Fabric means everything to me. I have come to the realization that fabric is what defines our lives.
The paper’s office was situated in a line of buildings called River Row that backed up to the Susquehanna River. The street-level units were mostly shops. On one end, there was a bar. On the other, a huge gift store that was quite cool.
Our space was owned by the Chamber of Commerce, which had the street-level storefront. We were on the third floor (I don’t remember who was on the second). Those steps were my daily cardio.
The office itself was a HUGE empty space flanked by a small office where our advertising sales person worked, supposedly. (I’m pretty sure I could count on two hands the number of times I saw her there and on one the number of times I spoke to her.)
The cavernous space contained two desks, each with a phone and a brick of a computer. In a small adjoining space, we had a microwave and a refrigerator. The room was so big and so empty, in fact, it echoed when anyone was on the phone.
So began my illustrious career as a journalist.
Many days I shared the space with a very bitter human, I’ll call her Sally. She’d kicked around at three or four very small papers in Upstate New York and her career nor her home were what she wanted (or expected) them to be. The out-of-town boyfriend only added to her frustration; she left town every weekend.
With no editors in the room to keep watch, she was more than happy to talk about all of it. To me.
Every day (unless she had a night meeting to cover or was in the other office) she’d walk out the door at 5 p.m. on the dot, muttering something about one of the editors or complaining about a change in one of her stories. Some days, I recall, she was so infuriated she didn’t even say “good night.”
We weren’t close, which made it rather like being assigned a bad roommate in college – you kinda don’t want to go back to the room. I left the office at lunch time as much as possible – even if I had packed a sandwich and it was raining, I’d make it a point to take a walk just to clear my head and get away. I remember having moments when we’d bond about something, but they were few and far between. For me, I was just out of school and wanted very badly to impress my editors, not listen to someone in their 30s vent about how horrible life was.
The equipment we had was just this side of hilarious in today’s terms – an instamatic camera, two old phones and laptops with dial-up modems, which we used to file our stories. Sure, the main office would send a photographer out for big stories, but for the local on-the-street reporting, we did it ourselves and the results were questionable at best. Would have been nice to have a cell phone camera then.
Officemate aside, probably my favorite story came on a snowy February night. I’d covered a local board meeting and returned to the office around 9 p.m. to file my story and meet my dad, who was coming up that night to help me buy a car. I have a vague recollection of him being rather underwhelmed at our working conditions, particularly since at that hour the heat was off.
All in all, it was a good job. I covered everything from a murder trial to meetings to festivals to tree plantings – it was certainly a strong start, even if I did have to wear gloves to file my meeting stories.
It’s no secret that it snows in Central New York. Trust me, it snows. A lot.
I would say that 1993 was no different, but for sure it was. To those of us in Binghamton and surrounding cities (including Owego), March 12, 1993 was a 43-inch drift of pure disbelief.
My memories of this day are vivid even now. Those of us that were at the paper when the storm started ended up being the team to head out and gather anecdotes, see what we could see – which, honestly, wasn’t much as the snow blew around us. A state of emergency was declared, as I recall, so when we were done writing that night, we had no choice but to walk through the desolate streets of Vestal, NY (where the paper was situated) and stay at the local Best Western.
Then, as our supervisors said later in a memo to our Executive Editor commending our efforts, “returned to work wearing the same clothes with unbrushed teeth” and did the whole thing again. (Reinforcements could not get to the paper, as the roads were still horrible.)
When I got back to my car the next day, it was completely buried under snow. I actually stood on its roof.
Owego was my regular beat, so I went there to assess the situation and came up on the town’s first stop light, which was flashing red. I pumped the brake lightly, hoping to avoid skidding on the snow-covered streets. Instead, as I approached the intersection, I and my car proceeded to do a complete 360-degree slide and ended up facing the same direction I’d been heading before coming to a stop. (Luckily I was only traveling at about 15 mph, so I didn’t have far to go.)
The hilarious part, though, was a family sitting at the light in an SUV across the way. The five or six people in the car applauded my efforts. Highlight of my day.
Owego looked more like the moon that day. No one bothered to even try and shovel it. Ploughs were running up and down the streets but finding room for all that snow was near impossible. (I think they eventually put it in the Susquehanna, but don’t quote me.) Mostly, they served to pack the snow down more tightly on the roads; they were unable to scrape down to the pavement in most places. None of the sidewalks were clear, so the hearty souls that had cabin fever and had to get outside – kids, dogs, reluctant parents, etc. – walked in the middle of the street.
Eventually, of course, the town dug out, schools reopened and things returned to normal (though the drifts hung around for a VERY long time, as you might imagine). Though I went to Syracuse University and had become quite accustomed to these “large weather events,” I’d always been ensconced on “The Hill” and didn’t have to deal with them like a “real person,” the way Owego residents always had. I didn’t have to drive anywhere, I didn’t care whether schools were open or not, I didn’t have a driveway to shovel and I didn’t worry about stockpiling my pantry because Marshall Street was a short walk away.
The people of Owego were (and are) used to such disruptions. Just another day in Central New York.
My dear sister – and likely my only reader – just sent me a gift card for Phillies tickets for my birthday.
Thank you, MDS!
