Meadow Arts


Today was one of those days where I was trying to accomplish too many projects. Having checked off two and become mired in a third, I took a break. Had the mail arrived at noon or so? It was approaching three when I looked. There was The New Yorker – cover of horrified Olympic track stars outracing a cloud of mosquitoes.

And there was a card. The way Larry and I were addressed meant it came from the Community Foundation. I turned it over and said, “Wow, that’s a great old photo – oh, that’s my family – oh, that’s me in the lower corner.” The designer is a genius!

The reproduction fails to do justice to the real deal since Bluehost insists the rectangle is a square. 

It is announcing my appearance August 21 at 4 p.m. at Essex Meadows.

“Who We Were” will explore the history of the James family. The ancestors escaped slavery and settled in Connecticut where the parents and children began to write to each other. Those missives became Can Anything Beat White?: A Black Family’s Letters. These amazing people also produced Ann Petry, the first African American woman to sell more than a million copies of a book.

With our ancestors for inspiration, the present generation is producing a documentary about the family. My cousins Ashley James, Kathryn Golden, and I are in the research and development phase of the project, and the audience will hear about our progress.

For more information, contact Tara Gibas 860-662-3410 or

Not Listening


Once again I borrowed a book on CD to provide entertainment in the radio-free zone portion of the trip to Ithaca. Fortunately the zone from Connecticut to New York wasn’t as extensive as the hollow core from New York to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. That was a good thing because my choice of book left much to be desired.

In keeping with my tendency to read something in total contrast to my surroundings.  I chose another mystery by James Lee Burke, this one set in Texas. Cimarron Rose is not a Dave Robicheaux story, and I quickly lost interest. Narrator Tom Stechschulte  is no Will Patton, so I couldn’t get into the cadence. The Texas accent has a hard edge lacking on the bayou.

Then there are the characters. Why should I care about this lawyer named Billy Bob Holland? He has flashbacks over the death of his partner when he was a drug-busting Texas Ranger and is representing his illegitimate son on rape and murder charges. The “Save the Cat” element involves  his care for a cute, excessively smart minority kid. Then there’s a possible girlfriend who may be a narc. Worse, Deaf Smith, Texas, lacks the food, culture, and music of Creole Louisiana. All in all, a big yawn. I kept awake avoiding flooded roads and later other cars.

It was a relief to eject the second disc and turn on the radio.

Home From Ithaca


Despite promises of another buffet, the hotel only offered a limited breakfast menu, probably because of having only about ten guests. Betsy and I ordered breakfast sandwiches on a “croissant.” The quotes mean that the greasy and stringy crescent bore pretty much no relationship to the real thing. At least the melon and grapes tasted good.

Rather than driving around I stopped across the street for gas that cost $0.30 cents more per gallon than in Connecticut – outrageous since we generally have among the highest prices in the continental United States.

Waze didn’t cooperate, so I launched the iPhone directions. They took me on a different route with more small winding roads, fewer towns, and almost no traffic. About ten miles in the sky opened up. Despite the poor visibility, I could see flashes of lightning in the distance. I was able to follow a truck for some miles before it turned off on a side road that might have been an over-grown driveway. A little farther on, I passed a road sign with a horse and buggy in the diamond.  The image brought a quick flashback to days of riding my bike through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I not only passed the signs but encountered the actual buggies.

The rain abated somewhat. At a little crossroads, I had to wait for a tanker truck as it pulled out from a gas station right into my path. In the parking lot was an Amish/Mennonite couple seated upon a horse-drawn buggy. In place of a covering from the buggy, they were sheltering under a plaid umbrella. A quick reflection, and I realized that some of those sprawling but neat farmhouses surrounded by massive fields of corn and baled hay lacked power lines. Will have to dig out the details of the Plain People communities in New York.

Not long afterward, I-81 appeared. The downpours began again, only worse this time. Had some giant picked up Cayuga Lake and for entertainment was dumping in on the highway? Most drivers maintained a respectable pace, but occasionally an idiot would roar by. The light show returned, despite the limited visibility.

The rain took itself off elsewhere once I got out of the Catskills. Then I meandered along Route 17. Again, few towns and almost no traffic. I passed a sign that said “Future I-86” and wondered about the need for an interstate in a place where there’s no traffic. I-84 was another story. Why were there so many cars on the road at 2 p.m. on a Monday? And why are we slowing down when there is no construction and not an accident in sight?

After more than five hours, I arrived home.