Archive for the ‘Guest Contributor’ Category

Once There Was a Place …

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

(A news obit, written & filed to Facebook  on June 25, 2016).

By Jeremiah Horrigan

Jeremiah Horrrigan

Jeremiah Horrrigan

A desk. A phone. A computer. A place to hang your hat, or just a place to hang. It doesn’t sound very glamorous. Certainly not romantic. Until it all disappears.

I’m going to a wake tomorrow. Not a wake for a person. A wake for what most people would call an office. Those of us who worked there called it “the bureau.” It was a place where news was discovered, reported and written about. My connection to it ended a little more than a year ago. Everybody else’s connection to it — the list is long — ended on yesterday. After more than 20 years, the Ulster County bureau of the Middletown Times Herald-Record was officially shuttered. Killed off by the usual suspects — greedy owners, inept managers, the internet, the times. Dead and dying newspapers like The Record have such a rich variety of villains to blame for their demise, it hardly seems worth reporting the cause of death, it’s become so mundane.

Over its 20 years, the bureau occupied several offices across the county, all of them bare-bones, usually situated on the cheap side of town. Or even out of town. I’ve been a reporter who worked out of all the county’s bureaus, almost from the day the paper waded into the county. When I worked there, I thought of the bureau, when I thought of it at all, as a place. A place where I went to do my job. That meant sitting at a desk and working the phone and kibitzing with colleagues and writing stories and cursing editors I never saw and officials I saw too often, usually at night in drafty town halls or, less often, at some sweltering murder scene or worst of all, at a cemetery where a solitary bugler played Taps and young men wept bitter tears.

No one’s going to weep at tomorrow’s wake. We’ll drink beer and curse managers who wouldn’t dare set foot on the premises, the owner/ investors who see us as cogs in their money-making machine. We’ll toast each other and praise absent friends. And we’ll tell stories on and about each other and those friends, stories being the point of it all.

And then we’ll all go home. And once there, we’ll be alone with our thoughts and at least one of us will wonder where the time went and he’ll look for comfort in the usual direction he turns to. He’ll look to the past because he’s an old newspaperman and a sentimental fool who knows in his bones there’s no longer a place — a bureau — where what was best about newspapers can ever happen again.

Jeremiah Horrigan is an award-winning newspaper reporter, now retired, who has spent his professional life telling other people’s stories  Over the years, his freelance essays, columns and features have appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated  and the Miami Herald. These days, he tells his story in Salon, Memoir Journal, narratively.com and in several national anthologies, including Woodstock Revisited and Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine. He writes a bylined blog for the Huffington Post and is the author of a memoir, Fortunate Son: A Dying Father, an Angry Son and the War on the Home Front.

Saving Sterling Forest One More Time

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

By Patrick Gallagher

Twenty years ago, local heroes “saved Sterling Forest” from imminent death by development. A coalition of local individuals, multi- state agencies and a community of environmentalists at large fought off development of one of the last bits of wilderness this far south in the state of New York.

Among the convincing facts that turned heads and made sense were studies showing that not just the site of the commercial, residential, or industrial development would be affected, but that the access roads and fringes of developed parts of forests created impacts deep into the woods from the edges of the development.

The larger the development, the deeper the impact on species, flora, fauna, etc., because air, water and noise and light pollution levels are all pushed beyond their new surfaces and platforms as you introduce asphalt, diesel fuel, auto emissions, lights, sewage and other previously absent effluents to an eco system.

This is all pretty straightforward and commonly accepted.

Environmental impact statements were introduced years ago in an effort to model and measure what happens when you bring these man made elements and dubious efficiencies where they have not been before.

Certainly an E.I.S. can be helpful to one degree or another and they are absolutely essential given the reality that development will occur sometimes in some places, but there are places where it should not occur. And one is in our local forest.

