Jeff Oakes is discontinuing his medical treatment

By Neil Schulman

On Friday, Oceanport resident Jeffrey Oakes, advocate for medical marijuana, announced he would be discontinuing eating and medical treatment.

Jeff Oakes

Oakes, who has been battling cancer for years, said it had spread to his lungs, there were no good treatment options left for him, and he was tired about fighting with the doctors at hospitals for his medical marijuana.

“I’m now on a hunger strike,” he told The Link News, adding he was refusing medical treatment.

About four years ago, Oakes was diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis was grim and he was given only a few months to live. But among other things, he received a prescription for medical cannabis, and he credits that with keeping him alive as long as he has.

Over the last several years, he’s been seen all over New Jersey, attending municipal and town hall meetings, advocating for medical marijuana to become more easily accessible.

But the cancer has continued to spread, he said, metastasizing into his liver, and there is now a spot on his lungs.

His doctor, he said, has told him he may take as much (marijuana) as he needs. (New Jersey law allows this for terminal patients.)

“I can’t do chemo. I don’t have any medical options,” Oakes said. “My only treatment is medical cannabis.”

On Thursday, Jan. 9, Oakes went to the hospital after having trouble keeping food down. He was given intravenous fluids.

But using cannabis in hospitals is problematic. New Jersey law may permit it for medical treatment, but federal law doesn’t, and organizations are still grappling with the situation.

Oakes said he’s been in hospitals where “they looked the other way” when edibles are brought in, but not all do. He didn’t bring any to the hospital last week, aware that his room has been searched for it at times.

It’s the only drug he’s found effective in treating the pain, and he hasn’t been able to use it properly there, he said. At most, they’ve wanted to hold on to it and control the usage.

“I said, if you can’t take care of me, allow me my medical cannabis,” Oakes said.

Oakes said he was almost put on suicide watch, but talked them out of it. If he decides to actively end his life – legal in New Jersey – he said he’d seek professional assistance.

Oakes thinks he has the law on his side. Last July, New Jersey passed Jake’s Law, which said, among other things, use of medical cannabis “shall not constitute the use of an illicit substance or otherwise disqualify a qualifying patient from needed medical care.”

While I was speaking with Oakes at the hospital, a member of the cleaning staff came in. When Oakes mentioned dying, she said her brother was in a better place now.

“If I find him, I’ll take care of him for you,” Oakes said, embracing her tearfully.

He was reading the Bible when I came in. Oakes, who was raised Catholic, said he was seeking comfort, looking for a verse that was often used by marijuana advocates to show that they have a moral right to it.

It’s Genesis 1:29: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed.”

Oakes said he’s been working to have people understand and empathize with those who need medical cannabis.

“They need to drop the idea of policy and come up with morals,” he said. “That was my goal. Not to have my cancer be pointless.”

Theater Review: Tender and powerful performances on display in Bone on Bone

By Madeline Schulman

Long Branch — “It was as if the glue was missing,” Linda (Wendy Peace) says to her husband, Johnathan (John Little), in the opening scene of Bone on Bone, a play by Marylou Dipietro having its world premiere at New Jersey Rep. The line leads Linda to mention that, as we age, the connections between our bones wear thin, and they grate on each other, bone on bone.

John Little and Wendy Peace in Bone on Bone, now playing at the New Jersey Repertory Theater. (Andrea Phox photo)

Linda and Johnathan married at 25, and have been married for 35 years (they are childless by choice) so now they are 60 – a handsome, vigorous, youthful 60, but 60 all the same, and the ligaments that held their marriage together are fraying. Many of us know of couples in long, seemingly happy unions who unexpectedly separate or divorce, and never know the reason, but we see the breaking point for these two,

Specifically, Linda and Johnathan are no longer in harmony because they want different things. Linda, an artist, has been offered a prestigious job in Providence, and wants to move to Rhode Island to live her dream life.

“Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,” she muses, and her husband replies, “Then I hope you live to a hundred and twenty.” (The play is laced with natural, unforced humor.)

Johnathan, a lawyer, loves his New York life, and doesn’t want to move. Anyone who reads the program will know that Linda makes the move, since one of the three settings listed is “Linda’s office at Rhode Island School of Design.”

If you are wondering how set designer Jessica Parks fits three separate locations on the small stage, I reply, “Genius.”

