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Thoughts on life and local events

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It's Just One Day

As I sit down to write this, I’ve just completed another yearly tradition. That being, watching Peppermint Patty’s ungrateful ass give Charlie Brown a hard time about the meager offerings served up for an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner. And while watching, it kinda helped a few things on my mind gel together, a message I feel compelled to share with the world. Or the twelve or so of you that read this.

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This year our celebration of Thanksgiving is looking a little different, thanks to the pesky little virus known as Covid-19 floating around. Health officials are urging Americans to reconsider large gatherings this year in an effort to stem the continued rise of infection across the country. And of course people, weary of having to put their lives on hold, are pushing back.

I’m not here to tell you how to live your life or make a case for or against these warnings. However I’d like to point out to my fellow Americans that despite what they may think, no one is “canceling” anything this year. We’re merely being asked to do things a little differently than we normally would, or than we would like, for Thanksgiving.

By it’s very name, “Thanksgiving” tells us what the day is all about. Notice it’s not called, “Macy’s Parade Day”, or “Huge Family Feast Day”? It’s called “Thanksgiving”, a day to give thanks for what we have. Simple enough.

Like Peppermint Patty, I think too many Americans have forgotten the reason for the day. And despite all the hardship this pandemic has brought us as a country, we still have so much to be thankful for.

But folks, it’s just one day. Hell, it’s not even a whole day, it’s a few hours of one day.

And yeah I understand the argument that we should still celebrate this year, because we don’t know that we’ll be here next year. But let’s be honest, there’s no guarantee we’ll even be here tomorrow let alone in a year. But if you knew there was a chance that you could increase the odds of one or more of your loved ones becoming gravely ill or dying, would you still do it? Of course not, right?

Then what’s the problem?

As for me and my family, we’ll be staying home this year and having Thanksgiving dinner here instead of going to my parent’s or in-law’s house like usual.

Yeah, it’ll suck. A lot of things have really sucked this year, just like I told our sons it would way back in March. And like we’ve done these past several months, we’ll adjust, do what needs to be done, and know that if we’re smart, maybe things will be better next year. Making that change for one day, this one time, could make all the difference, and ensure that we’ll all still be here and healthy for Christmas and beyond.

So maybe instead of thinking negatively about how different things will be this Thanksgiving, maybe this year celebrate the day in its purest form. This Thursday stay home and have a small turkey, or even a bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese. Observe the holiday for what it is: A day to be grateful for all that we have here, now. ( I’d have suggested Chinese takeout, but the irony of that would be too deliciously funny, even for me. )

Happy Thanksgiving.



No, not them.  

Let me ask you a question, America.

Say you and your friend are discussing sports. You’re a Bills fan, and your friend is a Dolphins fan. You’ve long disagreed over who was the best team. Time and again you’ve discussed this, and are equally entrenched in your position that your team is the best team. You insist that your team’s quarterback is the best, while your friend insists that no, it’s their teams. Neither of you will bend, and these discussions even get heated from time to time.

Would you sever ties with your friend over such a disagreement? Of course not, right? Because at the end of the day, it’s really not that influential on your life. And if is, I’d argue your friend isn’t the problem.

I ask this because recently a television news talking head, let’s call him “Ron Lime,” announced that he had done exactly that with friends of his that were supporters of Donald Trump.

Now, I’m not here to argue politics, so we won’t go down that road. What I will say is it matters little who his friends supported or “Mr. Citrus” does, what matters is that a person would care so little for the people in their life that they would do something like that.

“I had to get rid of them, they’re too far gone,” “Citrus” said. “And they have to want to get help, they have to want to know the truth, they have to want to live in reality, they have to want to be responsible not only for other people’s lives but for their lives.”

I guess Ron’s proud of himself for doing this, but me, I think it’s not only pathetic, it speaks to his character. Or lack thereof. But that's how the talking heads roll I guess. 

Perhaps they weren’t really friends to begin with, at least that’s what I think. Because I know I have friends who I disagree with on a wide variety of issues and I can’t imagine being so fragile in my own beliefs, so thin skinned, as to say to them, “Begone from my life, ye peasants who believe not in that which I do.” You’ve got to be kidding me!

That doesn’t mean I have to like their beliefs. Hell, I don’t even have to respect their beliefs. Comedian Patton Oswalt said it best when he said, “You’ve gotta respect everyone’s beliefs." No, you don’t. That’s what gets us in trouble. Look, you have to acknowledge everyone’s beliefs, and then you have to reserve the right to go: ‘That is fucking stupid. Are you kidding me?’ I acknowledge that you believe that, that’s great, but I’m not going to respect it.”

But, I can also acknowledge that despite whatever my friend thinks,  I can still maintain a healthy relationship with that person, for the most part. There’s exceptions of course. If someone wants to act like a raging asshole over what was supposed to be a nice dinner, then I might consider putting them on ice a while. But generally speaking, I can be an adult and respond on a scale of "bovine stare" to, “Have you fallen and hit your head recently?”

