My Hometown – Hopatcong (Ode to Childhood)

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou

During our lives there are some things we get comfortable with almost to the point of taking advantage of them. It is this comfort that we benchmark our lives against and always find a sense of ease and safety with each passing day. No matter how far away we go, home is always there for us. It never leaves us, cheats on us or turns its back to us.

It’s allegiance and loyalty is without question and the sense you feel as you close you eyes, feel its touch, breath in its smell and see every memory race through your head is priceless. It is the warmth and coziness of home that continuously reminds me who I am and how I became the person I am today.

hopEvery time I return home, I see something new. Though nothing changes, it is always different yet still the same feeling I had as a child.

The comfort of the hometown deli, the sound of grasshoppers at night, the safety of living in a town where you never lock your doors at night, the sight of a million stars at the top of the golf course, the spirit of the Chiefs, basketball at Modick, soccer all around, the summers at the lake, remembrance of those we lost, patriotism, the comfort of the Old River Styx Bridge, rolling hills and the feeling of home.

This is my ode to Hopatcong, the safe haven that bore me and raised it. It is a town with a quiet rich heritage that continues to shine.

Its the parks, the diners, the locals, the morning dew, the local sports, the children and the air that we breath that makes home the only place you will ever know.

Be free, see the world and experience the magic and wonder of different cultures and different great natural wonders but never forget where you are from. It is and will always remained ingrained inside you.

Home is always safe in your heart!

“When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood” – Sam Ewing

“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place picture-048like home.” – L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

“Home is the place, where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” – Robert Frost

“I’m laying out my winter clothes and wishing I was gone,
Going home, where the new york city winters aren’t bleedin’ me.” – Paul Simon, The Boxer

“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.” – Christian Morganstern

“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.” – Unknown

“Home should be an oratorio of the memory, singing to all our after life melodies and harmonies of old remembered joy.” – Henry Ward Beecher




Wasted Youth – Original Poem


By Mark A. Leon

Nothing mattered but the moment we were in
Squandered dreamers

It’s all captured now behind the glass window
A museum of memories rekindled in our dreams

Tripping over the VHS library
Scarred by the rock n roll lifestyle of a suburban nightmare
A manifestation of a perfect world
Kids played, parents loved and the world was a small bubble of safety

I remember a different time where a fifth of Mad Dog and a fantasy in the pages of Playboy behind the quick stop was the American dream

Satan toyed with our youth, not in fire or fear
Nor pain
Nor tears

Our souls locked up in the boredom of utopia
A 40 in the woods
Our future secured with one misguided orgasm

Our moms and dads pledged to love and honor for the sake of the children
Love poured down the drain as emptiness filled the bedroom

No white picket fence to protect us
Just John Hughes to keep us in high school forever
Don’t you forget about me cries Bender as he raises his arms to the air
End frame, end scene, end film

The varsity jacket still smells new as I slide it on listening to the chimes of achy bones

You can’t go back
On the field, the jerseys read the same numbers, but new faces
Cheerleaders soon to be moms because they trusted he would pull out
Players running a 4.4 today then holding a 44 to their forehead tomorrow

The curse of youth is not the unattainable; but the unrealized

With wings on our heels, we raced for the finish line
What if we stopped?
What if we questioned what are we racing for?
What if we fled?

I’m leaving on a jet plane.
I didn’t.
I took that minimum wage and squandered it on I don’t know

On the corner
In a town
Like any other town
In a place
Like any other place

I watched the world pass by
From feet, to bike, to car, to wheelchair


Lost Youth, Homeless Retreat – Original Poem

Do children fantasize about living on the streets when they grow?
Cold and alone under the comfort of a bridge
Dirty and lost
Unable to recognize their own reflection

Beneath the  dirt and stubble once stood a promising young boy
Zesty and silly with the fruits of a life at his footstep

An astronaut he would be
A baseball star to millions
A world traveler with only the wind to guide the sail

On the playground they laugh
Surrounded by friends and the safety of the bubble of youth
Waiting in the wings, proud parents, smiling

They are the future
The promising leaders
The innovative changers
The idea makers
They will make us proud

Now drunk and hungry they lie shivering
Torn clothes found behind a dumpster
The final piece of meat off the bone of a chicken already worked over by a swarm of flies
A wet blanket, their only material possession
The taste of blood off his cut leg his only meal

All they have is time


Time to ponder
Time to regret
Time to forget

Blocking a life gone wrong is not an option
Reality is his enemy
Fierce, raw and filled with pain

The child is gone now
The future is dark

The only rest will come under the nameless tombstone
Void of visitors
Void of love

Mom Dream – Original Poem


I had a dream last night.