Johnathan and Linda are always out of sync. Each has a chance to feel like the lovers in “Send in the Clowns” by Sondheim, “Me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air.” Every time one tries to reach out with a compromise or suggestion, offering a nice bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers, the other has to go for a run in Central Park, or has an unbreakable appointment. They want to be together, but not always at the same time.

As the play ended, an audience member nearby said, “That was powerful.” That struck me, because I didn’t experience a sense of power, but a feeling of tender hope.

But if she meant the emotional impact of the excellent writing and performances was powerful, I agree.

Bone On Bone runs through Feb. 9. Regular performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m.

For tickets and more information visit or call 732-229-3166.

Tips on booking the perfect vacation

Long Branch — The Long Branch Free Public Library, 328 Broadway, will host “How to Book the Perfect Vacation Without Spending A Fortune,” a free workshop, on Sat., Jan. 11, 2 p.m.

The talk will be presented by Ted Friedli.

Friedli, CTC DS, is the owner of Excel Travel in Long Branch, a full service travel agency. He has worked for Swiss Air, managed several travel agencies and owned Excel Travel for the last 25 years. He is the founder of Kick Cancer Overboard, a local, not-for-profit organization sending people who are affected by cancer to sea for free vacations.

Join him to get the best travel advice, for free, without risk or obligation, and you too can enjoy a perfect vacation.


• How to pick the best beaches, cruises and resorts.

• How far in advance you should book your vacation

• Tips to save money on airline tickets.

• Is travel insurance necessary?

• And more.

No registration needed. This program is open to the public; all are welcome. For more information please call Lisa Kelly at 732-222-3900, ext. 2350.


For transparency, council nominees meet with public

By Coleen Burnett

Eatontown — In Eatontown, officials say the “new transparency” starts now.

On December 27, the three Republican candidates for the vacant seat left by the resignation of Councilman Edwin Palenzuela met at Borough Hall for an informal “Meet and Greet” with the public. Council will select one of them to fill the one-year term.

Palenzuela resigned earlier this year after he took a position in the office of a Hudson County judge. He did not wish to create an image of impropriety, hence the resignation.

Hope Corcoran, Tim Corcoran, and William Diedrichsen were participating in an unprecedented event. Although vying for one available spot, Hope and Tim are husband and wife.

In the past, after the party nominees were chosen, the interviews took place behind closed doors. In response to criticism of doing things under the cover of secrecy, the borough arranged for the public to come in and ask questions for themselves.

* * *

Hope Corcoran is a 20-year resident of the borough, with an extensive background as a business analyst. Corcoran also sits on the Board of Directors of Monmouth Park Charities, giving out millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations throughout Monmouth County.

While never having held public office or served on a borough committee, she feels that her business background will stand her in good stead as she works to revitalize the borough and bring in new commerce.

“I hope to accomplish the goals of moving Eatontown forward,” she said, “I want hometown values.

“I bring a perfect set of business skills to compliment [council].”

On the controversial issue of development at Monmouth Mall, she supports what’s happening. Corcoran lives on Windsor Drive and sees the Monmouth Mall every day. “I’m for the Mall,” she said, “I’m for moving it forward… when I look at the Mall, I see a lot of weeds growing up. I am for progress.”

“I think there needs to be a balance between the business and the residential community.”

She also had a positive opinion on the failed disc golf course (“It gets back to financial responsibility. We spent a lot of money for that… it’s a lot of money to just give {the equipment} away,” but a not-so-positive approach to medical marijuana. (“It’s from seed to sale. You need to have it governed. I see a lot of pitfalls with that.”)

* * *

Tim Corcoran is a borough resident since 1990, and is employed by New Jersey Natural Gas in their Department of Regulatory Affairs. Corcoran has served on the borough’s Zoning Board, and says his priority will be whatever the council is concerned with at the moment.

And he wants a return to sanity in the borough.

“This past year has been crazy here,” he said. “It’s been an embarrassment.”

“The town needs fiscal responsibility,” he continued. “They need to find a balance within the business and residential community.”

He’d like to see Eatontown become more business-friendly. “There’s a lot of things that could be done in partnership to bring businesses into town. The taxes that would be generated would benefit the residents,” said Corcoran.

The biggest problem, as he sees it, is the Monmouth Mall. “We have a developed piece of property that is becoming a rat trap,” he told the panel.

Corcoran said his nieces and nephews are millennials. “None of them want to own properties…they don’t want to take care of a lawn like we did. They want access to trains, highways, and businesses. They want to walk to restaurants. The Mall could be similar to that.”

