Utica on the Map

Utica on the Map
Smack in the Center

Monday, January 31, 2011

Are Bald Eagles in Syracuse a Good Thing?

According to a post on Syracuse.com, bald eagles have been appearing for the past three years on the shores of Onondaga Lake (once one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world) and within yards of the Carousel Center in Syracuse.

"The Carousel Center site was the epitome of an environmental mess, once home to the Marley Scrap Yard and Oil City (over 100 petroleum storage tanks within a four-block area). To have eagles roosting here during the winter months is something we should all be proud of. What a testament to environmental stewardship! I can’t think of any other urban setting that can boast of having bald eagles soaring within its borders."

The question, or the problem, is: What HASN'T changed.

Apparently, "the cleanup of the toxics in Onondaga Lake has yet to begin, and even when the dredging happens, they're only taking out the first two feet of sediment from the worst-polluted 15% of the lake. The fish the eagles are eating contain high levels of PCBs and mercury."
A lot of responses to this blog post object strongly to the idea that the bald eagles are a sign of ecological hope. And many say that the eagles are only here because, like us, they have nowhere else to go. Every place is polluted with chemicals and waste.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Upstate Writers: Richard Russo

Here's a passage from the beginning of Bridge of Sighs, a recent novel by Upstate New York writer, Richard Russo. See if it doesn't cause a smile of recognition:

  Perhaps what’s most remarkable about my life is that I’ve lived all of it in the same small town in upstate New York, a thing unheard of in this day and age. My wife’s parents moved here when she was a little girl, so she has few memories before Thomaston, and her situation isn’t much different from my own. Some people, upon learning how we’ve lived our lives, are unable to conceal their chagrin on our behalf, that our lives should be so limited, as if experience so geographically circumscribed could be neither rich nor satisfying. When I assure them that it has been both, their smiles suggest we’ve been blessed with self-deception by way of compensation for all we’ve missed. I remind such people that until fairly recently the vast majority of humans have been circumscribed in precisely this manner and that lives can also be constrained by a great many other things: want, illness, ignorance, loneliness and lack of faith, to name just a few.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beyond Poor Dog

I grew up in the 50's, an era when dogs were considered just that, dogs. Not sentient, intelligent beings who belong on the planet as much, if not more, than we do. I changed my attitude about that years ago, when I began having dogs of my own and came to understand their dog wisdom. In a crazy world, my dogs comfort me more than I can say, and obviously there are millions and millions of people who feel the same.

Here in my hometown, someone left a pit bull out on one of the coldest days of the year, when the temperature was below zero in double digits. His feet are frost bitten and raw. He shows signs of other abuse. What do we do with such people? What is justice in this situation? What should the penalty be? Is a dog just a dog?

According to the local paper (see link below), donations are coming in from all over.


ABC/Good Morning America Loves Us

You can talk about Fate or you can talk about Facts in the course of a lifetime. I ended up spending my life in the Utica area largely because of the fact that housing was affordable for a single mother. I suppose the fate that brought me here was my first husband, a native Utican.

The fact remains that housing in Utica, compared to the rest of the country, especially either coast, is not only affordable; if you have any real money you can buy a palace for $400,000.

Or as ABC news put it when they voted Utica #1 for affordable housing: "You can get a house in Utica for about two years' worth of wages. The median home price is $104,000, which means half of houses cost more than that, and half cost less."

Check out the link.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thanks for your comments!

I had been looking in the space below our posts for comments and only discovered this afternoon that I have a separate file for comments. So I have responded to the ones I found, with apologies for my delay. Obviously, I'm delighted to know what your thoughts are.

Fire at the Village Perk

We recently posted in praise of a new cafe in the Village of Whitesboro, the Village Perk. And we are very, very sad to say that a week ago Sunday, a fire began in the kitchen there and caused considerable damage to both the kitchen and the restaurant area. As friends of the owners, Tammie and Bob, we know how hard they worked for a year or more to renovate the building and begin a new business. Not only did they offer great coffee and desserts, but they had begun having an open mike every Thursday evening and sometimes on the weekends, plus art exhibits.

