April 5, 2020

A View from My Porch: Keep Calm and Carry On

Original 1939 UK poster. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.

The title of this essay is derived from a poster designed by the British government in the late 1930s to maintain morale when war against Germany became imminent. This essay roughly considers “a day in the life” of Southeastern Connecticut residents as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts each of us and our collective ability to “carry on” our lives as usual. I will present the key elements of this crisis, drawing from the wealth of real data that have become available, and define some of the terms used by our public health professionals so that you can better understand the basis for the required actions.

The Statistics: 

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) reported on March 23 that there were 618 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state; with multiple cases in each of Connecticut’s eight counties. Fifty-four patients were hospitalized, and 12 residents have died. Over 60 percent of Connecticut cases are in Fairfield County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported over 50,000 cases and nearly 700 deaths across the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports over 415,000 cases and nearly 19,000 deaths worldwide. Note that these numbers change, and probably increase, daily. 

Excuse me in advance, but this isn’t our first rodeo; and we’ve successfully dealt with pandemics in the past. These include the HIV/AIDS crisis that began in the mid to late 1970s, and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. 

Unfortunately, our response to COVID-19 was late and disorganized with mixed and confusing messages coming from the highest levels of the federal government. As a result, testing for the disease started late, supplies of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves for health care personnel became scarce, and were not replenished in a timely manner.  The same was true of essential hospital equipment like ventilators, which are the “breathing machines” used for treating patients in severe respiratory distress. 

And so, on March 10th, Connecticut Governor Lamont joined several governors in nearby states and declared both a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency. A public health emergency gives the state authority over quarantine, while a civil preparedness emergency grants the governor broad powers over state institutions, allowing him to restrict travel, close public schools, some businesses, and public buildings.

As a result, only “essential businesses”, which include: grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices, hospitals, childcare, auto repair, banks, and emergency services remain open. Restaurants may remain open, but for takeout and delivery only. Schools were closed on March 31, and there is some thought that they may remain closed through the end of the semester. Hospitals have changed visitation rules.

I will not list the “non-essential” businesses. Tele-commuting is encouraged when at all possible. These restrictions and closures have resulted in significant displacement of workers and unemployment has grown.  

Important Terminology: 

COVID-19 is a disease triggered by a coronavirus, which is a relatively common virus that can cause both upper and lower respiratory tract infections. 

In the past, most coronaviruses weren’t dangerous and caused only mild respiratory problems. However, in early 2020, following a late 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified a new type of coronavirus. Officials named this new virus “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus2 “(SARS-CoV-2)”. This highly contagious and virulent microorganism is the agent that causes COVID-19; which can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock, and death.

Older adults and any individual with a serious underlying medical condition are at higher risk for COVID-19’s more serious complications. The CDC notes that people may be most contagious when they are at their sickest. However, note that many cases are still mild to moderate and not life-threatening. These can be treated at home.

You may have also heard this virus referred to as “novel”, which, very simply, refers to a virus that has not been seen before, or has never infected humans before. As such, it’s unlikely that anyone will have immunity, or antibodies that protect them against the novel virus. 

Public health professionals stress the need to “flatten the curve” as a means of controlling this disease. The curve refers to the rate of growth of new cases displayed graphically (i.e., the projected number of new cases over a specific period of time). A “flattened” curve staggers the number of these new cases over a longer period, so that people have better access to care, and do not overburden the healthcare system. 

Transmission:

The virus is spread primarily from person-to-person, commonly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, saliva, or from some hard surfaces on which the virus may live for four or five days and remain infectious for even longer.

Prevention:

The best way to prevent this disease is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC still recommends social distancing to reduce the probability of contact between individuals carrying the infection with others who are not infected. 

The goal is to minimize disease transmission, and its resultant morbidity, and ultimately, mortality. The minimum recommended measures include:

  • Allow six feet of interpersonal space, which means avoid crowded social activities, like going to pubs, bars, and restaurants, sporting events, theaters and cinemas.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently; use hand sanitizers.
  • Stay home when you are sick. 
  • Use the “usual” coughing and sneezing protocols.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. 

Testing is a good thing:

It is correct that testing does increase the number of individuals identified with the disease, but it also provides the data required to target resources and plan for future needs. Testing is now widely available. All acute care hospitals have the ability to test, although for those that utilize the DPH lab in Rocky Hill, testing is reserved for patients that have been admitted to the hospital.

There are also a number of outpatient testing sites that use private labs, and do not need to comply with the admission restriction. All sites require a physician’s order, who, at present, must make an appointment for the patient.

Critical and Immediate Issues:

This crisis will not end soon. Only one source predicts an end by April 12, which is Easter Sunday in the United States. Most experts agree that an end date is difficult to predict, but 60 days is feasible.

There is currently no vaccine or “miracle” drug specifically targeting COVID-19 — no antiviral drugs are licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients with COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and collaborators are working on development of candidate drugs for rapid testing and evaluating re-use of drugs approved for other diseases. Current treatments often focus on protecting against opportunistic infections and alleviating symptoms while the disease “runs its course.”

We do not yet know what the recurrence rate is for patients, who have recovered from COVID-19. 

Americans have never really faced the rationing of healthcare services. It is clear, however, that we must plan for a possible surge of critically ill patients and identify additional space in which to provide care. Unfortunately, it may be possible that our medical professionals will need to make decisions regarding assignment of scarce resources like ventilators. 

I am confident that the United States will allocate resources to support our citizens and small businesses that face economic hardships as we move through this crisis. 

Make certain that you know the source of the information about this disease. The most reliable data comes from Connecticut DPH, Ledge Light Health District, and the CDC. 

Finally, God save the United States if we ever reach the point when we have to value a life lost in this pandemic less than a life lost in an economic downturn (whatever that is.)

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 A View from My Porch: Who’s Played Sherlock? Who Did it Best?

Although more than a century and a quarter has passed since publication of Arthur Conan Doyle’s first story, Sherlock Holmes continues to inspire novels, movies, TV, and the stage. I will review some of the actors who played Holmes in this concluding essay in my Holmes duology; and assess how true each was to Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Where possible, I’ll contrast each actor’s portrayal with the Holmes described by Dr. Watson, which I have paraphrased as, “His very person was such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. He was rather over six feet, and so lean that he seemed considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, and his thin, hawk-like nose and prominent chin gave his whole expression an air of alertness, decision, and determination.”

Note that I occasionally will refer to the “canon” in this essay, which consists of the 56 short stories and four novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published in the Strand Magazine.

This is no easy task. In 2012, one of the world’s most reliable sources, i.e., The Guiness Book of World Records, awarded the title for “most portrayed literary human character in film & television” to Sherlock Holmes, who had already been presented on screen, at that time, more than 250 times. He has been played. in some manner, by nearly 100 actors, including Michael Caine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Robert Downey Jr., Ian McKellen, Jonny Miller, Peter O’Toole, Christopher Plummer, and Basil Rathbone.

However, I will focus only on the MSM, that is, the Main-Sherlock-Media, and exclude the “Sherlocks” in parodies like Without a Clue, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, and The Great Mouse Detective.

Sherlockian Literature After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Award-winning American playwright, Ken Ludwig, set The Game’s Afoot at a cast party in 1936 Gillette Castle. Published in 2012, the play was presented at the Ivoryton Playhouse in 2017. Jim Bennet, of Mystic, has written three historical mysteries regarding William Gillette under the pen name James Walker; in these, Gillette uses his stage persona as Sherlock Holmes to investigate murders and other crimes. 

In addition, a growing group of authors is writing short stories and novels “in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle”. Many of these “pastiches” are quite accurate in their portrayals and have begun to form a subcategory of popular literature.

Sherlock in the Cinema and on TV

Rather than attempt an exhaustive review of every actor who has portrayed Sherlock in any television or movie production, I will begin this review in the late 1930s with Basil Rathbone’s interpretation, and continue chronologically to the present. 

I feel that any review of Sherlock must also consider the associated Dr. Watson. However, I will not review the concomitant LeStrade or Moriarty characters in this essay.

I don’t pretend to have the expertise of Old Lyme resident David Handler’s character Mitch Berger of Dorset in judging these actors, but I can certainly distinguish good acting from bad; and sloppy dialog from a well-constructed plot. Moreover, in the spirit of some current American politicians, there’s absolutely no science in these assessments, although I’ll start with the null hypothesis that Basil Rathbone is Sherlock, and attempt to disprove that premise.

Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.

In 1939, Basil Rathbone played Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles with Nigel Bruce as Watson. They continued through 1946 and completed 14 Sherlock Holmes movies. Almost concurrent with movie production, they also starred in a serialized radio drama, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, that aired in the United States from late 1939 through mid-1947. 

With the exception of Hound, these films were only loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon, but were updated to reflect the issues of the day. I’m not claiming that all 14 were great cinema; but they certainly were respectable wartime productions. 

So, by mid-century, the Rathbone/Bruce team was recognized and accepted in both America and Great Britain as Holmes and Watson. I’ll reference only two movies to support my claim. 

In Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Holmes, disguised as an elderly book seller, smuggles a Swiss scientist and his advanced bomb sight into England just as the Gestapo prepared to arrest him and seize control of his laboratory. Many of the Holmes’ wartime movies ended with a soliloquy by Basil Rathbone. This one always brings a few tears to my eyes.

At the end of Secret Weapon, Holmes and Watson, with a contingent of the British war cabinet, are observing a squadron of Lancaster bombers equipped with the bombsight as they leave for Nazi Germany.
Watson: “Things are looking up, Holmes. This little Island’s still on the map”.
Holmes: “Yes. “This fortress – built by nature for herself; This blessed plot, this Earth, this Rome, this England”.
This latter line is, of course, from Act II of Richard II by William Shakespeare. 

In Sherlock Holmes in Washington, Holmes breaks up a Nazi spy ring operating from a high-end D.C. antiques shop, and recovers the secret microfilmed documents that they had stolen from a murdered British intelligence agent. 

As Holmes and Watson prepare to leave the District, driving towards Capitol Hill, the conversation goes like this:
Holmes: “Look up there ahead – the Capitol, the very heart of this democracy”.
Watson: “Democracy; the only hope for the future?
Holmes: “It’s not given to us to peer into the mysteries of the future, but in the days to come the British and American people will, for their own safety and for the good of all, walk together in majesty, in justice, and in peace”.
In citing Churchill’s then recent address to Congress, Sherlock reminds us of how great that legislative body once was.

While Basil Rathbone was Sherlock, both physically and intellectually, Nigel Bruce regularly presented Watson as a befuddled English gentleman and a somewhat slower associate of Holmes. His interpretation of Watson is inconsistent with the more intelligent Watson of Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon. 

Ronald Howard
In 1954, British actor Ronald Howard began a two-season run of 39 episodes on the American television series Sherlock Holmes. He played a relatively light-hearted and campy Sherlock along-side H. Marion Crawford’s Dr. Watson; who played a sharp, and sometimes aggressive Watson, unlike Nigel Bruce above. Of the 39 episodes, only The Red-Headed League was based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s original body of work. The series included such titles as: The Case of the Texas Cowgirl, and The Case of The Shoeless Engineer. However, there were occasional allusions to the Doyle canon. 

Douglas Wilmer
In 1965, the BBC began its presentation of
Sherlock Holmes with British classical actor Douglas Wilmer as the lead, and Nigel Stock as Watson. This sometimes “noirish” series continued until 1968, with 13 episodes wholly- based on the original stories. Wilmer plays a shrewd, but arrogant Holmes; and sports all the expected trappings: deerstalker cap, pipe, prominent nose, and obsessive nature. Nigel Stock is another affable, but intellectually inferior Watson. 

