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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.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Life, death, and words of comfort

Prayer and the support of community provide comfort when a loved one has been lost, as was evident yesterday at Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs, where people gathered for the evening service led by Rabbis Linda Motzkin and Jonathan Rubenstein to honor the memory of Gloria Mandelbaum, the mother of Rhoda Pickus.
Two readings from the book used for the service touched me for their poetic reminder of the circle of life. They are relevant, regardless of one’s religious beliefs. These are the excerpts:
From the prayer book: “All that we prize is but lent to us; and the time comes when we must surrender it.”
And, adapted from “Touching Peace,” by Thich Nhat Hanh: “One day as I was about to step on a dry leaf, I saw … that it was not really dead, but it was merging with the moist soil and preparing to appear on the tree the following spring in another form.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Remembering artist Anthony M. Alonso

Anthony Alonso
in website photo

 I knew the artist Tony Alonso had been sick for a long time, but it was still a jolt to read about his death in Michael Veitch’s column in Sunday’s Saratogian.

Veitch did a fine job describing this gentle, sincere man whose legacy was his “realistic portrayal of people, places and horses” at all the major racetracks in North America, including Saratoga.

"Backstretch Morning" is my personal
favorite Alonso painting.

“If you want to feel a warm misty morning at Saratoga,” Veitch wrote, “or a winter walk back to the barn at Belmont Park, see Alonso.”

I know the feeling. Years ago I purchased a numbered print titled “Backstretch Morning” from the show of his work that Alonso had for years at the Gideon Putnam Hotel. It hangs where I can enjoy it often, in our cozy front living room. I love its peaceful beauty.

My husband and I met Tony and his lovely wife, Mary, during their frequent Saratoga stays through my retired colleague Jeannette Jordan and her husband, Augie. The Jordans wintered for quite a while not far from the Alonsos’ place in Florida, and the four had become friends. I count myself among the lucky to have known the Alonsos, even a little.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A new love for the dentist's chair

I almost always love going to the dentist. Honest -- at least when it’s just for a cleaning, no Novacain, no drilling.
But today’s was an unexpected mini-vacation.
For the first time in 25 years as a patient of Dr. Andy Levine, the dental hygienist escorted me to a second-floor room. I didn’t even know they had treatment rooms on the second floor.
I lay back (laid back? layed back? I can never get that right) in the chair, bib on, mouth open, eyes closed.
“You know what would make this almost perfect?” I said to Peggy, the hygienist. “If this were a massage chair.”
“You want me to turn it on?” she asked.
“You kidding?”
Jackpot. A refreshing scraping of the teeth, a half hour of noontime peace and quiet, and a subtle back massage.
Yes, a massage at the dentist’s office.
Dr. Levine has been holding out, darn him.
“You know what would make this perfect,” I said, still reclining. “A pedicure.”

Friday, March 1, 2013

Read Across America Day celebrated at Saratoga Independent School

My first book of the day was this Dr. Seuss classic.
Photo by Erica Miller,

I spent this morning at the Saratoga Independent School as one of many community volunteers who responded to their call to participate in their annual “Read-In.”
What fun.
The school set us up in various rooms, nooks and crannies of their lovely building out Lake Avenue and assigned us a handful or two of children. The kids were so wonderfully well-behaved, responsive and interested. We’d read a book, then the organizers would change groupings.
Officer Shane Crooks
holds kids' attention
Photo by Erica Miller,
The invitation to participate came last month as part of the school’s participation in “Read Across America Day” and the birthday of Dr. Seuss. “I invite you to put aside the hat you wear for work and play and don the ultimate reading hat, the red and white striped stovepipe made famous by the ‘Cat in the Hat,’” wrote Felice Karlitz, the school director.
They really did have a bunch of blow-up Cat in the Hat hats. With my first group, to whom I read “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” the kids and I took turns wearing the hat. I don’t mind that it wasn’t on my head when photographer Erica Miller caught us in action.
Parent Taryn Manuele reads "Madeline"
Photo by Erica Miller,
I meant to bring one of my favorite kids’ books, “The Story of Ferdinand,” or anything by Bill Peet, but it didn’t matter. The school was loaded with books and the children had no problem selecting from them. In one of my groups, each child who wished to got to read a page. In another, one little girl was in charge of turning the pages. In each group, the children were polite and friendly.
Kendall Olszowka looks
great in a Cat in the Hat hat.
Photo by Erica Miller,
The reading made me momentarily misty over the days when my sons would snuggle up for bedtime readings (though sometimes I’d fall asleep before them, book open). But mostly it made me happy to see that the love for reading and excitement over well-written and well-drawn books is alive and well. My applause to SIS and other schools that encourage adults to share with children the joy of reading.