Archive for October, 2006

Turning tricks

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006
Jeff Genung

Not a big fan of Halloween, I’ll admit that. But lest the Grinch in me take over completely, I consented to dispense the obligatory candy on trick-or-treat night in the fair City of Norwich.

Largely, the kiddies and adults who came by were a cordial group, staging the perfunctory ritual (basically extortion with costumes) with grace and mirth.

But then …

Seriously, kids, an essential component to the trick-or-treat custom is actually saying “trick or treat.” I was surprised by how many of the little urchins simply thrust their bags in my face and never uttered a word.

Oh yeah, and I’m not buying the “This is for Susie back home” scam with two bags. One kid, one handful of candy. Nice try.

Lastly, I’d offer one more piece of advice for successful trick-or-treating. Wear a $&^#! costume! If you’re old enough to be cool with going door to door begging for candy wearing what you wore to school that day, you’re too freakin’ old to go trick-or-treating. Only the fear of retaliation with the aforementioned “trick” kept me from giving these little miscreants what Charlie Brown always got … a rock.

In Search of the Great Pumpkin

Monday, October 30th, 2006
Jessica Lewis

Friday afternoon as I left the office, the sun was shining, and I had only one goal in my mind, finding a great pumpkin. With Halloween only days away, I wanted to carve the perfect pumpkin to set on my front porch. Maybe it’s because this is my first Halloween as a mom, or maybe I just felt especially in the Halloween spirit this year, but my goal was set, and I was determined.

After picking up the baby at daycare, we drove to the nearest farm stand, only to be informed, they had no pumpkins. The flood had washed out most of their crop, and the only pumpkin left was about the size of a gourd. I was informed that I could get a pretty good deal on the shrunken half pumpkin, but since there was no chance I could carve it without using a hypodermic needle and a toothpick, I passed.

We kept driving, the next farm stand came into view. I pulled up, optimistic that this time the perfect pumpkin was waiting for us, but I heard a similar story from a similar man. This time not even an acorn sized pumpkin was offered.

My heart sunk. Fine, I thought, I’ll get a grocery store pumpkin. I drove back into Norwich, and took a slightly more cranky baby into Wal-Mart. We bought candy, and a couple more decorations, but when I looked for pumpkins, none could be found. The cashier informed me, they had probably run out. With no more pumpkin carving ambition, I scooped up my very grumpy baby and headed home.

My great pumpkin search is over. I will admit defeat, but I must ask, where have all the pumpkins gone?

A Spooky Halloween Tale

Friday, October 27th, 2006
Michael McGuire

I take great pleasure in watching people squirm. It’s fun to get someone going, to tell them their biggest fears have come true, to play on their emotions, to watch the panic fill their eyes – the blood draw from their face. And just when they are about to break – you let them know it was all a joke.

I’m almost jealous that I don’t get to feel their relief when it’s over, but scrambling their brains was pretty satisfying.

So I can understand where YIRN was coming from.

YIRN (a group of four traveling brothers, Yakov, Ivan, Rostov, Nicholai), had always been a bunch of merry pranksters. They sent me fake lottery tickets a couple years ago for April Fool’s Day – “Redeem $25,000 prize at Joe Mama’s House.” The only person more hurt than me was Millie – I had promised her a new PT Cruiser.

But in time, YIRN had outgrown fake lotto’s and whoopee cushions, and had darker desires.

The boys had done pretty good betting on wildfires that summer (they picked the spread), and decided that a new challenge – a new joke was in order. A joke that would take on a life of its own.

It didn’t help that they’d been spent the final weeks of August on a steady diet of Mountain Dew and Zingers, watching “SAW” and “Trading Places” simultaneously.

“Let’s unleash a plague,” Yackov said. “It’ll be great.”

“A plague’s no good,” Nicholai responded. “It won’t be funny if they don’t live to see that it was just for fun.”

They scoured their minds, mulling over idea after idea in that cramped hotel room in Sioux City.

Finally, just when they were going to call it quits and go back to Ontario, Rostov, the smallest brother said, “I think I got it.”

“What’s the only thing we see everyday that makes people madder than spit, but they can’t do nothing about it?” the small one asked.

“George Bush?”
“Shopping Carts?”
“Dancing With the Stars?”
“OK come on we give up, what is it?”

“Power lines,” Rostov announced with pride. “Power lines are everywhere, we all use them, but everyone hates them – people will do anything to stop them.”

