Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Merry Christmas to a Remarkable Town

Two really important things happened for The Sherburne Inn in the past couple of weeks. On December 4th we (finally) got the signed contract from New York State for the 2013 grant. What this means in a nutshell is that we can (finally) begin work on the building. It was a long 358 days from the time of the announcement that we got a $500,000 grant to the actual signing of the contract, but the day (finally) came. The grant process is an arduous one, with lots of waiting and paperwork and late nights and government red tape and so on. In the end though, it's worthwhile, and we are tremendously grateful to New York State. Last year the state said they believed in the project, and said so with a promise of major funding. On December 4th they made good on that promise.
 
To clarify, that we got the contract signed doesn't mean hammers will be heard pounding at the Inn anytime soon. There are other steps to take, bid packages to get approved, planning sessions to be held, and many decisions to be made. Still, things are moving forward. Finally.
 
The second big thing to happen was that on December 11th New York State granted us yet another half million dollar economic development grant for the project. For those who are counting, that's a million dollars SSIRP is getting from the State of New York to restore and reopen The Sherburne Inn, a million dollars awarded in 12 months to the day. We don't know how long it'll take for the contract on the new grant to be signed, but that's okay. The first half million will get us started on the exterior of the building, and by the time the second contract is signed we'll be just about ready to move to restoration inside. More funds need to be raised, of course, and we'll be launching a corporate fundraising campaign in the spring. SSIRP anticipates that corporate money will start to flow now that we have New York State as our primary project funder.  
 
Like I said, it's been a long year during which patience has begun to fray, for those of us on the SSIRP board and most certainly for people in our community who have been wondering what's going on as they pass by the building and see no progress. We knew from the beginning this would be a step-by-step process, and while we've been waiting for the state to untangle its red tape we've been laying the foundation to transition this historic building from a dark shell to a thriving hub. Rest assured that every board member of SSIRP -- along with the wonderful volunteers who have come forward to lend a hand -- are dedicated to bringing back The Sherburne Inn. There have been so many volunteers that it's impossible to name them all, but you know who you are, and SSIRP is and will be eternally indebted. This project in late 2012 began with a handful of voices. Today those voices are a choir, and they are everywhere. 
 
This Christmas, I speak for the entire SSIRP board of directors in extending thanks to everyone in Sherburne, in surrounding communities, and those from far away who have supported us (with particular thanks to the Howard K. Finch Memorial Foundation and The INN-SIDERS). The individual donations, large and small, have brought us to where we are today, celebrating the state grants that will launch this project forward. Without the checks that have arrived by mail over the past two years we would not have been able to continue. Thank you for supporting our fundraising events, for pressing twenty dollar bills into board members' hands, for buying (and selling) INN-SIDERS' books, for touring the Inn to see for yourself the building we love, and for sending letters and emails of encouragement. This is a special town, one I'm glad and proud to call home.
 
To everyone who has been so generous of time, money, and spirit -- Merry Christmas! It is because of you that we are on our way!!
 
Oh yes, and mark your calendars for summer 2017 -- no promises yet, but we're shooting for a grand opening on the Inn's 100th birthday!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Small Town Angel

In my last post I was griping about the UPS person (among other things) and how he or she completely ignored my note about putting packages on the side porch.
 
The Universe is such a mysterious and wonderful place.
 
It's Christmastime and I've been busy ordering gifts. Every other day or so a present seems to arrive. Sometimes I see the UPS truck slow down in front of my house, sometimes I don't. On Thursday I did, so like a kid in footies and snowman-covered pajamas, I dashed through the rooms to see what new item was being delivered. I opened the door as the UPS man was coming up the steps and he introduced himself as the son of someone I know. "Hey!" I said, we exchanged pleasantries, and then Harry came tearing down the hall in typical Harry fashion, barking his head off. I joked about my furry doorbell, we waved goodbye, I took my package, and that was that; or so I thought.
 
Today another package arrived and this time I didn't see the truck. I checked the porch this afternoon and did indeed find a box, some delivery from Amazon. On top of the box was a dog bone. For Harry.
 
