About spoonbeams

Who am I? I am a spoonbeam and I'm defining that as I go.

And what are you doing May 31st?

Rokeby and wildflowers cropped even more

Why not dress up and party with the Hudson River Historic Boat and Sailing Society at Rokeby in Barrytown, NY?

Eleanor

Eleanor

As a member of this lively band of sailors, woodworkers, city of Hudson and Hudson River history buffs, and crazy romantics, I invite you to an Edwardian Great Porch and Lawn Party at Rokeby, a  privately-owned Hudson River Livingston/Astor estate with a twist. The event is a benefit to fund the purchase of the spars for the restoration of the 1903 Clinton Crane sloop Eleanor.

According to the Historic American Buildings Survey prepared by the National Park Service, Rokeby, originally known as La Bergerie, is 200 years old this year. Ricky Aldrich, Vice President of HRHBrass is our host for the day and Wint Aldrich will be giving tours of the first floor of the mansion. Speaking unofficially for the volunteers and supporters of the Eleanor Project, I will say that we are extremely thankful to them and to Ania Adrich for opening their home for this occasion.

First Floor PlanGuests will be able to stroll the grounds which offer beautiful views of the Hudson River and the Catskills. If the sun is out, the afternoon will be magnificent If not, it will just be outstanding! It will be hard not to have a good time.

Reliance, 1903

Reliance, 1903

At 4 o’clock Halsey Herreshoff will speak about his racing experiences, the America’s Cup and things dear to sailors. Since 1878, the Herreshoff family has been designing and building select high quality yachts, including the famed Reliance and Westward, the most technologically advanced racing yachts of their time. Halsey is a prolific designer of production and custom yachts. As a sailor, he has been bowman, tactician and navigator, with four successful America’s Cup defenses, and he will have just returned from this year’s race. He is  responsible for the development of the Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame in Bristol, R.I.

000_0005-860x547Hudson River Historic Boat was organized in 2011 to save a very distressed Eleanor. A hard working group of volunteers meet weekly in a warehouse in Hudson, New York to bring her back to her glory so that she can once again sail the Hudson River for the public’s pleasure and education. This event will raise money for Eleanor’s mast, boom and gaff that will be built by the Beetle Boat Shop in Wareham, Mass.

There will be food by Bruno’s, there will be music by the Blackiston Brothers, and we hope you will step back in time and dress Edwardian and join us.  Or dress for 2015 and join us.

For more information on the Party and to purchase tickets, as well as to learn more about the work on the Eleanor please see our website.  If you can’t make be with us on the 31st, but would like to join our group and volunteer your time and/or expertise, please give us a call.

We do have fun.

Eight in the morning

Houseboat Closeup by LeeTwo men, one in a salt and pepper beard, both in tan caps, hooded sweatshirts and faded jeans, standing and talking and drinking coffee at the park. One smokes a cigarette. I can’t get a good look at them since my eyes are so bad even with my binoculars, but they could be Louie. They look out at the river, at the house boat, at the island and the causeway and the barge that just passed by going south. They meander about but don’t cover too much ground — down to the water’s edge and back to the fence. Two cars. Did they plan to meet or just bump into each other on the way to work. They spend some time looking up at the sky. I want to make up a story. Oops. One just walked back from the waters edge. I started typing so I missed seeing what he did down there on the rocks. Perhaps he peed. I’d love to catch one of them peeing. But now they’ve taken out fishing gear. They must be the two that were there late afternoon yesterday.  Is it striper season already?

They don’t look up at the house. Do they feel as the twenty-something year old me did when I went with a neighbor to visit friends in Brooklyn Heights?  We walked along the Promenade and saw people on their decks having drinks and barbecuing and children doing children things. I wondered how it must have felt to live there, in such a singular place, and yet have a parade walking by every day looking up at you living your life. I guess I know now. Sometimes you watch them and sometimes you don’t. And you wonder about them as they do you — or not at all.

——————————————————————————————————–

Republished with Poetry — because I think that’s what it is.

Ice Sailing on the Hudson, 2015

ice boats 1 3:2015There wasn’t the excitement and activity that surrounded last year’s ice boat rally at Rokeby in Barrytown, but it was a real treat to look out the window and see four boats scooting around at Cheviot Landing several days this week.

At the opening of the Ice Boat Expo at FDR Library and Museum in January, Wint Aldrich, historian and member of the Aldrich family that hosted last year’s event summed up 2014’s rare ice-boating conditions:

This past February brought the most “exceptional conditions of ice-boating on the     Hudson in living memory … 15 miles of practically skate-able ice, 15 inches thick,” Aldrich said. “We have all our fingers crossed that this is going to happen again and again. What a treat it would be.”

