Van Wyck Gazette Autumn Issue 2017

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Autumn Issue 2017

Van Wyck Gazette

Fishkill • Beacon • Wappingers Falls • Poughkeepsie • Newburgh • New Paltz • Rhinebeck • Woodstock


FROM THE EDITOR Our Autumn Issue introduces quite a few topics by our group of prescient contributors, each keenly aware of the drama that plays out in modern life. Our theme is simply when to care about anything or when not to care.

Adrea Gibbs examines the social price of convenience and instant gratification in terms of lost civility. Ann Jamieson explains the social pride gained by “voluntourism” and “philanthrotourism” in her article about tourists who help bring medical and dental care to tribes in Ecuador. Professional physicians and dentists conduct journeys into desert or jungle as missions of mercy via their Relief Riders initiative. Lori Ann King educates why caring about yourself is vital with courage, discipline, daily consistent action and commitment to finish. Samara Ferris explores the great search for happiness in her brash wake up call. Don Rosendale interviews designer and racing enthusiast Barry Kieselstein-Cord at Railhead Jerk, the remarkable Jamaican restaurant in Amenia, NY. Mike Jurkovic shares his poetic verse in Highland haiku. Isabel Minunni provides a fabulous recipe for fall squash. Katie Maus presents the vital history of Tae Kwon Do in the Hudson Valley. Thor and Arlene Larsen review the smash musical Bandstand on Broadway. Anthony Perrotta narrates the unusual paradox that links two films in Stalker: A Soviet Version of The Wizard of Oz. Nancy Ostrovsky exhibits her artistic skill with performance painting at live musical events and displays the vibrancy of her work on our gorgeous autumn cover. Van Wyck Gazette explores the Hudson Valley lifestyle thru our eclectic group of creative and artistic personalities who contribute their adventures to our avid readers. Upcoming in December is our Winter Holiday Issue and Gift Guide 2017.

Joseph Caplan

Table of Contents

3

Railhead Jerk

5

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son & Tae Kwon Do

8

Stalker

Don Rosendale Katie Maus

Anthony Perrotta

10

Four Things Successful People Do

12

Relief Riders International in Ecuador

16

The Great Search for Happiness

19

Lori Ann King

Ann Jamieson Samara Ferris

Autumn Squash Recipe Isabel Minunni

20

Cents and Sensibility

22

Highland haiku

23

Bandstand

Adrea Gibbs

Van Wyck Gazette EDITOR IN CHIEF / CREATIVE DIRECTOR Joseph Caplan DESIGN / MEDIA Margot Stiegeler CONTRIBUTORS Samara Ferris, Adrea Gibbs, Ann Jamieson, Michael Jurkovic, Lori Ann King, Thor Larsen, Arlene Larsen, Katie Maus, Isabel Minunni, Nancy Ostrovsky, Anthony Perrotta and Don Rosendale

PUBLISHER Caplan Media Group, Inc. Fishkill, NY SUBSCRIPTIONS To receive Van Wyck Gazette by mail visit our website and subscribe www.vanwyckgazette.com ADVERTISE If you would like to advertise with Van Wyck Gazette, please email vanwyckgazette@gmail.com Printed by Trumbull Printing, Trumbull, Connecticut On the Cover: “Quartet” By Nancy Ostrovsky The intricacies of the use of colors - patterns, composition and images from my unconscious, are all important aspects of how I respond to the music I am hearing. For example I have experienced some specific colors of deep hues and variations of blues and purples, the sounds of very lower notes from the acoustic bass. They give me an infinite number of possibilities. Good music hits me in my belly, works its way through my body, creating emotions and energies that force me to be real... as real as possible while painting that particular work. I would add, included at times is certainly a joyousness and humor in my work. Each performance is different. There are many choices to make in the moment when painting live - there are the musicians, the audience and how I am thinking and feeling. Colors are only one aspect of my process. The work generally is figurative. - Nancy Ostrovsky

Mike Jurkovic

Thor and Arlene Larsen

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AWF - ANB - APK - AKN - VIS - BLS - NAT - TCC - AWL - SHW SHM - MSF - MGR - MHF - MHH - QU

Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


Railhead Jerk Don Rosendale I’m always fascinated by those newspaper and magazine interviews in which the reporter takes a major politico or movie star to lunch. Between observations of monumental topics - “Do you think the North Koreans will actually fire a missile to Guam”the journalist reviews the meal -“The Dover sole went well with a Chevalier Montrachet.” So when Barry Kieselstein-Cord said he would only sit for an interview if it was at the newly open Jamaican restaurant in Amenia called Railhead Jerk. It didn’t take much armtwisting, especially when a magazine publisher had told me their ribs were “ethereal.” The appellation Railhead Jerk, Cord explains, comes from the fact it’s only a furlong or so from the end of the Metro North Harlem Valley line. And “jerk” is Barry Cord with partner artist a style of cooking native Sara Nesbit to Jamaica. Cord’s role in all of this is their “creative director” in charge of décor, promotion, the menu and the like. Which is appropriate because Railhead Jerk is the culmination of a dinner table discussion at his home. As he recalls, Cord was having dinner with Julette Silvera, whose longtime job in the fashion industry had just tanked. Ms. Silvera was wondering what the next chapter in her life would be. So Cord said to her “You’re the best cook I know, why don’t you open a restaurant?” The idea was seconded by Sara Nesbitt, and Railhead Jerk was born by the Fall of 2016. Ford Cord - Kieselstein-Cord is a “brand name” he says, and he’s really just Barry Cord. Being a restaurateur/creative director is a new page in his varied career. I had always thought of him as a jewelry designer famous for his belt buckles, but Cord says his portfolio is much broader than that. Wikipedia, the on-line

Left to right: Jacki, Julette (sr.partner chef) Evone

encyclopedia describes his empire as “an international awardwinning luxury lifestyle brand founded by American designer, artist and photographer Barry Kieselstein-Cord. Their products include fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry, belt buckles, bronze statuary, leather goods including handbags, eyewaer, home furnishings and accessories. Cord says people don’t just buy his jewelry, they collect it, and the collectors include Vogue editor Anna Wintour, the late Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn and Madonna. He says fashion designers like Calvin Klein use his jewelry to “dress up” their own lines on the runway. After graduation from the Parsons School of Design in New York City his career started as a creative director with ad agencies like Foote Cone & Belding and Papert Koenig where he “won every award you possibly could.” In 1973 he decided to launch his own fashion jewelry company, and I remember his flagship store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, not far from Trump Tower. But he says the era of big expensive stores is dead, because the market is “going virtual,” and he now advertises and sells on line. But, because “people have to touch things,” he still has what he calls a gallery in Millbrook, near his Harlem Valley home. Plus boutiques in places like Palm Beach and Aspen, where people who buy $1,500 belt buckles shop.

