Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Daily Dose #53 (07/20/11)


(An Introduction)

A few million years ago, mighty glaciers migrated due south, gouging deep lake basins and creating what now look to be topographic claw marks on the face of Central New York. Or maybe it's backside, depending on your point of view.

The Iroquois also named them "The Finger Lakes". The original Native inhabitants envisioned this collection of gouges as the hand print of the Great Spirit on creation.

Whether interpreted as loving hand print or angry claw marks also depends on your point of view and disposition. There are thin lines between love, hate, and the viloent throes of passion. The Great Spirit probably was capable of a whole range of emotions.

One of those water filled geological scars is called "Skaneateles"; A slight Anglicized bastardization of the original Native American Iroquois word "Skeh-ne-a-iles" meaning "Long Lake".

The locals pronounce it "Skanny-AT-less". You can still suss out an interloper if they pronounced it "Skan-needles", or any other variation. They weren't true "lake people". If someone took the trouble to pronounce the extra syllable but got the rest of it right, they might be worthy of a little local slack being cut.

As spoils for soldiers participating in the Revolutionary War, nearly two million acres of land in Central New York were set aside as compensation. A clerk that worked in the Surveyor General's Office drew up the apportionment map; He had a predilection toward Roman history, Greek classical literature, and philosopher authors of the Enlightenment which is why to this day towns bear names like Marcellus, Pompey, Camillus, Ulysses, Syracuse, Cinncinataus, Milton and Locke.

Skaneateles (as a section of the town of Marcellus) was intitially settled by a hardy pioneer family around 1794; historically by Abraham Cuddeback with his wife and eight children in tow after a 43 day journey, depending on which historian you're talking to. It was rough terrain to clear for farming but the soil was rich, and because of the swift flowing outlet and its position on the Old Seneca Turnpike Road, it was perfectly suited for hydro powered industries such as saw and gristmills, and light industry.

The sons of the Revolution (or the folks that they sold their granted land to for a pittance) carved out a little Yankee town, and eventually a self contained economy and culture in one of the prettiest spots on God's Green Earth.

Many of the family names of those early settlers were still the surnames of kids I went to school with, proving that once you became a lake person, you stayed a lake person for life, and for generations.

There was one aberrant blip on the radar screen of the town's history that bears a little notice. J.A. Collins, a travelling speaker selling the concept of the Abolition of Slavery, became so enamoured of my little town that he was inspired to buy 300 acres just north of the village and start a Utopian commune that espoused the abolition of Religion, Civil Government, and the institution of marriage.

Collins formed his Utopian commune in a town called "Sodom", later to be renamed "Mottville". I kid you not.

Collins only lasted three years in the land of Puritan fundamentalism, but I mention the "Community" because a strand in the DNA of the collective gene pool of that social experiment is still in evidence today.

Just walk into The Sherwwod Inn on any given Saturday night, currently. You'll see what I'm referring to. The old guard conservative denizens of Skaneateles may be the descendants of Calvinists and Puritans, but they still know how to get their commie pinko free love freak on.

I was born in 1960, and by that time Skaneateles was a typical small Yankee town. You never had to leave, because everything you needed was there.

We had a movie theater, a bakery, a hardware store, a five and dime, lunch counters, pharmacies, toy stores, retail clothiers in which you could procure work and summer wear, and grocery stores; they were all locally owned and operated. We had doctor's that made house calls.

We had all kinds of houses of worship, except mosques and synagogues.

According to the US census, 99.16% of the total village population is white.

I guess that other .84% signifies some kind of progress. When I was growing up, being from one of the two EYE-Talian families in town tagged me as an exotic.

There was always old money in Skaneateles, but most of it was consigned to a rich persons ghetto, on West Lake Road from the village to the Country Club. The rest of Skaneateles had every layer of the socio-economic strata well represented, from the dirt poor to the upper middle class tax bracket.

We still had a trailer park in Skaneateles when I was growing up. After I left for good in 1978, at some point they tore it down and built a spa.

Skaneateles is a lot tonier now. Those balanced economic layers started to get pushed out during the boom-boom eighties. Now its basically a tourist economy and commuter community.

It has solidified its reputation for being the playground of the wealthy. There are alot more rich folk (Some of them EYE-talians!) and folks that are carrying three mortgages and are leveraged to the teeth to pretend that they are to take advantage of the excellent public school system.

Something got lost along the way though. There's no more movie theater. There still are two pharmacies, but they aren't on the main drag and are national chain stores.

There's no more Western Auto, or Talbot's Five and Dime. The retail shops service the hoi-polloi and tourist trade. The last vestige and holdout is Roland's clothing store and The Cedar House bowling lanes. Even Morris' Grill is gone, the victim of a botched condominium development project.

The impetus and inspiration of "The Lake Boy" daily dosages was to somehow record the era from 1960-1978, when a small Yankee town was still a small Yankee town, and trace my life's personal narrative arc within it, before it disappears from my memory.

The ingredients for the narrative gumbo in mind? Part Norman Rockwell, part Jean Sheppard, part Mark Twain, part Garrison Keillor, part Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", part "Peyton Place", part John Irving, with liberal spices from Steven King's catalog of twisted horror.