Jeremy Brett
In the Granada Television series that aired in the UK from 1984 to 1994, Jeremy Brett played a more emotional and physically graceful Sherlock than the predecessor Sherlocks described above. His manner was more “swaggering” with occasional outbursts of passion used to re-focus Watson or LeStrade

His sometimes overly-precise and dramatic presentation quality demonstrate his background in musical theater. He played Freddy Eynsford-Hill” in My Fair Lady. Here’s a clue for you: “I have often walked down this street before; but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before. All at once am I several stories high, knowing I’m on the street where you live …” 

There were two Watsons over this decade-long series, namely David Burke and Edward Hardwicke. Both played the character as a highly intelligent and intuitive associate of Holmes, and true to Doyle’s canon. Many consider Jeremy Brett’s characterization of Holmes as the defining Sherlock performance. To get a feel for his style, watch this video clip to see Holmes leap the couch at 221B in The Red Headed League.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch during filming of ‘Sherlock’ in Chinatown, London. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.

Sherlock is a contemporized version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective now operating in 21st century London.  Cumberbatch is Holmes, and Martin Freeman is Watson. Thirteen 90-minute episodes were produced in this BBC/PBS series between 2010 and 2017. The Cumberbatch Holmes is more arrogant and self-centered than the predecessors described above, and less-willing to contend with Inspector LeStrade’s plodding manner.

The deerstalker cap is absent, although other traditional detective attire (long coat and scarf) frequently appear. I believe that, although updated with contemporary technology, and despite the unruly hair, Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the character is first rate. His Holmes still has exceptional intellect, is excitable, and delights in “solving puzzles no one else could solve.” 

Dr. Watson is a younger veteran of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Afghan War than those reviewed above and is certainly played as a more independent “self-starter”. He blogs about their adventures rather than writing by hand for publication in the print media.

However, Watson’s blog provides the pair some unwanted celebrity and  the press begins reporting on the cases and Sherlock’s sometimes eccentric personal life. Their cases, like those in the canon, come from both ordinary people and the British government. 

Jonny Miller

Elementary first aired in 2012, and ran for seven seasons and over 150 episodes. There is little connection to Arthur Conan Doyle’s body of work beyond some character names and occasional allusions to the original stories. 

Elementary is really a “police procedural” with Jonny Miller as Sherlock Holmes, and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. Sherlock is a recovering drug addict and former consultant to Scotland Yard, who has re-located to a Brooklyn brownstone in present-day New York City for addiction treatment.

Watson is a former surgeon who has left practice, and is hired by Sherlock’s father to assist in his rehabilitation as his sober companion. Watson’s relationship with Holmes evolves from sober companion, to investigative apprentice, and into a professional crime-solving partnership with Sherlock and the NYPD. 

This Holmes is, of course, indifferent to proper procedure as he works with the NYPD. one critic describes the series as, “pretty good television; the stories are unpredictable, and often draw on contemporary issues like hacking, cyber-espionage, and corruption in international finance. I don’t recall whether the latter was Deutsche Bank. There is a definite “psychological component” underlying the series and the plots often include the characters’ struggles to deal with their many demons. 

Robert Downey Jr.

Downey is not, by any stretch of the imagination, Sherlock Holmes. Others disagree, as a third movie is apparently in progress, beyond Sherlock Holmes (2009), and A Game of Shadows (2011). His interpretation is more vulgar and more cynical than those reviewed above. There is significant violence in the plots, perhaps because the movies are targeting a less-sophisticated and/or a teenaged audience. The first two movies are totally lacking in subtlety and I think of them as the violent video games that you want your children to avoid. 

Some Final Thoughts

I always pass my penultimate draft by my wife, Christina. Her comments were that, “the essay is well-punctuated, but maybe a little obsessive.” I agree that I punctuate well. 

I have watched each of theafore-mentioned movies or TV shows at least once; either on DVD, or for the more recent ones, on television or in the theater. To explain, nine years ago next Halloween, I had just finished a two-year period during which I had almost unlimited time for reading and the media. I wasn’t incarcerated or unemployed; and, although I am a Navy veteran, I was not a member of a ballistic missile submarine team rotated ashore. 

I have also concluded that Senator Blumenthal does bear some resemblance to the Holmes described by Dr. Watson in the first paragraph of this essay; and certainly, his activities as Connecticut Attorney General also required some of the fundamental skills of a “consulting detective”. Our junior senator could, conceivably, be Watson. This is not a political column, so I won’t name any of the more obvious candidates for Moriarty.

The next essay changes focus from human icons to Connecticut’s iconic Long Island Sound and the rising water levels that I have observed from my porch over the past several years

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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A View From My Porch: An Appropriate Day to Remember Connecticut Icon William Gillette

Gillette Castle, former home of the iconic movie star and playwright, Connecticut-born William Gillette, who died in 1937.

Editor’s Note: Tom Gotowka sent us this piece last week, but we had always planned to publish it today. By an extraordinary coincidence, we now find — thanks to an article sent to us this morning by our friend and regular correspondent George Ryan — that today is the 90th anniversary of William Gillette’s final performance as Sherlock Holmes, given Feb. 12, 1930 at the popular Parsons Theatre in downtown Hartford.
Timing is everything … so many thanks indeed to George for his gem of information and Tom for his fascinating insight into the life and work of Mr. Gillette.

I am going a few miles upstream in this essay towards East Haddam and its medieval gothic castle to consider William Gillette’s impact on how Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed in movies and television. My goal in these essays is to cover the subject thoroughly enough to either satisfy your curiosity, or to pique your interest to pursue some additional research.

Assuming the editor’s forbearance, I will also review, in a subsequent essay, several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson to judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Gillette was born to a progressive political family in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood where authors Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and Charles Dudley Warner each once resided. His mother was a Hooker, that is a direct descendant of Connecticut Colony co-founder Thomas Hooker. Gillette is most recognized for his on-stage interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. He may have been America’s first matinée idol or to put it another way, the era’s rock star.

The Sherlockian Literature

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. See below for photo credit.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and four novels between the 1880s and the early 20th century that comprise the “canon” of Sherlock Holmes. The stories were first published in Strand Magazine and two of the novels were serialized in that same periodical. 

Holmes defined himself as the world’s first and only “consulting detective.” He shared rooms at 221B Baker Street in London with Dr. John H. Watson, who was a former army surgeon wounded in the Second Afghan War. 

Holmes referred to Watson as his “Boswell” because he chronicled his life and the investigations that they jointly pursued as did 18th century biographer, James Boswell, of Dr. Samuel Johnson.  Watson was described as a typical Victorian-era gentleman and also served as first-person narrator for nearly all of the stories.

Holmes was known for his incredible skills of observation and deduction, and forensic science and logic, all of which he used when investigating cases for his myriad clients, which often included Scotland Yard. He played the violin well and was an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. He summarized his investigative skills for Watson this way, “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” and, “It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”

However, Holmes had shortcomings. He was a very heavy smoker of black shag pipe tobacco, which he kept in the toe of a Persian slipper on the fireplace mantel at 221B. He also smoked cigars and cigarettes. A very difficult problem was called a “three pipe problem.” 

He used cocaine and morphine to provide “stimulation for his overactive brain” during periods when he did not have an interesting case or as an escape from “the dull routine of existence.” This was not really unusual in that period because the sale of opium, laudanum, cocaine, and morphine was legal and often used to self-medicate or for recreation. This habit was worrisome for Dr. Watson, although he once said of Holmes, “He was the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.”

The Holmes stories were immensely popular and Doyle’s last publication in Strand, “The Final Problem,” elicited such public (and Royal Family) outrage, that there were mass subscriber cancellations bringing the magazine to the brink of failure.

William Gillette. See below for photo credit.

Doyle decided to write a stage play about Holmes, set earlier in the detective’s career. He was probably compelled to do so because there already were several Sherlock Holmes on-stage productions, which provided him no income, and were of such poor quality that he felt the need to both protect his character’s legacy and improve his own income stream. 

He drafted the play and shared it with his literary agent, who sent it on to Broadway producer and impresario, Charles Frohman. Frohman reviewed it and said it needed substantial work before anyone would consider production. He suggested that William Gillette be offered the rewriting task. 

At that time, Gillette was already well-known as a talented actor and a successful and prolific playwright. His approach was a significant change from the melodramatic standards in the American theater of the time. He stressed realism in sets, lighting, and sound effects. Holmes Scholar Susan Dahlinger described Gillette’s acting style this way, “He could be thrilling without bombast, or infinitely touching without descending to sentimentality.” 

So, Doyle agreed with Frohman, and Gillette began the project by reading the entire “canon” of Holmes stories and novels. He began drafting the new manuscript while touring in California with the stage production of “Secret Service,” which he had also written.  He exchanged frequent telegrams with Doyle during the process and, with Doyle’s blessing, borrowed some plots and detail from the canon in adapting Doyle’s original manuscript into a four-act play. 

Unfortunately, neither Gillette’s first draft nor Doyle’s original script ever reached stage production. A fire broke out at Gillette’s San Francisco hotel and both manuscripts were lost. So, Gillette began a complete redraft of his lost script, and Doyle was finally able to present a play before the century’s end that he deemed worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

It is worth noting that Frohman perished on the Lusitania in May, 1915, after it had been torpedoed by a German submarine.

In 1899, Gillette was “predictably” cast for the lead role in “Sherlock Holmes A Drama in Four Acts.” Initially presented in previews at the Star Theatre in Buffalo, NY, it opened that November at the Garrick Theatre in New York City, and ran there for more than 260 performances before beginning a tour of the United States and then on to a long run in London, where it received great critical and public acclaim.

He starred in that role for more than 30 years, and about 1,500 productions in the United States and Great Britain. He also starred in the 1916 silent film, “Sherlock Holmes,” which film-historians have called, “the most elaborate of the early movies.”

Playing a role for so many years was not unusual at that time in American Theater. For example, James O’Neill, father of playwright Eugene, played Edmond Dantès, The Count of Monte Cristo, more than 6000 times between 1875 and 1920.

Some Key Elements of Gillette’s Sherlock

Although William Gillette is really no longer a “household name” — except perhaps,here in Southeastern Connecticut, where much of how we imagine Holmes today is still due to his stage portrayal of the great consulting detective. 

Gillette actually bore some resemblance to the Holmes described by Dr. Watson in “A Study in Scarlet.” Watson notes, “His [Holmes’s] very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” 

Gillette’s Holmes appeared in deerstalker cap and Inverness cape. He smoked a curve-stemmed briar pipe, and carried a magnifying glass.  He crafted a phrase that eventually evolved into one of the most recognized lines in popular culture: “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Gillette’s direct style was said to lend a bit of arrogance to Holmes beyond that which Doyle had depicted —  that arrogance has become a hallmark of Holmes’ portrayal in contemporary movies and television.

And finally, Gillette introduced the page, “Billie,” who had actually been played by a certain 13-year-old Charles Spencer Chaplin during the London engagement. At the end of the run, Chaplin began his career as a Vaudeville comedian, which ultimately took him to the United States and movie stardom as the incomparable Charlie Chaplin. 

Some Final Thoughts

I first learned of William Gillette a few summers ago when I visited his remarkable home, “Gillette Castle” built high above the eastern bank of the Connecticut River. I left that visit impressed with Gillette’s creativity in his design of the doors, light switches, and some of the furniture; wondering about his secret multi-mirror “spying” system, and with the assumption that he was just an eccentric artist who liked trains. 

However, I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes literature; and began reading the “canon” at age twelve. I have certainly re-read many of the stories a few more times. Over the past several years, I began to read several authors who write Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels “in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle.” Some of these “pastiches,” as they are called, are quite accurate in style and continuity of Doyle’s themes. 