“How can we do that?” asked Ivan “Don’t we need steel, wires, technical plans, and land – and don’t we need…I mean we have a lot…like a billion dollars?”

“Nope, we got enough from them forest fires to cover everything we’ll be doing,” Rostov said.

“And what’s that?” the others asked.



“We have enough money to make everyone think we have all that stuff. In fact, after doing some quick math, I’m pretty sure we have enough money to make people think we have 200 miles worth of all that stuff.”

They worked out the plan right there, and to their surprise it was pretty simple. Between the 5 of them they had just over a $1 million bucks, about $200k a piece. Just enough to buy a website, a couple technical advisors, some starving off-broadway actors, some laminated handouts and booklets from Kinko’s, some expensive(but not that expensive) environmental studies and finally, an office…but where?

“I heard people in upstate New York get worked up pretty easy, let’s pick on them,” said Ivan.

“Yeah uncle Rasputin lives there,” reminded Yackov. “He says that people don’t have a lot of money, and they pay high taxes on everything. They think all their money goes to New York City, because they control everything.”

“Yeah upstate and downstate don’t like each other,” said Ivan.

“I smell a little divide and conquer boys,” Nicholai said in a shady voice. “I think these people are primed for a good joke.”

And what a joke it was. The boys had their hired hands announce “plans” for “the project” just before April Fool’s Day, their favorite day. They hired actors trained by David Spade, the star of “Dickey Roberts: Child Actor,” to hold a series of public hearings along their “power line” route, and to be as surly and rude as was humanly possible. They devised that the power line would only be for downstate benefit, but it would use all upstate land and resources. The people became enraged. The boys thought the prank could only carry on for a few more weeks and then they would have to give it up, but some unexpected events occurred that kept it alive.

This thing called the Public Service Commission said that they decided what power lines would be built in New York, and that all the boys needed to do was have their actors provide them with the fake studies and the fake plan. The boys didn’t see the harm, so they gave it a shot.

They never laughed so hard in their lives.

Thousands of citizens, along with communities, governments, politicians, and worked feverishly to raise money and spread the word to fight YIRN. The boys saw it all from a far and were impressed with how strong the people could be when they united against a common enemy. Too bad it was all a farce.

News reporters jumped on the wagon and wrote stories about the “power line” everyday. The battle got so big that property values along the fake route dropped because people began to believe it was all true, and no one wanted to live there. People spent everyday in fear because they were afraid they’d lose their homes, or get real sick because of the YIRN project, as it was known. The boys ate it up. The joke lived on, it grew stronger.

Even the Federal Government got involved. After politicians passed questionable laws against YIRN, and after the PSC said YIRN’s fake application was a fake, Washington said we needed YIRN, more than we knew, and that they would step in an approve the phony project for the benefit of National Security – they’d even give YIRN more money. It just wouldn’t die, it kept on coming back.

The boys got a little bit nervous at this point. They never expected the joke to live this long. People were abandoning their communities, and local economies plummeted. State government’s took on Washington over state’s rights, nearly going to war. It had grown to strong to control.

The boys feared that if the federal government stepped in, their identities would surely be revealed, after they had caused so much damage.

They decided they would come clean. They would tell the world they were hacks before they could be found out. They called the government and said they were ready to come clean. They would kill the joke themselves.

The voice on the other end laughed, “Come clean? Your in America.” “We don’t care who you are – as long as you have all the money,” the voice said. “You do have the money – don’t you?”

YIRN vanished not long after that. They haven’t been heard from since, and the power line has yet to be built. But some say the boys and the project are still out there…waiting…getting stronger.

There was one news story that reported a teenager said “YIRN” three times into the bathroom mirror, and a 400,000 volt direct current transmission line instantly appeared in his parent’s backyard, ruining their lawn and vinyl siding while providing cheap energy to their neighbors.

Sleep tight.

Save our America

Friday, October 27th, 2006
Tyler Murphy

By the grace of democratic capitalism, the elections are nearly here. Opposites in principle, writing those two words next to each other reminds me of forcing two repulsing magnets together when I was a kid. It’s the special night where all around the world corporate and religious lobbyists hold their breath and count their gold coins. Well they don’t really count gold coins, not since they stopped using them a hundred years ago – instead they count all the souls they’ve captured, but I bet some still count gold too. The souls of course are those of our elected officials.

