Archive for June, 2010

A bit of wear and tear

Monday, June 28th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

T-minus four or so days until I celebrate a birthday landmark I’ve been dreading since, well, my last “big” birthday, and I’m already on the slippery slope to decline. Trust me, I’ve got the bruises, scrapes and burns to prove it.

The first thing to go was good judgment. As evidenced by the poor decision which lead to me taking a nice tumble down that slippery slope I mentioned, which left me entangled with my golf clubs in such a way that I could do nothing but lay there for a minute waiting for a tell-tale snap. You know, the kind which can only indicate the breaking of a limb?

Thankfully, however, there was no snap and my only reminder of the ordeal (other than the recurring nightmares) is the incredibly colorful bruise gracing the inner side of my upper left arm. And the equally colorful tale I have to tell from the experience.

My memory was next to go. Or at least I think it was, I really can’t remember. If I could, perhaps I could remember why I was so remiss about taking my daily allergy pill at its designated time. This unfortunate oversight having allowed all manner of airborne allergens to waltz right into my completely unprotected, antihistamine free system.

Before I could move to right this horrible wrong (by popping the forgotten pill posthaste), the damage was already done to the delicate skin around my eyes. Which is why I looked like I had a shiner when I made my appearance at Oxford’s graduation on Saturday. The swelling has, at this point, gone down, but the unsightly redness remains. From experience, I know the next step will be wrinkles which, while temporary, will age me prematurely. (Since I’ll be sporting them in all my celebratory birthday photos.)

I can’t blame my memory on the next of my self-inflicted injuries. No, this one is all about coordination. Or, more precisely, my lack there-of. I mean, how else could I have managed to stub a toe from one foot on the shoe in which my other was clad. And to do it in such as way as to bend the nail back enough to make it bleed.

The worst part about it was I was simply trying to get out of my car, certainly a task I should have mastered by now.

At least I didn’t cry right there in the middle of the parking lot.

If that had been the end of it, I might have been able to save some face. But no, the drama continued. The next incident took place as I was preparing the evening meal for our house full of company. Somehow I managed to sear myself rather than the pork as I removed dinner from the oven.

Did I forget the oven was hot, or simply lack the coordination to safely remove the roast from the oven? I’ll let you reach your own conclusion.

It doesn’t help that my big brother is visiting. He’s incredibly quick to point out that, despite his being 14 or so years my senior, I’m the one with more gray.

Well, brother dear, I may be showing a little wear and tear, but at least I still have my eye sight.

Did I mention how great you look in those reading glasses?

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

The longest matches in sports history

Friday, June 25th, 2010
Patrick Newell

Thursday, professional tennis players John Isner of the United States and Nicolas Mahut of France completed the longest match in history. Over three days, the five-set matchup lasted 11 hours, 5 minutes , and that included an epic 70-68 fifth set. The fifth set – over eight hours – was in itself the longest match in history.
As a comparison, we researched the longest matches/games in other professional sports, and none compares to the length of the Isner-Mahut clash.

* In a Triple-A International League baseball game in April of 1981, Pawtucket and Rochester played 33 innings. The game was suspended after the 32nd inning (Easter morning) just past 4 a.m., and the game resumed two days later. Baseball Hall-of-Famer, Cal Ripken Jr., played for the Red Wings in that game. The total game time was eight hours and 25 minutes.

* The longest NHL game was 176 minutes, 30 seconds – a six-overtime Stanley Cup game between Detroit and the Montreal Maroons – in 1936. Total ice time was just shy of three hours, although with intermissions between every period, actual time expired from initial drop of the puck until the winning goal was probably around five hours.

* The NFL is limited to one 15-minute overtime period during the regular season, although in the playoffs, teams play as many 15-minute overtime periods as necessary to complete the game. The longest game on record went 22 minutes and 40 seconds of extra time (82 minutes, 40 seconds counting regulation time) in the 1971 AFC playoffs. In that game, Miami outlasted Kansas City, 27-24 when Garo Yepremian kicked the winning field goal midway through the second OT.

* In World Cup soccer, the length of a game is 90 minutes plus stoppage time, and overtime consists of two 15-minute periods. At that point, games are decided by a penalty kick shootout. The maximum time is 120 minutes, and that result has occurred numerous times.

* In professional golf, overtime occurs when two or more players tie for the lead at the completion of a tournament. In non-major tournaments, a sudden-death playoff ensues. The longest playoff on record is 11 holes in 1949. Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum competed in that playoff and agreed to share the tournament title after they were unable to shake the other over 11 holes. The U.S. Open is the lone major tournament that requires an 18-hole total score playoff to determine its winner. The format has since changed, but in previous U.S. Open playoffs, if the total scores of the players tied remained deadlocked, another 18 holes were played to determine the winner. Now, if the scores are still tied after 18 holes, a sudden-death playoff follows. Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate remained tied after their 18-hole playoff in 2008. Woods won with a par on the 19th hole.