John Vargo, former commodore of the Hudson River Yacht Club agreed. “It’s once in a lifetime . . . I”ve never seen this many iceboats together on the Hudson, and I’ve been coming here 70 years.”

Over thirty boats and thousands of spectators gathered on the ice.  Some of the ice yachts were over one hundred years old, and two, the Jack Frost and the Rocket, both restored and both about 50 feet tall, sailed with each other for the first time after about a century.  Spectators dragged coal stoves down onto the ice and danced around the boats to music from a brass band from Bard College.

ice boats 2 3:2015But no, it didn’t happen again this year.  Our little ice boat rally was much smaller and quieter.

The 2015 season started when Lee was walking the dogs down by the river.  He met some of the hopeful boaters who had driven up from Newburgh looking for suitable conditions.  They came back with friends and boats the next day and we watched them set up and take off. They’ve been back several times.  Lee spent time down by the landing filming, and one of the boaters asked him if he wanted to go for a ride.

I would have said yes —

She had a big breakfast, lay down and . . .

Mom, 2009?

Mom, 2009?

My mother died November first. She was 98 years old, though she looked younger. Yesterday her death became one of the stories Lee tells to people — at dinner, parties, breakfast, or whenever they seem appropriate. This telling was at Crafts People in Spillway, according to Lee, or Hurley, according to their business card.

When we walked into the first building — Jewelry, Lamps and Toys — the man sitting at the door, the owner, recognized Lee. We wandered a bit about until we were in different places. I was kneeling at a counter with barrettes and hair ribbons, sticks and such, hoping to find just the thing for my niece for Chanukah, when from the other side of the aisle came the words: “She had a big breakfast, and lay down for a nap, and . . . .”

He may have already told the story to Derrick or Eric or others of his men buddies separate from our life together, but this was the first I heard him tell it and it shook me a bit.

Only those few words. I quickly moved into the little room at the back which held the toys, in order to avoid hearing more. If it becomes part of his repertoire, it may acquire embellishments, and I’m looking forward to them.

But this telling was, like her death, quiet, peaceful, simple. I wasn’t at her death and will never know if she died as peacefully as the woman who sat with her told me. She said it was beautiful and the way she said it and looked at me and cried, there is no reason not to believe her.

I would have liked to have been with her.

She was in her own world these past few years or so. For the most part they seemed comfortable, content, healthy years, although I have no idea at all of what was going on in her mind. Did she know that she was and yet was not the woman she used to be? that she was unable to communicate? that she no longer could walk? that her sister had died? that her grandson got married? that people still loved her? Did she really just exist in the moment and did that moment ever seem much too long or meaningless? What did she do in-between those moments?

Did she recognize me as her daughter, did she recognize me as someone who came to visit every now and then, did she miss me when I wasn’t there?  Did I disappoint her by not doing whatever she might have wanted me to do, or not saying whatever she wanted me to say? Did she want?

redheaded woman illustrationMy presence during these later years may have had no impact on her happiness. My presence at her death may have been the same. Her last thoughts may have been of those who died before her — her mother, father, husband, or maybe no thoughts, only a longing to be finally free of the confines of her wheelchair and her own mind, or maybe no longing but just a blissful nothingness.

Is it a gift to be present at death? My husband Clark told me of how he held his father’s hand and felt his spirit pass on to him as he died. I wanted so much to give Clark the chance to be on the giving end when he died but I made a mistake and I’ve never forgiven myself. The night of his death was a nightmare that still continues to haunt me, all the layers of which I have yet to explore.

Perhaps being at the side of my mom when she died would have helped me.

It’s been written that

            “when Mister Death come, the living couldn’t see him, and wept and wailed,
            but the folks that was dyin’ rose up to greet him, and smiled at him on their way,
            like they knew him for a friend.”

I like to think that is true, but its simplicity makes me cringe when I think of those who lose loved ones, especially young loved ones, to accidents, gun shots, cancer. Who gives a shit about this Mister Death coming and taking our innocents away?

           “Well son,” said granny, “here’s another question she asks of you. Why did you take             away her baby sister from the cradle?”

           Then Death twisted and turned in his sleep again. “She was sick,” he said, “She                  was full of pain. I took her so she need never cry again.”

Life, death — it’s all a burden and a blessing.

