Archive for January, 2010

My Top Five

Friday, January 29th, 2010
Brian Golden

One of my favorite actors, all-time, has got to be John Cusack. I honestly can’t think of one movie I’ve seen him in that I didn’t like, but one of the best has got to be High Fidelity. I’m singling this one out because throughout the movie, Cusack, Jack Black and Todd Louiso, while working in Cusack’s record store, are constantly running Top Five lists. Even the movie’s main plot line revolves around Rob’s (Cusack) top five break-ups. So in honor of John Cusack and High Fidelity, I’m blogging my own top five, my top five favorite albums of all time (at least for today).
Number Five: “Already Free” – The Derek Trucks Band (2009) Many people I speak to have never even heard of the DTB, and that is a crying shame. This band, and guitarist Derek Trucks in particular, have matured with every album they produce. This, their sixth, starts with a bang and just keeps on coming. One of the most emotional and heartfelt studio performances I’ve ever heard.

Number Four: “Dose” – Gov’t Mule (1998) The second album by the original three members of the Mule, and next to last album with bassist Allen Woody. This album is the epitome of a three-piece band recording “live” in the studio. Raw, unfiltered blues/rock performed by three masters of their respective instruments. “Thorazine Shuffle”, “Blind Man in the Dark” and a cover of the Beatle’s “He Said, She Said” particularly stand out. Listening to this album takes me back in time.

Number Three: “At Fillmore East” – The Allman Brothers Band (1971) Blistering two CD set which captures the original band at the height of their powers. Instrumentally one of the best live albums ever produced. Duane Allman and Dickey Betts play with such unique ability that a true fan has no problem discerning which guitar is which, and yet they mesh perfectly. Gregg Allman showcases why he is one of the best white blues singers ever, and Berry Oakley’s bass guitar is so good, well, let’s just say he will always be missed (not that current bassist O’teil Burbridge isn’t amazing, he is).

Number Two: “Couldn’t Stop the Weather” – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (1984) It was a tough choice between this and “In Step”, but I had to go with this, Stevie’s second album, if for no other reason because of the band’s cover of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”. This entire album is one big lesson in tone, ability, performance and soul. One of the greatest guitarists to ever live, Stevie literally saved the blues. Stevie is one of the only guitar players to revolutionize the way the instrument is played (along with Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads and a few others).

Number One: “Electric Ladyland” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968) The third and final album by Hendrix and the Experience represents the culmination of the group’s studio efforts. A dazzling display of raw power mixed with angelic musings, this album, and Hendrix himself, changed the way music was recorded, composed, performed and experienced (no pun intended). Hendrix was the master, and it’s amazing how his legacy has remained so strong through the years (in fact, there is a new CD being released in the near future, including previously unheard studio recordings). Like others before him, the impact Hendrix had on music worldwide cannot be underestimated. In all honesty, music would not be the same today if it were not for his contributions.

That’s a wrap folks, keep an eye out for future “Top Fives” and don’t forget to support live music wherever you may reside. In the words of Jimi Hendrix, “If I don’t see you again in this world, I’ll see you in the next one, don’t be late.”

Drug events of 2009

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Tyler Murphy

An extra piece of Progress that didn’t make it into the published edition. This is a list of most of the serious drug events in 2009 including major arrests, seizures, improvements in law enforcement and the reveal of a drug connection in high profile court cases.

March 13: Chenango County Court: Man charge with shooting two men outside apartment with a shotgun in Sept. of 2008, hitting both with buckshot from the blast and causing non-life threatening wounds, says dispute began over money owed for cocaine.

March 27: Norwich PD charged two residents with multiple felonies after raiding two different apartments in tactical gear, one they lived at and another used as an alleged drug front.

April 3: Norwich PD discover a Mercedes Benz coupe, guns and over $25,000 worth of cocaine in a storage unit owned by a suspected narcotic dealer arrested March 27.

April 18: State Police charge an Afton teen allegedly responsible for an alcohol-related car accident that killed one of four his teenage passengers, another had her foot amputated.

April 23: State Police arrested a 21-year-old Bainbridge man for providing alcohol to the five teenagers involved in a fatal accident April 18. He is charged with six misdemeanors.

May 1: Chenango County begins implementation of a Family Treatment Court.

