Archive for December, 2010

A shocking experience

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
Brian Golden

I’ve had a number of nicknames over the years – Goomball (third through sixth-grades, and don’t ask me who came up with it or why I was forced to suffer it for three years), Goldmember (for seven years with the Badweather Blues Band), B.G. (years ago), Goldy (on occasion), Scoop (not very original, but it’s been following me around since I began writing for our hometown daily) and, most recently, Patch (thanks Melissa). Yet the most memorable nickname I’ve ever had the honor of earning would have to be – Sparky.

It was my junior year at Norwich High School and I was playing guitar with the Purple Tornado Marching Band for the Pat Metheny-themed show of 1993. We were several competitions into the season and I’d grown (somewhat) accustomed to the frigid temperatures which typically accompany marching band performances at that time of year. One particular show, however, remains forever etched upon my memory.

We had traveled to New Hartford on a cold and rainy day, probably sometime in October of that year, and I was hopeful our performance would be moved inside. What can I say, I don’t know many guitarists who enjoy playing with frozen fingers, especially in those damp conditions. Unfortunately, the sleet-like rainy mixture had ceased as show-time rolled around, and I found myself going through the usual motions – lugging my 80-pound Twin Reverb amplifier onto the field with my red Fender Stratocaster strapped to my back.

Everything was moving along according to plan until it came time to actually perform. I’d run my instrument cables, tuned up the guitar and, as I’ve done a thousand times, reached to the rear of my amp to juice it up. Let me tell you, I was definitely getting power, and not in a good way.

The first little zap of electricity wasn’t painful really, just unexpected. I’d been in similar situations before and, while uncomfortable, I was typically able to ignore the electrical tingling which accompanies a bad ground. This time, however, as I went to play my first guitar-run (known to us music-types as a lick) the shocking result was anything but normal. In reality it was more-than-a-little painful.

Not wanting to draw attention from the show, which may have detracted from our overall score, I simply turned down the volume on my guitar and patiently awaited for the end of the first selection. It was my thought that I could sneak over to the other side of the pit orchestra and at least contribute some percussion to the rest of the show. And that’s when it happened.

Foolishly, instead of flicking off my amp first, I lifted my precious guitar up and over my head. As I did so, the instrument jack (where the cable plugs in) hit the side of my hand. Shocked – literally and figuratively – I accidentally dropped my guitar. My natural instinct kicked-in at that point and the electrical jolt I received as I caught my guitar in mid-air, wrapping my left hand around the neck (and metal strings running up and down it), was beyond anything I’d ever experienced. Still, it never occurred to me to drop my guitar again, something I would never purposely consider. Instead, I carefully leaned it up against my amp while an unknown amount of electricity coursed up my left arm and, as I felt it, through my entire body.

Minutes later I was standing beside my good friend Bill, who was performing on the marimba, staring in confusion at my blackened hand, which was, I noticed with a detached kind of fear, smoking. I remember saying to Bill something about my hand, which he at first ignored, until a quick glance caused him to stutter in his playing. I saw his eyes go wide and realized I’d electrocuted myself, badly.

The rest of that evening was spent, first in an ambulance, and then at a hospital in New Hartford. The doctor’s prognosis was no help at all, and he warned of possible nerve damage to my left hand. Luckily for me, he said, the electrical current I’d received hadn’t been strong enough to kill, only to maim. Thankfully, the damage wasn’t permanent.

I returned to Norwich later that evening to a distraught girlfriend, whose father the next day dubbed me Sparky in an attempt to raise my spirits. The nickname has stuck around with a small group of my friends through the years and every once in awhile it makes a resurgence. Definitely one of the “most shocking” events in my life and one I’m sure I’ll never forget – or live down.

Footloose and tobacco free

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I give my co-worker, Brian Golden, all the credit in the world for his decision to stop smoking. Sure, on a certain level I’m being completely selfish. None of us particularly relished catching a whiff of the old man when he got to work in the morning, or when he returned from a quick smoke break outside. (Breaks which us non-smokers in the office don’t take, I might add. But that’s another topic entirely.)

