to be your “revealed truth” to a (perhaps) unperceptive population.

Newark is not Chelsea. Working in the arts community in Newark tends to give expression to the bias in the community, to the revelatory and expressive inclusion of the rest of the community. The South Bronx and Chelsea, well…not so much. This is why I live here. This is why, at my advanced old age and semi-decrepitude, I have been able to be revivified and join in, and be accepted by the arts community (musical, literary, and visual) in Newark.

I have lived in most of the regions of the US east of Wisconsin. Newark, as the rest of America used to be, is a place where one can re-imagine and remake oneself. This is a place that remakes itself periodically, and that embraces the new more willingly that any other place where I have lived.

Five things we’re thinking about: Week of November 4

This week, we’re 1) voting in the New Jersey governor’s race AND the Newark council at-large special election, 2) attending Newark Tech Week events, 3) reflecting on this weekend’s two forward-thinking conferences, 4) reading and considering your smart, respectful mayoral political analysis for Brick City Live’s upcoming new blog, “The Armchair”, and 5) checking out Brick City Live’s first artist-in-residence, Tim Dingman.

What else should we be thinking about? Tweet #fivethings @brickcitylive, or leave a comment below. Wondering why the stories on Brick City Live look the way they do? Read this essay.

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This Tuesday is election Day

Both the gubernatorial race and Newark’s special election to fill the at-large council seat vacated by congressman Donald Payne, Jr. will take place tomorrow, November 5. 

The final Buono vs. Christie debate:

Watch all three council at-large candidates debate:

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This week is Newark Tech Week

If you’re curious about the Newark tech scene, there’s probably no better time to find out here you fit in than this upcoming week. Here’s the schedule of events per the Newark Tech Week website.

Monday: Nov. 4
RBS Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development 

Nonobvious Uses of Technology: Technology in Sports, Entertainment, and Food
Time: 7pm
Where: Rutgers Business School, One Washington Park
Newark, NJ

Details: HERETuesday: Nov. 5
Blerdology & Geek Soul Brother

Sci-Fi Art: Branding and Expanding in the Digital World
Time: 6:00-9:00pm
Where: Fortress of Solitude, 53 University Ave Newark, NJ
Details: HERE
Thursday: Nov. 7
5th Annual Newark Innovation Acceleration Challenge Deadline

Time: Midnight
Where: Everywhere
Details: HERE

Thursday: Nov. 7
Build in Brick City: Leveraging Broadband for Your Small Business
Time: 6:30 -8:00pm
Where: 744 Broad Street, 26th Floor, Newark, NJ
Details: HERE

Thursday: Nov. 7
Scarlet Start-Ups
Starting Your Start-Up
Time: 6:30-8:00pm
Where: Rutgers Business School, One Washington Park
Newark, NJ

Details: HERE

Thursday: Nov. 7
Tech Happy Hour
Time: 8:00pm
Where: Martini 494, 494 Broad St. Newark, NJ
Details: HERE 

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Nov. 8-10
Lean Start-Up Machine Newark

Time: All Day
Where: Seed Gallery, 210 Market Street, Newark, NJ 07102

Register: HERE

Friday: Nov. 8
The Rise of AllHipHop.com & The Future of Online Journalism
Time: 7:00-10:00pm
Where:  Seed Gallery, 210 Market Street, Newark, NJ 07102
Register: HERE

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Contribute to “The Armchair”

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Last week, we announced on Facebook that we’ll be accepting submissions for political analysis from all of you. We’re looking for people with smart, sharp, informed, substantive, and respectful opinions. If you’re interested, email contributions@brickcitylive.com, and we’ll tell you how to submit.

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This weekend boasted two forward-thinking conferences in Newark

Leadership Newark’s “Rebuilding the Dream that is Newark”, featuring an afternoon keynote by former green jobs advisor to president Barack Obama and current CNN Crossfire host Van Jones. More coverage of his remarks to come. In the meantime, here’s Brick City Live’s interview with Jones, where he discusses his ideas for how green and tech jobs can helped lift cities like Newark.