Anticipation

Friday, June 25th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m having a hard time concentrating today. And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that the forecast is calling for sunny skies and temps in the upper 70’s. In other words, perfect for golf.

Normally that might be cause for distraction, but I’ve already settled that issue by way of a late afternoon tee-time with my Dad at Blue Stone.

No, I’m antsy because the Tennessee branch of the Stagnaro clan – comprised of my big brother Dennis, his wife Lisa and the lovely Madison June-bug – is headed North for a visit. I’m practically jumping up and down with glee.

The drive is a long one from their home just North of Chattanooga – 15 hours of so depending on traffic, construction, average speed, hunger pains and bladder capacity. They planned to leave early this morning, but I have yet to have their actual departure confirmed. My fingers are crossed that they are already en route. If they did in fact set off on time, they may even make it here by tonight. It’s a slim chance, but I’m clinging to it for all I’m worth.

It seems like it has been ages since I’ve seen them. Sure, they were here for Christmas, but I spent much of the time working and their visit just flew by. My fingers are crossed that I’ll get a little more time with them this trip.

I’ve already got big plans to take Maddie to the drive-in over in Unadilla, and there’s talk of going to a Binghamton Mets game. (Baseball is always a crowd-pleaser in my family.) There will no doubt be a night or two around the campfire, with Dennis strumming away on his guitar. Maybe a bit of shopping for the ladies, or even a night out on the town.

It doesn’t matter what we do, really. As long as I get to spend as much quality time as possible with my brother and his family over the next 7 or 8 days.

It will go by entirely too fast, I know. All too soon the house will return to its normal, all-too-quiet state. And we’ll be counting down the days once more, in anticipation of their next visit.

How I miss them when they’re gone.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Love songs done right

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
Brian Golden

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a hopeless romantic, the hopeless part stemming from the long string of failed relationships I’ve enjoyed over the years (for the most part my fault). Honestly though, as a musician I’m a sucker for a good love song and decided it would be fun to write up a brief synopsis of ten of my all-time favorite “romantic” musical selections.

#10 – “Melissa”…The Allman Brothers Band, Eat a Peach (1972)
Written in 1967 by Gregg Allman and Steve Alaimo, this classic Allman Brothers tune happened to be brother Duane’s favorite song Gregg had written. Released on the Eat a Peach album following Duane’s death in a tragic motorcycle accident, this is a favorite of mine to perform on acoustic guitar (especially when there’s a Melissa in the crowd), and I’ve always considered it one of Gregg’s most moving songs. Take a listen to the live acoustic version from An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band which features Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts tearing up the guitar solo in beautiful harmony.

#9 – “Running on Faith”…Eric Clapton, Journeyman (1989)
This melancholy yet ultimately uplifting tune, written by Clapton collaborator Jerry Lynn Williams, first appeared on the Journeyman album, considered by many to be one of Clapton’s most energetic and most powerful solo efforts. What begins as a plea for help in the face of adversity and heartbreak eventually transforms into something so much more as Clapton, with one of his best-ever vocal performances, repeats the refrain “when love comes over you,” all the while backed by a group of stellar musicians that push him to his limit both emotionally and musically.

#8 – “Into the Mystic”…Van Morrison, Moondance (1970)
One of the most prolific songwriters and vocalists in the history of rock-n-roll, Morrison’s Moondance album touches on so many emotional levels, a perfect example of the raw power musicians can achieve when performed by the right group of players brought together with a common purpose at the perfect moment. This song, without a doubt my favorite Morrison selection, features a delicate bridge which crescendos into the memorable chorus, with Morrison leading us mysteriously “Into the Mystic.”

#7 – “Our Love”…Derek Trucks Band, Already Free (2009)
I’ve mentioned in several blogs the amazing slide guitar of Derek Trucks who, unfortunately, remains an unknown to a majority of music listeners. Every album the Derek Trucks Band has released to date has shown a steady increase in the talent of this band and Already Free is no exception. I recently used this song as exit music for a friend’s wedding, following the actual ceremony as they walked up the hill through a throng of cheering friends and family, and people afterward made a point to come up to me and mention the goosebumps, and the tears, this song inspired.

