Ashley's Reporter Blog

Debate, Royals, church killing

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
Ashley Babbitt

So much has transpired since my last blog post.
• First, I’ll make brief mention of the Democratic Debate that aired on CNN Tuesday night. I speculate that where I stand on the spectrum of politics is far different than many readers, and I’m 100 percent fine with that. The five who took the stage for the debate each laid out where they stood with regard to foreign policy, economics, criminal justice reform, gun control, climate change, and national security.
Thanks to mass media, the statements regarding Clinton’s emails seem to have been a highlight of the debate.
I disagree, but to each their own.
With businessman Donald Trump the current front-runner on the Republican side, the Democrats have former Secretary of State and female presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders from Vermont, former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former US Senator and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb, former US Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, and Vietnam veteran.
The debate was entertaining. I encourage anyone planning on voting do some serious research on the candidates, as not everything is as it seems.
• Baseball is in the post-season. The Kansas City Royals play game five tonight to stay in the running for the ALDS.
Johnny Cueto better have the control he needs to get the job done. He’s had some rest, so I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m counting on switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Kendrys Morales to get some bodies on bases and after Eric Hosmer’s performance in game four, I’m looking for him to show up ready to play too. The Astros’ Colby Rasmus is a little dangerous, so the pitcher needs to focus on strikes, or walk him if that’s the favorable option.
If the Royals end up losing tonight’s game, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, they’ll be an unhappy editor in the morning, but as a Kansas City fan, loss is nothing new. The Royals have had a season to be proud of.
• This morning, the AP national wire had a story with a slug that read “Church Killing.” I opened it, assuming – for some reason or another – that whatever happened took place far away. Not the case this time.
Six church members were arrested in connection with the beating of two brothers, and will appear in court again Friday. The Word of Life Church is in the Hamlet of Chadwicks in New Hartford, and was said by police to be the scene of the crime where a 19-year-old and 17-year-old were allegedly beaten for hours. The 19-year-old ultimately died as a result of his injuries. Two of the six arrested were the boys’ parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard. I spoke with a former member of the church this afternoon who shared her experiences with the church, and a full story will appear in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.

Staff changes, recent shooting, upcoming stories

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Ashley Babbitt

It’s been a while since I’ve written updates from the newsroom, so here we go.
Long-time Sports Editor Pat Newell has arrived in New Mexico, which is now his home. Jim Testani now sits in at the sports desk and has been doing a great job thus far. I have no idea what actual shoe size Pat wore, but his figurative shoes are pretty big to fill. Jim has been diligently working and I’m sure will make Pat proud.
Cameron Turner is another welcomed addition to our staff. A recent graduate from SUNY Oswego with a degree in journalism, he is eager and an extremely hard worker. He’s shown already that he’s knows his stuff, and doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to getting a story. He’ll be mainly covering the court/crime beat, but anyone with an event they find newsworthy can contact Cameron at He is also on Twitter with the handle @evesuncameron.
Summer is finally here, and the heat this week has been brutal. I allow myself one complaint per season regarding the weather, so I suppose I’ll use my summer complaint right now. …It’s too hot.
As far as news goes, it’s been a busy week and a half to say the least.
Last Sunday, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. (without an alarm, mind you) and realized there had been a shooting in the City of Norwich. I worked diligently to obtain official comments and reports from authorities from the time I woke up until 10 p.m. that night. I was able to make it to the alleged shooter’s first arraignment that day and get some photos. The man was charged with attempted murder. He bonded out. He was later charged with two additional crimes, and no additional bail was set at that arraignment on Thursday.
I’ve been in contact with authorities in regard to the victim’s condition.
I attended Norwich City Court with Cameron to help show him the hopes last week, and covered a felony hearing following a drug arrest. The judge determined that the case will move to Chenango County Court.
Also, last week, I was filmed for a television show regarding the Ramsaran murder trial that took place in 2014. While I was nervous beyond belief beforehand, it was smooth once the camera was rolling. I was able to provide dates, events, and verbatim testimony from memory. I wore makeup. …That was awkward.
Once I know the air date, I’ll post an update.
There’s so much more going on, but I’ll save the other information for stories to print. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming stories regarding the Danielson murder trial, Rebecca’s Virtual Run, Eric Lindell in the park as part of the Summer Concert Series, updates with regard to the shooting, and much more.

