Opinion

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.

What people don’t say can speak volumes.

Take the Harvey Weinstein allegations. Numerous women have come forward and described abhorrent behavior toward women by someone in power. That’s not a new phenomenon, but what’s new is the identity of the perpetrator and the time period involved — decades, it appears.

When asked about the allegations, President Donald Trump said he was “not at all surprised to see it.”

Hmm, not at all surprised? Didn’t the person whose every word and tweet gets splashed across headlines around the world have anything else to say, like, “If the allegations are true, it’s horrible and we should address this problem as a nation.” Or, “We as a country need to address this serious problem.”

No, he didn’t. In a follow-up question, a reporter asked if Weinstein’s behavior was inappropriate, and Trump responded that the movie executive said it was.

Again, not much there. I recognize this wasn’t a women’s rights forum and that he didn’t have prepared remarks or a flowing speech to cite, but he had an opportunity to address a real problem and he seemed more prepared to suggest he knew that Weinstein’s superstar public character had some tarnish.

The New York public transport system has run ads for years imploring, “If you see something, say something.”

That’s not always easy, especially when no one else might have been around to hear or see inappropriate comments or gestures.

This isn’t about political correctness: It’s about allowing people to do their best work without feeling threatened or uncomfortable. Locker room talk, or anything else that resembles a put-down for whatever reason, creates a hostile work environment.

Almost exactly a year ago, candidate Trump described several women who accused the Clintons of improper behavior towards women as “courageous” at a press conference before a debate with Hillary Clinton. While Trump hasn’t shared any such words of support for Weinstein’s victims, others have applauded them for coming forward. If Weinstein’s alleged victims had done so initially, taking on the equivalent of a movie icon could have put their careers at risk.

Gender politics are often a challenging and sore point at work. People can often dismiss inappropriate comments as being jokes or suggesting that their words weren’t what they intended.

Some jobs, like Wall Street trading, or, well, locker rooms, often involve a type of bawdy humor that is part of the culture.

But why should anyone have to tolerate it? With training and a heightened public awareness, the excuse “Well, that’s just the way it is” could turn into, “That’s not the way we do things around here.”

Pundits are suggesting that if eight women have come forward to accuse Weinstein, there are likely many more.

Then again, if he could and did engage in inappropriate conduct for decades, you have to imagine there are other men who did it, too.

Weinstein, in his own words, needs help. So, too, does the rest of society. He suggested he came from a different era. Others have taken him to task, indicating that somewhere along the line, he missed some major strides society made between whatever time period he imagined and today.

Who else is living in that era and how can we help them? Maybe, in addition to training the next set of up-and-coming managers, we should make sure the top executives — most of whom are men — understand what’s OK and what crosses a real line that is not only objectionable, but is also problematic for them and their careers.

We watch movies for many reasons: We want to be inspired, we want to understand other people and, sometimes, we want a perspective that helps us understand ourselves better. Maybe the inappropriate actions of a moviemaker can shed some more light on a problem that clearly isn’t unique to one person. A corollary to the transport ad, perhaps, should be, “If you hear something, say something.”

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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.

Thank you, mental health workers. If it weren’t for you, we might be living with even more unimaginable tragedies.

For reasons most of us, fortunately, can only imagine at a distance, people are tormented by destructive urges. When these moments arise, hopefully, a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or someone in a position to recognize the signs can step in and offer support, while redirecting that person toward a course of action that’s safer for them and for society.

Much of the time, we don’t see the people who soothe the minds. When they do their job well, the sun rises in the morning, we send our children to school, we clap at the end of their concerts and we feed them their meals before sending them to bed for the night.

When I was in junior high school, I read books such as “Lord of the Flies” and “The Crucible,” which my teacher Mrs. Wickle suggested were an important way to look at the “dark side” of the heart.

At the time, I found the subjects depressing and unnecessary. Why, I thought, did I have to read about such violence or mass hysteria.

In the modern world, we are in the crosshairs of everything from overseas terrorists to storms and earthquakes and, yes, to people without an apparent ideology whose final act before they take their own lives is to commit mass murder.

We look at the faces of the victims and feel the loss of those we never met. They look like our friends and neighbors, and we know their smiles, once filled with potential, will never again light up a room.

At the same time, hundreds of people lined up for hours to do what they could — give blood — to help save those in immediate need.

Clearly, a few people in our midst have headed toward the dark side of their hearts and minds, allowing the demons that plague their lives to release the unthinkable and unimaginable.

Maybe, in addition to the discussion about gun control, we ought to appreciate the legion of mental health professionals who dedicate themselves to helping those battling against destructive urges, whose thoughts wander into the wilderness of despair.

The toll their work often takes on some of these mental health helpers is enormous, as other people’s nightmares leap from the minds of their patients into their own subconscious. The flow of information travels both ways, putting psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers at risk.

These mental health workers often talk to others in their field to help them get through the difficulties of their jobs.

