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The Goldman Years: Former Ithaca Activist Isn't Over the Hill, He's on the Other Side of It

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under the streetlamp

my shadow hurries ahead —

I’d rather linger


– Jack Goldman, activist, "bookie", poet, humorist

 

All the Life That's Fit for Print: Jack Goldman Came and Stayed and Ithaca's All the Better for It


ITHACA, NY – Back in the day, as the Baby Boomer euphemism goes, Jack Goldman was a force for American radical activism and education reform right here in his adopted home of Ithaca, NY.  Goldman, founder and operator of The Bookery I, now finds personal fulfillment in the pleasures of a day’s trade, buying and selling rare and antiquarian books, writing off-beat haikus, and laughing at life’s often-absurd conditions.

Opened in 1975, The Bookery is a fixture of the DeWitt Mall, a downtown Ithaca landmark of dark red brick. Wild grape vines muscle up from the foundation, scaling the exterior and obscuring remnants from an era past but not forgotten: atomic-yellow fallout shelter signs, assigned boys and girls entrances.

Down the stairs of the boys’ side entrance, past Moosewood and into the hallway bazaar, a ukulele lilts from Ithaca Guitar Works. The Cat’s Pajama's, a children's store, brightens the corridors with countless colorful promos and tie-dyes and one side; on the other, you might find Joanne Reuning sitting at loom outside her store, or hear the melodious whistling of Adam Perl, Ithaca's crossword puzzle wizard and proprietor of Pastimes Antiques. During breakfast and lunch hours, one is led by the nose toward the DeWitt Cafe, a popular restaurant that hums with activity during rush hours. Just shy of this open space with its tropical aquarium motif (Goldfish is not on the menu), are the hushed and welcoming confines of The Bookery where the ever-modest Jack Goldman wonders exactly why he is being interviewed for a profile. This is not a false humility; Goldman is a man of the moment, and for many years, those moments are devoted to the vagaries of a modern bibliognost.

Goldman originally opened this shop across the hall in what was the DeWitt High School bank vault. Back then, the door was opened by combination lock. That was 1975, when Ithaca boasted of having more bookstores per capita of any similar-sized municipality. The vault proved to be too tight a space and soon Goldman expanded his enterprise and moved it across the corridor, where it continues to thrive today, some four decades later.

According to the Bookery’s website: “The store is unique in that it holds a higher percentage of scholarly and rare books than most other bookstores.” The collection boasts an impressive 35,000 books on location and online covering a broad range of arts and sciences, humanities, law and social sciences. Goldman attributes the collection’s variety and complexity to his numerous local ties, a procession of loyal customers stretching from last century into this, as well as his “long, happy residency in Ithaca.”


my friend recommends

meditation and breathing –

I'll think about it


A native Californian, Goldman has logged significant time as a globetrotter. Back in 1959, he lived and worked on a socialist kibbutz in Israel, a place where he calibrated his political compass, he says: Its needle has a powerful bias to left of center. Goldman moved to Ithaca in 1966 via Switzerland, and took up graduate studies at Cornell University's vaunted German Literature program.

Shortly after enrolling, his moral compass compelled him to join the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in opposition to the Vietnam War. His commitment to the SDS was comprehensive and within a year, Goldman dropped his Cornell studies; in 1967, he co-founded the Glad Day Press where a cadre of like-minded activists published antiwar literature that was distributed both locally and nationally. Goldman added to his Glad Day duties, launching “Dateline Ithaca,” a weekly newsletter dedicated to the subverting the dominant paradigm via topics integral to sustaining the antiwar movement. These missives included discussions and guidelines on picketing, civil disobedience, and even how to get the best out of occupying a government, academic or corporate headquarters. Serving as both writer and editor, the newsletter padded Goldman's FBI dossier for another four years. What to government security agencies appeared as subversive was for Goldman an act of duty to his country – and to his immediate community.

“Dateline Ithaca,” Goldman says, “was an effort to create a dialogue between the student movement and the grievances that the people in town had, some of them directly, and others indirectly, connected with the war economy.”

Then "one thing led to another,” Goldman states matter-of-factly. His next endeavor was “The Big Blue Bus,” something of a literary triage unit on wheels. Glad Day staff members remodeled the interior of a school bus, filling it with shelves of books. They followed a route that wended through the county's impoverished rural fringe, areas that differed little from the Big White Ghetto of Appalachia. Their mobile library anticipated later efforts to encourage literacy among the disenfranchised; Glad Day folks also offered counseling on health and health insurance and savvy use of food stamps.

