Friday, September 30, 2016

Skywatch Friday - Upstate Afire

In upstate New York, we are finally starting to cool down after a hot summer and a warm beginning to fall.
And the sunrise of September 28 reflected that. 

But that beautiful sunrise wasn't enough for me.  Last night I missed the sunset because I was in a class, but when I finally got home, there were a few glimmerings of light left.
This is what I saw.  hard to see, but there is a remnant of what must have been a beautiful sunset in the middle of the picture.

Come visit the Skywatch Friday blog, and click on sunrise/sunset pictures from all over the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

National Coffee Day Confession

Many, many years ago I worked in an office where I was the only non-coffee drinker.  I would have my daily cup of black tea (made from a tea bag) while my co-workers stumbled to the coffee pot.  One even said to me one day, zombie like before his first cup, "how can you start your day without a cup of coffee?"

How, indeed?

Many, many years later I have a confession.

I've put the tea bags away (for the most part).  Like many Americans, I am a coffee drinker.

Today, in the United States, it is National Coffee Day.  To celebrate, a number of chains selling coffee have specials.

But there is an underside to National Coffee Day.  Its name is K-Cup, and I have a Konfession.

I use them.  Yes, I hang my head in shame, but we all have our vices.  I love them.  In theory.

A K-Cup is a single serve convenient way to make coffee, and right now they are quite popular in our country.  They are easy - you stick them in a special coffee maker, close the lid, add water and a couple of minutes later, coffee! (maybe not the best coffee, but coffee). When you have company, your guest can choose their favorite.

Shown above, you can see the problem.  They consist of ground coffee, filter, and lots and lots of plastic.  Which, incidentally, is not recyclable.  Yet.

So into landfills they go, because few of us have the time or patience to disassemble our K-Cups.  Which, actually, I used to do (somewhat) back when I practiced worm agriculture.  I fed the worms the used grounds.  But that isn't good enough for our environment.

It seems that even the creator of K-Cups regrets what they have become.

The top K-Cup above is an attempt to make a better K-Cup.  And, you know what?  It makes a good cup of coffee.  But it isn't good enough.

So let's celebrate National Coffee Day with a good cup of coffee, and hope that we don't drown in a sea of non recycled K-Cups before they come up with a solution.

True confession time for you, my reader.  Do you drink coffee?  Do you use K-Cups?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fantastic Fall - Final Flowers

This is the first Fantastic Fall post of the year.

In upstate New York, the last of the flowers are lighting up the approach to the first frost.  In fact, some areas in our county have already had their first frost.
These purple asters are in my front yard. 
These dahlias are, too.

But wait, there's more!
In a yard in Binghamton, in upstate New York, this plant was as big as a bush.

Hydrangeas (also on the West Side of Binghamton) are still going strong.

We've had a warmer than normal fall, but, already, temperatures are dropping, and daylight is decreasing at an increased rate.

What else will I blog about this fall?  Come back every Wednesday for another seasonal post.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Death of a Ballplayer

You don't have to follow baseball to appreciate this story, and I hope my non-baseball fan readers will stick around and read this.

A young man defects from Cuba at the age of 15, successful on his fourth try.  During that fourth try, his mother fell overboard, and the teenager saved her.

Baseball has been a part of his life since his early childhood.  He goes to high school in Tampa, Florida, where I lived many years ago.  He becomes a star baseball player with the Miami Marlins.  At 24, he learns he will be a father for the first time.  He is popular.  He earns respect.

And then, he dies in a tragic boating accident Sunday, in the early morning when their boat rammed into a jetty.  Two other men die with him.  Speed was a factor.  No life jackets were on the boat, but they may not have helped.

His team cancels their Sunday game, something which is Just Not Done in major league baseball.

Monday evening, they play against "my" home team, the New York Mets, so the game is televised.  After the National Anthem is played, the members of the two teams cried and embraced.  Every member of the Marlins is wearing a shirt with the late ballplayer's name and number. The players gather around the pitching mound and inscribe his name and number in the dirt.

The Mets baseball announcers are holding back tears.  One wasn't entirely successful.

The Marlins come to bat, and the very first player hits a home run.  Afterwards the player breaks down in tears.  The Marlins go on to win, 7-3.

If Hollywood had made a movie from a fictional story, who know how many tickets it would have sold?

But it is no movie.  It was real life for a young man by the name of Jose Fernandez.

His child will never know him.  And millions of baseball fans, stunned, mourn the death of a man gone too soon.    A small thing, this death, compared to the going-on's in the world, but it reminds us that the end for each of us can come at any time, without warning.  We must make the most of the time we have on this earth doing what we love to do.

We must make a difference.

