Ashley's Reporter Blog

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.

I love naming things, except blogs.

Friday, March 28th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

In July I traded in my car. I got it from my father when I turned 16, and named it Saucey. It was a 2005 Chevy Cobalt. The first song I listened to in that car was G. Love and Special Sauce’s “Baby’s Got Sauce,” and therefore Saucey was the only appropriate name for him.
Yes, “him.” I name just about every object I cross paths with. Everything is given a male’s name, because I’ve always thought they were better options. Felix, Saucey, Victor, Toby … all these are names of things I own or am in contact with often.
“Hey, Shawn … did anyone water and rotate Victor today?” I named former Sports Editor Pat Newell’s 30-year-old tangerine tree Victor. And no, I don’t think he has been watered and rotated yet today.
At any rate, Saucey took me on thousand of adventures. He was a solid little car. His time with me was up, and I cried when I traded him in and purchased a 2013 Subaru.
I thought I’d never see my faithful pal ever again.
I’m happy to report that is not the case, and Saucey is alive and well, as of last Saturday.
Shawn sent me a photo months ago of a blue Chevy Cobalt parked in the lot of a Norwich business and asked if it might be Saucey. It most certainly was. The broken antenna and the little spot of blue paint near the back left bumper where it was supposed to be black was a give-away.
That antenna got bent when I was living in Buffalo going to school for psychology. There was a snow storm in early October that dropped more than two feet of snow, and bent the antenna. That must have been 2006; I never got it fixed. I just periodically would have to “push and turn” and it’d go back to its original position, and it’d stay that way until I drove faster than 50 mph, in which case I’d have to fix it again.
It also poked many people in the eye. Those people need better observation skills when walking through parking lots.
Shawn said the antenna remains bent and that is how he identifies it as Saucey.
I’ve replaced Saucey with a car I call ‘Schino. He’s “deep cherry red” and the first song I listened to in that vehicle was an Aesop Rock tune that references maraschino cherries at one point.
‘Schino was just a baby when I bought him, and he just broke 10,000 miles. I did some math the other day, and realized that nearly 7,000 of those miles were built up traveling to, from, or within New Hampshire. That made me a very happy camper. I’m looking forward to thousands more journeys with my new pal.
Anyway, this blog is pretty much about nothing. I name things, including my cars, and I’m happy to know that Saucey is still around town.
To whomever acquired Saucey: Thanks for keepin’ him going. I hope he’s treating you as well as he treated me.

I didn’t get ‘live for a living’ inked for nothin’

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

It’s been ten days since my last blog. Ten busy, busy days. Jam packed full of work, more work, and a couple days of escape. Regardless, no complaints here. Well, I suppose a few – but those are minute and will come later.
• Our new sports writer has been solo for a full week now, and tomorrow will begin week two. He’s adjusting to the way the newsroom operates, and is a welcomed addition to the team.
• The editorial staff has been sick lately, and thankfully I haven’t caught their illness. [Knock on wood]. Shawn cured his illness with NyQuil, and Matt opted for Claritin. I just keep my office door closed just and yell out to them.
• I spent last weekend in New Hampshire, my favorite place to clear my head. Two of my favorite stress relievers: A visit to The Granite State and painting my nails. I returned to New York with a clear head and refreshed spirit, only to have a ridiculously busy work week.
• I attended a court proceeding one day this week that absolutely disturbed me. Without divulging any details, I will say that I lost track of how many times my eyes became watery. Some people choose to do some disgusting things. I’ll leave it at that.
• I had interviews with various folks this week, and have a number of non-time sensitive stories in the works. Those are the ones easiest for me to cover, as editor. Stories with subject matter that can be published at any time provide me the ability to get to it as time permits, and my time is limited. I’ll be spending today writing four or five of the stories on my back-burner. As long as I have coffee, I don’t mind.
• Thursday I did a ride-along with a Chenango County Sheriff’s deputy. My mama always told me not to get in cars with strangers. I opted to disregard that piece of advice for a night, and got in a car with not only a stranger, but an armed stranger. I spent eight hours with him, and will be writing a column summing up the experience soon. Sneak preview: I signed a waiver assuming all risk and liability – up to and including death. I didn’t die. He was also a nice guy. He first majored in environmental science in college, then switched to criminal justice. Eight hours worth of material to come when time permits.
• I’ll be doing another ride-along (hopefully soon), with two NPD officers. A day shift and a night shift. I’m excited about that – and will write about that following the experience.
• Wednesday evening I’ll head up to Syracuse University to hear Ron Paul speak. Absolutely looking forward to that, and I’ll have a story – and separate opinion piece – after I return from that and have some time to write.
• On top of that, I’ll continue to build the paper every day, and continue to have a life outside of work. I didn’t have “Live for a living” inked into my shoulder for nothin’.
• As for complaints, they’re minor. I just wish people who submit posts on ’30 Seconds’ were a little more mindful and a little more thick-skinned. I don’t get offended by the personal attacks toward me. While I might not always publish them due to their vulgar nature, you have the right to ‘write’ your mind. Berating other posters is just not kind. If you read a story about … let’s say the Common Core, and have an opinion, feel free to submit something. If you just check it to say that the “‘Man from wherever’ is a jerk because of X, Y, and Z,” just save it. I’m doing my best to put a paper out, and don’t have extra hours to babysit.
• On a happier note, I’ve been at The Evening Sun for a little more than 11 months now. Neat.

