February 24, 2021

By Donald Gilpin

Carol L. Kelley

In a February 18 special meeting that Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) President Beth Behrend described as “for a change, all about excitement and hope for the future,” the BOE, in a “unanimous and enthusiastic” vote, welcomed Carol L. Kelley as the new superintendent of the district. Pending approval by the county superintendent, Kelley will begin her tenure on July 1, 2021, when Interim Superintendent Barry Galasso will step down. Galasso has been at the helm since July 1, 2020, when he succeeded the previous superintendent Steve Cochrane.

The BOE members, who have been engaged in the search process over the past year, all spoke up at the hour-long meeting to welcome Kelley, to express their enthusiasm to begin working with her, and to comment on the qualities that led them to select her to lead the PPS.  She will receive a four-year contract at $240,000 per year.

Kelley has served in education for 27 years, with advanced degrees in education and business and work as superintendent of schools both in Branchburg Township, New Jersey, from 2012 to 2015 and currently in her sixth year as superintendent of the Oak Park Elementary School District 97, a PreK-8 public school district outside of Chicago. The BOE members praised Kelley’s superior qualities as a listener to all voices, as an educational leader with the ability to help PPS narrow the achievement gap for disadvantaged students, as a passionate champion of students, as a consensus builder with a commitment for consensus-building, and also a commitment to data-based decision-making.

“The most important thing to the Board is achievement for all of its students,” said BOE member Dafna Kendal. “There has been a persistent gap in opportunity in our district for students of color, students from homes with lower socio-economic status, and students with special needs. It is long past due that we focus on narrowing these gaps. Dr. Kelley has  experience and success in helping all students succeed. We are confident that Dr. Kelley will help us narrow these gaps. Beyond a doubt she was the best candidate for this position.”  more

UNSUNG HEROINES: The code breakers and wireless operators at Britain’s Bletchley Park during World War II included thousands of women, whose expert knowledge helped end the war. They are the focus of a virtual talk this Sunday.

By Anne Levin

Due in part to the 2014 film The Imitation Game, the story of British mathematician Alan Turing and his work cracking the Enigma code is familiar to many. Less well known, though portrayed in a 2012 television series The Bletchley Circle, is the effort put forth by thousands of women who worked on this secret mission at Bletchley Park, a stately home in Britain, during World War II.

Joseph Jesson will bring their stories to light this Sunday, February 28 during a 1:30 p.m. Zoom talk, “Unsung WWII Code Breakers and Y-Operator Heroines of Bletchley Park.” Part of the “Sundays at the Sarnoff” series presented by The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), where Jesson is an adjunct professor of electronic and computer engineering, the program will also focus on his research into the RCA AR88 World War II interception receivers. The interception of German encrypted wireless communication allowed Bletchley Park to process these messages into plain text. The RCA AR88 was designed at the company’s headquarters in Camden. “Churchill called it his ‘secret jewel’ in the war against the Nazis,” Jesson said. “The technology was that valuable.”

A few years ago, Jesson did some research about RCA’s development of the technology. “I followed the story from the design of the receiver and its use in Bletchley Park, and it turns out there are a lot of interesting things that are pretty stunning,” he said. “Out of 10,000 to 12,000 people working there, 8,000 were women. This turned into a really cool story. I realized what they were doing, and what their different roles were inside and outside of Bletchley Park to intercept worldwide Nazi communication.” more

By Anne Levin

During a work session at its February 16 meeting, Princeton Council was updated on a master plan to improve Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Green streets, and possible changes at the two main traffic signals in the downtown.

The meeting also included passage of an ordinance for modification of bicycle parking; the introduction of an ordinance adding a third member to the Affordable Housing Board; and establishment of a Vision Zero task force dedicated to eliminating traffic crashes that result in serious injuries and death. David Goldfarb, chair of the Princeton Sewer Operating Committee, made his annual presentation to the governing body, speaking strongly of the need for more resources.

“The mayor and Council must devote more of Princeton’s resources to sewers,” Goldfarb said. “The system is in disrepair. Princeton’s aging system demands a greater commitment. The sewer management position remains unfilled.” The illegal dumping scheme revealed in 2019 was “a clear warning,” Goldfarb added. “We must have increased staffing in order to maintain the system properly. Sewers are an essential part of our infrastructure. You are responsible for them.”

