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THE A+ LIST

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Today we present redbankgreen‘s first annual Smarty Party, featuring the valedictorians from Red Bank Catholic, Christian Brothers Academy, Middletown South, Monmouth Regional, Red Bank Regional and Rumson-Fair Haven high schools.

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Stuffy, hyper-competitive, grade-grubbing bookmoles, able to spout an earnest quote about saving the world with all the conviction of a Miss America contestant.

Wrong, underachiever! One just finished reading a novel so racy it was banned for decades in England, and no, it wasn’t on an assigned-reading list. Another just plowed through Philip Roth’s heady ‘The Plot Against America,’ just because she wanted to. Yet they’re also just plain regular kids who like tennis and pizza and music and airport novels. None of them have much stomach for ‘American Idol,’ but their preference for Jeopardy is pretty tepid, too.

Often forced to define themselves against a stereotype, the members of this year’s valedictorian crop are full of class.

Congratulations to them and to all members of the class of 2006.

Click on the image to see the full chart. If it exceeds the size of your screen, try saving it to your desktop and then opening it.

THE FINAL STITCH

Gisela

A fabric store is retail rarity, and not merely because there are so few left. There’s a special kind of intimacy nurtured within its sound-muted confines.

It’s a place where women—and the customers are almost always women, often accompanied by their daughters—share a passion for craft, for making things tinged with personal significance. Amid the bolts of patterned textiles and filigrees of trim, a bond may develop between the proprietor and her customer, even if the store owner knows the customer only by face or by the project she’s working on. They trade tips and suggestions. Tastes are revealed, and values. They open up to one another, speaking of the highs and lows of life: the births, the marriages, the deaths. Secrets may be shared as well, ones that husbands will never know.

“People who come to a fabric store will tell you all kinds of secrets,” says Gisela Soliman, owner of Town Trimmings, and keeper of confidences. “There’s something about a store like this that invites this.”

At the end of July, the women of The Green who still sew will lose a half-century-old sanctuary of sorts when Gisela closes her door at 24 Monmouth Street for the last time.

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A SOON-TO-BE-GREEN SKYBOX

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Perhaps you’ve found yourself stopped at the intersection of Maple Avenue and East Bergen in Red Bank wondering, ‘What on earth is going on at the house opposite the Windward Deli?’

That? Oh, that’s just Joe Ruffini installing a green roof on his house.

What started out as a plan to create living space in his attic has turned into a somewhat more ambitious project. After he’d started the renovations, Ruffini—a roofer whose family has owned the house since the 1940s—read an article about the environmental benefits of grass-and plant-covered green roofs, and decided he had to have one, too, even though it meant more work.

“You’d think that, as a roofer, the last place I’d want to spend my free time would be on a roof,” he says. But he’d gotten the bug.

The house is still below the maximum height limit, Ruffini says, but he needs an approval from the zoning board for the railing. If he gets it, he hopes to have the job finished by summer’s end. With any luck, next time redbankgreen drops in, Ruffini will be in his verdant skybox, enjoying a Pop Warner game a quarter-mile or so away at Count Basie Field.

You can see the stadium over Ruffini’s shoulder in the photo above as he snuggles with his daughter Ariella, 12. Daughter Alyssa, 10, is on the far left, and the girls’ friend, Diana Roth, 11, of Atlantic Highlands, is in the center.

WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

It’s official: this game has been liberated from the iron grip of the Dueling Steins, Dayna and Larry. We have a new champion, Dylan Barlett of Little Silver, who correctly identified last week’s image as the giant emblem painted on the side of Little Szechuan in Little Silver.

This week, a rusting ladder in a dying tree. Yes, we know what you’re thinking: Where haven’t I seen this? But who will be the first to answer correctly?

As usual, e-mail your guesses please, Greenies.

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NOW FOR RENT, TOO

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Remember that house in Rumson we told you about earlier this month, the one for which the asking price had been slashed from $940,000 to $699,000 over the course of a year?

