Ithaca Blog

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy 2014 (We Bet)

Each December we get a lot of hits on Ithaca Blog with the search words, "Ithaca New Year's Eve," and we feel bad, as we don't keep up with New Year's Eve, and have nothing to report.

We never did quite get New Year's Eve. People drink a lot, but you can do that any eve. Beyond that, you are staying up till midnight to see if 2013 will be followed by 2014.

We would definitely hang out if there was a chance it wouldn't, and it was like the Twilight Zone, and it could be any year, but that has never happened, so we go to bed.

In recognition of the thing, though, here is a reprint of an Ithaca Blog public service announcement from a previous auld lang syne:

It's the most bibulous night of the year, and an evening of joie de vivre will turn into a day of woe for many, but we are here with sound advice.

To avoid hangover, do this: pour a glass of club soda. Hold it and occasionally sip it. Eat whatever foods you like, but take no other liquid.

The trick is in the timing. Start this process at about 9:30 p.m., and continue it until bedtime.

May the morning be your friend, along with each day of the new year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Shopping Swinging Local?

We remember doing a posting a few years ago at this time about a trip to the mall, and how wicked it was, with parking lot traffic reaching to Route 13, frustrated people in cars and out, and then nothing we wanted in the mall, anyway.

When we were asked by a friend to take a trip there last night, we declined. She went anyway, and we wished her luck. In 20 minutes we got a message she was there, with "NO TRAFFIC, NONE," and a photo of an empty food court. "Maybe 30 people in Target," she wrote.

We're not saying this is good, but downtown tonight, we noticed a dearth of parking spots at around 6:30, which happens when there's a show at the State Theater, but there is none tonight, so it possibly means Christmas-time-in-the-city. Is the Local First group making its mark, and the shopping pendulum swinging?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

And I Will Read "War And Peace" Before Christmas

The Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle was tricky this week. I know because I went to the post office today.

Monday, December 02, 2013

"Ice Cream Social: The Struggle For The Soul of Ben & Jerry's", New Book by Brad Edmondson

Ben & Jerry's ice cream was always an Ithaca kind of company: deliciously radical, with a Peace Pop and "Cherry Garcia," and a scoop shop operated by youths as a social project in the heart of our downtown.

Then, in 2000, the company was bought by Unilever, one of the world's largest food corporations. What happened to Small Is Beautiful?

Brad Edmondson, a local author, tells the tale in his new book, "Ice Cream Social: The Struggle For the Soul of Ben & Jerry's."

The book originally started as a collaboration between Edmondson and Jeff Furman, who lives in Ithaca and helped write Ben & Jerry's first business plan in 1977. Jeff has been called "the '&' in Ben & Jerry's." He still serves on the independent board that monitors Unilever's operation of Ben & Jerry's.

After some months of work, Edmondson and Furman decided the story was too big to be too much Jeff's. He supplies the epilogue and serves as a source. The book has a list of over 40 "Main Characters" (an actual list, in front of the book).

Edmondson said that despite the scope of the story, he wanted to write "a book that could be read in one sitting." We are reviewing the book for the Ithaca Times and told him that's exactly what we did, and that it reads at times like a soap opera. He said, "Really? That makes me happy.

"It's not a normal business book," he said. "It can serve as a reference book for certain business practices, and it tells a business story, but unlike many business books, it doesn't pretend to be a road map. It's a story. A story people can learn lessons from, I hope, but I don't tell you what the lessons are. I put the story between the covers and the lessons are for you to determine."

The book's release is imminent and there will be an event at Buffalo Street Books. The tentative date is 13 December. Please look for our full review in the Ithaca Times of Wednesday 11 December.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Celery And Things Such As Celery

Three days before Thanksgiving, our favorite holiday. What's not to like about a holiday where celery is so central? Even if you don't like celery? We do, but we especially like the idea of simple pleasures, like those stalks (salted, standing together in a glass of water), cider, pie, and time with people you love, whom you see all too seldom.

We wish you a happy Thanksgiving with, as a wise and happy friend of ours says, whomever your "we" are.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Good Clout

Neither of my parents were hitters, though they often were forced to threaten it.

My father, like many fathers of the time, I guess, had the role of punisher when he came home from work, and heard all the bad things we did that day.

If hitting was warranted, he would discuss it first, in a way that was so rote, and comical to me, the hardest thing was trying not to laugh.

"I'm gonna take off my belt," he would say, "and...I'll hit ya; and you'll cry..." and his voice would trail off in the sad inevitability of it all.

So I would say I was sorry, maybe crying a little for authenticity, thus avoiding any smacking, and then I would rush off and imitate the ritual for my siblings. It got us every time.

My mother also would allow us the chance of an out through words. Caught at something, or simply annoying her, she would turn and say, eerily deadpan, "Do you want a good clout?" - our introduction to the rhetorical question.

Once and only once she ever hit me. There was no question first. It was when President Kennedy died.

He was shot and killed on a Friday. I was in first grade. They didn't tell us at school. I remember getting off the school bus, and all the mothers were there. That was unusual, as they usually took turns meeting us.

They took our hands, which was also strange.

I remember coming home, and the news on TV - all day, and into the night.

When I woke on Saturday, my mother was up, standing in front of the TV.

I stood next to her. She wasn't speaking and might have been crying.

Personally, I was wondering what was happening with cartoons. I was a big fan of a new show, Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales.

"Is this going to be on all day?," I asked.

"Of course," my mother said, and not kindly. "The president is shot dead."

It sank in. I shook my head - at the thought of the morning ruined; and said, as I gazed at the TV:

"Why did stupid President Kennedy have to get shot on a Friday?"