Updates from the newsroom

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Ashley Babbitt

It has been far too long since the last ‘newsroom update,’ so here we go.

• Since my last blog, The Evening Sun staff has moved locations, and we’re now finally settled in. Well, my walls could use some art — and I have a few local artists in mind — but all in good time. For now I like my coffee cups and notebooks. The decorating can wait.
• As you may have noticed in last Friday’s print edition, ‘Thumbs’ returned to the Viewpoints page of the paper. Each week, the writers and I will weigh in on an issue and give a brief opinion. Sometimes a thumb will be in regard to a village, town or city meeting, a new piece of legislation, a new business opening, a kind act witnessed (or personally carried out), or something in relation to our local criminal justice system. ‘Thumbs’ give each writer an opportunity to voice how they felt about something they may have covered, whereas in their news story, they remain objective.
• Something else that will be rolling out soon is a newly designed online ’30 Seconds’ submission page. All will be given the opportunity to create a handle before they submit their thoughts or reactions. The reason behind this new feature is because ’30 Seconds’ will be returning to print in the near future. The handle will allow me to pick the best (and worst) posts to put into print twice per week, and will ensure that one person isn’t pretending to post as another. There still will be the opportunity to post as man or woman from wherever you may be.
• Also related to ’30 Seconds,’ in no way do I find joy in censoring the words of others, but I would be willing to bet that people who submit the extremely profane, derogatory, racist, and downright mean posts know before they hit ‘submit’ that I won’t approve it. We could save us both some time if we cut out the hardcore swear words I see on a daily basis.
• It was great to see the photographs our photographer Frank Speziale shot from the Holy Family Lenten Fish Fry on Friday. The happiness in each of the photos Frank brought me put a smile on my face, and showed me that the people who help out at the weekly event really do care. It was very nice to see.
• Congratulations to the two young men who won the State Championship with their wrestling skills. Even though I am not as familiar with their career as our Sports Editor Pat Newell is, I have paid attention to their sports activities for the past couple years, and it’s been exciting. Well done, Mr. Rifanburg and Mr. Garcia.
• There have been numerous complaints about the winter weather we’ve been having. I allow myself one complaint per season. I use my winter and summer complaints right away. The first time I have to clean the snow off my car, I use my winter complaint. Once the temperature goes above 70 degrees, there goes my summer complaint. But I digress, even though it’s March, it’s still winter and chances are it will snow. Use caution when driving, don’t drive unless it’s necessary, keep warm, make sure your pets are inside, and remember it’ll be over soon. I have a hard time complaining when I have a roof over my head and there are plenty of people in this world without that.
• Things are rolling along in the newsroom, with some investigative, in-depth stories on tap. These include research that has taken weeks so far, and the filing for certain documents necessary for the stories to come to life. They’re not time sensitive, but I think readers will find them interesting and perhaps eye-opening.
• In closing, we are working on a year-long series that will highlight those who hail from Chenango County who have made a name for themselves. This includes humanitarians, arts and entertainment, science and medicine, business, politics … you name it. We plan to feature a different individual each week once we have our ideas solidified. We’re opting to include those who are living that are currently making an impact — be in here in Chenango or anywhere else in the world — or who have left a lasting impact but are no longer with us. If you have a nomination for someone who fits this criteria, please send an email to or send a private message to The Evening Sun’s Facebook page.