‘Little Silvered,’ author of The Jersey Shore Real Estate Bubble blog and source of our report, says that the house is now for rent as well as for sale. He’s been monitoring the house for the past year, and thinks the addition of this one and others to the for-rent rolls “is a clear indication how slow the real estate market currently is.”

Elsewhere, though, Little Silvered (who keeps his true identity a secret) says he believes asking prices in this region are down about 10 percent from the peak, which is a far cry from the 25-percent haircut the owners of the Rumson house in question have endured.

Any brokers, agents or sellers out there want to weigh in on Little Silvered’s take on the market?

‘I NEVER BUY SHOES HERE’

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Ten quick questions for Marcos Machado, owner of Fernando’s Shoe Repair, 74 Monmouth Street, Red Bank.

What happened to Fernando? He retired and moved back to Portugal. I’ve had the shop since 1998.

You moved here in April from 4A West Front Street. Which location is better? It’s better here, because of ease of parking.

Did you go to school to learn your trade? No. My grandfather and father did shoe repair and shoemaking in Minas Gerais, Brazil, and I learned from them.

Are there occupational hazards, like swallowing hobnails? You get a cut here and there, but nothing serious.

Can you tell anything about someone’s personality from the way they treat their shoes? No.

What’s the most unusual request you’ve gotten? People sometimes bring in boots, they want me to cut off the calf or take it in. Some orthopedic work.

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In an era when people throw away expensive items when they break down, what keeps the art of shoe repair alive? Because it’s cheaper to fix them, especially if you have good shoes that are comfortable.

Do you ever make shoes from scratch? Not any more. I did in Brazil, but there’s not enough demand for it here.

What’s the one thing you look for when you buy shoes for yourself? I never buy shoes here. I buy them when I go to Brazil. Brazil and Italy are the top shoemaking countries in the world.

Which is more important, sturdy shoes or quality food? Now you got me. Quality food.

SIXTY-SIX TRIUMPH

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A curious figure was seen heading stiffly down the driveway to Jim Frechette’s woodworking shop off Shrewsbury Avenue Monday afternoon.

Pale and dressed in white shirt and shorts, his ghostly form was accented by the dark trim of orthopedic restraint: a neck brace, a wrist splint and a knee brace. The black line of an eye patch angled across the back of his head.

This turned out to be Jim Frechette himself, the proprietor and sole employee of the business. And he was visiting his dormant shop for the first time since a motorcycle accident April 30 in Marlboro nearly killed him.

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NO LONGER TORMENTED BY TWEETY BIRD

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Freelance illustrator and painter Wendy Born Hollander reached a career breaking point about six years ago, thanks to a little yellow cartoon bird with a speech impediment that all the world just loves to love.

At the time, she’d been doing work that required her to put trademarked cartoon characters onto kids’ clothing—t-shirts, Barbie swimsuits, jumpers, that sort of thing. Lest anyone think this kind of job is just perfect for a free spirit, there’s not a lot of room for creativity. Rather, there’s usually a strict style guide that has to be followed; what color, how big, doing what. Hollander realized she’d had enough after about 10 years, when she found herself thinking, “If I have to figure out how to put Tweety Bird in a design with a flower one more time, I’m going to cry

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

We’re not sure what to make of the responses to last week’s WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS, mainly because, well, there weren’t any. Not a one.

So does that mean we totally stumped everyone, even the dueling Steins, Dayna & Larry, winners of the first two WHERE contests? Has a strain of summer-onset lethargy taken hold of our readers? Has the Stein domination of the game intimidated potential challengers? Is everyone waiting for a tangible prize to be introduced, like an I WON AT WHERE t-shirt? We await your comments.

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Meanwhile, undaunted, we WHERE on. Please send your answers to this week’s contest to us by e-mail, not the comment function, to help us maintain whatever scintilla of suspense this exercise may generate.

