TRR photos by Jonathan Charles Fox

Boys & Girls Club Town of Walkill Executive Director Lori Rivenburgh, center, along with the board of directors, gathered for a photo-op during the 25th anniversary Farm-To-Table Experience fundraiser last Saturday.

At a loss for words

It happens. In fact, there are days when I avoid talking at all—unless it’s to the dog, who doesn’t even pretend to listen half of the time. Believe it or not, I find what others have to say far more interesting than anything I might be yakking about, and I do spend a good deal of my time listening to others. The past week served as a perfect example, since I went to the E.B. Crawford Library in Monticello to hear Lee B. Karasik present a program titled “Understanding disability in a judgment free zone,” which was interesting, informative and even amusing at times. Karasik, who was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy (CP) and raised in Sullivan County, describes himself as “a musician, photographer, EMT, disability educator, foodie, and all-around nice guy.” 
“That’s a lot of hats,” I whispered to the dog, who ignored me and waved a paw at Lee, as he greeted guests before the lecture began. In reality, it was a conversation, in part because Karasik encouraged questions throughout, while he regaled the audience with anecdotal references to his childhood and the trials and tribulations of maneuvering through high school for someone who has “varying abilities.” On a personal mission to “clear up the misconceptions that are floating around out there regarding what it’s like” to be him, Lee engaged the crowd and accomplished his goal. 
“What’s next? “ I asked him after the program. “Skydiving and synchronized swimming?” Nothing would surprise me when it comes to Lee Karasik—renaissance man. 
High school was once again on my mind as I strolled through the doors of the Catskill Art Society (CAS) in Livingston Manor, NY for the annual Jeff Bank 2019 Calendar reception, honoring this year’s crop of top-notch photographers, all of whom just happen to be young people. In celebration of the calendar’s 10th anniversary, a special edition was created: “Sullivan County through the Eyes of Our Students,” and (as always) intended to promote the scenic beauty of the Upper Delaware River region to residents and visitors alike. While attempting to engage the students in conversation was “like pulling teeth,” as my pithy mother would say, most chose to let their photos do the talking, save for the description of where and why, when called upon. 
“I just like anything to do with nature,” Liberty High School senior Luke DelValle told me quite succinctly. “It’s called ‘Fallen Woods,’” he said of his winning photo, featured in the calendar for the month of October 2019. The kids were excited to be present for the big reveal, while proud parents and friends purchased copies of the calendar. It’s available at all Jeff Bank locations for a small donation—with the proceeds supporting the many artistic endeavors at CAS. 
As often happens along my many stops in any given action-packed week, a theme emerges. I could easily have titled this column “Ah, youth,” since it features people far younger than me, and I’ve had plenty to say (IMHO) thus far. Another milestone was being celebrated last Saturday night as adults gathered to support the Boys and Girls Clubs serving Northern Orange and Sullivan counties to commemorate “25 Years of Building Great Futures.” Billed as “A celebration of everything Grown Here—a Farm-To-Table Experience,” the fifth annual event served as a fundraiser and “an evening of fun, wine, laughter and love.” It also honored Elizabeth “Biz” Rowley for her contributions to the organization. 
While the donations are still coming in, it is safe to say that thousands of dollars were raised, and while I am far from a “foodie” like my friend LB Karasik, I was wowed by the four-course meal prepared by local chefs Loretta Reuter, Edison Narkaj, Jaime Stankevicus and Marcus Guliliano. Each course was paired with a specialty wine, but since I serve as Dharma’s designated driver, I can’t really comment on that. I do know that the aficionados in the room had great fun outbidding each other during the “rare and unique” wine auction, featuring multiple lots with catchy names like “Big Bottle Mania” and “Bubbles For Fun,” while Somerville entertained with their usual style, flair and just-plain-great musicianship. As always, I’m amazed by the generosity, camaraderie and commitment to community that I come face to face with on a daily basis as I travel from town to town, camera and faithful companion at my side. Sometimes, I’m even at a loss for words.
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