That people would sever ties with someone over a difference of opinions or who someone voted for is idiotic. To announce it to the world like it’s something to be proud of is taking it to a level i can’t begin to understand.

Look, we only get so many days on this side of the dirt. Ask yourself, does much of what goes on inside The Beltway really have a drastic impact your life on a day to day basis?

I can't say it does on mine. For the most part I get up, go to work ( well, in a normal year ) come home, and otherwise live my life the same today as I did six years ago. And you know what? It'll probably be the same six years from now. 

Stop letting the talking heads fill you with fear, anger and more to the point, affecting how you perceive the people in your life. They're not worth it. Hell, none of it is. 


By now you've noticed there's been yet more changes to the site since before the holidays. 

For the last year, year and a half I tried to make this site a source of news for the community. I wanted to make this a reliable news page, I really did. But the cold hard facts are that as a largely one man operation, it's all but impossible to make that happen. Unless one is willing to simply repost the daily police/ arrest reports... you know, the ones you're having read to you on the 6 o'clock news?

I know, I know, bad news and arrest reports are what sells. But frankly I've grown sick of reporting it. There's a lot of good stuff going on out there in the community, things that people are interested in and aren't hearing about in more than a 20 second sound bite if they're lucky. However getting that information is difficult unless one is out in the community every day knocking on doors, attending events, etc. and then coming home, typing it all out and posting it online to be read. In my experience, by the time a single story is researched, typed out, and posted, it could be a couple hours worth of work. For ONE original story. That's a lot for one person to do in between a regular job, family obligations and all. 

So keep that nugget of info with you as I move on to the next problem.

So once the story is posted, and a link provided on social media to alert people to the fact there is something new, it's very hit or miss whether they bother to read it or not. Many times they will comment on the headline without ever actually clicking the link to read the story. 

As an example, the story we broke on the return of Briggs Beer in July took a total of four hours to produce, from meeting with the owner to releasing the story. It was shared numerous times on social media and was widely shared. However only a fraction of those people actually ever came to the site to read it. ( I don't have the numbers in front of me at this time, but suffice it to say that the numbers were dismally disappointing. ) 

For the past year I've managed to remain hopeful that eventually the public would change how they want to receive their news. That eventually they'd want more than a 20 second sound bite or a click bait headline that they can make a snarky comment about and scroll past. I'd hoped eventually the site would become financially able to hire someone to get those in depth news stories and commentary. But it's been five, almost six years since this website was established, even longer for it's predecessor, News From Town which eventually merged here. I've hung in there, kept plugging away while other projects sat on the back burner, but social trends haven't changed and show no signs of doing so anytime soon. 

It's very frustrating. And at the risk of sounding like a jerk, I've got other things to do folks. Those back burner projects deserve more attention than I've given. 

So for that reason I've done away with the "Front Page" section. Additionally, the ElmiraTelegram.com Facebook page has been deactivated and stored under a separate account name. There's at least a dozen other Elmira themed Facebook groups and pages on there these days and it only served to create more work updating and monitoring. 

We're going back to basics around here, returning to a discussion forum where people can have a civil discourse about a wide variety of news and issues without having to deal with the ignorance and rancor that's all too prevalent on social media. Additionally, what I consider to be the gem of this site, always and forever, the Community Voices section, will remain and I always hope that maybe someone new will come along to join the talented writers who have contributed to the site, some for nearly seven years now!

I hope you'll enjoy the site, especially with the addition of the "Rurlife.com" section, brought here in the hopes of promoting family farming as well as helping those who want to try getting their hands in the dirt for the first time. Or manure, whatever. 

The strength of any message board/ forum isn't the admin, it's in the the contribution made by you the member. I encourage you to contribute your thoughts and weigh in on ideas posted by others. Otherwise it's just me posting a bunch of weird stuff, and who wants to read that?

As always, I welcome any input or ideas. 




E.T. = "Exciting Times"

Without a doubt, we’re heading into some exciting times here in Chemung County. With the slate of candidates running for election this year, voters have the opportunity to enact change that could impact the county for decades to come.

It’s exciting times for ElmiraTelegram.com as well. Not only has the site stepped forward to offer the chance for voters to voice their support for the candidates, but the opportunity for the candidates to reach out to the voters as well.

Additionally, it’s a time of change for the website as a whole. Prompted by several people in our community and the void expressed by many, ElmiraTelegram.com will be making some major changes to the website in the next few weeks.

Starting shortly after the election, ElmiraTelegram.com will be getting a major facelift, offering a more user friendly, professional looking website.

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Just a peek!


The changes won’t be just cosmetic however. We’ll be making it easier for readers and community figures to make their voices heard with an expanded “Opinion” section, modeled off of the traditional op-ed pages found in newspapers across the nation.

E.T will have a Special Features section appearing throughout the year including a section to celebrate the holidays.

And for those who enjoy the laid back chat, the the forums will remain available to those who have signed up.