#6 – “Bold as Love”…Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold as Love (1968)
I’ll never forget introducing this Hendrix classic to my friend and fellow musician Bill Frank in the summer of 1994 while on a mission for some guitar strings prior to a NHS Jazz Ensemble gig. Bill was never as fanatic as I when it came to Jimi’s music, but I can recall like it was yesterday his immediate reaction to the tune. Lyrically one of the best things Hendrix ever wrote, and featuring a guitar solo at the end which absolutely soars across a pristine musical landscape of textures and a subtle melodic background, this masterpiece validates Hendrix as not only one of the greatest guitarists ever, but a monumental songwriter as well.

#5 – “Lenny”…Stevie Ray Vaughan, Texas Flood (1983)
One of the most beautiful and touching instrumental tributes in the history of music in my opinion, “Lenny” was written for Vaughan’s wife Lenora and was often performed on a guitar she gave to him. Following their divorce Stevie discontinued playing the simple yet profound song, although he did use the “Lenny” guitar when performing another instrumental “Riviera Paradise,” which many fans consider a sort of tribute in itself to the original song. “Lenny,” more than any other Stevie-penned tune, proves beyond a doubt that Stevie’s influences included more than just the blues, but jazz, jazz inflections and chord progressions.

#4 – “Layla”…Derek and the Dominoes, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)
Written for George Harrison’s wife Patty, with whom Clapton was obsessed and madly in love with, this album surprisingly took several years to gain in popularity before reaching “classic” status. Duane Allman joins Clapton for the recording (the two became instant friends when first introduced) and the main riff, composed by Allman, is one of the most recognizable in rock-n-roll history. The build-up at the song’s end (the piano part was written by a drummer, surprisingly) flows beautifully, giving Clapton and Allman the opportunity to trade melodically on guitar in one of the most inspired love songs of all time.

#3 – “Wonderful Tonight”…Eric Clapton, Slowhand (1977)
Another Clapton original inspired by Patty Boyd (she and Clapton were a couple by this time), I’ve always found this tune humorous due to the fact the two were arguing at the time it was written. Already late for a party, Clapton sat and fumed while Patty tried on outfit after outfit, to which Clapton repeatedly replied “you look wonderful.” The kicker is the fact that the song tells a true story, as Clapton wound up drunk and needed to be put to bed following the party. Proof that not all love songs begin as such.

#2 – “Wish You Were Here”…Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)
A favorite Pink Floyd song of mine, and one of the first songs I ever learned, this song embodies everything good music should. From the lightly played acoustic guitar intro to the beautiful guitar and vocal duet, David Gilmour proves once again he’s one of the finest guitarists to ever pick up the instrument. I’ve always found the imagery in this song to be extremely powerful, especially when Gilmour sings “we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.” Absolutely gorgeous.

#1 – “Romeo and Juliet”…Dire Straits, Making Movies (1980)
I have memories of listening to this song which remain vivid to me a decade later. This is one of those tunes that immediately takes me back in time and guitarist Mark Knopfler was, in many respects, my first favorite guitar player. The opening intro and the reflective and dreamy outro are classic examples of Dire Straits at it’s best and what they’re all about. This song is the ultimate love song in my opinion and one I always wanted to cover. Just wonderful songwriting in every respect.

Mama’s (finally) got a new ride

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Well, I did it. After all that hemming, hawing and agonizing about replacing my faithful-but-aging Ford Explorer, I traded the old girl in for a newer model last week.

It was hard to say good-bye, just as Boys II Men had warned me it would. But I knew it had to be done.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, and I did just that with my  June 3rd column, “Decisions, decisions.” But it still took me more than a week to gear myself up to the challenge at hand: finding a new car.

Well, actually, if it was up to me, I’d probably have waited even longer. But last Monday, my father showed up at my office at lunchtime. The expectation was clear.

We took a few moments to map out our car shopping strategy, deciding to head North first and then work our way back toward Norwich. Our hope was to hit 2 or 3 car dealers during my allotted 60 minutes.

As it happened, we only made it to one: North Norwich Motors. It was there, that I fell in love.

I’d professed to want another SUV, or at the very least, something AWD. But my heart wasn’t really in it, and even with their diverse inventory, nothing caught my eye.

My dad was pressuring me to test drive something – anything – but I was noncommittal. I wandered the lot somewhat listlessly until, in the midst of trying to convince dear old dad that a tomato red Impala with a black interior was certainly NOT the car for me, something did catch my eye.

It wasn’t even close to being an SUV. No, it was a 2008 Dodge Avenger. In inferno red crystal pearl. (Did I mention I’d always sworn I’d never own a red car?)

There was just something about it. Maybe it was the styling, like a 3/4 sized Charger. (I personally like to think of her as the muscle car’s baby sister.) Or that lustrous paint job. It was sassy, sexy and made me want to purr.

