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Westchester Chronicles

 

 

You Say You Want a Resolution

 

By Marisa LaScala and Laurie Yarnell

 

New Year’s resolutions: we make ’em and, before the month’s out, we break ’em, every single year. But that still doesn’t keep scores of us from vowing to scoop up after our pooches, color-code the contents of our closets, and turn our bedroom sculptures back into StairMasters.

So, what about Westchester’s most celebrated citizens? We know they’re busy, so we’ve gone ahead and offered up some resolutions tailor-made just for them—free of charge.

 

? For Andy Spano: Learn to share the public golf courses with the residents who actually pay for them.

 

? For Donald Trump (because he has an ego big enough for two people, he gets two): Convince Briarcliff Manor to change its name to “Trump Manor.” And then install baby Baron as Lord of the Manor.

 

? For Joe Torre: Update résumé ASAP and check to see if the New York Times Job Market page has a listings section for baseball managers.

 

? For Martha Stewart: Share your Big House-tested microwave cooking tips with Yonkers native, rapper, and serial-traffic-violator DMX, in case he keeps missing his court dates.

 

? For Meredith Vieira: Buy a new alarm clock and a Costco-sized case of Jolt.

 

? For Jeanine Pirro: Refrain from indulging paranoid delusions that Al is trying to sabotage and embarrass you.

 

? For Al Pirro: Refrain from sabotaging and embarrassing Jeanine.

 

? For Hillary Clinton: Ask John Spencer for the name of his plastic surgeon, then shred.

 

? For Bill Clinton: Ask Jeanine and Al for the name of their marriage counselor, then shred.

 

? For Richard Gere: Combine your two greatest loves and offer yoga classes for horses at your proposed Bedford inn.

 

? For Robert Kennedy, Jr.: Get all of the mercury out of vaccines, irradiated water out of the Hudson, harmful CO2 out of the air, pesticides out of the lawns, lead out of all paint, greasy French fries out of school cafeterias, ‘Red Dye No. 4’ out of all Twizzlers, and ‘Blue Dye No. 6’ out of Marge Simpson’s hair.

 

? For Billy Baldwin: Find a way to distinguish yourself from your other famous family members by convincing Chynna to adopt a third-world orphan à la the Jolie-Pitts.

 

? For Billy Collins: Launch a diabolical scheme to become Poet Laureate of the entire world.

 

 

By the Numbers

 

A numerical snapshot of the winter season

 

Average daily temperature in January, 1896:  29.8

In January, 2006: 40.9°

 

Lowest daily temperature recorded in Central Park: -15° (February 9, 1934)

 

Most snow (inches): 26.9

(February 11-12, 2006)

 

Average cost to have your snow shoveled in Westchester: $45-$75 for a

driveway; $15-$20 for a walkway, depending on length and amount of snow

 

Cost of a Recon 5-horsepower snow thrower from The Home Depot, Yonkers:

$350

 

Cost of a flu shot from the Westchester County Department of Health:  $15

 

Cost to care for one week of flu: $31.02 (2 bottles of TheraFlu,

1 bottle of Tylenol, 5 boxes of Kleenex)

 

Number of clinics set up by the county Department of Health to administer flu shots: 45

 

Year ice skates were invented: 3000 BC

 

Year the Playland Ice Casino first opened: 1929

 

Average number of people who attend a Saturday afternoon 4-hour session at

the rink: 450

 

Number of places to go cross-country skiing in Westchester: 18 (although you must bring your own skis!)

 

Cost of a commercial airline ticket to Aspen for downhill skiing: About $500

 

—Marisa Iallonardo

 

 

 

Why Your Cell Service Stinks

 

Westchester’s terrain blocks signals, but its residents are the biggest obstacle of all.

 

By Pam Buddy-D’Ambrosio

 

As you drive through Westchester County, your cellphone conversations may contain the lexicon of broken romances: “I’m in a bad spot; I’m going to lose you; we’re breaking up.”

Maybe you’re driving on

Weaver Street

in Larchmont; maybe you’re on Route 35 in Katonah; or maybe you’re in your own home—disjointed conversations are happening everywhere. They go something like this: you speak, other party speaks, you speak, your call is disconnected (but you don’t know yet so you keep talking), no answer, Hello?, no answer, Hello?, curse, re-dial.

With all the prominent antennae around here (that “tree” on the Hutch fools no one), you’d think Westchester County would be a kind of cellphone nirvana where calls are never dropped and redial buttons never jabbed in frustration. Yet, to hear the major carriers tell it, Westchester is fraught with technical challenges that explain why the odds of your call going through are comparable to the odds of finding parking at The Westchester on a snowy Saturday.

