Category Archives: Modern Living

Ironweed 2014

This is highly unscientific, but it sure looks like there are more people on the street in Albany these days. More people panhandling, more people living in ragtag camps and more people who are obviously on the fringe.

Recently I noticed a guy sleeping tucked away under 787. That couldn’t be a great place to get any rest, what with all the traffic a few feet over your head, not to mention the nighttime construction along that stretch of highway.

But now it doesn’t really matter, because someone piled rocks all over the little shelf where this guy was camping out.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people should be sleeping in a place like that, but it seems a little cruel to mess with somebody’s spot.  It’s very likely that there’s more to this story, but isn’t there more to every story of all these people you see wandering around town?

Spacing Out

I shared an elevator earlier this week with an older woman who was visibly flustered.

“The parking here! It’s horrible!”

Yes, I agreed, it’s never good on weekdays in Downtown Albany. I suggested she use a nearby garage next time; it’s a longer walk, but much less of a hassle.

The parking downtown stinks, and that’s why this caught my eye:

Park(ing) Day

Yay, a mini dog park!

These folks are part of an event called Park(ing) Day sponsored by Parks & Trails New York. The idea is to raise awareness of the need for open space, and the way they’re doing it is setting up temporary “parks” in actual parking spaces. In a press release they say it’s “an excellent way to remind ourselves of the importance of having natural areas that are accessible to everyone.”

Well, that’s certainly interesting  — and I do get it — but it has to be one of the most poorly thought out things I’ve ever seen.

There was a fellow standing nearby when I took the picture above.

“What do you think of this?”

“Oh, it’s pretty cool!”

“How would you feel if you couldn’t find a parking space?”

“Haha.. I guess I’d be pretty pissed!”

Look, nobody can argue against green space, but within a mile of that parking spot are the Corning Preserve, Washington Park, Lincoln Park and half a dozen smaller urban parks.

Maybe inconveniencing people is a good way to make your point. Albany seems to think so, because the city and Downtown BID are among the event’s sponsors. Me? I’m not sure that the elderly woman  who couldn’t find a parking space would agree.

The Roar of the Greasepaint

Do people have no idea how to act any more?

For example, I went to see Romeo and Juliet on Broadway. Not my first choice, but my wife has always wanted to see the Shakespeare classic performed — and since this production involved Orlando Bloom removing his shirt… well, you get the idea.

Anyhow, the family in front of us spent the entire first act busily rustling around with their snacks. I don’t know what they were into — pretzels, crackers, cookies — but it was feckin’ noisy.  My ears ain’t what they used to be, so the distraction made it hard for me to focus on the play. And it doesn’t help that I have a mild case of misophonia.

Now, everybody knows you should unwrap your snacks before the lights go down, so not to annoy the other patrons. That’s a theatre rule, rather like never mentioning the name of the Scottish play. You just don’t do it!

They quieted down, thank God,  in the second act. Maybe the parents — well-heeled Connecticut types — remembered their manners. Or maybe they caught wind of us grumbling during intermission.

Either way, were able to enjoy all the dying with a little peace and quiet. And the rippling abbs, too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Thinning the Herd

As of this morning I had 283 Facebook friends. Next week at this time I’ll have fewer.

Facebook has value and provides some good things. I’m genuinely interested in much of what my Friends post, but lately I’ve noticed there are lot of people on there that I was never really friends with — and honestly, I can’t imagine they’re very interested in what I post there.

So, one by one I’m picking people who have to go. It’s not personal, just that I don’t care much about them and they seem not to care much about me, so why not?

For the others, I make it a habit to hit the Like button  a few times a day. It’s important for people to know that you’re interested in what they’re posting, especially is you want to carry the title Friend.

If not, it’s like that guy you meet for coffee who can’t stop talking about himself. You say something interesting and they act as if they didn’t even hear you. That’s what Facebook can be like, as hundreds of people go on about their favorite subject: themselves.

This century’s existential crisis is posting things online and wondering if anyone has bothered to read it. If you’re going to take the time to fool around with Twitter and Facebook, spend a moment to let people know that you’re not just talking, you’re listening.

Under the Knife

Nurse: You have acute appendicitis.

Me: Thank you!

