Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sic Transit September

YEOWLING SUCCESS: the finale of Catskill’s summer-long Cat ‘n Around promotion. 500 people—500!—jammed the warehouse at Historic Catskill Point, gobbled snacks contributed by local eateries, and jumped into the Cats’ Meow auction. First feline on the block, Ellen DeLucia’s “Rip Van Twinkle,” fetched $2100. As the remaining 49 were hawked by auctioneer Russ Carlsen, winning bids ranged from $750 to—take a deep breath--$4600 (by sponsor David Brockway, for Jim Cramer’s “Old Katskillian”). Average knockdown price, far beyond the most optimistic hopes, was $1800. Of the proceeds, $87,950, 25% will go to the artists, and the rest to the Chamber of Commerce, the County Arts Council, the Community Center, and the cat rescue organization Animalkind. At least one of the artists did not realize that she was entitled to a cut; she’ll get an unexpected check for $600. Yes, there will be a sequel. Organizer Linda Overbaugh already has been beset, happily, by would-be artists and by willing sponsors (people who paid $500 to have a design transformed into a finished feline).

NOTE ON PROVENANCE. Of precedents that inspired the Cat ‘n Around event, most pivotal was Moosefest. That 2005 promotion in Bennington VT yielded 58 fiberglass beasts, almost life-size. It culminated in bid prices of monumental scale and, incidentally, it demonstrated the fun of titular word play, e.g., “Driving Moose Daisy,” “Any Which Way But Moose,” “Mooselight in Vermont,” “Moose in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Moosemobile,” “A Moose For All Seasons,” “Metamorpho-Moose,” “Anonymoose.”

22=number of properties listed for sale at GreeneLand’s annual tax foreclosure auction, to be held this Wednesday (10/3) at the Quality Inn (as well as on-line; see ). The number is noteworthy in the light of history. Back in 2001, 115 parcels were advertised. These were properties whose owners failed to pay their taxes, thereby sticking the county with ownership, with the liabilities that accompany ownership, and with the costs of trying to sell the places and get them back on the tax rolls. The number of foreclosed properties declined in each subsequent year, to 98, then 88, 65, 42 and, in 2006, 34. That salutary reduction, says County Treasurer Willis Vermilyea, was no accident. It resulted from rigorous efforts to track down delinquent owners and to inform them about the values of their properties relative to the taxes and penalties they must pay in order to retain ownership. (Especially adept at this work, says Mr Vermilyea, has been Coxsackie’s Earl Scott). From the standpoint of GreeneLand taxpayers, the fewer the auctioned foreclosure properties, the better. And by Wednesday, the number will not even be 22. As of today’s final deadline, several more owners had paid up.

GREATER SENSE. During the past two days, students at Catskill’s Middle School took part in a dazzling array of extra-curricular activities. Thanks to a huge organizational effort (project selection, venues, permission slips, special arrangements, buses), thanks to help from scores of adult volunteers, the kids got to choose among 21 different half-day activities and 23 full-day workshops: picture-making, bowling or boxing or belly dancing or beautifying (one’s face), paddling (kayaks & canoes) &/or pedaling (on mountain bikes), pizza-making & other cooking (with experts), quilting, grooming & riding (horses), camping, dueling (with swords), scapbooking, skating, dragon- & damsel-fly-catching, video-making, playwriting+directing+set-making+acting, rescuing (heart attack victims), basket- and jewelry- and portrait-making, Monopolizing & Strategizing (on board games), and tramping (where Hudson River School artists once trod). Workshops called “Mountain Memories,” “Escarpment Trail,” “That Wilder Image” and “On the Artist Trail” would have been especially dear to the heart of the G S O P founder Barry Hopkins. Huge efforts were devoted, as Principal Marielena Davis put it, to imbuing participants with “with “deeper pride and understanding of the people, places and opportunities in the greater Catskill area.”

BTW, author(s) of the “Greater Sense of Place 2007” guidebook evidently could use a greater sense of difference, as between their and there, between your and you are (“Do you think your strong enough to ride your mountain bike on…”), and between here and hear. Also, if they were composing a new edition, the authors might re-think “using various create portraits,” “…discovery of the dramatic moments between each other and within themselves,” “TV is not where Casey put his focus on,” “Prior to his employment at Audubon, Larry is [sic.] also a professional musician,” and “…the gym Mike Tyson once trained.”

DELPHI, a GreeneLand-based Hanoverian, out-stepped competitors from seven Northeast States over the past season to win, among Level 1 participants in the sport of dressage, the Reserve Champion crown. The 7-year-old gelding, owned by Pamela King Belfor and ridden by trainer Emily Gershberg, won five blue ribbons in successive competitions starting last spring and ending September 15th in Saugerties. The rigorous and eminently civilized discipline of dressage, incidentally, goes back to cavalry warfare. Riders needed horses that would respond to cues emitted only by leg and knee pressure, leaving their arms were free to lay about with sabers. HOW IMPORTANT is GreeneLand's Thomas Cole National Historic Site? Well, it has been toured lately, or is about to be toured, by troops of visitors from the National Academy Design (Cole was a founder of that venerable institution), from the Wadsworth Athenaeum (the Hartford museum containing one of the great Hudson River School collections), from the Munson-Williams Proctor Institute of Utica NY, from the Hotchkiss School and the Dutchess Day School and Russell Sage College alumnae and American Cruise Lines and Kendall-on-Hudson, and from the Amon Carter Museum of Fort Worth TX. Some day, perhaps, it will even be deemed important enough to attract visits by governmental leaders of this county and its municipalities.

JUDICIAL LAW-BREAKERS? Some litigious GreeneLanders, we hear, have their sights set on the Greene County courthouse. They may test the legal status of a sign that is posted directly above the judge’s bench in each courtroom: “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Does that violate the Constitutional separation of church and state? Probably not. Past litigation and legislation have endowed that presumptuous affirmation with the status of a (or the) national motto.

JUST OUT: “Fall 2007” issue of The Messenger: Membership Newsletter of the Greene County Historical Society. Arriving in mailboxes on September 19th, its “Calendar of Events” anticipates happenings on August 25th and September 9th , as well as on September 23rd and thereafter.

IMMINENT: “Sytes,” a group exhibition of computer-related artworks, opens officially tomorrow, with a 2-4pm reception, at the County Arts Council’s Mountain Top Gallery in Windham. (518)734-3104. In Catskill, the morning’s usual Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Historic Catskill Point will be complemented not only by versatile musician Paul Slusar (many instruments, played well) but also by the GreeneLand segment of a Chili Cook-Off. And in the evening there will be a comedy show at the Catskill Point restaurant.

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