May his death be a lesson for all of us.

Would your demise be widely mourned?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Music Monday - Autumn

I had to travel this past weekend.

Living here in the Northeast United States, I realize that, by the end of September, leaves are going to start to turn.  And temperatures are going to start to drop.

So, on the drive from upstate New York to New Jersey, I was not surprised to see some trees starting to turn, both in Pennsylvania, and even northern New Jersey.  The changing trees have a long way to go at this point, though.

Because of a drought, our leaves are turning earlier than usual, so it is time to turn our Music Monday ears to songs about fall and autumn leaves, songs that make you think of fall weather or songs that mention leaves.

More Than This by Roxy Music.  "Falling leaves in the night...."

Autumn in New York, as sung by Billie Holiday.

Autumn Leaves, as sung by Nat King Cole.  More a song about love, but it qualifies, in my opinion.

November Rain, by Guns and Roses.  True, it isn't quite about autumn rain, and more about love, but I'm including it because - what it is about autumn and lost love, anyway?

Let us enjoy autumn while we can - the pumpkin spice, the apples, the falling leaves, the beautiful blue skies and everything else that comes with it, for all too soon winter will be here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Throwback Sunday - Unsolved Mystery of the Cheesequake

Today, I repeat a blog about a bit of a mystery.  It's actually partially solved, although I still don't know how the locals pronounce it.

It's a simple question - or is it?

The Unsolved Mystery of the Cheesequake

Today's trivia question:  What is a Cheesequake?  I originally asked this question in 2010, after attending a wedding out of town.  I never found out.  So, four years later, I am hoping you, my blog readers, can help me.

Is a cheesequake
a.  What Wisconsin natives yell when the earth moves under their feet?
b.  A San Francisco boutique cheesecake (now renamed) producer?
c.  A Washington State cheeseburger? or
d.  A New Jersey toll road service area?

If you answered "c", you've taken too many "How to Ace the SAT" review courses.

The correct answer, of course, is b, c and d.  And thereby hangs a tale.

b.  San Francisco Cheesequakes ("Cheesecakes that Rock")had the most intriguing sounding cheesecakes, not that I've ever had one, so this is not a plug.  Apparently, since 2010, the company has been renamed and is now called San Francisco Cheesecake Company - ah, well. 

c.  How about a Double Cheesequake at the X Earthquakes Biggest Burgers in Pullyap, Washington?  (And, are they still in business?)

d.  The New Jersey Cheesequake.  There is my mystery.

In July of 2010, spouse and I traveled to the Jersey Shore from the Binghamton, New York area.  This involved travel on the Garden State Parkway, known as the country's busiest toll road.  We had been warned about the traffic and we already knew how aggressive and high speed the driving would be, so neither came as a shock.  We proceeded through The Oranges and The Amboys when to our wondering eyes did appear, near exit 120....

The Cheesequake Service Area.


Spouse and I turned to each other simultaneously.  What was a Cheesequake?  We pondered various answers.  A strange New Jersey restaurant chain?  A former cheese factory that had exploded and was now a historical site?  Some kind of corrupted Native American word?

Our wonder grew as we passed by a sign for Cheesequake State Park.

Turns out spouse's guess of a corrupted Native American word was correct.  My spouse, however, speculated that "Cheesequake" came from the same word that Chesapeake (as in Chesapeake Bay) derived from.  That apparently is not the case, according to what I was able to research back then.  If my sources are correct, Chesapeake comes from a Algonquian word meaning a village "at a big river" while Cheesequake comes from a Lenape word for "upland village".

Drawing from my (too long ago) college anthropology courses, I recalled that the Lenapes (formerly known as the Delaware) are part of a much larger Native American group-age called the Algonquians.  So, there may still be some truth to this speculation.

At any rate the word has nothing to do with neither cheese nor earthquakes.

Cheesequake State Park does sound fascinating.  It may even help for me to learn how it is pronounced.

The service area, apart from the full service (mandatory in New Jersey) gas it sold for 20 cents less a gallon than Binghamton gas when we left, was not at all distinguished. 

But still, it left us with a desire to go back and visit the park.  All these years later, it is still a dream.

I have a partial answer since 2010, by the way, about how "Cheesequake" is pronounced.  Enough to know that this website, which postulates "chezquake" still may not be right.

Or, is it?

Dear reader, do you know?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Local Saturday - Finally A Happy Ending?

Years ago, I first blogged about the camp where I spent some time for several summers as a pre teen and a teen.  I've blogged about it several times since.  The below post is from 2015 and it's time to update it.

