Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away!

The northeast is about to get deluged in rain.  Seeing the red sky this morning (beautiful sunrise) made me wonder what was up.  You know the saying the sailors had....

Of course anyone living in Binghamton thinks back to the two floods of 2006.  I know several people who either lost houses, or property, or both. 
I can't imagine what they are thinking right now.

It will be an interesting (to say the least) next 24 hours.  Let's hope I can report on it tomorrow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


The sun did the equinox thing.  I saw the superharvest moon glowing in the sky.  I went to sleep.  When I woke up the trees had started to turn, seemingly overnight.

"Sob", I cried, "summer is over. "

As I posted last year, I must be dragged kicking and screaming into fall.  Even when we have a summer when you KNOW we had a summer (hot, dry, hot....) I still don't want to let go.  My fingernails dig into the ripening pumpkins, the apple trees bowed under weight of a bumper crop.  They cling to the corn stalks of the last corn of the season (spouse will be cooking some soon.)  "Noooooooooo....." I scream, as the calendar turns.

Then, there it is.  The sourwood tree by our house announces fall, red coloring its leaves.  I look at both the valley and the hilltop, with red and yellow appearing out of nowhere.  The goldenrod, so distinctive two weeks ago, sheds its yellow.  The mums, open in red, orange and yellow, look like they belong.  Pumpkins appear on doorsteps.  The air is clear and crisp.

"It's almost time", the northern breeze whistles at me.  "It's almost time for harvest festivals.  You know you want go to the farmers market and see the apples glistening in their wooden baskets, don't tell me you don't.  It's time for cauliflower, which you love to eat in the "fake mashed potatoes" of the South Beach diet book. "  I sigh and admit the breeze is right.

"Soon", the breeze continues, "you'll be going to Ithaca for the fall book sale.  You'll look at the artists trail brochures, deciding which artists studios to visit this year.  It's fall.  Don't fight it any more.  Join in the celebration of fall.  Although the warm sun that warmed your arthritic knee will soon be a distant memory, you know why you live in upstate NY.  You want those four seasons.  Well, maybe not the winter so much.  But to have fall, you must have winter.  That's the law of nature."

So I gathered my canvas bags and my spouse and went to the farmers market.  I bought honeycrisp apples, several types of potatoes, a couple of ears of late white corn, and a big bag of organic salad greens picked fresh this morning.  And then I walked on the Vestal Rail Trail for 4 miles and went to an art festival in Binghamton.  Then I sat in the back yard and read, until I started to feel cold.

Tomorrow I'll think about putting up fall decorations.  Maybe I will.  Maybe I won't.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What do Rachael Ray and I have in Common?

We are both on line?  We are both women?  She likes to cook and I like to eat?

All of the above and one other:  We both love Oscar's Smokehouse in Warrensburg, NY.   So how did I get involved in this icon of the Adironacks?

I was researching bed and breakfasts in the Adironacks, and noticed where one was bragging of serving breakfasts made with "Oscar's Smokehouse Meats"

A local smokehouse....that's like dangling Godiva in front of a chocoholic.  Incidentally, I am a chocoholic too, in case you need hints for a holiday present.

I immediately planned my trip.

We ended up going there twice, and I didn't even know about the Rachael Ray connection.  Or about the fire last year that could have put them out of business but made them rebuild bigger and better.  All I know is...I walked in and I was in smokehouse heaven.  Smoked cheese.  Smoked cheese dips. Sausages. Smoked Turkey.  Smoked Chicken.  Chocolate covered bacon (yes, really).   Local bread and chocolate.   Landjaeger.  Elk sausage.  Duck sausage.  We had smoked turkey deli for lunch yesterday and smoked turkey breast with veggies for dinner.  I snacked on their cheese curd in the car.  Not only good local food, but reasonable prices too.  Definitely not a tourist trap.  I almost could have financed the trip on their food if I had prepared my budget (and my freezer) in advance.

We did treat my mother in law, brother in law and sister in law to lunch from their deli., wait, Rachael has that one taken already.  Oops, sorry.

And if you do visit Oscar's here's ome of Rachael's recipes to get you started.  Too bad I didn't know about them either, because now I can't make them without going back.  Darn.
Bowties with Smoked Almond Sauce, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes

Oh P.S. Bobby Flay eats their bacon.  Maybe next time I'll buy some.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

9/11 in Stillwater, NY

Stillwater, NY doesn't get any respect.

The battle of Saratoga, which many historians believe was the turning point of of the Revolutionary War, was fought close to the village of Stillwater, NY, which back "when" was called.....Saratoga.  Not to be confused with the present day Saratoga, this small village is steeped in history and I highly recommend a visit.  From the French and Indian War, through the Revolutionary War, to.....9/11?