*

redheaded woman cover

Mr. Death and the Redheaded Woman, by Helen Eustis, with illustrations by Reinhard Michl. A Star & Elephant Book published by Green Tiger Press, 1983, originally published in The Saturday Evening Post, February 11, 1950 under the title “The Rider on the Pale Horse.”

Living with a foo-foo

Dread descended upon me as Lee and I were driving home from an evening out.

Brino on spiralThis was my fourth return to my house for the day. The earlier three times Brino, the current doggie love-of-my-life, bounced down from his lookout on the spiral stairs to meet me at the door and bark his greeting. He looks so cute sitting at the window where he can smell, hear, or see someone approaching..

As is his custom, Brino barked unrestrainedly, expressing his joy and love, until he had circled Lee once or twice and then run out the door to greet me, all the time circling in a frenzy, circling back to circle Lee, and then circling around me and in front of me and  wherever space allowed. I sat down on the bench and started to pet him and told him what a good dog he was. He quieted down, trying to be a good dog, trying so hard to please me by not barking because he has learned that it turns me into a crazy woman. His face and body showed that he was really sorry that he forgot. Strange strangled sounds 2014-01-29 10.46.06emerged from deep in his throat. He looked pleadingly up at me, gurgling and croaking, his eyes saying “Love me, don’t leave me, love me, stay with me, love me, don’t go away again.”  Even though it’s amusing, it’s hard to take.  It’s exhausting for me. It’s exhilarating for him. He’s so happy we are home.  He’s so cute.

 

A little history —

The foster mom who had “Spike” before he came home with me in January and turned into “Brino,” wrote in his online profile that he would sing and dance for you. That sounds cute, doesn’t it? She said he would pick up each foot and point it. He does do that and looks like a little ballerina. So cute. She also said he yipped with glee to see her. After having one disappointment after another trying to adopt a dog I was desperate, and a little yipping was not going to deter me.

Surely Lee and I could break him of this unappealing small dog behavior that he had most likely picked up from those mini poodles and things he somehow got mixed up with and was fostering with. K, his foster mom, had twenty-one dogs at her home. Spike, a twenty-five pound Pomeranian mix or whatever he is, was the big guy at this mostly mini dog rescue (hereafter called TMMDR). The last time I checked, the largest dog available at TMMDR was a 19-pound Pekingese, Miss Becky, unless you count the bonded pair Kaylee and Mikki, two shih tzus who together weigh 26 pounds.

pepper-silo-small

Pepper — one of the 100 pound labs

Most of the dogs at K’s slept on the lower bunk of a trundle, but a favorite few got to sleep up on her bed. Spike wasn’t one of the favored. My grand delusion was that K, with twenty foo-foo dogs — as my family disparagingly labeled any dog that was too cute for words, yippy and spoiled to boot, that resembled a chew toy for one of our 100 pound labs — just didn’t have the time to retrain Spike herself.

Spike had been on my short list for a few months, but never at the top. My heart ached over a few dogs already during the search, and my life was stuck in a deep loneliness without a furry companion. My days were spent scanning adoptable dogs on petfinder.com, scouting local kennels, completing applications, studying breed characteristics and temperaments, and feeling sorry for myself.

2014-01-27 01.53.25 The ChipmunkSpike filled most of my requirements. He was older, small enough to fit on my lap, large enough to walk with the big dogs, and not a constant shedder. He was house trained, neutered, and had no allergies or health issues. He got along with the twenty little dogs at K’s, K’s grandchildren, and cats, and he didn’t cause mayhem when left alone in the house.

Spike got low grades on my barking and yipping requirements, his adoption fee was pretty high, and his foster home was too far for me to visit him ahead of time.  But he was cute. I decided to apply for him.

TMMDR seemed keen on having found someone to take him.

Petfinder is the most popular site for finding your pet soulmate, It is similar to dating sites, and just as humbling and depressing. Each pet has a profile. People read profiles and pick a pet. One difference is that prospective adopters or rescuers don’t have profiles.

Each rescue organization requires a separate application, and some won’t even answer a “Is Buddy-boy” still available?” inquiry until they have received and reviewed your application. That could take a week or more.

Uncle Jack

Uncle Jack

So I filled out yet another application form, answering questions such as: size of yard, height of fence, dog experience, disciplinary strategies, training plans, hours away from home, name of groomer, other people and pets in the home. Did I ever return a dog or put one down? and why? Who would take care of the dog if I went on vacation or died? How often do people, children, dogs visit? Most wanted to call the vet, some wanted to call neighbors, a lot wanted to make a home visit. I felt terribly guilty inflicting unnecessary intrusions into my vet’s day at her clinic.

The application process is a bit overkill. These are dogs looking for new homes. We treat abused children coming across the border and our mentally ill and homeless with less concern.

Petfinder claims to list over 340,000 adoptable pets in over 13,000 adoption centers and shelters. Surely the web designer could streamline the adoption process by setting up a questionnaire for each prospective pet owner to compose a profile. That’s what dating sites do. If the system works for finding a husband or wife it should be good enough for finding a pet.

IMG_0279The adopter profiles could be secure so that only rescue organizations approached by the prospective adopter could see them. Individual rescue organizations could have the option to add a question or two if they deem it necessary. A single secured recommendation from the veterinarian could also be posted online. Harvard and Yale do it. More than 500 colleges choose freshman with a Common Application. Why can’t doggie angels have faith that a common application will work for them also?

Some rescue agencies just don’t respond. They put up barriers. Do they like to play god, are they scams, or they are just incompetent? Many are staffed by unpaid volunteers, but I’m an unpaid volunteer and consider myself competent.

Finally the application was in and accepted, the home inspection went fine, and all we had to do was sign the contract. There were off-putting clauses in the contract, such as —

“The adopter hereby declares that no representations about the nature of the adopted dog . . . have induced the adopter to sign this contract.”

What else would have induced me to choose this dog and sign the contract? All I had were his cute pictures, the profile, a few conversations and emails. We hadn’t even met yet, and they were also asking for pre-payment.

Obviously I had more trust in TMMDR than they had in me.

The contract goes on to dictate what kind of collar he should wear and couldn’t wear, where he should be allowed in my home and outside my home. It threatens to take action to retrieve the dog should I give him to my children or my best friend.

Tuck – my doggie-love before Brino – would have been a very miserable dog if he had to abide by certain rules. How about this one?

This dog will not be kept outdoors during the adopter’s working hours, or at any other time left alone outdoors while the adopter is not at home.

Tuck was happiest in the fenced-in area behind the house where he could look out over the river. He showed his displeasure by being extremely destructive if left inside alone. Tuck’s foster mom warned me, but I had to find out for myself.

closeup of Tuck

Tuck

Another rule in the contract stated that the dog had to be protected from the elements. Tuck loved the snow, the cold, sleet, rain, the wind, the outdoors. He slept on the deck at night. He never went into the shelter we built for him  He was constantly on alert, listening, watching. Even the owner of the kennel where Lee’s dog, Uncle Jack, and Tuck stayed finally gave in. At first he thought it imperative that Tuck stay indoors with the pack, but finally he let him sleep outdoors.

Tuck, by the way, rarely barked, and if he did, whoa — it was scary. He looked like a wolf. Nobody ever called Tuck “cute.”

Perhaps rescue agencies don’t know what is best for all their dogs and their new owners. Perhaps they should have a little humility and allow adopted dogs and their owners to find their own way. The contract includes threats of recall, attorney fees, and fines. It is as if TMMDR doesn’t want to relinquish ownership of their dogs. In paragraph one it states that the “donation” is not a fee or sale price.

It’s a very invasive contract. TMMDR can visit my home anytime, call my vet for information anytime, demands that I notify them if I move and if Spike/Brino dies.

But I signed the contract, just like I sign my life away over and over – when I open a bank account, or get insurance, or go to the doctor, or buy a cell phone, or download software, or now, adopt a dog.

2014-01-27 01.37.25 Going for a rideI do love my Brino. Except for the fact that I later learned that TMMDR kept the entire fee, including the extra $50 I paid to “help defray the cost” of getting my dog to me, and did not give any of it to K, I do appreciate their efficiency and the work that the organization does. K feeds 21 dogs and gets them their shots and meds. She brought Spike to a groomer so that he’d be cute as could be when I picked him up, drove to meet me half way for the pick-up, and definitely deserved a big chunk of that fee. K and other foster moms and the transport volunteers who ferry the dogs around have very big hearts.

It’s been a few days since the dread and it has slowly dissipated. Brino was able to come along with me on most of my errands since that night so he hasn’t been overwhelming at the door. Everyone he meets on my travels thinks he is so cute.

IMG_0282He is lying by my desk on the tower deck as I write. He’s been a good little boy today, not barking too much, settling down quickly. He trotted gaily by my side on our walk with Lee and Uncle Jack – on the leash and off, he took a dunk in the stream and shook himself off before he came near. He sticks close, doesn’t bolt as all my other dogs did whenever they had the chance. It feels good.

Who knows what goes on in Brino’s cute little head? When I wrote to K to report on how he was doing, she twice asked me, “Is he still behaving like a gentleman?”

“Ooohhh,” I thought.  “He’s got an ungentlemanly side???”

He has antagonized some, but not all, of the neighbor dogs, mostly the pit bull next door, and the Caine Corso who usually is very sweet but always very large. Wikipedia, although not necessarily the preferred source for information on such a grand beast, says it best: “Ideally the Cane Corso should be indifferent when approached and should only react in a protective manner when a real threat is present.” That’s what I keep telling Mina, since Brino is certainly not anything resembling a real threat. After getting bit on the bum by the pit bull (totally not the neighbor’s fault and no hard feelings) Brino has been much less feisty.

IMG_0274Depending upon the length of his hair, Brino is my Baby B., my fox, my bottlebrush, my scraggly little guy, my flutterby, my chipmunk, my lion, my mop. Lee affectionately calls him a pain in the a–.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

____________________________________________________________________

The Great Water Race and Barbecue to help build sloop Eleanor’s Spars

EleanorThe Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society Inc. invites all to the Great Water Race and Barbecue at the Roe-Jan Creek Boat Club in Germantown on September 6th, from 2 to 5pm.  Proceeds will go to support Sailboat Eleanor’s restoration – specifically to restore the mast, boom, and gaff of this lovely landmark vessel.

The racing sloop Eleanor was built in City Island in 1903 and is on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places.  Being well over a century old, with materials of mahogany, oak, cedar, iron and copper, she will provide invaluable restoration experiences for both master craftsmen and their apprentices.  Eleanor is the last surviving example of a class of boats known as “raceabouts” that were designed for speed, and represents a unique chapter in the evolution of sailing.  This is an opportunity to have a wonderful afternoon and contribute to a unique cause as well.

Duck and FlamingoThe Water Race will begin at approximately 3:30 pm.  Ten ducks and ten flamingos, who have gathered from various point on the map and are staying at members’ homes, have been studying and swimming the waters of the creek for the past month or so, will vie for the finish line.  Racers, at $50 each, can be sponsored before September 6th by calling 618-568-8832, or at the barbecue if still available.  Five hundred dollars will go to benefit Eleanor, $250 will be awarded to the sponsor of the first place winner, 50 to the second place sponsor, and $100 to the third.  The racers will have the option of remaining with their sponsors as honorary drink floats or returning home.  Guests can bet on their favorite racer. Enjoy the view of the river and the mountains as you cheer the racers on.

Music will be provided by The Livingston-Blackiston twins, Sky and Sandy, and by Mike Pagnani and Friends.  A menu of hot dogs, chicken, local potatoes contributed by Staron Farm and fresh corn contributed by Holmquest Farm, salads, and home baked desserts will be served.  Call 518-567-8832 or email eleanorrestorationproject@gmail.com for tickets or get back to me in my comments — only $15 a person.  You may also purchase them at Anglers Marine at 12 County Route 31or Bruno’s in Hudson. .  Tickets must be purchased before August 29th.

Come have a great afternoon and learn more about Eleanor.  Visit HRHBrass’s website at www.hudsonriverhistoricboat.org

Thanks to Hudson River Sampler from whom I happily stole whole sentences!

 

 

 

Love in the Cookie Jar

Back in those crazy years after my husband died and I began dating again, a fellow who intrigued me asked me to bake him cookies in exchange for his affection. He followed a quasi gluten free diet. I bought Gluten-Free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America.  Author Richard Coppedge had formulated four specialized flours that could be blended for breads, cakes, cookies, bagels, pancakes, everything to keep a lover happy.  It was intense, scientific, and required visiting several natural food stores for ingredients. This was 2008, before gluten free baking flours and such were readily available.  I am just a casual baker, and after several attempts at success, was not willing to put in the effort to get it right.

Love in the Cookie JarIn the end the fellow wasn’t worth the effort either, but at this point I was hopelessly smitten. Momma’s Favorite Monster Cookie was perfect. I found it on the internet.  It was simple, forgiving, nutritious, and the recipe produced 48 delicious cookies.

He loved them. They surpassed anything found anywhere, and they still are hard to beat. He encouraged me to market them.

Well he’s gone but the cookie is still a favorite.

Lots of friends and family, one with gluten issues, visited these past few weeks.  I made a double batch, froze them – which they do so well — and served them continually.  Several cookie lovers asked for the recipe.

I went online to send them the link. The url no longer existed. Fourteen million, six hundred thousand results popped up binging “Monster Cookie.” Ah yes, a lot of them were Cookie Monster hits. Forgot about him.

