North Mountain Candle Company

Wonderful couple I met at Dickens last week (before I was sick, fear not). They finally launched the website. And the scents.. oh the scents. Hunger comes to mind.

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A word about tonight.


thats a word....

and Im not happy about it

I read the mail today, oh joy

From my inbox (via newsday.com):

Christmas debate at Manhasset tree lighting


When the Rev. Nick Zientarski invoked the name of Jesus Christ during his traditional blessing of the official Christmas tree lighting in Manhasset last week, he had no idea he had signed on as a soldier in the culture wars over Christmas.

Even as he spoke, the Roman Catholic priest said he could hear North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman angrily objecting behind him, "this is inappropriate." Then, Kaiman got up and told the crowd, "I just want to make it clear that this is in no way a religious ceremony."

A collective gasp came from the 200 adults and children gathered around the gazebo across from Town Hall. Nothing has been the same since in this well-heeled community that counts at least a dozen houses of worship in about 2 square miles.

"I have to tell you that Manhasset is in an uproar" over Kaiman's remarks, said Christine Roberts, who is Jewish and attended the ceremony with her two sons. "It really was the wrong thing to say at the wrong time. There is a lot of hostility going around. Angry letters to the editor of the local paper. Angry conversations. Insanity has absolutely overtaken this town."

John Kiggins, owner of Manhasset Sporting Goods, was so angry with the "disrespectful" way Kaiman treated the priest that he sent him a furious e-mail. "Manhasset is a predominantly Christian town and it's a conservative town," said Kiggins, a parishioner at St. Mary's, where Zientarski is a priest. "There's a certain number of us who believe that if we're celebrating Christmas, then call it Christmas and recognize that we're celebrating the birth of Christ. And the event was billed as a Christmas tree lighting. Had it not been billed that way, I probably wouldn't have gone."

A week later, despite public mea culpas from a white-faced Kaiman at a meeting Wednesday night and, again, in a letter to the editor in yesterday's Manhasset Press, angry constituents are still calling and sending letters. Some did not even witness the event, but heard about it through a widely disseminated e-mail from the priest.

Read more here

And you thought we had it bad with our Holiday Tree fiasco. Now remember, this is the Town Supervisor were talking about here, who had this to say: "The reaction also has stunned and humbled Kaiman. "I overreacted and handled the situation poorly," he acknowledged in an interview yesterday. Kaiman said he had arrived at the park expecting a more nonsectarian holiday event because it is sponsored by the Manhasset Park District, the town and the local Chamber of Commerce.

Now don't you think thats something the SUPERVISOR of a town should know? I could throw out some numbers off the top of my head about Manhasset's religious make-up and probably come close to the actual numbers. It's a fairly religious town, with Roman Catholics and Jews making up a good portion of the towns inhabitants. And when you invite a Roman Catholic preist to the CHRISTMAS tree lighting, and ask him to say a few words - well, what the hell do you expect?

Well, thats one supervisor who will be looking for another job soon. See Roanoke, be thankful Mayor Harris has the sense to not just blurt out anything like that. It could be a lot worse.

Odeo: Holiday Pod #2

Odeo: Holiday Pod #2

Well here ya go, its Holiday Pod time!

Although the one thing I did not get around to in the podcast was the Egg Nog Review segement I wanted to do. Oh well, theres always next week.

Accept my apologies for the poor sound quality, as I could not direct upload for whatever reason, so I had to record off the computer speakers - which worked, well enough..

Anyway, enjoy!


referential pic to post below.

Allright, what you see here is my old street in Queens, NY 2 days after snow. I think we got all of 5-6 inches or so. Just to illustrate my point about the pack ice - look at the strip of sidewalk that was not shoveled. After 2 days of constant foot traffic, it is packed solid - and each night it would freeze up hard. Its about 2 inches or so thick. Thats when you learn the meaning of "following in anothers footsteps." The only way your not going to fall. Posted by Picasa

Rough times ahead

*Today: A chance of snow after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high around 38. Calm wind becoming east around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Tonight: Periods of freezing rain, mainly before 4am. Low around 28. Calm wind becoming south between 7 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.*

From the NOAA forecasting center, things do not look good tonight. Then combine that with the 20 mph wind gusts tomorrow and your looking at some bone chilling temps. I am still going to try my hardest to get to Dickens, but considering I get out of work at 8, this week might be out of the question. Im 100% positive that next week I will be there though.

Let me speak to this forecast as someone with heavy duty experience in wintry matters.

