Monday, August 31, 2009

Grand Opening of the new Giant/Weis

This is a big deal in our area, the sale of a 75 year old family owned chain to Pennsylvania chain Weis.  Today was the grand reopening although Weis took over the stores as of several days ago.

It's an interesting changeover.  The old Giant (not to be confused with Giant Eagle) was noted for low prices, no gimmicks, not for its selection, the freshness of its food, or its cleanliness. My observations at the Rano Boulevard store (which at one time was a ShopRite until it closed in January of 1987 and Giant took the building over):

1.  The store was a LOT cleaner.  The first thing I noticed upon entering was a fresh clean smell.
2.  Better lighting
3.  A lot of takeover bugs still have to be worked out.  The deli, in particular, had troubles operating.
4.  Customer Service?  There is a full service deli now (Giant wasn't noted for that either) but with 6 people at the deli, and us the only customers at the counter, no one seemed to want to interrupt their conversations to help us.  We finally got someone's attention and we did get our order filled.
5.  At checkout we had a very good experience but I had a strong feeling that the crispily dressed cashier, and the young man bagging (also very well dressed), were not from this area.  Just an impression from body language.   I do know that many times in this type of situation (i.e. a new store) a chain will import experienced employees to help the process along.  I think this is what happened here.  This same gentleman had greeted us as we entered the store-I had almost thought he was the store manager just in his carriage - again, body language.
6.  Some prices (although there were a number of very good opening sales) were up.  As I had mentioned in a prevous entry, this is going to be an important concern - a number of the stores are located in low income areas (the one we went to was not).  However, breakfast cereal seemed to be very reasonable.  They also had a good price on rotisserie chickens.

The changeover in some ways isn't complete: there were a lot of gaps in shelves with little signs announcing more stock was to follow.

Because of Giant's reputation with meat and poultry, I am not buying the grand opening meat specials until friends or co-workers report good experiences.

So, this takeover seems to be a mixed bag:  this chain will be taken (or, maybe, dragged) into the modern age but the price to pay may well be much higher prices for some staples people depend on.

Again, I hope Weis is sensitive to pricing of staples.

Incidentally, I am told that the Akels (the family that owned the Giant) still, apparently, own some of the buildings - so they still aren't completely out of the business.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More on the Baby Boomer Icon Death Journal

Here are two recent deaths, both with links to my native Bronx.

Corazon Aquino

The Reverend Ike.  The Reverend was a part of the Bronx scene when I was growing up in the 60's and early 70's. 

And a third death, not related to the Bronx, but a note in passing of another Holocaust survivor:  Dina Gottliebova Babbit.  Growing up in the Bronx, several of my neighbors were Holocaust survivors.  It was never talked about, but we children knew.  As an adult, I mourn the passing of these human beings who endured so much. This particular story was never resolved in her lifetime....I hope this story eventually has a good ending.  Please take the time to read about her.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Attack of the Killed Tomatoes and the Future of Newspapers

Now that my spouse's picture was featured in a local article about the tomato blight, I've had people at work, a neighbor, even staff at my chiropractor's, come to me to say "I saw (spouse's) picture in the paper!" (it was a picture of him pointing out one of our plants, dead from the blight). This, along with their stories of their killed tomatoes. Tomato season RIP.

So what is the significance of this? How can blighted tomatoes be related to the blighted newspaper industry? (since I have a relative who works for a newspaper, who lost her position but was able to stay on-at least for now-in another position, I do care very much).

The good news: this picture didn't appear in the online edition. So if they saw it it means that they saw it in the print newspaper....although maybe only people who work with me or help keep my back operational still read it. Maybe no one else is. My 19 year old son certainly is not.

The bad news:

1. If our local paper doesn't stop delivering the paper to my co workers at 9:30 am, 10:30 am or never, they are going to lose their remaining readers. For some reason, this got shared as they shared their experiences with their late tomato plants. This means, maybe, that people my age care just as much about their missing newspapers as their dead tomato plants. Press and Sun Bulletin, take note!