Regarding the development of Fort Monmouth, Corcoran said it seemed to him that the Eatontown lagged behind Oceanport and Tinton Falls when it comes to tangible projects being built in the wake of the makeover.

“I wish something would happen,” he said. “I’d like to see a comprehensive plan instead of a mish-mosh.”

He is all for medicinal marijuana in the borough, but said it was only a matter of time to have it nationwide. “My personal view is that it is going to be legal in all 50 states,” he said.

* * *

William Diedrichsen, an Eatontown resident since 1965, is an electrical engineer by trade. He has served on the Woodmere PTA and is currently on the Planning Board. His wife Donna has previously served on council.

He told the panel he wants to make sound decisions that will send the borough in a good direction. Dierichsen felt the BRAC closure of Fort Monmouth had a huge impact on the town. “It wasn’t just the people at the Fort, it was the contractors — and the people supporting the contractors relied a lot on that… the change in retail hasn’t helped because the focus of how things get done gets changed…Eatontown has resisted development a little bit and the situation just got worse.”

“We have to attract developers who want to come in and invest. That can be hard. Also, developers have to figure what’s going to happen in the future.”

He said Eatontown’s location between Highways 35 and 36 puts it in what he calls an “oddball” place.

“They don’t always stop in Eatontown. We need to get people in town to spend money and invest in local businesses. Finding that right mix is difficult.”

Diedrichsen is for the “walkable streets” concept, as well as the idea of having medical marijuana available in the borough (he does not like the idea of recreational marijuana being sold).

He also likes the latest changes in the Monmouth Mall — while noting that plans probably will change yet again.

“The way retail is heading, the Mall’s got to change and progress,” he said.

He’s “flexible” to revisiting the idea of having a disc golf course, too. “I’m a good problem solver, and I look at things a little differently. Sometimes there’s more than two sides to an argument. I like to be very thorough, so I think that can help.”

Councilman-elect Kevin Gonzalez said the screening committee is looking for that certain someone who will not necessarily run in lockstep with the rest of the board. “What we are hoping for is finding someone who will be researching items, do their homework and vote their conscience,” he said.

Mayor Anthony Talerico — who does not actually vote unless there is a tie on council — had but one comment.

“My hope is that next year’s council provides stability that our employees and residents have lacked for almost an entire year,” he remarked.

The council will vote on January 1 as to who gets the vacant seat.

Don’t Forget The LINK holiday press times

The LINK News will be on the newsstands on Tuesday this week due to the holidays…same for next week because of New Years.

Thank you, and Happy Holidays from The LINK News.

More fort development means more inspections needed

By Neil Schulman

Oceanport — There’s a lot of new construction going on in Oceanport, especially in the former Fort Monmouth Army base. And that means a lost more demand on borough building inspectors.

At the Dec. 5 Borough Council workshop, Mayor Jay Coffey suggested Oceanport should look at an expedited inspection, where developers can pay into an escrow the borough can use to help speed up their inspections.

Oceanport only has one full time staff member, and a lot of times the inspections will come in a large clump, Coffey said.

“Nothing would happen for six months and all of a sudden you need 20 days of inspections since 80 units are ready,” he said.

“Right now, we don’t want to pay overtime,” Coffey said. Expedited inspections would let developers set up an escrow which could cover the cost of overtime or bringing in part-time inspectors to speed up the work.

In addition to projects at Fort Monmouth, developers in Monmouth Corporate Park have sometimes expressed an interest in getting the work done faster, the mayor said.


Municipal Complex update

Some details of the plans for the municipal complex have had to be changed as the work continues, Borough Administrator Donna Phelps said.

Sometimes, the condition of the building makes it impossible to follow the original architect’s proposal. That’s been the case with some of the bathrooms in the future borough hall offices. Officials had thought plumbing fixtures would be reusable, but they’ll need to be replaced. And the plans called for only replacing broken tiles, but the original tile pattern can’t be matched, so all will need replacing.

The borough also needs to pay an additional $30,000 “to demolish a hidden concrete vault in the building and fix the floor there. And the fire suppression systems will need to be completely replaced due to concerns about the age of the sprinkler heads.

“We don’t know how long the system’s been there,” said Phelps. “We could go in and it will be fine… we could go in and it will go off.”

Meanwhile, by the future police headquarters, a utility pole in the driveway needed to be removed. It was originally slated to have radio equipment on it, but engineers felt the location would leave half the building with poor reception.


