Sunday, August 31, 2014

Civil War Sunday - Every Great Dream Begins with a Dreamer

Harriet Tubman, who was known in her childhood as "Araminta" or "Minty", should never have achieved greatness.  She was hired out as a nursemaid and later a human beast of burden by her slave master, starting at age six.  When she was 12, she was hit in the head by an object thrown by an overseer trying to prevent the escape of another slave. After being nursed back to health, she developed epilepsy and, later, narcolepsy.  Her seizures made her, in the eyes of her master, almost worthless.

She married a free black man, John Tubman, who threatened to tell her master if she tried to escape to freedom.

A slave marrying a free black was not uncommon where she grew up in Maryland. In fact, a fair number of the blacks in that area of Eastern Maryland were free.   Some free spouses would do whatever they could to free their slave spouses, but John Tubman was not one of these men.

Harriet escaped anyway, to the free North, in 1849.  She used the skills taught her by her father - how to live in the woods, how to find her way by using the North Star.  During her seizures, or "fall outs" as they were called back, she would sometimes have religious visions.  Tubman was deeply religious.

Being free was not enough for Tubman.  She returned to Maryland, again and again, a total of 19 times between 1852 and 1857, to lead other slaves to freedom.   She led some 300 slaves to freedom using her woodcraft skills, and never lost one.  She was a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a system of trails and safe houses where escaped slaves could find shelter in the night, and be passed off from "station" to "station" until they had reached Canada.

Tubman settled in Auburn, New York in 1857, a small town where many abolitionists (people who opposed slavery, although they did not necessarily believe blacks were equal to whites) lived.  She lived just down the street (South Street, ironically) from a friend, William Seward, who became Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State.  Seward's home was itself a "station" on the Underground Railroad.

Tubman didn't spend a lot of time at home - there were funds to be raised and speeches to be made, while she continued her work to abolish slavery.

When war broke out in 1861, she served in the Civil War, on the Northern side, as a nurse and later a scout.  Later in life, Tubman had to fight to get a small military pension. She always lived on the edge of poverty.

Tubman remarried after the war. Her husband, Nelson Davis, was a former slave and Civil War veteran.  He died some 19 years into the marriage.  They lived in this house in Auburn, New York, which is now being restored.

Harriet Tubman's barn.

In later life, Tubman cared for the elderly, so much a mission for her that she purchased adjoining land and built what became a home for the aged near her home.  Previous to this, she had cared for her aging parents, whom she had also rescued from slavery.

Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York
Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia on March 10, 1913. She was in her 90's (the exact date of her birth is unknown, but a date in 1820 is what is most accepted. Tubman herself thought she was 95 at the time just before her death.)  Her gravestone is simple.

Harriet Tubman once said "Every great dream begins with a dreamer."  Hers was a wonderful philosophy.

Many people have gone to Auburn to visit the home of William Seward, especially after the award winning movie Lincoln was released.   I highly recommend that tour, too, but no one should leave Auburn without visiting the Tubman homestead.  Now owned by an AME church, tours are available of the property (not the house or barn). Our tour guide was most informative (and was working the tours totally by herself) and made me want to learn more about this remarkable woman.

Tough times.  A remarkable woman.  An enduring legacy.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - Strawberry Fields Forever

Don't these strawberries look luscious?

They aren't just any strawberries.  These are cutting edge strawberries, grown in a special way that may become more mainstream one day.

We picked those on Wednesday - fresh, at a farm in upstate New York about 30 miles from Syracuse, New York, where (for "normal" strawberries, the season would have been over in late June).

These strawberries are not your normal strawberries.  They were grown, outdoors, hydroponically, on a U Pick farm near Skaneateles, New York called Strawberry Fields.
These are grown in vertical towers.  They are everbearing strawberries, which bloom throughout the season.  The berries we saw had both flowers, small berries, and ripe berries, all on the same plant.

The berries are not officially organic, but are grown as naturally as possible.

