Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

 I was hoping to have a lighthearted blog post for a change, but this Halloween finds much of the Northeast recovering from a record October snowstorm.  I had reported on Saturday that various family members were without power.  This is still true for many of them, including my mother in law and a developmentally disabled brother in law who lives with her.  We are fortunate that other relatives, who are also without power but have a generator, are going to come and get my mother in law and brother in law, and take them to their house in New Jersey.  It will probably be days before her power is restored.  Some areas got up to 19 inches of snow, which would have been bad enough if the trees had been bare.  Instead, they still had leaves and tree limbs and trees are down everywhere.

We were, thankfully, spared.  So, I'd still like to bring you my intended post.

Sunday, the day before Halloween, we woke up to a dusting of snow.  At the airport, we got just under 2 inches, which means we have drawn first snow in the Golden Snowball Competition of 2011-12.  Since the snow has melted, I've decided to use some pictures from early this morning to get into the true wint...I mean, Halloween spirit.

Above, my Snowy Scarecrow.

My dead pineapple sage looks just a little spooky in the early morning light.

Snow on the pumpkins.
Stop ! In the name of snow...

A weeping cherry weeps over the arrival of winter.

Happy Halloween to all, and please wish the Northeast United States a speedy recovery from still another weather disaster.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Civil War Sunday - The NY Hamlet that Joined the Confederacy

(Thank you, Forgotten Bookmarks, for tweeting about this.)

A few days ago I received a tweet stating that there was a hamlet in upstate NY that had seceded from the Union, joining the Confederate States of America, in 1861.  Further, they didn't rescind their secession and rejoin the United States until 1946.  

In other words, the final outpost of the Confederate States of America was located in upstate New York.

Sounded like a hoax.  Being bitten once by an apparent research error when I did a blog post on a Lee's Surrender quilting pattern and mentioned a secret quilting pattern language used by escaping slaves and the Underground Railroad, I wasn't going to fall for this one.

Except, I've done quite a bit of Internet browsing- including hanging out in a couple of Civil War discussion forums.  And, this "fact" appears to be true - if it isn't even the Voice of America has been fooled.  Fooled, along with the good people of Town Line, NY, in Erie County (pop. about 2500), which commemorated the 150th anniversary of their secession from the United States earlier this month.

Strangely, no one seems to know why they seceded. But join the C.S.A. they did.

Internet sources also report that Town Line didn't join the Confederacy just in name.  They may have sent five citizens down south to join the Confederate Army.

After the war, it is said they would fly the Confederate flag from time to time.

It would appear that, in 1945, then President Truman became involved.  The President of the United States asked Town Line to rejoin the Union.  They did.

But even today, according to various Internet sources and forums, the fire department wears a patch declaring Town Line "The Last of the Rebels", with both a United States flag and a Confederate flag.

(A grateful thank you to the sources I linked to, including a couple of blogs.  You gave me some very pleasurable reading experiences!  I invite you to read the various links if you are interested in this topic.)

So, as a native of New York State, I can proudly celebrate the Union heritage of my state - and the Confederate.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Psst! Did You Hear About the Major Snowstorm?

On October 13, I posted the below.  It turned out to be one of the more popular posts on my blog, although I suspect a major component of the traffic was due to a recent development called "referer spam".

So, now we are at the end of October.  What ended up happening?

This was the forecast of the Farmers Almanac for October 28-October 31 for the Northeast U.S.:

"Turning stormy over the Atlantic seaboard, with heavy rains and widespread flooding; some wet snow could mix in over the higher elevations of New England."

So what did happen today?  Well, at our house, we got enough snow to coat our car, our roof and our lawn.  But further south, where a lot of my family lives, it's a disaster.  my mother in law and sister in law are without power.  Cousins in law in NJ are without power.  I have a cousin in Harrisburg, PA and don't know how he is doing.  Record snowfalls in many places. 

The power outages are because of something I mentioned yesterday.  By tomorrow morning we may be seeing 4 million people without power.  My mother in law's house was without power for 5 days after Irene.  I will be worrying about her until her power is restored.

Back to us here in the Binghamton, NY area - Right now it is 31 degrees and we are under a winter weather advisory.  But it looks like the storm has mainly passed to the east of us now.  The forecast is for a low of 29 with 1 to 2 more inches.

In my post yesterday I mentioned "Many of our trees are still wearing leaves here in the valley..."  We didn't miss a wet weather disaster by very much (and still might not - you can't always predict what a storm will do.)  Keep in mind we still have people in this area without heat and without electricity.  This is no fun for them.

But, as much as I feel for my family and others affected, there is the little voice in my head saying "thank heavens it wasn't us."