And, drum roll… last week’s image, showing a concrete pillar with the words ‘Monmouth Terrace’ embedded in bronze, is located on Spring Street, right at the point where it meets Branch Avenue, in Red Bank LITTLE SILVER. (Corrected June 23. Thanks to Alicia for pointing out the error.)

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DIBS ON THE BENCH

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Things are about to get rather messy at the Red Bank Public Library. A $1.6 million renovation that could take up to a year is set to begin as soon as next week.

But here’s a possible consolation for some patrons: the library has entered the Wi-Fi era.

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‘SMOKED EEL WITH A BOW ON IT’

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Ten quick questions for “Chef Kevin” Lynch, executive chef and manager of the cheese, dairy and bakery departments at Sickle’s Market, Little Silver.

Are you a ‘foodie’? Yes.

Which is more important, quality food or comfortable shoes? Tough question. You gotta remember that chefs are on their feet a lot. But I’m going with food.

What’s your earliest food memory? Having my grandfather come down from Jersey City and give me and my brother $100 to go to Leroy’s Fish Market on Route 36 in Middletown. He’d have us buy shrimp, crabs, lobster tails and a smoked eel. He liked smoked eel—every Christmas we’d give him one with a bow on it. This was around 1970, when I was 10. A hundred dollars was a lot of money back then.

Who was the biggest influence on your life, foodwise? My mother. She would cook something different every week—she always liked to look at recipes. I’d always make the salad when I was a kid.

What was your first cookbook? I think it was Betty Crocker. My mother still has it.

What’s your favorite cooking show on TV? I liked the PBS series, ‘The Great Chefs,’ because I thought that was very knowledgeable—it got into the nuts and bolts of it. Currently, I watch “Behind the Scenes” and “Best Of,” but once in a while for laughs I’’ll watch Emeril, or sometimes, Rachel Ray. Sara Moulton’s show I like too. She’s the executive chef for Gourmet magazine.

What’s one ingredient you couldn’t live without? Garlic!

Have you had formal training? No. I went to school for computer science down at Stockton College, and became kitchen manager and then chef at the Smithville Inn.

What’s the one junk food you can’t say no to? Pretzels.

Where do you go when you eat out? Indigo Moon in Atlantic Highlands. I know the chef there, and the owner, Janet, used to work with me at Readie’s Fine Foods in Red Bank.

FLIP OR FLOP?

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You know you’re in for a horror of a home-remodeling story when it’s got an unseen antagonist and he’s referred to only as “the bad contractor.”

Hey, we don’t even want to know the guy’s name. Given what we’ve heard about his alleged handiwork, this case may be headed to Judge Judy.

But linking up with TBC was only one of the missteps that Sara Swanson acknowledges she made when she tried to flip a house on Madison Avenue in Red Bank.

And now here she is a year later, with a house bought at the top of the market still unfinished, hoping like crazy that her new crew—”Elks Lodge guys who I feel safe with,” she calls them—will enable her to finally get it on the market by month’s end.

It’s what you might call an object lesson for any amateur who ever thought flipping a property was easy.

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BLOGGING FOR AN OPEN NET

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Tom Labetti is a big fan of Verizon’s new FiOS service. Couldn’t be a stronger advocate for the technology. Thinks it’s so good, in fact, that it’s going to all but annihilate the competition for both high-speed Internet access and cable, once it catches on.

And that scares the pixels out of him.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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The winner of last week’s hotly contested WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS? is Dayna Stein, who correctly identified the face shown as part of the mildly creepy (our words, not hers) statue called “Water’s Edge” at the Monmouth Early Childhood Education Center. The location is Union Street opposite the emergency room at Riverview Medical Center.

Dayna seems to have been eager to win. She submitted two incorrect guesses before getting it right. For those keeping track, the husband-wife team of Larry and Dayna Stein are now the winners of weeks number 1 and 2, setting up a potential Stein Family Smackdown for week 3. Stay tuned.

Again, for this week, we remind participants to submit their entries via e-mail.

