Friday, February 03, 2006

The Art of Chowder

Hudson Armstrong sat drinking a cup of coffee inside Gaffney’s, where he
often spends the early part of his afternoon. Above his head hangs a
large mural. Four feet high, eight feet across, it is colored with old
parties and familiar faces of the restaurant during a different time.

“I think it captures the period,” says Armstrong, looking up at his
creation while simultaneously ripping through three packets of sugar and
dropping the granules into his steamy cup. The mural took hundreds of
hours to paint says Armstrong, who everyone affectionately calls “Hud.”

He has spent thousands of hours and five decades working both sides of
the bar in the city’s restaurants and watering holes, either serving
customers or painting them, creating a timeline in city life of everyday people.

“The purpose is to give a feeling of the era and some of the characters
that lived here,” he says of another large mural that was painted on the wall
at The Hub on Church Street.
“I finished that one back in ‘76 and there are about 200 people in it,” he says.

“It was the people that lived here 365 days a year — not the ones that
came up a few weeks a year for the racing season. That offended some
people I think, but I was drawing the characters that were here at that
time,” he says.
The Hub was demolished a few years ago, but the mural part of the wall was saved and today is stored away in about 30 different pieces in a location on northern Broadway.

There are other establishments that bear Hud’s handiwork. They hang at Siro’s and the Old Bryan Inn, at 9 Maple Ave., the Tin & Lint and in City Hall.

“I was born in ‘45. My family lived in South Glens Fall,” he says. Hud took up drawing at the age of 4. It was the age of radio and he says he began drawing because he wanted to see what things looked like.

“I remember when I was a kid, we would drive down Route 9 and into Saratoga. You’d take a left on North Broadway where the arterial is, come right into town and you’d see the mansions and the fire department and the theater,” he says.

“Back then you would see all the fire escapes and the signs hanging outside in front of the stores all along Broadway and then we would drive by the Grand Union Hotel and that was just the largest thing that I had ever seen,” he remembers. “Saratoga just floored me.”

He served in the military and got out of Vietnam just before the Tet Offensive in 1968. Hud returned home a young man in his early 20s to begin making a life for himself in Saratoga Springs.

“I was one of the first bartenders at the Tin & Lint,” he said.
“This was in 1970, and it was an exciting place to work because you had such
a strata of different people — from the Skidmore professors to the jockeys and stable mates — the mix was intriguing.”

He remembers being awed by Jimmy Breslin on a night when the great writer held court among his followers at one of the tables at the Tin & Lint, and recalls the now legendary evening in Spa City folklore when singer Don McLean furiously scribbled away writing lyrics inside his notebook.
Today, a plaque hangs at the table that marks it as the spot where the songwriter penned his song “American Pie.”

Hud has seen the city change a great deal since that time, changed for the better. He points to things like the clock tower that rises in the sky across from Congress Park that greets people coming into the city, instead of the strip mall and the parking lot that used to define the city corner. It may not be the Grand Union Hotel that he remembers from his youth, but a modern nod to classic style.

This weekend, a thousand people will wear Hud’s drawings across their

“I’ve been doing the Chowderfest sweatshirts five or six years now,” he
says, recalling the 2002 version as a personal favorite. Coming a few months after Sept. 11, 2001, he feels the shirt that depicted the Spirit of Life was an important statement.

This year’s Chowderfest shirt features a pair of youngsters accompanied by a duck, a squirrel and piping hot cups of drink. They are bundled up for the winter celebration, yet also looking forward to warm weather follies like horse racing and outdoor concerts.

It’s a fitting design by the city man who knows well the past, yet isn’t given to living there. “This year,” he says examining his sweatshirt design, “we decided
to go with the kids.”

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian

Memory Walk brings ‘Niles’ home

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The grandstand is vacant now at Saratoga Race Course. The leaves have already begun their slow descent to earth. And the nine-furlong track seems as neverending as the devotion of those who gathered Saturday outside the racecourse gates for the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk.

Union Avenue was packed outside the track as a crowd of at least several hundred gathered to welcome home David Hyde Pierce and to follow his steps leading through the Spa City for the walk.

