Milk Carton Bird Houses

When I was in the Boy Scouts -- about 1964 to 1968 -- we took what were then new, the cardboard cartons that milk came in ... instead of the class bottles with cream at the top and a cardboard seal ... and converted them into bird houses for our feathered friends.

I don't remember how mine turned out. We never took a picture of that -- not with Mom's Kodak Instamatic or the yet-to-be-invented smartphone.

It was a long time ago. Now that I think of it, it may have been when I was a Cub Scout. We made those kinds of projects all the time. I remember asking mom for a bar of smelly girl soap and a fine handkerchief that she took out from her hope chest. I then got pretty girly pins stuck the handkerchief into the bar of soap and gave it to her for Mother's Day. Boy, was she surprised.

But probably not as surprised as the first birds who moved into my milk carton bird house. I wonder if they could tell it was built by a carpenter's son?

© 2014 Anthony Buccino

Want to help your kids make milk carton bird houses? Try these directions at About.com 


Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life

Did you know that the screenplay for this film was written by Frances Goodrich and her husband Albert Hackett. She was born in Belleville, N.J. and moved at an early age to Nutley, N.J. The two were top screenwriters from the 1930s to the 1950s when they won the Pulitzer Prize for their play The Diary of Anne Frank.
And the pair worked on Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" but it wasn't a pleasant experience for even the seasoned Hollywood screenwriters.
Check out The Real Nick and Nora


My 14-Year-Old Self Came in the Mail

Should I Open It, Or Not?

A large brown envelope arrived recently in snail mail from Ashtabula, Ohio. It contained copies of letters I wrote to a young woman named Mary when we were 14. We met in the northeastern Ohio township, and decided to keep in touch when my summer vacation ended.

I found her on Facebook, and we got in touch after four decades. When she realized I’d become a writer, she mentioned my letters in a box in her attic. Would I like copies? What could I have possible said in those letters to a relative stranger 300 miles away? And why would she save them into this millennium?
“They’re about what you’d expect a 14 year old to write about,” she said.

Would I like to meet myself at 14? Not that I could go back and talk some sense into my head, but what I think about those times now and what I was actually saying at the time, well, they’re mountains apart..

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Jersey Shore Envy

One of the great things about my union job in the early 1970s was that I got my birthday off as a paid holiday. That first week in June when I turned 19, my high school buddy Lou and I headed down the shore.

Without knowing why, my family was shore aversive. I had stumbled upon some black-and-white photos of my parents showing them in their youth enjoying benefits of sea bathing. I hardly remember any trips down that way.

When my childhood friend regaled me with tempting tales of sun, sand and surf at the Jersey Shore, and all the good times I missed, he planted the seed for a chronic case of Jersey Shore envy.
Walnut Beach boardwalk, Ashtabula, Ohio, 2013
Joey, another childhood buddy, had told me of his family taking bus trips to Seaside Heights, and all the grown-ups from his old Montclair home were singing, "Hail, hail, the gang's all here, what the hell do we care now!"

So, there we were, two very white guys about to fry on the beach, or die of windburn from the sand showers that washed over us. The water was way too cold to go in. The penguins were tussling with polar bears for the last blocks of ice. Lou and I could take a hint. The two of us North Jersey kids just stretched out on a towel in the late spring sun and enjoyed the privacy of having the entire Seaside Heights beach to ourselves.

New to the beach, Lou was my tour guide. He'd stayed here with his family and friends. On our walk from the parking lot to the beach, he showed me the house where he stayed on the second floor. And the outside shower. I'd never known anyone who showered outside. Then we walked the vast, deserted boardwalk as he told me of his older cousins who'd won what at which stand and which stands to avoid if I ever decided to return on my own.

We snuck into the restroom to change into swimsuits. Lou told me to ignore the sign that says "No Changing In Restrooms". The place was desolate, but if anybody asked if we changed into our swim trunks in the restroom, Lou said we'd just tell them we wore them under our clothes. He explained as if he were versed in the law that since there were no lifeguards, we wouldn't need badges to get on the beach. Badges? We don't need no stinking badges?

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Time to Change the Air Conditioner

Every year here in New Jersey when we change our clocks to save time, there's another chore around our house. About the last week of April when we spring ahead, it's time to break out the window air conditioners from their closet hibernation.

In late October, it's time to rip off the sealing tape and bring in the units without dropping them on an innocent foot or to the pavement below.

