My 40th Year In Central New York

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Today marks the 40th year I’ve lived in central New York, most specifically Liverpool. I don’t remember what time I saw the place we were going to live but we moved into Grenadier Village some time in the afternoon on this date, July 8th, which was just a few days after Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors in tennis, spawning a tennis revolution of sorts for black players because that’s when I started playing tennis.

college graduation picture

college graduation picture

As much as I love central New York and Liverpool now, living here initially wasn’t all that great.

When I knew we were moving back to the Syracuse area (we’d lived here from ’66 to ’69) I thought we were going to be living in North Syracuse. That’s where I’d gone to elementary school for a few years when we first lived on Taft Road, then on Hancock Field. I thought I’d run into a few people I knew back in the day, and it eventually happened, but not as soon as I had hoped.

Instead I ended up at Liverpool High School to start 11th grade, which was both a curse and a blessing.

It was a curse because Liverpool was not only NOT welcoming to black people, but to people who it didn’t consider as “residents”. By the time I graduated the best friends I had were all people who had moved here within the two years I went to the school, and years later those are most of the people I still talk to for the most part. At the very least these are the people whose politics mirror mine; not sure what that says about the Liverpool HS I went to at the time.

The reason I said it wasn’t welcoming to black people back then wasn’t because anyone was mean to me for being black. It’s that, out of a school of over 3,800 students, if there were 50 black people it was a miracle. And most of them didn’t know what to do with me either; yeah, I was kind of a social misfit.

I really was young once

I really was young once

That was the curse part. The blessing part was that I got to totally reinvent myself once again. Being a military kid, every time I moved I got to become someone else, exhibit a different part of my personality.

Before I left Maine I was someone who most people thought was pretty talkative but a pretty good athlete. When I got to Liverpool I realized I was still pretty good, but there were a lot more people I had to go through to be even somewhat recognized.

I only went out for one sport, my senior year when I went out for the baseball team. I didn’t make it… because the coach pulled me into his office, said I was better than the guy he had but that guy was a sophomore on a team that won the championship the year before and I was a senior and he didn’t think it would be fair for me to sit on the bench behind someone I was better than; so be it.

Merobyn2Regardless, I achieved a lot of stuff in high school anyway and went to school in Oswego; what a blast! I support SUNY Oswego as often as I can and visit a few times a year, heading to Wades or what we called “the stands”, and I love driving around seeing all the changes. But mostly I love visiting and looking at Lake Ontario… wow! I remember going out to look out over the lake in springtime to watch the Northern Lights, something an astronomy major showed me freshman year that many people living there still don’t know about.

Other than college I’ve lived in Liverpool my entire adult life, one apartment over another. I’ve never found a compelling reason to leave. Everything I could ever want is within 10 minutes of wherever I’ve lived in this city, whether it was considered the town of Clay or Salina.

Now I live on a street that, when I first moved here, I had the sneaking suspicion that the neighbors called each other to tell them to come out and see “what’s” riding a bike up the street because it happened more than once. And, oddly enough, people we don’t know know that we live in this house; just sayin’… lol

Merobyn7Yet, I love it. I share a backyard with Wegmans, live less than a couple of miles from Onondaga Lake, 10 minutes from both Destiny and Great Northern, have all kinds of restaurants (though not a good Chinese restaurant anymore; sigh…) and fast food places, a library and a Barnes & Noble… if it wasn’t for visiting other people I know I’d never have to leave.

But I truly love all of central New York. I love telling people when I travel where I live, and I love to talk about the snow, the Dome, the mountains, the lakes, the food, the Orange and the soft ice cream; did you know that there are few places outside of central New York that have a lot of soft ice cream places? I mean, what’s up with that?

I’ve lived in a lot of places, visited way more, but I can’t think of any other place I’d rather live than here. I feel sorry for those who complain about this place; it’s on them. I hope I never have to leave; I hope no one I like leaves either. 😉  

Creative Blogger Award Challenge

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Every once in a while I’m open to a little bit of silliness and fun; that’s what this is going to be. Of all things I got nominated for what’s called the Creative Blogger Award.

Creative-Blogger-Award-2015Before you go congratulating me on it or anything else, let me tell you that, in its own way, it’s more of a meme than anything else. In essence, someone gets nominated, has certain criteria they’re supposed to follow, and part of that criteria is nominating other people and informing them that they’ve been nominated, with hope that they’ll participate. Obviously no one is obligated, and it’s my bet that at best one person “might” do it… though it’s doubtful. lol

Let’s get the rules out of the way first, so no one can say that they didn’t know what they were supposed to do:

1. Thank and post the link of the person who nominated you;   2. Share 5 facts about yourself to your readers;   3. Nominate 10-20 blogs and notify them;   4. Post the rules so others know what they are (which I’ve just done).

