In the spirit of the holiday season, I thank each of you for supporting my work and following the story of hungry people in America. This has been a busy year for me. Without your support, none of it would be possible. However you discovered this blog and whatever keeps you returning, I thank you.
Each new reader who learns something new from the story of hungry people in America and each new reader who finds information about the situation inspires me to continue working . Thank you.
Each person who buys a copy of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” validates the story. Each person who finds the booth at the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market strengthens ripples of abundance and knowledge which are created there. Thank you.
Each person who puts a dime or a dollar or many dollars in the donation jar at the booth supports the effort to feed the hungry in our great nation. Each person’s generosity increases the awareness of the situation. Thank you.
Please continue reading the articles. Your readership allows me to share the awareness, strengthening ripples of abundance even more. Thank you.
The Mower’s Meadow Flea Market closes over the winter and does not open again until May. I seek an indoor market to winter over where I can continue to tell the story of the hungry in America.
Please drop by my booth wherever I am. In the Spring, I hope to offer Reiki sessions, copies of the second edition of “A Healer’s Handbook”, and unique bracelets designed by Michele Garner, the artist who designed the cover of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”.
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It snowed a little bit last Saturday when I was at Mower’s Meadow and more is expected this week. The books and clothing all got a mini dusting of the first snow of the season.
Whenever that happens (the first snow of the season) I always remember one of the first things I learned about the Woodstock community and its residents when I moved here: Labor Day means we pack away our dreams of a summer moon and drag out the brand new boots we were waiting to put on.
And, further into the memory is the afternoons in the pantry when the cold was so cold and Bob Otto and Tony Cannistra about froze to death in the barn. They distributed frozen food to the shoppers from that dirt floored room in the unpainted, uninsulated, unheated building behind the church parking lot.
Even though the pantry couldn’t open until 3:00, Bob and Tony unlocked the barn and got to work at 2:30. “Come on over!” they called to the crowd gathered in the parking lot. “We’ve got chopped meats, cutlets, steaks, roasts, mac and cheese packages, frozen juices.”
2:30 in the parking lot was described by some of the volunteers as a circus. I lovingly thought of it as a bus station in a third world country. And, actually, I thought of it as more than that.
I once spent a couple of hours in an out-of-the-way airport in Venezuela that was overcrowded with hundreds of gold miners who themselves waited for planes. They either waited for planes to get further into the interior of the country to hunt for gold or they waited for planes to return to civilization to sell what they found. Whatever their destination, the place was packed.
But, whether we were all coming or going at the pantry, we were in a hurry, too.
In the pantry, we were always in a hurry. The crowd was always larger than the hallway, the parking lot, and the barn entrance. And, they wanted to get the long wait behind them so they could have a two or three minute shopping spree in the tiny room.
And, after the shopping, they were always in a hurry to get their new found food home because the event had taken all afternoon. For some, it took more than just all afternoon because they got to the pantry late morning. Hitch hikers started out early and, if they got a ride quickly, they were in the parking lot before noon.
My memory always includes a vision of Bob and Tony taking turns to come into the hallway to warm up, whatever that meant. Even though the hallway was crowded, there was just not quite enough body heat generated to call the place cozy…or even cool. The place was cold.
I never said a word about the temperature because I was afraid that if I did the volunteers would walk off. I just went about my business pretending that I wasn’t wearing two sweaters under my coat. Volunteers made statements about the temperature of the hallway as they wore two hats.
“My hands are frozen!” Bob always remarked as he briskly rubbed them together, hoping the friction would get the heat going. Just outside the door to the building, Bob stomped his feet, trying to get some feeling into his cold toes.
Tony was less vocal but just as cold when he got his short break. I always suspected that he had a small hidden flask to help warm himself up. How else could he be so calm about fingers one degree away from frost bite? I never saw any evidence but it was the only excuse I could find for a person in such cold weather conditions.
Because, not only were the two men standing in the cold, they were handling frozen meats, vegetables, fruits, juices. All of it came rock solid frozen from the food bank.
Before the pantry opened, Tony also doubled as the parking lot manager which put him in the middle of the confusion. Just the parking lot was a fulltime toughie job. But, somehow, Tony made the parking lot and the barn distribution look easy.
But, no one complained. Ever. They had gotten a three-day-supply of food a week ago and it was all gone now. They were hungry. They were the struggling poor.
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Woodstock, New York
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It’s OUT! It’s in print! The story has been told! And you can get a copy of the book. Today! Right now! Simply go to thurmangreco.com and order it on paypal.
Or, you can get it at a book signing. I’m reading my book in libraries and church halls and in independent book stores. Check my website to find a time and place convenient for you.
