Tag Archives: NY

My Mystery Theater debut

The cast of the Mystery Company, aboard the Grand Lady of the Niagara.

The cast of the Mystery Company, aboard the Grand Lady of the Niagara. (L to R: Don Beechner; Matt Vimislick; me; Liz Cameron; Gregory Nunn; Erin Moriarity; Chris Garver)

Last Saturday, June 6, I made my debut doing a totally scripted play (as in, I had to learn lines vs. improvising on stage) with the Mystery Company of Rochester. I played a feisty Russian chef named Madame Voldan. The performance was aboard the Grand Lady, which did a dinner cruise on the Niagara River. Was I nervous? You bet. Not only was I afraid I’d mess up my lines, I was also concerned about the safety of cruising on a river that eventually empties over Niagara Falls. And also possibly getting seasick. Turns out I flubbed some lines (phew! I don’t think anyone noticed), we didn’t get anywhere near the Falls, (double phew!) and while I was wobbly on my feet I didn’t feel seasick once (triple phew!). All in all, it was tons of fun, and I had a blast with the cast and the people on the cruise!

Memorial Day at Lake Ontario

new car charlotte carousel pier lake ontario 071 resized

On this Memorial Day weekend, I took an impromptu trip to Charlotte, on Lake Ontario, to walk on the pier.

Actually, I had just picked up my new car the night before and wanted to take it for a nice long ride, since I’m getting 35 mpg instead of 13 mpg. But I digress. Continue reading

Harry Houdini and Rochester

Screenshot of film showing Harry Houdini's jump, handcuffed, from the Weighlock Bridge in Rochester. It was his first manacled stunt. (Click image to be taken to the video.)

Screenshot of film showing Harry Houdini’s jump, handcuffed, from the Weighlock Bridge in Rochester in 1907. It was his first manacled stunt. (Click image to be taken to the video.)

Here’s a fun fact that I couldn’t pass up sharing: On May 7, 1907, Harry Houdini performed his first manacled bridge stunt by jumping off the Weighlock Bridge, near Court Street in downtown Rochester. He was wearing two pair of handcuffs which, as you can see in this film, were secured by Policeman Decker (as identified by the Rochester Union and Advertiser).

According to an article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, in the 1890s Houdini had actually been offered a job in Rochester, ironically as superintendent of Sargent and Greenleaf, a lockmaking company then located here.

That’s just Rochester, making history again!

UPDATE: Just what is the “Weighlock Bridge”?  Turns out, it was a covered area where boats would come in to be weighed to determine their toll. The weight of the empty boat was subtracted from the weight of the boat full of cargo. According to ErieCanal.org, “it was located on the west bank of the canal, on the east side of the Genesee River, just south of Court Street.”

Weighlocks on Erie Canal, Rochester, N.Y. (214976 -- [Leighton & Valentine Co., N.Y.]) - From: Rochester Public Library Local History Division. -- A postcard view of the weighlock, looking north with the city in the background, approximately 1910.

A postcard view of the weighlock, looking north with the city in the background, approximately 1910.

Title: Erie Canal weigh lock [photograph]. Photographer/Artist: Stone, Albert R., 1866-1934. Date: 1911? Physical Details: 1 photograph : b&w ; 7 x 9 in. Collection: Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester, NY Summary: The weighlock (or weigh lock) was built in 1852. It is located on the east side of the Genesee River, just south of Court Street. Canal boats enter the covered area, where the toll is determined by the weight of the loaded boat. Rochester Images image Number: sct11583 http://www.rochester.lib.ny.us/rochimag/rmsc/ scm11/scm11583.jpg

Collection: Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester, NY

And the next book is …

Mt. Hope Cemetery, October 2014 (c) Joanne Brokaw

Mt. Hope Cemetery, October 2014 (c) Joanne Brokaw

As regular readers of the blog know, for some time now I’ve been fascinated with Mt. Hope Cemetery – the geography, the peace, the history, walking the dogs there. It’s spurred my own genealogical research but also research into some mysteries and murders, locals ties to national stories, interesting stories about everyday people and just random weirdo stories.

I’ve blogged about my adventures in the cemetery and I’ve always been surprised by the number of people who are as fascinated as I am with the things I uncover.

Well, if that’s you, then you’ll be happy to know that my next book is a go, and it’s going to be about people buried at Mt. Hope! It’ll be published once again by Wordcrafts, whom I adore working with. Continue reading

Raising funds to cover vet bills for the dogs injured in the Add En On kennel fire

Screenshot 13WHAM FB page

Screenshot 13WHAM FB page; click photo to read the story

This past Sunday, a devastating fire destroyed local animal kennel Add En On in Mendon, NY. While some of the dogs and cats managed to be saved, sadly more than a dozen didn’t make it out alive.

Those who did survive and who needed medical treatment were taken to Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services in Brighton, NY. Unfortunately, one of those dogs had injuries so severe he needed to be euthanized.

If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation (note that some of the crowd sourcing sites are not tax deductible) to cover the veterinary costs for the dogs who were injured, you can do through Rochester Hope For Pets. In the designation box, make sure you designate it to OTHER and specifically write in there that it’s “to pay for emergency expenses for the dogs injured in the Add En On fire.” The money goes directly to the charity which then disperses the funds as designated.

