BY Justin Mannato | Friday, Sep 20, 2013 8:00am |
One rainy afternoon a few weeks ago I was walking my dogs. We had just made our way into Brookdale Park at the entrance on Grove Street. My dogs – shih tzus, a boutique breed if there ever was one and I have TWO – were being surprisingly accommodating despite the weather. We were minding our own business when an SUV filled with teenage boys sped by, but not before one of them rolled down the window and shouted at me. “You’re a faggot,” he proclaimed confidently. I’m not sure if he came to this conclusion because of the boutique dogs I was walking. Or maybe it was because I was sporting my fashionable new bright green rain slicker. Perhaps it was my new bringing-the-geeky-back, thick-rimmed eyeglasses that inspired this vitriolic epithet. Or he could have just done it as a stupid dare from him friends. I’ll never know because they didn’t stop to give me the opportunity to ask.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. Not because I was insulted, but because I was disappointed. Disappointed that something like that would happen, especially in this town. Especially in this day and age. (There I go sounding like an old man again.)Now, before I go and indict an entire generation of male youth as homophobes, let me say that I have faith that these miscreants are indeed the minority. Albeit a vocal minority. A group that has the right to say what they want. That doesn’t mean I have to like what they say.
That is why I support, a new rule being imposed by New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) which prohibits the use of biased language in New Jersey high school sports.
BY Justin Mannato | Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 7:00am |
(Editor’s Note: This post originally ran in 2012)
I ran to the top of Eagle Rock Reservation on Sunday with a group of other runners. Fleet Feet Montclair organized the event. When we reached the 9/11 Memorial up there, we all stopped. We looked at the skyline, forever changed. One of us remarked about the weather, and how it was so similar to that day eleven years ago. Clear, crisp, summer still holding on for life as autumn waited to take its turn. Then a plane flew overhead. Another eerie reminder.
I didn’t know anyone who died that day. I know people who knew people. That’s as far as my connection to the victims goes. But still, I mourn. I think about what happened that day and I still shake my head in disbelief. How cold that have happened? It’s still mind-boggling, even though we lived it. Thinking about it still evokes confusion, anxiety, sadness.
There was a time when we weren’t sure it was ok to laugh. When we did, it made us feel normal again, at least for a moment. The first time I truly laughed after 9/11 was shortly after the first time I cried.
BY Justin Mannato | Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 10:00am |
There are so many things my wife and I need to do before we go on vacation. Planning, packing, Organizing the home, eating the food that would otherwise spoil. Hey, it’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it. It’s a lot of work in addition to our full-time jobs. Nice problem to have, I admit. But this time around we have to do even more than normal because we’re not bringing our daughter. We’re fulfilling a promise we made to each other on our honeymoon and going back to Venice to celebrate our tenth anniversary. (Making our way to Paris as well.)
It’s a dream vacation. Once in a lifetime. But before we live that dream, we need to consider a worst possible nightmare. Before we check out of reality, we are faced with a sobering reality check. We realized we needed to update our will. Because God forbid if something happens to the both of us.
BY Justin Mannato | Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013 10:00am |
Moms and dads, I have the perfect summer beach book for you. Moms Who Drink and Swear by Nicole Knepper is, quite simply, the whole package. You will laugh, cry, and think in 309 short pages that you will find difficult to put down. Now, as the titled suggests, this book is not for everyone. You need a sense of humor. You need to tolerate some, er, colorful language. Hell, Nikki uses every swear word you’ve ever heard and even invents some of her own. She has vulger nicknames for her lady parts and the children who came out of them. She is an equal opportunity offender. The potty mouth in me found it mostly hilarious when I wasn’t cringing in amused disgust. And let me take this opportunity to warn you now about the entire chapter devoted to dog poop.
Yes, there will be times when you won’t believe what you’re reading. There will be times when you’ll be horrified that you’re laughing. And there will certainly be times where you’re laughing so loudly and so publicly you have to hand the book to your spouse and say, “Read this part.”
BY Justin Mannato | Wednesday, May 08, 2013 8:00am |
Use this please.
Picture this: You walk into an eating establishment. You look to your left. And there is a woman in the seating area—where people eat—changing a baby’s diaper. Kind of makes you lose your appetite a little, does it not? This is the scene my family and I walked into when we went out for frozen yogurt last Sunday evening. I’ve been debating myself as to whether this is in fact as outrageous as I thought it was. Then I consider the immediate reaction my wife, always the cooler head of the two us and rarely one to instantly judge. She had the same initial reaction as I did. That is, “What the bleep is she doing?!”