Goldman decided to drop his Cornell studies and devote himself to what looked like "The Greening of America." He earned an opportunity to wed his vocation and advocations when he became something of a protege to Benjamin Nichols, Cornell professor of electrical and computer engineering – and hard-nosed union activist of the Eugene Debs school. Nichols secured a position for Goldman as assistant director to the university's then-Human Affairs Program, an innovative town/gown education project that would become, after many incarnations, the Lehman Alternative High School on West Hill. (Nichols, a member of the Democratic Socialists Party, later served three terms as Mayor of Ithaca, from 1989 to 1995, losing his bid for a fourth term to a feisty pro-development Democratic wheeler-dealer named Alan Cohen).

Goldman's quest to create a better, if not a great society, led him to undertake one of his more ambitious projects: The Ithaca Neighborhood College.

Around 1970, he set to motion one of his more ambitious projects: With his experience in social services, and after discovering that many bright and capable Ithacans had not finished school for a variety of reasons, he established the Ithaca Neighborhood College. Goldman founded the venue for his non-profit program in the DeWitt High School building after coming to an agreement with then-Ithaca City School District Superintendent Roger Bardwell. Bardwell approved Goldman’s access to the building to host night classes. The Ithaca Neighborhood College grew so popular that several teachers—often senior Cornell faculty—were offering 15 different courses, from computers to creative arts.


stones stacked up like books

along the turbulent gorge

"Ancient History"


Goldman continued to weave his network of intellectual pals and antiwar campaigners. Among the knot was Cornell Catholic priest, writer, and federally-wanted political radical, Dan Berrigan. In 1970, Goldman and friends organized the America is Hard to Find festival, a weekend-long war protest to be held at Barton Hall in mid-April, named after Berrigan’s poem of the same title. A highpoint of the festival, he recalls, was rolling Berrigan—who was on the FBI's wanted list —onto the stage via motorcycle to deliver a talk.

As the crowd had been infiltrated by federal agents visibly disguised in hippy garb and patent leather shoes, Berrigan was quickly spotted. A high speed chase ensued that, with the aid of decoys, and a “very good driver,” says Goldman, Berrigan was spirited back into the New York City underground, where he eluded arrest for a time and later turned himself over to authorities.

Where is all that righteous, selfless, political vigor in our country now?

According to Goldman, our political lives have become grimmer, and our power structures monolithic. He finds himself struggling with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness in this regard; a feeling that fuels a certain skepticism, to which he attributes his current absence from the political scene.

He says: “The world has become much more complicated. There’s a diminished sense of community. People are more atomized and individualistic. The propaganda is much, much more sophisticated, almost seamless. I think it is part of the air we breathe.”

Goldman sees the country’s political structure as less of a democracy than a soft dictatorship. A sort of panopticon, as he explains, in full control of its people. He also describes how the current lack of economic mobility cements people to their careers and educational pursuits: “In those days, people didn’t think anything about dropping out of school, and figuring, ‘I’ll pick up two years later and it won’t cost me anything.’ And a lot of people did that.” It’s not, he says, that people don’t join causes now; it’s just not as feasible as it once was, and so fewer people are willing to take the risk.


planting a fall bulb

an annual act of faith ...

two bulbs hedge my bet

 

After ten years of success with The Bookery, Goldman risked a sequel and opened The Bookery II in 1985. The idea had come to him three years earlier as a Cornell librarian’s suggestion, who pleaded to Goldman that there were no area bookstores that dealt in foreign language. And thus, The Bookery II began as a foreign language and travel bookstore, and quickly grew to meet national demands. Shortly after, The Corner Bookstore closed, and due to the onslaught of chain stores, Goldman observed that the town needed another “regular bookstore” to replace it. So he did what was unthinkable for him: He began selling new books.

That racket was a little too cut-and-dried for him, he says.

“You get the books from publishers; they give you a percentage discount," says Goldman. "If you can’t sell them, you give them back. It was more of a business-business than I had been operating. I liked the informality and the freedom of selecting my own inventory.”

Goldman eventually found a way to operate that appealed to him, tailoring the inventory in a direction he liked. But the arrival of big-box stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble in Ithaca, along with the Internet, took a hefty toll on his business.