Title 39 Request

Normally, Oceanport police only enforce traffic regulations on public roads. But RPM, which has developed housing on the fort, has asked the borough to patrol and enforce the traffic laws on private roads in the area.

The borough will need to pass a “Title 39” ordinance to do this. They will also need to get approval from the Oceanport Police Department before introducing such an ordinance.


Holiday decorating contest to spread cheer and beauty

Long Branch — Get out your tinsel, wreaths, and string lights, because Long Branch is holding its annual Holiday Home Decorating Contest.

Until 4:30 p.m. on December 31, Long Branch will accept entries from festive families and business owners who decorate their homes or establishments for the holidays.

The City will award four prizes: one to the business owner with the most creative decorations and three to residents (owners or renters) with the most traditional, most illuminated, and most creative decorations.

If you win, you might find another present in your stocking.

The business winner gets a $200 Home Depot gift card, while each residential winner gets a Family 4 Pack of Long Branch 2020 Season Beach Badges.

Winners will be announced on Friday, January 10, 2020 through the city’s social media.

The contest’s goal is not just to deck Long Branch with boughs of holly.

“My council and I came into office wanting to make Long Branch look beautiful. The holidays are a great opportunity to make our city stand out and sparkle. I would encourage everyone, especially local businesses, to decorate for the holiday season,” said Mayor John Pallone.

Residents are encouraged to enjoy the community decorations, take photos, and share them on social media with #LBHolidayContest.

To enter, email with your name (family or business), address, phone number, and one to four photos of your decorations.







Keene’s new folk album produced in Long Branch

Folkie and singer-songwriter Steven Keene knows that knocking back a glass of bourbon to a sad song is like therapy for love and lust gone awry. Like a whiskey-Freud with songs to heal the lecherous heart, Keene prescribes a dose of love-lost drinking songs on his upcoming EP It Is What It Is (out January 10 on ONErpm).

Singer-songwriter Steven Keene is putting the finishing touches on his new EP, recorded in Long Branch.

All of the EP’s tracks will be produced by Keene himself, and recorded and mixed by Joseph DeMaio in Long Branch’s Shorefire Recording Studios using the last analog Helios console ever built.

Having found a classic analog sound and collaborative dynamic that works, Keene is keeping on the same roster of musicians for the full EP, including Rich Scannella on drums, Joseph Chiarolanza on bass, Matt O’Ree on guitar, Joseph Napolitano on pedal steel, Arne Wendt and Jeff Levine on keys, and Michele Weir or Layonne Holmes doing background vocals.

On Keene’s first single “Don’t Blame It On The Alcohol” one picks up on a hint of an early ‘70s Tom Waits (when he was at his singer-songwriter best), as well as nods Keene’s other primary influences, which range in genre and style from folk song-crafting icons like Dylan and Leonard Cohen, to the blues mavericks like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Elmore James, and further afield to include the likes of composer/pianist Henry Mancini and country iconoclast Hank Williams.

A true songwriter’s songwriter, Keene, has focussed himself for most of his career on honing the craft of songwriting and collaboration with other musicians more so than the chasing record deals and fame. This is illustrated by the impressive roster of musicians he’s worked with over the years.

Keene grew up in Brooklyn New York and got his start playing the folk clubs and cafes of the Greenwich Village scene in the early ‘90s alongside contemporaries Beck, Susanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, and others. He started out performing his earliest material at The Speakeasy, the now-closed folk club that was a singer-songwriter, folky staple in the ’90s. For years, he would crisscross the streets of McDougal and Bleecker, playing the open mikes, hootenanny’s and small clubs including the Bottom Line (back in the day, that was considered the best listening room), Lone Star Cafe, the Mercury Lounge, the Bitter End, Arlene’s Grocery, and the legendary CBGB’s. Back then, Keene shared stages and played regularly with then fellow emerging unknown folkie Beck at joints like Sun Mountain Cafe and the Chameleon.

By 1990, Keene had made enough of a name for himself on the folk scene, so that when he was ready to release his first album Keene On Dylan, he found former Bob Dylan band members Howie Wyeth and Rob Stoner (Desire/Rolling Thunder) accessible and eager to collaborate on this eclectic mix of originals, covers, and traditionals.