Twenty years ago this month, I started my first full-time, post-college, professional newspaper job in Binghamton, NY.
I still remember getting the call with the offer, standing in my parents’ foyer talking on the kitchen phone, which was a dial-up wallphone with an extended cord. I had moved out of my rental house in Syracuse, having completed my classes at the end of December, and stopped in Binghamton on the way down I-81 for the interview. The job was in a bureau about 17 miles West of the paper’s main office, a small town called Owego.
My memories of being there are mixed. The village had yet to enjoy the resurgence that came about 10 years ago when more and more New Yorkers began to flee the city for Upstate, wallets in hand and reinvented lives in mind. Its roads were understandably rough, the weather taking its toll every year. Each year the same routine would unfold – snow and ice in the winter, road repairs in the summer … and somewhere in between budget battles and debates at village meetings.
That said, there was – as I remember it now – a quaintness to it that was beyond endearing. A line of shops, which happened to house the paper’s bureau, backed up to the Susquehanna River. The county’s historical society, located in the village, was a focal point for residents proud of their village and wanting to share it with the outside world. Dedicated groups of volunteers gathered regularly to promote events taking place in the village and begged the paper to cover them.
Even the coldest winter days had a certain warmth to them – a sort of “we’re all in this together” mentality. There were times even then when I wished I had come there later in life (rather than at 21) so I would appreciate it more. My ambition at the time outweighed my interest in such matters, but that’s a story for another day.
Of course, now, the village has “arrived.” Having been named one of America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2009 (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500174_162-4946306.html) Owego is the destination that so many there wanted it to become. Though the village has suffered mightily in recent years as a result of a flood in Sept. 2011 (http://www.google.com/search?q=owego+flood&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=QSYBUdygDInp0gG_9ICICA&ved=0CC0QsAQ&biw=1024&bih=643) it is coming back. Residents are rebuilding and businesses are renovating. The village seems to have survived disaster – not at all surprising to me, an outsider.
Throughout 2013, I’ll be remembering my time in Owego and writing about it here. If you get a chance, look it up in your travels. In the meantime, more to come …
It’s early and the traffic is picking up outside, people going back to work for real, not just to share stories of unwrapping and eating too much but to actually work.
Others, however, will spend today the same way I spent yesterday – at Costco with the retirees, their full carts and many, many cars.
What a trip. Mom and Dad finally got new phones. (I’m sure the Verizon folks manning the desk got a kick out of Mom’s c. 1983 flip phone.) And I learned that, though the apparel sections within the store are its largest, fitting rooms don’t exist – unless you buy the item, try it on in the rest room and return it straight away if it doesn’t fit.
Unlike previous visits – usually after church on Sundays – the sample selection left much to be desired, as well. The post-shopping hot dog and diet Coke made it worth it, though.
Coming later: The Technology Learning Curve.
Check out http://globaltableadventure.com/. Sasha is eating her way around the world – 195 countries, 195 meals, 195 weeks. She’s in the S’s now …
Food, family and – of course – MUMMERS!
Here’s the menu:
Breakfast today: Scrambled eggs – with snow peans, radishes, onions, cheese, spinach and basil topped with parsley – fried potatoes, rolls, strawberries, oranges and ham. Whew!
Dinner later: the traditional pork, sauerkraut and apple sauce for luck. Dark meat for me.
Happy new year!
Mom had her last radiation treatment yesterday and got a clean bill of health. The day was filled with celebration for her – a visit with her mom, time with family and a fantastic Italian dinner with nice red wine to cap it off.
Fortunately, she fared far better at the doctors than I did on the running path.
The holidays along with cold weather and a lot of travel have conspired against me (naturally, it could NEVER be my fault!) but I’ll be back on the horse Jan. 2. I’m planning a cleanse.
I’ve said before in this space that I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Truth is Jan. 1 is no different than Dec. 31 (unless you’re from Philadelphia in which case one day is Mummer Day and the other is not, but I digress).
So, with that, my list of non-resolutions for the year 2013:
1. I will not eat liver.
2. I will not speak to a single one of my neighbors.
3. I will not leave the milk out overnight. Since I don’t drink it, this will be easy.
4. I will not change my own tires.
5. I will not change to a pay-as-you-go mobile provider.
6. I will not color my hair purple.
7. I will not root for the Mets.
8. I will not wear 4-inch heels.
9. I will not smoke anything – legal or illegal. Since I don’t smoke, this will also be easy.
And finally …
10. I will not wear white before Labor Day, even though I believe it socially acceptable to do so.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, ALL! Be safe out there!
I have made a commitment to become a runner for my mom and what she’s going through with breast cancer and all. She’s not sick – she’s going to be fine – but I’m getting serious.
For years, when I lived in North Jersey, I did the Run for the Cure in NYC and raised money for Syracuse University alumni clubs, my alma mater, long before any of this came about. (I walked it, just to be clear, but I did it.)
I need to get back to that discipline and what it instills. I’ve been an athlete all my life (played a mean 3rd base for those in the know but a not-so-good singles player on the tennis team – I kinda sucked at that).
Anyway, the only website I can point you to is my own right now:
If you go there, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll be sure you’re on the list to hear about updates.
Love to you all, take care.
Mobile: (917) 640-6256