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Notable Ithacan-Americans

Lynn's Famous "Every Saturday From Now Till The Rapture" Art Sale

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Dim lights Embed Embed this video on your site Comes around about this time of year or most years. Some years it doesn't happen at all. But it's happening this year and what it is IS Lynn's "Every Saturday Until the Rapture" Art Sale.

lynn And we mean aHt with a capital "H" ... that is to say anything craftily made or upgraded from kitchen kitsch to beguiling bezel by meticulous redesign or original Wedgewoodian knowitall ... Could be a marble that's a ruby from a lost king's throne, could be gold pin fell off the tie of a hi-falutin jazz guy, might be a little carved cave man from a south sea island. We just don't know. 

We do know these sales have turned out to be Tiny Town's most fashionable treasure hunts. And it features Festive Lithuanian Music and SHINER! the Doggins

lynn's art saleOften held at Christmas as the Famous Wall Street Journal Yard Sale [yep, once lauded in Murdoch's mercenary press], Lynn's creditors wouldn't wait for a pay-off on the mortgage so here goes: All things COLLECTIBLE! One-of-a-kindables! Stuff exactly or remotely like Real AHt. IF IT's AHT YAH WANT ... and you know you need some because there's not a lot to look at outside come winter except maybe the bird feeder which is always getting attacked by squirrels, then yer skin itches and makes little flakes. O.  Then y'ill want some for yer aRthritis, turn yer room into a fantasism; a little spazz and a lot of spism. You might not even have a pot to piss in, pending on who gets sold to run this prison.


WHEN: Saturdays, yeh eeej, can't ya read? 11 a.m. onward. 

WHERE: 111 First Street, Northside of Tiny Town's floodlands

FEATURES:  Festive Lithuanian Music and SHINER! the Doggins

–– C. Penbroke Handy, still on censure and muddling about the subcultural scene

Last Updated on Monday, 16 July 2012 18:07

The Michaelangelo of Titus Flats

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Michael Lords is a Freemason, Olde World artisan, one part St. Francis and without a doubt one of more remarkable members of Tiny Town's Titus Flats community 

By Matt Tomich, special correspondent to tinytowntimes.com 

TINY TOWN, USA – In a past life, Michael Lords believes he was a sailor, or maybe a carpenter. Judging by the menagerie roosting and cavorting about his home – four Rottweilers, ten birds, two cats and an unknown number of squirrels and ducks – he might’ve been a zookeeper as well. First, meet the rotties: Gossamer, Arcadian, Eustus and Constantine; the three macaws, Virgil, Fargus and Sinclaire; his five cockatoos go by Corapora, Isis, Arazzmus, Caspar and Constantina; and there are two green parrots he calls Heckel and Jeckel. Then of course Molly and Aurora, the cats.  

Michael's present incarnation has led him into the construction field as a contractor specializing in masonry and carpentry. He is a devoted member of the Freemasons and speaks fondly of his visits to the splendidly detailed Masonic Temple in Manhattan. A nautical motif runs throughout his cluttered house  – the wooden hull of an unfinished ship sits on one shelf and a scuttled fleet of model battlerships on another, and pictures and models of schooners adorn his walls as well as angels cast in various clays and stone. Indeed some residuum of his past life seems to have attached itself to him: At heart he is an artist, an obsessive artisan who carves Gothic-inspired scenes in large wooden panels he finds in random locations: job sites, forests and other locations of value. These works consume an enormous amount of space above and below decks in his little house. 

Lords also has found himself desperately looking for work that, in a past life, a man of his many skills would have had no trouble finding and applying toward a decent living.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Lords, now 56, grew up in a foster home with one of his many siblings in a building near the Brooklyn museum. While many children spend their youngest years outside, Lords found himself getting lost in the worlds depicted in paintings and sculptures in the museum, staring into the vivid scenes for hours on end and developing an appreciation for a universe imagined in the mind's eye. He would do the same inside church sanctuaries and was once thrown out by cops who were called in by a suspicious Priest. When Lords explained why he was there, the Priest pardoned him and requested that if he was so enamored of the artwork in the building, the next time he came to visit he ought to bring an artist's pad.

michael lords and student, abigail

But sketching wasn't what Lords had in mind. 