So here is a rerun of my October 13 post.

Psst! Did You Hear?

Did you know that the Farmers Almanac has predicted another flood for the Binghamton, NY area at the end of this month? (We suffered a historic flood September7 and 8 due to Tropical Storm Irene.)  And did you know that this October flood is going to be even worse than the September flood?

You didn't?

Well, that's strange.  Because in the last week, at least 5 different people have warned me about this predicted flood, knowing I live in one of the flood-impacted neighborhoods of the September flood.  Even my spouse (the amateur meteorologist) thinks there may be something to it.  All these well meaning people have told me not to have work done on my house (not that there is a contractor available in a 100 mile radius for work this month) because it will be all for naught.  And, I should have my bags packed.

I looked at a website that trumpets the correct predictions of the Farmers Almanac, and it didn't mention this prediction (exactly). But a Google search revealed this rumor has been posted on the Facebook page of a local TV station.

You know what this Farmers Almanac following site did say what the Farmers Almanac predicted for October 12-15 for the northeast U.S.?  "Pleasantly dry."  That's why it's raining - with 1-3 inches of rain predicted for tomorrow.


Yes, you don't need a degree in psychology to figure out that this rumor started straight out of peoples' anxiety.   I've blogged before about my anxiety now every time it rains. (and guess what it is doing now - yup.)  I'm far from the only one anxious.

What a blow another flood would cause this area.  And wintery weather can start here the end of October, too.  What a combination.

I am not going to mock the rumor. I am going to be watching the weather carefully.  But I would have, anyway.

Not only that, but this rumor brings back a bad memory of another rumor.

How spooky, in a way, because this flood came almost at the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.

Does anyone remember a rumor that started to circulate not long after 9/11/01 which said that there would be another terrorist attack on Halloween (October 31)?  It cited all types of "evidence".  I remember getting a lot of emails on that subject - variations on a common theme.

The October 31, 2001 attack? It didn't happen.  It was straight out of everyone's anxiety.

I hope this one is, too.

Why I May Not Participate in Black Friday this Year

It's not quite Halloween, and already our local supermarket is selling Christmas cards.  And, my email box is filling with posts from the couple of Black Friday sites I used in past years.

Yes, I'm one of those people who has participated in Black Friday for years.  It started out when my son (now a young adult) was young, just to be able to get parking at places like Sears, Kaybee Toys and Toys R Us. Besides his shopping I would do shopping for a local program (maybe it is national, but I think it is local) called the "Angel Tree".  This was before Black Friday became an organized sport, with stores opening at midnight and friends splitting up and keeping in touch with cell phones.  I never went that far but I've done my share of getting up at 4am and watching the sun come up as I headed home after several hours of early bird shopping

But probably not this year, because, although I've always tried to shop "local", that always seemed to go out the window in the Black Friday frenzy.  This year local businesses need us more.

Here's why.

My son sent me this picture of a local business, Unicorn Electronics, shortly after the 9/8-9/9/11 flood our community suffered after massive rainfalls from Tropical Storm Lee.  (this business is about a mile from my house).  I don't know how he got the picture but, interestingly, it seems to be the same as a picture on their website.  My family has done a lot of business at Unicorn Electronics over the years so I hope they don't mind if I use the picture.  They never fail to give the most excellent and caring customer service.  They freely give advice to me and to others I know (even if it involves them recommending a less expensive product than we had come in to ask about).  Their employees have all been there many years, which I think says it all.

This was Unicorn Electronics about 5 weeks after the flood.  Yes, they were open, with limited hours, operating out of a small trailer.  Today they are still there in that trailer.

How about wild bird lovers?  Another store in the same plaza, Wild Birds Unlimited, also sits empty.  They are part of a chain but I've always thought of them as a local store.

And here is their retail location as of mid-October.
Meanwhile, closer to my home, an entire plaza of mostly local stores (and an Aldi) sits empty. (this photo was taken on the 1 month flood anniversary but the situation is still the same today.)

See the "Greek House"?  This is a local restaurant run by an Egyptian by the name of Sam Mohammad.  Sam has run this restaurant for over 20 years.  Local neighborhood people and BAE employees would gather there for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner.  As of today, Sam isn't back and I don't even see any progress in the building.  I wonder if he has changed his mind.

The Peace of Mind  was an adult day care center.  The word here in the neighborhood is they are not going to reopen, as is at least one other business (a beauty supply store) in the plaza.

Nor will this nearby doctor's office.  The doctor had actually moved before the flood, but now the building is for sale 'as is'.
 And that brings me to the point of this post.  Our local businesses need us. They don't have the resources the big guys have to weather disaster (no pun intended).  Even the big guys are having trouble:  Closed right now, and still closed, "big guys" include:  Home Depot (will reopen, but unknown when), Christmas Tree Shop (rumor is it will relocate), Gander Mountain (will not reopen and there is a story behind that involving a local tragedy), Toys R Us, Five Below (reopening November 4), Party City, Petco (relocating, and if you read the link you will know the very tragic story behind that decision), a Hampton Inn motel, and some others that have slipped my mind.

So if the big guys are struggling, what are the small businesses going through?

They deserve our support.  And I hope I can help give them the support they need.  There are so many of them, and only one of me.

They are our neighbors.  And they need us.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Frost, Snow and Fog

Last night was the last day of the growing season.

By mid afternoon yesterday, snow was mixing in with the rain.  It was sticking in the higher elevations while we in the Susquehanna River Valley hoped it would not stick on our ground.

We had a freeze forecast for last night.  A freeze, without a frost or two first, is not common here.   Many of our trees are still wearing leaves here in the valley. 

This morning, when I woke up, it was 33 degrees and a thick fog covered our neighborhood.  I left the house to go to work and saw frost on the lawn.  A rural friend, who lives about 10 miles outside of Binghamton, reported snow on the ground.  Her car was coated with ice.  My commute was easier.

After work, spouse and I went to Otsiningo Park for a walk and then, afterwards, to our community garden to harvest the last of our leeks.

This picture taken during our walk shows our strange continued fall contrast.  A yellow tree, a green tree and a bare tree side by side.

This is so similar to this picture I took last weekend on the Vestal Rail Trail.  Same type contrast.
Meanwhile, today, we had a high temperature of 46.  We have snow in the forecast for tomorrow.  Brrr.

Doesn't this picture make you feel cold?  It should.

Last, but not least, when we got to our community garden plot we found our flowers (zinnias and cosmos) dead.  But I saw some yellow, and found a defiant stand of goldenrod on the edge between the community garden and the fence separating us from the highway had survived the frost.

Now, with the freeze, the rest of our leaves will be turning and falling quickly.  By next week, the majority of our trees should be bare.

So tomorrow....will I have snow pictures for you?

I hope not!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Future of Wildflower Wednesday-Readers, Your Turn!

The wildflower season here in upstate NY will probably end today, with a predicted high of 43 degrees, wet snow and a freeze.  So I would like to ask my fans of Wildflower Wednesday:

What should I do during the fall and winter?  (I'm sure you don't want to see several months of dead plant and snow pictures.  Well, maybe you would want to see the snow.)  I hesitate to ask my readership because my blog has been having "commenting" problems lately but I will try this anyway.  And, although it is Thursday and not Wednesday, I didn't want to wait until next Wednesday.

Is there anything different you want to see?  Maybe a different photographer?  Did you enjoy my "guest photographer" that I used several times in August, September and this month?

I am not a professional at this - just someone trying to learn about wildflowers.  So you want fewer photos and more text?  Or more photos and less text?  Or should I just keep posting the way I'm doing now?

I note in my stats that my wildflower posts don't seem to get much readership although I know I have several devoted fans.

The future of Wildflower Wednesday depends on you , my readers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday-Last Wildflowers of 2011

All growing seasons in upstate NY, alas, must come to an end.

We must clear out our community garden plot by October 31.  So, spouse is doing the hard work, digging leeks, carrots and beets.  Not much else is left, in this year of torrential rains. (will we have a drought next year?) What a shame, because as of today, we have not had a frost at our community garden.  Usually we have one there before we have one at our house and we would have had frosts in both places by now.  What a strange year this has been. (For what it is worth, we should have wet snow in the hills on Thursday and we will probably have - not just a frost-but a freeze-on Friday morning.)

While visiting the garden for the last time this year, I wandered around, saying mental goodbyes to the plots of our neighbors.  Then, I spied a blue flower.  Could it be?

Yes -It was a chicory plant in bloom.  On October 23!

Nearby, a lone amaranth displayed its red foliage and seed stalk.

Here's my favorite fantasy series plant, Erigeron (fleabane).

 You'll note stones in almost all of these pictures.  This is a plentiful crop in upstate NY.

And last, but not least, my mystery flower of the week.  It came out blurry and I apologize. I don't know if this is a wildflower or something that was planted by one of the gardeners.

A final shot of one of the more colorful plots in the community garden, as I say "Farewell".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Through The Flood and Flames

Too bad the group Dragonforce didn't record a song called "Through the Flood and Flames".  That song would make a good theme song for the Johnson City YMCA.

Our YMCA has not had a good fall.  First came Tropical Storm Irene, then Tropical Storm Lee, and the flood I have written so much about.