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Photo credits: All photos by Anthony Alvarez

FEMWorks and ForwardEverNJ also hosted TedXBroadStreet, where the theme was “Reach, Rise, Revive”. Live streams of the all-day talks are available on their uStream page.

 

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Check Tim Dingman’s artist-in-residence page early and often

artist in residence photo

His inaugural post is live, and there will be more where that came from throughout the month. If you’re an artist who’s interested in taking over our arts section one month, being highlighted, or contributing one-off content, please email contributions@brickcitylive.com.

Image credit: Timothy Dingman

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Introducing our new “artist-in-residence” feature

Each month, a Newark-based artist will lend their work, sentiments, and inspiration to the Arts section of Brick City Live. The parameters we set for exactly how they’ll execute that are very few, and the creative control they’ll have is nearly absolute – these are artists we’re talking about, after all.

We hope this feature will help you discover new artists and give you a small window into the vibrancy of the artist community here in Newark. This is the smallest sliver of the talent working right here in town.

Our first artist-in-residence will be Tim Dingman. He was the principal photographer for the Open Doors arts festival that took place here in Newark last month, and graciously shared those photos with Brick City Live. Tim is a photographer who has been living and working in Newark for the past three years. He’s currently showing his work at City Without Walls (cWOW) in the exhibit, “Newark, Can You Be Thus? A Creative De-Struction”. Check out his inaugural post, “‘The working artists’s rag’: an introduction,” here.

Although the artist-in-residence for a given month will be given a significant share of voice in the arts section, we’ll still continue to profile artists and consider op-eds – in both written and visual formats – from people who would like to contribute. We have artists lined up through the end of the year, but if you’d like to be considered for a month next year, or nominate a Newark-based artist to be considered, please send an email with subject “artist-in-residence” to contributions@brickcitylive.com.

We hope you’ll enjoy the new feature.

“The working artist’s rag”: An introduction

My name is Timothy P. Dingman.

I am a working artist and this is a “rag.”  Think of it as a “Raga”: a story, a lesson, an explanation, a riff, an apology (in the philosophical Thomistic/Aristotelian sense). This is a serial blog for the month of November done at the gracious invitation of Brick City Live. It is an essay spread over 30 days , about what a working artist in Newark, New Jersey does. It is an explanation of what one does to be and must do to be an artist. It is an explanation of how one gets to be an artist.  Everyone wants to get to be an artist…until they get to be one.

I promise that my name is Timothy Dingman. I promise that from the time I was 7 until I was 24, I never lived in one place for more than sixteen months. I promise that I am currently showing my photographs at cWOW in Newark and a tiny gallery in Chelsea, on 24th Street. These facts, I think, confirm my status as a working artist. At least it confirms that I meet all of the demands of the definition.  I hope I have achieved some small level of credibility with you, my audience.

I came to Newark in 2011.  I had my kids out of or into stable positions at school or work. Their mother had migrated to California some years before.  I was looking to live in a city, as I had always lived on the edge of cities and found the vibrancy, diversity, access to unique culture and basic arrogance of proclaiming oneself a “city dweller” worth the risk.

The risk is considerable.  In 2011, I participated in 6 shows in New York City and suburban New York and northern New Jersey.  In November of 2011, I got mugged pretty brutally in the courtyard of St. Lucy’s Church on 7th Avenue.  It took me the better part of 18 months to get out of the hospital and out of my apartment.  I still can’t quite see out of my left eye.  The last three months have reaffirmed my faith in and dedication to art.

Thus began my real connection with both the arts and “civilian” communities in Newark, and my admiration and fascination with that relationship.   The real breakthrough came last month, when someone on Clifton Ave walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to buy drugs.  It felt like acceptance. Just then, for a moment, I was in the community. Poor guy. I might be the only person my age on the East Coast who doesn’t smoke pot.  Don’t get me wrong: I would try it if not for my asthma. If he knew what kind of prescription psych meds I take, he might have asked to buy from me.