Each tower has a number of pockets, each of which contains a strawberry plant planted in a non-soil planting medium.  The ground around the plants is covered so you are never walking in mud.  Even someone with a back problem, such as me, can pick these with no problem.
Each visitor to Strawberry Fields is given a basket, lined with a plastic bag, with a pair of scissors at the bottom.  You snip the stem and gently place each berry in the basket.

You pick as many as you want, and pay by the pound.

How you use the berries are up to you. I eat them plain (no sugar, no cream - even before Weight Watchers, I loved my berries in the natural way) but you are welcome to use them in recipes.

These berries are grown as annuals, since, basically, they are grown in containers, and probably wouldn't overwinter in our northern climate.

And the best part?  The "small world" factor.  We visited this farm twice on a recent visit to Skaneateles.  The first time, we were helped by a young lady.  The second time, we were helped by her mother, and found that the young lady of the day before goes to college where we live, and lives just a couple of miles from us.

That's why I love travel.  Even if you don't travel far (and this was less than 100 miles from where we live), you can experience something brand new.

Have you ever eaten hydroponically grown fruit?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Laughing Back at Life

This has been an interesting week in many ways.  

This post is dedicated to a friend  and a fan of this blog, and she knows who she is. 

If you will excuse the expression, she is in the midst of kicking a$$ and taking names (an "urban" expression here in the States).  And she's doing that today, so she doesn't want to hear any of my whining about life in general.

For that, I am grateful.  This will not be a whining post. (or a wine post, although I should do one soon.)

I am grateful, daily, for the fact that she has been my friend for 51 years.  Yes, someone has put up with me all that time.  That's important for someone like me who is an only child.

And now, she will have to put up with me some more.  I'm confident that she will be putting up with me for years to come.  Despite that foe that begins with the letter "C".

What this week has shown me, as life has shown me so many times, is that life is not a straight line.  No, it is a crooked line, meandering here and there.  As you age, you have to understand that if you can make plans all you want, but sometimes life laughs at those plans.

Mannequin Lamp, MacKenzie Childs, Aurora, NY
So we have to laugh back at life.

I thought this lamp (yes, it is a lamp) I saw at one of my stops on Wednesday was "you", dear friend.  That's because you, like this lamp, are one of a kind.

You have style.

You have class.

And you're a little strange, but in a good way.  Just like this lamp.

I guess we deserve each other, because I'm strange, too.  As long as you will have me, and the post office doesn't lose my cards to you, I want to dance through life with you with a lampshade on my head.

So there.

Thank you for being my friend.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another Revisit to The Twilight Zone - with Gratitude

I am traveling back in time, once again, to October of 2009, when I first wrote this post, and an update in September of 2011, after a devastating flood hit my neighborhood, and others in the Binghamton, New York area.

We are coming up on the 3rd anniversary of that flood.  There has been recovery, but there is still a lot of pain.

There is a lot to be grateful for - that we surived, that there hasn't been a flood since despite flood producing rains going all around us.  But, still there is the anxiety, always in the back of our mind:  how long will our luck hold out?

It might have made a good episode for The Twilight Zone. I wonder what Rod Serling might have thought, if he was alive and still living in Binghamton in 2014.

Enjoy the double post from 2011 and then 2009.

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, a post from 2009.

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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Ramblings - The Beauty of Produce

I love the beauty of produce.  Arranging produce can be an art - as seen in these photos I took at two different farmers' markets recently.

We humans can decorate - but nature provides the palette   And what a palette it is.
Peppers, turnips, cylindrical beets (yes, round isn't the only beet shape) and Lacinto kale.  This table (and the one directly underneath) is from a booth run by Laughing Crow Farm in Maine, NY

 I've known them for years.  I smile when I see their booth at the Vestal, New York farmers market.  I have other favorite farmers, too, and I should feature some of the results of their hard work.
Green beans, round beets, carrots.
Cukes, icebox watermelon, potatoes and still more potatoes, and onions.

