Monthly Archives: October 2007

Pardon the dust

An apology: I usually don’t give in to the urge to change my blog theme until at least 6 months have passed, but sometimes… I realize a design just isn’t working out. And that it has to go. (When it comes to online content, it always feels like the solution to one problem is the cause of another problem!) And I missed my rotating seasonal banner graphics, and stuff like that. Thanks for your patience – we’re all creatures of habit, and sudden changes can be a little jarring!

It’s a czar!

Congratulations, Mr. Spitzer! It’s a czar! The Senate finally got around to confirming Dan Gundersen as upstate ESDC chair. And according to the NYT, the Steamroller is back:

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Democrat from Westchester, said, “There’s a great deal of mystification out there from people sympathetic with where he wants to take the state. The mystification is about the tactics and tone, and I think it started on the comptroller stuff,” he said. “It just hasn’t stopped.”

Is there support for the Steamroller approach any more? Poll-quoting editorials say no, with quotes like this one from the Niagara Gazette: “In January, Spitzer had a 75 percent approval rating, while 10 percent of voters disapproved of him. So in less than a year, the governor’s poll ratings have slipped 21 points.” You mean to say… his approval rating is now no longer bigger than Jesus’s? Gasp. Also from the Niagara Gazette: “The cries of a Spitzer dictatorship are being heard on local talk radio.” NO! What is this world coming to when Limbaugh fans are finally forced to boldly speak out against tyranny?

So I’m not sure this is really a crisis, although I don’t know if smoking his tires repeatedly is going to help him that much either.

There’s also news about Spitzer’s nominee for new Public Service Commission chair. I don’t know if this nominee is less controversial than his original one. But this is the person who’s going to be dealing with NYRI’s federal-backed plans over the next year.

Open water

Grim news by the bucketful on America’s shriveling water supplies. For a long look at the dusty Western states, see this past weekend’s NYT Magazine. Or how about the crispy, bone-dry Southern states? Or if you prefer to stay closer to home, see today’s story on the drought-shrunken Great Lakes. Or you can read about Mrs. Mecomber’s trip to dried-out Trenton Falls on West Canada Creek (with some neat photos of old industrial ruins).

Despite the drought, Upstate New York cities and towns will continue to be identified with bodies of water in a uniquely pervasive way. New York has river towns (Rochester, Binghamton, Utica, Watertown, etc), lake towns (Geneva, Jamestown, Skaneateles, Sylvan Beach), canal towns (too numerous to list), even waterfall towns (Ithaca, Niagara Falls). One of the things I find unique about the Syracuse area is that it’s a lake city, an old canal town, and yet has a definite river-culture too (and all three come together in the Inner Harbor, which is a subject for another day). It’s hard to think of too many Upstate population centers that don’t have some kind of window on the water.

These various bodies of water are usually of such a size, shape or length that communities alongside them can’t claim exclusivity. The Finger Lakes, for example, have remained surprisingly free of the air of being a vacationland for the very rich — they have such long shorelines that access can’t really be hogged, and there is still a sense of abundance and a public quality to them, or even a wild quality sometimes. Even Skaneateles Lake, which has only one major community (most Finger Lakes have more than one), is seen as a public resource, being the city of Syracuse’s water supply. But while we worry often about the consequences of polluting clear waters, I wonder if we ought to also consider the risk of the subtler poison of possessiveness.

Cazenovia is an upscale lake town just to the east of Syracuse. Unlike a lot of lake towns in Upstate New York, there’s only one community on the lake, which is not very large, but is very pleasant. Cazenovia and its lake get more than their share of bad press. Not because the lake is polluted, but because it’s clean and the people who run Cazenovia think it ought to stay that way, to the point where Cazenovia Lake has been pretty much declared off-limits to non-Cazenovians. Although a state boat launch and public fishing access pier (Helen L. McNitt State Park) is being readied, it’s still difficult, if you’re not a local citizen, to put a boat in there. There’s also no swimming at the town beach for non-residents. The fear of dirty Syracuse diapers washing up on the beach sends a shudder through some local citizens; that shuddering evokes scorn from some (like my father, who never has a nice word to say about the village when he passes through); yet it’s hard to argue that civic groups like the Cazenovia Lake Association don’t do a good job looking after the water.

Claiming jurisdiction over waters is not necessarily spiritually destructive. Sometimes it appears to be necessary. Reasserting a degree of authority over Onondaga Lake is one of the aspects of the Onondaga Nation’s land rights action, and this is probably not just about having their voices heeded about matters related to its cleanup, but because the lake has a spiritual importance that non-Haudenosaunee people probably can’t fully understand. But I think most non-Native observers would say that the Onondagas’ words about the future of the lake have been carefully inclusive, keeping the door open to many possibilities both economic and environmental. (I think Syracusans sometimes forget that Onondaga Lake, far from being a self-contained toxic puddle, is connected to the Great Lakes system and therefore to the whole world of water.)

What’s the line between a sense of community ownership, and a too-harsh exclusiveness? In the future — on a much larger scale — Upstate New York communities of all sizes, perhaps even the state of New York as a whole, may have to wrestle with that question. If we ever became water-masters in a parched continent, what kind of stewards would we be… not just environmentally, but on the human level?

In the meantime, climate change continues to build to a slow boil. According to a recent article in the Post-Standard, Cazenovia Lake is covered by ice an average of 16.6 fewer days each winter than it was 150 years ago.

That sinking feeling

The other week (in comments of this post) there was commiseration about the demise of Salt City Roasters, a locally-owned eatery on the Fairmount strip. If only they could have survived into the Benderson era, they might have gotten more business. The other day I was distressed to read that Marnie’s ice cream parlor is not only going out of business, but selling off its equipment. There’s been an ice cream stand at that location for several decades (first Carvel, then Kristen’s) and now there’s yet another gaping hole in locally-owned business. It’s not as if Fairmountians can’t go down to the venerable Peter’s Polar Parlor on Milton Ave (and it’s possible that competition from PPP helped kill Marnie’s), but when a community loses an ice cream stand, for me that’s always reason for a little mourning. (God only knows how miserable life could be if you could never say, “Forget about it – let’s go get some ice cream.”)
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Autumn… eventually

Whoever heard of having to wait and watch for signs of fall after a long summer, the way you wait and watch for signs of spring after a long winter?

On the other hand, it’s interesting to see fall unfold in super-slo-mo. Do we ever really notice how our most familiar trees go through the color-changing process, or are our lives usually too fast-paced to catch the subtleties?

Given a little more time, any tree can be brilliant. (This one is usually a dull gold but has decided to try shocking red this season.)

But this rose (in the foreground), which has decided to put out new leaves, is just crashing the party.