Archive for February, 2010

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Monday, February 8th, 2010
Patrick Newell

It was a feel-good ending for the Norwich girls’ basketball team on Saturday afternoon against Owego. Struggling through a four-game losing streak, Norwich was able to bring home a win on a day its four seniors – Gabby Testani, Elisha Eddy, Sarah Bonnell, and Tatyana Ithier – were honored.
Owego had just beaten Norwich by six points earlier in the week, and clung to a tight lead through most of the second half. The “bad” for Norwich came in the form of nine turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. The Tornado’s defense held Owego in check most of the quarter, but the offense turned the ball over seemingly about every other possession.
Late in the game, Norwich trailed 30-29, but had an opportunity to tie or take the lead when Eddy stepped to the foul line. Eddy, for those not following Norwich sports, was playing her first game of the season. She had struggled with an illness for several months, and this reporter did not expect her to return at all. A standout performer a season ago, Eddy was in position for a movie-of-the-week finish. She subsequently missed the front end of the one-and-one foul shot. Owego grabbed the rebound and moved the ball down the floor, but turned the ball back over to Norwich.
Note: Turnovers were not the exclusive rights of Norwich in the fourth quarter.
Eddy received the ball in the low post, and was fouled again. This time, Eddy smoothly guided the ball between the rim and through the net – two times – for the one-point lead. After an Owego miss, NHS’s Bryn Loomis tacked on two free throws for good measure with four seconds left, and Owego failed to get off a quality shot as time expired.
As Norwich fans celebrated, in swept the “ugly.” With Norwich players huddled around head coach Josh Bennett, the game ball was thrown with alarming pace past the Norwich bench toward the north end of the court. The ball narrowly missed the exiting officials, and apparently, the officials were the target of this fast-moving basketball tossed with bad intentions.
As shocking as it was to see the officials’ faces after this near-miss, it was an even more stunning revelation that the delivery of the ball came from the throwing arm of Owego’s coaching staff, believed to be head coach Scott Snyder from eye-witness accounts. Yes, Mr. Snyder, his players, and Owego’s fans were frustrated with the game’s outcome, and clearly did not agree with a few of the referees’ calls – especially late in the game. Still, this was a classless display of poor sportsmanship, and nearly criminal behavior. Fortunately, the ball did not hit anyone, but what if it did? An errant toss may have struck a young child (plenty were in attendance), an elderly man or woman (many were present) or possibly a player or coach from the Norwich team.
At the least, the Owego coach should be suspended from coaching any more games this season pending a review by officials of the Southern Tier Athletic Conference.

Hypochodriac’s delight

Monday, February 8th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

My favorite line in Music and Lyrics isn’t one of Hugh Grant’s (a.k.a. Alex Fletcher’s) witty one liners, of which there are many. No, the line which makes me laugh the loudest is when, seconds after arriving to water the plants in Fletcher’s apartment, Drew Barrymore (as Sophie Fisher) pricks her finger on a cactus. Prompting her to declare she must leave immediately to treat the “wound” and thus avoid infection.

“I’m a little hypochondriacal,” she tells her not-yet-but-soon-to-be love interest and musical collaborator. At which point I laugh, as if on cue.

How silly, I think. Like she couldn’t just finish watering the handful of houseplants before going in search of anti-biotic ointment? Please. No one can be that neurotic. Can they?

As I poked fun at this seemingly over the top behavior, a part of me was secretly grateful. Because my own hypochondriacal tendencies paled in comparison to this demonstration.

I mean, sure, I may spend (far too much) time worrying about whether a cut, scrape or burn is getting infected. But that’s because I’m usually too lackadaisical in tending to such problems.

And I think all humans are influenced to at least a certain extent by the power of suggestion. I mean, it’s perfectly normal, after reading about something like the human botfly (which lays its eggs under the surface of the skin), to start checking for the tell-tale breathing tubes by which their parasitic young get oxygen while feeding on the flesh of their host. Right?

(It’s been over a month, but I just can’t get that horrific image out of my head. I’ve had to re-evaluate my desire to visit Costa Rica after reading about them. Thankfully, they aren’t exactly common in upstate New York.)

Now, despite what may appear to be evidence to the contrary, I still maintain that I’m not a hypochondria. But after today, I may be forced to rethink that assertion.