‘This morning, what we are doing here in Saratoga is also being done across the country through September and October,’ Pierce told the crowd, standing atop a makeshift stage at the track’s entrance. ‘The reason we are here today is that there are some things that we can do.’ Pierce talked about the necessities of raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. He also spoke of its non-discriminating nature.

‘Latin or Asian, African American or Caucasian,’ Pierce said, the disease crosses all divides. ‘What we are trying to address is that Alzheimer’s has no boundaries.’ He also dispelled the notion that the disease only affects the elderly. ‘I’m 44 years old, and if I’m going to have Alzheimer’s when I turn 65 years old, then now, it has already begun.’ Pierce lost his father and grandfather to the disease.

Shortly before appearing on the stage, Pierce met with the media to discuss everything from his acting career to a cure for the presently-incurable disease.
‘We are shockingly close to a cure,’ Pierce said, stressing the need for money to be used for funding research. ‘I’m not a medical person, but the information that I have been able to gather from people who are says that we are close - I would say somewhere in the five- to 10-year range.’

Pierce sits on the Board of Directors of the national Alzheimer’s Association and also serves as the national chairman of the association’s Memory Walk program. He last hosted the Saratoga walk in 2001, which he calls the one most personally important to him. The Memory Walk program in the Northeastern New York region is in its 11th year. It includes 11 walks spread across 17 counties. Currently, 35,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease reside in the 17-county area. Funds raised from the Memory Walk support educational and supportive services for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.

Visiting his hometown also provided Pierce the opportunity to catch up with old friends. One was Lawrence Ostwald, a retired mathematics educator who taught at Saratoga Springs High School for 30 years and remembers Pierce and his siblings Barbara, Nancy and Thomas. Pierce first caught the acting bug while attending a New York City Ballet performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center when he was 7 years old.

These days, Pierce spends most of his time on the West Coast, portraying Dr. Niles Crane on the NBC series ‘Frasier.’ After Saturday’s walk, he hopped a plane back to the West Coast in time to attend tonight’s 55th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Pierce is nominated for his fourth Emmy, for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series.

Pierce said the series is slowly winding down. ‘We will be shooting our last episode on March 23,’ he said, met by a collective sigh of sadness from the crowd. ‘Part of the idea is wanting to go off while people are still sad about it.’ After the conclusion of the series, Pierce said he may return to the New York stage. That’s where he got his theatrical start in the early 1980s, selling ties at Bloomingdale’s department store by day and performing on the Broadway stage at night.

Given his knowledge about and involvement with Alzheimer’s disease, he was asked if a role that focuses on the disease is in his future. ‘Alzheimer’s is something that is so easy to sentimentalize,’ he replied. He said the possibility does exist, however, ‘if I found the script that did justice to the complexity of the issues.’
Pierce was presented Saturday with the Alzheimer Association’s ‘Remembrance Award,’ a framed plaque that included a sailboat drawing by 95-year-old Rolland Purdy, who coincidentally shares an April 3 birthdate with the actor. Pierce and Thaddeus Raushi shared the ribbon-cutting ceremony prior to the walk. Raushi, after being diagnosed with possible early onset of Alzheimer’s in the 1990s, wrote about his experiences in his book ‘A View from Within.’ Others on hand included PYX-106 morning show host Bob Wolf and Channel 13 health reporter Benita Zahn. Mayor Ken Klotz joined members of the Lake George Opera for a rendition of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ shortly before Pierce, wearing a Memory Walk 2003 T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, announced to the crowd, ‘Let’s go walk!’

He then led the group on a wide path that cut across Union Avenue and into the city streets.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
for The Saratogian and The Troy Record, Sept. 21, 2003.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A View From Within: Living with Early Onset Alzheimer’s

SCOTIA - It is even worse than being forgetful. It is having the presence of mind and capacity of memory, to remember that something has been forgotten. And a gnawing feeling that all is not right.
For Thaddeus Raushi - a man whose career has been in communications - it is especially frustrating that the skills of communication have been taken away.

“It takes a great deal of work to do what in the past seemed to come so naturally,” Raushi says.

The Rochester native and former college counselor has spent most of the past 30 years in Scotia. The last six have been in an attempt to accept the changes that life has demanded of him, when the “simplest” things like counting change at a grocery store, remembering a telephone number, or correctly reading a restroom sign have suddenly become a challenge.

