Authors Posts by Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

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Joe Biden has written a book called, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose,” about one year in his life. A memoir, it deals in part with the illness and death of his elder son, Beau, from brain cancer at the age of 46. I have not read the book. It just came out this past Tuesday, Nov. 14. But the coincidence of the book’s release on the day my husband died at a similarly young age exactly 30 years ago from cancer has connected me to Biden. I know what he went through — the shock, the pain, the hope, the heartbreak, the grief and the end that ultimately comes crashing down into silence. Then he faced the absolute necessity of having to pick up and function because life moves on with every passing day. And we must move on with it because there is no respite for the living.

Biden also writes about his difficult decision not to run for president in the 2016 election and about the foreign crises in Iraq, the Ukraine and Central America as part of his workload during that one year.

“I wanted to write precisely about the crises and dilemmas I faced as they intersected in the moment,” Biden told Philip Galanes in an interview with The New York Times. “I wanted to show that in the ebb and flow of life, nothing is totally separable.”

I know that Biden was lucky to have those other facets to deal with, just as I was lucky to have a huge challenge almost immediately after my husband’s death.

Two of my sons were away in college, the third was a high school senior and the newspaper was being challenged by the Communications Workers of America to unionize. A reporter on my staff, who had already made his mark by unionizing the teaching assistants at Stony Brook University, brought the union to my door. He turned his attention to our hometown newspaper, despite the fact that there wasn’t a community newspaper in all of New York state that had a union. Shoestring budgets and multitask jobs preclude coordinated decision making with a union. The CWA was attracted, I guess, because it represented new territory to conquer. The only problem was that community newspapers are not flush with profits and do not have large staffs to join a union. Nonetheless, we had to fight them off for six months, as they handed out pamphlets with all sorts of painful charges to get our staff worked up against the company. The climax came with an appearance before the National Labor Relations Board in a room without air conditioning in Brooklyn on a hot June day. The pickings were turning out to be pretty lean for the CWA, and they backed off.

Throughout the ordeal, I was wildly angry. I wasn’t getting a chance to grieve. Each day I had to rush to the parapets to defend the honor and integrity of the newspaper against what was to me a ridiculously unequal battle. I barely gave any attention to my grieving son who was still at home, nor did I have a chance to pour out my own grief somewhere in a quiet corner. But I did realize how fortunate I was in those who came to my defense. We had absolutely no money to hire a labor lawyer, and we had no idea how to respond. But the newly retired union leader of the Long Island Rail Road came into my office and offered his help.

Harold Pryor was the man who had terrified Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (R) during contract talks by calling wildcat strikes from his totally loyal followers, directing them to abandon the trains at the nearest station during rush hour. Pryor was living in the area and teaching at Stony Brook University. When he found out what was happening to our newspaper, he thought it was not only unfair but also idiotic. He came to advise me through the thicket of union maneuverings, and he brought with him an experienced lawyer to defend us during the hearing.

It was a script worthy of a movie. Here was this feared union leader facing off against one of the largest unions for the sake of a peanut of a newspaper. Jimmy Stewart would have played his part in the spirit of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And thanks to his aid, we emerged unscathed.

Only after it was all over did I realize that life had thrown me a life preserver, much as it had for Biden, and therefore we hadn’t drowned in our grief.

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Do we need tax cuts?

Lots of people agree that our current tax rules are outdated, cumbersome and unfair. On the other hand, there will never be total unanimity on how the tax code should read because one person’s tax cut is another’s tax increase, and for sure no one wants to lose whatever benefits they already have. So the prospect of changes is only palatable as a campaign promise if there would be an overall greater good that everyone recognizes. Such a benefit was proposed during the 2016 campaign as a way to recharge the slow economy. And the conversation has continued from there.

But hold on. The circumstances have changed. Our economy is no longer sluggish. In fact, it seems to have taken off. And, unusually, the economies around the globe appear to have also done so, almost in unison. This rare good news bodes well for the United States and others around the world.

So, back to my original question: Why do we need a tax cut?

If the answer is, for political reasons, that stinks. Just because politicians promised to cut taxes, a regular pledge to get votes, is not good enough to shake the ground on which we live. If the answer is to reallocate wealth, that has never been the role of our capitalist democracy. If the answer is to make more equal the lives of the haves and the have-nots going forward, then simply raise the taxes on the haves in proportion to how much they have benefited from our same capitalist society. And finally, if the answer is to raise revenue in order to reduce our unprecedented national debt, then raise taxes across the board proportionately on everyone who enjoys the services provided by life in these United States.

