A history of the Charlotte lighthouse

The historical marker at the Charlotte cemetery, citing its notable residents, including the first lighthouse keeper.

The historical marker at the Charlotte cemetery, citing its notable residents, including the first lighthouse keeper.

If there’s a cemetery tour happening in Rochester, you can be sure I’m there. For anyone interested in local history, there’s no better place to find unusual stories and bits of trivia, and I’m fascinated by the history buried all around us. (Plus, I’m writing a book about people buried in Rochester who changed, intrigued or just amused the world, so I’m always on the lookout for more stories.)

A few weeks ago, the City of Rochester hosted the annual Genesee River Romance weekend  celebrating the Genesee River and its surrounding trail and gorge system. In 2014, I took full advantage of the weekend of events that include tours of the old subway and aqueducts, the Rundel Library, the Falls, and cemeteries. Somehow, I missed the adverts for this year’s event, so I only had time to catch one thing: the tour of Charlotte Cemetery…

You can read the rest of the story at RochesterSubway.com.

Send a care package to “Any Soldier”

My care package sent through AnySoldier.com.

My care package sent to a soldier through AnySoldier.com.

The holidays can be difficult for anyone separated from their family, but especially for our service men and women. And even more so for those who don’t have family or friends to write letters and send care packages.

Yes, there are service men and women who don’t get a letter from home. Ever.

That’s why I wanted to just put the website AnySoldier.com on your radar. It’s a great resource if you want to support our troops. And while the deadline is looming to send packages and have them arrive by Christmas, you have until December 10 in most cases, if you’re sending it Priority Mail.

Here’s how it works: someone in a unit volunteers to be a contact person with Any Soldier. They give a brief description of what their group needs or what might be helpful in boosting morale. When you send letters and packages, they then distribute them to any soldier who might be in need of a letter of encouragement or a treat from state-side.

I’ve sent packages via the website several times. Twice I’ve heard from the contact person, so I know how important the small gesture meant. I’m not talking huge things here. Instant oatmeal, granola bars, coffee, tea, trail mix, jerky, Kool Aid, magazines, tampons, razors, butt wipes. These are important things for service men and women in miserable combat situations.

If you’re interested in sending to “any soldier”, here are a few things to keep in mind. (And I have to apologize if I’m using any incorrect terminology. I tried to use “troop” and “unit” and “service men and women” in the right context, but forgive me where I’ve screwed up.)

1) This isn’t a pen pal service, so don’t expect a reply. While every single thing you send is appreciated, these are men and women who are literally in war zones or battle. They have far more important things on their minds than sending thank you notes. (Having said that, don’t be surprised if you do get a reply. It’s a beautiful thing to hear first hand how your package filled with Pop Tarts and beef jerky made someone’s day.) Continue reading

Writing, daffodil bulbs and being a catalyst for change

I’ve been having a bit of a frenzied few months, covering Fringe Fest, traveling to Western Massachusetts to visit family, doing improv, taking classes.

What I haven’t been doing is writing.

I’m on deadline for my next book – that feels weird to even say that, “my next book”, as if my last book was some sort of literary milestone. It’s just a collection of previously published columns, with one new piece written after my dog died. It was done more for me than anything else, to put a period at the end of a difficult, depressing, and unfruitful time in my life. It let me say, “Here, I accomplished this in the midst of the turmoil, and now I’m on to bigger and better things.”

It’s a little thing. It’s nothing.

I’ve been doing a lot of research for this next book, which feels like an actual writing project that’s going to be worthy of the effort. A book I authored. But I’m rabbit trailing while searching at Newspapers.com, and reading books and filling the pages with sticky notes to mark trivial bits of info I want to go back to. I’ve got piles of files of stories I want to include but none of the stories actually written yet.

The book is a collection of stories about people buried in Rochester who made contributions to science, society, entertainment…or just have weird and interesting stories.

