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Fascinating CNY People I’ve Interviewed

I figure that since it’s a Sunday and, for some, the day before a holiday, that many people might not want to read a long article. Instead, I thought I’d give you a break and instead put together a post highlighting people from central New York that I’ve had the opportunity to interview on this blog, other blogs and my video channels. This is prepping you for a big time interview I’ll be posting here on Tuesday; that should get you hyped!

Isaac Bidwell

The first interview I ever did on this blog was with a local artist named Isaac Bidwell. He used to be a server at Julie’s Diner, but he’s since gone on the road publicizing both his art and his plush dolls. It also turns out that Isaac’s the only person I’ve ever interviewed three times, twice on this blog and once on my I’m Just Sharing blog. When I get a chance I’m going to interview him one more time because of the strides he’s made since the last interview in 2013.

The next interview to highlight was with Rich Kudlick, the owner of Reid & Zutant Insurance. Rich is a local insurance agent and probably my best Liverpool Chamber friend, always trying to encourage me to go to the luncheons. He’s an independent insurance agent, and I was glad to interview him because up until then I had no idea exactly what these people did.

The next one is probably one of the two strangest interviews I’m going share. This one was with Maria Snyder, who at the time was a CPA with her own consulting company who was also doing social media, and that’s how I met her. Now she’s a partner in Dimarco, Abiusi & Pascarella, P.C. and is a full time accountant. I’m sharing this one because the things she says concerning social media are still good things to read about.

The final interview I’m sharing from this blog also is with the second person I interviewed more than once (I’m talking about local people), but not twice on this blog, like Isaac above. She’s also probably the most famous at this juncture, so I honestly get to say “I knew her when”. 🙂 This one is with Lauren Greutman, who used to go by I Am That Lady but has now become her own brand. Her specialty is helping people get out of debt and save money, which is why she made a great person to be the only one I ever interviewed for my finance blog.

On my business blog, which is called Mitch’s Blog (that makes sense, right?), I used to do a 5-question survey with multiple independent business owners. About half of those I interviewed are from out of town, but half of the rest are still in business, so those are the only ones I’m going to share. At that time I always asked the same 5 questions; I still think they gave pretty good insight. Those folks are:

George Chapman GW Chapman Consulting Danny Chawan Srim Enterprises Jill Hurst-Wahl, Hurst Associates Sean Branigan, Communigration Robert Whipple Leadergrow

As far as interviews go on my IJS blog, only two local people have ever been featured there. One was Isaac above and the other is Mark Dyson of Spinland Studios. This was one of those times when our Twitter accounts converged, and once I realized he was a local guy I thought he’d be a fascinating person to interview.

Now it’s time for the video interviews. Instead of making you go to YouTube I’m going to pop all the videos up here. If you still want to go to YouTube you can highlight and paste the link underneath the video & watch it there.

I’m starting off with the second strange video I mentioned above. What makes it strange is that one, I think the company has dissolved, and two, one of the stars is my buddy Joe Cunningham. This interview was for Swell Communications, and it was still both fascinating and entertaining:

This next interview is with my longest friend from this area, Chuck Price of Measurable SEO. He’s often a featured writer on Search Engine Journal and even though I’ve been in this world for a long time I’m always amazed at his level of expertise:

Next on the list is Steve Borek of End Game Business. He’s a certified business coach who now lives in the Philippines, but when I interviewed him he was living in central New York and he was my wings and hamburger buddy. 🙂

Now we have Jesan Sorrells, president of Human Services Consulting and Training, which is geared towards conflict resolution. This was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever had, one that even my wife laughed a lot at.

Last but not close to least is my ice cream buddy Joanne Del Balso, who owns No Fuss Accounting but is big into both social media (she’s presented at multiple organizations around town on the subject) and is big into local women’s organizations, most specifically the WBOC.

Well… maybe I lied about not having to do a lot of reading, but this particular post should be easy for everyone to consume. I hope you enjoy learning more about local business people and be sure to think of them if you’re even in need of any of their services or products.  