  The person I have to thank is Holly Jahangiri, a writer and blogger and all around smart person; yeah, I’ll give her that. I’ve not only interviewed her on my other blog but I interviewed her on YouTube also, and it’s both the most watched video on that channel and has the most comments. Just sayin’…

Next, I’m supposed to share 5 facts about myself. This one is a little harder than the others because a few years ago I did a post on my other blog where I gave 100 facts about myself, which I can also blame on Holly because she did it first. Good thing she didn’t ask me to jump off a bridge, though she did try to convince me to eat nasty fried bugs (nope, that’s never happening…). Still, that was 3 years ago, so let’s see what I might have that’s new:

1. Late at night on September 13th, 2001, after almost 60 hours straight of watching TV, turning channels to find out whatever I could about the tragedies on the 11th, the only way I could break away from it all was to put on the movie Independence Day, starting at the scene where the president makes the speech to the pilots about to launch an attack against the aliens.

2. The reason I won’t go see another Jurassic Park movie is because I saw the original at a midnight showing at 12AM Friday morning. It was so powerful an image in my mind that I didn’t sleep for 3 days (I sense a pattern here) and had to go see it again the following Monday, during the day, to get it out of my mind.

3. The very first song I wrote, back in 1979, actually placed in the top 600 of a song contest 3 years later out of 25,000 entries. It’s the only time I ever entered anything I’ve written into a contest.

4. I used to teach voice at the old Metropolitan School of Music in the early 80’s, unofficially. I had two students and never had either of them pay me for it. Neither were ever going to be professional singers, but both wanted to sing a little better.

5. It’s true that you shrink as you get older, as things start to settle based on health and, of course gravity. I’ve lost an inch over the last 10 years; I hope it stops there.

Three down, one, or ten depending on how you look at it, to go. I could have written this post on this blog or my other blog (I’ve only been referencing one other blog because the other 3 wouldn’t have worked for this…) but decided to write it on this blog because I’m going to nominate many people from the Syracuse area to participate. That’s why I mentioned earlier that I don’t think many will do it but hey, why not put it out there right?

Anyway, I’m going to mention the names and link to people and then, when this goes live, I’ll let them all know, best I can, that I did this. Who knows; someone might even comment on this post. Let’s begin:

1. Joanna Giansanti of Giansanti Design, in hopes that maybe it’ll inspire her to start writing on her blog again;

2. Chris Malone, The Infinite Abyss(es), because I think he’s a brilliant writer who hasn’t written a new post in a while;

3. Stef Noble, stefnoble, who’s presently working on a 30-day blogging challenge and might decide this is worth giving a shot;

4. Mark Bialczak, whose eponymous blog is truly entertaining and might find this kind of fun;

5. Renee Benda of Bendiful Blog, one of the original organizers of our local blogging in-person meetups;

6. Troy Swezey of Troy Swezey v2.0, who has two blogs but this one probably fits best; one of the best commenters on my other blog;

7. Brenda Lee of My Girly Parts writes on a lot of topics for adult women, though I tend to go to her blog & comment on stuff (often the only male there lol);

8. Josh Shear, another eponymous blogger (by the way, that means the blog is the same as their name lol), who I’m definitely thinking won’t do this but it’ll still be fun mentioning it to him;

9. Adrienne Smith, another eponymous blogger who’s not going to participate since her focus has changed, yet I think people should visit her blog;

10. Arlee Bird of Tossing It Out, because he’s been writing a lot time, has lots of writing challenges, and might think this is one worth taking a shot at… or not… :-)

I was right; that was the hardest part to do but I did it. Now it’s up to those of you I named to decide whether you’re up to the task, want to be up to the task, don’t care and want to be left alone, or say later “I didn’t know you mentioned me” when I’ve told you on Twitter that I did. Oh yeah, if you do decide to take on the challenge, copy or download the image on this post so you can use it on yours; after all, it’s an award! For now, onward & upward.  

5 Thoughts From My Latest Local Blogging Get Together

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Wow, it’s been a long time since I got to go to a blogging get together with some of the local folks. Matter of fact, it was in February 2013, and I enjoyed it so much that I wrote two posts on it, one here talking about it, the other talking about random thoughts I had about it on my I’m Just Sharing blog, which was actually way better than the post I wrote here.

