Blogs > City Editor's Blog

By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Couldn't have said it better myself


Truth (and lies) in numbers

Knowing full well that the self-aggrandizing, egomaniacal Glenn Beck and his right-wing/Tea Party minions would grossly overestimate the size of the attendance at Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally on Saturday, CBS News wisely commissioned a crowd size estimate by a company called AirPhotosLive, which does this kind of thing for a living.

So now, when Beck proclaims, as he did this morning, that "at least 500,000 people" attended, and loony Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today — because we were witnesses," those of us who don't drink the tea can point to the AirPhotosLive estimate of just 87,000 and expose these nut jobs as the liars that they are.

But Beck and Bachmann, I'm sure, will keep repeating their B.S., knowing the inflated numbers will get picked up by myriad irresponsible news organizations and bloggers and become the de-facto truth.


Monday musings

* The accident on Route 28 in Boiceville that claimed two lives last week has me wondering: Why does Route 28 have a 45-mph speed limit between Kingston and West Hurley, where the road is four lanes wide and relatively straight, but a 55-mph speed limit after West Hurley, where the road narrows to two lanes and becomes curvy? Seems a bit backward to me.

* Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg, on page A4 of this morning's Freeman, chides the Obama White House for ignoring polls that show the president's popularity is dropping. Didn't conservative columnists and the right-wing radio loudmouths spend most of George W. Bush's second term insisting that presidential poll numbers don't matter? Well, when your guy's approval rating is 23 percent, I guess ignoring polls is the only way you can sleep at night.

* Speaking of right-wing loudmouths, could the ubernarcassitic Glenn Beck have been any more hypocritical at his "Restoring Honor" rally on Saturday? On his radio and TV shows, he always criticizes President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party for ignoring the Constitution. Then, at the rally, he said America isn't religious enough and needs to "turn back to God." I think you need to reread the Constitution, Glenn, starting with Amendment No. 1.

* And finally, I noticed this morning that the Emmy Award for "Best Writing for a Music or Comedy Special" went to the 63rd Annual Tony Awards broadcast. When award shows start giving awards to award shows, you can be sure the end is near.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life, interrupted

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth - though my absence from blogging for the past three weeks might suggest otherwise. I merely fell out of Kingston, for both planned and unplanned reasons.

The game plan was to take off from work the weeks of Aug. 8 and 15, spending part of the first week at my parents' house in Rochester and all of the second week on Cape Cod with my wife and teenage son.

But it didn't work out that way.

I could hear in my mother's voice, when she called the morning of Aug. 3, that it was bad this time; that my dad's health, which had been declining for several years, had taken a serious turn for the worse. He was in the hospital, she said, not eating and losing his ability to communicate.

I stayed in Kingston just long enough to throw some clothes and personal items into a knapsack and stop by the Freeman office to tell our managing editor that I had to go out of town indefinitely. And then I was off. I hit the road about 11:30 a.m. and arrived at Highland Hospital in Rochester about 4 p.m.

By the time I got to his room, my father - who, though fighting Parkinson's disease for years, was lucid until the day before he was hospitalized - was more or less uncommunicative. His heart was failing, the doctors told us, and he didn't have long to live.

My mother and sister, who had been at the hospital all day, finally went back to my parents' house around 10 p.m. Not wanting my father to die alone, I stayed in his hospital room, but by about 3:30 a.m. (even with the benefit of a turkey sandwich a nurse brought me in the near darkness of the cardiac ward about an hour earlier), I barely could keep my eyes open anymore, and I figured I'd be better off sleeping in a bed than in a hospital chair, so I, too, went back to my parents' house.

My sister returned to the hospital about 8 a.m., with our father still hanging on, and my mom and I followed around 10 a.m.

It was clear, though, that the end was very near, and, in compliance with my father's wishes that no artificial measures be employed to keep him alive, we told the hospital staff to discontinue the intravenous fluids he was being given and to begin hospice care.

Around 3:30 p.m., with a hospice nurse in the room explaining to us how my father would be looked after in the little time he had left, his breathing stopped, then briefly restarted, and then - with my mother, my sister and myself standing at his bedside - stopped for the final time. Peacefully, and without any notable pain or suffering, his life quietly came to an end after 80 years, one month and 25 days.

The hours and days that followed are a blur, but everything went as well as they can in these situations. Funeral arrangements were completed within three hours of my father's death - Judaism, our religion, dictates burial be held as quickly as possible - the service was two days later, and we then sat shiva (the Jewish rite of mourning) for several days at my mother's house, welcoming numerous friends, relatives and colleagues who came to pay their respects.

Before long, though, duty called. There was work to be done, and it couldn't be ignored.

I left Rochester about 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 11 - a week after my father's death - got back to Kingston before 11 a.m. and went straight to the Freeman office to quickly edit and assemble our annual "Back to School" section, which was appearing in the next day's paper and which I had planned to put out the previous week. I then worked the next evening, at my regular task of putting out the morning paper, and worked a day shift on Friday, Aug. 13, to catch up on numerous non-deadline tasks that had to be shelved when I left to be with my father.

Saturday, Aug. 14, was a long-awaited day off, occupied, in part, by a visit to Kingston by a longtime dear friend who lives in Albany and was unable to attend my dad's funeral. And then, amazingly, we left for Cape Cod, as planned, the morning of Sunday, Aug. 15. (I must have spent part of the previous day packing, but I really don't remember.)

Our week on the Cape was exactly what I needed it to be: relaxing and uneventful - a chance to unwind, reflect and recharge (and celebrate my 47th birthday) before getting back to the rigors of real life. And though unsure I should take a pleasure trip so soon after losing my father, I was urged by mother to do just that. She noted the trip already was paid for and that I already had arranged for the time off from work. "What are you gonna do - sit around your house for a week?" she said. Right as always, Mom.

We got back from the Cape on Sunday (three days ago). Monday was spent unpacking, doing laundry and catching up on things that needed to be taken care of around the house. Tuesday was my first day back at work, and today, finally, I've found the time to write about what's been going on in my life these past few weeks and why I've been absent from blogging.

Life gets in the way sometimes. Death, too. I trust you understand.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The REAL Rhinebeck

I did something Sunday night that very few other people did: I went to Rhinebeck.

No, I wasn't hoping to catch a glimpse of some celebrity still hanging around after the Clinton wedding; and no, I wasn't hoping to be interviewed by some tabloid TV show still looking for a story. Rather, I was looking for — and found — an evening of peace and quiet in a village known for peace and quiet.

Specifically, I went there to catch a movie at Upstate Films, something I love to do on Sundays, and was relieved, upon arriving, to find the sidewalks largely empty and that things were back to normal after the frenzy that had overtaken the village Friday and Saturday. (The clearest sign of normal was that I was able to find a parking space on Montgomery Street, right in front of the theater.)

If you've ever seen a movie at Upstate, you know that a theater staff member usually stands in front of the screen and makes a couple of announcements before the lights go down. On Sunday, the woman handling the task ended her remarks with "And isn't it nice to have our town back?"

I couldn't agree more.

The weekend was a hoot. And those of us who live around here will remember it for years to come. But now it's time to let Rhinebeck get back to being Rhinebeck.