Archive for March, 2010

It’s a small world

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
Brian Golden

I inherited the history bug at a young age thanks to my stepfather. Legendary figures such as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and George Armstrong Custer fascinated me as a child, and continue to do so today. So when our esteemed editor forwarded me an e-mail message describing a dog tag discovered in a southern California desert, bearing the name Richard W. Hamilton of North Broad Street in Norwich, well, needless to say I was hooked.

This story, in so many ways, represents everything I love about reporting in our fair city. Not only was I honestly intrigued by the bizarre series of events–Vietnam veteran Carl Virden takes up metal detection as a hobby, locates dog tag in the desert where General Patton trained the Fourth Armored Division of the Third Army, which just happens to have a large number of enlisted men from New York–I absolutely relished the challenge of researching and investigating a story such as this.

After a week of phone calls, Internet searches and hair-pulling I had learned very little except that Mr. Hamilton was raised in Chenango County (thank you United States Census), had three brothers and a sister, and that the frustration was beginning to set in. But as it is with so many investigations, sometimes all you need is a little luck and the smallest piece of information.

Armed with my trusty reporter notebook I made my way to the Chenango County Office Building, determined to find some information, anything, and I did find something, a date. March 13, 1988. While they couldn’t provide me with all of the information they had (the Department of Taxation is extremely careful with personal information, for which I commend them), I had finally learned something concrete. Richard Hamilton had in fact served with the military during World War II, and had passed away in March of 1988.

With an attitude of “hey, what can it hurt” I proceeded next door to the Guernsey Memorial Library, where the more-than-helpful staff assisted me in discovering the “mother load”, a compilation of newspaper ads dating back to the 1940’s, which contained a wealth of information on a Sergeant Richard Hamilton, Fourth Armored Division. Bingo.

The subsequent story garnered an immense amount of comment, and Mr. Virden, to whom I’m extremely grateful, received a number of phone calls regarding the local soldier, from family members, friends and even some who also had relatives that served in the Fourth Armored Division. But here’s where it just gets downright strange. Through all of my research it turns out that the best source for information was ten feet away from me, literally.

Linda Green, a fellow employee here in The Evening Sun office, is not only related to Hamilton (she’s his niece), her mother is Richard’s only surviving sibling, Nita McIntyre. Coincidence or fate, this bordered upon Twilight Zone creepiness in my book. I mean really, what are the odds that a story I’m covering, which originated all the way out in California, and concerned a Chenango County soldier who lost his dog tags, would turn out to involve someone sitting about eight steps away from my cubicle? I’m no mathematician, but it’s got to be something like 18 trillion to 1.

As I sit and write this I glance over at the dog tag, which I promised Mr. Virden to return to Richard’s closest living relative when I found them. This tiny piece of metal, which just traveled almost 3000 miles, represents something that I can barely grasp. It represents the story of a man that lived through the war, that returned to his family, friends and life. Richard trained under General Patton, another legendary historical figure, and fought in the deserts of North Africa against Nazi Germany. His is a story that will always resonate with me, and I’m honored to have been a part of it. I guess the old adage is absolutely true, it really is a small world.

Luck of the Irish

Monday, March 22nd, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Some may remember me gushing about the St. Patrick’s Day shindig hosted annually by my friends, Greg and Marjorie McCord, to which I showed up uninvited last year. Well, it seems my party-crashing confessions from last year made an impression, because this year I made the invite list. A feat which I somehow doubt the Salahi’s will be able to match.

I’d like to think it was my charming personality and incredibly witty blog which secured me the coveted invite. But there is a strong possibility that Marjorie and Greg figured they might as well issue the invitation, because they had a feeling I was going to show up one way of the other.

I’m not sure where they got that impression. Although I guess it could have been in that aforementioned blog, where I swore that not even wild Irish horses could keep me away. It was that much of a good time.

Despite my expressed intentions of crashing again if I had to, I was fervently hoping that, when the guest list was drawn up, my name would be on it – in shamrock green ink, of course. So you can imagine my delight when the Celtic-inspired invite arrived in my email inbox. I actually wept with joy, much as I imagine my Irish ancestors must have done when good ol’ St. Patrick first drove those dastardly snakes from the Emerald Isle.

