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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.

Better Words Are Not Forthcoming

I am having a Blog Crisis. I started this blog thinking to highlight the Mohawk Valley. I would write ABOUT things, it would not be just a silly diary kind of thing all about me. So why is it, I write a ridiculous thing about not being able to write anything and I get 11 Likes, then I write about the library book sale — a “real” post, so I thought — and one measly Like!

Oh dear, I did not mean “measly,” really. Each and every Like is near and dear to my heart.

But I’m just saying, what am I doing here? Do I really write so much better about not being able to write? Is that really much more interesting than my beloved Mohawk Valley? Oh no, does this mean I am so narcissistic that my writing purely about me is better than my writing about anything else?

SAY IT AIN’T SO!!!

Perhaps my problem is getting so caught up in the number of Likes I get on a given post. Oh, this is getting worse and worse. I’m not only narcissistic, I am dependent on the admiration of others. I must get my validation from outside, not from within!

Oh well, I guess I’m not a particularly valid person to begin with (and I don’t usually go to places where I need to get my parking validated) (sorry, couldn’t resist). But look, I’m over 200 words. We can postpone this existential crisis to another time, possible a Lame Post Friday.

It’s FICTION for Heavens’ Sake!

Full disclosure: I am writing this post for myself. I may not publish it (thus rendering the disclosure unnecessary; the irony is not lost on me). I am pondering my novel and I feel the need to talk about it. Of course, this is dangerous. Sometimes when you talk too much about a thing you no longer need to write it. Well, I’m not going to disclose the story. But I think if I talk about some problems I’m having WITH the story, I can come to some conclusions and/or make decisions. Here goes.

The fact is, my novel has come to something of a standstill. I must work on the plot, obviously. But I have some other questions first.

Ooh, as soon as I wrote that, I could hear a snotty voice chime in with, “Maybe you need to work on your CHARACTERS and let the plot come from THEM!” Yes, there is always someone to tell you how to write. I was about to say, “Thank you for your (quite useless) input,” but, in fact, I am not the least bit grateful (and my characters are actually pretty good, if I do say so).

Enough of this digression. I want to talk about setting. I like a small town setting. A village, in fact, although “village” has such a Middle Age sound (as in the Middle Ages, 1400-1600, not middle-aged like me. Sheesh!). I think of villagers chasing the monster to the old windmill or warning foreigners not to visit the Count that lives in the castle on the hill. But again, I digress.

I am talking about villages like Herkimer, NY, where I live now, or Norwood, NY, where I used to live. Many of your well-loved novels have memorable settings: Savannah in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, St. Mary’s Mead in the Miss Marple tales. I think it is time upstate New York had a memorable setting in a book.

Upstate New York, for the uninitiated, includes any part of New York state that is not New York City. Have you ever looked at a map of New York State? It is not a small state. The true crime shows I so delight in will occasionally cover a case that takes place in “a small town in Upstate New York.” Steven and I yell, “Where? What town?” I wonder if residents of other states feel the same way. Still, I’ve never heard anyone say anything like, “a town in Louisiana other than New Orleans,” as if that were the only point of reference. Oh dear, another digression.

Indignation aside, I thought I would place my novel in a specific spot in the state and fill it with background, atmosphere and, you know, setting. For this novel, I chose the Mohawk Valley.

And I’m running into problems. First I made up a big old house (as in over a hundred years old, not as in “big ol’ house”) with a large yard, a summerhouse and a stream nearby. A murder took place in the summerhouse and I wanted the stream to help the murderer dispose of evidence. I thought I might throw in a thunderstorm with torrential rain for good measure. This is an atmospheric murder mystery, not a police procedural.

So far so good. I saw some other ways to use both the summerhouse and the stream to further the main plot and add a couple of subplots. I started making notes.

And immediately began to second guess myself. Would this novel actually take place in Herkimer? There is a stream in Herkimer and any number of large, historic-looking mansions. I don’t know of any that are in close proximity to each other, but does that matter? Couldn’t I just pick a spot on the stream and pretend the house is there? For that matter, couldn’t I pretend the right spot is there? In short, how much could I get away with?