One fueled by liquid comfort and protected between sheets of cotton and dormant time

A dream of happiness and sadness trapped in suspension.  Hovering above outside my reach, but lingering in hope, guilt, despair and soothing tranquility

There she was; so full of life

Working to prepare for the impending company. Busy and anxious.

Outside pods filled with my childhood.  Soon to be gone.  Soon, to be so distant, the fog will blind me from any remaining senses

I didn’t see it.  I didn’t realize it

My present and past found their way to each other acting out this play in my psyche.

I, on my knees, watched in confusion

Not until my eyes opened to the darkness of reality did I see

It was her goodbye.  I treated it with ill respect; with only my childish demeanor

I was a child; or was I an adult?


Was my dream fueled by memory or transference from my past to present?

Was I saying goodbye to my home, my mother, my childhood or innocence?

Was I opening the door to uncertainty?

I had a dream last night

I saw my mother

I smiled; now I reflect

Farewell to Home – Original Poem


All these songs a reflection of the past
These walls echo the words of my childhood

Laughter through the cracks
Tears hidden in the shadows

It is a time of passing
A time of reflection
A time of evaluation of the decisions, the paths, the results of a life held together by brick and concrete

I was five years old without a worry; without a care; with a life time playing in the musical box of imagination inside my head

At ten a new world opened up but home in the corner of my eye

Soon, the wind passed the years of adolescence like the school bus along the main street

I walked away with a kiss and a tear to explore the unknown

With a family picture in the back of my pocket; a constant reminder of the safety of home


Always there; close

Like a brilliant magic trick, innocence disappeared not to be surfaced again for many years

Now thousands of miles worn on my face, I return to say goodbye

Goodbye to home
Goodbye to my first steps
First skin of the knee
First kiss
First proud moment

The picture remains
My face growing through the years
The same pose, the same smile, a new notch of life etched in a wrinkle

Laying on the grass one last time and looking to the stars I am thankful and confused

No longer will these rooms be mine
No longer will I walk through this door
No longer will I call this home.


As I walk around the each room and hallway, hollow and still, I can hear millions of footsteps complimented with the voice of my mother, father and siblings. Laughing and playing with music in the background. It all rushed back to me now.

With a fond farewell, I lock up the memories for another time; walk out the front door and open the door to a new chapter

Remember when……Life was simpler

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As we get older we mature, we begin to look at the world a different way and make adjustments to our perspectives. We see more value in things we didn’t see initially when we were younger and see the importance of family, respect and love.

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Still, we have undergone unprecedented change in the last ten plus years. Not as dramatic as the first light bulb and telephone but clearly we are seeing life and experiencing things in a way we have never before. As we look at our children, we consciously know, they will never know the life we have.

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Maybe it is time to sit down with the little ladies and lasses and bring on a little journey to the past when things may not have been right at our fingertips but they sure brought us happiness.

Let us talk a walk on the yellow brick road of memories.  Follow me now as we journey to a time of innocence and simplicity..