There were countless versions of this oatmeal, peanut butter cookie:  Grandmother  versions, Jewish versions, Amish versions, Nestlé’s version, Pillsbury’s version, Paula Deen’s version which has 447 comments by the way; a modified version for autistic children which uses corn syrup instead of butter or margarine, fully illustrated presentations, utube demonstrations, and some which added flour.   One site honored it as a “modern classic.” And then there was that entirely different blue genre mentioned above.

What is my point?

I’m not sure.

But many caring women, and hopefully some just as caring men have featured this recipe on their blogs or have commented on it suggesting variations, asking for more details, or simply praising it.  And surely, an even greater number of women who have discovered and baked and loved this cookie have their own story they will tell when they share this treat.

Momma Kate’s recipe was originally at recipezaar.com and is now available on food.com.

One of the most recent comments on Paula Deen’s site is “. . .They did not turn out. They were yucky cookie balls. Such a bummer.”

My suggestion to the writer is that she try again.  Practice makes perfect, and mine get better and better every time.

Just like picking fellows.

Stephen, Lee Rubinstein, Jo Hills, Mary Jo @ Beekman Arms (Rhinebeck, NY)

 

So let me tell you about my tower #14: But this, but that

The narrative has been played out, and unfortunately so has the work on the house.

There are more stories:  lighting, flooring, the glorious deck railing, landscaping, decoration, the highs, the lows, the surprises, the disappointments, the could-have-done-differentlies and the-things-to consider-next-times.   But details have been slipping away  and my muse is calling me to follow.

Friends and neighbors celebrated the completion of our addition at a party on a spectacularly warm, sunny afternoon last Columbus Day weekend. We celebrated too. The tower is great. Lee and I have been in the whole house for almost a year and it is our home, comfortable like an old bathrobe.

But the poor little cottage – my sweet cozy nest on the river – needs TLC. The walls in the cottage need spackle and paint. They always did, even before we opened up the second floor and buffed up the skeleton.  Now after groaning and creaking with the added weight, the walls are crying for help.

I knew this would happen.  I’ve been here before.

I like many of the design concepts the previous owners incorporated into the cottage:  the trim-less windows, the curve where the ceiling meets the walls, and the mirrors on the sliding doors to the bathroom.  They’d look great in a coffee table book.  Perhaps that’s where they belong.

Lee has nothing good to say about them. He sees the workmanship; I see the look.  The edges around the windows keep chipping and tape is popping up all over. The rounded angle at the ceiling line was beyond the ability of the drywall man. The mirrors on the bathroom sliding doors are very, very heavy and they push the confines of the door housing. One of them only opens all the way at certain times of the year.

2014-05-29 07.02.54Lee would rather be finishing the stone walk, and he is, and he has to comply with lead paint regulations elsewhere, but most of all he wants to stop abusing his 67-year old body.

To keep us both smiling I finally decided to call our favorite painter friend to repair and paint the walls in the cottage but she seems to have disappeared.   Know someone good?

Once the painting is done the house can more or less grow old gracefully. Cold air fills the top floor of the tower when the winter winds blow down the Hudson, but the heavy quilt I thumbtack over the warped door reminds me of long winters in New Hampshire when I hung blankets on stairways to keep the heat from drafting upstairs. Baseboard moulding sits loose where it should be stained and attached, but why is that different than the curtains hemmed with safety pins? The stair treads in the cottage are well scuffed and spotty, but they are memories of running barefoot up to bed after late nights in the hot tub –  peaceful moments I had during my solo years in the cottage.

We’ll get there. Whatever needs to be done will be done – hopefully before the family gathering this August. But the rest will wait until whenever we decide to sell.

 

I cover the waterfront #2

mcvx79116The New York Times reported today on crude oil flowing down the Hudson – not flowing in it, at least not yet, but flowing on it and along side it. I am so happy that Jad Mouawad is following this story.

A Times article in January annoyed me. It reported that this oil was traveling across our country, but there was no mention that it was happening right here in New York. The  article on February 25th annoyed me – it didn’t make clear enough that the Department of Transportation was playing games with its mind-boggling order promoting the shipping of crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars, the ones that have been involved in explosions, fires, destruction, and death because they were not built to do the task at hand.

But I applaud all the coverage.  It appears that the articles are being read and that there is a flurry of scurrying by rail, regulators, politicians and citizenry to at last act. Please continue.