Freddie couldn’t get me the keys fast enough.

And once I was behind the wheel, I knew it was the car for me.

A quick test drive later, I was headed back to work with an appointment to pick up my new ride at noon the following day.

I left almost in a state of shock. It had happened so much faster than I’d anticipated, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that in less than 24 hours I’d be driving away in that glorious piece of car.

My faithful Explorer and I took one last trip together that night. Not along Chenango County’s scenic highways and byways, but down memory lane. Because that’s what if felt like as I as I emptied her of all the mementos of our past travels together.

Memories flooded back as I discovered maps from our pre-GPS cross-country roadtrips, the lucky change my friend Liz had tossed on the floorboards when I’d first purchased her all those years ago, CD’s I’d long given up on, tools I didn’t even know I owned.

Under – and in – the seats were a veritable of time capsule of detritus documenting the last decade: Smints wrappers, a cache of faded gas receipts from service stations in several states, a novelty Las Vegas lighter picked up on a long-ago trip, a stray cassette tape or two, the St. Christopher’s medal my mom had pressed into my hand when I bought my first car, a tire pressure gauge I’d admittedly never used. A zillion pens, and at least half a dozen lip balms. Two pieces of desiccated fruit. Apples, as near as I could tell.

I couldn’t list it all if I tried. Or maybe I could, because each item I removed – whether it went into the trash, or away for safe keeping – brought back vivid moments in time. Moments I’d long since thought I’d forgotten, but were evidently there, just waiting for something to call them forth.

On Tuesday, shortly before noon, I climbed behind the wheel of my old friend one last time. And cried all the way to North Norwich.

My heart was heavy as I handed over the keys, knowing as I did that she’d seen her last of the open road.

I took one last look at her before pulling out of the parking lot, this time at the wheel of my sparkling red Avenger. I think she took one last look at me, too. And I can’t help feeling that she approved of her replacement.

Because, I always knew, that under that conservative white paint job, she had the heart of a shiny red racer.

With that thought in my mind, I said good-bye to my old friend.

And hello, to my new ride.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

The beauty in it

Friday, June 11th, 2010
Tyler Murphy

This past week my long time girlfriend landed a good job fresh out of college and my best friend decided he was going to get married. The best man being yours truly.

These life developments I must admit fall in a span of time long spent on pondering the next direction my life should take. I wonder sometimes if that mode of thinking will always be the case, at what point can one say I think I’ve gone far enough? Even if the money was good and never ending I’m still not sure that’d be enough to be content.

Do you ever feel the stirring part of your mind, the restless skeptic, the nagging perfectionist, the constant urge of positive personal reform and professional success.

I’ve been an Evening Sun reporter for a few years now. I’ve seen just about as much excitement in my tenure here as any other previous crime reporter. Three murders, one returned on appeal, a couple of fatal drug shootings combined with tens of thousand in seizures. Maybe a dozen fatal accident scenes, another half dozen suicides. Before I worked for the paper I only ever saw one dead body outside of a funeral. The first one I saw on the job was a woman my exact same age, sharing an identical birth date. If those random similarities weren’t true I doubt it would’ve made such a lasting impression.

Tell me that’s not weird.

Her distorted body was crushed in a freak car accident. I could draw you a picture of her blood covered upper torso hanging out the driver’s side window with snow gently accumulating on her long blond hair. I’ll never forget the sight. I stood there in the snow and made myself remember. It makes me feel like police, firemen, EMS and emergency workers in general don’t get enough credit.

It’s been interesting.

I’ve had defendants beg me to tell their story, I’ve had others spit in my face. Through the middle fingers and tears I’ve never taken any of it personally.

I’ve sat through maybe 10 full criminal trials now. Anyone hoping to have the experience as a spectator I’d advise skipping the jury selection. Two of those were murders cases, one lasted six weeks. I’ve watched the complete line of legal procedures from arrest to sentence. Over all the system seems fair but there’s plenty of room for debate.

I’ve met congressmen, assemblymen, the state’s supreme court judges. Some of them have even shared a dirty joke or two.

Being a reporter you have a tendency to get a piece of everyone’s story but rarely are you able to focus on any one part in enough depth. Everyone has a perspective and a tale to tell but our job is to relay how it all comes together.

Taking all these experiences, some bad, some good, a few wretched and a few glorious, I’ve never thought much beyond keeping life honest and interesting. It’s my hope that one day people will use those two words to describe me.

Maybe I’m getting old because it seems more and more life is a weighted experience full of complications. Money, love, work and the future of all three. There is no calculation that can predict any one of those variables and when you’re combining all three I’d dare say our life styles are more closely related to the work of an artist than that of an engineer.

