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DEMS SLATE SET
Di Modica, the incumbent, faced no other nominees, so was voted in by
In his speech, he outlined his administration's accomplishments and
asked for the party's help in giving him a town board "that believes
in the work this administration has accomplished so far". For the
town board seats, McGowan received 120 votes; Ostrander, 125; and Stanley,
In opening Monday night's caucus, Pat Ellison, co-chair of Shandaken's
Democratic committee, asked that the audience be civil to all contenders.
She added that though cross-endorsements have been a practice in recent
years, when a strong Democratic slate can be put forward, it's better
to support that slate. It turned out that the proviso was not necessary,
as no one sought a cross-endorsement. It was rumored that Republican
candidate for supervisor, Bob Cross, might seek an endorsement, but
did not. Later, after the caucus, Cross sought out Di Modica to offer
his congratulations in what was reported to be a lengthy and very friendly
Of the three contenders for the town board seats Monday night, Stanley
gave the longest and most impassioned speech, quoting both Emerson and
Thoreau. He took issue with the administration's proposed local law,
now tabled, to compel Crossroads Ventures to pay municipal costs for
its project's review. "I disagreed with the institution of a law
that could have placed undue burdens on the backs of each and every
taxpayer in this town, including myself," said Stanley. "I
have never disagreed with reviewing Crossroad Ventures' project and
feel it is a necessary action for this town to take."
Stanley also said " it is my belief that the government of this
town will not decide whether this project passes or fails. The government
will not decide what shapes this town over the next few years. The government
will not revitalize the hamlets or bring economic enhancement to this
town. It is the people of this town that do these things. The power
to build this town rests on the backs of the local homeowners."
Ostrander's speech was the briefest, saying only that he'd been a life-long
resident of the town, and that he'd "love to sit on this town board
and listen to the people of the town of Shandaken."
McGowan said that most present knew him and where he stood, that the
town is facing important issues, including a thorough review of Crossroads
Ventures Belleayre Resort project. He also said that he was proud of
the way the town's been run and that he'd do the best he could for all
the people of the town.
No nominations were made for town clerk. Two were made for the two assessor
seats: incumbent Rosalie Boland and Brian Grant who will run against
incumbent Erich Greisser. Incumbent Democrat Dick Merwin was unopposed
and voted in by acclamation.
The evening's greatest applause went to Councilman Paul VanBlarcum,
who nominated Di Modica decrying attacks against the current administration
and noting, "There's never been a more open administration than
there is now."
Di Modica also took on his detractors, noting that, "It's interesting
that these attacks are about things they say we are going to do rather
than on the record of what we have accomplished."
Continuing, Di Modica spoke about his administration's fundraising and
economic development accomplishments.
"If we are to continue on with the hard work of increasing economic
development while preserving our quality of life, I must ask you for
your support now and in the coming election," he concluded, to
strong applause of a near-unanimous quantity.
At a meeting of the project's working group last week, Lonnie Gale,
President and Curator of the Empire State Railway Museum, formally
announced the museum's willingness to make the property available
for public use as part of the Riverwalk project. According to Gale,
that had always been ESRM's intention from the time the land had been
gifted to the not-for-profit group four years ago. owners is continuing
to work with the Catskill Center and with participating landowners
to develop a preliminary concept and work plan. Once initially conceptualized,
the Center will schedule public meetings as needed to present the
concept and seek community input prior to any further planning work
being undertaken or funding being sought.
As presently conceived, the major elements of the proposed Riverwalk
project now include:
-A major expansion of the existing parking lot behind Brios and Ricciardella's
restaurants with one or two-way access and egress from Bridge Street
and Main Street
-Renovation, including possibly relocation of the 2-story frame building
behind that parking lot for use as public bathrooms and possibly a
visitor information center
-Creation of a multi-use recreational path along the banks of the
Esopus and Stony Clove Creeks, from the Bridge Street Bridge to the
western end of the proposed parking areas.
-Development of a new 18-acre park on the south bank of the Esopus,
with walking trails and other improvements appropriate to its location
in a floodplain.