Make sure you designate your donation to help the dogs injured in the Add En On fire.

Make sure you designate your donation to help the dogs injured in the Add En On fire.

Rochester Hope for Pets is a local charity that offers financial assistance and grants to pet owners to help cover one time needs. It’s the charity I designated to receive my publisher’s charitable contributions from the sale of my books and I’ve also made donations – because I was a recipient of a grant when Scout died, which covered his final expenses.

And one last note: you do not have to take your dog to an animal hospital within the Monroe Vet system to have your expenses considered for a grant. That’s important to note. If you have a need and would like to apply, visit their website for more information.

2015 Book Club selection for January: “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis

We’re nearing the end of 2014, and one of the things I had been thinking about doing was reading the Bible in 2015. I’ve done it before and thought it would be fun to do with my readers. You know, read and then discuss the things that make your head spin or your heart swell, things that affect you on both ends of the spectrum.

Then I remembered that I’m terrible at following through with things (remember the “let’s be nice in 2014!” idea?).

So instead, I suggest … a book club! Rather than read the Bible, let’s read some inspiring books and get together to chat about them. Or eat and drink coffee. Or wine.

The book I picked for January is “Mere Christianity”, by C.S. Lewis. It was adapted from a series of BBC radio talks Lewis made between 1942 and 1944. I read it years ago and enjoyed it as a thought provoking discussion on morality, faith and God, and I like that Lewis approaches the topic from an intellectual basis, allowing readers to use their own brains to formulate their own thoughts on God and faith.

This is not a ploy to shove Christianity down anyone’s throat. In fact, I’d like to stay as far away from preaching as humanly possible, especially seeing as how the last few years I’ve been exploring God outside of religion. Far outside of religion. Instead, let’s get together and explore faith and spirituality and love and morality and God and the universe and endless possibilities and infinite questions that we’ll never get answered in this life.

“Mere Christianity” is considered a Christian classic, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something in there for everyone – especially since Lewis approaches faith as a former atheist. That’s the fun with something like this. We’ll have a lot of different people with different thoughts, and we’ll get together to talk about them like intellectual, civilized humans.  In fact, I think we should meet at the Old Toad English pub and talk about God over a pint. It would make Lewis proud.

So here’s the deal: get a copy of the book and start reading. You can get it just about anywhere – from the local big chain store to online retailers to almost every used bookstore to the library; in ebook format; and in audiobook format. We’ll be using this reading guide for discussion questions:
http://www.readinggroupguides.com/reviews/mere-christianity/guide

I’ll set up a date for us to get together at the end of January. Stay tuned for details!

UPDATE 1/21/15: As many of you will not be surprised to learn, I haven’t read the book yet. Here’s why. But we can still get together if you want and talk about my procrastination problem.

Recharging my creative batteries at the Irish pub

Sitting at a local Irish pub and writing.

Sitting at Barry’s Old School Irish Pub and writing.

As a writer, the biggest thing I struggle with is staying motivated. Working from home, I’m easily distracted by things that need to be done in the house, by the dogs, by Netflix. If I pack up my stuff and go someplace else to work, I often forget files I need or simply go blank sitting in the coffee shop.

Part of my problem is just not feeling comfortable out among people. Writing is such a personal thing, too intimate an act for a public venue. I’m comfortable at home, but retreat into my shell. I’m out of my shell in public, but my thoughts are often too shy to leave my brain and meet the page. I feel like, if I’m writing in public, I should be creating something worthy of public scrutiny, when really I may simply be musing on my blog about reality TV or cats.

It’s like wearing a mink coat and then having everyone realize that underneath you’re still in your pajamas.

Today, I’m at Barry’s Old School Irish Pub, in the village of Webster, NY. While researching my Irish ancestry, I got involved with the Irish American Cultural Institute (IACI), a group focusing on Irish cultural heritage – movies, literature, history. They’ve been welcoming and kind, and very patient with my endless questions and novice knowledge of my fairly recently discovered ancestry. I’ve been working with Barry’s owner Danny Barry on some social media for the IACI, and immediately fell in love with his little village pub.

While I’ve always been enamored of my Italian heritage, it’s been my Irish genealogy that’s connected with my soul. As I’ve waded through old records and documents, I’ve met my great, great, great grandparents and researched their journey from Ireland to Massachusetts, putting together pieces of the family puzzle, and immersing myself in my blue collar, mill working, large family.

I can feel the Irish blood pulsing through my veins.

So today, I sit at a corner table in this small bar, Irish music playing over the speakers, the owner’s wife and mother among the employees behind the counter, baking and cooking and laughing and singing. When I asked if it was OK for me to hang out and write (Danny had already told me it was, but I hate being in the way), they not only welcomed me but told me to take the cozy corner table, with the padded seats and bright window light. They said it was the best place to work, and assured me that I wouldn’t be in the way of the lunch crowd.

They’ve refilled my coffee, chatted away, and given me updates on the delicious treats as they come out of the oven. And for the first time in a while, I’m able to write. Maybe it’s the mournful bagpipes mingling with the scent of fresh pumpkin bars, the laughter of the family dancing with the fiddle, or just the warmth both physical and spiritual. But I’m eager to fill the blank page with words, to once again open a vein and bleed on a page, to be creatively naked in public.

Where’s your favorite place to recharge your creative batteries?