I had a mentor in Bergen/Rockland counties named Paula Mattawick.  Her mantra to me was “85/15”. If you want to be a working artist, allocate 85% of your time promoting and selling your art and yourself…and your ass if you have any left over. Allocate 15 % of your time to eating, sleeping, and making art.  A lot gets left behind.

I had a mentor in New York City named Jeanine Alfierei: intelligent, generous, talented, driven. Her partner, Elaina, has two Masters degrees and, as a painter, knows no fear.  She taught me that it isn’t so much the individual mentors or friends that are important to an artist, but involvement with the community that counts.  It isn’t that every one depends on everyone else; it’s that everyone in or out of the arts community in Newark is prepared to give anyone else a little step up. A little word of encouragement. An introduction.

The city of Newark…

I came here for the cheap rents. I came here because my oldest son was and architecture student at NJIT, and we developed a symbiotic/parasitic relationship that revolved around rent and mutual exchange of information, new and old.

I stayed here for the community.  I can’t have any interaction with an artist or a regular community member here that does not include a concern for the community at large. That would not happen in Rockland County, Bergen County, or Chelsea.

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Tim Dingman is Brick City Live’s November “artist-in-residence”. To learn more about the feature, go here.

 

Leadership Newark’s Celia King on the organization’s inaugural public policy conference

Leadership Newark is a 15-year-old fellowship program that accepts top talent who live or work in Newark for a two-year long program of courses, networking, and hands-on public policy experience. For the first time, the organization will be hosting a public policy submit, which will take place this coming Saturday, November 2, at Rutgers Newark’s Paul Robeson Center. I spoke with Leadership Newark’s executive director, Celia King, about this year’s conference, and the group’s overall goals.

Why did you decide to do a conference this year, at this point in the tenure of your organization?

Our focus is public policy issues, and a Leadership Newark participant actually suggested that we’re positioned in such a way that we could have discussions on issues impacting the city.

How did you go about shaping the agenda for this first conference?

In the second year of the program, we have [Leadership Newark] participants do a project for a nonprofit that’s public policy related and driven. We actually submitted a proposal to our own organization for our fellows to serve as consultants, and to work on the idea of putting together a summit or conference that would work for the city. That idea was accepted.  They went out and surveyed the community to get a sense of what people wanted to hear more about, and also to shape a format that would work. They also identified a list of suggested national and local speakers that we’d be able to consider.

Do you have a plan to also make the outcomes of the summit actionable?

The mantra for the summit, which we’re enforcing in each of our workshops, is “Learn, act, and change.” We’ll be giving participants examples of what actions they can take following the sessions, and providing them with a community action guide which shows very simple steps toward acting and measuring their own change. Then we’ll stay in touch to make sure they’re on point, including providing collaboration cards so individuals can share needs and skills with each other. Next year at the same time, we’ll have a followup, so they can hear collectively what tangible changes have in fact occurred. The idea is for them to do something that’s bite-sized and doable.

And why did you think Van Jones was a well-aligned keynote speaker for this inaugural conference?

The team that worked on coming up with the whole framework thought “Rebuilding the Dream that is Newark” made sense. (Van Jones’ latest book is entitled “Rebuilding the Dream”). In the 21st century, we’re talking about the environment, we’re talking about going green. We need people who live in urban America to recognize that they can compete with those in rural and suburban areas. Going green is not limited to those outside the urban communities.

Zooming out from the conference a bit, who are the participants in Leadership Newark itself?

It’s a wide swath, and that’s what makes the organization great. We have lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, and people in government, and that variety enriches the discussion.

Do you think of yourselves as a think tank?

We’re almost like a think tank, and I do describe us that way. For example at the conference, we’ll have brilliant people all captivated for one day to concentrate on one topic. They’ll use the core of that topic to learn more and find out what they as leaders will be able to do to make it better for all.