Short term with enough public relations and subtle interpretation of scientific nuance, you may be able to present a somewhat favorable case that 5 million visitors a year to a former forest would be OK, but just a few miles away we have lots of sites and cities that say otherwise. Right down the road in the same town there are vents sticking out of a former dump that was poorly managed.

Right up the road is the old Nepera site.

Penaluna Road may ring a bell for Superfund watchers. The Orange County Landfill comes to mind. Chances are you could see them all on a clear day from the hills above the hideous ozone sink at exit 16 onthe Thruway..

Granted, these were allowed to grow and fester in days gone by with less regulation than we have now (or maybe not), but does anyone really think that we have come so far in our conservation and waste management techniques that the impact of 5 million visitors can be effectively managed in the midst of a rush to short-term and questionable community benefits?

Do we really want to invite Gentinstein to fund and build a new exit off the Thruway right into the heart of the area’s biggest self-sustaining clean air and water factory?

Do they need to be lurching around in Sterling Forest howling about building parks and easing local tax burdens supported by a giant pack of barking PR hacks tossing cash out of sacks of money?

This may be one of those rare moments when noisy geese and slippery droppings would be more desirable neighbors.

There is no waste in nature. Everything gets recycled in natural systems. The house (read Earth) always wins in this regard. Everything returns to the earth and is reused.

Since we are considering a casino in a forest, let us just briefly consider containing it as if could be a very clean capsule with minimal impact — which is what most people would want anyhow — and since it would sound great for public relations put the whole thing into a biosphere. Make it out of glass so we can count on transparency. and people outside the operation can see and quantify conditions inside.

Allow for a certain amount of water, a certain amount of air, the opportunity to grow the necessary food and whatever they think they need to manufacture and survive as fully functioning competitor for Foxwoods or Atlantic City. Every system has limits, but give them what they need to do the job if they are careful.

Let in the good elements, let in the less desirable, let in some drug, alcohol and gambling counselors, get the stockholders and short-term beneficiaries in there and close the door for a few years. They can have as many visitors as they want, but it has to function as a biosphere and an ecosystem to stay in business and the promoters and stakeholders gotta stay inside. It’ll be just like the real environment or the real spaceship earth but smaller, and when you run out of clean air and water and society breaks down there would be actual witnesses to the deterioration of the endangered species in the rapidly degrading environment.

Reality show possibilities abound.

Like the Irish might say. UP THE ANTE!

Patrick Gallagher lives in Warwick

 

 

Speak Up Now to Save Mother Earth

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By Patrick Gallagher

Downtown Beijing, not on a good day.

Downtown Beijing, not on a good day.

Today on the radio, some coal industry hack stated that the proposed new regulations aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions “would make electricity much more expensive …  if we can even get it.”

I’d be embarrassed if I ever said something that absurd. If we can even get it? Nature and modern electronics allow us to get all the electricity we want, clean, just for the cost of building the collector.

Investing in a smart grid would revolutionize efficiency and create demand for large pools of skilled workers. Fewer people are employed in mining and fracking every year. Those that do keep jobs are treated as badly as our veterans and once they’re used up they get tossed aside as liabilities.

Even Thomas Edison, who was no paragon of green capitalism, and who was deeply invested in mining and other extractive polluting industries, knew that the wisest and cheapest way to get inexpensive energy was going to be from the sun. Okay, so ignore the science that even Edison knew was out there over a hundred years ago. He understood natural capitalism. He was a hero of science and industry to many because he innovated until he succeeded. But the fossil fuel industry is as stagnant as the air over Beijing.

Let’s forget that there is a foolish discussion over whether climate change is real. Even if we are not changing the climate, we are fouling the nest. Can’t deny that! And yet we can get all the clean energy we want. Do we want it or not? is the only real question. For most people, it’s not difficult to answer.