Wham, came the answer, a swing of my mother's arm, with the back of her hand to my face. She was crying now, and I sure knew why.

I found my footing, and looked up at her with tears in my eyes. She looked shocked, and sad, but she didn't say she was sorry.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Thematic "Joe Show," Tuesdays on WRFI

Our pal Joe Romano does a show called The Joe Show on WRFI radio, Tuesday nights from 7 -9 p.m. It's the only radio show we know that has its own original theme song: a rocking little number called "Get A Cup Of Joe." It was written for Joe by big-time author and part-time musician, Ithaca resident J. Robert Lennon. It probably did not take long to write, but it is rollicking and fun, which describes the show, too.

We recommend the show highly. Joe does a theme each week. Sometimes it is jokey ("Infinity") and sometimes it is serious ("Crime"). Always it is interesting and captivating.

Sometimes, unavoidably, we tune in late, but then we have fun trying to guess the theme by the songs. But we recommend tuning in on time, at least the first time, to hear the theme song.

Sometime soon, probably tomorrow, we will publish some excerpts of an interview we recently did with Joe.

WRFI just ended a fundraising marathon to support the community-owned station. If you missed it, you can still donate. Check for details.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tompkins County Passes On Gambling (But Loses)

New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly last Tuesday to expand casino gambling in the state. Tompkins County provided a notable exception, with the largest number of "no" votes of any county. (A few western New York counties had slightly higher percentages of "no" votes, but among much smaller populations.)

Tompkins County seems to have taken a long view towards the proposal, that while casinos will provide jobs, they are not stable. Casinos in Atlantic City have lost almost half their revenue in recent years, and when casinos fail, there is blight.

Sullivan County, in the Catskills, had the highest percentage of votes in favor. At least one major casino will be built there, a place of desperate unemployment. Tompkins County, conversely, has the lowest unemployment rate in the state year after year.

That's because we have colleges. Colleges are a little like casinos, in that people come from away to leave a lot of money there, and drink too much. That's the end of the flippant comparison, except to note that colleges rarely fail as businesses, create good jobs, and provide something of value. We suppose that's what Tompkins County voters were trying to advocate, in rejecting gambling as an economic path.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Fundraising Drive On WRFI: Pledge Online, On Phone, On Foot

WRFI, 88.1 on the FM dial, is Ithaca's community radio station. It started a decade ago as a rebroadcast station. In 2012, with full licensing, it began airing local programming along with choice syndicated shows such as "Democracy Now!" with Amy Goodman.

WRFI's local programming began with Jim Murphy's "Morning Show." Today WRFI airs over 40 original shows.

It takes more than commitment, time and talent. It also takes money. WRFI built a studio last year in the Clinton House on the corner of Cayuga and Seneca Streets. There is rent to pay, and equipment to buy and maintain. WRFI sells no advertising and gets no money from sources such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. All its revenue comes from listeners.

The station is doing its second annual pledge drive this week. You can make a pledge online, at, on the phone, at 319-5445, or on foot, by visiting their third-floor studio. A $10 pledge gets you a bumper sticker. With a pledge of $60 or more you also get a station t-shirt, and a chance at one of many prizes donated by local businesses.

We've written a longer piece about the drive for this week's Ithaca Times. See it in this Wednesday's issue.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Ithaca Blog Resting Before Moving

Close and frequent readers of Ithaca Blog have noticed it's not easy to be a frequent reader anymore, as our posts have dropped from a few a week to a few a month.

We're not sick, or tired, it's just that we have been writing for the Ithaca Times lately, and readying a book ("Brooklyn 3, New York") for publication, so time's issuance is an issue.

Also, maybe the main thing, is that there are plans for Ithaca Blog to become a feature on the Ithaca Times website. This is also taking a little planning and time.

We will come back resuscitated and, of course, more frequent. Meanwhile, we will post here every once in a while, when we think there's something you must hear or not miss. Such as, right now, the fundraising marathon for community radio WRFI, 88.1 in Ithaca. We are planning to have a brief blurb on RFI here soon, and a longer article in the Ithaca Times this week, both online and in the Wednesday print edition.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Author Lydia Davis At Ithaca College

Damon Runyon, author of the taut "Guys And Dolls" tales of old Broadway, used to say, "No one can tell me anything about keeping 'em short." Well, Lydia Davis can. Some of her stories are mere pages, some a few paragraphs, some just a few sentences.

Of course, Runyon wrote for manna, while Davis writes for mind. Her work has been cited for its psychological and philosophical weight. Some critics call it more poetry than prose. Some say she has invented a new form altogether.

Ms. Davis won the Man Booker International Prize (a new challenger to the Nobel Prize) this year for her body of work. In 2003 she won a MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called "genius" award).

Ms. Davis will speak at Ithaca College for its Distinguished Visiting Writers Series on Thursday 19 September at 6 pm at Handwerker Gallery.

We wrote back and forth with Ms. Davis this week for an interview for the Ithaca Times. We can report that she is a friendly and generous correspondent. The interview will appear this Wednesday in the Times' print version, and at

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mortification In Print

We write book reviews occasionally for the local weekly paper. It pays almost as much as minimum wage, if you sell your free copy of the book (we haven't yet), but gratification is supposed to be the real remuneration.

It is, sometimes, but sometimes it's mortification, when editing errors turn your perfectly serviceable copy into something a conscientious eighth-grader wouldn't sign. That happened to us this week in the Ithaca Times.

We know a lot of people in town and like to be thought of as normal in intelligence, rather than a moose-head moron, so here is our actual lead for a review of "Among The Bloodpeople" by Thomas Glave.

"Thomas Glave mixes intellect, passion, and daring in his new collection of essays, 'Among The Bloodpeople.'

