jg_sitThis blog is made up of of many stories, It is about a city that I was born  into in February 23, 1944. I work in this city as a landlord, manager, mechanic of  many and master of none. These are stories of peoples on their path from somewhere and someplace and moving toward their dreams as we all want to do. Some are and were tenants, some are strangers, some a blur in time and some learning to be real in a real tough but dynamic city. Camden, NJ has held the distinction of being the poorest and highest crime city in the country. I heard that it has, for its size, more warrants for arrest than anywhere else.  I even get them on occasion. It is in in some ways J. Conrade’s “Heart of Darkness”. It is also a city of comedy, heart evoking, mean and a sometime distrustful place with acts of murder, confusion, theft, lies and ignorance. Sounds like many places on this planet. Despite this horn of plenty, it is vibrant with love, hope, joy and expectations. Children, spirituality, wonder, nature…and always full of dreams and magic. And it is an opportunity to learn about cooperation with each other. Uncle Gus tells me once in a while that man can do anything in this world except get along with his neighbor. Well he still lives in this city :-).  Here I will recount some of the Camden chronicles as I as they happened and happen. John A Gialuco

“Remembering Tony Benn and His Five Little Questions”

    “In ttony bennhe course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person — Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates — ask them five questions: ‘What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?’ If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”      Anthony Wedgwood Benn, RIP


“Life As Fog”



Life is a Fog rolling in with thunder…passes nothing…ever catches up to the Moment.


And the future might as well be liquid gas going through our fingers.


Only Death captures the homeostasis of Inertia, Time standing still quiet.

Mark Elin 2015

“Driving Jersey: Broadway & Ferry”

driving jerseyCamden is a city, is a metaphor, is a filter, is a fear collector, is a stereotype, is a once upon a time maybe some day, is a nightly news story, is a nightmare, is a dream.  The motto of the city of Camden was adopted from a line of a Walt Whitman poem from his Leaves of Grass.“I dream’d in a dream I saw a city invincible.”





“One of my homes is Firebombed”

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In late June 2015 one of my tenant’s friends came by at around 3 am and thru a Molotov cocktail into the back door of one of my homes. He intended to burn my tenant and her 4 year old daughter to death while they were sleeping. Fortunately neither my tenant or her daughter were home. My tenant came up to me, at the end of the day and apologized for the home being destroyed AND then asked me when could she get her security deposit BACK!!! I was speechless.


Many people on the block knew who the arsonist was yet no one knew his name. No one knows anything. I am told that he still drives around the neighborhood…to  this day. It has been 6 months since the fire Marshall gave me her 10 page report stating the investigation is still pending! It has bee 6 months since the Camden City police department has yet to responded to my queries about the investigation!


My wife and I have had a face to face meeting with the NJ state senator, in her office, for discussion and assistance…no word as of yet! However she did say that the police department would install a ‘eye in the sky’ camera on a telephone pole in front of my shop building. There use to be one there last year but for some unknown reason the camera was removed in October.

I now know what it must feel like when I see, on TV, some person or family who has had their home destroyed by a drone or and madman who wants to kill the inhabitants. If anyone is interested in buying one charbroiled home please contact me. $50K up in smoke. As they often say in Camden…”Thanks Be to Jesus.” Mr. John

“Go Silent into the Night”

Selma Oscar

Selma & Oscar Bortner

From Mike Tarnpol on June 22, 2015: “John, we should have gone to Australia when we had the chance in ’68. We were considering there or Mexico. If you snooze, you loose.”

 Reply: Mike we didn’t snooze. Mike we were having to much fun in those 68 daze. We were expanding and exploring our being-ness and consciousness. In retrospect you are right about Australia or anywhere else we could have destined for, but none of us were that psychic to see decades into our futures. Who could of thought that the face of America had a cancerous underbelly of greed growing…that we are now beginning to feel and experiencing it’s voracious teeth.

Ah…and then let us not forget those beautiful 60’s sirens in their sun dresses…remember now, can you not see the sun shining through those diaphanous fabrics to light up a young beautiful, curvious, thin…Sorry I digress.