Whoever you are making these statements on the radio, have a little respect for yourself and withdraw that comment from the public record. Stop publicly humiliating your family and future descendants. Do you breathe air and drink water? Do you have a TV? You must if you’re considered worthy of radio air time. Can you see pictures of China’s smog-choked cities? We sell them a lot of that coal. Can you see any of the photos of thermal inversions made from noxious clouds of toxic emissions whose contents and effects are often unpronounceable and unconscionable?

You can’t even see the cities through the smog. That’s not any holy smoke there! That’s not good for jobs or health care costs or kids or anything but Peabody coal and their lobbyists in our government. It’s real good for those revolving-door guys who write our laws that allow this to keep going on. Everybody knows it’s good for them.

Well, that air comes here. Just like the radiation from the Fukashima nuclear plant in Japan and the smokestack emissions from the states in the Midwest that make acid rain in the East. It’s not just the foreign polluters, because we make much more than our share; so let’s not lay it off on some foreign source. That stuff all goes around and around and it ends right up in your kids, but it’s not like musical chairs.

The coal/tar sands/oil/gas/pipeline industry never seems to stop singing to our political system and everybody working for them is always getting a seat. You may have to sit down because you have emphysema or too much mercury in your kidneys. You may not be able to stand up because you live too close to a Frack pad and your ground water’s polluted or you have a nosebleed or a migraine, but you can have a seat as long as you don’t complain and get in the way of corporate profits.

Don’t get sidetracked; it’s not just coal. It’s filthy fuels we have been trained to depend on battling for dominance in a fight to our death. I’m still using my lungs every day; so is my family. And I want to breathe with my lungs and with my family and with my neighbors and with the people I love.

One thing I’ve noticed is that these sorts of unconscious, uninformed statements like the one by the guy on the radio are rarely made by women. Across the country, mothers seem to be coming to the forefront of the environmental movement because the kids are clearly impacted more and more as population grows and increases in worldwide emissions continue. Why do we let a guy like that speak for anyone? Listen, but use your lungs while you can and say something civil and sensible back to these folks. He and his friends just can’t go unanswered anymore.All cultures have always understood that it’s called Mother Earth. What would she say?

Patrick Gallagher lives in Warwick.

 

 

Time to Divest Ourselves of Polluters

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Fossil fuels are polluting the planet.

Fossil fuels are polluting the planet.

By Patrick Gallagher

Recently, lots of energy has gone into trying to convince universities to withdraw support from the fossil fuel industry. Polluting for profitability is slowly becoming as attractive an investment as apartheid or a slave-based business model.

Student and activist efforts have begun to sway the investor culture we live in while farsighted analysts are beginning to perceive murky futures for securities that rely on profits from smokestacks, pipelines, industrial runoff, groundwater degradation, air pollution and mountaintop removal.

In Silicon Valley, at the heart of 21st century emerging industries, Stanford University has joined 11 other colleges and universities nationwide in removing coal from its investment portfolio.

Foundations, cities and states are recognizing they are made up of people who want to breathe clean air. Seattle, San Francisco and Portland are climbing on board the divestment train, having decided to join the smarter money by divesting of coal and investing elsewhere.

During Hurricane Sandy, many buildings around Wall Street in lower Manhattan could be accessed by pontoon boats via second-floor windows. This winter, the UK experienced otherworldly flooding attributed to carbon-driven climate change.

Worldwide banking customers are persuading their banks to not lend to fossil-fuel producers.

Major financial player Blackrock has teamed with the Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC to create a fossil free stock index. Blackrock is not chartered or known as a green or particularly socially responsible index group, but it is the world’s largest asset manager with $4 trillion (with a T) in assets.

The London Financial Times calls this move a sure signal that the global campaign against fossil fuels is entering the financial mainstream. Strictly business. In fact, options for alternate investments are now easily available with all the data to support wise decisions at hand for review. The fossil-free indices exclude companies that extract or explore for fossil fuels.

It’s an absolute truth that for the moment we all share the sun and that alternatives energies of all stripes are rapidly achieving parity with fossil fuels.  At this point, the first steps towards clean and sustainable energy independence are going to have to come from a sea change in how we subsidize the choices we make.

