Portraits of the Jersey Shore Ocean Grove New Beginnings at 60

Ocean Grove New Beginnings at 60

“I am 60 years old, and I just got my first ukulele about two weeks ago. I had a big career change in my 50’s. I was working at the same company for 17 years, and they downsized, and I never thought that I would be in my 50’s looking for another job. So I had to start all over again. I left from managing a retirement community, and then I got an opportunity to work at a school as a custodian. So I went from working with the older people to the young people. I will play guitar for the kids at the school. I volunteer to play for them on my own time. The teachers have asked me to come in and play for their students. It is such a gift to be able to share that with the kids, because the kids are so receptive.

“The kids in school always greet me with a smile when they see me at school. Every time they see me in the hallway, they call me, ‘Mr. Z.’ Their love is unconditional. And it makes me so happy. When I play for them, I will play them an old Arlo Guthrie song, ‘I don’t want a pickle, I just wanna ride on my motorcycle.’ And they love that song, and always ask me to play it for them. When I play for them, sometimes I’ll tell a story as I am playing the chords. They will ask me to write songs about hot dogs, or donuts, so I wrote them a song called, ‘Hot Dogs and Donuts.’ But it is not really about hot dogs and donuts. I will weave stories of unconditional love between the chorus, ‘Hot Dogs and Donuts.’ And they just love it.

“I am a believer, and what I am doing is carrying a message to these kids, to be childlike, and don’t change. The kids are untainted. They don’t know prejudice yet, they don’t know about the problems of the world yet. And when I sing to them, my songs are about that innocence. The kids ask me why I close my eyes when I sing, and I tell them, ‘Because when I close my eyes, I am every age I ever was.’ Singing to them reminds me to stay innocent and childlike just like them. I am a truly blessed man.”

~ Ocean Grove

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