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Letters to the Editor
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By Michael S. Goldberger
Affliction: Long Day’s Journey Into Disfunction
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Michelle H. LePoidevin
Ignorance of Alcohol, Drugs Can Be Deadly; National Statistics Support Society’s Concern
The world around us has become a much different placethesedays.With thetwo-parentworkinghousehold pretty much the norm, children can get into serious trouble, namely drugs and alcohol, if they get involved with the wrong crowd. Yet some parents are ignorant ofsubstanceabusein so-calledsuburbia–an opinion that can produce tragic results.
With DrugAwarenessWeekto berecognizedinthe local area (look for the purple ribbons around trees in Scotch Plains and Fanwood and red Marribbons in Westfield)from March7-13,wewould liketousethis space to offer some statistics from national groups thatspendeverywaking momentofferingbotheducation and support, as well as information on treatment for substance abuse related illnesses.
Some 9.5 million Americans aged 12 to 20 have at leastonedrink amonthwith4.4 millionofthisamount in the category of binge drinking (five drinks in a row on a single occasion) and 1.9 million considered heavy drinkers (five or more drinks on a single occasion).
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the highest rates of illicit drug use of youths are 16and 17year-olds and young adults aged 18 to 20. Marijuana is the most commonly used drug among these age groups.
The fact that alcoholic beverage purchases by persons under the age of 21 are illegal in all 50 states, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, has not stopped teenagers from buyingthese products.Asurveyfrom afewyearsago indicated that nearly two-thirds who drink say they buy these products themselves.
The NCADD also notes that three million violent crimesoccureachyear (rapes,sexualassaults,aggra
vated and simple assaults) where the assailant is described as being under the influence of alcohol. Alcoholism is also usually behind most domestic violencecases.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 1996 that over 80 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol. By comparison, cigarette smoking was 65 percent followed by marijuana use, 50 percent, with 9 percent saying they have experimented with cocaine.
As residents notice the ribbons tied around trees in the area, remember the importance of keeping our kids substance free so they can be productive adults in our society in the future.
Those persons with substance abuse addiction can get help by calling any of the following numbers: Addiction Referral Service, (800) 786-1230; CONTACT We Care, a crisis prevention hotline, (908) 232-2880; Ala-Call/New Jersey Substance Abuse Hotline, (800) 322-5525; Alcohol Abuse Focus on Recovery Hotline, (800) 888-9383; Alcohol Abuse Treatment Centers, (800) 333-2294; the Alcohol Abuse 24-hour Addiction and Information Hotline, (800)888-9383;orthe AlcoholAbuse24-hourAssistance and Treatment line, (800) 274-2042.
Also, Westfield is the home of the Alcoholism InformationCenter, (908)654-9872.TheAlcoholism & DrugDependenceCouncilof UnionCountycanbe reached at (908) 233-8810.
We encourage those youths, or adults for that matter, who have an alcohol or drug dependency problem to contact one of these agencies or hotlines.
Over the next few months we will be publishing articles from the Alliance groups to better detail the efforts that are being made to combat these forms of addiction starting with education efforts.
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You can see the affliction hovering somewhere behind their haunted eyes, though some are better than others at hiding it. Many spend a lifetime denying the anguish, refusing to admit the need for vindication and approval. But therein resides the pain just the same, only millimeters below the surface of the skin — an angry, indignant rage ready to pounce and claim revenge with the slightest provocation.
They are adults unprepared for adulthood, cheated out of a proper maturation by parents who physically and mentally abused them. Jealous of the normalcy they perceive in others, they are guiltridden, robbed of their dignity and selfworth. They look just like you and me.
His sad pathology noted, welcome to Wade Whitehouse’s disturbing world. Played with stunning pathos and ingenious complexity by Nick Nolte, the Dick Tracy-jawed policeman ekes out a livingin one-horseLawford,NewHampshire, doubling as a crossing guard and part time snowplow operator.
This is small town life at its hardscrabble bleakest — always snow ontheground,but grimyandnevernewly fallen. Yet Wade will be the first one to tell you that everything’s going to be all right. It just sure doesn’t look that way.