Out of coffee; end blog.

I almost got in your car, Pat

Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I overheard Pat this morning talking about basketball. NBA vs. college. I said from my office, “I like the Mavericks.” I don’t watch sports. I have favorite teams for arbitrary reasons. My father lives in Fort Worth, so bam … Mavericks. Football, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs. But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, Pat asked if I could name one player from the Mavericks. I could. Dirk. I also knew Jason Terry used to play for them. That’s as far as we went with that.
I didn’t have the pleasure of working with Pat for 18 years. When he started as Sports Editor I was in third grade, probably. I never played sports in school, so he never covered me. I played the cello and took dance classes.
I’ve worked with Pat since April. I remember the Post-it notes I wrote myself my first week with various reminders of writing in AP style. That Friday, I got an email from Pat that started with, “Hi Ashley, I noticed your Post-its, I hope you don’t mind me offering you a few more tips.” I didn’t mind at all. I still have the email.
Pat knows sports. He knows writing. And he knows numbers. When I need quick math, he’s my go-to guy.
He had the most interesting work area I’ve seen. Photos, newspapers, artwork, even a pillow. Dedicated to his job, no doubt about it.
If I needed help, Pat was my person. If he didn’t know how to assist, he knew an employee who could. Mind you, while there are only four of us in The Evening Sun building, there are other Snyder Communications employees that play roles, and Pat has worked with them throughout the years.
I know I’ve written before about how I’ll miss being able to hear him tapping to whatever music he is listening to each morning as he designs his pages. But I really will. I’ll miss walking out of my office to the spot where his wall is lower so I don’t have to stand on my tip-toes to talk to him about whatever-it-is we’re chatting about.
18 years. It’s like he’s all grown up and going off to college. But instead of college he’s off on a four-day road trip to New Mexico to start a brand new adventure.
I may or may not have gotten slightly emotional about his departure. I’m not tellin’.
Shaun Savarese will assume the role of Sports Writer. Pat has taken him under his wing the last couple weeks, and he’s getting the hang of things. I’m looking forward to working with him.
It’s not really my style to say it out loud, but … I’ll miss you, Pat. Best of luck, and keep in touch. I’ll keep an eye on your tree.
Also, I’m sorry I almost got in your car 27 times because ours are almost the same color.
…I don’t know if I ever told you about that.

A blog about a lot of nothing, or everything

Sunday, January 12th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

Well, there’ve been requests via the almighty ’30 Seconds’ that we blog more. According to the poster, we should have enough time. So, here goes nothin’. Literally, this will probably be a blog about nothing.

The reporters and I have been working tirelessly on the annual Progress Chenango edition, set to be published the week of Jan. 27. This work is done on top of the regular daily workload, and they’ve been devoting many hours at interviews or sitting at their desks typing away.

This past week has been my busiest in recent memory, and now it’s all a blur. I can tell you I was at the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office four out of five days last week. I can only remember two of the reasons why at this time. Oh, wait – the third just came to me. I still have no clue what I did on Tuesday. I spent a couple hours with Chenango County Court Judge Frank Revoir, and that was interesting. An hour or more was spent with Norwich Police Chief Joe Angelino, and I thoroughly enjoyed that interview. Same goes for the interview I had with District Attorney Joe McBride.