According to some sources, not much. If you make a street run north/south when it really runs east/west, these sources say, your reader will lose all confidence in you, reject your entire novel and all your hard work will be for naught. I think for some readers this is quite true. If you are not meticulous in your research and correct in every small detail which can be verified as fact, they will point the finger of shame at you and refuse to believe any of your fiction.

I can understand that point of view. I know how it is when watching television or a movie and it’s something I happen to know about, and they completely screw it up. You know, like the school play where they’re still blocking at dress rehearsal? And you really don’t expect that sort of thing in a book. Personally I am completely disgusted with historical novelists who play fast and loose with the facts, unless that’s kind of the point. For example, many time travel stories have our heroes helping history along. Or the “it COULD have been like this” story such as Ken Follett’s excellent Eye of the Needle.

But that is not the sort of thing I’m talking about, and I’m no Ken Follett.

Another school of thought says to go ahead and make everything up: it’s FICTION, for heavens’ sake. If your characters and plot are compelling enough, your reader will go along for the ride, even down a street that could not possibly exist.

I wondered if I should completely make up a town. Then I could decide if a street ran east to west and where the mansion was. I had a couple of choices in this direction. There’s the “thinly disguised” option. I could take the name of a Revolutionary War general who didn’t have a town named after him. Or a Native American tribe. Or a European city. But it would “really” be Herkimer. Or Mohawk. Or Ilion. Only with the creek behaving as needed and the historic mansions where I wanted them.

The other way I thought of was to place a made-up town directly in between, say, Herkimer and Mohawk. Anyone familiar with the area would know there is no such place or even any room for one. It would be like another dimension. A wrinkle in space and time. Yes, one of those suspension of disbelief things.

Well, for heavens’ sake isn’t all fiction an exercise in the suspension of disbelief? Am I not making it all up anyways? I think I’m right back where I started.

What I did was I just started writing, figuring these decisions would work themselves out as I went. That has not happened yet and I feel increasingly unable to go on until I decide these things.

I think my best bet is to just decide. And I’m going to decide on the easiest course for me. I say the novel takes place in Herkimer, and I’m just going to move things around as I see fit. I’ll put a building here, a creek there, and my climactic scene… ah ha! You didn’t think I was actually going to give away a plot point, did you? This is not cheesy movie write-up with a spoiler alert! You’ll just have to read the book.

As soon as I finish writing it.

Happy Sunday

What a fun day I have just had. Mohawk Valley adventures galore! But it is getting late in the day, I must hit publish and start winding down my weekend (some of us work for a living, you know). I hope to write at greater length of my adventures as the week wears on. Today I will content myself with a preview of coming attractions.

A whole group of us went to the antique shops in Little Falls, NY. This consists of various vendors in two renovated old factories. It’s a cool setting offering interesting merchandise.

From there we drove to the Fly Creek Cider Mill, another popular destination in our area. We ate, we sampled, we shopped, we fed the ducks. It was great.

In between we drove over winding, hilly country roads. The scenery! The sights! It was awesome! The weather was beautiful, the company was the best. There was just very little lacking for it to be the perfect day.

And now I sit in my lovely Herkimer home (not be confused with Herkimer Home, another destination Mohawk Valley Girl likes to write about), relaxing with my loved ones and enjoying my usual Sunday evening television shows.

Have you guessed that my wrist is not on my forehead? Everything is delightful. I apologize that I cannot write more eloquently about it. I’ll try to do better as the week progresses. Happy Sunday, everybody.

Thanks, Crusaders

Sunday Steven and I went to the annual Wine Tasting Event sponsored by Crusaders Winemakers of the Mohawk Valley. The event features hobby winemakers and area wineries. The wines are adjudicated by professionals, and attendees like Steven and me can vote for their favorites.

Regular readers may recall that on Sunday I wrote a rather silly post just before I left for the event. It ran from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Herkimer VFW. I had dropped Steven off at work and intended to pick him up at one and get right down there. It worked out fine; we found a good parking space and walked into the place.

