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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sad farewell Cul de Sac; welcome Rhymes with Orange

This final Cul de Sac appeared in The Saratogian on Sept. 23
A sample of Rhymes with Orange, which will be in
The Saratogian Sunday comics section starting Sept. 30
Every so often a standout newspaper comic strip emerges: The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, and the still running Dilbert, Doonesbury, and Lio come to mind for their originality in content and artwork.
The most recent strip to fall into that slender category of outstanding comics is Cul de Sac. The imaginative exploits of Alice Otterloop and her family have been entertaining readers of The Saratogian Sunday funny papers since Richard Thompson introduced them in 2007.
Sadly, the cartoonist who has sparked so many smiles with his perceptive yet light-hearted portrayal of ordinary people, is unable to continue his work. Struggling for three years with Parkinson’s disease, Thompson has decided he could no longer meet the demands of the strip, which he had been creating seven days a week. His last strip was published Sunday, Sept. 23. I am sorry for Thompson’s suffering, and I’m sorry Cul de Sac will no longer be around.
So what will fill the hole?
I am happy to introduce a delightful addition to the Sunday comics, Rhymes with Orange by Hilary B. Price. She’s been at it for more than 15 years, and it’s about time her witty and weird take on life’s little truths are available to Saratogian readers.
I’ll miss Cul de Sac, but I welcome Rhymes with Orange. Hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yom Kippur is about saying you're sorry -- and meaning it

Sundown Tuesday begins the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, a holy day traditionally observed with a 24-hour fast and day of prayer.
To those whose religions call for weekly confessions, it may sound sweet to bundle a year’s worth of transgressions into one marathon apology. But it isn’t enough to just ask God for forgiveness, along with promises to be a better person. I was taught, growing up in an observant family, that one should also be asking the forgiveness of those who were wronged.
Sins large and small fall into that category. I truly feel bad if I have hurt someone’s feelings, purposely or even inadvertently. Hurting people is an occupational hazard, wearing any one of my hats, as journalist, manager, teacher, spouse, parent, sibling, adult child, and recipient of telemarketing calls. Not being a saint, I’ve had my mean moments, though they are relatively few and far between.
This blog may not count in God’s accounting of deeds, but I’m publicly offering this blanket apology to those who’ve crossed my path and found me cross, thoughtless or unkind.
My father instilled in me his Rule No. 1 in life: Treat people the way you want to be treated.
I will be spending Yom Kippur with him, and I will let him know that the Golden Rule continues to guide my life.
His Rule No. 2, however, is equally useful for when the first one doesn’t achieve the desired respect, understanding or empathy. To paraphrase: To heck with ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bev McKim heads west: Saratogian's loss is Buffalo's gain

