Monday, November 2, 2015

Liverpool Library Holds Trip Down Memory Lane

Abandoned Oswego Canal, June 22, 1932.
Liverpool will forever be linked with Syracuse, not only as a major suburb, but also as another center of the salt industry and the canals that connected both to the outside world. Around Liverpool, by Dorianne Elitharp Gutierrez and Joyce M. Mills (Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S.C.; 127 pages/softcover), released in June, aims to bring that history to your coffee table through photos and extended captions.

What's inside the book and even more information that couldn't fit are the subject of Around Liverpool, a presentation Thursday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m. at the Liverpool Public Library, 310 Tulip St. There the co-authors will speak about the village's salty past, as well as other industries, prominent early settlers, how the Onondaga Lake shore has morphed over the years and noteworthy architecture, some of which still stands.

A wagon load of woven willow baskets, Nov. 15, 1926.
Intersection of Old Liverpool Road and Onondaga Lake Parkway.
The two will also take part in the library's Local Author Meet and Greet on Sunday, Nov. 8, from noon to 2 p.m.

Gutierrez has worked as the Liverpool Village Historian since 1991, while Mills retired as a media specialist from the Liverpool Public Library and now volunteers at the Liverpool Village Museum.

Founded in 2014, Arcadia has published more than 12,000 local history books, notable by their format of heavy on the photographs with captions, not chapters. "We had been approached by Arcadia for a couple years and finally found time to do it," says Gutierrez. "It turned out to be labor-intensive, and took us a year to complete, a little less. I tend to be verbal, and Joyce is excellent with images. We are two halves of one brain."

And while Arcadia has strict guidelines, the co-authors strove to improve upon them. "Arcadia sent us some samples," Gutierrez says, "and we looked at others. We thought we could do better. We intended to tell a story, and that is why the organization ended up like it did."

The chapters are organized somewhat chronologically, starting with the burgeoning salt industry and moving next into basketmaking, and on through the sixth and final chapter, the village's growth into a bustling suburb of Syracuse. Liverpool retained its small-village charm, however, and that's evident in the photographs the co-authors selected.

Finalizing the book likely would have taken more time if not for the access the authors had to the Liverpool Public Library's scanned photos; they also used Liverpool Village Museum photos. "We were fortunate in being able to utilize the library's collection that was already scanned," Gutierrez says. "Otherwise, it would have been a different book and it would have taken it a lot longer."

For the library presentation, expect about 45 minutes covering the book but also bonus content of photos and captions that didn't fit into the book. Gutierrez calls it “But Wait, There's More!"

"People can expect the tone of the book," she says, "but with more--more stories, and some other images and pictures of objects. There's something for everyone in this book."

Also at the presentation, Russ Tarby Jr. will sell books for a $20 donation to the Historical Association of Greater Liverpool. The authors will autograph them upon request.

For more information, call the library at 457-0310 or visit

Monday, October 19, 2015

Chicago Marathon: Urban Legend

The Chicago Marathon Oct. 11 delivered the spectacle that it touted. More than 46,000 of us, along 26.2 miles of the Second City, with an estimated 1.7 million spectators lining nearly every inch of Chicago sidewalk and roadway. What a sight they were.

At various points in the race I saw:

  • A group of men dressed like the Statue of Liberty but in rainbow/pride colors.
  • Another group of men dressed in all black and cheering us on with red metallic pompons.
  • A Vegas Elvis impersonator (couldn't run away from him fast enough!).
  • Many inventive signs urging us on to the finish line.
  • Two large papier-mache puppets dancing in the city's Mexican neighborhood. I apologize that I don't know what that neighborhood is called, but it was my favorite for the crowd support, the music, the kids handing us food and drink.
  • Children (not officially volunteers) handing out pretzels, orange slices and small bottles of water. 
  • Thousands of hard-charging, dedicated runners pushing toward the finish line in Grant Park.
  • More spectators wearing Green Bay Packers garb than Chicago Bears clothing. I could have finished five minutes faster if I hadn't stopped to talk to/high five all of them.
This was my first big-city marathon, and likely my last. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but races of such magnitude bring with them increased expenses, logistical planning and a lot of waiting around to cross the starting line. The expo was huge, too, but the bus ride there was especially enjoyable with a jovial, friendly, inquisitive driver ("So, who's from the farthest away?" Iceland trumped Syracuse, I'm afraid.)

On the other hand, I felt a huge sense of camaraderie running with so many others. I enjoyed the "countdown" from mile 25.2--banners with "1 Mile to go," "800 meters," "400 meters," "200 meters" and then the finish. I enjoyed running through the neighborhoods of Chicago. I liked being asked hours afterwards if I had "run the marathon." Unlike many other finishers, I didn't wear my medal into the restaurant I walked to afterwards--Lou Malnati's--but I wouldn't exactly call my perambulation "walking." My hobbling must have given it away.

And what a revelation Chicago was to me! Big, bustling and full of life, but cleaner and friendlier than New York City. The only vehicles with beeping horns were taxi cabs. I took the Red Line to the race ($3!) and marveled at how clean and urine-free the station was.