Of all days to begin his nicotine withdrawal, Brian chose the one on which the entire ES editorial staff embarked on its first interstate excursion. Despite his instance that he was fine, we could see he was fiending for a cigarette like no tomorrow. But only once or twice did it get to the point where I actually considered buying him a pack just to get him to chill.

I also questioned his decision to announce the fact that he was trying to quit to all of our readers via his column last Wednesday. I mean, that’s a lot of people watching his every move, waiting for a false step. But I guess it’s a sign of how badly he wants to do this. Because if he doesn’t succeed, he’ll have to admit it to the world.

There is something to be said for the entertainment value of the whole smoking cessation process, for onlookers like myself. The jitters, the emotional outbursts, the descriptions of the patch-induced nightmares the pour soul is suffering through… My favorite, though, is the recounting of how those who call themselves are contriving to undermine his Herculean efforts at quitting this heinous habit.

While I admit I laughed at Tyler’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we all take up smoking – at least I assume it was said in jest – I have nothing but contempt for those who have tried to tempt, taunt and cajole poor Brian into falling off the tobacco-free wagon.

It’s beyond cruel, really. I mean, what do they achieve if that puff of smoke they’ve blown in his face really does send him reaching for the pack of cigs we all suspect he has stashed somewhere?

While I have never been a smoker, I can appreciate how difficult quitting can be. I’ve watched many a close friend and family member attempt it. And yes, many of them have succeeded. But even I could tell it isn’t easy.

But then, smokers are used to enduring hardships, aren’t they? They brave the elements as they cluster outside to get their nicotine fix. They face ridicule and disdain from non-smokers where-ever they go. Laws have been enacted to restrict their rights. Federally (and ironically enough, tobacco industry) funded anti-smoking campaigns turn their children against them. Heck, they’re even penalized by their insurance companies. Yet they continue to smoke. Even though they’re practically going broke doing it. Seriously, what are they $8 or $9 a pack in New York?

After all that, quitting should be a snap after enduring all that, right? And it probably would be, except for the whole pesky addiction thing.

I know it will be a long hard journey for Brian to kick his smoking habit. But I have every confidence that he will succeed. Especially since we’ve all got his back.

After all, he has to walk past my desk on the way to his own. And nothing escapes my nose.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 12/14/10

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• Totally forgot to blog yesterday. ‘Tis the season to have one million things on your “To Do” list, I suppose.

• I spent a good part of Sunday night “helping” Santa write hand-written responses to all the kids who wrote in to him in care of The Evening Sun this year. Lots of your typical “I’ve been good” campaigning for presents (seems everyone wants a Pillow Pet this year; I need to Google that), but I (and Santa) always appreciate this kids who tell it like it is. One little boy even admitted to making “poor choices.” Fa-la-la-la-la, kid. Look for all the little darlings’ letters in a special third section in this Friday’s Evening Sun.

• I imagine it’s pretty scary when troopers come to your door to serve a warrant for your arrest. I can’t imagine my response being to pull a 16-gauge shotgun on them, as in our story today. Watch it there, Sundance.

• The county Board of Supervisors bade a fond farewell to retiring Treasurer Bill Evans at their last meeting of the year on Monday. Mr. Evans has served the county diligently (and saved us from being in far greater fiscal distress, I’m sure) for over two decades. He’s also been a good friend to this newspaper (and reporter Melissa deCordova in particular) and a stand-up guy to boot. Happy retirement, Bill!