I grew up in a New York City housing project, and by the definition of a particular non profit, my family was considered poor.  So I was eligible to be sent to a sleep away camp in Sussex, New Jersey, opened in 1924, and run by a Jewish Fresh Air Camp association (yes, I was a Fresh Air child - of sorts). Its attendees were "orphans and poor children".  Mel Brooks, among a handful of famous people, went to this camp.

The camp closed in 2005, and has been extensively vandalized.

In researching this throwback, I found that the site was finally sold at auction earlier this year, and may be reopened as a nonprofit children's camp for children from Korea.

One can only hope that, by next year, this may not be a nostalgia backfire.

Don't you love a possibly happy ending?

Throwback Thursday - Nostalgia Backfire

On County Road 565 in Sussex County, New Jersey, lies an abandoned summer camp that I, and other low income children, attended back in the 20th century.  I first wrote the below post in 2010.  Sadly, this camp still lies abandoned.

No one seems to want to buy it.

Nostalgia sometimes backfires.

Do you have memories of sleepaway camp?

Another Reason Why I Can't Go Home Anymore

One more reason why trying out nostalgia can bite you in the you-know-where.

I sometimes surf around Facebook and type in stuff from my past, just to see what comes up.

Today I decided to type in the name of my sleepaway camp.  It wasn't just any sleepaway camp.  You see, as a child of public housing growing up in the Bronx in the early 60's, the fact that my parents didn't own a car, and their income made me a disadvantaged urban youth.  Luckily, I didn't know that growing up and I wouldn't have cared.

Through a elementary school friend, I found out about a camp in northern NJ called Camp Sussex.  My friend went there.  She lived in a different housing project so was disadvantaged, too. Since she was going, I wanted to also.  Three weeks away from home.  It would be my first time away from home, at this camp for poor kids.  So poor, we weren't even expected to bring our own clothes.  The camp provided them.  The camp provided everything, including transportation from Manhattan.

I went to camp and a couple of things happened that first day.

First, my friend treated me like I didn't exist.

The second was, I was massively homesick.  I ended up in the infirmary overnight, as I had somehow worked myself into a fever.  Literally.

I was shown a lot of kindness there, and reported to my bunk first thing the next morning.  I never looked back.  I survived being snubbed by my "friend" and made other friends.

This camp was located in a then-rural area of northern NJ.  It was surrounded by beautiful hills.  There was a lake.  There were hiking trails (rumored to contain quicksand pits and lethal snakes).  There was the opportunity to put on a camp musical.  Every dinner, before the prayer (yes, there was a religious element to this camp) we sang "Be Kind to Your Web Footed Friends".  I still remember the words.  We woke up to "Reville", made our bunks, had an inspection, watched the American flag raise, and listened to "taps" at Lights Out.

Many of the camp counselors were college students.  I became friends with one in particular, who went to Bryn Mawr.  We wrote to each other for months after that session but lost touch.

I had my first crush at Camp Sussex, and my first "boyfriend".

Years later, my cousin married someone who had gone to Camp Sussex.  And at work, for several years, I sat feet from a former Camp Sussex counselor.  Problem was, she was born the last year I went.  So we didn't speak about it much.  I wish we had.

Anyway, I had known that the camp had never quite changed its mission, but had closed around 2005.  There were hopes to turn it into a sports camp, an "education through sports" camp.  Derek Jeter's father was somehow supposed to be involved.

Well, on Facebook, I found out, as Paul Harvey used to say, "The rest of the story".

The closed camp has been severely vandalized.  It was alleged that the local police had never been too happy about the camp being there (I guess we disadvantaged kids polluted the place?).   Over the years, the rural area had become urbanized and the local youth had their way with my beloved camp.  The camp hadn't been secured, anyone could just walk in, and the police didn't seem to care too much. (in all fairness, I only know one side of the story.)  Bottom line, it would take over a million dollars just to get the camp fixed up enough to even begin about reopening.

There were pictures on Facebook showing the damage. (there's even a 3 minute short on You Tube documenting some of the damage.)  My heart broke, seeing those beautiful hills for the first time in over 40 years. And, on two Facebook sites, I saw discussions among some of over 400 people who belonged to a fraternity of former campers, counselors and even administrators.  They loved Camp Sussex.  I loved it in some ways, too, because it showed me there was a lot more to life than the streets of the Bronx.

Know what?  I wish I could find out how all of us "disadvantaged youth"of Camp Sussex turned out.  How many of us are professionals?   People who have made life better for others? (The talented Mel Brooks was one.)  And, for how many of us, did Camp Sussex make a difference?

I wish I didn't know about the vandalism, though.

Like my neighborhood, now a slum, now my beloved sleepaway camp.  Sometimes you just can't go back home.  How I sometimes envy people who can!