There are times I regret leaving New York City to journey into another life upstate, to a little town where everybody seems to know your business and where I have to travel 40 miles to find a sushi restaurant. Today was not one of those days.
 
Santa came early this year, not in a sleigh but driving a big brown truck, reminding me (as the Grinch discovered) that Christmas doesn't come from a store. It comes from the heart.
 
Thanks Mr. UPS angel. You made my week (not to mention Harry's).



 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Strange November ... and Snoooowww

It's been a strange November.

Last week was "one of those weeks" for me. Went to the store and bought a can of paint, dropped it in my driveway and splattered Bright White all over myself and my leaves, which (admittedly) I have not raked. Later I was spooning Chinese noodles onto a plate and the plate inexplicably snapped in my hand, showering noodles all over the kitchen and, ultimately, broken plate pieces all over the floor. The next day I was looking at emails on my phone while walking (bad idea). I slammed into the wall instead of walking through the door. Light bulbs, recently replaced, have been burning out. My wood pile fell over -- just fell over. One day it was nicely stacked and the next day wood was all over the driveway, not far from the paint spill. I left a note for the UPS man on the front door, asking politely that he walk around the porch and leave newly-ordered and arrived Christmas gifts at the kitchen door. Twice he (or she) has left them on the front porch, directly under the note. Can UPS people not read?? Speaking of notes, I've put a note to myself on the back door that says "DOG IS IN" and, on the other side, "DOG IS OUT" because I keep forgetting where Harry is. Of course now I keep forgetting to turn the note over to indicate his location. Usually he barks if he wants to come back inside, but not always, and I don't want to find my dog as a frozen fishstick on the back steps because I can't keep his whereabouts straight.

I suppose it's possible I'm losing my mind, but I think it's the snow, or rather, the threat of snow. Big-eyed, I've been studying the news and Facebook, all of which feature photos of 10-foot-plus snowbanks in Buffalo. I went to school at Brockport, not far from Buffalo, and remember one year after the holidays returning to find 15-foot banks of snow lining the roads. So far here at home the snow has been minimal, but my gut is telling me it's coming this way, and coming soon. No, we don't have the same lake-effect troubles as Buffalo and Syracuse, but we always seem to get the residuals.

In truth, I like snow and this visually pristine -- if freezing -- time of year. But not when it buries the car and mounts up against the doors. I don't like shoveling snow anymore than I like raking leaves. It's fun and peaceful to watch flakes drift outside the family room windows, cozied up beside the fire. It's most certainly not fun to dig out the car every day to go to the post office and witness story-high banks of snow in the street.

Then again, it's the weather ... what are you going to do? I can handle wacky weather patterns because, as New York City people like to say about pretty much everything, it is what it is. And I'm a Central New Yorker. We get snow here, and anybody who constantly complains about it is living in the wrong place. What's harder to handle is my brain on potential snow overload, not to mention the non-brain events (light bulbs, wood piles, UPS man) interfering with my daily life.

As one friend of mine often says, Big Sigh. As another says, Whatever. Winter isn't coming, it's here, just a touch early. Time to hunker down, stop carping, crank up the furnace, and be thankful that I work from home (and that I don't live in Buffalo).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Deer Judge Judy: A Tail About Me and Harry

Me and Harry went for a walk the other day. On the walk we seen lots of things. We seen real pretty leaves falling and we seen other dogs and we seen some other people. Then me and Harry came home.

Does anybody out there think this paragraph (not to mention the headline) makes me sound kinda ... stupid??

One of my favorite shows is Judge Judy. I love the way JJ deals with the idiots who are suing each other for things like kids writing in crayon on rental apartment walls and loans that the defendants inevitably insist were gifts. Most fascinating to me, however, is the lack of language skills that permeates the show. It's gotten to the point where I tune in just to hear abominable English, the way rubberneckers slow down to see the gory details of a car accident. For quite some time now I've been wondering how JJ can stand it, and in fact have also been wondering if she even notices anymore.