Between 1996 and 1998, Raushi was diagnosed in consecutive years with cancer, a brain tumor, and “probable Alzheimer’s disease.” He calls it a three-ring circus out of control.
During the Christmas holidays in 1996, Raushi and wife Sylvia visited their daughter in San Francisco. He started feeling an unusual lack of energy. When returning home to the Capital Region, he underwent a series of tests that determined the cause of his symptoms as a form of lymphoma. It was a cancer called WM (Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia).

He underwent treatment that included chemotherapy, medication and a special diet. A few months later, in early 1997, a brain mass on the occipital lobe was discovered, and diagnosed as a brain tumor - meningioma. Twelve months later came a third diagnosis.

“It must be something about the early months of the year, the doldrums of cold and slush, the dark nights,” Raushi surmises about the experience. He was told that he had what is called “probable Alzheimer’s disease.” “Another diagnosis! Another no-cure disease!” was his response.

But he refused to play the role of victim.

A year later, he looked backed upon his fate. “1999 was a new kind of year for me. It was a year of no new diagnoses. And so I rejoiced,” he says, and put pen to paper to document his journey. He did it to learn more about himself, as well as to share the experience of living with the disease with others in similar circumstances.

“Most everything was written ‘about’ the person with Alzheimer’s with only a small handful of books written ‘by’ people who have Alzheimer’s disease,” Raushi says. “Reading through the literature was like being in a world where everyone is talking about me but no one is wanting to hear me speak.” He also felt the need to get his thoughts on paper quickly, while he still could “in some understandable way.”

The book took a year and a half to write and has been published by the Northeastern New York Chapter Alzheimer’s Association. It is called “A View From Within: Living with Early Onset Alzheimer’s.”

The book’s dedication page cites a Bob Dylan quote that mirrors Raushi’s life philosophies: “He who is not busy being born is busy dying,” it reads.

Raushi details his life with “early onset, probable Alzheimer’s” disease and the adjustments he has had to make. Throughout, there is a blooming embrace of a new life philosophy. It is one that grows an appreciation of what every day brings, a celebration of the people in his life as a gift, and the wonder of being a part of a vast, inter-connected human universe. Raushi has also learned to live in the moment. “Today is today. So I must search out and take on my attitude for what exists today. Tomorrow I will work on tomorrow’s attitude,” he writes. “That is my hope for each of you, as well, whether or not you have Alzheimer’s.”

It is in times of crisis and illness Raushi says that one begins to learn of life’s truths and importance; what has “true” meaning. What is worthy of time. He also tries to not be fooled by the mirror. Appearances can often be deceiving.

“People wonder how someone can appear so healthy and yet have cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Cancer can be hidden. Early onset Alzheimer’s, as well, can be invisible,” he says.
It is both a blessing and a curse. On “normal” days, looking in the mirror’s reflection, balancing a checkbook, or performing business oriented tasks, Raushi says he gets that “twinge that this Alzheimer’s stuff is not accurate.”

Inevitably however, there are those other days when the reminder of the disease is brought home. “It is where there is a sense of total blankness,” he explains in his book. “There is a void. It is a loss that is accompanied by no sense of how to resolve the problem, how to think, how to get what you need, what to do at that moment.” It is on these days that he knows something is not working right. “I do not feel normal. I do not feel my ‘self.’ It is like there is a different me, a new ‘self’ (that) I must grow to know, because it is the only one I’ve got.”

There is also fear of the unknown where the future is involved. “Will I someday be uncontrollable, not know what I am doing (or) say words over and over and over, or not be able to speak at all?”
It is these times that are filled with fear, embarrassment and self-directed anger. “What was I thinking? How could I be so sure, and so wrong? Am I losing my mind?”

Part of the learning process is recognizing negativity as a presence, but only addressing those thoughts that are useful. As Raushi puts it, “Seeing what I am now, what I have now and what opportunities there are that can fill my life and give it quality.”
He has found solace in support groups, alongside others with similar experiences There are also medications, therapies and daily meditations. While Raushi knows there are no cures, he is hopeful that research efforts are striving toward effective treatments and eventual cure.