This is a loss to their growing clientele. Our thoughts are with them. And our hope is that they can find a way to start over.

Meatball Madness: "Elevate the Meatball to its Rightful Place!"

It's a big decision: who makes the best meatballs in the Mohawk Valley? Taste and cast your vote for your favorite restaurant meatball recipe on Sunday, March 7th, 2010 from noon until 4pm at the Blue Flag Room located in the Historic Union Station, 321 Main Street, Utica NY.

Restaurants competing for the coveted Best of the Best Meatballs Trophy as of Jan. 28th: The Auburn, Bella Cucina, Busy Bee Italian Café, Jake's Deli & Pub, Joey's, Nicole Rocci*, Prop's Inn, Raspberries Café, Rosa's and Ventura's.

Abraham House’s (whose mission is to provide a secure and loving home without charge to the terminally ill) is holding its second annual March Meatball Madness fundraiser, Sunday, March 6 from 12:00-3:00 p.m. at The Blue Flag Room and at the Historic Union Station located on 311 Main Street, Utica. The public will vote on which local restaurants have the best meatball & sauce recipe. New this year will be pasta bowls donated by local potter, Dennis R. DeStefanis. There will also be many free tastings, family entertainment and a kid’s activity corner. Adult tickets are $10.00, children 6-17 $5.00 and 5 and under free. Advance tickets for $1.00 off and can be obtained by calling Abraham House at 733-8210 or on their website at www.theabrahamhouse.org.

Here at "Broken-Down Upstate City" I'll put in a plug for Dino's meatballs at your local market. Pretty good on a weeknight with a quick red sauce.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Appointment at St. E's

Looks grim, doesn't it? So why am I taking a picture of St. Elizabeth's hospital on a snowy January morning? Without going into personal details, I had an appointment there at 8 A.M. I was one in a continuous line of cars turning into the drive and heading for the parking lot. 

Maybe we don't pay enough attention to our hospitals--those of us who don't work in health care. Maybe we don't even see them, they have become such familiar landmarks. But when we need them, or when someone we love does--then we notice. 

It's definitely humming here. 

St. E's, as everyone calls it, is one of two Utica hospitals, the other being Faxton-St. Luke's. I have been a patient and a visitor in both many times over the past 36 years. Yet I still can get lost in the winding, convoluted hallways. Faxton, like St. E's, used to stand alone, an old hospital attempting to adapt to new technologies and patient needs. Everyone familiar with it was sad to see it merge with St. Lukes. And in spite of varying opinions of St. E's, we probably would be sorry to see it change into an urgent care facility.

And just in case you're wondering, who is St. Elizabeth? (Not all of us are Christian, or Catholic, or remember our Sunday school lessons). She was, as they say, the first to know, the middle-aged wife of a priest in Jeruselem, who visited Mary and was told of the miraculous birth.

But it does look grim! Do I want to go in? Maybe it's the bleak skies and the snow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The Dish": Meals Delivered to Your Door

A brand new business called "The Dish" offers delicious, nutritious, home cooked lunches and dinners delivered to you at home. See a partial menu for this week below, although it may be too late to order. If you're interested, place your orders at least 24 hours ahead so that "The Dish" may better serve you. "The Dish" can also deliver a meal to your dear friend or client, a special way to say someone is important to you.

Contact:  Trish @ 723 9865 or @ TheDish.Tricia@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'm Nominating Two!

Know any really outstanding women in this community who are making a difference every day? I do. And you can nominate them for the YWCA's 2011 Salute to Outstanding Women.

Eight women from Oneida and Herkimer Counties will be chosen in these categories: arts and communications; business and industry; education; health care; human and public services; professions; racial justice; and unsung heroine.

The deadline for nominations is February 3rd. Forms can be picked up at the YWCA's administrative facility or online at: www.ywcamv.org.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"re-Utica": Is It Just a Nice Idea?