• I guess I should apologize for printing all those doom and gloom “storm of the century” weather predictions yesterday, as we only got a dusting of the white stuff here in Norwich. Disclaimer: The Evening Sun does not employ a meteorologist (we just buy their stuff.) In fact, when forced to choose a weather graphic for the front page every day, I look out the window around 9 a.m.; that’s about as scientific as we get – and amazingly just as accurate as the “professionals,” it seems.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
Patrick Newell

– My forthcoming opinion may create a few frown or two among the Norwich faithful, particularly those I work with regularly at the high school on a professional basis.
Friday night kicked off the 30th Annual Norwich Pennysaver girls’ basketball tournament. It’s sponsored by The Evening Sun’s sister company, and it’s a well-run tourney that I have enjoyed covering the past 16 basketball seasons. That said, I would like to see a schedule change for next year.
First, the varsity games started approximately an hour and a half later than necessary. The opening-round varsity game did not finish until nearly 9:10 p.m., and the follow-up contest, Norwich versus Oxford, began at 9:35 p.m. That is typically the time when varsity games are completed, and kids/fans are on their way home. As it turned out, the final horn for the second game rang at 11:04 p.m. That’s way too late for everyone. Kids, parents, teachers, referees – and anyone with a day job – have likely been up and about since 6:30 or 7 a.m. (or earlier). That’s just a long, long day, and for most people, and it doesn’t lend itself to peak performance. If it was a Saturday, then I could see the late games since many people (yours truly not included) do not work on weekends.
The reason for these late starts and finishes is the integration of the two junior varsity games on the high school basketball court forcing the drawn-out slate. In just about every previous year, the JV games were played on the Norwich Middle School court, and ran concurrently with the varsity games.
If it is desired to keep the junior varsity games at the high school in future years, I have a suggestion: Since we have local teams at the tournament, how about playing the two first-round junior varsity games on Thursday night at 6 and 7:45 p.m.? Friday, the varsity games would play at the usual times of 6 and 7:45 p.m., and Saturday’s schedule would be completely at the discretion of the school.

– 2010 Norwich graduate, Sarah Bonnell, a freshman at Cortland State, was named SUNYAC Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Week. Bonnell won the 55-meter dash, and 200-meter dash at the St. Lawrence Holiday Relays last Saturday to help Cortland capture the team title. Bonnell set a meet record in the latter event, a time of 27.05 seconds.
Bonnell was home during the short Thanksgiving break, and I saw her working out at the Norwich YMCA. She told me she was running indoor track, and wasn’t sure how she would stack up since she has not run competitive 55-meter dashes – and probably had little to no indoor track and field experience running the 200-meter dashes. I told her, as long as she is winning races, the times would take care of themselves. Looks like any uncertainty she felt was unfounded as she is off to spectacular start to her freshman season.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Pet peeves of the road: winter edition

Monday, December 13th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Winter weather is upon us once more. There’s no use denying it. I don’t even need to see the flurries falling before my eyes, I can tell just by the change in driving behavior of the motorists around me.

I’m all for exercising caution this time of year, don’t get me wrong. Driving in the winter months can be dicey. There is the potential for all kinds of hazardous conditions. This time of year, the bogeyman’s got nothing on black ice. My favorite is that frozen slushy mess which loves to take your tires.

But there are some who take “caution” to the extreme. We’ve all been there, stuck behind someone going 15 to 20 miles below the speed limit when the roads are dry and clear. I try to temper my first response, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they need new tires, I think, as I try to repress the urge to scream bloody murder. But really, it’s because the worst drivers on the road don’t change their stripes.

This morning, as I left my house in the hinterland of – as one of my fbook friends like to call it – Southwest Tyner, I wasn’t sure what the roads would be like. The rain which plagued us all day yesterday had finally stopped, and fine flakes of snow were falling. I hadn’t heard the tell-tale rattle and scrape of the plow truck. So crossing my fingers, I pulled out onto my lonely little county road, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. I was pleasantly surprised, as it turned out. And it was easy going up and down my hilly trek to Route 12. The state highway itself was completely clear.

Although not everyone got that memo, apparently.

As I learned as I headed North out of Oxford after making my usual morning stop at Blueox to get the morning papers.

At first, I thought the driver of the mid-sized sedan in front of me was preparing to make a turn. I mean, how else could you explain the fact that it was going 35 in a 55. But I was wrong, oh so wrong.

