So, Governor Ralph Northam’s of Virginia had a tough couple of days.
Interesting, because it brought back memories of painting my own face on Halloween. Wore a robe once, too. As a matter of fact, painted the face and wore a robe on the same day.
But unlike with Governor Northam, my face was painted white and my robe was black.
The getup was supposed to be some sort of phantom druid or something, who the hell knows. What do you expect from a weird teenager who’d seen too many 60s British horror movies.
But it’s easy to remember doing it — and that’s why this Ralph Northam thing’s so strange. It seems to me that you’d recall wearing blackface or a Klan robe on Halloween when you were in college.
Fast forward to 1986. The Mets had just won the World Series, and the legendary Mookie Wilson/Bill Buckner play in Game 6 was a very big deal. So this guy — a friend of mine — showed up at work on Halloween in his Mookie jersey and his face painted as black as coal.
Think about that, walking into work in blackface. Pretty crazy. And I don’t think the boss did anything about it, except maybe tell him not to go see any clients dressed that way. He was in sales, and God forbid his Mookie costume cost the TV station some money.
Today he’d be fired on the spot.
Halloween’s a funny thing. How far is too far when it comes to costumes? Or is Halloween like stand-up comedy, where anything goes and no topic is taboo or too offensive?
Either way, it’s a different world out there. If pictures of me in whiteface emerge, I could be in hot water with the phantom druids.
Back in my TV days, it always worried me that the station could be targeted by a nut. We kept the place locked down pretty well, but now and then somebody would show up in the lobby with a messy folder stuffed with paper and demand to see a reporter. The receptionist had a panic button to push in case of trouble, but honestly I wouldn’t have wanted to be the one sitting out there.
I don’t remember anything like this:
Bomb threats are usually bullshit, right? But today, our president is telling his nutjob followers that the media is the enemy of the people — and some of these nutjobs are listening closely.
In 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, there was a spate of incidents where media outlets and politicians started receiving letters containing anthrax. This was no prank; people died and businesses were disrupted as their contaminated buildings were cleaned up. The best defense against an anthrax letter was to keep it isolated and away from the facility.
That’s when we got the anthrax shed.
It sat at the edge of the parking lot and looked like the shed behind your house, but this was where the mail would be sorted and opened before coming inside. Was it some highly trained specialist checking the incoming letters? Nah, they just gave the maintenance guy some dust masks and a letter opener and wished him good luck. Nice.
In a strange way, it was a more innocent time. The pain and trauma of 9/11 was still fresh, and the fear was very real. And we all felt something that today is all but forgotten. We stood together.
Wednesday was the perfect day for a visit to Thacher Park, but not if you wanted to walk along the Indiian Ladder trail. The trail is closed and it’s not clear when — or if — it will reopen.
The iconic Indian Ladder trail is one of the most popular spots in the Capital Region. It was shut down last summer when a boulder came loose from the cliff above and struck a local woman, leaving her gravely injured. The sad story of how the accident left her permanently disabled was told in a recent Times Union story. Near the end of the story was this sentence:
The family has retained an attorney, who has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence on the part of state parks officials and seeking undisclosed damages.
OK. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know all that much about cliffs and such, but I’m struggling to understand the negligence part. I’ve been on that trail more than I can remember, and there wasn’t a single time when I didn’t think of what would happen if boulders started tumbling down. I’ve stood under huge outcroppings of rock on the trail and pondered being squished. All this rock will fall some day. Hope I’m not the one standing here when it happens.
Did the park officials know rocks might fall? I don’t know, but anyone who’s ever been there can see there are huge boulders scattered around near the trail. They didn’t get there by rolling up the hill.
Now, in other parts of the park, I’ve seen where huge trees came down across trails. Fortunately, they haven’t hit anyone. I can’t say whether they made a sound, but I can say this: outdoor activities involve risk, even in a tame place like Thacher Park, bad things can happen.