A few years later in 1995, Keene’s second album No Alternative was put out on the Moo Records label featuring other former Dylan band members Tony Garnier, John Jackson, and Bucky Baxter. He also played a tune on this album, “Only Homeless” with Danny Kalb, the legendary musician from the 60’s Village scene. No Alternative saw a good deal of success and was distributed through BMG in Europe in conjunction with a European tour and video on MTV Europe for the single, “Far Better Friend than Lover,” an updated version of which will be the second single for the new EP.

In 2001 Steven released Set Clock on Moo Records which received praise in the local New York press and featured the Mancini inspired “She Poured Gasoline,” the freaky basement tapes sound of “Hang a Plaque” and title track “ Set Clock,” which lamented the purity of being naive in virtuous youth and losing that purity over time with lines like “I wish I knew now what I once knew then.” Keene was featured on Vin Scelsa’s “Idiot’s Delight” and toured extensively to promote the album.

Like all good tunes, Keene’s songs are well-steeped in the craft of storytelling. Yet, the refreshingly peculiar aspect of Keene’s distinctive lyrical style is its capacity to conjure that universally relatable imagery of love, loss, and longing that leaves the listener nodding “yeah, I’ve been there” and connecting to living the story through their own lived experience.

“Sometimes the perspective is from myself, and sometimes I’m writing a song through someone else’s eyes,” reflects Keene. “I’m not very big on insisting on explanations behind the songs I write, only because everybody’s got their own take on them, like a painting or any art form. I think less is more when it comes to talking about my own personal experience of a song.”



Commercial vans will need permits to park on street

Long Branch — Friday, the Mayor and Council of Long Branch announced they would crack down on out-of-town vans parking on public streets. Anyone who wishes to park a commercial van overnight will need to get a permit.

This is an issue council has been studying since early summer. Members have said rampant van parking is a safety hazard and a quality of life issue.

The city has heard numerous complaints about out-of-town vans using Long Branch streets for parking. When vans park on the street, they narrow the road, forcing drivers to stop and let oncoming cars through. It also makes pulling out of a driveway a challenge rather than a routine.

People driving carpentry vans sometimes drop nails or screws in the road, which then end up in an unlucky driver’s tire.

In response to these concerns, the mayor and council put an ordinance for introduction on the Nov. 26 city council agenda, requiring those who want to park their van on the street between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. to apply for a parking permit.

Only residents of Long Branch who operate a vehicle registered at their home can park their van on the street. The number of vans they can park on the street is limited to one van per household.

Permits for vans to park on the street will be issued by the Police Department’s Traffic Unit. The charge will be $25 per permit. The fee is based on the cost to the city of operating the van parking permit program.

Upon the ordinance passing, Long Branch will give van owners 60 days to comply, and then give tickets to offending vehicles.

The parking limitation on vans does not apply to cars, SUVs, pick-up trucks, or non-commercial vehicles. It only applies to commercial vehicles, such as vans and trucks with commercial licenses or with indicators of commercial use.

Vehicles with lettering or design showing the name and/or contact information of a commercial service are indicators of commercial use.

Oversize vehicles, such as dump trucks and tow-trucks (those in excess of 8,000lbs) are already prohibited on Long Branch streets and will not be eligible for the permit program.





Bill would fix funding system for local food banks

Ocean Township — Senator Vin Gopal this month introduced new legislation he says would correct oversights in funding for New Jersey food banks, restoring equity and necessary resources to non-profit organizations such as Fulfill, the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

The bill (S-4247), which amends the FY2020 State Budget, would require that state funds for community food banks be distributed based on the number of food-insecure households that each organization serves as a percentage of the total number of food-insecure households throughout New Jersey.

“Every food bank serves a different community, and each of these communities has its own unique needs,” said Senator Gopal (D-Long Branch). “We need to make sure that our efforts are reaching as many people as possible, and that no community is overlooked. By distributing funds in accordance with the needs of the community, we can make sure that every food bank is allocated the resources it needs to provide for the households it serves, and make our budget fairer for Garden State families. No family or child should go hungry in New Jersey, and with this legislation, we can make sure that our dedicated food banks have the resources they need to provide meals to our most vulnerable residents.”

“Fulfill feeds 136,000 people in need in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, 50,000 of whom are children. We are grateful to Senator Gopal for his efforts to ensure that we can continue this critical work,” said former Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, now President and CEO of Fulfill. “With these funds, we can expand and deepen our mission to provide every family with healthy, nutritious, and regular meals, improving our services for the many vulnerable families across our two counties.”