Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ithaca Observations By Outsiders

You know how it is, that other people can sometimes see your situation clearer than you can. It goes for cities as well as people, we reckoned, in the midst of a visit this week from some friends who moved away from Ithaca five years ago after a brief tenure here, and were making their first return.

The observations are pedestrian rather than poignant, maybe, but usually we prefer that.

1. There is a lot of good food, close together, in Ithaca. On Tuesday, we bought an early take-away lunch from Collegetown Bagels on Aurora Street. We also wanted some fruit, so we went a block, to GreenStar Oasis in the Dewitt Mall, and got organic peaches and local apples. We noticed that the Farmers Market was setting up at Dewitt Park, so we went there and bought strawberries from an Amish vendor. Then we noticed the beautiful offerings from Macro Mama. So we bought another whole lunch. Why not? Dinner was hours away.

2. Restaurants are noisy. Lost Dog, Viva, and Maxie's all had decibel levels that challenged conversation. At Lost Dog, it was the piped-in music; at Viva, the structure: close-together tables, and brick walls with bad acoustic properties; Maxie's, live music that was a little too amplified (but was ultimately adjusted). On the other hand, Moosewood is quiet - the cafe part, at least, where the seat-spacing is generous. (We discovered there a killer house specialty tea, of ginger, with a splash of lemon and orange juices. We went back for it a second night.)

3. Cops can be genteel. We were misery-lighted down for, oops, driving without lights (at 10:30 pm). The driver, a high-strung type (charmingly so, though) started "shit, shitting" as she pulled over. The passenger, who comes from cops, partly, said, don't worry, just explain it's a rental, and you're unfamiliar with it. All he really wants to know is if you're drinking. (We weren't.) The officer asked for license and registration, and the driver couldn't produce the registration for the rental (for her nerves); so the cop just asked if she had a clean record. She said yes. "You haven't had anything to drink, have you?," he asked. She said no. He said, turn on your lights, and have a nice night.

4. Politics Pervade. There is a Peace and Justice Gift Shop on the Commons. The 10,000 Villages fair-trade franchise in Ithaca is, per capita, the organization's highest-grossing store. Gas stations have organic coffee. Every friend our guests called had to check their meeting schedules, for various political, civic, and volunteer groups, before making plans.

I have a GreenStar meeting to attend now. (True!) And I'll be coming back with triple-filtered water, in a refilled gallon jug, for 25 cents, to brew locally-roasted Gimme coffee in my local/world music shop (oh, yes, another observation: there is a lot of music here).

Thanks to our friends for their good-natured subjecthood -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

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