2. One person told me "she heard" that the paper is using employees to deliver papers "on the side" (I guess before work). Is this what the newspaper industry has come to?

3. My relative, above, reports that her co-workers are being "encouraged" to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. Well if her local paper is looking to Facebook and Twitter as a lifeline (drowning people grab onto anything in reach)...I don't think it is going to happen. As an example, I can point to the Press and Sun Bulletin website during the mass shooting in Binghamton back in April - they carried a Twitter feed from witnesses. A number of these witnesses were people (my guess from the maturity of the posts, students) locked down at Binghamton High School, who were able to see the ACA from their building. Most of the twits...I mean, tweets... were either snarky comments directed to previous commenters, or tweets that were totally random and meaningless. Finding actual news on the Twitter feed was like panning for gold. The reason may well have been because not that much was visible from the outside. My favorite part was the tweet announcing that the tweeter had just seen a sniper on the roof of a nearby building. Thanks for sharing!

As for Facebook, I am (really, I am) going to post my experiences. It is wonderful for what it can do, but it is not a newspaper. I don't think it will work for newspapers the way that blogs on newspaper websites have. Stay tuned for my report.

Hmmm....switching from blighted tomato plants to the future of newspapers all in one blog post. That's ramblin' at its best. But not journalism...which is the point of all of this. Journalism is not Facebook. It is not Twitter. I don't have the answer for the decline of newspapers. But embracing sites that may hardly exist in 5 years (think about MySpace) is not the answer.

I hope very much that the newspaper industry does find the answer. And soon.

One of the Last of the Hometown Supermarkets-RIP

Until a week ago, our area had an actual family owned small hometown chain, the Giant (not to be confused with Giant Eagle), which had been operating in the Triple Cities of Upstate NY for some 75 years. It existed in a time warp from the 1950's - even some of the ads looked like they were straight out of the 50's. No "shoppers reward" cards, no bogos (Buy One Get One free) , no doubling of coupons, no gimmicks (their word)...and they were proud of it. Until recent years, they were closed on Sundays. None of their stores were 24-hour. But people went there. They had very loyal customers.

They sold discounted city bus passes (cheaper than what you could buy them from directly from BC Transit). You could pay your bills there (for a fee). Even their most loyal shoppers (and you would be surprised who shopped there) admitted there were certain items they would not buy there due to freshness concerns. The stores were not that clean.

A number of their stores ended up, as neighborhood demographics shifted, in lower income neighborhoods and residents of these neighborhoods depended on the Giant to provide them food at affordable prices.

Their oldest store was demolished in 2000 for a new Binghamton Public Library. I don't think it would hurt anyone's feelings to point out that rumor had it that more drugs were being sold outside the store than food inside the store. The second oldest store, near Binghamton High School, is in another neighborhood that has seen better days - and the store was quite small by today's standards.

Anyway, the local family decided to sell the chain to a new owner, Weis. So what happened even before the changeover was effective? It was revealed that the now oldest store, near Binghamton High, was not part of the deal. It would close a few days before the takeover. Goodbye, low income people having a supermarket. We already have a Binghamton neighborhood without a supermarket since the Grand Union pulled out and advocates have been working since the 1990's to get that neighborhood (which I lived near many years ago) a new market. It sits boarded up now. Just what we need on the edge of downtown Binghamton, another boarded up building. Word is however, no one lost their job in this closing.

The changeover happened over about a 37 hour period (closed 6pm Sunday, reopened 7 am Tuesday), and the new stores opened on August 25. It was an interesting process to watch (full disclosure, I have family members in the supermarket business but none worked for Giant). A lot of bugs still have to be worked out. The forum at the local paper (online) has been quite busy-this is an issue impacting many people in this area. Comments so far: cleaner, fresher, and the prices have been increased-in some cases quite substantially. This is really going to hurt Giant's base clientele.

I may choose to write more about this in the future. Tomorrow is their "grand reopening".

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One Day All the Baby Boomers will be gone too

So much has already been written on the death of Ted Kennedy that anything I say would be redundant. Hardly two weeks after the death of his sister. I think (I am going on memory, here) that the generation of Bobby and John is down to one sister now. The Last Woman Standing.