I have to tell one more 9/11 story.  Due to rain making us change our plans, we ended up in Stillwater, NY, visiting a structure called the Blockhouse.  We had a wonderful conversation with two women staffing the Blockhouse, one of them being the town historian of Stillwater.  The other explained what a Blockhouse was, the historical origins of all the wood used in the structure, and showed us exhibits: on one wall, the French and Indian War, on another war the Revolution, on the third wall the Civil War.  But what caught my eye was a large American flag.  On the stripes portion, many names were printed.

It was a flag displaying the name of everyone who died on 9/11.  Two names were highlighted with a tiny frame.  I asked, were these people local?

Yes.  One of them was a woman the staffer grew up with.  She briefly shared her "9/11" story and told me about the 9/11 commemoration the village had just celebrated., I sometimes wonder that people from all over the country (and, as we know, the world) died on that day. This special village indeed had absorbed the lessons of 9/11/01.

I will have some photos on my computer the next time I post, and will write more about the Saratoga area soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Damn Good Jerky-Damn Poor Wifi

Just back from a few days in Lake George, which is about a 3 hour drive from Binghamton in the northern part of NY State.  I have so much to blog about - I wish it was "on the spot" but the wi fi at my motel (otherwise very nice and a great location) was-like Lake George in the off season-mellow and slow.  Especially slow.

I realize a lot of people don't go to Lake George to use wi fi and blog so it was a small inconvenience (except when it interfered with my ability to play FarmVille).

We went for the scenery (not leaf turning time yet, but close) and the history.  We weren't disappointed.

We had two major surprises in our trip, both food related.

Going through the small hamlet of Stillwater on the way to the Saratoga battlefield (more on that battle in another post) we passed a small, unassuming storefront with a sign:  "Damn Good Jerky".  We decided not to stop, but went back a couple of days later.

In the store were a couple of young women, busting their "butts" packaging jerky.  Stacks of boxes filled one corner with addresses ranging from Connecticut to various towns in NY.   A small display asked customers to buy jerky for the troops, and contained various photos and letters from troops serving overseas.  (as I work with two women with brothers serving in Afghanistan, I'll definitely tell them about this store.). 

And then there was the wall of jerky.  One pound bags for $10 caught our eyes (note, they are a lot more expensive on the web site).  We ended up buying several bags as my son and my spouse both love hot and spicy jerky.  For me, a smaller bag of teriyaki.  I passed on the discounted jerky, which I assumed was older or somehow "off".

I am no jerky connoisseur, so I was surprised to find several websites rating jerky.  One gave it a rating of "good", rating it better for sucking than for chewing.  The other site had a more favorable rating.

Jerky was the last thing we would have thought of as "local food" but it was a surprising find.  Again, I don't know if it is a good value buying it mail order but the prices were certainly right in the tiny storefront.

This jerky company was started by someone who felt he could make the "better jerky".  From the busyness of the packing day we stumbled into, I think he succeeded.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Comments from a Survivor and a Tribute

A blog I followed asked readers to write about where they were on 9/11/01.  This particular blog writer is a college student which means she was probably the age of my son on that day.

One of the people who responded was a 9/11 survivor.  Her post is so understated, and so powerful, that I wanted to share it with my readers.

So many coincidences.

A cousin of my spouse worked on and off in the Trade Center but was not there that day.

A former co-worker, who worked 4 blocks from the Trade Center, had come in early for a meeting.  If he had come in his normal time, he would have been exiting his train station near the Trade Center at the moment the first plane hit.

The brother of someone else I know had worked in the Trade Center but had been recently transferred to another office and so was not there.

But others I am connected to through others-family, friends, co-workers....were there, and never returned home.

I can not name them all-I do not know all of their names. But here are some of them-a small roll of honor.

Brian Terrenzi (local)
Christian Regenhard
Joseph Holland
Ari Jacobs
Gopal Varadhan

Trinity Church, Bronx Science, and 9/11

9 long years.  September 11, 2010.  For some, not long enough.

On this grim date, there is so much I can blog about.   The hatred leading to threats of Koran burnings.  The "Ground Zero" mosque not far from where I had a summer job in my junior year of college.

I gave this a lot of thought- because this is not a blog of controversy I want to make Trinity Church  the subject of my 9/11 blog posting.