The Times Union in Albany has been feeding us the scary news for a while (see the previous Waterfront post).  In fact there was a derailment of a thankfully empty oil train near Kingston just this Tuesday. A locomotive and a sand-filled car in the 97-car oil train derailed near the Hudson Valley Mall in Ulster County. A southbound train carrying crude was waiting nearby for this train to pass before it continued on its way. This was the third oil train accident in the state in the past three months.  Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for the DOT-111s to be phased out by July, and for the lowered speed limits put into place for tank cars in New York City and Buffalo to be extended to all upstate communities.

If the DOT-111s are phased out, new tankers must take their place.  If we need this oil so badly, there should be a law that they be built at home.  Come on job creators.  Just think of all the men and women you could put to work.  I bet the rails could be brought up to higher standards also.  There’s got to be some positive side to destroying the climate.

Today I received an email message from the Environmental Advocates of New York, asking for money, of course, but also telling me about the “ 1.6 million gallons of oil moving through our state each year by train.” The email goes on to say that EANY is working with “community activists and organizational partners to stop Big Oil in its tracks. . .” Isn’t that clever?

Why do I keep wondering if all this concern about the trains is a ploy by the pipeline proponents to get their project approved? There is no safe way to move this oil around.

Personally I would like to see all this oil stay in the ground. It is not helping us in this country to save on energy costs or to make us self-sufficient in our energy needs. The extraction of the oil is destroying our landscape, disrupting geological formations, and poisoning our water and air. We need meaningful regulations and constraints on the corporations involved to build an infrastructure to support such huge operations and to force them to clean up after themselves. The workers need to be adequately trained to do their jobs safely to lower the rates of deaths and accidents on fracking sites.

There are issues at every stage of the process. It is a dirty fuel that only the profit makers and the suckered are promoting. The profit makers don’t want it in their back yard and the suckered will live to regret.

I cover the waterfront

This morning’s New York Times article, “Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train,” by Clifford Krauss and Jad Mouawad, is a tardy but welcome look at one more dangerous and irresponsible aspect of the shale oil industry and the need for common sense and regulation to prevent further destruction of our environment, cities, and homes, and avoidable loss of lives.

Last night I watched the first half of Harlan County, USA, an Oscar-winning documentary about the 1973 coal miners’ strike.  Working and living conditions were deplorable.  The action of the police and the lack of concern by the government was expected but nonetheless depressing.  The courage and unity of the coalminers, both as workers and as strikers, and their wives were perhaps naive but definitely inspiring.  The double-speak of the mine-owners was nauseating.

Granted working conditions have improved since then, but definitely not enough to convince me that we are living in a land of opportunity and equality and respect for the working man.  The American ideals taught in grammar school (or which at least used to be taught in grammar school) and which are touted as making our country exceptional, are lost somewhere in the daily voracious onslaught of stupid and ugly politicking, the distracting hype and expensive investigation of non-existent conspiracies, the hate mongering media establishment, and the distortion that evil money brings to the interpretation and presentation of reality and to our government.  I still believe that good money, decent bosses, and politicians and government officials with integrity and honor exist, so don’t get on me that I am anti-money or anti-capitalism or anti-government.  These honest hard-working capitalists and politicians are just not having their day right now.

Some big industries still look upon workers as replaceable parts to be thrown away when they are too damaged to keep functioning.  Innocent bystanders are also just part of the cost of doing business.  Somewhere priorities are lost.  What is more important:  industry? or the people that industry is to serve?

2012-11-29 11.06.11This December I gathered together information from my personal research on what I see from my window overlooking the Hudson to share with the people of my town.  Included were pesticide spraying by the railroads and electric companies, new electric lines from Canada to Manhattan, effects of the rising sea level, and the transport of crude oil from the Bakken fields through Albany to east coast refineries.  With just a few updates, the section on the transport of oil along the river follows.

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Global Partners and Buckeye terminals in Albany are hubs for the passage of shale oil from the Bakken, North Dakota fields to refineries north and south along the east coast.  The oil comes in by train and goes out by barge or rail.

Surete du Quebec photo of the Lac Megantic derailment

Surete du Quebec photo of the Lac Megantic derailment

Roger Downs, conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter in Albany is quoted in a July 2013 article in the Albany Times Union:  “People in the Capital District are horrified by the catastrophic train derailment and the subsequent loss of life in Quebec – but have no idea that the same Bakken crude oil shipments rumble through the heart of the city of Albany every day – presenting even greater risks to the lives of our own citizens. .  . If we are truly serious about facilitating a renewable energy future and protecting public health from these man-made disasters, Albany lawmakers can and should act to ban crude oil shipments through all our urban corridors.”

Downs was referring to the tanker train collision, fire, and death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic in Canada, just 10 miles out from Maine, a few days earlier.

