Category Archives: Modern Living

How Planet Fitness Made Running Dangerous

I’ve been running for years — almost always before dawn and on the road. I’d never see many cars along my route, and when one did approach I turned on my headlamp so they would notice me. Some mornings, out along the road at 5am, you wouldn’t pass a single car.

Then everything changed.

Suddenly there was a steady stream of traffic between 5am ands 6am. I wondered where they all came from — but soon realized that it wasn’t where they came from, but where they were going: Planet Fitness.

The populist mega-gym moved from the other side of town to a grand new location — and brought with it a throng of early morning exercisers. Suddenly there was an influx of vehicles — not exactly like rush hour, but by 5am standards it felt like the Northway.

The interesting thing is that these people seem less mindful of a pedestrian on the side of the road. In the past almost every car would give me some leeway when they saw my light and reflective vest. Now? Not so much. These people on their way to exercise can’t be bothered with… someone exercising.

This is a great example of how a tiny change can alter traffic patterns. It’s just one more of a hundred things that have made where I live more crowded and hectic. I used to see deer and hear the turkeys off in the field before dawn. Now there are just more cars.

Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment

Some people now keep a high tech piece of equipment with their first aid supplies: an automated external defibrillator (AED). Home AEDs are becoming all the rage, but they don’t come cheap. You’ll pay at least $1100 to get the most affordable model, the Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator, but who can put a price on living through a sudden cardiac arrest?

If you think this is a good idea, I advise you to BUY NOW because BJ’s Wholesale Club has an amazing deal: order the Phillips HeartStart and they will throw in an electric toothbrush. Yes, you read that correctly.

That may seem like an odd combo — and it certainly caught my attention — but if you think about it, it does make sense. You may never have a heart attack, but you’ll definitely need to brush your teeth. And if the defibrillator doesn’t do the trick, it couldn’t hurt to be minty fresh when they come to cart you away.

Urinetown

I take a shortcut through a walkway in downtown Albany that takes me below the steps in front of the Times Union Center.

When I started walking this way, I noticed that every single morning there was a guy out here with a bucket and mop cleaning all around the dark nooks and crannies. Wow! They do an amazing job of keeping this place tidy, I thought. It smells like bleach — which to me is the odor of CLEAN.

Then one day the bucket and mop guy wasn’t there — and the entire area reeked of urine. Ackkkk! Apparently, this is Albany’s favorite spot to urinate, which makes perfect sense. There are a couple of bars nearby and lots of street people — not to mention all the beer drinking at the arena — so the urinating is understandable.

Because I always have to go to the bathroom, I find this interesting — but just for the record, I do my best to find a bathroom.

I think the mayor should stop down here and have a look; if we clean up around Albany as if people are peeing everywhere, it would surely be a better place. And the mayor could stop worrying about Alex Trebek dissing the city.

Simcoe Island

The only way you can get to Simcoe Island, Ontario is to take this cable ferry. Except in the winter — then you might drive across the ice if you are brave enough.

There’s a lighthouse at the tip of Simcoe, and fifteen years ago you could sit next to it and look out on the vast horizon of Lake Ontario. Today there are signs everywhere warning you to keep out. How times have changed.

The Lost Art of Calling in Your Children

When I was a boy, the late afternoon air would be split by the sound of someone — a mother, usually — hollering out the name of her child. It was just like in this classic commercial, except in the suburbs:

I haven’t heard that in probably more than ten years, when the woman across the street would stand on the stoop and call out for her son. “Matthew! Matthew!” She had amazing pipes.

Today this has gone the way of sending your kid to the store to buy you a carton of cigarettes. It’s just something that’s not done anymore.

Why is that?

Mobile phones are certainly one of the culprits. Now you just call or text the little buggers to summon them home. It could be that they’re sitting on the couch instead of tooling around the neighborhood — or at least that’s what the media keeps telling us.

Either way, it’s another one of those things swept away by changing times, once so commonplace, now just a memory.

Voices in the Orchard

Sour cherries: one hour after picking, one hour before eating.

At Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook, the trees are heavy with cherries and the bushes full of blueberries. If you don’t watch where you’re walking, you’ll step on something good to eat.

We spent a few hours there over the weekend, filling our baskets with fruit and picking vegetables. It’s quiet on the farm, but besides the hum of bees and chirping birds there was an interesting sound: a mix of languages from across the globe.

All around were people speaking in the native tongues of the Far East, India, Eastern Europe, and Russia. They outnumbered those speaking English by two to one. Children raced around between the trees as their parents filled big containers with cherries — and some families found a shady spot to picnic.

One group was harvesting huge bundles of greens in the cucumber patch. I have no idea what they were gathering, but what looked like weeds to me is probably delicious prepared in the right kitchen.

This is something I’ve seen during every visit to Samascott. While I hate to draw conclusions from such flimsy evidence, it seems to say something about our relationship with what we eat.

Do we care less about where our food comes from than people who have roots in other cultures? Judging by the international crowd filling the orchards and fields, I wonder if they know something that we’ve forgotten.

Muzak for Churches

We were in a church tower, high above a square in Sibiu, Transylvania when the bells began to toll. Loud? You bet — but it was the perfect way to experience them ringing. At close range you don’t just hear the bells, but the sound beneath the sound, the percussive strike of the clapper.

Bells in the Evangelical Cathedral Sibiu Romania

It’s sort of like a well hit nail. In the distance you listen to the pounding, but right in the room there’s the ring of metal on metal.

Forty-five hundred miles away I was standing outside a local church when the bells sounded — or more accurately, when they played. I say played because these bells are a recording that blares out over the neighborhood through speakers.

The taped bells may seem the same from far away, but up close, like many things that are artificial, they are unmistakably phony — almost to the point of being laughable. Who’s idea was this to use a recording of bells instead installing the real thing? In 1962, taped bells must have seemed very modern.

It probably doesn’t matter to most people, and you might think it petty to have such a strong opinion on something so trivial. This is the digital age. Why should we we care how the sound of a bell is created?

After all, bells are heavy and expensive and require maintenance.They are occasionally imperfect and have even been know to crack. Besides, flipping a switch is so much easier. And more often than not, nobody will know the difference.

Breaking Camp

It was always obvious that people were living in the small patch of trees at Broadway and Church Street, near the Port of Albany. Driving past in the morning, you could make out tents and tarps and sometimes a bit of smoke from a cooking fire. Now and then you’d see clothes stung up to dry.

Not anymore.

This week, somebody — presumably the city — came in and cleared out the area. They didn’t do such a good job of cleaning up. If you walk through the site you can see bits and scraps of what was left behind by the people who lived there.

It reminded me a bit of the scene in “Ironweed” when a gang of thugs descend on a hobo camp to roust the squatters. No, people should not be living in the woods at the edge of town, but it made me sad that their little refuge was destroyed.

Think about what it would be like to live that way — and be thankful you know where you will spend the night.

Bedding

Lost Hat

Campsite

Fire Pit

Flickr slideshow.

Meat Pad!

I’m officially a recycling fiend.

Since our residential waste collection contractor (garbage man) started offering single stream recycling, all the stuff now goes into one bin. This works; separating the trash was just too complicated for my feeble brain to handle.

Now everything’s diferent.

In our household it’s well known that I’m watching what people do with their garbage and picking through the kitchen wastebasket for recyclables. “Hey, that doesn’t go in there!” How annoying!

But I am somewhat flummoxed by meat pads.

Meat pads are those revolting absorbent liners that sit under your meat, soaking up blood. I am not making that name up, for if you Google “meat pads” you can learn more than you ever wanted to know.

These things — which are not recyclable — always struck me as being like sanitary napkins for meat.

Here’s the odd thing: I’m now finding the meat pads glued to the trays. You want to recycle the tray, but the meat pad is stuck to it, so you have to grab the whole soggy mess and give it a good tug.

Last night one slipped from my hands and the dog ran off with it. To a dog, that’s like finding a pork chop on the floor. As usual, your trash may be someone else’s treasure.