All-American Diner Tour: Wade’s Diner in Oswego, New York

The original Wade’s, an old Pullman car and service station on 9th Street near Route 104 (Bridge Street), was a historic diner that opened in 1937. Unfortunately, an electric fire in August 2015 destroyed the original structure. It was rebuilt in a more modern style to comply with zoning regulations and “support modern technologies.” That technology apparently doesn’t include a credit card reader.

When Neal Wade purchased the Pullman car in the 1930s, he was told he couldn’t haul it across town without a permit. Being enterprising young Americans, Wade and friends decided to expedite the process themselves and hauled it to 9th Street during the night. Since no one could prove how the train car got there, they got away scot-free. In 1983, Anthony Zappala and Joseph Clark purchased the diner. Clark passed away in 2003 and Zappala’s family runs it to this day.

Wade’s is only open for breakfast and brunch, so they have a stripped-down menu offering French toast, pancakes, omelettes, and an assortment of side items, eggs Benedict, frittata, and a breakfast patty melt. They are known for their homemade cinnamon raisin bread. You can purchase a loaf for $6.00 (they also make white, wheat, and rye).

Everyone seems to praise Wade’s breakfast, especially their omelets. It pains me to say that wasn’t my experience. The raisin roast was excellent, but my omelet was under cooked and runny. It came out as quickly as it went in. Maybe I was just there on an off-day.

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The Phantom Bride of 13 Curves Road

On Halloween night, travelers negotiate the tight turns on this road in anticipation of catching a glimpse of a bloody bride.

A few miles southwest of Syracuse, New York, just down the W. Seneca Turnpike from Onondaga Community College, Cedervale Road winds its way downhill along a narrow creek. At this point, the woods close in on the road from both sides and lights are few. On Halloween night, travelers negotiate the tight turns on this road in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the “Phantom Bride of 13 Curves Road.” According to some accounts, this legend may stretch back to the days of horse and buggy.

Locals say that at some point in the past, a newlywed couple was driving a buggy down this road in the dark after the ceremony (or perhaps the reception). Unable to maintain control of the horses around the tight curves, the husband and his new bride were thrown from the open seats and broke their necks against the rugged terrain around the creek bed.

As the 20th Century wore on, the horse and buggy became an automobile in the minds of storytellers. The story, however, remained essentially unchanged, with some variations. Some say only the groom was killed, and the bride’s ghost appears searching for her former beloved.

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The Last Citadel: Petersburg by Noah Andre Trudeau

the-last-citadel-petersburg-june-1864-to-april-1865-by-noah-andre-trudeauIn The Last Citadel: Petersburg, June 1864-April 1865, Noah Andre Trudeau charts Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s Petersburg Campaign, from June 9, 1864, when General Benjamin Butler first attacked defenses around the city, to  April 3, 1865, when Federal troops at last captured this vital Virginia railroad hub south of Richmond. The ten-month Siege of Petersburg was the longest and most costly to ever take place on North American soil.

Within this non-traditional history, Trudeau brings to life these dramatic events through the words of men and women who were there, including officers, common soldiers, and the residents of Petersburg. What emerges is an epic account rich in human incident and adventure, told through various chapters covering all aspects of the campaign. This revised Sesquicentennial edition includes updated text, redrawn maps, and new material.

The Last Citadel is divided into six parts, including a prologue and epilogue. The chapters are arranged into a rough chronology, but this is not strictly a chronological account of the siege. Each chapter uses a different subject to frame the narrative, from the effect of artillery bombardment on soldiers and civilians, the role of newspapers and the press, and even fraternization between opposing armies.

This is a unique and interesting way to look at the battle, drawing from a multitude of primary sources including military orders and dispatches, regimental histories, civilian diaries and letters, newspapers, and more. Trudeau organizes his book well, so that various perspectives never become jumbled or distracting. This keeps each chapter fresh and interesting, like reading a collection of articles rather than a weighty historical text.

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An Afternoon at Labrador Hollow and Tinker Falls

Labrador Hollow Unique Area is located in Cortland and Onondaga counties, New York. Labrador Pond and Tinker Falls are two unique features in this conservation area, which is a steep-walled glacial valley. There is a two-mile trail leading to an overlook over the 50-foot high falls.

Suburbicon: A Suburban Gothic Crime Drama

A disgruntled middle manager’s insurance scheme unravels in an idyllic 1950s suburb in Suburbicon (2017). Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) is a middle-aged man with a disabled wife, Rose (Julianne Moore), and a young son, Nicky (Noah Jupe). Their world is shattered when two thugs (Glenn Fleshler and Michael D. Cohen) seemingly break into their home and murder Rose with an overdose of chloroform.

In the wake of the tragedy, Rose’s sister, Margaret (also played by Julianne Moore), moves in with Gardner and Nicky, over the objections of her brother, Mitch (Gary Basaraba). Meanwhile, an African American family, Mr. and Mrs. Mayers (Leith M. Burke and Karimah Westbrook) and their son Andy (Tony Espinosa), move into the all-white community. This ignites a controversy that forms the backdrop for the film.

Suburbicon was written by the Coen brothers and directed by George Clooney (who revised the screenplay). Joel and Ethan Coen originally wrote the script in 1986. Their effort at finding whatever was laying around for their next film paid off by finishing 9th at the box office on its opening weekend. Suburbicon is Matt Damon’s lowest performing film and it has a current rating of 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Suburbicon is modeled after Levittown, New York, a planned community built by William Levitt between 1947 and 1951 and the nation’s first modern suburb. Levitt, who was Jewish, believed whites would not want to live in Levittown alongside black neighbors, so the original rental agreement excluded non-Caucasians. Levittown remains 88.9 percent white.

In Suburbicon, white mobs subject the Mayers family to 24-hour harassment, culminating in torching their car and hanging a Confederate battle flag in their broken window. Nicky and Andy, however, form a bond, suggesting a more tolerant future.

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All-American Diner Tour: South 30 Diner in Amsterdam, New York

Along a rural stretch of Route 30 south of Amsterdam in Montgomery County, New York, the South 30 Diner appears at the roadside like a tiny farm smokehouse. It is a rustic, country-style diner with a capital “C”. The owners want you to feel like you’re in grandma’s kitchen. Anita (presumably the owner) left a special message on the menu: “As a food artiste, I see the beauty in all from a carrot to a cracker. To create a meal, is to create a work of art, it is not only nourishing but an expression of love.”

On my visit, I ordered a Bird ‘n’ Nest, which is a fried egg cooked in a piece of bread over corn-beef hash and two bacon strips for $6.95. The corn-beef hash is just home fries with pieces of meat sprinkled in. Somehow they managed to come out soft in some places and overcooked in others. I like corn-beef hash you’d get at the grocery store, but dislike potato chunks.

Their menu is simple and printed on two sides of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper folded in thirds. Breakfast is served all day. In addition to the Bird ‘n’ Nest, they offer several other custom dishes, including the Mykenny, Crazy Papa’s, and Dickie Do. The Mykenny is just 2 sausages, 2 slices of bacon, 2 eggs, potatoes, and toast for $8.95. They serve homemade sausage.

The South 30 Diner has a 4.5/5 average out of 47 Google reviews and 4.0/5 average on Yelp. Reviews are generally favorable. Google-user Michael Carbone wrote, “This place is everything you want out of a town diner. The owner is always there working tables, happy to talk about her work. You can tell she’s there for the love of cooking food for people. The food itself is delicious, I’ve never gotten the same thing twice and nothing has ever been ‘just okay’. Highly recommend trying it out.”

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