I know Leadership Newark is politically neutral in terms of candidates. In light of that, how do you engage during a local political season like this one?

We absolutely stay neutral. We ask everybody to come into the doors no matter who they support, but whatever is shared in the room remains confidential, and we all respect each other so we can work together. And we embrace all sides so we can hear from everyone.

As for officeholders, we have a relationship with everybody, because they have been identified by the people, and that’s who we should work with.

Van Jones, keynote speaker at upcoming Newark policy conference, on “Rebuilding the Dream” in Newark

Van Jones is the founder of the Rebuild the Dream advocacy group and author of a best-selling book by the same title, co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, and former special advisor for green jobs to president Barack Obama. Jones will be the keynote speaker at Leadership Newark’s public policy summit “Rebuilding the Dream that is Newark“, which takes place this coming Saturday, November 2, at Rutgers Newark. (Tickets for the summit are still available.) We spoke earlier this week about how Newark and cities like it can take advantage of green jobs and the tech economy. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Newark isn’t an island, and a lot of the issues facing Newark are macro ones facing the entire country. How do we think of locally sourced and implemented solutions to those problems that also respect the broader context we have to contend with?

One of the things I’ve been stressing recently is that in any of our lower income communities, there’s a lot of hidden genius. If our kids were growing up in Bangladesh or India or China, they’d be very clear that we’d be doing computer coding. We haven’t been doing that in black communities. We tend to focus more on our traditional employment strategies: public sector, teaching, law degree. But the advanced degree of the new century is the MBA, not the JD. Rather than focusing so much on the humanities, we should be focusing more on math and science.

Environmental issues disproportionately affect black communities. How can we get them more on board with the environmental movement?

It’s actually a stereotype that African Americans are behind the curve. When you look at the polling data, we’re ahead of the curve. There’s now a huge section of white Americans who reject climate science and basic common sense on the environment. But if you ask African Americans, 86% would support Obama taking on climate change.

Second, we have a number of other issues we need to contend with. We need more work, more wealth, and more health.

And part of it is just continuing to create demonstrations of what the issue is about. African Americans don’t use the word “green”. We tend to say “natural”. We tend to say “healthy”. We ask questions like, “How do we eat more natural food, more healthy food?” We don’t say we want an “eco-friendly” diet. African Americans are becoming more health conscious, if nothing else because of the first lady promoting gardening, better food, and fitness. All those are quote unquote “green solutions”.

So if you take the labels away and just look at the behavior, we are very conscious and supportive of environmental initiatives. Conversations from the first lady about food have real resonance. Concerns about asthma, which is tied to pollution and indoor air quality, also have real resonance.

And how do we make the connection between environmentalism and work, wealth, and health more obvious?

We need to recognize where progress is happening. In fact, despite what we were talking about earlier, it’s probably locally where we’ll have more progress, because Washington, D.C. is so crippled by infighting and the Tea Party. Community gardening, weatherization programs, or public utility companies trying to do more wind and solar, all create more work, wealth, and health for communities.

There’s a lot happening in the economy that we need to pay attention to that’s positive, like the revolution in 3D manufacturing, where you can make stuff on your desktop that you use to have a factory for. What can that do for entrepreneurs who are creative in Newark?

In terms of an economic and jobs agenda, what areas should cities like Newark be investing in?

Computer programming is like a global mathematical language. I don’t know how to do computer coding, but I want to make sure our children do, because if you’re coding literate you can build our own companies. Coding, 3D manufacturing, robotics — that is the future. I’m working with a group teaching robotics in Africa because advanced manufacturing is the future: a robot will either put you out of job, or you can design the robot and have a job.

You don’t need the federal government, a march, or a protest to get that done. We need to just look at information available online, and make sure our children are connected to it. A lot is happening all around that we’re just not paying attention to.

I think that our community has been stuck in a politics of nostalgia and lament, looking backwards with grief over slavery and segregation, or at best a politics of critique of present disparities. This long list of stuff we don’t have. But Dr. King said, “I have a dream,” not “I have a lament.” What we don’t have is a politics of the black future. What is the black future and the urban future we’re trying to create?