ZAZZALI ON DECK

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Rumson resident James R. Zazzali, Associate Justice on the state Supreme Court, is Gov. Jon Corzine’s choice to succeed Chief Justice Deborah Poritz upon her expected retirement in the fall, according to a story by scoop machine Josh Margolin in today’s Star-Ledger.

“By promoting Zazzali, Corzine would be all but assured of a big confirmation victory in the state Senate, while elevating a judge who is a popular Democrat with strong bipartisan ties,” Margolin reports.

Zazzali is unlikely to hold the job for long, if he gets it. The state Constitution requires that justices retire at age 70, a milestone Zazzali will reach in a year. Poritz turns 70 in October.

Zazzali is a former state Attorney General. A Democrat, he was appointed to the high court by by then-Gov. Christie Whitman, a Republican, in 2000.

His nomination is likely to be announced in July or August, the Ledger reports. The story also says that Corzine is “known for making critical decisions at the last minute (and) could still change his mind, but that is highly unlikely.”

The Ledger also reports that Corzine will likely stick with tradition and appoint a Republican to fill Zazzali’s associate spot to maintain partisan balance.

‘PRESERVATION’ ON PRESERVATION RB

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Preservation Red Bank’s efforts to address what it calls serious structural deterioration at the borough train station is featured in the online version of Preservation magazine, a publication of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“In a good wind, it looks like it could be knocked over,” Mary Gilligan, a Preservation Red Bank member, is quoted as saying about the structure, built in 1875.

“The stick-style Victorian station’s troubles started sometime around 10 years ago, when the building’s slate roof was replaced with a temporary asphalt one—and it was all downhill from there,” the magazine reports, citing Gilligan as its source. “NJ Transit says the station is ‘structurally sound,’ but agrees that it could use some work.”

Gilligan tells redbankgreen the best thing about the article is NJ Transit’s statement about the building’s soundness, which she believes would make it harder for the agency to tear it down anytime soon. “Not that I think (demolition) is foremost in their minds,” she says, “but any excuse not to put money into fixing it…”

The station is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the state’s historic sites inventory, and has seen the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt on its platforms. In 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England popped in.

According to Preservation Online, the trust is “the only private, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to encourage public participation in the preservation of sites, buildings, and objects significant in American History.”

Gilligan, who is a member of the trust, said her relationship to the organization had nothing to do with the story, and that the magazine apparently learned of the train station’s plight via an article in The Hub.

ANOTHER GEORGE SHEEHAN, CLASSIC

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redbankgreen called George Sheehan Jr. a couple of Saturdays ago to find out what he was up to. First words out of his mouth: “I’m in my underwear getting ready to change into my shorts for a run.”

Well, thanks for putting that picture into our heads, George.

So why bring it up? Not to ruin your breakfast, or Sheehan’s, but because on reflection, it seems fitting here. Sheehan, you see, is a running pioneer of sorts, one old enough to have been derided as a “man in his underwear” when he did his training runs in the 1960s. And thanks to men and women like Sheehan who shrugged off such taunts, millions of people could later run through the streets of America without hearing any snide comments about underwear.

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DOC, IT’S MY LEGS!

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No question, the George Sheehan Classic is still an important event for Red Bank, bringing in several thousand participants and onlookers who spread around some cash and create a festive vibe in town for nearly 24 hours.

This year’s edition, the 13th since the old Asbury Park 10K was moved here and renamed for Doc Sheehan, will be run Saturday morning, augmented as usual by a popular a “runner’s expo” in Marine Park both Friday night and after the race.

It’s still one of the premier road races in this region, attracting world-class runners. And Broad Street takes on a completely different complexion with all those scantily-clad, sweaty runners embracing one another after conquering Tower Hill.

But let’s face it, Old George hasn’t got the freshest legs.

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WORKING THE STAIRS

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She was black, from Jamaica, a woman past 30 who came to the U.S. in 1980 to escape “a hard life.” He was white, a few years younger, a railroad engineer and Solidarity agitator in Poland who fled to the West in 1981, just four months before the imposition of martial law. They met in Brooklyn at a party thrown by her sister on Christmas Eve, fell in love, and five months later got married.