-Major stream bank improvement measures, to permanently end the danger
of flooding in Phoenicia posed by both the Esopus and Stony Clove
Work on the Riverwalk project's early development is proceeding under
the direction of planner Helen Budrock, Assistant Director of the
Arkville-based Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. In
July 2002 the Center obtained a grant for $6,485 for preliminary planning
of the project from the Catskill Watershed Corporation. These are
NYC funds made available under the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement between
the City and the watershed towns. Although that award was relatively
modest, its use as local matching funds has since proved instrumental
in the town's obtaining a $40,000 grant from the NYS Department of
Transportation for use by the town's Comprehensive Plan Committee.
The Riverwalk project however, is not tied in any way to that committee
or its planning work. In addition to the cash value of the CWC grant,
all time and services provided by Budrock and The Catskill Center
are being donated by them.
"This is a very exciting project" said Budrock "and
I am very happy to lend my hand to get it off the ground. In most
cases community leaders will come up with an idea for a project, then
approach the property owners for their participation once they have
a plan together. In Phoenicia, we are lucky in that it is the property
owners who have initially conceived the project and are excited about
the potential opportunities it represents. I can see this project
not only having a positive impact on the downtown from an economic
development perspective, but I see the potential for this being a
model for other communities in the watershed".
The substantial funding required for the project is expected to be
applied for and administered through both the Town and the SHARP Committee
from a variety of sources. Some aspects of the
"I think that a day park for families to use, the Riverwalk,
and the parking we need are essential." said Gale."It's
a wonderful idea and it would be a tremendous asset for a little hamlet
Although plans for a project of this type have been discussed since
the 1980's, the Riverwalk project originated with the Phoenicia Community
Empowerment Initiative, sponsored by CCCD in 1999 and 2000. The leadership
of that group consisting of local business
Just Call It Wendigo...
The script for Fessenden's latest movie Wendigo, although partly
about the innate tension that exists between longtime residents and
newcomers, was actually written by Fessenden before he moved up to
Olive from New YorkCity. As he explains; "The story came out
of the imagination of an urban filmmaker, but it gained life and detail
and resonance from the real community (West Shokan, Shokan, Big Indian,
Phoenicia) where it was filmed." From the Phoenicia Pharmacy
to the Ashokan Reservoir to Synder's Tavern to Buddy Eckert's homestead,
Fessenden was inspired by many popular and beloved locations, and
featured them in Wendigo. Fessenden is a master of the nuance and
visceral texture of fear, able to take a seemingly innocent familial
occurrence, (such as the simple act of a mother frying eggs for her
family's breakfast in Wendigo), and instill the moment with a primal
shudder that somehow not only captures the inexplicable fears of everyday
life, but anticipates the deepening, escalating chills to come in
later scenes that encompass the film's larger themes of displacement
Wendigo may embody some of the fears an urbanite encounters upon moving
to the country, but Fessenden's own experiences were wonderful, and
he could not have made his film without the help of his new community.
"(Town Clerk) Sylvia Rozelle was incredibly gracious, she helped
us get all our driving and road permits," says Fessenden. For
the character Otis, Fessenden chose the location of Buddy Eckert's
home. "Buddy was amazing. He charmed the crew, he had so many
great vehicles in his yard. We even ran over his garden fence while
shooting there, and he was incredibly fun and charming through it
all." Recalling the process of dressing the location to make
it look spooky, Fessenden laughs. "It made me feel so 'Hollywood.'
Here we are trying to improve on his reality, but in fact Buddy had
the real thing. I remember looking down in his yard and staring right
up at me was the head of a pig." (The scene was partly about
men returning from a hunt and preparing the caught game.) Stories
of how locals helped the film are many. Fessenden points across his
yard to the flexible flyer sled that is featured in a critical scene
in the film. "That was donated by Bob Faring," (who runs
the B & B Ashokan Dreams). While shooting a scene where the monster
chases Otis up Every Road, past the church, Fessenden met the local
Reverend who delighted the cast and crew with his exotic birds. When
the Father asked, "What's the name of your picture?" and
Fessenden answered "Wendigo," the Reverend didn't miss a
beat before replying "Oh, he lives under the waterfall at the
end of Watson Hollow Road." It's stories like these that make
the film's location seem fated, even in minor details. "I gave
the family the name Stookey," recalls Fessenden. "Then,
I ended up finding out there was a Stucky's in Boiceville, and they
did the embroidered patches for the film."
