Archive for July, 2006

Wander: The Story of the Lonely Chariots

Friday, July 28th, 2006
Michael McGuire

If you write it, they will come.

I heard the voice, I told the story, and now – I know why.

Not long after July 11, when I wrote an expose on the ramshackled lifestyle of local shopping carts, the steel bedouins began rattling their way to my home, weary and longing.

“Is this the best place to get full, sir?,” asked Barry, an elder cart from my story, as he rested in my driveway, not seeming to recognize me from our previous encounter. Confused, I nearly told him to go to Ponderosa. “I’m not sure Barry, I guess I’m not quite sure what you’re asking me.”

I knew full well what he was asking, I just didn’t know the answer.

“You will,” Barry curtly responded, as he rolled away.
Carts of all shapes, colors and sizes were waiting for me each morning when I left, and each evening when I returned. Their friendly stares removed any thought that they meant me harm, but it was creepy just the same.

Even creepier was the fact that nobody else saw them. “You’re crazy,” my family would say, “Aren’t you taking this a bit too far – It’s not funny anymore.” They couldn’t see the carts waiting for me.

Early one morning, far from sleep, I could feel them outside. “Who pushed you here,” I’d shouted to them from my front porch. “Do you think I have something for you? Do you think I can save you? Let me tell you, I can’t even save myself!”

“Yes, you can,” Barry responded from the sea of carts. Like a children’s choir singing “row, row, row your boat,” in the round, each cart chimned in various tones of “Yes, you can, yes you can, YES, YOU CAN…”

Falling back into my doorway, I realized what was happening. I realized what I had to do.

It was then that I awoke, surrounded by family and friends – not in my doorway – but in a hospital room.

Needless to say, my family was quite disturbed when my first words were “Eureka.”

I wasn’t sure how long I’d been out, but was quite sure how I’d gotten there.

“Do not use a fork to pry that from the toaster,” my mother warned, in what was probably the 1,000 such advisement she’d given me over the years. “You could get fried that way.”

“No you can’t,” I replied, wielding the fork deeper into my trapped and burnt Sara Lee raisin bagel, quite certain of my invinsibilty.

“YES, YOU CAN,” she said, when suddenly sparks flew from the toaster and a jolt raced through my body, sending me unconscious to the floor.

I was electricuted the day after writing the satirical story about displaced shopping cart’s. After being resuscitated by paramedics, I remained in a coma for over one month.
I guess it took being in a coma to realize how haunted I was by the shopping cart problem. It had always existed, but now I was consumed by it. One hang-up I could never shake was anxiety.

Never-the-less, how could people blatantly steal property from a store and go unpunished, and then waste what they’ve taken? It’s American to steal, but to then waste it – that’s stupid. You don’t steal silverware and plates from a restaurant and smash them in the parking lot when you get outside, do you? I guess stealing carts is like robbing money from a bank; you steal it, you blow it, and don’t have it when you need it again.

However, it’s understandable that some people cannot bring groceries home without the cart, for whatever reason; but why not bring it back? Heck, ask the store to work out an agreement with you to borrow it.

In my coma I figured out how to change everything – how I could impose my cart-conserving will on the rest of the population.

My mothers last words before I went under were echoed by Barry in my life-like dream; “Yes, you can.” Those words woke me up, they reminded me how I got into that silly situation, with the carts congregating on my lawn. Those words made me realize why I was having the dream – Electricity.

Barry and the rest of the carts may not have been real, but I firmly believe that all this happened for a reason, for them.

Invisible fencing. Yes, like the ones for dogs. Except this fence would be for people, people trying to take carts off of grocery store property. Wheel them to your cars, fine. Wheel them to the edge of the parking lot, fine. Wheel them into another store in the Plaza, that’s fine. Wheel them passed the great seal beyond the boardering sidewalks – and you’ll wind up in a gurgling heap, with an overturned cart that’s spilled the contents of your excursion. It is genious.

Each cart user will be given a neck bracelet with an electric charge upon signing a cart rental agreement, and just to be safe the cart itself will have one running all through it as well.

Any violators will only be out of commission for about 10-20 minutes, and repeat offenders will be provided with helmets and PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision) officers as a show of understanding and good faith toward healing the flawed human psyche.

It hurts so good.

I’m waiting for the stores to call me back, and when this thing takes off I’ll be raking in the dough. Millie and me will be able to blow this popsicle stand and head for Branson. But I’ll never forget Barry and the others, wherever they are. I’ll never forget their songs, their stories, and I’ll never forget our summer together, roaming the streets and dreamscapes of our lives, in search of our homes.

