Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Teachout Draws Out Progressive Heart And Muscle In NY

New York City did not come through for Teachout over Cuomo, but 20 or so upstate counties did. Tompkins County was her biggest win, with over 70% of the vote. But even less liberal neighbors like Cortland, Schuyler and Seneca counties went for the upstart progressive over the big-cash incumbent.

It is a strong statement against big money corrupting our government. It is also a major statement against fracking. It is an historical outcome and represents new forces in politics. It's not a de facto victory but it is a de jure one. It's a good day.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

In My Book (Thank You, John Lennon)

I have written a book about the Brooklyn of old - about my childhood - a self-published, unconventional book.

It is not a very straightforward narrative and its chapters are almost like poems, or spoken pieces. Well, they are short, anyway.

I can't blame anyone but myself for the oddness except maybe John Lennon. He wrote a book in 1964 called "In His Own Write" which made me think of writing.

He wrote wonderfully, but strangely. He wrote very short items you couldn't really call stories. It was just writing.

It was the first book I ever bought. I loved the music of the Beatles, especially appreciating Lennon's part in it. I knew he was wordy, funny, tough, a little crazy, and all of that resonated with me. I didn't know about the book until a few years after it was written. I bought it right away. I was just a kid. (It's funny to me now to think of a ten-year old buying a book for himself.)

The book amazed me with its humor and style. I read it over and over, loving the word-play and rule-breaking.

What I couldn't know as a kid was Lennon's debt to Lewis Carroll. And, a bit, James Joyce. I realize it now.

And mine to him. Despite his celebrity, and occasional outlandishness, he was modest of aspect. He used to speak of his lack of education, which he regretted. He taught people, despite it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"How Old Would You Be, If You Didn't Know How Old You Was?"

My best friend from high school just sent me a last e-mail from work. Ever. We are 56 (each), and he is retiring. From a job with the government, where he has worked since his twenties.

Apparently, you can do that (retire), working for the government. A lot of my life I worked for myself, and retirement seems like a far-off thing, if not a complete fantasy.

Financially, to be sure, but also physically and mentally. I told my friend Chris, good for you, but ain't you too young to be laying down?

I think maybe, as people are living longer these days, the word "retirement" itself should in some cases, like his, be retired. Chris, I said, maybe it's more like "graduation" for you.

In my case, the word "retirement" will equal the word "funeral." But that's okay with me. I don't have anything more to graduate from. I want to work till I drop, like John Henry, Pete Seeger, or Satchel Paige.

Let's talk about Satchel Paige, who once said (and always showed) something great about age.

Satchel Paige was the greatest baseball pitcher of all time. He was a star in the professional Negro Leagues, from the 1920's into the 40's. He was kept from the major leagues until the color line was broken, in 1947. He was signed soon after, despite his advanced age. He was at least a decade older than most players. He was great yet. But the age difference was obvious, a guy in his mid- or late forties in a game where 35 was old. Despite entreaties, he would never discuss nor disclose his age.

The story goes that, one night in a bar, a reporter friend asked Paige to please, please do what he had never done: specify his age. Tell it. Can it be true, in a game where you're done well before 40, you're still in here, maybe 45? 46? 47? How old are you? Really?

Paige looked at the guy (goes the tale). He said he would answer as a friend. But he would answer the question with a question.

"How old would you be," said Satchel Paige, "if you didn't know how old you was?" That's how old Satchel Paige was. Me, too. You, too, I hope.

A Lot Of Our Stuff Is Now In The Ithaca Times, Bi-Weekly

Check it, beloved Ithaca Blog fans: our local weekly newspaper, the Ithaca Times, now prints our Ithaca Blog-type stuff twice a month, a couple of items at a time. So we are writing a lot less here now.

Please give a look at the paper for it. If you are out of town, the paper has a wonderfully nice website name, Unfortunately, right now, the format of the online edition is not as tight as the name. Our stuff, particularly, is not easy to find. "I type in your name and get nothing," we are told often, and it is true. You have to hit the menu for "Opinion" and then for "Columnists" to find us.

We're grateful if you look us up. We're glad that you read us, and we hope we please you as much as you do us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

B-Mets Make the Post-season

Here's our column from this week's Ithaca Times, about the Binghamton Mets. The B-Mets qualify for post-season play this year for the Eastern League championship.