Fessenden wanted to cast some locals for a few roles that included
a tow truck driver, so held a casting session in Kingston. "This
one guy was great, he came up to me and said, 'Wanna come outside
and see why I'm right for the role?' I went outside and there was
this beautiful tow truck. He got the role. He was perfect, my only
regret is he isn't featured enough." The film also features the
local acting talent of Maxx Stratton, in one of the film's most stunning
cinematic sequences, as snow swirls around the young boy's face in
a moment that blends heartbreaking beauty with foreboding and dread,
an unsettling combination that has become one of Fessenden's trademarks.
One story has an ironic twist to it. Fessenden decided he wanted the
family in his script to drive a Volvo, the quintessential yuppie car,
but ending up getting that yuppie car from a local. Fessenden was
able to trade his own Honda for a local's Volvo for the duration of
the shoot. "We used his Volvo on the shoot, and he drove my car,
so I was stranded with no car at night and couldn't go to Phoenicia.
The crew lived in Phoenicia, basically took over the town, wreaking
havoc and singing karaoke at night. But, they poured a lot of money
into that town in the slow month of February." Much of the money
to make the movie ended up in local businesses. "We probably
kept True Value open for an extra year," jokes Fessenden.
Wendigo explores some natural city folk/country folk tension. "I
was always interested in the encroachment issue," says Fessenden.
"How throughout history, one group replaces another, like how
the Indians were replaced by settlers and the settlers are now encroached
on by urbanites. I'm fascinated by the way resentment builds over
time." Although Wendigo is about a city family that moves to
the country, Wendigo is not based on Fessenden's own experience of
moving to Olive, but rather based on early memories. "As a kid
in Vermont, I remember having a childhood accident on the road at
night, our car skidded backwards into a ditch in the snow. The film
is about that kind of early fear, fear of the woods, the fear of being
a kid in a mysterious house, standing outside your mother's door at
night being scared." That frightening childhood incident evolved
into the pivotal moment in the film when the family car hits a deer.
A few locals stop to help, but the help they offer has a disconcerting
element to it, and it is not clear whether the menace is real or just
a projection of the fears and prejudices of the city folk. "The
movie is about how imagined fears help you cope with the real horrors
in life. A son seeing his father in conflict with an angry man, it's
so unsettling. And the horror of the woods is so potent for a child.
I just read that for the first four years kids tend to dream about
animals." The boy in the film ends up discovering, or perhaps
conjuring, the Wendigo.
After finishing his script, Fessenden's search for a location to shoot
the film coincided with his search for a country home. His discovery
of Olive is ripe with fortuitous perfection. "What happened with
the reservoir (the displacement and flooding of eight towns to provide
city drinking water) seemed to be exactly about my themes, so once
I found this location and saw I could make the film on a low budget
here, I tailored the script to this area. I mean, in 1912 New York
City phoned the mayor up here and said, 'We want to take over your
towns.' The Ashokan deserves more attention than I gave it in the
movie. It was incredible. They bought your house, but they gave so
little to people for their homes, considering their families may have
come over on the Mayflower. And dealing with the New York City politics,
how we needed special permission to shoot at the Ashokan, I really
understand why there is resentment. This beautiful area is policed
by New York City officials. That reservoir is right there but it doesn't
belong to us. And there's a lot the imagination can fill in, but there
were these guys that had to stay behind in these ghost towns and disinter
the graves, dig up the bodies. Also, the American Indian presence
and influence in the area was perfect, because of the nature of the
Wendigo myth. I had a third grade teacher that told the story of a
deer-man running in the woods shrieking 'Wendigooooooo!' It chilled
me to the bone. The Wendigo is not necessarily a menacing monster,
it's more the anguish of the image that got me. It's funny, this story
that so haunted me for life, but years later I tracked down the teacher
that told it to me, and he said 'I don't remember a thing about it.'"
Getting to know the people in the area also influenced the film in
subtle ways. "My favorite line in the script comes from my beloved
neighbor Bob. When I moved up here, he joked, 'I piss in your water
once a week,' referring to the city water supply. That went right
into the script. Bob taught me other things, he was very generous,
plowed our drive for years for no money. We had a tree that fell on
our property border, and we were going to cut it up and split the
firewood. There's a certain protocol up here that I was learning."
