Talking Turkey

Ah, Thanksgiving, the most American holiday.

There’s so much to be thankful for this year, that I don’t know where to start. I could only be more thankful if Donald Trump were walking down the street and a safe fell on his head. Anyway, a few holiday observations:

Electric Turkey Fryers
Electric countertop turkey fryers are all the rage this year. No doubt these are considerably safer than the outdoor propane versions, but any time you’re around enough boiling oil to fry a turkey, there may be trouble. Please be careful. It is my sincere wish this Thanksgiving that you don’t burn your damn house down or suffer hideous grease burns.

Turkey Skin
According a story in the Times Union by food writer Deanna Fox, local strip club Night Moves will offer turkey and exotic dancing on Thanksgiving. Club owner Steven Dick Jr. tells the paper, “We offer a chance to get a nice, hot meal and enjoy the show.” Yes, his name is Steven Dick!

Early Black Friday
Are you one of those people who will be starting your Black Friday shopping early by heading out on Thanksgiving? Well, fu*k you, then. Yes, some stores should be open for part of the day, like supermarkets, but c’mon, do you really need to go shopping at Best Buy on Thanksgiving? If you do shop on Thanksgiving, you’re part of the problem. Give it a rest.

Finally, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if I didn’t share one of my favorite holiday recipes, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since I first urged you to cook this extraordinary side dish that will guarantee you praise and adoration. Remember, don’t ever use canned sweet potatoes. That would be as bad as shopping on Thanksgiving.

The Deerslayer

Saturday was supposed to be about raking leaves until my son called early in the morning. He said he was coming home with a deer. It was already dressed, he said, which momentarily summoned up funny images of a buck in a flannel shirt, but I’ve lived upstate long enough to know what dressed means.

He lives in an apartment, so there really isn’t a good way to skin and butcher a deer, so my house was the deer destination. I cleared out a space in the garage and screwed a big hook in the ceiling so the poor devil could be hoisted up by his horns.

I’ll spare you the details. but by mid-afternoon, my son and his girlfriend were vacuum sealing freshly cut venison on the kitchen counter.

My wife does not appreciate hunting, and she would certainly not like having a dead deer hanging in the garage. She was spared his earthy spectacle because she was gone for the day, off baking cookies with my sister in Poughkeepsie.

But fate’s a funny thing isn’t it?

Less that 12 hours later she called to say she’d hit a deer — a very big deer — not far from our house. She was fine, the car was a mess and the deer was MIA, having stumbled off into the woods.

Deer karma? Perhaps.

Before the tow truck arrived, I took a picture of the damage and wondered if the deer community would share pictures of wrecked vehicles the way hunters show off their prizes.

My son said I should have gone into the woods to find the deer. “No thanks — but don’t forget that your mother got a bigger deer than you did this year.”

What Goes Around

It’s November, so that means one thing: SWEEPS!

I watched a sweeps story the other night about kids and video games. Not kids playing video games, but kids watching videos other players made of their exploits in Minecraft.

We used to have stories about kids watching too much TV. Then we had stories about kids playing video games for too long. Now? Kids watching too many videos of people playing video games.

The story didn’t really explain the allure of the virtual world of Minecraft — and most adults probably wouldn’t get it anyway — but, of course, they had the obligatory interview with a child therapist. Dr. Frank Doberman (is that a great name, or what?) says he sees teens who he says, “can’t stop playing the game because they have this irrational belief that the only way they have social commerce is if they play the game.”

So, the blocky world of Minecraft joins the legion of dangerous things we’ve expected to ruin the youth of America. You know, comic books, TV, rock & roll, Dungeons and Dragons, things of that sort. Will it be Minecraft that finally rots the minds of our kids? We shall see.

If you really want to see the story, here you go:

Down on the Farm

It’s hard not to have that Green Acres fantasy when you stroll around the Troy Farmers Market.

“Hmm… I could give it all up and buy a farm! Maybe raise pigs, or something and sell my artisanal pork to fine restaurants and discerning consumers.”

Yes, that’s a fine dream — and it might even be achievable — but you may wake up when you see how much work it is.

We had a look at that over the weekend when we went for lunch at Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville.

Maybe you’ve seen them at the market with their delicious cheeses and Italian cured meats. The farm also hosts dinners and lunches that include a tour of the barn and cheesemaking operation.

So, let me get this straight: you have this big flock of sheep that have to be milked for part of the year, and then you make cheese and cure meat and sell your goods at various farmers markets and to New York restaurants. Oh, and on the weekend you host big meals and give tours of the farm. On top of that you’re fixing machinery, improving buildings, mending fences, chasing coyotes off the property, dealing with all the rules and regulations involved in producing food — it never ends.


I’m not the first one to say this, but think about what it took to put that food on your table, especially the food that comes from independent farms and small producers. Life on the farm seems idyllic when you’re strolling by booths at the market — and it certainly is idyllic in many ways — but a lot of sweat went into those products.

Here are a few pictures from the farm.

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Bowling Night

When I was a kid, there was an unwritten law about Thursday, and violators faced dire consequences.