In researching this essay, I was surprised with the breadth of scholarly work that is currently available regarding Sherlock and Gillette. There are several national and international literary organizations that have also developed around Doyle’s work.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers a “Study of Sherlock” course, wherein students engage in critical reading, thinking, and writing by studying the iconic detective.

Our local expert on Holmes is Danna Mancini of Niantic. He has lectured and conducted seminars on The World of “Sherlock Holmes.” He is active in at least two Holmes literary organizations: The Baker Street Irregulars (NYC) and the Speckled Band of Boston.

Of some note, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) tasked by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze” during World War II, had its headquarters at 64 Baker Street and was often called, “The Baker Street Irregulars.”

So, the ‘consulting detective’ continues to inspire novels, movies, and television.

As noted above, I will review several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson in these media in my next essay, and judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Photo credit for the photo of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is as follows: By Arnold Genthe – PD image from http://www.sru.edu/depts/cisba/compsci/dailey/217students/sgm8660/Final/They got it from: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/photodraw/portraits/,where the source was given as: Current History of the War v.I (December 1914 – March 1915). New York: New York Times Company., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=240887

Photo credit for the photo of William Gillette is as follows: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. William Gillette Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-e15c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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A View from My Porch: Lyme Native Ezra Lee was World’s First Commander of an Attack Submarine in Battle

There was a time before our time,
It will not come again,
When the best ships still were wooden ships
But the men were iron men …

Sgt. Ezra Lee, 1749 – 1821, is buried   in the Duck River Cemetery in Old Lyme. Image from Wikipedia Public Domain: painter and engraver unknown, from The Story of the Submarine by Farnham Bishop.

I believe this eloquent verse from Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet’s ode to New England’s “Clipper Ships and Captains” can also be used to describe Ezra Lee, the first man to command an attack submarine in battle.

In this essay, I will describe the heroism of this native of Lyme, Conn., and present some key elements of this remarkable period in Connecticut’s history. However, I think that one must have some understanding of his primitive submarine in order to fully appreciate Ezra Lee’s courage.

Bushnell’s Genius

This first submarine, named the Turtle, was designed and built by David Bushnell in what is now Westbrook, Conn.

Bushnell was a farmer, but left the family farm in the care of his brother, Ezra, in 1771 to pursue his education at Yale College. He graduated in 1775. His last year at Yale coincided with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, i.e., the beginning of the American War of Independence.

By that time, several other important events leading to the war with the British had already occurred. They included the Boston Massacre (1770), the Boston Tea Party (1773); and enactment of the Boston Port Act, which was one of five “Intolerable Acts”, implemented in 1774 to punish the colonists after the Tea Party. The law, was enforced by a British naval blockade of Boston harbor, which effectively shut down all commerce and travel in and out of Boston and the Massachusetts colony.

Bushnell was a fervent patriot and felt strongly that defeating the mighty British Navy would require unconventional tactics. He began a collaboration with another member of the Yale community, Phineas Pratt. One of their first projects was the development of an underwater bomb with a mechanical time-delayed detonator – a distant forerunner of contemporary naval mines. It is noteworthy that part of his Yale tenure overlapped with Nathan Hale’s, who graduated in 1773.

Bushnell felt that he could use this underwater explosive against the British if he could develop the means to deliver it to a targeted warship and place it below the waterline.

So, having returned to Westbrook after graduation, Bushnell’s small team, which now included his brother Ezra, turned its attention to developing a vessel that could transport and attach these explosive devices to enemy warships … and the idea of a “sub-marine” was conceived. Bushnell recognized that, to be effective and avoid detection, the vessel would have to be completely submerged for some period of time during the mission; be able to move through the water; and, when ready, return safely to the surface.

Colonial Era Engineering Limitations

With little real successful precedent on which to build, Bushnell’s submarine would be a “true” invention. Clearly, there were many significant engineering and design problems that the team had to resolve. They included building a watertight, pressure-proof, and vertically stable vessel; propulsion – both vertical and horizontal; steering, and vision; and the actual weapons-delivery system.

A key issue was that of developing the means to vary the vessel’s ballast in order to enable submersion and re-surfacing. Bushnell eventually solved these problems and introduced some innovations. For example, he equipped his vessel with an early snorkel-type breathing device and a two-bladed propeller for propulsion.

The Turtle

‘Turtle’ model on dsplay at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, England. The image is published under this license.

I realize that I am over-simplifying here, but I’m trying to avoid getting stuck in the sea-weeds of the Turtle’s design and construction.

The Turtle resembled two tortoise shells, bound together. It was constructed of oak timbers, which were shaped, joined, and caulked at the joints. The vessel was bound with iron bands and covered with tar to ensure water tightness.

It was about 7 ft. long, 4 ft. wide, and 8 ft. from its keel to the top of its brass “conning tower,” which protruded about eight inches out of the water. It had no periscope, but the conning tower contained six glass ports.

The submarine was capable of only carrying one person, who sat upright on a seat roughly resembling a bicycle seat (see photo at left.) Moreover, Turtle was equipped with a depth gauge to measure distance from the surface. a compass for navigating, and a crude ventilator to supply the vessel with fresh air at the surface.

Controls included hand-cranks and pedals for operation of the propellers; a rudder, located behind the operator, controlled by foot; and; an “immersion chamber,” for flooding when additional ballast was required. Turtle submerged and surfaced via brass pumps that took in or expelled seawater as ballast, and 700 pounds of lead weights, which could be let out or retracted as needed.

The Turtle had no real ballast tanks; and the incoming seawater simply flooded the floor of the cabin – leaving the operator knee-deep in water until it was eliminated with the pumps when it was time to surface.

Two tubes, which passed through the conning tower hatch provided fresh air when near the surface. The air supply would last only about 30 minutes, and would soon become foul when the submarine was submerged. The exterior was equipped with a large screw that could be twisted into the planks of a ship’s hull. The screw was tethered by a rope to one of Bushnell’s timed explosive devices.

It is interesting that Bushnell had actually consulted fellow revolutionary, Ben Franklin, to solve the problem of illuminating the Turtle’s interior – who suggested using phosphorescent “foxfire.”

Sea Trials

Turtle was tested after completion of construction in 1775 in the relative safety of the Connecticut River. Ben Franklin observed the initial tests from the shore and was favorably impressed and understood its potential in naval warfare. The Turtle was also recommended to George Washington by Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull. Ezra Bushnell had been trained in operating the Turtle and had assumed that role during testing, and presumably, would also pilot the vessel in battle.

As noted, the Turtle held only a single person, and that person was wholly responsible for bringing the craft to the target and attaching and arming the explosives. That person required substantial physical strength and stamina, incredible focus, and the utter absence of claustrophobia.

There are replicas of the Turtle in Groton’s Submarine Force Museum and the CT River Museum in Essex; which has a cut-away display in which one may experience Turtle’s cabin.

The Bushnell Farm house is located at 1445 Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook, CT.

The First Mission

The Turtle was ready for deployment by the spring of 1776 – and may have originally been planned for use against the British warships blockading Boston Harbor. However, by that time, the British had ended their blockade and moved their ships north to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Ezra Lee’s Mission

In July, 1776, a British naval force began to move into New York Harbor, carrying supplies and soldiers. General William Howe and Admiral Richard Howe had essentially shut down western Long Island and New York to the colonists.

The Turtle was transported overland through Connecticut to New York Harbor, which was still in American hands. After arriving in New York, Ezra Bushnell developed a terrible fever, possibly Typhoid, and was unable to carry out any mission.

Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, also from Lyme, then recommended three men to train to pilot the submarine. One of those men was his brother-in-law, Ezra Lee. So, to avoid discovery by the British, David Bushnell returned to Connecticut with the Turtle, and began intensive training of the three recruits. After a month of training, Lee was chosen to make the first attack on a British warship.

General Washington gave permission for Turtle’s first mission on Sept. 6 – an attack on the HMS Eagle, Admiral Howe’s flagship, which was anchored in New York Harbor, south of Manhattan. Near midnight on the 6th, Turtle was towed by a pulling boat from the Battery towards the Eagle. Halfway, Ezra Lee entered the Turtle and secured the hatch over his head. – and a submarine was engaged in battle for the first time against an enemy ship. Later, Lee wrote several letters describing this mission.

It took Lee nearly two hours of pedaling to reach the Eagle. Once there, he took on some ballast, and submerged completely. When he thought he was under his target, he pumped out a small quantity of water from the ballast tank, until a bump indicated he was beneath Eagle, with the auger screw against the ship’s bottom.

Unfortunately, Lee’s attempt to attach the explosive with the auger screw failed, possibly because a metal plate covered the area where he was trying to drill. He was forced to re-surface to replenish his air supply. He submerged again and attempted to drill into another spot in the hull. On that second dive he was unable to stay beneath the ship, and eventually abandoned the attempt.

It is possible that the tide turned during the second attack and Lee was unable to compensate. Lee’s mission was near the southern tip of Manhattan, where the Hudson River and the East River merge. The currents tend to be strong and complex there. So, Turtle would only be able to attack a ship moored in that area during a short period of time when the incoming tide balanced the river currents.

Lee was exhausted, and the outgoing tide threatened to take Turtleout to sea. He ejected all the ballast water and began pedaling with his remaining strength. With the ballast water pumped out, one third of Turtle’s hull stuck out of the water, making it clearly visible in daylight. As the day grew lighter, the British spotted the Turtle, and set out in small boats to confront it.

To divert the patrol and to lighten his craft, Lee released the explosive device that he had tried to attach to Eagle. It drifted towards the East River and soon exploded. In Lee’s words, it, “went off with a tremendous explosion, throwing up large bodies of water to an immense height.” Lee returned safely after several hours on the water and received Washington’s congratulations in person.

Lee did make a second unsuccessful attempt against the British frigate HMS Cereberus, but was discovered and forced to retreat.

An Ignominious Victory

Although Turtle’s missions were unsuccessful in that no damage was inflicted on any British vessel, some historians feel that the venture was, by no means, a failure. They suggest that the explosion led to Admiral Howe ordering the British warships to be repositioned further off the harbor, from which they could no longer maintain their blockade of New York.

Perhaps an intangible psychological victory might also be claimed simply through her use as another unconventional weapon of war employed by the colonists. These also included the guerilla tactics employed by the self-trained and highly mobile militia, which was organized to assemble rapidly and deploy where needed, and aptly named the “Minutemen.”

Note that the National Archives possess a letter that George Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson in September,1785 about the Turtle, saying, “I then thought, and still think, that it was an effort of genius.”

David Bushnell – After the Attack on Eagle

Bushnell loaded Turtle aboard a fast sloop, hoping that the sloop could slip unnoticed past the British into Long Island Sound and back to Connecticut. A British frigate discovered the sloop, however, and, according to the British, sank her and her cargo. Note that there are many versions of the Turtle’s final days.

In 1778, General Washington proposed the formation of a new military unit to be known as the “Corps of Sappers and Miners” (i.e., combat engineers.) It was organized in the summer of the next year. Bushnell was given command of the Corps with the rank of captain-lieutenant in August, 1779.

Ezra Lee – After the Attack on Eagle

Lee was moved by Washington into the secret service/special forces. He later participated in the Battles of Trenton, Brandywine and Monmouth.

Lee died in 1821. His obituary in the “Commercial Advisor” (November 1821) stated: “Died, at Lyme, on the 29th October Captain Ezra Lee, aged 72, a revolutionary officer. He died without an enemy. It is not a little remarkable, that this officer is the only man, of which it can be said, that he fought the enemy upon land–upon water–and under the water…”

Lee is buried in the Duck River Cemetery in Old Lyme. The inscription on his original grave marker was: “EZRA LEE. / DIED / Aged 72 Years. / He was a Revolutionary / Officer, / and esteemed by / Washington.” Unfortunately, during the colonial era, gravestones were often made from softer types of stone, such as sandstone and slate, which were easier to cut and carve. However, they deteriorated. Lee’s original marker has been replaced with a granite obelisk, but without the full original inscription.