Remember when…

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    • You put a VHS tape into the VCR to watch a movie and not click a poster to stream it on Netflix

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    • You spent hours trying to figure out Rubik’s Cube instead of spelling out a word on Words with Friends once every two hours
    • A company newsletter was printed  and handed out at staff meetings and you could flip the pages and read it; not view it on the intranet site

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    • A card was made with construction paper, markers, lace and love, not an ecard from
    • You wrote a note on a napkin or piece of notebook paper; not a text
    • Your appointments were written in a planner with a pen, not on Google calendar

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    • Birds weren’t angry (We love you Tweety)

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    • Apple knew how to “Think Different” and never stop “Imagining”
    • When you won the big race or scored the game winning basket, you cut out the article in the newspaper and put it in your scrapbook; not find the URL online and share it on Facebook

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    • You didn’t need or EHarmony to find a date; you walked up to a girl and handed her a piece of paper that said “Will you go out with me:  Yes or No”

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  • You stood on line for hours to purchase concert tickets at Ticketmaster for bands you idolized; not buy them online, download them and scan them at the door

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  • You sent a postcard from the amazing places you visited; not take a picture with your IPhone and Instagram it
  • When you met a boy or girl at a bar or club, you got a number on a coaster; not add them as Facebook friends and get lost in the shuffle

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  • A photo album consisted of pictures you took that you couldn’t see for a minimum of one hour; not a digital screen of images
  • A creative image of yourself was a caricature at Disney World or the shore; not an app on your IPad that takes a picture and warps it to look cool

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  • If you had an opinion, you would write an editorial and handed it in to the local town or school paper.  Then you were a blogger
  • MTV showed videos and network television had shows with plots, no celebrities and no sign of reality anywhere

Times were different.

Some argue life is better now; life is easier; life brings the world closer together.

Is it?

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I liked my friends in the neighborhood that played wiffle ball until we couldn’t see the ball anymore, playing hide and seek on eight different yards, going out for Halloween and not even needing our parents, having the door unlocked at night, riding bikes instead of riding a virtual bike on Wii, buying the first baseball cards of the season during a snow storm just so you could do it first, walking into each other’s houses and eating their food, making mix tapes for our friends and girlfriends and just enjoying things a little simpler.

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I Went to a Zoo

I went to a zoo on Saturday. First it was chocolate and raspberry crepe and hot chocolate then off to High Park Zoo in Toronto, Ontario. Why is it important that I share a story about a small quaint zoo with emu, goats, bison, wallaby, reindeer and cows?

First, it is a zoo. If that isn’t enough to celebrate then what is? The thought of exotic animals from every continent around the world cohabitate in one place and being able to touch, talk and learn about them is just one of the most amazing concepts on earth. It is a utopia of life from the simplicity of eating and pooping to the complexity of mating. We get to bear witness to how other animals and species live around the world all at our finger tips.

Second, The National Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and zoos are a bit of a holy grail to me. I can sense them, I can feel them but somehow I never thought I would see them again. Like many people, when I have a quest, I will stick to my guns until that need is met. Now The Hall of Fame has become more of a joke between my father and I so the likelihood of meeting this destiny may not be in the near future but I was able to go to Yogi Berra’s Museum last summer and that helped ease the pain.

Now back to the zoo. Due to a calendar overlook, we were not able to go to Shakespeare in the Park last night and see A Mid Summer Nights Dream but through a little additional research, I learned that High Park had a zoo.

Yippy! Are you feeling the excitement now! So after bribing my father with a nice savory sweet crepe, it was off to the zoo. What a time was had. I had a nice conversation with an Emu who posed so nicely, watched a couple of young goats experience true love or mounting, watched a bison poop for what seemed like an hour, was amazed by the wing span of the peacock, cringed as the goats who were in mid shedding and laughed at the reindeer with their furry antlers.

A zoo is one of the rare places you can feel like a child each and every time you walk through the open gates. As I walked on the medium like a gymnast in the Olympics minus the style points and eloquence, I felt like I was ten again. It is nice to get an hour sometimes to forget about life’s problems and just be an innocent child once again. I wanted to pet every one of them and even may have renamed a few. I liked the names but some just didn’t fit based on the relationship I created with them.

As the sun was setting so too was my visit to the zoo. You can give me a 50 acre zoo with an IMAX theater, a dolphin experience, a one of a kind albino alligator, giraffes that touch the clouds and elephants so massive you won’t believe your eyes, but in my mind, if you can find a small zoo where you can make an intimate connection with the animals in a small setting, it is so worth it.

So there you have it. I went to the zoo. I hope you enjoyed my little story and maybe, just maybe it too inspired you to want to befriend an animal or two at the zoo.