Officials from Cingular Wireless, Sprint/Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless say they try to engineer coverage around the obstructions but claim there always will be a building or a steep hill to consider. Down county, concrete structures and parking garages block signals; up county dense foliage gets in the way. Sometimes all it takes to fix a coverage area is to redirect an antenna; other times, a tower is needed. Down county, it’s easy to pop another antenna on an existing building or tower, but up county, where pristine woods abound, so do acronyms: NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) and BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone).

Case in point: when the Stevens Memorial United Methodist Church in Lewisboro considered erecting an antenna in its steeple in mid-2005, neighbors immediately went up in arms. J.D. Piro of the Lewisboro Ledger noted in his column: “They initially called their group Concerned Residents Against the Church Cell Tower, which created the delightful acronym CRACCT, as in ‘The group that’s against the cell tower is CRACCT.’  Now they call themselves the Alliance of Residents Against the Church Cell Tower (ARACCT), as in ‘Don’t call us CRACCT just because we don’t want to ARACCT that cell tower.’  A better name would be Confused Residents Against Clear Communications in Lewisboro (CRACCL), as in ‘You can call me CRACCT, but if we don’t ARACCT that cell tower, all we’ll hear on our cellphones is CRACCL.’”  

Ultimately, CRACCT/ARACCT pre- vailed and the Lewisboro Town Board never adopted the plan; coverage between South Salem and Vista continues to CRACCL. Fast-forward 18 months to the present. “Now the town is talking about putting the antenna near the Vista Fire Department,” Piro reports. “Ironically, the Vista property is so much lower than Stevens Church that, if the antenna ever gets built, it will be taller than the original proposition and, any further south, it will be in New Canaan, Connecticut.”

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Plain Awful

Cellphone reception based on interviews with Westchester County and Connecticut residents

 

Good Areas:

Dobbs Ferry • Hastings • I-684 • I-287 • I-95 • Routes 202 and 6 • Yonkers

 

Spotty Areas:

Croton-on-Hudson • Hutchinson Parkway near Rye Brook • New Rochelle • Pine Brook • Boulevard in New Rochelle • Route 9A in Briarcliff • Route 172 in Bedford • Route 35 to Cross River/ Lewisboro • Scarsdale • Yonkers

 

Blackholes:

Hutchinson Parkway between Wilmot Avenue and Mamaroneck Avenue •

Pine Brook Boulevard

in New Rochelle •  Pound Ridge • Routes 121 to 35 in Cross River • Route 35 in Katonah and South Salem • Route 123 in Lewisboro • Routes 123 to 35 •

Rye Brook • Scarsdale • Vista to Goldens Bridge • Weaver Street through Larchmont and New Rochelle

 

 

 

Communing with Nature

 

It was just last September that we wrote about the revered Bedford oak tree, the ancient behemoth so beloved that old-timers have been known to tip their hats as they pass the tree in a gesture of respect. In October, however, the tree was the site of an entirely different type of tribute.

Former Westchester resident and Fox Lane High School alum Jack Gescheidt, a fine-art photographer now based in San Francisco, returned to his hometown to stage a “naked be-in” as part of his Tree Spirit Project, which he calls “a photographic celebration of our connection to nature.” About three years ago, Gescheit had an epiphany while gazing at an ancient oak in Marin County, California. “The time was right,” he says, “to combine my love of trees, my passion for photography, and my maturity as a portraitist to capture some of what I felt looking at this three-hundred-plus-year-old oak tree.”
Since then, he has been photographing naked people in and around trees. Why naked people? “They add scale and drama to the images,” he says. “Being naked makes them more timeless and iconic and, I hope, invites people to contemplate what the experience of being naked and vulnerable in nature feels like.”

Which, by all accounts, was pretty darn cold. On a chilly autumn morning with the temperature hovering in the mid-’40s, 17 area volunteers, from teens to retirees, agreed to commune with the tree, shedding their clothes as easily as a tree loses its leaves.  One of the models, Marita Slon, a 19-year-old art major at SUNY Purchase, had never done anything like this before and has not yet told her father of this particular extracurricular activity.

 “Jack came to campus looking for volunteers and we looked through his work and really liked it,” Slon says, “so four of my friends and I decided to just do it. I was surprised that it didn’t faze me to take my clothes off in front of all those strangers.”

It was also a first for her classmate, Lauren Johnson, also a 19-year-old art major. “I’ve posed for pictures before, but the nude part and freezing cold part were new,” she says. “There are some weird things you just have to do and this was it for me. It was surprisingly not awkward. Everyone did a good job of faking being comfortable that I felt comfortable.” Except for the cold—her back was numb for three hours. Would she do it again? “Definitely. Preferably in the summer.”