Cursing the commuting gods, I watched cars line up behind me as one passing zone after another passed us by without a clear opportunity to pull around the “grandma” in front of me. Soon, it looked like a string of fairy lights were strung out through the pre-dawn countryside. It made me want to weep, but not with Christmas joy.

Then, as our procession approached the Halfway House bridge, something truly extraordinary happened: Another car pulled out in front of our “leader.” Going even slower. Something I honestly didn’t think was even possible. Proof, I guess, that no matter how untenable a situation is, it can always get worse.

What was remarkable, though, was our lead car’s reaction to the one who cut him (I never did get a good look, so I’m arbitrarily picking a gender) off. In a split second the driver was transformed from “grandma” to “tailgater,” riding the bumper of the interloper. He stuck with it, too, even after the offender sped up to a much more respectable 50.

Even better, though, was when we crossed into the City of Norwich limits. While I obediently slowed in accordance with the posted speed limit, this guy  did no such thing. In fact, it was like he finally remembered which pedal was the accelerator. He waited until he was in the 30 mile an hour zone before finally giving it some gas. Leaving me, back in the dust, shaking my head.

I’d rather deal with winter driving conditions than bad drivers any day of the week. Because if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say there’s a strong chance the latter poses as much of a threat on the roads as the former. Not to mention the years shaved off our lives by all that aggravation.

Drive safe. (i.e. not like this guy.)

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 12/10/10

Friday, December 10th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• Another day, another computer issue at The Evening Sun. They really do make our lives easier, I know, but when they crash here, they crash hard. Sorry if today’s paper was a little late in some areas – it was unavoidable since we got a late start. An hour and a half late. On Monday, if things aren’t functioning normally, we’re going back to setting type in hot lead.

• Good news for Byrne Dairy, whose plans for a new store on the corner of East Main and Silver are now a go. The current store, next to the fire station, is one of our best sellers of The Evening Sun every day (in fact, loyal Byrne Dairy customers get a deal on Fridays – you can get the paper for a penny!). Not so sure about the need for a laundromat (I’m a loyal Arrow Laundry customer, after all) but the expanded convenience store – and more importantly, gas station – will be a great addition to downtown.

• Looking forward to Sunday’s concert at the Chenango County Council of the Arts – pianist Jim Witter has been here a couple times with his “Piano Men” show, and this weekend he’s bringing “Christmas Memories” to the Martin Kappel Theater stage. After the week I’ve had, I definitely need a little Christmas, right this very minute!

Editor’s Notebook: 12/9/10

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• Had lunch at the new Bill’s Diner in Norwich today with the ES crew, for Tyler’s birthday. They’ve definitely cleaned it up a lot from the Ossie’s days – everything is new and fresh. They’ve still got a few kinks to work out, but I’m sure it will be a welcome addition to the Norwich eatery scene.

• Congratulations to one of our all-time favorite contributors, Norwich historian Don Windsor, who is celebrating the release of Volume Four of his “Souvenirs of Yesteryear” series with a book signing at First Edition this weekend. Don’s column of the same name was an Evening Sun staple for a couple years, and I know our readers looked forward to it every week. His “outdoors” approach combining nature and history was unique and always interesting. Stop by and pick up Vol. 4 – it would make a great Christmas gift!

• Speaking of great Christmas gifts, I forgot to mention the story we ran yesterday about my old friend Deb Whitman, who’s put together a coloring book featuring her drawings of Norwich’s painted ladies (no, not hookers. Big old Victorians on Broad Street). She’s doing a book signing this weekend too, and the coloring book will be available at First Edition and Made in Chenango.

A day in the life

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
Brian Golden

Yesterday marked 30 years since the shooting death of former Beatle and musical genius John Lennon, who, even though I was only three-years-old at that time, has remained a huge inspiration to me throughout my life. Lennon’s music was, and still is, a perfect example of what good music should be – heartfelt and honest, poetic and thought-provoking and, most of all, as real as real gets.