"Mr. Glave has been a Visiting Professor at MIT and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge. This is his fourth book. He will give a reading at Buffalo Street Books at 6 pm on Wednesday, September 25."

Not so complicated, right?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ricky Jay At Cornell Cinema, 24 September

Ricky Jay is the greatest playing card magician in the world, probably in history, and he will appear at Cornell Cinema on Tuesday 24 September for the showing of a movie about him, "Deceptive Practices."

Mr. Jay lived in this area in the 1960's, rumor has it, and spent hours practicing shuffles at the bar at the Rongonvian Embassy, although in following his career over many decades, we have never heard him talk about this chapter of his life. We are a little surprised he is scheduled to be here.

We are also surprised the show is not already sold out (we got our tickets), and will be shocked if it is not sold out at least somewhat in advance. Every few years, Jay performs a limited run show in a small theater on Broadway, and tickets are impossible to get for anyone less illustrious than, say, Jay-Z. Of course, the appearance at Cornell is not a show, and might be no more than a few spoken words, but Mr. Jay is a great story-teller and historian of both show business and the con. Chances are, brief appearance or not, at some point Mr. Jay, showman that he is, will produce a deck of cards and ask someone to pick one, any one.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's In A Fast Food Name (And Bucket)

Dunkin' Donuts runs commercials on Met games on TV (yes, Met games, it ain't over till it's over), and I notice it isn't "Dunkin' Donuts" anymore, it's just "Dunkin'." I guess donuts are a little declasse, and reminiscent of Homer Simpson, and the company wants to focus on the other, more expensive foods they now sell.

It reminds me of when Kentucky Fried Chicken changed their name to KFC years ago. You probably think it was to get the word "Fried" out of the picture. Maybe, but there's another possibility.

At the time the Colonel made the change, I was a few years out of college, and worked with a younger guy named Johnny who ate KFC for lunch a couple of times a week. As he indulged one day, I mentioned the name change, and how they don't want you to think about the unhealthy fried aspect of their food.

"No," he said patiently, between bites. "It's not about the 'F'. It's about the 'C'."

"About the C?," I said.

"Uh huh," he said, pointing at the bucket. "It's not necessarily chicken."

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Quick One For The Baseball Fans

We're trying to substantiate a rumor we're trying to start, that Al Rodriguez of the NY Yankees baseball club paid that guy to hit him with that pitch in Boston. It turned him from pariah to pet among his teammates and was the best thing to happen to Rodriguez in his career since he started making choices.


The Inquiring Photographer feature in the Ithaca Times this week asked, "What's Something You Want To Do Before The Students Return?" We won't ask, but tell you, something you should do.

Buy a new shower curtain. They'll be a scarce commodity soon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Types Of Talk: NYC And Ithaca

There's a joke among us staff at GreenStar Coop, or a half-joke really, that the store should have red flags to unfurl on shopping carts and baskets for shoppers who want to signal that they are in a hurry and don't want to talk. Most of the time we're glad that people are so extravagantly friendly, but sometimes we see (and sometimes feel) that it can be a problem, too.

The problem is magnified, maybe, for ex-NYC people, such as myself. City people like to talk, but not as a way to pass time; more as a way to show how funny and smart they are. (And, of course, they are. Everyone in New York City thinks they are funnier and smarter than everyone else, and are eager to prove it.)

Thus, talk takes on a different tone. Exhibiting your cleverness takes brevity. Long-windedness is for the dull. So is lack of focus. You want to make your waggish point and walk. So does your interlocutor (at least you hope they do).

It is an art form, and a way of being, and one I haven't been able to shake, in all my years away from the city. It's one of the reasons I love the place so much. You know - I love Grand Central Station, but just partly for the architecture; more for the talk I will hear when I'm there. And for the fact that the funny person talking to me will stop before I want them to, and go.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Belly": Filling Tall Orders At Lot 10

We had a staycation here in Ithaca this week and it turns out a big highlight was a trip last night to the "Belly" food enterprise which inhabits Lot 10 bar on S. Cayuga Street every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Belly is a food truck type enterprise, sans the truck, using Lot 10 as a three-night-weekly outpost. Unfortunately for us, we work those three nights, so when we had a chance to hit it this week, we did.

We wish we could tell you about everything on the menu, because that would mean we had eaten everything on the menu, but we only had one offering, the schnitzel and spaetzle. It was so good that we didn't want anything more. Well, we did, especially when we saw the other choices coming out of the kitchen, but we left great enough alone.

The menu changes weekly, depending on what's good at the market, and the creative impulses of the chef. It is a simple but splendid formula.

Our pal Manny Flores is part of the operation. He is from Queens and has worked at some of the best restaurants in Manhattan, but also has a feel for the fast-moving and hip, the ethnic, funky, and real. This is what Queens is, after all, and Manny represents. He takes your order dressed in crisp clothes, with a quick smile and a gift of gab. You are in the hands of a pro, here, who will make sure you're not only well-fed, but laughing and relaxed, and happy to be there. It's a tall order, maybe, but Belly fills it.

It's a great place to be. Maybe we will take next Friday off, too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Seward Historian At Cornell Tonight

Last autumn, we reviewed in the Ithaca Times Walter Stahr's biography of William Seward, whom you might know as the perpetrator of "Seward's Folly," the purchase of Alaska for the U.S., or for his supporting role in the hit movie "Lincoln." Tonight, Mr. Stahr comes to Cornell to discuss his book.

Seward was from Auburn, New York. You will see many momentos of his life if you visit Auburn, and also of Harriet Tubman, with whom Seward worked on the Underground Railroad, bringing fugitive slaves from the south. Seward rented a house to Tubman and both their houses were used to harbor fugitives, in violation of federal law.