Best of all, ElmiraTelegram.com will remain free to the public. No firewalls, no pop up, just news and information.

This change has been something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and now feels like the right time to give it a whirl.The original plan was to make the changes to coincide with the site’s five year anniversary, but there’s no way I can wait that long.

So stay tuned and sometime after Election Day we’ll pull back the covers and unveil the new and improved ElmiraTelegram.com. I think you’re gonna like it!



"If I Only Had The Time"

You know how you’ve always talked about the things you would do if you “only had the time”?

What if suddenly you found you had the time to do them?

Would you sit on your couch all day, swiping aimlessly at the screen of your phone, reading the mindless drivel on Facebook? Look at pictures of other peoples’ meals and political views all day?

Would you argue with complete strangers and pseudo-celebrities on Twitter about things that really, in the grand scheme of things matter little?

Would you sit around all day watching TV, as the world and time goes on?

Shut off television. Deactivate your social media accounts and put your phone on silent mode. Those texts will wait. Better yet, shut it off for the day.

Get up early and get dressed every morning. No lounging all day in your pajamas. Go for a walk and see the world. Find inspiration in the world, the REAL world, around you like you used to. Hang out with your kids and do something with them. They’ve needed you and have been waiting for this moment as well.

Schedule time for those creative endeavors you’ve half assed all these years. Write, play music, paint… CREATE!

Get to those projects around the house you’ve wanted to do and do them well.

Do what you love, re-learn how to be the person you once were. The person you’ve always meant to be.

You have time. But you won’t always.



Suicide In America

After the apparent suicide of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain I've seen several posts on social media apparently shaming others for feeling bad while "ignoring" the average 22 vets that commit suicide everyday. 

You know why no one says anything about those 22 vets? Because we didn't know. We don't hear about it because of the stigma society attaches to suicide. Like a pregnant unwed mother in the 40's, it's avoided, not talked about like some shameful thing. Put away so we can pretend things are neat and tidy in our little world. We like that, it's easier. 

Hell, what about the other people, the non-celebrity, non-veteran suicides? According to statistics from 2016, 120 people commit suicide A DAY. And reports indicate that the number has increased since. Why aren't the other 100+ people included in that meme?

Why need to prioritize one group of people over another?

It's perfectly okay to feel bad when ANYONE commits suicide, regardless of their station in life. EVERY death by suicide is sad. I didn't personally know Bourdain, Robin Williams, or anyone who was just found this morning. For anyone who let's that darkness overtake them, we can still feel sympathy for them; the 14 year old whose been bullied, the soldier fighting demons of war, or some rich guy on tv. 

Like many Americans, I too have felt the loss of someone I know after they decided to take their own life. Additionally, because of my former profession I've seen the aftermath first hand. It's not easy to understand, it's not easy to see, but it can't be ignored. It needs to be addressed, and it's not something that you can just plug into a meme on social media and move on.

Perhaps Bourdain's and other celebrity suicide deaths can bring about discussion on the topic of suicide and mental health in America. Shed that stigma and make people more aware, more open to talk about it today. And maybe, just maybe, lead to a few less self inflicted deaths tomorow. 


I'll admit right off the bat I am biased here, just so all the cards are on the table. 

Attending the Spring concert at Elmira High School the other night was, in a word, impressive. It seems like every event we attend the students' skills grow in leaps and bounds, the energy and time they put into practicing evident. The music was fantastic, as always. They've got one hell of a music program at the Elmira schools. Watching a couple of the soloists fidgeting nervously or taking a couple deep breaths before launching into their piece, I was thinking, "You got this, kid," because I know they've worked hard.

And they nailed it, the look on their faces afterwards, the look of maybe relief but more pride than anything, priceless. Same for the whole group after each piece. 

Towards the end of the concert, they took a moment to recognize the seniors, who made up a large part of the group, and what they're plans were after graduation. Out of the twenty or so they introduced, every single one of them had plans for college and a career path. Computer security, dentistry, chemistry, theater, mathematics, and even a couple pre-med... every one of those kids has a path they've laid out before themselves to a promising future. 

As the introductions wrapped up and the concert proceeded, it bothered me how the public doesn't hear all the positive things going on inside the Elmira schools. Yeah, they had a rough patch a couple years ago with near riots in the hallways and brutal assaults documented on video. Right here on this site, I very bluntly compared the schoolyards to a prison yard at the time. But things turned around pretty quickly. With a strong message and better leadership in some of the buildings, there's been amazing progress. In a world gone mad, they're fighting an uphill battle there in the classrooms, both the teachers and students alike. But they're trying. Those seniors standing up there ready to chase their dreams prove it. 

At the very end of the program, the entire group played a rendition of "This Is Me" from the 2017 movie, "The Greatest Showman" to reflect the idea that no matter what, it's okay to be themselves. As they played an instrumental version, the lyrics showed on a screen accompanied by pictures of all the students doing what they enjoy:

 When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me


And I believe they mean it. If this close knits group of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders is representative of the entire student body, there's more good things going on in those hallways than a music program. I'm proud of every single one of them. 

