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A Run on the South Side

Perhaps Sunday Running Commentary will become a thing for me. I used to be motivated and dedicated and run both weekend days. Lately, not so much. However, I got myself out the door and on the road today so thought I’d write about it.

It was shortly after 6 a.m. when I set out. It was light out and I intended to stick to sidewalks so I did not wear my reflective vest. For another reason, it was at least sixty degrees and possibly still humid, so I did not want the extra layer. For me, 60 degrees is doable, but I prefer 10 or even 20 fewer degrees. But there is no point in repining over what one would like. I set out.

I decided to run in the opposite direction from the one I usually take, which is toward German Street. I went toward State Street, also known as Route 5, meaning to cross to the south side of town. I don’t usually run there, to avoid crossing the busiest street in town, but I like to shake things up occasionally.

As I ran, I reflected that I was going to the south side of Herkimer, “the baddest part of town,” to quote an old song. It isn’t really (don’t hate one me, south side!), but it used to be considered “the other side of the tracks.” I learned at a program at the Herkimer County Historical Society that the south side was where most of the immigrant families settled. These included the children who attended South School, which later became the Tugor School. I believe the school is now senior citizen apartments.

The railroad tracks used to run where State Street is now, so “wrong side of the track” was true. I’ve often thought it doesn’t matter which side of the tracks you live on; if you live close enough to the tracks the trains are going to be too loud. But I don’t really know about these subtle social distinctions. I just wanted to go for a run.

I sprinted across State Street, because I had the green light. I made it with no problem, which I thought was a good thing, because there was a big old pick-up truck stopped for the red light. I don’t want to get a big old pick-up truck mad at me. I continued down Bellinger to the end of the street, which I thought was Marginal Road.

My body had settled into the run by the time I was on the south side. It had not been best pleased with me when we started out. Once again I wondered if I should warm up and stretch out before leaving the house. Only it goes against the grain with me to run in place for a minute when I’m just going to be running down the road soon. It feels like wasted effort, and I have little enough oomph as it is.

As I continued my run I realized I was not on Marginal Road but on Steele Street. There was no sidewalk but also no traffic, so I did not regret the lack of my reflective vest. It was pretty much full daylight by this time anyways, if not bright and sunny. My body stopped complaining. In fact I was much more absorbed in looking at the sights than in noticing how well the run was going. That is my usual trick.

I could see that the south side was no longer the baddest part of town, if it ever was. The proportion of well-kept houses to houses that have seen better days was about what you see anywhere in town. I admired porches, flowers and the usual stuff. It’s kind of nice to look at different houses once in a while.

Steele Street became Protection Avenue with no effort on my part. Then I took a couple of side streets and ran across the K-Mart parking lot. That was where I petted a nice black pug named Miss Daisy. Her person told me Miss Daisy was trying to lose weight too. I wished her an easier time than I am having and ran on. I know, I need to run a little more and eat a lot less.

Another sprint brought me back to my own side of State Street. I ran by Folts Home, noting their pavilion, where I first saw Fritz’ Polka Band (I’m Facebook friends with Fritz now) (I’m something of a name-dropper; you may have noticed). And there was the Baptist Church, host of Coffee and Conversation with a Cop. Next I ran by Municipal Hall, where the Herkimer Police Station is.

In Meyers Park I encountered my friend Nicky and his person. I petted the good dog and exchanged a few remarks with the nice person. On the other side of the park I saw two dogs I know named Chico and Bear, with their person. More pets and greetings. I love to stop running for a few seconds to pet a dog.

I ended up running 38 minutes, longer than my last few runs. It was in fact, more than a 10 percent increase, which is the recommended amount, but I’m sure that is OK. I guess it will have to be, because I did it. My dog Tabby nicely walked my cool-down with me.

I have not been very dedicated with my running lately. I let the hot and humid weather last week discourage me. However, fall approaches and I feel another burst of motivation coming on. Maybe I will be able to lose as much weight as Miss Daisy.

Second Cup with a Cop

I was delighted to attend the second Coffee and Conversation with a Cop at the Baptist Church on Washington Street in Herkimer last Saturday morning (perhaps you read my blog post about the first one). I feel so pleased that this is going to be a monthly event and have great hopes as I do for any project meant to improve my beloved adopted hometown.

The event ran from 9 to 11 a.m. I arrived shortly after nine, signed in and put my name on a name tag. Jamie Lester Bell, the First Lady of the church, remembered me from last time. She was on her way out, having double booked herself, but she took time to greet me. She also asked me to leave information on how to get to my blog. I said I would post a link on the church’s Facebook page (note to self: remember to do that).

