Hurricane Sandy as Skewed from the West

As a former east coast resident, I’ve been through a number of hurricanes: Gloria, Camille, Floyd and don’t forget Hazel, back in 1954 when my family happened to be at the Jersey shore when it hit in October.  So it was with an odd mix of wishing I could be there and being thankful I was 2000 miles away that I followed the TV news reports on its path and now aftermath.

First, I am thankful for the safety of all those family and friends who rode it out and are fine with little property damage.  Updates from them occurred on Facebook and by phone and it was reassuring.  The only family members we are still concerned about are on my son-in-law’s side and who chose to stay in their homes right on the Jersey coast.  We have not heard from them yet as electric and phone lines are still affected and we are trying not to worry.  So far they haven’t been a news item on the national news….  We are pretty sure, however, that they must have suffered significant flooding and wind damage; if Atlantic City lost a lot of its famed boardwalk, they surely didn’t escape, as they live close to the north end of a barrier island where the bay meets the ocean on a normal day.

I must say it was interesting to hear local (they can be pretty goofy) weathermen and reporters, who are used to reporting desert weather events and winter snowstorms, wrestle with this large eastern storm and the geography of the east coast.  Coney Island somehow became part of the Jersey shore.  Utahns stranded in Philadelphia and had their flight cancelled, drove DOWN to Pittsburgh and caught the last flight back to Salt Lake City.    The Delmarva Peninsula was granted statehood (someone better alert the folks in Delaware!) and Cape May is now somewhere north of Seaside Heights (someone better alert Snookie and Mike “The Situation”).  Sandy really rearranged things!

The goofiest of the local weathermen, Jim Kosek, who can be loud, annoying, obnoxious, and exhausting to watch/listen to (he’s on the local affiliate for ABC news) outdid himself with Sandy: extreme mugging for the camera–bug eyes and all, voice modulation all over the place, whistling, gurgling noises to emphasize high water levels, you name the technique and he probably employed it.  In fact, I have pretty much given up on ABC news as Kosek in the afternoon and night and the clown news anchor in the morning have reduced reporting to new lows.  (Tip: Just Google Jim Kosek and you’ll pull up some pretty amazing hits.  Read the Wikipedia entry for him.)

It was hard to get Pennsylvania and New Jersey updates, save for the national reports, as the locals seemed to be focusing on how “The Big Apple is bobbing in New York harbor.”  For some reason, NYC really is getting the lion’s share of coverage.  A lot of folks have never really been far out of state, so they have no concept of how life is elsewhere; it’s like another planet.  Life is quite parochial here, so I guess NYC is like the Emerald City of Oz.

We, who are currently high and dry, can only hope and pray the east coast gets through this storm and the clean-up and bounces back.  We think of all those who lost so much to wind and water damage and fire, no less.  Think of it: your house burns to the ground in the middle of a hurricane.  You’re all in our hearts.

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Published in: on October 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Exhibit at Syracuse Museum: “Tales Told from the Empty Chair”

All summer long at the Syracuse Museum we had an agricultural and food preservation exhibit, both home and commercial, on display.  We put it together last spring and it was a lot of work and had many small items to arrange and write information cards for (that was my job).  So when we recently broke it down, we opted for a simpler exhibit: chairs.  Now, one might thing that odd or bordering on boring, but actually it is amazing due to the variety of seating we were loaned or already had in the museum’s holdings.  Naturally, I wrote and submitted an article announcing the new exhibit for the Islander; it’s below as this week’s blog posting.

Tales Told from the Empty Chair

If you think about it, we all spend a lot of time seated.  We sit to drive our cars; we sit around a table to enjoy a meal and conversation with family and friends or to play card or board games; we relax in a comfy chair to watch a favorite television show; we put up with uncomfortable bleacher seats to cheer our team.  We sit in church pews; we sit at computers; we lounge outside to soak up the sun’s rays in a deck chair; we bring folding lawn chairs to outdoor events like fireworks displays or open-air concerts just so we’re comfortable; we squeeze into tight seats on airplanes to get somewhere.  And recently, at a political convention, a famous Hollywood actor and director showed us just how powerful the symbol of an empty chair could be when he used one as a stage prop for his remarks.

A few of the many colorful chairs on display at the museum.

