Monthly Archives: April 2010

Too easy

Sometimes it is too tempting to write a long blog post about something, even when you don’t have the time. Yesterday I was wondering if it would be worth the time and effort to write out a transcript of the entire relevant portion of the dustup between my state senator, John DeFrancisco, and the Brooklyn state senator Kevin Parker, previously notorious for hitting a photographer. I wanted to do this because most of the news coverage was focusing on Parker’s outburst, and no one was really examining the content and substance of DeFrancisco’s lengthy questioning of the black NY Power Authority nominee, Mark O’Luck.

It’s too bad that Parker throughout his career has involved himself in violent, over-the-top incidents, because even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Listening to DeFrancisco’s self-referential, irrelevant and oh-so-suburbanite obsession with a comment that O’Luck posted on the NY Times over a year ago, made me want to write a lengthy post on white privilege (if you have never heard the term, I suggest this excellent recent article).

Unfortunately, Parker in his usual discussion-killing manner went on to label DeFrancisco a “white supremacist” and another senator, Ruben Diaz, a homophobe (well, actually, he is one), further blotting out the reality that DeFrancisco does need to be added to the chain of fools in this incident with his cluelessness about the history of race relations in this country. (No, Sen. DeFrancisco, it’s really not all about the hurt feelings of Italian-American lawyers.)

However, now someone has saved me a lot of trouble:

Preston Fagan, president of the NAACP Syracuse/Onondaga chapter, said he hadn’t heard complaints that DeFrancisco was a racist. However, he said, “I will say he has a problem being a minority.”

Bwahahahah! So particularly true of Sen. DeFrancisco, who has noticeably turned into a world-class whiner ever since his party lost control, and this isn’t the first time. Thank you, Mr. Fagan, for making my “job” as a blogger easier.

Arizona, you’ve changed

I spent quite a bit of time in Arizona as a kid, mostly around Flagstaff and Sedona. My grandparents moved out there in the early ’70s, followed by many other relatives on their side of the family, so it was always an extended summer vacation stop. Although Arizona has seen huge growth since then, I’m told that the little community they lived in (Munds Park) hasn’t changed very much.

But Arizona, you blew it. No longer will you be known mostly as the beautiful state with the saguaros, kachinas and the Grand Canyon, the fabulous, exotic Wild West destination that every foreign tourist wants to visit. Now you’ve bought yourself a worldwide reputation as the ugliest ugly-American state, where anyone who “looks suspicious” (i.e., Hispanic) will be harrassed, thanks to your very ill-conceived, myopic, quixotic new measure. I never thought any U.S. state could possibly take the crown away from Texas in the “ugly American” reputation department but with a single stroke of the pen, your governor has done it. Within the space of two years, not only have you lost your formerly booming housing economy to the economic crash, but you’ve also endangered your international reputation and possibly your tourism business.

Each day more than 65,000 Mexican residents are in Arizona to work, visit friends and relatives and shop, according to a University of Arizona study sponsored by the Arizona Office of Tourism. While there, the Mexican visitors spend more than $7.35 million daily in Arizona’s stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, the researchers found.

Good luck selling those overpriced condos and country club memberships, though.

PS: Also, if you skip class in college in Arizona now (specifically, at NAU), Big Brother will know. Land of the Free!

History for sale

Recently I noticed that the “Brockway Tavern house” (aka the funeral home at Fairmount Corners, aka the former Walter White’s) has been put up for sale. Hopefully, even in this bad economic climate, it will find a buyer willing to keep up the property and maybe even turn it back into, uh, a livelier business. It’s the oldest building in Fairmount (date of construction given variously as 1808 and 1820), saved from destruction in the late 1960s. This is the original location of the Green Gate Inn, an establishment that is synonymous with Camillus village but actually got its start in Fairmount. (It is sometimes mistaken for James Geddes’ house, due to an unfortunately placed historical marker.)

Here’s a photo of it when it was Tobin’s Restaurant, its pre-Walter White incarnation.

And here it is today.

Dirt Day 2010

I have just gotten around to reading Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, which is probably part of any self-respecting “doomer”‘s library, along with other books I’ve found worthwhile, such as Reinventing Collapse by Dmitry Orlov or the seminal classic The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter. Except, I’m not a doomer (and I hate that term anyway). I’m just someone interested in thinking about our times in different ways.

There doesn’t seem to be any cause for feelings of doom when you read the paper today and see that CNY’ers (the real CNY’ers) are genuinely green in their outlook and behavior. The sample for this survey is small and perhaps too much is being made of it, but it’s heartening to see CNYers understanding that “greenwashing” (cloaking corporate interests in green costume) can be a big problem too. This question makes me take the survey a little more seriously. But mainly what I see in this survey is that the less affluent a place is, the more serious-minded they may be about changing the way they live and giving back to the earth. Perhaps this is similar to the way poorer people tend to be the most generous in giving to charity.

Then again, we’re still not thinking entirely clearly. There are some “No to Wastebed 13” signs on my street now. This is because some of my former neighbors now live in Golden Meadows, the subdivision that was built near the old wastebed where Honeywell and the state propose to store Onondaga Lake sediments. I’m still trying to find out why I knew about Wastebed 13 before homeowners there apparently did. I’m not exactly an environmental activist, and I knew. I read the paper, and was following along with the lake cleanup mainly because of my concern/interest in the Onondaga LRA. I feel badly for the Golden Meadows homeowners, particularly my former neighbors, and wonder how the Onondaga Nation’s recent vision statement for Onondaga Lake speaks to them. (Are we speaking to one another?)

The anti-wastebed signs are bright yellow; you can’t miss them. Coming home from work, I noticed a little yellow flag fluttering in the grass in the yard next door to one of the signs. Someone had their lawn freshly pesticided for spring. Toxic waste is not okay for landfills and lakes, but still okay for lawns, I guess. That’s the right sort of poison for our homes and children! Until we get over this willful blindness, we’re going to keep running into dilemmas like Wastebed 13.

But back to the dirt. I thought I would be more interested by The World Without Us for its description of how suburban homes and mighty cities decay, but I actually found myself fascinated by the chapter on dirt and what sticks around in it. The story of the long-term soil experiments at an English research farm reminded me a lot of agricultural writings by and about George Geddes and Fairmount in the 19th century. I was not so interested in this stuff when I was doing the start of my Fairmount research, but now as I’m trying to ease into learning gardening, I am. What’s in my dirt?

Aspiring gardeners in Fairmount don’t know how good they have it: the provenance of their dirt is surprisingly well documented, thanks to old George. While I’m fairly sure that the land my house sits on was either not actually Geddes family land, or was not actually farmed (too many large stones present – although it could have been grazing land for his sheep), I’m confident that it probably wasn’t greatly disturbed in the early years of the 20th century either. It probably wasn’t sprayed with fertilizer. The biggest mystery therefore is how the homebuilders messed with it in the mid-1950s. My mother believes, from her childhood memories, that the homebuilders did not truck in much new dirt. I can also quiz her what the original homeowners (my grandparents) put on it in the way of pesticides and lawn fertilizer back in the beginning.

It would be nice to get soil samples tested – not, as one usually might do, to determine the best spot for gardening, but to try and find a spot that might be the least transformed from the time before the house was built. This would be in the back yard, away from the road and the house. I also want to sample the soil in the front yard (which I expect will be more contaminated) and a sample from my sister’s house in the city. I have a feeling that doing the sort of testing I’m interested in would be very expensive, though, so I’ll have to find out if it’s really feasible to do.