Month: November 2013

Ithaca Rolfer aids pain with practice

By John Vogan & Allie Healy


When Sarah Robarge was 15 years old, a horse ride changed her life. That fateful day, her horse became startled and reared up, throwing her from the saddle and onto the ground before the animal fell on top of her.

The accident resulted in two back fractures in and a hip injury. On and off for the next 15 years, Robarge had to wear a back brace and tried everything from medication to surgery to massage therapy, but still suffered debilitating pain.

That is, until, she discovered Rolfing, a unique kind of massage therapy aimed at realigning the body to minimize pain and tension. Ida Rolf, a biochemist, created Rolfing in the 1930s. After completing a series of Rolfing therapy with Wells Christie in Syracuse, Robarge’s pain was gone.

Robarge completed a Ten-Series, which typically spreads one-hour sessions once a week over 10 weeks, but could be extended to progress once a month over 10 months. The first three sessions are known as superficial sessions, working the superficial layers of the fascia, also known as connective tissue.

“It just changed my life so much that it inspired me to do that, so I could help people the way that I was helped,” Robarge said.

According to the Affordable Care Act section 2706 titled “Non-Discrimination in Healthcare,” insurance issuers “shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any health care provider’s license or certification under applicable State law.” Because Robarge’s practice is licensed, Rolfing would be covered by insurance, dependent on the individuals insurance provider.

Robarge now practices as a certified Rolfer, but getting to this point was not easy. New York state requires Rolfers to be licensed as massage therapists first, and the only Rolf Institute currently in the United States operates their instruction in Colorado.

Robarge spent the first semester studying in Colorado, and then travelled to other parts of the world where the practice is more widely practiced. She lived in Malaysia for the second semester, and studied for the third semester in Bali and Indonesia.

Rolfing is more thorough than traditional massage therapy and based on discovering the source of tension-related problems, Robarge said.

“To give an example, say you have sore shoulders. If you went and saw a massage therapist, you’d go in and you’d get a shoulder rub,” she said. “Most people’s sore shoulders are caused by tension in the front of the body. If you have tension either in your chest or abdominals or your legs, you are going to be pulled forward in your gravity. It’s pulling on your back.”

Unlike the temporary relief and relaxing chemicals released in a typical massage, Rolfing aims to realign the body to help the pain dissipate all together.

Susan Winter, the Manager of Marketing at the Rolf Institute, said the practice used to be more intensive and painful. The founder, Ida Rolf, initially would patients lay on the floor instead of a table.

“We’ve learned over the years about the nervous system, you don’t need intensity, but intentionality,” said Winter, a patient of Rolfing herself. If either the patient or the Rolfer senses too much pain, attention can be placed on shallower layers of connective tissue.

Robarge’s practice, located at 409 W State Street, will have been established a year in January.


Alliance breathes new life into Collegetown

By John Vogan & Robert Rivera

Marty Johnson greets his friend and fellow alliance founder Annie Quach in his store, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, and soon they begin talking about the designs for the logo of their newly formed group: the Collegetown Small Business Alliance (CSBA).

The Alliance was founded this summer between Johnson, Quach — who is the general manager for Hai Hong a local Chinese restaurant — and Natalie Sweeney, owner of Natalia’s Boutique with the purpose of promoting more business in Collegetown.  Johnson says the three are good friends and wanted to form the alliance to help each other’s small businesses.

Unlike the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, which has about 100 shops and serves over 50,000 residents, the CSBA is still in its early stages and has not expanded outside of its three founding members. The DIA has been a part of Downtown Ithaca since 1997, and has helped small businesses in the area thrive through special events such as Apple Fest and Chili Fest.

A map of Collegetown, alliance businesses, and parking.

A map of Collegetown, alliance businesses, and parking.

The new group’s goal is to create events in Collegetown to promote more business in the area, through street fairs and greeting college students during orientation to show them what Collegetown has to offer, says Johnson. These future events are meant to help all businesses, whether they are part of the alliance or not, he adds.

Johnson says that the trio has reached out to other local businesses, such as Big Red Barber Shop, Proper Puss, Stella’s Rulloff’s Restaurant and Nail Candy. “It’s really grass-roots right now.  We’re just bringing up the discussion before a formal invitation goes out, but everyone we’ve talked to are very much excited and say it can only be positive for the area,” says Johnson.

Matthew Taylor, general manager for Stella’s agrees that the alliance would be beneficial to his restaurant.  He says he is awaiting further news about the CSBA.

Quach, who was born and raised in Ithaca, and spent much of her childhood growing up in Collegetown says the area is declining in terms of business flow, which is why she felt there was a need for the Alliance.

One of the problems many stores in Collegetown are facing is foreclosure due to the high cost of rent.  Sweeney says she pays $2000 each month for her 1,010 square-foot store.  Local realtor Jeff Goodmark says that the average price of retail rental in Collegetown is three times as much as other area in Ithaca, placing a strain on revenue.

Johnson and the alliance have also talked briefly to Cornell University about planning events with the college for their summer program.  The CSBA hopes Cornell will consider housing students closer to Collegetown during summer sessions to make it easier for them to shop there. The move could potentially create new patronage during  the slow months when most students leave for summer break.

Gabrielle Cramer, a Cornell student who has lived in Collegetown for the past two years thinks the alliance would be a step in the right direction for students. She says it would be nice to have more options for students to do activities over the weekends, and the alliance would help.

“There are a few different bars that closed down. It’s not that Collegetown is not bumping, but its transitioning,” says Cramer, who adds that the alliance can help with this transitioning period.

Johnson also publishes a blog on his company website, where further updates for the alliance’s progress can be found.

