Tag Archives: New Jersey

Welcome to Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero’s Chop Shop

A heavyset man sits in a seat pulled from a junked car, reading Waste News. Around him are cars in various states of disassembly. A Mercedes pulls up…

This is Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero’s body shop from The Sopranos, Cleveland Auto Body. It features in one of my favorite episodes, where Pussy and Tony commiserate on the difficulties of rearing teenagers. Later, after Pussy is killed for being a government informant, his wife Angie takes over the body shop and nearly becomes a mobster herself.

The location for Cleveland Auto Body is on Cleveland Avenue in Harrison, NJ, just outside Newark and a short walk from the location used for Satriale’s. I had the opportunity to visit this Sunday, excited to see where these scenes really took place.

Today, it is Mavis Discount Tire, and has gotten quite a facelift. The old Cleveland Auto Body sign is gone, along with the junk you saw in The Sopranos. In its place is a clean, modern tire shop.

Here’s how it looked in season 2:

And how it looks now:

Across the street, you can see the exact same houses as in the Sopranos scene. They don’t seem to have changed a bit. It was a lot of fun to see the same backdrop as some of my favorite characters!

Seeing how Tony pulls into a bay directly across from the houses above in this episode, I think this is a new building. I don’t see bays facing in that direction now. But, it’s hard to say for sure.

The neighborhood is halfway between industrial and residential, with a newer, upscale apartment building nearby. Between the classed-up auto shop and the new neighbors, the neighborhood is a little fancier than it was in Big Pussy’s day.

It was a great time seeing the exact same spot where some of my favorite scenes took place!

Dig into these posts for more on The Sopranos:

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

This is Satriale’s From The Sopranos

They sit around tables covered in checkered cloths, sipping espresso. The conversations are hushed. As you approach, they fall silent.

This is Satriale’s, the butcher shop that served as headquarters for Tony and his crew in The Sopranos. These scenes were shot at a storefront in Kearny, New Jersey, a working class, mostly Spanish town near Newark. Yesterday, I went there to see what was left of this iconic spot.

Unfortunately, the storefront was demolished shortly after the end of the series. There were plans to turn it into condos, but as of today it’s a township parking lot. I can’t believe they didn’t preserve the building and sell tickets!

Here’s how it looked in the series:

And how it looked yesterday:

Even with the iconic building no longer there, it was still a thrill to stand on that sidewalk where my favorite characters had so many memorable moments. The building to the left remains the same, and I could also look across the street to the same streetscape Tony and his crew saw so often. It looks almost the same as it did in the series.

Here’s how it looked then:

And now:

Just a couple blocks away is another Sopranos filming location, and this one looks exactly the way it did in the show.

Richie Aprile’s office sits just two blocks south of Satriale’s on the same street. You can see this storefront when Richie chases Matthew Bevilacqua away after he tries to kill Chris.

Here’s how it looked then:

And now:

The building appears to be a private home now. If you zoom in, you’ll see the same yellow sign for China Star restaurant that was in this scene over 20 years ago.

It was a lot of fun to see the Soprano family’s home turf! Even though Satriale’s is no more, I’d still recommend checking out the neighborhood!

Dig into these posts for more on The Sopranos:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

The Real Groundhogs of New Jersey

You look out onto a small grassy area in a nearby park. Surrounding you are tall brick buildings and in the distance, the New York City skyline. Wait…is that something moving?

A few days ago in West New York

This is how I discovered the adorable groundhogs of Auf der Heide Park in West New York, NJ two years ago. I’ve seen as few as one and as many as five or six, and they can be found reliably spring through fall every year. In winter, they hibernate deep in their holes, the way we sometimes wish we could!

Last summer

My favorite groundhog was an older gentleman I met last spring. It was early April, during the worst part of the COVID crisis. There wasn’t much to do really, besides walk. One day, I figured I’d bring up a few snacks for the little guys. They love fruits and veggies but don’t care for carbs. Perhaps they’re on the Atkins?

That’s when I came across an adorable Grandpa Groundhog. I fed him a few veggie snacks, and as he ate, I noticed his back right foot was severely injured and barely attached. I later spoke with staff from the Animal Medical Center in New York as well as animal control, but they recommended against trying to trap a wild animal for treatment. So I just kept visiting him.

He soon became so tame he would sit on my foot and eat like a dog. Then, after a week or so, I stopped seeing him. The other groundhogs weren’t very nice to him and tried to steal his food, probably knowing he was weak. But not too weak to give them a penetrating stare that had them backing off in a hurry.