May 1: Sheriff’s Office charged a 75-year-old Norwich man after discovering a growing operation in his garage with about $50,000 worth of marijuana.

May 10: State Police discover $3,500 of cocaine and $2,500 of heroin hidden in a cars frame destined for the Utica area.

June 30: Norwich PD and the New York State Division of Parole, searched the home of a parolee, discovering crack cocaine, psychedelic mushrooms, ecstasy pills, prescription drugs and marijuana. He and his roommate are charged with multiple felonies.

July 9: Sheriff’s Office and the DEA intercepted 10 pounds of marijuana in a postal package mailed from Donna, Texas to a Town of Norwich resident, estimated to be worth around $15,000.

Aug. 18: Sheriff’s Office discovers a $300,000 marijuana growing operation in a remote swamp in the Town of McDonough, seizing irrigation equipment and 400 hundreds plants.

Aug. 11: State Police raided a home in the Town of Edmeston after an investigation by the Department of Child Protective Services and uncover 196 marijuana plants growing on the property.

Sept.: 30: Norwich PD, Greene PD, Sheriff and State Police arrest two Norwich residents for selling heroin and charge them with multiple felonies after storming their home using tactical gear and grenades.

Sept. 1: Norwich PD is awarded a $288,188 federal grant that will allow the addition of a full-time detective who’ll take aim at combating drug-related crimes.

Sept.: 7 New Berlin PD announces the purchase of a K-9 pup to be trained in drug detection. The officer and K-9 are expected to complete their training around Sept. of 2010

Sept.: 8 New Berlin PD and State Police raid the property of New Berlin man and seized an estimated $25,000 to $35,000 worth of marijuana.

Sept.: 21 Sheriff’s Office arrests three men after a patrol stopped to help them fix a flat and found four garbage bags filled with more than $70,000 worth of recently-harvested marijuana inside.

Oct. 5: Chenango County Court: Accused murder Richard T. Babcock admits in court that he and the alleged victim in the case, William E. Lee, were involved in the local drug trade involving cocaine and prescription drugs. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

Oct. 14: Sheriff’s Office charges two people for stealing $9,000 of property in dozens of thefts from vehicles so the two could allegedly feed their drug additions.

Oct. 22: Norwich PD welcomes a new drug detection K-9 unit

Nov. 20: Norwich PD discovered more than $25,000 worth of cocaine hidden in the framework of a car and the operator is charged with an A felony

Celebrity Cookie Showdown

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

This Thursday is the Children’s Center’s second annual Cookies and Cream fundraiser. The event, held at the Norwich Fire Station, will feature a host of family friendly activities, an ample supply of cookies and milk and, as the piece de resistance, the celebrity cookie auction.

Last year, nearly 50 local celebrities “battered up” for the challenge. When the cookie crumbs had settled, it was Norwich Police Chief Joe Angelino who took top honors for both having the tastiest cookies and raising the most money in the silent auction – thereby winning the coveted Golden Cookie award.

Word has it that Chief Angelino has decided to bow out of this year’s competition in order to give some of the other local celebs a chance. But there are plenty of others who are stepping up to the challenge – and their cookie sheets – in an effort to help raise money for the Children’s Center’s scholarship fund.

And, as it happens, this Evening Sun reporter is one of them.

In terms of celebrity, I’d have to say that Martha Brower-Ryan (who orchestrates this whole cookie-fest) was probably scraping the bottom of the barrel when she asked me to toss my cookies into the ring. In fact, the invitation so surprised me that she had to ask me three times before I realized she was after something other than an article heralding the event.

Once I did realize what she was after, I couldn’t say no. We all know I’m a sucker for a good cause. And I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like.

OK, that’s not entirely true. There was one particular batch of oatmeal raisin cookies I’m trying hard to forget.

Not to toot my own horn, or anything, but I do have something of a cookie following. I can name at least one old friend whose main reason for keeping in touch is the fact that I occasionally send him care packages of my signature peanut butter thumbprints. You know, the ones with the Hershey kisses on top.

While those cookies – and my shortbreads – have been my calling card for many a year, I’ve always liked to sample different cookie recipes. Particularly those prepared by someone other than myself. So in a way, I’ve been in training for this competition for most of my life.

(Hmmm…I wonder if it’s possible to write off all those calories consumed trying different types of cookies as market research, kind of like you would for tax purposes. Yeah. Probably not.)