My finish time is a disappointment, but, as with all marathons, that time hints at improvements I can make while training for the next one. Still, I finished at approximately 29,000 out of the 46,000, not even close to last.

And now for my minor suggestions for improving the race:

It's "The Bean." 
  • Could you please get the rights to more songs than "Right Now" by Van Halen, which played over and over and over again as we stood in the starting corral? Since we were in there for 30 minutes, that's a lot of time hearing one song.
  • The medal underwhelmed me. I understand the race organizers wanting to feature a Chicago landmark on the medal. But, not being from Chicago, I had no idea what I was seeing. Was it a big cloud hovering over the runners? Was it the Mothership disgorging aliens into Grant Park? Take a look for yourself (at right). 
I am grateful to have had this opportunity, and urge anyone who wants to run a major marathon to do this one. Even though I never saw them, it was cool knowing that big-time runners led the way and finished hours before so many of us. But the spectators treated everyone like he or she was a speedy Kenyan, and at the end of the day, that's this race's biggest charm.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My New Favorite Race

I don't really know how many races I have run. The number must be between 100 and 200. When I began racing in my 20s there were events out there that no longer exist. I seem to recall a Frog Hollow 5K run along the main street in Fabius way back in the mid-1980s. Then there was the beloved Grunt Run in Geddes, where I always placed well because the prime runners were in New York for the marathon.

Kudos to that woman wearing a tutu.
It's always an adventure to run a race that is brand new, or that isn't new but has been rerouted to a new course. Such was the case with the Rochester Half Marathon, September 20. I have done that half for several years--in fact, my 13.1-mile PR was run there, 1:42:49, and I placed third in my age group in 2007 (that will never happen again, but I don't care). The course was nice, but it was getting old, and the race organizers must have recognized that as well. They mapped out something entirely new and different and challenging for 2015, and I can't wait to go back and run it again.

They promised a few hills, they promised neighborhoods many of us who don't live in Rochester have never even heard of, they promised four bridge crossings spanning the Genesee River (though I counted five), and they promised two waterfalls. After a challenging incline at mile 11.5, we got a slight downhill finish that brought us through the High Falls District and the breweries there, straight across the river and into the chute for the finish. No turns, as in past years, just a mad dash to cross that line.

I loved nearly everything about this race (except that hubby wasn't there at the finish). We traveled with the youngest child and the dog, and logistics weren't in our favor. Next year. . .

Crowd support seemed heartier and more populous than in years past, despite the 7:30 (on the nose) starting time. Rochesterians really came out to support this race, and those runners I was keeping pace with all noticed. The shuttle bus driver who took us from the finish line a few miles to the start was amazingly perky and friendly at 6 a.m., wishing us all good luck.

River Boardwalk over the Genesee River.
A factor out of everyone's control but that everyone talked about was the weather--absolutely perfect conditions for a long-distance race. Mid-50s to start, some clouds, minimal wind. Those factors were the exclamation point on an already perfect day.

My one criticism--I have never enjoyed pizza after a race. I am never hungry for a good hour afterwards, but I do force down a banana, or a yogurt, or a granola bar. But pizza just never sits well with me. I couldn't imagine even wanting to think about pizza had I run the full 26.2. So, maybe something different afterwards? I could be the only one, but since this is my forum, I'm bringing it up.

Speaking of sustenance, I have never run a race that offered four different flavors of Gu. Four! And they had my latest favorite, Salty Caramel. Oh, and I don't know what flavor electolytes were out there, but when I sipped, I smelled and tasted flowers. Ew.

Anyway, a huge shout-out to the crew at Fleet Feet Rochester and Yellow Jacket Racing for an amazing morning spent in Rochester. I enjoyed the half marathon you folks put on in April, as well, taking us through a different set of Rochester neighborhoods and a different finish line.

I intend to return next fall, and I hope to run faster than 2:09!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Impressionists in Utica

At the time it was emerging, Impressionism was laughed at by the art critics of the late 19th century. It was no compliment to call a painter an "impressionist." In fact, in 1874, labeling an artist as such meant the painter had no skill and lacked the common sense to finish a painting before selling it. Well, considering the enduring legacies of Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Marisot, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, it appears the artists got the last laugh.

A tidy exhibit currently at Utica's Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute offers an overview of the Impressionist movement with 60 artworks, mostly paintings. Titled Monet to Matisse: The Age of French Impressionism, the display brings the observer closer to the at-the-time revolutionary style--at its zenith from 1874 to 1929--while teasing you as well. Despite its name, there are but one Matisse and two Monets. And don't expect any expansive paintings of Monet's gardens at Giverny or still lifes or nudes from Matisse; the only large work here, at nearly 7 feet tall by 9.4 feet wide, is The Joyous Festival, an oil on canvas by French painter Gaston La Touche. And the Monets are downright gloomy. Still, Monet to Matisse is not to be missed.