He has learned to rationalize all of life’s letdowns, heretofore coming off more as a hale and hearty fellow than a washout. But recently, things suddenly seem to be unraveling. With almost each perceived downturn, director-screenwriter Paul Schrader (who wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) attaches an explanatory footnote, a grainy insight into Wade’s tormented youth.
The flashbacks inevitably depict a drunken, bullying Glen Whitehouse (James Coburn) indulging his impulses at the expense of his terrified family. The older son, Wade, bears the brunt of his vicious father’s onslaughts, always attemptingtoshield hismotherandyounger brother (who grows up to be a college professor, played by Willem Dafoe, and narrates the story) from the bruiser’s vile outrages.
It is Schrader’s torrid thesis (adapted from the novel by Russell Banks) that father and son are, consciously or not, continuing a tradition of violence, one that doubtless has been in the family for generations. It is a chilling commentary on what you pray is only a small sector of civilization’s male population.
Divorced twice from a wife who has since managed to marry well (and thus by extension confirms his loser status), Wade’s been granted rather stingy custody privileges. Nine-year-old-daughter Jill (Brigid Tierney) is astute enough in one early scene to assure the down-atheal father that she loves him, but she’s apparently giving up on him, too.
On one telling occasion, anxiously looking forward to a night of bonding, Wade takes Jill to a Halloween party at the local school. But she is overcome by the shindig’s shabbiness and begs to be taken home to Mom. While visibly hurt by the episode, he keeps his disappointment in check.
He is certain that victory in custody court will eventually lead to a better relationship with his daughter.
While it can be assumed that Wade has never spent any time on the psychiatrist’s couch, he is no dummy. The tentative way he initially deals with his daughter suggests he understands something about his syndrome — at least enough to know he doesn’t want be his father’s son. And even though the odds are overwhelming, we root for this underdog to break the chain.
Then the opportunity for redemption seems to present itself. A Massachusetts bigwig is killed in a deer hunting accident. Perhaps it wasn’t an accident after all. Shady real estate deals, a hinted connection to the Mafia, and other allusions to wrongdoing could spell conspiracy.
But is the protagonist’s hunch a piece of good police work or merely the desper
ate fantasy of a paranoid gone asunder? To complicate matters, Wade’s chief murder suspect is his friend Jack (Jim True), a young hunting guide. And the high muckamucks he figures are behind the assassination happen to include his big-fish-in-a-little-sea boss, Gordon LaRiviere, distinctively portrayed with a Canadian accent by Holmes Osborne.
The delirious odyssey that follows is delivered in trance-like stanzas, Schrader mixing mystery with psychological conjecture. In a fine bit of dramatic business meant to symbolize Wade’s internal holocaust, a toothache he’s neglected serves as a barometer to the crisis. The action, like the toothache, reaches excruciating heights.
Making matters even more ghastly, the child abuse nightmare has continued into Wade’s adulthood, and not only as a repulsive legacy. The elder Whitehouse lives. And Wade, doing his take on the dutiful son, checks in on Mom and Dad from time to time. Played with lightning bolts of sheer evil, James Coburn’s interpretation of the film’s heinous villain imbues the domestic drama with notions of sheer horror and sadistic treachery.
Viewers will find themselves at seat’s edge each time he winds up to deliver his completely unpredictable brand of vitriol. Unlike Frankenstein or Dracula, Coburn’s monster has absolutely no redeeming qualities.
While profound and dramatically educative, Schrader’s powerful anatomy of a social issue possesses a curious flaw: to no obvious advantage, the filmmaker tips his hand right at the outset by allowing the narrator to intimate Wade’s ultimate fate. Still, even with the suspense quotient diminished, the horrific lessons of Affliction will plague you for quite some time to come.
* * * * * Affliction, rated R, is a Lions Gate release directed by Paul Schrader and stars Nick Nolte, James Coburn and Sissy Spacek. Running time: 113 minutes.
It has been said that a word meaning starts to change immediately after it is coined. We have found many instances where the present meaning of a word has become completely different or even totally opposite from the initial sense of the word.
The process is normally very slow, taking many years or centuries to effect. For example, at one time the word deer was used in England to describe any wild animal, while today it refers to a single species.
We have observed a number of instances recently where writers, television spokespersons, and other communicators have used the word “chauvinist” to mean a woman hater. This is contrary to current dictionary definition.