At least that’s how I try to look at things. I remember there was this plan- we all have (had) one- but it never goes accordingly. That’s life. If life depended on the precise math needed to construct a bridge it would never be built. It’s a canvas, your the artist and the colors will be randomly chosen day to day. Over all you have an idea of the what perception you’d like to express in the masterpiece but in the end it’s a labor of adaptation as much as expectation.

That’s always been the beauty in it for me.

Every time I find myself dragged down by unforeseen consequences or handed a short cut through no fault of my own I just think of the canvas and how much there is left to paint. Who knows how long any of us have anyway?

There is no destination to these thoughts, they just keep moving forward. I’ve never come to any sound conclusion to solve all my problems though I’ve stumbled upon my fair share of ways to make them worse.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately, to find a better way ahead. Seems my girlfriend and best friend are finding themselves in the same boat.

What about you? Where have you been and where are you headed?

Standing room only

Friday, June 11th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

My back is killing me today. In fact, it’s been bothering me since Wednesday night, when I had the privilege of spending three and a half incredibly long hours sitting on the floor during a Norwich City School Board meeting.

Yep, I was in the equivalent of lawn seating at the event. Which was fine for Dave Matthews last weekend, but less than desirable for a school board meeting.

Prior to the protracted meeting, I was under the impression that I had more than adequate padding on my posterior. I’ve been forced to reconsider that assumption however. Normally, I’d be ecstatic about something like that. But my bonier-than-realized behind enjoyed the experience even less than my back.

But still, I figure I got off easy. There were plenty of people who stood  lining the back of the district conference room throughout the entire meeting. From recent experience (the aforementioned DMB concert) I know I wouldn’t have made it if I’d tried the same.

I know I spend what some would say is far too much time griping about school board meetings. But we all need an outlet for the frustration in our lives. And unfortunately for you, my dear readers, this is mine.

Primarily because my family and friends have forbade me from discussing the topic in their saintly presence. And I fear their retribution if I fail to comply.

It’s no secret that I’m not exactly a fan of board of education meetings. Unfortunately, since I cover five of Chenango County’s nine school districts, it’s kind of an occupational hazard.

But I don’t have to like it.

It’s not the meetings themselves that bother me – although they do cut into my social life – it’s the dysfunction. I know that’s what sells newspapers, but believe me, I don’t revel in the drama. I much prefer peace and harmony, to conflict and strife.

Unfortunately, there is much more of the latter than the former.

My frustration is only exasperated by the fact that much of the drama is if the participants own making. Usually a combination of poor communication, inarticulation and a lack of common courtesy.

Something as simple as when during the meeting public comment is scheduled can ignite a meeting, turning the tide from civil to nasty. (Why on Earth you’d want someone to sit an stew for three hours over something they are already upset about is beyond me. Unless, that is, you actually want to incite riot.) Failure to provide a sufficient copies of agendas and other handouts is also an irritation for those who take time out of their lives to attend these types of events.

Ditto, when you fail to provide adequate seating.

Because all of these things to contrive to make people feel like their elected officials don’t want them to attend meetings, don’t want their input and that and don’t value their opinion. Even when that isn’t the case.

Tempers were hot over some issues at Wednesday night’s meeting. But they were hotter still after people spent hours standing, waiting for their turn to speak. Is it really that hard to put out a few extra seats and print off a few extra copies of the handouts, when you know attendance has been up?

It’s not me I’m concerned about. I arrived just as the meeting was starting, so to a certain extent I felt sitting on the floor was kind of my penance. And I know if I asked for a seat, if any of us had, someone would have been kind enough to fetch us one. The same would have been the case if I needed a copy of something. The problem is not everyone attends as many meetings as I do. What if that was your first experience at a board meeting? Think of the lasting impression that would leave. Not only of the board, but of the entire district.

Norwich is by no means alone in this offense. I’ve attended school board meetings in Oxford where not enough seating is available. (Although the space they hold their meetings is larger, and stacks of chairs usually line the back of the room.) Guilford’s old town hall was so tiny that unless they cleaned out a bay in the highway garage, there wasn’t enough room to provide seating for all those who attended their town meetings.

My purpose in writing this isn’t to blast Norwich for making me sit on the floor. Sure, I might whine a little about it, but I suffered no permanent damage from the experience. I just hope this serves as a reminder to the district, as well as to other elected boards, that while seating might seem like a minor detail at a meeting where important topics are being discussed and critical decisions being made, it is important that your constituents know their participation is valued. Whether they agree with your stand on things or not, by attending these meetings, they are showing they care. They are taking an active role in their community or school.