“The research is moving ahead quite rapidly. There is more emphasis on early diagnosis - working to identify people even before symptoms show up.” These are an awareness of mild cognitive impairment, when the decision-making ability is slightly affected, but yet to be identified as a disease.
“There also is an increase in the number of medications available to maintain some stability for a period of time,” Raushi says. “While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at this point, there’s a real thrust to look at early diagnosis, to try and understand it.”
Raushi explains his experience in terms that a non-Alzheimer’s person could understand.

“We experience a gap. A real blank on how to move on next in our thoughts,” he says. It is a struggle for him at times to maintain his train of thought. Raushi determinedly sticks with it and the words come.
Talking to you right now, I have to work much harder. As a teacher and a counselor, this is what I did - communication. But now I have to work very hard at it, and there is the lack of being able to pull the word out of the thought,” he says. “Sometimes it’s slight and sometimes it is more extreme. Some days are good, some not so good.”

He says his wife Sylvia, who he refers to as “that very special person in my life,” best coined a description of what he was feeling. She calls it “delayed thinking.”
Still, his high spirit and positive attitude are part of a determined resolve, although it does create surprise among some he comes in contact with.
“People ask me ‘What’s the magic?’ Well, there really is no magic. I think: ‘do I want to live feeling miserable about what I can’t do?’ No. I think we have a choice. Let’s look at what we can do.”
Raushi hopes the book can be a source of comfort to families in similar circumstances.
“My heart turns to those in my life who are affected through me, to my children, and my grandson,” he says. “Also to the children and grandchildren of others with these diseases.”
He is an active volunteer with the Northeastern Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and continues to be an active speaker, advocating awareness of Alzheimer’s and of cancer.
These days, with the release of his book, he’s also a published author. “Sometimes as I’ve reread what I’ve written, the experiences sound as though someone else is speaking to me,” Raushi says. “It’s also good to have a laugh now and then at what goes on. We need to laugh at ourselves; when you think about it. Whether with Alzheimer’s or not, we are pretty funny creatures.”

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian, 2004

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Colossal Colon

Glens Falls - In 1995, Molly McMaster was a healthy, athletic, outgoing teen-ager with a bright future ahead.
Four years later, she was considering suicide.

Initially suffering abdominal discomfort and stomach pain, she got the news on her 23rd birthday. A surgeon informed her of the diagnosis - Stage II colon cancer.
Today, McMaster, a Saratoga Springs resident, is in her 20s and living proof of the adage, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

In the past two years, McMaster ran - and finished - the New York City Marathon, and in-line skated from Glens Falls to Colorado, while raising cancer awareness and money for a number of organizations.
Last December, she was one of the Olympic torchbearers in Saratoga Springs.
McMaster’s latest project is in a 4-foot-tall by 40-foot-long colon replica, that currently is being unveiled at the Aviation Mall in Queensbury.

With as many twists and turns as - well - a large intestine, the 40-foot-long body replica known as “Colossal Colon” went on public display Thursday.
Finishing her morning co-hosting shift on location for Glens Falls radio station WCQL, McMaster watched the crowds congregating around the lengthy display.

“Very inter-resting,” said one adult, while his pre-school age daughter crawled through the tunnel.
“Oh, it’s gross. I’m not crawling through there,” said another.

Cancer is not a pretty sight, which is precisely McMaster’s point.
Three years ago, McMaster was diagnosed with colon cancer. Ever since then, she has been determined to build public awareness of the disease, and to inform the public of measures for its effective diagnosis.
“The most common symptom of colon cancer is that there are no symptoms at all,” McMaster said.
She also said it is very commonly misdiagnosed.
A table full of literature spells out the other warning signs: Unexplained weight loss and anemia, vomiting and lack of energy. Additionally, changes in bowel habits and abdominal pain or discomfort should set off some red flags.
The “Colossal Colon” structure was funded by The Cancer Research Foundation of America and Roche Pharmaceuticals, and its construction was developed by Adirondack Scenic Inc.
It is lined with a number of plastic polyps, internally and externally. Plaques with medical descriptions are affixed to affected areas.
A half-dozen outer viewing portals allow for a birds’-eye view of the interior for those too squeamish to crawl inside.