A time to give back to those who give back

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I found it appropriate to write my blog about an event tonight that is to help benefit a Norwich native who has been providing aid to Jamaican children for years.
Thanksgiving eve is known to be one of — if not the biggest — bar night of the year. Many folks have traveled home for the holiday and go out to see friends they haven’t seen in perhaps years.
This year, Norwich band Seek the Lion is playing at Rita’s Tavern in Norwich and is passing a hat around the establishment for those individuals who are feeling the mood to give to a cause; the endeavors of Jeffrey Neadom.
Neadom travels to Jamaica to aid children in need.
Neadom said, “The seed for helping out Jamaica was planted in 1993 when I camped there for 3 weeks. “In 2012 on my birthday eve I started the Jamaican Schools Project on Facebook in memory of my mom.”
Neadom added that he teamed up with the president of the PTA at Craighton Primary School and raised funds to renovate the boys and girls bathrooms.
Last year, Neadom returned to Jamaica and renovated the nurse’s office and sick bay, supplied them with beds, mattresses, bedding and medicine, and painted the canteen and principals office. He additionally tiled and pained in the nurse’s office and the sick bay.
Neadom plans to head out to Jamaica again, and there are funds necessary in order to complete the projects to help out the children in need.
“This year I’m hoping to resurface the playground and do a small library/reading room,” said Neadom.
Seek the Lion’s guitarist Nate Collins said, “With all the terrible things happening in the country and world right now, we’re just glad that we can help Jeff make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Drummer Nick Andrews said anything that individuals are willing or able to spare to help Neadom out is greatly appreciated.
“We have known (Neadom) for years and for years he has helped to rebuild schools in Jamaica,” said Andrews. “Tonight we are passing a hat to raise money for his next trip. Hopefully with what we raise he can at least get the kids some more things they need.”
Neadom said, “Now I’m just trying to give them (the children) a safe place for recess. There are 125 students so it’s cramped, but the resurfacing will give them a lot more room.”
A woman who donated money to Neadom’s fund, Sandy Myers, said, “After my recent trip to Jamaica, I can completely appreciate the work (Neadom is) doing. Keep it up Jeff, you’re doing a good thing.”
As a group, Seek the Lion shared its goal. Any money raised to send out with Neadom will help guarantee a safe and healthy schoolhouse for less fortunate children. The group said they want the youth to succeed and one of the best ways to do that is give them the opportunity to do so.
“Thanks everyone it means a lot to us and the kids,” said Andrews.
Seek the Lion describes its sound as “reggae dance music.” The show at Rita’s Tavern begins at 9 p.m.
Local musician Ben Miner is set to open for the band beginning at 8:30 p.m.
“I’ve got a few donations so far, and several people have committed to giving, so I’m feeling good,” said Neadom. “Family helps.”
Those unable to make the show due to the snow, or due to being out of the area, but who still would like to donate to the cause can visit Neadom’s GoFundMe page at

Time for some ‘happy’

Thursday, September 25th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I feel as though a little bit of happy is in order.
Nearly the past month of my life has been consumed by the murder trial of Ganesh R. Ramsaran who was found guilty Tuesday (Perhaps, if time permits, I’ll write an opinion piece regarding it). This morning, on my way to work, I passed Chenango County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles heading north on Route 12. I found out ten minutes later, a deceased woman was located in Sherburne. Folks I went to high school with appear in the police blotter or in other areas of the paper on drug charges rather often.
So, like I said, I feel as though a little bit of happy is in order.
My crazy stubborn cat — who had snuck outside and was missing for approximately 27 days — has finally returned home. Six-year-old Jack is back to his usual self, even more-so than he was before bolting out the door.
Jack’s second favorite past-time? Napping on the sports section of the paper. After my husband reads it, it’s known that it now belongs to Jack. He’ll examine it, walk all over it, then take a snooze. He’ll wake up, scratch it to shreds (sorry, Pat), and then lay back down.
Daily routine. It makes me happy.
One of my closest friends has moved back to New York after spending some years out in Seattle. Her son is six now, which is hard to believe. Having them home brings a little spunk into my life, and spunk is always welcomed.
I have a best friend who is five, and she just started kindergarten. She gave me a bracelet yesterday that she had made, and after handing it to me she said, “I know those are your favorite colors, so it’s for you.” I wore it all night, and it’s next to me now as I type this.
My husband is supportive, hilarious, and just my absolute favorite. When I wake up each morning, the coffee is already made. If you know me as a person at all, coffee is essential in order for me to be a human that has any business being in public.
I have a home in the middle of nowhere filled with five males: four pets and the fella. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The support system I have in general is fantastic. Family, friends, strangers … you name it.
When my cat was missing, I had total strangers that follow me on Twitter asking if he had returned home yet. Emails came to my work account with queries as to whether or not certain located cats were my Jack-A-Roo. Those sentiments were absolutely appreciated.
A complete stranger came up to me this morning to tell me how happy he was because the sun was shining. I agreed, and we spoke for a few minutes about how we’re happier with our coffee black … without a shred of that fake pumpkin stuff.
I have four types of ice cream in my freezer. That makes me ridiculously happy.
Often times I’m told I don’t smile enough — sometimes my face just doesn’t smile. I can’t think of the last time I wasn’t happy.
Regardless, I figured with everything that’s transpired — even today alone — I would share some of my happy.