That old joke was the first thing to run through my mind when they’d told me I’d be spending the night at Albany Med. That hospital is a tremendous place, and within hours they whisked me from the emergency department’s waiting room to surgery.


President Johnson shares his appendix scar with America.

Typically these days there’s no Lyndon Johnson style scar; routine appendectomies are done laparoscopically with just three small incisions. It’s a common procedure, but it wasn’t that long ago, before the advent of modern surgical techniques, that your appendix could kill you. That remains the case in parts of the world where people don’t have adequate medical care.

This is probably something that my surgeon, Dr. David Kuehler could tell you about; he spends half the year in Africa treating people who don’t have great hospitals and health insurance. Many of them are lucky to see a doctor at all.

I was rather disoriented when I woke up.

I was rather disoriented when I woke up.

Considering the state of current events, it was an interesting week to have an intimate look at health care in America; what kind of country would this be if everyone couldn’t get the same sort of care I received?

By the way, there will be no picture of my scars, which are pretty boring compared to Johnson’s.

Farewell to Woodworth Lake

You don’t have to drive far into the hills outside Gloversville to be in the Adirondack Park — and just within the park’s boundaries is Woodworth Lake Scout Reservation.

Woodworth Sign

 I’ve spent many chilly nights in cabins at Woodworth, nights punctuated by breathtaking trips to even chillier latrines. The days were filled with sledding, hikes, games of Risk and meals prepared by the scouts. Some adult leaders — and I’m not naming names — would bring their own food to avoid the scout cuisine. O ye of little faith!


Those winter weekends are a thing of the past now, as the Twin Rivers Council has quietly sold the 1200 acre camp to an undisclosed buyer. And I can’t say I blame them.

Nationwide, scouting has faced declining membership and skyrocketing expenses. Add to this the damage the Boy Scout’s public image has suffered in recent years, and you’ve got a tough situation. When Woodworth opened in 1949, scouting was in its heyday. Today, they have too much property and not enough scouts.

Consolidation like this, while painful, will help the council survive.

In the cabins and dining hall at Woodworth, generations of Boy Scouts have left their mark and memorialized their visit with inscribed plaques. Some are very elaborate, and others crudely etched in scraps of wood and bark. Many of those scouts are now grown men who have children of their own; I hope that their kids get to experience the same great things as the thousands of children who have passed through the gates at Woodworth.

Metaphorically Speaking

It’s been a few years since I was a regular at the Bethlehem Town Pool. Now that I read that they’re having a problem with  people pooping in the water, I can’t say I’ll be back any time soon.

Meanwhile the rhetoric is heating up over Wemple Corners, a sprawling and ill conceived mess of townhomes, multifamily units, senior apartments and retail space planned for Route 9W. A small number of residents have shown up at public meetings to voice their concerns, but this is a runaway train that can’t be stopped.

So when is poop in the pool more than just poop in the pool? When it’s a metaphor.

Hoop it Up

The area that I consider my neighborhood covers about 60 acres — and has 38 basketball hoops.

There are basketball hoops everywhere; some of them the portable type you can wheel around and others set in a footing of concrete next to driveways and along the road. And only very rarely have I ever seen anyone playing basketball.

So yes, I was curious enough about this to go through the neighborhood and count them. In my days as a Times Union blogger, some helpful reader would have inevitably commented, “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time, Madeo?” Well actually, no. No I don’t.

Anyway, we had basketball hoops when I was a kid, but let me tell you, there were a lot fewer — and those we did have were usually attached to the front of a garage, something you rarely see anymore. Maybe because of all the broken garage door windows?

There’s certainly no harm in every kid having his own hoop, but here’s the thing:  if there were less of them, maybe our suburban youts would play basketball together more often.

Of course, one could devise an amazing game with so many hoops. Imagine a contest where two teams go on a loop through the neighborhood and stop at each of the 38 basketball hoops. The team in possession of the ball gets to shoot until they make a basket or lose possession — and then it’s a race to the next hoop. By my reckoning, it would be a 1.75 mile course.

It would be a spectacle — but I suppose I’d be satisfied with just seeing a single ball being tossed up at any one of those 38 baskets.

Google Summer

I was looking up an address in the Bronx and stumbled across this Google Street View image that really says summer. Cooling off in the spray of a hydrant seems like something from the distant past, but here it is!