Web hosting crisis. I’ll spare you the details and me the memory. But let’s just say that if you can’t even log in to your host’s website to pay your almost-due bill, it’s time to find another host.
“She’s not the girl she used to be / She’s not the same at all” – The Flashcubes
Yesterday I went back to that place you can’t go home to again. Not that I hadn’t revisited Syracuse many times over the passing years; it’d only been about three years since I was there last, and I’ve always kept up a little bit with the local news. As much as I know that no place stands still, that time marches on and people and buildings with it, it was still something of a shock to go back to the streets I called home thirty years ago and suddenly take in how much has changed since those sweet summer mornings when I was dropping off newspapers in the morning and deciding how to waste the afternoon.
The occasion was elder daughter’s first college tour. I had business in the Salt City and she had the day free so even though she wasn’t really giving much thought to SU (after all, her parents went there), she agreed to take a look. So even though I’ve been up to Piety Hill any number of times since I moved away 20 years ago, I was seeing the place through an odd combination of her eyes and my memory, the shiny and the new overlaying the memory of a more ramshackle, charming place. And where before I’ve noticed a new building here and there along the edges of the campus, what I saw yesterday was that it’s almost entirely different. The classic old buildings are still there, the Quad still looks pretty much the same, but there are so many new buildings everywhere. Classic views of the campus, photos that I took (along with thousands of other freshman photo students with their K1000s), no longer exist.
This view of Crouse College aligned with the globe lamps at the edge of the Newhouse plaza? The plaza is gone, subsumed by Newhouse III (which also created some interesting changes though its connections to Newhouse I.
This classic view of the Crouse-Irving Memorial Hospital clocktower (classic view, lousy photo) from the Newhouse Plaza was first blocked by the pile of bricks that was the management school (and they somehow managed themselves into yet another brand new building, leaving the pile behind for the admissions office. Then the view of the pile was blocked by Newhouse III.
The Holden Observatory, here dreamily reflected in Heroy Hall through a vaselined filter, is now maybe a 100 meters closer to the edge of the hill, shunted aside to make room for Eggers Hall (Maxwell II), which was built to spoil the public administration students who succeeded me.
When I arrived in Syracuse in that summer of ’78, the landmark buildings of the campus were surrounded by an assortment of old wooden frame buildings that were in use as offices, small dorms, the campus record shop, and of course that rickety mess that was The Daily Orange. They lined the avenues leading up to the campus, around Comstock Avenue, down below the stadium. Some were still private residences or student rentals. Nearby apartment buildings of newer vintage (say, the turn of that other century) had also been adapted into offices and dorms. Their shabbiness and human scale was part of the character of the campus. They are all gone, replaced by shiny new buildings or parking garages or nothing at all, but they are all gone.
And yet, through her eyes? “It’s a really nice campus.” And it is. She was excited by the bright, brilliantly equipped labs in the Life Sciences complex, a mammoth linear complex that has seemingly fed on the corpses of the old offices on the hill along Comstock and keeps on growing. And she was pleased to learn that there is now a cafe in nearly every building. Seriously. (There was a Legal Seafood dining room in Newhouse). For anyone who remembers that there were exactly two places on the Quad to find coffee (the beloved People’s Place, still there, and the little place tucked into the corner of HBC), this can come as quite a shock. There is coffee and food everywhere. There are places to sit everywhere. There are flaming lockers (again, a shock to someone who had to find a place to stash a motorcycle helmet and winter gear during grad school).
Beyond the campus, we went down to Armory Square. Twenty-six years ago, blushing bride and I were going to be among the very first denizens of Armory Square (well, the first who lived indoors, anyway), believing that that gorgeous little collection of warehouses (where they were still packing chickens and milling woodwork) could become the happening neighborhood to live in. Timing didn’t work out and we ended up elsewhere in the city, but slowly and surely that vision of Armory Square as a vital, walkable little set of destination shops and restaurants has come true in spades. You can no longer buy Tingley Rubbers or Randy Sneaks there, but you can find lovely crafts, hip fashions, and a good cup of coffee. That was change that was good to see, especially as, one block away, the old main downtown strip on South Salina Street has descended further and further.