Of course I know me saying this means little to many, even less to some. There's always going to be the naysayers who judge the majority by the actions of the errant few who exist everywhere. People like to complain, it's a favorite past time around here apparently. Time for a reality check, people:

There will always be drop outs. There will always be unruly students. There will always be fights.

In any school building in America. Elmira is not some anomaly where such things occur. 

So the next time someone out there decides to complain about their taxes wasted on the schools. The next time someone someone starts to type a message on social media about how the students in Elmira are out of control, are a waste of time, all headed for jail... Or call them "all a bunch of hood-rats, welfare trash", here's a message from me:

Stick it in your ass. 

Those kids are gonna have it hard enough in this world, the last thing they need is the people of their own trying to beat them down. 





It's been about 20 years or so since we've had the conversation about the contamination on the grounds where Southside High School, now known as Elmira High School resides. What we have now that we didn't have two decades ago is social media and the ability for large groups of people to come together in conversation or to mobilize. Which makes this go 'round rather interesting from an outsider perspective. 

However I don't exactly have the luxury of being an "outsider", with one son at Elmira High School now and another who will be there next year. It is concerning to me as a parent that a school was built over top of a contaminated industrial site as recently as the late 70's and no one stopped to think, "Hey, maybe this isn't the greatest idea." It is concerning to me that it took so long to recognize the problem existed and for remediation to begin. It concerns me that this wasn't taken into consideration when the school district decided to redistribute students across the district and consolidate the two high schools. If, as more than one former member has said, the Elmira City Council was advised in the early 2000's that no one would think to build a school there now unless complete remediation was done, why was that not taken into consideration?

So I will say outright that I do not discredit the concerns and the possibility that there has been a major public health hazard right under our noses that has caused health problems for a large number of alumni. But when it comes to this issue, I'm a little conflicted.

I question the approach that the DEC, Dept. of Health and others are taking concerning the clean up. I cannot for the life of me understand why the need for more clean up has been acknowledged yet is being done in such a seemingly piecemeal manner? I understand that a large scale clean up would entail more time than is allotted than Summer months. According to the DEC it's times to accommodate the schools capital project schedule. Maybe it should be timed to get the friggin job done?

Why had it taken so long to get the clean up started in the first place? Why the hell would we have to wait until 2019 for further studies? it can't be that hard. You go drill holes in the ground. Check for contaminants. Document what the levels are. Then report it. Not like landing the Mars Rover, folks. 

I'm not pointing fingers, I just have questions. Besides, there's too many players involved over the decades and frankly I can't say any one entity bears the blame other than the people who let the contaminants into the soil in the first place. 

Admittedly, there's no easy answers and I wonder what the end game is, what is going to bring resolve to the issue. Are we talking about a class action lawsuit, and if so, against whom? Expedited clean up? Calls to shut the school down immediately seems a wee bit simplistic, especially now that the former Ernie Davis Junior High School is occupied by Finn Academy, dontcha think? 

Truth is, I don't know what to think most days. On one hand, it's hard to imagine, especially in New York State of all places, that multiple state agencies would knowingly and collaboratively drag their feet on a matter as important as a school built on toxic grounds. Logically thinking, I know the old saw, "Correlation does not imply causation" and think we should be looking, statistically speaking, at cancer rates among other high schools across the region and state and seeing how they compare to the Southside. Are they necessarily higher than others? What other factors come into play with those who have medical issues they attribute to attending the school?

But I also know I've seen first hand the physical difficulties of an alum with unexplained medical issues requiring surgical intervention. I know they're not the only one with those exact same unexplained issues. It is disturbing. 

Whatever the case, while it'd good to have conversation about the matter, the community has been talking for decades. And still has questions. 




Both Sides Of The Coin

"Down at the local job site, a couple construction workers sat down to eat lunch. 

Opening his lunchpail, one says, 'Damnit, peanut butter sandwiches again. I'm sick of 'em.'

'Why don't you ask your wife to make you something else?' the other replied. 

'Whaddya mean wife? I'm not married. I make my own lunches.'


The heavy machinery is in place and ground is breaking in Downtown Elmira to prepare for the new $14 million, 75,000 square foot facility to be built on Water St. as part of the city's Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI ). A lot of conversation has taken place about the future and path for Downtown Elmira, and I've watched it with a good deal of interest not only for the purposes of this site, but also personal interest as well. 

Much of that conversation is pretty positive, which is a good thing. We need some good news around here for a change. But there's two sides to every coin. 

There's a new crop of people who see the potential that lies within an area like Downtown Elmira. They bring fresh idea and a new positive energy that, frankly, the area could use. They are attempting what many have tried and failed to do; get a foothold and restore the beauty of the place once known as "The Queen City". Some come to the area unencumbered by memories of what once was, they see only what can be. Which is a good thing, of course. 

However I think there's too much of an attitude of, "be positive, or be quiet" in response to the people who have lived here for generations that raise questions or doubts about the latest, greatest thing. 

