Tonawanda News

Features

August 18, 2013

BOOK NOOK: A story about polluted places and polluted lives

Tonawanda News — The backstory of Corina Vacco’s “My Chemical Mountain” includes inspiration to write a dystopian novel about life amid a toxic cesspool of environmental pollution during her short residence in Western New York, and it may be true. Another (non-fiction) book, by a different author, memorably mentions a visitor to Niagara Falls who was unimpressed with the waterfall but dazzled by the breadth of our landfills.

In Vacco’s book it’s a dead-end life for three young teenage boys in the suburban Buffalo town of Poxton (and the last syllable of that community makes me think she’s hitting close to home), swimming in, and inhaling, chemicals all day and living as risk-taking, disaffected youth who understand their environs are killing them. 

The scenes, the attitudes, the desperation are brilliantly rendered. This book packs one wallop after another; even the moody, introspective parts have action and attitude to them. It is aimed at what the publishing business calls young adults; it means middle and high school boys, and those in that category who want an adventure story with easy-to-identify-with swagger will enjoy it.

Indeed, references to the Buffalo area occur, but only occasionally. There’s the 990 and Sabres merchandise and a few other things, but mostly it’s about three friends, of different temperament and problems, in a no-way-out community and a rapacious chemical corporation, the only employer in town, destroying the place.

Desperation permeates the lives of Poxton’s residents, except for the three protagonists. Bitterness and revenge permeate theirs.

And oh, does the plot gallop, the way a book for short attention types must. It took this reader one sitting, time a little longer than a Hollywood movie, to enthusiastically blast through it. It can be read as an adventure story with a resolution likely to satisfy its intended audience, and the three characters at the heart of the book are adequately different so any reader can identify with at least one.

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Features
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    More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).

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  • SUN LIFE terrariums 1 072014.jpg For the love of nature

    Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.

    "I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.

    Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.

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    “They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”

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    I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.

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    Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.

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  • SUN LIFE NT tours 071314.jpg A closer look at NT

    When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.

    Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)

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     Following a trend of public, outdoor exercise programs, a number of local venues are offering their own free events aiming to get residents outside and active during the summer.

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  • SUN LIFE muscoreils 1 071314.jpg Beyond the bakery

    For years, Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts & Gourmet Cakes has been a go-to location for desserts and wedding and occasion cakes in Western New York.

    This summer, even as the bakery deals with the rush of wedding season, changes at its associated bistro aim to create a revitalized focus on that side of the business, as well.

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    The options when you escort your child to a birthday party are endless, really. Everywhere you turn, there’s another thrill to uncover.

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