The Irish Goodbye: Summer Edition

I once offered some tips to help you pull off an Irish goodbye, the art of slipping away unnoticed from a social gathering. Well, summer’s here and it’s time for a few seasonal variations on the disappearing act that saves you from tedious protracted farewells.

  • Bringing beer? Leave the cooler at home. There should be a way to keep it cool at the party — and by the way, if you need a cooler, maybe you’re not drinking fast enough.
  • Bringing a dish like Beans, Beans, Beans? Put it in an aluminum, tray, tray, tray. Yeah, leave the CorningWare at home and put your food in a container you don’t care about. Always try to avoid that awkward ‘I’m taking my dirty dish and heading home now’ moment.
  • Cell phones are a curse, but they’re also a blessing. People think you’re being polite when you step away from the crowd to take a call. Just step away from the backyard with your phone to your ear — and keep stepping away until you get to your car.

One note: these strategies work best for events with moderate to large groups. I can’t help you escape from dinner with your family.

All Aboard the Albany Gondola

“If there were a museum of stupid ideas, the Albany gondola  would deserve its own wing.”

That’s what a friend of mine had to say about  the proposal to build an aerial tram to carry people from the Rensselaer train station to downtown Albany.

He’s clearly being short-sighted, for who hasn’t craved a better way to get across the river from the train station? Driving is so — old-fashioned, and most people would rather swim across the Hudson than get into one of the filthy cabs that prey on arriving Amtrak passengers.

The gondola would have stations at the new convention center and the Empire State Plaza, but what if that’s not your destination? Well, people going to other places, like the Albany Hilton, could just walk over from the gondola and drag their suitcase behind them — or get a cab when they get off the gondola, of course.

What about some other transportation options?

  • Rickshaws could work. Naturally, you would need all-weather rickshaws for the winter, but rickshaws are inherently fun and eco-friendly.
  • We might bring back the Aqua Duck boats. Imagine how thrilling it would to leave the train station and then plunge into the river — or drive across the river in the winter, if the river ever freezes again.
  • Or perhaps a moving walkway in a climate controlled tube? A tubeway, if you will. This would be like a giant Habitrail that would stretch up from Rensselaer and arc across the river.

At any rate, I would suggest that they add additional downtown stops into the plan to make the gondola more convenient. They might even have a stop at the museum of stupid ideas.

Look, Up in the Sky

The great thing about picking cherries and blueberries is that there’s no bending over. Yes, strawberries are wonderful, but the stooping down makes them so tedious to gather.

Last weekend at Samascott Orchards, the fruit was mostly at eye level, but up in the sky was something much more interesting.

High above the farm a biplane was lazily cruising along and performing loops and rolls as it made its way westward. It’s surprising enough to see a biplane, but the stunt flying made it a truly extraordinary sight.

My wife called out to two boys picking cherries from a nearby tree and pointed out the plane. They shrugged and went back to the picking. Their mother, said, “They are not little boys any more.” This surprised me, because actually, the were little boys — and what sort of little boys would not be thrilled by such a thing?

It could be that the stimulation of phones and video games are making real things seem mundane to some kids. In a world where you have endless action at your fingertips, something like an airplane performing acrobatics might not merit even a moment of interest. God, I hope I’m wrong.

Scenic Flights

Driving into Greene County on Route 32 always brings on the nostalgia.

I was at an event in Freehold the other night, not far from places where I’d visited as a child. My parents took us on a number of family trips at resorts in the area; it seems so odd that we used to vacation at places so close to where I live now.

The Borscht Belt may be better known, but the northern Catskills were just as vibrant, with pockets of resorts catering to throngs of downstate Irish, Italians and Germans escaping to the mountains.

You don’t have to look far to see the history. There are a handful of resorts still operating and others have been re-purposed, some by religious groups. Here and there you see abandoned resort buildings making their last stand against decay.

The attractions we’d visit, like the Catskill Game Farm and Carson City, are no more. We never went to the Mystery Spot, but I’m pretty sure that’s gone, too. Also absent is the sense that you were in the middle of nowhere.

One thing I’ll never forget are the signs for Freehold Airport offering “Scenic Flights.” I’d see these signs as we drove from place to place and imagine how incredible that would be, going up in an airplane and seeing it all from the sky. I never dared to ask my father if we could do it, because “Scenic Flights” seemed like something so… extravagant.