My mom has been pestering me for months to get the both the seasonal and H1N1 flu shots. Being as procrastination is much more of a problem for me than hypochondria, I’ve continually put it off.

So it seemed like the fates had aligned when this morning, the Chenango County’s Public Health Department held a vaccine clinic in the Pennysaver building. It’s just across the parking lot, and it was free, so it was kind of a no-brainer.

Not that I signed up for it in advance, mind you. Jeff and I waited until they made a sort of “last call” before sauntering across the parking lot.

It wasn’t what I would call a lengthy process. In fact, it happened kind of fast. A bit of paperwork followed by a nasal vaccine here, a jab there and we were back at our desks.

What followed was a period of time where we were both, as Jeff put it, “acutely aware of every body function.” We were a veritable hypochondriacal case study.

I could practically feel the H1N1 virus incubating inside my left nostril, plotting its virulent attack on my sinuses. At some point, Jeff became aware of a slight twitching of a muscle on his forehead, which he attributed to the flu bugs trying to tunnel into his brain.

Then came a subtle numbness, which somehow managed to spread from his right arm to my left.

Just as I began to reach my panic threshold – that wall right before full-on panic attack sets in – the voice of reason spoke up, reminding me that that’s where we’d just gotten our shots. It also told me, in a voice which sounded  suspiciously like that of my own mother, to stop whining.

I was just coming down from my near-panic buzz, when a new thought hit me. I mean, are anyone else’s hands really dry? And smell faintly of gardenias?

Oh wait, that could have something to do with the hand sanitizer I’ve practically been bathing in since our return from across the way.

Yeah. Maybe, like Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher, I’m a bit hypochondriacal. But only a bit.

DC expects more snow

Friday, February 5th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I know it may seem cruel, I know, but this morning after I saw the revised weekend forecast predicting two feet of snow in and around our nation’s capital I immediately contacted one of my friends who lives in the area. I just couldn’t help myself. I had to rub it in.

You see, as it happens, the friend in question likes to gloat about how he had the wisdom to move south more than a decade ago. Thus escaping the “Frigid North” as he calls it. (He hails from the Albany area originally.)

After several years living further afield (like North Carolina and Afghanistan), Ed returned to Northern Virginia this past summer. Arlington to be precise, which is where I first made his acquaintance all those years ago.

As winter approached, Ed was not above rubbing in how, before long, I’d be buried under a blanket of snow. And he’d be enjoying the relatively mild temps which are more the norm below the Mason Dixon line.

Hence my unrestrained glee when I learned of the 24” they are expecting this weekend. And of course this isn’t their first major snowfall of the season. It’s really just the icing on the cake.

Part of me does feel for Ed. Because I know that, unlike Upstate New Yorkers, those living in and around the Beltway are ill-prepared for even a dusting of snow, let alone the significant accumulation they are expecting.

From having lived there, I can attest to the fact that the mere mention of flurries is enough to cause runs on bread and milk at the grocery stores. And lets not even talk about their inability to drive in the snow. Everything shuts down. Even the federal government. (I know, that explains a lot, doesn’t it?)

Invariably, local hospitals would make pleas to anyone with an SUV or 4-wheel drive vehicles to volunteer to provide transportation to doctors and nurses who couldn’t make it in. And inside the DC limits, vehicles would be towed in order for the snow plows (read: garbage trucks) to get through the streets. The owners, of course, were never notified where there cars had actually ended up, which was always highly entertaining. As was the garbage that would pile up while the sanitation crews were otherwise occupied.

Since most associations and other assorted businesses tend to follow the federal government’s closures, this meant I got to enjoy my share of snow days while I lived there. My friends and I, all from the “frigid north,” would delight in the media reports. Much as I will be doing this weekend, as I watch it all from afar.

Of course, as I poke fun at Ed, my amusement is touched with more than a little envy. I wish we were getting that two feet of snow up here. As it stands, we don’t even have enough for snow-shoeing, let alone an adequate base for snowmobiling.

Oooh. I know. Maybe we should trailer them up and head south!

