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Caseythoughts While dealing with the traffic on Meadow Street the other day, I saw a vanity license plate which set me off on a flight of fantasy. You'll see why in the following paragraphs. It was a New York plate, which spelled out "MYTHACA". And here's where I leave the world and jump into my own Mythaca.

I see that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded someone in Ithaca $1.3 million to study a realignment of Route 13 between Third Street and the one-way pair at Friendly's. Apparently, the pandemic hasn't slowed down the government money printing press.

Svante Myrick, that fan of federal money, has stated that Route 13 split the city and "we need to knit the city back together again with a pedestrian-friendly road." After $20 million spent to allegedly fix the Octopus and three years of construction/destruction, madness between Meadow and Fulton Streets and Elmira Road, what's another million or two to knit the city back together? There is talk of extending Fifth Street (who knew there was a Fifth Street in Ithaca?) to the waterfront.

So here's my first flight of Ithaca fancy. You know that goofy bridge over Route 13 as you leave Ithaca, just before Buttermilk Falls? The one they painted blue and put, at no small expense, over the road as a pedestrian walkway? Why can't Ithaca find another couple of abandoned railroad bridges, spend a million or two transporting them here, paint them blue or green or red for all I care, and hoist them over the new section of Route 13 so people from the Fifth Street neighborhood can safely walk to Aldi's or the farmers' market or the Community Gardens? Besides the enormous cost, which apparently matters not to City Hall, Albany, or Washington, since our printing presses are going 24/7 at the Treasury, what's to stop another opportunity to put Ithaca on the map? We could even make sure "ITHACA" is a part of the signage.

It's the same thing as any other sign standard above the highway, and this one will be pedestrian friendly. We could even put up small commemorative plaques along the walkway, like Cinemapolis.

I can see it now. A cover story for the New York Times Magazine, or maybe a feature story in Pedestrian Monthly. Don't forget the bikeways. Common Council and myriad committees could justify their existence for years on this one.

Two more notes about Mythaca. The Little Rascals was not filmed on Buffalo Street in a go cart sequence, and the Perils of Pauline, complete with a trolley careening into a gorge, was also not filmed in Mythaca.

So while we're at it, I wish to draw your attention away from the sh**show of our election cycle with an Ithaca true story mixed with a myth and see if you can tell which is true and which is fantasy.

Back when I moved to Ithaca in 1982, the city had an incredible and dangerous racoon infestation. The racoons were numerous, fat on Collegetown garbage and on Ithaca's curbside largesse. The threat of racoon rabies was real. I remember walking down Eddy Street and realizing the masked bandits were no longer cute. They weren't afraid of humans, and looked at me like Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver: "You looking at me?"

Anyway, a committee felt they had the solution. They would trap the racoons and have an animal control daily convoy to deposit the racoons 'out in the wild', like Enfield or Danby. This proposal made our country cousins very happy.

Here's where the story gets interesting.

The racoons got wind of this human conspiracy and called a huge community meeting in one of the larger sewers beneath Ithaca. The hubbub was loud and almost ear-splitting, with all of the racoons talking at once. Somehow, one of the ancient racoons (they called him Paw) got their attention.

Paw told them about the rat problem Ithaca had around the turn of the twentieth century. Much the same reaction by the humans as today. There was a wailing and wringing of the human hands until somebody got the bright idea to start a rumor in the rat community about a huge cheese factory somewhere in Colorado. At the end of most work days, an excess of cheese amounting to hundreds of pounds would be dumped.

"Well," said Paw, "you can imagine how even the slowest rats jumped on that story of plenty, and soon the last of the Ithaca rats were hitchhiking to Colorado to find that factory."

The racoons were struck by Paw's story, but they were also not quite attuned to what he was saying as they had never seen an Ithaca rat. The meeting broke up and they all left the sewer for a late night snack at Collegetown garbage cans. Nothing appeared to have been accomplished but more racoon anguish and the wringing of furry paws.

Well kids, a couple of days later, one of the racoons was up early and poked his snout out of a sewer on State Street. You can imagine his surprise and wonderment when he saw not one car on the street, neither moving nor parked. What was this?

Our furry observer hurried back to that same community sewer room and there were all of the racoons, abuzz with the same story. It looked like Ithaca was empty. No cars, no people. Quiet as a church, though no people were there, either.

As the puzzlement deepened, finally one of the teenaged racoons spoke up. "The other day, when Grandpaw told us the story about the rats and the cheese factory, me and a couple of friends got an idea. We printed up some fliers to staple on utility poles and fired up a Facebook page to start a rumor that there was a money factory in Colorado that dumped a lot of its excess cash each night. We figured Ithacans would jump on that one."

So much for Mythaca. Take care of each other. Make sure you're registered to vote. And vote as early and often as you can. Thanks for listening.

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