Divestment is right in front of us. Clean, renewable choices are at our fingertips.

To me it’s very simple.  I will not invest in handing a cup of dirty water to any of the kids in my neighborhood. I don’t wanna and I’m not gunna. If there are two canisters filled with oxygen and one is polluted I want the clean one. If the earth’s atmosphere is the only canister available I want it to be cleaned up.

I’d also like to share it with my neighbors.

If I can eat real food that is not densely laden with hydrocarbons and grown in mercury-rich soil brought to me by coal emissions from neighboring states, I’d just rather have the local healthier stuff, thank you very much.

I ‘m not interested in a dirty atmosphere in my home so I need to act accordingly by withdrawing my implicit financial permission in the form of investments from extractive and pollutive industries.

In taking this approach, we can launch a truly new era of investment and job creation that broadens the opportunities for the generations that will be forced to clean up this mess.

Ask the 300,000 folks in Charleston, West Virginia, if they wanted to divest themselves of the entire cities supply of contaminated drinking water last February and then maybe ask yourself, “What’s in my wallet?”

Patrick Gallagher lives in Warwick.

Food: Will It Always Be There?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

By William J. Makofske

Here in the United States, the issue of food availability is taken for granted. Grocery stores are packed with all kinds of food from around the world. Of course, shoppers who look closely at their grocery bills may notice the price of food has gone up substantially in the past few years. Then again, they may not. We are a very wealthy country, and food costs as a percentage of income are relatively low compared to others. Food insecurity today is primarily due to poverty, not supply.

But what about the future?

According to many food experts, including Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, who is writing a new book on food and world agriculture titled “Full Planet, Empty Plates,” the situation is approaching crisis proportions. Food production is a complex system that involves many interacting components, including available water, arable soil, sufficient land, fertilizer, a lot of input energy, biofuel production, and a stable climate.

Food supply also depends on the number of mouths to feed. World population has gone from around 1 billion people in 1800 to roughly 7.3 billion today. In simple math terms, that’s 7.3 times the number in 1800. Population is still increasing, adding an additional 80 million people each year, or another billion in roughly 12 years. Can we keep increasing our food supply? Let’s look at only one component – water – affecting the system and see why increasing supply is problematic.

Many books have been written on water scarcity. Fresh water from rainfall, rivers, or aquifers, is needed to grow food. However, changing climate patterns are making the interiors of the large grain-producing countries hotter and dryer, thus reducing yields. In many countries, decreasing river flows that cross borders between nations have created serious conflicts over available supplies. Climate change is also causing the warming air over tropical oceans to become increasingly saturated with evaporated water, which subsequently comes down in buckets, and afterwards, not at all, causing a feast/famine cycle in water supply.

Around the world, water scarcity is an increasing problem, particularly where irrigation is needed. Many Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan, are importing large amounts of grain as they deplete their aquifers. Brown notes that some 18 countries, containing 3.6 billion people, including China, India and the United States, are over pumping their aquifers. What will we use instead? Now we are into big time fantasy: desalinization which is very costly, diverting melting glaciers from the Arctic or Antarctic, or emptying the Great Lakes.

Today, larger and larger areas of the United States are suffering from drought, and in the west, water conflicts are intensifying. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, is literally drying up. We could of course use underground water from aquifers. We do, so much so, that some of the largest fossil (cannot be replenished) aquifers, like the Ogallala aquifer in the Great Plains, an important source of water for Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska is dropping fast. It will run out. In recent years, growing towns and cities in the west have purchased large amounts of water from farmers, reducing food production. As I write, California, one of the great food- producing states, is in an unprecedented water crisis. Lack of rain and mountain snow melt-off has created the worst drought since the 1850s, when records were first kept.