A little common courtesy can go a long way toward building bridges. The lack of it is a sure-fire way of burning them.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

I’m not kidding, it was THIS big

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Brian Golden

I was an avid fisherman in my younger days and spent hours angling all over Chenango County, usually in the company of my slightly older stepbrother Geoff. We spent countless hours in pursuit of the “next big catch” and were tortured daily by the knowledge that we knew right where the biggest fish were, we just couldn’t fish there.

Adding to our dismay was the fact that this body of water, known as Glen Lake, was no further than a half-a-mile down the road from my dad’s house.

At one time, when my father, aunts and uncle were children, this man-made lake was open to the public for fishing, swimming, boating and all manner of recreational activities. However, following their divorce, the couple who owned the property closed it off, and that’s how things remained for decades, this even though the lake had been well-stocked with a large variety of fish. Those daring enough might sneak down in the wee hours of the morning to snatch a bass or two, but the dangers inherent in these endeavors (the wife kept a loaded gun close to hand) made most think twice.

Now I’m sure you can imagine how Geoff and I felt as we rode our bikes past the lake early in the evening, just as twilight descended in the midst of summer. We would stop and stare wistfully as, no joke, pickerel nearly four feet in length would shoot up out of the water attempting to eat the birds which were after the multitude of bugs flying near the lake’s surface. Talk about torture for a pair of young boys. As obsessed as we were with hooking “the big one,” well, this was just too much.

Fast forward about fifteen years.

Sometime around the year 2000 everything had changed. Under new ownership, I finally had access to the now mythical body of water, not to mention the new owner offered me the use of a paddle-boat whenever I desired. After years of regaling my friends with stories of the immense fish lurking beneath the surface of Glen Lake, I finally had the opportunity to prove my words true. And since Geoff now lived in Texas, I needed a new fishing partner. Enter my friend and fellow Fools at Play guitarist Adam.

My first experience fishing on Glen Lake just happened to be the Fourth of July, as Adam and I packed our gear and headed for Pratt Road. We wasted no time in selecting a paddle-boat and setting forth, already imagining that first fish, and we didn’t have to wait long. Ten or fifteen minutes into our fishing adventure saw both of us landing a pair of larger-than-normal sunfish, prompting Adam to consider using one as live bait since I had assured him there were gigantic predators just waiting in the deeper sections of the lake. And that’s when it happened.

Weighed down with a heavy load of sinkers, and sporting a large treble hook that could have doubled as a grappling hook, the sunfish Adam had chosen for bait was dropped into the deepest part of the lake we could find. I wish I could’ve known what that poor, doomed sunny was thinking at the time, probably something along the lines of “oh lord no, I am in the wrong part of town.” To think that this oversized sunfish, so used to roaming the shallow waters at the lake’s edge, was now thrust suddenly into the environment of its most dangerous predators was just too much for us as we laughed, pondering the situation. But we weren’t laughing for very long.

Before we could even consider what was happening, Adam’s line went shooting speedily away from the paddle-boat, and in seconds we were being pulled across the lake. Two grown men, in a hefty paddle-boat, flying first westward, then eastward, across Glen Lake. For nearly 15 minutes this went on and I would guess that we crisscrossed the lake three or four times. I, having pulled in my line to avoid entanglements, only had one thought as I imagined a northern pike with teeth that could take off a finger, or fingers, or maybe an entire hand – “we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Unfortunately we never did get to see this monstrosity of a fish, as eventually Adam’s line went slack. That poor sunfish had seen his last day and ended up as lunch. I’ve often pondered just how big that now legendary fish must have been to pull us repeatedly, back and forth, across the lake that afternoon, and every day as I drive past that old longing to dig out the old fishing pole and get my license grows stronger. Now where did I put that tackle box?

It’s all in the cards

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Need a greeting card for a particular occasion? Chances are, I’ve got one – or several – which will fit the bill. Why? Because I’m addicted to them. I’m always on the hunt for the perfect card for someone. And as I comb through the selection available at any purveyor of such things, I’m more likely than not to grab a few extra while I’m at it.

I simply can’t help myself.

There is something about them that just draws me in. Maybe its a brilliant photo of some idyllic scene, or an intricate, insightful illustration. And every once in awhile you stumble across one where the pithy little sayings inside, just strikes the perfect chord with your emotions.

That’s how I pick the perfect card for those closest to me. I read it and wait for a wave of emotion to strike. I know I’ve found “the one,” when I’m weeping openly in the card aisle. Or laughing out loud, depending on the occasion. (I’ve noticed that either reactions can cause a certain amount of consternation for my fellow shoppers, but I’m not bothered. Obviously they need to be more in touch with their feelings.)