Sometimes one can get too close to a problem and not see the bigger picture. There is a saying that goes: Are we doing things right—or are we doing the right things? To check on whether we are doing things right, we have to engage in the details, the nitty-gritty of the process. In the case of tax reform, we have to hammer out every line to the greater satisfaction of all concerned. But to decide if we are on the right track, that is, if we are doing the right things, we have to stand back and examine the whole picture. Has the situation changed, perhaps rectified itself, or do we still have to help matters along?

I suggest the latter and I’ll explain why.

Businesses, which will reap three-quarters of the tax proposals over the next 10 years as currently presented, are already, for the most part, doing just fine. That is why the stock market keeps hitting new highs. The prices of the stocks are earnings driven, and the companies we can publicly track via the markets are showing record profits. Why do they need more stimulus? To expand and create more jobs, which is a political mantra? More likely companies will reinvest the additional profits in job-saving equipment, which is the way trends are already leaning. If the government wants to create more jobs, it should help create more businesses, which it could do by offering tax breaks to start-up companies. But that doesn’t require broad tax overhaul. That would just take one change. Mr. President, pick up the pen. Furthermore, to encourage companies to add more workers, offer incentives specifically pegged toward those additional salaries, not tax breaks that can simply result in higher profits in the misguided hope of higher tax revenues.

The initial tax proposals include eliminating deductions for large medical expenses; student loan interest; alimony; tax preparation costs; moving to a new job expenses; casualty, disaster and theft losses; and qualified adoption fees, according to CNBC. Are those the changes we want for our society?

What ultimate goal can we all get behind, and do we get there with tax cuts?

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The issue of the newspaper that you now hold in your hands or are reading on an electronic device is an annual superstar. Only once in each year do we publish a comprehensive preelection section that speaks to the upcoming races. We invite the opponents together to our offices for each local race and pepper them with questions until we feel we have a good handle on them. This section is the distillation of many hours of interviews with the candidates and follow-up research, putting together the information that we are privileged to learn. Then we share that information with you.

We go even further. After careful consideration, sometimes over a period of many days, we will come to a conclusion as to whom to vote for and tell you what we think and why. These are our endorsements and may be found on the editorial pages in the back of the paper. We also include a sample ballot so you can walk into your polling place and know the layout on which you will mark your choices.

We are the only community newspapers that span three towns in Suffolk: Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington. So as you can imagine, there are a good number of races in which we need to be involved. In two of these towns, there will be a new day for there are open seats at the top of the ticket for the first time in more than a score of years. In Huntington, longtime Supervisor Frank Petrone decided not to run again, and so Edwards is giving up her seat on the town board, as she and state Assemblyman Lupinacci compete to lead the town. Candidates for the two town board seats are incumbent Cuthbertson and challengers Smyth, Leonick and Rogan. Berland, too, is leaving her seat on the board and trying for a Suffolk County legislative seat, running against Gavilla. Kennedy is challenged by Hyms for her seat in the legislature.

Smithtown Township has the same open top position since Vecchio lost the Republican primary and will not be running for supervisor for the first time in 40 years. Instead the residents will have Holst, Wehrheim or Slevin as their new leader. The voters will also choose two board members among Fortunato, Doyle, McCarthy, Nowick, Lohmann and Stoddard.

Brookhaven, in contrast, has no open seats but plenty of competition. Incumbent Romaine is facing a challenge from Harrington for supervisor. In our coverage district, incumbent Councilwoman Cartright is running against challenger Canale, and incumbent Bonner is being opposed by Goodman. For the county Legislature in our Brookhaven area, we have incumbent Anker versus Pollakusky and incumbent Hahn challenged by Flood. Also in play is the Brookhaven Town superintendent of highways position, as incumbent Dan Losquadro is challenged by Portesy.

Two of the most closely watched contests in Suffolk County are for district attorney and sheriff. Both of those positions are open seats. Police Commissioner Sini is running against Perini for DA and Stony Brook University Deputy Police Chief Zacarese is opposed by Toulon in the race for sheriff.