I didn't want to turn my blog into the Baby Boomer Icon Death Watch Journal but it almost seems that it is turning into that. Of course, one day all of the baby boomers will be gone too, and who will write that obituary? Just think, just like when people wrote about the last survivor of the Titanic or the last soldier from the Civil War (that last one was in my lifetime), one day it will be the last Baby Boomer.

In the meantime you can read about "last war veterans" in this fascinating article.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Forgotten Bookmarks

Have you ever taken a book out of the library or bought a used book at a library book sale and found an interesting piece of paper someone had used as a bookmark? I have but never anything more interesting than a gas receipt, or a mundane shopping list.

Not the person at Forgotten Bookmarks who has devoted a blog to all those "forgotten bookmarks" There is another upcoming blog also, devoted specifically to recipes found on these forgotten bookmarks.

The author's introduction "I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people everyday. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books." To me the best part is doing a job you love and being able to connect with other people with your discoveries and observations. I've had a secret dream of working in a bookstore for a long time but the older I get, the less literary I seem to be -and I was never that literary to begin with. I love to read, but not the classics. I love to handle old books because they are a link to our past.

This site is a must for bookworms, students of history, and people who love to handle the past. Thank you, Blogs of Note, for directing me to this site.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Solar Eclipse and Northern Lights

The Longyearbyen web cam site I use to track the midnight sun above the Arctic Circle is back online. Right now it's 11:30 pm and the sun is still up. As I reported previously, they will experience their first sunset in 4 months in about a week.

It's 39 degrees there right now-brr.

A lot of people have visited this site so I don't hesitate in giving you a link (I'm sure, with my small fan base, he won't get overwhelmed.) Look at the wonderful photos too. I went there today and he has pictures taken during the total solar eclipse earlier this month posted. One shows the northern lights. Awesome!

(Note the site is in...I assume, Norwegian - but parts of it have an English translation.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock, Bonding over Music, and Wiping Out at your Retirement Party

Enough people are talking about Woodstock. I wasn't there so I have nothing to share - except I did want to go and my Dad wouldn't let me. I was mad but I guess in retrospect I'm glad (in a way) that I didn't. And sad too. It would have been quite a story to tell my son.

It's ironic, then, that the generation that fought their parents constantly over music, bonds with their children over music. My 19 year old son loves 60's and 70's music, and listens to it...on records, using a record player. He loves the sound of records so much more than the sound of CD's. He plays our records and has also bought records on We share a lot of favorite groups in common, such as Boston and the Rolling Stones. And more modern groups, such as Metallica.

So instead of reminiscing over Woodstock I'd like to share this video of someone I know, a 60's something gentleman, who plays with a local band called the Dirig Brothers. They specialize in early 60's music. I wish I had been at the event this was videoed at, but I'm glad people at this party put a couple of songs on You Tube, including this performance of Wipeout. No, he didn't play at Woodstock. Yes, he's proof that retirement isn't the end of life!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Goodbye to the Midnight Sun

The webcam in Longyearbyen, Norway that I follow periodically seems to have vanished from Eternal Sunset recently...too bad, as on August 24 they will experience something they haven't seen since around April 18...a sunset.
Then comes the quick descent from 24 hour light to total darkness, which (as far as no light at all, not even some type of dusk) will last from around November 14 to January 29. I think the technical term for that is "civil polar night" Of course, as far as seeing the actual sun, that will disappear around October 26 and reappear February 15.

I can't begin to imagine. This is much worse than Fairbanks, but on the other hand, Longyearben is on an island and although it doesn't get much above 45 degrees during the summer, it doesn't go below zero much in winter, either. Way unlike Fairbanks.

Meanwhile, the Antarctic webcam at Bernardo O'Higgins is showing the rapidly increasing daylight, and sometime in October the penguins should be returning just as our leaves turn color and fall.

There is much natural beauty in Longyearben but I don't know if I could ever be happy in a place where I couldn't garden. There are a lot of wildflowers there, I understand....small and quick, blooming while the 24 hour sun allows them too. Believe it or not, if I was offered a trip there, I think I would accept.