It was for a taste of that Irish heritage that I drove a little over 3 hours on Saturday. A small price to pay for such an excellent celebration, I assure you. And this time, I didn’t have to go by way of Connecticut, as there was no need for me to tag along with Liz and Kent. (I’m eternally grateful for this, since they got stuck in traffic and didn’t turn up until after 8.)

I honestly didn’t think it would be possible to top last year’s event – which was quite frankly the most amazing St. Pat’s celebration I’d ever had the pleasure of attending – but somehow the McCord’s managed to out do themselves. Last year, there was 40 pounds of corned beef. This year? 45.

And remember those Bailey’s truffles I waxed poetic about? (Also known as “Dave’s Balls” to those privileged enough to have sampled them last year.) The powder-sugar dusted bundles of chocolate and Irish cream delight were once more in attendance, as were their fan club. Alas, the commemorative t-shirts never materialized. But there is a fan page on facebook, of which I am proudly a member.

I was a little worried when I heard Dave wasn’t going to be able to make the event itself, but as it turned out, there was no reason to fret. He made his signature confections in advance, and his wife, the beautiful Christine, delivered them on his behalf.

To say that their unveiling was much anticipated by all those in attendance would be an understatement. When the decorative chest they arrived in was finally opened – with proper fanfare, I might add – there was very nearly a riot.

It wasn’t me, I swear. It was all Dana.

Citing the phase of the moon and threatening unspeakable acts, she attempted to hoard all of the delectable treats to herself. I’m happy to say she was unsuccessful. But she was also undeterred.

Unfazed by her initial defeat, she attempted to stash a portion of them away from the other partygoers. Her actions did not go unnoticed, however, and the plate of truffles she had tried to hide were quickly recovered. And re-hidden so she couldn’t find them.

I know that sounds mean, but really, it was for her own good.

And the good of all the rest of us, as well. We pulled them out again once she had retired for the night. And I must say they were the perfect accompaniment to our late night festivities, which included the playing of my new favorite game, “Things.”

All and all, it was the perfect blend of St. Patrick’s Day traditions, excellent food, new and old friends and, of course, a drop or two of Irish whiskey.

Judging by my headache the next day, perhaps a drop or two too many of Irish whiskey… Thankfully there was plenty of floor space for all those of who had imbibed to crash.

Marjorie and Greg, go raibh maith agaibh for welcoming us once more into your home and for your truly amazing hospitality. It must be the luck of the Irish that I have friends like you.

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig oraibh!

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

O’Connor wins

Saturday, March 20th, 2010
Patrick Newell

J.P. O’Connor was a humble, well-spoken young man when I first spoke with him nearly a decade ago. That same young man grew up, and is now a national champion.
Tonight, at the NCAA Division One Wrestling Championships in Omaha, Nebraska, O’Connor completed a perfect 35-0 season winning the 157-pound title over Cal-Poly’s Chase Pami, 6-4. O’Connor, who is second all-time on Harvard’s all-time wins list, gave the Crimson their third-ever national title, and second in six years behind Jesse Jantzen’s title in 2004. John Harkness stood alone as Harvard’s lone national champion for 66 years winning the national championship in 1938. O’Connor, who battled injuries throughout his career, made sure Harvard fans did not wait nearly as long between national titles.
Speaking after his win to ESPN’s matside reporter, O’Connor offered a comment that typifies his sportsmanship and thoughtfulness. Paraphrasing slightly, O’Connor said: “Chase is a great competitor and he beat me last year. He’s probably the reason I’m here today.”

NHS has Talent

Friday, March 19th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m not a resident of Norwich, nor do I have any kids that attend the school. But in the last year and a half of covering the district, I’ve gotten to know a number of students and faculty members. And it was because of them that at shortly after 7 p.m. last night, I was tucking myself into a seat in the High School Auditorium preparing to spend the next two hours  watching students perform in the Talent Show.

I knew a handful of kids who were on the lineup – and certainly I planned on cheering them on – but mostly I was there to support the students who for the last three months or so have been pouring their blood, sweat and tears into making their dream of showcasing the talents of their fellow students a reality.