No cops were present as I walked in. They were out on a call. Chairs were arranged around two separate tables rather than the U formation they had been in last time. People were sitting around one table having a discussion. I got some coffee and a cookie and chatted with some people I remembered from last time.

When I saw a uniform come in the door I called, “There’s a cop!”

It was Officer Steve Elwood, who I had met at the Herkimer Police Department when I registered for the DARE 5K. He looked at the plate of donuts and said, “Is this a joke?”

I don’t know why it’s such a cliche of cops and donuts. A lot of people like donuts. I look like I eat a few too many myself. But I digress.

Officer Elwood asked me how I did on the run. We chatted a bit about that, then sat down at a table and others joined the conversation. Another officer showed up, whose name I did not get, so we had a cop at each table with two separate conversations going on. The atmosphere was very informal, which I gather is the intention.

My table chatted about all kinds of things. My novel came up, because I had been asking Officer Elwood questions for it the day I registered for the DARE run. I’d better make sure I finish that novel, I’ve mentioned it to so many people.

We asked a lot of questions about police work in general and the situation in Herkimer in particular. I really enjoyed how it felt more like a conversation with regular people than a question and answer session. As we talked about problems in our community it became a more serious discussion about economics and societal ills. We discussed how bringing more businesses in, particularly on Main Street, would help everything.

My big takeaway, both this time and last month, was what we as individuals can do. “If you see something, say something.” For example, there have been burglaries recently where the thieves just took stuff out of a house and drove away with it in broad daylight. Did the neighbors even notice? If so, why didn’t they make a phone call?

I said that it might be a problem on my street, because there are several rental properties. People are often moving in and out. Even as I said it, I realized my solution is actually what I try to do. When I’m out walking my dog, I speak to people. I can’t say I get to know all my neighbors, but I have a better shot at recognizing somebody who doesn’t belong.

Obviously any community needs more than just sitting around talking, drinking coffee and eating donuts (I ate a donut; I don’t think any of the cops did). But I like to think this is a step in the right direction. I hope that some of us try to do something to implement some of the ideas that were expressed. And I hope to see even more people at next month’s Conversation. I plan to be there.

A Cup with a Cop

It’s no secret that I love this area, my adopted hometown of Herkimer and the surrounding villages. I am naturally interested in any efforts to improve our quality of life. Under that heading, I made sure to attend Coffee and Conversation with a Cop last Saturday at the Baptist Church on Washington Street in Herkimer.

Full disclosure: I had another motivation to go. I thought I might have a chance to ask a policeman all my stupid questions regarding the local police for the novel I am writing.

The event ran from 9 to 11 a.m. I arrived close to nine and parked in the Green Street lot in front of the Municipal Building. A couple of people wearing name tags hung out around the door greeting people. Just inside the door a table was set up gathering contact information. They gave me a name tag, too. I got myself a cup of coffee and a donut and looked around for a cop that wasn’t busy.

People were still milling about, unsure of the event’s format. Three police officers were sitting at tables, which were set up in a U shape. I waited till one was free, sat down opposite him and pulled out my notebook.

Patrolman Patrick Murphy works for the Mohawk Police Department, but I was sure his answers would also be germane to Herkimer PD. He was very informative. We had an excellent conversation not just about my novel questions. A few other people joined in as we talked about police work in general and Patrolman Murphy’s experiences in particular. I was glad other people joined in, because I didn’t want to hog the cop.

After a while an older gentleman spoke up and asked that the policemen to sit at the head table, because he wanted to hear what people were asking them. I think a more informal format, such as we were doing, had been originally envisioned. However, after a couple tries, the older gentleman prevailed and the discussion became general.

I learned that the idea for coffee and Conversation with a Cop came from Dan Higgins, a snowbird and member of the church. He said communities were holding similar forums down south, so he approached Rev. Bell with the idea. he would like to see these meetings happen once a month.

“The church needs to be a part of the village, not just Sunday mornings,” he said.

Janice Lester Bell, the first lady of the church, spoke of the corporate and spiritual ministries of the church. The main focus of the day was not a complaint session but a chance to raise concerns and a chance for citizens to ask What can we do? Many concerns were raised. The officers answered questions, explained appropriate times to contact the police, and shared their own problems with staffing limitations.

“If you see something, say something,” is the best way a private citizen can help.

Several people had ideas on how to improve things. I found this encouraging, and I like the idea of monthly Coffee and Conversations. I’ll be watching for the next session.