Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Letter to New York State

Dear New York State,

For over 10 years now I have had to work hard, pay my taxes and abide by the laws of the state.  I continue to work hard at a poor paying retail job while living with my parents all so I do not have to bother you for welfare and financial assistance.

When I was in school I was told to work hard, go to college and apply myself.  I was promised a world of opportunity would be opened to me.  I did just that.  I went to work out of High School to help pay for books and college tuition.  I started at a local Community College and eventually transferred to a University in the SUNY school system where I successfully earned a BA in History and a Master's in Education.

I still have yet to see the world of opportunity I was promised.  Instead, I still find myself making below the poverty line with no possibility for jobs in the field of education.  I read in the newspaper regularly about more budget cuts, teacher layoffs, school closings and district restructuring.  I along with many other competent and NYS certified teachers sit on the side lines while the doors of employment stay closed to us.

Like many of my classmates, I sought work as a substitute teacher looking to get my foot in the door.  What I have found is that the only door I can manage to get my foot into is the "exit".  Should I be fortunate enough to stumble across a district that may have a potential opening in my field, I become one of thousands of applicants for that one opening... usually to find that the job was eliminated all together for lack of funding.

As I work my retail job day after day, contemplating the vast amount of money I paid to attend New York State schools, and become New York State certified, and all the hoops I jumped through to meet the high teaching standards of New York State, I also get to work with the products of your school system.  The same school system that you are constantly making budget cuts to and from which you are eliminating staffing.

The educational budget cuts being made in this state and across the country have indeed trickled down to my job... where all day I have to take customers by the hand to help them do simple tasks in a store which they cannot seem to figure out on their own.  Young people can no longer follow directions, speak or write proper English or adequately comprehend what they read.

I can't help but wonder: if so many people like myself, who worked hard for an education and to be as independent as possible (resisting public assistance) can not find work, then what will become of this new "breed" of adult that our public school systems are producing?  Without the qualified staff, small classrooms, extracurricular programs and support staff in place in our schools, you are creating a new generation of adults who have been used to getting "pushed through" the system, lacking many of the basic tools it takes to survive in the world, and expect them to become contributing members of society?

You may be saving money in the short term, but I hate to think of the money you will be paying out in the very near future when these countless students walk out into the world as adults unable to stand on their own two feet.  I wonder how many of them will even be able to spell, "unemployment".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Few things in life make me feel happier than a new hat.  Every season I think I have all the hats I possibly need... but then... I see it... another hat I simply cannot live without!!!  My porkpies are after all my signature piece!  I can't ever say no to one!

I wonder if there is a Betty Ford type clinic for people like me?

Maybe I am somehow related to Lucy Ricardo who could never pass up that new hat in the hat store window.

Speaking of hat stores.. I stumbled across a store in Boston last summer when I was tracking down a Panama straw diamond porkpie from Bigalli hats.  The company gave me a list of their American distributors to try and find the particular hat style I was looking for.

The last store on the list was Salmagundi.  They didn't have an online store (though, much to my great excitement, they appear to be creating one!), but I figured I had nothing to lose... so I sent my message off to cyber space oblivion and hoped for the best.

Literally within minutes, I got a reply from one of the shop owners, Jessen.  Do you know how often I have contacted companies and stores and don't get a response for days???  This was a good omen.

Sure enough, Salmagundi had the illusive hat in stock!  Jessen even did his best to find me a hat that would best compliment the shape of my head (long oval for those of you hat freaks who are "in the know" for hat termonology).  Granted, these hats come in sizes S - M - L - XL, but sometimes the shape does have a tendency to differ from hat to hat.

I gladly placed the order and in record timing, found the hip little Salmagundi hat box on my front porch containing my amazing new summer hat -- which was indeed a perfect fit!

Part of me wants to open up a hat store here in Buffalo, but knowing little about business... and also knowing there would probably be little demand in this area for one, it will remain a pipe dream.  But honestly, part of me wants to ditch the effort to look for the even more illusive teaching job, move to Boston, and work for Jessen and his crew!

Feel free to check out their blog that I have linked above.  You'll see they have much more than just hats.. though the hats are reason enough for me to love them!  If you're in Boston, stop by and see them in person -- or, if you're like me, you can wait eagerly for their online website to open.  :)