Warren, NJ

I met Karl Horster in middle school, which was the start of a long and lasting antagonistic relationship. Karl and I were always at odds with each other, and back in those sixth-seventh grade years I liked him about as much as a good rope burn. In those days I was overweight enough for him and his cronies to come up with the endearing nickname of jelly belly for me. Constant harrassment eventually caused me to have an early nervous breakdown, and I ended up going to the school psychologist for help. That tactic didn't quite work, and I eventually settled into the if you can't beat 'em join 'em strategy and ended up becoming good friends with the whole group that had caused me so much anguish. While they still were generally annoying, the practice of insultation became a bonding experience, and the whole group of us stayed good friends throughout high school. Karl was my roommate at Stevens Institute of Technology for two years, and we'll probably be good friends forever. Karl is a Real Man.

Below is a picture of his house, a small place built about half a century ago. Warren used to be all farmland, but has since been transformed into mostly suburbia. Karl's place is one of the few remaining vestiges of the rural past, with twenty-seven acres of land that he and his dad still farm every year. Next to the house is the produce stand that they run in the summertime.

Warren is a town of much diversity. It's located in a hilly area on the outskirts of the greater New York metropolitan area. If you drive half an hour northeast from Warren, you'll be in New York. If you drive half an hour southwest, you'll be in the heart of New Jersey farmland. Contrary to popular belief, not all of New Jersey is industrial wasteland. Most of it is northeast of Warren.

On this page is a short profile of two of my closest friends, Mike and Karl. Mike is very much an Eastern thinker, while Karl is deeply Western. I guess I'm just lucky to have been exposed to the extremes.

Mike Plocek and I were in the same school system together since we were very young, possibly kindergarten. I was friends with him for quite a while, but we became really good friends while going to Pingry high school. Mike and I constantly argued the finer points of philosophy and science. On more than one occasion, we were scolded for discussing physics in physics class, chemistry in chemistry class and history in history class.

My quintessential Mike story stems from the first time I stayed over his house. I arrived at his house in the afternoon, after not eating dinner. We played around for a while, my stomach grumbling away much of the time. Finally, around 11 pm he decided to make himself a bowl of Spaghetti-O's. I stare at him ravenously as he wolfs down the meal, and he finally notices me. "Do you want some?" he implores. Of course I get only a spoonful or two. The next day, I remember going home to my mom and telling her that he wouldn't feed me.

Mike's house is pretty much the antithesis of Karl's. Designed by Michael Graves in 1977, the house is up on a hill and is much more aesthetic than functional. It is an amazing place to visit, though. After thinking about the difference in personality between these two and their lifelong places of residence, it really makes me wonder just how much environment affects personality.

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