Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May Madness

Some months it's just not worth getting out of bed.

The lilacs are finally in bloom after a lingering winter. My cats are sunning themselves on the front steps. Those are two good things that have happened so far this month.

On the flip side, I've lost my glasses. Again. I have several pairs of glasses, one pair so old that I look a bit like a bug when I put them on (as pointed out by my friend Jan on her recent visit here). But the two unbug-like pairs have vanished, under a chair or beside a bed or resting on some table as yet undiscovered. I'm a contact wearer but am down to one lens, which has a chip in it, and I haven't found time to go to the eye doctor for a new prescription. So I've been reduced to wearing the bug glasses in my search for the lost spectacles. The other night I was coming down the stairs, bug glasses in hand, and stumbled over shoes I'd foolishly left on the bottom step. Staggered, grabbed the rail, saved myself. Alas, in the midst of the stumble, the bug glasses in my hand were snapped in two. 

Harry has escaped twice from the back fence. The first time he was spotted racing down my street by a friend (fortunately he came home unsquashed by a truck) and the second time, a few days ago, I went to check on him and saw him fooling around in the bushes by my car, again unfettered by the wooden walls built to contain him. Again, he came to me when I called. At least he's coming back, about which I am relieved as in the past when he's escaped he's been gone like a shot, through the gate and hell-bent for Main Street. I discovered his escape hatch (a hole dug under the fence by my terrier son) and plugged it. I am now compulsive in looking out the kitchen window at him, anticipating another prison break when he finds more soft under-fence soil.

The same day of Harry's most recent escape, he murdered three baby rabbits, two of which he presented to me in full bloody carcass form on my kitchen floor. The third was mostly devoured by the time I got to him. He looked up at me, rabbit entrails dangling from his smiling and bloody teeth. Luckily, since I have no glasses, the image was blurry.

Yesterday I was hanging flower baskets on my front porch and noticed that a wicker love seat, which in truth I was planning to toss to the street due to a broken leg, was missing. Porch thieves have struck. I only hope when they sit on the thing the back leg finally collapses and they fall over, cracking their stupid skulls.

This morning, while writing this, I was on my porch admiring the lilacs -- one of few May pleasures so far -- when a large bee darted from a lilac blossom, made a swooping turn, and took a high dive into my half-full coffee cup. At least I saw it happen. Had I not, I'd more than likely be in the ER right now facing doctors with tweezers pulling a stinging insect out of my throat.

Ok. Karmic message received. I'm going to pull the May blankets up over my head and hunker down until June.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Without Vision, Cultures Perish

Patience is frustration. To be patient is to learn how to count to ten. Or twenty. Or ten thousand. To lose patience is, truly, a waste of time. It gets you nowhere to be impatient. You tap your toes and drum your fingernails and say why isn't this happening more quickly? Your head spins. You complain and wonder why people aren't moving along on your schedule. In the car, in the grocery line. Or in the case of my little place in the world, on a building that stands at the four corners of town.

Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project has taken on a large task. We have purchased an historic building with warped floors and moss on the porch roof. The building has sat empty for over a decade, collecting bird carcasses. Now the geezers in the diner are chewing their toothpicks and pointing fingers. "Yeah, we knew the building would still sit there. Nothing is happening."

If only the geezers could live my life for a day. Or the lives of the other eight board members of SSIRP. We are always on the telephone, or planning, or presenting our plan to someone, or tweaking budgets, or meeting twice and sometimes three times a week. We are told by the historic preservation folks that in order to get a substantial and deserved grant we must leave the paint alone, must let the moss lay on the roof. To make The Sherburne Inn "pretty" to appease our community is to put in jeopardy our grants, because the grant people have to know the building is in dire straits (which of course it is). Not only can we not paint trim on the windows, we cannot paint more than one trim on one window. We cannot repair a column. The building must remain in need, and when it does for months forward we will hear about it from the geezers. A major grant, nearly $500,000, has an application deadline of mid-July and an award date of October, at which time snow will probably start to fall. Actual funds will not be awarded until January 2014, meaning The Inn will sit as it has for another year. The geezers will trill, "You see? We told you so!" Therefore SSIRP must be patient, and within this patience we will need to brush off the geezer talk. 