KCX Gallery, Millbrook, NY - Photos by Barry Cord Page 3


Team K-C Race car at Lime Rock, Connecticut

While designing and photographing, Cord had a successful career as an amateur sports car driver, mostly in a Shelby Mustang, and won every race he entered over an 11-year span.

Lunch crowd at the restaurant

Railhead Jerk is unfettered by doing things the way restaurants are supposed to do it. Ms. Silvera was raised and learned to cook in Jamaica and has been an Amenia resident for more than two decades. She points out that there are no dishes on a steam table or under warming lights waiting to be plated. Every dish is cooked to order, which sometimes means a long wait. But the ribs live up to my publisher’s friend’s raves. The basic rib order is $20.95, but for the hungry diner, there’s a full rack of ribs for $24.95.

Take out lunch

Rack of ribs

There are also authentic Jamaican dishes that I have never seen anywhere else, such as Tallawah curry chicken and “run down fish.” While I was scribbling notes about Cord’s career, Silvera was cooking up a plate of ribs, which on arrival were everything my publisher friend had forecast, and went well with an authentic Red Stripe beer from Jamaica.

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Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


Grandmaster Duk Sung Son and Tae Kwon Do in the Hudson Valley Katie Maus Born in Seoul, Korea in 1922, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son was one of the masters to name Tae Kwon Do and bring the art to America. Chung Do Kwan, the style practiced by Grandmaster Son, has roots in Chinese and Japanese martial arts. The diverse background combined with Grandmaster Son’s personal touches have created a strong, ever-evolving art that is in practice all over the country (and then some) today. In 1963, Grandmaster Son came to New York. He taught in New York City and the Hudson Valley until just before his death in 2011. Having taught at Korean military and police Academies before moving from Seoul, it only makes sense for Master Son to pursue similar ventures in New York. He became a Headmaster at the Military Academy at West Point just outside of Cornwall, New York, where he taught future military new methods of hand-to-hand combat. During that time, he also set up the World Tae Kwon Do Association, the largest independent Tae Kwon Do association in the world, with its headquarters right in the heart of New York City. Classes were held here daily, with the exception of Wednesday nights, when Grandmaster would take the train up to Poughkeepsie to teach the local blackbelts. Grandmaster Son acquired such a large following after coming to America that there are countless different schools all over the country that claim lineage right to him. Over the last fifty or so years, there have been classes in California, Colorado, Arizona, even extending to Australia, Venezuela, and Ghana, all taught by students of, or students of students of Grandmaster Son. Because these people practice all over the place, Grandmaster Son began holding a Blackbelt Summer Camp in 1991 for blackbelts to come together and train. The camp took place over four days and was held at the Storm King School in Cornwall-On-Hudson. Campers trained for three brutal workouts a day in the hot sun and socialized in the evenings. This annual event created a sense of family and comradery amongst the people who often seemed to share nothing but the passion for martial arts. To this day, there are similar camps held to continue the tradition begun by Grandmaster Son. Students

travel thousands of miles to come together and practice and learn from each other. Grandmaster is linked in one way or another to all of these classes, but the classes have continued to grow on their own, with students from different backgrounds joining in, bringing various new techniques to mix with the traditional art. While the camp sticks to the fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do, every attendee brings a unique perspective to the other campers, helping them to grow their art. In the Hudson Valley alone there have been classes held in Kingston, Beacon, Wappingers Falls, Poughkeepsie, Cornwall, Fishkill, Newburgh, Stone Ridge, and Greenville. There was even an “Intro to Martial Arts” class held at Dutchess Community College for a while! The blackbelts in the local classes would, and still do, join together regularly at the Wednesday night classes held in Poughkeepsie. Wednesday night classes are a tradition, a call back to the treasured times that Grandmaster’s students would all come together to learn from this man who embodied Tae Kwon Do. The upper belts in the class also continue the weekly tradition of dinner after class, specifically at Milanese in Poughkeepsie. At dinner, recent tests, tournaments, and classes are discussed and stories are shared. A student visiting a Wednesday night dinner can learn a lot over chicken parm and wine. At every dinner a toast is offered in Master Son’s name to

Flag displayed at annual summer camp at Storm King School Page 5


are always learning. Often, people think reaching your blackbelt is the endgame; they’re wrong. I’ve been told that becoming a blackbelt means you’ve learned the basics. After blackbelt you begin to understand more about how and why we do things the way we do. There is always something new to learn and anyone can learn from anyone else. The master teaches the beginner, but the master can learn something from the beginner too. One of my current instructors, Master Jim Brady (7th Dan) once said that, “you should never go into class thinking there isn’t something you can learn, teaching or not teaching.” Even if you know enough to be showing others how something is done, you’ll often be surprised to find out something new about yourself or your art. I feel this is something important to remember, both about Tae Kwon Do and life in general. Learning from Grandmaster Son and his students has been Summer picnics are a commonly enjoyed outing for the such a privilege for me, so I felt it was important to share just a classes in the area little bit about his legacy in our home with our readers. In case remember the man who brought so many people together to learning about our local martial arts history has peaked your interest, I have included a list of some local classes taught by practice their art and make lifelong friends. This art that Grandmaster Son brought us is something students of Master Son. Send over an email (you can just write incredibly important to the Hudson Valley. Martial arts teach TKD in the subject line) or text/call for class information! discipline, promote exercise, and, most importantly, foster (518) 603-7974 friendships. I personally have learned so much about myself, Greenville: GoToPeteM@aol.com or life, the way the world works, and, naturally, Tae Kwon Do from Poughkeepsie: DombroskiAnn@Gmail.com or the people I have met along the way. I have made friends who JBrady0354@aol.com are two and three times my age and friends who are little more (845) 562-6700 (kellystaekwondo.com) than half my age, friends with different backgrounds and ones Newburgh: PegHyatt@yahoo.com with completely opposite lifestyles. Despite our differences, Fishkill: JBrady0354@aol.com we are all the same when we are practicing Tae Kwon Do Stone Ridge: together. Everyone practices, everyone teaches, everyone Wappingers Falls: FreedomTKD@gmail.com Bocasscles@yahoo.com learns. That’s the greatest part, I think, about martial arts; you Cornwall:

