Utica on the Map

Utica on the Map
Smack in the Center

Monday, February 28, 2011

We don't need a tower! We need manufacturers, business, jobs!

Design for Proposed Tower
A local businessman hopes to construct a 125-foot “Landmark Tower” on North Utica land owned by the state Canal Corp. by this summer.

At the top, 7-foot lights spelling “UTICA” would face to the north, east and west, visible from the Thruway, Route 12 and other places in the region.

“I hope it becomes a landmark,” said Frank Giotto, president of Oriskany-based Fiber Instrument Sales, who is spearheading the effort. “I hope they have to change any brochure done on Utica.”


Poetry Celebration at Domenico's The Other Side

Friday, March 4, 7-9 p.m. The Rag & Bone Shop Poetry Theater presents: Holy Disciples of the Wild One, an evening of poetry's greatest hits, as selected and performed by Shawn Roberts, Robert Lecher iii, Will Welch, Adam Spiridilozzi and Orin Domenico.

If you are among the many who are uncertain about poetry, but intrigued, should especially make a point to make it to this event.  Poems have been selected purposefully to be inviting and accessible to a diverse audience.

Included will be selections from Whitman, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Blake, Millay, Hughes, Byron, Frost and others, plus a sprinkling of originals.  Those of you who attended the Yeats' reading last February know you are in for an energizing, uplifting evening spent in the incomparable company of the great poets.  The title of the reading comes from the German romantic poet Holderlin: But poets as you say are like the holy disciple of the Wild One / Who used to stroll over the fields through the whole divine night.

$5 donation requested to keep the lights on at The Other Side. After-party at the Green Onion Pub across the street.

Karams for lunch: Kate calls it addictive.

If you haven't developed a taste for Middle Eastern food, you are missing a great deal. Some friends brought me to Karams when I first moved to Utica. That was 30 years ago and the restaurant remains the same and my favorite, a landmark offering great food and a lively meeting place. The above picture of Saturday's menu will give you an idea of the kind of food Karam's offers. It's largely vegetarian, consisting of soups, dips, meat pies, fresh-baked flat breads (Karam's is also a bakery), rice dishes, beans and wraps, but there is also plenty of chicken and some beef. And the food is filled with the tastes of lemon, garlic, tomato, oregano, onion and olives.

My daughter, Kate calls Karam's hommus "crack hommus." And small cup of Turkish coffee will grow hair on your chest.

Last Saturday I ordered peas and rice and asked them to add chicken. Peas and rice may sound pretty bland at first, but the dish is flavored with spices and tomato sauce, much like Karam's kidney beans or lentils with rice. And with the added chicken, it was a delicious, nourishing lunch.

Karams doesn't serve dinner and is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The address is: 137 Campbell Avenue/Yorkville.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Enough, Already! (Part Two)

Ok, does anyone else have the sense that this winter is interminable? Snowed most of the day yesterday. Plows didn't come by 'til this morning. More snow tonight and maybe tomorrow, perhaps followed by ice on Monday. Enough, already! Really! I try to focus on the fact that it stays light until a bit after 6 pm, the roads clear quickly, and daylight savings time is coming soon. It's not perfect, but it helps. How are you coping? Ideas, anyone?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Broken-Down Dept: The Round-About

Here's a warning for Uticans: "Don't get caught up in the glitz and sexiness of the round-about." Said Councilman Frank Vescera.

It is pretty sexy, you have to admit. The mayor (David Roefaro) supports turning Oneida Square into a round-about, a 2$ million project. I'm all for it simply because it would eliminate some traffic lights, of which Genesee Street is literally littered. Utica has traffic lights where there is no traffic.

But I digress.... In my experience, whenever Utica is faced with a change, the city council comes up with worries, fears, objections and projections of doom.

So many people are upset about the round-about that 20 whole people met yesterday at the Veterans Center for a public discussion of all these fears and worries, such as "funding, scope and effects." Unfortunately, the mayor didn't show up.

I suppose this is what happened decades ago when the Transportation Department proposed routing thruway 81 through Utica and Utica's politicians turned them down. Too much change. Too many problems. So 81 turned around and steered toward Syracuse, bringing business with every mile.

As the mayor said recently, and I'm paraphrasing, a small city like Glen Falls can create a round-about but not Utica. We like our streets straight.

