Other Voices


Mohammad Yadegari — hard truths in an immigrant's experience

Mohammad Yadegari of Guilderland has written a book, “Always an Immigrant: A Cultural Memoir” that describes his life in three parts: as a child, growing up in an Iranian family in Iraq; as a young man, learning about life on his own in Tehran; and as a newcomer to America where he studies in Albany, marries, and becomes a teacher. He spent a decade writing the book, crystallizing a lifetime of experiences into compelling stories, which reveal some hard truths. As a schoolboy, he was told by his teacher, describing empires that had over history, risen and fallen, that America did not build an empire but brought many people together and melded into a nation. Deep down, he is sad seeing the news now because he cannot understand how someone feels better than another because of the color of his or her skin. He writes, “We are what we observe, learn, and experience in our momentary journey on earth. The degree that separates us from one another is the way we come to regard our perceptions as facts.” — Photo from Mohammad Yadegari

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James E. Gardner — A master printer and publisher

Jim Gardner, the former long-time owner of The Altamont Enterprise, was raised in a large family in Guilderland. As a boy, he fished in the Black Creek and hunted pheasants and rabbits, squirrels and partridges along Siver Road. “We were born into it,” he says in this week’s podcast at AltamontEnterprise.com/podcasts, of hunting for game. “We never wasted it … If you shot it, you prepared it for the cook.” Gardner was in the Class of 1955 — the first to graduate from the new Guilderland High School. His best friend, Chuck Pergl and classmate Frank Elliott thought up the Flying Dutchman as the still-used symbol for the school. Gardner and Pergl loved country music and listening to their favorite songs on WWVA, a station in Wheeling, West Virginia. “Especially on rainy nights, you could pick it up,” said Gardner. One weekend, they took a spur-of-the-moment road trip to a WWVA jamboree in Wheeling, an adventure that inspired a lifetime of stories. In high school, Gardner started working at The Enterprise as a printer’s devil, carrying heavy frames of hot-lead type to the grand printing press in the cellar. When the press ran, you could hear it in the middle of Maple Avenue, Gardner recalled. He learned the art and craft of printing. “That’s when I fell in love with the printed word ….I have never gotten over that.” Gardner became a master printer and a partner at The Enterprise. Eventually, with his wife, Wanda, working by his side, he was the sole owner of the newspaper and the print shop. He had met Wanda Sturgess when he was the best man at his brother’s wedding and she was the bride’s maid of honor. “It was amazing,” recalled Gardner. “When I met this woman, I said, wow!” They married a year later. The Gardners still work side by side at Enterprise Printing and Photo at 123 Maple Avenue.

Dennis Sullivan — Christmas Day podcast

Dennis Sullivan begins our Christmas Day podcast by reading from one of his Christmas columns on his naïve search as a child for the Star of Bethlehem, which became a lifelong journey to finally find it. Sullivan has compiled 62 of his Enterprise columns into a just-released book, “Homeward Bound.” He took the cover photo of the rail trail after rain had cleared it of people, leaving a green leafy canopy over a straight shot of pavement. At age 80, Sullivan says, “I’ve got a foot in the grave … All that’s waiting for you, me, anyone is that white light.” Sullivan spends a month meditating on each of his essays, which starts with “une ligne donné” — a given line, as French poet Paul Valéry put it. “There is a world beneath that line and it is a writer’s job to find out what is below that line,” says Sullivan. “The lines don’t leak,” he says of his writing, crediting Joan Didion and Janet Malcolm as two of his literary parents. “The columns really are poems,” says Sullivan. He references Virgil’s pace — no more than three lines a day — in writing The Aeneid, quoting the ancient Roman poet: He licked those lines into existence like a mother bear licks her new-born cubs into shape. In the Age of the Internet, when local links are disintegrating, Sullivan’s focus in compiling his book, and in life, is on the local community. He has been Voorheesville’s historian since 1986 and has led library groups on poetry and memoir writing and helped launch the poet laureate contest that used to be held at Smitty’s Tavern. His work on restorative justice — he wrote “Handbook of Restorative Justice: A Global Perspective” — had international reach but focused too on the local, whether in South Africa or London, as the only way restorative justice can work — finding ways communities can resolve disputes without violence. Sullivan hopes his book will encourage readers to look at their own lives and write about them.