If all the factors affecting food production are examined, the picture is not pretty. With low grain carryovers from year to year, it would take only one bad year in two large grain-producing areas to cause an unprecedented food crisis. Or we can just let the current trends in water supply, arable land, biofuel production, climate change and population growth continue unabated. We will reach the same place sooner or later.

Dr. William J. Makofske, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Ramapo College, is an environmental physicist who studies energy and environmental issues. He is a member of Sustainable Warwick where he is the energy adviser for the Energize Warwick campaign.

 

 

 

An Obamacare Success Story

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

By Lenore Poggioli

Despite listening to all the Obamacare naysayers I’m here to say that I had a very decent experience obtaining coverage. Perhaps I’m magical? I doubt it. I’m sure the website had problems depending on whether the person trying to subscribe was living in a red or blue state. I feel lucky to now be living in a blue state after 12 years in a red one.

I went to Healthcare.gov during the first week of October, around the 5th. Getting on the site was not a problem, perhaps because I’m a night owl; at 2 a.m. most of the country was asleep.

Initially I was asked for my name, date of birth, zip code, and if I presently have any medical coverage. Now Healthcare.gov needed to make a decision. The wait was more than one would expect online when ordering books or clothing, but it wasn’t so long that I wanted to just scrap the whole experience. The screen came back to life advising me that because I lived in New York, I needed to go to NYStateofHealth.ny.gov to review and register in its Marketplace choices.  It also provided me with a link to that website.

Unfortunately, the link did not work for me. Apparently, the problem was with the federal website, not the state site. After waiting a frustrating 15 minutes, I gave up and just typed in the URL and got to the state site without any problem.

Once on the NYS Marketplace site everything went beautifully. I was able to complete the application in approximately 30 minutes and there were drop-down boxes along the way to provide definitions and explanations of what was needed to complete the questionnaire. There also was a phone number to call if you wanted to speak with someone in person. And you could save the application along the way so that you could stop and go back the next day to complete it. This was a great feature since you needed to have specific income information and current premium costs if you were replacing your existing insurance.

The site provided very clear information for the various plans available and I was able to click on the choices I wanted to compare. Depending on the coverage level (bronze, silver, gold or platinum) you choose, the premium would change, as would the deductible and the co-insurance. Since the Affordable Care Act has set up specific requirements for health insurance, you are always matching apples to apples when shopping for coverage. What a breath of fresh air.

Six and one-half weeks after completing my application on line, I got a phone call from Affinity Healthcare advising me that they received information from NY State of Health that I enrolled with them. They provided me with a customer service phone number, the approximate date I would receive my enrollment information, and the date I would need to provide my first premium payment if I wanted coverage by Jan. 1.

Overall, this was not a painful process. Previous health insurance experiences had been far worse and more expensive for me. Obamacare is saving me $301.22 a month in my premiums, $1,900 in my annual deductible. My office visits under my Affinity plan are in flat-dollar amounts rather than the percentage amounts for my present insurance. For example: Flat rate Primary Care visits will be $25, under the percentage plan of 20 percent paid by me if the bill came to $250 my cost was $50. This is also true for my medications.

As a Registered Nurse, I saw through the years of my career the increasing need for medical coverage for people who had lost their insurance and were unable to obtain coverage either because they had pre-existing conditions or couldn’t afford it. Obamacare isn’t perfect but it is a giant step forward. It will help not only those who need affordable health care but also will assist hospital emergency rooms by relieving them of uninsured patients who use the ER in place of seeing primary care physicians.

Lenore Poggioli is a Registered Nurse and former member and vice president of the Warwick School Board from 1987 to 1993.  She currently lives in Monroe.

To Keep a Rural Town Rural

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

By Andrew McLaughlin

We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of a very fateful meeting in Warwick. In March of 1994, over 600 Warwickians convened to create a “vision” of how the town should be at the dawn of the twenty-first century. What happened at that meeting was the culmination of a community visioning process sponsored by a group called Community 2000.

