Yes, there will be fireworks tonight at 9 at Nomahegan.

And please remember the significance of the day and why we celebrate. If you don’t know, read this:

http://www.grandparents.com/grandkids/holiday-activities-and-crafts/7-ways-to-teach-patriotism-to-your

Then explain it to the kids.

Over in Westfield there is a lawsuit filed by recent homebuyers against the previous owners, the title insurance company and a letter writer who self-identifies as “the Watcher”.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3137697/I-Watcher-Bring-young-blood-Family-forced-1-3m-dream-home-targeted-terrifying-stalker.html

The excerpts of the letter as in the articles are pretty chilling, but it seems to avoid making overt threats of harm. It’s like a mix between the Amityville Horror and the old movie “Burnt Offerings”, which I will leave you to Google.

If the first letter was sent five days before closing, and has never been an issue before…you will have to put me in the “this is a hoax” camp. If it is indeed a hoax, it’s not a bad one. But who would be the primary beneficiaries of the hoax?

Let’s suppose for a moment it’s real. Who could the person be? Someone crazy? Sure. There’s never a shortage of crazy people, even in Westfield (see List, John). But why would anyone fixate on a house on a fairly busy through street? Anyone besides a neighbor would be noticed. Someone placing a wireless camera? Possible, but it would eventually be discovered. A losing bidder? Perhaps. But the new owners have had the house up for sale until last week, per Zillow, anyway. They could have bought the house at a discount if they coveted it.

WestfieldBlvdHouse

Also, by putting up the house for sale this past February, weren’t the new buyers about to commit the same wrong that they are claiming was inflicted on them? Do you think they would have disclosed the letters and the reason they never moved in?

I doubt it too.

I read the lawsuit. http://documents.gawker.com/the-watcher-lawsuit-1713657328

Having read it, I am more convinced than ever it is a hoax. Of course they are requesting a jury trial. Having served on a Union County jury myself and meeting fellow jurors, they probably have a good shot if they present themselves sympathetically enough.

But here’s the thing, if you’ve ever sold a house before and all of the rigamarole to get to the point of closing, is one creepy anonymous letter five days before closing sufficient enough to establish the precedent of giving the purchasers a free house plus another four million in cash?

Then wouldn’t everyone who has a bad case of buyer’s remorse start sending creepy letters a week before closing?

We’ll see how this pans out. My guess is that there will be a Lifetime movie in a few years.

UPDATE: If this lawsuit prevails, I am considering going into the creepy letter writing business for skittish home buyers. Letters will be creepy but no threats of actual harm or harassment. Just creepy. Options include being a humanized version of the house or Scooby-Doo type of villain. Written using Microsoft Word on Staples paper and Staples envelopes. Mailed with NYC postmark with no fingerprints or DNA (self-stick stamps and sponge for envelope sealing). Package would include series of letters – some prior to closing and some after. Flat fee and % commission based on damages obtained. Upcharges for extra creepiness, use of vintage stationary, use of vintage typewriter or anything requiring research on property history and/or local legends. Communication only via US Mail. Cash only in small used bills.

It could also be the start of a “work from home, make big money” empire.

However, I do have some ethical pangs about such a venture.

So today on NJ.com there’s a “see where you can afford along the NJ transit rail lines” article.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2015/06/nj_transit_home_value_map_on_which_stops_can_you_a.html#incart_river

And it is comical.

Cranford is a big winner with a median home value of $551k. Much higher than Garwood, but also much higher than Westfield.

How on earth could that be? Everyone knows that Westfield is more expensive than Cranford.

Except the Star-Ledger.

Their analysis looked at the Census block data in the area immediately surrounding the train station. That skews things as towns with more apartments close to the train, or like Westfield, few housing units near the train besides apartments above stores on the north side of town, all of which affects the median value of that Census block.

Home Values Raritan Valley Line

Zip code would make more sense to me because of commuter parking and property taxes having an effect on value.

http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml

If you use the zip, Cranford’s median value drops to $456,700.

Cranford Home Values 2013

And Westfield’s pops to $656,900

Westfield Home Values 2013

This took me 15 minutes during my lunch hour.

Despite this story coming out of South Jersey, it resonated with me.

http://www.nj.com/camden/index.ssf/2015/06/berlin_murder_victim_told_neighbor_about_gun_permi.html#incart_river

A couple of years ago, I decided to go through the process and get a gun permit. It took a few months. (December to April if memory serves.) It is, as designed, to be a pain. And the process is kind of over-the-top stupid.