Hurricane Agnes gets blamed a lot for the despair many residents of the city feel, but there's more to it than that. should be remembered that residents of the area have been here and heard a lot of pie in the sky promises over the decades. Developers and researchers have come and gone, millions of dollars thrown their way, only to see little or no results in return. "Good 'ol boy" deals and politicians' personal interests or screw ups have slowly chased small businesses out of downtown and to the west of the county or other outlying areas. A giant hockey arena that was supposed to be the savior of the city sits on a corner in the very heart of downtown, largely unused, costing millions while the major players have moved on.

The people of Elmira have always been resilient. They've been through hell, yes, and they stayed. They've earned the right to be skeptical when presented with "the next big thing" if you ask me. To tell them to sit down, shut up when doubts are raised is doing a great disservice to the people who built this community. 

Having said that, I also think the people of this area need a paradigm shift. 

Folks, the Elmira you remember is gone. Like that last Labrador Duck in Brand Park, it aint coming back. It's sad, yes, but it's also time to stop living in the past.

While I defend the right of every person to be skeptical about the future of the city, I also believe it's time to stop automatically dismissing every new idea that someone proposes. Sure, some of the ideas are blatantly stupid ( **cough, roundabouts... ) but you know, some of the ideas and things I see happening are pretty good!

I've often believed that if you point out problems without offering solutions, you end up becoming part of the problem. Lord knows there's a lot of problems in this area, but truth is, we're still better off than others. People need to remember that. So if someone moves here and gets a glimmer of hope in their eye looking at a run down building in the city, good for them. If they want to invest their time, money and sweat into making something of it, yeah you can be skeptical, but I also think they deserve the chance. 


Searching For Mayme

I thought I'd share something a little different this time around. 

In addition to other things I fill my time with, I am also our town's historian. I've been at it a couple years and it's not always easy. This was a small, relatively poor farming community and things like cameras were a luxury not many could afford. In other instances old photos and history is lost to fires, decay of neglect, or just got lost. Those who do have something of historical significance are generally happy to share what they have,  but those have been few. 

Modern technology, specifically sites such as newspapers.com have made the job easier and revelations are more commonplace. But a couple years ago something took place that not only shed light on some of our town's history, but some personal family history as well. 

I tend to remember things from my childhood incorrectly from time to time, so I hope I get this one right. 

When I was a kid I recall there being discussion about our great grandfather being married prior to marrying my great grandmother. The story went that they were married very young and she died in her late teens due to pneumonia or the flu. My grandmother told me once that she was buried in the North Chemung cemetery, and our great grandfather leaving the cemetery never to return. He never really spoke of her and never got her a headstone.

That last part has always bothered me some. 

I recall family members trying to figure out where she was buried, and as I got older and the internet made cemetery searches easier, I looked for her name on the online listings, but never found her there. It was as if she never existed and sometimes I wondered. Years passed by and as I did more searches into archived old newspapers, I began to see her name, Mayme, mentioned in the social columns reported in the local papers back in the early 1900's. So there was finally proof that she did, in fact, exist. Was that her name, nick name, what ? I didn't know. 

About a year passed since I found those old articles, and part of me figured that'd be all that we'd be able to find out. She existed, and that was that. 

A couple months later a neighbor e mailed me that she and her husband had some old history stuff they would like to share, and invited me up to look at it. Part of their collection involves genealogy of several families in the area, including the Butts family. As we looked through the binder I mentioned her name and Mary told me they didn't know anything about her. I said who I thought her parents were, and was told no, they weren't known to have children. They had a sketch of all the graves and who was in them, and there was a grave with the correct surname, but there was still some question of, was that my great grandpa's wife or someone else who is listed by the same name, albeit a different spelling ?

 Amazingly, on the second trip for more pics the subject came up again and as we were talking, their daughter, who suddenly remembered something she saw in the binders pulled out a photo and said, "Here she is."

Willett, Ella, and Mayme Butts .jpg


And just like that, we put a face to the name. 

Still, there was no record of who she actually was. If she was their daughter, they would have been significantly older when she was born. Maybe she was a niece ? Was she adopted ? No one really knew. 

That night on a lark I decided to do a Google search of her name. I have absolutely no idea why I hadn't before, and if I did, why I never got a result. But all the sudden, there was a death notice which shed more light not only on what happened to her but a little insight into our great grandpa's early life. Perhaps more importantly, it listed her parents, although her father's name is misspelled. ( As is our great grandpa's name. At least according to how he spelled it. )

Mayme (Butts) Evertts.png

I was ecstatic, as a sort of family mystery was being solved minute by minute. 

Further searches on Ancestry.com confirmed Mayme's parentage, although little else much to my frustration. ( Life gave me an inch, I wanted the whole rope. )

Interestingly enough, after the recent death of my aunt, we were going through some of her old photos and again, Mayme resurfaced. This picture showed her at about age 18, a very short time before her death.