Through that tree cutting experience, and the fact that Bob could
tell from the bark that the tree was ash, the study of trees became
a preoccupation for Fessenden. "Now my son thinks of me as the
guy who loves trees."
Fessenden lives in Olive with his wife and frequent collaborator,
the artist and art director Beck Underwood, and their son Jack Henry.
What's next for the filmmaker? "Next stop, Arctic Circle. I already
scouted in Alaska." The script for Fessenden's next film was
written with local writer Robert Leaver. Has the location scout changed
the script they wrote? "Absolutely. It's one thing to write a
scene with guys playing football in the snow. It's another thing to
experience 30 below."
Wendigo is part three (along with No Telling and Habit) of Fessenden's
"revisionist horror trilogy" and the films can be rented
video and DVD. More information is available at www.glasseyepix.com.
The first-ever Goddess Festival was held at the Full Moon Resort in
Oliverea, and brought folks up for a three-day weekend of entertainment,
camping, and workshops, as well as offering entrance to us locals.
The performance space at Full Moon is a large raftered barn, indirectly
lit, making for a warm lodge-type setting. Besides your standardfolding
chairs, couches were also available and the room was packed with about
100 very lively guests.
Acts included a one-woman performance by Michelle Matlock following
the life of the infamous Aunt Jemima, whose face has decorated boxes
of pancake mix for years, offering a commentary on how stereotyped
representations of black women as stupid and harmless make whites
feel secure and superior while pigeonholing black women. "Mammy
makes America feel better about herself," said Matlock. Filled
with humor and pathos, one section features a giant pancake box with
a cut-out face in which the performer stuck her face, widening her
eyes to mimic a slavery-days mammy. "As time goes by, I might
even get me one of those TV talk shows," she said, poking fun
at Oprah. The performance was met with a standing ovation, cheering,
whistling and raucous applause.
Following Matloxk, Alix Strauss read from her collection of stories
The Joy of Funerals, in which the protagonist is examining the murdered
body of her lover in a funeral parlor, recalling their life and love
together. "Even dead, she looks beautiful," the story reads.
The protagonist starts hanging out at a diner where she thinks the
murderer, who is a serial killer, hangs out. Buy the book to find
out the rest.
The Full Moon has been owned by Michael Densmore, Henry Stout and
Roger Cooney for three years. Its primary business is weddings, group
parties and retreats, but it occasionally offers performances open
to the general public.
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Oliverea, is the Lexington Hotel,
a sprawling 21-room hotel perched on a hill overlooking the Schoharie
Creek. Besides renting rooms, the Lexington also has a kitchen, two
bars and a performance space. Saturday night the Five Points Band
played, a roots rock quasi-cabaret band that most recently appeared
with Shannon McNally at Legends in Woodstock. About 80 turned out
for the performance, dancing and visiting the porch outside to gaze
at the stars and smoke cigarettes, now that New York State's new smoking
ban has gone into effect.
"I came to this area because of the arts and culture that's already
going on," said manager Phil Cohen, who also owns The Five Spot
in Philadelphia. "We knew we wanted a mountain spot, and in the
Poconos there's not nearly as much going on." Cohen said there
have been some growing pains due to alarm from the sleepy township
of Lexington over noise and what has come to be its most popular event,
a burlesque show called the Peek-A-Boo review. "It's an old-fashioned
vaudeville variety show," explained Cohen. "There are singers,
dancers, comedy, live music, ventriloquists and an emcee who tells
jokes and coordinates the whole thing."
The third new star in our mountain galaxy is Evergreen, a B&B/
Performance Space/ Conference Center and soon to be Natural Cafe located
in Fleischmanns. On August 9 it will host The Evergreen Energy Fest
'03, an all-day event featuring musical performances and workshops
on renewable energy sources. Suggested donation is $20. For more information
call Evergreen at 845-254-5392 or e-mail email@example.com.
Whatwith dwindling crowds at the old haunts because of the non-smoking
rules, could further changes to our night life be in order?