I remember a very special visit to Trinity Church and St. Paul's Chapel.  It was closed at the time, 11 months after 9/11.  It had been miraculously spared that horrible day when buildings tumbled a short distance away.  Outside there were all kinds of memorial artifacts.  Teddy Bears, T-Shirt, clothing impregnated with Ground Zero dust, all mingled together.  It was an unforgettable sight.  I have photos somewhere, but in a way I really don't want to post them.  However, Trinity Church has beaten me to the punch, with a wealth of 9/11 eyewitness material.

I can not begin to imagine what that day was like.  It took me 11 months, until August of 2002, until I could bring myself to travel to lower Manhattan.  I rode the R train through the still closed Cortlandt Street station where awoman I went to college with had to ride through daily.  I knew the area from working near City Hall some 28 years before, right when the World Trade Center was opening.  There was no way I could believe how the dust clouds and debris could have been cleared from the streets we walked.

But most of all...the reek.  It clung to all those teddy bears and T-Shirts piled against the church fence.  It was a reek you could not believe.  A reek that was 11 months old and still going strong.

What had it smelled like right after 9/11?

It was the smell of death.  A smell I could not imagine in large doses.  I know people who had to commute to work every day, going through the Cortlandt Street station on the subway, smelling that reek.

Sadly, NYC has not moved the way it should have to restore Ground Zero.  I've been back one other time since then.  I hope to go again before the 10th anniversary.

Trinity Church was spared for a reason - it was spared to bear the testimony of history.

But will we listen to its lessons?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Clouds of Winter

We are in our third day of low hanging, cold clouds-the clouds of snow.  The clouds telling us that summer is over.  The clouds of cold breezes, of rapidly shrinking daylight plunging towards the winter sun, the clouds who tell us the best is over.

Normally that isn't our sky.  Normally in early and mid September we are blessed with clear blue skies.  That's why 9/11 happened on 9/11 and not, say, on 8/15.  The terrorists knew the weather and knew the skies would probably be clear all across the northeast U.S.  They were right. 

Those are my memories too, of a 9/11/01 lunchtime, going outside briefly at noon, with police swarming all over downtown  Binghamton (after all, we have a county courthouse, a Federal courthouse, and a State Office Building - and who know what would happen next?) and seeing that beautiful blue sky?  But my thoughts were 150 miles away in my native city, wondering how many people I knew or were connected to had died a couple of hours before.  I didn't stay to soak in that sun but went back to my office.

This year the clouds just hang, making the upcoming anniversary even more depressing.  I shiver, waiting the cold bite of fall.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Binghamton's Trinity Church

Some people who know me must be bemused by my love of a good artistic, historic church.  I am not a artist, I am not educated in art, and I do not find myself in churches too often. But when I do, there's a special reason.

There is a very special historic church in Lower Manhattan by the name of Trinity Church.  George Washington went to church at nearby St. Paul's Chapel.

That church was already old (the congregation having been founded in 1697) when Washington worshipped there.

There is a wonderful blog on Trinity Church's website that I hope one day I can just sit down with a glass of iced tea (or a cup of  hot chocolate, depending on when I get around of it) and read it, immersing myself in the sweetness of history.

As we get close to 9/11 I spend some time thinking of Trinity Church, which almost "bought it" that day.

When I think of Trinity Church, I also think of a church right here in Binghamton by the name of Christ Episcopal Church.

Its congregation is a little baby congregation in age next to Trinity Church, having been founded more recently. (1810 to be exact).  But in heart, I have to believe they have more in common than the man who designed both buildings.

This is a picture I took of the outside of the church back in July.

What I don't have a picture of is the view of the stained glass windows at sunset.  If the sun is at just the right angle, they light right up.

As we draw closer to 9/11 the thoughts of many of us turn spiritual.  So I can wonder why Trinity Church survived 9/11.  Was it just random?  Or was there something more involved?

Whatever the answer, we can be closer to Trinity Church here in Binghamton, every time we who spend time in downtown Binghamton pass Christ Episcopal.

Monday, September 6, 2010

One of the Little Rock Nine Dies-A Profile in Arkansas Courage

Having spent 4 years living in Arkansas (some of them in the years that Bill Clinton, the "education governor" was governor), the death of Jefferson Thomas from pancreatic cancer saddens me.

I grew up in NYC and my schools were always integrated - as was my neighborhood.  I can not even imagine growing up in segregation.

My father, during World War II, saw segregation first hand during his Army Air Force service in Biloxi, MS and Paragould, Arkansas.  It made a lifelong impression on me that he passed along to me.  I grew up during the civil rights movement and my Dad would tell me about the segregated swimming pools and drinking fountains, among other things he saw and experienced.

I can not imagine what these nine young people went to just for the privilege of obtaining a first class education.  I can not imagine trying to get an education in a school system which condemned a large part of a state to obtaining education in falling down schools with badly outdated, handed down textbooks from the "white" schools.  My educational life was beginning as these valient young men did what few of us would ever have to do-face hatred head-on.

The area of Arkansas I lived in (unlike Little Rock) did not have a large black population.  However, now, many Hispanics have moved into the area to work in their chicken industry (Tysons).  They may have been trapped in the same "person of color" system but thanks to the Little Rock Nine, they hopefully do not have a second class education in the Springdale schools.

We owe the Nine a debt of gratitude, no matter what race we are.  Those who stand up to hatred and not fold are true heroes and heroines.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mathematics and Farming

I'm an addict.  I overplay FarmVille.

I admit it.

It's not my fault.  It's theirs.  The mathematicians and psychologists.

Conspiracy theory time?  Not quite.

Several years ago I read, in the NY Times Magazine, an article about slot machines.  At the time I found it fascinating because my job involved a non-mathematical job in a department that was occupied, other than me, by mathematicians.  I mean hard core mathematicians, the type of people who would describe their breakfast at Denny's and say "my plate was 37% pancakes."  These people wouldn't say goodbye at night because, after all, they would see you again tomorrow. (I'm sure the probability was in their favor.)  I think they never quite understood me, the writer and non-mathematician, but I did earn their respect.  The odds were with me.  I made good brownies.

There are a bunch of CPA jokes out there (some interchangeable with engineer jokes) but in reality, these mathematicians were (almost all) nice people, when you dug beneath the math/nerdiness.   There was the man who roasted his own coffee beans and made highly crafted furniture in his workshop on weekends.  There was the woman who was trying to make a go at it as a single mother and first time homeowner.  And there was the man who used to be a night orderly at a local hospital and still knew a lot of the street people who frequented downtown.

So I read with fascination how mathematicians are involved in the creation of slot machines.  Not the old fashioned three cherries type of slot machine, but the newer electronic slot machines who entertain while they take your money. Mathematicians developed these machines, honing them to a finely tuned point of "give people what they want but just enough to keep them playing and, oh by the way, make us a great profit." while people think all mathematicians do is argue over equations that looked like something Einstein wrote on a blackboard.

Later, I would read about massive multiple player games such as World of Warcraft.  Entire families playing together while their real lives fell apart.  No, not for me, I would never get sucked into one of those things.  I was above it all.  That addiction stuff, that spending 16 hours a day online, that was for other people.

Then along came FarmVille.

Obviously, this game was worked on by both mathematicians and psychologists because it sure does work its addictive magic.  The only thing saving humanity from spending 24/7 on online farming is....their glitchiness.  Better pray it remains glitchy.  Do not get lured into this little farming game, sounds like fun,you will interact with your friends and it's only a few minutes a day.  You will interact and interact and interact and interact and one day you will wake up at 3am and realize your wine is sitting ready for sale and oh, your friend out on the West Coast must have just played and if you sign on NOW you have a chance of getting 3 bushels of carrots from her to make Sake with and you maybe will get a brown chicken egg containing maybe fuel and maybe a wonderful prize but if you wait, her other friends will grab it first and besides, her pig just found a truffle on your farm and....

Goodbye sleep.

So why does FarmVille work?  I've given this a great deal of thought (and not at 3am either).  If I feel like it, one day I will write more.  It works on a number of levels and if you like psychology, you will love the insides of FarmVille.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The End of Johnson City High School?

The building, I mean.  And not the current building, but the historic Johnson City High School building on Main Street, which has been called the NYPENN Trade Center for many years.

I know at least one person who was in the last graduating class, which I think (don't quote me on this) was in 1973.

NYPENN has memories for us.  My son took karate lessons there for many years.

Now this building is in serious danger of being closed down.  I'm not sure of its exact age but I wouldn't be surprised if the building is at least 80 years old.  I am always sad about the passing of old buildings, especially ones that were kept in ill repair.  After its career as a high school, the Trade Center was a low-rent alternative for a lot of small businesses, some of which would never have succeeded without its shelter.  One was Gil's Book Loft, which used to reside in downtown Binghamton.  It ended up moving to NYPENN when Gil's closed its retail operations and went strictly internet.  The co owner of Gils is a retired Binghamton librarian, a wonderful person.  Where will they go?  Where will anyone go?

Now it will be just another vacant building on the fringes of downtown Johnson City.

Another, as they say, nail in the coffin of what used to be a thriving village.  Even the Johnson City Field Days, which start tonight and end with the traditional Labor Day fireworks on Monday night, won't be enough to brighten the village this weekend.