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Autumn 2017 Issue


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Anthony Perrotta

‘Stalker’: A Soviet Version of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker follows three men who embark on a journey to a mysterious place called the Zone, where legend has it; there is a room that grants the deepest wish of those who enter it. With a screenplay by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, based loosely on their 1972 novel Roadside Picnic, the movie also alludes to some real-life events in the former Soviet Union’s past, as well as the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz.. In Stalker, the unnamed city in the unnamed country at the beginning and the end of the film is surrounded by fences and policed by armed guards. The Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) is hired to break the Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) and the Professor (Nikolai Grinko) out of the closed city and bring them to the mysterious Zone, which the public is forbidden to enter. The Stalker also has a daughter named Monkey (Natasha Abramova) living in the dilapidated city. She cannot walk or talk, and is referred to as one of the many “Zone Children” who have been born with deformities because their parent(s) were exposed to radiation. Throughout the middle of the 20th century, there were many nuclear testing facilities throughout the former Soviet Union. Most of them were located in closed cities, like the one in Stalker. Although the public was unaware of these facilities, towns and villages near the sites were closed off, for the authorities feared that radiation might leak out. If explosions occurred, most of the populated areas were evacuated. But those closest to the site often weren’t told. One of the most common excuses given for the explosions’ noise was that a meteor hit, much like the legend surrounding the Zone’s origin. One such example took place in the city of Ozyorsk, which in 1957 suffered a radiological contamination. This event came to be known as the Kyshtym Disaster, named after the nearest town since Ozyorsk wasn’t printed on any of the maps. While some towns were evacuated within one to two weeks of the incident, the majority of villages weren’t evacuated until months or even years later. As a result, many residents contracted cancer and other diseases caused by radiation. It wasn’t until 1976 that Zhores Medvedev, a Russian biologist and political dissident, made the nature of the problem known to the world. The Soviet government gradually started declassifying documents pertaining Page 8

to the disaster in 1989. After World War II, the Soviet Union legged behind the United States when it came to the development of nuclear weapons. So, it wasn’t uncommon for nuclear facilities like the one in Ozyorsk to be build in hast. The Kyshtym Disaster currently ranks as the third worst nuclear disaster, coming in behind Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. Although Stalker was released seven years before the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred on April 26, 1986, in the northern city of Pripyat in the former Ukrainian SSR, there are certainly parallels between Tarkovsky’s film and the worst nuclear accident ever recorded. Thyroid cancer rates skyrocketed in Belarus as a result of the accident, abortion requests rose not just in Russia, but also throughout Europe, and the long-term health effects are still being investigated. Water contamination was also a major concern. Stalker has a clear environmental message, as Tarkovsky’s camera lingers on a wide range of debris, ranging from guns, syringes, and coins that litter the possibly radioactive fluid that at one point or another helps to symbolically baptize all three of the men. Downed telephone poles also resemble crosses, alluding to the lack of faith in both the former Soviet Union and Stalker’s fictional universe. Chernobyl Diaries, released in 2012, involves a group of American tourists that hire an extreme tour guide, like the Stalker, to sneak them into the condemned site. Also, since the depopulation of the surrounding area, now called the “Chernobyl Exclusion Zone,” some of those employed to take care of the abandoned power plant have come to refer to themselves as “stalkers.” Like Stalker, The Wizard of Oz is based on work of fiction. L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is believed to be an allegory for political, social, and economic events in late nineteenth-century America; particularly it’s monetary policy. The Yellow Brick Road, for example, can be seen as the arguably prosperous gold standard. The Emerald City, on the other hand, could represent Baum’s views on Greenback paper money, which he possibly saw as fraudulent and pretending to have value when it really doesn’t. Both Stalker and The Wizard of Oz are frame stories. They begin and end in one place, while the majority of the film takes place somewhere else. This technique was pioneered in 1920 with the silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, directed by Robert Weine. But where the entirety of Weine’s German Expressionist classic is in black and white, only the “Kansas” portion of Stalker and The Wizard of Oz are shot in a brown monochrome. The “Oz” portions, however, are in full color. Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


Like Dorothy (Judy Garland), the Stalker travels with a motely group of individuals who seek something that they feel will enrich their lives. The Scarecrow (Ray Bologer), a depiction of American farmers, seeks a brain to overcome the troubles that the modern age has bestowed upon him. The Tin Man (Jack Haley), a representation of steel workers, seeks a heart, which the industrial revolution has stripped him of. And the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), a metaphor for populism and social justice, seeks courage. The Writer in Stalker is suffering from writers block, and hopes to feel the same inspiration that he felt in the beginning of his career. He laments to a woman, who goes unnamed, that living in the Middle Ages must have been interesting because mankind was younger and less cynical, unlike himself. The Godless modern age, however, is boring, and the Zone is a result of this. The Professor’s desires aren’t made clear, but he does tell the Writer that he hopes to win a Nobel Prize through a scientific analysis of the Zone. The group also learns, through an unexplainable phone call, that the Professor’s wife has been unfaithful with a colleague of his. The Professor acknowledges that his emotional disconnect is responsible for her affair. The Wizard of Oz and Stalker also provide their traveling groups with an animal companion. The American musical gives them Dorothy’s “little dog” Toto. The Soviet art film gives them the stray black dog, which helps to provide the viewer with one of the many striking images in the movie. While it’s made quite clear that Dorothy’s adventure in Oz was nothing but a dream, an enlightening dream that taught her “there’s no place like home”, but a dream none the less, the Stalker and his clients’ time in the Zone didn’t necessarily occur during sleep. However, there is a scene in the film where the gang rides a railcar out of the city, destined for the Zone. The sequence lasts over four minutes, and feels as though the characters, along with the audience, are being lulled to sleep. The Soviet Union, which the run-down world of Stalker arguably represents, lasted little more than a decade after the film’s release. Since the fall of communism, the Russian Federation has reinvented itself. This is evident in the films of Andrey Zvyaginstev, Tarkovsky’s arguable successor. Zvyaginstev depicts a “new” Russia, unified not by atheism and socialism—hallmarks of the failed proletarian revolution—but by national tradition and Orthodox Christianity. The Return, released in 2003, tells the story of two Russian boys whose father suddenly returns home after a 12-year absence. The unnamed father (Konstantin Lavronenko) then takes his sons Andrei (Vladimir Garin) and Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) on

