Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Reading at Buffalo Street Books, Tuesday 24 June, 6 PM

I will be acting as a sort of fancy check-it-out guy at Buffalo Street Books, one week from tonight

Boy of Summer: Ithaca's Burke Reflects on Brooklyn Upbringing - Ithaca Times : Arts & Entertainment

Why Hillary Won't Win: Iraq

In 2002, as senator from New York, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize George Bush's war on Iraq. So did New York's other senator, Charles Schumer. I wrote to both of them at the time and said, you represent millions of New Yorkers who know this war is phony and illegal. You know it is, too. But you're not willing to say it. It might complicate your career. You voted for it as the politically expedient thing to do.

But (I wrote), maybe it's not. I know that personally I will never vote for either of you for anything again, no matter the circumstances. I'll write somebody in, as a protest vote. I hope and trust there are millions of people like me, and you have earned the ends of your political careers with this acquiescence to lies and slaughter.

In 2008, Clinton lost her campaign for the presidency to Barack Obama, who had opposed the war on Iraq. With the new upheaval in Iraq, the war remains an issue, as it should. And Clinton's complicity haunts her, as it should. It should haunt more than just her campaign.

As it did in 2008, it opens the door for less conservative challengers. Elizabeth Warren says she doesn't want to run, but we hope she's thinking about it now.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Yes, Pittsburgh

Ithaca is paradise in the summer, but if you want someplace to go on a quick summer vacation, with some urban excitement? There is always NYC, a place we dearly love, and will visit at hat's drop. But if you want something a little less known, a bit farther afield, and to make a discovery, go in the opposite direction, west instead of east, and visit Pittsburgh.

Yes, Pittsburgh. We visited Pittsburgh for the first time 6 years ago. We were going to a conference, and staying with friends. We had good, particular reasons to go: the conference (paying us), and those friends. But we found that Pittsburgh has attributes, as a city, of its own.

Its image is of a smokey, smolten steel town. Of course, this is no longer true. The city, to its enormous credit, did not die with the death of its first industry. Instead it recreated itself, as a center of education, and a home to health care and insurance businesses. It stayed economically strong.

Emerging from the transition was the physical beauty of the place. It got clean, and its three rivers, in their mighty confluence ("confluence" is a commonly-heard word in Pittsburgh) became prominent in their loveliness, recreational capacities, and interesting, cool-to-think-about, geographic and historical importance.

Also physically lovely about Pittsburgh are its hills. The hills are above those rivers. (That's where the water runs from.) Pittsburgh's hills reminded us of San Francisco, a place we have visited many times, and love. But San Fran's hills don't run with water, like Pittsburgh's. And they don't have trams running up them for thrilling views, as Pittsburgh's do.

Pittsburgh has also become a culinary center. There are great food people working there, running the range from farmer's markets and inventive food trucks, to fancy, splashy joints. When we were there, we talked to our restaurant host/chef, after a fantastic meal (at an expensive place, let's be clear - we like to spend money on such evenings pretty nicely, once in a while - though we can tell you, it was maybe only 60% NYC expensive), who told us he chose Pittsburgh over Brooklyn, as a place to ply his trade in comfort and calm, at a reasonable rent, to appreciative clientele. We can tell you he was doing it to great results.

The other thing, for summer, is that Pittsburgh has a major league baseball team. They play in a park that is regarded as perhaps the loveliest in the nation. (San Francisco's is its rival - there's that comparison, again - but tickets in Pittsburgh are about half the price of S.F.'s.)

As restaurateurs do, at least one bookstore has chosen to be in Pittsburgh rather than New York. It's called Amazing Books. It is a great shop and is run by a guy from the Bronx who married a woman from Pittsburgh and settled there. He has invited us to do a reading of our book, "Brooklyn 3, New York," at his place, and we are sure doing it. It is scheduled for Sunday 29 June, at 11 a.m. The New York Mets are in town that day to play the Bucs. Our plan is to do our reading first and then go as a group to the game. If any of this interests you to the point of involement? Let us know, and we'll see what's doing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Or A Marriage Counselor

I am a not-very-good guitar player, and I have a not-very-good guitar. We suit one another that way. The guitar had a previous owner, but a long time ago: 33 years. I bought it from the first owner in 1981. I forget what I paid for it. Maybe $100 bucks (1981 money, about a month's rent). It has sort of a bastard pedigree. Technically by Guild, a reputable maker, it is a "Madeira" model, which I think is sort of an ersatz knock-off. It doesn't matter to me. It's my guitar. It knows all the songs I know. I have never had another.

I take care of it okay. Periodic cleanings, adjustments. I recently took it to a friend who does repairs and such. He looks at it and scowls. At it, then me. It's okay, we're friends, he can scowl at me. He says to me, though:

- You ever think about getting a new guitar?

Now it's my turn. I scowl at him. I'm actually mad, though. At least a little. "It's a good thing you're not a veterinarian," I say.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Peter De Mott Trot, For Great Legs, and Great Work For Peace

Once and only once in my life did I ever dress in drag, or anything approximating it. It was for a costume party that I didn't want to go to because I don't like costumes anyway, at least not on me, plus the theme to this party was "The Brady Bunch," a show I never watched in my life, because I was never a prisoner of war, and only torture would make me do such a thing.

But, I was letting down a friend by not attending, so I went, and dressed up, not as some TV character, but as my friend Teresa Grady. My idea was to say I thought the theme was "The Grady Bunch."

I wore a knit dress and tights, as Teresa did in those days, plus a crucifix. I was a hit, for the most part, doing this thing my own way, as I love to do, except that after about an hour one of the women at the party came up to me, on behalf of herself and the other women, she said.

"We want you to go put on pants," she said. "You have nicer legs than any of us and you're showing us up."

I think of this because I am thinking of my late, great friend, Peter De Mott, Teresa Grady's brother-in-law, husband of Teresa's sister Ellen. If you want to see the greatest pair of legs on a man you ever saw in your life, look at the photo of Peter on the publicity for the De Mott Peace Trot, the annual 5K run/walk held every Father's Day in Peter's honor. The 5th annual event takes place on Sunday 15 June, at the Cornell Plantations.

Peter had the body of the ex-Marine he was, maintained by exercise that Peter took as he did everything in life, scrupulously but with joy. "A day without sweat is a day to regret," he said, and is the slogan of the Trot.

You don't have to run. The course is a beautiful place for a stroll, and the gathering is fun and heart-warming, one of the best community events of the year.

Proceeds from registrations and other donations go towards Peter's work for peace, which is carried on most directly by Ellen, their four daughters, others of the Grady Bunch, and the Catholic Worker group. Please contribute. More information at