Tag Archives: Cosmo’s

But What About Science?

NASA image of ring around the cosmosIt’s not often that a bonafide famous person steps into Walla Walla, much less a celebrity known for being an intelligent, interesting thinker and speaker, specifically Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of the redux of Cosmos. Rather, living in a town as conservative as Walla Walla it was pretty unsurprising that Susanne and I would jump at the chance to see him give a ninety-minute talk, even if the tickets cost $50 each. The seal on the deal was the reality that we don’t go on dates all that often, what with two children under the age of three—so between presumed smart lecture on science, sitting in a hall with other less-than-Tea-Party people, and Date Night, it was a no brainer (see what I did there?) to spring for the tickets. And just like I thought would happen, we saw all manner of acquaintances and like-minded comrades. There were many school-age kids there, which was nice. At least at first.

I admit I felt some excitement rumble through the auditorium when the lights were lowered and an older man rambled onto the stage to give Dr. Tyson’s introduction. Except it wasn’t an introduction, so much as a self-congratulatory speech about bringing Dr. Tyson to Walla Walla. Of course we were all happy to see the good doctor—we’d bought $50 tickets to prove it, after all. He called up Dr. Maxood, a local cardiologist, to the stage, and then that good doctor told us about his “long shot” plan to get Dr. Tyson here to speak. I looked at my watch, mostly ignoring their remarks, but increasingly annoyed that we were listening to this and not either opening comments about the host of Cosmos nor the speaker himself. And then a third man took the conch, I mean, microphone, to tell us about his grand work raising $20,000 so that 356 local students could come and hear the lecture. Wait. Someone had to raise money for the students to attend? They weren’t simply let in? If the money hadn’t been pulled together, they wouldn’t have been let in?

Susanne and I opened up the programs we’d been handed in the lobby. While the event was a production of Main Street Studios, it was actually coordinated within the nonprofit arm of the Main Street Studios organization, which has only been in existence since late 2013. Now we had questions about how the math worked—what was Dr. Tyson paid to speak, and who got the proceeds from the speaking engagement? If Man #3 on the stage had raised $20,000 to send 356 students to the lecture (which comes to $56.18 per child, so the ticket cost plus the fee, which appears not to have been waived in order to send a higher number of students to the lecture), where did that $20K go? To the nonprofit arm of the organization or to Main Street Studios? And what are the ethics of using a nonprofit organization to support a for-profit venture, if that’s where the money went?

Feeling unsettled, Dr. Tyson at last took the stage. Things went downhill from here. Read More…

Empires tame and tacky

 

Emily and Jamie's cat Cindyrella

Emily and Jamie's cat Cindyrella

We started off today with a quiet cup of coffee with my sister Kathy on her porch. Well, rather, I started off today that way. The good doctor started off by getting some much needed sleep, having spent the past several nights up very late either packing or, in the case of last night, driving. We knew in advance there would only be one way to handle breakfast, by going to King’s in Newtown. This is a small building by the side of the road that is somewhat TARDIS like in its interior, with three separate rooms for dining and an outside gazebo. It features crazy, over the top meals like pumpkin spice and mascarpone-stuffed french toast, triple-decker burgers with all kinds of toppings, and absurdly good turkey gravy lovingly surrounding the most flaky, delicate biscuit you could ever sink your teeth into.

 

King's restaurant

King's restaurant

 

 

The problem with going to King’s, really, is the evil flag pole in Newtown. I suppose there are ways to get there without passing what is in fact, a car killing machine, not a symbol of patriotism, but it’s more fun to pass by it and snark about it. A recent Newtown transportation report said, “Because the Flagpole sits in the middle of a busy intersection with five roadway legs, it has been the site of many accidents, which tragically include fatalities.” The flagpole dates back to the late 1800s, and the current flagpole was erected in 1950. But dead people? Come on, residents of Newtown, let’s put something around this thing other than tiny green signs that read, “Keep Right.”

At any rate, the food is fantastic at King’s. Susanne ordered some Frankensteinian monstrosity of brunch cooking when she requested a cannoli cream-filled crepe that tasted amazing. I had the “Asparagus Lenny,” which was a creative way of saying ham, asparagus, and poached eggs with hollandaise sauce over English muffins. My nieces were nearly dismayed that anyone would choose to order something as disgusting as asparagus, but they pulled themselves together.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes and headed out, promising to visit again for Christmas.

New York is a big state, the Empire State, which basically means that all the drivers think the roads are for them to go as fast or slow as they like. There are also more angry bumper stickers out here than in most places–the jerk driver of the day today was a woman driving a small SUV with a hitch, and the hitch had a bad wheel that was wiggling as it went and, replete with the following message: If you hate logging use plastic toilet paper. Gee, I’ll have to make a note of that one. So it’s either . . . decimate our forest land and stress out endangered species and other wildlife . . . or wipe myself with Tupperware? Good to know those are mutually exclusive!

We drove across New York for 4 hours and into Syracuse, where we made a pit stop at my alma mater, Syracuse University, and I gave Susanne a somewhat frenetic tour of the campus, enough to show her the quad, memorial to the students killed on Pan Am 103 in 1988, and give her a sample of how ugly and far away the dorms (actually they’re delightfully called “residence halls”) are from the classrooms. We had some pizza at Cosmo’s, which is where I met my best buddy Lori, and there are only two changes to note from the last time I was there, one sad and one positively liberating–George, the pizza maker extraordinaire, who looked like Mel from Mel’s place, if he got caught in a taffy-pulling machine, has passed away, and the women waitstaff are no longer required to wear skirts or dresses. I’m happy to report that the pizza tastes exactly as I remembered it. I told the new pizza guy that he made it almost as well as George, and his response was, “well thank you, I sure hope so.” Lori’s former boss was there, a not-very pleasant lady who had a rather homophobic and short-sighted way of looking at life, and it was interesting to see that after all these years, she’s still in the same place, literally and figuratively, as if she built her own cell and locked herself right in. I’m not sure if she’s happy, but she’s never looked happy, I guess.

 

Bar stools Cosmo's Pizza in Syracuse

Bar stools at Cosmo's Pizza in Syracuse

We traveled on after our supper, getting back on the New York Thruway and cutting through small mountains, drumlins, and rich, green farmland. I took pictures of cows. I smelled the cows. Rather, I smelled what the cows made, but I know not to complain about the scent of cow manure, for I have also smelled pig manure, and wow, that is one of the worst smells I have ever encountered. It makes cow manure smell like Elizabeth Taylor’s latest perfume creation. Or maybe I have those reversed. Hmm.

Thruways and turnpikes and other toll roads are interesting inventions. Susanne made the point that out in Michigan there aren’t any toll roads because the residents pay taxes that support the infrastructure, but then they have to pay the toll to use the New York roads, too, even though that support doesn’t happen in reverse. I was nice and didn’t mention that no New Yorker was ever going to drive to Michigan. Anyway, though the Thruway may be getting loads of tax dollars for say, new asphalt, it doesn’t seem to be getting many funds in the way of nice printers for its fare tickets. Ours looked like this:

 

New York Thruway fare ticket

New York Thruway fare ticket

I won’t go into the usability of the design here, at least not today. Suffice it to say it was vaguely better than a butterfly ballot.

 

At any rate, we logged mile 710, pulling into the endlessly gaudy Seneca Nation Casino in Niagara Falls. We were at once swarmed by smiling, helpful valet service personnel, who gladly took our car and are, at this very moment, joyriding through Ontario. Little do they know we got complimentary wheel locks on our CR-V, which I’m sure will come in handy. If they blow my trip B odometer count, I’ll be pissed.

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