Happily, there aren’t any photos of what I looked like back in 1977 or so, when I was a bright young person seeing my college future for the first time. But this is what that looks like in 2009:
I’ve said this before but it bears saying again: the reason we are on this earth is to appreciate fresh strawberries. That’s it, that’s all. There is no afterlife, clearly, because although they will grow in thin, dry soils, strawberries will not grow in an ethereal plane. No strawberries, no need for people to appreciate them. So this is the one shot you get, and you’d do well to enjoy all the fresh (preferably local) strawberries you can.
It’s tempting to make this into a formal religion – partly for the tax breaks, partly for the costumes, but especially for a very tasty communion (finally). However, right at the outset there have been squibbles. For instance, there are those who believe that blueberries, rather than strawberries, are the foundation of human cognitive existence. While I hold blueberries in high esteem, second only to the divine fruit that has its seeds on the outside (and between my teeth), they are not the reason for our existence, and those who believe they are can only be deemed bog-lovers and their presence in our religion can only lead to discord. Therefore, we must undertake preventive shunning to avoid that discord. It all gets ugly pretty quickly, just like any other organized religion, and therefore I’ve decided to maintain our unofficial, fully taxable disorganized status.
Disorganized though we may be, something of vital importance to our beliefs came to my attention last night, and I need to make this clear to all our adherents. On TV last night I saw an ad for the International House of Pancakes (IHOP, for you hip Twitterers who don’t have time to use all the letters in words) offering “strawberry treats” that “sweeten the season.” I want there to be no confusion on this issue: Satan is real. He does not preside over a fiery realm of pain and punishment; that’s all made-up bogeyman nonsense designed to scare mouth-breathers. Here’s what Satan actually does: he packs strawberries, the very point of creation, into steel cans, smothers them in high-fructose corn syrup (which everyone now knows is the current sweetener of the Devil), and ships them off to hideous chain restaurants for use in the calorie-laden concoctions these dens of iniquity refer to as “breakfast.” In doing so, he hooks the masses on these sorry substitutes for fresh strawberries, and in their sugar comas they forget the very nature of our existence. This is the work of the Devil, and it is the only work of the Devil.
By the way, just as proof that this is not zealotry, I had blueberries on my Grape Nuts this morning.
Flamin’ march of time. It’s inexorable, isn’t it? Every year at this time, I lament that I’m missing the lengthening of the days, that I should be outside every evening, soaking up the late day sun and enjoying the crazy length of a summer day. And every solstice I regret that throughout the summer, the days will be shrinking, all those hours of light are already being lost. But the reality is that May is usually a mixed bag of wet, and this year it’s a bag of wet and cold (and orchestra and band recitals, piano practice, late dance classes, and all those other bits of life). But in the end I never feel like I’m getting enough out of the longer days.
Whether I appreciate the longer days or not, this will have been The Year of the Garden. A massive deforestation effort among the front dogwood bushes and the shockingly evil hydrangea along the back fence resulted in vast open spaces that we have gardened like we were doing it on purpose. The raspberries have their space pretty much to themselves (except of course for the maples that won’t give up), there’s a nice little space for a blueberry bush and strawberry plants, the bee balm has been reduced to a reasonable crop (sorry, hummingbirds), and the new magnolia is doing beautifully. If you walked by and looked at it, you’d almost think we had some idea how to garden. Almost.
Not enough biking though, a combination of rain, cold, too many other things to do and some undefinable stomach thing that has been kicking up. Last week I found myself with an hour with nothing to do and no bike, and I ventured to just take a walk. No running, biking, blading, or skiing — I just walked. I hadn’t done that in the longest time. As things go now I just don’t walk very much — ride for miles, but little walking. It was wet and I had on the wrong shoes, so I paid for my boldness with blisters. So I learned my lesson and from now on will only move forward if I’m pedaling.