I was there, in the Adirondacks, when the student participants in The Leadership Project first started talking about such an event and what they hoped to accomplish by it. You see, what they wanted to do was bring their school together. They wanted to foster an environment in which each student, regardless of their interests and abilities, were valued for what they could contribute.

I was truly touched by the vision these kids had for their school, but I’ll admit that the Negative Nancy in me wanted to scoff at the idea and tell them their little pipe dream didn’t mesh with what I remembered high school being like.

Thankfully, I kept my doubt to myself. For if I hadn’t, I would have been eating my words last night. Because honestly, I was blown away by the Talent Show. On so many levels.

First, I was blown away by the kids who took the stage. Norwich has some incredibly talented students. This wasn’t one of those talent shows where kids creak away on violins they’ve only been playing for a month. I won’t name everyone who showed their souls before the rest of the student body, but I have to say I was particularly touched by both Erin McMahon’s vocal tribute to her friend, Elisha Eddy, and the song guitarist Matt Robinson dedicated to his family. The sheer brilliance of Breanna Guiffre and Ashlee Zammiello’s duet sent chills up my spine, as did the cool jazz Diamond Brown performed on the saxophone.

I almost laughed until I cried first at the hip hop dance routine, and then at MC Steve-O’s rendition of the theme song to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Andrew, I’m sure your rap was funny, too. But unfortunately I missed it.)

The Incredible Winning Jump Shot Technique, who ultimately took home first place in the competition, were the perfect blend of actual musical talent and shock value to get the crowd off their seats dancing in the aisles. When they started belting out Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” I actually did laugh so hard I cried. They were amazing.

The audience was perfectly primed by the time While Cities Sleep took the stage to close the show. I couldn’t believe a group of high school kids could have that kind of stage presence. Michael McBride, you’re the man. (And your band is pretty darn awesome, too!)

Honestly, I’ve paid far more to see worse shows. But what touched me as much as the musical talent demonstrated by these kids, was the way their peers were 100 percent behind them every step of the way. Every act was cheered. More than one got standing ovations. It was phenomenal.

And did I mention the place was packed? I couldn’t believe how many students turned out for the event.

As I watched it all, my heart swelled with pride for the kids who made it happen. Because there before me was a living, cheering testament to their hard work and their commitment to changing their school. They not only wanted to make it happen, I think that last night was irrefutable proof that they are making it happen.

I can’t say enough about the student leaders who were involved with this effort from beginning to end, particularly Casey Edwards who lead the project team who organized the event itself. I congratulate all of them, along with all those who participated in the Talent Show itself.

You all have amazing talent. No matter what obstacles or challenges you face in life, never forget that.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa

They just don’t make them like they used to…

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
Brian Golden

As an avid movie-watcher, I’m certainly aware of the fact that Hollywood has always offered viewers remakes of popular, if dated, films. In many cases this can be a good thing (think “War of the Worlds”, “12 Angry Men”, “Cape Fear”, “Dawn of the Dead” and “The Fly”, just to name a few), but the recent outbreak of a slew of my favorite childhood movies has made me irritable, to put it mildly.

My first example is the soon-to-be-in-theaters, Harald Zwart directed, “Karate Kid”. The original Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita film was an all-time favorite of mine growing up, and the thought of Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith butchering this American “classic” has got me up in arms. There was a point in time in my life that I could literally recite the dialogue for this entire movie, from beginning to end, without missing a beat. If my memory serves me, the first line was spoken by Macchio’s mother in the movie, and went something like “C’mon, push Daniel push” and if I remember correctly the flick ended with Daniel (Macchio) triumphantly shouting “we did it Mr. Miyagi”. That’s what true fascination is all about, as disturbing as this now seems to me.

Next up, a truly foolish remake of the 80’s classic, “Red Dawn”, except this time in place of an invading Russian army, it’s an invasion by the Chinese. How original. This is one of those movies that has special significance to me, and many of the scenes are permanently fixed in my memory (Harry Dean Stanton’s emotional “avenge me boys” and character Robert’s final “Wolverines”, as he gets gunned down, stick out in particular). How they can even begin to capture the original flavor and pace of this movie is beyond me, and I honestly don’t think it’s possible.