They listen, they encourage, they become involved and, ultimately, they can and so often do set people on better courses in their lives, helping them feel better and live better.

By the time you read this, perhaps we’ll have an idea of what triggered the madness from this latest gunman, and maybe it will have less to do with off-the-rails thinking than with an ideology that encourages mass violence.

If it wasn’t lone-wolf insanity, but, rather, someone following instructions, we ought to find the ones who encouraged these senseless and brutal murders.

Either way, we ought to dedicate more resources to battling with the burden of a broken brain. If, somehow, a mental health professional can redirect someone who might otherwise commit incomprehensible violence, that person not only has saved a life but may have turned a would-be murderer into another conscientious citizen lining up for hours to give blood instead of planning to spill it.

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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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The next generation is afraid.

Can you blame them? They know about 9/11, as they should. When they’re not sending pictures of themselves and the food they’re eating to their group of best friends through social media, they read headlines and see pictures of people, just like them, who are living their lives one day and then becoming statistics the next.

This particular generation says it would pick security over freedom. Not all of them do, of course, but, in a recent discussion among some teenagers, I heard repeated arguments about how freedom is irrelevant if you’re dead.

That is a reflection of just how much the world has changed since I grew up. In my youth, I was aware of the Cold War. A nuclear war, although a possibility in the bilateral world that pitted the United States against the Soviet Union, seemed unlikely. After all, the biggest deterrent was the likelihood of mutually assured destruction. As Matthew Broderick experienced in the movie “War Games,” no one wins or, to quote the eerie computer from the movie, “the only winning move is not to play.”

In times of stress, Americans have historically pulled away from the ideals of freedom and democracy.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which ensures that someone can challenge an unlawful detention or imprisonment. During World War II, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established internment camps, where he held more than 100,000 people of Japanese decent, worried that they might be colluding with a government that had just attacked us.

At the start of the Cold War, Sen. Joseph McCarthy played into our worst fears, leading the House Un-American Activities Committee to question the beliefs and loyalties of its citizens. In the meantime, he ruined the lives of thousands of people and turned Americans against each other.

Many of these pursuits were designed to ease the minds of citizens about our friends and neighbors, some of whom might be working with an enemy and strike against us.

So, today, what are we willing to give up? And, perhaps more importantly, to whom are we surrendering these freedoms?

I recently watched a television reporter who was interviewing citizens in North Korea. He was asking them how they felt about their leader, Kim Jung-un, and the way he was rattling the saber against the United States and the rest of the world.

Not surprisingly, the North Koreans, or the translator with them, expressed unreserved support for the man who trades threats seemingly on a daily basis with President Donald Trump. Those interviewed were confident they were in good hands.

I doubt they felt comfortable expressing any other view. What consequences would they suffer if they publicly questioned their leader’s judgment? Their leader doesn’t seem receptive to opposing viewpoints.

On our shores, we can question our own leaders openly and frequently. We can gather in groups and protest.

Trump can bristle at the way the left-leaning press covers him, just as President Barack Obama shared his displeasure over the coverage from Fox News during his presidency, but presidents can’t shut down these organizations.

Early in our country’s history, our Founding Fathers, who had just emerged victorious in a costly battle with King George III of Great Britain and Ireland, didn’t want the leaders of the new nation to have unchecked power. The pioneering statesmen wanted to guarantee Americans protections from any government, domestic or international.

Every freedom we give up moves us further down a slippery slope.

For those of us who grew up before the fight against terrorism, freedom remains at the heart of the country we are protecting.

The Three Village school district welcomed a new drug and alcohol counselor recently. File photo by Greg Catalano

By Donna Newman

At a recent meeting of the Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Program — a support group that seeks to educate all and assist parents and family members of teens and young adults battling substance abuse —  I spoke with a young mother of elementary-school-age children. She was there to learn about this growing danger that has taken so many lives in Suffolk County. She is afraid for her children. They are growing up in a society where drug overdose deaths have become routine. She wants to protect her children from becoming victims of substance abuse.

This mom has been on a crusade to make parents aware of the dangers, knowing that this is a Three Village problem and it will take community awareness and extensive effort to combat it. So she speaks to parents of young children wherever she finds them to encourage them to be part of the solution. She told me the majority response from parents is: “Not my kid. She’s an A student.” Or, “Not my kid, he’s an athlete.” Or simply, “My child would never get involved in that.”

I’m here to tell you that you need to take your head out of the sand.

The significant drug problem at Ward Melville High School when my sons were in attendance in the 1990s was not publicly acknowledged by the school district — or anyone else other than the parents whose children “got into trouble.” Mine did not. They were honor grads, heavily involved in extracurricular activities.

However, in a conversation with one of my sons, years after graduation, I learned he had used drugs with some regularity while in high school. It turned out I had been one of those clueless parents. But I was one of the lucky ones.

