Monday, November 25, 2013

Today's Scene Is Now A Whole Bunch Worse For The Folks Here

This happened sometime after the polls had closed and before the Election Day candidates had begun to share their speeches of glory, or despair.

I maneuvered through a horde of Republican well-wishers who had gathered at the Holiday Inn Tuesday night and with camera in hand muscled up on to the stage where the tall field of vision provided a landscape of images to be captured through the camera eye. Here, was the assemblyman, James Tedisco. There, was the county district attorney, James Murphy, the newly-minted sheriff Michael Zurlo, and a slew of local candidates mingling with everyday residents of the city. Everywhere were faces laced with intense determination, and eyes fixed to a screen colored with rolling numbers that delivered the election night results.

Among the chaos, a familiar voice called out from the side of the stage. It belonged to Kyle York, who was soaking up the atmosphere and waving hello. We spent a few minutes shooting the breeze. We shook hands. In retrospect you wonder why, at that moment, you couldn’t see the dark clouds gathering, that you weren’t able to offer a few words of advice. A warning.  Anything.  I asked him to excuse me for a few seconds so I could grab some images of the crowd. The old journalist in him understood. “A good reporter works as hard as a coal miner, except you don’t get to come up for air,” he once commented. I don’t know whether he got that line from somebody else or came up with it all on his own, but it was a good one and something that I’d always remembered.

The comment was posted on one of the many blogs or newspaper sites where he actively posted any of his opinions. And he had many of them: questioning the purity of the water in the Hudson River after it had been bathed with PCB’s; debating the wisdom of Gov. Cuomo’s plan for casinos, disputing the local benefit of GlobalFoundries’ ever-expanding reach; scrutinizing the public placement of a 25-foot-tall 9/11 memorial by warning that the city’s most youthfully misguided residents would climb atop the massive sculpture and unintentionally cause themselves serious bodily harm.  He often backed up his statements with reams of documents that served as evidence. In the ether of cyberspace they came attached to bright-color emails with massive fonts. In person, he would occasionally bring props to city council meetings to help make his argument.

That just about everybody disagreed with whatever it was he was arguing about at one time or another, is beside the point. That he cared deeply about sharing information and knowledge with everyone is certain. And he had a rare ability of expressing contrary ideas in a non-threatening, inclusive way that enabled others to listen, even if they disagreed with the idea. “He got along splendidly with everyone, and his cheerfulness, good humor, and generosity of spirit touched everyone, even those who only knew him in passing,” says Byron Joseph Norsworthy, whose Saratoga Hybrid Cabs’ York drove for more than a year.

From atop the stage Tuesday night, the camera caught a few faces in the crowd, but it was mostly non-descript, b-roll stuff, if that. When I looked back down to continue the conversation, Kyle York was gone. I figured we’d resume the chatter at the next city council meeting, or during one of those random Broadway sidewalk conversations that is one of this city’s pleasant charms. Less than 24 hours later, Kyle York was dead. Police say he was working about four floors up on a home renovation project on Railroad Place Wednesday afternoon when he accidentally fell.  He was 59 years old.

The suddenness in which a human life can disappear is shocking.  To his family, who I do not know, are offered warm condolences. From the journalists he befriended to the politicians whose faces he got in front of, he will be missed. He fought the good fight, and now, just like that, he is gone. The city is a better place for having known him, and now a piece of its fabric is torn with his loss.

He once wrote about the passing of time and how sometimes things change because of unfortunate and uncontrollable events. In his own words:  “today’s scene is now a whole bunch worse for the folks here.”

This happened sometime after the polls had closed and before the Election Day candidates had begun to share their speeches of glory, or despair.

I maneuvered through a horde of Republican well-wishers who had gathered at the Holiday Inn Tuesday night and with camera in hand muscled up on to the stage where the tall field of vision provided a landscape of images to be captured through the camera eye. Here, was the assemblyman, James Tedisco. There, was the county district attorney, James Murphy, the newly-minted sheriff Michael Zurlo, and a slew of local candidates mingling with everyday residents of the city. Everywhere were faces laced with intense determination, and eyes fixed to a screen colored with rolling numbers that delivered the election night results.

Among the chaos, a familiar voice called out from the side of the stage. It belonged to Kyle York, who was soaking up the atmosphere and waving hello. We spent a few minutes shooting the breeze. We shook hands. In retrospect you wonder why, at that moment, you couldn’t see the dark clouds gathering, that you weren’t able to offer a few words of advice. A warning.  Anything.  I asked him to excuse me for a few seconds so I could grab some images of the crowd. The old journalist in him understood. “A good reporter works as hard as a coal miner, except you don’t get to come up for air,” he once commented. I don’t know whether he got that line from somebody else or came up with it all on his own, but it was a good one and something that I’d always remembered.