Trouble in Albany…I mean Delaware…oh sorry – I meant Canada.

Thursday, July 27th, 2006
Michael McGuire

It appears the multi-taskers at Colmac Power in Toronto are having trouble obtaining a green card to come set up shop in upstate New York.

Tuesday the Public Service Commission ruled that Colmac’s grandchild, New York Regional Interconnect Inc., would have to re-do and revise some of the studies in their ridiculously large Article VII application before it can be reviewed in administrative hearings.

I think this is a big victory. Not saying it’s over, but I think that what the PSC found to be incomplete is quite damaging. They beat NYRI at their own game. The PSC didn’t shoot down the application because “The applicant didn’t consider the feelings and livelyhoods of the people along the line,” or “NYRI has a callous attitude toward the host communities, which was displayed at each public information meeting.” They shot down NYRI’s application because they couldn’t find where it met reliabilty needs; they couldn’t find where NYRI’s line would have a compatible relationship with New York’s electricity grid; they couldn’t find engineering studies showing the effect of NYRI’s line on interfaces to the east and west – NYRI lacked the major technical aspects they said they would upgrade in NYS by building this power line, hoping to sneak by without that critical information by way of waivers.
I don’t know how long it will be before NYRI resubmits their application, but I do know alot of the arguments by a lot of different people were echoed by the PSC.

Local citizens and officials have been doing their homework and keeping the pace with some pretty savy people, it’s to be commended.

One group I’d like to commend specifically is the Chenango County Chamber of Commerce. They dipped off the radar for a little while but I think now I figured out why. Both chamber president Dave Hall and vice president Greg Sheldon led the way when this proposal was released. They knew it needed to be acted on fast and they took a leadership role informing local governments and citizens what this power line was all about and why they needed to be concerned. Once they got everybody up to speed, myself included, this thing took off; they did their job.

Dave Hall had a long career in the armed forces, and I think his understanding of a team effort, has without pause, directed him to fight this thing without an ego and no need for fanfare, just with a purpose of defeating it – whatever way possible. I thank Dave and the rest of the Chamber for all they have done and will continue to do.


Monday, July 24th, 2006
Michael McGuire

The STOP NYRI rally, while under-attended, was a great success. Hard rain, which made it dangerous to travel (going slow I had some hydro-plaining issues both up and back) did not deture a decent crowd from coming to re-up their dosage of no-NYRI meds.

I think events like that one are great, because they allow people to charge their batteries and see that what they’re doing is real. Much of the writing I’ve done about NYRI has been from my desk using a computer and a telephone. I’d love to talk to these people in person, but this thing is 200 miles long, and my little GEO just couldn’t take it.

But in the park, in the Village, those that came could actually see their fellow citizens and together they could visualize what this power line would really be like. People I’ve never seen, only quoted, who were at the rally came to life in my mind – the new relationships make this whole issue that much more substantial.

Some area acoustic musicians (I didn’t get all their names because my note pad got soaked) sang some great original power line songs, and the speakers on-hand re-affirmed the worthy cause they’re undertaking.

They still need help. In all honestly this thing has really only just begun. Up until now it has been a watery mix of talk and concrete developments. The Article VII process is upon us and the federal energy constraint study is due out the first week in August. This whole thing could be made or broken in the next couple of weeks, or it could drag on forever. So basically, anything could happen.

It’s been a good start, better than expected in my opinion. Hopefully the various packs of ravinous lawyers will come through for us this time around, and hopefully they smell a lot of chum in the waters based on what’s been tossed out so far.

Excellent Choices

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006
Jeff Genung

An impending visit of out-of-town family members kept me home cleaning instead of covering Common Council last night (hey, I’ve got priorities too!), but now I’m sorry I missed it. I was pleasantly surprised this morning when Mike McGuire told me the city leaders had appointed Police Chief Joe Angelino to temporarily fill in as fire chief in anticipation of the upcoming departure of John Tighe.

While I’m not sure how the police chief feels about pulling double duty, I think it’s an excellent choice – and possibly a nod toward the future direction of that post. When Tighe announced his resignation, I know many in the fire department’s ranks cheered. Personally, he and I always got along well, and I appreciated the access he gave to my reporters. That said, a move has been afoot more than once to eliminate the relatively new position entirely. Perhaps Angelino’s stint as head of both departments will prove a harbinger of a more permanent consolidation – the creation of a Director of Public Safety for the city, if you will.