Maybe even in the winter.

Friday, August 14, 2009

How not to Impress the People You Want to Build a Vehicle For

Let's see, how to prove that a vehicle you want to build for the military handles well.

1. Let a reporter drive it.
2. Let the reporter flip it over.

This really isn't funny for people in this area though, who depend on Lockheed Martin as one of our major employers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So that's why we have the tomato blight!

I recently found a wonderful Arkansas blog - and now, thanks to this blog, I know the truth behind the tomato blight we've suffered.

It's all the fault of those Arkies and their Wal-Marted blight-filled tomato starts. Only kidding....I think.

Seriously....I wish I had the talent (and the time!) of this writer/teacher.

P.S. Some of our tomato plants survived...but it's going to be a while before we taste the heaven of the fresh garden-grown tomato.

Les Paul and Eunice Shriver

Time for another "death post": first the one so recent that the Dead or Alive website still lists him as alive: Les Paul. At the age of 94, spouse says "I didn't know he was still alive!"

Any guitar player (I'm not but my father in law was a guitarist and taught guitar and my son, like so many teens, was captivated by Guitar Hero and tried to learn guitar) will recognize that name immediately. In a way, I guess, the Guitar Hero game would not have existed without him.

And then...Eunice Kennedy Shriver. What can you say about her? Many family members of children and young adults with disabilities may not have realized the tremendous debt they owed to this sibling of Ted, John and Robert Kennedy. This editorial says it very elegantly. Of all the legacies of the Kennedy's, the Special Olympics may be the greatest one of all. I know two people whose sons participate in Special Olympics. When people think of Special Olympics...well sometimes they really don't think, such as the comment President Obama made earlier this year. But Special Olympics is so much more than athletic competition. It brings dignity, physical fitness, companionship, even medical care to members of our society that were once mocked, hidden away in closets and otherwise never allowed to strive to reach their potential.

We all could wish to accomplish so much with our lives. Would she have accomplished all this in life without her special sibling? Who knows...but the important thing is, Eunice Kennedy Shriver touched, and will continue to touch, the lives of millions around the world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Uses for Facebook Part 1

I still haven't posted on my initial Facebook experiences, although I have had a couple of interesting (good) experiences so far.

In the meantime, this link, received from one of my Facebook "friends", shows an interesting modern use for Facebook - recovering a stolen bicycle.

Years ago, my son's bike was "stolen" in a somewhat similar way. We got it back but I had to do the detective work more of the old fashioned way.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sundaes on the Farm-Local Organic Dairy

Although this program has been going on for a couple of years, this is the first time I've visited one of the farms in the Tioga County Sundaes on the Farm program.

Yesterday's farm was a dairy farm - and to our surprise and pleasure, when we drove up the driveway we realized we were about to visit an organic dairy.

This farm is a member of a cooperative called Organic Valley. Besides our sundae, served with a generous portion of yellowish whipped cream (meaning it was real! and delicious!) and fresh local raspberries from another local farm, we were able to sample some organic cheeses from Organic Valley. There was also fresh roasted corn but since we had bought corn earlier in the day, we passed.

We took a self guided tour of the barn, the milking area, the slurry pond (processing all that manure in an "organic" way), saw some heifers (young cows), some farm equipment, and fermented hay bales. I have never been a true farmer, so am no expert on silage. These large fermented bales have replaced silage on this farm, and others. It certainly smelled fermented.

This is a very hard life and I applaud these family farmers for staying in the business, and doing it organically. Now I know when I drink Organic Valley milk, I am drinking local.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Civil War Submarine Warfare

Yesterday I visited the Pierce Creek Civil War reenactment in the Town of Binghamton. It had been many years since I had been to a Civil War reenactment - I have been to various Civil War battleground parks, including Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and The Wilderness, but not to their actual battle reenactments. I can truly say this one was very well done. (Sorry, no photos, I forgot to bring my camera.)