Walter Stahr discussed "Seward: Lincoln's Indispensible Man" tonight at 7:30 in Statler Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

We published an interview with Mr. Stahr in this week's Ithaca Times. It is viewable at

Friday, July 19, 2013

GrassRoots Parking Tip

If you're doing a same-day round-trip to GrassRoots, here's a tip: pass up the free parking at Agard Road and pay for parking on Route 96, near the fairgrounds.

The parking lot was fine yesterday (we used it), before a lot of people had arrived. Thursday is usually a slow day. So there were no lines to board the shuttle bus (also free), in either direction.

But tonight, and tomorrow, there will be a lot more people, and tonight a lot of them will be leaving at the same time: when Emmylou Harris stops singing, about 11 o'clock. That could mean long lines to board the bus to go home.

Across from the fairgrounds on Rt. 96, the various car dealerships, markets, etc. sell parking spaces for $10 a day. That means at the end of your night you can walk to your car and be home in Ithaca in half an hour (assuming you don't get stopped on Rt. 96 for squealing your tires, which happens a lot this weekend each year, when state troopers on 96 develop very sensitive hearing).

$10 can't do anything about the cops, we don't think, but for parking, it can be a very wise investment. By Sunday, the crowds have thinned enough to go back to free parking and the bus.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beating The Heat (Again)

Almost exactly two years ago, Ithaca had record heat, and we posted here on IBlog an entry about hot beverages as a palliative for over-heatedness: method, or madness? It's too hot to retype or recap it here, so we simply refer you back to the posting, from 7/11/11. There's a search field on the blog pages that will find it for you if you enter "hot beverages."

Meanwhile, we got the idea of sticking our shirt into the freezer for a while before donning. We haven't done it, and are sure it is stupid enough not to mention again, but if we do it and it's cool, so to speak, we will, don't worry.

We will also report what we find when we log onto Amazon and Etsy and look up "ice-pack hats."

Monday, June 24, 2013

4th of July On July 1

In Ithaca, we call it the Community Fireworks Celebration, because it's not on July Fourth, but on a cheaper day less in demand - this year, Monday 1 July.

This is the second year the event is at Stewart Park, a fine venue, with room to spread out, and for vendors with food and drink.

Transportation is always a problem for a fireworks show, because unlike a festival, everyone leaves at the same time. TCAT has free buses between the park and the library, but by far the best option is biking. If I lived in Enfield, I would bring a bike in back of the car, drive in and park at Wegman's, and bike across town. Bikes are not affected by congestion, and there was plenty at show's end last year, even to board the buses, and for them to exit.

Our favorite question about the fireworks show is, what time does it start?, because you don't have to answer that question.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Naked Miles Davis

A few times I have played that ice-breaking game where you tell a group of people one true thing and two lies about yourself, and they have to guess which is which. I always include the statement that I was once alone naked in a room with Miles Davis. It usually wakes the crowd, especially in work environments, and has never been selected as true, but it is.

It was a locker room, but it still counts. We were alone, very early in the morning, and I did not feel entirely comfortable. This fellow was very talkative and a little odd, not good traits in a naked stranger. I did not know at first it was Miles Davis.

It was the locker room at the gym at the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York. It was almost exactly 27 years ago, in the last week of May, 1986. I was just married, on my honeymoon.

My wife (now ex-wife) and I were from New York, and had courted there as high school kids, but had moved away, and decided to spend part of our honeymoon in the city we loved with some money in our pockets now. In the old days our dates consisted of walking in Central Park with perhaps an iced tea and a pretzel to split. Now we would stay at a fancy hotel and go to plays and restaurants.

The U.N. Plaza was a nice place at the time. We didn't want anything too fussy, and we liked the fact that it had a gym with a big pool on the top floor, with views of the city as you swam.

I was up at 7 one morning to swim. My wife stayed in bed and I told her I'd be back by 8 for breakfast. I was the only one at the gym at that hour, and it was great, the place all to myself.

I look up, though, as I'm doing laps, and there's a guy at the side of the pool. He is very skinny, doing stretching exercises. They are very slight movements, but he is making a lot of noise: kind of high-pitched squealing sounds.

It is a little distracting, and I try to ignore the guy, but it isn't easy. The movements are strange, and so are the sounds, and he is kind of striking, besides. He is built like linguine, with a boney head. He is dark-skinned, and his hair is in long braids off a receding hairline, with gold metal tips. He is maybe 60 years old, wearing a very small Speedo, and a watch and other jewelry such as swimmers don't usually sport.

I take the guy for maybe an African ambassador. We are at the U.N. Plaza, after all. I figure in the name of diplomacy I won't say anything, but after a while it becomes a bit much. The guy isn't getting in the pool or anything. After a while I figure I am done.

I get out of the pool and dry myself off and go into the locker room. The place is fancy and there's an attendant outside and there are no locks on the lockers. I sit down in front of mine to get dressed. I hear my man coming in from the the pool and think, watch, 100 lockers here and I bet he's right next to mine.

Sure enough: he walks over, opens the locker right next to mine, and sits down next to me.

And I mean next to me, like a foot away, maximum: a lot closer than necessary. I shift to my left a bit, tired of diplomacy.

I'm pulling on my pants and socks and the guy starts coughing. Deep, phlegmy coughs. "Man," he says, after the exertion. "Hey, man," he says to me. "When you go swimming, does your saliva get all sticky like this?," and he holds out his hand, full of gob.

"Come on, man," I say, scowling and squirming away. "I don't want to look at your saliva."

"Come on, man!," he responds. His voice is scratchy and his accent sounds American, not African. "Take a look! That's all I'm asking, does your saliva get all sticky like this?"

