Just a Thought… Exploring Cooperstown

cooperstownBy Maureen Hart

Those of us who are not skiers, ice fishermen, or hunters sometimes get in a rut about winter. We tend to think it is a season to survive rather than enjoy.

However, winter can be one of the nicest times to visit places which are crowded during the warm months. I was reminded of that recently when we took a trip up to Cooperstown, New York, for a long weekend. Our only agenda was to meet up with another couple to relax at a bed-and-breakfast, have a nice dinner someplace in town, and visit the Hall of Fame.

In truth, that was about the only agenda available, since many of the other attractions in Cooperstown are closed during the winter months.

Not everything adhered to this very simple plan. My husband fell ill and did not join us for supper at Nicoletta’s Café on Main Street. That was unfortunate, because my veal marsala was the best I’ve ever had, and my companions enjoyed two different mixed seafood entrees that looked delicious.

The following morning, I met them again over breakfast in the sunny dining room of our lodgings, the Landmark Inn on Chestnut Street in Cooperstown. While enjoying another delicious meal that included a choice of spinach or sausage and cranberry quiche, an apple cinnamon compote, sliced cucumbers, and blueberry quick bread, I had to break the news that we were not going to stay to visit the Hall of Fame with them.

It was disappointing, especially since I have not been to the museum in two decades, and still treasure the memories I have of my previous visit. I cannot recommend it enough as a wonderful weekend, or even day trip (a little over two hours from Scranton). I was especially entranced by the long history of the game, and artifacts from players who are legend—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle (and that’s just the Yankees), not to mention Christy Mathewson, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, and so many, many more.

Cooperstown Landmark Inn

The Landmark Inn, a stately mansion built in 1846, provides a cozy retreat to visitors to Cooperstown.

For us, however, this weekend in the quaint, hugely historic village of Cooperstown, centered around the Landmark Inn—and a delightful place it is. We had pulled into the parking lot of this large green building to be greeted cheerily by the chef, Vita, who offered to help us with suitcases and assured us that hot cider and homemade orange shortbread chocolate chip cookies awaited us inside.

Soon, we met Robin Schneider, who along with her husband, Fred, serves as innkeeper. Our room was not ready, so she ushered us to comfy chairs in the lobby in front a lit fireplace, and in addition to the aforementioned treats, she pointed out a cheese tray and wine. The owners also invite you to bring your own beverages(there is no bar), although they have a hot pot of coffee readily available at all times. There is also a chess set featuring pewter baseball players for your enjoyment.

When our room was ready, we were welcomed with a tray containing chocolates and a personalized welcome note on the bed. Our accommodations were “petite” but cozy, with a nice-sized bathroom and a small outdoor deck. We had requested this room on the first floor to accommodate my husband’s Jazzy. Other rooms in the inn are larger  (some are suites) and have names such as Campanella and Casey, as a nod to the town’s baseball connection, as well as Wyeth, Twain, Cooper, and Hemingway.

But rooms and roaring fireplaces are only part of the charm at the Landmark Inn—beginning with Vita’s enthusiastic welcome and increased by everybody’s solicitous attention to my ailing husband—including providing his breakfast in bed. We enjoyed as cozy and relaxing weekend as we could have hoped.

FYI, the inn is nine minutes from Abner Doubleday Field and the Hall of Fame, and was built in 1856 on the largest lot drafted by William Cooper, founder of the town, and father of novelist James Fenimore Cooper. It was called The Maples, and indeed, those stately trees still line the driveway and are now 160 years old.

I highly recommend a visit to Cooperstown in the wintry off-season in order to avoid the swarms of families visiting in the summer. There is no waiting for a dinner table or jostling with other customers in the many little shops. But I also plan a trip back in the spring in order to visit the Farmer’s Museum (a living museum featuring an 18440 farm), Fenimore Art Museum (located on Otsego Lake and featuring American Indian and folk art), and maybe even a performance at Glimmerglass Opera. And, of course, another visit with Robin, Fred, and Vita at the inviting Landmark Inn!

Just a Thought… Jan. 2017

07By Maureen Hart

I sat down to write my New Year’s column, and despite the joyousness of this season, I cannot say very much good about 2016, and I don’t expect better from 2017.

It’s not like me to be negative and depressed, but what can you think of a year that brought us so much heartache?