What began as a project, guaranteed to take no more than two hours a month, is a calling. Proceeds of the sale of this book (and the t-shirt) are going to feed the hungry.
The Book and the T-Shirt:
The book and the t-shirts took more than five years of work. I went through reams and reams of paper. Two computers blew up and one copier died of exhaustion.
Get the book, read it, and let me know how you feel about what you read.
And, please share this unbelievably exciting news!
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Today, I was at Maria’s early. We went for breakfast there because I’m convinced she’s got the best breakfast in town. So, I’m over there every chance I get. For meals other than breakfast, Maria has homemade pastas with her own special sauces. Special oriental dishes are prepared fresh daily and fresh cooked salmon is on the menu always.
But, Maria’s has more to offer than authentic Italian food and fabulous breakfasts. I saw several people seated at tables both inside the restaurant and outside on the patio under the shade of trees and umbrellas. The unspoken rule is this: When I see a small group of people at a table away from everyone else, I just pretend they aren’t there.
After all, we all need a quiet, private place to visit, work out a deal, network, try to get a vote in a local project…or whatever. Woodstock is a small town and if we don’t go to Maria’s then the only other option is someplace in Kingston like Florentina.
So, when I saw a group of three women at a table with stacks of papers sporting attached colorful tabs, I just went to the other side of the patio.
But, this was morning. Afternoons are the same at Maria’s…only different. In the afternoons, I see local residents sitting at tables just being themselves without attracting attention. Woodstock has a lot of stardust of one kind or another. And, sometimes people enjoy just not being noticed.
After all, if a person wants attention, the place to go is Bread Alone to order a coffee, and look for connection.
The bar at Landau grill offers another place for conversation and connection.
A third place is Catskill Mountain Pizza. People gather there and visit with one another over a slice of pizza, sub sandwich, salad.
A place which can be a kind of mix in the summertime is the Wednesday afternoon Farm Market festival. Locals and tourists alike wander among the stalls, focus on the food at hand and wear invisible blinders. Last Wednesday, I saw more than a few musicians, actors, artists, writers, activists simply being themselves. No one was disturbing them. I’m convinced that some of them have learned to be “invisible” to others when they want to be alone for a little while.
Everyone blended together. Some shopped alone while others enjoyed hugs, gossip. Both groups looked forward to the promise of a perfect meal made up of gorgeous food purchased here.
One person having a rough time being invisible, though, is Rick the Mushroom Hunter. He can be tracked down at every Farm Market Festival. The mushrooms he sells must be discovered in the forest. This requires a special person.
Rick is just that person. He doesn’t have a booth because he carries his prizes in a small cardboard box.
Throughout the summer, Rick may offer
hens of the woods.
These prized jewels are gifts from the wild. They have a different aroma, color, texture, energy from their domesticated cousins.
A meal including one of Rick’s discoveries is transformed into a mystical, magical creation. The dining experience becomes spiritual so the soul is fed as well as the body.
How long has it been since you prepared a dish with one of these wild, wonderful gifts of nature?
That’s tooo long!
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On weekends, Woodstock is one crowded place. This famous little town has much to offer:
Mowers Meadow Flea Market
Woodstock Artists’ Association Museum
The Woodstock Drum Circle
Assorted festivals, and other weekend events throughout the year help boost the crowd.
Once you hit town, it helps to know where the restrooms are…especially because there aren’t that many and they aren’t that well advertised. And, if it’s a gender neutral restroom you’re looking for, you may be disappointed.
The Sunflower has a restroom located behind the produce department. It’s used by employees, grocery shoppers, residents, and tourists alike. This is one busy place.
There is a public restroom in a cinder block building next to the Chamber of Commerce information stand. This building is located right at the beginning of Rock City Road. On busy days, you may miss it because this is where the famous tie dyed Woodstock T-shirts are sold. The T-shirt display is actually in front of the entrance to the women’s room.
If you’re looking for a restroom during the winter…forget this one. It closes every year after November 30th and doesn’t open again until April 15th.
The Town Hall has a restroom although the location in the building is not that easy to find. It’s there, though.
The Woodstock Free Library has a restroom located just past the children’s area. This is actually a nice one but the library isn’t open everyday.
And, that’s about it. The whole thing can be a bit discouraging if you have bought into the attitude Woodstockers seem to have about being on the cutting edge of every trend and attitude.
Of course, if you are eating at Landau, or Oriole 9, you don’t have to worry. They have facilities for their customers.
But that’s a bit of a challenge for the rest of us. A good thing to do is to buy a cup of coffee and a pastry at Maria’s and use the restroom there. While you’re shopping for your coffee and pastry, you just might catch sight of a local celebrity which will make for a good story when you return home.