Mayme Butts.jpg

I tell this story mostly because it's an interesting event and I wanted to share it. We found someone who while not family by blood, still has felt like a missing piece of the puzzle. And another local family's genealogy just became even more complete with finding someone they never knew existed. 

But I also find myself even more bothered than before that a young woman was laid in an all but unmarked grave, almost forgotten, and the image of our great-grandfather in the prime of his life walking away broken hearted. A small part of me feels like getting her a proper headstone not only to keep her from being forgotten but also as a favor to our great grandpa.

Headstones are expensive, so the reality is it probably won't happen, but at least now we know a little more about who she was. The mystery of her story is now a permanent part of the town's history as well as our family's.

While her life was short, her memory now lives on.


Making A Difference

One of the things that set me on the path of doing a website like this was my time as a columnist for a small newspaper from Spencer NY called "The Broader View Weekly". Having a bi-weekly deadline helped me not only to get my writing up to snuff but also forced me to come up with fresh ideas. Even more than I have to now. Some of these were personal stories that somehow tied into a message to share with the readers. This is one of them that I'll be posting from time to time. 


Originally published in February 2011

An interesting and rather amazing thing happened this past weekend, and I’d like to share it with you, but first I have to tell you one story to tell you the other. 

About twelve years ago when the idea of talking to strangers on the internet was a new and exciting thing, I ended up finding a pen pal of sorts. In the electronic Tower of Babel known as the AOL chat room, I became friends with a lawyer in Connecticut. Her profile listed her profession as “ambulance chaser” ( She disputes this fact now, but I say it's true. ) and mine being a paramedic working out of one I believe was what got the initial conversation going. Nonetheless when we found ourselves online, we would shoot the breeze about whatever, as pen pals would the old fashioned way.

Now my friend was a lawyer for children going through various problems, she never really specified what, but it seemed as though she took the task of being an advocate for children pretty seriously. There was one particular time when she must have had a bad day and asked at one point, “What’s the use ? I don’t think it will make a difference.” and I told her this story I had recently read:

“ An old man and his grandson were walking down the beach after a storm. Along the way they came upon what appeared to be hundreds of starfish that had washed ashore in the storm.  The old man immediately began placing the starfish back in the water one by one lest they die on the sand.

The young man, watching, said, ‘Grandpa, what are you doing ? There’s too many and you can’t save them all. It’s not going to make a difference ! ‘ 

The old man turned, and placing the starfish in his hand back into the water smiled and said, ‘ It makes a difference to this one.’”

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Time has made the conversation sort of spotty, but I always figured the story helped. I had no idea…

We eventually lost touch and life went on, ten years in fact. However last week, for some strange reason this friend crossed my mind. I have no idea why or how, just did. After a day or two of wondering “whatever became of…” that just wouldn’t leave me alone I finally decided to see if through the power of Google I could find out. So after beating my brains out remembering her last name I sent out an e mail to an address that seemed right, first making sure to explain I wasn’t nuts, just looking for someone. I also included the above story, knowing if I had the right person, they would remember that if nothing else.

A couple days went past and I finally got a response. I found my old “pen pal” who, admittedly didn’t remember much about me but remembered the story. She was in Florida she said, and then told me something that still leaves me in awe. It seems she continues to work with a youth group in response to some “pretty ugly” violence in her city. There are three kids who are working with her who have recently come to her on separate occasions to ask if what they were doing is “worth it”. She assured them it is, and while in Tampa bought them each a gold starfish with the intention of telling them the story.

It gets better. The day I had that irresistible urge to send out my e mail was the same day she bought the kids’ gifts.

I’m telling you this story first off because, let’s face it it’s pretty cool. Also, because it occurs to me that without realizing it, we each in our own way touch so many lives in ways we’ll never know. While not everyone may get such a reminder as I have, it feels right, it again feels necessary to pass it on as a reminder.

We all can make a difference.


Shine the Light On 'Em

My wife teases me about jumping up, looking out the window "every time" I hear a car door or see a car idling in front of our house for more than a minute. She calls it funny. I call it "vigilant." 

You know, I was thinking as I read about the latest shooting incident in the City of Elmira that took place last night. Last week there were two drug busts in the area that occurred because a local citizen took a stand and called the police. That little spark of, "Somethings not right here," led to getting three alleged criminals and a decent amount of drugs off the street. With a simple phone call, a citizen put any other would be criminals on notice: "Not on this street."

All too often when we read about the random shooting incidents that happen around the area we also read that there were no witnesses or those who know something won't cooperate with law enforcement. "Snitches get stitches."

This time people got lucky, there wasn't a kid in the path of one of those bullets.

This time. 

Maybe next time someone won't be so lucky, resulting in a little coffin being lowered into the ground a few days later. An empty place at the supper table. 

I'm wondering when, crimes like this are going to be investigated and prosecuted thanks to the help of people in the neighborhood finally saying, "Enough is enough."

What's it going to take to make that happen ? 