Ashley, age 12

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I have been writing murder trial stories in each paper since Sept. 2, I believe. I’ve also been doing my regular duties of building the pages for the following day’s paper, trying to update “30 seconds” as much as possible, and respond to emails as efficiently as time permits. Also, my cat has been MIA for more than two weeks now.
Regardless of all that, I decided today would be an appropriate day to blog.
What follows is what I remember from this day, at age 12.
I’m in the second to last seat in the second row closer to the door near the exit of Mrs. Meek’s math class. It’s business as usual. She’s writing notes on the projector, and I’m writing them down. With math, I was rather good at memorizing for the test and then letting it leave my mind. One look over my notes the morning before a test and I was golden. Did I learn anything in that class that day? Probably not.
Next up was Mr. Emerson’s English class. We were watching a movie that was based on a book we had just finished reading. Can’t recall what it was. Of Mice and Men pops into my head, but I can’t be sure. Just before that class was over — which was my class right before lunch — the teacher’s phone rang. After hanging up and just as the bell was ringing, he had told us all that the Twin Towers had fallen down. I remember someone asking, “The Tri Towers?!” and he clarified the location was New York City. We left class and went to lunch.
A boy in the lunch line was yelling that we were going to be bombed next. Some folks in line cried.
I remember wanting to know what was going on. I overheard employees of the school talking about making sure no TVs were on. I was 12, the last thing I wanted was to be shielded from “reality.”
Then after lunch I finally made it to Mr. Telesky’s social studies class. You know what he did? He turned on the TV, and said, “Watch. And ask away.”
He explained some things and people asked questions. He told us that what happened that morning —while I was taking notes in a math class that I’ll never remember — would never be forgotten. That it’d be in history books when we became adults.
I remember going home from school and watching it on TV with my sister. Then my mother came home from work and we watched together. I remember asking if the smoke would make it all the way to Norwich.
I don’t recall if it was that same day or perhaps in the days following, but I remember expressing that I didn’t think any people who haven’t done anything wrong should die. I still believe that.
So many people have lost their lives as a result of the events of that day. It makes my heart heavy.
Today I realize that a five-year-old boy on Sept. 11, 2001 is now old enough to fight and die in wars that began as a result of what took place that morning.
I wonder if that boy remembers where he was. I have memories of going to Disney World at the age of five, so I really wonder what a small child thinks of the events from 9/11/01, if s/he remembers.
Anyway, back to Ashley, age 25.
To anyone who lost a family member or friend on Sept. 11, 2001, I am sorry. To anyone who has lost a loved one in combat in a war the United States is involved in, I am sorry. To anyone innocent who has been killed, I am sorry. To the family members of veterans who have taken their own lives after returning from combat, my thoughts are with you.
My heart is just all-around heavy today.

