Mr. Smith's Neighborhood

It's a beautiful day in the Neighborhood for teachers everywhere! Anything and everything is fair game!

The Waterfalls Lodge is Paradise! August 15, 2007

The Waterfalls Lodge is a Fabulous Northern Ontario Fishing Experience for All!

As part of my plan to spend my summer vacation from teaching out of the house, I gave myself a fishing trip as a combination birthday and Christmas gift. That may sound a little “fishy” to some of you, but I have always wanted to learn to do some serious lake fishing after years of deep sea and trout fishing.

Although I can make some claims as an accomplished trout fisherman, my last foray was eight years and a triple by-pass ago. Trout fishing is also a lot of work. I didn’t want to spend a week on the Great Lakes or deep sea fishing. I always wanted to be a better lake fisherman, and I heard that Northern Ontario is a spectacular place to fish. I’d never been to Northern Ontario, but it sounded like a plan.

As I began my research, I came across some fly-in options that sounded wonderful until I calculated the outlay for against my teacher salary. I don’t have a boat, so I needed a lodge that provided everything. Also, I wanted to be able to drive there and have electricity, a refrigerator, plenty of space, a meal plan and a good atmosphere. I also needed a place suitable for a novice like me. After many dead ends, I was beginning to give up hope when I discovered The Waterfalls Lodge.

The end result was that I booked for one week and stayed for an extra week because I was having so much fun. The Lodge and the lakes cannot be described in words, and pictures barely do justice to its beauty. I caught more fish than I could have imagined and learned a great deal. I became friends with Rob and Kathy (the owners), the staff and many of the guests who plan to be back next year. Let me tell you why everyone loved The Waterfalls Lodge so much.



On the Road Again July 20, 2007

Driving through Hell in Buffalo and Toronto

After loading the CRV, I was on the road at 8:30 AM and headed northwest towards a little area called Spanish, Ontario, Canada, for 9 days of relaxation, fishing and general keep-me-out-of-the-house fun. Most of the drive was uneventful with the exception of a few brief showers here and there. By the time I hit Rochester, NY, the Sun was out for the remainder of the day.

While driving through my least favorite city on this planet, Buffalo, I hit the first traffic jammof the day. Somebody needs to explain to the folks at the NYS Thruway Authority that E-Z Pass was designed to reward drivers who invested in the tag. The Thruway Authority in Buffalo decided that E-Z Pass should only have two lanes, and both lanes have the old “stop-and-wait-for-the-gate” technology. Traffic control at other tolls, bridges and the border is none existent. In fact, I think we will wait until midnight on our return to go through U.S. Customs to avoid the five-mile back-up we saw today.



A Coup by the New York Rangers July 2, 2007

The Rangers announced yesterday the signing of free agents Chris Drury (formerly of the Buffalo Sabres) and Scott Gomez (formerly of the New Jersey Devils) to long-term contracts. The signings fill a major gap in the Rangers line-up at center and brings two top NHL talents to the team, providing additional power for years to come. Forming a nucleus with youngsters like Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Fedor Tyutin, Blair Betts, Petr Prucha and Dan Girardi (along with many talented minor league players), the Ranger’s future seems bright.

There have been very few days that are truly magical as a fan of the New York Rangers since 1994. The last two seasons have been special for many of us who are season ticket holders despite the drought since we won our last Stanley Cup. While we demand perfection from Ranger management, sometimes unrealistically, we have been pleasantly surprised by some great moves in recent months.

Last season, we signed or obtained players like Brendan Shanahan, Matt Cullen, Paul Mara and Sean Avery. The level of devotion to this team is at the highest I’ve seen it in my 39 years as a fan, even superseding that great season of 1993-1994. Much in the same way that Mike Richter, Adam Graves, Mark Messier and Brian Leetch inspired many great seasons of hockey, Ranger fans will be able to feast their hockey appetite on a menu that includes Jaromir Jagr, Marty Straka, Lundqvist, Shanahan (likely), Prucha (likely), Avery (it had better be definite!), Gomez and Drury.



Hockey Season Is Over — 5/6/07 May 6, 2007

The hockey season is over. I don’t have to turn on NBC or Versus for a long. long time.

It is with sadness that my Brendan Shanahan jersey, the one that had an undefeated record of 14-0 (including four playoff wins), is hanging in my closet after suffering its first defeat. It will have to wait until next season to join a rotation with my Jagr, Messier, Esposito and Leetch jerseys. My lucky Brendan Shanahan shirt, the black one celebrating his 600th goal early this season, also suffered its first defeat and is in the wash.

The playoff beard is already shaven off, and I won’t have to shave my head for the Stanley Cup Finals. Although my 8th Graders were thrilled at the prospect of me shaving my head, nothing good can come of a fat, old white man shaving his head … it is too ugly to put into words.



Devils Go Bye-Bye and the Rangers Need a Miracle May 5, 2007

I never much cared for Marty Brodeur of the Swamp Gerbils, even though he is one of the greatest goalies every to play in the NHL. I don’t like his smugness and I don’t like crybabies. To help end the Gerbil season, Marty made some really dumb comments about Ray Emery, the Ottawa goaltender. He then tried to spin it and back-peddle but, instead, wound up with filet of foot in his mouth and a 3-2 loss in Game 5 (Ottawa takes the series 4-1).

  I fear that the Debbies’ departure from the playoffs may be a bad omen for the New York Rangers. The possibility of a Rangers-Debbies series for the Eastern Conference championship (and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals) would have been incredibly awesome. It would have been a fabulous boost for the NHL and hockey. Instead, the specter of a Buffalo-Ottawa final means that hockey season will be over for me (and the NY Metro market), but I will get a huge refund from Madison Square Garden (maybe I can finally buy that fishing rowboat!). (more…)


What Goes Around Comes Around May 4, 2007

Another week in the books and there are paybacks galore combined with lots of other interesting news. So we take a moment to reflect and hand out the jeers and cheers where they are most deserved.

Bush, No Child Left Behind and Killing Education

George W. Bush visited a very effective charter school in the New York City neighborhood called Harlem last week. Georgie would like to have everyone believe that it was his NCLB legislation that magically transformed education in Harlem into a state-of-the-art model for educators everywhere.

Frankly, Mr. Bush, you are full of s**t.

First, the Harlem Village Academy Charter School should be very proud. The entire community has made a strong commitment to success through learning. From uniforms to well-organized classrooms to highly respectful students, the teachers and administration have made their impact. Using a longer day and assessment that drives the curriculum, they have raised student achievement through methods that all educators have been endorsing for years. Assessment that drives teaching is a far cry from the standardized testing mandated by NCLB (which is just a measure of test-taking, not learning or knowledge). (more…)


Why the NHL Sucks … besides Colin Campbell April 29, 2007

The NHL lost a fan today at about 4:30 PM EDT. 

He was not an ordinary, everyday hockey fan. He was a long-time season ticket holder for the New York Rangers. He and his family not only attended games at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, but also traveled to other cities that had difficulties filling their arenas (whether it was due to the team’s fortunes or just a general disinterest in hockey).

Like many hockey fans, he became interested playing the game as a young boy until an injury prevented further play. He was also lucky enough to have a dad who had access to tickets at MSG, and he was a frequent spectator.

Like most Ranger fans, his life as a Ranger fan had nothing to do with winning and everything to do with tradition and loyalty. He had to wait 38 years of his life to finally see Mark Messier hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in hockey’s top-rated market. Following the joy of 1994, the ensuing twelve seasons were, at best, frustrating and included some of the greatest team failures in the Rangers’ long history.