The result, other than a hopefully-not-too-noticeable thickening of the waistline, is that I’ve found the perfect cookie recipe for Thursday night’s competition. I’m not ready to reveal my secret just yet, but I will say that after tasting one of these delectable confections I badgered the baker for close to a month for the recipe.

Yep. They are that good.

And, you’ll have a chance to try them for yourself if, in the words of Bob Barker, the price is right.

My contribution to the celeb cookie showdown will be up on the block at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 28, at the Norwich Fire Station. I’m not going to lie, I’m up against some stiff competition with a lot more celebrity clout than I bring to the table – like Fire Chief Tracy Chawgo, Mayor Joe Maiurano and even Senator Tom Libous. But I’m hoping with the support of our readers I’ll have a fighting chance.

If you’ve got a soft spot for a good cause, a craving for cookies and a tendency to root for the underdog, I’m your gal.

And did I mention that I’m not too proud to beg?

Please, please, please, bid on my cookies.

And don’t think you’re off the hook if you live out of town, or can’t make Thursday’s fundraiser for some other reason. You can place advance bids by visiting the Children’s Center’s website at www.thechildrencenter.org.

Follow me no Twitter … @evesunmelissa

Find out about my experience at last year’s Cookie & Cream event: Sudden weight gain linked to Children’s Center fundraiser

new and improved?

Monday, January 25th, 2010
Brian Golden

I had the opportunity this past weekend to visit with some old friends of mine, who are excellent conversationalists and have a truly unique outlook on life. One topic which we discussed at length, the idea that new and improved is not necessarily always an improvement, provided some interesting rhetoric, and had us all in stitches.
I remember years ago, when cell phones had just arrived on the scene, prior to the texting craze, when I commented that we would someday have devices that allowed one to perform multiple operations including: Talking on the phone, taking high-resolution pictures, write comments/notes to one’s friends, surf the Internet and basically, define and confine our very existence into a device small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand. Many people thought I was crazy.
Presently, of course, we do have such technology, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about that. One on hand, the convenience of having a GPS system available at any time, via cell phone, is great for someone like me. I have a tendency of getting lost, and in typical “guy” fashion, seldom think to stop and ask for directions. I guess I figure if I’m heading north I’ll just find a road going north and eventually I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be (I believe this system of mine actually worked once, and only once).
On the other hand, as if it weren’t bad enough that people continue to drive while speaking on the phone, they now have the option of texting, surfing the Web, etc. Even better, some companies give customers the ability to do all of these at once. Excellent! I can just see it now, some careless person, probably with their son/daghter/niece/aunt/grandmother/brother/friend riding in the vehicle, driving down the road talking to a co-worker about the company picnic, while texting another co-worker about how much they can’t stand so and so (probably the person on the phone with them at this moment), all the while searching the Internet for a good deal on a new pair of sneakers. My estimation of time until horrendous car accident occurs, about 10 seconds.
I suppose what I’m getting at is this: Technology is not so important that we should allow it to control every aspect of our lives. Some days I even miss the “old” telephones. You know, the kind with the rotary dial that took you 5 minutes just to call your buddy with the (989)-978-9099 phone number (I just made that number up, please do not attempt to call it as I have no idea who will answer). The funny part about those pre-911 days is that in an emergency, you had to dial “0” for the operator, the number which took the longest to “rotate”. In addition, sometimes I miss the novel concept of “I’m not at home, leave a message”.
I guess it really comes down to what makes one happy. I’d rather read a book than text anyone, because if I really need to talk to you, I’ll call. I do my surfing during my lunch break, and that’s usually enough for me. And as much as I would benefit from a GPS, I think I’ll stick with my method, even if it means I have to leave a couple of hours early. But that’s just me.