Mind you, I have to write stories about each of the above interviews today, but am opting to blog first, because … well, I haven’t had enough coffee yet and this blog is more mindless.

In addition to my regular duties of building the paper, answering phone calls and emails, managing an editorial staff, drinking coffee, listening to music, and doodling on a white board, and writing, I’ve been doing some other things as a form of stress relief.

I covered county court on Friday because I felt like it. Another reason I wanted to go is because I reported on a meeting held at the CCSO Thursday night where McBride encouraged those in attendance to make a public presence at court, and I wanted to see if his advice was heeded. As for Friday’s court … nope. It was the usual staff, the judge and lawyers, defendants and family, and myself. Granted, some people hold jobs that don’t allow them the freedom to sit in a court room from 10:30 a.m. until noon, but I thought a few people might show and I wanted to follow up.

Reminder to the public if they do decide to check out court, it’s wise to leave your phone in your car, as well as any other cameras or recording devices, and – as always – bring no weapons. I like to go with four notebooks, a pen in my hair (and three extras in my purse … I tend to go places with allllmost dead pens), and four bottles of water. Even though this week will be busy, I want to cover court again Monday to see if members of the public attend.

Shifting gears, as most people know, the body of Christopher Gonzalez was found off of Route 36 on Friday afternoon. I believe I have mentioned the power of social media before, but if not, I’ll touch on that only briefly.

I received 11 messages to my personal Facebook account on Friday that simply said “Hey, what’s with the body found?” or “Body on Pratt Rd!” or “Know anything about the body?” I called the State Police and asked, and was told there was no information. I knew the State Police were leading the investigation, but gave it a shot and called the CCSO too, and hit a dead end, as expected.

One more message was sent via Facebook, and I thought, “Okay, fine. I’m not finding out anything by calling authorities, and I don’t have to build Monday’s pages until Sunday, so I have time. I’ll grab my camera and drive around.”

After traveling down 36 for a short time, I ran into a bunch of police vehicles, so I pulled over at a safe location, got out of my car, and took a bunch of photos. Thank you, Facebook friends, for the heads up.

Reporters attempted to get in touch with police who would confirm reports, but it took a little time. We were told that they would have a statement around 4 p.m. At that time, we were able to release the information we had.

I had planned – for weeks – to spend this weekend in New Hampshire, my favorite place to chill. After this week, I really, really needed to get away. However, I had to cancel my plans because there is so much work to do. I hope to get out there the final weekend of January, otherwise it will be the first month since June that I have not made the journey, and that really bums me out. My time there re-boots my brain, calms down my nerves, and makes my heart and head happy. I come back ready to roll, and it’s such a refreshing feeling. Hopefully the universe will cooperate for a Jan. 31 weekend trip.

Hmm … what else has been happening?

Oh, despite how busy I have been (and will continue to be), I still need to have a life. I checked out the local band The Suspicious Hats at The Blarney Stone Pub on Friday night, and that was fun. They always put on a good show. This was, however, two-fold, as I also needed photos for a story I’m working on about live music in the area. My ginger ale with cranberry juice and a slice (or three) of lime was tasty every time I ordered it. The band played some of my favorite tunes.

I opted to do zero work on Saturday, since I was supposed to be in New Hampshire anyway. It felt nice, but leaves me a lot to catch up on today. Oh well. I love to write, so I can’t complain.

Side-note for the fun of it: I have some of the most hilarious, entertaining friends on the planet. My day of zero work was spectacular.

I realized I need to try more things. I’ve never been on a motorcycle. I only theoretically know how to drive a car with manual transmission. I’ve never jumped out of a plane. I need to check off a couple of those. Soon.

Long-time Sports Editor Pat Newell will be high-tailing it to New Mexico after the winter sports season ends. I am happy for him and his other half to take part in new adventures on the other side of the country, but I’ll miss him. I should find out if he likes cake. Or brownies. Or cookies. And if so, I should make some for him before he leaves.