The comment was posted on one of the many blogs or newspaper sites where he actively posted any of his opinions. And he had many of them: questioning the purity of the water in the Hudson River after it had been bathed with PCB’s; debating the wisdom of Gov. Cuomo’s plan for casinos, disputing the local benefit of GlobalFoundries’ ever-expanding reach; scrutinizing the public placement of a 25-foot-tall 9/11 memorial by warning that the city’s most youthfully misguided residents would climb atop the massive sculpture and unintentionally cause themselves serious bodily harm.  He often backed up his statements with reams of documents that served as evidence. In the ether of cyberspace they came attached to bright-color emails with massive fonts. In person, he would occasionally bring props to city council meetings to help make his argument.

That just about everybody disagreed with whatever it was he was arguing about at one time or another, is beside the point. That he cared deeply about sharing information and knowledge with everyone is certain. And he had a rare ability of expressing contrary ideas in a non-threatening, inclusive way that enabled others to listen, even if they disagreed with the idea. “He got along splendidly with everyone, and his cheerfulness, good humor, and generosity of spirit touched everyone, even those who only knew him in passing,” says Byron Joseph Norsworthy, whose Saratoga Hybrid Cabs’ York drove for more than a year.

From atop the stage Tuesday night, the camera caught a few faces in the crowd, but it was mostly non-descript, b-roll stuff, if that. When I looked back down to continue the conversation, Kyle York was gone. I figured we’d resume the chatter at the next city council meeting, or during one of those random Broadway sidewalk conversations that is one of this city’s pleasant charms. Less than 24 hours later, Kyle York was dead. Police say he was working about four floors up on a home renovation project on Railroad Place Wednesday afternoon when he accidentally fell.  He was 59 years old.

The suddenness in which a human life can disappear is shocking.  To his family, who I do not know, are offered warm condolences. From the journalists he befriended to the politicians whose faces he got in front of, he will be missed. He fought the good fight, and now, just like that, he is gone. The city is a better place for having known him, and now a piece of its fabric is torn with his loss.

He once wrote about the passing of time and how sometimes things change because of unfortunate and uncontrollable events. In his own words:  “today’s scene is now a whole bunch worse for the folks here.” - See more at: http://www.saratogawire.com/article/1658/131107-york-dimopoulos/#sthash.OjUxasFA.dpuf

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Saratoga Birthday in the Winner's Circle

One Hundred and Fifty Benjamins for 150 years


A weekend celebration that stepped off with a floral parade on Broadway Friday night resumed at the Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.

Sam the Bugler and a trumpet accompaniment

The day marked the official 150th anniversary of the first organized thoroughbred racing meet in Saratoga and simultaneously paid homage to the past while sparking new traditions.


There was cake

John Velazquez and Cross Traffic taking The Whitney       




A weekend celebration that stepped off with a floral parade on Broadway Friday night resumed at the Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.

The day marked the official 150th anniversary of the first organized thoroughbred racing meet in Saratoga and simultaneously paid homage to the past while sparking new traditions. - See more at: http://www.saratogawire.com/article/1359/130803-saratoga-race-track-150-celebration/#sthash.8KMc6LNf.dpuf

Monday, August 5, 2013

SARATOGA FLORAL FETE: 100,000 Spectators and Whole Town Illuminated



 
Magnificent weather to-day favored the floral fete given at Saratoga Springs, under the auspices of the Saratoga Floral Association, of which Col. Albert B. Hilton of New York City, a Summer cottager, is President.


The work of arranging the floral decorations was completed early this morning, and Saratoga this afternoon resembled a vast garden, radiant and gorgeous in the extreme.

 
All day long regular and special trains poured a stream of visitors into the town, and when the parade and battle of flowers took place this afternoon fully 100,000 spectators congregated in Circular street, Broadway, and other streets on the line of the procession. 

The whole town was illuminated this evening and the streets massed with merry-makers. The fete closed tonight with a grand floral ball in the big Convention Hall, which was lavishly decorated. Over 7,000 attended the ball.

Story:  New York Times, Sept. 8, 1899. 

Pictures: Thomas Dimopoulos Aug. 2, 2013.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sundown on the Backstretch





Dusk on the Backstretch at Saratoga 
Race Course where 
thousands of track workers - many separated from their families for the summer season - gather to talk, play games of soccer, or just enjoy some down time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Day at The Races

Forty-one year old John Velazquez on the day he secured victory number 694 at Saratoga, to become the historic racecourse’s all-time leading rider.
John Velazquez secured the title as the track's all-time leading rider.