Below is a link to a short film called "reUtica" by local filmmaker Matt Ossowski and his brother John Ossowski. Both are Utica natives. The film looks at how Portland, Oregon, where John now lives, has used its own resources, in part via sustainablity and reuse, to improve quality of life and make it a city people want to visit. The film indicates how Utica could employ similar techniques.

The film is only 22 minutes. Comments are welcome.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

City of Good Tastes - Myoura's

Since it's beginnings Utica and the Mohawk Valley have been energized and renewed by refugees and immigrants. Synath and Saram Buth were two of the first Cambodians to arrive here in the 80's. 

Their story is featured in the Reader's Digest Article on "The Second Chance City" (http://www.rd.com/content/printContent.do?contentId=43037). Here's an excerpt that tells everything:  "Standing in the airport near Utica on chilly November 11, 1981, wearing sandals and carrying three small bags that held his family's earthly belongings, he took a look around. "I said to myself and my wife, 'We are born again.'"

The Buth's have become an integral part of Utica. (Turns out I first met them when our sons played hockey together in the 90's - talk about assimilation!)  Their latest contribution is Myoura's Taste of Cambodia Restaurant at 675 Bleecker Street in Utica., a few doors up from the Florentine for those who know the area. Friends introduced us to Myoura's recently on a snowy, cold Saturday evening. The hospitality was gracious, the food fresh, natural, and delicious, and the cost inexpensive. Since that visit I've taken friends and even my nearly 4 year old granddaughter and everyone loved it.

Per their website, "Khmer Cuisine has much in common with the food of neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. It has also drawn upon influences from the cuisines of China and France, both of whom are powerful players in Cambodian history." Next time you have a hankering from something both healthy and delicious, head for Myoura's.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Peter's For Lunch

I've been sick with a chest cold for about five weeks this winter. My friend, Marieke, just told me so has everyone else. Once again, I'm reminded I'm not special.

In any case, we get a lot of colds in Utica. And one of the places that always makes me feel better is Peter's Cornucopia, our health food market and restaurant in New Hartford. So off I went by myself for lunch today. Bean and escarole soup with half a roast beef sandwich (because I needed red meat, I told myself).

I also purchased a bottle of ginger beer and some figs.

More about Peter's later. I need to research its beginnings, its owner, etc.

If anyone has some info along those lines, or happy Cornucopia experiences, please comment!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Listen to Your Own Words

As I was emailing about this blog today, I found myself saying this:

"I really would like to get at aspects of living here that are invisible to the casual visitor. A friend of mine used to call this area "a well kept secret." And I've always kind of believed that. I want to get at that secret. If that makes any sense to you."

I might even go further and call it "soul."
I might even find there is no "secret," or "soul." But I hope not.

Good News: The 2011 Mayor's Charity Ball

 Since his election, Mayor David Roefaro has held a charity ball to benefit a local organization or agency. The first ball was held for the Utica Public Library-- in the library itself.

This year the ball will be held Saturday, January 29th at the Radisson Hotel Utica Centre for the benefit of the Stanley Theatre's Arts in Education Institute, founded in Utica in 1988 and directed for many years by Barbara Andrews. The Institute brings dance, music, theate and the visual arts into Utica City School District classrooms.

Last week Mayor David Roefaro, with the help of a couple dozen students at Hugh R. Jones Elementary, unveiled the news.

A total of $100,000 state dollars had been withheld from the institute this year, hindering their efforts, but the mayor promises next year, students will see their beloved programs back in full-swing.

