For Starters

The Cool Tool Girl tells it like it is, talking everything (but) baseball, and mixing books and brew in Hudson.

For Starters


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Toolin’ Around the Hudson Valley



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photo by Holley Meister (above)

You might think that The ABCs of Home Improvement, the Beacon-produced radio show that features the Cool Tool Girl, is awfully similar to ABC’s Home Improvement, the hit 1990s TV show that featured the Tool Time Girl. The Cool Tool Girl herself thinks otherwise.


First of all, Elizabeth Bushey is not Pamela Anderson. “I don’t run around in cutoff shorts,” says Bushey, the writer, illustrator and children’s musician who now adds Cool Tool Girl to her eclectic resume. As cohost of the show, which airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. on WBNR, WLNA and WGHQ AM, Bushey notes another big difference between the two programs.


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“Tim Taylor (of Home Improvement) was kind of a bumbling fool,” she says. “The guys I work with are real experts. We are more about giving cogent information to homeowners in need.”


The guys are indeed experts. Liborio Derario is a board-certified architect and owner of Archifuture, P.C., an architectural design and development firm. Bill Barschow is a sales rep for Delfino Insulation with a long history in the home im­provement industry. Mike Asch has been in the business, in various forms, for over 30 years.


The Cool Tool Girl, who is constantly improving the 105-year-old Middletown house she shares with her photojournalist husband, two daughters and a slew of pets (a tarantula may be next in line), has some street cred of her own. “I do a lot of things. I sew, I am an illustrator. I know the value of a good tool,” she says. “A cleverly designed tool makes whatever you are doing easier. I am fascinated with the discovery of the perfect tool.”

She’s been interested in tools as long as she can remember. “My mom, a psychiatric nurse, was into gadgets and didn’t believe in traditional gender roles,” she says. “I remember being fascinated with mom’s toolbox — even the latches on the box. My favorite tool when I was a kid was the level, because it had the bubbles in it. I was probably six or seven, running around the house making sure everything was level.”

Bushey sat in on the guys’ show one day. “The chemistry was just right, so I stayed on,” she says. “It was really fun.” Her job, she says, is to bring the technical discussion back to terms the layman can understand. “I build things. I know what a miter saw is. I have used a jigsaw. I really am into tools.”

    David Levine


The Spotty Dog Books & Ale


Hudson’s Spotty Dog Books & Ale really has its paws in local history. Owner Kelley Drahushuk’s family has lived in Hudson for generations, and one of her ancestors, C.H. Evans, was mayor back in the late 1800s. An uncle also currently owns Hudson’s C.H. Evans Brewing Company, which supplies the Spotty Dog with its suds. And, wouldn’t you know it, the shop’s building is actually a firehouse that was the home of C.H. Evans Hook and Ladder from 1890 until 2003 (the firehouse dalmation being the Spotty Dog’s namesake). With all these historical references, one might anticipate antiquated décor or a stuffy atmosphere, but a quick glance around the shop proves quite the opposite. A funky mix of furniture, a bar with gleaming woodwork, and fully stocked bookshelves make the Spotty Dog a hip hangout for bookworms and beer lovers of all ages. Drahushuk (who runs the store with husband Alan Coon) describes the shop as a bookstore and art supply lounge. “We like to think of it as a place where all kinds of different people can come,” she says. Fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, local interest, and books by local authors line the shelves. Children’s items, such as games and puzzles, and the extensive collection of art supplies in the back are also a draw for visitors. The taps serve five different beers from C.H Evans, and there are always a few others in case you desire a spot of something different.


The Spotty Dog Books & Ale. 440 Warren St., Hudson. Open Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 518-671-6006 or — Laura Calhoon



Books to Browse and Buy

by Rita Ross


Great Graves of Upstate New York (Rooftop Publishing, $21.95) by Oneonta resident and radio host Chuck D’Imperio, offers colorful profiles of 70 notable Americans (and one famous race horse), whose final resting places dot the Empire State. Some are well-known, like presidents FDR (his grave in Hyde Park is the most-visited of any U.S. president); Martin Van Buren, who lies not too far away in Kinderhook; the state’s first governor, George Clinton, at rest in the historic Old Reformed Protestant Dutch Church cemetery in Kingston; and industrialists William Rockefeller (in a massive, columned Greek-style mausoleum) and Andrew Carnegie in Sleepy Hollow’s cemetery.


But the Valley also contains the graves of the likes of Samuel Wilson, the original Uncle Sam. He’s buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, and the author — who spent a decade crisscrossing the state and visited at least 250 graveyards for research — notes that Oakwood itself is well worth a visit, with 32 miles of pristine grounds which are ideal for strolling. Others interred in the Valley include etiquette guru and “paragon of politeness” Emily Post (in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Tuxedo Park); theater legend Helen Hayes (Nyack’s Oak Hill Cemetery); and tap-dancer extraordinaire Peg Leg Bates (the cemetery in tiny Palentown). His headstone is unusual to say the least: It depicts Peg Leg and his wife riding lawn mowers.


Where the Blind Horse Sings by Kathy Stevens (Skyhorse Publishing, $22.95).


Stevens, a former English teacher who in 2001 launched the renowned Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties — one of the nation’s few havens specifically for abused and abandoned farm animals — writes about her labor of love in building a new world for at least 175 unwanted animals.


Sanctuary residents include Rambo the sheep, Paulie the Rooster (among 40 or so poultry birds living at CAS that escaped the slaughterhouse), Franklin the pig, and Buddy — the brave, blind Appaloosa horse of the title, who “sings” and whinnies in delight as he canters through the fields. Stevens’ humorous, touching tales reveal the intelligence and emotional complexity of animals, while underscoring the importance of being kind to all the world’s critters.