Mayor Mark Freda said a committee should be formed to meet with the town’s sewer design engineer, Andrew Filippi. more

“EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME”:  Mijin Kim presides over the Kingston Deli on Route 27 in Kingston. In addition to serving more than 100 customers every day, she describes herself as “like a psychologist” or “like a bartender,” as she talks with her customers and learns about their families, their jobs, and their lives.

By Donald Gilpin

At 8 o’clock on a weekday morning, the Kingston Deli is a busy scene. The regulars, mostly men in their 70s and 80s, are all in their places, one at each of the eight tables spread around the room. They’ve been there for about an hour, and most of them were sitting outside in their cars before that, waiting for the deli to open.

There’s coffee drinking and eating breakfast and non-stop discussion of topics ranging from local news to personal reflections on the day ahead to history, politics, and international events. Difficulties in the COVID vaccination roll-out seemed to be the main topic on Monday this week, but most of the regulars apparently had succeeded in getting at least one of their two shots.

As the dialogue continues, a constant stream of customers — most essential workers, fire department, road crews, construction workers, snow plowers, landscapers,  painters, and others who don’t have time to sit down—come in, order at the counter, and take their food and coffee with them.

Presiding over the Kingston Deli is a woman named Mijin Kim. At least that’s her real name and the name her Korean friends and family know her by, but to most of the customers she’s known as just Kim, because, she says, her first name is too difficult for Americans to remember. And her Latino customers and employees all know her as Maria, a name given to her when she took Spanish classes in high school. She studies the Spanish language every day, regularly checks her Spanish notes posted on the counter, converses readily in Spanish, and says she is now semi-fluent.

The regulars, “Kingstonians not Princetonians” who come every day to the deli on Route 27, feel like a family, Kim says. “They grew up here and went to school together and their kids went to school together, and their grandchildren went to school together —for generations. Maybe they’re attracted to Kingston Deli because it feels like home. Everybody knows everybody here.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

“Portrait of John Keats on his death-bed in Rome,” by Joseph Severn

Though a quarrel in the Streets is a thing to be hated, the energies displayed in it are fine; the commonest Man shows a grace in his quarrel.

—John Keats (1795-1821)

Why begin a column about friendship, love, death, and poetry with reference to the positive energies displayed in a street quarrel? You might also question the timing of a tribute to the poet of “beauty and truth” and “fellowship divine” when America is still living in the shadow of the monumental lie that led to the January 6th insurrection, not to mention the monumental truth that more Americans have died of the coronavirus in the past year than in two world wars and Vietnam. 

The fact of the moment is that snow is falling, again, as I write, and that John Keats died in Rome 200 years ago yesterday. And the monumentally unfactual word that comes to mind when watching fresh fallen snow is poetry. If you take some liberties with Keats’s theory that the poet is the most unpoetical of God’s creatures, with no self, foul or fair, no identity, “continually in for and filling some other Body,” sun, moon, sea, then it’s easy to say the poet is the snow, that it’s freshly fallen Keats giving grace and mystery to the day.

Five hours later the morning’s poetry has turned to slush and I’m reading “Bright Star,” one of the last poems the unpoetical poet ever completed, a sonnet that begins over our prosaic heads, poetical to a faretheewell, so sculpted and lofty, with “Eremite” pulled out of the poet’s grab bag to rhyme with “night,” and the poetry of falling snow reduced to “a new soft-fallen mask” to rhyme with “task.” But all the pomp and circumstance vanishes when the poet comes down to earth with the “soft fall and swell” of his fair love’s breast, “Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, / And so live ever — or else swoon to death.”

So ends Jane Campion’s biopic Bright Star (2009), the film and the poem’s last words both beautifully, brokenly uttered by Keats’s grieving Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) as she walks into the snowy dusk on Hampstead Heath. Reading about the poet’s last hours in Robert Gittings’s acclaimed 1968 biography, I was reminded of the most striking scene in the film — the moment Fanny is told of Keats’s death. Rushing from the parlor to the stairs, she holds the bannister for support, she’s lost, she’s falling, turning one way, then another, groping with her hands, helplessly pleading, supplicating, suffocated, bent double, brought to her knees, jabbing one hand toward her chest, calling for help, choking, “I can’t breathe!” Only when she’s being held and lifted and sustained by her mother does the wrenching visceral misery of the seizure begin to resemble an actor’s performative hysteria, except that by now the force of the fit has generated so much breathless momentum there’s no relief until the abrupt cut to the next scene. Seconds later she’s a lone figure walking on the snowclad heath, whispering the sonnet so thoughtfully, so tenderly, that even the rhetorical formality of the opening lines live with love as the poet becomes star, night, nature, snow, human shores, mountains and moors. more