For ticket information, you can contact city hall at (315) 792-0100 or the Stanley Theater at (315) 724-4000.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Life in Utica Contest Winner (and only entry so far)

Claire Husted says:

Despite wanting to leave Utica as soon as I graduated from high school, I have many fond memories from my childhood. My mom and dad had season tickets every year at the Stanley Theater. Every now and then, they would invite one of their five children to go to a performance. As an adult, I have often wondered how they did that when they only had two season tickets? I really have no idea but once in awhile I got to go. I fell in love with classical guitar and Christopher Parkening at the Stanley. The music transported me to a different place. I felt one with the heavenly host. I heard Bernadette Peters sing.....saw the Nutcracker Suite for the first time. The Stanley Theater was magnificent, even before its renovation....and I haven't gone back to see the renovation! Twenty years later I got to hear Christopher Parkening perform once again...I think it was in Los Angeles....but this time, he transported me back to my early childhood years when I heard him for the first time on the Stanley's stage.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stubby Says It's Art, Not Graffiti

 "Last week 'Public Eye' reported on graffiti covering the side of a property at 1203 Steuben St. Several readers contacted the O-D to say the (graffiti) had been commissioned by the property's owner and was not vandalism. The owner, Walter Stubbs, later confirmed the sign reads "Stubby's" and was done when the building housed his restaurant, which closed about 15 years ago. While the artwork has faded over the years, he has no plans to paint over it. "It was gorgeous. People were coming by standing next to it having pictures taken," he said of the original work. "It's a piece of history for the kids that grew up in this neighborhood." Stubbs said he did fix a broken window after reading last week's article, however..."

from the Observer-Dispatch (www.uticaod.com) Tuesday 1/11/11


Monday, January 10, 2011

Upstate Artists, Writers & Musicians

If you know an Upstate professional writer, musician, actor, or visual artist, post the name and discipline to our blog and we will add them to our list. Eventually, we can try to post their news and/or events.

 In no particular order, past or present, famous or not as famous:

  • Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet
  • James Fenimore Cooper, novelist
  • James Agee (resided in Clinton off and on), poet and writer
  • Hayden Carruth, poet and writer
  • Philip Booth, poet
  • Sal Amico, jazz musician
  • Naomi Guttman, poet
  • Gayle Elen Harvey, poet
  • Eileen Moeller, poet
  • Michael Burkard, poet
  • Monk Rowe, musician
  • John & Mary Loy, painters
  • Edward Christiana, painter
  • Mary Karr, writer
  • James Wells, poet
  • Phil Memmer, poet and director of Downtown Writers' Center, Syracuse
  • Edmund Wilson, writer and critic
  • Herman Melville, novelist
  • Vinny Amico, musician, in rock band, Moe
  • Ann Carey, singer and actor
  • Lou Getty, sculptor
  • Sunithi Bajekal, artist and writer
  • J.R. Monterose, musician
  • Rick Montalbano, musician 
  • Agha Shahid Ali, poet
  • Ezra Pound, poet, student at Hamilton College
  • Michael Brian Dunn, actor and singer
  • Mark Danner, author and journalist 
  • Jane Springer, poet

Inspired by Upstate New York: Edmund Wilson

I will be quoting from a book called Upstate by Edmund Wilson, a writer and literary critic during the first half of the 20th century, friend to F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc. His family owned a house in Talcottville, which he eventually inherited, and he came to this area every summer:

"One felt on the sleeping car in which we first travelled, on the morning train from Utica to Boonville, and in the carriage by which we were met, that one was entering a different world...the forests and fields and snows, the unexpected changes of weather, the rural speech of the people... a vision of the past now remote from the truck-laden highways."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Here Beginnith The Complaint Department

Gayle Elen Harvey says:
Good to see this (the blog).  Have been part of our Neighborhood Watch for years, my daily part being to pick up the trash on our street, especially, and on the streets I walk on, in general.  Trash/litter has been a big concern for me and most of my buddies. Major streets are deplorable but the Cornhill area is an obscenity, ESP between Oneida St. and Mohawk. I wont eat at any of the fast-food places, ESP MacDonalds' because of their cups, paper wrappers, et. al, all over the streets.  2 or years ago, someone proposed a "trash"tax on fast-food eateries because of the growing litter problem.  Never heard about it again.  I also contacted the councilman who, on public access, responding to a litter complaint, said he saw No Problem.   I invited him to drive over James St., between Oneida and Mohawk and look up and down each of the side streets.  Never heard back.