And best of all - sweet, sweet corn.

One more picture- hydroponic strawberries from Skaneateles, New York, which I will blog about another time.

Late August in upstate New York is so beautiful.

Do you have the opportunity to shop at a farmer's market where you live?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Secret of Success

Did you hear the crowd of screaming seniors in Syracuse yesterday?  Did you hear us in Rochester and in Buffalo, or even in Binghamton?

Peter Noone promised you would if we yelled and sang loud enough, and I have the sore throat to prove it.  So, please tell me that you did.

I don't often go to rock concerts to find the secrets of success.  But yesterday, I found it, in the person of a showman with talent.  His talent?  Loving his fans.  Making them feel loved.  Appreciating them.  Joking with them, and even mocking the fad of "selfies".  And, oh yes, there was his music.

And was the love ever returned.  I was there, way in the back, under the shade of a tree as Herman's Hermits played yesterday at the New York State Fair.  It was standing room only, and we stood for 75 minutes in the 84 degree heat, not caring.  Fans carried in album covers and he autographed one of them.  He, to our surprise, offered to sign autographs after the show.

He had us yelling the words of "I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am", which is a cover of a 1910 British music hall song. 

There was a king of hush all over the world, but not at the New York State Fair.

Mrs. Brown will forever have a lovely daughter.  But we've aged, and so has Peter Noone, who is now a very energetic 66 years old.  He danced on the stage to some of his songs, even doing a brief imitation of Mick Jagger.

A couple of songs had me in tears.  When I was a preteen, how was I to know about heartbreak?  But he sang about it, and tears were in our eyes as we understood that life goes on despite our personal tragedies.

To me, the real secret of Peter Noone's success is that he does what he has been doing since 1963.  He loves doing it, and it is so obvious.  I don't think it was an act.  I think he really wanted to be there in Syracuse, yesterday, interacting with his fans, and sharing the love.

We should all be that lucky.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Still Unsolved Mystery of the Historic Wartime Photo

I originally published this post in May of 2011.  I have never had this mystery solved, so I am republishing this post in hopes that someone will read this, and know something about this photo.

The Mystery Wartime Photo

On my almost daily walks through downtown Binghamton, I frequently pass a number of historic buildings, among them the Security Mutual building.

Several weeks ago, scaffolding appeared around the building.  Some window work is being done. Two or three weeks ago some banners appeared, strung between the supports of the scaffolding.  One of them features a photo it says was taken of employees, right outside the front entrance, on Christmas Day 1943.

It's hard to see the photo (I had to stand in the street to take this and I tried to get the entire banner into the shot) but the photo contains mainly women.  There are only a few men, and they are old.  This tracks with the fact that this photo was taken during World War II.  The young men were fighting overseas.

How many Security Mutual employees went off to war?  Did they all return safely?  I don't know.

Were all of these women working there before the war?  Or did some take the place of the soldier employees, to disappear into the home again after the fighting was over?

Then, I had still another question.  Right now I have no answer to this question, either.

What were they doing there on Christmas Day, 1943, instead of being with their families back at home?

Did Security Mutual ask them to come in for a company sponsored Christmas dinner?  Or, because of the war effort, did they have to work?

Why the photo, to begin with?  Was it sent to soldiers overseas?  Was it done to boost morale?

I would love to know the story behind this photo.  Do you know?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Civil War Sunday-George Custer

Today, I'm going to publish a little personal mystery in my Civil War Sunday.  I hope you can help me solve it.

General George Armstrong Custer will be forever known for his role in the white man's sad war against the Native American inhabitants of what is now the United States. But, he was also quite involved in the Civil War, where he fought on the side of the Union.  He was known, to put it mildly, for his flamboyancy, and for his fearlessness (or foolhardiness). 

His 7th Calvary had their own battle song - Garry Owen.