She could get her wish. Gescheit is returning to Westchester next summer for a second project. For more information, visit www.TreeSpiritProject.com. No experience necessary and all ages, nationalities, and body types are appreciated and welcome. Volunteers receive a photograph of the shoot as payment.

 

Nancy L. Claus

 

 

STILL SELLING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

 

Your grandparents and, in many cases, great-grandparents may have been children when the stores listed below first opened their doors.

 

[1887] Kelloggs & Lawrence

26 Parkway, Katonah

(800) 622-4330/(914) 232-3351

www.kelloggsandlawrence.com

County residents have been relying on this hardware store’s expertise for more than a century, even though the advice—and products—have changed dramatically over the years. “Katonah and the surrounds were rural up until the seventies and there were numerous dairy farms here,” says General Manager Jeff Kellogg, 51. “We used to sell feed, farm implements, milking equipment, even dynamite.” Some things, though, have stayed the same: “We still sell Flexible Flyer wooden sleds and Radio Flyer wagons. Those items never go out of style.” 

 

[1895] Reyman Jewelers

16 W 1st St, Mount Vernon

 (914) 668-9281

Staff turnover is virtually unheard of at Reyman Jewelers. Owner Mark Reyman reports employees often have stayed for two, sometimes three, decades. “That’s one way we’re different from chain department stores,” Reyman says. “Plus we don’t work on commission here so there’s not that aggressive sales pitch.” Reyman’s merchandise may have changed over the years, but one thing has not varied: “Men making mistakes and getting out of the doghouse through jewelry,” Reyman notes. “A bracelet always seems to work out nicely.” 

 

[1908] Miller’s Toys

335 Mamaroneck Ave

, Mamaroneck

(914) 698-5070

You’ll find the fourth generation of the Miller family working at this store, originally founded in Harlem as a bicycle and carriage shop. It moved to Mamaroneck in 1948—and has delighted county kids ever since.

 

[1909] Cornell’s True Value Hardware

310 White Plains Rd

, Eastchester

(914) 961-2400; www.cornells.com

Of course Cornell’s has hammers, paint, and toggle bolts, as any
self-respecting hardware/housewares store should, but home-brewing supplies, riding equipment, and Chia Pets? The store has more than 60,000 items in stock. “The biggest difference from years ago is people are more time constrained,” says John Fix (his real name, as far as we know), an Eastchester resident whose family bought the business in 1932. “They don’t want to wait a week for an order.” What still amazes Fix? “No matter how many snow shovels we sell the previous winter, the first snowfall of the season we sell just as many, if not more. I don’t understand it. I’ve had the same snow shovel for ten years.”

 

[1924] Charles Department Store

113 Katonah Ave

, Katonah

(914) 232-5200

www.charlesdeptstore.com

Co-owner Jim Raneri’s grandparents, Charles and Isabelle, opened the department store, formerly located in Mount Kisco and Bedford Hills. Raneri says, “We know our customers by name. We have people who come in and give us feedback on items they purchased. You won’t find that at Williams-Sonoma.”

 

—John Bruno Turiano

 

Listen & Learn

 

            The Westchester Library System now boasts a collection of downloadable audiobooks. Go to www.westchesterlibraries.org and click on the “Downloadable Audiobooks” icon, enter the barcode number from the back of your library card, and you can download an entire spoken book onto your Windows-based PC or MP3 player. (The system isn’t compatible with Macs or iPods.) Users can choose from 1,200 adult titles and 4,000 from the TumbleBook Library for children, a series that features afterstory learning activities. According to WLS Director, Siobhan Reardon, DaVinci Code author Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons is currently the most popular download. But if you’re inclined to imitate the behavior of the latter, note that the library protects copyrights. Your download will “disappear” from your computer after the three-week “loan” expires.

 

– Catherine Censor

 

 

 

The Re-Gift of the Magi

 

It was thoughtful. It was lovely. But, when you unwrapped it, that present just wasn’t you. Is there any harm in wrapping it back up and saving it for your neighbor’s birthday?

 

Hardly. Everybody re-gifts and, when done right, it’s a win-win situation. “Thoughtful re-gifting is like adopting a pet,” says Lynn Plant, a marketing executive from Fairfield, Connecticut, and an admitted serial re-gifter. “The gift ends up in a better home—and that’s good karma all around.” It just needs to be done with a little finesse. And so we present to you the Rules of Re-Gifting:

 

Rule #1: Make sure it’s a re-gift, not a return.

 

One Greenburgh resident, too embarrassed to reveal her identity, once received what she at least believed was an adorable set of cheese spreaders as a gift from her sister. The problem? The Greenburgh resident had given those same spreaders to her sister as a hostess gift the previous year. “My sister smiled when she opened it but must’ve been thinking, ‘Man, I can’t wait to get rid of these.’” Avoid putting your relations through a similar humiliation. It may so

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