It must be something in the waters of the Mohawk River.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Upstate Writers: Edmund Wilson

Here is another passage from Edmund Wilson's book, Upstate, published in 1971, and relevant now in many ways. Wilson was a writer and critic. His family owned a house in Talcottville, and he often visited. Upstate is a record of those visits and contains many observations of the Utica area. We can take heart from this passage, reminding us that summer will come again, as it always has:

"This afternoon, July 6, I sat out between two trees on the lawn, reading and watching, from my deck chair, the sky and the tops of the trees. Everything was so beautiful and interesting that I stayed out till 8:15. There were squirrels chasing one another across the back roof, and through the trees swallows and other birds, a butterfly as high as the top of the elm, which looked a bright red when the sinking sun shone through its wings. I had never felt so much before that I had the freedom of that realm of treetop, roof and sky; and I could look away toward the river, where the shadows were falling on the pastures. Later, when I was getting dinner, I looked again at this view through the open front door; deep blue and very dark green."

Slow Food Mohawk Valley

Slow Food Mohawk Valley is hosting a bread-making workshop on Sunday, February 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Resource Center for Independent Living/1607 Genesee Street. $20. per person. Email slowfoodjoe@yahoo.com to reserve a spot.

Participants will make three kinds of bread:

Whole wheat loaf

Slow Food is a movement to educate people in preparing and eating healthy, nutritious, delicious, locally grown (when possible) food. The opposite of "fast food." To learn more about our local slow food organization, click on the link below.


Monday, February 14, 2011

"The Dish" This Week

Don't forget this new business which delivers home-cooked, healthy, delicious meals to your door. Check out this week's menu at "The Dish." It includes moroccan chicken stew over couscous.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Follow-up for "Re-Utica" at The Other Side

Saturday, February 19, 2-4 p.m.  A "Grassroots Renewal" forum  is being provided as a follow-up to the enthusiastic response to the showing of the Ossowski brother's "ReUtica" film on January 2 at The Other Side.. TOS would like to facilitate grassroots community building actions (by providing meeting space, speakers, workshops etc.) and this forum can be a step in the process where the community can share and discuss ideas/actions to pursue further. Call Ken Mazlen at 734-9076 for information, suggestions etc.

The Other Side (TOS) is part of Cafe Domenico on Genesee Street in South Utica. It is directly across from the Uptown Theatre. Best coffee in town!

Update on Apollo

I hope many of you are familiar with the website Care2, which is a tremendous national resource for healthy living. I just received the following email from Care2 about Apollo, the dog who was left tied up outside in our city in below freezing weather. Sign the petition while you're at it! Here's the link:

Apollo, a 3 year-old pit bull, was tied up outside in Utica, NY overnight in -20 degree weather. The dog was found barely alive, frost bitten, malnourished and unvaccinated.

Unlike in Michigan or Illinois where this crime would be considered a felony and the owner received jail time, New York's District Attorney's office considered Apollo's abuse a violation and ordered Apollo's owner to do 75 hours of community service.

These horrible crimes should not go unpunished. Concerned citizens have put together a petition asking NY officials to create stricter animal abuse laws.»

Below is a message from the petition creator:

"This petition is for an amazing cause which is to help toughen up animal abuse laws in New York. All animals deserve the same rights and protection as humans. Apollo's story will touch your heart and make you want to help bring him, and other animals, protection under the law"

Sign this petition to help Apollo and all animals in NY.»


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Broken-Down Dept: Our Website, Our Hotel

Photo of the Hotel Utica

Now see this is what really brings us down. Not only in the eyes of the world, but in our own eyes.

First: We have a website--did you know that?  URL: www.cityofutica.com. However, no one is apparently keeping it up and so the information is outdated, therefore incorrect. It also lacks public notices, meeting minutes and annual budgets. Anyone who signs on must think we're idiots. The mayor himself currently uses Facebook to communicate with the public.

The reason? "Making changes to the current Web site is a complicated and cumbersome process, requiring going through the city’s contracted IT employees Angelo Roefaro said."

How tough can it be if someone like me can create this blog?

For more info, check out the article in the Observer-Dispatch. http://www.uticaod.com/news/x589529968/Utica-seeks-to-improve-website

Secondly: We have a hotel, the Hotel Utica. But we have a bad habit of putting the cart before the horse. In the face of businesses, manufacturers and young people leaving the area and none coming in, therefore no tourists--what would they tour?--we renovated the old hotel about ten years ago. Beautiful old lobby. Fine restaurant. I held a family reception there. Great.

I take it back--a lot of people come here for the Boilermaker. 

Until we began to hear that the hotel couldn't meet its debts, couldn't pay its taxes. I don't know anyone who goes to the restaurant anymore. Is it any good? Is it there?

So our fine old hotel is in hock and stands there as another example of Utica's misplaced grandiosity instead of its common sense. Again, see the article in the Observer-Dispatch: http://www.uticaod.com/utica/x167303373/Foreclosure-process-begins-anew-at-Hotel-Utica

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Enough, Already!