An empty chair.  Like the walls in our houses, oh, the stories they could tell.  Starting this month and remaining through the winter, the Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center is presenting an exhibit on chairs, “Tales Told from the Empty Chair,” and they’re all empty with stories to share or imagine.

Thanks to many generous local residents who have loaned the museum chairs and culling from our own holdings, the staff has assembled a fascinating exhibit of chairs, both old and newer, to remind visitors of the function of chairs and how much of a role they play in our lives as necessary pieces of furniture.

There are rocking chairs, upholstered chairs, and a variety of wooden side chairs in display.  Some are comfortable, like padded Victorian armchairs, and some are utilitarian, like the folding wooden chair commonly used in churches and schools for large functions.  We have treasured chairs that came across the plains with early pioneer families and chairs that made the trip in modern moving vans.

All could tell stories: of the soldier returning home from World War II to start a family and furnish a house, with affordable, sturdy dining room chairs–what he could manage on a modest salary; of the wooden kitchen chair, pulled out from the table by rough hands that had held a plow steady all afternoon; of the toddler who was sitting at the table and learning to feed himself off his high chair tray.  More stories can be coaxed from elegant fabric-covered chairs that would have graced a fancy parlor; or from the rocking chair with the hand-caned seat, worn smooth from countless hours of being used on the front porch; or even of a time of illness shared by the pink lady’s bedside commode.  More than one chair has probably rocked a baby to sleep in its mother’s arms and more than one chair probably heard bedtime stories read by a parent to a young child.

Scaled down versions of chairs for children would have been a luxury, and the museum has several examples as part of the exhibit.  There’s one lovely Chippendale upholstered chair just the right size for a proper young lady to sit in and feel all grown up.  There are also old-fashioned wooden Sunday School chairs, as well as an old school desk set.

The examples are not limited to “people” chairs; if you were a young girl, you needed miniature chairs for your dolls.  Several items of doll furniture that will interest the little girls who visit are part of the exhibit.  There’s pint-sized high chairs and doll rockers.

Plan to stop by the museum and enjoy the new chair exhibit.   The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on October 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

How Did That Tractor Get THERE?

Two weekends ago, there was some major excitement at the Syracuse Museum well after hours.

You see, to call attention to the museum’s presence, because the front of the building doesn’t exactly scream “Here is a museum!”, besides the modest sign with an old hand plow sitting under it, we have (had) a bright red 1930 tractor sitting on a cement pad.  It had been lovingly restored by one of the volunteers, after he had donated it.  It was in working order; all it needed to run was a battery and someone to steer it.  Below is a photo of a tractor just like the museum’s.  I never thought to take a picture of it for my files.

1939 tractor

Well, around 11:15 pm disaster struck–literally.  The story I got was that a woman driver–with three kids in her car no less–apparently fell asleep at the wheel heading west on Antelope Dr. and drifted across the east-bound lane.  She took out a light pole and then plowed (no pun intended) into the red tractor and flipped it several times before it came to rest next door in the parking lot of Don’s Meats, the butcher I patronize.  She probably did more than “drift,” as the police think she was cruising at or just above the speed limit of 45 mph.  The tractor was not only rolled, but vaporized.  See for yourself!

Wrecked tractor

Okay, the tractor might be able to be replaced, though there aren’t too many 1939 models in working order sitting around out here.  And the woman and her kids are okay (I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.), thank heavens.  In fact, the incident never even made the Standard-Examiner Monday issue, so I guess it wasn’t all that big a deal for the rest of the world.

Monday morning, I made my usual food shopping rounds, eager to stop by Don’s Meats to catch up with Mark or Lance as to their take on the mess still sitting on their macadam.  Mark observed that it was like an eye-catching modern sculpture that actually was bringing in business; new customers stopped by to get the story and while they were there, they bought meat or eggs.  He was thankful for the placement of the tractor, as if it hadn’t been in that exact spot to slow her speed, the trajectory of her car would have put her through the front door of his business, increasing the possibility of severe injury to the woman and her children and causing structural damage to his store front.

As that Monday was Columbus Day, the city offices were closed, so the mangled exoskeleton of what looked like a giant red insect with wheels sat there until the next day when city worked carted it off.