“BABEL”: Passage Theatre has presented an online production of “Babel.” Written by Jacqueline Goldfinger and directed by Jill Harrison, the dark comedy is set in a future in which genetic testing may prevent a person from being welcome in mainstream society. Renee (Tai Verley, above) must make a painful decision, with unwanted help from a tough-talking stork. (Photo by Lauren Eliot Photography)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

In Jacqueline Goldfinger’s darkly comic play Babel, Renee (the main protagonist) exclaims, “What is this, an old episode of Star Trek?” She probably is thinking of a 1992 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Masterpiece Society.” In that story, the Enterprise crew encounters a colony that has been developed through genetic engineering and selective breeding.

Because most episodes of Star Trek take place on a fictional planet in the far-distant future, the concepts it examines tend to be comfortably abstract. Although Babel is set sometime in “the future,” Goldfinger strips away that cushion of remove. The play is set on Earth, much closer to our own time, with characters that are vividly relatable.

Babel’s page on the New Play Exchange’s website credits McCarter Theatre with a 2019 developmental reading. The play is the recipient of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s Generations New Play Award, as well as the Smith Prize for Political Theatre.

Passage Theatre presented an online reading of Babel from February 18-21. Ticketed viewers were sent links that entitled them to watch the prerecorded video, skillfully directed by Jill Harrison.

Babel begins wordlessly; we hear controlled, rhythmic breathing. We then see that it is Renee (who is given an outstanding portrayal by Tai Verley). She anxiously consults a book, and continues her exercises. Her spouse Dani (infused with steely composure by Leah Walton) appears, and soothingly starts singing “Beyond the Sea.” Renee joins her, and it is clear that they often sing it together.

We learn that Renee finally has gotten pregnant after trying for eight years, and that an unspecified condition prevents Dani from being the one to give birth. Renee is apprehensive about a medical test that she must undergo the next day. In the play’s dystopian world, there is a “precertification law” that requires all embryos to be screened for physical, cognitive, and behavioral defects.

Renee is distraught at the test results. The physical and cognitive results are acceptable, but the doctor is “concerned about the baby’s behavioral genes” and refuses to issue a certificate. If Renee chooses not to “take the shot” and terminate the pregnancy, the child will be tested again at 18. Unacceptable results at that point banish a person from society. They are forced to live in an “underground village” with constant monitoring, and manual labor as their only career choice. Renee’s state of mind is worsened by a sense that “someone or something” is following her. more

STAR HARPIST: Alexander Boldachev is a guest soloist in the Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s virtual concert on Sunday, March 7 at 4 p.m.

On Sunday, March 7 at 4 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) presents the virtual concert “Puccini & Respighi” featuring Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite III and Giacomo Puccini’s I Crisantemi, performed by the orchestra under the baton of Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov. Guest harpist Alexander Boldachev performs original compositions for solo harp and arrangements of well-known works by Bedřich Smetana and Astor Piazzolla.

Boldachev performs Smetana’s The Moldau, arranged for harp by Hanuš Trneček, and Boldachev’s own arrangement of Piazzolla’s Libertango. Also on the program are his 2018 work Triomphe de la Musique, dedicated to Marc Chagall and based on his mural hanging at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and a new improvisational work inspired by Princeton University’s motto, Dei sub numine viget (Under God’s Power She Flourishes). more

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra continues its Buskaid – A Musical Miracle series with the on-demand  February 26-28 virtual concert “Soulful and Scintillating Solos.” The program, focused on the South African Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble, features a range of music from classical to Rodgers andHart’s “My Funny Valentine” to South African kwela with solos by Buskaid-trained artists including violinists Mzwandile Twala, Kabelo Monnathebe, and Simiso Radebe, and vocalist Mathapelo Matabane. Buskaid Founder Rosemary Nalden conducts the concert which also features a performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Wedding Cake” by guest pianist Melvyn Tan, shown here with the ensemble. Tickets are $5 per access link, available at princetonsymphony.org. (Photo by Graham de Lacy)

“BROKEN PROMISE”: This work by Khalilah Sabree is featured in “Journey to Now – A Twenty Year Retrospective,” on view through March 6 at Artworks in Trenton. The exhibit includes a variety of large scale, mixed media paintings and drawings.