Well apparently she does. The other night a couple of highschoolers were suing each other over a rumble. Girl "A" hit Girl "B" across the face with a bottle in response to Girl "B" threatening a friend of Girl "A." When Judge Judy asked Girl "B" to explain the circumstances, "B" began with "Me and Amber were at the gas station and I seen Girl "A" coming at me with a bottle and ..." at which point she was interrupted by Judy, who evidently couldn't take it anymore.

"You SAW her," JJ snarled.

Girl "B" blinked, cocking her head like a curious (and stupid) sparrow.

JJ then added, gazing squarely into the camera: "I just want America to know that I'm aware of this shattering of the English language."

The "shattering of the English language." Exactly. And sadly, the Judge Judy show is far from being the only pond containing such poisonous water. The inability of Americans -- particularly young ones -- to utter an intelligent sentence is everywhere. "Me and So-and-So" seems to have become the new normal. I hear it on TV, in movies, on the street, and in the store where I buy my coffee. Is ANYBODY teaching proper English anymore?? Do students write "Me and Somebody" in term papers, and does that get corrected or do teachers just let it slide, intoning the importance of the message and not the details and insisting they don't want to harm the delicate egos of those in their charge?

Parents and teachers and throngs of others have been engaged in relentless carping about the Common Core Curriculum. "It's not right, it's too hard, it's too complicated, it's too politicized." Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. The big question, though, is does CC -- or any curriculum -- teach basic English? Is anybody out there telling their students and children that me and Harry didn't go for a walk, that instead Harry and I went for a walk? Here's another favorite: "Bob was so nice to Harry and I." No, Bob wasn't. Bob was so nice to Harry and ME. This was one of the first lessons I learned in grade school ... take out "to Harry and" from the sentence and what you've got, at least in the first example, is Bob was so nice to I. Is that next great wave of our language's evolution? "Gee, Bob fixed my flat tire, he sure was nice to I." Folks are famous for discussing the evolution of the language, how "urban" terms end up in the dictionary, how "lol" and "omg" are now part of the vernacular. I've got no problem with this. What I DO have a problem with is my fellow Americans sounding like they just arrived in their spaceship after a long, drug-induced trip from Remulak.

I don't expect 20- (and 30-) somethings to walk around quoting Shakespeare, but for the love of God, can't they at least speak as though English isn't their second language? It's no wonder people around the world think Americans are morons. Educators are so worked up about being sure school kids are up to snuff in math and science that they seem to have missed the language skills boat. I can only imagine the horror: a grown American scientist, one who went to school in the current decade, finds a cure for cancer and twenty years from now announces publicly, "Me and my team are real happy about it, LOL!. We seen them cancer cells under the microscope and OMG .. zapped 'em!"

Most shattering about the Judge Judy example is that the girls testifying about their rumble were still in high school, allegedly under the guidance of educators, of ENGLISH teachers.

When some slacker takes money from someone else and says he didn't pay it back because (shrug) "It's not my fault, I didn't have the money," JJ is often heard to say, "Well you ARE going to pay it back, you're not getting away with this, not in MY America."

Dear Judge Judy: Ethics, morals, political and individual responsibility, courage of convictions, courage in general, and even something as seemingly insignificant as a simple declarative sentence are becoming ghosts in our culture. People who once said "I did it, it's my fault, I'll accept the consequences" are on the dinosaur track, being replaced by shruggers who steal and scheme and can't even speak intelligently while they're doing it. Dear Judge Judy: unless parents and teachers start walking a different road, unless they stop complaining about political agendas and start teaching the difference between right and wrong (which includes the garbage coming out of their mouths), unless they start teaching kids consequences for their actions and stop giving them everything their little hearts desire, your America, and mine, is on the downhill slide. 