Ironically, the flood came about 10 days after an annual pool closing where the pool was drained, cleaned, and refilled.  Other cleaning took place during this "time off".  All for naught.

The fact that they reopened so soon was next to miraculous.  Many people depend on our Y.  It is more than a place of exercise.

Of course, it wasn't the Y we remembered.  The furniture was gone.  The lockers in the locker room were gone.  The carpeting was gone.  The floor tile was gone.  The drinking fountains were gone.  But the people were there, even if the front desk was operating off of some card tables.

Eventually, some of the comforts of home crept back.  A bookcase reappeared, with books members discarded (for another member to take and enjoy.)  A coffeemaker was set up.  New exercise equipment arrived.   Just last week there was fresh paint.  Signs sprung up asking us to "pardon our experience." (You know things are improving when a flooded facility in a flooded neighborhood asks you to pardon their appearance!)  A rumor circulated that the insurance settlement had been delayed, which is why we still didn't have lockers, floor tile or carpeting - or drinking fountains.  In retrospect, that may have been a good thing.

On Saturday we could have lost the Y itself.  The Y that survived natural disaster could have been done in by a 2 alarm fire in the gym.  It was put out quickly but not before substantial smoke damage.  Estimated opening date right now is November 2.  Quoting the website:

"With all the recent devastation felt throughout our area of late, we are determined to continue to be there for our community."

One thing the Y does for our community is sponsor an annual Thanksgiving dinner, usually earlier in November, free and open to the public.  Due to the fire, the dinner has been moved to a church a couple of miles away.

Where will this money come from?  I've informally heard that the first cleanup cost over a million dollars.  How will the Y ever pay for this and still continue to carry on their mission?  I asked my neighbor, manning the front card table desk that first night they were open again in September, and she didn't know.

Through the flood and the flames, will they be able to carry on?

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Dark Halloween

One week from today is Halloween.  And I apologize in advance to my readers, but my thoughts tonight are somewhat morbid (and I don't mean the sanitized morbidness of the American Halloween nowadays).

We are so fortunate in the Southern Tier of upstate NY.  Nature tricked us (back in September) along with a lot of NY State and the East Coast.    And just think of all the neat Halloween decorations Mother Nature left us.

Mud encrusted houses!  Mold!  Mildew! Bad smells!  Bugs! (oh I being too sarcastic?)  That will get us right in the mood.

No Halloween sanitized for our protection here.

But an amazing thing is happening here in the Southern Tier.  Halloween and fall decorations are still going up here in the Southern Tier. There is no shortage of Halloween lights, crafted scarecrows, artificial pumpkins, trick or treat banners, fake gravestones in the lawn and...natural decorations.

There are reasons for some of the really spooky-but-safe decorations but for some, they hit a little too close to home this year.  It was only a miracle that no one died in the flood. 

So we decorate, and we celebrate life and we pray for a return to "normalcy". (is that a word?) 

We have no shortage of natural decorations here to choose from -
Dried corn stalks, perfect for the porch
Natural pumpkins - carved or, more popular each year, painted.  Orange pumpkins, white pumpkins.  Pie pumpkins, carving pumpkins, sugar pumpkins with their warty skin.  Tiny pumpkins.  Huge pumpkins.
Indian Corn, tied together and hung from a porch
Gourds, of all types.  Green, orange, white, striped, winged, warty.

But, as much as we decorate our houses here on the edge of Johnson City, NY, our thoughts wander to the "other half" of the neighborhood, the people on the other side of Main Street, who were flooded so terribly in comparison to the part I live in.

At least one entire street, Endwell Street, lies empty.  Speaking of spooky, it doesn't get worse than that.  But no one wants that type of spooky.  And there is one other spooky statistic.

In past years, we've had a lot of trick or treaters.  I'm not sure they are all residents of our neighborhood, but some may be grandchildren or otherwise related to residents.  At any rate, we've usually had to buy 5 or 6 bags of candy, at least.  But probably not this year.

We have fewer people living in our little neighborhood than last year.  Some people "on that other side" are fixing up their houses and will be back.  But other families will never be back.  Eventually, part of the "other side" may be torn down and become a green space.  I hope there is a quick buyout, if that is what their fate will be.

What it boils down to is - a lot of houses here will be dark next Monday.  And there is no sanitizing that fact.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Civil War Sunday-The Mystery of the Monitor Marker

I am trying to solve the mystery of the Missing U.S.S. Monitor Marker.

The 150th anniversary of the battle, off the coast of Virginia of the Union ironclad U.S.S. Monitor vs. the Confederate ironclad Merrimack (not the Merrimac, which was another ship put into service around 1864) won't be until next March.  But I am hoping to solve this mystery before then.

