Q&A with Cobblestone Dreams

Greetings, Cobblestone Dreams Readers!

My name is Jennifer. Better known as Don’s daughter and Rob’s niece. I sat down with my Dad and Uncle, you know them as Don and Rob, to do a quick little Q&A session with them. I felt it was time that you guys got to know the men behind  the writings of”Cobblestone Dreams.” 

Read on to find out how it all began, how far do they plan on taking the blog, and some fun behind the scenes questions at the end.

Leave us a comment, let us know your thoughts…but more importantly, grab a drink and enjoy!

1. For those that have not read Cobblestone Dreams, give them a short summary of what they will find.

Don: A nostalgic look at our “growing up” years in NYC…. not all great memories, but memories that have shaped us, nonetheless. I certainly don’t want to present an idealistic view…. but a real view that presents how two kids “felt” about what was happening around them.

Rob:  Cobblestone Dreams is a collection of recollections of a childhood spent growing up in New York City in the 1960’s and 70’s. Now that is a long time ago, and memory can be spotty for an old man, but we try to tell stories that at least generally capture the culture of the city at the time and our own very particular (and peculiar) family. Everyone’s childhood is unique of course, there is nothing inherently special about ours, but I do believe that growing up in such a city at such a time, allowed us to experience things that say someone in Toledo may not have. Now that is not a value judgment,  it is just true that each experience is born of who you are, who your parents were, and where you live (along with about ten thousand other factors).  So we just thought we would share some of the more colorful memories.

2. How did the idea of  Cobblestone Dreams come about?

 Hell, I honestly don’t remember!!

: If memory serves, I was sending chapters of stories I had written to Don and he was, in turn, sharing them with other family members. I think it was you, Jennifer, who suggested a blog due to the quality of the writing, and of course your own success with your blog. We both thought it would be fun, and it certainly has been though of course, a larger following wouldn’t be bad either.

3. What do you hope your readers will take away from the blog?


Don: Two things;

First; if the reader, by chance, grew up in the City as well… I hope they can relate. Maybe just a simple smile or tear that triggers a memory in them.
Second, if being a kid in a large city is foreign to the reader, I hope it gives them some insight into what it was like. Not in movies, but really like. The good and the bad.

 Hopefully readers will laugh and think. Hopefully, the stories strike a chord with others and they can relate to the experiences we share. I hope some make them feel good, and warm about their own families. Really the goal is to entertain, to share and find common ground with people we don’t know.  One of the coolest things is when you see someone from a foreign land viewing the posts; that is special

4. What is your favorite post?

I don’t have one, favorite post… but if had to pick something, I would say that the posts that deal with our time in Lake  Hopatcong are my favorites. It is because that place was a “childhood escape” for me. While growing up in the City has many fond, wonderful memories, it was also an intimidating time. Bullied in the neighborhood, no real friends at school, etc. made the days stressful and scary at times.

When Rob and I were in Hopatcong, it was basically the two of us. We did most everything together, dawn till dusk. Not many outside, intimidating forces at work. We were “closer “ there. We were actually thought of as “cool” by our small group of friends. Speaking for me, that NEVER happened in the City.

Hopatcong was my sanctuary city.

 Rob: Addressing the ones I wrote: The one about Aunt Fil was the most personal and painful to write; the ones about Dad coming through for us are favorites of course but if I had to pick one, I would agree with the readers and say I Spy was my favorite. Ostensibly about a great old spy television show, it turned out to be about so much more: enlightenment, a stand against bigotry and ignorance (still fighting those just as much today as then), and most of all Mom – just how ahead of her time she was; how truly Christian she was; a real believer in equality and the power of love and friendship. That was quite a lesson for me, even though I had to age a few years to understand what she was doing, and the fact that she didn’t proclaim something, she just let us see how things should be, albeit via a great television show, made me admire her even more. If she weren’t already a hero to me, what she did right then in wanting us to see that stereotype-smashing show, well that solidified it for me. She could still teach a thing or two to most people I know (and a whole bunch I don’t).

I would say for runners-up: Life Lessons recounting a lesson in how to rise above bigotry, and 1968 that recounted a lesson in civility.  These are my favorites because what they talked about transcended our living room, and resonate with me to this day.

Of course for pure outright laughter, the funniest is easily Don’s Frondo Frone; an instant classic.

5. Tell us about your writing routine. How do you know what you will write about next?

I have no routine because of a very full schedule. I write when I can manage to squeeze it in. I would like to be more disciplined in my writing, but until there are some other life changes…. I don’t see that happening.

I rarely know what I’m going to write about far in advance. Usually, I just “comes to me”; many times triggered by a song, a movie, an aroma that transports me to another place and time.

I write every day, even if it is for a half hour or twenty minutes; the day isn’t complete without putting word to paper so to speak. I have notebooks full of short stories, story ideas, reminiscences, journal entries and diaries that have formed the foundation for a lot of the posts.  Lately, though I have been trying to broaden its scope so that I am not talking about the same family routine I may have mentioned in a post I did last January. So  trying to address what it meant to be in the city at the time; the smells, the lights, the excitement, the danger while at the same time picking out particular bits of nostalgia that only a New Yorker would remember ie: Date Nut Bread and Cream cheese sandwiches at Chock Full o’Nuts – that’s an icon of the city, of the time and that is broader than just what happened to us, so it can appeal to a larger audience who might remember a favorite food from their hometown.So if I choose not to use a blog piece I have already written (have about ten or so in reserve) then I go for one of those kinds of broader pieces about the city and the sixties.  It opens up greater reserves from which to craft a piece, as opposed to only relying on relating a specific event that happened to you.

6. Have you ever read a post from the other and have a different memory than what was written?

 No doubt. In general, I think Roberts memory for detail is better than mine.