20150624_182342_resizedHowever, the post here listed all the people who showed up and their blogs. What’s intriguing is that most of the people who showed up for the other one didn’t show up at this one, which was disappointing. Out of that previous group, 4 people no longer have blogs, one switched to a different domain (but he’s still writing strong), and two haven’t written posts in a very long time. Thus, it prompts me to have some new thoughts culled from Wednesday night, this time writing it on the local blog.

1. It’s always good meeting people in person.

In this case I knew some of the names but not all of them, and a couple of names I didn’t know at all. Let’s get some of them out of the way.

First we had Joanna Giansanti of Giansanti Design, who I know will be writing something soon (because I kept picking on her lol). Then we had Chris Malone, who writes The Infinite Abyss(es). And of course Margaret McCormick, who writes Eat First. They were the only three from the original meetup.

Second we had the new people. First there’s Mark Britz, who writes Learning Zealot, who I’d met before but I think it was a Twitter thing. Next is Joe Cunningham, who put the event together and writes in so many places that I didn’t even think to ask him where his blog is; oy! However, he’s put a lot of his content that he posts in other spaces here. Then there was Ben Ingber, who writes Urban Geek CNY. Finally, there was Stef Noble, who writes stefnoble; that makes sense. I seem to end up in many of the same places she does often enough so one of these days I’m going to have to sit down and talk with her for real. lol

That’s it for the people I knew. Two new faces were Mark Bialczak, whose blog is the same as his name (turns out I’d been to his blog and even commented on a post once), and Michelle Kingman, whose blog isn’t up yet because she just bought the new domain, as she used to write elsewhere under her name before she got married.

There was a new guy as well who hadn’t started a blog yet. His name was Mark; that’s all I remember. However, he was part of my inspiration to write a post on my other blog answering blogging questions.

2. Many bloggers have questions, whether they’ve blogged or not.

It made sense for this to be my second thought since the last sentence above mentioned it. Both of the people I hadn’t met before had questions about blogging. One of the other folks asked some questions as well. This is a great time to try to answer questions bloggers have and for all of us to share our experiences and knowledge with each other.

I enjoyed that part as much as I think Mark Britz did. We both could bring some long time experiences with blogging and getting recognition into the mix. We showed other ways to make money blogging, something that most people think is done only by selling products or using advertising on their blogs. I hope that was fruitful for those who wanted those answers.

3. It’s always interesting discussing general topics regarding blogging.

In this case the biggest conversations we had regarded folks who couldn’t get the inspiration to write all that often and what constitutes a blog.

On the first, I realized there’s only so much encouragement you can give someone to get them blogging more. After all, we all have other work and blogging doesn’t come easy to everyone. I also tend to believe that many people are blogging but not getting much attention on their posts, which can be quite discouraging. Of course, those same folks maybe either don’t respond to any comments on their blogs or don’t visit other blogs to comment, the two biggest drivers of attaining consistent returning visitors to one’s blog.

I always visit every blog of every person I meet and, hopefully, leave a comment on a post if I can. I say it that way because, unfortunately, there are some subjects that even I can’t figure out what to write. lol

These folks were engaged lol

These folks were engaged lol

On the second, we talked about Seth Godin’s blog in general. He doesn’t take comments on his blog, and in my opinion it’s not a blog if there’s no possibility of interaction. After all, blogging should have as its intention sociability; otherwise, it’s just spouting opinion. The other point of view is if content offers value that it’s viable. I don’t disagree with that, but I disagree with calling it a blog. Probably just semantics but I’m someone who won’t visit something called a blog if, at the end of the post, I can’t comment if I want to.

4. It’s important to try to include everyone in the discussion at one time or another.

I was going to make it my intention that no one got to sit quietly for too long without offering something. In that regard, sometimes I felt like I was talking way more than I should have, which made me feel a little bit self conscious. I know there are some people who just like to listen, but if I had it to do all over again I’d have everyone go around, talk about their blog (or their thoughts about blogging) and make it a bit more balanced than it was.

Even with that there were some pretty good conversations going on, which made it really enjoyable. I even sat back a couple of times listening, so at least I didn’t totally dominate things. There are a lot of smart people who blog; that’s always nice to see.

5. The general format makes a big difference.

In this case, everyone fit into one space. Joe was a great host, as it was held at Syracuse Coworks, and he made sure everyone had some kind of seat so that we could all be in the same circle. We also had enough room to spread out so we weren’t on top of each other, which was pretty cool.