Actually, chauvinist is an eponym (a word that comes from a person’s name). Nicolas Chauvin, a Frenchman, was the inspiration for this one. He was a legendary soldier in Napoleon’s army, and his devotion to Bonaparte bordered on being laughable. His name was immortalized when a playwright of that period (1830) wrote a vaudeville around him. Chauvinism came to mean militant devotion to and glorification of one’s country; fanatical patriotism.
How did the word come to mean a woman hater and the change occur so rapidly? Here is our analysis. Several years ago, “male chauvinist pig” was a very popular idiom that the new womanhater sense developed. The expression really described a male who is dedicated or loyal to men’s historical prerogatives, but the phrase had the sense of someone who was critical of the women’s liberation movement of that time.
The word has been taken out of context and used in the new sense of someone who is critical of women and their rights.
In time, this new definition might gain dictionary acceptance. Incidentally, the correct word for a woman hater (if such a person exists) is misogynist, from the Greek, miso, meaning hater, and gynum, meaning woman.
HUNG UP!! HUNG UP!! HUNG UP!! HUNG UP!! HUNG UP!!
By Milt Faith, Executive Director
Youth and Family Counseling Service
Philandering Fiancé Must Seek Help; Teenager Should Avoid Talk Shows
A confused man writes:
I am engaged to be married this summer. “Jane” and I are in love, but what she is not aware of is that I have occasional affairs with different women. These women have no real meaning to me, but I feel guilty as well as excited in having these affairs. Any recommendations?
Answer: I recommend you delay the wedding until you get some help. This behavior will ultimately destroy the relationship and the marriage. The behavior appears to be obsessive-compulsive behavior, and therapy and possible medication can help. There may be a host of reasons which contribute to this pattern: you may need to act like a little boy who does bad things and then feels guilty; you may get a rush out of doing something which you know is potentially dangerous (if you get caught), and the excitement of walking this thin line leads to an adrenaline rush; you may be involved in this promiscuous behavior to avoid a real intimate monogamous relationship. Tell your fiancée that you love her but you need to work out some personal conflicts which once, hopefully resolved, will strengthen theimpendingmarriage.Good luck.
A guilty mother writes:
My daughter, “Joni,” is getting married in the fall. She approached me recently and told me she wants to have a big wedding like her friends have had. Joni has always had rich friends and each one outdid the other. My husband and I have worked all our lives and we have had a lot of medical expenses. We have $4,000 for a wedding, but Joni insists a decent wedding costs around $20,000 or more. I feel I have failed her. Should we take out a loan?
Hold it! No parent “owes” his/her child an “expensive” wedding. We do the best we can — based on our priorities and realities. I hope you never promised her a particular kind of wedding. It is very kind of you to offer her the $4,000. You can do a lot with that amount of money: a wedding at home; in a restaurant which offers reasonable package deals; in a church/temple after services; hors d’oeuvres with beer/wine; a brunch and so on. If Joni wants something on a more spectacular scale, she could have her fiancé chip in; she could take out a loan. You have nothing about which to
feel guilty. Hold your head up high and deal with the situation with determination and firmness.
A teen-ager writes:
In the morning, I listen to Howard Stern; my brother likes Don Imus. My mother likes the quiet John Gambling Show, and my father likes all the angry talk shows. Mornings at our house are a disaster. Everybody yells at each other so we can’t enjoy breakfast. How do we solve this? (I’m 14 but I do enjoy your column).
(I’m getting too old for this; I went through this years ago). Here are some suggestions: listen to your programs in your individual rooms, and bathroom, as you get ready in the morning. Earphones can be helpful. Try to be sensitive about the volume of the program. However, see to it that you all eat breakfast without any noise stimulation. You are all fortunate if you still have the opportunity to have a meal together before the onslaught of the day’s activities. Put Howard, Don, John and those talk show hosts on the shelf and try to communicate with each other. And I do appreciate that you read the column, a column that existed long before you came into the world. Carry on!
A sad reader writes:
After many years of an unhappy marriage,andmany monthsofmarriagecounseling and personal therapy, I have reached the conclusion that my marriage is over. My husband and I have fought overhisinfidelities, hiswantingtochange me in every way, and his rage towards the children. He refuses to change and I want to get on with my life. The counselors agree. I am building my strength and support systems. Any words of wisdom?