 This is an interesting one due to the fact that I am six years younger than  Don so the memories that he cites are a lot clearer to him than to me. I made an observation early on: the posts about Hopatcong and the summer; those I remember well because they were shared memories, we lived those together ; but the ones about life in the city (which is ironically the title of the blog itself) I have vaguer memories about because we didn’t share them very much. Sure the general stuff about the characters of Mom and Dad of course, and the holidays because they never really changed from year to year, but things like the Jane Street Gang or Catholic School- those not so much. I think that is why we frequently will both do a take on the same subject as (I hope) you have seen with  Washington Square Park or the piece on Times Square – they were not shared memories, so it was like we had to give our own distinct versions of them. For the most part, though the ones I do recollect that Don relates are pretty much in agreement with my memory; I notice small differences like in his piece on Fireworks – I have us experiencing that event with different family members in my memory; the basic event rings right, but the details may differ.

7. How far will you guys take Cobblestone Dreams? We have not read much of anything beyond high school. Do you see that changing?

I think adding some essays, etc that are not necessarily memories would be a good idea. Random thoughts about life in general. The interesting part is that much of what is written will have been shaped by the experiences relayed in Cobblestone Dreams.

 I think that we should and will go beyond and again broaden the scope of the blog – plus how many memories can you come up with from your childhood after a while??! You have to move on, just as you had to in life.  The thing is as you progress in time, say into College years, for instance, well then it almost becomes two separate blogs because there was so little shared memory with Don at that point in our lives until we become married adults and begin a whole new treasure trove of stories and memories.  But it’s ok to diverge because that is what our lives did, and relating individual memories can be just as compelling. In fact, it can be really interesting as someone could follow the development of these two kids from where they began on West 12th Street to where they eventually wind up.  But as I mentioned earlier, But as I mentioned earlier, there is so much cultural stuff to cover about the city itself, and the people we met in it, and the times we were seeing unfold, whether together or not, that there is no lack of material.

And now, for a bit more personal Q&A.

1. Name three songs that would be included in the “Soundtrack of Your Life.”

 Have to do four:

1.Sunday Morning Coming Down; Johnny Cash version
2. September when it comes: Johnny and Roseanne Cash
3.Daddy: Conway Twitty
4. Simple Man; Leonard Skynard
I could go on and on…

Three Songs:  This was by far the toughest – narrowing it down was hard but here goes: The Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra, Sherry by the Four Seasons and Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. Honorable Mention: Baba O’Riley by The Who…..oh yes and did I mention anything by the Beatles?!

2. Who would you want to play you if your life was turned into a movie?

 That’s a tough one. Personally, I’d like to play myself …. but if I had to pick an actor that I believe   Would do it, it would be Al Pachino.

 Hands down, Bobby Cannavale

3. Favorite book and why.

So hard to pick one! Old man and the Sea by Hemingway is right on top of my list. Elegant, real, poignant, heroic ….. in a very short book… it depicts life. There are so many others;!

For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Castle
The Bible
Killer Angels
The red badge of courage
… as with music, I could go on and on.

Dracula by Bram Stoker.  Why: it is the perfect combination of prose, poetry, and imagery; it is a love story, a horror story and a tribute to friendship and loyalty. It makes you shiver with fear and cry with admiration of man’s integrity.  It is quite nearly the perfect novel.  Plus it is still the scariest thing I have ever read (I have a whole blog post dedicated to it).

4. It’s Friday night, where are you?

 Rhonda and I are home: we are cooking a fun dinner: hopefully it’s nice outside, so we are enjoying the early evening. There is definitely music playing. A cocktail or two…. the music triggers memories … and a tear or two falls.

In front of my laptop, writing; sipping at a glass of bourbon and smoking my pipe with the cats curled nearby.

5. Growing up, did you guys write together, or is Cobblestone Dreams your first?

Don: We actually did once. Rob will remember details better than I, but we came up with the idea of writing a story where one of us would start a chapter and the other would write the next. Neither one of us knowing what the other was going to write. Similar in concept to our original thoughts on “The Long and Short of it”.

I believe we actually got quite a few chapters done before it fizzled out. I guess life got in the way again, I don’t really remember. I saved what we had written, but after all these years and moves, I’m not sure I could ever find it. It was so many years ago… maybe 35-40??? Geez.

Wow that is so funny – I had totally forgotten that but here we go with memory- I have that happening like 8 – 10 years ago (if it is the same one)- think I still have it – pseudo-biblical sci-fi stuff. Think we both came to the conclusion it wasn’t very good.

Growing up I don’t think we ever did- think we worked on a cartoon together on the porch of the Hopatcong house- now that goes back 50 years for sure!!

Wow… only 8-10 years?! Told you my memory on some detail is not great…

But, you do describe the right one……that’s the one I was thinking about!!

There ya have it! I hope this little Q&A gave you a just a glimpse of the guys behind Cobblestone Dreams. 

I believe in these two. They have shared a childhood and each has had their “Coming of Age” moment.”  It is my opinion, that their stories should not just be contained in the world of Blogging.

Although their writing styles are completely different, if you pay close enough attention, their stories are one in the same. I will close with my personal favorite piece from each of them.

In Don’s The Fireworks The Fireworks you get a firsthand look at my Grandmother’s patience, and my Grandfather’s, well, just read for yourself.

Rob’s post, Pets is a poignant post about the love for an animal. In the beginning, but especially in the end.

If you enjoyed what you read, please follow the guys at Cobblestone Dreams to continue reading about their childhood into their adult years.

And for something different, take a look at The Long and Short of it: Novelettes from Don and Rob where they each take on writing a short story…..with a twist. 

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