On top of our usual duties at TBR News Media, we interviewed them all. It was exhausting but exhilarating, as we learned more than we already knew from the incumbents and a great deal about the challengers. We heard about the issues that are on the minds of the North Shore community. The electorate is concerned about the escalating opioid epidemic that is killing hundreds, particularly of our younger people. Residents also continue to be frustrated about high property taxes, public safety — especially as it relates to the insidious growth of gangs, the traffic in Smithtown, the homeless in Brookhaven and the brain drain that is the result of not enough high-paying jobs and affordable housing.

We also tell you our opinion of a constitutional convention. We oppose it, fearing a Pandora’s box containing many evils.

We are always impressed that residents will come forward to run for public office. Campaigns are a lot of work, and being a public servant has its tribulations. This year, more than most others, we are further impressed by the high quality of candidates. We urge you to do one of the two things you are allowed only if you are an American citizen. Please be sure to VOTE.

P.S. The other is to serve on a jury.

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At some point along my ancestral chain, I must have been Italian. Or Chinese. How do I know? I have an unbelievable passion for pasta. That’s not a carbohydrate lust. While I have never met a carb I don’t like, I can take or leave rice or bread and the many other forms in which carbohydrates can be found. But my soul soars for pasta.

It was World Pasta Day Oct. 25, and that got me to thinking about my love affair with pasta. I suppose it started in my early childhood, as almost everything does. SpaghettiOs came in a can, and my mother occasionally served it to us as part of a meal. However, the story is not that straightforward. She felt the sauce was a bit sharp, and so she sprinkled the spaghetti with a little sugar. Now this is enough to make any self-respecting Italian restaurateur gag. Many did, as I would ask, “Can I have some sugar please?” of my waiter as I was served a bowl of steaming pasta. “Sugar? You mean Parmesan cheese?” he would ask. “No sugar, thank you, granulated sugar,” I would patiently explain. Then he would watch in fascination as I topped off my dish accordingly.

It wasn’t until I visited Italy for the first time that I understood the miracle of pasta. The secret is in the sauce, which decidedly is not improved with the addition of sugar. Somehow the pasta itself tastes different there too, the same way water does depending on where it comes from. I remember that first trip very well, as I fell in love with the beauty of the country, the kindness of the people, the richness of its art. But what I remember best is the pasta, which I will tell you that I came to eat there three times a day. And it never tasted the same way twice because all chefs proudly make their own secret sauces. The high point occurred in Amalfi, in a small restaurant on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea. We were with a tour but unscheduled for lunch, and we wandered around the town looking for a likely eatery. They are all charming, you know, but one in particular attracted us and we went in to find that the luncheon special consisted of six different kinds of pasta.

Six! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The chef, who spoke no English and needed none, came out to explain that we should start with the mildest pasta on the huge plate, then work our way around much as an artist does with his paint palette, to the one with the strongest flavored sauce. The six pastas were each different and the experience was, as you can tell, exquisitely memorable.

Although some think pasta was invented in Italy, others believe Marco Polo brought it back from his travels to China, where he supposedly tasted it at the court of Kublai Khan. There is record of the Chinese eating noodles as early as 5000 B.C. and, in fact, the Etruscans from western Italy seem to have made pasta in 400 B.C. There are bas-relief carvings in a cave 30 miles north of Rome depicting instruments for making pasta: a rolling-out table, pastry wheel and flour bin, according to the National Pasta Association. Anyway in the 13th century, the pope set quality standards for pasta. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with a macaroni dish he tasted in Naples while serving as ambassador to France and promptly ordered crates of the pasta, along with the pasta-making machine, sent back to the United States. Indeed, he may have been the one to introduce macaroni to this country. Cortez brought tomatoes back from Mexico in 1519, but it took two centuries before the marriage with pasta was consummated.

There have been many imitation pastas, meaning not made from wheat, that have come along, but only one makes the grade with me, and I give it a shameless plug here for those who can’t or won’t eat the real thing. Manufactured by Tolerant, it is made of beans and called Organic Red Lentil Pasta.

Buon appetito!

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The recently aired story of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle forcefully reminded me of my mother. I was probably thinking of my mother, since it would have been her birthday this past Monday. She was born in 1906, one year after Prince John. The sixth and last child of the then-Prince of Wales and Mary — by 1910, King George V and Queen Mary — young John was a handsome but unusually rambunctious member of the House of Windsor. That may have had something to due with his diagnosis of epilepsy at age 4.

From that time, Prince John lived increasingly out of public view, looked after by a governess, and there are no official portraits of him after age 8. He died from a severe seizure when he was just 13 years old. Only then was his illness disclosed to the general public along with his learning disability, and on some official family trees of the royals his name was erased altogether.

It was not at all unusual at that time and through much of the ensuing 20th century for families to hide their imperfect children. Often those were separated from their families and sent to institutions, where they died, perhaps from inattention or wanton neglect. Another such prominent family with a less-than-perfect child was that of Arthur Miller, the acclaimed writer of morality plays. He and his third wife had a mentally retarded son who was separated from his parents and sister, given over to the care of an older, childless couple and barely acknowledged, an apparent embarrassment to his cerebral father.

Into this world my younger sister, Maxine, was born in 1942. She was diagnosed with Down syndrome almost immediately, and my mother’s highly regarded New York City obstetrician advised my parents to “do yourselves a favor and throw her into the nearest garbage can.” We live in an entirely different world today, made so by much of the investigative reporting of journalists like Geraldo Rivera and his expose of terrible and unconscionable conditions at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island in the 1970s. The courageous outing of their disabled sister by the Kennedys in the 1960s was also a transformative moment in this change from hiding away children with handicaps to helping them develop as humans entitled to their lives.

Fully supported in her decision by my father, my mother fiercely insisted that my sister had every right to be loved and brought up alongside her other two children. She then devoted the rest of her life to caring for and teaching Maxine to the extent possible.

There were no public schools to help the mentally challenged at the time any more than there were facilities to aid those with physical disabilities. But my mother, with infinite patience, taught my “profoundly retarded” (that was her diagnosis) sister to read and do simple arithmetic on perhaps a second-grade level. In addition, Maxine was accepted into a private school for those with disabilities run by the Catholic Church in Brooklyn, which further helped her development.

My sister was a delightful member of our family with a wickedly good sense of humor and a heart full of kindness and love. She enriched all our lives and lived until 2008, something of a record for those with Down syndrome.

Maxine was unlucky to be born with a severe disability and in the first half of the 20th century. But she was incredibly lucky to have my father and mother as her parents. My mother completely ignored the stares of passersby on the streets and on the buses of New York who had never before seen a person with Down syndrome. She valiantly withstood the ire of her sisters, who emotionally urged her to “put Maxine away,” the euphemistic phrase for institutionalizing, because she would ruin the good marriage prospects of the next generation if she were seen. And she integrated Maxine into her daily life to the edification of the neighborhood, whose residents came to greatly respect my parents and enjoy Maxine.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

If a man and a woman are seen together having lunch, the inevitable gossip ensues. The two of them may be colleagues or they may simply be friends. But rumors start. Does this always happen? Not always, of course, but often enough to discourage pairing off for an exchange of ideas or career advice perhaps in business. Now, with sexual harassment in the news, there is added pressure for the sexes to go their separate ways lest any movement or words be misunderstood between them. What nonsense.

Please be assured that I am as passionately against sexual harassment as anyone on the planet. Wherever it may be found, it should be exposed and halted. But the pendulum, I believe, may be swinging too far in the other direction. Recently Vice President Mike Pence mentioned that he doesn’t eat alone with a woman who is not his wife. Recent polls indicate that a majority of employees of both sexes feel it is inappropriate to have a drink or dinner together and, although less so, it may also be inappropriate for lunch. Even driving together in a car can be looked at askance.

This wariness, although perhaps helpful in avoiding situations of sexual harassment, is a loser for both sexes, especially in the workplace. For men, who are apparently unsure where the boundaries are for a touch on the arm or an innocent compliment on a colleague’s dress, there is the loss of diversity. Women can have different sensibilities and can offer different perspectives than men, to the benefit of both. A recent advertisement featuring a woman has just been yanked by a major company because it may be misinterpreted as racist. My guess is that no woman executive of that company saw the ad before it went public.

For women, the loss is perhaps greater. Since most of the leadership of companies and institutions is still made up of men, the mentorship and sponsorship of female employees is at least as vital, or even more so, than for male junior-level employees. But if a woman cannot enjoy a close professional working relationship with such a sponsor, she is often blocked from moving up in the ranks.