Some Observations by the Author

I am not a native of southeast Connecticut. Rather. I am an émigré from West Simsbury in Connecticut’s northwest hills. I knew almost nothing about David Bushnell and Ezra Lee before visiting the Connecticut River Museum, but I was encouraged to learn more.

Stewart Holbrook, author of “Lost Men of American History,” has claimed that “… had a Longfellow fastened upon him, Ezra Lee would be as well known today as Paul Revere, and it is a pity that he isn’t.”

“Bushnell’s Infernal Machine” sung by New England balladeer Larry Kaplan

This song provides a view of Turtle from the inside. Kaplan is known for his songs of New England and its seas. Visit this link to see the song performed.

Editor’s Note: The author is going a few miles north on the Connecticut River for his next essay to visit William Gillette and review his impact on the cinematic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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Letter to the Editor: ‘Tis the Season for … Vandalism in Old Lyme? What on Earth are the Perpetrators Thinking?

To the Editor:

A view from my porch: some sorrow and anger.

It’s the holiday season, right? “Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill”, right? However, as I looked out from my porch window this morning, there was something that was clearly amiss.  One of my neighbor’s beautiful flower pots was missing and lay smashed and broken near my driveway on Library Lane. This was not a small pot, but probably weighed, filled with soil, a few hundred pounds. So, it took some vandalistic effort. Then, as I walked down the street, I saw that those vandals had also seriously damaged five mail boxes,  and even one of those little green men that alerts drivers that children are playing nearby.

Give me a break, people(?). Where’s your head at?

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

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A View from My Porch: The Second Renaissance of Miss ElizabethTashjian (Connecticut’s “Nut Lady”)

Editor’s Note: We are delighted to welcome a new columnist to our LymeLine family today. Tom Gotowka will write an occasional piece under the title, “A View From My Porch,” and we are going to let him introduce both his column and himself in his own words.  We hope you enjoy Tom’s offerings — as always, let us know your thoughts!

Author’s Note: “A View from My Porch” is a new column that will cover a range of subjects that I believe will be of community interest. It might be literature and the arts, an event, or even something to do with healthcare. I may occasionally stray into a political issue, but this column will not be partisan political (Other publications have that more than covered.) In reality, all I see from my porch is my wife’s studio, a red barn, a network of beautiful gardens, and a salt marsh, but, of course, “a view” is so much more than what one actually sees.

To give you a sense of the experiences that “qualify” me to write this column, my entire adult career has been in healthcare. I’ll sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. I always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. I enjoy reading historic speeches and consider myself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK. A child of AM Radio, I probably know the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960.

My first few columns will take a fresh look at some of Old Lyme’s cultural and historic icons. As such, this first essay is titled “The Second Renaissance of Miss ElizabethTashjian”. The second column covers Naval hero Ezra Lee.

Eliazabeth Tashjian appeared several times on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Johnny Carson.

The Second Renaissance of Miss ElizabethTashjian (Connecticut’s “Nut Lady”)

Connecticut College’s exhibition, “Revisiting the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian,” has just closed. I posit that this gallery display of her paintings, drawings, and sculptures, together with the recent Florence Griswold Museum Samuel Thorne Memorial Lecture by Professor Christopher Steiner, “Performing the Nut Museum,” represent the culminating events in this “second Renaissance.” Let me walk you through the facts that led me to this conclusion.

I was introduced to Elizabeth Tashjian more than a quarter century ago (holy cow!) by Colin McEnroe, who now hosts his own show on CT Public Radio and writes a weekly column for Hearst Communications. My wife and I were not yet residents of Old Lyme. This essay begins with a synopsis of her life. However, the crux of this column is my assertion that she became masterful at managing the media, and playing the role of quirky, eccentric artist.

Miss Tashjian was born into privilege in Manhattan in 1912, the daughter of wealthy Armenian immigrants. Her parents divorced when she was 7 years old, and she continued living in Manhattan with her mother. She showed great promise as a concert violinist and pursued music early — and before pursuing her interest in art. She studied at the New York School of Applied Design for Women and the National Academy of Design.

Elizabeth and her mother moved into a 19th century Gothic Revival mansion on Ferry Road in Old Lyme in 1950. Her mother died in 1959 and she continued living there alone. Her father pre-deceased her mother and left no estate.

Nuts were always her passion. This began during her classical arts training in New York City, where she created many paintings of nuts and nutcrackers. These themes would continue throughout her life. She was an active member of Lyme Art Association and frequently displayed her works there.

In 1972, she opened the Nut Museum, which was housed in the dining room on the ground floor of her home. The Nut Museum collection was largely comprised of her own artwork, including over 100 paintings, 20 aluminum sculptures, nut jewelry, and a Nativity scene made completely of nuts. Her art has been described as “visionary”, “avant-garde”, “surrealist”, and/or “outsider.”

She remained unmarried throughout her life. I could not find any reference to any real employment, which allowed her to concentrate wholly on her art. Like her mother, she became a Christian Science healer in mid-life, which may have provided some modest income.

Susan Campbell, writing in the Hartford Courant, described her visit to the Nut Museum: “The first time I met Elizabeth Tashjian, she swooped down the stairs of her Old Lyme mansion to greet me, and I was immediately in her thrall. I remember there was a cape.”

In 1981, Tashjian appeared on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” for the first time. She and Carson “clicked” and her success with him led to many other television appearances, including Letterman, Leno, and others. Her TV appearances usually included one of her songs (e.g., “Nuts Are Beautiful” or the “March of the Nuts.”)

She did not have the same rapport with the other hosts that she had developed in her two appearances with Carson. She often brought a 35-pound coco de mer nut with her to these appearances. The coco de mer, or “nut of the sea” is native to the Seychelles and has an unfortunate resemblance to a woman’s buttocks. She told Carson that “the existence of such a sexually provocative nut utterly refuted Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” Professor Steiner (see below) said “it was arguable whether she was exploited by the media, or exploited it.” His suspicion was that she was the joker, not the joke.

She became known as the “Nut Lady”, which she hated. Preferring words like enthusiast, advocate, culturalist, or visionary.

Miss Tashjian became increasingly reclusive from the mid-1990s through the turn of the century; and her health began to fail. Fortunately, she had found a “champion” in Christopher Steiner, a professor of art history and museum studies at Connecticut College, who was determined to protect her artistic legacy. He remained her supporter and advocate for the rest of her life.

By 2002, she was nearly indigent, in serious debt, and very frail. I won’t provide the terrible details; but she fell into a coma, was declared incompetent, and a ward of the State. The Courts put her house on the market to pay her debts. Despite refusing medical treatment because of her religious beliefs, she recovered, but was confined, apparently against her will, to a nursing home where she died in 2007.

The contents of the Nut Museum had been removed by Professor Steiner while her home was being sold. He had successfully petitioned the Old Lyme Probate Court to recognize the historic and artistic significance of the collection. Unfortunately, Tom Selleck and Henry Winkler were not yet pitching reverse mortgages as financial salvation for the indigent elderly.

And so, begins her “second Renaissance.”  In 2004, the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London launched a show of her work at which she was the guest of honor. Documentary filmmaker Don Bernier completed “In a Nutshell: A Portrait of Elizabeth Tashjian,” a feature-length video about the artist highlighting the diverse roles she assumed during her lifetime, which debuted at Connecticut. College.

Her obituary appeared in the New York Times Food Section in 2007: under the heading,“Elizabeth Tashjian, 94, an Expert on Nuts, dies,” which would have certainly appealed to her sense of irony.

The New Yorker carried “The Nut Lady Returns” in 2005.

The Armenian Weekly provides a detailed account of the Connecticut College exhibition.

Lee Howard’s recent article in The Day, “Reimagining the Nut Lady and her Art,” provides a friend’s perspective:

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I See Great Things in Baseball – Part 3: The Movies

Photo by Jose Morales on Unsplash.

Editor’s Note: This is the third and final essay by Tom Gotowka on the subject of baseball. We apologize for the delay between the second and third essays, but we made the choice, in consultation with Tom, to hold the latter as it arrived in our Inbox very close to election day. We did not wish it to become lost in all the excitement of our election reporting … and so now that the dust has settled, here it is finally for your reading pleasure.

I said in in the first essay that, “It’s that time of year when many of us start thinking about how well the Red Sox will undoubtedly do next year”. As expected, the New London Day recently had the headline: “A year after World Series Win, Red Sox Looking to Rebuild – finished the season out of the playoffs for the first time since 2015”.

I’m discussing baseball in the movies in this third and final essay. The following “anthology” is a representative list of what I believe are key examples of that genre. These movies are arranged chronologically and not by any sort of ranking. However. I have viewed each of these at least once – some in the theater, and many on DVD. I’m not going to do a play-by-play on any of these, but only highlight some of the scenes that made me occasionally watch them more than once. You will notice that these early movies relied heavily on sentimentality and heroism.

The Pride of the Yankees (1942) is a tribute to Yankees’ first baseman, Lou Gehrig, who was known as the “Iron Horse” during his 2,130 consecutive games played. Released early in WW2, it is a reflection on baseball, strong family values, and the “American way of life.” The movie follows Gehrig from his childhood in the German immigrant Yorkville neighborhood in Manhattan’s upper east side, through his recruitment by the Yankees from Columbia University (leaving the engineering program, much to his mother’s disappointment) and ending with his courageous “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech at his farewell day in 1939.

Gehrig tragically succumbed, at age 37, to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a deadly nerve disease, which now bears his name:- Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gary Cooper’s performance as Gehrig was much more convincing off the field than on the field. Nevertheless, watch this movie if you want to see what “acting presidential” really looks like.

The Babe Ruth Story (1948) was the first movie about the life of Babe Ruth. This movie relied more on sentimentality than historical accuracy. My guess is that it was rushed into release after news broke that Babe Ruth was dying from cancer. The film presents his life, from his early and incorrigible childhood as a budding juvenile delinquent on the streets of Baltimore, and then to his “exile” by his parents to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where the Xaverian Brothers provided direction and discipline … and introduced him to baseball.

The movie includes his “called shot” in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. The Babe is played by William Bendix, who certainly bears a slight resemblance to him. Some trivia: Bendix had actually been a bat boy at Yankee Stadium during the 1920s, and had regularly seen Babe Ruth play. He was fired from that job after fulfilling Ruth’s request for an order of 15 hot dogs and sodas before a game.

The Stratton Story (1949) follows Texas farm boy and future baseball star Monty Stratton as he rises from the minor leagues to the majors. Stratton was a great right-handed pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in the 1930s, compiling a 37-19 won-loss record in three seasons. His major league career ended in 1938, when a serious hunting accident forced doctors to amputate his right leg. The story shows how Stratton, through incredible determination and the support of his family and friends, walked and pitched again. Amazingly, he continued to pitch in the minor leagues with a wooden leg through the late 1940s and into the 1950s. James Stewart plays a believable Monty Stratton.

The Pride of St. Louis (1952) presents the life story of Jerome Herman “Dizzy” Dean, who is billed, in the opening credits, as “one of the most colorful characters of our time”. This is another “feel-good” baseball movie that provided Americans with an alternative to the “film noir” and some of the sci-fi films of the day covering “atomic energy mutations.”