There's been a lot written about one of the most famous generals in United States history, and I might blog about Custer more at a later date.

And now, my personal mystery. 

Many years ago, when we lived in Wichita, my spouse and I befriended a couple.  The man, whose last name was Evans, once claimed to be a descendent of Custer.  (Of course this could be bad memory on my part but it stuck because his wife had native American blood, and the irony wasn't lost on me.).Mrs. Evans worked at the base housing office, which is actually how we met.  It was like an instant "click" with her and me.

This man was not a braggart by any means.  He was a very talented magician.  I still have two paintings he gave me, too and they have his name on them.

Several months after we met, Mr. Evans got a job in Hannibal, MO with the Boy Scouts, and he and his wife moved.  At this point his wife was very pregnant with their first child.  

We had no address and we have never had any contact since.

I once tried to do an Internet search for him.  I came up empty.  Well, there actually is someone with a little bit of fame with the last name of Evans but it isn't him.  That person is too young.

Anyway, in my Civil War research I've found that Custer was married and never had children with his wife.  However, there are rumors that he had a relationship with a Native American woman who originally was a captive of his.  It is said that Custer had either one, or possibly, two, children with her.

It's not really Civil War related and sometimes there are big risks in finding people you haven't seen in over 30 years but I would really like to know what ever happened to the Evans couple.  It would be a plus if they had ever found the link to General Custer.

It could be a piece of lost history.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - A Slice of Heaven

It is August in New York State. The fresh tomatoes are coming in fast.

It is time for my favorite sandwich of all time.  This is my deep dark secret.

But now, dear readers, you know my secret. (Even if it is a sideways secret, because I can't get the photo turned right.)  Look at the photo.

On top:  our own fresh tomatoes, sliced.
On the bottom:  Slices of whole wheat Monk's Bread  (yes, baked by monks elsewhere in New York State.) smeared with South Carolina's famous Duke's Mayonnaise. (Due to being on Weight Watchers, it is light mayonnaise.)  Duke's mayonnaise is available where we live now in at least one supermarket! Oh, happy, happy day.

(The butter is for another part  of the meal - sweet corn, but I digress.)

Yes.  I am making a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich.  

This is the recipe:

Take room temperature (tomatoes should not be refrigerated - did you know that?) tomatoes, preferably heirloom for taste reasons.  Take bread  Add mayo.  Eat.  What could be simpler? What can sustain a person better?

And that's it!  (I don't bake bread anymore - sigh - this would be even better with homemade bread.)

I wait for this time of year, with baited bread and mayonnaise, knowing I will have this sandwich.

Do you have a secret food favorite?

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Necessary Rebooting?

For many years, the last weekend before the Labor Day weekend has meant a weekend of bicycle racing and other events near Recreation Park in Binghamton, New York. The race, for many years, was held where the late Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame grew up.  The streets are residential, somewhat hilly, and parking to visit was easy.

This year, the festival is moving to downtown Binghamton, where...well, it just isn't the same.  I've worked in downtown Binghamton for many years, and while there are positives, there are also negatives.  Lack of parking and lack of shade, for two.  It's just a different vibe. 

Don't get me wrong.  I go downtown for JulyFest and I sometimes go to First Friday. But there was just something special about the Chris Thater NOT being downtown.

Although I like to see events come to downtown, I have mixed feelings about this.  I loved having a world class bicycle racing event in a residential neighborhood in a small city of about 47,000 people. There is nothing like seeing bicycles racing through green, flowery neighborhoods filled with single family houses.  The neighborhood that inspired some Twilight Zone episodes. 

So, this is what the racing looked like in 2013.

Going up a hill.
Professional bicycle racers from all over the world compete.

Here, the cyclists are going uphill and have slowed down enough to have their picture taken of.
Bicylists in sun glare.
This is the venue where the races will take place tomorrow.

My question:  was the move to downtown rebooting a good one?

We'll see what happens this weekend.