I never thought I would quote Madonna, the singer, but her last hit single says it all in the title: “The Power of Goodbye.” There is value in, after assessing a situation, and realizing the limits and frustrations, to accept that it is best to stop analyzing, move on and say goodbye.
Man Involved In Pedestrian Death Thanks Police For Compassion
I was recently involved in the fatal accident that occurred a couple of weeks ago on East Broad Street. The night of the accident will be forever burned into my memory and I can only hope that no one else will have to suffer through such a horrific and possibly preventable ordeal.
The lighting along East Broad Street and other dark areas has got to be improved and the pedestrians throughout town have to be aware of where crosswalks are and use them.
Don’t assume because you’re standing in the street that you can be seen, especially if you’re in dark clothing. Believe me if I had seen this woman, I would have done everything in my power not to have hit her.
Perhaps this tragedy can be prevented from happening again to more families. The pedestrians in this town that have been ticketed for jaywalking should be
thankful that the police are helping to make them aware, and possibly preventing them from a tragedy.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Westfield Police for being so compassionate and understanding the night of the accident and the following day, especially Sergeant Geis, Detective James McCullough, Detective Nicholas Norton and Detective Crompton.
These officers did their best to make a horrible situation a little less painful for me. They have seen this situation before I’m sure, and realize that there is more than one victim in such a terrible accident. I’d also like to thank my family and friends and all the people that showed such concern and made me realize that I was not alone.
I feel very blessed to know that so many people have compassion for me.
Charles Tyminski Westfield
Train Whistle Sound Is Not A Problem
I wish you would stop your anti train whistle bias – it’s a wonderful sound. The trains ran long before most of the homes were built. Those who object to the noise should not have bought homes near the tracks.
Mark Scherer Westfield Speed, Parking Enforcement Helps
Residents Around Tamaques Park
Three cheers to the decision makers who passed the ordinance to place no parking signs around Tamaques Park! This has been a pressing problem for some time. The volume of traffic this park has experienced over the past several years has only compounded the need for parking being restricted to the designated lots.
As residents on Dickson Drive, we can only hope that this no parking rule will be strictly enforced and park visitors will utilize the lots and not resort to parking on the side streets as an alternative. After all the park is for exercising, and walking from a lot to the field, court or play ground area of choice will only add to the
overall workout! Posting the 15-mile per hour signs on Dickson Drive was also a great decision since speeding is a chronic problem down our narrow street. As the weather warms and the park traffic grows, there is an increase in the amount of cars and speeders on our tiny street.
Once again we can only hope that enforcement of the speed limit will occur. With the growing number of little children moving into our development, we want to keep them safe from any possible danger.
Patricia, Barry and Lauren Schnepf Westfield Mountainside Residents Should Voice
Opinions on Channel 35 at Meeting
The next meeting of Mountainside’s borough Council, on Tuesday, March 16, should be a busy one, and not only because of residents’ continuing objections to the newly-adopted salaries for the mayor and council.
I understand that this meeting will include a hearing on whether to renew Comcast’s franchise to be the sole supplier of cable television in Mountainside. As usual, the council has yet to call attention to this “public” hearing on a service of great interest to most residents. The mayor and councilmen seem to think telepathy will satisfy their community-communicationsresponsibilities.
Inpractical terms,apparently,thehearing is a prelude to the borough’s opening negotiations with Comcast for a multiple-year contract. This will be residents’ best chance before the talks begin to ask questions about cable service, make requests for changes, and register complaints. It may even be their only chance before the negotiations are concluded.
In addition, this is the time to discuss
Letters to the Editor
the facilities and operations of Channel 35, the channel that Comcast provides free for borough use. Channel 35 offers us a wonderful opportunity — not yet fulfilled — to promote all that’s good (and could be better) about Mountainside and to bolster a real spirit of community.
I hope that residents who care about such things will offer their questions and suggestions to the mayor and council at this meeting.