Random thoughts from the editor, and coffee issues

Saturday, July 5th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I’ve slacked in the blogging department lately. Therefore, here’s a quick little ‘editor’s update.’
The editorial staff recently said goodbye to the man who had been handling our sports section since March. I wish Shaun the best of luck in his future endeavors. Also, I owe him plenty of thanks for bringing coffee into my office some mornings. I’m not a morning person, and can be a total jerk until I finish that third cup. Thank you, Shaun, for making sure my mornings were less rough.
On a related note, Pat Newell, 18+ year sports editor, has returned to The Evening Sun. His first week back was as smooth as could be, and the editorial staff was able to keep the 30-year-old tangerine tree that he kept in our building while he was gone alive. We (well … I) named the tree Victor. He was in good hands, and Pat seemed happy to see that he was rotated and watered as instructed. To be honest, I didn’t water or rotate the tree once. The others made sure Victor was well taken care of.
I had a vacation I had planned (essentially) since last June. I was going to spend a week in New Hampshire at The Eleventh Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster (I wrote about it last year … you can find it somewhere on this site, if you’re interested). I went last year, but life happened and I couldn’t make it this year. Luckily I had friends who were able to use my campsite, and I wasn’t out too much money in the end. Anyway, I had spent some time showing Staff Writer Shawn Magrath the ropes of my job, and he handled things (with me semi-close by) for a couple weeks so that in case I happen to be sick one of these days or something, I’ll be able to take a day off.
Life becomes a little less stressful knowing there is a plan B.
That being said, I was away from my desk for a while to let Shawn do his thing, and went back to playing reporter for a little bit. Boy, I don’t miss that. The calls that don’t get returned, the emails that go unanswered, and the people who miss interviews. I’ll stick with my gig: build pages, answer emails, phone calls, and write the random story here and there when I have time to kill in the morning and something happened.
It feels good being back in my seat. Even though I was still working, it wasn’t the same. But I do thank Shawn and the rest of the staff for their hard work.
On a completely unrelated note, our building is going through some renovations, apparently. I come in each morning and something else has been moved or painted or the mirror from the ladies’ room has been relocated to the hallway. The coffee makers are unplugged.
The mirror thing … no biggie. I don’t look in mirrors really anyway. However, the coffee thing (as stated in the beginning) is a pretty big deal if we want a pleasant editor.
The Keurig we have in the kitchen is great. I can make a cup super quick, but we’re out of K-cups. Sam doesn’t drink coffee, but 80 cups split between three people only lasted a couple weeks.
We have another coffee maker that could potentially hold multiple pots of coffee (burners that keep it hot on the top and all that jazz), but it takes forever to heat up and be ready to brew if it gets unplugged.
Which now leads me to my ‘moment of the week.’
The ‘big’ coffee maker got unplugged. We have no K-cups. We do have – thankfully – one of those things where you can scoop the coffee into it and pop it in the Keurig and make a single cup.
Attempting to do this before any coffee in my system is a disaster waiting to happen. Coffee grounds landed all over the counter, I couldn’t manage to close the container thing once I scooped in the coffee, and I dropped grounds all over the kitchen floor.
Staff Writer Matt White made his way into the kitchen to witness my failure at the coffee making process. By this time, I had grounds all over my hands, on my shirt, and he had to assist in the closing of what I will name ‘the worst coffee thingy ever.’
Finally a cup of disgusting, watered down coffee with floating grounds was made and I drank the entire thing. Luckily, it wasn’t long after when the dinosaur coffee maker was ready to roll.
Moral of this long, long, story?
I probably should look in the mirror more.
… As it turns out, I built that day’s paper with coffee grounds all over my face. Perfect.