You folks here have an advantage over NY in one way only. The sun - it gets warm enough to melt snow easily. Up in NY, the higher latitude keeps the sunlight cold and low during the winter. And having 2-3 inches of hardpack ice on the road after a few good snowfalls is not uncommon. It can last a week easily.

Black ice is less frequent, but that mainly because it doesnt take black ice to cause accidents, anything on the road surface is enough to cause them. Plus, with the heavy volume of traffic, on the roads - its rare that ice has time to form in a thin enough sheet. Usually you just get icebergs, with tire tread grooved pressed into them. Makes for fun driving when your car is being tugged like a slotcar around the road.

I did not have a digital camera while up in NY, well no, thats not true - I got a dirt cheap one at Target on clearance for $10 bucks, and it was worth every penny. Still have it too. I just have to hunt down the photos, somewhere. Of course, this was in the pre-picasa days of easy organization of photos.

Wow, nice rambling post today huh? I think I will cut my losses now. Maybe I'll find those photos.


7-Day Forecast for Latitude 37.27N and Longitude -79.95W

"Thursday Night: Periods of snow and sleet, mainly between 10pm and 1am, then periods of snow, freezing rain and sleet between 1am and 4am, then periods of snow and sleet after 4am. Low around 28. Calm wind becoming south between 6 and 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Friday: Cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high around 43. Breezy, with a northwest wind between 16 and 21 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph.

Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 22. West wind between 5 and 9 mph."

Allright, Im beginning to think the fix is in for Dickens this year. I mean the Christmas Parade is this weekend, and its going to be how cold? Egg Nog Icicle cold. Not a good thing.

31 mph wind gusts during the day, with a high of 43. Remember those words from last winter? Everyone together now.. Wind Chill.

Well, this does not make me happy, but hopefully we will have suffered enough for the following weeks Pet Parade and General Festive Atmosphere.

Lets all hope this winter is not like last, and the jet stream does not decide to holiday on the ground here. Last years wind chill never really went away, It just kept pounding at Roanoke without mercy, relentless in its drive to sandblast and quick-freeze this town.

(by the by, Im knocking on wood, holding my 4-leaf clover, and writing to Santa that this winter be white enough to be pretty, but not icebound and wind-burned)

During the day, for those of you who don't know, the sun can be pretty strong here. Even on a 35 degree day, as long as its sunny with no wind, you can leave the jacket behind and just wear a light sweater. Of course, this comes from someone somewhat acclimated to sub-zero wind chill, and actual street-clearing snowplows.

It's called rock salt, invest heavily in it and you'll do fine when you retire.

Im still flustered by the whole "VDoT plow" thing. How do you plow 2 lanes of a 4 lane road which is heavily traveled?

Maybe if there was more constant traffic, the roads would not be so bad, but with the panic over a dusting (and yes, I understand the reaction after the Robin Reed Incident) the roads go bare.

Well, more to come as the sleet hits the fan.


Yep, thats today.. 63 years ago today.



BST 25: Remember me?

Allright, one last time into the breach, Mr. LaForge.

Ok - you never heard that, right?

So picking up on where I left off, around the end of August, 2002. Hold on, were gonna fast forward a bit here.. well.. a whole year. Recovery, recovery, Thanksgiving, NYC, Christmas, Cooking School, cooking school, MRI, graduate, externship, Halloween, MRI.


MRI.... no change.

Suggested course of action: removal.

Scheduled time: 1st week of December, 2003.

Well, there was what they call a trace amount - a gloopy chunk they didn't want to remove originally due to its location and the fact that it was apparently quite happy where it was, holding a few neurons hostage. It was not quite invasive, just kind of cuddly with the grey matter surrounding it. But it was pretty important grey matter, so they left it alone - wondering if it would just get the message when the rest of it was removed and leave.

Well it was apparently very comfy there. It did not grow, it did not shrink. It just kind of hung out, like teenagers at the mall. Generally useless, and bound for trouble eventually, but brooding and surly none the less.

Well, theres a cure for that, although not for teenagers unfortunately. Its called *cue dramatic music* the Gamma Knife *orchestra hit*!

Ok, so I go meet the guy who will be guiding the fingers of radiation towards that spot in my head which needs some juice. Dr. Ladislau Steiner.

Dr. Steiner is a old school doctor, and when I say that - I mean office with huge desk and tons of books and displays and all the sort of things you expect to find in the office of a highly-respected groundbreaking neurosurgeon. Oh, did I mention he is also in his 80's? And Romanian? All this adds up to the feeling of greatness you get when you hear of this man, and when you see him. He explained things in detail, putting all our concerns to rest. Which is nice to have done right after your told the story of a man who had a similar situation, they gamma knifed him, and it went away - only to have it spring up like mushrooms all over the place. Gamma got them too.