That being said, we’re on the lookout for a new Sports Ed. If you’re interested, please send resume, cover letter, and writing samples to

I feel like I add this in just about everything I write, but:

Dear school bus drivers,

You are not entitled. You’re entrusted with the safety and care of transporting kiddos to and from school. Four-way stop signs apply to you. So do red lights. So do speed limits. In a school zone, you should not be traveling faster than 15 mph. In the city, you shouldn’t exceed 30 mph. The last thing that needs to happen is an accident with a school bus full of children and another vehicle, or a bus-on-pedestrian accident. Seriously. Slow it down and pay attention. I’m sure parents and the general public would appreciate your cooperation. If you want me to stop for you when you put out your stop sign, you need to follow the other basics of travel.


On a related note, the light at the Hale St and Midland Drive/Prentice Street intersection is back in operating order. While it was a four-way stop during the few days it took for repairs of the signal, I witnessed so many people running through the sign. It really makes sense to pay attention when you’re driving, especially since that intersection is so close to the school, and the area sees heavy traffic in the mornings and afternoons throughout the week.

We had some cold temperatures lately, and complaints came from all over. Newsflash: It is January in Central New York. It gets cold. Don’t worry, spring will arrive soon enough and it’ll be muddy and rainy, and I’m sure people will have to gripe about that one. I allow myself one complaint per season. I’ve already used my winter complaint, and I got it out of the way early.

I love rain – as a matter of fact I’m listening to Trevor Hall’s tune “Good Rain” right now – so it’s always hard to come up with a complaint about spring. I guess mine will be something like, “Man, it’s cloudy but warm, I wish it were raining so I could go play in the puddles.”

It has been weeks since I’ve seen my best friend. She lives a 1.5 minute drive away. We just had a conversation about our mutual hate for “skinny jeans.” She is the best.

Alright, hopefully this is sufficient enough to keep the masses at bay for a little bit. Time to make some more coffee, and get to work.

Please be kind to one another. You don’t know what someone else is going through.

Plenty of busy, plenty of debate

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Ashley Babbitt

I’m not going to lie. This week has been hectic and is only going to get busier.

I know a lot of folks get impatient, but a lot goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see. It’s great to get a call from a reader who wants to chat for 20 minutes, but that puts me behind with responding to emails, updating the community calendar, planning upcoming special sections, holding staff meetings, updating “30 Seconds,” and most importantly – building the next day’s paper. During that phone call, three others tried to call so now there are voicemails to listen and respond to.

In no way is any of this a complaint, it’s a terrific gig and lots of fun. Plus, those random calls turn out to be pretty interesting and enjoyable.

I’ve finally figured out what it boils down to, and I’m in denial about it.

I need to start making lists.

I’ve always been “anti-to-do list,” but the time has come to suck it up and deal with it.

We’ll see how it goes, and how long it actually lasts. (My money is on seven days).

Anyway, a while back I wrote a blog and I think I titled it, “Who will I debate with now?” It’s what I wrote when former Staff Writer Kevin Doonan left to have adventures in Baltimore. Kevin, Shawn and I were the writers at the time, and we’d spend parts of our days debating about almost anything you could think of. The role of government, good music, Breaking Bad, social issues, economics … and, well … anything. Kevin and I knew each other from years back, and he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on plenty of issues. It made working in the office with him fantastically entertaining. And Shawn is always a riot.

I’m super happy to report that even though Kevin is “no longer with us,” (note to self: that was a poor choice of words when he first moved, many people offered condolences and thought he unfortunately passed away), I have new people to share ideas with.

There was the one month period when Shawn and I rocked the news portion of the paper on our own, and when we’d feel like talking about whatever, I would make my way to the corner in Kevin’s old spot and discuss (heatedly) my views on taxation, road maintenance, the justice system, and The White Stripes. Those were the days … right, Shawn?

Matt and Brittany, the newest additions to the editorial staff, bring their own history, experiences and opinions to the table, so there is no lack of excitement when someone brings up a topic. It’s great.

The four of us mesh like … well … I have no idea. Basically we’re just four vastly different human beings who spend all day working together and sharing ideas, sometimes loudly.

By the way, Kevin, if you read this, you should stop back and we’ll all go out to lunch.

Now I know I started this out by commenting about how busy things have been, but I will never let myself become too busy to enjoy every single day. Part of enjoying my days involves interactions with folks and the sharing of opinions. Not only am I super opinionated, I love to listen to other viewpoints. Enjoying my days involves blasting reggae music before anyone gets there for the day and after everyone leaves.