Since basically any supermarket or pharmacy worth its salt carries greeting cards, I can feed my card habit almost anywhere. But some places cater more to my tastes than others. The holy Mecca for card connoisseurs has to be Papyrus. I spent an hour in their San Francisco store once, during a brief stay in that amazing city. It was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip. (High praise, since I love, love, loved San Fran.)

The next best thing to a specialty stationary store, which are admittedly hard to come by in this day and age, are the offerings at any Borders, Barnes & Noble or even Target. None are in close enough range to fulfill my needs on a regular basis, however. So I’ve been scouting out card purveyors in closer proximity to my Chenango County home.

Without a doubt, my favorite are the Graphique de France cards available at The Goody Bag in Greene. This little shop, which specializes in gourmet items, also has fabulous coffee and chocolate truffles to die for. I stock up on the first two, and try hard to resist the third, whenever I can fit a trip to downtown Greene into my schedule. Beth, the lovely owner, is happy to feed my addiction(s).

If I need to grab a last minute card on my way to work, I stop at Blue Ox in Oxford. I know that may sound strange, stopping at a convenience store for such a thing. Sure their selection is small, but their cards, all from Tree-Free Greetings, are top notch. They’re even “earth friendly.” Which is good to know, for you crunchy-granola types out there.

Sometimes you need a card for an obscure occasion. A case is point was my aunt’s golden jubilee a few years ago. (For those of you who don’t have a nun in the family or aren’t Catholic, the event marked her 50th year in the convent.) I had no idea where to go for a card to mark the occasion, but my mother did: Service Pharmacy in Norwich.

For the full depth and breadth of their selection, the South Broad street establishment rounds out my top three. They carry what seems to be a thousand different lines of Hallmark cards, including those Marjolein Bastin Nature’s Sketchbook cards which I love and the (Product) Red cards, a percentage of sales of which go to help fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.

They also have bloopers cards, created from submissions so bad that instead of rejecting them they figured they’d market them to sick individuals – like me – who find that kind of stuff absurdly funny. My fav has a picture of this little kid on the front, draped in a whole bunch of dirty old bras. Inside it says, “thank you for your support.”

Just thinking about it brings me to happy tears.

Of course, not every card is perfect. Some are down right horrible. For every perfect gem, there are probably a hundred which miss the mark. That’s why my card shopping excursions are often somewhat protracted affairs.

I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. This has nothing to do with my indecisiveness. It just takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Finding that one gem, the needle in the haystack, makes all the time and effort invested worthwhile.

And when you find those stand outs, you have to buy them. Right then and there. Because you know you’ll never be able to find them again.

Which is why I end up leaving with 5 cards for every one I intended to buy.

It wouldn’t be a problem if five months later, when the birthday of the friend for whom I purchased the aforementioned perfect card finally rolls around, I remembered I’d already bought them card. Too often, I’ve forgotten long before then.

So I buy a new one. And that perfect card gets relegated to my collection, with the promise that I’ll remember it next year. Although, let’s face it, the chance of that actually happening are slim to none.

I also have habit of buying cards which I love, but have no intended recipient. I’m always optimistic that just such an occasion will arise when precisely that card, and only that card will fit the bill.

Which, once in a blue moon, actually does happen. But more often than not, all those treasured cards simply get added to my growing card collection. (We won’t discuss my ever-increasing storage requirements.)

A lucky few are selected for display in my cubicle. Right now, four have been deemed worthy of this honor.

One bears a simple photograph of snow drifts in an aspen grove, the trees with their paper white bark, casting long-blue shadows which contrast against the sparkling white of the snow. The image is calming and restful to me, and reminds me of the years I spent in Colorado.

Another, sports a trio of can-can girls whose legs are mounted on a spring. A bit of a flick sends them into a frenzied dance which makes me laugh even on the worst of days.

Stark white frames a Technicolor image of the Capitol building against a stormy blue sky, brilliant red tulips in the foreground, reminds me of the recent trip I took with my mom to DC.

A dreamy, pseudo-psychadelic watercolor wash of trees, butterflies, songbirds and flowers bursting forth in swirls from a pair of childlike hands reminds me to, “Believe in a thousand impossible things you’ve never believed before.”

And when I look at it, I do.

Like magic, it’s all in the cards.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Leadership Chenango

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

As I look back on the last nine months, I’m overwhelmed by all I have seen, learned and experienced about life, leadership and Chenango County through my participation in Leadership Chenango. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in this amazing, un-paralleled program.

I started on my Leadership Chenango journey in October with the mistaken notion that I was well versed in all things Chenango. After all, I have called this corner of the world home for a good portion of my life. And in my professional role as a reporter for The Evening Sun, I’ve written about many facets of our local community – from business and agriculture, to education, social issues and current events.