"I don't know," I say, still scowling. "It gets a little sticky, I guess. Were you even in the pool?"

"That's what I mean!," he says. He's shaking his hand back and forth. "And this is some sticky motherfucking shit!"

Now I have a pretty good idea he is not African, though what do I care. All I want him to be is a guy I'm no longer around.

But he continues to talk, and all of a sudden it is interesting to me, because his vernacular is so funny, and his voice strangely familiar. I still haven't really looked at him yet, until he starts talking about being "in Russia with my band."

It was a long story, but here is the end of it. He says, "I passed out on the stage. They took me out of there and put me in an ambulance. I woke up and said, 'Where you taking me, motherfucker?' And they said to the hospital. And I said, to a motherfucking Russian hospital? I ain't going to no motherfucking Russian hospital. Take me to a fucking American hospital. And they said America's 2000 miles away except for Alaska. And I said take me to fucking Alaska, then. And they did, they put my ass in a plane and flew me there. At least I think they did. They spoke English there, anyway. Motherfucker," he mused.

At this point I look over at him, because my heart is beating so hard I figure he can hear it, because I realize this is Miles Davis. He looks back at me.

"What's your name, man?" And he held out his hand to shake. The other hand.

"Steve," I said, my voice not shaking, with effort. We shook hands. "I'm Miles," he said. "Yeah," I said.

"I never seen you here before, man. You a member of the club? You live around here?"

"No," I say. "I'm here on my honeymoon. Staying at the hotel."

"Your honeymoon?," he says. "You motherfucker. You got married?"

"Yeah," I say. This is fun now. "I got married. You know. You get married and you go on a honeymoon."

"You motherfucker," he said. "Don't tell me about no honeymoon. I been married four - five times." We were both were trying not to laugh.

"You got a wife?," he continued. "Where you get a wife?" I explained about our history, our marriage, and lives. He listened as he dressed. I couldn't help noticing bills folded in a money clip, about an inch thick. Between that and his jewelry he was carrying thousands of dollars, who knows how many, with no entourage, no bodyguard, all alone, 150 pounds maybe.

He asked if I was interested in music, and I said yes, and did I play anything, and I said yes, and he asked all about that, and talked about his love, too, for country blues. It was as if I was the famous one.

By no means did I want to go - I'd had a chance to ask him a few questions, but not many - but, as I explained to him, my wife was expecting me. In fact, I was late.

"Fuck, well, yeah, late. You don't want to be late for shit on your honeymoon. Let's go, but what are you doing later? Why don't you and Amy come up to my house?"

I said thanks, but in fact we had the whole day planned. We were meeting my parents for lunch, and hers for dinner.

"Bring them, too," he said. "It's a big place." He gave me the address.

"It's a great offer, Miles, you're very generous, and I would love to do it," I said, "but you know how it is. We've had these plans a long time."

"Yeah," he said. "Well, anyway. If you change your mind, come by. Tell the guy at the door just to send you up or call me."

We walked out of the locker room together. I was maybe half an hour late: we had talked a long time. He asked me, "Think you in trouble?"

"Maybe," I said. "Here comes my wife." Amy was walking out of the elevator to come find me. I knew she wasn't mad, but I let him think I was worried.

"Uh-oh," he said. "Wow. Let me do the talking. Tell her it was all my fault."

"Don't curse," I said.

"Don't curse?," he said, That threw him a second. I laughed. "Motherfucker," he said laughing, under his breath.

My wife had a funny look as she realized I was not just walking beside this very well-dressed, older black man, but with him. What now, said the look. It intensified as he strode up to her, arms outstretched, calling her name. "Amy, Amy, Amy," he said, hugging her. "I'm so sorry, baby. Here you are on your honeymoon and I'm keeping your husband late from you. But I'm so happy to meet you. I'm so happy for you on your marriage and your lives together. I wish you so many blessings."

"Amy," I said, "this is Miles Davis."

We never made it to his place. I might have tried harder if he had mentioned, as we were celebrating our marriage, 24 May, he had just celebrated his birthday, 26 May. I'm writing this on the day in between. Happy anniversary and happy birthday, Miles Davis.

WRFI Radio Striding Ahead

WRFI community radio is a great new reason to listen to radio in Ithaca. The station has been busy creating new programming, and it seems every time we tune in there is something engaging, among both the news and the music shows.

Our current favorite is The Joe Show, with our friend Joe Romano, Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Joe is old and new school, both, with the music he plays and the way he presents it, with plenty of verve and charm.

Joe is Marketing Manager at GreenStar Coop, and we sense he is helping RFI heighten its profile. Recently he broadcast live from a roller derby bout. If that isn't community radio, what is?

We have heard that RFI will have a contingent striding in the Ithaca Festival parade next Wednesday. Go look at them, listen to the station, and take one of the many opportunities to get involved with this exciting and valuable venture. WRFI 88.1 FM has a website and a Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

40th Anniversary of the Camden 28

On the Democracy Now program today, host Amy Goodman mentioned the 45th anniversary of the antiwar protests of the Catonsville Nine. On 17 May 1968 the nine, including Father Dan Berrigan of Cornell, burned records at a draft office in Catonsville, Maryland in protest of the war in Vietnam.

This month also marks the 40th anniversary of the trial of the Camden 28, who raided a draft office in Camden, New Jersey to confiscate draft registrations. That group included Dan Berrigan and John Grady, Sr. of Ithaca.

John was a professor at Ithaca College and the father of five children. Among the children are MaryAnne, Clare, and Ellen Grady, who are active in various peace and justice movements today. John passed away in 2002.