So I was handed off to his staff, who arranged for everything to go down like clockwork. Me, being the info-freak I am, of course did too much research into the Gamma Knife. Thats when I found out about the headframe.

Just remember those words: headframe.

Allright, so everything was set and a go. Then, that night, it snowed. 4-5 inches or so. This threw the entire staff at UVA into disarray, but they acclimated without a problem. I was accompanied by my mother on this trip, which was a short one. So the two of us sat in the OR waiting area, waiting for our slot to be called. The whole place was on a delay.. an hour or so.. So an hour of waiting, overheard conversations, brief glimpses of my former surgical crew. Nice to see them working together after the trauma I caused.

So we are taken back, and I am told to get into the gown. What is with these gowns? As I change, Im looking around the small space I am slotted into.. theres no bed, just one of those chairs. You know those chairs. The "No really, Im fine without perforations" chairs.

The one who is guiding me through this step of the procedure is a nice lady, whose name and rank I do not recall for reasons that will become obvious in a moment. She sits me in the chair, pops in a IV line, and then asks the million questions they all ask. She describes to me what is going to happen when I leave the room. They will insert small screws into my forehead and the back of my head, which will root in the skull. To this will be attached the headframe.

I tell her in no uncertain terms I would very much appreciate not remembering any of this. She tells me not to worry, because in a few moments she is going to hit me with what she called "a six pack". After she injected it into my IV line, she told me she was going to be asking me questions to gauge how effective it would be, it would only last 20 mins or so, and when I came to the frame would be on.

Next thing I remember was being in that chair, rolling away from the OR. She asked me if I remember any of the questions. I say "you asked them?" Laughter ensued.

Off to the MRI for alignment purposes (cuz I had not had enough of them), and now Im on a bed. Reclining comfortably, my head numbed to the frame on it. I actually never realized I even had the frame on until passing a mirrored window. Oh what a sight, what a tragic figure wears the mantle of aluminum.

Gamma time: into the room with the knife, which I assumed (based on my apparently flawed research) would be larger than an MRI machine. They slid me onto the table for the gamma knife, and cranked the headframe down to the machine. I slid into the machine, and from there out it was endless miniature adjustments to get the focal point of the beam exactly where they wanted it. Finally, after 45 minutes of getting a real close up view of this silent machine's inner world, it was over. I was out, and rolled out into another room.

They removed the headframe. But the screws were still with me. With a swift and silent determination, the nurse closed in on me, removing them with my eyes wide open and memory intact. No 6-pack this time. After some discussion, I was then remanded to the custody of the hospital, I believe it was the 12th floor. I had a private room to overnight in, access to the elevators, a hot meal waiting for me. Not a bad deal. My mother left, seeing as how all was well. I slept for a while, and realized I had purple eyebrows, well marks where they had put the screws. It amused me, and dinner came and went. I had a wonderful view, looking out over Charlottesville in the snow. I had my backpack with books, my walkman, my cellphone, and some candy and smokes. The foor nurse told me there was going to be a snack delivered, and apparently my definition of a snack was horribly wrong.

It was a whole sandwich, cookies, fruit, and a soda. I stashed it for later that night, as my afternoon nap had pushed the likelyhood of my sleeping at night out the window and 12 stories down.

A few times I wandered down to the lobby, to the smoking area. No more than twice to my recollection, as it was still cold and possibly raining. The next morning I was remanded back to the custody of my mother, and all was well.

First follow up MRI 1 month later, and all seemed clear.. and to this day, all clear. With artifacts. Which I assume means one day I might have to watch for an Indiana Jones type who wishes to have at these artifacts.

Another success, thanks to the staff of UVA.

And there ends the BST, for the time being. If the higher powers are with me, there ends the entire BST journey.

Possibly the best early Christmas gift one could ask for. A clear mind.

So clear theres nearly no thoughts. Just an occasional fog of memory, and partly cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

I think back to all those trips between NYC and CVS via Amtrak, and realize I have probably seen that stretch of the journey in all seasons. Been there for moments that no one else could have been there for.

In many ways the BST itself was a blessing. Sometimes one needs something life-altering to provide a new perspective. Or several. I know what could have been, I have seen it with my own eyes, and in my own mind. I understand I am fortunate.