Scott R. Schmedel Mountainside Resident Offers Suggestions to Aid
Traffic Congestion, Perils in Town
At the Westfield Town Council meeting on February 23, there was a discussion with citizen participation concerning two recent pedestrian fatalities on East Broad Street.
Although I did not speak at this gathering, I listened to my fellow residents articulate concerns for our safety that echoed my own. Those of us with children are especially worried about the traffic flying up and down East Broad Street, vehicles that move with seemingly little or no regard to speed limits or other traffic safety laws.
As most of us know, problems with East Broad Street traffic are not new. For instance, trying to turn onto or to cross East Broad at some corners can be, at best, a test of one’s survival skills and, at worst, downright lethal (North Chestnut Street and Gallows Hill Road come to mind — many of us who use these streets have often wondered why there are no traffic lights at these junctions. Even a Westfield police officer mentioned to me once that North Chestnut was a “terrible corner”).
There is a descending hill as one approaches TempleEmanu-ElfromSpringfield Avenue that emerges from a blind curve, creating a double hazard — runaway speed as motorists barrel down the hill, and a poor view of the road ahead as they emerge from the curve. These are just a couple of examples from a long list.
What’s the solution? Certainly, a police presence at particularly perilous locations (such as in front of the Temple during religiousschool arrivalanddismissalhours) is a big help, and greatly appreciated, but this is only a temporary fix.
As for the recent town initiative to ticket jaywalkers, this is not only temporary, but punishes pedestrians (supposedly for their own good) for the sins of the motorists — it misses the whole point of the East Broad Street problem, namely that there is insufficient vehicular traffic control.
Crosswalks flagged with “Yield to Pedestrian” signs can’t hurt, but they really don’t help much since so many drivers ignore them, and it would require
apoliceofficeron everycornertoenforce compliance which is not only impractical, but impossible, as well.
What we need are at least two strategically placed traffic signals on East Broadtoperiodically stopandslowdown the flow of cars — we all know that unlike yield signs, traffic lights tend to be obeyed, the stop-at-the-red concept clearly imprinted on our collective consciousness.
Additional street lights would be another measure to increase the level of safety, providing drivers with better visibility on a street that, at night, is poorly illuminated.
There are, I am sure, other steps that can be taken to improve this dangerous situation — I merely suggest these as a starting point. I hope this does not become a bureaucratic maze in which the town and county (East Broad is a county road) maneuver into dead-end arguments while the problem itself gets irretrievably lost in the labyrinth.
It is up to the Mayor and the Town Council to work with the county (and vice versa), immediately and expeditiously, to resolve the East Broad Street issue before another tragedy occurs.
L. B. Cohen Westfield
Lapidus Family Thanks Westfield For Support
We would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Westfield community for the overwhelming expressions of support and love we have received since the death of our husband and father, Steve Lapidus.
We are very grateful to those who supported us with their presence at the funeral and afterwards, and to those who have given tangible signs of love through flowers and fruit, casseroles and cookies. Thank you very much.
Ginger Hardwick, Jake, Sarah and Ben Lapidus
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On Page 5
Fanwood Officials Must Consider Plan to Improve Downtown Area
As a former Mayor of Fanwood for 12 years and councilman for seven years, I have been greatly concerned about the direction the current Mayor and some council members as well as the Planning Board seem to be headed.
The availability of the Dean Oil property in the center of town has lead some Elizabeth developers to propose the erection of 38 rental apartments on this land. The proposed development is substandard in every way and will require many variances to permit its construction.
Rental apartments with small square footage, 16 percent smaller than currently permitted in the borough, will result in a high density of population and school children in an already over burdened system.
For many years we have heard desires by the Mayor and council for upgrading Fanwood’s business district. These plans have come to naught, primarily due to a
lack of space to really envision a concept that would really be commercially feasible. For the past few years we have had that opportunity but there have been no results other than wishes.
Rather than succumbing to apartment ratables that will be consumed by school children, the Mayor and council and Planning Board should develop commercial concept for the business district block that developers would support.
This may entail getting NJ Transit to build a single deck parking garage with a low profile to attract commuters who will shop on their way home. Perhaps the borough should consider including their parking lot as an inducement to commercial development.
With some foresight, Fanwood can be made a pleasurable place for its current residents to shop.
Theodore F. Trumpp Fanwood