The two bedroom air conditioners need only cross from the closet to the window. It's the monster dining room air conditioner that has been stored in the basement that elicits the most grunts and groans as it travels up a flight of stairs, through the kitchen to rest and catch its breath in front of the window.
Buccino-ColgateClock.jpgA Cool Clock

It wasn't always like this. When I grew up in the second floor cold water flat upstairs from grandma, we didn't even have screens outside our windows. We had these sliding screens that adjusted to the width of the window and let in a hot summer breeze through about ten inches of metal panels. 

When I was nine, Dad surprised us all with a Lasko electric oscillating window fan. On sweltering summer days I'd sway to the left and right to stay in the modest breeze.

When we moved to our house across town, Dad brought home fans that filled the windows. His concern was whether to face the fan to draw the inside air to the outside, or to face it in so that it stirred the room with a fresh breeze of outside hot air.

 Dad worked outside as a carpenter all year. He'd spent a few years in the Fijis, so he was just fine most of the time without air conditioning. After I got married and moved out, my folks put an air conditioner in the living room. By that time my new family was living in a second floor attic apartment. My new wife picked out a cooling unit that served our three rooms well.

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Riding Under the PATH Train

We are gliding under the Witt Penn Bridge in Jersey City. There on the north side naked trestles await the next generation bridge. The thunder we hear riding under the PATH train bridge! We are clear soon enough to see the commuter train exit the bridge heading west to Harrison and Newark.
Buccino_Path_trainDistance.jpgPATH commuter train travels parallel to the Passaic River in northern New Jersey. 
How many times have I been on that PATH train while we stopped as the bridges were drawn to let some tall masted ship pass by? From where we stood, sardine-like, in the tin can railcar, we could only ever guess at the holdup outside. How many times have riders looked north from those trains and guessed at the real name of Fraternity Rock rising from the swamps.
Our Hackensack Riverkeeper boat tour is heading south on the Hackensack River. We'll cross Newark Bay and head up the Passaic River to the Route 3 bridge north of our group's Nutley hometown.

Capt. Hugh Carola, just call him Captain Hughie, explains what we pass on the shores: a power plant here, a peak-power plant there, a jet-engine power plant there, an abandoned power plant yonder.

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This Seat Taken? Notes of a Hapless Commuter

This Seat Taken? Notes of a Hapless Commuter
By Anthony Buccino

If you ever commuted to work, you'll enjoy your ride reading Anthony Buccino's latest collection "This Seat Taken? Notes of a HaplessCommuter" about the joys and follies of getting to and from work in the city using public transit.

Buccino's bus and rail commuting tales and observations are collected in this new 224-page book which is available in print, on Amazon and Nook.

Buccino spent 12 years editing business news copy at Dow Jones & Co. for the Ticker, NewsPlus and The Wall Street Journal professional web pages in Jersey City and later at the NewsCorp building in the Times Square district of mid-town Manhattan.

For his first year working in Jersey City, Buccino actually drove the 12 miles each way to work and home. An average commute would take 20 minutes to reach the city and at least another 20 minutes to cross the city to his parking lot near the Hudson River. It wasn't long before the crosstown traffic and the monthly parking fee, nearly enough for a car payment, persuaded the author to use mass transportation to get to work for the first time ever.

For 11 of those dozen years, he rode public transportation including NJ Transit buses, Newark City Subway, Port Authority Trans Hudson's PATH trains, the occasional NYC subway and DeCamp buses.
For five years, Buccino wrote about commuting and transit in metro New York-New Jersey for NJ.com. His transit blog on NJ.com earned the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism award. Many of those blurbs are gathered in this collection.

Beautiful Photos for Your Home and Office

Buy a fine art print from my friend Mark Cranston for your office, man cave, home.

Hint: I especially like Misty Bog, in case you're thinking about a Christmas present for me.


Saving washers

Stored in My Memory Bank: The Pink Pig, Dad’s Silver 'Washers'

Dad was a carpenter, and each week he gave me the washers from his pay envelope. I’d plunk them onto my piggy bank. Yeah, that’s right, washers as in nuts, bolts and washers. He told me washers weren’t money and I couldn’t spend them on candy or toys. When we filled the pink pig, we brought them to the big, boring stone bank. They said when I turned 16, I could take the money out.
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Channeling Dad

During one Super Bowl, I spent the evening changing the door knobs on all the doors in our old house. “That,” my daughter has said for 25 years, “is why none of them close.”

 Who needs football to prove manliness? Men build stuff, use saws, hammers, nails, screwdrivers and pound nails. Me, I don’t use those electrical gadgets you find in the box stores these days. I use the hand-tools Dad left behind 33 years ago. The ones with his initials burned into the handles. He was a carpenter, and had a lot more practice, but I can still hit my left thumb pretty good....

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