The 41-year-old jockey registered victory number 694 - See more at: http://www.saratogawire.com/article/1345/130727-saratoga-race-course-jim-dandy-stakes/#sthash.53ypiXFB.dpuf
John Velazquez secured the title as the track's all-time leading rider.

The 41-year-old jockey registered victory number 694 - See more at: http://www.saratogawire.com/article/1345/130727-saratoga-race-course-jim-dandy-stakes/#sthash.53ypiXFB.dpuf

Friday, July 26, 2013

Honoring Solomon Northup

He was 32 years old, with a wife and three children on the March morning in 1841 that he disappeared. Now, everyone will know his story.

“We read it and thought, my gosh this story is unbelievable,” said Dede Gardner , president of  Plan B Entertainment, producer of the film “12 Years A Slave,” which is based on the memoir by Solomon Northup. 
Lupita Nyong’o

Northup lived in Saratoga for seven years, drove a hack for hire up and down Broadway, and worked during the summer at the busy Saratoga hotels. He brought in some extra money playing his violin. His wife Anne, whom he wed on Christmas Day in 1829, worked as a cook.

“I was walking about the village of Saratoga Springs, thinking about where I might obtain some present employment,” writes Northup in his memoir, “on the corner of Congress Street and Broadway near the tavern ... still kept by Mr. (C.B.) Moon.”  Cary B. Moon would later open a lake house and hire as his head cook George Speck Crumb, who is credited as inventing the potato chip.

On that morning in March 1841, as Northup walked down Congress Street, two men approached and offered to take him to New York City, where they promised to pay him $1 for each day of service plus $3 per show playing his violin. Once lured from Saratoga, Northup – a free black man living in the north – was sold into slavery and taken south where he would spend the next 12 years.

“I passed the days and nights. I was heart sick and discouraged,” he wrote. “Thoughts of my family, of my wife and children, continually occupied my mind. When sleep overpowered me I dreamed of them – dreamed I was again in Saratoga – that I could see their faces, and hear their voices calling me.”

A marker commemorating Northup stands outside the Saratoga Visitors Center on the corner of Congress Street and Broadway. Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Renee Moore to honor and bring awareness to the life of the man. 

On July 13, more than 150 people came together to honor Northup, including 40 descendants of Northup and his wife Ann Hampton Northup, and members of the film crew of “12 Years A Slave” -   a movie slated for an October release which was based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was lured from Saratoga Springs and sold into slavery in the south. 

“We had this responsibility to bring these people back to life for the wider world to see,” said Lupita Nyong’o, who plays the role of a slave girl on a plantation and the fastest cotton-picker in the bayou in the film. “I think I speak for the entire cast when I say we felt that we were part of something huge, something meaningful, something powerful, and something so necessary.” 

“It is from his story I get my strength for whatever it is I’m going through,” said Vera Williams, a fifth generation descendant of Solomon Northup.Williams made the journey to Saratoga Springs from Maryland. On her way she stopped at the airport to pick up Northup descendant Eileen Jackson, who made the cross-country trip from California.


Members of the film’s crew made the cross-country trip as well, bringing with them a 2-1/2 minute-long trailer and an 8-minute “featurette” that included clips from the full-length movie and interviews with some members of the film community involved in the making of the movie.

“The book is a testament to Solomon Northup and also a testament to the history about what was going on with slavery at that time,” said the film’s director Steve McQueen, whose own ancestors were slaves from the Caribbean.  “Within film it was never given the platform it deserves as an important historical event – especially in the United States – (and) I wanted to make a movie about it.”

The program included family recollections presented by Northup’s descendants, period music, guest speakers and historians. Musicians Dan Hubbs, Frank Orsini, and Henrique Prince performed “Lonely River,” a song referenced in the book by Northup, who played the violin. Culinary historian Tonya Hopkins delivered a presentation on the life of Ann Hampton Northup, who was a cook, and historical timelines were provided regarding The Underground Railroad, black migration, and 19th century slavery in America.

“When I got the opportunity to play this part, it never occurred to me that I might be with the descendants of this great man,”  Nyong’o said. Northup’s story can provide important lessons, she added.  “We can remember that time and learn from it - that we can know how cruel man can be - and we can also recognize that the instinct for freedom is universal.” 

 “We feel an enormous debt to the material, and such a sense of gratitude that it exists,” said Gardner, adding that the company was devoted to producing a film about slavery in America that was unflinching and didn’t   pull any punches. “It’s not a movie made for comfort – nor should it be.”