I am still becoming, still changing from the BST. I have gained an appreciation I did not have before for life, I have gained a loving wife and a new home and a future without bounds. I made my own deal with the higher ups back before the initial surgery, let me pull through and I will try. And try I do. The only downside to the whole process is the memories are not what they used to be. There is a disconnect between the past memories and the feelings of those memories. I can tell you the way the sky looked on the day of the "Perfect Storm", how the rain beat down. But I cannot tell you how I felt at the time. All my past memories are filtered through my current emotions. So while I most likely looked upon the windows at Macy's as a child with wide eyes, I now can tell you how it affected me today. I cannot tell you what it meant to me at the time. The surgery changed the way my mind operates, to a certain extent. I was probably what you would call scattered before it, now I run a 24 track mind, and can clearly tell you the exact process of each plan I hatch.

Like the website, I know where I want it to be, and I know what I need to do to get it there. I know what resources I can use, and what ones I need to create.

There is a dream, and this is a dream. To bring about an understanding of place, community, and home. Big concepts, small world.

"For we are all born mortal, like stars and candlelight,
And all that really matters, is what we do before we fall asleep each night."

Just as a sidenote to the Dickens post:

The JA of Roanoke is selling Mill Moutain Star Ornaments, Dr. Pepper sign ornaments, and H&C Coffee sign ornaments - beautifully done. I dont remember the price for one, but all 3 is $40 with a portion of proceeds going back to the JA I think.

No, you can't buy them all, because I haven't bought mine yet. So you just wait.

Dickens of a Christmas (or: Traffic is a NY Nightmare!)

I've been to the market on busy days, quiet days, and in between days. Last year we were down at Dickens of a Christmas for the Pet Parade, and did not make it to any of the other days.

Once we brought the dogs back home, we headed back downtown to wander untethered to 2 small Santas. We wandered the Market, back and forth, over and over. Got to see some interesting stuff, and not just the vendors. The Carolers were amazing, the costumed performers were spot on.

We decided to put in more of an effort this year to get there more often.

We're smart, this year is even bigger. (photos will be coming when Blogger get the uploader fixed.)

We stopped to examine some candles, and in one shot, forgot entirely the fact that there is a Yankee Candle. All it took were the baked-goods candles. North Mountain Candle is down the market this year, after an initial probe the last day of Dickens last year. Great prices, amazing candles, and locally produced. The website will be launching soon, as I am sure they are having to replenish their stock after being nearly wiped out Friday night.

There is a woman there who makes dogs awfully happy. Homemade dog bones, with all natural ingredients. I think my wife has her card, so I'll post her info here later today.

The crowds though, near madness. There was literally no room to walk, which is when I became very thankful that most vendors had double sided their booths, so that you could browse from the back as well. They needed the space just for the products alone. Which reminds me, the baked goods. Oh. My. God. The sheer amount of baked goods was nearly enough to send me into shock.

I am looking forward to this weekends Parade, along with hitting all the vendors again. I will hopefully have more and better photos to share with you, although I will not be arriving till after 8.

Which is ok, because on this past Friday, as the wife and I were walking back to the car, there were tons of cars coming down Jefferson. I mean tons. And this was slightly after 8pm. It was the first time since we had moved down here that we really felt like we were back in NY. Crowded sidewalks, much hubbub and activity, traffic backed up on Jefferson from Campbell back past Elm.

Roanoke might have to expand the bounds of Dickens next year just to fit everyone in. I have my own fantasies about Dickens next year, but Im going to keep them private... for now.

Now, with 10% less brain than before!

I nearly forgot I still have to finish off the BST Chronicles. So look for the final chapter in that story (well final in a sense of story continutity - unless you really want to hear about my yearly MRI's) sometime in the next day or two.

A word about the snowfall. As much as my heart was set on having a mega-blast snowfall, I understand how badly it would cripple the city. As evidenced by the driving I saw on the roads today.

Sadly, it was no worse than usual.

Although, I do have to say I am proud - I barely heard sirens today, and did not hear Lifeflight 10 at all. I might have been in the freezer.

But on an interesting note, one of the little factoids I love about snow, it amplifies sound. The snow has stopped falling - some misty fog has settled in, but I can hear jets high above clear as day. Reminds me of NY, on the cold winter nights, I can tune my radio to one of the more powerful NY AM stations, and listen in nearly clearly. I assume that the same forces which guide errant radio waves this far south from Gotham are also responsible for my being able to hear the freight line that runs behind Tanglewood as clear as if it were in my backyard.

I would still rather hear the chug of a passenger train, but in the cold dark night - it's not hard to imagine it is.

And soon it may be: If we all ask Santa, maybe we can get a viable alternative to the flying lawnmowers that run from Roanoke Regional and get this ol' railtown humming again.