The wood from which the keel of the Monitor was cut came from this area, apparently a site called Finch Hollow.

The site of the sawmill where the keel of the U.S.S.Monitor was milled is in walking distance (not that I would want to walk there - it's not the most pedestrian friendly walk) of my home.  The site is, in the present day, occupied by an enclosed shopping mall, the Oakdale Mall.

Apparently, back around 1998, there was a historical marker in the Oakdale Mall commemorating the history of the Monitor.

I have no idea what has happened to the marker.  My spouse, who has a very good memory, doesn't remember ever seeing the marker.  So now I have a little mystery on my hands.

Re Finch Hollow, it still exists.  If you drive north on Oakdale Road (which runs north and south, just to the west of the mall)  from the mall, you will find a very nice nature center. I haven't been there in many years, but I remember going there with my then young son.  I don't remember any commemoration of its role in the Civil War on the site, however. (But that was many years ago, so who knows.)

The Monitor (what is left of it) was discovered in 1973 and parts have been brought to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA.  The keel, I am sure, is long gone.  Restorers are in a race against time to preserve the remaining metal parts and guns.  I hope to visit the museum sometime before the end of the Civil War 150th anniversary commemorations.

I could have solved the mystery of the marker (perhaps) last Wednesday, as I was given a brochure inviting people to the opening of a new Civil War exhibition at a local Binghamton museum, Roberson Center.  Broome County historian Gerald Smith was supposed to be there at a small reception.  I wasn't able to make it, although I do hope to get to the museum next weekend for the official grand opening.

Or, I could email Mr. Smith.  But that wouldn't be as much fun as trying to research this out now, would it?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall Color Saturday

I searched far and wide today for fall color - all the way from my home in the Binghamton, NY area to the Stevensville/LeRaysville, Pennsylvania area about an hour away - and ended up finding the best color not that far from my home.

That isn't saying a lot, though - this year, the color is uneven - and, far from the best.  Adding to my frustration, we had very thick clouds today - and it seemed to get colder as the day progressed.

There was some nice color here and there, especially the yellow trees.

This is an example of what I mean by "spotty":  feet apart, a tree "past peak", a tree just starting to turn, and trees that are still green.

On a day like this it can get a bit depressing - but then I think about how others in this country have burnt up lawns and not the lush green we have (from too much rain, but still....)  And, we don't have to travel hours to see color - we just step outside our doors and look at the hills.

Maybe in a few days we will see a lot better color.  These two trees, just starting to turn, look promising.

In the meantime, my "guest photographer" has provided me with some fall color pictures from a recent trip to Massachusetts, and I hope to post these sometime next week.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Glamour of Ordinary

Just an ordinary act by a more than ordinary woman.

Last Saturday, singer Maureen McGovern (of "The Morning After" fame) visited my neighborhood.  She was in town to give a concert.  She was here because, after our floods in September, a fan contacted her and asked her to come.

What a class act.  She came because a fan asked her to come.  We needed her.

And not only that, but she toured the flood-affected neighborhoods. She just didn't breeze into town, perform, and leave.  She came, not looking like a glamour photo, but as herself.  Just like someone you might find at your water aerobics class, or at the grocery.  She spent time with someone whose life was turned totally upside down on September 8.

Compare her photo in the link above to the photo in this article about her upcoming concert. 

Look in a dictionary for the definition of glamour:   Maureen McGovern, you don't have to make yourself up.  You are special just the way you are.

Glamour (noun)
  1. The attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing or special:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Special Fall Color - The Survivors

I want to share a special bit of fall color from you.

I was inspired in part by a blog post about the healing power of nature in relation to 9/11.

So many people this year were hit by tragic weather.  Extreme drought, extreme heat, wildflowers, and in the case of my Binghamton, NY area, flood.  In fact, today we didn't miss drenching rains by very much.  My heart goes out to you all.  You are all survivors.

The first two fall color photos were taken within walking distance of my house.  These photos were taken on October 11, the one month anniversary of our return (spouse and I) back to our evacuated neighborhood - on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
This is a burning bush.   The top portion shows lovely fall color.  The bottom shows mud still, after a month (and a lot more rain), coating the plant.  It's hard to see the scale of this, but I can assure you this is a tall burning bush.

Nearby, what is probably a knockout rose wasn't knocked out.  It wasn't even down for the count.  Bloom, rose, bloom!

Next, I travel to the Vestal Rail Trail, also on October 11.  One part of the trail runs besides a neighborhood called Twin Orchards.  Twin Orchards was one of the hardest hit of the flooded neighborhoods.  Besides water, and lots of it, they had to cope with raw sewage.  Part of the trail was closed for a few days.