I told the man who sold us our tickets that I had found my ticket stub from last year’s event in my purse just that morning (no, I don’t clean out my purse very often; don’t judge). They thanked us for coming, and I thanked them for putting on such a fun event. I look forward to it every year, marking it on my calendar as soon as they set the date.

I love chatting up the various winemakers and sampling their stuff. My only problem is I can’t just run to the liquor store and buy the ones I like, except of course for the actual wineries. Some of the makers will give you a bottle for a donation. If I had had a lot of cash with me, I may have left with several bottles, so perhaps it was just as well that I was low on cash.

However, I had sufficient funds to get in on the 50/50 and Basket Raffle. We did not get lucky on the 50/50, but Steven won three things in the Basket Raffle: a bag from Adirondack Bank with a blanket, an umbrella and a key chain; three bottles of wine donated by Babbington Enterprises; and a very generous $50 gift certificate from The Refinery. The Refinery is a Christian bookstore which recently opened in Herkimer. I have been wanting to check it out. Perhaps Steven will use his gift certificate to buy me something.

That Damn Book

This is going to be another Tired Tuesday post, because I fulfill both criteria. I feared that would be the case, since my husband Steven and I planned on doing laundry after I got off work. Therefore, I went to work determined to write something while at work. Something not too long.

I guess no words at all is not too long.

Well, let me explain how the fates conspired against me. You may say I did myself in by succumbing to my own addiction. Potato, po-tah-to. A friend at work had told me about a book she had read that she thought I might like. It is a novel based on a local murder case which happened many years ago.

“Oh, I’d love to borrow it,” I told her.

Who knew she would be so prompt? The book was by my work station when I got to work this morning. How very kind of her. I would begin reading it at the first opportunity. First I had a blog post to write. I did, in fact, look at the blank page with a pen in my hand for, oh, a good three or four minutes before I thought I could read just a little bit…

I get to work a half hour to forty minutes early so that I have time to write and sometimes socialize a little. I did neither this morning. Oh dear. Well, there was still the nine o’clock break. And lunch. And the 2 p.m. break. And sometimes two or three minutes at the end of the day while I’m waiting to punch out.

I don’t really need to tell you I read during all of those, do I? Determined to make up for my profligacy, I left the book in the SUV at the laundromat and brought my notebook in with me.

And wrote one paragraph, which I immediately despised.

“It’s no use,” I told Steven. “I’m going to read that book and just write something off the cuff when we get home.”

And, I’m afraid this is it. On the brighter side, the book is about a murder that took place in the Mohawk Valley. Perhaps when I finish it I could write a book report for that day’s blog post.

Getting Crazy at Otto’s

I could not believe that as many times as our friend Tracy has visited, we had not taken her to Crazy Otto’s Empire Diner. Before she left us two Sundays ago, I remedied the omission.

We tried to get there earlier-ish, because Crazy Otto’s does a booming business. We had to wait for a table to get cleared, but it did not take long. Two other people asked us if we’d been helped while the young man cleaned it off. Did I mention the service there is excellent?

Soon we were sitting perusing menus and admiring the decor. Of course I’ve seen it many times, but it’s always fun to look again. Tracy was especially impressed with all the license plates. I showed her ours from Georgia, that we had given them some time ago. I like being part of the display.

I pointed out the Crazy Elvis on the menu, since Tracy loves Elvis and it is one of my personal favorites — peanut butter and banana on French toast. She decided to order that. After much debate, I chose biscuits and gravy. It was bacon gravy instead of the usual sausage. Quite tasty. Tracy enjoyed her breakfast too.

I was happy to see my friend so well-fueled for her drive home. I think it was a good finish for her Mohawk Valley Weekend.

Crazy Otto’s Empire Diner is located on Albany Street in Herkimer, NY. For more information call 314-866-8801 or visit their website at www.crazyottosempirediner.com.

More Saturday Adventures

To return to my Saturday adventures: after breakfast and returning my book to Frankfort Free Library, my friend Tracy and I drove through Ilion into Mohawk to the Mohawk Antiques Mall, where 4PetsSake Food Pantry was holding an indoor garage sale.

The place was hopping, but we managed to find a parking space. We went to the indoor garage sale first, admiring some antiques we walked by to get there. It was fun looking at the various vendors.