Artworks, Trenton’s visual arts center, presents “Journey to Now – A Twenty-Year Retrospective” through March 6.  This retrospective of artist Khalilah Sabree spans over two decades of her work, which is about spiritual transformation and world issues. Her current body of work contains a variety of large scale, mixed-media paintings and drawings. There are several series in the collection, with a contemporary Islamic flavor.

Sabree filters the world through the eyes of an African American Muslim woman and educator. She has a Master of Fine Art in painting from The University of The Arts and received her BA from The College of New Jersey. She maintains a private studio at Artworks Trenton, and her work has been exhibited extensively throughout the tri-state area.

The exhibit is open to the public Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Masks are mandatory. Email gallery@artworkstrenton.org to make an appoint for Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Artworks is located at 19 Everett Alley, Trenton. For more information, visit artworkstrenton.org.

VIRTUAL CLASS FOR COFFEE LOVERS: The Arts Council of Princeton and Small World Coffee have joined together to present “The Art of the Perfect Cup” on Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. The online event is a fundraiser for the Arts Council.

Join the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) and Small World Coffee for a virtual master class on “The Art of the Perfect Cup” on Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

Small World Coffee experts will stream from their Rocky Hill Roaster and Witherspoon Street café to talk beans, blends, and how to extract the most flavor from your preferred brewing method. Get an in-depth look at this popular neighborhood coffee shop during a celebration of all things local.

Registration includes the virtual workshop with the option to add a bag of Small World’s coffee and a limited-edition ceramic mug created by Arts Council Executive Director Adam Welch in the ACP’s Ceramic Studio.

Tickets are $25-60. All proceeds benefit the Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton’s nonprofit community arts organization, helping to close the fiscal gap created by COVID. Register at artscouncilofprinceton.org.

This painting by Joe Kazimierczyk is featured in “Lyrical 2021,” a multi-artist exhibit on view March 4 through April 4 at the Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville. For more information, visit lambertvillearts.com.

EXTRA SPECIAL ENAMELWARE: “What I love is to share my knowledge and passion for enamelware with the customers. The items are so unique, yet basic and functional, and yet so beautifully done, with expert, exquisite craftsmanship.” Mary Homer, owner of French Flair Ferme in the Princeton Shopping Center, is shown with an array of special items, including a vintage hand-painted enamelware French body pitcher on the right and basin and pitcher set on the left.

By Jean Stratton

How is it that someone ends up doing exactly what he or she not only wants to do, but is certain that it is what they are meant to do?

When this happens, it really is a gift. Not everyone is fortunate enough to experience such a congenial happenstance.

Mary Homer, owner of the charming new pop-up shop, French Flair Ferme, in the Princeton Shopping Center, knows she is one of the lucky ones. Her unique gift shop, focusing on antique and vintage French enamelware, is an engaging resource not only for her customers, but for her own enjoyment.

As she describes her commitment to her work, she points out that “What comes to mind is not something tangible but rather a strong sense of connection and the knowledge that this is exactly where I am meant to be today.” more

CAT FIGHT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Maggie Connors, right, gets pushed into the boards by a Quinnipiac defender last February during a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. The Tigers survived a grueling weekend against the Bobcats, cruising in game one, losing game two in overtime, and then prevailing in the decisive final game in a double overtime thriller. Buoyed by that hard-earned triumph, Princeton went on to defeat Clarkson 5-1 in the league semis and then rally for a 3-2 overtime win at top-ranked Cornell in the final to earn the program’s first-ever ECACH crown. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

A year ago, the final weekend of February turned out to be both a marathon and a springboard to history for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

Rising to No. 6 in the national polls, Princeton was hosting Quinnipiac for a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series starting on February 28 at venerable Hobey Baker Rink.

The Tigers were rolling, having gone 11-1-1 in their last 13 regal season games and they had swept Quinnipiac in two previous meetings in the 2019-20 campaign.

Opening the series, Princeton continued to sizzle, jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the first period on the way to a lopsided 5-1 victory in game one.

A day later, the Tigers went up 1-0 in the first period and seemed to be on track for a sweep of the underdog Bobcats.

But things turned dicey after that as Quinnipiac responded with two unanswered goals in the second period. The Tigers knotted the game at 2-2 late in the third period on a goal by senior star Carly Bullock. On the verge of being eliminated, the Bobcats pulled out a 3-2 win with a goal at 1:45 of the first overtime to force a decisive third game.