a fishing trip, which ultimately becomes more of an endurance test. The amount of time that the father is gone is rather appropriate, since the Soviet Union had fallen 12 years before the movie was released. The film’s first and final shots of the “father” also reference Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna’s painting Lamentation of Christ. Leviathan, released in 2014, tells the story of a hot-tempered auto mechanic (Aleksei Serebryakov) who lives with his second wife (Elena Lyadova) and teenage son (Sergey Pokhodyaev) in the fictional coastal town of Pribrezhny, where the mayor (Roman Madyanov) looks to expropriate his property for purposes that aren’t revealed until the end of the film. The movie’s title translates to “great whale” or “sea monster”, which is referenced in the Book of Job. While Zvyaginstev has stated that his film is inspired by the real-life American story of Marvin Heemeyer, there are certainly parallels between the movie’s main character and the unlucky biblical figure. Both The Return and Leviathan depict a Russia that has reverted back to its pre-communist ways, a country on the cusp of a spiritual reawakening. But with this comes political corruption and economic stagnation. Zvyaginstev’s characters live in houses and apartment buildings that are falling apart. They work monotonous jobs making very little money, consume large amounts of alcohol, and speak cynically of their current politicians and former Soviet leaders alike. Nevertheless, back to Stalker. Tarkovsky once said we can express our feelings regarding the world around us in two ways: poetically or by descriptive means. “I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically,” the late director elaborated. “A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image as opposed to a symbol is indefinite in meaning.” So, according to Tarkovsky’s own words, his film isn’t necessarily an allegory for the botched Soviet experiment or the dangers of nuclear power; nor is it a Russian rip-off of The Wizard of Oz. The same cannot be said for 2017’s Guardians, which clearly stole from 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Stalker is simply about a trip—filled with ominous peril—to a place called the Zone; a place that is frozen in time, where the succession of images conjure up different emotions and feelings for the characters and audience alike, much like the dream that

whisked Dorothy away into the Merry Old Land of Oz.

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Four Things Successful People Do Lori Ann King I recently had the opportunity to spend time with 15 successful people. I observed them closely, knowing that they beat the odds and achieved success where others did not. I learned that success requires four things: 1. Courage to start. 2. Discipline to keep going. 3. Daily consistent action. 4. Commitment to finish, regardless what comes your way. My husband Jim and I recently returned from Las Vegas and our company’s annual Celebration event, where Jim was awarded Runner-Up in this year’s IsaBody Challenge. This 16-week transformation Challenge requires you submit before

Finish 2017 strong

There is still time to achieve:

LOVE Yourself! LOVE your HEALTH! Page 10

and after photos and a short essay. There are three challenges per year, and each one results in five IsaBody Finalists. This year, 109,000 people started the Challenge while only 35,000 finished. Out of those 35,000, Jim was one of fifteen Finalists. Jim not only defines healthy aging and transformed his body, he won $13,000 and two all expense paid trips for two to Las Vegas and Costa Rica. I call that success. Courage Each finalist had the courage and motivation to start their challenge. And each time they finish a Challenge they immediately start again. They start, complete, and repeat, which leads them to success. Whether you are starting a diet, exercise program, writing your first book, pursuing a dream or passion, improving your finances, or even starting a new relationship, courage is the step that gets you started. Let’s face it, we all struggle with procrastination from time to time. It’s easy to say I’ll start tomorrow, or Monday, or when I’m less busy or less stressed. Sometimes we even put things off because we simply don’t feel like doing them. The reality is, if we wait until we feel like it, we may never get anything done. I love the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. As soon as an idea comes to mind, you count backward from 5 and when you get to 1, you launch yourself into action. 5…4…3…2…1 GO! It is a tool that takes practice and can begin with something as simple as getting up in the morning. As soon as the alarm goes off, count backward from 5 and then launch yourself out of bed. This small step builds your muscle of courage to get started. Discipline Maybe starting isn’t the hard part for you. You can start, and start, and start again, however it’s the continuation and the sticking with something until completion that you struggle with. This is where discipline comes in. Each of the fifteen Finalists had the discipline to keep going, regardless of what came their way. And inevitably, challenges, obstacles and distractions came their way. None of them live in a bubble. They all have families, careers, duties and responsibilities outside of completing their Challenge. Their discipline kept them going. Discipline cannot come from something external. It absolutely has to come from within. You have to know WHY you are doing something. Why is it important for you to be healthy? Why do you want to write a book? Who is depending on you to grow your savings or increase your income? Knowing why you are doing something Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


will motivate you to make better decisions, create more consistent daily habits, and practice the discipline to keep going. Daily Consistent Action Once you know your reason for wanting to accomplish something, set a timeframe with deadlines and dates. Keep the finish in mind right from the start. If you are writing a book, the finish may be when you submit the first draft to your editor, when you have the first printed copy in your hands, or when you have sold your first 100 copies. If your goal is about health or fitness, it may be when you release a certain amount of pounds, fit into a certain size, or run your first 5k. Each of the Finalists knew the Challenge required 16 weeks. They broke that down into weekly goals and daily habits. They put their dates in writing and set challenging yet reasonable goals. They set small tasks that they can get done and feel good about and worked with daily consistent action. Commit to Finish “Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.“ David Allen Each of the Finalists committed to finish. They started with this intention to complete the Challenge, no matter what obstacles or distractions came their way. The one guarantee on the path to success is that you will have obstacles. Every single one of the fifteen Finalists experienced bumps along their journey. Some were good bumps such as the birth of a child while others were heartbreaking, such as the death of a loved one. The common factor amongst every single finalist was that they kept going. They continued to take daily consistent action and committed to finish what they started.

My Experience This past year I began writing my first book. It took courage to start. I was writing about a very challenging time in my life and seeing the words on paper made me feel vulnerable and exposed. It took discipline to complete the first draft but I committed to finishing it by a certain date. I took daily consistent action toward my goal, regardless of any distractions that came my way. One of my distractions has been my husband becoming an IsaBody Finalist and Runner Up. This is a wonderful event in our life, but even good things can slow us down from reaching our goals. We have taken time off from work and away from home. This is a wonderful aspect of success, however it can slow down my writing if I let it. I have two choices: give up on my goal and dream, or keep making progress with daily consistent action. I choose to finish my goal and enjoy and learn from each and every distraction along the way. Your Turn As we head into the fourth quarter of 2017 it is time to check in with any priorities, goals and dreams you have set for yourself this year. Are you on track and headed toward success or has a setback threatened to turn your New Year’s Resolutions into Next Year’s Resolutions? Regardless of where you are at, you still have time to improve, make progress, and finish strong. Whatever the goal you have for yourself, I encourage you to find the courage to start and the discipline to keep going. Take daily consistent action and commit to finishing, regardless of any setbacks that come your way. The practice of these skills is what will bring you success.

