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Monday, October 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm

An appreciation of John Gardner and the annual reading of his work at the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, John Gardner, Pok-A-Dot

Byron Hoot, a Pittsburgh-area resident, is a longtime John Gardner fan and scholar. He's a poet and author who has worked for years on a series of poems based on Gardner's novel "Grendel." For the first time last year, Hoot came to Batavia for the annual Gardner night at the Pok-A-Dot. He then came back in the summer for the Gardner symposium at Genesee Community College and returned this year for the Gardner Society's annual gathering at the Dot.  (To file under "It's a Small World," Hoot studied at a college in Ohio where his literature professor was Art Seamans. I also took literature classes with Seamans in San Diego. The two men join a group of writers annually for a workshop in the Adirondacks. I've not made that trip yet. Maybe this summer ... ). Here's an appreciation by Hoot of the annual local reading and Batavia's literary giant.

I do not know how many cities, towns, or villages across America that have a famous son or daughter of literature do what Batavia, New York does.

Once a year (and it almost feels like “Once upon a time. . ..”), a group gathers who are John Gardner fans. Fans is the wrong word. Friends, students are better words though it’s difficult to explain a relationship with someone dead who still so influences the living, a group of people from all walks of life not strictly academic. . . .

To say nothing of having John’s brother, Jim, and family members there to listen and recite John Gardner’s words which are still very much alive.

We came, the last Saturday of October because he speaks to us still. We come to the Pok-A Dot diner because that’s where he went. We read to honor someone whose writing is honest enough to have opened something in each of us that would have never been opened before.

Terry Abrams, one of the readers, called it — most recently, last Saturday -– a community.  It is. He said in a world where entertainment is everywhere this form where reading and listening and then later talking at O’Lacy’s is an anomaly. He’s right, of course. And I think of that old adage of writing – “to delight and to instruct.” We have forgotten that delight and instruction is of the soul. But not all.

And I suspect John Gardner would growl and say, “Of course! Of course! Write on! Write on!” and give a Grendel smile.

Batavia . . . well done.

Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Photo: Singing outside the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, entertainment, music, Pok-A-Dot

Batavia residents Will Jakes II and Julio Morales were outside the Pok-A-Dot this afternoon belting out a few tunes. It was a beautiful day. There's a bench outside the restaurant, so it seemed to them like a good place to hang out and jam.

BTW: Jakes recently welcomed his grandson into the world, Will Jakes IV.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Photos: 60th birthday bash for the landmark Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, Pok-A-Dot

Batavia's legendary landmark diner the Pok-A-Dot turned 60 today with a few hundred people turning out for the celebration.

Above, owners Joe Marone and Phil Pastore are congratulated by one of the regular customers, James Pero, on the anniversary.

Friday, June 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm

The Pok-A-Dot, a Batavia landmark, turns 60 this month

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, Pok-A-Dot

The Pok-A-Dot turns 60 years old this month and co-owner Phil Pastore couldn't be happier.

Not many restaurants survive 60 years, and fewer still with the same ownership.

"It’s probably one of the greatest things in my life, to own something for 60 years and still be alive to appreciate it," Pastore said.

"We're quite proud," said his wife, Leona, "quite proud."

Pastore said his friend Joe Marone, who ran a concession business, came to him one day while he was working at Masse Harris and suggested they open a hot dog stand at the corner of Ellicott and Liberty streets.

In the 60 years since, the Pok-A-Dot has become a landmark, a throwback to a simpler time of friends and neighbors seeing each other every day and sharing a bite to eat. It was the favorite restaurant of famed author John Gardner and has become a must-visit stop for many politicians on the campaign trail.

It's been featured in international media reports.

And still, it's a place where locals come for coffee and breakfast or a beef-on-weck every day.

"It's the food," Pastore said, explaining the Pok-A-Dot's success. "And it's a very friendly place, a place where you can sit around an eat and talk with people. That's what it's really known for."

The 60th anniversary celebration will be from 5 to 9 p.m., June 22. Musician Bill McDonald and friends will play and many old friends are sure to gather.

Photo: Joe Marone, Joanne Cox, Phil Pastore and Nicole Johnson.

Monday, April 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Photo: '30 Ford replica roadster at the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, Pok-A-Dot

Tom Hallock thought the weather good enough today -- the sun was out this morning -- to pull his '30 Ford roadster replica out of storage and take it for a drive. He stopped at the Pok-A-Dot for lunch. The car, originally from 1978, is built with an engine and interior out of a 1978 Ford Granada.