The Camden group had been infiltrated by the FBI, which had 40 agents hidden at the scene of the raid. Upon arrest, each protestor faced over 40 years in prison on felony charges.

Members declined a plea bargain and went to trial. They invoked the responsibility of citizens to act against governments engaged in "crimes against peace," as articulated in the Nuremberg Principles after World War II. Their defense focused on the legal principal of "jury nullification" of a law deemed wrongly formed or applied.

On 20 May 1973, the jury found the 28 defendants not guilty on all charges. The trial was an historic affirmation of jury nullification and civil disobedience.

On its 40th anniversary, we remember Dan Berrigan, of Cornell United Religious Work, and our friend John Grady, a man whose courage shook the earth, and laughter shook the skies.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New CD By Rockwood Ferry; Article in Ithaca Times

We have observed the Ithaca music scene a long time, and think that Tenzin Chopak and his band, Rockwood Ferry, have gotten fonder, faster fervor from local fans than anyone we've ever seen.

The band recently released its second CD. Also called Rockwood Ferry, it is all original music. It is available at the band's website and gigs.

We wrote an article for the current week's Ithaca Times about the band. It got a little mangled in print, but the original version is posted pretty nicely on the Ithaca Times website.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Comedic Correction in the New York Times

Of course, how long will I remember this one, but if there was ever a better correction proferred by the New York Times, I don't remember it:

"A feature transcribed incorrectly a comment from Callie Khouri, creator of the television drama 'Nashville,' about what she would put on her Easter playlist. Khouri said she would include music by Pops Staples, the late patriarch of the singing family the Staple Singers. She did not say she would include 'pop staples.' "

Coincidental to the humor, I learned something. Even as a longtime fan of Pops and the group, I never recognized before that, individually, each is "Staples," but collectively, they are "Staple" Singers.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Soft Sell For Mother's Day

We like the soft-sell sign for Mother's Day outside the Jewelbox shop at the corner of Buffalo and Taughannock. "Mom - You Were Right," it says. Pretty universal.

Mother's Day is this Sunday, 12 May.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

R.I.P., George Jones: Music Legend, GrassRoots Performer

I've known Jeb Puryear, of Donna The Buffalo, a long time, living and working in the same circles, but we've had very few conversations. Maybe Jeb is a man of few words, or maybe I am (actually - obviously to you IBlog readers - I am not).

Anyhow, one of those few conversations was about having a Ferris wheel at GrassRoots Festival. It seemed an excellent idea, especially while Jeb and I drank cool drinks, there at the Trumansburg Fairgrounds, and thought about how good things could be, or how better.

Another idea that emerged was to have George Jones perform, someday, at GrassRoots. Somehow, in our middling conversation, Jeb and I discovered that we were both huge fans of the man.

The Ferris wheel never appeared, but George Jones did, a couple of years ago. He was past his prime, a little - in one's eighties, one will be - but he was still great. You know. He was George Jones.

For the generation after Hank Williams, at least, George Jones was the greatest country singer - the greatest American singer? - ever. What the hell: put George up against old Hank. It'd make a good bar argument; and they'd probably both like that. (I guess if we're talking American singers, and not just country, you'd have to throw ol' Frank in there too; but that's okay - he'd probably like that bar talk, too.)

Rest in peace, Trumansburg visitor, GrassRoots performer, legendary man of music - with our repsect and gratitude - George Jones.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Run For Boston At The DeMott Peace Trot, 16 June

Frida Berrigan is a prominent peace activist and an avid runner. Here we quote Frida's blog, Waging Nonviolence, about Ithaca's annual run for peace, dedicated to her friend (and ours), the late Peter DeMott. Frida will run the 5K race and intends to run in Boston next year.

"The DeMott Trot is a great way to start getting in shape for the Boston Marathon next year, so come out and run for peace, friendship, nonviolence, family, and community. Come out and run against fear and hatred and bombings and terror and tyranny and BBs and small nails and lost limbs and lost lives - in Boston, Baghdad, Mogadishu and anywhere else in the world."

Frida quotes a friend about the value of running (we especially like it in light of our last Ithaca Blog post, "Meetingspeak"):

"Long runs teach patience, and are good preparation for a long vigil, physically and mentally. They are also welcome relief from interminable meetings."

The DeMott Peace Trot is Father's Day each year. This year's date is Sunday 16 June. The race is at Cornell Plantations at 10 a.m. Find more info at, and on the race's Facebook page.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Meetingspeak: A Quick (No, Really) Guide

Like many good Ithacans, we suffer through our share of painful, ponderous committee meetings of various organizations. Comprehension lessens suffering,`perhaps, so we offer this brief guide to the type of talk you will hear at meetings, with specific examples, so you can see it's not you, it's them.

When someone says "I'd like to front-load the process with action points that might require closure," you should start day-dreaming as vividly as possible, because you are in for a mind-numbing time.

When someone says they want to say something "real quick," that means it is going to take real long.

When someone says they want to "share" something, it means they want to say something that just popped into their heads that is of no relevance or interest.

When someone says "I respect Brian and his opinions tremendously," they are telling the truth, if you replace the word "respect" with the word "loathe."

Okay, let's take a quick break now and be back in ten minutes sharp. I really mean that. We have a lot of back-loading to do from the parking lot.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Our Favorite Holy Thursday Joke

It's Easter, and with all that is sacred about the season, we offer something profane, or at least silly: our favorite joke about Easter in general, Holy Thursday in particular.

Yes, we bring it up every year, or most years. It's alright, it's an eternal joke.

You can see it by searching for "Easter joke" in the inquiry field on the top left of this page.

Have a nice holiday, and no hamburgers tomorrow.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Amy Goodman At Ithaca College, Sunday 24 March

Amy Goodman, the foremost journalist in America, will speak at Ithaca College on Sunday 24 March.