In the finale, Princeton scored twice to build a 2-0 advantage but Tiger sophomore star Sarah Filler sensed that the series was far from over.

“We knew we were going to get their best game, they are ranked 10 in the country,” said Fillier.

“I think arguably we play in the best league in the nation so we knew it was going to be a battle and we were excited to play this one.”

Sure enough, Quinnipiac refused to die, scoring two goals to force a second straight OT game.

In the first overtime, Princeton looked to finish off Quinnipiac, outshooting the Bobcats 16-6 but to no avail as the teams remained stalemated at 2-2.

In the break after the first extra period, Princeton team managers raided the refrigerator in the rink kitchen to microwave snacks to refuel the exhausted Tigers. more

DAN THE MAN: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Daniel Baytin churns to victory in the 200 freestyle last Wednesday as PHS opened its 2021 season with a 134-36 win over Hamilton West in a coed meet. The Tigers have a virtual meet against Ewing scheduled for the week of March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though its season has started late and there are COVID-19 protocols to follow at the pool, there is still plenty of spirit on deck for the Princeton High swimming program.

“First and foremost, I am glad and very fortunate that we even have a season,” said PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz, noting that the team is following strict protocols at practice with limits on how many swimmers can be in the pool at one time and athletes masking whenever they are not in the water.

“That is the biggest thing, they are all enjoying just being together. Yes, it is not the same but you are away from a computer screen, you are getting to be around your friends. Swimming has brought more of a sense of normalcy, it is that aspect of having that physical interaction with other people. They are really happy that they are still getting to be with their friends.”

The swimmers are certainly happy to get the chance to train and compete.

“They are still getting to race,” said Misiewicz. “A lot of club teams are strapped for time and pool availability as well too, so, the fact that we are consistently swimming every day after school and Saturday mornings has been good.”

Last Wednesday, PHS excelled in its first race of the year, topping Hamilton 134-36 in a coed meet. It marked the program’s first virtual meet which entailed each team swimming separately at their pool and then sharing times to calculate the score. more

ON TARGET: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Maisie Henderson controls the puck in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior forward Henderson tallied two goals to help PDS top Westfield 4-0 and improve to 5-0. In upcoming action, the Panthers are scheduled to host Trinity Hall on February 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Maisie Henderson grinned through her Bauer gray face mask after the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team defeated Westfield High 4-0 last Wednesday.

With PDS having last played an official game when it defeated Chatham 7-3 on January 28, senior forward Henderson and her teammates were excited to welcome Westfield to McGraw Rink.

“It is awesome having the opportunity to be able to play, especially as a senior,” said Henderson, who scored a pair of goals in the victory as the Panthers improved to 5-0.

“It is really cool. Although there are definitely some restrictions and we can’t play a full schedule. It is definitely nice to have the opportunity to play one last year.”

It has been particularly cool for Henderson to get a chance this winter to play one last season for PDS since she had moved to New England for her junior year.

“I lived in Nantucket Massachusetts last year; last year was the first time they had a girls’ varsity hockey team,” said Henderson.

“It was a nice thing to be part of and help start that program. We didn’t really know until May that I was coming back for sure. I am really happy that I was able to come back to have a senior season here.” more

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Trevor Kunkle celebrates last week after scoring his first career goal against St. Augustine. Senior forward Kunkle’s tally was a highlight in the February 16 contest which saw a late PDS rally fall short in a 3-2 defeat. The Panthers, now 1-1-1, host Princeton High on February 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a highlight years in the making for Trevor Kunkle.

After working his way up through the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey program, playing junior varsity for two years and then getting called up to the varsity last winter, senior forward Kunkle finally found the back of the net last week for the Panthers as they hosted St. Augustine.

Five minutes into the February 16 contest, Kunkle battled in the crease and slotted the puck home to give PDS a 1-0 lead.

“It was the first varsity goal for me so it felt great,” said Kunkle. “It was good, it lifted the boys up. I was on JV my first two high school years and then last year I got the call up. I didn’t get much playing time. I was a big bench energy guy. This year I am getting a lot of playing time. I have never played travel hockey. I am just happy that I got it out of the way. I got that pressure off my back.”

Kunkle is happy to be on the ice in a season limited by COVID-19 concerns.

“None of the games are guaranteed, you just have to make the best of it,” said Kunkle.