My Dad Never Walked

I’ve lived in Liverpool NY my entire adult life. In total I’ve been here almost 42 years; that’s older than most of the people I know. I’ve lived in multiple apartments within a 3 mile radius during that time period.

Now I live on that same street, and I’ve been in this house for 16 1/2 years. I often take long walks through the neighborhood, which includes the Elmcrest and Grenadier Village areas, since I lived there at one time as well. Below is a story I wrote talking about one of these walks and the thoughts I had while I was engaged in the quest.

Dad in Vietnam

“My father never walked”, I thought as I pulled myself together on an early November Saturday morning. It was cool, yet not cold, the sun was out, and it was a perfect day to go for a nice long walk. I walk often, though not nearly often enough, and I figured since my wife had gotten up early and left for a while that I could certainly pull myself together for a little walk around the area.

I thought about many things as I was getting ready for this walk through the neighborhood that I remembered from my high school days, a time period when there weren’t many black people living in the area. People used to come out and watch me ride my bike on this very street, as though the first person who saw me would call every other house down the line and tell them to come out and look at the black kid. Now everyone knows which family lives here, because sometimes they call out to me and ask “don’t you live in that yellow house on the bend?” Yes… yes I do.

Stepping out into the brisk morning air, I take a deep breath. It’s going to be cold fairly soon; that’s just how the middle of autumn usually leans in central New York. Certainly hasn’t felt like we’ve had much of an Indian summer this year.

Starting to walk, I think more about my dad.

I know that in his day the thought of exercising wasn’t talked about as much as it is today. Back then, they talked about calisthenics for flexibility and had Jack LaLanne encouraging them, but not many people were working out, or lifting weights. They just used what they naturally had and went about their business.

Yet here I am, walking once more, trying to get myself into some kind of shape that will hopefully keep me alive for a longer period of time than dad. Not that his not exercising is what finally took him away from me; there are just some things one can’t overcome based on environment, family history and going to war for your country, no matter how much you try to keep yourself in shape. Still, it’s an interesting contrast in our lives, since I’m now older than he was when he retired from the Air Force.

I like walking through this neighborhood. The people don’t come out and look at me anymore, though everyone seems to know who I am. I don’t know any of them; something inherently unfair about that.

As I walk, I’m noticing how the leaves are way out in the street, stuck there by all the rain we’ve had lately. They’re further out than usual, or at least what I consider usual. I slip on them every once in awhile by not paying attention. Will we have another rain and wash them back towards people’s yards? I don’t have leaves in the front of my house; all our trees are in the back yard.

Now I’m heading towards the elementary school. I never went to this school; when I moved to Liverpool I was already in high school. Yet, when I lived in the apartment complex on the other side of the school yard my friends and I used to use the baseball diamond that was a part of the big field to play home run derby. We never knew enough other kids to play baseball with; that’s the trouble with moving to an area where, if you’re not one of them, you really don’t belong. We could always get enough guys for 3 on 3 basketball games, but not for baseball, though I remember once being invited to go to the older area of Liverpool, just off Old Liverpool Road, to play in a big baseball game someone else set up. Good thing my friend Dave had a car back then.

Now, in the apartment complex, I’m walking by where Dave used to live. It’s funny how some brick buildings fade with time and others seem to look exactly the same; this one looks exactly the same. On the opposite side of the street they’ve added a new building and a back street that now connects to the housing complex where I live. Doesn’t seem to serve any useful purpose, though; it’s always closed off. There are no “no trespassing signs”; they must know I used to live here.

I walk a little further and get to the little road that leads to the clubhouse. How many times had I been in that clubhouse, or down by that clubhouse, just to stare at the river? I remember the time I saw a big fish with big orange lips that freaked me out; Dad always laughed at that one. I wonder if he knew what kind of fish it was; I certainly didn’t.

Some of the people who worked in the clubhouse, which was also where the rental office was, were very nice. Some of them were sneaky; Dad told me that. He said that trying to be honorable with them wasn’t always going to take care of you, that you have to be shrewd and plan ahead before you contracted with them for anything, including moving out. The day I went to tell them I was moving out of the little one bedroom apartment I was living in Dad went with me; they knew better than to mess with him.