Looking back, however, this is what I remember:

alan_rickman_cropped_and_retouchedJanuary 2016: The World Health Organization announces an outbreak of the Zika virus, which causes birth defects during pregnancy. Boko Haram raids village in Nigeria and kills 65 people while also abducting many children. A suicide attack in Damascus kills 70 people. State of emergency declared in Flint, MI, after two year water crisis. Earthquake in Taiwan kills over 70 people. Deaths: David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

February 2016: North Korea launches a long-range rocket into space, violating multiple UN treaties and prompting condemnation from around the world.  Suicide bombing at a refugee camp in Nigeria kills dozens. (The camp is for people fleeing Boko Haram—at least 2.5 million have fled from attacks by the militant group.) Deaths: Antonin Scalia and Harper Lee.

March 2016: Three coordinated bombings in Brussels, Belgium, kill 32 people and injure another 250. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claim responsibility for the attacks. Torrential rains hit the South, resulting in flooding rivers, deaths, and massive destruction. Deaths: Nancy Reagan and Patty Duke.

34de496c00000578-3629776-image-a-55_1465318001024April 2016: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a German newspaper publish a set of 11.5 million confidential documents from a Panamanian corporation providing detailed information on more than 214,000 offshore companies and their shareholders, including noted personalities and heads of state. Series of earthquakes strike Southern Japan and Ecuador. Deaths: Prince and Merle Haggard.

May 2016: EgyptAir Flight 804 crashes with 66 people on board over the Mediterranean on a flight from Paris to Cairo. Three car bombs kill over 80 people in Baghdad and ISIS takes responsibility. 88,000 Canadians evacuated during wildfires. Deaths: William Schallert and Alan Young, staples of 1960s television comedy.

June 2016: The United Kingdom votes in a referendum to leave the European Union. ISIL claims responsibility to attaching Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, killing 45 and injuring 230. A total of 49 people are killed and another 53 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. There is another terrorist attack in France, killing two policemen. A heat wave and fires strike the Southwest, and West Virginia suffers from massive flooding. Deaths: Sports legends Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe.

July 2016:  Revelers killed in Nice, France, during Bastille Day celebrations, as truck crushes 84 and injures 200 more. ISIS sponsors attacks in Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. On three different days there are terror attacks in Germany. There is a mass Willy Wonka Wilderstabbing in Japan, and a priest is murdered by ISIS in France. Deaths: Elie Wiesel and Garry Marshall.

August 2016: The Summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, which should be listed under good news except that the Zika virus frightened some travelers away. An airstrike hit a hospital in Yemen, a suicide bomber attacked a Turkish wedding celebration, and a new policy in the Philippines led to thousands being killed in a war against drugs. Even the UN admitted responsibility for a cholera epidemic in Haiti. Deaths: Gene Wilder and director Arthur Hiller.

September 2016: The government of North Korea conducts its fifth and reportedly biggest nuclear test and world leaders again condemn the act. The Syrians dropped a chlorine bomb in Aleppo, while the U.S. and Russia called for a Syrian cease-fire, which was quickly over. A typhoon hit Asia. Deaths: Arnold Palmer and Shimon Peres.

October 2016:  Protests were held in Venezuela, South Korea and Morocco, while a police van plowed into protestors in the Philippines. Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and the Eastern Seaboard, and more earthquakes rocked Italy. Death: Bobby Vee

November 2016: Hundreds of migrants drowned off Libya, and ISIS captured hundreds of civilians outside of Mosul and killed Shiite pilgrims as well. An earthquake and tsunami hit New Zealand, and a plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team crashes. Deaths: Fidel Castro and Leonard Cohen.

debbie-reynolds-carrie-fisher-bef3ed63-ee29-4b18-9427-d6f4227435bfDecember 2016:  Kurdish militants killed dozens in Istanbul. There is another earthquake in Indonesia. A terrorist drives a bus into a Christmas market in Berlin. (The month is not over yet.) Deaths: John Glenn, Alan Thicke, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. A month in which Princess Leia dies is a bad month indeed..

I’ve skipped so many things—university shootings, and police shootings, and more natural disasters than I could cite above. I was going to total the number I listed as killed, but decided that was too awful. I just want us to remember that each of those victims is not just a statistic.

They were loved and cherished by their families and friends. They will be missed.