“We are lucky to have a couple of games on the schedule. It was looking pretty grim, that we weren’t going to get any games this season. We had a lot of guys out with COVID. We are just happy to get a game. It was the first game in a while; it felt good, definitely.” more

APPLYING PRESSURE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Kelvin Smith, right, pressures a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, senior guard/forward Smith contributed 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal to help Hun post a 58-41 win over Princeton Day School. The Raiders, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, are scheduled to host Pennington on February 25, Peddie School on February 27, and the Patrick School on March 2. (Photo by Lexi Thomas)

By Bill Alden

Kelvin Smith’s explosiveness and physicality helped him emerge as a star wide receiver and linebacker for the Hun School football team.

This winter, Smith is applying those gridiron qualities to the basketball court, excelling for the Hun boys’ hoops team.

“Football has definitely helped my cutting in basketball,” said senior guard/forward Smith, a powerfully-built 6’4, 220-pounder.

“When I cut now, I am really good at faking out defenders and not letting them know which way I am going. It feels like running a route. Physical-wise, I feel like nobody on the court is too big to stop me. After playing football, the aggressiveness and tenacity I have is very different from everybody else. It helps me get to the basket easier. It definitely helps me in grabbing rebounds over people and getting loose balls.”

Last Saturday in a 58-41 win over the Princeton Day School, Smith displayed his aggressiveness, tallying 13 points with four rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

“I thought the team performed really well overall; I thought it was a good game,” said Smith, reflecting on the victory which was the third straight for the Raiders as they improved to 4-1.

“This past week, COVID was throwing our schedule off a little bit. We wanted to see if we could get back in that rhythm and we did. I think everybody played well.”

Despite dealing with stops and starts due to COVID and weather issues, Hun is finding a groove.

“I feel like we are playing with confidence right now,” said Smith. more

February 17, 2021

Residents and visitors enjoyed the snow on the Palmer Square green on Sunday afternoon after watching as a giant block of ice was sculpted into a 3-D figure. The ice carving event continues each Sunday in February from noon to 2 p.m. (Photo by Weronika A. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser has reported downward trends in COVID case numbers, with indications that the frustratingly slow vaccination rollout will be picking up speed.

From the peak of the second wave in late November and early December to last week, Princeton has seen a 71.2 percent decrease in the number of new cases, Grosser wrote in a February 16 email. “In general, cases have been consistently dropping since December 30, 2020,” he added, but he noted that the Latino population has been disproportionately affected by the virus.

“Unfortunately, we are still seeing the burden of COVID-19 being heavier on the Hispanic/Latino population than all other ethnic/racial groups,” he said. “Fortunately, through a two-year grant from the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), the Princeton Health Department hired a vulnerable population outreach coordinator (VPOC). The VPOC will focus on making inroads on Princeton’s populations most impacted from the pandemic, and work towards improving their social and health outcomes as we progress away from what was hopefully the worst of the pandemic.“

Last Thursday, February 11, the Princeton Health Department reported only seven new cases in the seven previous days, down from the highest seven-day total of 39 new cases in December. As of last week, there had been 14 new cases in the previous 14 days, well below the highest 14-day total of 66, also recorded in December. The Health Department reported a total of 40 active positive cases. Hispanic residents have accounted for 27 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Princeton, according to the Health Department.

Princeton Press and Media Communications Director Fred Williams urged caution, warning that the current drop in case numbers is occurring from the highest levels of the pandemic. “So, while this is a welcome trend, we must continue with our COVID safety mindset.”  more

ANTI-AUSTERITY DEMONSTRATION:Undergraduates, graduate students, and community members lined the walkways in front of Nassau Hall on Saturday afternoon for a rally demanding that Princeton University democratize its COVID-related health and safety decisions and share its contact tracing and COVID testing resources with community members in need in Princeton and neighboring towns.(Photo by Christine Zizzi)

By Donald Gilpin

More than 100 demonstrators — community members and University students — gathered on the walkways stretching from FitzRandolph Gate on Nassau Street to Nassau Hall on Saturday afternoon, February 13, to demand that Princeton University share its contact tracing and COVID testing resources with surrounding communities.

In an event sponsored by Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA), Princeton Anti-Austerity Coalition (PAAC), Princeton Mutual Aid (PMA), Princeton Graduate Students United (PGSU), Divest Princeton, and Princeton University Policy Student Government (PUPSG) and lasting more than an hour in the sleet and freezing rain, the speakers also called on the University to democratize all major University decision-making, to include members of the larger community, especially on issues related to the COVID pandemic and other health and safety matters.