"Peasant Girl Among Tulips," 1890, oil on canvas by Berthe Merisot.
Rooted in rebellion, Impressionism formally launched in 1874, when Monet, Edgar Degas, Pissarro, Paul Cezanne, Auguste Renoir, Sisley and Morisot joined 23 other artists in a group show outside the recognized art exhibits called the Salon de Paris. The Impressionists exhibited together eight times between 1874 and 1886, each time likely ticking off the Salon, who could do nothing to stop them.

As a rule, Impressionists discovered art-worthy subjects in everyday, middle class people; they found poetry in everyday life. The interplay of light marks the common denominator in what defines Impressionism, and the landscapes featured in Monet to Matisse display that to great effect--incredible skies of blues, grays and whites are blanketed by cloud formations, for instance. To appreciate the entire canvas, start at the top of these paintings before moving down to then look at the entire scene.

The exhibit occupies five galleries on the second floor, and children's activities can be fun and educational for adults as well. Posters in an adjacent hallway explain who the artists were and why their work was important. Two iPad-like tablets contain greater details of the life and work of Camille Pissarro and, in a separate room, Marc Chagall. Both artists' work is displayed here as well, with Chagall's famous painted goat especially delightful.

"The Joyous Festival," ca. 1906, oil on canvas by Gaston La Touche.
You'll get a slight glimpse at the genius of Degas, through his "Dancer Adjusting Her Shoe" charcoal and pastel on paper, as well as that of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec with "Dancer Seated on a Pink Divan," an oil on canvas.

Adjacent to some paintings, a separate information sheet explains the clothing styles represented on the canvas, many showing ordinary people. Some subjects were more famous, as in "Portrait of Eugenia Huici Arguedas de Errázuriz," 1890, a pastel on canvas by Jacques-Emile Blanche overlooking a smaller gallery. The subject of this large, vertical painting was a Paris fashion icon in her day, and the dress she wears here shows why. It's a shimmering silver-blue tea gown standing out from the grays and greens of the background.

This exhibit shows why the Impressionists were so important to the transition between the 19th and 20th centuries, both in culture and in art, and may leave you wondering why they were ever ridiculed in the first place.

Monet to Matisse continues through Nov. 29. Admission is $10; $5 for students; free for children under 12. You'll find Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute at 310 Genesee St., Utica. For more information, call (315) 797-0000 or visit

Monday, June 29, 2015

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

First things first: I want to congratulate the female winner of the June 27 Yellow Brick Road 8K in Chittenango. I don't know if it was an oversight, but when awards time came, the race director mentioned male overall winner Andrew Foxenberg, but not Hillary Stratton. I sure hope it was an oversight. So, kudos to her!

This is yogic squat.
This is my Garmin.
And I'm pleased with my race time. Last year I ran this race in 47:35; this year, 45:56. To actually have run faster at a year older makes me happy. Even better, I ran the hills: no stopping and walking.

In addition, I tried something new during my warmup--knowing that tight hips contribute
to my odd stride and inefficient running form, I sat in a yogic squat for a few minutes to open those hips up. I think it worked, and I will continue to do this before every race. And race conditions were just about ideal--60 degrees, cloud cover, no wind and minimal humidity. I felt comfortable the entire time. 

That aside, a few observations about this race:
This is the Cowardly Lion.
  • An 8K is a rarity in this 5K-dominated world. For those who don't have a calculator, that equals 4.97 miles. My Garmin registered 5.04 miles, possibly because I didn't cut the tangents tight enough.
  • I enjoy how this race mixes up terrains. It starts our flat before heading west on the Old Erie Canal trail for 1 mile. Then it's back to the roads and some challenging hills.
  • This race features one of the best finishes I've experienced--a fast downhill before enough of a flat to pick up steam as you cross the finish line.
  • Considering that it isn't chip timed (no complaints; it's a small enough crowd that results still come pretty quickly, and no chip means a more affordable race fee of $20.)
  • They offer some out-of-the ordinary door prizes, with winners selected during the race. When you get back, you see if you've won. Last year, I won a miniature tool kit.
  • Thank you for the whole banana, not one cut in two. And for the yogurt. And for the water and Gatorade. They also served pizza, but my stomach could never, uh, stomach pizza after a race.

Now, about that awards ceremony. Most races announce the top three winners, male and female, before heading into age group winners. Those overall winners are then removed from their respective age group, so that everyone bumps up a place. I know I can be a purist, but it was odd not knowing who actually scored the top three finishes for both genders.

I had planned on racing Tinman on June 27, a 70.3 triathlon in Tupper Lake with, I just realized, another The Wizard of Oz reference. Since I was laid off May 8 I couldn't justify the expense of driving to and staying two nights in the Adirondacks. A shout-out to that race director for allowing me to defer my race registration until 2016. That's a rarity these days, and I greatly appreciate it.

I was happy to have this run to sort of substitute for that tri. It's a quirky, hidden gem featuring a costumed cowardly lion to further the Yellow Brick Road theme.