A look back at the Stanley Center for the Arts presentation of the artwork of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani

From January 20-March 22, 2010, the artwork of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani was on exhibit in the Stanley Center for the Arts Loretta M. Romano Room Gallery.

Mirikitani is a Japanese American artist who was held in an American internment camp during World War II and was homeless for many years as an adult. He is the subject of the film The Cats of Mirikitani, directed by Linda Hattendorf. Much of Mirikitani’s work is about Camp Tule Lake, where he was held, Hiroshima, which claimed the lives of his mother’s family, September 11 and cats.

Color drawing of a cat lounging in a wooded area.

Cat Taking a Sun Bath in Autumn by Jimmy Miritikani

Why cats? “I like cats,” says Mirikitani simply in the documentary. Additionally, as a young man in Tule Lake, a young boy used to follow him around, requesting pictures of his favorite animal: the cat. The boy never saw the outside of Tule Lake again. He died there, and Mirikitani never forgot his young companion.

Why else? Perhaps because when one has survived a concentration camp in the land of the free and witnessed one of the most heartless acts of terror in history, the cat symbolizes resilience and survival. Perhaps it is because in the midst of anguish, the cat’s antics provide precious moments of levity.

And perhaps he just likes them and they make him happy.

 

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That Time My Mom’s Babysitter Was A Murderer; or Why You Need to Vet Your Childcare Providers

My mom was born on May 30, 1933 at her paternal grandmother’s house in Clinton, New York. My grandparents, Tom and Dorothy Canfield and their newborn daughter Patricia then took up residence in Clayville, New York near the Clayville Knitting Mill (now Homogeneous Metals, a division of Pratt & Whitney) where both parents worked. The mill was located on the Sauquoit Creek, whose falls provided the hydroelectric power needed to function.

Photo taken from the ledge of a waterfall, overlooking flowing water and jutting branches.

Overlooking one of the mill’s waterfalls.

With Tom and Dorothy both having to work, they enlisted the services of a young neighbor named Stella, who watched several neighborhood children. Now, Stella was not cut out to provide child care – my mother and her friends used to tell stories of being regularly locked out of the house, even when one of the area bullies would come over, knock a child to the ground and sit on them. Stella would simply come to the door and tell them to knock off the racket.

Years passed, my mother grew old enough to take care of herself, and Stella married one Harry Komorek. Alles gut, ja?

Nein.

The Stella story my mother told me far more often that being sat on by the fat boy was of the early November day in 1949 when Stella came running down the street screaming that he son was gone – kidnapped, in fact. The authorities were called and an investigation was opened. Stella told the story of a strange man entering her home, taking six-week old Stephen from his crib, and fleeing in a “motor car.” Although she gave chase, Stella couldn’t catch up with the abductor.

Newspaper and radio coverage was nationwide, with Harry tearfully pleading for his son’s return and begging his captor to take care of young Stephen, even giving feeding instructions.

Photo of two adult women and two girls atop Bald Mountain in the Adirondacks.

Family day on Bald Mountain in the Adirondacks. Not pictured: murderer. From left, Grandma Dorothy, her niece Beverly, Mom, and grandma’s sister Helen.

Sadly, this was all for naught, as Stephen’s body was found in the shallower waters of the creek. The coroner became involved and the investigation intensified, ultimately resulting in Stella’s confession.

In her new story, Stella accidentally dropped the child during a feeding, which killed him. She said that she panicked, threw his body over the falls and ran into the street with her story. The entire time, her husband stood beside her, the coroner accepted this version of her story, and she was released.

Chicago Daily Tribune front page from November 7, 1949 with headline CHILD DEAD IN KIDNAP HOAX

Chicago Daily Tribune, November 7, 1949. Stella’s case is the headline, with the article in the far right column. The story made headlines across the United States and as far away as Australia.

Many members of the community remained convinced that she killed the child intentionally (for one drop – even if she was standing – to kill him seems to be unlikely, especially considering floors were wooden at this time, and may even have been carpeted). But, the case was closed and people were concerned with making their own livings as mechanization began to encroach on their own jobs.

I don’t know what became of Stella and Henry, but members of the Komorek family still reside in the area – none of them killers. In fact, one of the Gen-Yers in the family was my mom’s hairdresser for years. Morals of the story: if you don’t want kids, don’t have them, and Post-Partum Depression is real, so don’t ignore or dismiss it.

Groom and bride (James and Patricia Canfield White) cutting into wedding cake in the 1950s.

My mom went on to get married, have seven children, and a career as an executive secretary. She stayed sexy and didn’t get murdered.

Little Falls

Don’t judge my lack of creativity in the Title Department – I’m hot, tired, and everything hurts.

That said, I spent all weekend in Little Falls, which is about a 30-minute drive east of home. To most people, a 30-minute commute is nothing, but when you’re from an area where everything you really need is 10 minutes away, a half hour may as well be an eternity. Many of my fellow Central New York residents (myself included) are hesitant to visit our neighbors because we’re just not used to having to really go anywhere. Sure, if it’s Syracuse, Boston, New York, or Toronto we’re all over it because we perceive those destinations to have more value, but we too often overlook the gems next door.

I landed in Little Falls over the weekend because my friend Jewel of Denile was participating in Chicks Along the Canal, which coincides with the city’s Canal Days. The event is right near the canal (as one might guess), so I had the opportunity to explore a bit.

 

 

Mohawk River behind the Little Falls Antique Center

It’s decrepit and possibly abandoned. I want it.

Jewel of Denile

 

 

I lifted this from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation site: “The Mohawk River Watershed lies entirely within the borders of New York State. The Mohawk River originates in the valley between the western Adirondacks and the Tug Hill Plateau and flows 140 miles to the east where it joins the Hudson River. The Mohawk Watershed comprises about one-quarter of the larger Hudson River Basin. Sections of the Mohawk River also serve as the New York State Barge (Erie) Canal.”

It was an important waterway commercially and was strategically significant during the Revolutionary War. It also likes to flood.

 

Pretty sure this is Moss Island. I’ll have to verify with climbers.

These are most likely weeds, but I don’t care. Purdy.

So, anyhow, those are the pictures. I should wrap this up better, but I’m tired and don’t feel like making the effort. #adulting

 

Central New York kind of day

I already know that I should set this post to re-publish during March, when it will be bitterly cold and I’ll be (again) wondering why I still live here. The fact is, that even though we go through 6 months of winter, Upstate New York is a great place to live.

The Remsen Barn Festival of the Arts. The wine vendors were at either end, so that you could sample to fortify yourself for the start or gird yourself to fight your way back.

So much New York goodness!!! Idol Ridge Sparkling Rose, The Spicy Wench jellies to go with my Jones Family Farm Duvet Blanc, JFF Am I Blue?, mouse cheese board from Witch Way Home and handmade cutting board from an artist who didn’t have a Square, so I didn’t grab the name.

Utica Coffee Roasting Company goods. And it’s ALL good.

Sky blue sky.

The petunias are hanging on.

Late bloomers.

Mare got me a Cranky Cat magnet!