Author Archives: Rob

Jumpin’ Jack’s Flash

I’ve made it very clear how much I hate the annual “Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive In is opening story” done by every local TV station and newspaper.

They will all show up today and do the exact same story as they did last year and the year before that, and the year before that. The theme: spring must be here, because Jumpin’Jack’s is open. They started early today:

How many times can you do the same %$#@ story? Oh, nevermind.

As a service to local newsrooms., here are a few new ideas to spark up your annual Jumpin’ Jack’s coverage:

  • Bring a nutritionist Jumpin’ Jack’s and do a calorie estimate for various combinations of food orders. Get lots of b-roll of fat people. Include cardiac disease stats.
  • Send some samples of Jumpin’ Jack’s food to a lab for bacteria counts. Follow up when results are in. Swab the doorknobs to the restrooms and condiment dispensers, too.
  • People who can stand on line at Jumpin’ Jack’s in the middle of the week are obviously unemployed. Find someone with a particularly bad hard luck story and hear how Jumpin’ Jack’s brings hope to their bleak lives.

See — if I could come up with three great ideas like that in two minutes, imagine what the incredibly smart and talented people in our local newsrooms could concoct? Right?!? Go for it producers and reporters — show us that your not followers, but leaders.

All the Young Punks

I do try to avoid indulging in “when I was your age” stuff.

A young lady who works at the coffee shop was bopping around as she did her chores, decked out in punk regalia that would have fit right in at a Sex Pistols concert 40 years ago. By young, I mean young enough to be my daughter. She was rocking out to — wait for it — Green Day.

Waiting for one’s tea to steep, it’s hard to resist the temptation to strike up a conversation and say things that would make you seem like a ridiculous old geezer — or worse yet, a creepy middle-age guy trying to make time. So, one keeps one’s mouth shut.

But how would that go?

“You know, I was really into punk when I was your age. I was just unpacking my records and came across my copy of Never Mind the Bollocks on vinyl. Oh, and the Clash? I saw them live. Me and my friends at the college radio station, everybody hated us because of all the punk we played. Do you ever listen to X? Los Angeles and Wild Gift are like the best albums ever. You know, a lot of people slam Green Day, but you can really hear a lot of what influenced them if you listen to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Yes, pathetic. We thought we were so cool back then.

But it is interesting that there are still punks, isn’t it? The rock era may be unique in the enduring nature of  its genres and music. A record from the late 70s might interest a lot of 21-year-olds — but could the same be said in 1970 of music that was popular in 1930?

So, ridiculous old geezers, feel good that your music survives. But please do so quietly.

Foto Friday

Connemara

Connemara

The Secret Ingredient

Someone asked about my soda bread .

“Rob, you must be holding out on us,” he said.  “Your recipe isn’t that much different than all of the others. How is it that the judges at the Irish Soda Bread Competition always seem to enjoy yours?”

I looked around and lowered my voice.

“Well, truth be told, there is a secret ingredient. I’ll tell you — but please don’t share this with anyone.”

He sat up and paid attention.

“Here’s the thing: take a big handful of Lucky Charms and put them in your food processor. Pulse them until they’re reduced to a fine powder. Then sift that in with your dry ingredients, and I think you’ll see a big difference.”

“Lucky Charms?”

“Lucky Charms. Your soda bread will be… magically delicious.”

He thanked me and shook my hand, and somewhere this morning there are people eating soda bread with a curiously different flavor. A certain tang that they can’t put their finger on, but one that seems seems oddly familiar.

It’s in the Bag

We like to walk the dogs in a neighborhood that adjoins ours. They have something on their street that I haven’t seen anywhere outside of a park: one of those boxes that dispenses poop bags. Did the village install this? We don’t have on on our street.

And these aren’t just any old bags, these are printed with instructions on how to pick up the poop.

Poop bag instructions
I didn’t think instructions were necessary, but I’ve been at this for a long time.

Curious, I visited the website listed on the bag for Dog Waste Depot. The online merchant is well named, for it is rather like a Home Depot for your dog shit needs. It turns out that installing one of these bag stations — either as an individual or maybe by a neighborhood association — is very affordable. Free shipping, anyone?