There are many sumacs on the trail, and I was hoping to get some good color pictures.  But many of the sumacs were drooping, dying.  However, these survivors proudly held their red leaves up for my camera.

Finally, I "think" this is Virginia creeper.
Appreciating the beauty of our area is one way we can allow ourselves to heal.
Although, guess what it is doing this morning - yes, it is raining.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday - Fall Kicks Into Gear

The wildflower are just about gone, here in upstate NY.  We continue our stately march into fall and fall color, which more than makes up for the death of the wildflowers.  This year, as I've mentioned before, it seems that each tree is marching to the beat of its own drummer.  Next to green trees are trees in progress of turning.

As Sunday (when I took these pictures) was somewhat gloomy, the colors are muted.

On the Vestal Rail Trail, I saw this hickory turning yellow, surrounded by still green trees.

I am not sure what this is but I thought it would make a good picture. I loved the contrast against the bare trees in front of it.
Nor do I know what this purple plant was, but it sure was pretty.

I actually took this picture a couple of weeks ago on the trail, because this is one of the first plants to turn.  Lovely red color but don't touch....poison ivy.

This last picture, taken near Owego, was one I could not resist.  Birch trees in standing water from our recent flood.  Some low lying areas are going to be very slow to recover.  Owego especially was very hard hit.
Happy fall to my readers!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Revisiting The Twilight Zone

I am traveling back in time, once again, to October of 2009, when I first wrote this post.

Did you know that Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame grew up in Binghamton, NY?  Did you know that The Twilight Zone TV show, seen by my generation as a new show, and generations since as reruns, aired 52 years ago this past October?

I am honored by the fact that I do much of my exercise walking in Rod Serling's boyhood neighborhood; that in a manner of speaking I walk in his footsteps.

Now that Binghamton (and surrounding villages and town) is in a fight to recover from the devastating floods of last month, I sometimes find myself in a personal Twilight Zone. Just a handful of miles from Rod's boyhood home, I can walk through my neighborhood, and pass from a zone where people just had some water (or a lot of water) in their basements, to a zone where water touched and then receded, to a zone where everything is closed, abandoned, or just plain dark (some still covered in layers of mud) with active rebuilding. I can pinch myself and ask "Did this really happen?  Or was it just a figment of imagination?  And what will it take for us to recover?"

Let us take a lesson from Binghamton's native son.  All things are possible in The Twilight Zone.  We will rise again.

So now, submitted for your approval, one of my longer posts.....

The Writer Once Without Honor in His Hometown

 Rod Serling.  The Twilight Zone.  The writer and the show are so much a part of our culture that several catchphrases and its theme music immediately bring this show to mind even to my 19 year old son.  Yet it is 50 years (and one day) after its first episode aired on October 2, 1959.  It has never left television once in all of those 50 years.

Happily, the paraphrase above of a quote from Jesus in the New Testament Book of Mark  ("A prophet without honor in his hometown...") may have been true at one time, but no longer is.   Rod Serling, a very talented...and tormented... man, who wrote amazing TV scripts in the era of the Red Menace with messages so timeless they resonate today, has come home.  It is ironic, in a way, that one of his most famous scripts showed a man trying to revisit his childhood in vain.

Rod Serling has now been honored in his hometown.  The hometown of which Rod Serling once said this:

"Everybody has to have a hometown, Binghamton's mine. In the strangely brittle, terribly sensitive make-up of a human being, there is a need for a place to hang a hat or a kind of geographical womb to crawl back into, or maybe just a place that's familiar because that's where you grew up.
  "When I dig back through memory cells, I get one particularly distinctive feelingand that's one of warmth, comfort and well-being. For whatever else I may have had, or lost, or will findI've still got a hometown. This, nobody's gonna take away from me."

We think we know the man in black and white, smoking a cigarette, who intoned the following every week on the TV sets of the baby boomer generation and their parents:

"There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition...."

But what of the child who grew up in Binghamton?  Thanks in part to a conversation I had today with a man from California who upkeeps the Rod Serling Foundation website, I was able to walk in those footsteps.  It was humbling in a way to speak to a man who thinks so highly of a man that he has traveled four times to Binghamton to be here.  The same Binghamton that I am in five days a week, and take for granted.

During my journey, I also met people from Seneca Falls, NY and Cherry Hill, NJ who also came out to share the experience.  To so many, Binghamton is a "burnt out industrial town" but one of these people closed her eyes in delight in Rod's childhood neighborhood and exclaimed her happiness in seeing it.

So here is my tribute to Rod Serling.  I'm not even going to say "submitted for your approval". 

