I had never heard of Arch Merrill until I found his books at my dad’s house. Merrill worked at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper for years and also wrote numerous books about the history and folklore of Western New York.
I read his book Tomahawks and Old Lace recently and really enjoyed it. His writing style is that of a chatty neighbor who lives to tell a good story.
Even though I grew up in Western New York, I don’t think I learned much about its history and folklore. Or if I did, it went in one ear and out the other.
Just a few interesting stories he told in this book:
I’ve lived in the same general area of Boston for 16 years and have never owned a car. That partially explains why it took me so long to check out an ice cream (well, frozen custard) shop that is not accessible by subway. As a passenger in a car, I would ride by this ice cream shop possibly two or three times a year.
Every time, I would study the sign, Abbott’s, and wonder if it could be the same Abbott’s that I grew up with in Rochester, New York. The logo looked exactly the same. Nah…
So this was the year that I found out that yes, it is the same Abbott’s! I didn’t have to ask to be sure, because this sign was hanging in the window:
The glare makes the sign difficult to read, but basically, some Rochesterians moved here and missed the frozen custard so much that they convinced the owners to let them open a franchise.
Not only was there frozen custard, there were Zweigle’s white hots for sale! And there were pennants of Rochester universities on the wall! What a treat to find a taste of home in the backyard of my second home.
Right before the holidays, two friends and I checked out “Boston Winter,” a shopping/drinking/ice skating situation in downtown Boston. It was the first year that such a situation existed in Boston. I think it was a great start for utilizing the open space and offering people another festive activity during the holiday season.
The big attraction was the ice skating rink, which looked popular. There was also a family-friendly chocolate tasting tent, a wine-tasting tent, and an “urban lodge” tent that sold alcohol. About 30 chalets selling all kinds of gifts dotted the landscape.
It was very cold the night we went, but we still enjoyed the opportunity to do some last-minute gift shopping.
That’s birthday list item #6. Buying a Bessie Smith album a few days later is item #7. Each year, I like to buy an album of a musician’s that I don’t yet own. I’ve been trying to buy more albums of female artists.
Allen and I went to House of Guitars while visiting my family for the holidays. It’s a candy store for music lovers. It’s organized chaos…so I happened upon the blues section as I was wandering and found a Bessie Smith album, Empress of the Blues. As far as I can tell, it’s a random mix of her hits.
I’ve given it a few listens so far. Her voice is just beautiful. And even though the songs were written 80+ years ago, the themes of love, loss, and more love and more loss, still resonate.
I’ve loved taking photos since I was a teenager. I’m fairly certain that the pink Le Clic disc camera was my first camera.
I was looking through some old photos recently and was reminded that I haven’t printed any photos since 2008, besides the occasional photo book of a particular event. Darn you, digital camera! Sometimes I miss the mystery of film…not knowing how your photos turned out until you had them developed.
I made a pact with myself to start ordering prints from the last eight years of my life after recently visiting the George Eastman Museum in my hometown.
I hadn’t been to the museum in years, possibly decades. This seems odd for someone who loves photography, but usually my visits to see family are too brief as it is and there is no time to “sightsee.”
The museum is partly exhibits and partly George Eastman’s house, which he had built in 1902–1905.
The museum exhibits were interesting. My favorite was Jason Lazarus’s Too Hard to Keep, which was part of a bigger exhibit. Since 2010, he has invited people to send him photos that they didn’t want to keep but they didn’t want to destroy. Many of the photos in the room had no description; they were just adhered to the wall. A slide projector on the floor projected slides nowhere. (Some people ask for the photos not to be shared.)
At the holidays, the museum fundraises by holding gingerbread house and wreath auctions. Thirty-plus houses and wreaths were on display and visitors could bid on each of them. This was one of my favorite gingerbread houses:
The house itself is beautiful. George had exquisite taste.
As I walked through the house, I wondered what George would think about phone cameras. I think it’s “too easy” to take photos with a phone camera. And what do we all do with the photos? Recently, I’ve quelled my desire to capture every single beautiful moment just because it’s convenient. I saw a breathtaking sunset during a flight a few weeks ago. As I reached for my phone, I said to myself, “Just enjoy the moment. Don’t try to capture it.”
I saw this question in the museum and answered “no.” And so I begin the process of printing out hundreds of photos from the last eight years.
Hello! I’m a little behind with reporting on my birthday list. Last month, I went to a flotation therapy center called Bodymind Float Center in Rochester, New York. However, I didn’t float in a tank; I chose the more economical option of salt therapy.
A friend of mine was game as well, so we sat in the salt room for an hour and caught up on each other’s lives while we inhaled micro-particles of salt. We couldn’t feel anything in the air, but we could taste the salt on our tongues as we gabbed away. The room was Spartan; there were two lounge chairs, a table, and two baskets of huge chunks of salt on the floor. Somehow the salt was getting ground behind the scenes and coming out of a vent in the wall.
This type of therapy is supposed to be good for people with respiratory problems. Luckily, I don’t have those types of problems. But by the end of the session, I had blown my nose a few times! It was a unique experience.
Last week, I had another unique experience. I participated unwittingly in a sit-in at the college where I work. And I was not on the protesters’ side!
Long story short, I’m a staff member but was invited to attend a big faculty meeting. A few hundred students dressed in black decided to take over said meeting. They marched right in, chanting about racial discrimination and holding signs. Then they sat down, surrounding the faculty in their seats, and student after student spoke about his or her experiences of discrimination and cultural insensitivity at the college. They spoke for almost two hours.
Their main demand was to make participation in cultural competency courses mandatory for all faculty. From the stories they told, the faculty need it. It was a peaceful protest and most of the faculty agreed with what the students had to say.
It was a strange feeling to be on the “oppressor’s” side, even though I was really just a guest. It was a powerful experience, and I truly hope that my employer takes action.
So now I have 12 things left to do in fewer than four weeks! It’s on, baby.