It's been a few years since Amy was here, and last time security tried to close the building for the crowds. Instead Amy induced them to let everyone in, even if they had to sit on the stage. (They did, and they did.)

Tomorrow should be less crowded, with schools in spring break, but not that much less. You'll want to get there early. The talk is at 8 p.m. in the Park Center.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Play Music, Don't Curse Dishes

As a kid I was confused by the biblical saying, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Of course it is, I reckoned, unless you were cursing the darkness because you couldn't find the candles. It didn't strike me as much of an injunction.

Maturity taught me the real story, that it simply means you shouldn't complain about things, but find ways to make things better. This all came to me recently as I washed dishes to music from a CD.

I don't mind housework, but dirty dishes is just one of those things, it seems like a punishment for having cooked and eaten well. I could unfreeze pizza and not have to work afterwards. But try to do right, and cook creatively with fresh ingredients, and at the end of it rather than be happy and satisfied, you have to stand up and wash things while looking at a wall. That is some darkness to curse, isn't it?

The other dissatisfaction of my home life is that I never listen to music. I love music, but I'm almost never home, and when I am, I'm either reading, writing, or sleeping, none of which go with paying attention to music.

You don't have to be a theologian to see where this is going, right? I got the idea to bring the little boom box from the west wing of my apartment to the kitchen, in the east wing, 15 feet away, and set it up by the sink. Then I get the Mary Lorson CD I have been meaning to revisit. Turn it on loud enough to overcome the faucet, and start washing dishes, in mindless motion, while full attention is turned to Ms. Lorson's excellent rendering of "I Don't Care," by Eva Tanguay, and her own collection of lovely tunes.

Candle lit. No bad feelings. Thumbs up for a solid injunction, and the maturity to understand and improve things. Where to turn one's attention next? World peace? Hydrofracking? Dust-busting?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

St. Patrick's Day, Free Whiskey?

In a move that should probably be illegal, our friends at Maxie's restaurant are having free whiskey tastings this Sunday to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Finger Lakes Distillers are the co-conspirators. There will also be half-price oysters from the raw bar from 4 - 6 p.m.

As if this is not enough entrapment, there is also free music. No doubt there will also be plenty of verbalizing of talk.

The menu will also feature corned beef reubens, and a house special dessert free with dinner. Maxie's is crazy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Solas Show, Multi-Media, At Cornell, 3/13

The Irish band Solas, longtime Ithaca favorites, return in time for St. Patrick's Day for a mutli-media show at Cornell's Willard Straight Cinema.

"Shamrock City" is a live-music show with visual media. It tells the story of the great-grandfather of Seamus Egan, Solas's leader, who came to America as a young man to work as a miner in Montana, and traveled as a bare-knuckle prizefighter. His hard-scrabble life (and early, mysterious death) dramatize the plight of the Irish immigrants who fled famine at home to find violence, discrimination and poverty here.

The show is at 7:30 on Wednesday 13 March. Tickets and information are available at the website for Dan Smalls Productions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Karan Casey Sings For Peace, March 7

Karan Casey is a star of Irish music whose concert tours span the world. Whenever she tours America, she tries to visit Ithaca to perform a benefit concert for the peace and justice work of the Ithaca Catholic Worker and her friend, Ellen Grady.

The latest concert, of about nine or ten over the years, is Thursday 7 March at the Community School of Music and Arts. Karan will appear with guitarist John Doyle, with whom she has worked for 20 years, including in the Irish supergroup Solas, at its founding in the 1990's.

We spoke with Karan via Skype from Ireland on Sunday. A portion of that conversation appears in the Ithaca Times tomorrow.

Ellen is out of jail in time for the concert. She was imprisoned for a peaceful demonstration in Syracuse against the drone war planes operating from there. You can say hello to her today, selling tickets for the show at a table at GreenStar Coop from 4 - 6 p.m. Tickets are also available at Angry Mom Records on the Commons, open 7 days a week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Facebook: Too Little, Too Much

An acquaintance of ours, who is also a Facebook friend (copyright?), recently posted there that she is taking a break from Facebook for a while. No posting, no looking.

We didn't think too much about it, as we don't need Facebook every day, like coffee or something. It stayed in mind, though, as we saw notice of an article somewhere about whether social media actually makes people feel lonely, rather than connected.

We didn't pursue that, either, but it came up for us personally when we looked at Facebook and did actually feel a bit blue.

There were extenuating circumstances for us. We were sick, with a throat swollen up like a bullfrog's, and pretty much quarantined. We had occasion to look at Facebook, and were struck by a bunch of bad feelings.

Here is one friend, dressed up and supremely happy at a dance. Here's another, hosting a birthday party for her lovely kid. Here's another, in Ecuador. And here we are, in lounge pants, and not our best socks, worrying about our apple juice supply.

It's not just a question of envy, though. Because here are our other friends depressing us even worse with their sad photos of funny animals, rancor about right-wing radio, and entries consisting of the word "Yum".

This is when it occurs to us, it is a no-win situation. Facebook is making us hate our friends because they are too interesting, or not interesting enough.

JW, is this what you meant? How I see the light now. When one writes a letter, it takes time. Thus it has scope and complexity. Facebook postings don't. Thus the dissatisfactions.

Write me a letter. I promise I'll write back.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cue From Cupid

Just because something came along with a holiday years ago doesn't mean it's worth less than before. Usually it is the opposite, in fact.

And so it is, we believe, with our advice to the lovelorn on Valentine's Day. We first printed this bit, "Valentine's Day Tip For The Unattached," here in Ithaca Blog exactly five years ago today.