Black olives and cheese fries

Saturday, June 7th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I don’t really go out to eat often. Well, to be more accurate, I don’t really eat often. One meal a day, once I’m done with work. Depending on the day, that could be 4 p.m. or 9 p.m. That’s not really the point here though … the point is I went out to dinner Friday night and enjoyed myself.
Park Place in downtown Norwich recently got a facelift, and the first time I walked in following the renovations I believe I said, “Whoa! This is cool. I don’t know where to go.”
Occasionally on Fridays, the Evening Sun staff will go there for lunch. I tend to be late and often don’t order food. It’s still a nice way to wrap up the week with the editorial staff.
I hadn’t gone there for dinner until this past Friday though. Not only was the meal tasty, the servers were rather attentive.
Now, I’m not big on crowds. At all. But on a whim it was decided that Park Place was to be the dinner destination. It was busy, but I should have expected it. It was Friday, after all.
The bar was pretty crowded, and at first glance all the tables looked full. Almost immediately, an employee approached the two of us and sent us toward the hostess who would seat us. I, naturally, picked the seat where there wasn’t anyone behind me. Another weird quirk.
We were promptly welcomed once more, and were introduced to our servers. I say ‘servers’ because there were two young women who took care of us and were rather gracious throughout our visit.
I said before I usually eat one meal a day. Now I’ll say that that meal is not a salad. While the menu has many salad choices, I opted for something less healthy. That’s just my style.
I ordered the grilled chicken dijon wrap. I’m not a tomato fan, so asked if I could substitute the tomatoes for black olives.
Our server enthusiastically said, “Of course you can!” Since olives are in my top seventeen favorite foods, that made me happy.
I also ordered a side of cheese for my fries. Like I said, salads aren’t my gig.
I have no idea how many TVs there are inside the establishment, but it’s impressive. They’re huge, and regardless of what sport is your preference, there’s probably something you’ll find you like. Don’t worry, the volume isn’t on all the TVs at the same time, but they do have a handy little device on each table where you can pick the screen that you want to watch, and turn up the volume.
If you’re out to eat with a group of basketball fans, or if you have money on the Spurs vs Heat, you might want to turn that knob up a notch or two.
I also took notice that two of the TVs had cartoons for the little tykes, which was nice to see. While it was a Friday night and the bar area was a little busy, there were families enjoying meals, and it was cute to peer over and see a girl smiling and pointing at the antics of Spongebob.
While waiting for our dinner, we were offered some popcorn, which was a super kind gesture. We declined (I’m not a popcorn fan), but it was very nice.
We stepped outside for a couple minutes and upon returning, our server promptly said, “Oh! I’ll go see if it’s ready for ya!”
While she was off to check in the kitchen, we commented to each other about how attentive the service had been. We also discussed the vibe of the place since the renovations and chatted with various friends we spotted.
My wrap was tasty. I’m not a ‘super duper food critic’ or anything like that, but I know what I like and what I don’t like. I ate the whole thing, and that’s rare for me. The black olives made it extra good, in my opinion.
Didn’t finish my fries, but pretty close. I’m not a fries and ketchup kinda gal, which is why I opted for cheese. We were approached and asked if everything was okay or if we needed anything a couple of times, which is always nice.
Then, our super friendly server, (I feel horrible for forgetting her name, because as I was eating I knew I wanted to write a blog about it), brought out the tray of desserts. Ah! Tempting, but I was full.
Something on there looked absolutely yummy, and I hope someone got it and enjoyed it. It looked like some sort of mint chocolate pie-type-thing … and I am willing to bet it was delicious.
If one of the kiddos at one of the tables nearby had any of that pie, I think he or she would have been one happy camper. I just couldn’t do it.
As I’ve said before, I’m not good with brevity. However, the point of this whole thing was to say that I enjoyed dinner at Park Place on Friday night. Even though it was busy, and it’s not really my style to go to busy places, I not only had a filling meal that involved black olives and cheese fries, but everyone around was so friendly and the atmosphere was welcoming.
I also had said that I couldn’t even remember what it looked like before the renovations. I was impressed.
The vibe was positive and it seemed as though all the patrons were enjoying themselves. It’s nice looking around and seeing people having a good time.
A Friday night that involved a good meal and no work … I’ll take it.