Most notably, I skipped the entire cesspool that was the U.S. presidential election—which, in itself, marked a new low with such highlights as discussions of the size of a candidate’s penis, the use of the F word, his belief that he can grab women anywhere on their bodies, a billionaire cabinet which also boasts a white supremacist, and so many other strange incidents that it deserves a whole category unto itself. But that is all over now, and we have to wait and see how it all plays out.

If you got depressed and gave up reading the news headlines for 2016, just remember how debilitating it was to live through all of it.

And, as I said, 2017 does not look any more promising. Britain has to move ahead with Brexit. We have to find out just what kind of a Leader of the Free World has been elected. We can’t prevent the natural disasters. I don’t expect peace in the Mideast anytime soon. In fact, I don’t expect Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men anytime soon. Not in my lifetime.

And, so, what do we do to keep from jumping off a cliff at the prospect of yet another year of war and upheaval, earthquakes and terrorists?

All I can really suggest is that we set out priorities and keep our family and friends close. That we cherish the small moments. That we try to help those less fortunate. This Christmas season offered us many ways to do that – a donation to Toys for Tots, helping at a soup kitchen, turning over old but still nice coats and clothing to the homeless, crocheting hats and mittens for the poor. There are so many ways to help that don’t take a lot of time or cost a lot of money.

I suggest we keep on doing that. A friend of mine gives a small donation every month to a different organization or charity. She learned this philanthropic habit from her mother. I think it is a great idea. Give to those you really care about – political, educational, scientific, religious—whatever organizations best represent your values. Remember the local ones, too — they need it more than most.

Decide to be kind. To do one good deed each day, even if it is only opening a door for somebody. Make this part of your routine and it will become the largest part of who you are.

These small things are the only way we, as common citizens, can try to change this world. Let’s not talk about the “others,” as if they are less than we are. Those parents in Syria are experiencing the same excruciating pain at the loss of their children that we would feel. The Italians and Ecuadorans and Japanese who lost their houses in earthquakes this year mourn the loss of home as much as we would. In the end, we are all the same. We may look different, eat different foods, enjoy different music, read different books. But we are all part of humanity, and we mustn’t allow the inhumane amongst us–the ISIS, the Boko Haram, the KKK, all of the haters–take it away from us. Happy 2017.


Just a Thought…

So, here’s the thing. I’m a pretty good Trivial Pursuit player. I read a lot, so I can work my way through questions on history, literature, world events, and even a bit of science (though it’s not my forte).

But there’s a good way to beat me and that’s with questions on pop culture. I am like an absent-minded professor who just stumbles my way through modern society oblivious to what is going on around me. I couldn’t identify a Kardashian if my life depended upon it, and there are popular songs that have become genuine classics that I never heard. (I never listen to radio, so it’s easy to go through decades without knowing what is popular.)

rsYears ago, I remember that we were playing a very heated round of the trivia game years ago and my question was something about what character says Doh. Or was it Duh? Anyway, I had no idea. None. Everybody at the table was pulling their hair out because it had something to do with the Simpsons, and it was an easy answer. But I had never seen that show and I did not get a pie piece because of it.

Anyway, this all leads me to my topic, which is Rolling Stones magazine’s listing of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. I should have known this would baffle me, because I don’t think I could name 100 TV shows, much less “great” ones.

Anyway, out of the 100 programs named, there were 14 that I had never even heard of. Ever. (Eastbound and Down, Portlandia, Key & Peele, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Broad City, Party Down, Girls, Mr. Show, The State, Chappelle’s Show, The Americans, The Shield, Deadwood, and Louie.)

More amazingly, there were 50 (yes, exactly half) that I had heard of but never watched. Some of that is understandable I think. I’m just not a Beavis and Butthead, Ren and Stimpy, South Park, or The Simpsons type of person. Indeed, I don’t like cartoons unless they are The Lion King.

ojAlso understandable I think is that I am not the type to watch shows such as The Walking Dead, Fargo, American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson (omigosh, I lived through that circus and certainly wouldn’t want to experience it again), 24 Hours, The Colbert Show, NYPD Blue, The Rockford Files, Orange is the New Black, Oz, Six Feet Under, The X Files, Twin Peaks, Breaking Bad, The Wire, or even Game of Thrones (too violent).