The new version of “Clash of the Titans” is a tad different however. On one hand, being a big fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Special Effects genre, this remake has possibilities. While nothing will ever compare to the genius of effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, today’s digital magic should do wonders for Perseus’ encounters with the Medusa, Pegasus and other creatures making a return appearance. So for the time I’ll withhold judgment.

Now I can complain all I want, but chances are I will take a chance on all three of these movies (yes, even “The Karate Kid”), and I’m definitely not going to miss the “Tron” sequel, due in theaters in December of 2010, but it’s really only “Clash” that I’m interested in. I suppose my major beef is the lack of originality in today’s motion pictures. While I’m all for rethinking story lines (”Tron: Legacy”, “Star Trek” and the recent “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” come to mind), I’m personally a little tired of the entire concept of remakes. But as usual, Hollywood will continue to produce drivel for as long as people keep dishing out the dollars. Such is life, but I would love to see something truly unique come out at a theater near me in the near future, and don’t even get me started on the new “Smurfs” movie. I think I’m going to be sick.

The times they are a changing

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
Brian Golden

Those that know me can tell you that I’m a voracious reader, one of those people that can be found reading the back of the cereal box while eating breakfast, if nothing more interesting is at hand. I blame this on my mother, but in a good way.

From an early age my mom read to me, and encouraged me to pick up the habit as soon as I was able, which eventually led to me reading and writing at an extremely young age. I can remember well a trip to the library with the baby-sitter and struggling through a copy of my first borrowed novel, a copy of Peter Benchley’s “Jaws” (the book and movie still terrify me today). I believe I was approximately four years old. By the time kindergarten and first grade rolled around I was engrossed in the genius of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, and the rest, I guess you could say, is history.

I doubt that I’m alone in thinking that the lack of reading and writing skills in America is going to come back to haunt us, and in all reality already has. Even at the college level I’ve noted the disturbing trend of “texters” and “chatters” abbreviating, jiving, and in general butchering the English language. I wonder if these people realize just how unprofessional and ignorant this appears, and I hope they never trade e-mails with their boss, unless of course said boss follows the same trend. Personally, I find it to be neither convenient nor proper, I just think it’s laziness.

This will probably sound a trifle old-fashioned, but strong reading and writing skills are something to be proud of, and to all of you parents out there with young children, you need to stress the importance of this. In a time where schools are preparing to face massive cuts to education, the time you put in with your children at home will serve them greatly in the future and is invaluable. Strong readers equal an educated youth, which in turn will lead to a college education and gainful employment.

Another memory just occurred to me, and that’s the fact that my mom never said no when I asked to buy a book or comic, or beg for money to pay my library dues. Thanks mom, if it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this.

Cromartie: Father of seven, dad to none

Monday, March 8th, 2010
Patrick Newell

The New York Jets recently signed coveted cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who should provide a nice complement next season to shut-down defensive back Darrelle Revis. Cromartie, due $1.7 million in the final year of a $12-million, 5-year deal, was reportedly fronted $500K by the Jets to pay up his delinquent child support payments. While his interception totals have declined the past few years, his child production has spiked rapidly. Apparently, Cromartie, who will not be 26 years old until April 15, has fathered seven children to six women in five different states. Because he is a world-class athlete, the Jets are willing to put aside the fact that Cromartie has made millions the past four seasons, but is just your run-of-the-mill deadbeat dad.

And the Oscar goes to…

Monday, March 8th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Last night, millions of Americans tuned in to ABC to see the Academy awards, arguably the movie industry’s most glamorous and star-studded event of the year.

From the red carpet arrival of Hollywood A-listers to the eager faces of nominees willing their name to be read once the envelope is opened, no award show can hold a candle to the Oscars.

Between the drama and the haute couture, you’d think I’d be all over it. But I wasn’t one of the masses glued to the TV last night. Partially because I’d only seen three of the movies nominated – those being Inglourious Basterds, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Julie & Julia. But mostly because I just can’t be bothered with all the awards show hoopla.