I often wondered how he did that. Dad wasn’t a big man, much smaller than me, yet he seemed to garner great respect from people; he always got whatever he wanted. It’s a good thing he didn’t want much out of life other than being with and being able to support his family. He could have been a very rich and powerful man.

The clubhouse still looks the same after all these years also; over 20 years and nothing seems to have changed that much.

Until now that is, as I’m walking through an area that didn’t exist when I lived here. They’re apartments on the river, beautiful, but tiny. I went into one when I was invited to a party and thought they were extremely tiny compared to what I was used to.

I would have loved to have a riverfront apartment as long as it was on the second floor. I remember the year of the big flood, ’93, when I decided to drive through the area for curiosity’s sake, and saw how far the water had risen from the river. All the first floor apartments had to be flooded because the water had come all the way out into the street.

Today the water is right where it’s supposed to be. There are benches set up so people can sit on and watch the river. I need a break, so I take a seat.

I sit for a while watching the river run by. It seems more active than normal, but I love the sound of rushing water. My wife is scared of that same sound; can’t figure out why. When I lived in the area all of this was covered by very thick trees that you couldn’t walk through. I never knew back then that I was this close to the river; I always walked to the clubhouse instead. Still, I couldn’t have gotten to it anyway, so what would the point have been?

Dad would have loved coming over here had we known about it when we first moved to the area, before he had his house built in ’81. He and I used to walk to the river near his house out of town, where the railroad tracks are. We’d just stand there and watch the world go by, with bikers, little league baseball games, and the occasional train. He wasn’t as reflective as I was, so he only went when I was with him. But whenever we went he loved it.

I finally get back up; my behind’s getting cold. I resumed my walk through the new section of the complex, taking it all in. I don’t walk through this part all that often. Sometimes, when I felt nostalgic, I decide to walk by the townhouse we used to live in. Today is one of those days; I want to reflect a bit.

I remember many things as I’m walk through this section.

For one, I remember when the section wasn’t there. When we first moved into the townhouse, only two buildings had been completed. We always knew more were coming; they wouldn’t have built such a big circle for just two buildings.

I remember people moving in as each new building was completed. I even met a couple of the people, since some of them had kids that were close to my age. There were the two Chris’; one male, one female. He was effeminate and spoiled, his father abusive both verbally and physically. She was just the cutest thing; to see her was to want to take care of her.

Now I’m at the townhouse we used to live in; I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve gone by here. Being a military kid, it’s one of the few places in my life I can actually visit where I’ve lived before. It still looks the same; well, except that they finally paved the driveway. We were the first people to ever live in that townhouse; that was pretty cool.

Ah, the memories. It was where we established a life in New York; where Dad got his first non-military job and moved up the ladder; where Mom established herself in insurance; where I learned how to drive; where I would come home when I was in college; where I almost burned up the place one night and hid the spot for 3 years afterwards. It was the place where I brought my first girlfriend, and many of my college friends whenever we decided to leave Oswego for a weekend in the city.

It was the biggest place we’d ever lived, and that’s saying something considering it wasn’t all that big by our standards today. But it was home, our home for a long time. I want to stop for a quick moment, but I don’t want to linger. All I need is for someone to come out and wonder who this black man is staring at their place. This isn’t my place anymore, my world; it belongs to those who followed, and now I’m just a spectator.

I decided to walk across the road, through the apartments I lived in when I first moved out on my own after two years of living with my parents in the first house they’d ever bought while I was alive. I see my back window; of all things, my little apartment had both front and back windows. I lived in the basement, which meant I kept my curtains closed all the time. I had more bad memories than good back then, writing my depressing songs, dealing with my parents leaving the area, dealing with my car accident when it was totaled, dealing with the 15 escaped baby guinea pigs & pet mice that upstairs neighbors kept; ugh.