I will think positive.  It will all work out.

Here's a post from 2010, with some edits which gives a brief history of this race.

Bicycles and Bluegrass

Such a wonderful thing that has arisen out of tragedy.

In 1983 a student by the name of Chris Thater, while cycling, was killed by a drunk driver near Harpursville, NY.

His friends would not let that senseless death rest.  Rather, they turned it into one heck of a memorial.  The Chris Thater Memorial.  A two day bicycle race held in a residential neighborhood in Binghamton bordering Binghamton's Recreation Park, made somewhat famous by several episodes of the Twilight Zone.  (Rod Serling grew up nearby and spent a lot of time in that park), it celebrates "Stop DWI" and brings bicyclists from all over the world to our small city.

For the 27th year, bicyclists assembled from all over the world: Australia, Guyana and more (even Asheville, NC).  The scene:  surreal.   Neighbors set up lemonade stands or sit on their lawns and watched the riders. Riders sped around blocked off streets (some posts protected with hay bales) at 30-35 mph with local residents cheering them on and ringing cowbells. In the park there was a mix of people listening to music, dancing, gyrating with a hula hoop, visiting the refreshment stands.  Residents and racers rode bicycles through the park. ( I talked to a woman who came in with a tandem recumbent bicycle).

Mission in Motion was there, and I briefly was able to talk to a team member I know before her race started.

This year, an expanded music lineup entertained the crowd.  What a blast, hearing good music while watching the riders going around and around.  Every 2 1/2 minutes or so the pace car came by, followed by the pack, speeding in back of the stage.

They say upwards of 10,000. people come each year.

Here are some of the bands we enjoyed:
One Click Culture
The Terry Walker Project (sadly, the sound system never quite worked for them - but if you love Blood, Sweat and Tears you'd love them.  And, they did an unbelieveable cover of James Brown's Living in America;
Dirt Farm

Both spouse and I were somewhat overcome by the sun and never got to see another highly regarded band from Rochester, the Boogiemen.

This year, not a cloud in the sky, and I have a sunburned neck to testify to that.  That's not usual weather for Binghamton.  One could almost think Chris Thater was smiling down on us, knowing his untimely death was not in vain.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Late Summer Color

Let's take a  short August walk on the Vestal Rail Trail in Vestal, New York (near Binghamton) and see what beauty nature has in store for us.  Many times, we have hot and humid weather here in August.  It's been cooler than normal here and now we are in a rain pattern.  We've actually had some pleasant days, too, though.  Amazing, for August.

Glowing rosehips in a late morning sun.
Honeysuckle berries.
Cherries.  Where this tree came from, I have no idea.  You don't normally find cherries growing wild here - at least, I've never seen it.
Yellow jewelweed.  The trail also has an orange variety.
And sumac.  Soon enough, the sumac leaves will be turning orange.  This is one of the first plants to get its fall foliage.

Our crickets have been "cricketing" for the last two and a half weeks or so, and the signs of late summer are obvious.

I am grateful for many things - the chance to enjoy nature, the opportunity to walk with my spouse, the financial resources to allow me to own an iPhone, and the ability to walk the full length of the trail.

What color is around you today?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer Ramblings - Announcing

I am sorry to announce that another icon from my childhood has passed away.
Don Pardo.  Famous announcer extraordinaire, dead at the age of 96, and working almost to the end of his life.  If you don't live in the United States, you may not know his voice, but here, he has been the announcer for the long lived show Saturday Night Live.

He was its announcer from its start in 1975 to earlier this year.

Prior to that, he did announcing for game shows such as The Price is Right and Jeopardy.  Which leads into a little memory.

As many of you know, I grew up in New York City.  I attended a local college in the Bronx.

In 1971, during my college's summer break, I went with a couple of my friends to NBC Studios at what we now call "30 Rock", to see the taping of Jeopardy.  This isn't the Jeopardy most of us know, but an earlier version, hosted by Art Fleming. Who was the announcer? Yes- Don Pardo.