 Anyway we were alive and living the moment. Just like we are now. Mike I sat last night, on a bed next to Oscar, Amy’s 94 year old father in Selma and Oscar’s bedroom. A poor Jew who had nothing but food and ‘kid-ness’ as a young boy. A Russian immigrant’s son. A grocer’s son. (like my father). Oscar’s father walked out of Russia to escape the draft and the pogroms…walked out! Probably not an uncommon thing to do in those hellish days. (people are still doing it from the Middle East and Africa). Oscar became, in his lifetime, a Jewish lawyer, silently battling a Wasp laden class from the Main line in surrounding upscale Phila. The tiers of ethnic pecking order was that the blacks in the inner city were buffered by the Italians who next were buffered by the Jews who were buffered by the Irish, then they all protected the Main liners. The status quo.

Jody Tiger

Jody Bortner

 He became the head of his class in Penn Law school and Temple, a valedictorian. He aced all of his contenders to the death…to the death. The more they ridiculed him as a kike, money lender, poor Jew, rat face, the more he dived into his ‘psychic well’ and gathered up his armaments of words, terms and legalities of the Common Law to do battle and to eventually become a state prosecutor and then be picked by the governor of Pa. as a common pleas judge in Doylestown for 20 years. A man of wisdom. Raised 3 bright beautiful and graceful girls. They can also do battle with the best of them. They inherited aspects of his mind, strength and heart as well, as developing Spirits.


Heidi Bortner

An artist wife who taught art at college level and has successfully painted pieces which are now permanent museum hangings. What she sees and paints no one can touch. She did an exposition of ‘abused women’ in Princeton, NJ that blew me away…her best. And I might also add rose from the foundations of a grocer father. Her father when arriving from Russia made a friend on board the ship that carried them from their homeland to Texas. They both headed towards what they thought was Philadelphia but instead got lost and walked to Cleveland. BTW his friend was Neiman Marcus, founder of the department store.

Amy channels

Amy P Bortner


 I sat there, last night, as he was only days away from death’s beckoning, grasping for the now only valuable commodity in his life….His breath! I could feel and sense the immeasurable loss and heaviness of his daughters and wife as they sat in the father’s kitchen. They were all being exposed, for the first and last time in their lives, the passing of a ‘Father’. The death of their ‘Everyman’… 94 years coming. I told them, later, that this is a natural and most important thing they will ever feel. To cherish it, for many a daughter will never get this special moment that exposes  one’s heart to their soul. It is one of the most valuable things you will ever experience. No one will ever steal it from you. This is a good thing. There is no guilt to bear, it is all good. He will die in grace, as we all will.

But I sat there… next to him for a long time and said nothing, not a sound did I make. Like I sat next to my father years ago. The only thing I asked myself, in his room, was that timeless question ‘what’s it all about’. And really there was and is no answer in this moment. But it is to be, as Ram Dass said, “Be here now”. And so I sat, quietly. I also realized, last night, that what I could not do with my own father, at those moments before his passing, I could now do with Oscar Bortner.


That then with my father in 1987 by his bedside, I was to numb to ‘feel’, maybe to guilt ridden to allow…. was I a good ‘son’… A deserving ‘son’… An honored ‘son’?
But last night I allowed that feeling to revisit me with Oscar… that feeling of ‘love’.
LIVE Long and Prosper. John Live Long 2

“The Down & Dirty Facts on Being a Landlord”

heylandlordThis article is in response to a friend who criticized my job, as a landlord, as being too easy. After recently complaining to her about a recent financial hardship and going through a litany of woes and troubles, I was expecting a sympathetic response.  But all she could say to me was, “What are you complaining about, you’ve got it easy, you’re self-employed. You call the shots.” and “Shouldn’t your wife get a real job”?

Well, let me tell you about my wife’s (un) real job.  Amy, my wife of 28 years, is a bookkeeper, paralegal, assistant manager and is the director of her own organization, the New Hope Metaphysical Society (which is, a whole other realm of activity and worry that she has had to put up with for the last 15 years).  As my manager, she is THE person on the telephone almost every day, arranging and negotiation with tenants, lawyers, our accountants, Section 8 Housing, city hall, the tax office, the Dept. of License and Inspections her health insurance, my health insurance, (now she is setting up an appointment for me with an Affordable Care Navigator for me since I have been thrown off of Medicare) and Florida lawyers handling our law suit in Bonita Springs, Fla.   She does this all with a certain grace and aplomb considering she also has multiple sleep disorders and environmental allergies that cut into her time and energy constantly.