Here’s a video of him:

I don’t know what happened to him, but I assume he may have passed away. I’m happy he had at least one friend in his last days, and I’m honored I got to be that friend. At that time, I needed a friend too.

Dig into these posts for more on the outdoors:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Welcome to Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero’s House from The Sopranos

Birds call in a cemetery in the early hours. Two men appear on a balcony. One hands the other a newspaper. Their faces are grave.

This is the backdrop for a classic scene of The Sopranos. Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero brings FBI Special Agent Skip Lipari onto his balcony, where Lipari questions him about a high profile murder. Both suddenly clam up when Pussy’s wife comes out with the trash.

The lonely calling of the birds and Pussy looking out over a graveyard make a haunting image. The headstones, so close to Bonpensiero, subtly foreshadow his murder later in the season, when Tony Soprano finds out he’s an informant.

Big Pussy’s house is in Jersey City, NJ and I had the opportunity to visit yesterday. While we don’t see it from the outside in the series, when Tony visits in season 1 you can clearly see the same metal door and brick pillar as above.

The street is a dead end and Pussy’s house borders the vast Holy Name Cemetery. The house is upscale…evidently Pussy’s heroin business paid well! The cemetery itself seems like something out of The Sopranos, with the profusion of Italian names on the markers.

On the way home, I stopped by another Sopranos filming location, this one from season 6. Tony and Paulie are on the run as the FBI investigates a decades-old murder. On Kennedy Boulevard near Pussy’s house, Silvio Dante breaks the bad news to Tony that the FBI has found the body.

The liquor store has had a facelift since then, but the streetscape is still quite recognizable.

It was quite the thrill to see where these great scenes really happened!

Dig into these posts for more on The Sopranos:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

This is Where New York Ambushed Tony Soprano’s Right Hand Man

“Gerry warned you Eli!”

Dim streetlights reflect off wet pavement. In the background, a red neon sign flickers out. “Kay’s Spring Garden.” As Hesh Rabkin and his son-in-law Eli prepare to head home, a black Lexus suddenly pulls in front of them. In an instant, they’re surrounded by thugs banging on the car. Finally, a burning rag inserted into the fuel tank gets them out of the car, desperate to save their own lives.

This classic scene in season 6 of The Sopranos ended with Eli in the hospital with severe injuries and after Gerry Torciano’s men attacked him for poaching Torciano’s loansharking customers. Even Hesh, Tony’s long-time confidant and business partner, got roughed up.

This scene was filmed on Congress Street just off Central Avenue in Jersey City’s Heights neighborhood. I actually lived just 4 blocks away for two years. So what is this location like in real life?

Kay’s Spring Garden is a real Chinese restaurant. I actually went past a couple of weeks ago, and it still looked exactly the same as it did in this Sopranos episode from 2006. It sits on Central Avenue, the main commercial street of Jersey City Heights. The stores on either side are different now: the flower shop has become a realtor, and Goehrig’s Bakery, long vacant, has become a high end cupcake shop.

The Heights has historically been a neighborhood of immigrants. First the Germans, then Jews and Italians, and now Hispanic people, often from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. When I moved there in 2015, it was just beginning to gentrify. Today, it’s a mix of immigrants and young professionals.

Central Avenue is a charming street that I still love to walk down, even though I no longer live in the neighborhood. The bustle, the cute, family-run stores selling delicious food, the ambience, it can’t be beat!

The way the neighborhood looks at night in The Sopranos is very accurate to reality. It’s dark, quiet, and deserted. You don’t see many people around. Until a black Lexus pulls in front of you…

For more on The Sopranos and entertainment, check out these posts:

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Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too!

10 Years of Legal Weed: Fewer Opioid Deaths, More Jobs and Tax Revenue

I got an interesting message in my e-mail this morning. The NPR Planet Money newsletter reviewed the prior nearly ten years in legal marijuana in some states, and came to some interesting conclusions:

What’s changed:

  • More marijuana use
  • Way more jobs
  • Way more tax revenue. California makes over $600 million a month.

What hasn’t:

  • No effect on crime or traffic accidents
  • No change in price of marijuana. Evidently the product and service at the legal stores is so good people prefer it to anything else.

What might have:

Use of opioids. In the working paper linked from the newsletter, I found this incredible stat:

…Chan, Burkhardt, and Flyr (2020) show that RMLs [recreational marijuana laws] reduce opioid mortality by 20% to 35%, implying that both opioid use and misuse decline as legal marijuana access expands.

Given the mass death caused by opioids, this alone seems like reason enough to legalize marijuana in my book.