Lucky, because back then, when a teenager bought marijuana, it was just pot. It was not the cannabis of today, which may be laced with illicit and scary drugs by dealers seeking to hook kids on stronger stuff. Lucky, because he did not have a propensity, and his “recreational” use never rose to the level of addiction.

Full disclosure: As a college student in the 1960s I experimented with marijuana as well. My equally clueless mother discovered a small baggie of weed in my room. She trashed it, never saying a word to me. In that era, just knowing she knew was enough to get me to stop.

The school district has finally acknowledged the fact that addiction is a disease requiring treatment, not a moral lapse requiring punishment.

According to “School district welcomes new drug and alcohol counselor” in the  July 20 edition of The Village Times Herald, the district has hired a substance abuse counselor. Heather Reilly, certified social worker, will be tasked with rotating through the secondary schools one day each week (including the Three Village Academy alternative high school program), providing substance abuse counseling, educating faculty about warning signs and drug lingo, and creating educational curriculum for sixth-graders in collaboration with elementary health teachers. She will also be available to work directly with families.

While this is a laudable first step, it’s not nearly enough. Change will not happen without a concerted community effort. Parents need to accept the fact that this is a real problem affecting Three Villagers across the cultural and economic spectrum. Yes, it could even be your child.

Folks must come to grips with the fact that chemical dependency is a potentially fatal illness and that 90 percent of sufferers go untreated. They need to acknowledge that kids who are addicted to alcohol and/or opioid drugs are not “bad” kids. They are youngsters whose brains are not fully developed, who made bad choices that led to a tragic outcome. It’s time for all of us to learn all we can about prevention and to come together to end this plague.

There’s a lot you can do. For starters, attend the monthly meetings at the Bates House in Setauket. Dates and times are listed on Facebook on the Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Parent Group page — along with other helpful information. Learn when and how to begin to talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol and drugs and your family’s rules concerning underage drinking and substance abuse. A good place to begin is at New York State’s online site www.talk2prevent.ny.gov.

The next meeting at the Bates House, located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket, will be held Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Donna Newman, a freelance writer, is a former editor of The Village Times Herald.

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If we stepped outside tomorrow to a 52 degree day, we’d race back inside and put on a coat.

If we opened the door in January to the same temperature, we might race back into the house to shed that same coat.

It’s all about expectations.

Our daughter figured that out several years ago. Gone are the days when she tells us she thinks she did well on a test. She doesn’t want us to ask, “What happened?” or hear us say, “Oh, but you thought you did well on that test.”

Instead, she often tamps down our expectations, indicating that we’d better brace for the equivalent of the academic cold. If she does better than expected, she won’t have to contend with questions. If she met the lowered expectations, she can say that, even if she didn’t do well, she can take consolation in knowing how she performed.

Yes, relationships are all about managing those expectations.

Let’s take a quick look at President Trump. He’s a shoot-from-the-tweet president. He frequently misspells words, gets facts wrong here and there, and attacks his opponents, his allies and anyone in between according to his mood.

Has he done the same thing as our daughter? Is he resetting our expectations? Is he pleased to redefine the notion of a modern-day president?

If, and when, he seems levelheaded, deliberate and considerate, is he climbing over a bar he reset for himself, giving us a chance to applaud the manner in which he interacted with a public prepared for a stream of anger and disdain?

Relationships, as Harry from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” knew all too well, are also about setting expectations. When Harry (played by Billy Crystal) is sharing one of his many philosophies of life with Sally (Meg Ryan), he suggests that he never takes a girlfriend to the airport early in a relationship because he doesn’t want her to ask why, later in the relationship, he doesn’t take her to the airport anymore.

Some people’s jobs, like stock market analysts, meteorologists and oddsmakers, involve setting expectations.

Built into their forecasts, meteorologists often leave the back door open, in case they’re wrong. As in, “It probably won’t rain, but there’s a 15 percent chance of precipitation today.”

While that forecast is innocuous enough, it leaves a small measure of flexibility in case the weather people missed a heavy band of rain clouds from their Doppler models, which happened recently, leaving my wife disappointed and dripping wet at her office after trudging through an unexpected shower.

Of course, a meteorologist who predicted rain every day in anywhere but Ketchikan, Alaska, where the locals say it rains 400 days a year, wouldn’t last long, as people would bristle at carrying unnecessary umbrellas through the brilliant sunshine

Many years ago, my wife and I went to see a movie. When we got to the theater, the film was sold out.

Instead of turning around, we bought tickets to a film on which we hadn’t read any reviews and knew nothing. We wound up watching “Shakespeare in Love.” We thoroughly enjoyed it, in part because we had no expectations.

Perhaps the most difficult expectations to meet, or exceed, are our own. Raising the bar for anything — the taste of the food we cook, our performance during a presentation or our ability to stay calm in a crisis — involves risk. Then again, once we clear our new expectations often enough, we know what we can expect of ourselves and can move on to bigger challenges. The rewards, even if we never tell anyone how much more we accomplished than we expected, seem well worth the risk.

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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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