As I walk around the front of the building I think of the people who used to live here. I remember my cars. First was the ’77 Vega that got me everywhere and that I probably would have kept longer than I did if the two doors and finally the trunk locks hadn’t all broken and I couldn’t get into it anymore. Even the floor rotting out so that I had to put both cardboard and rugs over it to keep water from splashing up into the car didn’t get me to think about getting rid of it.

Second, the ’78 Cordoba, which was too big for me to ever master, after the car accident that finally led me to make some big and positive changes in my life, including eventually moving out.

I remember the guy who used to live above me, who had a beard that came down to the middle of his chest. He never complained when I played piano in the middle of the night, and I finally learned that he used his living room as a storage room for all his hunting gear. Included here were animal heads he’d mounted, but didn’t put onto the walls for fear that the weight would be too much for the apartment. He spent all his spare time in his bedroom, and had it set up as a living room; to each his own. I learned later on that he sometimes heard the piano and didn’t mind hearing it; he never heard me sing, though, which I often had to do while composing.

I’m now walking by the tennis, basketball and swimming area. The basketball pole is gone, the tennis nets are removed for the season, and the pool’s covered up. I never learned to swim, but I did learn to play tennis, and I was pretty good. I learned how to play tennis the year we moved to Liverpool, just after Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon. After having been ignored by my cousin and uncle in Boston, who would leave me alone while they went out to play tennis while my parents had come to New York to find a place for us to live, I had to learn the game.

I knew no one; Dad came over and played with me. And we learned together; I think it was the most strenuous thing Dad ever did in his adult life. He’d been a ping pong champion for the armed services, but that’s a game of reaction; you don’t see much running… at least not back then. We learned how to play like he played ping pong, which was more of a slashing the ball style than hitting hard. That’s what helped me beast so many people, including my cousin and his stepfather, my dad’s oldest brother, when they came to visit us a few months after we moved in. We beat them both in doubles, then I beat them both in singles after only 3 months of playing. Neither my cousin nor my uncle ever played me again; yeah!

Enough of this; it’s time to leave these apartments and head back towards my house. I look at the field once more and wish that I had children that I could bring over here to play in the field, or on the outside playthings that are next to the school, which weren’t there before. Just before I reach the school a thought hits me; my mother never walked either and still doesn’t. I wonder what’s given me this bit of wanderlust…

I wonder what Dad would think of my choices at this point in my life. It took him awhile to understand why I decided to try working for myself. His was a world of doing whatever it took to take care of a family. He’d forgotten, until he thought about it one evening, that his father had been a sole proprietor for his entire life also.

One of the last things my dad ever told me while he was still able to communicate with me was that he was proud of me and knew I would be a success; I hope I’ll be able to honor those final words.

I’m finally past the school and on the last ten minutes of my journey; how long as it been anyway? I’ve gotten lost in thought and lost in the time. How long did I sit? How long did I stand outside our townhouse, or my apartment? Where are the kids? There aren’t any kids at the playground, at the little basketball court on the side of the street, riding their bikes, playing ball, playing whatever… where are the kids?

I haven’t heard any dogs barking either; I know there’s at least one somewhere around here. I saw a cat sitting in a window, but now that I’m listening hard, I don’t hear any birds either. I haven’t seen a single car either; has the world stopped today or what? Am I really that alone on this journey, on this day, on this street? I must be, as I’m finally approaching my house, realizing I haven’t seen a single person on my trip, and my wife still isn’t home.

Wrong; I’m not alone. My dad is with me. My wife and my mother’s love will warm me as soon as I walk through the door, whether they’re here in the house with me or not. I think I might be wrong about my dad never walking; I think he walks with me when I walk, here in the neighborhood or at Onondaga Lake, whenever I think I’m by myself. I may feel lonely at times, but I’m never really alone. Maybe Dad’s walking after all.