Remembering Dad

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Brian Golden

In my mind, the toughest part of January 19 (this year the second anniversary of my father’s death) is that my Dad and I did not have a “typical” father-son relationship. My father was one of my best friends, my boss, business partner and bass player in Happiness Hotel (the band which my other best friend Eric and I formed in high-school).
My memory and obsession with the past, as many of my friends are wont to remind me, are not always of great benefit to me, and sometimes quite detrimental. Yet I thought I’d use this blog to share some of my memories of my father, who would have turned 56 on November 10, 2009.
I enjoyed many activities with Dad, including water-skiing, billiards, table tennis, hiking to the “cave-rocks”, chess, watching the New York Football Giants (and throwing the football at halftime), building the house where I now reside and music among them. In the end, that list had faded, including only billiards, Giant’s games and music.
Music was the one thing guaranteed to get my Dad going. His love and appreciation for the art-form was unlike anything else in his life, and he was my biggest supporter as I matured and began writing songs (his favorite was a song titled “Casual”, the writing of which is a story unto itself). As the bass player for Ivan Shroud, my father performed all over New York and other states, playing what is now considered “classic rock”, yet were then the top tunes of the day. I never saw my Dad so happy as the day we began playing and recording music together.
When his parents died, we all saw Dad change. He became a kind of workaholic, and although this helped him to build what is now my immense house, and to run a successful small carpeting business, the change was not always for the good. When I became old enough, I worked for Dad, and the times we had installing carpet are some I will always remember, the good and the bad. Eventually, he made me his partner in the business, and for years we traveled all over Chenango County, overcoming some incredibly difficult installations and meeting a host of cool people.
I was lucky enough to be in the hospital room with my father when he passed. I say lucky because I was able to hold his hand and tell him what a great job he did, and to tell him it was okay to go, he had suffered enough and I loved him. He passed the moment I said this, and I know he could hear me.
I have many regrets when it comes to my father. He will never get to meet his grandchildren (if I ever have kids of my own, I’m not getting any younger), I’ve already written a handful of tunes that he’ll never hear and the business we ran so well together is now history. Yet I have faith that somewhere up there my father is watching me, telling me it’s all okay and that he loves me, and hopefully is proud of what I’m trying so hard to do with my life.
So here’s to you Dad. I think tonight I’ll sit at home, in the house that we built together, look at some old pictures and propose a toast.
“He may not have been perfect, but who of us is, and may he rest in peace. Love you Dad.”

No one does the anthem better than Norwich

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Patrick Newell

Attending four to five local sports contests a week during the winter sports season, I am amongst the crowd that rises, and removes one’s hat to show my respect for our flag and country for the home team’s rendition of the national anthem.
Count me among the many – especially before Sept. 11, 2001 – who were a bit antsy and impatient for the game to start. I cannot tell you how many times the Star Spangled Banner was butchered by kids making ill-advised attempts at improvisation. I’ve heard it sung out of key, singers using the wrong lyrics, and American Idol-wanna-bes taking their a capella moment to the extreme. There are only so many Patti LaBelle moments you can take before you begin to cringe.
After 9/11, patriotric pride was an all-time high. Even that scratchy pre-recorded instrumental version of the anthem had everyone standing a little straighter, and pressing their hand to their heart with more conviction and emotion.
Over the last couple of years, I have noticed some people fidgeting a bit more during the anthem – even players on the court – with people (read kids) joking, text messaging, and filling their face with recently-bought concession candy. Sometimes, the anthem seems like a mere formality. That happens when the home team plays a recording that is neither uplifting or emotion-invoking. In those instances, I occasionally find myself zoning out for the about a minute and a half – 90 seconds I wish I had back.
Catonia, however, is not a problem at Norwich varsity basketball games. In the last two years, it has become the norm for Norwich choir director, Mary Mayo, to arrange a harmonic offering of the national anthem with anywhere from four to perhaps a dozen kids performing for the home crowd. The young ladies and men have vocal ranges from soprano and alto, to tenor, baritone, and bass.
Not one time has this group come up short of impressive. Last weekend, before Norwich’s home varsity girls basketball game against Chenango Valley, I found myself beginning to well up as the Norwich choir completed the anthem. It was beautiful, as always, and the crowd – including the visitors from CV – rightly applauded vigorously.
Other schools have presently excellent presentations of the national anthem over the years, but no one does it any better than Norwich.