Take Me Out to the B-Mets - Ithaca Times : Opinion

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Message To A Friend Who Once Worked With Robin Williams

This is a message I sent last night to my friend Lori Balton, a macher in the movies, who got a big break early, in 1988 or so, scouting locations on the east coast for a pretty big Hollywood picture called Dead Poets Society.

Lori, I remember the DPS wrap party, in Wilmington DE, which you so kindly invited me to, when I was living in near-by Maryland, and you & I were not too long out of Cornell, you starting your career in the movies. It was a great, fun night. I remember you telling me, "These kids will be stars some day," and how great this one star, Robin Williams, was to work with, generous and fun, a mensch and pro. You had the idea the film might be a hit.

Tonight must be very sad for you. Of course, it is sad for the whole world. I was working tonight when the word spread. People cried. It is, at least, a reminder - or a lesson - about mental illness. That is the cause of his death. Mental illness is not a choice, any more than physical illness. Our misunderstanding of it actually makes it the more painful of the two. - Rest in peace, funnyman, great artist, giver, beautiful guy, Robin Williams.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Consumer Tips From An Outsider

I am aptly suited to give consumer advice because I am a real good non-consumer. Like, you don't want diet tips from a big heavy guy, do you?

Here's my credentials. I've never been in Wal-Mart in my life. Not to get off track with politics, here, but let's say that Wal-Mart is not a good civic nor global neighbor. Their meager payroll is supplemented by government infusions to the workers they underpay. That's where their corporate billions come from. That, and the slave labor in China they foster. So I don't visit them.

Anyway. I want to talk on a lesser scale here. I simply don't shop much. How much does a guy in his fifties who lives alone need? I already got, as the blues song says, everything I need, almost. Tables, chairs, lighting, bedding, shelving, window treatments, an ottoman. So I shop for food, and the occasional wardrobe update (to stay in the game, so to speak), and that's about it. Beyond Wal-Mart, I am hardly ever in a place like Target, either.

I mean, for consumer needs, you have to replace your shower curtain, every nine years or so, but you can do that at Wegman's. (Strictly speaking, what does a guy who lives alone, and rents, actually need with shower curtains? What do I care if the floor gets wet ? There's no one coming up behind me here to ask who did this. After my shower, the bathroom is closed for the day. The floor will be dry by the time I'm home from work. And, as I say, I rent, so what do I care about floor maintenance?)

(I do, however, care about landlord relationship, so let me point out to mine, hey, M. & C., I'm a JOKER! I have, and use, a rain-room curtain!)

(Hey, readers, too: just kidding. A guy needs fresh shower curtains and bath towels at all times: for that game, if nothing else.)

As a non-consumer, I never look at those big flyers that come in the mail and with the weekend Journal. They look junky and I need no junk. But this weekend I succumbed, because my microwave oven died on me, and I thought, if enticed, I would replace it.

So: here is where my experience comes in. I flipped through a Target insert, and wow, saw a microwave advertised for $39. I forget what brand, but I recognized it. And it was marked down $20.95. Beautiful.

So I figure I am going to Target. No big deal, I go to Planet Fitness up there in mall-land, I'll make a quick side-trip. Let me see if there's anything else in this flyer I can use.

There is. Target advertises a mirror that hangs over a door for $4.95. The only mirror I have, outside the bathroom, sits on an antique (i.e., old) dresser I have, and makes me look worse than I do, I think. So, a new one, for $4.95? To help me show up my old one? Great.

I go to Target tonight after the gym. There is a shelf in the housewares department for microwave ovens. There are a lot of them. But not the big-sale one. Its shelf-talker is there. But it is out of stock. There are, however, a lot of other m.o.'s, for a lot more money.

Forget that, of course. I go on to the mirror section. The one I saw in the ad is in stock. However, it does not include apparatus to hang it over a door. It was advertised as a mirror that hangs over a door. And, apparently, it is, if you have things to make it do that. What they are actually selling is a mirror that stands on the floor. But I guess this is not a strong selling point.

"Caveat emptor" is probably the oldest consumer tip there is. It remains pertinent. I would add, don't bother looking at newspaper flyers. They will rob you of time, at very least.