Another option is to ask to use the restroom at the CVS. It’s not a public restroom but the employees are sympathetic to your cause and, if the cash register lines aren’t too long, they’ll unlock the private restroom.
Please note: Try to leave it as clean as you found it. If it gets dirty too many times, they may suspend this service.
I’m really hopeful for our future here. Trends in the area are toward gender neutral bathrooms and this is just the kind of thing Woodstockers can understand. Gender neutral bathrooms are turning up in some neat places.The new Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany has a spiffy gender neutral restroom. The Whitney Museum in New York City has a gender neutral restroom also.
Hope springs eternal here. And, actually, we’ve got a better chance at a gender neutral restroom than we have at additional sidewalks.
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Photograph donated by Renee Ruwe
It seems only yesterday that we sent you an appeal for support. We were a band of 4 people who barely knew each other, embarked on an adventure, a quest. None of us mentioned it, not even to each other…but you were our only hope.
We were processing a 501(c)3 to open the Reservoir Food Pantry. And, until it came through, we needed a sponsor willing to share theirs. So, you got the letter, and invited us to lunch at Zen Mountain Monastery so we could meet and make our appeal. We joined you at your table on Sunday, October 27, 2013.
We begged, really, but you never let on. We went away that afternoon energized by your openness, professionalism, interest, concern. Eventually you did what you did and we received the support from your group.
You gave us a raft on which we floated until we got our own 501(c)3 and gained acceptance with the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.
So, today, as a result of your efforts, there is now a pantry on Route 28 in the Ashokan Reservoir area of Ulster County in New York serving over area households every Monday afternoon at 2 and every Tuesday morning at 9.
The majority of these people are seniors. For the most part, they have worked and lived all their lives in this area. They paid their taxes, raised their children, and contributed to their community. And now, in the 21st century they are finding they don’t have the resources to feed themselves. They constitute the senior citizen faction of the new 21st century Struggling Class.
The pantry volunteers look forward to serving the hungry for many years to come. They’ve had the last year to become a very dedicated and close knit group. The community appears to accept the services offered by these very special people.
IN CONCLUSION: Thank you Konrad Ryushin Marchaj for all you have done for yourself and your fellow man. I saw you change the world around you for the better. That counts for a lot in my book.
I wish you well on your continued journey of spiritual growth. I am proud to have been touched by you. On behalf of all the hungry people volunteers feed weekly, I offer gratitude. It is an honor and a pleasure.
I cannot thank you enough for your trust, your support, and your confidence in our humble venture
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Larger than life, the piece shows 1 eye, her nose and mouth.
Just beginning her studies at the Corcoran, Jennette wasn’t comfortable painting an entire face. A photography major, she was painting for the first time in her life.
Sometimes I sit in my chair with my 3 Chihuahuas and just look at the painting for several minutes when I come home from the pantry. So much of this painting is relevant to what I’m doing now, what the pantry shoppers are experiencing.
As people travel the path to a pantry, they lose things. One shopper recently gave me 3 paintings. He was offloading personal possessions and just didn’t want to see them go in the dumpster. I featured one of them in posts for months.
I also have paintings given to me by other shoppers. If I stay in this business long enough, I’ll end up with a whole gallery. That actually happened to Dr. Wayne Longmore, the absolute best physician in the area.
There’s a moral in this story somewhere for me. I’m just not sure what it is yet.
Dr. Longmore, an Emergency Medicine specialist, was a Woodsstock physician. He practiced by himself, without the help of a receptionist or nurse. He was favored by artists, writers, musicians as well as many other people from around the area. Artists went to him with their health issues and he treated them with dignity and respect, whether or not they had $$$. Most of them had no $$$ so, when he worked to make them well, they brought over paintings.
Dr. Longmore finally had the best local art collection in the area. The paintings and sculptures disappeared from his office after he was arrested. I never learned the real story of what happened.
The public story was that he prescribed too many painkillers…too much Oxycodone. The FBI Report referred to the product as hydrocodone. Well, the public stories in the papers aren’t always the whole story or even a piece of a story. I know that from personal experience.
Dr. Longmore and I knew a lot of the same people. He healed them. The pantry fed them. Without even trying, I knew more or less who was on what. How could I not know? I saw them every week under fairly intimate circumstances.
I only knew 2 people on Oxycodone. And, one of those 2 was trying to sell the stuff. So, they can’t blame Dr. Longmore for that.
He was sentenced to 6 months house arrest, 3 years probation, 200 hours community service and fined $200,000.00. The real punishment went to the poor in Woodstock who now have nowhere to go for a doctor. It puts a lot of pressure on the Healthcare as a Human Right group.