They got one heck of a band

Friday, January 8th, 2010
Brian Golden

I’ve been lucky enough, through the years, to perform with some truly magnificent musicians, people whose dedication and perseverance to the art truly propel them to the highest ranks of musicianship. Yet musical ability is only a fraction of what has made these people some of my closest friends. Positive attitudes and unselfishness play just as big a part, as evidenced by my experience on the first day of this new year.
After a typical night of New Year’s Eve celebration (we were lucky enough to score tickets to the Empire Brewing Company’s New Year’s bash), musical friends Davis, Tozer, Vischi and I, along with Renee and Brooke (some of the guys actually have girlfriends) made sure to sleep in, and proceeded afterwards to reward ourselves with a greasy breakfast (except for Davis, he’s a vegetarian) of home fries, omelets, steak, eggs and burnt toast.
Following a short power nap (the food was that good) we progressed upstairs to the “rehearsal space” at Tozer’s, powering up the amps and tuning up the guitars. With Brooke as our sole witness, we went on to jam our way through some old material, some newer stuff and some spontaneously improvisational future masterpieces (at least I think so).
Brooke’s incredulity at our lack of practice and/or hang-out time was honest and forthwith. “How do you guys do that?” she asked several times. The truth is that over the years (approaching two decades, which is just hard to believe) we have developed a bond, a connection, that is difficult to describe. We know instinctively where the music will take us, it’s usually just a matter of letting go and riding the adrenaline rush that accompanies such jams.
What’s even better is the fact that Davis (who lives in Vermont), Vischi (NYC), Tozer (Syracuse) and I are, in the words of Elwood Blues, “putting the band back together.” I should find it hard to believe that we’re all willing to travel vast distances just for the opportunity to play music together, it’s a testament to how much we truly love the tunes and each other.
So now, with Davis on board, Rippleton will be appearing at various locations throughout the northeast, preparing to record our debut album and in general, creating as much musical mayhem as possible. As Jake and Elwood, the Blues Brothers, would say, “We’re on a mission from God.”

Source Remorse

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

We’re all familiar with buyer’s remorse, where shortly after making a major purchase decision you’re overwhelmed with regret. It was too much money, not exactly what you were looking for, you should have spent the money on something else – the reasons for second-guessing the decision are endless.

As are the feelings of deep, unadulterated guilt associated with it.

Now in my line of work, we sometimes run into a different variety of this same malady. I call it “source remorse.” This occurs when someone you’ve interviewed about an issue or event has second thoughts about what they said and are fully aware that they can – and probably will – be quoted on it.

Those suffering from an attack of source remorse usually might place a frantic phone call to the person they spilled their guts to begging them not to use those comments. On the rare occasion that may even work, but not likely, and particularly not if the story has already gone to print.

Maybe the remorseful source will call someone else they think will have a sympathetic ear to their plight. Or perhaps they go the denial route, claiming they didn’t know they were talking on the record.

That last excuse might even work for the higher-ups, but really folks, lets be realistic. If a reporter calls you and tells you they are writing an article about x and then start asking you questions about said topic, it’s probably safe to assume it’s not a social call. It’s a fair bet their inquiries are aimed at getting details for publication unless otherwise specified.

While I can sympathize with someone for feeling a little regret or trepidation after they’ve shared what they think may have been a little too much, its a little bit of a rush, too. A guilty pleasure, if you will, to know that you’ve been able to get someone to open up about something to that extent. After all, it’s kind of the name of the game in this business.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to alienate any sources. But as far as I know, there’s no such thing as “scoop” remorse.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa

“Grande” memories

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Patrick Newell

As a youngster I remember Norwich’s great pizza debate: Grande’s or Nina’s. Depending on your preference for sauce, crust style or convenience, there was a definitive line in the sand drawn by the respective patrons of each Italian restaurant. Over the years, Nina’s has flourished and expanded its menu, but in its earliest years, much like Grande’s, it was a no-frills pizza parlor with subs and a small menu of Italian cuisine. I enjoyed each place, and what young kid didn’t relish the opportunity to get a slice or two of pizza? Earlier this week, Grande’s owners, John and Connie Elia, announced their retirement and close of business after serving the community for 34 years. I did the math: Grande’s was a Norwich fixture – first in the Town of Norwich North Plaza and in recent years on East Main Street – for most of my life. I knew Mr. Elia a little bit during my teen-aged years playing in the summer soccer leagues. John was a huge fan of soccer, and loved to lace it up and play whenever possible. I also had the privilege of attending school with the Elia’s daughter, Lori. As part of a large Italian family growing up, all things Italian (especially food) conjure up fond memories. I was probably at my happiest tearing into a piece of pizza, and Grande’s made me smile many, many times. I wish the Elias well in the next phase of their lives.