First time on the Moon (stage)

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Brian Golden

I’ve been performing music in and around Norwich for almost twenty years now, a fact I find hard to believe. Yet as fulfilling as that experience has been, nothing is quite as exciting as playing a venue for the first time. There’s a feeling of expectation and anticipation, that this is a chance to meet some new people and get their input as to what they thought of my playing, and how I could improve. I’ve always believed that musicians (especially guitarists) who think they already know everything should probably pack it up and call it a game, or at least challenge themselves to try and learn something new. Tonight I have the opportunity to perform the Bohemian Moon for the first time, and I’m just itching to play.
Beginning in January, the Moon began offering live music for the enjoyment of its patrons. I was there for the first night, entertained by the acoustic musings of John Keller, and reveling in the quiet atmosphere which the artist, and the restaurant, portrayed. Although I was unable to attend last Thursday’s performance by the Horseshoe Lounge Playboys, I’ve heard that they’re an extremely talented band that puts on a wonderful show.
What excites me most is the chance to play some songs that I rarely get a chance to. The atmosphere at the Moon lends itself to softer, subtler sounds, and I’m just not used to that kind of opportunity. Anyone who’s heard me play usually remembers me as that Hendrix fanatic making the strange faces while playing at stadium-level volumes. But unbeknownst to most, I do have a mellow side, and it’s always a pleasure to share it musically.
New owner Miby Kim, who also runs the French pastry shop La Maison Blanche, has my thanks for bringing another music venue to our fair city. As they say, variety is the spice of life, and in my reality, Norwich can never have too many places to perform. The individual locales, owners and customers each bring something of their own to the table, and it’s always unique. So if you’re going to be out and about tonight, and have nothing better to do, swing by the Bohemian Moon between 6:30 and 8:30 for some good tunes, great food and the chance to see some old friends and maybe meet some new ones.

A first for Coach Abbott

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
Patrick Newell

Mark Abbott began his 24-year coaching tenure with the Norwich varsity boys basketball team in December of 1986. He has coached over 500 games, yet Tuesday night against Maine-Endwell, he did something he had never done before: He did not make a single substitution the entire second half.
Abbott went with his starting five the entire way, and said he felt comfortable with the players he had on the floor. “It was one of those situations where I didn’t want to break up what we had going,” Abbott said. “Our subs, Seth (Thomsen), Jon (Foulds), and Dennis (Oralls) came in and did a good job for us in the first half, and they all competed hard. When push comes to shove, we wanted our front line out there.”
Abbott’s tone wasn’t quite apologetic for leaving his key reserves on the bench the final 16 minutes, but the longtime NHS mentor is always mindful of the reserves on his bench, and is quick to point out their contributions, be it as a player or a supporter of their teammates who are seeing time on the floor.

All the pretty flowers

Monday, February 1st, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Irises have long been my favorite flower. Why then, did it nearly break my heart this morning when I was forced to trade in the “fragrant cluster” of poppies, hydrangea, lilacs and freesia of January for February’s vase of the delicate indigo blossoms?

It isn’t the irises themselves which are to blame for my mental anguish, of course, but rather the act of flipping the pages of my calendar. (Which, in case you haven’t figured it out, has a flower theme.)

In theory, it’s easy enough, right? Flipping the calendar page from one month to the next. We do it like clockwork, after all. Every 28, 30 or 31 days. Why then, does that page, which logic clearly indicates weighs only a few ounces, seem to take on the weight of the world on the first of the month.

When I was younger, the time seemed to pass like molasses. Each season felt like it lasted for a full decade. You could fit an entire vacation into a weekend. The stretch of time between birthdays or Christmas was so long that you could barely remember the last.

I remember at 4, crying that a whole year would have to pass before I got to go to school.

Now, I cry for an entirely different reason. Because it’s as if time flies by, with days, weeks, months and even years slipping past in a blink of an eye.

Maybe it’s age, I don’t know. But I find myself fighting it more and more. Hence the difficulty I have in bringing myself to flip that calendar page every month.

I actually thought this calendar would help. Because while this time of year it makes me think of the new growth of spring and the sunny warmth of summer, it also reminds me to stop and smell the flowers of life along the way.

So this month, I’ll pledge to savor these irises each day and make the most of them before it’s time to flip the page once more. Hopefully, when  that time comes, and I have to trade them in for March’s tulips, I’ll be able to do it without regret for the passage of time.

That’s a tall order, but something to strive for, none the less.

Especially since I absolutely love tulips.

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