We got into quite a nice conversation about art with the guy from Riverstone Sculptures. Tracy recognized his unusual style from some pieces she had seen at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. He told us how he looks for different shapes, utilizing things such as automotive parts and items from the hardware store. I asked if they had a website, which led to a discussion about computers (they are not online).

We moved on to where the 4Pets Sake people were selling food.

“We could have had breakfast here,” I said. If you read Tuesday’s post you may remember that we refrained from having ice cream for breakfast. Hot dogs for breakfast, however, I would find quite acceptable.

Instead I bought some cookies, a plate of Italian ones and some chocolate chip that were three for a dollar. Tracy ate one of those and I piggily had two (I did mention I was up three pounds as a result of the weekend). We saved the Italian ones.

After that we went into the regular Antiques Mall and looked around. We met the owner of the mall. He was pleased to welcome an out of town visitor. He told us about an Elvis impersonation contest planned for May 10.

“Tracy would be interested in that,” I said. “She loves Elvis.” I like Elvis too and immediately made a note of the date.

We also checked out the Factory Outlet Store. A lady handed us a coupon good for one day only. We did not make any purchases, although Tracy was tempted by some vests. Perhaps on a future visit.

We were very pleased with our visit, which was only one of our planned adventures for the day. The Mohawk Antiques Mall is located at 100 E. Main St., Mohawk, NY. For more information you can visit their website at www.mohawkantiquesmall.com. For more information on 4PetsSake Food Pantry, visit their website at www.4petsakefoodpantry.org. Both are also on Facebook.

Fuel for Adventures

Saturday morning my friend Tracy and I decided to have breakfast out, in order to sustain ourselves for the Mohawk Valley adventures we had planned. I had to return a book to the Frankfort Free Library, so I suggested the Knight Spot.

The Knight Spot is one of my favorite breakfast locations, although they are also notable for lunch, dinner and most especially ice cream. I told Tracy how Steven and I love to come in mid-afternoon for coffee and a sundae. Perhaps on a future visit Tracy can enjoy that treat.

The idea of ice cream for breakfast was tempting, but I opted for my favorite of a breakfast sandwich on a hard roll. I had bacon this time (I alternate amongst bacon, sausage and just cheese). Tracy got a yummy looking omelet with peppers, onions and mushrooms. I entertained Tracy while we ate by reading ice cream flavors off the wall.

As usual the service was excellent and the food was delicious. It’s really nice to have a weekend guest and take advantage of some of the fine Mohawk Valley restaurants, which I seldom do any more. On the other hand, after dinner and two breakfasts out, I put on three pounds (on top of the five I am STILL trying to lose) (or was it ten? oh dear). I think some running commentary may be in my future.

The Knight Spot is located at 264 E. Main St., Frankfort, NY. Phone number is 315-894-4054. Their website is www.theknightspot.com. You can also Like them on Facebook. I did.

Wrist to Relaxing

So, I had a very busy day yesterday, I was up later than I EVER stay any more, it’s Wrist to Forehead Sunday, what sort of a post do you think I’m going to do today?

A short one.

It is gloriously warm in the Mohawk Valley today. Tabby has been for two walks, one with just me, one with me and Steven. We sat out on our deck. We are relaxing.

Moreover, I have a whole weekend of Mohawk Valley adventures to write about. I am set for DAYS. So why I am I not writing about them right now? See the first paragraph. And the second. And the third. RELAXING!

Perhaps this is a poor excuse from a blog writer who indulges in Middle-aged Musings Monday, Tired on Tuesday, Wuss-out Wednesday, Non-Sequitur Thursday and Lame Post Friday (in my defense, not usually all in the same week). Oh yeah, and countless posts about Why I Can’t Write a Post Today. Will I ever stop doing that?

I must admit, probably not. For today, I will content myself with a Preview of Coming Attractions: restaurant visits, Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts, an indoor garage sale, Mohawk Antiques Market, a truly awesome musical performance, good food, and plans for more Mohawk Valley activities.

And for me, the rest of a relaxing Sunday to enjoy. I hope you are enjoying yours as much.

Thank you for playing.