“Ow, it’s disgusting in there!” said Mike - a young man on spring break who would only go by his first name - but he added that it certainly drew his attention to the disease.
“A lot of people have been coming in and bringing their kids,” said Zach Nasr, manning the Cingular Wireless kiosk directly in front of the display. “It seems like many of them are learning a lot of information.”
While the display may have made some uncomfortable, it brought home an important point that won’t soon be forgotten.

“I have seen all these people come out, and I think that - for all the parents and entire families - they are giving their kids something that they will always remember,” an admittedly exhausted, but still-enthusiastic, McMaster said at day’s end.

As for McMaster’s future, there is the ongoing task of increasing colon cancer awareness, her morning radio show and the coaching of a youth hockey team.

“I’m a survivor,” she said, simply.
There’s a chance she will be adding to her resume in the near future as well.
“I have an agent in New York City,” she said, and she has designs on telling her story in print.
What kind of a book does she envision?
“I hope that it will be inspirational and an insight into a survivor’s experiences,” she said.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian, 2002-2004

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

HIV-Positive Comic Brings Lessons Learned

Glens Falls - Steve Moore has made his livelihood in the world of comedy for the past 25 years.

So when the funnyman’s answering machine leaves a forwarding number that advises ringing him at his mother’s home in Virginia, the first thought that comes to mind is: Is this a put-on?

‘Who is this?’ a voice says, answering the telephone.

Hello, Steve Moore, please. This is...’ ‘Who is this?’ the voice says again.

Hello,’ trying again. ‘Steve Moore please? This is...’ ‘Who is this, and what do you want?’ the voice, laced with a Southern accent, responds.

Steve Moore, please. This is ... hey, wait a minute. Am I being ‘punk’d’?’

A moment later, when Steve Moore comes to the phone, he explains that he truly is visiting his parents, Wilma and Skeets, at their home in Virginia.

When Wilma comes back on the line to express apologies for any misunderstanding, she is jokingly asked whatever happened to the cliché of a warm and welcoming Southern hospitality.

Yes, of course we have hospitality,’ Wilma says. ‘But we can only take so much.’ You don’t have to look very far to guess where her emotionally resilient son Steve gets his spirited comedic moxie.

On Monday, Moore makes his first journey to the region, appearing in a combined lecture/performance at Adirondack Community College in Queensbury.

As an entertainer, Moore has appeared with the likes of Rodney Dangerfield and Ellen DeGeneres, and was featured in his own one-man award-winning HBO special.

He is to Roseanne what Billy Martin was to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: fired by the same boss on five different occasions.

Comedy awards and celebrity glitter aside, Moore is perhaps best known for material that focuses on his views of a world from the perspective of a 49-year-old gay man living with HIV.

I tested positive in 1989. It was July 24. At 3:30 in the afternoon. Not that I remember it or anything,’ Moore says.

After learning he tested positive for the virus in his mid-30s, ‘I had a little nervous breakdown and went and lived in a trailer for a year,’ Moore says.

When he emerged, the reality of being faced with his own mortality had a profound effect on him. A veteran of stand-up comedy for more than a decade, he began writing material based on his own personal experiences with the illness. By 1993, he was courageous enough to start working them into his routine. ‘After that,’ Moore says, ‘my career took off.’

Growing up in Virginia, Moore originally set his sights on life as an actor. At the age of 19, he moved to New York City. When he turned 21, at the height of the disco era, he moved to Hollywood, where he lived for the next 23 years.

He became part of a lifestyle that can only happen in Hollywood. He worked the celebrity circuit. He became the legal guardian of Pauley Shore. Some of his fondest memories are the four months he worked with Dolly Parton who, to this day, Moore calls ‘one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life.’ On another occasion, the openly gay man sought a more traditional path, walking with a female companion down the wedding aisle.

Oh yes, I was married,’ Moore says of the union that lasted 15 years. ‘She was a lesbian from Canada, and so much more of a man than I could ever be.’

Moore was approached by HBO to put together a one-man show. The result was ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous: The Power of HIV-Positive Thinking,’ which first aired in 1997.