And on the Ward 5 front, kudos for picking Paul Laughlin to fill the vacancy left when Joe Maiurano took the mayor’s spot. Mr. Laughlin’s insightful commentary has always made his letters to the editor (that would be me) stand out among the pack. And he’s the father of our own beloved “Front Desk” Rose over at the Pennysaver, so he’s gotta be a good guy!

New Hartford hearing

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
Michael McGuire

The NYRI senate hearing last night in New Hartford was more docile than the June 15 gathering in Norwich, none the less their was new and great testimony and questions.

One specific presentation by Terry Dote, a board member for the Village of Clayville, showed the pictures NYRI submitted of all the areas where the power line would cross roads and highways. These pictures showed Clayville as a dilapidated and dark waste land, as it have many other areas along the line. Pictures of the same areas in Clayville were then taken by local residents, and they showed vibrant parks, homes, and playgrounds that were tactfully ommitted from NYRI’s viewshed analysis.

I think that presentation was really a metaphor for this whole issue.

NYRI sees us as warn out, and ripe for a thrashing that we can’t and won’t try to withstand. They see a weak citizenry living in a weak economy.

The people of NYRI probably have families. However, techincal reports, numbers, terms, science and money have allowed them to rationalize subjugating the same connections most people from all places carry; a love of family, a love for communities, and a general respect other people.

They haven’t considered other ways, better ways, of fixing the energy crunch because they aren’t in it as a public service messenger – that’s the point. They are strip miners and carpet baggers, who probably found this government sponsored opportunity to get rich quick in a Matthew Lesko book.

You could take someone else’s brain, insert it in my head, and then tell me I’ll be smarter, but is that really the best solution for my intellectual shortcomings? No, there are a ton of other safer, cheaper, and more longterm resources I could use to upgrade with right here at home.
They say they chose this route because they aready had the right of ways from a previous project. According to the railroads, they don’t have anything yet. They chose us because they think it will be easy.

If the people of NYRI do have souls (and especially if they don’t!), then I wouldn’t take all the whiskey in Ireland to trade spots with them, especially the representatives at these hearings.

Believing that they do have some feelings – to see the strife on the faces in the crowd, to hear the anger, fear and frustration in their voices, and to deny them and to listen to yourself perpetuate their struggle is no doubt so gut wrenching that the sickness of greed is no cure, but rather the momentarily self-evident source for the guilt and self loathing symptomatic of such a defilement. This particular one being known as the New York Regional Interconnection.


Thursday, July 13th, 2006
Michael McGuire

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Hind sight is 20/20.

It seems both these sayings apply to the current situation surrounding Kentucky Dirby-winning-colt Barbaro.

Let me be the first to say that my heart was relieved when they didn’t euthanize the horse after breaking his right hind leg at the Preakness. My cynical side, however, said that putting him down was what horse raising fans needed in order to understand the give and take their beloved and outdated sport entails.

If you want them bred for speed, you accept them being bred to break. You drive them hard for a few years, you send them to the grave a bit earlier – sometimes sorrowfully.

The base animal lover in everyone wanted to keep that horse alive that day, but “he broke his leg and we had to shoot him” is not said 1 million times a day because some left fielder in the English language decided it sounded good.
According to reports, Barbaro has develpoed Laminitis in his good hind leg. Laminitis occurs when tissue inside the hoof becomes inflamed and causes the hoof to deteriorate and fall off. Horses usually do not survive the infection, and are often euthanized. Barbaro is not suffering. His cast has been changed numerous times in the past few days, his extensive amount of screws and his plate have been replaced, and his health is continuing to turn for the worst.

Not ending the pain at the Preakness was what we needed to feel better, but our feelings don’t cure broken legs, and we have forgotten how to deal with broken hearts.

I saw a website where people can send notes to Barbaro to get well soon. I think someone needs to send us a get well note.

Celebrating the Illiterati

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006
Jeff Genung

Regular vistors to the new and improved have no doubt noticed the proliferation of entries in our on-line version of the ever-popular “30 Seconds.” The ease of the point-and-click interface and the comparative anonymity of the Internet have given the reader reaction line a new life on the web – “The Bride of 30 Seconds,” if you will.

When entries first started coming in on-line, I was quick to edit each for spelling, punctuation and grammar, as I do the calls to the “traditional” phone line. But as more readers discovered the on-line version, the entries came in so fast it was all I could do to hit “approve” or “deny” in a timely fashion.

Then a couple of posters started pointing out the egregious offenses being committed against the English language by our cyberspace “30 Seconds” users. And I started feeling guilty. I thought I should really take an hour or two some afternoon and get in there and clean those up.