Bev and Barb in the newroom

Co-worker Louise Kilbara cornered me at the cafeteria microwave Tuesday while editor Beverly McKim was eating her Hungry Spot salad.
“Who’s going to be your cleaning lady,” Louise asked me, smiling at Bev.
What she really should have asked is: Who is going to look after Barb at work now that Beverly is leaving The Saratogian?
That has been a foremost question in my mind since Bev informed me that her five-year plan to return to her roots in Buffalo, now in about its 15th year, was kicking in, for real.
Bev, whose last day at work is Sept. 20, is known around The Saratogian for handling a lot of things over the last 25 years.
Most recently, she has been part-time editor of our publication distributed in the Wilton-Gansevoort area, WG Life (winning a state Associated Press award as special interest weekly, as well as a national headline award for “Taking a Whack at Lizzie’s Legend”); editor of various elements of The Saratogian; the go-to newsroom person on IT issues when the IT guy isn’t around (and sometimes when he is); the person who collects and ships the newspaper to be microfilmed; and the person who keeps the newsroom supply drawers stocked with proof-reader copy paper, toner, gel-tipped pens and notebooks (three sizes and types — the narrow pocket-size style for most reporters, legal pads for Paul Post, and spiral pads for me).  
Finding the perfect spiral pads is just one of many things Bev does for me.
When a coffee cup convention has clustered in the corner of my desk, I’ll come in one morning to find them magically washed, dried and back on their shelf. When my entire desk (except for the space reserved for coffee cups) is covered with paper, Bev (who can’t stand the clutter) will force me to manage the mess — volunteering to deal with and dispose of as much as she can herself. She will remind me when I’ve been oblivious to newsroom people and things that I ought to be mindful of. She laughs and shrugs when she asks whether I like her new glasses (after wearing them for two weeks without a peep from me), and I respond, “You wear glasses?” 
It isn’t just me she has looked after. Over the years she has had a huge hand in Saratogian get-togethers, holiday decorations and gifts to workers celebrating employment milestone. The cafeteria refrigerator might still contain my yogurt from 1987 had she not regularly initiated a clean and dump.
When Bev sets her mind to do something, she does it. Fast. While her initial five-year relocation plan was sidetracked, it was never derailed. So when the plan was again set in motion, Bev’s Wilton house was sold, a new one was purchased in Buffalo, a moving company was hired, and boxes were packed — all in the time it took me to do a load of laundry and lug the basket upstairs with plans to match the socks very soon.
And she did all this while searching for silver shoes to wear to her son Bryon’s wedding on Sept. 29, by which time she will already be out of her Wilton home and her furnishings en route to Buffalo, closer to her roots, her son Dale III and her two grandsons, Patrick and Thomas.
I may not notice when Bev (or anyone else) gets new glasses, but I can tell you how long Bev’s been at The Saratogian, because she started when I was pregnant with my first son, who is now 25 years old. She called to complain about something her nonprofit group was having trouble getting into the paper. She could handle that job better than whomever was doing it at the time, she assured me, having done it in her previous locale.
“Oh yeah,” I replied, or something to that effect.
The rest is history.
In the realm of organization and neatness, Bev and I are yin and yang. But on matters that matter, we are not so different. We’re the same age, and we both have two sons. Over our time at together at The Saratogian, we’ve survived countless transitions and turnover. We’ve lost our mothers. We’ve experienced much pleasure and occasional angst raising our kids (and I’ve gotten a peek through her at the sheer joy of grandparenthood).
I need to tell Louise that Bev has been much, much more than a “cleaning lady,” more than a professional organizer, more than a colleague. She’s been a friend, and for that alone, she will be missed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Saratoga's Tempered by Memory a fitting memorial to 9/11

I will confess, I considered Tempered by Memory a monstrosity that had no place in Saratoga Springs.
I was wrong.

It is a striking memorial to a monstrous event, and it cannot help but keep alive both the memory and meaning of Sept. 11, 2011.

Today, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I decided to stop by quietly, to see the sculpture in person for the first time, and to pay my respects to all those killed, injured and otherwise affected by that terrible day and the years of war that have followed.

The committee given the task to find a home for the memorial did a fine job. The geography of High Rock Park allows the sculpture to stand out in a somewhat sheltered, unobtrusive setting just beyond the Farmers Market pavilions. The location is downtown and easy to get to, just below the Saratoga Springs City Center, yet just a bit off the beaten path.

It is a fine place for people to stop, as I did, to pay their respects.

On my way to the memorial I decided to write up my thoughts in a blog post. But, being a journalist first, I couldn’t help but ask the handful of people coming and going if I could quote them for The Saratogian. Everyone obliged. So I wiped my eyes and grabbed a sheet of paper. My story, which will be posted online and printed Wednesday with pictures Erica Miller is taking at the site this afternoon, is below.