First, here is the home where Rod Serling grew up.  I've passed it doing my exercise walks (disclosure:  I do not live in this neighborhood but I love walking in it) and never knew its history.  As the address and a photo of this home exist on a Rod Serling website, I feel comfortable in posting a picture but will not give the address-it is privately owned.

This is the junior high (now West Middle School) where Rod Serling first met Helen Foley, the English teacher who influenced the boy who became the writer.  I took two pictures to highlight some of the Art Deco architectural details both in the windows above the entrance doors.

The next stop was Recreation Park, just a few
blocks from where Serling grew up, home to a bandstand where Serling carved his initials as a boy.
I didn't take a picture of the bandstand, but I did of the building housing the historic carousel.

Binghamton is known as the "Carousel Capital" and myself and my son took many rides on the same carousel. The carousel, which normally doesn't run after Labor Day, was running today to celebrate.  (Sorry, the picture isn't very good.)  They were showing the episode inside the carousel building on a couple of TV's and, although it has been years, I immediately recognized it because I've had such emotional responses when I've seen it.

A live recreation of this episode will air on our local PBS station tonight.

It will be an emotional experience for us who know the true story.  Which I do now.  I was told that even, after Rod Serling was famous beyond imagination, he would come back to his childhood neighborhood on Binghamton's west side and walk those streets.  Trying to find....something.

For what it is worth, the "Walking Distance" episode was not filmed in Binghamton (nor were any other Twilight Zones, although Serling came back to Binghamton many times) and the carousel in the episode was not this carousel.  It was filmed in Hollywood, according to the Serling expert I spoke to.

This is Binghamton High School (then known as Binghamton Central High School before Binghamton lost so much of its population in the 80's and 90's)

 Next, is a Rod Serling portrait inside of Binghamton High School.

I skipped the Serling star in the Binghamton Walk of Fame downtown, as I pass it so many times that it is an ordinary object to me.  Perhaps that's why prophets are without honor in their hometowns.  We know the famous celebrity as an ordinary person.  One who carved his initials into a city bandstand as a child.

Or even...the thought I had as I passed the boys room in Binghamton High...oh, never mind.

Thank you to Broome County Transit whose special hybrid shuttle bus transported us to some of these sights.

So, what was the rest of the story?

This child of Binghamton grew up.  After Rod Serling graduated Binghamton Central in 1943 he served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II as a paratrooper.   The combat service (including, it is said, seeing his best friend die in front of him) created permanent trauma that haunted Serling for the rest of his too short life.  A driven individual and a heavy smoker, Rod Serling died at age 50 with an unbelievable legacy few of us could ever aspire to.

Some episodes haunted me for years after I saw them.  "It's a Good Life".  "The Midnight Sun".  "The Hitchhiker". "Nick of Time".

Others were morality plays that still resonate today although as a child I did not know their true meanings.   "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"  "The Eye of the Beholder". "The Obsolete Man".

And, of course, "Walking Distance".

Rod Serling said, at the end of the "Walking Distance" episode of the protagonist Martin Sloane, the man who found out he could not go home:

Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men perhaps there'll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he'll look up from what he's doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there'll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he'll smile then too because he'll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man's mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How Did the Baby Boomers Get Online in 1958?

I originally wrote this post in May 2009.  I am reminded of it occasionally when I interact with a young man in his 20's at work.  He is unfortunate enough to be in a department whose other occupants are in their 50's.  We've had a number of discussions in his presence recently about "the good old days" - well, the good old days of the 1950's, that is - and technology.  I wonder if he laughs inside at these old ladies.

The latest discussion was triggered by me finding a typewriter in a room near where our department is located.  I wonder if it the last one our company owns.  This lead to a discussion with other baby boomers (in his presence) about manual typewriters, carbon paper, those erasers with a brush on the end we used to erase errors on carbon paper, and the strips of white stuff we used to correct errors on regular paper.  Then, we got on the subject of long distance phone service and how expensive it was. (I think he was a little puzzled  by the concept of "long distance".) 

I got to thinking about my son, who is just slightly younger than this co-worker.  An innocent question he asked a couple of years ago led to this post which I've modified slightly.  Sometimes I think his generation and mine were born on different planets.
Am I the only person in her 50's who feels this way?

So How Did The Baby Boomers Get online in 1958?

First, I am not trying to mock my teenage son. But it shows how, in some ways, the mindset of the present generation is so much different from those of us born only 35 or 40 years earlier.

My son knows about what the computers of the 1950's looked like. People of my generation remember the UNIVAC.  My son has studied it.

Do you remember the famous "hoax" picture of the 1954 RAND prototype of the first home computer? Maybe that was what son was thinking about when he asked his question.