His artwork emerged, idly enough, from pre-adolescent boredom. “When I was young, about 11, my foster mother who was sick with cancer, was throwing out some furniture,” he said. “I took an arm or a leg off of a chair or something and with a 10-penny nail just started doodling on top of it. It was an outlet ... and from there it grew.”

In the late 1970s, he studied medieval art and art theory at SUNY New Paltz, but after two years, Lords was forced to drop out and find a job. He’s been working in the construction industry for his livelihood and on relief carvings to feed his soul, ever since.

His pieces are intricately detailed, precisely etched reliefs that range from fantastical scenes painted with a wealth of vivid colors to carvings of two inch-thick Gothic and Victorian architectural elements varnished a deep brown.

At the time of this report he was in the middle of a large piece that was eighteen months in the making, Lords said. The piece at times consumed up to fourteen hours a day, he said, to ensure the wood matched the vision that appeared in his head a year and a half prior. “When you start, it becomes an obsession,” he said. “Some of these pictures have taken years to do.”

Lords is a classicist by training and nature, though a non-academic one. In fact, he's something of an anachronism, as if he really is, according to his own beliefs,  a reincarnated man or an unrequited artisan, transmigrated to the wrong era.

“I grew up in the 60s with acid and The Grateful Dead,” he recalls. “But still I sat and looked at the masters. For a person who was smoking pot and popping acid, looking at a master is a big difference to going to see a tie dye.”

But there is something telling in the way he positions himself against the postmodern and the kitsch, believing instead in the value of great art from the likes of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. “Andy Warhol is like slumming to me, whereas Da Vinci is just the highest of art. A Michelangelo is the highest of art. But people would rather look at a Warhol. As a ten year old kid playing in [the Brooklyn museum] – we'd go back and look at the same paintings, artwork, statues, day in and day out, just because they were there and they were so incredible. That’s what we did as kids.”

Unhappy with the changes in his Brooklyn neighborhood, Lords left the borough for Ithaca two years ago, where he now resides. detail from michael's work

"I came up here thinking I could open a business," he says. "It turned out to be a nightmare." 

He spends most of his time with his four dogs – Eustice, Constantine, Arcadian and Gossama. Throughout this interview his cockatoo Constantina sits and squawks, jumping from the reporter's shoulders back to his master's shoulders.  “I like walking with my dogs – you meet people, you pick up friends but you don’t have to entertain anybody. The dogs, they entertain themselves – you just follow along.”

But credit where credit is due: Lords is an entertainer. At the Ithaca Festival in June, be could be seen on and around the Ithaca Commons, his four companions in tow, lounging around and lapping up the attention from passersby. “These guys are very popular for a small town.”

So is he.

However, Lords’ residency in Ithaca has been bitter-sweet: he’s had plenty of time to work on his art, but only because he’s spent the better part of the last 24 months unemployed.

“Try to get a job up here, you’ll see they only give you $10 an hour,” he says, referring to the construction work he’s been doing since he was 15. “I went from making $170,000 a year, in my own business, by myself, to making nothing up here. You have Home Depot, you have Lowe’s, you have all these other businesses, how hard could it be to get a job?”

Welcome to 21st century Central New York, Mr. Lords.

michael at gallery night From this reporter's perspective [Tomich is from Perth, Australia] there’s something distinctly American about Lords’ approach to life. He came from humble beginnings, growing up in a foster family with one of his biological sisters – he’s one of nine children; he was small business owner; a college dropout; he’s tasted a sliver of success when his artwork was big in the late 1970s, exhibiting in SoHo and Boston, and he’s been trying to get back to that place ever since. He’s stubborn yet approachable, independent yet friendly, hard-working yet out of work, and self-assured but not quite arrogant. It’s this last trait that sticks out the most.

“Nobody sees the value in art like this,” he says. “How many times have you seen a little statue of a sailor – a little stupid statue that anybody could carve? That is what impresses people. Simple, tacky is what sells. But I’m not looking just to sell. I want to be one of the masters. I want my pieces on show in Europe, I want people on the other side of the world to see them ... What I really need is an art critic – someone to get my work out there.”

He says all this with an alluring charm that makes you want to champion his work and wish him all the success he clearly feels he deserves.

“I’m a complex person,” he insists. “There’s so much involved inside of this one person. I’ve been living on my own since I was 13. I’ve done a lot and seen a lot. Been nowhere, but still done a lot. There’s just so much left to be done.”