Of course, when you have something great you’re lacking something at the same time. What a general space lacks is the option for people to get something to drink and relax a bit. I don’t drink but I know some folks do. At the end there were only 4 of us instead of the majority staying, and it actually started to peter out pretty early. Maybe it should have only been 2 hours; I don’t know.

Still, I think this was the best space for holding an event like this and it was also a learning experience. Maybe Thursdays or Fridays are a better night to get more people to come and stick around longer, where they’re not worried about getting to work the next day as much. Hey, I don’t know. Overall the experience was really positive and I can’t wait until we get to do it again.  

Destiny Food Court – Bourbon Chicken Vs Hibachi Chicken

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This is going to seem like an odd thing to review but hey, it’s what I care about the most right now.

For decades I’ve been going to Destiny Mall, previously Carousel Mall (which I still call it on occasion), and many times I head to the food court to eat. Now there are a lot of restaurant choices, yet the food court is where you’re going to get your food the fastest. When you’re hungry, you don’t want to sit around for a long period of time waiting for your food.

IMG_20150306_183306Even though there are a lot of choices, for me nothing touched the bourbon chicken at Cajun Cafe. I’m not sure if this is only a local restaurant or part of a chain of restaurants, but I tend to believe it’s local. If you do a search you’ll find lots of restaurants around the country with the same name, but once you see the images none of the food choices look the same. They had a second restaurant at Great Northern for a short period of time but it’s gone now.

The chicken is non-breaded and always very tender, and they give you a lot of it. I think it’s still fried, and it’s in a sweet sauce that I love. If you wish you can get it with vegetables and rice, or one or the other, or just the chicken. There’s something about the sauce that compels me to want more of it even hours after I’ve eaten it. There’s never been another competitor… until recently.

Their competition… Koto Syracuse, which is only a few spots down. It’s actually a full Japanese steakhouse where you can either sit where they cook the food in front of you or get a table and let them bring it to you. I’ve enjoyed their salmon teriyaki for years, although truthfully I liked it better when they had their standalone location on Erie Boulevard. That’s been sold off to someone else and the flavor is different, so it’s either Koto if I want an open experience or Ichiban if I want more of a home feeling; I can’t explain that one any better.

Anyway, I had the occasion to go into the food court a couple of weeks ago with the intention of getting some bourbon chicken, when I smelled something pretty wonderful. I looked and noticed that at the takeout menu, where Koto always sold sushi, they had added a hibachi grill and were cooking up, well, hibachi type meals. They offer shrimp, beef and a few other things, but I decided on the chicken. Wow! When you get hibachi meals, they mix the meat with teriyaki sauce; I love teriyaki!

Instead of just talking about it in general I thought I’d do a comparison of its hibachi chicken meal against Cajun Cafe’s bourbon chicken meal.

IMG_20150609_124043First off, the presentation of each is different. If you’re eating in, Cajun Cafe gives you kind of a tray of food. They do this so your selection of food choices is separate; probably helps them figure out how much to dole out of each item. Koto gives you a styrofoam take out container, where the chicken sits on top of all the other choices… which you can probably ask not to have, but if you don’t you’re getting whatever they give you.

Second, the amount of chicken you get each place is probably the same. I don’t know cuts of meat all that well, but it almost seems like Cajun Cafe is giving you dark meat while Koto is giving you white meat. Frankly, dark meat is more tender but the way they cook it at Koto makes it come out pretty tender also; that’s a push.

Third, Koto actually cooks the food in front of you, which means it can take up to 5 minutes to get it if there are a lot of people waiting for their meals. Cajun Cafe cooks theirs in the back, so you’re going to have your food in less than a minute. That makes a difference in warmth of food since Koto’s would be hotter, but truthfully I think it’s close to a push there. How quickly you want your food might mean more if you don’t have a lot of time to wait or if you’re really hungry.

Fourth, the vegetables. In general I’m not a vegetable guy, so I never get the vegetables at Cajun Cafe. As I said, you can probably ask Koto not to put the vegetables in there but they’re not bad. I only have to pick out the zucchini, which I refuse to eat, so it’s not all that bad. They’re also crisp; the couple of times I’ve tasted my wife’s vegetables from the Cafe they’re kind of limp, probably because they’re sitting out and being steamed constantly.

Fifth, the rice. I’ve never liked the rice at Cajun Cafe. It doesn’t matter whether it’s their rice and beans or their version of jambalaya; just not my cup of tea. However, I love fried rice, Chinese or Japanese, and you’re offered white, brown or fried rice at Koto. I got the fried rice and it was wonderful; I knew it would be. That’s a total plus for Koto.