Dan Dailey plays the charming “hick” Dizzy Dean, taking him from his discovery at a “very local” game in the Arkansas Ozarks, through the Texas League, and then on to the St. Louis Cardinals roster – winning the World Series and breaking some major league pitching records along the way. An injury leads to the early end of his career, and his re-emergence in radio broadcasting. Richard Crenna plays his brother Paul “Daffy” Dean, who was also a major league pitcher.

Damn Yankees (1958) is a movie adaptation of the 1956 Broadway musical about the pennant race between the dominant New York Yankees and the hapless Washington Senators. Like the German legend of Faust and his deal with the devil, an aging and ardent baseball fan, Joe Boyd, seizes an opportunity provided by a devilish man named Applegate to lead his beloved Senators to the pennant; mysteriously joining the team as superstar Joe Hardy, This is an interesting departure from the heroic ball players of past movies and is included because it is so unique.

Bang the Drum Slowly (1972) is another sentimental baseball story, covering the strong friendship between a star major league pitcher and a developmentally delayed (my diagnosis) catcher, as they cope with the catcher’s terminal illness. This movie is worth seeing, not only because it has such a wonderful title, derived from the cowboy song “Streets of Laredo”; but because it’s also an opportunity to see Robert De Niro in one of his earlier roles, playing the catcher, Bruce Pearson.

The Natural (1984) Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, is a farm boy with “an amazing gift for throwing a baseball.” As a rising star on the pitcher’s mound, he strikes out the “Whammer” (i.e., Babe Ruth) in three pitches in an exhibition. He is shot and seriously injured by an insane woman who apparently targets champion athletes. Hobbs is forced to drop out of play for an extended period. He finally returns as a middle-aged rookie and powerful hitter to take a losing 1930s baseball team to the top of the league.

Along the way, he encounters gamblers, suspicious reporters, purveyors of fake news, loose women, and finally … the love of his life. Hobbs’ bat, which he had hand-hewn from a lightning-struck tree and engraved “Wonder Boy,” has an ongoing presence in the more meta-physical aspects of the movie. Like Red Sox Hall of Famer, Ted Williams, Hobbs’ goal was for people to say, “There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

For me, the final few baseball sequences make the first two hours more than worthwhile. Hobbs finally breaks “Wonder Boy”, and then turns to batboy Bobby Savoy: “Pick me out a winner Bobby”, who hands him his own hand-hewn bat, “The Savoy Special”. Hobbs homers into the lights in his last time at bat, unleashing a huge display of sparks and fireworks. Redford is believable as a major league baseball player.

Bull Durham (1988) Kevin Costner plays a perennial minor league catcher reassigned to the Durham Bulls to help mature, mentor, and “protect” a young pitching standout (from the local women and all the other distracting temptations). Susan Sarandon plays Annie Savoy, whose goal in life seems to be developing a romance each season with a team member. The movie tracks these three characters through the season and, of course, pitcher and catcher each strikes up a romance with Annie, who is considered the team’s “mascot”, and refers to baseball as her “religion”. Although largely a comedy, Bull Durham has some excellent dialogue and treats the game with a bit of reverence.

Eight Men Out (1988) is the story of eight players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who were banned from the game for life by the Baseball Commissioner for their role in a scandal involving gambling and the “throwing” of World Series games. These baseball stars were depicted in this movie as naïve working men, who made some awful decisions, and were treated in the film with some compassion.

Field of Dreams (1989) Kevin Costner plays Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, who hears a voice in his corn field tell him, “If you build it, he will come”. In this movie, adapted from W. P. Kinsella’s “Shoeless Joe,” for some reason, Ray interprets the message as an instruction to build a baseball field in the cornfield on his farm. The ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series all appear on the field.

As the voices continue (i.e., “Ease his Pain”), Ray seeks out a reclusive author to help him understand the meaning of the messages. As noted in my second essay, “this is a mix of fantasy, mysticism, and historical facts to demonstrate the importance of baseball in America’s memory”.

Major League (1989) is not a sentimental look at America’s game. Rather, it is John Belushi’s “Animal House”, set in a baseball stadium. The movie follows the exploits and shenanigans of a roster of misfits – some very talented – playing for a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians. The team’s new owner, a former showgirl, put together this purposely horrible team so that they’ll lose badly and she can then move the team to Miami to warmer weather and a new stadium.

When the plot is eventually uncovered, the team starts winning just to spite her. This movie and its whacky cast of oddballs is worth a view or two. Bob Uecker is outstanding as the team’s play-by-play announcer. The movie actually spawned two spinoffs; neither of which is worth seeing.

The Babe (1992) is a more detailed review of the life of Babe Ruth than the 1948 film. “All the boxes are checked” in this movie biography. John Goodman plays a pudgy and somewhat “clownish” Babe Ruth. The story begins in Baltimore, early in the twentieth century, where a troubled and undisciplined boy is sent to the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. There, Brother Matthias introduces him to baseball and is stunned by Ruth’s power.

Over time, he continues to excel as a powerful hitter and a gifted pitcher on an organized team. As the movie progresses, Ruth receives some attention from major league scouts, who sign him to a contract with the Orioles. Ruth is sold to the Boston Red Sox and begins to gain wide attention for his home runs. Unfortunately, after Ruth demands more money, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sells him to the New York Yankees to finance his Broadway shows. This sale then becomes, and is forever known in Boston as “The Curse of the Bambino”.

In 1932, during the World Series against the Cubs, Ruth points to center field and hits a towering home run, “calling his shot” on behalf of a boy dying in a hospital bed. Moving ahead, the movie shows Babe in decline. He wants to pursue his ambition of managing a baseball team, and the Yankees release him from his contract. He signs with the Boston Braves as a manager, but his presence on the team is more comedic than anything else.

The film ends with a broken Ruth, walking through the entrance tunnel where he is confronted by the “dying boy”, who, now healthy and an adult, tells him “You’re the best; the best there’s ever been”.

A League of Their Own (1992) is a fictionalized and almost farcical account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League AAGPBL), which was founded by Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley during World War II to keep baseball in the public’s eye while many of baseball’s male players were in military service; and women took on many roles that had historically been handled only by men. The league operated between 1943 and 1954. The movie is a “flashback” by a former player, who is attending the opening of the AAGPBL exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The movie includes Tom Hanks, who plays an alcoholic former major leaguer serving as team manager; and Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and Lori Petty, and Megan Cavanaugh as core team members.

Cobb (1994) is the story of sportswriter, Al Stump, chosen by Ty Cobb to ghost-write his “authorized” autobiography. The writer meets a mortally ill and aged Cobb in his Lake Tahoe home, and finds a drunken, cynical, racist man, who tries to manipulate both him and the facts. The grand house sits without heat or electricity because Cobb is battling the utility companies. His domestic staff has also left him. As Cobb tries to “set the record straight” about his life in and out of baseball, Stump must either present an accurate picture of a terrible man, who happened to be both an American sports hero and the first man inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, or candy-coat his life.

This dilemma plays out through the end of the movie, and Stump’s indecision on whether to write a tribute to a legendary player, or a confirmation of what is an almost anti-social personality. Tyrus Raymond Cobb is well-played by Tommy Lee Jones, who presents him as an unsympathetic, and utterly vicious character.

Money Ball (2011) is the account of the Oakland Athletics’ 2002 season and the methods used by their general manager, Billy Beane, to pull together a low cost, but competitive team.

Beane, played by Brad Pitt, has been saddled with the lowest player salary budget in the major leagues. So, he recruits Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate with some radical ideas about how to assess player value: i.e., “an analytical, evidence-based, ‘sabermetric’ approach, based on detailed statistical data” to selecting and signing under-valued players (rather than relying on their scouts’ experience and intuition). Brand had validated his approach for Beane by demonstrating how his method would not have drafted Beane (who was a mediocre major league player) until the ninth round.

42 (2013) tracks the life of Jackie Robinson as he breaks major league baseball’s color barrier and becomes the first African-American player on a major league roster. Robinson was a graduate of UCLA, where he was the school’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. He was also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army in 1943, having joined in 1942.

By 1946, he is playing in the Negro League. Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford, is general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and interested in recruiting Robinson for the team. The movie shows how Rickey’s interest in Robinson developed and how he made his decision to recruit him for the Dodger organization. Their discussions acknowledge just how difficult life will be for Robinson and his family when he joins the team. Rickey told Robinson that “I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.”

Robinson was initially assigned to the Dodgers’ minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals, and was well-received there as a star player. Life changes immensely when he reports to the Dodgers in Brooklyn and begins playing at Ebbets Field. Robinson and his family endure unrelenting racist hostility on and off the field, from his opponents, his teammates, and the Brooklyn fans alike.

The movie clearly shows his struggle to endure this abuse without complaint. Harrison Ford is terrific as Branch Rickey. Chadwick Boseman is very good as Robinson. This movie is very inspirational and one of those that, if only for its historic value, one should see at least once.

The following documentary has become an important resource in reviewing baseball history.

Ken Burns Baseball (1994) Although not a movie, is a chronology of the game of baseball from its inception. The documentary is divided into nine segments, each representing an inning. Burns uses a period film in his history, which is a “must-view for anyone interested in the history of baseball.”

As I complete this final essay, I am struck by the news that the 2019 World Series is the Houston Astros versus the Washington Nationals.
Holy Cow! It has been over 80 years since team from Washington D.C. has had a berth in the World Series. The 1933 World Series featured the New York Giants and the Washington Senators. The Giants won in five games.

I said that I would dedicate these essays to my Dad, who was a baseball fan, a baseball player, and a baseball coach. As I said, his most unforgettable advice was “never be the only player on the field with a clean jersey.” He also decried any of his players walking while on the ball field, “except after the umpire says ‘ball four’ … otherwise you run out to your position and back into the dugout.”

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Letter to the Editor: A Post-Election Message To The People of Old Lyme, ‘We Must Go Forward Together’

To the Editor:

The election is behind us and Old Lyme still has a government. I am certain that Bonnie Reemsnyder will ensure a smooth and gracious transition to Mr. Griswold and our re-elected incumbent selectwoman, Mary Jo Nosal, and selectman, Chris Kerr.

Mr.Griswold inherits a fiscally strong Old Lyme that sits on a well-maintained infrastructure. Clearly, the RTC was able to keep the Port Authority issue in front of voters; and that probably made the difference.

So, now that we are past this contentious election, I’ll close with the words of Winston Churchill, who told Parliament and the British people: “We must go forward together”.

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

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Letter to the Editor: ‘Spurious and Specious Editorial’ on Sewers in Old Lyme Presents ‘An Inconvenient Mistruth’

To the Editor:

On October 12, Gregory Stroud, editor of the CT Examiner, published “A Stray Conversation About Sewering Rogers Lake and Elsewhere in Old Lyme; which was based on a conversation” with retiring Waterford First Selectman Daniel Stewart, who is presumably leaving public life. Stewart alleged first-hand knowledge that Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder has openly (?) discussed installation of sewers in Old Lyme beyond the current Sound View project, He then went on to question the validity of the current Intermunicipal Agreement for transport of sewage.

I followed through with Old Lyme Town Hall and could not find any evidence supporting such allegations. So, it appears to me that, without any attempt to verify these “facts”, Stroud published a spurious and specious editorial – i.e., An Inconvenient Mistruth”, and so close to the November elections, too. If WaterGate had “Deep Throat”; what should we call this, as it relates to “WasteWaterGate”? – other than an example of partisan “yellow journalism”. In Stroud’s own words: “how can we be hearing this for the first time from Waterford?” I was compelled to follow through, why didn’t you also do so, Mr. Stroud?

The CT Examiner claims to be non-partisan. However, I feel that it is important to know that J. David Kelsey, co-founder and principal source of funding for this online newspaper, is also Chairman of Old Lyme’s Republican Town Committee.