Newark council candidate Brian Logan shares his goals and plan for the South Ward

I spoke with South Ward council candidate Brian Logan yesterday about his vision for its neighborhoods, and his plan for making that vision a reality. Logan is head football coach at Weequahic High School and 23 year veteran of the Newark Police Department, where he currently serves as a decorated detective on the force. His work has previously been covered in The Star Ledger. He’s aligned with councilman and mayoral candidate Anibal Ramos, whose public safety plan Logan recently endorsed.

What is the most pressing issue in the South Ward?

Right now I think the most pressing issue facing the South Ward is protection. The people don’t feel safe. Police layoffs, attrition from the department, community interaction, putting the “neighbor” back into the “hood” – all that’s gone. That’s why I’m running for the South Ward council.

What will you do to help turn that around?

As a police officer for 23 years, as a head high school football coach for 20 years, and as a man of the community that was born and raised here, I think I know the terrain better than anyone else. I have experience as a detective in the Police Athletic League, in the D.A.R.E. program, and working with a great gang resistance program.

We need to bring back the Youth Aid Bureau. When troubled teens are committing crime, it’s a way to track them to help them stay on the right page. Once they find themselves getting into trouble, you want to try to attract them so you can steer them in the right direction, whether it’s programs for intervention, job training, mentorships — that type of thing. It’s about letting the kid knows he’s of more value being a productive citizen than not.

Why do you think the city council is the most effective place from which to solve that problem?

Resources. City council is able to generate resources. You can always tap into more. They have the outlets to provide more recreational programs. They have the outlets to provide more beautification of the city. And the outlets to basically pass legislation on educational opportunities in terms of what’s going on in the city.

What’s your positive vision for the South Ward at its best?

The positive vision is economic development. The South Ward is one of the least developed wards in the city. There’s nothing going on here. Back when I was growing up, you had small mom-and-pop businesses that I was able to work at and earn $30 a week. That made me feel positive about myself. I was able to buy myself something small and contribute to what my family didn’t have.

Also, the small mom-and-pop stores bring people together. We would shop in the neighborhood. You had Cedric’s record shop, Four Leaves deli, which made great sandwiches. Now people are stuck up in their homes because there’s nothing here, and the shopping is minimal. People don’t get to interact with each other.

It was vibrant before – there was just so much to do. From recreation go education, the South Ward was booming when I was  a kid. And that’s why I want to be South Ward councilman, so I can bring that back. I remember when it meant a lot to put a Little League uniform on with a local business sponsoring your team, walking proud through the neighborhood with that business name on, doing great things in terms of playing sports, and being recognized.

What happened to the South Ward?

I think it was the product of jobs leaving the community as well as drugs coming in. I think the drug game kind of took away from the people in the neighborhood, kind of broke down families, broke down self esteem. It was just a horrible thing for the community.

How do you go about making that positive vision real?

We have to go out and make the community a safe place. It’s already a thriving market. You have public transportation from all over coming to Newark. I love what Cory Booker did for the city in terms of development, but he brought it downtown. We have to bring that back into the neighborhoods. And I think we can attract some great businesses to come here if we get our crime problem in check, and we start looking out for each other.

How do we get the crime problem in check?

We have to take back our community in terms of hiring more police officers, but we all know that we don’t want to over police. That’s not always the solution. But we are totally down in terms of policemen, so we need to hire some to protect the citizens.

Then the citizens need to step up and say, “Okay when the police come in and stabilize it, we need to keep it.” Put more walking teams in the neighborhood and get familiar with who’s supposed to be there and who’s not. If you want to loiter all day, you’re going to get picked up from the corner and dropped off at faith-based or nonprofit organization so you can get a skill and learn to work. Because nobody’s going to occupy these corners. Those days will be over. It’s not going to happen. You can’t do it in Hillside, and you won’t do it here.