“Amazon is the Darth Vader of the book business,” says Goldman says, who closed The Bookery II in 2005. “They destroyed the book business as I understood it. For one thing, they have devalued books in general. They’re cutthroat. Not good for writers; not good for publishers. They’ve trained a whole generation of consumers to expect fast delivery, rock-bottom prices, and no-questions-asked returns. They do this because they don’t need to make a profit on books. They sell everything in the world now, and books have become an incidental part of what they do.”

Goldman barely mentions another one of his successful publishing ventures, The Bookpress, a monthly newspaper that tackled issues no other local publication could explore to any depth: World and local politics, literature and social issues that fostered the kind of conversation and organic intellectualism more common to urban cognoscenti. It also included works of short fiction and poetry composed by up-and-coming writers as well as established scriveners. Like his other publishing ventures, The Bookpress existed outside the rarified climes of academia while maintaining a high editorial and intellectual standards. After twelve years of publishing, The Bookpress was quietly laid to rest and its like remains conspicuously absent in 21st Tiny Town.

It's no mystery that The Bookery remains in business despite signs of the Apocalypse, now: Its formula for success is a proprietary and idiosyncratic blend drawn from qualities singular to Ithaca and specific to Goldman's character and steadfast helmsmanship. Key ingredients can be traced to the shop's downtown landmark status; Goldman's abiding connections within the community; "the wonderful people" he works with; the intrinsic appeal of his stock and trade; and, the work itself – that, especially, keeps him going.

“Gotta have a love for it, else it doesn’t make any sense," he says. "You have to maintain a sense of humor as well.


His own sense of humor is inherently corny, he says, composed of puns and wordplay – and freely enjoying other people who get to his funny bones.


“But most of all, you just have to laugh at life’s absurdity,” he says.

 

youth speaks the grammar

of present and future tense –

age speaks past perfect

 

– Matthew K. Schultz, special correspondent to tinytowntimes.com

 

Editor's note: This is Matt's first piece in tinytowntimes.com and we are very happy to have him with us. Matt was born in Rome, NY, and is a senior at Ithaca College.

We thank Irene Zahava's online "Haiku Journal" where we fetched some of Jack's fetching haiku. Additional thanks to Professor Barbara Adams for editorial assistance – and for steering Matt our way.

If anyone wishes to comment on this piece, please post to our Facebook page of the same name: tinytowntimes.com ... We abandoned the comments box on this site thanks to the corrosive and relentless work of spammers. You can't blame everything on The President.


Photo: Jack Goldman at his seat of business, The Bookery, in the DeWitt Mall, now in its 40th year of business. Credit: tinytowntimes.com


Last Updated on Saturday, 18 April 2015 13:58
 

When Google Class was all the rage: Reprinted from Cornell Alumni Magazine

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Editor's Note: To view the original visit: http://cornellalumnimagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1750

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 18:54
 

Tuesday is Poetry Day and it's Thursday so let's get to it!

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Here is a poem by our erstwhile House Poet, CHAD ... Only Chad was missing when this poem was composed so we suspect it was another one of our staff.

It is dedicated to Rhian Ellis, (in May 2014) who manages the Scriabin Club here in Tiny Town ...

Written for a sad occasion but not, in essence, a sad poem:

 

To Rhian, whose Mom is waiting for the Orioles

 

Moms are forever

But Moms are not here forever;

Some are quick to point out this fact.

Some Moms bake cakes and put on an act ...

 

Moms can be clever

And forever out of reach

Some are wreathed in smoke

They smell sweet and woozy

And know how to joke –

(Or not) … some are real doozies.

 

Some Moms are icy

Some are plain hot.

Some know how to teach and cook and sew ...

Some just don't know squat.

 

(Once I stuck a peanut M&M, a yellow one, way up my nose

and I thought if I told,

I’d get in big trouble and go

to hospital

Mom plucked it out with a tweezer

she stuck up my nostril

With precision innate and magistral!)

 

Some Moms are simply daughters of Moms

Of Moms we forgot ... There's an awful lot

Of Moms in the begats and begots.

 

Some Moms are tender as trembling birds

They shiver in windstorms

As tho’ haunted by things:

No kid sees into a Mom's memories.

 

There are Moms so fierce they can mince you

With words ...

 

And then … Some Moms

 

Rake deft fingers slow, across

The crown of your skull like some Angel-God

So you tingle and glow ...

Feeling safe as you row toward the Landings of Nod.

 

Some Moms quote Shakespeare

And play Texaco Opera

Or Robert Goulet or even Sinatra

Some say “Ah Hells Bells, kitty cat shells –

Go ahead and do it,

Cuz I know I can’t stop ya!”

