Friday, October 31, 2014

Facing our Fears Through Holidays

When I was young, I trick or treated in my apartment building in the Bronx.  The apartment house I called home for almost all of my childhood was 14 stories tall and we went from floor to floor collecting candy almost as soon as we got home from school.   Some of us even trick or treated for UNICEF.

Many of our costumes were home made - ghost costumes made from sheets, firemen costumes made from rubberized raincoats, clowns in makeup, pirates in black with an eye patch, Little Red Riding Hoods dressed in - what else, red.

For decorations we had carved pumpkins, we had bowls of candy corn (which, to this day, I detest) and other simple decorations.

Now, Halloween has started to rival Christmas as a decoration opportunity.

Here are some house decorations I have found on my travels, and here in Binghamton, New York.

Today, taken in Binghamton.
I visited Yonkers, NY (a city bordering New York City on the north) in 2012, and saw this in a neighborhood near the iconic Cross County Shopping Center.
Here is another view.  Strange that this tableau includes a clown, but I know they are objects of fear for a lot of people.

And what is Halloween, in a way, but a way of facing our fears?
One more from Yonkers

Instead of Ebola, we think of the living dead.
Binghamton, New York, 2014
Instead of terrorists, we think of witches and flowers.
But this innocent yard might be the scariest yard of all.  Green plants and blooming dahlias, all on October 28.  In years past, this Binghamton area yard might have been covered in light snow by now.  It certainly wouldn't have had thriving dahilas.  And this isn't a fluke. Our weather gets scarier and scarier. (Full disclosure, my neighborhood was nipped by frost this morning).

Sometimes, beauty can be the scariest thing of all.

Do you celebrate Halloween?  If so, what do you do?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Hydrangea and the Bee

It's the waning days of fall here in upstate New York.  But don't tell this bee.  She (see right side of photo) was buzzing around this hydrangea Tuesday as I tried to take its picture.  It's almost doomsday for Ms. Bee, but she keeps on buzzing and was enjoying what might be the warmest day of the rest of the year. (Just don't tell her the killing frost is just around the corner.)

Another hydrangea nearby, in the garden of the Broome County Library in downtown Binghamton, New York, was showing the colors of fall.  Don't you love those stripes?

As unbelievable as it is for plants to be blooming on October 27, even more unbelievable is the fact that November begins on Saturday.

And, with November begins NaNoWriMo, a 30 day non stop writing journey. It's 30 days of uninhibited writing, no editing.

No plot? No problem.  No idea where your story is going? No problem. No muse? No problem.

NaNoWriMo is a lot of sweat, coffee, and more sweat and coffee.  The forums are full of discussion and strange people. I'll be in good company, as I am strange, too. There will be pep talks by famous writers.  And at the end, I'll have a manuscript I didn't have on November 1, to do whatever I want with.

During NaNoWriMo, there's a lot of wondering about personal sanity.  There's my long suffering spouse, sadly shaking his head as his spouse disappears into writing land.

This is my third NaNoWriMo, and until last night, I didn't think I was going to do it.  I have other manuscripts on my computer-never revisited, never edited, never again seeing the light of my laptop screen.

My muse? Never had one.  She's probably lying unconscious somewhere, OD'd on chocolate.

So this year, I am going to be like the Binghamton bee.  I am not going to question why there is a flower to feed off of on October 27.  I will take what I am given.  If I have time to write, I will.  If I don't, I won't.  If something happens in my life, it will become part of my book.

I can always edit the rants out later.

And, with the sweet pollen of what is left, I will make honey.

That's the plan, anyway.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?  I'd love some company.  My "pen" name is RamblinWritr.  If you ask to be my buddy, I'll be yours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Small Town Tragedy

(My Wednesday Fall Fancies feature returns next Wednesday).

I grew up in the most populous city in the United States, New York City.  And, over 25 years ago, I moved to the Binghamton area of upstate New York.

So many people think "New York City" when they think New York State, but so much of New York State consists of these small rural towns, where everyone knows everyone else.

Monday, after work, I was browsing Facebook. A business near Bainbridge, New York (another small town, near Afton, and about 35 miles from Binghamton) that I follow called Frog Pond posted about the "tragedy in our town today" and asked for privacy for the affected family, who they (of course) knew personally.

I immediately went to local media websites.  At the time, there weren't many details. There are more details now, but enough still remains a mystery - including the main question - why?

It was apparently an incident of road rage, which ended in a parking lot in Bainbridge, with a father and son shot and the son dead. The family suffering the loss lives in Afton.  The father, who is in a hospital a mile or so from where I live, ignored his serious wounds and tried to perform CPR on his dying son.

The shooter? A retired New York City policeman.

Afton mourns.  Bainbridge mourns.  They are in shock. A woman is widowed, a daughter is without a brother.  Things like that don't happen in an instant in small towns some 35 miles from Binghamton. 

Meanwhile, people in Binghamton, which suffered one of the largest mass shootings in American history back in 2009 (14 dead), feel a small part of the pain we felt that day.

This has happened too many times in our country.

Another day in the life of an American town.

Tomorrow, back to happier posts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Bearer of Hope The Stinker of Stink

Nature is always beautiful, but sometimes, it plain stinks.

Today, I took a walk in a part of downtown I rarely walk in. It's not the most scenic area, but I got the surprise of the week.

Gingko trees, glowing in the midday sun.  I only wish my iPhone 4S camera could have done them proper justice.
I entertained my friend with a dissertation on ginkgo fruits, and how cities would try to plant male trees (ginkgo trees are either male or female) since they would not fruit.  Trust me, you do not want to smell a crushed ginkgo fruit. 