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Relief Riders International in Ecuador Ann Jamieson

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When Alexander Souri first shared his vision with a friend, the reaction was one of disbelief. “That’s great. Why don’t you call me when you wake up?” Alexander did not let that deter him. Admittedly, his idea seemed a bit Pollyannish. “Ride horses through the desert and help people who need it. Poor people. Bring them medicine and food.” Fourteen years later Alexander has improved the lives of over 25,000 people including nearly 19,000 children, bringing them medical and dental care, vision care, food aid, and educational support and sanitary facilities. Beginning in India, the country of his birth, Alexander has since expanded to Turkey and now Ecuador. Along the way, Relief Riders has received the 2010 United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award. The concept Alexander imagined, “voluntourism,” had not even been coined at the time of his vision. Yet that is exactly what he created. Guests ride horses native to whatever region they are in, immerse themselves in the local culture while experiencing some of the most stunning landscapes on earth and while en route bring humanitarian relief to remote communities. Last August Relief Riders brought help and hope to the Ecuador. After many successful rides in India, Alexander accompanied his partner Zoe Tryon to the Amazon. Zoe is known for her battles to protect indigenous tribes from oil companies, and is very familiar with the Amazon, having lived in it for 10 years. After only one visit it was “an instant Wow! I’ve got to share this!” for Alexander. On his second visit he was already planning logistics. He headed straight to the National Red Cross headquarters, always his first move when mapping out a new area due to the 12-year history he shared with the Indian Red Cross. “They provide me with whatever I need: vehicles, office space, teams to work with.” Although it would be Relief Rider’s first time in Ecuador, the response was the same. “They blew me out of the water with their response: whatever you need, whenever you need it.” Although India and Ecuador are vastly different, with contrasting landscapes (the desert as opposed to a jungle and mountains), there is a lot of love in both countries and his medical support in both came from the Red Cross. Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


Participants on the Ecuadorean Relief Riders arrive in Quito, and are driven through Imbabura Province, known as “The Land of The Lakes” to Otavalo. Patchworks of quinoa and maize fields and hamlets of adobe huts stretch alongside the trail while in the background the Andes soar. A two-hour drive takes them to their horses, native Criollos that they will ride for the trip. Sue Beeton, who took the trip last year, describes the horses as “tough, responsive, eager and sure-footed: a pleasure to ride.” The horses are owned by the native villagers. Sue felt “a real sense of life for the villagers in Pinan” when she rode for seven hours up the mountains just to reach the village. Thirty-five families make up the village, and they can trace their roots back to before Incan times. Their very existence totters on a thin edge. Their cattle, which they use for milk and to make cheese for trade, live hours away by foot. As the guests ride the natives’ horses, the money made benefits the local community. In order to be of benefit to everyone, the horses change daily, posing a little bit of an adjustment challenge for the guests. However, the horses were all a pleasure to ride. During the ride, guests got to experience drinking “coca” tea, relaxing in Volcano-fed hot springs, visits to a Condor sanctuary and a free-trade coffee plantation. While riding, condor sightings, as well as eagles, and large hawks, are frequent. The Red Cross met the guests in Pinan, after taking the “new road,” a five-hour journey over boulders and treacherous terrain. Both a dental clinic, and eye testing were presented to the villagers, along with a CPR demonstration, a live-saving skill when the nearest doctor or hospital is hours away. In addition to the medical benefits, Relief Riders followed an age-old tradition by hosting a feast for the villagers, consisting of a calf (boiled... and boiled), potatoes, cheese and soup. Though perhaps the well-boiled calf was not so appetizing to the riders, to the villagers it was a treat and many came back for second helpings...or thirds. The scenery as the riders left Pinan was extraordinary, featuring endless grasslands laced with lagoons and lakes. The next stop is the Amazon rainforest, which required another mode of transportation: a small plane. Guests felt like an explorer from another era as they climbed out of the plane and people slowly emerged

All Photos: Courtesy of Relief Riders International

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from the rainforest. White skin is so unusual here that babies cried at the sight of them. While many might be leery of the creatures of the Amazon and their possible ill effect on health, the Sapara tribe gives visitors a heads up on what to be careful about. Alexander got a wake-up call when he almost put his hands on a tree: luckily a native stopped him in mid-swing. The tree was covered with half-inch fire ants which sting like scorpions. “I got it after that,” laughs Alexander. “Don’t touch anything.”

Although piranhas have a bad reputation, it is mainly a myth. They are not aggressive fish; in fact they are related to tetras that are commonly kept in home aquariums. Their main diet is small fish. Again, the reputation of malaria far outstrips its actual occurrence. Malaria is rarely a problem in this area, and only a few cases arise in other areas. Only 500 Sapara remain. These healers who possess encyclopedic knowledge of the plants of the jungle, and their healing properties, are becoming extinct due to destruction and pollution of their habitat by oil drilling. By their proximity to society and their frequent comings and goings from the jungle to fight or protest the oil companies, they have been exposed to nutritional bad habits such as the addiction to sugar, and the use or margarine (which has no need for refrigeration) which result in negative effects on their oral Page 14

hygiene and health. These western diseases or ailments tend to seep through to tribes that have been exposed to society. Thus a dental clinic, along with first aid, and obstetrics were conducted for the tribe. A natural healing center is in progress, where visitors can come and study the rainforest. Guests share cleansing ceremonies with the Sapara (known as the “hippies of the Amazon” for their emphasis on spirituality over warfare) which enhance their connectedness with the surrounding forest. Sue says that, while staying there, “we learned to slow down. I certainly began to heal, even though we were ostensibly there to help them.” In the morning, guests take part in a ceremony with tribal elders to help them understand their dreams and experiences from the previous night’s ritual. In the afternoon they help out with the Red Cross Dental and Gynecological programs. Swims in the rivers, or soaks in the thermal pools are all part of the relaxation of visiting the Amazon. Alexander says the sound, particularly, of the Amazon amazed him. “You don’t see much, like say in Africa where you’ll see herds of elephants and wildebeest. In the Amazon, you don’t see them until they’re upon you, but you hear them.” After 13 days in the Andes and Amazon, guests return to Quito Airport for the trip home, indelibly changed by their experience. Speaking of the way she was helped while helping others, Sue concludes, “This is one of the great aspects of ‘philanthrotourism,’ the support is reciprocal, often in ways that one does not expect.” Relief Riders also offers the The Pushkar Relief Ride, which combines giving back with the opportunity to experience India from a truly unique perspective. This 14-day journey on horseback takes riders through the ancient landscape of the Thar Desert, from the settlement of Baghsara to the sacred village of Pushkar, ending at the famous Pushkar Fair, when the usually sleepy Pushkar transforms into a spectacle of color and celebration around November’s full moon with livestock traders descending to buy and sell camels, cattle, and horses. The next Pushkar ride will take place October 19-November 2; while in February the Gajner Relief Ride will be held February 26-March 11th. For information on any of these rides contact Relief Riders International at info@reliefridersinternational.com. Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