At the meeting, each participant was given a few red dots that they could paste next to a wide spectrum of twenty or so goals posted around the hall. The amazing thing was that the vast majority of the dots were placed around the three goals of saving farms, preserving the rural character of Warwick, and preserving open space. What emerged was the collective realization that we all gave a very high priority to these goals.

As a result of this meeting, a smaller group was formed to examine the Warwick master plan and the town’s zoning laws. It should be remembered that in the mid-nineties, development pressures were strong all around Orange County, and Warwick was no exception. The group discovered that although the Master Plan had a number of suggestions for preserving farms and open space, these were not implemented in the zoning code.

 

So began a long process of working with the town government to review the Master Plan (now called the Comprehensive Plan) and to rewrite the zoning to facilitate farming and the preservation of open space. Among many innovations were making farm stands easy to open to help farmers sell their produce locally and giving incentives to cluster developments to save open space.

It was soon apparent that this would not be enough. Serious preservation of farms and open space required a source of funding. So a few of us began to explore funding options dedicated to preserving farms.

With leadership by the late Seymour Gordon, we decided that the best path was having the town issue bonds to fund a purchase of development rights (PDR) program. What then followed was a campaign to persuade the town’s voters that they should tax themselves by agreeing to issue $9.5 million in bonds through a special referendum. The vote narrowly passed, but pass it did. A result of the PDR program was the preservation of over 2,500 acres of farmland through the purchase of development rights from participating farmers. This helped preserve farms and open space by providing an infusion of cash to help farmers modernize their operations and by saving the land in perpetuity for generations yet unborn.

After a few years, the PDR program had become so successful that the funds would soon run out. Thus, in 2005 another campaign was started to fund the ongoing PDR program through a real estate transfer tax. This led to a town-wide vote, in which the tax was approved. This program now generates about $50,000 a month and is the foundation for the ongoing preservation of farms and farmland.

Warwick now has about 4,000 acres of preserved farmland. These lands ensure that the production of food and open space will remain an integral part of Warwick’s future.

Andrew McLaughlin has lived in Warwick since 1982. He was involved in saving Sterling Forest, is the current President of Warwick Conservancy and is a member of the board of the Orange County Land Trust.

 

How the News Arrived (1)

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

By Geoffrey Howard

Part 1: I was a 20-year old Peace Corps volunteer, newly arrived and just settling in to Kaolack, Senegal’s second-largest city and the generally acknowledged fly capital of the world. My job – I’m not making this up – was to be one of the national wrestling coaches of this 2-year old West African country.

We were four volunteers living together in one house, three English teachers and me. About 8 o’clock, just as we were finishing dinner, there was a timid knock at the door and this African kid, maybe 9 or 10, was standing there. We looked at him, he looked at us. No one spoke until he said in half French, half Wolof, “Le chef defa dey” The chief is dead.

None of us reacted because we had no idea what he was talking about. Then someone figured it out. Since the Senegalese thought all toubabs (whites) were French, the ex-colonial power that was still very present, there was an obvious explanation: “He must mean De Gaulle.”

The kid spoke no English, but he got the De Gaulle part and his response was emphatic: “Didit! [No!] Votre chef, Kennedy!”

Of course that made no sense – a kid we didn’t even know, how could he possibly be the bearer of such impossible news? Anyway, because none of us had a short wave radio, I was delegated to get on my motorbike and go to the nearby Senegalese army base to see if I could find out anything “official.” That turned out to be a very easy task. The sentry guards confirmed it: “Votre president, il est mort, assassine.” And that’s how I got the news. 

Part 2: I went back to the house and shared the sad news with Ralph, Pat, and Barbara. I don’t recall if we cried or continued with our that-just-can’t-be-true denial, but we all got on our motorbikes and went down to the single French-run hotel in town where we knew they had a big short wave set and that the patronne, a formidable colonial era hanger-on who had been there for decades, and who, the one time Ralph and I had stopped in for a biere, had made it clear that she had little use for Americans.