Mostly the latter, because I love a good weird story, a tale of a totally random action that sets in motion something that changes the world.

Like the story in the video above, about educator Stephen Ritz, who turned his classroom in to a garden and transformed his students’ lives.

Here’s my question: who gave him the daffodil bulbs? Continue reading

Notes from the Fringe: Pirates and Downton and Disco, oh my!

The cast of the Cabinet of Wonders.

The cast of the Cabinet of Wonders. Photo credit Erich Camping

As the festival winds down to the last days, just a quick recap of yesterday and a reminder of a few shows you’ll not want to miss.

The Steele Sisters

The Steele Sisters

Yesterday, my improv teammates Laura Fleming and Don Beechner joined me for the Steele Sisters at the Strong Museum of Play. We hit the 9 PM special pirate show. Well, actually, Don went to the earlier show and had so much fun he came back for more comedy, sword-fighting, and sisterly love.  The Steele Sisters’ run at the festival is done, so you’ll have to catch them on the Renaissance Festival circuit.
Continue reading

Notes from the Fringe: Ann Landers, Princess Wendy, and naked laughter

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers/Eppie Lederer in "The Lady With All The Answers".

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers/Eppie Lederer in “The Lady With All The Answers”.

It was Hump Day at the Fringe, and that phrase took on a whole new meaning with the two shows I saw last night.

“The Lady With All The Answers”, starring Sinda Nichols, is a one woman show based on the letters of Ann Landers. Written by David Rambo, it’s funny, classy and poignant, and a must see for anyone who ever read the “Dear Ann Landers” column – or had a column stuck on the fridge as a gentle suggestion that there’s a problem that needed to be discussed which no one was really sure how to bring up.

No topic was off limits to Ann Landers, from the appropriateness of doing housework in the nude to the proper way address sexual fantasies with a partner to the mundane dilemma of which way is the proper way to hang a roll of toilet paper (back to the wall, of course). She was the first to discuss homosexuality in a column and to talk about oral sex on television. Of course, less sexually charged topics came up just as frequently – settling family disputes, proper manners, dealing with difficult coworkers.

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers in "The Lady With All The Answers".

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers in “The Lady With All The Answers”.

The show takes place in 1975 on the eve of a deadline in which Ann – or in her real life Eppie Lederer – is writing the most difficult column in her (to that point) twenty year career. Through the monologue, as well as phone calls from her daughter, sister and husband, we learn more about her marriage, her relationship with her sister (who penned the Dear Abby column), and her trip to Vietnam to visit with the troops, something she didn’t write about in her column. Continue reading

Notes from the Fringe: Off the Fringe and up, up into the sky

Me, four floors above the city!

Me, four floors above the city!

The great thing about covering events like the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival? I get to meet the most interesting people, and often we stay connected.

And that’s how I found myself high above the streets of Rochester yesterday, in a construction bucket on the side of the Powers Building.

I met artist Scott Grove and his wife Nancy last week at the festival opening; Scott did some of the pieces in the Spiegelgarden. We got to talking about the myriad talents Scott has, one of which is historic restoration for old buildings. He’s currently working on the Powers Building, and he invited me to check it out.

So I did.

This won’t be a post about the history of the Powers Building – I can do more of that later. Today, I just want to give you a quick peek at my adventure, how Scott cares for the historical integrity of the building, and some of the little treasures I found that beg more investigation for another day. Continue reading

Notes from the Fringe: Improv, a tease, and The Lady With All The Answers

I got to meet actress Sinda Nichols, who portrays Ann Landers in "The Lady With All The Answers".

I got to meet actress Sinda Nichols, who portrays Ann Landers in “The Lady With All The Answers”.

This is preview post of sorts, since technically I didn’t hit any official Fringey things on Monday. But there are some fun things happening tonight and tomorrow that I want to make sure you don’t miss.

Tonight, Tuesday, is a great night for improv and sketch comedy. Don’t miss: Continue reading