Kudos to Rich Gow for answering our questions as we watched a skirmish in progress. Not just any old battle but one including naval personnel. He had us half believing a submarine would emerge from a pond on the battlefield. Of course it didn't but several "sailors" gave their lives valiantly-in make believe battle, of course. One "wounded" young boy spent part of the battle realistically and painfully dragging himself out of the line of fire. Since the "battlefield" was actually a pasture, that must not have been fun.

Even airplanes passing overhead and the occasional ring of a cell phone did not detract from the spirit of the almost 45 minute skirmish.

It was an "early Civil War" skirmish, not any particular one, perhaps made up by the participants as they went along-always with historical accuracy in mind. Rich "plays" a Confederate general who tells "his" side of the story wonderfully and answers the crowd's questions. He reminded us that Robert E. Lee faced an agonizing decision as he was offered the leadership of the Union army at the beginning of the war. And, from the southern point of view, the Civil War was not at all about the issue of slavery, but rather states' rights.

We came away understanding a lot and also learned about a new dimension of Civil War battle-the battle under the seas. Yes, submarines in the 1860's.

There was a wonderful exhibit about a Civil War submarine called the Alligator and an expert on Civil War submarine warfare was there to answer our questions. Many people know about the Hunley, but there was a lot more to this little known part of Civil War history.

Getting back to the battle, there were quite a number of children sleeping in tents in both the Union and CSA camps. I wonder what it is like to grow up in a historical reenactment family. To me, it would have been a fascinating way to grow up. I'm not much into acting but the historical nature of such a childhood would have been quite an experience for me.

Next stop-a major battle reenactment. Rich told us a little about the annual one in Gettysburg. Maybe next year.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Petunia grows in Binghamton-As does Magic Paint (so who cares if we look like Detroit)

Yesterday, it was such a beautiful August day that we decided to attend the First Friday in Binghamton. I've written about First Friday before, when many art galleries and other venues in Binghamton open free to the public. The next one is September 4.

We made an early start at the Lost Dog cafe happy hour, took an exercise walk across the Washington Street Bridge, and ended up at one of the local art studios, Orazio Salati's studio, that was featuring paintings created at the Magic Paintbrush Project.

The Magic Paintbrush project is of interest to me, as I have a brother in law with autism. Basically started by a mother interested in helping her daughter with Cerebral Palsy, it has grown and grown and serves many special needs children and their families, including those with autism. Orazio Salati is one of the sponsors.

It makes me very wistful to think how my brother in law may have developed with services like this at his disposal, but I know such thoughts will defeat me.

We admired many of the artworks, before going on to other studios. Keep in mind, when you see these pictures, that this art is combination art and physical/occupational therapy for these young people. Some "paint" in wheelchairs, others roll around in the paint, still others need texture to relate to art and work with various other media in conjunction with the paint. Parents and siblings are welcome to participate, too.

Later, walking down a downtown street, we found ourselves behind a young couple, arms around each other. They walked in silence a bit and then the girl turned to her love and exclaimed "this place reminds me of Detroit!" I'm sure it wasn't a complement.

Be it as it may, we walked to the next intersection and waited for the light to change. A flash of color near a sewer caught my eye. I bent down to find some organic matter had lodged near the sewer, and a beautiful blooming petunia was embedded in the debris. If this wasn't such a rainy summer perhaps it would have died a long time ago.

I've talked before about "Binghamton-the burnt out industrial town". Unlike Detroit, I think this city has a lot going for it, if it can find its way through the next few years.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Secret Heartbreak House outside of Johnson City

A recent local story about a middle aged man finally finding family struck a chord with me because of a part of local history so many young people here do not know about. I don't know if my son was ever taught about this in his local history studies. I rather doubt it.

Westover is an unincorporated neighborhood directly to the west of Johnson City. Those residents of the Triple Cities who shop at the Aldi on Main Street or eat at the Greek House restaurant may not even know what happened for part of the 20th century just a few blocks away.