Area agencies and residents are also concerned about the possibility of other accidents, such as the one in December of 2012, when a double-hulled tanker, the Stena Primorsk carrying crude ran aground 10 miles south of Albany.  No oil spilled from the tanker although the outer hull was breached.

Training of first responders as well as purchasing of emergency equipment in the Port of Albany and surrounding areas has been ongoing.  In November, officials from Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties, the U.S. Coast Guard and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation enacted a simulation of an oil spill from a Global Partners subsidiary’s terminal in New Windsor. Over 100 people, including representatives from NOAA, observed.  The results showed that if floating booms were not used, the oil could spread as far north as Wappingers Creek and south to Storm King Park, a total of 15 miles.

Financial reporters are emphasizing that the less expensive shale oil will boost the east coast refineries that have been suffering from the high costs of imported oil.  Shipping crude oil by rail to and through Albany is only going to grow.

Schumer in Kingston, photo by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman

Schumer in Kingston, photo by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman

Railroad companies are asking for more regulation on the construction of railroad cars so that new cars, which are in demand, will be safer than the currently used DOT-111.  The DOT-111s are the tankers that derailed and burnt in Lac-Magantic and again in Alberta this October.  New York’s Senator Schumer called on the Federal Department of Transportation to phase out the DOT-111 in July, and this January he reiterated his appeal after the North Dakota derailment.

Sen. Schumer reported that between 100 and 200 DOT-111s pass through Kingston daily.  Most freight trains travel the western bank of the Hudson.  The tracks on the eastern shore are being restructured to make commuter travel more efficient.  However, the difference in how a railroad disaster would affect us if it is on our side or the other side of the river is only a matter of degree.

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Nothing in today’s New York Times article today mentions that oil trains are running across and down New York state, nor am I able to find any mention of Schumer’s concerns on the issue in the Times.  I’d like to think that our Senator’s second round of concern was sparked in part by the letter I wrote to his office – but that is a bit presumptuous.  Why don’t you write him one?

I’m not a rabble-rouser..  I don’t want to start a revolution.  I’m not a Joe Hill.  I just want to be safe and healthy and leave a good place for my children and their children.

It’s 1:30 and there are only 15 comments on the article.  There are however 400 on Ross Douthat’s contribution on marriage, sexuality, morality and poverty.  There are 212 comments on Maureen Dowd’s coverage of the emerging marijuana tourist business in Colorado.

Come on, people.  Come out of the clouds and think a little.

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Call to action issued after North Dakota oil train wreck, 01/07/2014  http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2014/01/07/Call-to-action-issued-after-North-Dakota-oil-train-wreck/UPI-75251389095711/

CP Rail oil shipment deal signals rail transport no longer stopgap measure, by Jeff Lewis, 09/01/2013  http://business.financialpost.com/2013/01/09/cp-rail-oil-shipment-deal-signals-rail-transport-no-longer-stopgap-measure/?__lsa=c6f7-eda2

Global Partners boosts Bakken shipments to eastern refiners, by Aaron Clark  Bradley Olson, 04/18/2012  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-18/global-partners-boosts-bakken-shipments-to-eastern-refiners-1-.html

How an oil spill could spread in the Hudson River, by Brian Nearing, 11/13/2013  http://blog.timesunion.com/green/how-an-oil-spill-could-spread-in-the-hudson-river/4485/

Hudson spill drill will test skill:  many agencies plan for first river exercises since tanker accident, by Brian Nearing, 11/08/2013   http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Hudson-spill-drill-will-test-skill-4968951.php

New York turns into hub for shale boom, by Gregory Meyer, 02/14/2014  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5afe2abe-7564-11e2-b8ad-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2mMKhLZNS

Oil by rail:  are we safe?  Quebec disaster puts focus on busy Albany oil corridor, by Eric Anderson, 07/10/2013  http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Oil-by-rail-Are-we-safe-4656040.php

Schumer calls on FEDS to require phase-out plan of DOT-111 cars carrying oil through Western New York. . ., press release, 08/13/2013  http://www.schumer.senate.gov/Newsroom/record.cfm?id=345541&&year=2013&

Tanker carrying Bakken crude to Canadian refinery runs aground, by Eliot Caroom & Dan Murtaugh, 12/20/2012  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-20/tanker-carrying-bakken-crude-to-canadian-refinery-runs-aground.html

Unsettling echoes of Canada rail disaster, by Chris Churchill, The Advocate, 08/03/2013  http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Unsettling-echoes-of-Canada-rail-disaster-4705390.php