It's understandable some people may feel afraid, fearing repercussions for being a "snitch". You don't have to confront anyone.  If something looks fishy, jot down a plate number, maybe a quick description of the car, or the people involved. Just a simple phone call to police. They even have a number to call if you want to remain anonymous: (607) 271-HALT. 

It's time to take back your neighborhood folks, even if one block at a time. Be vigilant. Shine the light on 'em. 


Music & Memories

As many of you know, among the other things I do I'm also a part time musician. I've been blessed to experience some of the things I once dreamed about. I've met and performed with people I once only knew through the radio. The lights, the crowds... I've been blessed.  

One of the best, and lesser known, things about what we do is getting to be part of the celebrations in peoples' lives. I don't know how many weddings, anniversary parties, retirement parties, etc. we've done over the past 17 years or more specifically, nearly 12 for me personally. These are kind of different from the bars or festivals where people are there to see us, we're not the main event. In a way, it's kinda weird, because we often start the day as outsiders. Yet more often than not we're still drawn in, and we're "family". We've become good friends with people whose celebrations we've been the soundtrack for. It's hard to explain, but there's something special about getting to do that. 

Every once in a while though, a moment comes along that we aren't really expecting. A special moment for someone that wasn't planned, it just happened. This past weekend was one of those moments. 

I'll let you in on a little secret: Every band has a schtick, some things they'll throw in to a performance that perhaps were once spontaneous but got such a reactions someone thought, "Hmm, we need to remember that." Often these will come out when the room needs a little energizing. 

It's not an uncommon thing for our fiddle player to find his way playing on top of a table or bar. ( While people are watching him, I'm watching the staff or owners of the establishment. The looks on their faces are often pretty entertaining. )

This weekend he ended up with company while doing so:


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At the end of the night as we were packing up, he came over to say goodnight. Introduced himself and said he's 86 years old, just had hip surgery this past year.  He gave me a big hug, thanked us for the music, and left. 

No sir, thank you. 

You know, the world around us seems to have gone insane. We're told every day how bad people are. Lord knows I've been feeling like packing up and moving to the mountains somewhere, away from anyone. But then something like this happens, often when I need it most. I get to see people at their best, brought together by the common bond of music and celebration, and everything is just fine, if only for a couple hours. I feel so fortunate to have that opportunity.

I don't remember this man's name, I'm awful at remembering them. He may or may not remember mine. But in some strange, cosmic way, we're forever a part of each other's lives now, part of each other's memories. 

Long after the very last note's played, when he's gone and I'm an old man myself, I'll remember that one night night some old guy climbed up on a table and danced to the music. 

I'll smile.

He'll be alive still. Still dancing.

That's pretty damned cool. 


It's that time of year again, the time of year everyone makes those New Year Resolutions. They steel themselves for the task they've laid out for themselves; gonna get up earlier and go to the gym, gonna stop eating too much, gonna quit smoking, and so on. 

Not that there's anything wrong with that, although I also believe there's an entire industry waiting to benefit from it as well. Let's face it, the salesman knows that treadmill he sold you will statistically end up a clothes hanger or on Craigslist. The gym owner knows that a large percentage of those new members will drop off after a month or two despite having paid for a year in advance. 

Don't get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with an attempt at self improvement if done for the right reasons. Frankly I think the "new year, new me" mantra is a load of crap. We're being railroaded into feeling like we should do something we're not ready to do based on a calendar, slick advertising, or nosy people.

"So, you make a new Year resolution ?"

"Yeah, not talking to nosy assholes."

At least that's what I hear in my own head. But no, we'll play along, we'll post our goals and efforts on social media. And in doing so allow our successes and failures to be determined by others.

No thanks. 

Having said that, I admit to having my own self improvement project going on. But it's already happening, has been for a few weeks. On my terms. 

I'm going to be happy

That's it, simple enough. I have been, and will continue to, take steps to make sure I am leading a happier life. It's a multi-phase project, which as I said has already begun with the reduction of stress in my life. Not the elimination, there's no such thing, but the reduction. I am choosing which stress I will take on and why as opposed to enduring stress put on me by others or out of a sense of obligation. No more feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I guess you could say I'm telling the world to lose weight. HAH !

There are things beyond my control, I cannot change, and I'm no longer trying to. The voice in my head that has in the past said, "Well if you don't get involved, if you don't try, no one will." is now saying, "So be it."

It's not easy, and it doesn't mean I don't care. Just the opposite actually. In a book I recently read, the author writes, "True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving."  I'm just choosing between the problems I can handle and can actually change, and the ones that are just causing me undue stress and unhappiness. 

As for those who choose self improvement at the stroke of midnight Sunday, I wish you the best of luck. By all means quit smoking to avoid the disease it causes. Lose that 10 pounds to avoid the "dis-ease" when you bend over to tie your shoe. But make sure you define your progress. You define your successes and yes, your failures. You do it for you, on your terms. 