My son's generation may not even know what a "home for unwed mothers" was but this mentality was still quite alive and well as I was growing up. Although I can cringe at the casualness that unwed pregnancy seems to be treated nowadays, we need to look back at what used to happen. That's why the study of history is so important. (I could add that this type of home-run a bit differently-is making a comeback)

In the first half of the 20th century, in what appears from the outside to be a private home, operated what was then called Springer Hospital.

Back in those days (even to the 1960's, although Springer stopped operating in 1958), an unwed girl of "good" family who got "in the family way" would suddenly disappear for a few months, and then reappear with various excuses having been made for her absence. The truth of the matter was that the girl, often young and confused, had been sent to this type of place, give birth and-there was no question, no choice-would give her baby up for adoption, never to know the baby's fate.

Springer Hospital was such a place, and there are many postings on the Internet by adults (many my age) whose mother gave birth there, and that's about all they know. For us who grew up in loving families, it is a longing we can only sympathize with.

The PBS show History Detectives did a story about 4 years ago, tracking down the birth mother of someone born in a home for unwed mothers in Kansas City.

But getting back to the local story at least this one has a happy ending. Many middle aged or older people adopted through Springer are still looking to connect with their natural relatives. Maybe we can get The History Detectives (a show I enjoy greatly) to come here.

There are a couple of other "history secrets" of this area that I could write about...and maybe I will post later about - a little known Binghamton fire that mirrored a similar but much better known fire in a big city during the same era in history.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Every Driver's (and Parent's) Nightmare

I tend not to write on the "sadder" side of life but there was a car crash July 26 in downstate NY (on a parkway where we had been the day before and were traveling further north on the same parkway the day of the crash) that was so sad, so senseless, that it is totally heartbreaking. The more details come out, the sadder and more senseless everything becomes.

We have family in that area, so we will continue to follow the case.

I will let the local newspaper give the facts rather than trying to recap.

And now, this. My spouse grew up in this area, and is very knowledgeable of the roads involved. I also have to admit that the Taconic Parkway terrifies me, with its narrow, windy portions, some without shoulders and lined with stone walls, and its sometimes aggressive drivers. It c an be a beautiful, deadly parkway with only one saving grace-trucks are not allowed.

But this accident happened in one of the wider, 6 lane area - those areas where I exhale in relief.

This has all the elements of senseless tragedy-stoned/drunk driver, children in the vehicle, 74 years old man on his way to Sunday dinner with family. We all like to disregard the fact of just how dangerous driving can be because we are so dependent on our cars. But there were so many witnesses to this, especially if the "facts" of this driver traveling some distance on other main roads before getting on the Taconic for the climatic crash, that it just boggles the mind.

My heart goes out to all the families involved.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Stinky Spiedie Fest Aftermath

What is a spiedie? It is a regional specialty food of the Binghamton area - although I understand there are certain parts of North Carolina where you can find them also. This link gives a very nice recipe-try it for your next BBQ!

Our local Spiedie Fest festival (that has grown so much, the spiedies are practically an afterthought) attracted record crowds Saturday to Otsiningo Park to see the balloons, the crafts, the musical entertainment....and to help celebrate its 25th anniversary. An added plus is the family friendly alcohol free atmosphere and the knowledge that the festival raises funds for a local charity.

Alas- the aftermath of the festival brings back....certain memories. Stinky memories. Literally.

Spouse visited our community garden today (the park had been mostly closed except for the festival since Thursday afternoon) and was greeted by a memory of our Flood of 2006. The park, which is operated by Broome County, was a morass of mud, tire tracks...and stench. If any of my readers has been through a flood, they are unlucky enough to know what a flood smells like. And we know from experience that the smell is not going to go away any time soon.

This will be a big loss to our area if people can't use the park. And an expense our area can ill afford. This park is a favorite for joggers, walkers, dog walkers, cyclists, and children. On weekends there are soccer and sometimes rugby games. There is a beach volleyball pit. On Saturdays during the summer there is a farmers market. And, of course, our community garden is there.

What a shame. I am fearful that the cleanup costs and work will convince Broome County not to allow the festival at Otsiningo Park. This happened one time before (for a different reason) and for several years the festival had to relocate to the Endicott airport. It was never the same on the hot concrete.