We’re just trying to make sure that taxpaying citizens get what they deserve. They deserve to get out of their homes, exercise, meet and greet each other, and be neighbors and not hostages in their homes.

Why are you the ideal person for the council position? What case have you been making to South Ward residents?

Most of them know that I’m a neighborhood guy. You always see me in the neighborhood, and when you see me, I’m working by already being the head football coach of Weequahic, being a police officer. They know they’re going to get 100% honesty, that I’m going to be a fighter and be passionate about the community where I was born and raised and never left. I’m from Newark; I am Newark.

We’re about making the South Ward a priority so people can be safe here, people want to come here to do business, and people want to come here to have a great time.

More information about Logan is available on his website, www.brianklogan.com. His campaign also maintains a social media presence on Facebook (facebook.com/loganfornewark), on Twitter @BrainKLogan, and on Instagram @BrianKLogan.

Brick City Live previously interviewed South Ward council candidate Jarmaro “Dilettante” Bass.

From the BCL vault: Power restored after Hurricane Sandy, Halsey Street stalwarts get back to work

One year after Hurricane Sandy, a small tribute to the Newark shops on Halsey Street that got back to business the morning after the lights came back on downtown. After this story idea was approved but not printed on NJ.com, Brick City Live’s creator decided it was time to build a permanent home for her and others’ stories about the brilliance and resilience of Newarkers.

October 31, 2012

Mindy Singh inspects the dining area of the brand new Elbow Room eatery on Halsey Street, Wednesday, October 31, 2012. Elbow room's ribbon cutting is scheduled for November 8.

Mandy Singh inspects the dining area of the brand new Elbow Room eatery on Halsey Street, Wednesday, October 31, 2012. Elbow room’s ribbon cutting is scheduled for November 8.

NEWARK, N.J. – Signs hung precariously from joints, or were blown off altogether. A chunk of the historic Hahne and Company building lay scattered in jagged shards on the sidewalk. Newark Downtown District workers, clad in their bright yellow uniforms, reported damage via walkie-talkie, and cleared what they could.

But in spite of Hurricane Sandy’s clear mark on Halsey Street downtown Newark, many businesses there were open yesterday, the morning after Public Service Electric & Gas restored power to much of the city.

The drag of Halsey Street between Washington Park and Raymond Boulevard is notable in part because of the new businesses that have opened there in the last five years, but it was primarily the veterans who showed up to work yesterday, even as customers mostly stayed home.

Kilkenny manager Robert Lynch appeared to sprout multiple arms as he poured drinks, operated the cash register, wiped the counter, and kept an eye on the door, seemingly all at once.

“We’re light on customers today,” Lynch explained, his gaze sweeping across the eight men who sat at the bar.

Most of the patrons were trading war stories about the hurricane. One man, who watched a projector screen attentively as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefed the press on the hurricane aftermath, declined a plastic bag for his takeout order.

“I’m just going down the street,” he said to Lynch. “You might need to save those for the next few days.”

A crowded Central Restaurant, the only Halsey Street eatery north of Raymond Boulevard besides Kilkenny that is open every day of the week, was the only packed business on the strip.

Inside at lunchtime, the diner was heavily staffed, and every booth and barstool was occupied. A waitress paused between answering phones and taking orders to take in the sight of a swelling gaggle of customers. She sighed heavily.

“Don’t worry, we’re practicing patience,” a waiting customer reassured her, snapping the waitress out of her stupor.

Past Michael Lamont Neckwear, 27 Mix, Karma Consignment Shop, The Coffee Cave, and Elbow Room – all closed – Cut Creators barber shop, a nine-year-old business and recent transplant to Halsey Street, was open for business.

“So far we’ve had four customers,” said receptionist Anthony Smith of Elizabeth, who lounged on a white couch in the back of the shop. He and a barber, who sat in a chair near the front, were manning the empty shop while watching the same channel on different televisions. “We typically have 10 to 15.”