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Stop Giving a **** The Great Search for Happiness Samara Ferris One day, while walking through the tree-shadowed streets of the Upper East Side, my friend Ron (whose hair was reminiscent of Einstein…fittingly, he was an agent for classical music conductors…) offered me a question which I’ve since pondered many times, “Why is it that intelligent people are often the most unhappy?” The question provoked a litany of names; artistic and bright individuals whose lives were wrought with sadness and anxiety. “Is it true?” I wondered. Since then, I’ve adjusted the reasoning a tad, realizing that intelligence is not the predictor of dissatisfaction in life, instead it is the hyper-aware person’s preoccupation with the constant weighing of options, with worry, with considering all angles, all possibilities all the time. “Am I entering into the right major? Is my career of choice going to make me happy? How will I ever afford a house? How can I ever get out of debt? Am I screwing up my kids? If I let them be carefree children will that affect their chances of success later? And if I drive them toward success at a young age, will that end up robbing them of their childhoods? Is this all just a Catch-22?” You can spend your life constantly weighing every option, counting every penny and dime. You can forego the vacation or that cross-country road trip. You can never buy the good wine, you can live in fear of commitment and end up unhappily alone or you could live in fear of being alone and end up unhappily committed. You can look up Amazon reviews of this coffee grinder and that coffee grinder ad infinitum. You can spend your evenings generally collapsing from the day: from the day of constantly striving, pushing, driving, pulling, researching, doing. And sometimes, it is necessary to press beyond. But sometimes, it is also necessary to not give a f**k: to do the best you can do at that moment, and then to let go of the rest. It hit me one day while I was busy accumulating ammo against my partner. I was busy feeding my frustration, waking up every morning to a sloppy kitchen that I had just cleaned the night before. You know the scene: an array of dirty silverware on the countertops, my good knife plastered with hodgepodge fruit and vegetable parts lying upon the cutting board next to a swash of squeezed lemon carcasses. My dishtowel—a gift from Page 16

my mother—used as a cleaning rag, dirty dishes in the sink. This is my routine: wake up, go downstairs, assess the damage, get angry, suppress it, repeat the next day. But finally one day, searching for alternatives: it doesn’t have to be that way. He is the way he is. And I love him that way. We take care of each other, and we both take up the slack of the other here and there. What would happen if I just accepted this as part of the day, part of my contribution? What if I could not be angry? What if I could just accept that this is something I have to accept and move on? Or, what if I could leave the dishes in the sink once in a while and go outside and weed my garden, play with my herd of dogs (we have four, it practically necessitates the term), go on a hike, read a book, or just sit on the lawn and let the sun rain in through my eyelids, enjoying the pure simplicity of the summer? What if I could get out of the monotony of obsessing over the little things that do not matter and instead choose to live my life? What if I could stop trying to make myself into someone else and what if I could stop trying to make others into my idea of their better selves, and what if I could just do the best I can at the time to make a pretty good decision without obsessing over whether it is the very best or not? What if I could train myself to stop thinking sometimes and to just enjoy these fleeting moments and not give a f**k about the things not immediately within my control? “But what if I am in the wrong major? This is serious, this’ll affect my whole life!” you say. “But I cannot possibly consider switching careers this late in the game, even though I’m miserable.” My high school science teacher once gave me very good advice. When I told her my most troubling problem: that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up because I wanted to be it all. A writer. A chef. A painter. She told me, “First, you do one thing. And then, you begin to do another. And then, you do another.” When she said that it just seemed so clean and obvious. This frenzied burden of figuring out my entire life at the age of 16 stopped (or at least slowed), and I felt free. Someone had finally given me the license to do all that I wanted to do…or to do none of it. We need to give ourselves license to un-think. License to do what we want to do instead of lamenting the day over too many glasses of wine and too much Netflix. We can Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


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allow ourselves to be human, to figure things out as we go along, and to not have everything figured out from the get-go. You may not know exactly how things will turn out, but trust yourself to figure it out and you will. For many of us, the recent events since last election may have caused you to want to hide under a down comforter and eat cake until you pass out, lulling yourself into calm through eating-induced apathy. Or perhaps you’ve just woken up from night terrors a bit too often, feeling the hopelessness creep deeper and deeper into your psyche. Every week is another battle, another disturbing story, another human life extinguished, another awakening moment forcing you to cope or be destroyed, slamming into you like a raging bull, ominous horns rearing, eyes red with rage. Well, YOU. CANNOT. DO. IT. ALL. So, stop trying. By trying to fix all of this, to fight all of this, we are wearing ourselves down, wearing ourselves out. We are losing control of health, of calm, of our ability to be effective. Do one thing. Focus on one issue. Take that thing seriously and do what you can when you can to protect those things that matter. Write to your Senators, call your Congress-people. Stand up for the things that matter to you and do so with sincerity and without caring what anyone else thinks. And when it begins to all feel like too much, like the walls are crumbling into sand and you can imagine yourself ostracized, homeless, broke—whatever—ignore that. Go have a popsicle. Learn to identify some trees. Get out of this little cell of yourself and know that YOU. CANNOT. DO. IT. ALL. But, you can do this thing— this one thing—well. This you can do. F**k the rest. And yes, sometimes life falls apart. Sometimes your kids hate you. Sometimes you default on your loan. Sometimes, the weight of it all seems unbearable and it’s easier to transfer it all into some sealed vault deep within. Sometimes, happiness seems so far, so desperately, achingly far that you begin to regard it as a fantasy, reserved for others but no, not for you, and maybe, you think, just maybe, it’s not necessary anyway, just a meticulously crafted lie to keep us from seeing the bottomless cavern that is our nihilistic existence. I know that happiness can elude us, and often does. And sometimes happiness drifts far away to allow space for life to rearrange itself, as unbelievable as that seems when everything around you seems shrouded in shades of grey. Truth be told, good things don’t last. And neither do the bad things. No one will care at the end of your life that you saved 10 minutes angrily racing through traffic to get to the store before the lines formed. No one will care that you saved an extra $10 because you spent 3 hours cutting coupons and comparing brands even though you didn’t have to. No one will care that you sabotaged your own life…because, well, it’s no one else’s life but yours, so, it’s no one else’s responsibility but yours. Buy the good wine, dammit. Drink less but enjoy it more. Enjoy the crap days and the good days. Cry it out. Swear it out. You’ll figure it out, and you can come out swinging on the other side. The good and the bad? They both won’t last so enjoy the quirks and the things that anger you about your partner…he or she won’t last forever either. Fall apart once in a while. Wear those weird shoes everyone hates but that you love. Go to concerts and be the only one in the crowd dancing. Cry when you feel empathy with a lost human life. That is real. That is human. That is all we have. This is it. The one life, the one time around. Let’s not be whimps about it. Protest Page 18