One evening he asked me "how did you get online when you were growing up? Did you have one of those huge computers in your bedroom?" I thought he was pulling my leg.

He wasn't.

Although he intellectually knew there was no "internet" as he knows it back in the 1950's or 1960's, he had to believe that there was something out there that I used, something very clunky, using technology full of vacuum tubes.

He couldn't believe I grew up in an era without home computers. 

Interestingly, son is also very interested in "old technology". For example, he is looking for a good Betamax player (and has several Betamax tapes). He just couldn't make that intellectual leap of "no computer, no Internet".

Let's think about this a minute. I bought my first home computer (a bit later than other people, I admit) in 1996 and went online in January of 1997. So my son was 6 at the time.  That computer connected through a 14,400 baud modem, by the way, and used Mosaic as its browser.  (How dated can you be?)

From his viewpoint, there was a computer in his life "forever".

This leads to another question.  When did the Internet start? The answer is complicated. This link has quite the discussion and the answer is..."it depends".

But no, we didn't have either the Internet or home computers in 1958.  Just typewriters, carbon paper and long distance.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Civil War Sunday - The Senator

The name of Col. Edward Dickinson Baker is not a household name unless, perhaps, you live in Oregon.  Or, if you are a student of Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War.  But, as I find myself just as fascinated by the people of the Civil War as I am by the battles, I wanted to learn a little bit more about the man who introduced Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration.  Lincoln named a son (Willie) after his dear friend "Ned" Baker.  Now, that is friendship.  And that friendship, in an indirect way, lead to Baker's death.

Edward Baker was the only United States Senator to die in battle.  And, at that, he died in a battle that should never have been fought - the battle whose commemoration will be next week - the battle of Ball's Bluff (Leesburg), VA on October 21, 1861.  Over 1,000. men, mainly Federals, died because of a blunder. There are those who can tell the story better than I and I will let them.  The manner of many Federal deaths was gruesome (although there was worse to come in future battles) as the Federals were backed up against a steep drop off a bluff.  They had no place to go but down.  Many tumbled (or leaped) to their deaths.  A Confederate victory resulted.

Here, on October 21, 1861, we find the Civil War some six months old.  The troops, both Federal and Confederate, so "green together" back in July at First Manassas (First Bull Run), are more seasoned now.  But there is always a room for a blunder, and this battle wouldn't be the first or the last blunder made in this war.  Some were funny.  This one was not.

For Edward Baker, the Civil War was far from his first war, and he had seen action before. Loyal to the Union cause, he could have been commissioned as a general, but would have had to resign from the Senate.  He chose to become a colonel and stay a Senator.   He would make speeches in the U.S. Senate dressed in his uniform.  I could not envision anything like that happening in our day.

October 21-23, this battle will be commemorated with a reenactment on the original battle site.  This is not a usual situation.  Many Civil War battlefields are National Park Service parks and the NPS will not allow actual battle reenactments.  However, Balls Bluff is not a NPS site.  It would seem to be a success story of the movement to preserve as many Civil War sites as possible, a movement that I will be blogging about sometime in the future.  (I was hoping to go to this reenactment, but that will not be possible.  Ah well.)

As for the Senator?  This interview contains an excellent description of why he was there to begin with.

"Willie" Lincoln wrote a poem commemorating the death of the man he was named after.  Sadly, Willie himself would die months later in February of 1862, at the age of 11.

They don't make politicians like they used to.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - Oct 15 - Fall Color

This will be the last post of the year for me showing live outdoor flowers at my zone 5 home.  The flowering season is winding down here in upstate New York.  We haven't had a frost yet at our house here in the Susquehanna River valley but people up in the hills have had their first frost. 

So, one last outdoor Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and please be sure to visit May Dreams Gardens for other lovely posts. 

UPDATE:  I just found out about a blog called Tootsie Time and their Fertilizer Friday - I'm excited about viewing a blog in Alberta.  I hope I'll be permitted to link there, too although I'm a day late.  Anyway....

Fall flowers in my garden include this pot of mums....


Cardinal basil.  This is my favorite ornamental basil - slow to bolt and when it does, the flowers are so decorative.

This a rosemary in bloom.  Rosemaries are not hardy here - we will be digging this up in the next couple of weeks and bringing it in for the winter.


And, last but not least, our last glad.  This glad was planted last year, never bloomed, was forgotten about, came back (not hardy in our area but nature can surprise you!), and is now blooming.

Starting with next Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I'll have to content myself with pictures of African Violets (my Christmas cactus is also blooming - hope it hangs on a month!) and enjoying my fellow garden bloggers on the southern side of the world.