“I call upon my fellow students to stand in solidarity with our neighbors from Princeton and the surrounding municipalities, and demand that our University extend its free testing, free tracing, and eventual free vaccination services to this local region that is deeply impacted by whatever plan this University adopts,” PAAC member Peter Scharer, a Princeton undergraduate, told the crowd.

He went on to emphasize the importance of including local residents, especially those residents who are uninsured, underinsured or undocumented, in the decision-making process.  “We must demand that residents, workers, and students alike have a democratic say in the University’s COVID plans, so as to avoid further harm caused by the inevitable austere measures of an unaccountable administration,” he said.

The bilingual event, with speeches in Spanish and English, included speakers from the sponsoring organizations with a mix of community members, University graduate students, and undergraduates. Many related stories of hardship and suffering along with their pleas for resources and help from the University in battling the pandemic. University junior and PAAC organizer Marc Schorin noted, “We don’t want your charity. We want your solidarity. It’s not about feeling bad or pity. These people are fighting for their rights, the things that they need.” more

By Anne Levin

Princeton Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros announced Tuesday that she will run for the Legislative District 16 Assembly seat being vacated by Democrat Andrew Zwicker, who recently kicked off his campaign for the seat of retiring New Jersey Senator Kip Bateman.

“I believe my business skills will be useful in navigating through the complexities of legislative initiatives. I lead through collaboration and my impact on Council and the amount of progress we were able to make, during the most challenging health and economic crisis of our lifetime, attests to my ability to get things done,” Lambros said in a press release.

In a phone conversation Tuesday, Lambros said she can remain on Council while putting herself on the ballot. While she initially thought she wouldn’t have the time to enter the race, she was urged by others to do so. “If I can be effective and people have faith in me to do public service, I’m willing to go for it,” she said. “My main motivation is COVID and all of the economic challenges we are going to have on the municipal level and the state level. I think I could be a good adviser at the state level as to what we need, for main streets and small business. We need investment and we need to figure out how we’re going to balance our budget and keep property taxes down so people don’t keep leaving New Jersey.”

On Council, Lambros chairs the Economic Development Committee and is liaison to the Princeton Merchants Association, among other committees. Her focus has been on small business recovery and economic revitalization during the pandemic. more

AN ERA GONE BY: This historic painting from Joseph Bonaparte’s Point Breeze estate, by Thomas Birch, dates from 1818 and is one of many works of art documenting the property in Bordentown once owned by Napoleon’s brother. News of its preservation has caught the attention of news sources across the globe.

By Anne Levin

Since the New York Times published an article about plans by D&R Greenway Land Trust of Princeton and partners to preserve the Point Breeze Bonaparte estate in Bordentown last month, media from all over the world have been clamoring for the story.

“Yesterday I was on a call with a Spanish news service,” said D&R Greenway CEO and President Linda Mead on Tuesday. “Joseph Bonaparte was the exiled king of Spain, so they are so excited about it. It has been amazing to me how many people have come forward since we made this announcement, and how many calls we have gotten, from everywhere.”

Point Breeze was the palatial estate of Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte and former King of Spain and Naples. He fled to the United States in 1815 and bought the Point Breeze estate in 1817 from diplomat Stephen Sayre. The land is high on the Bordentown Bluffs overlooking extensive marshlands and the confluence of Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River. The location, between Philadelphia and New York, was documented in many paintings of the era that can be seen today in museums. Remnants of tunnels, leading from Bonaparte’s mansions to the waterways, can still be viewed.

At the time, the estate included sculpture gardens, coach trails, bridges, stables, a gardener’s house, a lake, and a three-story mansion “that contained an extensive wine cellar, an extravagant art collection, and a library that contained 8,000 volumes, more than the Library of Congress at that time, and Bonaparte employed hundreds of people at the estate,” according to an article in Royal Central, one of the international news services to cover the story along with London’s Daily Mail and the Spanish news service EFE. There have also been calls from individuals with Bonaparte connections. “So many people have been in touch with us,” said Mead. “Some have said they are descendants of Bonapartes. Others have objects like chairs or china that have come from Bonapartes.” more

By Anne Levin

Danielle Jackson

With a grandfather who is a veteran of the National Guard and two uncles who served in Vietnam, Danielle “Dani” Jackson has always felt a strong connection to American military history.