There is nothing we would rather do than paint the trim and wash the bricks. We want to repair the columns and do things we know will make the building beautiful again. We are talking with preservationists, meeting with preservation architects, who tell us what we already know: Don't touch anything. Take this step by step. You are doing the right thing, so far all of your steps are right. Be patient.

How hard it is to be patient and to ignore the chatter. How hard it is to be patient and shut down our ears to the pushy who want us to make quick progress that will hurt our prospects for grants that will help all of us...SSIRP and our community...ultimately succeed in economic development and a revitalization of downtown. How frustrating it is to listen to those who sip coffee on early diner mornings and pontificate without knowledge, pointing fingers and waiting to see this project fail. How unthinkable that leaders in this village tap toes and anticipate failure, all with some sort of twisted glee in thinking that an all night gas station would have been an improvement instead of a death nell to a village that is already frayed at the edges.

On Thursday SSIRP presented our project to the Hamilton Rotary, people who really should have no interest in what we're doing being a village 12 miles away and with their own lovely hotels and restaurants. We received applause and accolades. One man, a minister, gave an invocation thanking those of us involved with saving The Sherburne Inn. He said this: "Without vision, cultures perish."


Every day, every day, we hear criticism about our work. And then someone like this man inspires us again...and again, SSIRP is rejuvenated. 

"Without vision, cultures perish."

For those of you who are paying attention, we in Sherburne have a culture. It is one in which children ride bicycles safely and unattended to a summer pool, towels flapping in the breeze behind them. It is one where the elderly ladies of the Pratt Newton Home set out chairs in anticipation of Pageant of Bands. It is one where the Lions Club sells hamburgers on Fourth of July, where our Memorial Day Parade features fewer than a dozen veterans walking down village streets tearful and proud of their service and where boy scouts wave American flags. America is not perfect, that much is certain; but here in this small place our culture is perfect in its own way. Without vision, this culture will perish.

Listen carefully, geezers: We are people with vision. We will brush you aside because we care not about about your toothpick-chewing criticism. In two years, or three, or maybe even four, we will cut the ribbon on the front doors of The Sherburne Inn at the grand opening. Maybe you should stay home on that day because the rest of us with vision and hope and heart will reopen an historic building that deserves saving. You will probably come into the Inn for a beer once our doors are open. You will be welcomed and served, but understand this: we will know who you are and still we will be polite, because that is who we are.

Pay attention geezers young and old: patience will take us where we need to go. Your words, to us, are are nothing more than fading and forgettable mist.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Sherburne Inn Hits The Airwaves

Get your DVR record buttons ready...on Sunday, May 5, The Sherburne Inn will be on television!
On Wednesday, May 1, a crew from Mohawk Valley Living took a tour through The Inn in preparation for a feature on SSIRP's project. SSIRP board members met with producer Sharry Whitney and host Richard Enders, while a cameraman filmed interior and exterior shots of the building. Our own Rose Tenney, SSIRP Board Secretary, was interviewed for the piece, which will be shown on Sunday, May 5, at 7:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on WFXV 33, as well as at 11:30 a.m. on WUTR. Mohawk Valley Living is a weekly television show that explores the arts, entertainment, culture, and heritage of the greater Mohawk Valley region of New York State. It is broadcast 3 times a week on Utica's NBC affiliate, WKTV. It is owned and produced by Lance and Sharry Whitney and is hosted by actor and playwright, Richard Enders. Thank you to Mohawk Valley Living for covering "good news" news!

To donate to saving The Sherburne Inn, please check your check, made payable to SSIRP, to POB 1102, Sherburne, NY 13460, or visit our website to pay securely by credit card (click "contribute" link).

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