The Hollywood-based film production company is owned by Brad Pitt, who is also cast in the movie about Northup. Pitt, Gardner said, is “enormously proud of the film.” 

-- Thomas Dimopoulos
He was 32 years old, with a wife and three children on the March morning in 1841 that he disappeared. Now, everyone will know his story.

“We read it and thought, my gosh this story is unbelievable,” said Dede Gardner , president of  Plan B Entertainment, producer of the film “12 Years A Slave,” which is based on the memoir by Solomon Northup.

Northup lived in Saratoga for seven years, drove a hack for hire up and down Broadway, and worked during the summer at the busy Saratoga hotels. He brought in some extra money playing his violin. His wife Anne, whom he wed on Christmas Day in 1829, worked as a cook.

“I was walking about the village of Saratoga Springs, thinking about where I might obtain some present employment,” writes Northup in his memoir, “on the corner of Congress Street and Broadway near the tavern ... still kept by Mr. (C.B.) Moon.”  Cary B. Moon would later open a lake house and hire as his head cook George Speck Crumb, who is credited as inventing the potato chip.

On that morning in March 1841, as Northup walked down Congress Street, two men approached and offered to take him to New York City, where they promised to pay him $1 for each day of service plus $3 per show playing his violin. Once lured from Saratoga, Northup – a free black man living in the north – was sold into slavery and taken south where he would spend the next 12 years.

“I passed the days and nights. I was heart sick and discouraged,” he wrote. “Thoughts of my family, of my wife and children, continually occupied my mind. When sleep overpowered me I dreamed of them – dreamed I was again in Saratoga – that I could see their faces, and hear their voices calling me.”

A marker commemorating Northup stands outside the Saratoga Visitors Center on the corner of Congress Street and Broadway. Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Renee Moore to honor and bring awareness to the life of the man.  This year’s gathering will be staged from noon to 4pm Saturday at Filene Hall, on the campus of Skidmore College, where more than 40 descendants of Northup and his wife Ann Hampton Northup, are expected to attend the ceremony.

The new full -length feature film, which will be released in October, does not include Northup’s time in Saratoga. Nonetheless, Saturday’s event will include brief “featurettes” related to the film.

“We feel an enormous debt to the material, and such a sense of gratitude that it exists,” said Gardner, adding that the company was devoted to producing a film about slavery in America that was unflinching and didn’t pull any punches. “It’s not a movie made for comfort – nor should it be.”

The Hollywood-based film production company is owned by Brad Pitt, who is also cast in the movie about Northup. Pitt, Gardner said, is “enormously proud of the film.” - See more at: http://www.saratogawire.com/article/1325/130719-solomon-northup-movie-featurette-skidmore/#sthash.J4CkzsBr.dpuf
One hundred and sixty years after Solomon Northup published his memoir, the darkest crevice of American history is being illuminated by the bright lights of Hollywood. On Saturday afternoon, Skidmore College was Ground Zero.

“We had this responsibility to bring these people back to life for the wider world to see,” said Lupita Nyong’o, who plays the role of a slave girl on a plantation and the fastest cotton-picker in the bayou in the film “12 Years A Slave.” The movie is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was lured from Saratoga Springs and sold into slavery in the south.

“I think I speak for the entire cast when I say we felt that we were part of something huge, something meaningful, something powerful, and something so necessary,”  Nyong’o said during Saratoga’s 15th annual staging of Solomon Northup Day. The event was founded by Renee Moore. - See more at: http://www.saratogawire.com/article/1330/130721-solomon-northup-day-skidmore-college/#sthash.WXDp9xH3.dpuf
One hundred and sixty years after Solomon Northup published his memoir, the darkest crevice of American history is being illuminated by the bright lights of Hollywood. On Saturday afternoon, Skidmore College was Ground Zero.

“We had this responsibility to bring these people back to life for the wider world to see,” said Lupita Nyong’o, who plays the role of a slave girl on a plantation and the fastest cotton-picker in the bayou in the film “12 Years A Slave.” The movie is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was lured from Saratoga Springs and sold into slavery in the south.

“I think I speak for the entire cast when I say we felt that we were part of something huge, something meaningful, something powerful, and something so necessary,”  Nyong’o said during Saratoga’s 15th annual staging of Solomon Northup Day. The event was founded by Renee Moore.
- See more at: http://www.saratogawire.com/article/1330/130721-solomon-northup-day-skidmore-college/#sthash.WXDp9xH3.dpuf