I read this newsletter with particular interest since I live in New Jersey, which recently legalized marijuana but doesn’t yet have weed stores the way California, Colorado and other states do. It looks like we mostly have positive changes to look forward to.

For more posts on politics and news, check these out:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Vancouver Global Marijuana March 2015 – by Danny Kresnyak” by Cannabis Culture is licensed under CC BY 2.0

From COVID Vaccines to Library Cards, Government is Failing Us. Here’s the Way Out.

It’s bigger than party.

The Problem

This all started when I had to renew my library card.

I got an e-mail requesting a picture of a photo ID with my current address on it. I got my driver’s license and passport before I moved here two years ago, so I asked how else I could renew my card and continue to experience the joys of reading. The friendly folks at the library demanded a photo ID and two (!) proofs of residence.

This got me thinking about how a lot of things in this country are working. In short: not well.

We are carefully following rules and accomplishing nothing. We put in place an arcane system of regulations and lose sight of our overall goal. And it goes way beyond your little local library.

The Problem is Everywhere

Early in the pandemic, getting a COVID test was next to impossible. I volunteered to schedule them at a nearby hospital in March, and the desperation in the voices of the callers struck me.

Why was it so hard to get a test? The CDC first required all labs to use their test, which did not work, rather than letting labs develop their own.

The University of Washington sought to make a COVID test on its own in February. Widespread testing at that time might have stopped the pandemic in its tracks. They made a test, filled out the mountain of documents the government required, and sent them off.

One problem: regulations required they also mail a USB drive or CD-ROM containing the documents. Here’s the lab’s director, Keith Jerome:

We’ve got a lot of scientists and doctors and laboratory personnel who are incredibly good at making assays. What we’re not so good at is figuring out all the forms and working with the bureaucracy of the federal government.” Jerome said that Greninger had to call and e-mail the F.D.A. multiple times to figure out what they needed to secure an E.U.A. “At one point, he was very frustrated because he’d e-mailed them what we were doing so they could review it,” Jerome said. “But legally you also had to mail a physical copy. Here we are in this SARS-CoV-2 crisis, and you have to send them something through the United States Postal Service. It’s just shocking.” (The F.D.A. has since dropped the requirement to send a CD-ROM or USB drive with a copy of the application.)

The New Yorker

Frankly, as much as I try to stay calm, reading this sort of thing makes my blood boil. Still not convinced? Well, let’s mosey over from the CDC to the Pentagon.

The Department of Defense took a year to get cloth masks for our soldiers. A year! But at least they got a great deal. Each one comes at the bargain price of $45:

It took a full year for the service to design, approve and distribute a face mask — called a Combat Cloth Face Covering, or CCFC — for its soldiers, an effort that required an additional $43.5 million in contracts to provide temporary solutions. That comes out to about $45 per mask, if you assume every active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldier received one. A pack of 20 N95 masks at Home Depot costs about $20.

And yet, the Army congratulated itself on the “expedited” timeline, compared to the 18- to 24-month procurement cycle such an effort would normally take.

“The system worked as designed,” tweeted a former Marine.

And that is precisely the problem.

This from Defense News, by way of the excellent Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution.

If you’re still unconvinced we have a problem here, I’ll give you one last example. Here are some of the ways you can get a COVID vaccine in Hudson County, NJ where I live. Each one has a separate website, and some have no website at all! I haven’t been able to find an appointment on any of them yet:

An AirBnB engineer in New York, Huge Ma, made his own website for $50 that aggregates the similar patchwork of vaccination sites in New York into one slick system. Government had most of 2020 and millions of dollars to do something similar, but never saw fit to do it.

How We Can Fix It

Huge Ma shows us what one capable person can do, freed of constraints. What government needs to do is to get some capable people together, give them an overall goal, and let them do the work.

What might that look like? Get together a few of the best IT people in the New Jersey state government, call in a couple outside experts (perhaps Mr. Ma!), and tell them “We need to get people vaccines. Make it happen.”

Getting together a group of capable people, giving them an endpoint, and letting them figure out how to get there is how the best organizations work. The superb book Good to Great details how that process has succeeded at one organization after another.

In addition, we need all the Huge Ma’s we can get. Let’s have private citizens make things without permission, and also agitate to get government to work better.

With that in mind, I will now politely submit all the required documents for my new library card, but also enquire how we might make this process easier for others in the future. 🙂

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Photo: “President Trump Meets with the Governor of New Jersey” by The White House is marked with CC PDM 1.0