I am reminded of my own business life and the people who helped me advance. Yes, there were a couple of women mentors who were willing to share their skills with me and promote my status, but there were more men along the way who selected me for advancement. One local businessman volunteered important advice to me at a critical time in the early years of the newspaper. Another energetically proposed me as a candidate for president of the New York Press Association, a position for which I will always be grateful. Another supported my intuition at a decisive juncture, I’m sure I don’t know why, but it worked out well. Several others helped me with various financial matters.

Did I meet with them alone for lunch or dinner or, heavens, for a drink? You bet I did. How else to get private time for critical conversation? Meetings in the office are routinely interrupted or overheard. Did I ever meet alone with anyone of the opposite sex in his bedroom? You can put money on the answer being “no”! There are lines one doesn’t cross, no matter what generation one belongs to, and they really are not so difficult to decipher.

Are work colleagues ever sexually attracted to each other? As long as there are men and women, there can be attraction between them. But so what? That’s the way the two sexes were put forth. Presumably we adults know all about that and can conduct ourselves accordingly. Or, to return to square one, we can avoid each other completely.

We women have a great deal we can offer men and vice versa. It would be so foolish to limit our contacts to only half the population. And besides, it wouldn’t nearly be as much fun.

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In the last few weeks we have been subjected to a constant bombardment of tragic news. The horrific mass killings in Las Vegas is just the latest. We have lived through reports of the sequential hurricanes that have killed, maimed and destroyed lives and property in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. We have agonized for the men, women and children caught in the Mexican earthquakes. And this latest horror of crowd homicide is the worst because it is not a paroxysm of the natural world, something we have to accept, but the act of a crazed human against hundreds of other innocent humans. Imagine the concertgoers’ happy anticipation for an evening of music under the stars with lovers or family only to be killed by a sniper’s bullets. And why?

We ran away from news of the carnage the other night and took refuge in art. The glorious embrace of Giacomo Puccini and his soaring arias of “La Bohème,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, welcomed us.

Puccini, you may well know, is considered one of the two most famous Italian opera composers of the 19th century, the other being Giuseppe Verdi. What I didn’t know is that he was the offspring of a musical dynasty in Lucca that included his father and the fathers preceding them as far back as his great-great-grandfather. All of these ancestors studied music at Bologna, wrote music for the church and, aided by their genes and family connections, were distinguished in their time.

Puccini’s first opera, “Le Villi,” premiering in 1884, when he was 26, was well enough received, and his subsequent “Manon Lescaut” was a triumph. His personal life, however, was as riveting as his librettos. He eloped with his married, former piano student at the risk of being shunned. They did eventually marry, after another husband killed her womanizing husband. By coincidence, Puccini’s opera premiered the same week as Verdi’s last opera, “Falstaff,” and talk began of Puccini being the natural heir to Verdi. At least that was what George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said.

Puccini’s next three operas are among the most popular and most often produced: “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly.”

When “La Bohème” premiered in Turin in 1896, Arturo Toscanini conducted it, and it was immediately popular. The story is of four young artists, all starving and freezing as they work in a garret in Paris and experience the pleasures and pains of young love. The opera is at turns joyful with the energy of youth and tragic with the premature death from tuberculosis of Mimi, the seamstress, and Rodolfo’s love. As a young man in Milan, Puccini lived the life he wrote about, once sharing a single herring with three others, as portrayed in the opera.

Puccini almost died in a car accident before finishing “Madama Butterfly” but then went on to complete what is now one of the most loved operas in the world. “Tosca” followed; then “La Fanciulla del West,” a plot set in America; “La Rondine;” and a three-act opera, including “Gianni Schicchi,” which contains my favorite aria, “O mio babbino caro.” “Turandot” was his final opera, finished after his death by his associates from his sketches, and offering the memorable, “Nessun dorma.”

Publicity about his personal life continued when his wife accused their maid of having an affair with Puccini, who was known to wander off the reservation. The maid then committed suicide, and an autopsy revealed that she had died a virgin. Puccini’s wife was accused of slander, found guilty and sentenced to five months in jail; but a payment by Puccini spared her that experience.

Ultimately 11 of Puccini’s operas are among the 200 most performed operas in the world, and the abovementioned three are in the top 10. Only Verdi and Mozart have had more operas performed. By his death in 1924, Puccini had earned $4 million from his works.

I hope this excursion in art has helped you, as it did me, to escape at least briefly from the omnipresent bad news.