My father’s been gone now for more than 25 years. I have nothing but fond memories of him and certainly harbor no regrets, but there is one thing: I really wish I’d asked about those “Scenic Flights.” Maybe he would have surprised me and turned down the road to the airport. I love to imagine being up in the plane, just him and me and the pilot, soaring together over the Catskills.

Foto Friday

Don’t Die Like My Brother

Interesting story in the New York Times about the upcoming retirement of Garrison Keillor after his last Praire Home Companion show. I’ve listened for many years — even when it tried my patience — and I’ll miss Keillor.

The show’s future is uncertain. They’ve named mandolin virtuoso Chris Thiele to take over hosting duties, but that will account for just 13 new shows during the next year and the rest will be repeats of Keillor programs.

Then another public radio item caught my eye: WHYY in Philadelphia has dropped Car Talk from its schedule. The long-time public radio staple has been in “best of” mode since 2012, and co-host Tom Magliozzi died two years ago. I still listen and laugh and I’m sure it still makes money, but you can’t go on like that forever.

When you take away Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion, the list of big public radio shows is pretty short. When’s the last time they had a new show as popular as This American Life or Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me?

Maybe public radio doesn’t need a next big thing, but popular shows have great power to bring a lot of new listeners to the table. At a time when NPR and its affiliates are losing audience, they’re going to need something.

Idiot Watch List

It occurs to me that the greatest danger we face may not be terrorists, but ignorance. Here are five signs to look for that may help you avoid confrontations with people who can’t be reasoned with:

  1. Use of the phrase “mainstream media.”
  2. Discussion of President Obama’s birth certificate. Or suggestion that he is a Muslim.
  3. They have a Donald Trump sign on their lawn.
  4. Include the the word “Benghazi” in any sentence.
  5. Blaming America’s problems on “political correctness.”

I could have written a list as long as your arm, but this should get you started.

Somebody’s Been In Prison Too Long

A lot of us were fascinated by the escape from Dannemora, so the 150 page report on last year’s prison break is like a wonderful gift from Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.

The report is crammed with minute details about the incident, and much of it is served up by none other than escapee David Sweat. Matt took his side of the tale to the grave.

It’s also contains some funny things, like the instructions Sweat gave Joyce Mitchell about meeting them after they emerged on the other side of the wall:

“I told her you can leave the car running, shut your headlights and stuff off, and you’ll get out of the car, act like you’re talking on the phone, because everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone…”

Yes, everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone.

Anyway, I give the report two thumbs up!

Lot’s of people say that the Dannemora escape would make a good movie, and perhaps it would, but I think it needs someone to root for. Maybe we could write in a third escapee, someone forced to go along against his will, a character convicted of something less contemptible than the murderous Matt and Sweat. How about an  art thief? Then he could turn the tables on the evil pair —  and in the end get the girl. We’d glam her up a bit, of course. Hey, it’s Hollywood.

Blister in the Sun

Bethlehem was lovely when I moved there, but it gets uglier every day. Every open space is filling with cookie cutter houses and fast food outlets, the traffic is becoming unbearable — and now this abomination:

dome
Yeah, that’s a fugly blot on the landscape.

The local soccer club teamed up with an area company to put up the dome which holds “grass-like playing surfaces to simulate the feel of outdoor play.” None of the grass-like playing surfaces qualify as large enough to a play a high school lacrosse or soccer game, so it seems they are used for practice, clinics or scaled down matches.

Now, here comes the “when I was a kid” part.

When I was a kid, sports had seasons in the Northeast that were enforced by weather. Maybe it varied in other parts of America depending on the weather — or maybe it was just common sense that certain games were played at certain times of the year.

Taking the seasons out of sports is another way adults have taken the play out of play. They’ve created a culture where games are a measure of their child’s worth — and by extension, their own. Don’t buy that it’s damaging? Then look at the rise in the number — and severity — in youth sports injuries.

If kids want to kick a soccer ball around in the winter, maybe they should do it outside. I see people outside all year round at St. Rose’s Christian Plumeri Sports Complex in Albany. Bundle up and deal with it — and take your big ugly bubble out of my town.