I hope he’s happy with life

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I was waiting at a stop sign the other day as a young boy was crossing the street. Green and black hoodie, jeans, head down, glasses. I’ll guess he was 13. I’m not sure why, but the first thought that popped in my head was, “I wonder what life is like for this young man in school.”
This had me thinking about bullying for the past couple days.
A bully is defined as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. So, let’s be real … there are bullies all over town.
However that boy crossing the street started a stream-of-consciousness sort of thing regarding young folks, schools, and aggression, so that’s where I’ll try to focus this.
In school, I was super quiet. I could go an entire school day without uttering a single word aloud. No one really gave me a hard time. I had friends, naturally, but we didn’t have class together, so I’d just do my thing. Teachers never really ‘called on’ me, so I could literally go the entire day without speaking. That changed some in high school, but teachers left me alone for the most part. So did other students who weren’t friends with me. It was perfect. I’d associate with who I wanted, and that was that.
There was one instance that I remember that sticks out. I had to get surgery in both junior and senior year. I was on crutches for six weeks each time. I was supposed to be allowed to leave class five minutes prior to everyone else so that I wouldn’t get trampled over when everyone else was in the halls. There was one school employee who wouldn’t let me. It was the class right before lunch, and it was assumed that if I was late getting there, it wasn’t a class, so it didn’t matter.
Anyway, I was making my way to my destination and behind me I heard a certain female who will remain nameless say, “Hurry up. I’m about to trip a [expletive].”
I remember contemplating stopping, and just sticking my right arm out to trip her with my crutch. I didn’t.
That is my only memory of anyone being snarky to me in school. So I had it pretty good.
I remember fights in the cafeteria. Fights in the hallway. Fights in the classroom. Groups of folks making fun of other students because of socioeconomic status. People belittling others because of their choice of attire. Because of their name.
And you know what? I could name more than thirty aggressors and victims of said aggression right off the top of my head. But I won’t. I can remember the day of the week certain fights took place. And I can remember what was done about it.
… Nothing.
I’m sure there are people who have been very badly injured while on school property (not only physically, but also psychologically). I’m also willing to bet the aggressors are not only students.
Well, I suppose I think back to the boy who was crossing the road. He just didn’t look pleased. Sure, it could have been because he doesn’t like school. But I can’t help but wonder:
’What if someone made fun of him because of his weight just minutes prior to my run-in with him?’ ‘What if someone pushed him up against the wall in the bathroom today?’ ‘What if his teacher called him dumb?’ ‘What if he’s walking home to an abusive parent and would rather stay at school?’ ‘What if he beat someone up himself?’
Lots of ‘what ifs.”
I guess what I’m curious about is how altercations or aggressive situations are handled in public school.
If it’s ‘taken care of by administration internally,’ then I think that’s bogus. Rarely does something helpful result from an internal investigation.
Let’s say a physical altercation happens in a public school. Is law enforcement called? If so, does the law enforcement employee use aggression on the student alleged to have been the perpetrator? If the answer to that is yes, then what does that teach other students about violence? That also begs the question, “Is violence okay sometimes?”
Okay, let me back up, my thoughts are getting ahead of me. As a human, I have the innate right to defend myself if being aggressed upon.
No one is going to lay a hand on me and get away with it. If someone uses words in an attempt to threaten or harass me, I am able to diffuse the situation swiftly. But not everyone is like me.
Some people are short tempered, some people do not think they are capable of defending themselves, some folks are easily intimidated.
Everyone is different.
One blanket, ‘This is how we handle bullying,’ is not going to work.
Are aggressors in schools held accountable for their actions? Are victims made whole?
Or is, ‘You’re going to sit in this other room for two days,’ still the punishment? If that’s the case, nothing is solved.
And further, will it ever be solved? There are always going to be jerks. And there will always be those who are less likely to defend themselves for various reasons.
A friend said her child was verbally and physically accosted while on his way home from school yesterday by two schoolmates. The aggressors were two females and the victim, a boy. She said the females called her son an expletive and pushed him to the ground.
What’s the recourse there? It didn’t happen on the property of the the public school, it happened on the street. Should the school be informed? Should the aggressor’s parents be informed? What happens if nothing happens and there’s a ‘next time?’
I am willing to bet there are ‘next times’ that happen daily in schools. I’m willing to bet there are victims of aggression in school that will never say a word. I’m sure there are some who do ask for help and nothing is done. I bet there are students who are bullied both at home and at school, and they’re not all that happy with life.
This is just a lot of ‘Ashley rambling’ on a Saturday morning while drinking coffee. I know where I stand on the issue, but I’m really curious as to how parents, current students, and administration feel about it.
… I also hope the boy in that green and black hoodie is happy with life.