Buckle up.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rock and Roll Never Forgets

I've always been a big Bob Seger fan. I guess I tuned into him sometime in the 1970s, after in 1973 he formed Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. The '70s, "my time" (that's when I graduated from high school and college, and then set off into the world), was rife with disco music. Okay, yes I know, some people really liked disco. I wasn't one of them. I still clung to the rock-n-roll music of the late 1960s and, for me, Seger was a refreshing lone, poignant voice in the new age of spinning mirrored ceiling balls and twirling dancers and white suits with floppy collars. I saw Bob in concert in 1980, in Memphis, and remember it being a dazzling night marred only by a guy throwing up in the seat in front of me. Mr. Seger, at that time, was 35 and in fine form.

Fast forward 25 or so years, and I found myself again at a Seger concert, this time in Madison Square Garden. I'd been invited by a friend and, quite honestly, I was nervous about it. I find it hand-wringing to watch aging rock stars perform (Mick Jagger, bless his heart, has a real cryptkeeper thing going, and I won't even talk about Keith Richards). Once, a young relative said to me when referring to Jerry Garcia, "I want to see these old guys in concert before they die." Unlike her I do not, for many reasons but most importantly because I really don't want to be the old broad with a purse in an audience full of drugged-out boozed-up possibly puking kids.

Nonetheless, off I went to the Garden.

At first I did in fact hand-wring. I sat quietly, purse on lap, waiting for the concert to start. I didn't look around much, mainly focused on the stage. Soon Seger appeared. I guess he was in his late 50s/early 60s then and actually looked pretty good for a guy "that old." Then he started to sing. While he couldn't really hit those head-voice high notes he's known for, he was great. More than great, he was fantastic. What a performer! Main Street, Turn The Page, Katmandu. About 30 minutes in, I finally looked around and realized the audience wasn't made up of kids, it was made up of people my age, those in their late 40s who remembered what I did, how Seger carried us through the '70s and dreadful disco; Seger, who was the voice we heard on the radio, the guy with the long hair and beard who wrote and sang about lost love and Betty Lou. That night in the Garden, he took us back to a time when we played albums on stereos and had to go looking for friends instead of tracking them on a GPS. Within 45 minutes I'd pulled my hair back into a ponytail, stripped off my jacket, and was sitting on the back of my seat, screaming and clapping and feeling 19 again, as were all the thousands of people around me. The music transported us. Suddenly we had no mortgages to pay, no lawns to mow, no creaking knees, no heartache. He made me -- and everyone in that massive concert arena -- feel young and wild and free. It was ... a moment. One that will stay with me until I'm in the ground.

Today I saw online that Bob is back on tour. He's 69. I probably won't catch this concert run -- although he's appearing in Albany, so who knows -- but I have to say in the vernacular of the 1970s, good for him, man. There is something truly remarkable about baby boomers, and baby boomer rockers, that they just don't step away from center stage. An exceptional era of humans. I sometimes wonder: are we baby boomers the first generation to understand getting old has nothing whatsoever to do with chronological years?
 
So you go, Bob. Rock and Roll, indeed, never forgets.
 
 
Bob Seger, Katmandu

 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Farmers' Market in Sherburne's Gaines Park September 27

Shut off your computers, press “record” on your DVR players, and come out on Saturday, September 27th to learn about Sherburne’s historical treasures. The weatherman is promising a beautiful day! For more information about the tour and ticket availability, please call 607-674-2486.
 
From noon to 5 p.m. this Saturday, historic sites of Sherburne will be open to visitors in an historic walking tour of homes and other properties built from 1830-1920. There will also be a noon to 5 p.m. farmers’ market in Sanford Lee-Gaines Park, featuring:



·         Quarry Brook Farms (meat and produce)
·         GreenSleeves Produce (vegetables, gourds, and pumpkins)
·         FoJo Beans Coffee Roasters (coffee and beans)
·         Buell Produce (mums, pumpkins, apples, and gourds)
·         Megan Knapp (macramé, slate paintings, crochet, and soaps)
·         Lost Bikers BBQ (bbq sandwiches)
·         The Pizza Genie (wood-fired pizza)

The historic tour is not a “formal” guided tour; ticket-holders will be invited to consult a map contained in the tour/ticket booklet and visit as many of the thirteen properties as they like. Questions about architecture and history will be answered by property docents, who will be present at each home and site. “They can visit one property, or two, or five, or all thirteen,” Chairperson Peg Jeffrey said. “It’s totally up to the ticket-holder to visit and enjoy whichever sites they wish.”