if you want to. Travel. Or don’t. Figure out what matters and what doesn’t. Care about those things that you really choose to care about and f**king forget the rest. Be honest with your kids. Write a book. Write a play. Be in a play. Or appreciate that we all work and we all have parts of life that suck. Accept that and move on. Move through it. Either stay in it and learn to enjoy it or get the hell out. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time. When I think about life, I think about my dad. Not in a Gone Fishing with pa kind of way, but in a way that acknowledges that my dad is one of the most unhappy people I know. In fact, he is miserable. He just…never could learn to be happy…or to be happy with not being perfectly happy, if that kind of twisted logic can make sense to you. Did you begrudgingly read “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller in high school? It’s reminiscent of that scenario, minus the intact nuclear family and the all-American kids. My dad trudges to a job he detests day in and day out for the past thirty-something years. He works hard, keeps his head mostly down, cannot understand why he cannot get promoted, and saves his money to pay for his empty 3-bedroom house in Tennessee still furnished ten years later with moving boxes (from moving in) and boxes of my brother’s and my toys, bins of socks, moth-eaten packages stuffed with old bathing suits, gloves, and pajamas still unopened as souvenirs from my parents’ divorce sixteen years ago. He arrives home tired and laden with the burden of helplessness and replaces the potential for joy with Trader Joe’s ginger snaps & chocolate almond bark while bingewatching The Simpsons. Life is a dream; in the sense of being asleep behind the wheel. When I think about my life, about wanting to turn and run, to hide somewhere, anywhere, to avoid hurt, to avoid failure, to avoid decisions, I just think about my dad. And when I do, I remember that life is too valuable to sacrifice to a couch. Too valuable to sacrifice to helplessness. Too valuable to sacrifice all of my time, creativity and potential for joy or at least potential for meaning to the wool-over-the-eyes warmth of complete non-doing. Time is too valuable to dedicate it all to something so thoroughly sub-par yet within my power to change. This life is real. And every day we are making it. Our choices matter. Our ethics matter. You don’t have to be perfect. But you do have to get dressed and show up. Not giving a f**k about the things that don’t matter (i.e.—get off the Internet and out of your head!) allows you to truly care about the things that do matter. If you care about American jobs, buy American-made clothes! Buy Danner boots, which are all still made in this beautiful country! Spend your money where you want to see your contributions go. Upset with the government for not banning GMOs? Buy organic when you can. Heck, even better, get searching and get to a farm or farmer’s market and get real food. Fresh food. And keep your money in your community. Stop relying on others to change the world for you. Every choice you make molds this world. That is something to give a f**k about. And, you may even enjoy eating better foods, connecting with the seasons, learning new recipes, and just generally feeling healthier and more banded with the world around you. Care about that. Care about your sanity. Care about where your dollars go. Care about your Planned Parenthood in your town (or not if that’s not your thing). Care about your state of mind. Care about it. And if the boat tips over, learn to swim, and plop that sucker back up again. Do what you can when you can. And f**k/ok the rest. Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


Autumn Squash Isabel Minunni I actually won a recipe contest with a stuffed acorn squash! However this is not that recipe, sorry. The winning recipe gives me merits for having other successful stuffed squash recipes! I have a vegan daughter and, yes, sometimes it feels as though she ties my hands while cooking for her. But at times it has challenged me as I am always happy to meet the challenge for her. The stuffed squash phase I went through has proven fruitful in our house. No one was truly a squash fan. They only ate it because it was on the plate, with the same old, same old, recipe. I decided that such an awesome ingredient needed more of my attention. When I give something my attention everyone knows that ingredient very, very well. I am happy to announce that my recipe has made a fan of my vegan daughter and my picky eater daughter. As a mom, cook and recipe developer, that is a win-win. Stuff your favorite squash with your favorite ingredients, let your food favorites fly, and remember…food should be fun, inventive and shared. Nothing says autumn like an in-season vegetable like squash. This squash bake is easy and very dramatic in presentation. When this squash bakes, the inside becomes creamy, while the top becomes crispy and crunchy. I just love the contrast of texture, plus the beans take on a nutty flavor. Delish! Rice and Bean Acorn Squash Bowl Bakes 2 large acorn squash- cut in half and seeds scooped out 3 cups cooked rice 2 cups broccoli spears-cooked 3 cups cooked red beans-drained 2 cloves garlic-minced 2 to 3 cups almond milk 1 1/2 teaspoons five spice 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoon olive oil Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place all ingredients besides squash and almond milk into a medium size bowl and mix.* Place cut squash onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet, cut

side up. Stuff each squash evenly with prepared stuffing; pour almond milk evenly into each stuffed squash. Brush the top of edges of each stuffed squash with olive oil. Place stuffed squash in the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour or until squash is tender. Take out of oven. Serve and enjoy! Serve 2-4 *You can add more warm coconut milk during cooking to make the stuffing more creamy as the squash and rice will absorb milk. Serves as a side dish or main course. Recipe also available @ Bellasbanquet.com

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Cents and Sensibilities Adrea Gibbs Even today, the strong-willed characters of Jane Austen’s world would seem well suited to some of the complexities of today’s relationships. And by relationships, I don’t necessarily mean the romantic side of things. Rather, I am looking at the way approaches are made to being resourceful and practical. Many of the personalities actually “think” through things before taking action. Not all, of course, but it seems, to me, that more do than don’t. So how does that play into today’s society that seems hell-bent on instant gratification? When I find myself agitated by not being able to reach someone right away, the battery of my phone on the verge of dying, or having to wait in line at the drive-thru for someone who clearly ordered enough food for a small army, I check myself and wonder…has convenience taken over everything? I’m not saying that I am longing for the days of yore when people traveled by carriage and got mail by horseback, but that word, convenience appears to have evolved generationally expanding upon its basest meaning. Of the word, Dictionary.com says the following: noun 1. the quality of being convenient; suitability. 2. anything that saves or simplifies work, adds to one’s ease or comfort, etc., as an appliance, utensil, or the like. 3. a convenient situation or time: at your convenience. 4. advantage or accommodation: a shelter for the convenience of travelers. 5. Chie�ly British. water closet (def 1). adjective 6. easy to obtain, use, or reach; made for convenience: convenience utensils that can be discarded after use.