Lately, life has been a blur — not of Republicans and meat, as Zippy said, but of intense gardening and MRIs, biking and blading, picnicking and cleaning the summer silverware, recitals and concerts, principals’ honors breakfasts and cocktail parties, Texas (inexplicably) and NYC. There was a plumbing disaster solved with an elbow and glue, a heretofore unexpressed need to plant a blueberry bush, and many hours spent watching “Millennium.” There was new music by Elvis and Cracker and The Church, and a bad batch of sunscreen that gave me a rash. There was an owl with one wing which is not any kind of omen at all, and a squirrel that lay on the ground like a squirrelskin rug. Right now there are ominous backup alarms from town trucks, which is never a good sign, and a massive amount of email that needs to be ignored and deleted. So, on with it.
A busy busy week last week capped off with what was NOT the swine flu but which was about the most painful experience of my life — unfun and not yet fully over. But it gave me an excuse for couch time. Couch time these days mostly involves trying to burn through enough episodes of “Millennium” to keep some space on the DVR. “Millennium” was Chris Carter’s show after “The X-Files,” with the wonderfully craggy Lance Henriksen as a gifted profiler of serial killers who gets mixed up with the ever-more-shady Millennium Group. It is dark, it is unrelenting, there is no musical episode, and yet it remains one of my favorite shows of all time and I was thrilled that a channel I never heard of before, Chiller, is playing it in precise order.
But burning through a couple of Millennium episodes always require a palate-cleanser, for which we turn either to the backlog of Jeopardy shows (the DVR was made for Jeopardy, both to skip through the commercials and the extraordinarily pointless personal stories of the contestants) and TCM movies that I’m dying to see but that no one will watch with me. Last night it was the absolutely seamless comedy tapestry that is “Walk Don’t Run,” a light and wonderful romantic comedy that features Cary Grant, in his final role, at the top of his game. Along with him are the perfectly lovely, graceful and uptight Samantha Eggar, and the charming Jim Hutton. Definitely the kind of movie they don’t make any more.
Today’s goal: less couch. I’ve been off the bike for days but I don’t think this’ll be the day I get back on. But off the couch would be good.
Or maybe summer. The furnace was on Friday morning, it was in the low 40s, and then the next day it was in the 80s and almost too hot. But a weekend with three days of cycling can’t be too bad, especially when one of those days was tooling around with my daughter through my hometown haunts, including the first trip to Jumpin’ Jack’s of the season. (Funny that I really wouldn’t think to drive all the way to Jumpin’ Jack’s, a pretty long trip from home, but I end up there on my bike several times a summer.) Got some gardening done, too. Having spent thousands to have a small forest removed from my postage-stamp lot, I lost my mind and planted a tree yesterday. Have always wanted a magnolia and last autumn’s shrubicidal episode left a massive stretch of front yard unvegetated. So now there’s a tender young magnolia relying on the kindness of strangers (or at least a soaker hose) baking in the sun on the corner of the lot, surrounded by a satanic star arrangement of overpriced fescue. And all the other stuff from the other gardens is getting transplanted to make room for vegetables, because there’s just nothing better than fresh food from the garden. It’ll be lovely, I assure you.
These days it seems there’s just about no dish that isn’t improved by adding a little onion and mushroom to it. We now go through more onions and mushrooms in a week than we used to in three or four months. In our fifth decade we’re finally figuring out how to cook. Better late than never, I guess.
The find of the week at our wonderful library: DVDs of the first season of “Get Smart,” the brilliant Mel Brooks/Buck Henry spy spoof that channeled the angst of the Cold War period into deadpan silliness. It is amazing how well these shows hold up, in script, humor and production values (by the way, I never even knew these shows were in color, having delayed the introduction of color TV into our lives until sometime in the ’90s). As we watched, the girls were howling with laughter at the obvious but unavoidable jokes, the slapstick, the endless things in which phones were hidden, and, of course, the “Cone of Silence.” Also – Barbara Feldon. I mean, seriously.