But people are people. They may have a fancy schmancy sign and poop bags,  but there’s still plenty of poop lining the lawns. Maybe they need better directions.

A Sensitive Area

A friend was concerned. “You don’t write much about local media any more. Is it getting better or are you just losing interest?”

Well, neither. It’s certainly getting different, but not better — and yes I’m still interested. The truth is that work consumes more of my brain capacity now, unlike in the Albany Eye days. Idle hands, idle hands.

But now and then, oh boy:

That headline is a masterpiece of poor taste, and it is funny at first — until you read the story. The jarring contrast between the jokey headline and the brutality of the crime is stunning. But maybe it was OK. After all, these were just a bunch of roughneck laborers from out of town, living in a cheap hotel. They aren’t like us, are they?

Oh, one more thing. Earlier in the day I read a story in the Times Union about a lawsuit brought by a man who’d been hit in the balls with a golf club. Before you ask, “What club does one use for that shot,” you should know that the guy lost a testicle. The reporter was less restrained, and wondered if the case, “might keep the judges from looking forward to golf season anytime soon.”

By the way, both of these stories were written by Robert Gavin, who covers law and the courts. I guess he’s the Paul Grondahl of crotch stories.

So local media? Maybe not better, certainly different, always interesting.

A Taste of the Past

To an entire generation in Albany, say chicken teriyaki and they answer you back, “Quintessence.”

It’s two years since Quintessence was demolished, mowed down to make room for the ever-expanding Albany Med. But for years it seemed like an empty imitation of itself; Quintessence wasn’t really Quintessence since the Jimmy Scalzo days. And what days those were.

I’d been to Quintessence many times in the early 8os before I realized that it was not just a place for late night drinking, but a great place to eat — and the chicken teriyaki with spinach noodles were as close to legendary as any dish ever served in this sorry town.

But it’s gone forever — unless you were among those at a class given at Price Chopper’s Market Bistro, where chef Donnie Graham, shared the secrets of the teriyaki. Graham spent many hours in the open kitchen at Quintessence, and served up countless plates of their specialty.

Believe it or not, one of the big revelations was learning how to cut the chicken into a long strip and properly wrap it around a scallion and piece of carrot. It’s then held on with toothpicks until the chicken shrinks and grabs the veggies tightly. Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks. I swear I swallowed one once long ago.

What of the marinade and the dressing for the noodles? Ah, sorry — I’ll post a lot of things online, but I don’t think paying for the class gives me ownership of the recipes and secrets of Quintessence.  You’ll have to rely on your memories of those days, but if you’re like me, many of your Quintessence memories are — a tiny bit hazy.

STFU and Do Your Job

Norman the plumber listened patiently as one of his helpers presented a long soliloquy about what was wrong with the job they were on, why the morning was so difficult and how nothing that went wrong was his fault. This particular laborer was well known for his complaining. As they finished lunch and got ready to go back to work, the plumber addressed the issues and grievances of his underling.

“Kenny, I’ve go some advice. And if you follow this advice, you’ll be a lot better off: shut the fuck up and do your job.”

I was just a teenager, but that stuck with me.

How many times do you wish people would just STFU and do their job? Yes you know exactly what I’m talking about. And don’t get me wrong, it’s advice I should heed more often.

So, I read this tweet last week from our esteemed leader:

OK. You won the election, you’re the most powerful person in the world, now STFU and do your job.

It turns out there’s an easy way to send feedback to the White House with a handy form on their website. Maybe this would be a good time to send Mr. Trump a message that he’d surely understand. STFU and do your job. Really, the world would be so much better, and indeed, it would be a tremendous way to make America great again.

So Afraid of the Russians

I used to enjoy playing Made for TV’s So Afraid of the Russians when I was a DJ in college.

It was a funny song — but frankly, we were afraid of the Russians. Plattsburgh Air Force Base, a stone’s throw from the campus, was understood to be a first strike target in the event of nuclear war.
Down at the bars we’d sometimes meet kids our own age who were from the base. Instead of going to class every day, they’d load bombs and fuel planes out on the flight line. That seemed strange to us, but when my own son decided he’s rather be a machine gunner in the Marines than a college student, I understood better.

That song was released in 1983, but certainly feels relevant again — even though the greatest threat we face may not be the Russians, but our own president.