Jokes put aside for a moment, I truly have this feeling of dread tugging at the back of my mind. My mind flips through the recent events like an insomniac watching cable television at two in the mornin. Snapshots of shame and anger at the steady degradation of American political thought … Bush winning by unpopular vote in 2001 … Only the second time ever in American history. The first is regarded as a disgrace in American democracy.  Then I remember September 11th, not that I was really was affected by the attack, but I was certainly was affected by our government afterwards and in no good way. We were all more free six years ago than we are today.  I feel like I just found out I had a fatal illness.  I’m not just complaining or ranting about evil conspiracies either. Without consulting any religious, political or literary source, I know by sheer will of thought and power of heart that something is wrong in our world today with America. Torture is wrong. Holding people without a fair trial is wrong. Finding ways around the habeas corpus in general violates a fundamental American belief that set a standard for the world to follow for the last 200 years. The world follows it now, but we do not. Opening mail, electronic monitoring, tapping phone conversations… all done without public notification or judicial approval. Oh and let’s not forget Iraq and for those who are confused there are no direct or relative links between September 11th and Saddam. It’s a war for something, but certainly not for U.S. safety or for democracy – at best we could say we paved the road to hell with good intentions.

Ben Franklin told our people at the signing of the Constitution, “You have a republic as long as you can keep it.” The Romans lost it, the Greeks lost it, and America too is losing it. True democratic governments are few and far in between in our 6,000 years of human history. They are spawned by great strides in revolutionary thought but burn quickly in the minds of their people until one day a generation forgets the meaning of the word “freedom.” Today the word “freedom” is more often than not used in a military war plan or to justify just about any atrocity. Our political leaders use the word “freedom” to justify their own agenda just like the Catholic Church used “Jesus Christ” to motivate some of the world’s most horrid moments in history.

Congress is expected to work 100 days this year. Ever heard the term lame duck? Well the origin of that term comes from Eisenhower referring to a Congress that worked more days than ours does today. The power of our executive branch is stronger than ever before.  The Bush administration makes no secret of the fact it desires to expand the power of the executive; in fact it’s policy.

I hate to rant and rave and to be honest I haven’t.  Feel free to check any source available to you, in fact I sincerely hope everyone does, but then again if people cared enough to check what people actually say then we probably wouldn’t have all the issues we do today. The world is heading for hard time – perhaps the most difficult obstacles to civilization lay before us in the next 50 years. Global warming, corporate and religious influence, ecological destruction, waning resources and energy, booming global population, terrorism and the rights of an individual will be redefined in our lifetime; all of these are crashing down on us. Vote for change. America needs good leaders and we need them now.

Pumpkin Fest preparation at The Evening Sun

Friday, October 27th, 2006
Jessica Lewis

Pumpkin Fest will be kicking off tonight, and here at The Evening Sun, we couldn’t be more excited. While we were walking past the park today, headed to our once a week group lunch, we couldn’t help but notice the tents and scaffolding filling the park. That was all we needed to put us in the Pumpkin Fest mood.

Despite the weather, The Evening Sun crew plans to spend all weekend in the park. Jeff Genung, our managing editor, says it’s the best part of the whole year. Today we anxiously awaited the celebration.

Everyone has been busily working to put The Pumpkin Vine together, so once it and the paper had been finished for the day, it was time to kick back and work up some Pumpkin Fest spirit. We passed the day by carving pumpkins in the conference room. The pumpkin world record is going down if we have anything to say about it. The day is almost over, and we’ve succeeded in carving 12 pumpkins, (Jeff named the four he worked on.) We’ll be walking all of the pumpkins; including Bo bo, Squinty, Biffalo Buff and Stinky Steve, down to the park tonight.

So if you’re brave, take a chance on the weather and come join in the festivities, and don’t forget to bring your pumpkins.

Editor from Stupidville

Thursday, October 26th, 2006
Jeff Genung

Astute readers have no doubt noticed by now that we made a little change to the submission form on our online “30 Seconds” page this week.

When we went online with the new website this summer, it seemed logical to provide a text field for the comments, a little button to check “man” or “woman” and then a field to type in the town you’re from, following the conventions of the print edition of the column which made “Man from Norwich” part of the Chenango lexicon a decade ago.

Oh, but you Internet users are too clever for us! Instead of typing in your town, you quickly figured out that you could type anything you wanted in that little box! Like “Dear Abby” on crack, “Woman from Oxford” quickly devolved into “Woman from Time for a Change,” “Man from Mars,” “Man from Time for a New Topic,” “Woman from Getalongville,” “Woman from Merriam & Webster” … well, you get the point.

So now, we’ve given you a drop-down menu to choose your local hometown, or “Outside Chenango County.” This will force you to be clever within the message itself. So there.

And who the $&^% is Missy?

Where’s my donkey?

Friday, October 20th, 2006
Michael McGuire

The St. Bart’s Spaghetti Supper – a fundraiser for the church – cleverly became a remote ad hoc outpost for the Lobster Fest last night, as Republican candidates apparently needed a place to crash in Chenango County this close to November – so far from the friendly confines of the August hob-knob. Not to say they did anything wrong meeting with the nearly 500 who came, in fact I was impressed.

I was impressed because it wasn’t a political event, and I still couldn’t help but think the democrats lost out, mainly because they weren’t there. Appearances count, no matter where. That’s what great about politics – you look bad in absence.

Is this need for political symmetry all in my head? Does Ricardo Mantalban have to take on William Shatner at Star Trek conventions to defend the Wrath of Khan? Does Shelley Long have to follow Kirstie Alley into Old Country Buffet to compete in public over who was better on Cheers? NO, they all live equally in has-beendom.

But our elected officials are indeed different. What allows me sleep at night is knowing that politicians probably don’t. They’re addicted to the spin, and they should be – because its matters.

By choosing to stay home with family, play horseshoes, or do whatever local democrats did, they missed out on an opportunity.

But what if they didn’t really miss out? If St. Bart’s supper, a pretty low-key and wholesome event, was so easily taken over by politicians, what else could be? Were the democrats absent from St. Bart’s because they were at some 600+ Quilters Guild Convention? Will St. Bart’s be serving partisan pasta from now on? Can any place with 500+ breathing souls become a political junket? I bet if prisoners could vote their would be a Chocolate Pudding Fest in Sing Sing Maximum Security Prison every August, to raise hard and soft campaign cigarettes and garner votes among the Bright Orange states (in this case cell blocks).

But the more that I think about it, the dems were probably just out somewhere else, at some other normally unobtrusive event, with some other dumb reporter thinking republicans missed out.

Cirque du Chariot

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006
Michael McGuire

Even though it’s in the heart of Florida, Gibtown U.S.A. can be a cold place when a carny’s love is left wanting. She was never meant for me anyway, and I was never meant for life on the road – I realize that now. Millie’s heart is in transit, and mine is broken back in Norwich, my career as a carnival worker headed for the by-and-by.

With no grand illusions for my return home, and with no hopes for new opportunities, I was shocked to find a blossoming and fresh cultural climate in my hometown. I knew then and I know now, this will be my second chance to make it in the bigtime.

This gig is a new twist on an old phenomenon, which involves some familiar faces. Admittedly, they are ones I never thought could escape the plight I had last witnessed them in.

They’ve captured lightning-in-a-bottle, and the heart and soul of Cortland Street has become all the rage. “Barry! Barry!” I called out when I first saw them, with no response from my old friend. He was tangled at the bottom of a glorious, yet delicate formation of carts, tumbled on top of each other, balancing an earthy yet vibrant mix of autumn colors, spinning wheels and torn plastic bags.
“Barry! Hey it’s me, remember? What are you doing? What is all this – it is amazing.”
“It’s not amazing,” Barry replied in a French accent as I approached. “It’s more than amazing. It’s ‘Cirque du Chariot.”
“Cirque du Chariot?, like Cirque du Soleil?”
“The name isn’t Barry either, not anymore” he said with disgust, as if I’d insulted him. “Je m’appelle Berét.”
“Like the funny French hat?”
“No! It’s like…nevermind, you wouldn’t understand,” he said.

How cruel could he be, this Berét? This wasn’t the old Barry I knew and loved, the cart who so poignantly told me his gut-wrenching tale – describing so well the story of so many sad and lonely steel-wheeled slaves. Had he really forgotten that I was the one who brought his problems to the forefront, the one who told the truth, the only one who cared? I was filled with sadness. An unusual amount of wetness began to build up on my face – I assumed it was from the tears and runny nose. It was when I went to wipe it off, that I realized he hadn’t forgotten me, he just didn’t recognize me.

It totally slipped my mind that I was wearing a bright orange ski mask, not an uncommon practice year round on Cortland Street, especially in the dead of fall. In the midst of the artistic wonderment I had completely forgotten that I was on my way to remove some loose change from nearby car (the requisition of an earlier debt still owed to me, but I don’t care to name names).