Whether or not you remember the original Jeopardy, you will love this parody song and video by Weird Al.  If you are sharp, you will catch several cameos, including one by none other than....

Don Pardo.  (his voice is prominently featured in the video, too.)

Can you imagine working until you are 96 years old?

Rest in peace, Don.  Those of many generations mourn your death.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Building that Waits

Yesterday I read a blog post about a ballroom in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The name of the ballroom intrigued me - Pla Mor.  I wonder where that name originated?

This ballroom, in an unassuming building, was built in 1929.  It is still used for various dance events, including Big Band nights.  I read online that greats such as Lawrence Welk and Count Basie performed there once, but it appears the writer could have been thinking of a Pla-Mor ballroom in Kansas City.

There was even a Pla-Mor skating rink in Cleveland.

I hope someone can solve the mystery of what "Pla Mor" stands for.

For some reason, reading about this ballroom reminded me of a building in downtown Binghamton, New York.  Once it was a venue for the greatest performers of the day.

Now, it is a ruin.  It was a ruin when I wrote the following post in 2013 (edited slightly), and it still is a ruin.

Will the Stone Opera House ever experience a rebirth?

From Edward G. Robinson to Ruin

What do Eddie Foy, Ethel and John Barrymore, Sara BernhardtGeorge M. Cohan, Teddy Roosevelt and Edward G. Robinson's first professional stage performance have in common?

Answer:  this building in downtown Binghamton, New York.

This is the Stone Opera House on Chenango Street.  It was a grand old opera house once, but its flag waving days are long over.  This 120 year old plus building, neglected and possibly close to its final days, patiently sits as passerbys walk by without a glance.  It's the shame of Binghamton.

In the 1930's it became the Riviera Theatre, and closed for good in 1973.  Now it sits, rotting and boarded up.

This is what it looked like once.

(This links to a You Tube video that, for some reason, I can't post directly on my blog.)

Actually, there are abandoned theaters all over this country.  Can we ever hope for someone to rescue this building and do something for it?  As of today, to the best of my knowledge - nothing has happened.

Even as crumbling buildings downtown are renovated and turned into student housing, the Stone Opera House waits.  And waits.

Sometimes, I wish I was very rich....

Monday, August 18, 2014

Multiple Englishes

Last December, I blogged about the Multiple Englishes (or dialects) of the United States, and a quiz the New York Times posted that would try to guess where in the United States you were from.

Now, a new study discovers "global superdialects".

The researchers studied Spanish, and use of various words in tweets.  And, to their surprise, besides the expected regional differences they expected, they found two major "superdialects" in action. One was an urban superdialect, one a rural.  In other words, the way we talk is influenced not only by our region, but whether we live in an area of high population density, or low.

Here is my original blog post from December 2013. If you live in the United States, take the quiz (it's still active online) and see what you think.  Did it figure out where you come from?

The Multiple Englishes of the United States

Back in my college days, too many years ago, I majored in cultural anthropology.  One of the courses I took was Linguistics - specifically, the study of culture and language.

One thing our class had us do was to go out on our campus, flag students down and ask them to take a short quiz asking what they called certain things and how they pronounced certain words.

Most people who live in the United States know that we all don't talk the same.  We have different words for different things - for example, a carbonated drink might be called either soda, pop, or soda pop.  We pronounce words differently - in New York we call the thing on top of houses a "roof" and in the midwest they call it a "ruuf".  We call the thing you put groceries in at the checkout a "bag". They call it a "sack".

The differences between New York and, say, England, are even wider. A recipe published by a British blogging friend called for "chocolate hundreds and thousands". We call them sprinkles.  Others in our country call them jimmies.

So, if you live in the United States, do you want to know which English you speak?

It's easy-take this quiz.  Just 25 questions.  Some were the same questions I asked students some 40 years ago.  Others were new to me.