Why I’m Boycotting Nestle’s Products

The first time I remember visiting Oswego, I came upon an area in Fulton where there was this marvelous chocolate smell in the air… something I’d never encountered before in my life. I was to learn that there was a Nestle’s chocolate factory, and almost every time I ended up passing through there I’d come across that scent, which was wonderful. I understood why Isaac Asimov almost fainted every time he went through Fulton on his way to SUNY Oswego.

I never had a negative thought about Nestle’s at the time, even though there was a boycott (this is a pdf) that I wasn’t privy to going on at the time (1977), since we didn’t have the internet back then and, well, as a college kid the only parts of the newspaper I read was the sports and comics pages. Mess with baby’s will you; curse you Nestle’s!

In essence, Nestle’s was trying to convince mother’s in less developed nations that their baby formula was better than breast feeding for their babies… and pretty aggressively at that. The biggest issue was that in those countries the water is fairly polluted, and since formula must be mixed with water, there’s no way such a claim could come close to being true. That and a host of other things that could and were happening in those countries led the initial boycott to its beginning, and here we are 40 years later and that boycott is still going on.

I wish I could say it was that issue that led me to boycott Nestle’s, but it’s not, mainly because I just learned about it in 2016. The issue that led me to start boycotting Nestle’s was the Jerk CEO’s proclamation that water shouldn’t be free because we don’t know how to treat it right and that it’s not a “human right and because we treat it as one, we are using it in an irresponsible manner…”

This year he pretty much doubled down on that one, stating last summer that corporations should own every drop of water on the planet — and you’re not getting any unless you pay up. This was in response to a lawsuit filed against Nestle’s for bottling water and selling it back to residents in California even though they were in a drought at the time. It didn’t help that a ruled in their favor against the Forest Service, saying that a permit which expired in 1987 is still valid because Nestle’s tried to renew it but never heard back from them, and until the Forest Service can find a legitimate reason to deny the permit that it’s still valid, regardless of the date… at an expense of $524 a year being paid by Nestle’s for the water. No kidding! :-O

Thus, I started boycotting Nestle’s in 2013… at least I thought I had. I wasn’t buying Nestle’s chocolate anymore, including their Crunch bar, which I’d always enjoyed. What I hadn’t been paying attention to until early 2016 was that their chocolate was being used for other things I’ve always enjoyed like Butterfingers and Baby Ruth bars. They also own and produce many other products I know about, most of which I used to consume in some way such as Cheerios (unfortunately I can’t get Mom to stop eating them, so there’s that lol), Sweet Leaf Tea, Smarties, Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine, Dibs (oh no, not Dibs!), and Häagen-Dazs; sigh… There’s tons of stuff they produce that will amaze you, so here’s a list of Nestle’s products that are out on the market; you’ll be as amazed as I was… and this isn’t even all of them, as they’re behind over 8,000 products on the market.

Lake OntarioLake Ontario

Just so you know, this is in essence the only thing I’ve ever really boycotted in my life. There are other heinous companies that do bad things that I would have boycotted if I’d used their products to begin with. It’s kind of hard to boycott something you’ve never consumed. But Nestle’s, being one of the largest producers of foods in the world, makes it both easy and hard to boycott at the same time, mainly because they have so many items that it’s hard to know how you might be supporting them without meaning to.

Why take a stand on this? Because we live in an area that has some of the purest and largest fresh water reserves in the world, and Nestle’s wants a piece of it. They’re already getting 20% of the water from Lake Michigan, even while the people in Flint can’t consume or even bathe in their own water. It won’t be long before they’re coming after our own great lake, Lake Ontario, trying to bottle & sell part of our own water back to us.

Since it seems that the courts and the politicians aren’t going to do anything to protect the citizens, the only savvy thing to do is to try to make business hard to conduct while in America until they change their habits. Truthfully, I know this isn’t going to make a difference in their operations, even if every person in central New York joined in this boycott. However, what it might do if more of us joined in is get our local stores to stop carrying their products and get our local politicians to “finally” listen to the rest of us telling them how we’d rather be treated… and not as a commodity.

If I’m willing to give up Butterfingers and all that other stuff, what are you willing to give up to protect your, our, water rights?  

Copyright 2017