Making history, of a sort, in visit to Ithaca


History, it seems to me, is a science of interpretation. How one person sees an event, its origins and ultimate consequences, can differ greatly from the next person’s. We learn from history, but whose history are we learning, and is it the right interpretation of past events? 

I ponder this because I had a moment at the Angry Mom Records shop in Ithaca this past weekend. As Daughter B and I perused the vinyl records in the basement shop at the Ithaca Commons, she came across the “listening studio”: two turntables hooked up to headphones. 

She was amazed. She had to try it because she had never used a turntable, had never haltingly landed the needle at the right groove,  had never heard the occasional pop produced by that pesky piece of lint, had never flipped the record to get to the B side. Never.  

So she did. She had fun. I had fun watching her. I also wondered if her introduction to this important piece of my past was a sign of my advancing years or a symbol of the technological leaps we’ve made in the past few decades. How should I interpret this? How would you?

All that thinking, of course, made us hungry. So Wife L, Daughter B, and I wandered around downtown Ithaca  in search of a place ot eat.  You can’t ask for more choices; downtown is filled with eateries. Most, but not all, were open on Sunday as we walked along Aurora Street and through the Commons. 

Ragmann's Restaurant

We landed at Ragmann’s Restaurant. This narrow restaurant with a small bar was quiet when we sat down and started to fill up as we left. I enjoyed  a roast beef sandwich smothered with warm boursin cheese on a yummy french roll from the Ithaca Bakery. I loved it, the cheese giving the beef a zesty accompaniment.  Daughter B had a meatball parmesan on the same warm bread, and Wife L had a pastrami reuben. We all decided we could have eaten more; the sandwiches and side dishes were good, but not plentiful or overly generous.

The wonderful bread, though, did put us in mind of the Ithaca Bakery, and we stumbled across one of its five area shops, on Aurora Street,  and stopped in. 

What a cool place. Desserts and breads and bagels, all sorts of coffee drinks, and deli sandwiches (paninis  looked especially good).

We sampled the dessert section, with a wonderful chocolate donut, Rice Krispie treat, and some cookies. We wanted to buy some artisan bread, but wondered if it would keep fresh long enough because we had a few more stops to make in and around Ithaca.  

We drove up to Ithaca College to take a look. It seemed a bit too far removed from the vibrant downtown, though the views of Cayuga Lake were nice.

We spent more time on the Cornell campus, which is massive, soaking in the architecture of the Arts Quad and visiting the nearby Johnson Museum of Art.   

The museum, designed by I.M. Pei, is undergoing an expansion which will allow it to show many more pieces from its permanent collection. I got to see a Picasso and a Monet, and a small Georgia O’Keeffe.  I learned about Robert Henri and his influence on fellow painters in the so-called Ashcan School.  

Fields in the Month of June, 1874. Oil on canvas. (Courtesy of Johnson Museum of Art)

And  I came away wanting to learn more about Charles Francois Daubigny, whose Fields in the Month of June is on display. A huge painting, it is considered a pivotal transition piece to Impressionism and bold step away from the classic Salon style of painting, with its dominant expanses of sky and vivid bursts of color.  

The museum is free, and definitely worth a visit. We were there when students were away for break, making it easy to get around and park.

We stopped at SUNY at Cortland on the way home so Wife L could reminisce about her alma mater. She saw Cheney Hall, her dorm, and “Cheney Beach,” the patch of lawn she said was used by students to soak up the sun whenever possible.  The Dark Horse, her and her roommates’ tavern of choice, is still there, she was glad to see. 

It was a fun trip. We stopped for an early dinner in DeRuyter on the drive back, but more on that later!

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