Airbnb offers unique lodging experience for Ithaca visitors

By John Vogan & Justine Chun

When Lisa Carrier-Titti and her wife Nicole decided to open their spare room to guests, they were not expecting a cultural experience.

“We met women from Israel, who just heard about Ithaca in an article and they wanted to come,” Carrier-Titti said.  “One of the women was kosher and conservative…we made sure that we had all products here that were kosher, and she wasn’t allowed to use any electricity from sundown Friday to Saturday, so we were able to come in and turn the lights…and coffee pot on for her.  That’s not something I had ever experienced before.”

Carrier-Titti is not the only resident in Ithaca to open her home to visitors.  She began listing in June after a friend told her about Airbnb, a website that lets people find accommodations around the world. More than 150 properties are listed in the greater Ithaca area.

The website was founded in August 2008 and markets itself as a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations. With over 8 million users, Airbnb has accommodations in more than 33 thousand cities and 192 countries worldwide. The site is a way for people to find a room, apartment, or even just a couch to sleep on while traveling.

Carrier-Titti believes some listings on Airbnb have qualities that traditional bed and breakfasts don’t always offer.

“There is a niche to be filled, where some people aren’t looking for the kitschy, lacey Victorian home,” she explained.  “The people that find us, they want something that’s downtown, they want something that’s walkable, on the bus route, they want something that’s a little bit private.”

Airbnb users can also review the places they stay following the reservation. Comforts of Home has a 5-star average rating across 25 reviews. One response from “Patricia” of Vermont said: “Lisa & Nicole have designed this space to absolutely maximize both elegance and functionality…with charm and verve.”

Airbnb Ithaca

Jennifer Dotson, an Airbnb enthusiast, has found the site to be very reliable. Dotson serves on the first board for the City of Ithaca common council and finds herself frequently traveling to other cities to attend conferences.

“I’d rather save a little money and stay at a place where I might get to know someone local,” Dotson said.

With Airbnb offering a range of price points for accommodations – as cheap as $30 per night for a room to $1079 for an entire 14-room house – the question of occupancy tax has come up. Tompkins County imposes a three percent county occupancy, or room, tax. Registered accommodations collect this and submit it to the county on a quarterly schedule. The county is now asking all unregistered accommodations to pay the tax.

Lynette Scofield, Innkeeper of the William Henry Miller Inn in Ithaca, believes that the unregistered Airbnb hosts should contribute through such a tax.

“The room tax does so much for this area as far as beautification, signage, new programs, that the tax dollars that our guests pay and write a check for makes such a difference in the community,” said Scofield.

But not everyone in Ithaca supports Airbnb. De Murphy, the president of Bed & Breakfast Association of Greater Ithaca (BBGI), who declined to speak with Ithaca Week, was quoted in the Ithaca Times saying that: “Travelers have no idea what they are getting into [when they book rooms using Airbnb].  I’ve heard horror stories from guests. They thought they were getting a room and they got a couch, or the place was just dirty.”

For people like Carrier-Titti and her wife, who do pay the three percent room tax, Airbnb is a way to offer guests a nice place to stay while also making a little extra money for retirement.

“Airbnb has been very accommodating to us as hosts,” Carrier-Titti said. “They helped us set up a site, they help us with payment systems…very easy to do.”

Looking inward: Buddhist meditation takes step back from ‘whirlwind of life’

By Kristin Leffler & John Vogan

As the brief meditation commenced, there was the slight creak of floorboards, the gurgle of stomachs and the hushed chorus of exhales, but it was a peaceful, powerful silence that most filled the quaint living room.

Lama Pema Dragpa led the Nov. 2 gathering about the Buddhist perspective on death and dying, part of a monthly Dharma talk, a public Buddhist discussion.

The meditation sessions are held in the Ithaca area by teachers from Padmasambhava Buddhist Center’s monastery retreat in Sidney Center, N.Y. Dragpa says an inclusive meeting with others to discuss and practice Buddhism is an essential part of the learning process.

“The community is incredibly important for inspiring one another. It’s a special opportunity to help each other along the path to fully actualizing our potential,” he said. “We are locked in a smaller sense of ourselves than what we naturally are. We really have unlimited potential, and it’s practical and helpful to be around other people who support that.”

The monthly gatherings started two years ago, and interest has been growing locally.

The Namgyal Monastery Institute in downtown Ithaca is looking into expanding their facilities to accommodate an increase in their student base, according to their website.

Pema Damcho lived in Ithaca for a year before moving to study Buddhism and live at the Padma Samye Ling retreat center seven years ago.

She says Ithaca’s open-mindedness and a sense of introspection has made opportunities for meditation – an essential part of Buddhist practice – available and desired.

“The only way we have found we can do anything about our own mind is through meditation practice,” Damcho said. “Otherwise, typically most of us are in this whirlwind of life.”

The gatherings give locals an opportunity to focus on the teachings of Buddha and discuss important aspects of the religion such as compassion, awareness and appreciation. About ten people attended the discussion on death and dying, an important thing to contemplate since it is related to how we live now, Dragpa said during the talk.

“We have to really use the time now. If we haven’t trained to be peaceful and aware during our lives, why would we think that’s how we’re going to be when we die? That’s the whole point of meditation, to use our time now to connect to that absolute, undying nature in ourselves, which naturally expresses itself as love and compassion for others,” he said.

The Dharma talks provide an opportunity for people to explore their own nature, something that Dragpa says all people, regardless of faith, have the potential to do through meditation and discussion.

“What’s found is not a Buddhist thing or a Christian thing or a Muslim thing, you just find your nature. We all have such an amazing capacity,” he said.

Ithaca locals interested in exploring Buddhism are welcome to attend the next Dharma talk in Oneonta on December 14.