Anybody else sick of winter?????? Haven't minded it much before today. This morning, while trying to snow blow through the banks left in the driveway by the DPW, I realized I have probably done more snow removal so far this winter than in the last three combined. Two trains of thought compete for control. The first: This really sucks! Heavy, wet, compacted snow, shoveling, thick layers of ice underneath, cars so frozen over they look like something out of Dr. Zhivago! Enough, already! The second: Hey, you live in Upstate New York! What the hell do you expect? Be grateful that the last couple of winters have been relatively easy! Quit your bitching! 

So what are you thinking about this winter? How are you coping? What attitude are you trying to maintain?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

City of Good Tastes: Trenton Teas

What better way to spend a snowy Saturday afternoon than enjoying a cup of tea and discovering a new shop in the city. Tea is enjoying a bit of a boom in the US and I've recently made its reacquaintance. So I was delighted to learn that Utica now has its own tea room and store. Trenton Teas was opened in November by Brian and Karen Karwowski at 247 Elizabeth Street in Utica, next to Alee's Restaurant. They offer an extensive collection of varietal, flavored, and herbal teas and tea supplies at reasonable prices. You can get tea to go or enjoy a cup there. They hold monthly tea tasting events and will even host an Afternoon Tea for your group by reservation. This month they will also host a special Valentine Sweetheart Tea at Alee's on Sunday, 2/13. 

Trenton Teas is the kind of enterprise Utica and the area need, and need to support. Congratulations and best of luck to the Karwowski's. By the way, try the Samovar tea - it has a mellow, smoky taste that is perfect when you need a break from your busy day.

The tea room was a terrific idea. What other niche businesses would you like to see open in the area? What do you think might be needed, successful, or just plain fun? Comments welcome below!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Leaf, Loaf & Ladle, or Chicken Riggies Aren't Everything

Debra Richardson, is the program director for Leaf, Loaf & Ladle (http://www.leafloafandladle.com) at the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL), which provides job training, contract meals and catering services to individuals and groups in Utica. She is also involved in the slow food movement in our area as well as nationally. I hope to be able to use her as a source of information and events about healthy eating and local food in the future. As her brochure says: "Food is the vehicle Leaf, Loaf & Ladle utilizes as a way to connect individuals within our community. Whether you participate in our work preparedness program in order to enter employment or you are a client using our catering services, food ultimately connects us all."

But LL&L doesn't just provide any food. It focuses on nutritious, organic, local food, or "slow food," both for the pleasure of eating well and as a means of educating people about healthy foods. Here's a sample of the dinner menu:

Asian: Boneless Breast with Sweet Ginger Soy Sauce
Mediterranean: Spinach, Feta and Sun-Dried Tomato
Francaise: Lemon White Wine Sauce
Roasted Chicken: Bone-in Oven Roasted with Herbs

Roasted Pork Loin: Tomato Olive Tapenade Sauce
Smoked Pork Loin: Caramelized Apple & Onion Jam
London Broil: Rosemary Demi-Glace
London Broil: Au Poivre

Spinach Pie: Layered Feta, Scallions,
Mozzarella in Phyllo
Mixed Beans: Selected beans and vegetables
and fresh herbs simmer till tender
Chick Pea Casserole: Tomato, Peppers and Garlic
with Pasta and Cheese

(choose two or three)
Rice Blend: Toasted Orzo, Peas,
Whole Grains and Vegetables
Ginger Coconut Rice
Yellow Rice and Black Beans
Penne Marinara
Bow Tie Pasta with Spinach
Roasted Red Potatoes
Whipped Potatoes

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Upstate Writers: Philip A. Bean and Utica Politics

According to the Observer-Dispatch, in an editorial by Professor Eugene Nassar, Syracuse University Press has come out with a new and expanded edition of Philip A. Bean's original 2004 book, La Colonia, a study of Italian life and politics in Utica, which sold out. Syracuse Press was so impressed that it offered to publish a second edition on its own, entitled The Urban Colonists (456 pp with 60 pp of notes and bibliography and 84 illustrations).

"This volume will certainly be a definitive history of the Italian-Americans in Utica, especially the political history," says Prof. Nassar. "A very entertaining companion to this volume is the just published memoir by Rodger Potocki, From the Inside: 40 Years of Reflections on Government, Politics and Events in the Utica-Rome area."

The book cover, by Utica artist Robert Cimbalo, illustrates a political rally in the 30's and 40's at the corners of Mohawk, Bleecker and Albany Streets.

See link to O-D article below.