But once our class began, it didn’t take me long to realize there was plenty left for me to learn.

During the course of this program, my classmates and I have had the opportunity to delve deeper into the social issues, educational systems, governmental structure, diversity of business and industry and our area’s rich agricultural heritage than even I imagined possible. It has changed me, as much as I know it has changed each of them. Without a doubt, it has been for the better for now, we have a clearer understanding of the challenges our community faces, the opportunities we have before us, and the type of people required to effect lasting change.

Only a few short months before the start of our class, my eyes were opened to the true extent of poverty in Chenango County. But it was only after visiting Roots and Wings, speaking with Chenango County Director of Social Services Bette Osborne, listening to local law enforcement and judicial officials as well as representatives from our local hospital, that I was truly able to comprehend what poverty means in our area. Because there are a myriad of social and economic costs associated with poverty that our entire society must bear.

Serving the impoverished segment of our population, helping them on the road to self-sufficiency, are a multitude of non-profit organizations. These groups, as well as the dedicated individuals who staff them and the volunteers they call upon to fulfill their missions, are a credit to our community. But they are in financially precarious situations at the moment. At a time when the demand for their services is on the rise, they are watching the state and federal funding sources, on which they have long depended, dry up before their eyes. The number of people willing to step forward and donate their time and effort as volunteers is also on the decline, making it doubly difficult for these groups to meet the growing need in our community.

We have businesses, too, which are struggling in the face of our current fiscal crisis as local, state and global market forces contrive to make their continued operation a challenge. I speak of high taxes, the worst recession our country has faced since the Great Depression and the dumping of foreign products on our markets. Our state and federal governments seem to have reached new heights – or shall I say, new lows – in their inefficiencies. And despite the high rate of unemployment, our local businesses still struggle to recruit and retain qualified workers. Our farmers struggle to make ends meet on milk prices which fall far short of the cost of production for many.

As a society, we debate whether tapping into the natural gas reserves beneath our feet, will be the answer to our economic prayers or our environmental downfall.

But, thankfully, it isn’t all doom and gloom. We are blessed to live in a part of the world, filled with abundant natural resources and seemingly boundless natural beauty. We had the chance to see that first hand during our three bus trips.

On those same trips, we also had a chance to witness the full diversity of businesses, industry and agriculture which calls Chenango County home. Yes, some are struggling, but they haven’t given up. And others are truly thriving, capitalizing on the creativity and commitment of their employees, and in many cases embracing their past, in order to rise to success.

If I see one clear area where we can make a difference in this county, it is by further encouraging economic development. We need to help our existing businesses expand and grow, while at the same time helping other, newer ventures, to take root. Not only would this bring new jobs, but it will also create new wealth in our area. It’s really a make or break, since without growth in business, industry and agriculture, even more of our population will fall below the poverty line. Reform will be needed on the state and government levels as well, because we need to make New York more business friendly. If we don’t, we will drive businesses and jobs out, not attract or create them.

It will take solid leadership, of course, to affect change in any of these areas. And thankfully, as a result of our leadership book reviews and class discussions, I think all of us have a clearer, more defined understanding of the characteristics any good leader must possess.

Many of my fellow classmates already exhibit these characteristics, and it has been a privilege to work alongside them these past few months. I believe I have learned as much from them as I have from our class sessions, guest speakers, individual interviews and field trips. I’d like to think we’ve all learned from each other.

Without them as my companions on this journey – and being a part of Leadership Chenango has indeed been a journey – this experience would have not been the same. Each of my classmates, with their diverse backgrounds, has added something unique to the program. Seeing our community through their eyes has given me a new perspective on many things.

I would be remiss in my synopsis of my experience with Leadership Chenango without the woman who has been our guide, our mentor and our “mother hen” over the last months: Judie Wright. Her commitment to shaping the future leaders of Chenango County has been an inspiration to all of us.

I am still unsure how I will put my new found knowledge to good use. In many ways, I’ve already begun to use it in my role at The Evening Sun, as I’ve written about a number of the topics we’ve covered in our class sessions. I’d like to think that in a way I’m already making a difference in our community by lending a hand wherever I can, bringing social issues to light in my writing, reporting on worthwhile community events and highlighting those who are doing good in our community.

Ideas are already forming in my mind at how best I can use my abilities and my passion for our community to do even more. And as a proud member of the Leadership Chenango Class of 2010, I feel a responsibility and an obligation to do just that.

Thank you to my editor, Jeff Genung, and our publisher, Dick Snyder, for the opportunity to participate in this program. This truly has been a life changing experience for me.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.