One thing he does is act as caretaker for the wild animals in his neighborhood. Lords lives on the corner of S.Titus and Fair Streets, across from a small nameless park that runs alongside Six Mile Creek.

Earlier this year the city removed several traffic calming barriers on South Titus – at the insistence of the fire department – and very much against homeowner's wishes. With the small park right across the way and the relatively slow traffic, flocks of ducks had begun to gather and make themselves at home to an unsafe degree. Since the removal of the barriers, Lords has found himself in the role of grave digger to a generation of water fowl accustomed to a less hazardous hang-out.

"People just speed through here now; I've buried about a dozen ducks or more since [the barriers were removed]," he says. "They are living creatures, like us, and it's the right and respectful thing to do for them."

Perhaps in his past life he was a friend of St. Francis, as well.


Abigail Baron and Franklin Crawford also contributed to this story. 

IMAGES: Top, Michael Lords, with his cockatoo Constatina, right: one of many carvings varnished to a high gloss as opposed to being painted. Next down: The Master and the Student: Lords discusses his work with Abigail Baron, then an Ithaca College senior, in March, 2012. Next: A stylized detail from the large carving he is showing to Baron. Below that: Lords at Gallery Night in Ithaca in December, 2011. Below, left: Lords with his dogs, bird and a friend in the small park that stretches along S. Titus Avenue from N. Plain to Meadow Streets. Right of that: a detail from one of his more recent carvings, shown at bottom. Bottom: One of Michael's three macaws checks out the photographer's lens: Right: Three of four of Michael's Rottweilers pose with aforementioned carving, a piece that measures roughly two-and-a-half-feet by a little more than six-feet, long. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2012 07:22

Paul Chambers, Artist, Ithacan-American, dead

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"Just before dying I had a dream: I was the subject of a painting that entered Heaven after thousands and thousands of years."  Orhan Pamuk, Turkish author 

Tiny Town Satellite of Trumansburgh, USA – Paul Chambers, artist, son, brother, friend, educator, died peacefully in his beloved Trumansburg home on Saturday, May 19.

He was 60. Family and friends are invited to gather from 5-6 p.m., Thursday, May 31st, in the Waterburg Chapel, Paul’s home, located on 4414 Waterburg Road, Trumansburg, NY.  At 6 p.m., Rev. Meredith Ellis will lead in a time of tribute to Paul’s life.

According to his obituary, from which we robbed the epigram above, these last words, from another site: "Paul gave all of his family and friends insight into the pain, the fight for survival, and the ultimate resolve of acceptance that death will touch us all.  Paul is survived by his mother Barbara Chambers, a sister Victoria Brader, two brothers Timothy and David Chambers, and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his father John Frederick Chambers. 

Paul was a visual artist with a conscience and the belief that we are all part of the same plan.  An old fashioned painter, Paul was known for his enormously provocative abstract conceptual landscape paintings relating to his intense concern for lasting international peace.  Born in Lincoln, England on July 14, 1951, Paul graduated from the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, UK (’73).  As the story goes, he immediately relocated to New York City because of his fascination with the American political system as a result of “Watergate.”  Paul came to Ithaca in 1974 and earned his MFA from Cornell University (’77) where he subsequently became a member of the faculty.  Paul continued to share his passion for teaching as a member of the Cascadilla School faculty from 1992-2002. During that time he developed their first art program emphasizing drawing, art history, painting and sculpture, teaching students who would go on to become artists, designers and educators.

In 2002, he relocated his studio to a 19th century Greek Revival church in Trumansburg, NY, which Paul proudly restored from a derelict state, along with the last of the region’s eight bay buggy barns. In 2003 he created dialecticalaestheticism.net, a website which functions as an illustrated political philosophy.  Since 2003, Paul focused this project to 'redefine art to include religion.'

Those who knew Paul will remember him as a deeply political creature, a brilliant theorist who had a way with words unlike any other, and perhaps, most of all, a lover of beauty. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and students whose lives are forever changed by knowing Paul.

Paul said the money he spent supporting President Obama’s campaign was ‘the best money I ever spent.’ Please consider making a donation in Paul’s name to Obama for America, P.O. Box 802798, Chicago, IL 60680 or to Hospicare of Tompkins County, 172 E. King Rd., Ithaca, NY  14850.            

 As Paul would have liked, immediately following the service there will be a celebratory dish-to-pass.  If you are able, please bring a “Paul” story to share, lawn chairs, card tables and a dish-to-pass. For more information on the service and gathering, please contact Kate by e-mail: shopsatlittlelake@hotmail.com.