Traditions & Memories

Last year after my wife and I got the lights on the Christmas tree, we let the boys take over and begin decorating. Historically this has involved them putting them on the tree in the same location within a 6 inch radius and me telling them to spread the decorations out. The grownups will put a couple decorations on the tree as well, ones that must be on there; a couple from a honeymoon trip to the Adirondacks, a mini union suit that commemorated baby's first Christmas, etc. Additionally, there's the decorations that have been on my tree since long before I can remember. 

You see a tradition in our family was for each year the kids would get a new decoration from Grandma, usually around Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter. So I have decorations going back 43 years, each one with my name and the year on it. Some of them have to stay in the box now, or risk being damaged, but I try to put a few from over the years on the tree no matter what. One of those is particularly special, as represents a very specific memory. 

As I recall ( and Mom if I'm recalling this one wrong, I don't want to know ) I was maybe 10 years old, I don't know, shopping with Grandma one year and an ornament caught my eye. A galloping unicorn made of a glass like substance. I can't remember why I was drawn to it, although given my appreciation of fantastical beasts it shouldn't be a surprise. Anyhow, I asked for it, got it, and it became part of the collection. As far as I know it went on the tree every year I can remember after that. Especially after her death in 2010, that ornament is mandatory on the tree, placed by me in front of a light so it shines. 




So getting back to last year, there we are, decorating the tree and I reach for the unicorn. Not in the box. I look in the other. Not there either. I search the remaining boxes, and then becoming more frantic, the two decoration boxes again. 


I began to think, surely I wouldn't have missed it when we took down the tree last year. Would I ? Even if I missed it in the house, I would have noticed it when I put the tree in one of our bird pens. Right ? What if I didn't ? What brush pile did it end up on ? Ohmygoditslostforever....

Folks, if you'd ever wanted to see a 42 year old man rapidly losing his shit, this would have been the time to see it. I was coming unglued looking for it. 

Fortunately my partner "for better or worse"  ( or sudden insanity ) found it. Deep breaths, heart rate settled maybe feeling a little foolish, it went on the tree and we went on with Christmas. 

The point to all of this is, we all have our traditions, and in those traditions are memories that last long after we've grown and others have gone on. We were blessed to have been raised with values that put emphasis on traditions, or more precisely, the memories that remain long after the material things are gone.  

Nevertheless, there is that value attached to small things like a two dollar ornament. Maybe it's something I wouldn't have consciously recognized even ten years ago, but with each passing year do. With each passing year memories fade, it can't be helped, they just do. We forget life's little moments, maybe even memories of people fade. So we treasure those little plastic talismans that bring us not good luck, but good memories that may have otherwise faded. 

And we remember all over again. 


Welcome Back

This is a test blog, do not comment below :)



No, you're not seeing things. 

Six months ago, after nearly five years of running local news websites in one form or the other, I decided it was time to hang it up. 

Over the past month or so I've toyed with the idea of doing something different, involving more multimedia as well as continuing to share the work of some of our areas' talented writers, but the thought process always came back to the beginning. I had the software license, I had the ability, I just needed the spark. 

That spark came in a couple different ways. Around the same time I started toying with the idea I had random people ask me about the site. I also began to see even more of a need in our area for a reliable news source without the fluff pieces that are great for clickbait and driving social media response, but not much else. To be honest, I was also missing the chance to tinker around on the back end of a website. That's always been the fun part, creating the features you see here. 

Additionally, I had a brief conversation with the admin of another site I enjoy. His site gets hits from all over the world and has been going for nearly 10 years. His perspective about why he does it; for his own enjoyment more than anything else, kinda resonated with me.

Having the ability to get unlimited high speed data didn't hurt either.

So I said I'd dip my toe back in. I'd spend the few bucks to renew the license on the software and hosting, and just play around, if only for my own enjoyment. What I found was, the more I did that, the more I missed doing it in the first place. Next thing I knew, the site was here. 

But there's still something missing of course. The people. 

So I'll do a slow roll out. First a sort of "soft opening" for the people who have been part of this from the very beginning. Maybe we'll pick up a few people we lost along the way. Then if all looks good I'll roll it out to the public. Then we'll see what happens over the course of the next year. 

While some features will be familiar, some are going to be different. Many will not be back. Also, I plan to keep the amount of forums to a minimum. Additionally we won't be archiving all the posts from now on. Most will have an expiration date but the better discussions will go to a "Best of" container. This should help keep the costs of hosting down as well as keep time spent at the computer to a minimum.

For the foreseeable future, the most glaring change will be that the site will now be "Subscription Only". However that "subscription" is free, all someone has to do is register an account and log in to read the site. It's my hope this encourages people to respond and add their thoughts to the discussion that takes place here. 

Gone are the days of focusing on making this a "product" or trying to compete with social media. Or anyone for that matter. We're going to continue to offer a place for news and civil discussion. Along the way we'll have some fun and hopefully I can make a couple new ideas I have incubating hatch out. 

Thanks for stopping by again. I hope you make ElmiraTelegram.com a regular stop





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