The Rider University junior is equally fascinated by film. The recipient of a $5,000 Undergraduate Research Scholar Award (URSA), Jackson has turned her two passions into an ambitious, 12-part documentary series that tells the stories of Black veterans of the two World Wars. “A Two-Front War” is her effort to raise awareness of their forgotten accomplishments while fighting abroad, and their efforts toward civil rights at home. A Kickstarter campaign has upped the budget to more than $8,000, allowing her to finalize the first episode of the series, which should be available in May.

“Many people don’t realize that African Americans have been in the American military since the Revolutionary War,” Jackson said. “Typically, we think it has been since the Civil War. African Americans are usually just portrayed as slaves. We show their bondage and their oppression. But I want to show their strength. I would like for these veterans to be remembered for the super soldiers they were.”

Rider chooses a small group of students each year for the research award, which promotes independent student research and scholarship. “I applied for the grant with my professor and adviser, Dr. Shawn Kildea, last year,” said Jackson. “Everyone else got a chance to write a paper. I decided to combine both my majors — history and film — into this project. African Americans kind of get a low blow when it comes to this history. I started working on it, and it just started picking up speed over the summer.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Bolstering support for school programs and at the same time promoting shopping and dining at more than 40 establishments around town, Princeton’s public elementary schools have teamed up to create Princeton Perks, a discount card program open to everyone.

Organized by the schools’ PTOs, the program is designed as a “win-win-win” for businesses, who would see a boost in customers; shoppers, who get a special deal when they spend their dollars locally; and the PTOs and schools, who raise much needed funds to support students and teachers.

“We pride ourselves on being a strong community, taking care of each other,” Littlebrook Elementary School PTO Co-Presidents Sonja Ernst and Kati Dunn wrote in an email.  “Princeton Perks’ initiative is an excellent example of how we keep standing together, beyond individuals, beyond individual schools, and beyond single businesses. We are one town working together.”

Anyone may purchase a Princeton Perks card for $25 by visiting princetonperks.com, and then selecting their neighborhood school’s portal. Cards will be available for purchase through February 28, 2021 for use through December 31, 2021.

Cards will also be available at special Princeton Perks booths in Palmer Square on the next two Saturdays from 12 to 4 p.m. and at the Princeton Shopping Center on the next two Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Most businesses offer cardholders 10 percent off. The Princeton Perks website includes an up-to-date list of participating restaurants and retailers, and further details on the deals offered. The Princeton Perks logo is displayed in shop windows or near the register of participating businesses. more

By Stuart Mitchner

But we loved with a love that was more than love.

—Edgar Allan Poe, from “Annabel Lee”

This post-Valentine’s Day adventure was launched by a letter I found in Horace Wyndam’s The Magnificent Montez: From Courtesan to Convert (Hutchinson 1935). Written in the revolutionary year of 1848 — from King Ludwig I of Bavaria to the woman he made the Countess of Landsfeld, alias Lola Montez, who was born Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in County Sligo, Ireland, on February 17, 1821 — the letter begins:

“Oh, my Lolita! A ray of sunshine at the break of day! A stream of light in an obscured sky! Hope ever causes chords long forgotten to resound, and existence becomes once again pleasant as of yore. Such were the feelings which animated me during that night of happiness when, thanks to you alone, everything was sheer joy. Thy spirit lifted up mine out of sadness; never did an intoxication equal the one I then felt!”

After shooting the king’s translator, flash forward to mid-20th-century America and read the opening lines of The Confession of a White Widowed Male:

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul, Lo-lee-ta …. She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing four foot ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

I’ve been here before. Last fall I cushioned the loss of Prof. Nabokov’s former student, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with a visit to The Annotated Lolita, in which another of his former students, Alfred Appel Jr., devotes almost five pages of commentary to the novel’s opening paragraph. Appel gives special attention to Humbert’s fixation with Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” from whom neither angels nor demons can “dissever” the poet’s soul (“But we loved with a love that was more than love”). While the line “Lola in slacks” prompts a reference to Marlene Dietrich’s Lola in von Sternberg’s film The Blue Angel, there’s no mention of the living, breathing Lola Montez who inspired Ludwig’s cri de coeur. The deposed monarch was writing from a villa on the Riviera while his lovely Lola was in England being denounced by the London papers as “Bavaria’s famous strumpet,” “the notorious courtesan” blamed for “the sanguinary and destructive conduct of the Munich mob.” more