Photo provided

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 17:31

Right on Clue: Adam Perl, Tiny Town's premier puzzler

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ALL THE CLUES FIT TO PRINT: Adam Perl reviews his own X-word puzzle published in the New York Times, April 24, 2012. 


Before this noble experiment called tinytowntimes.com could be launched, we secured the services of one of the Empire State’s premier crossword puzzle gurus: Adam Perl. Without his regular Tinytown Teaser submissions, this blog would be little more than a Craig's List Rant with pretty pictures. We too abide by Mr. Perl’s wonderfully self-effacing credo: “It was the least I could do and I always do the least I can.” A comedian, gifted singer, loving husband and father and proprietor of Pastimes Antiques “that little curio shop I always dreamed about,” here Perl discusses his puzzling compulsion to stitch from the fabric of his wizardly brain-case, crosswords of every variety.


Tiny Town, USA – Adam Perl arrived in Ithaca in 1957 after a fire destroyed his family’s downstate home.


That tragic loss was Tiny Town’s gain.


Always a smarty pants, Perl entered Cornell University as a generic student then earned BA in 1967 after a "life-changing three-month concert tour of 10 countries of Asia, with the Cornell Glee Club," he says. That unprecedented journey was just one of many strange trips this bearded worthy has undertaken.


One his most satisfying passions, aside from plundering estates for their valuables, is a knack for word-play.


After a bunch of post-grad stints on off-Broadway,  California dreamin' as a flower child, later, as a worker bee at the veggie haven in Tiny Town once known as Cabbagetown Cafe (then co-owned by Julie Jordan, late of Wegmans' Wings of Life Salad fame), Perl opened an antique shop in 1979 called, Pastimes Antiques. He chose the DeWitt Mall, an innovative architectural trump card, played by the late William Downing, who saved the building from the ever busy wrecking ball. Perl’s shop was right in the stream of things with Moosewood Restaurant a soy loaf’s toss away and the DeWitt Cafe still affordable to any clown with a coupla bucks in his/her pocket.


adam perl at piano ←TINY TOWN'S GOT TALENT: Perl, a musician and singer, relaxes on a toy piano baby grand in his shop.


Perl got the crossword bug because antiquing left him at auctions with a considerable amount of time to kill.

As with many puzzle-crafters, his gateway drug to distilling his own was the New York Times daily crossword.


            “I go to a lot of auctions and even at a good auction there’s a lot of down time, things you’re not interested in,” Perl says. “So to wile away the time I used to just do the puzzle.”


One particular day Perl decided simply doing the puzzle wasn’t enough. So he challenged himself to make his own, using a theme familiar to him.


“Instead of doing the puzzle I just took the empty grid and I noticed there was an eight letter blank space in one of the longer words and I printed the word ‘antiques,’ he says. “I filled in the other long words with other antique related words and I had the start of a puzzle.”


That was a Eureka moment for Perl. The ensuing days and years led to an ability to fashion crosswords in the same time it takes for the average person to eat a homemade meal. In 1998, The New York Times published one of Perl’s finely turned works – after a co-worker pushed him into it.


Pushed because Perl was shy of his talent and Will Shortz, then editor of the NYT puzzle, was a kind of great and powerful Oz to humble wordsmiths, especially those whose claim to fame was running a collectibles shop in the boonies.


Perl’s first puzzle was published in a Monday issue. Like the work week, Times crossword puzzles run from difficult to maddening with the gem of the week’s batch in the back of the Sunday magazine, there to be perused by those who have leisure time to spend on such idle amusements.


So, Perl’s best at that time only rated a Monday placement. He didn’t care. Never shy of clichés if they mean what they say, Perl described the experience in the lingua franca of, say, a Word Jumbler:  “It was like walking on air. I was on cloud nine for weeks after that. ”


He’s since had his works published on every day of the week, 17 crosswords in all. For tinytowntimes.com, Perl has cranked out more than 500 teasers in little more than three years. Granted they are teeny weentsy puzzles, but you gotta wonder how he does it.


                 “It’s like any compulsion, its totally fun and totally absorbing,” says Perl, never one to give away family secrets, especially if he's forgotten where he put them.