I hate sit-coms, so I have never watched Good Times, The Jeffersons, In Living Color, Roseanne, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks, 30 Rock, or even The Office (listed twice for UK and US versions). Well, I’m fudging a bit on that last one—I tuned into an episode of The Office because it was hyped so much and took place in Scranton. But I didn’t tune in until several seasons had aired, and therefore, I had no idea who these people were, nor did they make me care. Within minutes, I had switched it off and turned to a crossword puzzle.

cardsI haven’t watched Homeland, The Real World, House of Cards, Dallas, Doctor Who (even though I have a phone booth library in front of my house), Transparent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galatica, My So Called Life, Your Shows of Shows (I do think that was even before my time), Sex in the City, Hill Street Blues, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Veep, Friday Night Lights, or Mad Men.

There are even a few that seem inexplicable that I haven’t watched, such as Thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, and Downton Abbey. (I know, I know. I did buy a DVD of the first season at least five years ago, but it sits dusty on top of my DVD player. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Nor do I know how to work the DVD player.)

Now you’re asking if I have ever turned on the television set, and indeed, I have. Sometimes it was not at all worth my time. Like Seinfield. Truthfully, I watched parts of a few of the shows, and I saw the entire final episode. I’d rather watch ice melt, truly.

I’ve watched Real Time with Bill Maher and The Late Show with Jon Stewart, but I really hate politics, unless we are talking about the Tudor or Medici periods. I like my in-fighting really old.

I am not a fan of sitcoms (see above), but there have been some that I thought really outstanding: The Odd Couple (with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, it was a masterpiece of comedy, like watching a Broadway show), The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, and All in the Family. Some that I watched once or twice were a waste of time—The Golden Girls, Happy Days, and Friends, and I absolutely loathe The Honeymooners. Doesn’t anybody else see it as misogynistic?

I am not a sci fi fan, so I wish I had back any time I spent watching Star Trek (well, it was only two episodes), but I did like The Twilight Zone back in my youth.

muppetI watched some shows because somebody else liked them—my mother loved James Arness in Gunsmoke and David Janssen in The Fugitive, my late first husband enjoyed Columbo, and my second husband really likes Law and Order, so I have become very fond of Benson and Stabler. My daughter’s childhood was filled with Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, bringing me fond memories, and when she was all grown up she liked The Sopranos (Rolling Stones #1 show, by the way). I tried to watch it with her one night, but hated it.

Only one game show is in Rolling Stones top 100, but it is Jeopardy, and I have often liked to play along with that.

I am not thrilled about staying up late, but I have seen random episodes of Late Night With David Letterman and Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and I saw the final night of Late Night With Conan O’Brien. I watched the first few seasons of American Idol, but in its day, I liked The Ed Sullivan Show much better. It introduced me to Elvis and the Beatles, and to opera singers and Broadway musicals.

I know you’re asking if I ever liked anything on television, and in truth, I have. Out of Rolling Stones top 100, I am in total agreement on three of my favorite sitcoms—The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (see a trend there) and my all-time favorite, I Love Lucy. I suppose M*A*S*H* is considered a sitcom as well, but it tackled tough topics, and was so well-done. A top mini-series that I concur with is Roots, still one of the best things I’ve ever seen on television. The West Wing was a wonderful drama (can we bring back Bartlett for President?), and I’ve seen some good editions of Saturday Night Live, although it is certainly uneven.

lostMy two favorite all-time dramas made the Rolling Stone list—ER and Lost. Both connected multiple characters in varying relationships, dealing with violence and danger around them. I was so addicted to Lost that I vowed never to get invested in another show that would tie me up once a week like clockwork. Our kids tell us that does not have to happen anymore, that we can DVR it, but John and I don’t know how to do that, and we don’t really care enough.

John watches Law and Order marathons and the all-news stations, and I watch Penn State football games, which is reason enough for us to have three TVs I guess, although we are paying a lot for a cable bill in order to watch such limited fare.

But, the way I see it, is that there are 64 shows out of a 100 that I never watched, and think of how many hours of my life I have saved to read books, do puzzles, volunteer, travel, do living history, cook and bake, spend time with friends and family, entertain, clean the house. (Okay, not clean the house.)

Of the other shows that I did watch, few of them mattered much to me, and probably only six really caught my attention and kept it.

I’m not telling anybody not to watch television. For a lot of my friends and family, it becomes part of their social life, inviting friends over to watch Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Watching popular or intriguing shows allows you to be part of the conversation at work or at social events. When I am out socially and other people are talking about their favorite sit-com or drama, I cannot participate in the discussion. And, worst of all, I get beat in any board game requiring a knowledge of pop culture.