The "Lake Boy" stories don't appear in chronological order, as this is how my brain actually works these days. The memories are randomly chaotic, like puzzle pieces that magically appear in the space between my ears.

The tales are but faintly flickering stars that I am pinning to a fantasized celestial sphere that surrounds me; I imagine that I am standing in the center of that sphere, estimating the proper location and distance of each memory as I attach it to the firmament.

Eventually, the picture that will materialize out of that chaos will take shape and form. One would hope that anyway, but you never know. As a regular reader of the Dose, you're taking that journey right along with me.

I will leave you with this memory:

I was a pretty angry young man by the time I hit sixteen, and left Skaneateles for awhile. I didn't leave with much of an appreciation for it, because I was a typical confused adolescent with his head firmly self-inserted in his own ass.

When I was about 18, I momentarily returned in the summer of '78. I hitched hiked from Bucks County, PA and got stranded on a country road in the bowels of Pennsylvania overnight. What was usually a 24 hour hitch turned into three miserable days.

When I got closer, getting dropped off in Auburn NY in the late afternoon of a glorious early summer day, I walked the seven miles due East to the place of my childhood; the staging area and backdrop of teen-aged, over-the-top angst.

But as I approached Clift park, I saw it, and felt it.

The sun was setting, the lake clear, clean and smooth as glass. It was ablaze with the reflection of the orange, pink and purple solar fireworks display.

I stood in that park with a duffel bag slung over my shoulder in an unexpected awe. What I had always taken for granted, became quite clear.

I was standing in a place where what the Iroqois called "The Great Spirit" had put its fingerprint on the whole of creation, and for one brief shining moment, that spirit completely filled me. I was home, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. A place of great spiritual power, energy and significance.

I let that energy flow freely through me, and reached a clarity, a state of peace and grace, and an understanding that I had never known. I was one, and connected with that place.

I turned toward home to walk along it's shores around its curve to the south on Route 41. Back down the steep downward incline, cut by a glacier, to 12 Gayle Road; to the lake and the little tribe that had been a constant in my life carrying this little thought:

No matter how hard I tried to fight it, ignore it, or deny its existence in my soul, I am, and always will be, a "Lake Boy".


Kihm Winship's blog, "Skaneateles: The Character and Characters of a Lakeside Village", is a precious resource and inspiration; Kihm has been a great source of first encouragement for me to keep on grinding out The Daily Dose.

Check his blog out. It's really well researched and well written:

Author's Note:

Just a few little updates for the regular peep-a-roos that get their Dose, daily.

1. Page Views: "The Dose" just eclipsed the 17,000 page view benchmark in 52 consecutive days of publication (17,071 as of 5:30pm, EST 07/20/11).

2. Feedback and Metrics Count: The confirmed Peep-a-roo network has 40 feedburner subscribers, 12 google followers, and 10 networkedblogs subscribers. That means 62 peeps are actively sharing The Blog-O-Thon, and generating page views at a ratio of almost 5/1 per "share", to achieve an average viewership of around 300 page views per day.

Peeps... THANK YOU! This is how its supposed to work, and you have made yourself an integral part of this publication.

I know there may be more regular readers out there that are firing into the blog through facebook newsfeed posts. I'm very grateful for the time you spend reading them, but if you would please consider using the sign up options in the left collumn, I could get a much more accurate read on just how united The Peep-a-Roo front really is.

After casually insulting the casually passive, non-sharing readers last week by basically calling them out for being lousy in bed, this would be very helpful data if you could sign on to the email or network options.

3.Comment Protocols: Commenting directly on the Blog-O-Thon site is supposed to help promote it, but for the life of me I don't know how... that said, I moderate all comments before they show up, in case you were wondering. If people want to say negative shit, I generally post it anyway.

But I'm instituting a new rule. No more "Anonymous" comments will be posted. If you have an opinion, attach your name to it. Other wise, your opinion really has no value. This blog is about standing up and being counted, not sniveling behind a cloak of anonymity.

4. The Master Index:A Peep-A-Roo (Denise, you know who you are) pointed out to me recently that the Blogger Platform makes it difficult to access archived blogs, along with the fact that its hard to find a previously published piece if all you have to go on is a consecutive string of numbered blogs.

I created a Master Index of all The Daily Dose injections, with a brief description of each one to make them a little easier to locate. This index will be updated weekly, and sent out every Saturday morning.

If you would like to receive The Master Index, please send me a traditional email address to: You can always opt out at anytime.

Aside from receiving the index, this also gives us a chance to correspond one on one, probably the most rewarding part of the Dose experiment for me. Don't be shy!

I bite, but only when asked politely in the privacy of my own home.

I guess that's it for today. Don't forget: "The Dose Is In The Discipline" and "Sharing" really does translate to a state of "Caring", no matter what you do, what you make, or who you are. If you participate in the Universal Recycling system while playing a game of catch with creation, great things will happen. They always do.



1 comment:

Rick Short said...

It's kind of sad that most of us only appreciate "home" after we've gotten older (some can't, or just never do). But maybe that is the only way it CAN work. It's just too bad that we can't see the beauty when we are in the moment - as children growing up there. Alas, like the yin and yang, perhaps we simply can't have one without the other.

Thank you for the reminder.