Sixth, everything else. The cost of the full meals are pretty comparable. It seems like you get way more food from Koto, as the few times I’ve had their meal I’ve left very full. Then again, I’m not getting the rice from Koto. There are a lot of other choices at Cajun Cafe than you’re not going to get at Koto when it comes to chicken and vegetable choices, whereas Koto offers more meat and rice options. Koto also offers the idea that their foods are fresher because you see them cooking it in front of you.

I’m calling it a tie because neither is going to make me forget the other. Your choice might be different based on what I’ve shared here, and if you have the opportunity to try both of these options I hope you share your thoughts on it. All I know is that I’m finally glad there’s a place in the food court that actually has tasty fried rice; my dreams have been answered!  

Body Shaming – Why It Needs To End

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A couple of weeks ago I was alerted to a video made by a young lady named Cassie Ho. She’s a fitness authority who’s made a lot of videos on YouTube helping people get healthier.

One of the strangest things, at least to me, is that there are a lot of people shaming her, or body shaming her, for not being thinner than she is. Frankly, I think she’s pretty close to perfect as far as health goes, but some folks think only ultra thin is healthy. So, Ho put this intriguing video together:

Wow, pretty amazing right? Well, another strange thing is that many people felt that when she showed the really skinny version of her that suddenly she was perfect; are you kidding me?

As someone who’s been overweight for most of my life, I have to say that I’ve been lucky to almost never have anyone say anything about it. Actually, the most I ever heard was when I’d actually dropped 26 pounds my freshman year of college because I couldn’t get used to the food, and having one of my friends always referring to me as a “skinny little thing”; at 6′, being called “little” anything was intriguing. When I was at my first job in a hospital this one Italian lady used to pinch my cheeks all the time calling me “pudgy”, and she was actually bigger than me. :-)

Let’s be truthful here. We all notice what other people look like. We’re not always either so kind or so observant when it comes to ourselves. I remember as a kid we’d call each other things like “pumpkin head” and “big tomato nose”, but no one actually looked like those things. We did pick on the heavier kids sometimes, but one thing my group never did was pick on someone because they had skin issues. Since I heard that happened at other schools I’m not sure if we were just nicer because we were military kids or if we didn’t dare because it could have been us.

Anyway, we notice when someone is too heavy or too thin or bald or tall or short or whatever. Those folks know what they are also; some are good with it, some aren’t. Like most things, no matter what we notice and what we might think at the time, it’s none of our business to go out of our way to say negative things to these people. I mean, what kind of society are we anyway?

Actually, we stink as a society, especially in this day and age where people can adopt secret personas and say stuff from afar, believing they’ll never get caught. Funny enough, people sometimes do get caught, and when they do they fall back on “I was just joking” or “I didn’t mean anything by it”. That’s our society these days; be stupid without thought and apologize later without really meaning it.

GoOrange01Sometimes I’ve been doing a lot lately is walking. I track my steps via Fitbit, and I’ve lost a little bit of weight. I’ve lost way more inches, to the effect that my clothes are fitting much looser. However, when I look in a mirror, I still see the same guy I’ve always seen. My wife says she sees a big difference but I don’t see it; am I body shaming myself?

Possibly. I never really started looking in a mirror until the selfie revolution came. I shaved in the shower and based my clothing choices on what colors I thought matched each other. Once I got a smartphone and learned how to take pictures, I became more open to taking pictures of myself, as there aren’t a lot before that period.

I can’t say I think I look great; not by any means. What I am is confident, for the most part, that I am what I am and that my body doesn’t define me. I’m obviously healthy because of the walking and having clothes loose shows me I’m doing better. But people who meet me for the first time have no idea I’ve lost weight, so to them I’m probably a big, overweight guy.

Personally I don’t care because almost no one will ever say anything to me about it, in person or online. Well, it might happen online, but anyone who knows me even a little bit might worry that I could find them; I’ve done it before. lol However, I’d probably just eliminate their comment and block them; I have no time to deal with insensitive people.

Not everyone can do this though, which is why I’m imploring people to be kinder and gentler and more encouraging. One of my online friends has lost 187 pounds and is proud of what she’s done; you can easily see the difference. Another of my friends has lost 125 pounds, which is fantastic, though I’d have to admit I can’t see it. However, for each person what I think and see doesn’t matter; it’s what they see and what they’ve done and my being proud of them for doing it that counts.

Who’s with me on this topic? What did the video above show you about society’s beliefs in what a proper female body should look like?  

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