Not enjoying crowds, we did not go to the great “opening celebration” of Clark Commons this past weekend.

But plenty of other people did.

We have gone over a few times during the soft opening that has been going on with some stores since June. The other night we tried Smashburger. The food was okay, but the logistical flow of it was a little odd to me.

Now that the Whole Foods has opened, it will be interesting to watch what ShopRite does to meet the threat. They have already been busily renovating and doing a reset. Will it be enough?

And I am sure that Clark Township already has the increased tax inflows spent on a host of items that have been on their wish lists for some time.

So we have one of the most “challenging” schools.

And they mean it is not challenging in the way of the old Chinese insult, “may you live in interesting times”.

Compared to other schools in NJ and the USA, it is undeniable that Cranford schools are pretty good.

But one thing sticks with me. A while back I spoke with an exchange student from Europe who spent some time in Cranford High as a sophomore. One of her remarks: “I was surprised they were covering material that we did in the seventh grade”.

The latest bankruptcy of A&P will affect folks in Cranford a little, as the Clark and Kenilworth A&P’s will be reopening as Acme Markets and the Pathmark in Linden (which I thought was busy enough to be profitable) is going to close.

The Garwood Pathmark looks like it will go on untouched. Go figure.

Being from South Jersey, I recall that the proper pronunciation for Acme is “Ak-A-meee”.

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:

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”.

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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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.


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