Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mea Culpa, Fellow Ithacans

I had two sharp self-realizations today, leading to the same conclusion: that I am not as good an Ithacan as others, in caring for nature to one's core.

One, because I tried to throw away something I shouldn't. Two, because I made fun of a fish.

In the first case: I hired Zolar truckers to haul away some furniture and other stuff from the old location of my store, Small World Music. We're now on the Commons, with Angry Mom Records. I still had stuff in the old place, up West State Street.

The truckers looked at the stuff. The very first thing I pointed at was an old wooden secretary.

"You're throwing that away?," said the guy.

"Yeah," I said.

"No, you're not," he said. "That's a great piece."

"It's falling apart," I said.

"It's an antique," he said. "It's oak!"

Now, to me, two things.

One, what do I care if it's oak? It has to be something. So it's oak. So what? I am from Brooklyn, and  I am vaguely aware there are different types of trees, but it is not important to me.

Two, it is falling-apart oak.

I get bad looks, like I am a real dumb lawyer at the Supreme Court, or worse, a real bad steward of planet Earth who claims to be a dedicated Ithacan. This will not do for my reputation,  so I relent. The oak stays.

The second thing: the fish.

It is hours later. I see in the Ithaca Journal that they are finding sturgeon in Lake Cayuga, and are happy about it, and warning people not to catch them, or if you catch them, throw them back. They are endangered, and protected.

This is great with me. I am all for this process in general, and especially for something as cool as sturgeon. I like the name, sturgeon. It is close to surgeon, although it is a fish.

But then I read that sturgeon can live to be 150 years old. That's what it says in the paper. It leads me to a thought I find is shameful, when I make the mistake of expressing it.

"Can you believe this?," I say to my friend. "Can you imagine living 150 years as a sturgeon?"

To a response of silence. Then,

"It's a living being."

"Yeah," I say, "of course. "But come on! A sturgeon? 150 years?

"They're bottom-feeders. They don't have teeth.

"They live in a place I would object to, dead.

"For 150 years? How long is a hundred fifty months? I couldn't take it that long.

"How long would be too long?  I would say 110 years, max.

"You know? Go ahead. Try to catch me. At least I would have some excitement. Something to tell the grandfish."

More silence. And nothing more.

Now, in  my own defense, I wasn't saying don't save them. I was just reacting to a lifestyle, and saying how I'd feel if I lived it.

But I don't. I'm not sturgeon. And I'm not oak. Let me be sensitive to that.

l'll try to do better tomorrow. That's Ithacan. Meanwhile, mea maxima culpa. That's Catholic, but Ithacan, too.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

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