It’s just such a production, dragging on for hours and hours. And far too much of it is painful to watch. I mean, it’s agonizing to see one fashion faux pas after another pass by on the red carpet. Ditto when the usually-funny host tells yet another joke that falls flat. And doesn’t it just break your heart to see the tortured expression on a nominee’s face as they attempt to swallow their own disappointment while pretending to be oh-so happy for whoever beat them out for that coveted statuette?

There’s the boredom, too, as you have to endure the stultifying list of award winners in categories you’ve never heard of and could care less about. Which, lets face it, is basically everything other than the Big Six as I call them: Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress and Best Director.

I know that sounds harsh, but honestly, do you care who got technical achievement awards? If you didn’t get one, or give birth to someone who did, the answer is probably a resounding “no.”

And I’m not even going to talk about the acceptance speeches. I understand the need to thank everyone you’ve ever met, I really do. I just don’t particularly care.

But don’t be fooled by my bitter little diatribe. While I don’t watch the whole extravagant ceremony, I wouldn’t say I was entirely disinterested in the whole affair. I did, after all, spend a fair part of my day reading recaps of the event and comparing the plethora of best and worst dressed lists circulating on the web.

I didn’t find anything incredibly exciting on the list of award winners. The fashion, on the other hand, was much more entertaining. I honestly didn’t recognize half the beautiful young starlets strutting their stuff on the crimson carpet, but the dresses were to die for. And did you see Demi Moore’s shoes? They were nothing short of divine.

Not everyone was looking their best however, and I have a feeling a few stylists will probably get kicked to the curb in the wake of the event. Like whoever dressed Charlize Theron. I found the South African actress’ gown a bit disturbing. Was it just me, or did it look like it was copping a feel?

Bowman Lake Top 5

Friday, March 5th, 2010
Brian Golden

There is no way I can even begin to count the number of times I have camped or visited Bowman Lake, and for years have considered some of my fellow citizens just plain ignorant when they comment that there’s nothing to do around here. So in memory of Bowman, should it happen to close, my top 5 favorite things about the beatific state park.

Number 5 – Swimming
I’ve never been a huge fan of swimming, except on the most unbearable of hot summer days, which is why swimming got bumped down to number 5 on my list. I must admit, however, that the swimming “facilities” at Bowman have always been one of my favorites. It always seemed the perfect way to spend the hottest part of the day while camping, and it’s always nice to lay on the beach and catch some rays.

Number 4 – Hiking
While the trails around Bowman Lake aren’t anything to write home about, they provide a nice way to get out and enjoy nature while getting a little exercise (especially with all the not-so-healthy foods I partake of while camping). There is one spot in particular, approximately half-way around the lake, which provides lovely fishing access, and I’ve hooked a nice trout or two on occasion from this spot.

Number 3 – Boating
Bowman’s affordable boat rentals were always a favorite of mine. Whether fishing, or just lounging back and floating around, this is one activity that I always took advantage of while camping there. There is something uniquely relaxing in the gently rocking motion of a rowboat on a clear and sunny day.

Number 2 – Fishing
I’ve been an avid fisherman for decades now, and Bowman Lake rarely disappointed me. While the trout can be particularly tricky to get on the line (a hint for all you anglers, you must be fishing at the proper time of day and at the proper location to catch a trout at Bowman), the bullhead are abundant, good sized, and quite tasty on the grill fresh out of the water. Another extremely relaxing activity, whether you catch anything or not.

And finally…
Number 1 – Campfires
By far my favorite camping activity, no other setting in which I’ve ever performed compares to an acoustic guitar and a nice fire. It’s amazing the way new ideas form, and inspiration takes hold, while enjoying the great outdoors and the companionship of friends and family while performing thus. An added bonus, the random strangers that will, on occasion, stop by just to hear a song or two.

I write this with the hope that our beloved Bowman Lake will remain open this spring and summer, as I was already in the planning stage of my first camping expedition. I know that there are other campgrounds and fishing holes out there, but my times at Bowman will forever remain special and dear to me. What a beautiful place for Chenango County families to create lasting memories.