Ticket-holders are also invited to stop by The Sherburne Inn, which is on the tour and where refreshments will be provided by culinary students from BOCES.

“Of course we hope everyone on the tour will come to the Inn to ask about our progress and enjoy some complimentary snacks,” Jeffrey said.

Advance tickets may be purchased at The Big M supermarket and The Sherburne News office in Sherburne, Burt Marshall’s office and Maxwell’s Chocolate Shop in Hamilton, and at the Chamber of Commerce Office in Norwich. Tickets will also be on sale September 27th at The Sherburne Inn (advance tickets $20, day-of tickets $25). The INNsiders’ book Memories of The Inn, Volume 1, will be available at the Inn for purchase ($15) on September 27th.
 
By the way, No Problem Liquor Store on West State Street will host a wine tasting from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sherburne will be bustling on Saturday, so come out and enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Celebrating The Past

On Saturday, September 27, from noon to 5 p.m., historic properties of Sherburne will open to visitors in the first historic walking tour sponsored by Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project (SSIRP), a splendid “Welcome to autumn!” in this small village.

“For this tour, we’ve identified homes and other properties built between 1830 and 1920,” Peg Jeffrey, tour chairperson, said. “Property owners have been very generous in opening their doors to share with others the beauty of these historic buildings.”

Cost for the tour is $20 for advance tickets, and $25 for tickets sold on September 27. Tickets will be on sale on September 27 at The Sherburne Inn (2 West State Street), where guests will be offered complimentary refreshments and where questions will be welcome about the future of The Inn. SSIRP invites all tour attendees to stop by the Inn to tour the building. Advance tickets may be purchased online at thesherburneinn.org (click House Tour), and at the following outlets: The Big M and The Sherburne News office in Sherburne; and Maxwell’s Chocolate Shop and Burt Marshall’s office in Hamilton. Attendees may call 607-674-2486 for ticket information.

Jeffrey, who is a member of the SSIRP board of directors, is home-grown in Sherburne and, with her husband Jim, is proprietor of the Pillow and Pantry Bed & Breakfast located on Sherburne’s South Main Street. “Sherburne is a small place,” she said, “but has some outstanding homes and other properties built in this timeframe. We’re excited about the tour, and about having the opportunity to showcase our beautiful village and its historic architecture.”

Thirteen properties are on the tour: five private homes; The Sherburne Public Library; two churches, one of which with two affiliate properties; Sanford Lee-Gaines Park, which on September 27 will also feature a farmers’ market and food vendors; the Mule Barn, which once housed mules that worked the Chenango Canal; and of course, The Sherburne Inn.

“There are so many beautiful properties in Sherburne that it was difficult to choose,” Jeffrey said. “However, we plan to make the tour an annual event, and will soon begin scheduling of properties for 2015.”

Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project was formed in 2013 in an effort to preserve the century-old Sherburne Inn, which has stood vacant since 2002 and which was threatened with demolition in 2012. SSIRP, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, intends to restore and renovate the Inn, which held its grand opening on June 19, 1917. Plans include a farm-to-table restaurant, two bars, guest rooms, conference and meeting facilities, and other amenities, including retail space. SSIRP was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Howard K. Finch Memorial Foundation in July 2013, a $500,000 economic development grant from New York State in December 2013, and has raised more than $200,000 in community donations toward purchase and restoration since 2012. Total cost for the project is estimated to be $3 million. Other grants are in process, and SSIRP encourages corporate sponsors to contribute to the Inn’s restoration as a way to enhance local sustainability. SSIRP has retained preservation architects Crawford & Stearns of Syracuse to oversee construction and to preserve the historic qualities of the building during renovation.

For more information on the 2014 Sherburne Historic Walking Tour, call 607-674-2486. For information on Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project, or to purchase Historic House Tour tickets online, visit thesherburneinn.org.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum