Archive for October, 2009

Cut and paste the following

Thursday, October 29th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

We’ve all gotten these forwards from a friend or acquaintance, asking you to fill out a list of random questions covering topics like your favorite color and whether you prefer pizza over burgers or some such nonsense.

Change the answers so they apply to you, it says. Then send it to everyone in your address book, regardless of your relationship to that person. (Not forgetting, of course, to include the wonderful person who sent you the original email in the first place.

There is always that standard admonishment to be truthful and not to “spoil the fun” by failing to comply. Bollucks to that.

Since the advent of Facebook – where people post them as “notes” – I’ve noticed significantly fewer of these emails circulating. So I was almost surprised to receive one from a friend the other day. (But then I remember she was new to Facebook, and was still used to doing things the old fashioned way.)

I’m not going to lie. For all my complaining, I get a secret thrill out of filling these things out. Not that I harbor any misguided notions that anyone actually cares what socks I’m currently wearing or what my favorite ice cream flavor. No, I just like talking about myself. Everyone does. That’s why these little quizzes make the rounds so much. (And why this will be my 112th blog. Once you start talking about yourself, it’s hard to stop. Especially if you are required to do it as per the terms of your employment contract.)

I try to be as witty as possible, without providing any actual information about myself. Because I can’t bear the thought that, with enough of these circulating, there may actually be a day when we know everything there is to know about one another. Perish the thought.

Since this particular quiz arrived in my in-box, I’ve been itching to fill it out, but alas, my schedule this past couple of weeks has been too crazy. I’ve also been a bit negligent in my blogging, so here I am killing two birds with one stone.

1. What is your occupation right now? Slave. (a.k.a. staff writer for The Evening Sun, Chenango County’s hometown daily newspaper)

2. What color are your socks right now? I’m so not encouraging anyone’s strange fetish. All that really matters is that they match (each other) and that they’re clean.

3. What are you listening to right now? The clacking of computer keys in our newsroom, with a side of scanner.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? Does having a pot of coffee count as eating?

5. Can you drive a stick shift? In a pinch. But it would probably be an uncomfortable ride for any and all involved.

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? I didn’t catch the name. Someone calling to see if I could “send a photographer” to a check presentation happening in less than 15 minutes. When we’re on deadline. Nothing like advance notice, right?

7. Who sent this silly quiz to you? Vickie, one of my oldest and dearest friends. Or at least she was until she sent me this crap.

8. How old are you today? I have a strict don’t ask, don’t tell policy similar to that of the US Military. I don’t want you to ask, and I’m not going to tell.

9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? None. I only watch movies and re-runs of NCIS.

10. What is your favorite drink? Drinks that begin with the letter “T.” Tea, Tang, Tangueray and Tonic…

11. Have you ever dyed your hair? Well, there was that one unfortunate purple incident when I was a freshman in high school…

12. Favorite food? Chicken Tikka Masala, with plain naan on the side.

13. What is the last movie you watched? Boy’s Night Out, a 1962 comedy starring Kim Novak, James Garner and Tony Randall.

14. Favorite day of the year? The day when the clocks go back and I get to sleep in an extra hour. It’s better than Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween combined. And it’s this Sunday! Hooray.

15. How do you vent anger? Violence. Just kidding!

16. What was your favorite toy as a child? Books. Shocking, right?

17. What is your favorite season? I love every season. I just wish they were more evenly distributed here in upstate New York.

18. Cherries or Blueberries? Completely depends on when I saw Witches of Eastwick last.

19. Who was the last person you spoke to? My editor, Jeff. The conversation went something like this: “So, Stagnaro, are you planning on blogging at all this week?)

20. Favorite saying? These pretzels are making me thirsty.

21. What is your claim to fame? I’m currently the Evening Sun’s only award-winning reporter. (Thank you, Chenango County Farm Bureau.)

22. What is your living situation? I’m situated, don’t you worry.

23. When was the last time you cried? The odds are good that, on any given day, I’ve shed tears at least once in the last 24 hours.

24. What is on the floor of your closet? A reloader for shotgun shells. Perhaps it’s best not to ask.

25. Who is the friend you have had the longest (that I would be sending this to, if I were actually sending it)? Melissa, whom I met in the restroom of the Colonia Theatre after seeing Annie. I think we were around 5.

26. What did you do last night? Went to a board of education meeting, of course.

27. What are you most afraid of? My shadow.

28. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers? Well done with American Cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and just a hint of mayo. Can I get that with a side of fries please?

29. Favorite dog breed? Cat.

30. Favorite day of the week? Any day I can sleep in.

31. How many states have you lived in? 4.5, if you count the months I spent consulting in New Jersey. Which I’d rather not.

32. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds, baby, are a girl’s best friend. But then, so are any other precious gemstone in my opinion. I have a strict nondiscrimination policy when it comes to such matters.

33. What is your favorite flower(s)? Again, I don’t really discriminate. Although in general, I prefer the ones which don’t make me sneeze. (This narrows the field considerably.)

34. What is your favorite color? Cerulean blue. But only because I like the name.

There. Now that I got that out of my system. I can go back to work.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunmelissa.

Words of Wisdom?

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Michael McGuire

Not food for thought, just a few boneless nuggets to nibble on:

• They say to pretend the audience is naked if you get nervous in the spotlight. That’s fine (do that when I’m not nervous). But what if there’s family in the crowd? Lock eyes with grandma in her birthday suit, see how good the speech goes.

• You’re supposed to send Thank You notes immediately after someone does something nice for you. Let’s say you don’t (Hello, everyone). In my opinion, it is better to be really late with it as opposed to just a few weeks late. Just a few weeks late says, “I would have got around sooner to showing you my appreciation for your generosity, but I was too busy spending hours of work and free time sending worthless e-gifts to Facebook friends.” Whereas being ultra-late, maybe even a year or more, says, “Life got a little crazy there for a while. A long while. But you were on my mind through it all. And your gift has grown to mean more to me now than ever.” Yes, that last line is complete BS. And you should use it in the note. The lazy and clever rule the world.

• Everyone sings great in the shower. Studio-quality sound. Even the live performances are good (Beneath the stream of a low-flow efficiency head, I laid down a bass solo in Rio that was so heavy all 110,000 in the crowd went deaf and miraculously knew sign language before the song was over.) However, know that thy ability to rock turns off with the water. And if you’re in an apartment building, most likely your neighbors hear every note and can attest to how much you suck.

• Give me a break, ladies. Enough with the naughty nurse, naughty teacher, naughty witch, and naughty she-devil costumes. It was rad the first couple years (heck, it’s still pretty rad). But that kind of dress is common these days. Halloween is about getting weird. Turning the norm on its ear. Want to impress me, dress up as a pleasant DMV clerk. Or a crazy bag lady in a two-piece she made from plastic six pack holders (save the seagulls, she’s always hollering).

• Don’t even stop at four ways. Just roll through. Somebody will be there waiting, looking funny, waving you on anyway.

Finding yourself in a lost place

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Tyler Murphy

After work yesterday, I got in my car and drove to the most remote seasonal road in the Town of Preston I could find. There, I traveled down the very narrow and rough road with the canopy of red, yellow and orange leaves creating an apparent tunnel through the woods. Aggravated by the cold and restless weather we’ve had lately, the autumn leaves easily detached from their limbs in the surprisingly warm breeze. They flutter to the forest floor and in every direction, dancing leaves descending between the wet trunks.

I stopped and pulled over at a small trail leading into a farmer’s pasture and walked a good half a mile along the deserted path. Even the old road was littered with piles of the discarded foliage of fading color and it all but removed any sign that civilization existed nearby.

The clamoring of rustled tree tops, freely drifting leaves and the crisp sound of my shuffling footsteps seem to be different notes on the same instrument.

When I closed my eyes in relaxation, the anthem of autumn reminded me of lying on some cool beach with the sound of the shore ebbing endlessly on. The rhythmic tides of crashing waves and the constant rustling of millions of leaves seem so intimately related that I was convinced it all must be some how connected. Standing there, I too felt apart.

This is where I’d usually say I was lost in the experience, but truthfully I felt lost until I found that place. It’s amazing how a little peace can bring you back to center.

The toils of a long week or the drag of a bad day fall away with the forest’s delicately collapsing petals.

The crispness of the wet air compelled me to inhale deeply and the fresh smell of changing plant life again reminded me of another kind of nature’s serenity, spring. Every breath felt clear and quenched my tensions.

I stood out on that road staring off into the trees for maybe 30 minutes, I barely moved, never made a sound and let my thoughts move in whatever motion the world around me inspired.

And the ‘Aggie’ goes to…

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

In my year and a half or so with The Evening Sun, I’ve had the opportunity (read: been required) to attend annual dinners for a number of different agencies and organizations. Most of these events feature some kind of award presentation, where the group honors an individual or group of individuals for their contributions, commitment, dedication, etc.

The Chenango County Farm Bureau annual dinner, held last night at the Silo Restaurant, was no different. Except for the fact that, as it turns out, I was the person they had chosen to recognize.

Each year the farm advocacy group gives out an Advocate of Agriculture Award, honoring someone who they feel has been “extremely active” in promoting the local ag industry and the CCFB. This year, they have selected me for this honor.

It was entirely unexpected, and I was truly stunned, floored, flabbergasted, astonished, shocked – and any other word you can think of to describe being “filled with sudden and great surprise.”

In retrospect, I probably should have been clued in when Rainy Collins-Vickers, wife of CCFB President Bradd Vickers, demanded I hand over my copy of the bound edition which served as the event’s agenda and program. But I wasn’t.

When Rainy announced that I was the recipient of the award, I was more than a little verklempt. I was also incredibly flattered.

When I first started at The Evening Sun all those months ago, I took over much of the “beat” previously covered by Mike McGuire. Mike was, and is, held in very high regard by many. The shoes he left behind were tough to fill. (And not just because they weren’t my style or size.)

When I first started attending ag-related functions hosted by the CCFB and other organizations, people often came up to me to tell me what a great job Mike had done and that they had been worried when he’d left. It wasn’t all ego shattering, though, since they were quick to add that the fears inspired by his departure had been at least partially assuaged by the fact that I could write coherently. At least for the most part.

Even I could recognize, however, that my knowledge of agriculture was sadly lacking. Luckily, there were plenty of people like Bradd, Rainy, Ken Dibbell, Harvey Fletcher, Sue Evans, Bob Shaw, Andrew Kross, Janet Pfromm, Terry Ives and a host of others who were willing to help educate me on the issues faced in this diverse industry which is oh so important to our local area and to our state.

I’ve come to look at all of the above men and women as a great resource on many ag-related topics. They’ve showed me a side of agriculture I’d never seen before by dragging me to events, introducing me to the movers and shakers in the industry, bringing me to Albany to witness lobbying Farm Bureau style, taking me on tours of local farms and encouraging me to learn all I can about our state’s largest industry.

I’ve welcomed every one of those opportunities, with what I’d like to think of as minimal kicking and screaming.

I’m not going to lie: There’s been a learning curve. It feels like every time I feel like I’ve got a handle on one topic, five or ten more pop up. And despite my degree in economics, I’m still trying to decipher all the intricacies of how milk prices are determined. Thankfully, until I do, I know who to call when I have urgent questions 10 minutes before deadline.

Over the last year, I’ve tried my best to cover Chenango County’s agricultural industry in a way which helps bring issues faced by our local ag producers to the forefront. And it is truly an honor to know that my work has been appreciated and recognized by those so committed to the same cause.

Thank you to Bradd, Rainy and the Chenango County Farm Bureau for selecting me to receive this year’s Advocate of Agriculture Award.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunmelissa.


Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Jeff Genung

Yesterday, I became the owner of a Kindle, the much-touted electronic book reader sold by Amazon, they of the ubiquitous online book store.

My mother, were she dead, would be turning over in her grave.

Amid the digital revolution, I of all people, one who makes his living literally off the bark of trees, should be the world’s most stalwart support of all things physical print. And I am, really. Mostly. But I’m also a sucker for the latest electronic gadget, and easily succumb to the newest “must-have” marketing ploy.

The Kindle, for the uninitiated, is a pencil-thin tablet, roughly 5 x 8 inches, that displays downloaded books. It’s sleek and shiny and very Star Trek in its technical glory. You can download an entire book in less 60 seconds, and page through it at your leisure. It’s got a crisp, clear screen that’s easy to read and its diminutive size eliminates the need to foist a book from one hand to the other (I’ve always been a one-handed reader), turn pages, or carry multiple volumes on a long trip.

Not that I go anywhere. Or read all that much, for that matter. But, last night, in the privacy of my own room, I downloaded comedian Kathy Griffin’s memoir, “Official Book Club Selection.” There’s one I’d probably never have the gumption to walk up to a book store counter and purchase on my own. But download it and tear into it on a device which doesn’t allow prying eyes to see the tell-tale book cover of what you’re reading? Heck, I might start reading those “Twilight” books next, who knows?

And what did I pay for this modern marvel? About two hundred and fifty bucks. Granted, books are about 1/3 the price to download, and I suppose there’s some “save the trees” argument in saving one less volume from being published, and ultimately shelved … but here’s where the voice of my mother, the former Oxford librarian, echoes in my head. “You PAID for books? You PAID for a contraption to read FAKE books? When you can get REAL books for FREE at the library?”

Yes, Mom, I did. But it’s really cool.

Degrees of separation

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I think I was in fifth grade the first time I visited Walt Disney World. I’d flown to Florida over Spring Break to visit my Aunt Kathleen and the two-day excursion we took to the monumental theme park and neighboring Epcot Center were the highlight of my trip.

Space Mountain and the Pirates of the Caribbean were by far my favorite attractions, but ranking right up there as well was “It’s a Small World.”

I know some people find the ride disturbing. But not me. I loved the leisurely boat ride, with its twisting and twirling figures garbed in costumes from countries around the globe, all singing its signature round in cheerful harmony. So much so that I was practically mesmerized by it.

The ride is, of course, designed to make us feel like we have much in common with the rest of mankind no matter from which country they hail. More often then not, however, we use the phrase from it most often for an entirely different reason: To signify how ridiculously interconnected we all are.

When faced with evidence of how “small” the world really is, my reaction is less the euphoria of my youth and more a Twilight Zone-esque feeling of paranoia.

I had one of those moments yesterday when during the course of a casual conversation I realized that there were far fewer than the typical six degrees of separation between myself and Jennifer, a friend and former co-worker.

We ran into each other after the dairy rally in Coventry, as we both stood trying to resist the hot chili and hot dogs being provided by the event’s organizers. As we chatted about this and that, I mentioned my plans to do a bit of hiking in the Shenendoahs later this month.

The ensuing conversation went something like this…

“Who are you going hiking with?” queried Jennifer.

“My friend Ed,” I replied.

“What’s his last name?” she inquired.

When I replied, she responded that she knew someone with that same last name.

“Well, he’s from the Albany area originally,” I said, heavy on the implication that the chances were slim to none that she would know him.

“So is Roger,” she added.

Cue the Twilight Zone opening musical sequence, please.

You see, Ed has a younger brother named Roger. The same Roger, as it turns out, who happens to be one of Jennifer’s husband Nate’s best friends from college.

Now, what do you think the odds are of that? While you’re contemplating, feel free to join me in the chorus…

It’s a small world after all.
It’s a small, small world.

A Chance Encounter, Part IV

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Michael McGuire

Judgment was near. It would be swift and painful, I was sure. An angry shopping cart has the strength of ten Orangutans. Do them wrong and they tear your arms off. Yet I did not run. And there had been plenty of chances to escape. I needed to accept responsibility. I wanted to be punished. The truth came out:

“The operator said the tracking device we found on Barry was purchased over a year ago with a credit card belonging to Mike McGuire,” Rich announced.

The room may have gasped. I was feeling too relieved to notice. The shame and guilt had driven me crazy. To be rid of the secret was a step closer toward feeling at peace.

“The operator said he bought eight trackers, total,” Rich added.

“Is it true? Was it you?” a cart named Mario asked me.

I nodded, solemn. “Norwich had grown tired of you all. You’re too care free, don’t live by their rules. Or any rules. Free love and free corners for all. Well, you don’t fit their picture – our picture. In fact, to us, you represent the worst of everything. Your life, always on the run and in  the wind, seems unproductive and ugly. And it was only a matter of time before we locked you up in a parking lot for good. I didn’t want to see that happen. I thought there was a better solution for everyone.”

“So you just got rid of our friends?” asked Mario Cart, now visibly angry, cage rattling.

“Yes. I heavily drugged Tammy, Rick, Randy, Pocky, Owen, Jan, Bernard and Barry and shipped them on overnight freight trucks to different cities across the country. Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, Oakland. I sent Pocky and Owen to Las Vegas, because I knew they had family there. I figured if respected shopping carts started to go missing and were feared dead, then all the rest of you would get scared and leave town, too. Find a place where you fit in.”

“I get it. But why track us?” Barry finally asked.

“Because I love you, and wanted to make sure you were all right. When your signal died, Barry, I left for New Orleans to find out if you were all right. When I couldn’t find you I feared the worst and hit rock bottom. By the time you found me face down in the French Quarter the guilt had nearly eaten me alive.”

“Along with a few rats,” Barry added coldly. “You tracked us to make sure we weren’t coming back.”

“I guess that’s true, too,” I admitted, sadly. Mario Cart then pulled out a shiv made from a toothbrush. “You feet-having scumbag. The devil’s gonna put you on wheels. I hope he fills you with Natty Ice and diapers like us and pushes you to the hottest corner of hell.” He rolled forward in an instant and stuck me deep.

On the ground passing out, losing blood.

“I didn’t kill that shopping cart from Sherburne,” I said. “I don’t know who did.”

“Probably a copy cat. Some cart-hater taking it a step further than you did. Where are the others,” Barry asked sharply.

“I only did what I thought was right,” I said, ignoring him.

“Where are the others?” he asked again, louder.

“I didn’t tell you the truth until now because I wanted to make sure the other carts were all right first, and that they made it home,” I said, starting to pass out. “I wanted to redeem myself before you killed me.”

“Where are they!” Barry yelled a final time, shaking me.

I handed him a bloodied piece of paper. It was a password to the TrackUsense database: sh0pc4rt.

He ran over to Rich’s built-in laptop, typed in the information. A few seconds later a smile came across his face, he said nothing.

“They’re on their way home,” I said, voice weak. “They’re all OK. Tammy, Rick, Randy, Pocky, Owen, Jan, and Bernard. Well, Bernard almost got used as an outdoor grill in Houston I guess, but other than that it sounds like they take nice care of their carts in other places. I used my life savings to have them rounded up and shipped back. That’s why you had to pay for everything. Sorry you had to sell yourself, man. Sorry for everything. ”

“If only you could’ve learned to sooner,” Barry said, walking out the door. “Before it came to all this.”

How I learned to spell ‘Hypodermic’

Friday, October 9th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

An easy word to spell once you’ve seen it. Hy-po-der-mic. It sounds just like it writes. A rare blessing in the English language. Yet for some reason it has always been one of those obscure words I hardly ever use in passing conversation that I’m cursed to spell improperly more often than is probably acceptable. I’m embarrassed to admit the Tyler alternatives of hypodermic have included Hypadermic, Hypodurmic and Hipoedurmick. OK, I made that last one up but on a late 14 hour work night at 11 p.m. I don’t think I’d rule any anything completely out.

Luckily I’ve had a great deal of practice in writing the word. I’ve used it less than a dozen or so times in the last few years, but in these past two weeks alone I’ve scribbled it on a note pad or typed into the computer at least twice that number of times.

Typically it falls into an all to common sentence form. “…was charged with 7th degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument.”

I’ve written those words 7 times since Sept. 9 and I can not even remember a specific instance of writing it before that. I’m sure I have once or twice in the last three years, probably each instance months apart, but I don’t recall.

I’ve heard people say heroin has been available for quite sometime in the area and some of the most sought after prescription drugs are essentially prescribe heroin because they’re derived from the same active ingredients, opiates, just refined and processed.

Maybe that’s the truth, there hasn’t been such a fierce focus on heroin as there has been on cocaine in drug enforcement. As one drug counselor remarked, “There was a big focus on getting cocaine off the streets and heroin snuck in the back doors.”

Still the number of people now going to jail for heroin use is up. The cost of using the drug locally is heading down. The demand for it is becoming more common and availability, easier. So say the local law enforcement authorities on such things.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not a complete nazis that believes all drug users every where are evil. In fact I tend to be more liberal in my social sympathies than I probably should be, experimentation is normal thing- to a point. But injecting my body with a chemical I bought from a sketchy strung-out dealer living in a small trashed apartment sets off an alarm.

I’m curious about the needle usage aspect. Do people share or does proper heroin etiquette dictate I B-Y-O-N. (bring my own needle)? I thought I read some where that things like H.I.V. and Hepatitis are transfer frequently in such ways. Can you imagine a heroin user using an alcohol swab before injecting unknown mixture X in their body? Probably not.

Still the concern is rising with the pattern of increase heroin use. I mean if you’re are willing to endure all the alchemy steps necessary to prepare and use the drug what exactly are your substance abuse limits?

The worst part of the abuse, like all addicts, is not usually in the damage to physical health alone but to the psychological. Dependency means isolation from those more healthy and balanced and increased exposure to those more absorbed in drug culture and excess.

All drug abusers risk addition and harm but using heroin seems like the fast lane of consequence.

The return of Ghastly Ghost Stories

Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

The Evening Sun is once again doing Ghastly Ghost Stories, our annual Halloween fiction contest. This year, I have the job of judging this frightful competition. Assisting me will be a panel of celebrity judges including acclaimed children’s author Suzanne Bloom, horror writer Dustin Warburton and former Evening Sun reporter Jessica Lewis.

As the deadline (such an apropos term in this case) approaches, we find that we have fewer entries than we had hoped for. So I am appealing you, our readers, for your help in boosting our submissions. Do you think you could help us spread the word and help us inspire kids and adults alike to do a little creative writing?

Maybe you know a budding young author or harbor a secret desire to see your work in print. If you are a teacher or administrator, perhaps this is a project that might interest your students, whether it be for credit, extra credit or just for fun.

And don’t be shy about forwarding this information to any and all you think would be interested. When it comes to Ghastly Ghost Stories, the more entries the better. (The scarier the better, too – don’t be afraid to scare the socks off us!)

This year we’ll be giving out prizes in several different categories based on age: fifth and sixth grade, seventh and eighth grade, ninth through twelfth grade, and adult. The ghastliest ghost story in each category (and I mean that in a good way) will have their story published in The Pumpkin Vine, and get some other cool prizes.

Entries should be 1,500 words or less and must be submitted via email to, with the subject line “Ghastly Ghost Stories.” Attachments should be in a rich text format, and its important to include contact information and age, asa well as school district and grade, if applicable.

To be considered, stories must be submitted by Friday, October 16.

If you have any questions regarding this contest, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (607) 337-3071 or via email at

Thank you in advance for your help, and Happy Halloween!

I (would rather not) stand here ironing

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

In theory, the process of employing heat, steam and an iota of pressure to remove wrinkles from fabric with the repetitive movement of a weighted tool across said fabric, is an easy one. Why, then, do I find it so distasteful?

Most mornings, as I am cursing the wrinkles which stubbornly refuse to relax out of whatever garment I’m trying to press, there is a moment when I question the whole exercise. I mean, are wrinkles such a bad thing? But then I think of going about my day looking like I’d just rolled out of bed, and, heaving a heavy sigh, I get back to work.

Ironing is one of my least favorite tasks every morning. The only thing I resent more is having to drag my sorry behind out of my comfortable bed in the first place.

Without fail, as I stand there ironing, I think of Mr. Turecek – the young junior high English teacher who took over when our regular 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Fisher, went on sabbatical. (At least I think that’s how we ended up with him. It’s been about two decades, and I’m afraid to admit it’s all getting a bit fuzzy.)

Now that I look back, I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Turecek was probably a first year teacher, or at least close to it. His exuberance for the written word and his ambitious curriculum was almost entirely over our heads. Not that we weren’t smart, mind you. Just that we were preoccupied with what we considered to be the task at hand – torturing the poor man any way we could.

By rights, we should have had Mr. Fisher, we thought. And we tried to console ourselves for our loss by keeping track of the number of times Mr. Turecek said “ummm” during each class period, and meticulously documenting his daily attire.

Despite his best efforts, he was no match for us, I’m afraid. But I think it was more our loss than his. Because, in retrospect, I can see what an amazing teacher he probably would have been if we’d given him half the chance.

One of the first assignments I remember him giving us was to read “I Stand Here Ironing,” the short story which is perhaps the most well known of Tillie Olsen’s work. It was completely beyond our adolescent ken. It wasn’t until years later, when I re-read the short tale with a writing group I was involved, that I realized how highly Mr. Turecek must have thought of us to introduce that particular piece to us at that age. Alas, it was lost on us.

Perhaps if I had been able to glean more from it at the time, I would have a different appreciation for the act of ironing. But rather than the  contemplative exercise it appears to be for the tale’s protagonist, I’ve never really seen ironing as an opportunity to reflect on my life or life in general. It’s always been just a chore.

Until I turned 18, my mom was kind enough to do what little ironing I required for me. Probably because she knew that, if she didn’t, I would be perfectly happy to walk around looking like I’d just rolled out of bed. I know that she was petrified that when I went off to college I would indeed walk around perpetually wrinkled, thus realizing her worst nightmare.

She needn’t have worried, though. Because I, like all good mammals, am able to adapt.

The first step was paring down my wardrobe to the bare necessities, which basically consisted of jeans, sweatshirts and an ever accumulating supply of Manhattan College t-shirts. For the rest, I learned to employ whatever techniques I could to avoid ironing.

First, there was the old throw-it-back-in-the-dryer approach, which had worked well at home. Unfortunately, this was more expensive in college where laundry facilities were at (and charged) a premium.

Then I befriended (and later roomed with) Liz, whose parents owned a dry cleaning business on Long Island, and thus was born my “don’t worry, dry clean it!” phase. This worked brilliantly until Junior year when both Lizzie and I became RAs – in separate buildings.

Using the resources around me (i.e. the residents who lived on my floor), I developed a new strategy. That of seeking out the most anal retentive people I could find who would agree to iron my clothes for me, just so they wouldn’t have to look at my wrinkled self. It worked like a charm.

I had a whole suite full of engineering students who fit the bill. I’d known them since freshman year, and they were incredibly nice guys. Even if they did buy spray starch by the case. (I’m just guessing on that one, but I do remember one of them used to iron his boxer shorts.)

I didn’t start out by trying to connive them into doing my ironing for me. It just kind of happened. At first I’d just ask them if I could borrow their iron and ironing board. (I’d never seen the need to invest in one myself.) But then when I would show back up at their door to return it, wearing the item I’d tried to press, they would roll their eyes and demand I take it off. And not in a re-payment kind of way.

After a while, we dropped the pretense. I stopped attempting to iron anything, and they stopped pretending to be horrified by my lack of domestic skills. No, wait. They weren’t pretending on that count.

Any way, it worked for all parties. My clothes were freshly pressed for job interviews and events, and they didn’t have to put their iron through the anguish of being wielded by an amateur.

Ahhh, those were the days.

These were the thoughts that were going through my head this morning as I stood there, well, ironing.

Maybe Tillie Olsen’s words weren’t entirely lost on me after all.