Right now, this quiz is so popular that several people have posted their results on my Facebook timeline.

My personal results were a blend of New York City (in the southeast part of New York State), Yonkers (a city that borders New York City about 2 miles from where I grew up in New York City) and Buffalo, New York (in the western part of the state). Since I've lived the past 25 or so years in the Southern Tier of upstate New York maybe a bit less than halfway across the state, this makes sense.

If you take this quiz: was it accurate for you?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Civil War Sunday - Andersonville - August 17, 1864

Photos are such an everyday part of our life, in the year 2014. 

Many of us own cell phones.  No part of our lives go undocumented.  Anything newsworthy is sent to social media almost instantly, or so it would seem.  Instant pictures, instantly.

Not so, during the American Civil War, 1861-1865.

Photography was in its infancy 150 years ago today.  It was a complex process, and one only undertaken by skilled people using expensive equipment. 

I have read that that our Civil War is considered the first war to be extensively photographed.  War, in all its horrors, was finally brought to the everyday citizen, as photographers published and sold those photographs.

Prisoner of war camps were no exception.  Even in Andersonville (Camp Sumter, Georgia), perhaps the most famous prisoner of war camp ever, photos were taken.  And sold to the curious.

Think:  over 30,000 prisoners held on 32 acres.

A famous series of Andersonville photos were taken on August 17, 1864, 150 years ago today.
(If you follow the link, you can download, as a PDF, the photos, from the Digital Library of Georgia.) Who would have thought, 150 years ago, of being able to do that?

The set of seven views could be yours for only $2.00.  I don't know what $2.00 in 1864 was worth today, but $2. in 1913 (according to an online inflation calculator) had the buying power of $48.15 today.  In other words, it wasn't cheap to buy these photos.

Even today, you can get prints of these photos on various websites.

According to a card of explanation, there were 33,000 prisoners (Union POWs) housed on 32 acres.

One of the photos was of a burial party.

It was so sobering (when I visited Andersonville several years ago) walking those same 32 acres freely, not having to worry about what was called the "dead line" (cross it, and that's what you were.  More than a few prisoners did that to end their sufferings.)  And even more sobering to know there were other prison camps, on both the Union and Confederate sides, where brother held brother prisoner in the most deplorable of conditions.  Even an hour from where I live, in the POW camp holding Confederates (Camp Chemung) also called "Helmira", suffering we can't imagine took place.

War, and the suffering of war, was no longer romantic, but war goes on.

We have instant photos and videos today, and still war happens.  Still, the innocent die.

Look at those photos, taken 150 years ago today, if you are able to download the pdf, and wonder if we are any more civilized today than we were on August 17, 1864.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - Oops I Blue It Again

The last few days have been stressful for both my spouse and me.

That is how we found ourselves today at a U Pick blueberry farm (for the third time this year!) picking blueberries.  I still have plenty left from the second picking (August 3) but I just could not keep away.

The rhythms of picking, the standing outside on a nice day, sooth, and the thought of sweet berries for dessert tonight sustain me.

This year we've had one of the best crops I can remember.  We picked early berries, mid season berries, and now late berries. Normally, the crop would be finishing up about now, but we are told we will have about another two weeks of picking.

The birds love the berries, too. This particular farm uses both high tech (bird calls) and low tech (pinwheels) methods to scare the birds away. 

How to pick? How to prepare?  This blog post from July, 2012, explains.  Now in my second summer on Weight Watchers, I find I enjoy blueberries with 1/2 cup of fat free vanilla frozen yogurt.  And, fresh without anything (no sugar, no cream) works just fine, too.


Sustainable Saturday - How to Pick Blueberries

We are so fortunate, here in upstate New York.  We have a variety of local farms offering you-pick blueberries.  All of our commercial berries here are highbush.

No admission charge, either. (I understand some farms now charge admission to pick - which bothers me but maybe one of my readers can justify that practice.)