Well, the four of us walked into the standing-room-only bar – wall-to-wall French – and everyone was listening, transfixed to that radio. Heads swiveled as we entered and before we could even say a word or ask a single question, Madame shooed four regulars off their bar stools and made it clear that we were to sit at the bar near the radio. Then, again without our asking, four beers appeared and someone switched the radio to the Voice of America. We had many beers that night, all on the house. And that’s how the tragedy sank in.

Part 3: The next morning, a truck pulled up from the Lycee de Kaolack, where we all worked. The Directeur got out, accompanied by a work crew that began unloading and setting up chairs in our small courtyard, maybe 30 in all. While that was going on, the Directeur explained to us what would happen. He was dressed in a dark suit and told us to change into “appropriate” clothes. We did.

Very shortly thereafter, people began drifting in, mostly men, but some women as well. The men were dressed in their grand boubous – long, elegant robes – that signified an important occasion. (The Senegalese are famously tall and slender; their second president Abdou Diouf, at 6’10” was the only head of state in the world who could dunk.)

We knew none of these people and yet they came up to us, silently shook hands with each of us as we stood in a line, and then took seats. There was no talking. They would stay for maybe two or three minutes, then rise silently and leave. Not a word, just respect.

* * *

After his two years in the Peace Corps, Geoff Howard had a 35-year career as a management consultant and trainer. Now retired and living in Warwick, he is the chair of Sustainable Warwick and treasurer of Community 2000. 

 

How the News Arrived (2)

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

By Glenn Doty

I was a young sportswriter at The Times Herald Record in 1963. Politics, to which the late editor Al Romm introduced me a few years later, really didn’t mean a whole lot to me then.

Sure, I voted. That’s something several college classes suggested was important, and I voted for Dwight Eisenhower when I turned 21. The General – that’s how I thought of him – just seemed like the right person. After all, he was a pretty successful military man.

And then 1960 arrived and a Navy man, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a PT boat commander, wound up with the Democratic nomination, not that the party meant much to me, although my mom and her dad were both Democrats.

Funny, it really didn’t sink in that Kennedy was from a very rich and influential Massachusetts family. I do remember stories that his time as a U.S. senator was less than auspicious. But he was Catholic, and that’s how I was raised. If elected he’d be this country’s first Catholic president, and I think that meant more to me than his political party affiliation.

It also meant that my kids, if they decided on a political life (and none did), could aspire to the White House.

So, sports aside, I followed Kennedy’s march to Election Day 1960 and I couldn’t wait to vote for him. Wow! He won a tight race.

Funny, down through the years since, inaugural speeches haven’t been that important to me, although after Jimmy Carter I really wanted to hear what Ronald Reagan had to say.

But the Kennedy speech in 1961 was important. And he started the day the right way – with Robert Frost, who was my favorite poet, delivering a prophecy that everyone, I think, hoped would be true.

As for Kennedy’s inaugural speech, it probably ranks right up there, but it’s his forever-to-be-quoted conclusion that has stayed with me: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

I seem to remember a little moisture around the eyes then. And every time I hear or read those words, that moisture returns.

There were mistakes during his short term. The Cuba invasion fiasco was one, but he did get Russia’s missiles out of there.

But there was Jackie, and then they had Caroline and then John Jr. And despite some of his problems, including getting us deeper into the Vietnam war, he looked like he might well be the Democrats’ nominee for a second term, which is what led him to Texas in November of 1963.

The great never-to-be-answered JFK question: Would he have continued our Vietnam involvement?

I don’t remember much more about Nov. 22. It was one of those days when I went to the office early – probably there were basketball games scheduled for that night. But then, a little after noon, the United Press International wire machine bells sounded and I had to see what was up. The bulletin: The president’s been shot! My God, the anger I felt: Who in hell would do that? And then, a few minutes later: The president is dead.