Politically, Lennon and I share many opinions and philosophies, especially as it concerns the concept of peace. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not an all-out pacifist and I understand that, at times, military force is unavoidable. Yet Lennon’s idea of peace was truly remarkable in that it wasn’t contrived or aimed at political gain or notoriety. The man simply thought it would be beneficial to us all if we’d just “Give Peace a Chance.”

From his earliest days in the Fab Four, Lennon astonished people with his clever wit, charm and unwavering dedication to speak his mind. Along with Harrison, McCartney and Ringo, Lennon brought about changes in the music industry which still resound today. The modern musical concepts of rock-n-roll albums, bands that write their own music (relatively unheard of in pop music when the Beatles first appeared on the scene) and the songwriting process itself would not be the same without his many contributions.

As I said, I was three years old at the time of Lennon’s shooting. While I don’t remember it distinctly, a touching story of mine involves that sad and unfortunate event. My stepfather – a talented musician and guitarist in his own right – was sitting in front of the television set with tears in his eyes (like so many others). As one who grew up with the Beatles, and all they brought to music, he was obviously decimated by the news of Lennon’s murder. As the story goes, I went over to my stepfather, patted him on the shoulder and said, “It’ll be okay Steve.”

So in tribute to Mr. Lennon, I thought it would be nice to print some of my favorite quotes from the former Beatle, in thanks for the influence his music and passion for peace have had on me through the decades.

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

“Everything is clearer when you’re in love.”

“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what insane is all about.”

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

And my personal favorite – “All you need is love. Love is all you need.”

John Lennon, October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980. Rest in Peace.

Editor’s Notebook: 11/8/10

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• Got an e-mail from a woman today who said she’d “heard” we only publish obituaries on Mondays, and that we’d better rethink that policy because it was stupid. How were people expected to know about funerals and calling hours if we only published them once a week? Grrr. First off, if you’re going to fire off an e-mail like that, at least get your facts straight. Of course, we publish obituaries every day, as soon as they come in. What she had probably “heard,” and completely misinterpreted, was that we update obits on the website for nonsubscribers every Monday. If you subscribe, in print or online, you get the “fresh” notices daily. For free, you get ‘em a week behind. Yes, for the one millionth time, other, larger newspapers, with far greater advertising bases, do give away obits for free every day. But as my dear departed mother would have said, if all the other newspapers jumped off a bridge … Seriously folks, it has to pay to subscribe. If we gave away everything for free, then no one would buy it, we’d go out of business, and there’d be no news at all.

• Our Evening Sun news team had quite a productive day down in the Dimock, Pa. area yesterday, and returned in one piece, to boot. You’ll read about their findings in a special natural gas drilling series that will start in next Thursday’s paper. Watch the print edition for more details. I think it will be an eye-opener.

• Letters to Santa continue to pour in before Monday’s deadline … if your child wants to be sure to get on the Naughty or Nice list, send those letters in today to, or by US mail, to Santa Claus, c/o The Evening Sun, PO Box 151, Norwich NY 13815. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope, and Santa will write back!

Republocrat compromise

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Tyler Murphy

While president Barack Obama continues to try and convince angry democrats resisting his proposed agreement with Republicans, which would extend all the Bush-level era tax cuts and extend unemployment benefits further, I’m wondering what’s the value of compromise?

As I understand it, the Republicans were resisting another extension to the two-year-long-and running-unemployment benefits. A stance I’ve admired and questioned fellow democrats over.

Meanwhile democrats where busy fighting Republicans over extending Bush-era tax cuts. The Republicans want to give them to the rich (those making over $250,000 a year) and the democrats wanted extensions for the poor and middle class only (those making less than $250,000 a year). A stance I’ve admired and jeered Republicans over.

Now in this new compromise everyone seems to get everything. Not good news to a citizen who’s concerned about our government’s ability to become more efficient and practical. Everyone gets a tax break even though were facing mounting debt and everyone gets benefits even though we can’t pay for them. Sounds like a compromise on the wrong ideas. How are the parties going to get through deeps cuts in the next budget?

NY Times article on the subject anyone?