And then, I stepped on one.

Had I found a male, turned female?  And, better yet, how can such a beautiful tree have such a...well, smell?

Many cities wonder if the stink is worth the beauty.

So, I wanted to repeat a post from last November on

The Dilemma of the Ginkgo

Last year, some streets in downtown Binghamton, New York were rebuilt and re landscaped. This spring, I noticed that some of the young trees planted were ginkgos.

Ginkgoes are not extremely popular here in Binghamton.  I see more of the trees up in Ithaca, and I saw a good number in Iowa City when I used to visit my late aunt.  This was back in the 1980's and 1990's and I can remember them on the University of Iowa campus.  I've also seen them in New York City.

The ginkgo tree is also called the Maidenhair tree.  It is an almost indestructible tree.  In Japan they are known as the "bearer of hope" as a number of them survived the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. One of the surviving trees is some 200 years old.
The leaves turn a lovely yellow in the fall, too.  But before you rush out to buy this wonderful tree, there is something you should know.

The females produce a seed, surrounded by a pulp.  Fortunately, there is no such thing as "smell o blog" because you would be gagging just about now.  Some people say the smell resembles the smell of vomit.  Others say dog poo.  I tend towards the dog poo camp.

That patch of fallen leaves on the West Side of Binghamton, to be accurate, reeks.

This is what the offending (bare) tree looked like in early November, the offending fruits barely visible.

Yes, dear readers, this is the same Gingko Biloba that some claim enhances your memory, and may have other medicinal qualities.

Many cities were playing it safe by permitting only male trees.  But nature has a way, folks (as anyone who has seen the movie Jurassic Park knows), and it would seem that some of those male trees are now - well, they aren't males any more.

And these cities who planted these wonder trees now wonder what to do.

I wonder if the tree I photographed on the West Side of Binghamton started its life as a male.

Will the City of Binghamton have to face that dilemma in a few year when those small downtown trees mature and perhaps....well, stink?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fans of Global Warming

I overheard a conversation between two women in downtown Binghamton, New York today.

Woman #1: do you remember when snow fell on Halloween and was still there on Easter?  I do.  And I don't miss it at all!

Woman #2: I love global warming!


I've seen snow flurries plenty of times in October. But, so far, not this year.

And, I remember taking my son trick or treating one year in the early 1990's with the hills above us receiving some 13 inches of sloppy snow. For us in the valley, we got less, but it was one miserable night.  I led my little superhero, bundled up underneath his costume (his choice!), from house to house, where he was showered with enough candy to open a store. (Mom ate well that night).
West side Binghamton, NY Smoke Tree
We have plenty of trees just starting to change color here in the Triple Cities.  In the past, I was raking leaves earlier than I do now.

Now, we still have leaves on some of our trees past November.  Other trees are peaking out now.

Global warming (or climate change, as I would rather call it) has been a mixed blessing for the Binghamton area.

I am loving the 70 degree weather (21 C) forecast for tomorrow.

But, wait.  In the forecast for Saturday...

...yes, you guessed it.

What's in your weather forecast?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Civil War Sunday - The Invasion of Bayshore Boulevard

If my spouse and I visit a city, we always like to take one (or more) walks through neighborhoods,  just to get a feel of the city.

It's a little different when we visit a place we used to live in.  Forty years ago, we lived in Tampa, Florida (on Florida's west coast) and rarely took advantage of what is one of longest (if not the longest) continuous sidewalk in the United States.

Last year, we decided to change that.  So in March of 2013, we found ourselves visitors in a city where we used to live.  It was time to be tourists and not residents.

Walking along Bayshore Boulevard, at Hawthorne Road on that bright March day, we saw this historical marker.

There had actually been a small battle in Tampa, back in 1862, but this marker was not for that.  Rather, it was for something I had never heard of, a skirmish on October 17, 1863 - a small Federal invasion of the city that failed. 

But, this isn't the only trace of the Civil War in the waters near Tampa. Indeed, Civil War era wrecks are being located, including one called the Scottish Chief and a "blockade runner" called the Kate Dale.

Indeed, Tampa, and Florida (a Confederate state), played a role in the Civil War, one that was vital, but isn't that well known.

I found more historical info on Tampa which I might save for a snowy winter day.

You can see a list of historical markers across Florida online.
Near Downtown Tampa
History.  You can find it wherever you walk.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - It's the Turn of the Season

To everything, there is a season.
Sunset over the Susquehanna River 10-24-14

Today is the last outdoor farmers markets here in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.  After today, the cold  drives the one market that stays open year round indoors.
Binghamton Downtown Farmers Market, 10-17-14

In some ways, it is so hard to believe that the growing season is over.  In some years, we would already have seen snow flurries and, in fact, snow has been seen less than an hour away from us. Yesterday was mild but windy, with a chill. But this year, it is possible we may have highs in the 70's (21 C) next week.

Farmers have picked whatever is left in frost-killed fields and are selling it.

Our community garden closes Sunday. Our chard is picked.
The peppers (pictured above, "Fooled You" jalapeno peppers) are done.  Tomato plants are a frost-bit memory, lying in brown tatters.
We've said goodbye to our basil.

The last of the trees are now turning color.

The season continues to turn.  The sun turns its face from us, as the days grow shorter.

Soon it will be time for snow, wind and below zero temperatures (sometimes) as the now dormant trees sleep. Some people enjoy winter sports and can't wait.  Others call snow the "s" word as they dread the slipping, the sliding and the shoveling.  That is the order of things in upstate New York.

What is the order of things where you live?