Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An old/new poem of mine, in memory of Anthony Hecht

Roger Tory Peterson "has the ability to refrain from painting something beautiful when it’s unnecessary”

What in the world is there that won’t be
Drawn to the attention of his humane skill?
Let him refrain from the unnecessary

And sketch around the essence with a free
Hand. (Add your hand, also, if you will.)
What in the world is there that won’t be

Captured by his brush? This imagery
Is never overdone: as if a trill
Let him refrain from the unnecessary

Beauty of a long-held note. A chickadee
Can improvise the melody to fill
What, in this world, is there. That won’t be

Hard to seize, either – simplicity
Demands the feather stripped to the quill.
Let him refrain. From the unnecessary

To the essential is the only flight
He must risk, and the one flight words can’t kill.
What in the world is there that won’t be?
Let him refrain from the unnecessary.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A new poem

Here's a piece inspired by a recent trip to NYC:


There I was sampling
The product in a fine old
Barroom est. 1874 just yards
From the Gowanus Canal
But far enough away
That the oil slick
Was a slippery memory
And then I step out
Into the sun when a crash
And a couple thuds
Echo down the block
Everybody’s cousin
Already on the corners What
The Fuck a van has
Glanced off a parked car
And plowed into three more
Cars now accordioned
Razor edges paint slashes
Detours of deadly force
One big lump
Halfway over the curb
Against the meters
And a redirected signpost
The middle vehicle
Lifted whole off the
Asphalt a good
Six inches mercifully
Nobody hurt thank
Goodness whatever
Goodness might inhabit our
Little worlds these days
But the cops
Will be all over this
You can be sure
Somebody will pay his dues
That scrawny man of smiles
From elsewhere who leans
Against a brick doorway
Who escaped the wreck
But didn’t get away
Nothing gets lost
Not in the last
Reverb of a metropolis
Omnipresent undraped
The soft soft organ pedal
Covering the valve chattering
Idling beasts the gnashing
Of grills and radiators till a horn
From another avenue
Announces the last
Moment of the last act
And life goes on
Back to the salt mine
In the watering
Hole back to the bottom
Of an empty glass.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Some mt. bikes make losers of us all

The local mountain bike lobby – an invasive species, as far as our county park trails are concerned – won a round in the County Legislature the other night. Not unexpected, of course: the Brooks Administration, like the Doyle and King admins. before it, views the public domain as a treasure chest of favors to dole out to private interests when nobody’s looking. Except now lots of us are looking, and we’ll keep fighting to preserve the parks’ walking trails for their highest and best use, which obviously doesn’t include knobbies and knuckleheads.

The off-roaders, who’ll now have access to two county parks on so-called “shared use” trails - walking paths where actual walkers and hikers are second-class users, condemned to looking over their shoulder for mountain bikes gone wild). In fact, these rolling trail abusers have already practically annexed Tryon Park, one of the two, for their preferred mode of biking (see various websites and videos attesting to this).

But oddly enough, one thing enviro-bicyclists can do right now is check out the Greater Rochester Off-road Cyclists webpage (mygroc.com). There you’ll find a link to list of the nine local bike shops (two of them from Ontario County – i.e. not exactly local) that support the off-roader invasion. GROC itself rightly points out that these shops are the “biggest advocates” for the so-far successful off-road campaign. Through a simple process of elimination you’ll discover which LBS’s are not explicit advocates. I don’t know about you, but I’m spending my money only at shops not on the GROC list.

In a related matter, I understand there’s a new chapter of Earth First! starting up in Rochester. This is not to be confused with the older macho, misanthropic manifestation of EF. I think there might be some possibilities for nonviolent direct action locally on behalf of nonpolluting transportation, including efforts to help preserve the sanctity of our remnant natural areas. Anybody out there interested?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sometimes the explosion of interest in bicycling actually saddens me. How so? How can a fanatic two-wheel advocate and activist feel or say anything negative about our beloved mode of transport, which is exceeded in holiness only by the canoe (only one moving part – and it doesn’t get any better than that)? Well, consider what many of our local brethren and sistren, as the late Molly Ivins would have called them, are up to.

An organized group of off-road cyclists, the product of years of passionate but disorganized efforts, seems determined to open a couple, and perhaps eventually all of the Monroe County Parks trails to “shared use” by mountain bikers. A draft Master Plan regarding the county parks around the rim of Irondequoit Bay is rapidly moving toward adoption – so rapidly as to arouse suspicions of insider influence. Among other things, the plan would legalize mountain biking, within stated limits, in Tryon and Irondequoit Bay West parks. I say “legalize” rather than “introduce” because rogue cyclists long ago invaded these and other county parks. I regularly see these “enthusiasts” in Highland, the most urban park in the system, where I’ve come close to being run over by off-trail slalom freaks. And just last week, on one of my regular strolls there, I paused to tamp down a gash left in the wet soil of the Pinetum by a lugged tire powered by some Lug Nut. And as for Tryon Park – why, to hike there is to enter a laboratory of off-road-bike-wrought destruction.