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

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I See Great Things in Baseball – Part 2

Photo by Jose Morales on Unsplash

Editor’s Note: We are delighted to continue publication of  a three-part essay on the literature of baseball written by Old Lyme resident Tom Gotowka. This is the second part, find the first one at this link, and look for the third in the coming weeks.

As I noted in my first essay, baseball fans have been blessed with a remarkably rich – and often thoughtful – literature describing the sport. In this second essay, I’ll review several baseball novels and biographies that provided me with a better understanding of the sport.

This is not an exhaustive study of the genre. Rather, they’re the written works that were meaningful to me and helped me endure the winter months.

The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It”, by Lawrence Ritter, is a collection of player memories told by the players themselves. This oral history is a positive account of what was then a very different style of play. It is suitable for little leaguers.

In” The Boys of Summer”, Roger Kahn, a Brooklyn native, and journalist for the New York HeraldTribune, follows the careers of players on the Brooklyn Dodgers team that won the 1955 World Series, beating the New York Yankees. It was the Dodgers’ first and only World Series championship won while located at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn. That team is often cited as one of the most exciting Major League ball clubs ever fielded; it is the team that broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson.

Kahn tracks the lives of the key players on that team, including Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snider (and others) when their glory days were behind them. Kahn writes with sincerity and really demonstrates exactly what it means to be a passionate fan.

In “Don’t Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball”, Mark Ribowsky chronicles the life and times of Satchel Paige, the first Negro League star to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ribowsky covers both Paige, the player, and the environment in which he played.

He describes life for such gifted players before the major league color barrier was broken. Paige, who was a contemporary of both Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, pitched in the “parallel” Negro Leagues for over 20 years before he joined the Cleveland Indians at age 42 for their 1948 pennant-winning season (where he went a very respectable six wins and one loss). He had played to huge crowds in Pittsburgh, and Newark in the Negro Leagues and pitched about – so it is thought – 1,000 games. Paige, like the later Yogi Berra, was known for his colorful remarks and expressions.

In “Ball Four”, Jim Bouton describes the then hidden side of Major League Baseball: the rampant drug use among players and the routine use of amphetamines. He reveals the pervasive drinking and drunken behavior of some players, including Mickey Mantle. Highly controversial at the time of publication, the book is largely now considered an important and true perspective of the game as observed during Bouton’s own playing days in the 1960s and early 1970s. Bouton’s book was written before the steroids’ disaster and the advent of asterisks in player record books.

In “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”, Michael Lewis describes the then unusual analytic method used by the Oakland Athletics in assembling a competitive, but low cost (i.e., by Major League standards) team. Lewis focuses on the Athletics’ General Manager’s “analytical, evidence-based, “sabermetric” approach to player selection. Note that, like “gonfalon bubble” first used by Franklin Pierce Adams, Lewis was also able to introduce new jargon to the game.

Canadian author, W. P. Kinsella, wrote several baseball novels and short stories. I read two of his novels after seeing the movie, “Field of Dreams”, which was adapted from his novel “Shoeless Joe”.

In “Shoeless Joe”, an Iowa corn farmer (Ray) hears a voice in his cornfield saying “If you build it, he will come”. So, Ray then proceeds to start a multi-year project to build a baseball park in his front yard. However, important peripheral tasks appear with each phase of the completed construction.

I’m not going to do a play-by- play on this work, but one of the tasks leads Ray to meet J.D. Salinger, the author of “Catcher in the Rye”, who then joined him for a baseball game at Fenway Park. The eight baseball players, who were banned from playing in the Majors for their role in the Black Sox Scandal, also make appearances on Ray’s field. Kinsella mixes fantasy, and mysticism with historical facts to demonstrate the importance of baseball in America’s collective memory.

In the second novel, “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy”, Kinsella tells the tale of Gideon Clarke, whose goal is to prove to the world — as his father tried to do before him — that the world-champion Chicago Cubs traveled to Onamata, Iowa in the summer of 1908 for an exhibition game against all-stars from the Iowa Baseball Confederacy, an amateur league. The game turned into an epic battle of over 2,000 innings, played mostly in the pouring rain.

This game is not in the record books; and nobody remembers it or the Confederacy. However; Gideon Clarke “knows” it happened, and he is determined to set the record straight. His life is dominated by his desire to prove the existence of the Iowa Baseball Confederacy, and to show the world that a team from this league played against the Chicago Cubs in 1908.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a shred of evidence that the Confederacy ever existed. Like “Shoeless Joe” above, baseball is at the heart of Kinsella’s novel, and he again uses myth and mysticism to show his love of the game.

Mike Lupica is a sports journalist and former newspaper columnist for the New York Daily News. He is known for his provocative commentary. A prolific sports novelist, he frequently targets young adult readers. He handles the issues of immigration and refugees seeking a better life in two recent novels.

Heat”, covers the life of 12-year-old Miguel (Michael) Arroyo, and his 17 year- old brother, Carlos; who live in the South Bronx near Yankee stadium. The young Cuban immigrants love baseball. Again, I’m not going to do a play-by-play on this story, but Michael is, at 12-years-old, an outstanding Little League pitcher. His fast ball has been “clocked” at eight miles per hour, and opposing coaches say that ‘he is too good to be just 12-years-old’. The brothers begin to worry when adults start asking to speak to their father about a birth certificate.

It’s not Michael’s age that’s the problem. Rather, they can’t let authorities know that their father had died of a heart attack several months earlier, leaving them orphans. They fear that foster care will separate them unless they can keep their secret until the birth certificate issue comes to some sort of resolution. With the help of an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Cora, and Carlos’ two jobs, they’ve convinced everybody that Papi is in Florida caring for his sick brother.

This story is reminiscent of the Danny Almonte age-fraud scandal in which a 14-year-old star pitcher for a Bronx Little League team passed himself off as a 12-year-old in order to be eligible to play in the 2001 Little League World Series.

Danny was born in the Dominican Republic, but achieved some notoriety on the basis of his Little League World Series performance. He pitched a no-hitter in the Mid-Atlantic Regional finals, the game that took his team to the World Series; and although his team did not go on to win the Series, he became known nationally. Several teams had actually hired private investigators to look into the ages of the entire team.

Strike Zone” is Lupica’s recently published follow-up to “Heat” and again covers the lives of a young baseball prodigy and his immigrant family living in America. Twelve-year-old star Little League pitcher Nick Garcia has some dreams. He dreams he’ll win this season’s MVP and the chance to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. He dreams they’ll find a cure for Lupus so his sister won’t have to suffer. But mostly, he dreams that one day his family can stop living in fear of the government.

The story progresses until Nick notices a mysterious man lurking on his street corner, and senses a threat …

Clearly, Lupica is reflecting on a period when most Americans still supported the notion : “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

This wraps up my own list of key baseball literature. A third essay will discuss baseball at the movies.

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I See Great Things in Baseball – Part 1

Photo by Jose Morales on Unsplash

Editor’s Note: We are delighted to publish the first section of a three-part essay on the literature of baseball written by Old Lyme resident Tom Gotowka. Look for the second and third parts in the coming weeks.

Walt Whitman, editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the mid-1840s, wrote: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.”

I love baseball and am a lifelong reader of the baseball literature, which is remarkably rich. Right now, it’s that time of year when many of us start thinking about the baseball playoffs, the World Series, and how well the Red Sox will undoubtedly do next year. Then, in November, we’ll begin each off-season morning with, “Alexa, play “Center Field’ by John Fogerty. (i.e., “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today.”)

I dedicate this three-part essay on the literature of baseball to my Dad, whose own baseball career was interrupted by World War II and the Battle of the Bulge. He was the first of a three – going on four – generation “dynasty” of catchers, and could still snap a laser to second base in his fifties. For me, his most unforgettable advice was, “Never be the only player on the field with a clean jersey.” He had similar wisdom for any physical outdoor sport.

I grew up reading many of the historic player biographies – which, at that time, generally targeted 12-year-olds – and didn’t cover the “less refined” side of the game. I will focus here on some of my favorite pieces, and hope that sports writer literati will continue to contribute and expand that bibliography.

Locally, New London Day sportswriter, Mike DiMauro regularly exhibits flashes of literary brilliance. For example, he recently cited “the words of Plato” in his column on the Ledyard Chamber Choir’s performance of the National Anthem at Fenway Park.

In the past, sportswriters seemed to be a fairly literary bunch.

In 1888, Ernest Thayer, a journalist at the San Francisco Examiner, wrote “Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic,” which is probably the best known of all the epic poems of baseball:
“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day.
The score stood four to two with but one inning left to play.
And then when Cooney died at first and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair; while the rest
clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that;
they’d put up even money, with Casey at the bat …
But there is no joy in Mudville, mighty Casey had struck out!”

Grantland Rice was a prolific sportswriter in the early twentieth century known for his elegant style. He wrote “Casey’s Revenge” in 2007:
“There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more.
There were muttered oaths and curses – every fan in town was sore.
‘Just think, said one, how soft it looked with Casey at the bat’;
and then to think he’d go and spring a bush-league trick like that!’”

Rice is possibly best-known for a statement on sportsmanship that many of us have said or heard: “When the Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks, not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

In 1910, Franklin Pierce Adams, a columnist for the New York Evening Mail, wrote “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” (told from the point of view of a Giants’ fan watching a game against the Cubs and its great infield):
“These are the saddest of possible words: Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds;
Tinker to Evers to Chance.
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double.
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

So, it’s still fair to say that a 4-6-3 double play is like ballet – i.e. the second baseman (4), playing deep, fields the ground ball and throws to the charging shortstop (6) who touches second base, leaps above the sliding runner – while simultaneously throwing to first base (3). That’s ballet!

In 1948, Gerald Hern, sports editor at the Boston Post, composed a poem about the Boston Braves’ great pitching rotation of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain: “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”.
First we’ll use Spahn,
Then we’ll use Sain,
Then an off day, followed by rain.
Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain;
And followed, we hope, by two days of rain.”

Robert Frost, perhaps New England’s greatest poet, also loved baseball. He said “When I was young, I was so interested in baseball that my family was afraid I’d waste my life and be a pitcher. Later they were afraid I’d waste my life and be a poet. They were right.” In ‘Birches,’ he shows concern about any boy living too far from town to play baseball.

He also wrote: “Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.” And finally, “One of the hardest things in life to accept is a called third strike”.

I want to also recognize the colorful commentary of some radio and TV sportscasters. I’ll loosely characterize those sometimes outrageous literary contributions as: “Baseball Couplets and Allegory”.

Keith Olberman’s quarter century career as a sports commentator included long stints at both ESPN and CNN. He has used the following in describing an on-field dispute: “I can read his lips and he’s not praying.”

Ernie Harwell’s half-century career as a sportscaster included 40 years with the Detroit Tigers. He described a called third strike in language somewhat reminiscent of Robert Frost: “He stood there like a house on the side of the road. Strike out!”

Reece Davis, an ESPN sports commentator, when describing a home run, said: “That ball has been voted off the island!” (which I guess is in reference to a reality TV show … not Robert Frost.)

Dave Niehaus, a sportscaster and play-by-play announcer for over 30 years with the Seattle Mariners described a grand slam in game 4 of the 1995 American League Division Series this way: “Get out the ryebread and mustard, Grandma. It is grand salami time!”

Jerry Coleman was both a player for the New York Yankees and a manager for the San Diego Padres. Like Ted Williams, he had also served as a Marine Corps pilot in both World War II and Korea. He finally capped his career as a broadcaster, and described home runs or any great play as: “Oh, doctor, you can hang a star on that one!”

And, of course, there’s Don Orsillo, who called Red Sox games for 15 years with Jerry Remy. Don loved calling home runs, frequently referring to Red Sox homers as: “La Luna” or “Buenos noches, amigos!”