And interestingly enough, enjoying my day also involves building you folks a newspaper.



I didn’t let your elections kill my happy; I’m a fan of good

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
Ashley Babbitt

Since the hotly contested elections are now over, everyone can take a deep breath. …Phew. We all survived.

However, I would like to discuss ’30 Seconds’ briefly. I would apologize for the hiatus of ’30 Seconds’ for a day or so, but I’m not going to. There are guidelines for submissions, and I’d be safe in assuming only about 30 percent are ever appropriate. When folks blatantly choose to disregard the posted “rules,” it eats up both my time and yours. When I go to check ’30 Seconds’ and see many with inappropriate language it is discouraging. I understand you folks are passionate – but please – be a little more humane.

This leads me to a speech I heard while in New Hampshire this past weekend. It touched upon the sharing of ideas among neighbors. It hit home.

How often do you go over and visit your neighbor? Or the man or woman four houses down? Just to say hello. Or maybe have a conversation about the weather. Maybe even chat for a bit about a book you’ve just read, or a play you watched, movie you went to … anything. When is the last time you met up with an acquaintance just to share ideas you have about a certain topic? Can you even name the folks on your street?

A lot of local residents were talking about “community” and how the towns should not be divided. But in all reality, we’re all separate entities. We live in the same areas, but we’re so vastly different it’s amazing.

One of my neighbors is a lovely elderly woman. She has apple trees and a garden. She doesn’t like the stray cat that often chills on her porch. Not because she doesn’t like cats, but because she has noticed the cat being a bully. This was great for me to learn. As I have a cat, I wanted to be sure it wasn’t my little guy being a nuisance, and I quickly learned it him. It turns out the cat that gets into her garden is the same little guy that beats up my kitty when he goes out. So now “Operation Find Bully Cat” is underway.

I suppose my point is, I know her and I are not remotely on the same page when it comes to most things, and I totally dig that. I am a 25-year-old free spirit who comes and goes at all hours of the night because that’s always been my style. She’s always been a great neighbor.

You know what I think would be cool? To go introduce yourself to someone you may not know too well. Share some of your thoughts or ideas.

I love to meet new people (even though in all reality I’m a super socially awkward introvert). I enjoy individuals with completely differing opinions than my own. To have a half hour conversation with someone on the total opposite side of the spectrum is fantastic for many reasons. One, it’s fun to hear another “argue” their side of an issue. I’ve always been into that sort of thing. While I may totally and completely disagree, I’ll hear you out before spouting my opinion. And of course, when I say “spouting my opinion,” I mean that in an absolutely respectful, but passionate manner.

I know my sister doesn’t count as a “neighbor” or “acquaintance” but she and I are as far apart on most issues as they come. As the younger sister, I – naturally – think I need to have the last word, and if she’d let me, I’d debate with her for hours on issues including education, taxation, government intervention, and, well … just about anything under the sun. All in good fun of course.

That’s what I’m trying to say. I see folks being “internet bullies” to one another all day long. Most of these submissions don’t make it through for your eyes to see. But I read them and delete them. You can get your point across without being disrespectful.

You can get a lot further – in my opinion – by developing a relationship with your neighbors rather than living in your own little bubble. I’m not suggesting everyone be friends. That’s not how the world works. Maybe there is someone a few houses down who has an interest in some sort of literature that you’re into. What if you introduced yourself, chatted a bit, and realized he (or she) has a book about whatever-it-is that you’ve always wanted to read. That would be really cool. Maybe you have a conversation about politics. Maybe you just leave a note that says, “Just wanted to say hello from down the street. Have a great day!”

I mean really … you just never know.

Perhaps you know some folks in your town that you know are on the “other side of the fence” on a certain issue. It might be a nice idea to meet up for coffee and have a chat.

In my opinion, it’d be nicer to realize there aren’t only two sides – but that’s for a time when I’m not this tired.

It’s been a long few weeks. I refused to let your elections kill my happy.

Now that it’s over I’m sure there will be another week or so of backlash. Bring it. Respectfully.

I do encourage you all, though, to go introduce yourself to a stranger and share some ideas. If not a stranger, someone you haven’t talked to in a while. “Hey, how have you been? Man, how do you feel about this fracking thing?” And then after you hear them out, share some thoughts of your own.