As for the museum, the board of directors (I now am a member) have been finalizing plans for a new several thousand dollar covered wagon to replace said tractor.  Just think, had we been further along with those plans, a costly Conestoga-type wagon could have been taken out instead of a tractor.

I sent an e-mail to the editor of the Islander informing him of the accident, along with the photo of the wrecked tractor.  I heard back from him saying that he would see what the newspaper’s crime and calamity reporter (didn’t know the paper had one!) could uncover.  The issue comes out tomorrow, so I may know more at that point.

I’m not sure how insurance works in this case, but it must have been an interesting phone call to her agent: “John, this is Molly.  I had a car accident last night.  I rammed a stationary antique tractor parked on the lawn of a museum.”  Syracuse City owns the land and building, but the Museum Foundation owns the tractor, so who gets any claim money?  Time will tell.  Life is not dull around here.

Published in: on October 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s Autumn and Time to Get Lost in the Corn Maze

All across the country, thrill-seekers of all ages get into the Halloween spirit by lining up for haunted houses or fright night hay rides and taking the chance of getting lost in corn mazes.  It seems Halloween is one of the most popular holidays and between parties, costumes, candy purchases and tickets to a haunted house or hay ride, a lot of money changes hands.

Utah is no different from the rest of the country.  The Lagoon Amusement Park in nearby Farmington has haunted, scary attractions after dark in the fall and, thereby, manages to extend its season beyond the days of summer where visitors enjoy the usual rides, roller coasters and water park.

Scaring people on hay rides or in corn mazes is not the easiest job.  I recall one year my son, Ben, worked on the haunted Halloween crew at Linvilla Orchards (back in Pennsylvania) and there were so many folks there for the scary hay wagon rides, that Linvilla ran the wagon loads more times an hour than scheduled.  He could barely reposition himself in the corn rows after chasing one wagon before the next wagon came along, that he finally collapsed from exhaustion–in a not so frightening heap!

Even closer to us (about a mile as the crow flies) is Black Island Farms that puts on a huge harvest festival each year.  Daytime tractor-pulled wagon rides provide an opportunity for kids of all ages to ride out into the fields along the Great Salt Lake and select just the right pumpkins for pies or carving.  A farm animal “zoo,” hay bale slides, and other activities make it a great family outing.  And then there’s the corn maze, Nightmare Acres.  By day, when you can see where you’re going, you can follow a map and safely get “lost.”

But by night, for the older teens–it’s a popular date destination–the maze’s creepier denizens emerge from the rows of corn and stalk and scare the bejeebies out of screaming girls and brave young men.  At night from our street we can see the searchlight circling overhead alerting everyone that the maze is open for business and heart-pounding adventure.

For the last two years, the maze pattern was the faces of Edward and Jacob from the Twilight movie franchise.  Edward and Jacob have become passé, so this year the pattern combines Black Island Farm’s logo, as well as the logo for United Way, a beneficiary of canned food donations visitors bring to knock $1.00 off the ticket price.  Of course, unless you’re a bird or fly overhead in a helicopter, small plane, or hot air balloon, you can’t appreciate the maze design (that’s goes for any maze design).  Charlie Black, Black Island Farm owner has thoughtfully provided daytime helicopter rides for that purpose (and as an additional money-maker).  Black has actively farmed his land for 52 years and has had to get creative with other sources of “agri-tainment” income in order to keep farming.

So, are you wondering how they create these intricate maze patterns?  In early spring the pattern is decided upon and created.  The corn is not planted in traditional rows, but rather in a cross-grid.  Then a computer is used to transfer the design onto grid software.  The design is mapped out on Black’s 28 acre corn field with flags marking the design lines.  Farmhands then walk these lines when the corn is only a few inches high with a backpack sprayer to kill the surrounding corn and create paths.  Fast forward to early fall and when the corn is mature the maze is already there.

Black Island Farms corn maze, 2012 edition

In the 6-week run-up to Halloween, as many as 60,000 visitors will tramp through, happily getting lost or scared, depending on the time of day.  I took a daytime stroll through the maze two autumns ago and was not sure if I would call it “fun.”   As for the pumpkin field hay ride, we grew our own pumpkins this year, so I’m not sure if we’ll need more, but trust me, they have thousands!

Published in: on October 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm  Comments (2)