In the second essay, I’ll review several contemporary baseball novels and biographies that I’ve not only enjoyed reading, but also feel that they provided me with a better understanding of the sport.

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Letter to the Editor: ‘The Battle of the Beaches’; Who’s Oldest, How to Resolve it … Annually

To the Editor:

Both Revere Beach in Revere, Massachusetts; and Sound View Beach in Old Lyme proclaim themselves as “America’s oldest public beach”. Sound View history is well-documented in Jim Lampos’ wonderful “Rum Runners …”

Revere’s public beach dates back to 1896, with a rail link that actually began in 1875. Revere remains accessible today via the MBTA’s blue line. Revere was declared a national historic landmark in 2003.

Sound View Beach, on the other hand, claims that its public beach actually began in 1892, subsequent to H. J. Hilliard’s deeding of the beach property to the “unorganized general public for its perpetual use”; thus, making Sound View America’s oldest public beach.

Bad math? I don’t think so. Revere is less than 10 miles (as the drone flies) from both Harvard and M.I.T.

Incompetent Massachusetts historians? I don’t know. Perhaps a team from Yale’s Archaeologic Studies Program can sift through the ruins and ash of the Antique Shanty and corroborate our claim.

I believe that there is an opportunity to settle the issue right on the sand with an annual beach volleyball tournament between Revere and Sound View. In time this might rival both “The Race” between Harvard and Yale’s heavyweight rowers (which began in 1859); and “The Game” between Harvard and Yale’s football teams (which began in 1875). Otherwise, our respective Chambers of Commerce should get involved and resolve the dispute.

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

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Letter to the Editor: Thoughts, Concerns, Suggestions on Halls Rd. Improvement Plan

To the Editor:

Christina and I attended both public meetings hosted by Old Lyme’s Halls Road Improvements Committee, and conducted by members of the Yale Urban Design Workshop. Yale presented the Committee’s vision statement and several conceptual renderings of what fully realizing that vision might yield. The article in the New London Day accurately summarized the vision.

The audience was skeptical of the immense breadth and scope of that vision; – requiring twenty- five or more years to complete.  Several concerns were raised about cost and the impact on taxes.

We left with a few thoughts and concerns. It was not apparent to us that current Halls Road business owners and the professionals occupying office space had participated to any extent in developing that vision. It is absolutely important to get their buy-in. Essex Bank did state that any of their future development would take Old Lyme’s plan into consideration.

We found Alan Plattus’ presentation to be a bit glib. This is important stuff, and some of the vision could be lost in presenter style. Also, know the names of our local landmarks, especially if they factor into the plan. (i.e. it’s the “Bow Bridge” that used to cross the Lieutenant River). But, after all; they’re Yale, not Harvard.

Our suggestion: parse the plan into achievable shorter- range projects that will yield some early successes. Start with the hiking/biking paths along the Lieutenant River, rebuild the foot bridge, and create the new Halls Road village green.

Sincerely, 

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

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Letter to the Editor: Poop Isn’t Pretty … So Let’s Make a New Year’s Resolution To Pick It Up

To the Editor:

I am writing in part to fulfill a promise to a daughter. Our daughter Erin arrived for the Christmas holidays from North Carolina with an adolescent Hungarian vizsla pup. She walked Daisy a few times each day; and always with a doggie waste disposal bag in her pocket.

She commented on the large amount of pet waste that she encountered on her walks and wondered why Old Lyme hasn’t required, – or at least encouraged – pet owners to “police” their dog’s waste. I do not know that this problem is widespread or endemic in our town, nor will I attempt to quantify the issue. It is noticeable.        

I assume that residents are largely cleaning up after their pets. However, the (hopefully) minority of dog owners who are so discourteous to their neighbors that they don’t bother to bag and dispose this waste, are leaving an unsightly and unhealthy memorial of their pet’s exercise.

Erin’s professional career has been principally in Boston/ Cambridge, MA and the United Kingdom. These places have longstanding strongly enforced ordinances regarding removal and disposal of pet waste. So, she may react to such misbehaviors earlier than many would.

I am not advocating that Old Lyme enact an ordinance regarding pet waste. Rather, I feel that we should communicate the problem better and continue with our Tennessee Williams – type approach to  resolution i.e., with apologies to T.W., we should always depend on the kindness of neighbors.

The problem is not insignificant; dog mess is not only an eyesore, but also a health hazard.

In the extreme, according to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dog waste is a major pollutant and contaminant of the water supply. It is a serious health issue.

In fact, it is estimated that 1/3 of all water contamination is a result of dog waste run off entering streams and leaching into underground well water. The EPA deemed dog waste a “non-point source of pollution”, which puts it in the same category as oil and toxic chemicals. So, picking up after your pet every single time is important.

I’ll summarize the “How”: Always carry a plastic bag with you when you walk your dog.  Using the bag like a glove, you pick up the waste, turn the bag inside out around the waste, tie it in a knot and dispose of it in a trash can. 

Repurposed supermarket fresh produce bags work well. Lacking those, dog waste pickup bags are available in many  stores and online. Note: do not put this waste  in your home compost pile because it may contain parasites, bacteria, pathogens, and viruses that are harmful to humans which may not be destroyed by composting.   Those interested in digging down further into procedural details should look at: https://www.wikihow.com/Pick-Up-Dog-Poop

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

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Recycling in Old Lyme: Electronic Waste

LymeLine.com is publishing a series of articles in association with Old Lyme’s Solid Waste and Recycling Committee — these articles lay out best recycling practices. Previous articles have covered Old Lyme’s current curbside trash and recycling program; the safe disposal of medications; the recycling of paint, and the recycling of mattresses.

In this article we cover the more complex topic of managing electronics at the end of their useful life; i.e., what should we do with our e-waste? The topic is especially pertinent right now because — I’m certain — that more electronics move in and out of our homes during the holidays than at any other time of the year.

Scope of the Problem

Proper disposal of e-waste is a very significant issue. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 2.5 million tons of e-waste are produced each year in the United States. The majority is not recycled, so most of our discarded electronics are ending up in landfills; the EPA estimates that less than one in 10 mobile phones is recycled, and only about 25 percent of all e-waste is collected for recycling.

If you’re checking the math, some of the rest gets donated; but according to EPA pundits, almost three quarters of computers sold in the United States end up stockpiled in garages, basements, and closets waiting to eventually enter the disposal stream.

Our e-waste contains materials that are toxic if improperly handled at disposal. These toxic chemicals, which can leach into the soil over time or be released into the atmosphere, include cadmium, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, and brominated flame retardants. Incineration releases these heavy metals into the air.

Mercury released into the atmosphere can bio-accumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish, a major route of exposure for the general public. If the products contain PVC plastic, highly toxic dioxins and furans are also released.

Moreover, electronics are made with valuable resources like precious metals, engineered plastics, glass, and other materials — all of which require energy to manufacture. When  equipment is discarded, these resources cannot be recovered and additional cost is incurred to manufacture new products from virgin materials.

Further, lanthanides, also known as rare-earth elements, are used to make magnets found in computers, cell phones, and many other consumer “gadgets.” Until recently, China was the main producer of these raw materials, giving that country an advantage in setting market prices. As a result, the U.S. Department of Energy developed an initiative to recover lanthanides from electronic waste.

An International Issue

It was/is common practice for developed countries to export their e-waste to developing countries, which may not have the resources to safely recycle and dispose of used electronics.  In the United States it is estimated that about a quarter of the waste collected for recycling is still being exported in this manner.

In 2001, the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non-governmental environmental organization based in Seattle, led an investigation of e-waste processing in China, India, and Pakistan. The investigation, which included sophisticated electronic tracking of recycled televisions, uncovered an entire area northeast of Hong Kong where migrant workers were employed breaking apart obsolete computers imported primarily from North America. The workers, who included children, were not using contemporary safety and anti-contamination precautions.

FRONTLINE’s coverage of the investigation can be viewed at: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/ghana804/

BAN is named after the 1989 Basel Convention, a United Nations treaty designed to control and prevent the dumping of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries. BAN serves as a watchdog and promoter of the Basel Convention and its decisions.

Such dumping is actually “legal” in the United States because this country has not ratified the Basel Convention; although as of July 2016, 183 nations  and the European Union were already parties to the Convention. Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it.

There is still no federal law that requires the recycling of electronic waste or prohibits it from being exported to developing countries. There have been some efforts in Congress to pass a bill that would make overseas dumping of toxic e-waste illegal, but the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA) has been stuck in the House for more than two years.

Consequently, individual states began to take action. California passed an electronics recycling law in 2003, the first state to do so. Connecticut passed its law in 2007, and 27 other states and the District of Columbia have since followed suit.

Connecticut’s electronics recycling law requires electronics manufacturers to pay for the cost of recycling. This is another example of the producer responsibility or product stewardship  principle, which requires that those involved in production take responsibility for the safe disposal of a product.

However, unlike mattresses and paint, which were covered in past articles, where the consumer pays a fee at the time of purchase to support the recycling program, Connecticut’s law requires manufacturers to finance the transportation and recycling of these electronics. It also requires recyclers of electronics to be approved and monitored by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Drop-Off Sites

The local drop-off location for recycled residential electronics is the Old Lyme Transfer Station on Four Mile River Rd. There is no charge for drop off. Large electronics retailers like Best Buy and Staples also have recycling programs in place.

Covered Electronic Devices (CEDs)

Recyclable CEDs currently include the following:

  • televisions;
  • desktop and portable computers; monitors; printers;
  • fax machines; scanners;
  • cell phones,
  • tablets, and e-readers with a video display greater than 4 inches.

In contrast, e-waste from non-residential sources (i.e., commercial, governmental, retail, etc.) is regulated under current federal and state hazardous waste and solid waste laws and should not be dropped off as recycled residential electronics.

DEEP-approved recyclers then pick up these CEDs from the various Connecticut collection points. The recyclers then sort the computers and monitors by manufacturer and submit a bill to the responsible manufacturer for the cost of transporting and recycling those CEDs with the manufacturer’s brand name on them. Television manufacturers will pay a percentage of the total cost of recycling televisions equivalent to their market share.  Recyclers then submit bills to manufacturers for covered costs.

Data security

Under Connecticut’s recycling program, approved recyclers are required to establish data security practices. They must secure hard drives until such point that they are physically destroyed for recycling. If they intend to reuse or resell the computer, they must erase (“wipe”) the hard drive to a Department of Defense standard.

If you are concerned about data security, you can erase the hard drive prior to dropping off the device for recycling. There are several ways to erase a hard drive.  It is possible to perform this yourself at home, but it may be a bit complicated for those not facile with desktop computing. Paraphrasing recent political history, it’s not just “Like with a cloth or something?” Retailers like Best Buy and Staples may also perform this task, but for a charge. About a month ago Staples in Old Saybrook quoted a price of $29.99.

DEEP has information on inexpensive software that can be used to permanently erase the data on your hard drive at: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2714&q=397852&deepNav_GID=1645#Security

Our next article will cover the recycling of tires, and bulky items like appliances and furniture.

If you have questions or comments, contact: Leslie O’Connor at alete1@sbcglobal.net or Tom Gotowka at TDGotowka @aol.com.

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Recycling in Old Lyme: Getting Rid of Mattresses

mattresses
LymeLine.com is pleased to be publishing a series of articles written by Old Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee that lay out best recycling practices.  To date, the committee’s articles have covered Old Lyme’s curbside trash and recycling programs; the safe disposal of medications; and paint recycling.  This article covers the recycling of mattresses and box springs.

The International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), which is the trade association for the mattress industry, estimates that 35 to 40 million new mattresses and box springs are sold in the United States every year, and at least 15 to 20 million are discarded.