Speaking of the Dot, the famed diner's 60th Anniversary celebration is set for June 22, starting at 5 p.m. with live music.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Photos: Chris Collins stops at Pok-A-Dot for Election Day lunch

post by Howard Owens in batavia, chris collins, NY-27, Pok-A-Dot

Calling it an Election Day tradition, Chris Collins drove to Batavia today for lunch at the Pok-A-Dot. Collins had lunch at the Dot the day of the GOP primary when he beat David Bellavia.

The Pok-A-Dot, he said, is kind of like a lucky charm.

Collins had no other campaign stops to make today with the race now in the hands of the voters of the NY-27. 

While Collins said he feels good about his chances against incumbent Kathy Hochul, he is short of predicting victory, knowing it's likely to be a close vote.

Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

Photos: The Travel Channel at the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, Pok-A-Dot

If the Pok-A-Dot isn't already world famous, it soon will be.

A crew from the international version of the Travel Channel stopped by the legendary diner Friday to film a segment for part of an episode on Upstate New York.

"Most people in the world, when they think of New York, they think, ‘oh, the city,’ but there’s actually a lot more to it than that," said the show's presenter, Julian Hanton (the bloke in the sunglasses in all the pictures -- and we can say bloke, because the crew is from the U.K., though Hanton is originally from New Zealand).

The Pok-A-Dot was suggested by the tourism agency and the crew. Hanton said they wanted to get places in the more rural communities, though they have visited Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester.

The seven-part show will visit seven states, giving international viewers a wider perspective of the United States, according to Hanton, but he doesn't expect the shows to air in the U.S. (although, they might).

Top Photo: The crew with Joanne Cox, Jennifer Hodgins, Nicci Johnson and Lisa Hodgins. Below, Jim Disalvo with Hanton and WHAM13's Sean Carroll interviewing Hanton.

Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

Photos: John Gardner reading at the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, John Gardner, Literature, Pok-A-Dot

The John Gardner Society gathered Saturday at the Pok-A-Dot for the annual reading of the author's works.

Readers were Lucine, Bill and Gretel Kauffman, Erica Caldwell, Terry McCormack, Tracy Ford, Maureen Maas-Feary, Brian Paris, Helen Maier, Terry Abrams and John Maier.

WNED's Jay Moran recorded the readings and will air a segment later in the week, possibly on Wednesday.

If you can't view the slide show, click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Purple bench honoring Batavia's famed novelist installed outside the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, John Gardner, Pok-A-Dot

When you drive past the Pok-A-Dot today, you may notice a purple bench you've not seen before. It was installed today in honor of John Gardner, the world-famous novelist, poet and literary critic who grew up in Batavia and once considered the Pok-A-Dot his favorite eatery.

The bench, which cost a little less than $2,000, was bought and paid for by the John Gardner Society and installed by a city work crew.

"We wanted the bench to be in the spirit of both the Pok-A-Dot and John Gardner," said local author and Gardner Society member Bill Kauffman. "So, it is, ah, colorful (purple and yellow). Who knows -- maybe we'll paint polka dots on it later. Gardner once said,  'I think a writer who leaves his roots leaves any hope of writing importantly.' Well, his roots haven't forgotten him."

Kauffman said the group has talked for years about sponsoring a memorial for Gardner. Since the group holds its annual Gardner reading each October at the Pok-A-Dot and he included "the Dot" in one of his novels, it seemed like an appropriate spot for a memorial.

"We figured why not put a Gardner bench in front of this literary-culinary capital of Batavia?" Kauffman said.

Leona Pastore, whose family owns the Pok-A-Dot, was enthusiastic and helpful, Kauffman said. He also thanks City Manager Jason Molino for supporting the project and Ray Tourt and his staff for their assistance.

The plaque reads: JOHN C. GARDNER / Author, Teacher / 1933-1982 / Born in Batavia and raised on the family farm on Putnam Settlement Road, Gardner published more than 30 books of fiction, literary criticism, and advice for writers. The novel that brought him national recognition, The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), is set in Batavia and environs, including the Pok-a-Dot restaurant.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Photos: 14th Annual John Gardner reading at the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard Owens in batavia, John Gardner, Literature, Pok-A-Dot

gardnerreading_01.jpg

It's been said that the Pok-A-Dot was John Gardner's favorite eatery. In "The Sunlight Dialogues," Gardner mentions the 56-year-old diner in one passage.

For 14 years, the John Gardner Society has gathered at The Dot to remember the man and read from his work.

Saturday, nine people took turns reading from a variety of his works, including novels, poems, short stories and nonfiction.

Pictured above, Erica Caldwell, owner of Present Tense Books on Washington Avenue.

After the jump are more pictures from the event.

gardnerreading_11.jpg

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