 

Some Moms insist we’re just like our Fathers

Other Moms say we must’ve come from some other –

And got swapped in the ward

With that towheaded kid from nextdoor.

 

Some Moms don't know

How much that we love them

Some Moms love us

So much it's hard to just let'm.

 

Moms can be cops, judges and juries

And grill your sad ass with near militant furies;

You better not lie, unless you don’t mind the pain

Of hurting your Mom like no one else can.

 

Moms can be scary, tender and true;

And Moms don't forget nothing ‘bout you;

And we don't forget 'm, neither

Some times I’m thinking of who

That lanky gal was before she got swept off her feet

Well beyond all good reason

By a man for all seasons … all in a big fever.

 

(When the orioles return, they will sing of these things)

 

We're all someone's baby

Or so it is said;

And I'm still my Ma's baby,

Although she's long dead.

 

Remember your Moms

Just like she was

For they tend to take residence

Deep within us.

We see flashes of Mom as we get on the bus

She’s there in the pantry, when everything’s hushed …

 

And in time we become

– Boy or girl, it don't matter –

The Moms who made, bathed then

Bade us go! Go! Grow like rose vines – !

Just mind your thorns and bide your times …

Be a poet, a lover, a mother …

 

As also I go …

 

Be glad that you had her:

For there ain't nothing better

Than a Mom who was kind.

And there ain’t nothing sadder,

Than to feel left behind.

That’s only grief

And all grief is fleeting,

All sorrow, retreating …

 

It’s more than faith or belief

Moms are forever – no thief

In the night

Ever stole my right

To cheat

What we call the “here and now”

And sit down with my Mom

For a good old powwow.

 

– F. Al-58

Illustration: Peter Burke, taken from The National Geographic page

tinytowntimes.com archival image, Oct. 26, 2010.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 January 2015 18:51
 

Bernie Upson, Harlem-born bassist and notable tiny towner, ill with cancer: Fundraiser coming up

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Pictured: Bernie Upson performing in a trio at Maxie's Supper Club, Nov. 18, 2012. Al Hartland on drums, keyboardist out of Elmira, name unavailable at the the moment.

Tiny Town, USA – Bernie Upson, Harlem-born musician and well known performer in the Central New York region is being honored in a gig called Bennies for Bernie. Upson is ill with an inoperable cancer and cannot play. He has entertained audience in this area for decades and singer Diana Leigh is asking area musicians to lend their chops and music lovers their ears and support to offset medical expenses.

Where: Oasis Dance Club

When: Sunday, July 6, 4-7 p.m.

Performers: Diana Leigh, Djug Django, The Pelotones among other area musicians, including: Jim Scarpulla, Alice Saltonstall, Molly MacMillan, Sally G. Ramirez, Margaret Wakeley, Joey Arcuri and Don Slatoff -- for starters.

Ms. Leigh is giving a big shout-out to any other players who wish to perform. Visit the Facebook page "Bennie for Bernie" at https://www.facebook.com/events/629716630469348/

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 18:45
 

The original quintessential tiny town poem by Dick Lourie

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Photo by Kathy Morris

Here's the Poem by Dick Lourie, a tiny towner before there ever wuzza:

What it's Like Living in Ithaca New York (thanks to Margaret McCasland for posting on Facebook)


here's what it's like: let's say you have just had lunch someplace in Collegetown and you are on your way to Karl Jaentsch's garage with your VW because yesterday you noticed the brakes were beginning to fade


you start down Buffalo Street hill it looks like rain now after a sunny morning: when you slow down for the blinking yellow light at Stewart Avenue those brakes are not good

and it gets worse that huge old green house on the corner of Fountain Place and then the shiny face of the Terrace Hill Apartments flash by you like the past

you feel terror in your wrists your stomach and you know

those brakes are gone and you won't be able to stop at the red light on Aurora
where there are several people leisurely crossing your path: maybe on their way from the Unitarian Church to Hal's Delicatessen or they just left their own apartment to go buy flowers or whatever errands we do all day -- in any case there they are and you can't stop

so this is what it's like: as if your brakes had failed and you couldn't avoid running right through that crowd knocking them all apart-- panic broken limbs and screams in the street

well the chances are that on any given day at least one of these people would be somebody you had quarreled with last year and hadn't spoken to since or a friend you had visited only last week or even the person you were once married to yourself who would see just before impact that it was you

that's what it's like living in Ithaca

 


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