Tempered by Steel in High Rock Park was dedicated on Sunday.
On Tuesday, people stopped by on their own to see the 9/11
memorial and pay their respects. Photo by Eric Jenks.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Carol Kautzman was among a steady stream of visitors to stop by High Rock Park to see the city’s 9/11 memorial sculpture, Tempered by Memory, on Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the most deadly attack on American soil.
 “I remember, it was such a stunning day, just like this one,” said Kautzman, who moved to Saratoga Springs two years ago from New York City. She was listening on the radio about another memorial to the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks and decided it was time to visit this one.
The sculpture by John Van Alstine and Noah Savett is made of steel from the World Trade Center skyscrapers that were struck by hijacked jets and collapsed, killing and injuring thousands. On the same day, the Pentagon was also struck, and another hijacked plane was crashed by passengers preventing another attack.
“It’s haunting,” Kautzman said of the twisted steel. “Do you need to see it or is virtual reality enough? There’s something about a memorial that’s touching. It transports you.”
The donated sculpture was officially dedicated Sunday, and the city conducted 9/11 observances at the war memorial in Congress Park. 
Marion Miller, who lives across the street from High Rock Park, was at the memorial with her brother, Foster James, who, like others on Tuesday, felt this was the day to visit. Finding a place for the sculpture had been somewhat controversial, and the siblings agreed this location, with the stone wall behind it, works well.
“It’s a good fit,” James said.
Also at the site around noon was city resident Kathleen Monaco.
“I normally sit in Congress Park and read, but today I thought it would be a good opportunity to come here and say a prayer,” Monaco said. The prayer? “A Hail Mary, for world peace.”

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Son begins a new adventure in Chicago

Like so many parents, I sent my son off to school last week. But this time was different: Joe is beginning graduate school, 850 miles from home.

I’ve been spoiled.

Aside from his semester in Madrid, a summer in Boston and last month’s jaunt with a couple of college pals in Croatia, Joe’s almost always been within a 2-1/2-hours drive.

His older brother David was about 4 hours away during college but, coincidentally, was only 10 minutes from his grandfather. And nowadays Dave is a mere mile across town, close enough to drop off his homemade tilapia with risotto tonight or to meet up with me this morning at the West Side rec to help his mom cram for the startup of Monday night tennis.

So while Chicago is hardly the end of the earth, and Southwest can fly me there almost as quickly as I could drive to Colgate University (at 10 times the cost), it’s farther away than I’m used to having my son. I’ll admit to having been a bit weepy just before he left. I was better Friday, the day he took off. Besides, he’s only a text message away, so I having nothing to complain about (aside from the sporadic responses to my text messages).

Truth is, though, that I’m excited and happy for him. Chicago is a vibrant, friendly city (but don’t stray into the dangerous sections, Joe), University of Chicago has a great reputation (aside from its informal motto as the place where fun goes to die), and computational neuroscience (go look it up on Wikipedia) is an exciting field of study that promises to be a good match for his love for mathematics and scientific curiosity.

Lots of natural light and hardwood floors
make an apartment's shortcomings forgivable.

Several of the drawers and cabinets
actually open and close properly.
I vaguely remember flying out alone to Ohio State University to get my master’s in journalism. Somehow I found an apartment, furniture and food. I felt independent. It was an adventure. I worked hard on my schoolwork, but it was fun. I hope Joe’s experience will be all that and more.

Bedroom has two windows and
lots of closet space;
who needs a radiator?
This spring I met up with two girlfriends from California and Pittsburgh for a “girls weekend” in Chicago. While waiting for Paulette to arrive, Ruth and I checked out a few apartments in the Hyde Park neighborhood that Joe had scoped out online, and she posed for me in each room (see pics). He ended up renting this place, on the second floor of a building between the university and Lake Michigan, with hardwood floors and lots of windows (to let in plenty of natural light but hopefully not the Windy City wind).

I am looking forward to seeing that apartment again at some point, this time with him and his stuff in it. In a few days he’ll trade the sleeping bag for a real bed. Before long, there will be a table, a chair, a sofa.

When I say Joe’s 850 miles from home, I mean from my home. Truth is, he’s quite ready to begin finding a place he can call home. I’ll just be grateful that, at least for now, it’s in a city where Southwest flies nonstop.