Berét’s elation upon my unveiling was a great relief, and his colleagues one-by-one uncoiled themselves and gathered to meet the man they said they had heard so much about.

“You inspired us,” they chimed. “We saw your stories about Barry, and..”
“Barry? I thought your name was Berét now?”
“Naw,” he said, with that broken cart smile I knew so well. “That’s just my stage name, I figured it was a fun and sensible play on words.”

Barry had never been so right. The carts explained how my article about their lifestyle gave them and other carts the courage to come out of hiding, to not be alone. All over the city carts popped up everywhere, and together they sang their songs on street corners and brought out fans where ever they were. With the new surge of confidence, critical acclaim for their talent, the carts decided to test the limits of their abilities. Their initial efforts did not go so well. They wrote a musical that was closed only one week after it opened, and their head shots were not catching the eye of local talent scouts.

After watching a PBS special on “Cirque du Soleil,” the extremely popular French performing arts company that travels the world, Barry saw how successful they were worldwide, performing tricks, singing songs, and tapping into the pulse of urban society. The same thing he and his friends were doing. And like the carts, Soleil was born on street corners, squares, and sidewalks, and Barry decided from now on the concrete would be the stage, studio, and inspiration of the starving shopping cart, and they would do it all on their own.

People congregated on porches and lawns morning, noon, and night, seemingly avoiding life’s day-to-day responsibilities to watch the carts perform. Acrobatics, dance numbers, sketch comedy, hypnotism, audience participation and circus acts brought the streets alive with laughter and shouting, calling for more and more. The show had gotten so big, that by the time I arrived, the only thing they lacked was a manager. And I must say, who better to “push” them over the top than me?

Oxford to Afton, Brussels to Beirut, we will see the world, and the pain and suffering that made them strong will now bring the happiness to audiences that so many carts never had, until now.

‘Tis the Season

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006
Jeff Genung

The weeks leading up to the November election are almost like Christmas morning in Chenango County, as the money starts falling out of the trees it grows on – in Albany, anyway. Even though the old hometown fared rather poorly when they rolled out the pork barrel this year, it’s a safe bet that a few of our favorite politicos will shake loose a dollar or two shortly before the polls open.

It’s also the time of year when we at the newspaper get called upon to attend these “press conferences” and take the dreaded check-passing photo. While I’m certainly happy, usually anyway, for the recipients of the much-needed manna from heaven, I can’t help feeling like a whore, used as a pawn in the re-election chess game and then discarded like yesterday’s news.

Pardon me; it’s late and my metaphors are mixing.

Self-centered journalist that I am, I often measure politicians by the frequency with which they visit me … the mountain coming to Mohammed, as it were. Our current group of incumbents have a pretty good track record when it comes to being responsive to the needs of the press via phone, but I’ll cast objectivity aside (since he’s getting out of the game anyway) for a moment and tell you the only politician who, in my 16 years at the paper, was a regular in-person visitor – Congressman Sherwood Boehlert. While I’ve had that slimy feeling after covering a lot of other public officials’ “news,” I’ve never once doubted the sincerity of Sherry Boehlert. Not only was he attentive to the needs of his constituency, but I also never felt used or manipulated by his frequent visits to our offices. He kept us informed, not to sway public opinion or buy our good press, but because he felt as accountable to us as he did to Mr. CEO and Joe Sixpack. He is a rare breed – a career politician who rose through the ranks but never lost sight of the needs and concerns of the people who put him in office. Whoever takes his place in Washington has enormous shoes to fill.

Another FEMA extension

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006
Jessica Lewis

Today I received an e-mail, saying that the application deadline for registering with FEMA and New York State for disaster assistance, scheduled for Oct. 16, would be extended until Oct. 30. This came as no real shock to me. Even though I spoke with a FEMA representative only last week who told me that they were “moving heaven and earth to not extend the deadline again,” I was not surprised by this announcement.

FEMA originally scheduled Sept. 5 as the deadline. It has been extended three times since then. Perhaps I am not the only one who expected this to occur. I sympathize with anyone whose home and belongings were damaged during the flooding, however, I don’t understand what the hold up is. The flooding occurred four months ago. Why are people waiting to register? There have been countless articles in the newspaper, segments on the news, and public service announcements on the radio. If people don’t want to register, you can’t make them, and I’m not sure any deadline extension is going to help.

But, for all of the last minute, procrastinator types, you’ve been granted another reprieve. Get your stuff together. Register with FEMA and New York State, because who knows, they could be serious about the deadline this time.