TOMS RIVER – Even before all those Halloween pop-up stores begin cropping up next month – for those who must absolutely have their costumes really, really early – there is already some COVID-related Halloween news to report: the announcement of the first parade being canceled because of this damn pandemic. The big fun in Toms River – typically attracting 100,000 or so ghoulish people – is now a goner, the coronavirus is already screwing with yet another season of scheduled festivities. Toms River firefighters broke the news on their Facebook page, saying the risk just isn’t worth it. Meanwhile, it remains business as usual at the North Pole for Santa Claus, Rudolph and the gang. Yet everyone is already beginning to brace for that dreaded company memo, to be posted by the workshop’s water cooler.

STATEWIDE – Ask anyone in New Jersey to define “freeholder.” Most, if not nearly all, have zero clue that “freeholders” run county governments and handle hundreds of millions in tax dollars. And that has united our state’s three top officials, now pushing to let the “freeholder” title finally die. Instead, the 135 freeholders in our 21 county governments would be called “commissioners,” a term many sane states use to describe county leaders. Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin say this switch is all about “replacing an outdated designation rooted in institutional prejudice.” The centuries-old term “freeholder” is a throwback to days when only white men who owned debt-free land could hold public office. Bonus: A title change would end those tired wisecracks about county “freeloaders,” or “boards of frozen cheeseholders,” etc, etc. The term “commissioner” just isn’t as funny. Perhaps we can now try mocking the county “surrogate.”

BRIDGEWATER – Professional baseball is back for die-hard fans, longing to hear the crack of a bat and vendors loudly barking: “Dog and a beer here!” A very limited 12-game season starts July 17 at TD Bank Ballpark with the Somerset Patriots facing the New Jersey Blasters. There will be a limit of 500 masked spectators per game, seated apart. After minor league ball clubs like the Trenton Thunder and Lakewood Blue Claws canceled their seasons, Patriots founder Steve Kalafer tells the Home News Tribune that “We are not doing this for money. We will lose money on every pitch,” but he says this independent summer league hopes to “put smiles back on the faces of fans.” Behind the masks, that is.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

The U.S. bought Alaska for 2 cents an acre from Russia… Suckers.

STATEWIDE – If, when, why and how New Jersey’s public schools can reopen is all about student safety. But what about the adult in the room? Some teachers are refusing to come back this fall because of the stubborn pandemic. Some are immuno-compromised. Others have family members who are. And still others are justifiably frightened — for themselves and for their families. Understandably so: COVID-19 is a killer, and there’s still some questions about how it’s transmitted — airborne droplets, contaminated surfaces, asymptomatic carriers, etc. And with no vaccine on the horizon, New Jersey’s public schools must have crystal-clear, uniform guidelines before pupils, teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians and everyone else is willing to roam the halls, NJ Spotlight reports today. Teachers sure love those red apples. But will it be worth it?

OCEAN GROVE – “The Starving Artist” isn’t that hungry at the moment, after one customer provided a $1,000 tip on a $43.14 breakfast of pancakes, pork roll, French toast and coffee.  The restaurant owner, who recently reopened with outdoor seating for the summer tourists, said this extremely generous customer left the tip with a note that read: “Thank you so much for working through this tough time, my family looks forward to our mornings with you every summer. We are thankful for your delicious food and great smiles, please know we appreciate you very much.” The Starving Artist – which said everyone was tearful – split the tip among the seven employees lucky enough to be working at the time.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

SALT LAKE CITY – Honey, uh, is that a runaway oil tanker in the backyard?  Yes, apparently it was, as firefighters raced to 66 North Wolcott Street in response to a bunch of 911 calls.  Apparently, around 3:20 a.m. early Wednesday, the asphalt oil tanker was mysteriously unhitched in a parking lot and then started rolling away, heading down the street and landing in a local backyard, just a few feet from the house. Local neighbors initially thought there was an earthquake, as the unmanned tanker rumbled through their streets in the wee hours. No one was injured, but this one lucky homeowner is the now the proud owner of up to 1,500 gallons of oil that spilled in the backyard, KSL reported. It will take days to suck it all up.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

We said goodbye to Joe Camel on this day in 1997, to be replaced in ads.  Apparently, smoking is just not as cool as Joe.

WORD OF THE DAY

Histrionic – [his-tree-AH-nik] – adjective

Definition: Deliberately affected, overly dramatic or emotional 

Example: Don’t expect me to gush histrionic frustration because we are changing the name of our freeholders.

WIT OF THE DAY

“Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual.” 

-Angela Carter

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“Everyone is leaving. [New York] turned out to be a hellhole.”

- Donald J. Trump

WEATHER IN A WORD

Tropical