Tears? There weren’t many of us in the newsroom that early in the afternoon, but there were tears – and disbelief. And anger. Who would do that?

It’s been 50 years. We’ve learned a lot about JFK, and not all has been good. But he was a hero to many of us and the memory of that afternoon? It still produces tears.

 

* * *

 

Glenn Doty is a former managing editor of The Times Herald-Record and former editor of the Legislative Gazette.

Baseball in Somewhat Later Years

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

By Ken Goldfarb

Unlike a lot of “real” sports fans, I cannot recall many specifics about baseball, the game that I have learned to love more and more as time passed.

Games I have seen, along with major league records or player stats or even who won the World Series in any particular year, are a blur.

Then again, that’s not always the case if it involves the Mets, or the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the early 50s there was only one team to root for, the hometown Dodgers. How two very famous Brooklyn boys failed in that regard – Joe Torre rooted for the old New York Giants, and Rudy Giuliani went with the Yankees – is beyond me.

For me it was the Duke, Jackie, Pee Wee, Campy, Gil and the rest of the Boys of Summer.

Similar to Mike Kaufman’s experience, which he wrote about in last week’s Zest of Orange, my first view of the unbelievable green of Ebbets Field was awesome to this 5-year old. You have to remember that back then, color television had not yet reached the average viewer. So to watch Dodgers games on WOR-TV in shades of grey, and then to actually see them in person (with the vibrant colors of the field and the players’ sparkling white uniforms), took my breath away.

I have no recollection of who the visiting team was, or who won the game. But, I do remember Roy Campanella, the very talented but ill-fated catcher of the Dodgers, hit a line drive straight at us sitting in the leftfield stands. This wasn’t one of those parabolic home runs with an apogee somewhere high over the grass that then slowly came down into the seats. This was a rocket aimed right at us. The ever enlarging ball seemed at first to have me or my dad as its intended target. But it flew above us and was still going up when a man seated directly behind us stood and tried to catch it in his bare right hand. He failed, and the ball dropped down and wandered under the seats to someone a few rows in front of us. But the man who first put flesh to Campy’s home run shot was now suffering. From the ball’s impact, his hand had swollen to almost twice its normal size.

As for me, I had no baseball skills back in my youth. I was usually chosen last in any of the Brooklyn street games, and my two seasons of Little League ball were un-noteworthy.

Jump ahead a few decades and I got talked into playing in a casual coed softball game. I still didn’t have much success, but enjoyed playing.

Then, six years ago, when I was 62, I had the guts to join a senior men’s baseball team.

Yes, baseball – hard ball – the real game. Now, I have to say my skills are still quite limited. On top of everything else, I am the oldest player on my 55-and-over team. But there are magical moments. Such as when you hit a baseball with a wooden bat and hear and feel the proverbial crack of the bat. It is a sound that enters your entire being with a thrill rarely matched by other experience.

Almost as thrilling was a particular at-bat that stands out as my proudest moment as a ball player. It was in my second year, and I was on a new team after having had an off-season disagreement with the manager of my first team, the Cougars. I was now on the Hawks and we were playing the Cougars.

The game was tied – we were the home team – and I led off in the first extra inning. For the first time in my life I decided to bunt, and a very successful bunt it was. I beat the throw to first base for an infield hit, but the ball couldn’t be handled, and I ended up on second base. Then I got to third on a ground-out.

Our next batter hit a slow ground ball to the third baseman and I was immediately off and running for home, easily scoring the winning run. What a grand moment – and against my old team. It doesn’t get any better.

By the way, I’m still playing, and got a nice hit in the recent brutal heat with a hard ground ball down the foul line that the third baseman couldn’t touch.

Not bad for an old man.

Ken Goldfarb was news director at WVOS in Sullivan County and later a reporter for The Times Herald-Record of Middletown and the Daily Gazette of Schenectady. He now works in public relations.