It involved:

  • Go to the Cranford Township Municipal Building and complete a bunch of forms.
  • Send Reference Letters to three friends (not family members) who can vouch for your non-craziness (note to authorities – if you’re crazy, it is probable you have crazy friends…so that sort of mitigates the reference check part, doesn’t it?) The friends I sent it to were all gun owners, so I knew they would be supportive and would actually send it back.
  • Go down to South Plainfield and get fingerprinted.
  • Wait for State Police background check to complete.
  • Wait.
  • Pay fees and get a permit card with then-Chief Eric Mason’s signature.

Then and only then could I look at buying something. And when I did buy something (I even bought out-of-state which made the process more involved) it took a couple more weeks. When purchasing, the store did an immediate background check with the Feds anyway after I gave my license and permit; then my only option was to have it shipped to a dealer in NJ since I couldn’t put it in my car since I was across state lines. Then after paying the dealer in Rahway a fee to receive it and add it to the database, I got it.

I can’t say that the town took forever, but it did take a while for the background check, the reference letters, and the fingerprinting to get done.

The most interesting thing to me? No requirement for a gun safety course. I think even Texas makes you take a gun safety course. Thankfully I have people who walked me through safe handling and cleaning (even though I had a pretty good idea already).

The process could use a lot of improvement, especially with improvements in technology. And now there is a bill to reduce the wait times for those with restraining orders.

Too bad Carol Bowne didn’t get her chance to get through the process. She may still be with us.

Lots of R.I.P’s lately.

If you read in the archives, you may deduce that I have next to no love for the Newark Star-Ledger.

From sports writers that make you question why they are employed (I’m lookin’ at you, Politi), articles swiped from other papers and retyped by interns, ludicrous editorials, and little coverage of anything in depth, it has not been surprising that it has been in a years-long tailspin.

And now the parent company, swirling the bowl with the SL, pulled the plug on the over 125 year-old Cranford Chronicle. May 29 was the last issue.

We were one of the dozens of subscribers that would take the 6 minutes per week to look through at the smattering of articles that were often repeated in the Suburban News. And the same ads week after week for same painters and power-washers.

Print is a dying medium. That’s undeniable. But gutting the content and making it meaningless hastens it. The renewal slip came last year and I still filled it out but I did ask myself ‘why should I bother? It barely has anything.’

But since 1888, we had something.

But Advanced Media made a choice to neglect it. Shriveling down to nothing in the process.

I am confident we will say the same thing about the Star-Ledger sooner than you think.

And no, I don’t feel badly about that. They’re doing it to themselves.

On the hopeful side, maybe it boosts Patch (http://patch.com/new-jersey/cranford), TAP (https://www.tapinto.net/towns/cranford), and the Westfield Leader. (http://www.goleader.com)

I am not happy about this.

Chalk it up to the fear of litigation, I suppose.

So this week without any fanfare, our 250+ year old Pepperidge tree here in town was cut down. Right before Arbor Day.

It was a landmark.

It was historic.

Yes, it was rotting and had some issues. It could have been pruned, cabled and had a stockade fence around it for all I cared.

And if a storm brought it down, then so be it.

This was not handled well.

http://www.nj.com/union/index.ssf/2015/04/old_peppy_comes_down_in_cranford.html#incart_river

For the past several years Cranford had an anonymous message board where the greatest benefit would be to find out why there was police or fire department activity that you passed on your way home.

Besides those explanations, it would often contain a lot of vitriol, rants, and posts from users (how many there truly were was hard to tell since everyone posted as “Guest”) who were pretty obviously off the deep end.

A virtual rubber room where one in 100 posts had some value.

Well, cranfordtalk.org has been down since January. And I think it’s not coming back.

I don’t think it’s that big a loss.

What other options are there?

http://www.nj.com/cranford-nj/ or http://www.nj.com/forums/cranford/ or http://www.nj.com/onthetown/westfieldcranford/

They look old (like Hurricane Irene old) and as messily designed as the rest of nj.com.

http://www.topix.com/forum/city/cranford-nj Rarely used, annoying popups.

No Yahoo groups that I could find, no Google groups.

Is there a place I am missing?

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