Skin color never entered into it.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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OK, so that was dumb.

Last week, in the premier edition of redbankgreen, we asked readers to tell us where a photo was taken (see below on this page), with answers to be sent via Comments.

But it turns out that having all the answers out in the open meant that as soon as someone got it right, the game was effectively over. And in this case, the first poster, Larry Stein, got it. (The sign shown in the picture is on Clay Street opposite an abandoned gas station, at the corner of Harding Road, in Red Bank.)

The result was that the whole thing lacked… drama. This outcome, of course, was foreseeable. But redbankgreen is still growing its brain, so we appreciate your patience.

For this week’s teaser, we ask that you send your guesses by e-mail instead. Do you know where this picture was taken?

Again, there are no prizes to be won at this point, only bragging rights. And we’ve got to think that Larry Stein is feeling pretty damn good about himself right now…

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK-DRESS LAGOON

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Just as you can’t have a civilization without sewage, you can’t have a First Amendment without having to put up with the likes of Ann Coulter.

Yesterday, the conservative sump pump appeared on the today show in a little black dress to flog a new book. In the process, she called some of the widows of Sept. 11 “broads” who are “enjoying their husband’s deaths.” Jennifer Braun of the Star-Ledger has a page-one piece on this in today’s paper. The Washington Post quotes Coulter as saying in the book, “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.”

According to the Daily News, the book contains this gem:

“And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren’t planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they’d better hurry up and appear in Playboy…”

One of the women Coulter attacks is Kristen Breitweiser, who was living in the Navesink section of Middletown when her husband, Ronald, was killed, leaving her with a young daughter. According to the Ledger, Breitweiser now lives in New York City. Two others, Lori Van Auken and Mindy Kleinberg, both of East Brunswick, are referred to in the book as “the witches of East Brunswick.”

As many people familiar with the story of the so-called ‘Jersey Girls’ know, Breitweiser, Van Auken, Kleinberg and a fourth area woman, Patty Casazza of Colts Neck, were political naifs, and strangers to one another, when their husbands were killed at the World Trade Center. Weeks after the attacks, they joined forces to push for an investigation into why the attacks hadn’t been prevented. The Bush Administration fought the idea of a probe for months, but eventually folded. The result was the Kean Commission inquiry and report.

The basis for Coulter’s gripe with the women, she told Matt Lauer, is that she is “not allowed to respond” to the women’s critiques of the administration “without questioning the authenticity of their grief.” And yet, here she is, questioning the authenticity of their grief and doing so with all the tact of a plugged-up toilet.

“Having my husband burn alive in a building brought me no joy,” Van Auken told the News.

“I’d like her to meet my daughter and tell her how anyone could enjoy their father’s death,” Breitweiser told the News. “She sounds like a very disturbed, unraveled person.”

ESPADRILLES, CAKE MOLDS & THE STUDY OF HUMANITY

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Is women’s casual-wear and home-décor retailer Anthropologie coming to The Grove?

A jobs posting last week on craigslist indicates the chain is hiring store managers, department managers and other anthropologistes with retail experience for a location given as “Red Bank.” And the chain’s own website lists six job openings in “Red Bank.”

A reliable source tells us, however, that the location for the coming store is actually The Grove at Shrewsbury. Folks at Metrovation, The Grove’s managing partner, say there’s nothing they can discuss at this point.

For the uninitiated, Anthropologie hawks “such remarkable pieces as one of a kind hand-beaded and dip-dyed vintage cashmere cardigans; sandals hand-built from the wooden heels up with vintage tie material and embroidered buttons; and the first quilt ever printed with one hundred hand-cut blocks by artisans in Jaipur, India.”

Well, no wonder they call it Anthropologie. It’s so much more on-the-nose than “J. Peterman.”

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