If you have never picked blueberries before, I wanted to take you through a picking session.

Yes, you will have to wear sunscreen, bring some kind of bug repellent (there are natural ones available if you wish), and wear a hat to ward off the sun.  You also should bring some water.  Children and grandparents are optional.  The lovely thing about blueberry picking is that almost anyone can participate. The plants do not have thorns, and you can stand up (or sit down) and pick. 

How do you know blueberries are ripe?  Well, in the picture above, the ones at the top of the picture are definitely not ripe. There will be berries in all stages on the bush.  The best way to judge ripeness is to see if the berry has 'bloom" on it - in other words it should look like it has a dusty whitish frosting on it  Your bloomin' berry should be firm.  Shriveled means "too late".

This is where children come in.  Many people pick at "chest" level.  They miss the low down berries.  Train your children to think low (low, but not touching the ground low) and they may get all the wonderful berries everyone else has missed.

Size (unlike in some things) does not matter.  In fact, some people think the smaller the berry, the sweeter.

You don't have to worry about deep buckets (unlike raspberries, which will squash).

Once you get the berries home DO NOT WASH UNTIL JUST ABOUT READY TO USE.  You don't want to wash the bloom off.  They will keep 2 weeks (I admit to keeping them longer) in the fridge.

What about nutrition?  Need you ask how many lists include blueberries as one of the best foods you can eat?

How to eat?  A lot of people like them with cream or sugar.  But I've always loved them "au natural".

What is your favorite way to prepare blueberries?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2014 - Orange is the New Red

The rain is over - for now.

In upstate New York, August is the last true month of summer.  We can (although rarely, where I live in the Binghamton area) get frosts in September.

Already, the days are noticeably shorter than just a month ago here, near Johnson City, New York.  The crickets are chirping.  The days can still be hot, but the nighttime lows, many times now, are dipping into the 50's (the teens, Celsius). Tuesday of this week, we got soaked.  But not soaked as bad as other places, some of them in New York State.

The weather can be scary.  Even now, the clouds have a science fiction type look to them.

But Garden Bloggers Bloom Day must go on.  And this month, I am going to concentrate on my container flowers.

In my yard, I have a number of container plantings and hanging baskets.  Some of these are light enough where I can take them in if frost (or too much rain) threatens.
This is one of my favorites - coleus with two type of begonias.
Preciosa Angel Earrings with Persian Shield.  This is what it looked like at the beginning of the week.

And this is what it looks like now, with the flowers open.
Yellow begonias.
New Guinea Impatiens with a different coleus, one I've kept alive indoors in the winter the last two years.
A couple of hanging baskets in my back yard, hanging off the clothesline.  Why not?

In one of my back yard containers, there is a mystery petunia.  It is a Vigaro variety, which I bought at Home Depot.  When I look at it, it looks brown and a bit (technical term) yucky. My son, in fact, asked me if it was diseased.  It isn't.  The foliage looks healthy.  In the photo, it looks more purple.

And speaking of color transformations, there is the case of my "orange" geranium.  My friend saw it at an Agway, a local chain of stores that service both farm and city, and bought it for me.  The blooms are bright orange.

Except when I try to take pictures of the plant.  The photo above is the only one I can get even somewhat orange.
This is how it usually turns out.  I guess orange is the new red.
Speaking of orange, there are my non-container blooms, including this peachy dahlia.
My nasturtiums did not do well this year, but here's an orange one.
Red dahlias, descendents of some a late friend gave me many years ago.  I think of her each year when we plant these.
Heirloom four o clocks, to end today's post. There are so many flowers in August that I can'tshow them all.

My Japanese anemones will be blooming in another day.  My hardy mum is budding. Can fall be far behind?

It's the 15th of the month, and it is time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  Today, gardeners from all over the world blog about what is blooming - in their houses, in their yards.  Click the link above to see beauty from all over the world.

Will you join us?