Looking at description 1, I can say that probably hasn’t changed much from hither to yon, but description 2 makes me ponder. Undoubtedly things had changed considerably from Austen’s time to my youth, and maybe that is to be said for all childhood memories, “things were different then,” but I think the sensibilities of which she wrote specific to the word “convenience,” were more closely aligned then as opposed to now. Helms Bakery Trucks driving through the neighborhood were a convenience. So were milk trucks, and newspaper boys. Rotary Page 20

phones were certainly a convenience compared to party lines. So were ice cube makers in refrigerators compared to ice deliveries. But, I wonder, what was given up, even then, in the way of community, from the time when my parents were kids living on rations. People talked. They had to in order to get what they needed, let alone wanted. No Amazon. No Whole Foods. No online banking. Growing up, we personally knew the man who dropped off our milk on the porch, the same guy who weekly picked up my brothers’ diapers for service, or the kid who tossed the paper in the bushes. I remember my Mom having very brief conversations with different people, like the stocker in the grocery store and while they spoke in few sentences, over the course of time, they learned a lot about one another, as how comfortable strangers share familiarities. She would ask how his family was and, in turn, he likewise, to the point of being able to greet me by name. He even gave me a Jolly Green Giant once when a frozen food display was being dismantled. Had there not been a human connection, I may never have had the experience of dancing for hours on end with my Jolly Green Giant. It wasn’t the kind of relationship where he and his family would have been invited over to dinner, but it was kind. It was civil. It was nice to recognize someone and to be recognized. When I am training people in the skills required for cognizant, purposeful customer service, one of the challenges I task them with is grocery shopping. That is, in itself, fairly simple, but I ask participants to do a couple of different things while they are in the midst of something that, for many, has become a pedestrian experience. I ask them to stop and talk to people in the store, but with specific intent. They must begin a conversation with something like, “Good day. How

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Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


are you?” Seems simple enough, but the kicker is they have to look the other person in the eye. And smile. Sound easy? It’s not. People have gotten out of the habit of smiling at others, exchanging pleasantries. Next time you are in a checkout line, just try to engage the person scanning your items in a quick exchange of words. It may take some work, but it can have an immediate effect on the immediate atmosphere. The cashier. The other people in line. It creates change in the dynamic. It makes things friendly. Maybe, in Austen’s words, genteel. If you really want to raise the bar, see if you can get the cashier to look you in the eye. Look around just about anywhere and most likely you will see people glued to their phones. But at what price? Certainly they have established connections through texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever new app has come along in the last thirty minutes, or so they think, but watching families all hovered over matching mobiles, couples seemingly on a date, even groups of students in group solitude is disheartening. Eyes glued to a tiny screen, headphones blaring, and thumbs blazing does not always translate into the skill sets required to interact with others face-to-face. Engaging in a thoughtful conversation can be a difficult exercise, in some instances, at best. Maybe time is money, so in that regard, sure there is a savings, but at what cost? We may be able to do more, but are we being more productive? Being able to eat and drive, walk and talk, or conduct business 24/7 might just mean we are filling our days with quantity, not quality. People think it is strange these days when you look at them as you pass on the street and offer up a smile, yet, sometimes, something miraculous happens. They most often smile back. I know, for me, the smile I am gifted from a stranger stays on my own face for a while. Even on days when things are much too hectic, when I can’t get a hold of that certain person right away, my phone

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inexplicably dies, or I find myself behind someone that can’t seem to sort out what they want on the drive-through menu, though I am no Austen character, I take a breath and try to remember this; while there is something to be said for convenience, we can’t allow it take away our humanity.

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I don’t think much about traditional form. No artist totally ever has, nor should, lock themselves in that way. I love to edit, so I keep the three line, 5-7-5, seventeen syllable perspective fixed on the horizon and prune longer pieces to the core of what I hoped to say or, better yet, the moment demanded, or, as Garcia sings Robert Hunter “Once in a while / You get shown the light / In the strangest of places / If you look at it right.”

Mike Jurkovic

Highland haiku

the first falling of leaves takes you gone eighty-nine eleven pm

boughs weighted with small town snow take sunrise and sprint into glory

they were violent in Shakespeare’s day too so that makes us quite equal

this lake draws into itself like all living things draws into itself

it was a New York night strangers become cohorts in jazz and blue notes

I cannot describe this moment finally free of definition

gather the moments my friends they are all that is given us to share

only dust and lost birds fly over the mountains I climb without love

wild water diamonds driftwood gulls alight peering wild water diamonds

your back porch prayers answered mine too given a warm and kind reply

nocturnes surround her liquid luminescence her lips of love still wet

all sons and poets learn from their fathers the code of shamans live free

this is more like a small town cumquat parade than a march to freedom

welcome him to the open sky the tower of his song ascending

wild stinging winter rain Monk’s piano Bach’s well tempered clavier

call me a crazy but isn’t permission to revolt not defeat

freight train shakes Hudson awake exhausted sinner genuflects the sun

join the motion of the world cease your lonely fife and drum join the dance

she kept fighting heart attack cancer kidney so I owe her the same

soft and breathing she gives me perspective she dreams news stars in the sky

coveted two hawks their voyage cloud bank bumpers bend their flight hold true

she asleep as I tell this tale a story true a fine love complete

sailing off into the Awosting sky let her embrace settle you

just open the door as it was opened for you let the spirits in

I need only work with one basket empty it fill it empty fill

like God’s own garden wrens feed in ours grackles crow bluebirds fill the sky

reach out reach out reach out you do not want to be alone in the end

wisdom is weightless which explains my beefy tone my obstinate law

fireflies aglow as if the stars have fallen on our wild meadow

the commotion of America goes on and on impedingly 30

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Van W yck Gazette - Autumn 2017 Issue


BANDSTAND Thor & Arlene Larsen Bandstand gives the audience just what it craves, an entertaining evening filled with upbeat music by Robert Oberacker in the 1940’s big band genre, along with toe-tapping choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Blankenbuehler won a coveted Tony Award for his work in Hamilton and again in 2017 for his imaginative staging and outstanding choreography in Bandstand. Our handsome hero Donny has just returned from the war, and is sensitively played by Cory Cott, who belts out his songs in a strong and melodic voice. His talent becomes handy since our hero wants to start a band. Donny’s best friend does not make it home, but had asked Donny to check on his wife in Cincinnati. Julia, the young and beautiful widow back home, is played by the talented co-star Laura Osnes. As luck would have it, the attractive widow has a smooth set of pipes, can belt out a tune and writes poignant poetry that become lyrics for Donny’s songs. Donny and his five G.I. buddies, who all suffer the scars of combat, form a band with the dream-like end goal of winning a radio contest and a coveted music contract. However, the challenges these soldiers are faced with include unemployment, guilt over those left behind and serious physical and psychological wounds of warfare. The play marries the up-beat feeling of victory while dealing with the personal problems caused by war.

The brass band’s music, the exuberant voices of Osnes and Cott, and the fabulous boogie-woogie dancing help sustain this iconic musical and is the vehicle to get the audience past the weaknesses in the story. If you have ever wanted to enjoy big-band music and dance, as we have, you will certainly want to visit it with Bandstand.

Brandon Ellis, plays a very significant role as a musician in the band (Photo by Thor Larsen)

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