Smith was still without power when he left his residence yesterday morning, but he said the promise of blackout relief is not what convinced him to open the shop. “The power was on, so I just decided we should be open,” he said.

Many of the Halsey Street business managers and owners who decided to open yesterday made the same, simple calculation.

“Last night the power came on, so I figured we might as well open,” said John Trainello, owner of Art Kitchen. Like the other Halsey Street establishments that saw property damage, Art Kitchen experienced minor nicks and cuts. Trainello also said food spoilage was only a minor problem.

Kyle Beloved, owner of Beloved R Kutz unisex salon, opened at 7:30 AM, his normal time.

“I got a few phone calls yesterday asking if I’d be open,” Beloved said, as he lined the beard of Darnell Bunche, his sole customer at the time. “I just want to make sure I’m here for my clients.”

Beloved said that besides moving the shop’s sign, which had blown into the stairwell, Hurricane Sandy left no major trace. Like most of the other businesses, he’d seen only a fraction of his normal daily traffic by midday.

The impetus to open was the same for Underground Tattoos, Halsey Cleaners, Halsey Fabric Shop, Queen Pizza, and Joe’s Shoe Shop. But while those Halsey Street mainstays wanted to maintain normalcy for their customers, the owners of newbie establishment Elbow Room sought to ensure they were on track to have an impressive coming-out at their ribbon cutting, scheduled for November 8.

“We had a 12-hour outage, so we have to assess everything,” said Mandy Singh, general manager of the Brooklyn-based restaurant’s Halsey Street location. Joel Bolden, the restaurant’s owner, pulled up in his truck just as Singh arrived at the restaurant by foot.

The pair carefully inspected the newly renovated space, making their way from the dining area on the ground floor to the basement, where the food storage and offices are located.

“No water!” she said with a broad smile, as she peered inside a storage closet.

“No water damage!” Bolden echoed from another basement-level room.

The pair looked relieved. “The last thing we need,” said Singh, “is a natural disaster to delay us.”

TravelingMad Postcard: A Night in the Desert

I needed a break from the US and decided to visit one of my new favorite places. I booked a ticket to Marrakech, Morocco, where I’d spent a week a year ago for a wedding. I was able to explore, taste, see, do. The city is not for the faint of heart. It’s bursting at the seams with tourists, peddlers, snake charmers and the like.

I scheduled a tour to the Sahara desert directly with my hostel, Mama Marrakech. I made a quick phone call and was told I’d be picked up the next morning between 7 and 7:30am, and that breakfast would be ready before then. Probably due to excitement, I woke up on my own around 6:30. I had already packed my bag the night before.

A delicious meal of flat bread drenched with honey, fried eggs, a biscuit and mint tea was served. Me and two other travelers discussed what clothes we had packed. What does one wear when riding a camel? We had no idea. We just assumed some type of long pants.

After about 7 hours of driving, sightseeing and bathroom breaks, we could not have been more relieved when our van pulled up to a caravan of camels resting and guides dressed in gandoras and turbans. This was the moment we had all been waiting for! I couldn’t wait to ride a camel through the desert.

Mounting the camel was quick and without ceremony. The guide said, “Hold on here. Squeeze.” A command was given to the camel and he rose on all fours. I was up high — camels are tall! I grinned with excitement but also held on for life. We thanked our driver and were off.

My travel buddy said, “You know we’re not in America, because there was no disclaimer.” I agreed. We joked that if we were in the US we would have had to fill out multiple release forms and emergency contact information. At minimum we would have been given some emergency words. I thought to myself, “How do I say STOP in Arabic? What’s my guide’s name? How do I say HELP?” Well, this was Africa, not America. No worries. And thankfully, I didn’t need to use any of those phrases.

During the ride, we all photographed the beautiful mountains, sand dunes and each other. Earlier I was holding on for dear life, but by the end I was snapping selfies! We gave our camels names. I named my camel Aziz. I thought it was appropriate, and I’ve always liked that name. Aziz was obedient, and we had a pleasant journey through the desert.