Good News: Harbor Point and The Bleecker Street Project

Two downtown areas are being targeted for renewal: (1) Harbor Point on the Canal, and (2) historic buildings, former businesses and factories on Bleecker and Broad Streets. In fact, Harbor Point has been dredged, a project paid for by National Grid and the State Department of Environmental Conservaton. The hope is to improve life downtown by providing a waterfront promenade, a marina, office space, restaurants, clubs, lofts and shops on and nearby the Canal area.

See The Bleecker Street Project on Facebook!
"In 2007, the 200 block of Bleecker Street was scheduled for demolition. Residents and groups like the Landmark Society fought to save the buildings from becoming a parking lot. As a result of their foresight and vision, every remaining building has been saved. The block includes four remaining buildings. The former Meyda building is on the corner of Bleecker and Burnett. Plans for a restaurant are in the works..."

See articles in this Sunday Observer Dispatch - http://www.uticaod.com/news

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Heard Any Good News?

The worst critics of Utica are often the people who live here. I know because I often do it. So, I'm inviting people to share good news about Upstate, the Mohawk Valley, and Utica in particular. Here's a good news story:

Friday, January 7, 2011

How Did We Get Here?

Ray says: 
I’m amazed at the number of people who came here with no expectation of staying. That was true in my case. 33 years later and here I am! I came to Utica for a job and thought I’d move on after three years or less. Funny, how things happen. Build a career, buy a house or two, have kids, divorce, remarry, make  friends, get involved in some causes, and suddenly you’ve been here more than half your life.  That’s my story. What’s yours?

Snow Days

The main drag, Genesee Street, this morning. A familiar sight around here from around December to April. But as you can see, nobody pays much attention or stops what they're doing. In Richmond VA where my mother was born and where she returned later in life, people wrapped their tires in chains and worried about going to the drug store. And when a snow storm hit the east coast during Christmas a few weeks ago, the major networks made it their top story and gave it lots of air time. But every year when the clouds above drop foot after foot of snow on us, the networks could care less and our stalwart citizens dig out in silence.

UPSTATE CAFES: The Village Perk

Thanks to Tammie and Bob Ehrhart, our newest and brightest place to meet for coffee is The Village Perk at 156 Whitesboro Street in Whitesboro. Great coffee, open mike on Thursday nights, art exhibits, and Tammie bakes a mean pie!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The original Utica, or Utique, in Tunisia.

Utica is named after an ancient city in Tunisia, and sad to say, some neighborhoods today resemble the ruins in the photo. The story is that the settlers who founded our city on a bend in the Mohawk River couldn't agree on what to call it, so they threw some names in a hat. Utica won. I've always thought it had an unpleasant sound. Like something intestinal. I think the city council would be wise to change the name to New Hartford, our largest, most affluent suburb. That is a handsome name, a name to be proud of, and not just because I'm a native of Hartford, CT.

Cheesecakes in waiting at Tony's Pizza in Washington Mills

Our favorite pizza joints are:

Unos @ The Orchard
Tony's in Washington Mills
O'scugnizzos in Washington Mills
Sicilian Delight at Sangertown Mall

All of which serve sandwiches, calzones, salads, and at Tony's killer desserts, such as these cheesecakes waiting for toppings.


  • Get published on our exciting new blog!
  • Think of something you experienced that best describes life in Utica, or that makes life here different from other places you may have lived. Write a few sentences about it.
  • Post it on the blog, or email it to us.
  • The top three entries will receive absolutely nothing except our enthusiasm.

Beef Jerky Bandit

In spite, or perhaps because of, the war, the economy and the environment, the editors of our paper, the Observer-Dispatch, have placed the story of the Beef Jerky Bandit, Ronald Smith, on the front page. Smith is a Herkimer man who apparently traveled to Rome (as in New York) to steal boxes of beef jerky from a Fastrac Market. The story continues on page 2 with further reports of beef jerky crimes in Yorkville. Officer Collea of Yorkville is quoted as saying he didn't know why Smith was taking so much beef jerky.