Rambling: live music, NH, vacation

Monday, April 7th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

My favorite shows are the ones in venues that are tiny. They’re most likely either really hard to find, or I’m just a really poor navigator. I know the latter is the truth.
I got my car at 16, and that’s the time I realized that not much beats a road trip to a show with a group of friends. Well, quite honestly, I have no problem flyin’ solo.
Since probably 14 or 15 I’ve been into independent, socially conscious hip hop (Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, Immortal Technique, Eyedea & Abilities, Brother Ali, Sage Francis, Mac Lethal … I could continue, but won’t), reggae, and slam poetry. Funk, jazz fusion, blues, folk … all of that fun stuff too. You can keep your rock, country and pop, I don’t need any of that.
Sage Francis show in Philly? I’m there. Soja in Allentown? You betcha. Mac Lethal in Buffalo? Of course.
When I was 17 my friends and I decided to drive to Tennessee to go to Bonnaroo, a music festival with some 90,000 people.
That was a fun adventure. Planned for it for months. But not really. I mean, we bought our tickets months ahead of time, and I saved as much money as I could. But I packed my things the day we drove off.
I went to Bonnaroo again the following year. More adventures, more memories, more music. It was a good time.
There were a couple folks I met that remain – in my experience – the kindest humans I’ve encountered in my 25 years. 110 degrees in the middle of a field in Tennessee: Barely any shade, no shower for days, and I had the pleasure of randomly meeting strangers who I still think of all these years later.
To the man over 60 in the big floppy half-deflated inner tube hat: I hope you’re still around, loving life. Thank you for being the epitome of a kind human.
At any rate, Bonnaroo was fun for a 17-year-old Ashley.
I still prefer tiny venues where you can still feel the vibe from the show the night before. The place that just reeks of live music.
My friends and I would realize that someone we listened to had a show in, say, Philly, in a month or two – and within an hour our tickets would be purchased and we’d have our “plan.”
That is, get in the car that day, make sure we have gas to get there and back, and (personally) enough money in my pocket to give to a homeless individual if s/he asked. (On the sixth grade safety patrol trip we were told not to give money to people on the street. I have ever since. It’s my money, I’ll do with it what I wish).
I’ve been to hip hop shows in basements of buildings in cities I’d never been to before. It’s taken me forever to get out of Boston at 3 a.m. following a show because I am horrible with directions. Coming back from a show in Buffalo once, I still swear we were mere inches from smoking a deer on the thruway (I wasn’t driving that time … If I were, I’m sure we would have hit it. I’m notorious for that).
Each show brings me something to look forward to. A reason to continue to be happy when I have days that bum me out.
“Ugh, today really was not so awesome. Oh! Only three weeks until the Soja show, I’m good.”
It’s similar to how I feel when I plan a trip to New Hampshire. Knowing there are escapes that will refresh my soul keep me going.
Life wouldn’t be all that fun if all I ever did was work. I need those fantastic adventures to be able to tell little tikes later on.
Anyway, I’m not entirely sure why I’m blogging about this. It’s just a stream-of-consciousness ramble.
Oh, that’s right … I was thinking about upcoming plans and got excited.
I’ll be spending a full week camping in the White Mountains in New Hampshire in June. It’s the first time I’ll be taking a vacation. It’ll be my second trip to the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Last year, I could only go for the weekend, this year I’ll be there the entire week.
I also just learned (and by ‘just’ I mean … 20 minutes ago), that Michael Franti, Soja, and Trevor Hall will be playing in New Hampshire in July. I’ll purchase my ticket as soon as they go on sale next week. I’ve seen them all before, but it’s been too long. And better yet, they’re playing in one of the most beautiful areas of the lakes region in NH. A region I’ve only seen when the leaves were bright orange, so I’m excited to see it in the summertime.
Ahh… live music. New Hampshire. Escape.
And on that note, it’s back to work.