After a couple of hours we arrived at our camp site. The tents were different – much better than what I was expecting. It was dusk when we arrived. We were told we could come into the large tent with everyone. I saw shisha (hooka) and asked if they were going to smoke. The guide said yes, and that there was beer in the tent. (I later found out this was a joke; most Moroccans don’t drink alcohol. Neither do I, so I wasn’t disappointed.)

Our guide poured us mint tea, and we all said cheers. Everyone was asked where they were from and what languages we spoke. I was very impressed that many people in Morocco speak Arabic, French, English, Spanish, German and likely other languages. They will collect tourist money in any language you speak! Outside the tent was a fire, and the guides sang and played drums. I laid down to watch the stars. I have never seen so many. I actually saw shooting stars. It was beautiful. Breathtaking.

We rose early to watch the sun rise. I was completely in awe. It really is a bit indescribable. It was time for Aziz and I to head out of the desert. I was saddened to see the vans waiting for us in the distance. My dream trip to the desert in Africa had come to an end. I said goodbye and thank you to the guides in Arabic, but not forever. I will be back. I returned to America with a new sense of peace. The desert is bigger than me, and all of my menial stressors back home seemed to dry up and float away with the wind. This was an unforgettable journey. I think everyone should do it!

Go to the Moroccan desert. It will change your life.

 –  TravelingMad

P.S. Check out more of the photos from my trip on the TravelingMad Facebook page.

TravelingMad is a Newark native and world traveler. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to read her Street Style & Profile feature by Citi Medina.

Five things we’re thinking about: Week of October 28

This week, we’re 1) getting ready for TedXBroadStreet, 2) stargazing at NJPAC, 3) re-watching last week’s mayoral forum on education, 4) contemplating this weekend’s anti-violence rally, and 5) marking our calendars for November 1, the day our artist-in-residence feature launches on BCL.

What else should we be thinking about? Tweet #fivethings @brickcitylive, or leave a comment below. Wondering why the stories on Brick City Live look the way they do? Read this essay.

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TedXBroadStreet is this coming Saturday

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The independently organized conference is coming to Rutgers Business School this Saturday. Tickets for the live event are on sale for $40, and the event’s organizers will offer a free live stream of the event on their site, as well as viewing parties around town. Per their website, the purpose of TedXBroadStreet:

Created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” TEDxBroadStreet “Reach. Rise. Revive”, locally developed and organized, will give Newark stakeholders the opportunity to stimulate dialogue and create positive grass roots change on a variety of topics critical to the revitalization and sustainability of the city.

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‘Black Girls Rock!’ honors Queen Latifah, Venus Williams, Patti Labelle at NJPAC – The Star Ledger/NJ.com

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Per The Star Ledger, Queen Latifah addressed the significance of the taping being in Newark:

“It’s from my peers, from my ladies,” Latifah said. “I’m happy it’s happening in Newark. I was born here, and I always try to come home, to let everyone know in Newark, Irvington, East Orange, Jersey City, that we can dream, and we can make those dreams reality.”

Read the full story and view the photo slideshow at NJ.com.

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Newark groups, celebrities, citizens and supporters converge on Lincoln Park for anti-violence rally

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“The Funeral” featured remarks by victims’ family members, community leaders, young spoken word artists and singers, and celebrities. Pictured above: rapper Rah Digga.

Image credit: Andaiye Taylor

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Newark’s four mayoral candidates debate education

Brick City Live published an account of the four-way debate last Friday. The full debate is now available online.

Video streaming by Ustream
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We’re launching an artist-in-residence feature

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Every month, Brick City Live will chose a visual artist working in Newark to take over our Arts section with their work, their thoughts, and their inspiration. Our first artist-in-residence will be Timothy Dingman, the photographer who captured Open Doors for us. We have our next few months locked up, but if you’re interested in contributing work on a one-off basis, or contributing as an artist-in-residence next year, email arts@brickcitylive.com.

Image credit: Timothy Dingman

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