And then I thought, why bother?

For the past dozen or so years, you loyal readers have been denied one of the sheer and perverse joys of “30 Seconds” – actually hearing the calls in their raw and unabashedly stupid form. Once in a while I’ll try to preserve the original fractured syntax in print, but it always loses something in the translation.

On, you’re seeing “30 Seconds” completely naked – the aforementioned spelling, grammar and punctuation be damned. In any other section of this site, that would make me cringe. On the “30 Seconds” page, it seems just about right.

The lonely chariots

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006
Michael McGuire

People line up to meet them. They grab and they push; they reach out to them, they depend on them.

Jet-setting from one place to another, these immortals are welcome wherever they go, never sleeping in the same place twice.

Everybody knows them, Everybody wants them.

Known as the “Cortland Street Camel” or the “Silver Street Side-Car,” the life of a shopping cart may seem envious, even desirably dangerous to an outsider.

However, based on what I’ve gathered from these nomadic icons, it is really a lonely, somewhat abusive, and solitary life of confinement – lived on the streets of America. They’re filled with glamor by day, and left cold and empty by night, stained with the fingerprints of a thousands hands that left drunk with the satisfaction of consumption.

“The only thing that helps us keep it together is the songs,” said a young local cart, who did not wish to be identified. “Most of the time they leave us out here together, four or five at a time, stranded on a corner or lawn somewhere. So we just sing – it makes us feel alive.”

Listening to their songs, such as “Enough with the wheelies,” “It was nice ridin’ with ya, lawnmower,” and “I wasn’t made for that,” they describe an existance of lost purpose and lost hope.

Like their mothers and fathers before them (despite constant innovations in their appearance, steering and load capacity), these carts live each moment knowing that their destination is out of their control, and that each new journey could be their last.

“I used to get sad about it,” said Barry, a 12 year-old cart from the old A&P who learned 4 years ago that the grocery store had been closed, and that he would probably never again be reunited with his friends and family. “I used to rust and bend about it, I even rolled myself off Red Mill Bridge a time or two. But they found me. They always do.”

Barry currently resides near a stop sign on Canasawacta Street, and says the most painful part about being a cart is watching the younger generations suffer the same fate as him.

“I pray everyday that they don’t make anymore of us,” he said. “I wish they didn’t make us so strong. I pray that someday it will all be over. I don’t think it ever will – I am so tired.”

Barry’s fate is the fate of many carts. They don’t know why JOE, their eternal Store Manager, let’s them roam the earth alone and homeless. They hope someday for a savior, someone to round them up, bring them home and give them a purpose.

Until that day they are reserved to believing that JOE works in mysterious ways.

Macker Mania – Part Deux

Monday, July 10th, 2006
Jeff Genung

Had your fill of Macker yet? Monday’s edition had about 20 photos of the weekend’s nonstop action – out of a possible 600 that our intrepid photographer Frank Speziale took. Yes, 600. I know, I downloaded them all. Frankly, no pun intended, when you’ve seen one street court basketball game, you’ve pretty much seen all 600. No offense, Frank (not that I think he’s logging on to read this …). Watch for our website Macker photo gallery to grow all week as we add a few more of Frank’s pics each day. Chances are, if you were anywhere in the vicinity of a Macker ball this weekend, Frank got a picture of it.

Chenango County

Monday, July 10th, 2006
Michael McGuire

I had a full tank of gas and a sense of adventure this past Friday night, so I took a drive to the far reaches of northwestern Chenango County. And I must say, I was really mesmerized by the scenery and landscapes in the South Otselic, North Pitcher and Lincklaen areas, using state Route 26 as reference point while traveling along various county and back roads.

Guided by a bright moon, I was astounded that I logged almost 90 miles after leaving Norwich around 9:30 p.m., and was pleasantly suprised with the steep hillsides and “shire” like valleys that I encountered after passing through the always charming hamlet of South Otselic.

That was just one section of the county, and I’m glad I’m more familiar with it.

However, I don’t recommend necessarily just cruising around. First, it’s expensive. Second, (as I noted deep into my trek) if you got stuck out in some of these places with car trouble, in most cases there won’t be anybody around to help you. There is usually no cell service and chances are people won’t know you are out there.

If getting stranded, and possibly munsoned, and finding your way out of it is your thing, then by all means proceed with caution to the wind you little survivor.

My overall point is that Chenango County really is beautiful. It’s full of hidden and remarkeable places, and if you do a little exploring outside your normal travels you will be suprised about, and proud of, where you live.