Remember multiple homes…dozens of people in them. Repairs, taxes, purchasing, maintenance, theft, evictions, injuries, glad handing, bull shitting,  dealing with the application of tenants, phone calling and begging for rents… I am finding out how everyone we know HAS NO idea as to what’s involved in running a real estate business, especially a real estate business IN CAMDEN.  If people can’t walk in my shoes, then people HAVE no right to criticize me or my business.  They really have no idea about what’s involved, none…they just see Mr. Landlord getting his money and partying on.

Now I do have an idea as to what it is to be a judge, (from my father-in-law who was a judge for 20+ gavelyears), and sitting in Camden’s Landlord Tenant and Superior courts for years. A judge sits up in the box everyday dealing with mostly bullshit problems and halfwits (sometimes complete idiots!)  It is all about the money at the end of the day.   And I have an idea as to what it is to be a lawyer, I have 4 of them.  And, (sound familiar) “At the end of the day, it’s all about money”, as one of my attorneys told me and my wife recently.

I have some idea about what it is to be poor and black in this country.  In Camden, I see the men and woman on the streets, selling their drugs and their bodies on Broadway Ave. to make a little money, to feed their kids or their addiction because there is no other way.  In Camden, there is no future for them other than to “get by” as best they can.  There is no educational, social or financial path they can take out of their poverty or personal circumstance. So, they “get by” by lying, stealing, tricking, conning, playing thesystem as best as they can, a system designed to mainly support the white (male) middle class.

Interesting ly enough, there is a huge Catholic church across the street from my properties in Camden.  It was founded by an Irish priest from the “old country”, Father Michael Doyle, who had started with nothing and built a literal empire from the ground up.  In the process, he learned how to cater to the rich as well as to minister to the poor.  I know how this is so when I see the good parishioners, on

doyleSunday morning, come to church with their Lexus, Mercedes and BMW’s every Sunday praying for their sins and giving lip service to the poor and beleaguered. And on Thanksgiving and Xmas they deliver food baskets from the church to the poor people of color, sheepishly smiling as the food is offered up to the specially marked families. And how quickly they run back to their church, new cars and homes in the suburbs to celebrate their fate, a fate unlike the fate of the people they smiled at and felt sorry for just a few hours ago.

As a landlord, I have an idea about what happens to your sense of honesty and trust when you are constantly being lied to by your tenants, by your lawyers or by City Hall.  Or when your truck gets stolen by a trusted friend and all your tools get stolen by tenants who “forget” to return borrowed items.  I have pictures of tenant’s houses that looks like a “hoarder’s nest” or like a bomb was set off (especially when a tenant decides to stop paying his or her rent and trashes the property.)  And I KNOW how it is at the end of the day, as I drive home, and reflect on how I am locked into this business and knowing that I can’t sell, burn or leave my properties as they represent my family’s business that was started in the early 60’s. A business they started with little formal education, not going past the 5th grade, with the hope, shining in their hearts, of realizing their American dream. It took time, but they built a real estate business that consisted, at one time, of 72 properties all throughout South Camden that supported them for many years.  And now, it is supporting me and my family.

lamborgineSo, ….who do I come home to when I arrive at my domicile? And who do I bring the Camden energy, grime and stories into our apartment? And who do I unload onto almost daily in various ways… my wife and partner, Amy.  She often doesn’t know what I go through on any given day, how fucked up I am sometimes from the demands, frustrations, hurts and wounds created by the city and its people.  But on my bad days, she often feels it, knows it instinctively, and she heals what she can or she yells that she doesn’t want to hear about it anymore. But she also has gone into Camden with me many times to witness the chaos and the tearing of one’s psyche. And why do I sometimes  go to bed asking myself, in the middle of the night, am I am slowly eroding my marriage to the woman I love. Am I going to repeat another disaster like my first marriage?  DOES ANYONE really know? And at the end of the day, is it all about money or about just getting by?

Like I’ve said before, this business can tear at your heart.  And working with the poor, the disenfranchised and the ill begotten will either open up your heart or turn you into an insensitive bastard.  Actually both happen, for me. It is a continual process and it is very challenging. Want to really know how the deal works? I’ll sell you a house and give free advice on being a landlord. Deal? Then come talk to me. And then tell me how it is to live in Camden, NJ. Be well, Mr. John