“Gee, this SAFE Act is garbage … what do you think?”

“Wow, I didn’t expect (insert election results of your choice here).”

I encourage each of you to go do something of this sort. It’s not only good for your soul to share ideas, it’s good for the other soul.

And after this 14 hour work day, I’m a fan of good.


Elections, New Hampshire, nail polish and cookies

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Ashley Babbitt

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a month since I’ve taken over the editor gig here at The Evening Sun. What an awesome month it’s been. Shawn deserves balloons or coffee for all his stellar work. (I vote coffee because we’re running low and I forgot to get more k-cups this afternoon). For the first three weeks it was just Shawn and I handling the news-y happenings throughout the county, and Pat – as always – continues to hold down the sports section like a champ. We welcomed a new reporter, Matt, almost two weeks ago now, and things are working out well. Soon we’ll be up to staff and I’m super excited about that.
I took over at just the right time for elections to be rolling around. This means I have 7,749 “Letters to the Editor.” Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I have a bunch. A few have actually interested me. Some even address me as a person, and those are my favorite. The others … well, I read them and print them.
To be honest, I don’t care in the slightest the election outcome of these highly contested towns. Being removed from those locations is to my benefit. UVAC this, New Berlin Ambulance Service that … Fracking is horrible, fracking would benefit all … yadda yadda yadda. If you want to vote on Tuesday, head out and vote. If you don’t, fine by me. I’ll still read your opinions on ‘30 Seconds’ and keep mine to myself. Those are conversations to be kept in the confines of the newsroom during staff meetings. For now.
For the first Monday since my second week at The Evening Sun, I will not have an opinion piece ready to roll on Monday. Due to all of the “Letters to the Editor” that should run either Tuesday or before, I have decided to switch some things around.
Look at me – being all friendly and facilitating to all the folks who have something they’d like to get out there before the masses flock to the polls.
That just reminded me of the last time I voted. Polls were open until 9 p.m. I showed up at 8:58 p.m., on purpose, and was told I was too late. Flashed my phone and reminded them I had two minutes. They couldn’t find me on the list, and asked me four times if I had my first name correct. …I was fairly certain I did, but three different individuals insisted my name must be Josephine.
“Nope, I’m Ashley. But I did always think Josephine was a cool name. I had a great aunt Josephine I never got to meet.”At any rate, since I was “in line” before nine, they had to let me vote, once they made a call to Albany and had me fill out some change of address form even though it hasn’t changed since I moved back from Buffalo.I went in there, voted “no” to the school budget, and was out of there in seven seconds.But I digress – you folks are excited about elections and there are some “hot button” issues, I suppose. So I’ll let you have your space to share your views.
After all, you put up with my antics week after week.
Fear not, though, I’ll have something ready to go one of the others days next week.
I’m peeling out Friday for a much needed weekend in New Hampshire and I am more than excited. Weekends in NH make my head and my heart happy, and it’s nice to breathe different air, sit in different chairs, and surround myself with some fantastic folks.
I guarantee the event I am attending will provide me with weeks worth of content to write about. There’s even a “Ladies in the Media” panel, which should prove to be fun and informative.
The drive is pretty fantastic too. Not much beats solo dance parties while cruising along scenic routes through New Hampshire in Autumn.
In non-work related news … my sister is about to have her baby. Hopefully. She was due a week ago today. I’m looking forward to being “off the wall Aunt Ashley,” and can’t wait to help the little kiddo learn about some obscure things. The niece and I will have reggae dance parties and I’ll show her how to play Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on the drums, just because it’s a cool tune.
Well … I just took a 45 second break to check ‘30 Seconds’ and found 15 submissions awaiting approval. Hint: I am not oblivious to acronyms. Per the implemented policy, profanity is not permitted, and I will not approve posts that are acronyms for phrases containing profanity. I dislike censorship as much as the next gal, but they’re not going to get approved. Figure out how to get your message across without it, or I’ll just continue to delete them. Gracias.
In his poem titled “Pretend,” Buddy Wakefield wrote, “We’ve got 6 billion dawning truths, setting 6 billion different suns on you.”
I like that you all have opinions. I like that I disagree with most – if not all – of you. It keeps my days interesting, to say the least.
Alright, this was longer than intended, and I still need to paint my nails, finish my book, and bake cookies.
In no particular order.