Ithaca Blog

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.