Have a look, either by using the blog search field above left, or by using the calendar at right. And, by all means, get out there and have fun.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How To Lose Weight

We were out to eat, at The Piggery (excellent and fun, by the way), and talking about food, when M. said he didn't want to gross us out by reporting on what he heard on This American Life recently. We said go ahead, as long as it's not as boring as the show usually is; we don't mind gross, we do mind pretentious ironic unpretentiousness (we like to make M. mad, easy to do).

Once he unscowled, M. told us about the topic, so-called "imitation calamari" in restaurants, that is really pig rectums, or thereabouts. Isn't that gross?

No, what's gross about it, we said; what are we eating here? The fact is, we eat hotdogs (not often, but ceremoniously, in baseball season), and we know what goes into those: everything, including some things that mightn't cross your mind, much less your knowing lips, like placenta and eyeballs.

It all reminded us (tangentially, I suppose) of a notion we had recently, of how to lose weight, by only eating things you don't like.

It was one of those brainstorm moments, based on circumstance, which was that we came home ravenous one evening, with nothing ready to eat, except for something someone made for us, a friend who is very generous, but a scattershot cook.

It was healthy, which we like, but rather bland and mushy. We thought we could fix it by seasoning, but then thought, why not leave it, and just eat enough to sustain ourselves?

Thus, the weight-loss notion. What if you cleared your kitchen of things you really like, and replaced them with healthy things you really don't? Over-eating will end, and you will become slim, practically automatically. You won't starve - in fact, if it is fava beans, cabbage, and cranberries, your make-up will no doubt improve.

One key to this scheme is no eating out. The world outside is just a big trough, you know. We would also recommend avoiding TV, or at least keeping the remote handy for when food ads broadcast. We watch sports on TV and know there is a lot of food porn during commercial breaks.

It's a simple idea, and simple ones are the best, aren't they? We wish you luck with it, and if you lose weight we will accept your thanks, although in the meantime, not your dinner invitations.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Buy Local (And Be Glad): The Computer Room

We think we need a new battery for our laptop. We figure first stop will be Staples, to see what they will say. Also, without some research, we don't know where else to go.

We stand there a long time at Staples while two clerks look at us. One finally moves. We describe our problem to him.

He looks at us dully like he's simply waiting for us to stop talking. And then that seems accurate, because when we're done, he goes into a pitch of a comprehensive diagnostic examination, of all our hardware and software, which costs $69.

We say we just think it needs a new battery. So he goes to check on that price. It is $139. It must be a nice battery. But we decline.

We tell this tale to our friend Tom. He says yeah, forget Staples, go the Computer Room on State Street. Where on State Street, we ask. Next to Maxie's, he says. Oh yeah, we pass there every day.

Today we go in. The clerk sees us and greets us right away. He listens to the problem. He is not sure it's not "a fluke." If that means don't do anything, that's alright with us. He says yeah, try this and this, and if it still happens, we'll see about a battery. The battery will cost $50.

That was a pretty comprehensive diagnostic, and it didn't cost anything. And, should we need it, we'll save $90 on the battery.

Three cheers for local good guys. Check out the Computer Room when you got the need.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Brooklyn 3 New York" Is Back

Our parvus opus, our jugger-not, 100 pages of a plain slice of Brooklyn, is back online.

We wrote this little work, "Brooklyn 3 New York," to document the Brooklyn we grew up in, a good time ago. We admit, it is partly an effort to counterpoint the blowhard Brooklyn lit of today. All the syllables, all the concepts, all the thinking who one is. That's not for this place.

"Brooklyn 3 New York" was offline for a while as we negotiated publication somewhere. That deal fell through, but another came through, that allows us to offer B3NY free once again, on, at least for a while.

You can find it by entering "". Reading requires some juggling, as the last entry written is printed first, the first last, etc. But you'll catch the hang of it. Then when it's published, you'll still want to buy it, to have it right-side up.

What's not to enjoy, as they said in Smilin' Jack's Appetizing. And, you gonna buy something?, as they said at the comic racks.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Best Movie There Will Ever Be

We like the movies, and try to keep up with them, but there are lots, and it isn't any easier when they insist on giving movies names that are either non-descript ("The Sessions") or just hard to remember ("Crouching Dragon, Lunging Lion," an historic example).

Our new way to rate movies is by the title: how descriptive is it, as in accurate? Not as in creative. Save creative for the movie. We want a movie title that gets us to the right theater.

On this basis, we give a medium rating to "The Promised Land," which we saw last night. They should have called it "The Fracking Movie," because this is what people will call it. It is not about Moses or Springsteen.

And on this basis, we will give "Lincoln" five stars. Because, can you imagine this conversation?:

- Went to the movies last night.

- What'd you see?

- "Lincoln."

- What's it about?

Never happen. "Lincoln," by our standards, the best movie, maybe, there could ever be.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

We Know What She Means

At work, my friend K. was done, and looking forward to a nap. She started work at 6:30 a.m. She said something about being a night person.

"The thing is," she said, "I'm a morning person, too." She thought for a second. "I'm just not an afternoon person."

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Cars And Snow And What We Know

Here's how much we know about cars. Winter corrosion, especially salt on the snowy streets, is bad for them. So it is good to wash them in the winter. Today is 16 d Farenheit or so, but tomorrow will be in the 30's, so a good day for the carwash. (It will be crowded.)

We're lucky, there's a good carwash two blocks from our house, so we can walk it.

Here's how much we don't know about cars. After the big snowfall last week, we were digging out our car. A passer-by said, "Is that Volvo all-wheel drive?" The answer, quite sincere, was "I don't know." The guy looked away with disdain. And we know so little about cars that we don't know exactly why.