Another dream.. which leads to another dream..


(In Brooklyn) Hey, whose friggin kid is dis??

- Trans-Siberian Orchestra - What Child is this - The Last Christmas

Back in my youth as a young turk growing up in the wilds of exurban New York City, I was exposed to all sorts of lavish holiday displays.

From the house of the Concrete Maven my uncle worked for, which still to this day beats any house I've seen hands down; to the simple grey 2 or 3 story thing (looked more like a prison than a home) that was alongside the Belt Parkway near Springfield Blvd. with his simple strands of the old oversized bulbs draped on the corners of the house, framing it against the dark sky above.

At least he made the effort, and every year - they would be there. Those simple lights.

My own neighborhoods growing up varied wildly in decorating scope, from the austere single electric candle in the window (symbolic of welcoming a stranger home) to the over-large displays of plastic Santa and team on the roof of the house. Bushes covered with more lights than it had branches. Houses which should have been able to pay LiLco's (electric company) operating expenses for a year.

Halloween I was always all about the stark horror, my pumpkins bordering on criminal. But Christmas, I was always the first one ready to put the tree up, the lights outside. I even used to decorate my room, with its single window. I would have had a tree, had I been allowed. Probably for the best I wasn't, as when I hit my teenage years there certainly would have been the rumored small, furry animals living in my room.

I could hardly walk into a church at Christmas without being overcome by the decorations. And I did not like the design of my church growing up - it was more like a barn with pretty windows. Thats the one issue I took with Vatican II (now being old enough to understand it), they should have kept the mandate that churches be built grand. But thats a personal thing.. I dont expect anyone else to get it.

Outside, the snow is falling right now. Things are quiet enough, as everyone waits to see exactly how bad it will get. I was blessed to have a White Christmas before leaving NY. And it was exactly how you wanted it to be. It started snowing around 8pm, and did not let up till the world was white and silent on Christmas morning. Yet you were still able to get the car out without having to dig, the roads were clear by noon from traffic alone, and the snow remained on the ground for days afterwards.

It had to, it went from snow-temperatures down to below zero with the windchill.

I could have done without that part.

But the holidays can be brutal, when you suddenly have no time to accomplish anything, but everything must be done. You do your best to accomplish everything, to perfection and wind up in a transient madness. And by midnight on December 25th, your left empty. Its all over, nothing to do but clean up and wait for the New Year.

In that single moment, the final tick of the clock 11:59:59pm, 12/25 - you lose it. You realize its fully over, and all you did to make it as perfect as you possibly could was just left in that final tick of the clock.

That warm feeling has left you, everything seems the same again. Even the lights on the tree seem cold now. Thats when you have to go back and pull a shred of that warmth out of the past and keep it with you. If it means your family has to suffer through a mild spell of christmas during the summer - then so be it. Ask mine, its been done before.

But that feeling, if you can catch it and carry it with you, will become your greatest asset as the year progresses. If you've ever felt the harsh cold of an empty NYC street in mid-February, or something similar - when desolation seems to be the order, and you feel your the last person on earth, thats when you call upon the fragment of Christmas.

Some people put faith in money, in status, in God.. I put mine in Christmas, and it carrys me through the year.

PS - no page today, busy times but page coming this week. I swear it.


7-Day Forecast for Latitude 37.27N and Longitude -79.95W (thats Roanoke to us english speakers)

Allright - heres your official forecast. I am on the cusp of a decision here, one which should not be taken lightly.

I am getting fed up with the sleazy, brain numbing reporting of WSLS. Nothing personal against Karen (a peach), John (not so much...), Mark (wonderful guy), or Jaime (hyperactive monkey) - but the overseers of SLS have got to get a grip. They are driving me away, with the fear-monger reporting, creation of controversy, and near-gossip quality of the newscast itself - Im turning them off. Literally.

Plus, maybe its just me, but I actually like to hear Roanoke news for at least the first 10 minutes of the newscast. SLS feels I only need to hear about 2 minutes of Roanoke news, before moving on to national stories. And getting back to actual local news much later in the newscast.

I dont care if its been a slow news day, thats when you can really do some digging into stories you previously reported on and revist them. LOCAL stories.

So this is my decision - Im officially switching my allegiance to WDBJ. Besides - Robin and his weather are much less panic-inducing than SLS, but I will continue to use NOAA as my main source.

Call it growing up, maturing, whatever you want - but Im tired of the hype.. I just want the news.

Now if only I had that option with the Times.

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New page coming tomorrow morning

Along with several inches of snow. So its a win win situation.