The HBO special went really well. It was very Hollywood. It won a Cable Ace Award,’ Moore says proudly. ‘To this day, whenever they run it again, I hear from people all over the country who are seeing it for the first time.’ Moore invested his earnings from the TV special and bought a place in Richmond, Va., to be closer to his family.

My parents are real Southern Baptists. They love me and support me so I have got a real stable base,’ he says.

Moore has even found a place for his parents, whom he calls Wilma and Skeets, in his routine. Apparently, he said, they thought HIV meant ‘Homosexuals In Virginia.’ ‘What’s strange is they used to worry about losing me,’ Moore says. ‘But I am doing well. Next year, I’m going to be 50 years old. Now that they are in their 80s, I am the one who is afraid of losing them.’

While people are generally more accepting of his material in 2003, Moore says HIV is not as high in the public’s awareness as it once was.

I find nobody wants to talk about it anymore. You don’t see the red ribbons as much. It’s like the Vietnam of diseases,’ he says.

Moore also cites the high cost of medicine, attainable only to ‘the very wealthy or the indigent,’ as well as the problems that exist when people avoid getting tested, out of fear that if they tested positive, they would have to face up to all the responsibilities that go along with having HIV.

He lectures around the country about maintaining a positive outlook while living with HIV, and also conducts healing weekends.

Those are a gathering of people who are HIV positive -- straight women and gay men, the rich and poor, black and white -- such a big diversity of people. It’s so powerful meeting all these people who all share the same fears as you do,’ he says.

Through it all, Moore quite literally hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

When his HBO special premiered, Washington Post reporter David Richard wrote a detailed study of Moore’s stage manner and his in-your-face way of dealing with hecklers in the crowd.

Don’t mess with me, folks,’ the comedian would announce. ‘I can open a vein and take out the whole front row.’ Moore’s appearance in Queensbury will be part lecture and part performance. He says the question he is most often asked is how he first contracted HIV.

People always ask ‘How did you get it?’ So I tell them that HIV is not just a gay disease,’ he says.

‘I explain to them that I got it from a toilet seat.’

After a pregnant pause, generally met with a silent hush falling over his audience, Moore continues: ‘Of course, there was a man sitting on the toilet seat at the time.’

by Thomas Dimopoulos, The Saratogian, November 2003.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Man on a bicycle rides with a mission

At 5:15 this morning, just as has been the case nearly every morning the past three weeks, the ungodly blare of Russell Bordeau's alarm clock will buzz somewhere in America and rouse the Plattsburgh native from his slumber and propel him into action.

Bordeau will scoop up his clothes -- neatly set out the night before -- grab a quick bite to eat and squint through the dawn at a landscape of a city he's never before seen. At 7 a.m., he will climb on his dark red bicycle and continue peddling his way on a 3,442-mile journey across the country, passing through deserts, over mountains and in torrential rain storms toward his final destination in Boston at the end of May.

'Sometimes, the going gets tough,' says Bordeau, a retired biology teacher. 'But I think about my friend Rich Goerlitz. And I think about my brother. I think about how tough they had it, and that's what keeps me going.'

Bordeau lost both his brother and Goerlitz -- a fellow Plattsburgh teacher and good friend for 30 years -- to kidney cancer. Bordeau is riding for them and to raise funds to support an innovative 'at home' dialysis program which helped Goerlitz enjoy a higher quality of life while managing his illness.

After being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1998, Goerlitz began standard, in-center dialysis treatments and found his life revolving around the standard three times a week dialysis treatments. Unhappy with his declining quality of life, Goerlitz investigated The Daily Nocturnal Hemodialysis program at the Hortense and Louis Rubin Dialysis Center in Saratoga Springs. This form of treatment allowed Goerlitz to perform treatments at home while the center staff monitored him at night via the Internet. The longer and slower nature of the kidney dialysis treatment restored some of Goerlitz's energy and allowed him to manage his illness while enjoying traveling and other activities of his active lifestyle.

'When he came to the Rubin Center, it just made a world of difference to Rich. He thought very highly of the center,' Bordeau said.

Shortly after Goerlitz passed away in 2003, Bordeau retired from his teaching job and came up with the idea to make a cross-country biking effort to honor the memory of his friend. The journey began April 26 in Irvine, Calif.