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Watching the 10-part Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS TV series, “The Vietnam War,” brought us back to the terrible ’60s. That decade began calmly enough; my husband had volunteered to be a physician in the service in 1963, through a little known program called the Berry Plan. I was thrilled at the prospect that we would get to travel.

Four years later, the United States was immersed in a brutal war in a place called Vietnam, on the other side of the world.

We were sent to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, where my husband became the chief of ophthalmology. Those injured, especially pilots, were flown in from ’Nam, refueling in the Philippines, and were in the operating room within the day. My husband would put their faces back together and try to save their eyes. The war was only 24 hours away from us, and we lived always on edge. We were further aware of the dangers and horror of the war the pilots in particular faced, because we were housed in the middle of their section on the base. Some served two and three tours, leaving their wives and children behind frantic with worry.

We returned home to New York City for a visit and were puzzled by the disconnect between the military and civilians. What was a desperate existence on the one hand was a seemingly unaffected population on the other. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson had promised the nation a life with guns and butter, and indeed that was what we saw. When we tried to tell friends what was going on, they seemed surprised, even annoyed by the fuss we were making. Stunned, we returned to base.

Which was the real world?

Then the domino effect theory, should Vietnam fall, began to be questioned. The gap between words and actions of government officials started to emerge. We were the innocents, believing that our president would never lie to us. We became, thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, caught up in a quantified body count to measure our successes. We wondered why it mattered how many of the enemy was killed if even one American died. Why were we there? The anti-war movement took hold, led by college students across America, labeled as communist-inspired and fiercely resisted by the Johnson administration. Mourning and anti-war protests were tearing the country apart.

My husband and I left the military in 1969, years sooner than the fighting men left Vietnam.

And some five years ago, I returned to Vietnam on a tour to see the country and try to make sense of what had happened there. I was overwhelmed. The weather was insufferably humid and hot, and I thought of the heavy backpacks the fighters had to carry as they moved through the jungle. The Vietnamese in the south, where our tour started, refer to the war as the American War in their museums and in conversation. Of course they do, I realized. They were unfailingly kind to us, welcoming us and, I suppose, our hard currency. In the north, near Hanoi, the older citizens were coldly polite. Most of the population was born after the war but, for the most part, those young people never knew their fathers. They were killed. And the country? The country was beautiful, with its mountains, rice paddies and deltas, scenic and peaceful.

We had known nothing of the history of Vietnam before the nation entered the war. The Vietnamese people had struggled against Chinese occupation for more than 1,000 years, followed by the French. The Vietnamese weren’t ideological communists; they just wanted their homeland to be free. And the Chinese entered the war not to spread communism but to keep us from their borders.

We learned finally but it cost us more than 58,000 American lives, untold wounded and an unimaginable amount of money. Have we learned enough to apply the lessons to Afghanistan and Iraq and to North Korea? We have learned never again to regard our leaders with trust.

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This past week, we went “shufflin’ off to Buffalo.” Bet you don’t know where that expression came from. I certainly didn’t know that “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” is a song from Act II of the 1933 movie, “42nd Street,” and that it was a railroad saying even earlier. All I had to say was that I was going to Buffalo, and the response was immediate: “Shufflin’ off?” I was asked.

The second reaction was also the same. “Better bring your long underwear,” I was urged. “And a shovel. Is it snowing there yet?” Well, I’m going to tell you that Buffalo gets a bum rap. First of all, it was 82 degrees in the afternoon when it was only 80 degrees on Long Island. Fortunately I had passed on the suggested long underwear. I did bring a pair of shorts, but I did not wear them because I didn’t see anyone wearing shorts in the city. When I am traveling, I’m a big believer in the “When in Rome” adage.

Actually the city looked quite pleasant to me, larger than I had imagined, clean and with a fair share of tall buildings. The population of more than 250,000 residents makes it the second largest city in the state. I understand that Buffalo, like a number of rust-belt cities, has undergone quite a face-lift.

Admittedly I did not see much of it since I was there for the fall meeting of the New York Press Association, and that meant I was locked into the hotel site where the workshops were held. But we did have a chance to look around a bit when we went out to the Anchor Bar, where Buffalo chicken wings were allegedly invented. It’s a pleasant and good-sized sports bar, and most people at the tables were, sure enough, having chicken wings with blue-cheese dip and cut-up celery sticks on the side, although one lady was eating a good-looking dish of shrimp scampi. She must have been a native.