I haven't seemed to see much in the local media on this. I'll be curious to see if there is any news coverage of this situation. What a shame for our showcase park and our showcase festival.

Happy Birthday Helen Thomas - But What about Those Cupcakes?

Speaking of another baby boomer would you love to be 89 years old and still doing the job you love?

Helen Thomas was that lucky on today, her 89th birthday. She was even luckier to share her birthday with President Obama.

No matter what your political views, or views of the media, you have got to love it. Happy birthday, Helen!

Now what about those cupcakes Helen got from Obama. There is an Obama food blog I follow on and off, and today they had a wealth of information on the subject. An Obama food blog? Yes. Check it out. It's got everything but the recipe for the cupcakes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Shoney's Comeback vs. Sonic

I don't know how many of my Northeast readers are familiar with Shoney's, the restaurant chain that was once coast to coast. I knew about it from living in the South. When my son was young, we went on several vacations in Virginia and ate at the Shoney's wherever we were. They were noted for their buffets, and I must admit secret longings for grits, chicken fried steak, and biscuits and gravy.

However, it seemed that each time we went down south, there were fewer and fewer Shoney's and the food was worse and worse. The last time we ate at a Shoney's was when we stayed at a Shoney's Inn in Winchester, VA earlier this "century". Not only was the food inedible but the Inn was...well, it was not anywhere I would ever stay again. And not only that, but we ate our free breakfast under the watchful eye of guards...I mean, staff, who made it feel like you were eating breakfast in prison, not in a motel.

So much for a business that had once been an "institution". Sad.

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the attempted turnaround of Shoney's under the leadership of their latest CEO David Davoudpour. I wish them luck, as too many chains have gone under in recent years. But it would take a lot of convincing to get me to ever stay in a Shoney's Inn or eat in a Shoney's. A pity.

Now contrast this with Sonic, the southern drive-in style chain, complete with carhops wearing roller skates. They've been heading further and further north and west and recently opened a location in Binghamton. They've had quite the reception here complete with traffic jams. We went there today-friendly staff. The food is...well it is a drive-in. The drinks are a specialty and the shakes were very good. I look forward to going back and having a limeade. If I am on the road, it is lunchtime and I pass a Sonic, I will definitely think about stopping.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jim Johnson's Bearded Irises

Today in Vestal was the annual Vestal Friends of the Library Book Sale/ Iris Society Sale/Farmers Market/Flea Market/Bake Sale. What a zoo! It's bad enough parking wise when it is just the Farmers Market. We got there an hour after it opened and (as usual) there was almost no parking. With great restraint I ignored the library book sale and went instead straight to the iris sale.

We have several types of irises at the house. They have multiplied throughout the years. The two types we started with were both tall bearded irises, fragrant, one a light purple, smelling just like grape kool-aid. Then there was a purple bi-color, also with a scent. The "kool-aid irises" I got from a then-co worker (if I have to name names it was the mother of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Johnson - does that mean I can auction them off on e-Bay as being related to a celebrity?) who gave them to me from the surplus of her flower beds.

I have no idea what the real names of these are, so I will informally call the all-purple ones "Jim Johnson" (not to be confused with the Jimmy Johnson of NASCAR. The picture above is of those irises.

This is a picture of the bi colored fragrant irises we were also given. I can't remember if it was from her or another friend from work.

Two years ago we went to this same Iris sale and got several irises - a couple bloomed last year (yellow) and one bloomed this year (wonderful white) - but none of them were as tall as the varieties we already had. This year, we got one each of the following: you have got to love the names. These should be as tall as the ones we already have.
Some of the names are self-explanatory.
Coffee Malt ("apricot with a dash of coffee")
Hollywood Nights
Hello Darkness
Celebration Song (this is apricot pink standard with blue-lavender falls)
Immortality (pure white self w. lemon beards) this one is supposed to be a re bloomer

As "bonuses" we got a couple of short ones for free
Apricot Drops
Ozark evening

Hopefully these will tie our collection together. Maybe next year I'll have some more pictures to share.