I think this is unacceptable. There are societal norms that we have to adhere to even in cases of child-care emergency. Human feces and frozen yogurt do not mix. Ever. It’s gross. Not to mention unsanitary and just plain dirty. Just because we have children, it does not excuse us from thinking of other people when we are in public with our children. Sure, there are times when we need to let our child have the tantrum in the store. But there are also times when we need to give them a Snickers bar to avoid the meltdown in the checkout lane. Same theory applies to diaper changing. Use the bathroom. If there is no changing table in there, shame on the establishment. But we certainly can’t expect every place of business with a public restroom to be equipped with a changing station in the restroom. It would be nice, but that not realistic.
BY Justin Mannato | Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 8:00am |
So, you want to send your child to a Montclair public elementary school? You’re touring the schools this week. Perhaps you’re just like me and my wife and you moved here for the public schools. Yet, choosing one is more difficult than choosing which frozen yogurt shop in town to patronize. (And there are as nearly just as many of each.) Funny thing is we asked for this whole school tour song and dance by choosing Montclair to begin with. So I, veteran of my one and only school tour of duty just last year, am here to help you.
First, prepare for five months of unmitigated angst. It’s unavoidable. Why we get ourselves so worked up over something we can’t control is a question I am not trained to answer. But you’ll sweat the Montclair School tours. You’ll find something to love and not to love about each school. You’ll sweat over your top three, and where to place them. You’ll then stop sweating for a month or so, until you run into a parent from daycare over the summer and inevitably and involuntarily you both start sweating again together. But at least you’ll have each other. The angst will most definitely come… and stay. All the way up to when the Board of Ed letters get sent out. Then you’ll get mail angst because half the town will get their letters the day before the other half.
I know it’s difficult, but try to relax. Take a deep breath, and keep a few things in mind…
BY Justin Mannato | Sunday, Mar 17, 2013 1:00pm |
Len Bias was a star and everyone knew it. Some say his talent rivaled Michael Jordan’s. The Boston Celtics drafted him with the second pick in 1986. He was going to be huge. Then he made a bad decision. Two days after the Celtics drafted him, he used a large amount of cocaine and it killed him. I remember Len Bias. I remember hearing about his death, and him being the first athlete I ever heard of who died. I remember wondering why, then hearing why, then thinking I’m never going to do that.
That’s where the Born Ready Project comes in. It teaches teens and young adults how one bad decision could change, even end, your life. This generation may be too young to have ever heard of Len Bias. Now, author Dave Ungrady is keeping his legacy alive and spreading the word through the Born Ready Project and his book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias. The Born Ready Project teaches life skills to teenagers and young adults. Crucial skills needed to avoid that one potentially fatal mistake. Ungrady will be speaking at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center tomorrow, Monday March 18th.
BY Justin Mannato | Tuesday, Mar 05, 2013 9:30am |
A couple of football players engaged in an anything-you-can-do Twitter war of words last week. They were arguing over which player was superior at the position they both play. Typical trash talking between testosterone-filled macho athletes, each of whom thinks he is better. I will not bore you with the details of their respective arguments, except to point out one of the so-called insults that one of the players—Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets—hurled at the other. He called Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks a “little girl.” This hurt Sherman’s pride so much he later defended his perpetuating the social-media back-and-forth by saying, “I’m not gonna let (him) call me a little girl.”
Perish the thought.
Someone needs to explain to me why this is used so often as an insult. And why it’s acceptable.
BY Justin Mannato | Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 11:00am |
Kids these days are a lot more coddled than when I was growing up. I say that at the risk of sounding like my parents and grandparents, something we as parents try to avoid one way or another despite its inevitability. As far as coddled children go, my daughter is no exception. We cheer her every success, no matter how insignificant. Whether she reads a sentence in a new book or writes her capital letters neatly, I’m right there saying, “Good job.” I’m giving her a high-five and telling her how proud I am of her.
I’m not sure why we do this. Why we applaud and reward the ordinary. Maybe it’s because our parents—my parents—were tough on us when all we wanted was the occasional pat on the back. It is with my and my wife’s over-abundance of pats on the back in mind that I read about a recent study that shows college-aged kids consider themselves more special than ever before. They have a record level of self worth. But with that feeling of accomplishment, even though they’ve accomplished very little if anything, comes a feeling of entitlement.
That’s because growing up, they got spoiled. They received trophies and ribbons for just showing up. They received over-stuffed goody bags for attending overly-elaborate birthday parties. They never learned how to lose. They rarely if ever felt what it’s like to work hard and still lose.