Unfortunately, mattresses are really hard to throw out; there is just no easy way to dispose of them.  They are difficult to land-fill because they can’t be easily compressed and crushed; they pose challenges for incinerators.

So, disposal of mattresses and box springs at the end of their useful life was difficult for towns to manage. Hartford estimated that mattress disposal cost that city about $400,000 in 2010.  Consequently, they are often illegally dumped and found on vacant lots and roadsides.  As a matter of fact, there was a mattress lawn ornament right here in Old Lyme on Rte. 156. It was only recently removed after gracing our roadside for several months. (Thanks, neighbor!)

Connecticut passed comprehensive mattress stewardship legislation in 2013 (the first state to do so.)  Similar to paint, the law requires mattress manufacturers to establish programs to manage unwanted mattresses and box springs; and, like paint, a fee is assessed at the point of sale to fund the program.  California and Rhode Island have since passed similar mattress stewardship laws.

The Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) was formed by ISPA to operate recycling programs in the states that have such laws. Connecticut’s program launched in May, 2015.  “Bye Bye Mattress” (really!) is the recycling program established by MRC. They provide haulers that pick up and transport mattresses and box springs from drop-off sites to recycling centers. Our local drop-off site is Old Lyme’s transfer station.  There are currently mattress recycling facilities in East Hartford and Bridgeport; ours extends to East Hartford.  Mattresses get recycled through the state’s recycling program regardless of when they were purchased.  Note that most mattress retailers will remove your old mattress on delivery of new.

The industry estimates that nearly 90 percent of used mattress and box springs’ components can be recycled — the metal springs, foam, wood and fibers — and made into new useful products.

Before putting this topic to rest, it’s worthwhile to mention the issue of bed bugs. Infested mattresses require special handling.  If you have concerns regarding bed bugs you can find information and guidance from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2714&q=482160&deepNav_GID=1645%20#BedBugs or the Connecticut Coalition Against Bed Bugs at http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2826&q=437580.

Our next few articles will cover the proper recycling of electronics, tires, and bulky items like appliances and furniture.

If you have questions or comments, contact Leslie O’Connor at alete1@sbcglobal.net or Tom Gotowka at TDGotowka@aol.com.

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Recycling in Old Lyme: Dealing With Left-Over Paint

paint_cansLymeLine.com is pleased to be publishing a series of articles written by Old Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee that lay out best recycling practices.  To date, the committee’s articles have covered the town’s current curbside program, and the safe disposal of prescription and over-the counter medications in previous articles. This article covers paint recycling.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 10 percent of all paint purchased in the United States is left-over – around 64 million gallons annually. This left-over and unused paint can cause pollution when disposed of improperly and, in the past, was costly for municipalities to manage. 

So, Connecticut enacted a paint stewardship law in 2011, which required that paint manufacturers assume the costs of managing unwanted latex and oil-based paints, including collection, recycling, and/or disposal of unwanted paint products. Connecticut was the third state in the country to pass paint legislation, following Oregon and California.

As a result of the paint stewardship law, a non-profit program was rolled out in 2012 by the American Coatings Association, which is a trade group of paint manufacturers. The program is funded by a fee paid by the consumer at the time of purchase.

“PaintCare” has resulted in a network of drop-off locations for that left-over paint (now 142 sites in the state.) Locations near Old Lyme include Sherwin Williams in Old Saybrook, True Value Hardware in East Lyme, and Rings End Lumber in Niantic. PaintCare now operates in the nine states that have enacted paint stewardship laws. There is no charge at the drop-off site. As noted, the program is wholly funded by fees assessed at the point of sale.

PaintCare drop-off sites accept latex and oil-based house paints, primers, stains, sealers, and clear coatings like shellac and varnish. All of these must be in the original container (no larger than five gallons) with the original printed label and a secured lid (i.e., no open or leaking containers.)  They do not accept aerosols, paint thinners, mineral spirits, and solvents.

You should review the PaintCare website (http://www.paintcare.org) before loading your trunk with your left-over paint.  The site has a complete list of accepted and non-accepted paint products and any drop-off limits.

What happens to the excess paint after drop-off?  PaintCare’s haulers move the paint from the drop-off sites to their facility for sorting. Their goal is to then recycle as much as possible according to a policy of “highest, best use”.

Most of the oil-based paint is taken to a plant where it is processed into a fuel and then burned to recover the energy value.

Clean latex paint (i.e., not rusty, dirty, molding or spoiled) is sent to recycling facilities and reprocessed into “new” paint; most latex paint that doesn’t contain mercury or foreign contaminants can be processed into recycled-content paint.

There are two types of recycled paint: re-blended and re-processed. Re-blended paint contains a much higher percentage of recycled paint than re-processed paint (which mixes old paint with new paint and other new materials).

Paint that is nearly new and in good condition is given to charitable organizations for re-sale. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores also accept clean surplus paints.

According to the PaintCare 2014 Annual Report, 240,798 gallons of used paint were collected in the first year of the program; 81 percent of the latex paint was recycled into recycled-content paint, 4 percent ended as a landfill cover product, 6 percent was fuel-blended, and 9 percent was unrecyclable and sent to landfill as solids. All of the oil-based paint was used for fuel.

Our next article covers the recycling of mattresses.

If you have questions or comments related to this article or recycling in general, contact Leslie O’Connor at alete1@sbcglobal.net or Tom Gotowka at TDGotowka@aol.com.

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Recycling in Old Lyme: How to Dispose of Medications

disposaldrugsOld Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee is exploring ways to improve recycling in Old Lyme. We are publishing several articles that lay out best practices.

Our first article reviewed Old Lyme’s current curbside program. This article covers the safe disposal of prescription and over-the counter medications. Note that we sometimes refer to “DEEP” (The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection)as a source of information.

First, never flush your unwanted medications down the sink or toilet; they pass through septic systems and sewage treatment plants essentially unprocessed. Flushed medications can get into our lakes, rivers and streams. Of real concern, a nationwide study done in 1999 and 2000 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found low levels of antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of the rivers and streams tested; further, research has shown that such continuous exposure to low levels of medications has altered the behavior and physiology of fish and other aquatic organisms.

Old Lyme residents have several options for safely disposing of medications but in all of these, keep the medications in their original container, but take care to protect your private information by either removing the label from the container or concealing it with a permanent marker.  The options are:

  • Occasional drug collection events sponsored by the Town or community organization.
  • Locally, watch for the Annual Drug Take Back Day sponsored by Lyme’s Youth Services Bureau.
  • Some police stations have a drop box drug disposal program where residents can anonymously discard unwanted or unused medications. Both the Clinton and Waterford Police Departments participate in the drop box program. A complete list of locations can be found at this link.
  • Some chain pharmacies (e.g., CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid) have disposal envelopes for prescription and over the counter drugs available for purchase; check with your pharmacy for details.
  • If the above doesn’t work for you, Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection suggests that you dispose of drugs in your household trash (where it will ultimately be incinerated) as follows: add hot water to dissolve the contents, or cover the contents with some noxious or undesirable substance; re-cover and place it all inside another larger container to ensure that the contents cannot be seen, and tape it shut.
  • unwanted pet medications should also be disposed as described above.
  • disposal of sharps: residents who are required to use injectable medications (e.g., insulin) can safely dispose of used needles and lancets by placing them in a puncture-proof, hard plastic container with a screw-on cap (like a bleach or detergent bottle). Tightly seal the container with the original lid and wrap with duct tape. Discard in a bag in your trash. Do not mix sharps with prescription drugs.
  • Some medications (e.g., chemotherapy drugs) require special handling; DEEP’s website provides more detail on disposing of such drugs and other medical supplies at this link.

This article covers methods for safe disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medications.  Our next article will cover the recycling of paint.

 Old Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee meets monthly. If you have questions or comments, contact: Leslie O’Connor or TDGotowka@aol.com.

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Old Lyme Seeks to Increase the Town’s Rate of Recycling

recycle_logoCurbside recycling by Old Lyme residents has become very routine.  However, there is some evidence that many recyclables end up in the blue trash bin rather than the green recycling bin. So, to reduce those missed opportunities, the Town has appointed a Solid Waste and Recycling Committee, which will investigate and identify ways to improve recycling in Old Lyme.

We plan to publish – with LymeLine.com‘s assistance – several informational articles that lay out best practices. This first piece provides an overview of our current curbside program.

Why we recycle

First, it’s the law! Connecticut implemented a mandatory recycling law in 1991; the law applies to all Old Lyme residents, every business in town. and all public and private agencies and institutions (e.g., schools); and applies, regardless of whether you rent or own, or whether you live in single or multi-family residences.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it just makes good sense. A typical household produces nearly five pounds of solid waste each and every day. Only about a pound of that gets recycled. So, that’s about ¾ ton of trash per household per year that ends up burned or buried. Connecticut must dispose of almost 2.5 million tons of trash every year.

Clearly, the more that we recycle, the less that trash and garbage ends up in our landfills and incineration plants. Recycling enables recovery and re-use of potentially valuable materials – turning what would otherwise be treated as waste into valuable resources.

Single Stream Recycling

OL_green_binIn 2011, Old Lyme implemented single stream recycling to streamline recycling for residents and, since then, all recyclables can be placed, unsorted, in the green recycling bin. Many of you probably remember the old 14-gallon blue recycling boxes which required separation of glass, paper, metal, & cardboard. Residents can now recycle more at each pickup.

What should we recycle?

We must recycle: all paper, cardboard; paperboard (e.g., cereal boxes & egg cartons); glass; aluminum food cans and foil; juice and milk cartons; non-deposit plastic soda bottles and cans; detergent bottles; empty aerosol cans; and all plastic labeled #1 to #7. There are more details at: http://oldlymesanitation.com/.

What should not be placed in your green bin?

Do not put any trash; plastic grocery bags; needles or syringes; Styrofoam; shipping peanuts; or food waste in your green bin. Never throw grass clippings or yard waste in the trash.

Recycling rules

  1. Flatten your cardboard before placing it in the bin.
  2. All recycled containers (cans, bottles, jars, etc.) must be empty and rinsed clean (You do not need to remove the labels).
  3. You should redeem your deposit bottles and cans at your supermarket rather than placing them in the bin.
  4. Recyclables should be placed dry and loose directly in the green bin (do not put them in plastic bags).
  5. Greasy pizza boxes are not recyclable.
  6. The plastic container code (the number inside the chasing arrows symbol) identifies recyclable plastics #1 to #7.

What do I do with all these plastic super market bags? – Just say “paper”?

Plastic bags should never be put in your green recycling bin because they can jam equipment at the facilities that prepare recyclables to be marketed.  Many Connecticut supermarkets have collection receptacles for plastic bags at the store and they will then be recycled. Really, the simplest solution is to just bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping. Most of us have a back seat full of those reusable bags.

How successful have our recycling programs been?
earth_surrounded_by_recycling_logoConnecticut has a goal of reducing, reusing and recycling 58 percent of our municipal solid waste by the year 2024.  The State’s goal incorporates everything included in Old Lyme’s recycling program. Our current rate is in the range of 25 – 32 percent. The State of Connecticut rate is currently below 30 percent.

This article outlines Old Lyme’s current recycling program. Subsequent articles will cover areas that fall outside the curbside program (e.g., bulky items like mattresses and furniture; appliances and electronics; unused prescriptions; and paint and hazardous waste). We’ll discuss the economic costs and benefits of recycling, and review what currently happens to your trash and recycling after it leaves your bin; and provide suggestions for better recycling practice, which will bring Old Lyme closer to Connecticut’s goal.

Old Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee meets monthly. If you have questions or comments, contact: alete1@sbcglobal.net or TDGotowka@aol.com. The recycling section of the Town’s website is also a good source of information.

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