His office, just down from Lori’s cafe, sat empty for the longest time…the office at 104 Mill Hill Road. It was adorned with a sad “for sale” sign. I think of Dr. Longmore every time I pass by. I remember his beautiful art collection, all the down and out people he served, all the good the man did for the needy in Woodstock.
Last Winter, the For Sale sign disappeared. As spring approached, workers began to fix up the office both inside and out.
While this happened, Lori’s became Nana’s and several other stores in the little complex changed hands. EvolveD expanded and Fringe moved down one space. Venus Adorned, a corset/dress shop opened recently. Ed Dempsey Tattoos is in the upstairs space. I joke to myself about musical businesses.
The building at the other end of the complex sports several Win Morrison signs while the businesses within still have their signs. One, IDivide, raises questions about whether or not someone is trying to run a business in the midst of it all.
Only 2 spaces have appeared to stay the same: Woodstock Wooden Kazoo and Woodstock Print Express. They are the anchor stores.
Now, Dr. Longmore’s old office has a new coat of paint and other improvements. Plants in pots placed beside the door encourage a prospective new tenant. A “For Rent” sign is in one of the windows.
The whole area is being gentrified. When I look around, I see 3 banks and a theater surrounding the building and I realize that Woodstock now has an emerging financial/theater district surrounding Dr. Longmore’s old office.
So, I suppose the down-and-out patients – artists, writers – would seem out of place in the newly transitioned area.
In spite of the paint, the sign and the plants, the building sits empty, a monument commemorating those in Woodstock who unfailingly give of themselves. Frankly, I don’t care if they ever rent it.
Artwork donated by Jennette Nearhood
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Summer in Woodstock can be mystical and magical. Tourists flock to the town almost every day leaving $$$ in the stores and taking shopping bags with them. It wasn’t always this way. Between 2008 and 2012, shopping bags were scarce as unicorns. People came, walked around town, got in their cars, and took off.
But, no more. At the very least, they buy a cone at Taco Juan’s, a necklace at Gwen’s Gems and a coffee at Bread Alone. I’m happy to see them. And, I’m extremely happy to see the shopping bags they carry. When people leave carrying shopping bags in their hands, we have a good chance of not looking at too many vacant store fronts next winter.
Two places the tourists don’t know much about are Maria’s and Harmony. We residents can enjoy our town without too many of the tourists gawking when we visit those 2 places.
Maria’s, located across from Bread Alone and behind Sparkles, has the best breakfast in town. I love the place and wish I could go everyday but somehow that never happens. I’m in the breakfast crowd but Maria’s also has wonderful food for lunch or dinner. The pasta dishes are created with pastas made in her daughter’s own Bella Pasta factory on Route 28. Her salmon is to “die” for. I love her desserts.
I occasionally go into Harmony, the local music cafe located on Mill Hill Road. It’s right across the street from Catskill Mountain Pizza. I occasionally go into Harmony on Monday or Tuesday evenings for a dinner of oriental food and I feel like I own the place. No one else is in the dining room. I usually arrive about 6:15 and the evening poetry readings or music event hasn’t begun yet.
The most summer fun event to be had in town costs not 1 cent and it’s not on Tinker Street. The most summer fun to be had is at the corner of Tannery Brook, Ohayo Mountain Road and Millstream Road. Actually, it’s under the bridge there.
That’s where the summer swimming hole is. Most of the bathers walk past my parking lot on Tannery Brook and then past the Inn on the Millstream. . Young, mostly, with tiny swimsuits, they’re excited about an afternoon and early evening in the water and on the banks of the stream. It’s a procession marked by skin, water, and the promise of a summer moon.
Most of the excitement comes down the street as they head to the stream. But, they don’t all walk down Tannery Brook. Some of them drive up Millstream Road and park along the edge of the pavement just before they get to the bridge.
And, they don’t all arrive wearing tiny swimsuits. Some of them, the ones I used to see at the pantry every week, don’t have the luxury of a swimsuit so they enjoy the water in their street clothes.
Every summer day, one of Woodstock’s Colorful Characters walks carefully down to the stream…alone and barefooted. He makes a point of either getting to the stream ahead of everyone or arriving last after the place has emptied out so he can enjoy the beauty of the place, the cleansing effect of the water, all to himself.
But, swimsuit or not, after an afternoon playing in the water, they walk back on Taannery Brook much slower than when they came. Whatever they wear will dry on its own in the summer heat.
These warm summer days and summer moons are to be enjoyed, cherished really. For, all too soon, we’ll be wearing our new winter boots. A seasonal ritual practiced by Woodstockers each fall is to show up in town wearing winter boots right after Labor Day.
When the winter boots come out, the swimsuit summer days punctuated by skin, water, and summer moons become a memory…maybe even less.
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Photography by Renee Ruwee