The law? Silence must be maintained on Thursday, because Thursday was my father’s bowling night.

He liked to come home and take a nap for a few hours before going out, and since he was a light sleeper, we maintained an almost monastic silence, quietly moving around the house and only speaking in quiet whispers.

But kids are kids, and sometimes we accidentally woke him.

That’s when he would come storming out of his room loaded for bear. It didn’t matter who was making noise, he’d just grab the first one of us he found and mete out justice. It was terrifying at the time, but I laugh about it now.

Most days, my father was off to work before any of us were out of bed, so catching a little shut-eye was a welcome thing. Understandable. I now know how annoying it is to be woken from a nap, and have on occasion jumped up in a very foul mood. Barking dogs, phones, leaf blowers — a million things conspire to ruin sleep.

So, look: if someone you know is lucky enough to enjoy the luxury of a brief nap, do what you can to make things quiet. It’s a good thing to do, even if there is no chance they’ll storm out of their room and chase you through the house.

On the Edge of Oblivion

A friend sent me an email.

Rob, I’m really surprised that you have nothing to say about the apparent demise of On the Edge. There hasn’t been new post there since August 27.

Really? This I have to see.

After some examination, it does appear that On the Edge, once one of the Times Union’s most popular blogs, is dead. Positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead. Most sincerely dead, even.

The busy blog went into a skid when Kristi Gustafson left in in 2014. Her successor tried like hell, but couldn’t quite capture the tart mix of style and opinion the readers loved — and others loved to hate.

What made On the Edge a real sh*tshow was the comment section, which provided a Greek chorus for Gustafson’s high-handed pronouncements. When she left, the mob fled.

This is a great example of the ephemeral nature of blogs, and testament to how one person’s unique voice can capture an audience.

Like the loss of Metroland, it’s a loss to the local media landscape. I didn’t like On the Edge — and why would I, because as a man, I certainly wasn’t the target demo — but you’ve got to admit, it was really good at what it did.


Back in the Albany Eye days, it was always fun to take a jab at Metroland. They were such an easy target.

Like a lot of media outlets, they took themselves very seriously and were rather thin-skinned. The coolest kid on the block never likes being told he’s not all that.

I think Paul Grondahl summed it up perfectly with one word in his story about the alt weekly’s  financial collapse and closure: Metroland was haughty.

Since we’re talking Albany Eye, I can’t resist sharing a few vintage bits about Metroland:

A Modest Proposal

Alt Weekly Blues

Tube Boob

Insert Here

Look, I don’t think there’s anything good about Metroland failing. No, their journalism wasn’t to my liking, but this leaves a hole in the media market, especially in terms of arts coverage. And any time jobs are lost at a small local business, that’s a bad thing.

Maybe someone will pick up the reins and Metroland will live on. Love it or hate it, Thursday won’t be the same without it.

Where’s the Fire?

A co-worker told me something interesting after learning I was a volunteer fireman.

He lived up in the hills in Rensselaer County. “Oh, yeah,” he said, “I always donate to the fire department’s fund drive. Everybody knows if you don’t, they won’t show up if you have a fire.”

I just shook my head. “Fund drive or no fund drive, if you have a fire, you won’t believe the number of firemen and firetrucks that show up. They’ll be coming from all over.”

It’s true. In the suburbs and country you don’t get that many serious fires, so when there is a real fire it’s a pretty big deal — and the response is sometimes out scale with the incident. It’s different in the city, where paid departments have set manpower.

These days a lot of volunteer fire departments are having trouble recruiting members. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which are the demands on a member’s time due to better training standards. But society has changed too, and people aren’t volunteering or joining organizations the way they once did. There’s a good book about this called Bowling Alone that looks at these changes in our civic involvement.

Even still, you can be sure there will be loads of firefighters if your house actually catches on fire, even if you don’t write a check for the fund drive. But if your basement needs to be pumped out…

Fighting the Fun Police

The orthodontists where I sent my kids are at it again with their Halloween candy buy back program.

Here’s how it works: patients receive $2 for each pound of candy they bring to the braces factory. As an added incentive, for each pound collected the orthodontists  donate $2 to a scholarship fund. That’s nice — they’re putting $4 per pound behind this.

But wait a second, look at this:

Candy will be donated to the Capital Region Food Bank

So let me get this straight: candy is bad for our patients, but it’s OK to give it away at the food bank to kids who are too poor to afford braces.

In defiance of this stupid idea that kids shouldn’t have candy on Halloween, I decided it was time for a gesture: full size candy bars. That’s right, no of “fun size” nonsense at my house this Halloween.


It’s my sincere wish that none of this  candy ends up at that orthodontist office — and by the way, if you ask me, there is nothing fun about “fun size” candy bars.

When did Halloween become about teaching children not to eat candy? I’m sorry if it means you have a few extra brackets and bands to fix this week, but save your lessons for another day and let children be children.

If you really want to stop the little darlings from munching on chewy treats and ruining  the tooth scaffolding, charge the parents a pile of money to fix the damage. That might work.