In the way of cultural attractions, the city has an art museum, a science museum, a theater district, multiple art galleries, and the historic Martin House that was recommended for viewing. Buffalo was once the scene of considerable wealth from the auto industry, where Pierce-Arrow automobiles were manufactured, also the railroads and the Erie Canal. As a result there are a number of urban mansions. It also has a river walk on Lake Erie that houses several eateries. Food, in fact, is big. And people we met, in restaurants, the hotel and on the streets were friendly and unhurried — such a change of pace for a native New Yorker like me or even someone born and bred on Long Island. It always helps when the weather is beautiful, which it was for our entire stay.

The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum was enough to make lovers of antique automobiles cry for joy. The museum, which is large and planning to get larger, also has antique bikes and motorcycles, all in seemingly shiny new condition. And it even houses a filling station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s a remarkable piece of architecture.

It was an eight-hour drive from Bridgeport, where the ferry docked, to Buffalo, and that does not count the stops. The roads are excellent, the roadside trees just beginning to suggest autumnal colors, and we spent one night on the way up in Canandaigua, about an hour and a half from Buffalo.

In the heart of the beautiful Finger Lakes region, the area is deservedly famous for its Riesling wines, which I confess to having tasted. The village, its name derived from the Seneca tribe, was the scene of the Susan B. Anthony trial in which she was accused of voting illegally in 1873, since women were not then allowed to vote. She was found guilty and fined $100 with costs, which she did not pay.

Colleagues were surprised that we drove to Buffalo rather than just flying there, but I remembered from a previous trip many years ago, when I was a high school student, that the Mohawk Valley and upper New York state are truly lovely destinations. This trip confirmed that memory.

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When we went to a Japanese tea ceremony, known as chado, it was an immersion in Japanese culture. We had an enjoyable and instructive time at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University even if it was for only 30 minutes this past Sunday afternoon. By reservation, the center offers an authentic experience in a charming bamboo teahouse on the first floor, hosted by a kimono-clad lady who holds such sessions for a maximum of four people at a time.

We arrived early, signed in and waited until the session before ours ended. The hostess then welcomed us with a bow, which we returned, and she explained that the design of two doors, a low one and a higher one, in the teahouse was deliberate. The guests, by bending to enter through the lower or “crawling in” door, were assured that all were of equal importance. None was to be considered more worthy. She then pointed out that because the sliding door was open slightly, it meant that the guests should enter. Had it been closed, we were to wait.

We left our shoes outside the little house and sat on one of the four low stools placed inside for us on the tatami mats. The hostess then entered through the higher door and began preparations. Her movements were deliberate and scripted into a traditional procedure, called temae. She was following a centuries-old ritual of making and serving the powdered green tea called matcha.

As the tea ceremony developed in Japan and was practiced by the monks, it was influenced by Zen Buddhism and embraced by the samurai or warrior class. The quiet ambience, the spare furnishings inside the teahouse, the unhurried and predictable movements of the hostess, the decorative scrolls emphasizing virtues like harmony, respect, purity and tranquility, helped calm the mind and push away fear before battle. Even the sound of water slowly boiling for the tea was soothing. The little bamboo teahouse was constructed in the midst of the modern Wang Center, yet we could leave behind our busy thoughts and worldly concerns with our shoes and purses as we entered this special space.

Speaking quietly to us, the hostess explained the equipment to make the tea: bowls, the green tea powder that was not artificially colored but naturally bright green, the delicate whisk carved from bamboo to mix the powder with the hot water in the bowls, the tea caddy, the scoops — the smaller one to measure out the powder, the larger to bring the water to the pot.

Each tool was beautifully and simply crafted from the unadorned wood. She gave us a fruit candy first, then handed each of us a bowl with tea, pointing out that the sweet was intended to offset the bitterness of the tea or perhaps emphasize them both.

There was a simple mindfulness to the whole process. We were there with her, in the moment, watching her mix the tea, wipe clean each bowl before we drank, then again afterward, with the hot water and special cloth she kept in the belt of her kimono for that purpose. Nothing else intruded. The effect was almost hypnotic.

And then it was over. We left the bamboo teahouse, put on our shoes, shouldered our purses and re-entered the outside world. It was a quiet interlude in an otherwise busy and hectic day. A nice cup of tea will always call me back.

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