Getting published in one of the world’s most difficult crossword puzzle publications is not the hard part for Perl. Neither is the task of composing the puzzle. Once he sits down with the black and white grid in front of him, Perl can write a puzzle in 45 minutes. What’s hard is coming up with the theme.


            “Consider this: Just taking the Times alone— 365 puzzles a year— [Perl calculated Will Shortz's time at 20 years and ran some rough math] that's about 7,000 puzzles just in one paper,” he says. “Almost all of those have a theme. So it’s pretty tough to come up with something that hasn’t been done before or is clever or funny.”


            Perl follows a simple if backward sounding drill when making puzzles: First he creates a grid with a theme. Then he fills in the spaces with words. Creating clever clues is the last bit of business.


        “The cluing is what gives a puzzle its difficulty because you can define a word in many ways,” he says. “That’s the trick to solving a puzzle – knowing all the ways a word can come into play.”


He’s observed – none too happily –  the impact of technology on the crossword puzzle world.  The Internet now provides access to every word ever used in Times puzzles past. Armed with those tools, puzzlers continue to raise the bar for originality and intelligence.


            Perls says: “I look back on puzzles now, not just the ones I did, but puzzles from maybe ten or twelve years ago, and those puzzles won’t even get in the Times anymore. The standards have gotten higher and higher and that has everything to do with computers.”


With more than a thousand puzzles from lesser pubs to the NYT “gold standard” crossword puzzles, to his credit the rich word mines in Perl’s dome have yet to be tapped out.  He’s proud of his abilities, but a great opportunity to meet the master Shortz came and went back in 2010.


 Shortz called Perl with an RSVP to his annual puzzle tournament in Pleasantville, NY. Shortz had chosen a Perl puzzle to stand alongside three others for the 2010 competition. More than 70 people were attending and Perl had the opportunity to observe competitors racking their brains to solve his puzzle. Fate intervened. Or rather, responsibility to the home crowd came first. Perl was slated to perform in a show at the State Theater here in Tiny Town the same day. Those types of engagements do not play second fiddle to highbrow invites.


            “Shortz said there would be a party at his house afterwards which I would have been invited to …” Perl opines. “But I really couldn’t go.”


Perl now uses his puzzling skills in a variety of ways. He creates custom crosswords for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, roasts and retirements (all he needs is a quick sketch of his subject and he’s off fashioning a grid). He also champions local causes and will be providing the puzzles for an Autumn 2012  fundraiser for Tompkins Learning Partners, a non-profit agency that provides literacy training for people of all ages.


It won't be Pleasantville. But Perl may yet get a vicarious thrill from watching area puzzlers “racking their brains” over his crossword works right here in Tiny Town.



GO AHEAD, HAGGLE: Perl in the rough at his shop, Pastimes Antiques, in the DeWitt Mall in Tiny Town.
Story by Carolyn Cutrone, correspondent to tinytowntimes.com 
Edited by Franklin A. Crawford, tttimes Administrator


Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 22:27

Ollie: Self-employed

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Tiny Town, USA – We met Ollie Friday morning closer to noon than midnight navigating down Buffalo Street with three bags of returnables over his shoulders and a full shopping cart. This represented his morning's workload.

Ollie's a collector. Like Tiny Town's dozen or more dedicated collectors in town who scavenge for nickel returnables as one way to get by, Ollie, 22, is his own man.

"I make my own hours, I don't have to deal with a boss," Ollie said. "It's pretty cool. 

And it's hard. And it smells. Dedicated collectors work for their little bit of cabbage. 

He also recycles at K&H Redemption Center and that's where we urge all collectors and returners of five cent investments go to do business. The automatic machines at Tops, Wegmans and elsewhere are not only slow -- they are killing K&H, a local family business run by some really nice people: Shannon and Deb Lynch. It's  a mother and daughter operation. The Lynch's purchased the K&H II name in 1994 from the original K&H proprietors. Why K&H II? Shannon explains there was another in Cortland at one time and that was K&H 1.

If you already knew that, you win today's tiny bubbles contest. 

K&H clientele tend to be working people, drunks and the unemployed. Then there are self-employed collectors like Ollie.

Students rarely use the facility which is too bad because they create a lot of waste and waste a lot of time sticking cans in redemption machines at supermarkets. As stated, the arrival of automation in the industry has hurt business at places like K&H.

– C. Pnebroke Handy, emptier of bottles


Last Updated on Monday, 19 March 2012 14:29

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