Well, my purpose here isn’t to rant, though a little bit of that feels mighty good. No, I want to enlist bicyclists of conscience in an environmentalist campaign to limit mountain biking in the parks, preserve the fragile park habitats and ambience, and prevent unpleasant or even dangerous interactions of hikers and bikers on narrow trails. Bikes are vehicles, and they’re not appropriate “sharers” of walking trails, even on durable soils. It should be possible to create special-use areas on appropriate sites (newly purchased parklands, anyone?) for mountain bikes, but that’s not what the Master Plan is focused on, nor is that what the off-roaders seem to desire. In any case, the county may take irreversible, or at least difficult-to-reverse, action on the plan very soon. So get plugged in, and let me know if you need more information. For starters, read the letter below, then check out the environmentalist website www.parkspreservation.org, which has considerable background material and a link to the text of the Master Plan. Thanks to all.

March 13, 2009
TO: Hon. Maggie Brooks, County Executive, et al.
RE: Ellison Park Area Master Plan Update

Dear County Executive:

The thirteen undersigned organizations find the draft Master Plan for parkland around Irondequoit Bay to be unacceptable. The proposed Master Plan does not represent the interests of the residents and park users of Monroe County, but instead, the interests of a small, vocal user group. It does not meet its stated goals of conservation and sustainability. In short: mountain biking does not belong on existing, often narrow and winding, park trails.

Please consider:

• A ban on off-road bicycles was written into our park code for good reasons that remain valid today. It was based on concerns for the safety of the public, and the care of our environment. Political winds should not compromise proper park stewardship.
• Safety is a major concern. Trail walkers must not be placed in harm’s way by cyclists traveling on the same narrow dirt trail. The experience of walkers is greatly diminished if they must be looking over their shoulders for oncoming cyclists. “Shared use” is a myth on existing, narrow park trails.
• Numerous public statements have been made, and letters written, both from individuals and prominent environmental organizations, that express serious concerns about opening our parks to cyclists. The draft Master Plan ignores these concerns.
• The Master Plan states, “public comment indicated that this [shared use trails in Tryon Park] is something that is highly desired by the community.” This is a misrepresentation of the public comments. The comments of members of the undersigned organizations, representing some 6000 citizens, indicate a lack of support for shared use on existing park trails. A single, small special interest group of mountain bikers does not represent the community, or most park users.
• There were major, unacceptable changes introduced in the Master Plan presented to the Parks Advisory Committee (PAC) in February 2009, despite representations by the Parks Director and Consultant at the January 2009 PAC meeting that there would be no substantial change to the preliminary recommendations.
• These major changes included the use of existing trails in Tryon rather than carefully designed sustainable trails, the addition of a second park (Bay Park West) for mountain biking, and proposed shared use trail loops in the Ellison Wetlands.
• We are concerned about environmental impacts caused by cycling on steep, erodible trails. Simply allowing use on existing trails without considering impacts is not good stewardship.
• With the many miles of recently constructed multi-use trails (Genesee Riverway, Genesee Valley Greenway, Lehigh Valley, etc) there are ample bike paths in the county to help cyclists stay healthy. The county park trails are a unique domain without faster traffic where walkers can safely do the same. To claim that mountain biking on park trails is necessary to stem the epidemic of childhood obesity is to distort the facts.

All the above concerns cause us to ask: Is there an unstated agenda to open all trails for shared use in the Ellison Park Complex? Will Ellison Park Complex be the first falling domino in the county park system, as we open each park to off-road cycling? That is the stated goal of the mountain biking organization.

This is a cause for alarm for all park users, for all of us who cherish our parks as one of our County’s greatest resources, and pay for them with our taxes.

Finally, the master planning process has not been inclusive. We recommend that a citizen participation group comprised of diverse representative user group organizations work with the consultant and Parks officials in order to contribute ideas and review and discuss each successive draft in the process.

We urge our County Executive and our Legislators to continue to be proper park stewards and to resist the political pressures so that we, our children and grandchildren will be able to have access to safe, environmentally sound, park trails. We urge you to reject this draft Master Plan at this time – there are too many important issues that must first be addressed.

Respectfully submitted,

Burroughs Audubon Nature Club, Center for Sustainable Living, Federation of Monroe County Environmentalists, Genesee Valley Audubon Society, Genesee Valley Hiking Club, Living in Harmony, People for Parks, Rochester Area Mycological Association, Rochester Birding Association, Rochester Butterfly Club, Sierra Club (Rochester Regional Group), League of Women Voters (Rochester Metropolitan Area), Wednesday Hikers