'The first day we left Irvine and went through Southern California they said it was 112 degrees. When we came to Winslow, Ariz. -- you know like the song 'I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona' -- well, I was standing on the corner in Winslow, Ariz., and it was about 30 degrees,' said Bordeau, describing the varying climate as well as the ever-changing landscape.

By day eight, he biked past Dalhart, Texas, and hit the 1,000-mile mark. For the former biology teacher, there was a lot to experience firsthand.

'I have seen a lot of interesting things, from riding on Route 66 to seeing things off the beaten track. In New Mexico and Arizona, I was impressed with the rock formations, the 'painted' desert and being in the canyon with nothing but a few hawks circling up overhead,' Bordeau said of the journey that included sightings of rattlesnakes, armadillos and coyotes.

As last Friday's 150-mile ride wound its way to Quincy, Ill., Bordeau passed the journey's half-way point at 1,800 miles. He was accompanied by rain the entire way, but was also happy to be joined for the recent leg of the trip by his daughter, Maggie. The two had biked together previously in 1997, making a journey from Seattle to New Jersey's Asbury Park.

As Bordeau continues on his journey east, riding up to 150 miles per day, pass through the Capital then continue onto Massachusetts reaching his eventual conclusion on May 27 in Boston. In total, the cross-country bike trip will cover 3,442 miles in 32 days. Bordeau has been documenting the journey with his 'picture phone,' posting images and notes on

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian, 2005

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Survivors Relay for Life

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Pat Walsh hoisted herself onto the edge of a makeshift seat on the loading dock and watched
pedestrian traffic going by, searching for the words to describe a Friday night in June, when the candles burned all night long

'That was my turning point,' Walsh said of the night four years ago when she attended her first Relay for Life gathering

at the East Side Recreation Field on Lake Avenue. It followed a cruel winter of emotional personal torment, spent wondering about her own mortality. The feelings stemmed from a notable day nine months earlier when she was first told the news that would change her life.

'It was Sept. 2, 1999, to be precise, when I found out,' Walsh said, raising her arm and bending the fingers on her hand to the shape of the letter C. Cataclysm. Catastrophe. Cancer.

'The Big C,' Walsh said. 'My first thought was 'That's it, you're dead.'

In the spring of 2000, her oncologist's office suggested she look into an upcoming event by the American Cancer Society called Relay for Life.

Relay for Life is a volunteer-driven community event and was first started in 1985 by a Tacoma, Wash., based surgeon, who inspired a 24-hour marathon walk to celebrate hope and raise funds for cancer research, education and services.
The annual gathering is held in more than 4,000 communities nationwide.

The first time Walsh attended in 2000, she said it was an awakening experience.

'When people find out you have cancer, they say 'Oh, don't worry, you'll be fine,'' she said, somewhat unconvincingly. 'But it wasn't until I went to the relay, and I met all the cancer survivors that I saw it for myself.'

For Walsh, it was also a motivational gathering. She promptly created her own relay team -- the Saratoga Warriors - of which she is the 'captain.' It is one of the dozens of 'teams' involved in what Walsh stresses is a noncompetitive event.

'The team members help out each other. It's all for the cause,' she said.

'When they say 'relay,' it's not like you're running around the track all night long,' Walsh laughs. 'What it is, is really a great, big party and a way to raise money to find a cure for cancer.'

The event gets under way at 7 p.m. and includes the victory/survivor lap, walking around the track, with a reading of the names of survivors.

At 10 p.m., the lighting of memorial candles, or luminaria ceremony, gets under way. Each light honors someone who has battled cancer. The lights are laid out along the track and burn throughout the night.

'The luminaria ceremony is one of the most moving parts of the relay, when it's dark and letters spelling the word 'Hope' are lit up. It is a moving way to remember people,' said Walsh, explaining that mixed emotions are common through the evening, from joy to sorrow, humorous to the solemn.

As the lights stay lit all night long, there are a variety of activities and games going on and a DJ plays tunes.

Some participants eventually make it off to the tents to sleep. Others hang out on lawn chairs and visit with friends.

The night is a remembrance of those that are gone and held in honor of those who are survivors.
'It's a way for the community of family and friends to celebrate life,' said Walsh, a survivor.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian, 2003.