Magdalen Rising (Monkfish Publishing, $24.95).


A spirited, lusty novel that combines Celtic fantasy and Christianity: Mary Magdalen is imagined as a sassy, red-haired feminist heroine who attends Druid College, becomes a prostitute in Rome, travels to Palestine and develops a passionate, cosmic connection with young Jesus. Hudson Valley resident Elizabeth Cunningham creates a sexy, engaging yarn that’s at once controversial, magical and spiritual. Magdalen Rising is part of her trilogy, The Maeve Chronicles, and is the prequel to Cunningham’s acclaimed novel, The Passion of Mary Magdalen. A sequel is due out next year.


The Life and Times of Asher B. Durand (Black Dome Press, $17.95)

by John Durand.


This biography of Asher Durand, deemed “the dean of American landscape painters” and one of the most important artists of the 19th-century Hudson River School of painting, was compiled and written by his son John and first published in 1894. But his life story still fascinates today. The illustrated volume details Durand’s notable career and offers an insider’s look at the politics and rivalries that seethed in the New York City art scene — even back in the 19th century — and presents excerpts of letters between Asher and legendary landscape painter Thomas Cole. In one, when Asher (then living in Manhattan) laments the noise and hurly-burly of the city, Cole suggests he move to the Catskills, where he can enjoy “the pure air of heaven.”



No Kidding


Kids may say the darndest things, but they say some pretty intelligent things, too. Take the 4-H Public Presentation program of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orange County. Nearly 300 of members of the group, ages 6 through their teens, gave oral reports on a wide variety of topics at the annual event. While teens in the program stretch themselves in challenges with dramatic interpretations of Shakespeare and scientific demonstrations, the youngest 4-Hers, called “Cloverbuds,” deliver “fun talks” on topics like Pokemon cards and how to equip your fish bowl. After the judging, the lucky blue-ribbon winners progress to the next level, where performance presentations that best demonstrate mastery of topic information, organizational skills and audience rapport could earn them a spot at October’s state finals.

— Polly Sparling


Animal Instincts


A car runs into a trailer on I-84. Happens every day. The trailer tips over. Not unusual. Emergency rescue personnel arrive on the scene. They’ve seen it a million times.

Except there’s a very frightened and possibly injured horse trapped in the trailer. They can handle the vehicles. They can help the humans. What do they do about the horse?

This past March, Ivy Rock Farms of New Windsor hosted a course in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Training (TLAER) to teach people how to react in just such a situation. In that particular accident, “the horse wasn’t hurt,” says Audrey Reith, who ran the training. “But it was very agitated. The rescuers needed an experienced handler for an excitable animal.”


Reith, equine and livestock educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange and Ulster counties, says there is a growing need for such services. She knows of a horse falling into a swimming pool and of a cow getting stuck in a manure holding tank. As more horses and livestock travel the increasingly congested roadways of the lower Hudson Valley, more will be involved in accidents.


But a horse or cow won’t simply lie still and be treated, Reith says. Its natural fight-or-flight instinct could cause it to further injure itself or the people trying to help it. Only a trained large-animal handler can prevent that from happening. 


The course drew local volunteer firefighters, a few horse owners and trainers, some farm owners and others with large animals, and a veterinary technician. It helped develop better relationships between the emergency response community and animal handlers, Reith said.


“A lot of them took the course knowing that if there was a turnover on Route 84 or 17, they would be able to respond and give technical advice,” she said. “It gave them peace of mind knowing there were personnel in the area who could respond.”

More courses may come to the Valley. Visit the Empire State Animal Response Team Web site at for trainings and information on volunteering.

— David Levine



Talkin’ (everything but) Baseball


We don’t sell baseball,” says the guy who sells baseball in the Hudson Valley. “In fact, if anything, baseball gets in the way.”


Rick Zolzer, the guy who threw that nasty curveball of a quote, comes back with a fastball down the middle. “We sell family entertainment. We pretty much bombard people with atmosphere.”


He should know. Zolzer, now the director of entertainment for the Hudson Valley Renegades, has been associated with the team for 10 of its 13 seasons. He’s also the public address announcer — “the guy in your ears,” he laughs. In a league where players rarely return for a second season, Zolzer is the one true constant of Renegades baseball.

And that’s precisely why the team markets family entertainment first. “We don’t have a Derek Jeter or a David Wright,” he explains. As a Class A minor league, the New York-Penn League (of which the team is a part) is stocked mostly with wide-eyed kids, newly graduated and in their first summer of pro ball. The good ones move up quickly. The bad ones? “Our guys may be out of baseball for good in two years,” Zolzer says. 


So the fun is, well, in the fun. There is music. There are mascots (four of them, in fact). You want fireworks? The Fourth of July is just one of seven fireworks nights planned this season. And then there are the games. “Every night there’s a giveaway or a theme,” Zolzer says. “Every Sunday kids get to run the bases. We have a game on the field or in the stands every half-inning — that’s 18 games every night. We’ve been planning since October.”


With 99 percent of the seats sold every year for 38 home games, Zolzer claims, the strategy certainly pays off. “It doesn’t matter if we go 38-0 or 0-38. No one leaves.”

The Renegades home opener is June 22 versus the Brooklyn Cyclones. Yes, there will be a baseball game mixed in with all the festivities. To Zolzer, though, “the game is almost secondary.”

 — David Levine

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