I don’t know what we expect the park to do, send teams of climbers up and down the cliff looking for boulders that might break free? Is that even possible to detect? Then we can have teams that roam the woods looking for dangerous trees. And of course, there will be dozens of signs warning people that the trails may be dangerous.
Or maybe something else will happen: they’ll shut down the Indian Ladder trail forever, and that would be a damn shame.
Quote of the Week
“I’m swallowing news every minute.” – Paul Vandenburgh. He swallows so you don’t have to.
On the Money
I received this $20 bill when cashing in a lottery scratch off this week. Someone saw fit to draw a mustache on Andrew Jackson, but not just any mustache, one that looks like a toothbrush mustache — AKA a HITLER moustache.
OK, Hitler didn’t invent the toothbrush mustache, but he certainly ruined it. Today, you’d have to be pretty ballsy to sport one of those.
But the other interesting thing about the bill was that the number “1120” was written on the back. I could not find any significant connection in Jackson’s life to the date November 20, but there was this: Jackson’s farm, The Hermitage is a 1,120 acre plot.
Hmmmm. This may not rise to the Dan Brown level of mystery, but still intriguing.
John Sweeney was back in the news this week, in a fawning Times Union profile that chronicles the former congressman’s rise and fall and his struggle with alcoholism. It’s always interesting to read about drunks, but this tale Sweeney told the reporter caught my attention:
In the first year of his sobriety, as he pumped gas into his black Suburban SUV at a Clifton Park gas station, Sweeney locked eyes with the State Police trooper who arrested him for DWI for a second time, which sent him to jail. Both men shared a moment of recognition. The trooper’s family was in the car and he looked away. Sweeney walked over to the trooper and said: “I just want to say thanks. You saved my life.”
I don’t know Mr. Sweeney, but I know some drunks, and I’m calling bullshit on that one.
I’ve listened to Prairie Home Companion for more than thirty years, but it wasn’t until a few summers ago that I got to see the show live at Tanglewood.
When I heard the words, “From American Public Media,” in the canned open, chills ran down my spine. Within the first few notes of the show’s signature song, Tishomingo Blues, I swear to god, a tear ran down my cheek.
The show was great – everything I expected – but both me and my wife were struck by something: Garrison Keillor seemed to be unusually intimate with a young women he sang with on several numbers. Watching them, I thought that they were either involved romantically (eww) or he was hopelessly in love with her. Let’s put it this way, his attention wasn’t grandfatherly, unless your grandfather is Roy Moore.
I saw sexual harassment up-close once when an employee complained about unwanted attention from an older, male co-worker. This was not he said/she said. There was plain evidence that a line was crossed, and it even extended to outside the workplace.
I took the matter to my boss and it was quickly elevated to corporate HR. The people in that office (the ones who made us take endless sexual harassment training) then made it all go away. They basically told the complainant that she should first go to her co-worker and explain that she was not interested in his advances.
Yes, they told the woman who complained to go deal with the creepy fucker on her own. Good job, HR!
Look, there are no easy answers to all this. Maybe the current climate will bring change. If you have sons, teach them this: Treat women with respect, behave like a gentleman and keep your filthy mitts to yourself.
Facebook: it’s America’s favorite place for heaping ridicule on people — especially those accused of crimes. But when you combine that with the irresistible urge to make fun of someone different? Well, that’s when you truly get online magic.
All the local news outlets posted this story about Carlos Rodriguez, a Florida man arrested for attempted murder. This is not something that would normally get national exposure, if not for this: Mr. Rodriguez’s lost part of his skull in an automobile accident, leaving him with a profound deformity.
So what do we have here? News outlets posting a story with no local significance, just for the shock value of the mug shot. Then their audience has the opportunity to make cruel remarks about the man’s appearance.
That’s a sick and sad state of affairs.
Maybe before people write stupid shit about Carlos Rodriguez on Facebook they should consider that he is someone’s son or brother. He’s clearly a guy that’s had some trouble, things that most of us can’t even imagine. Empathy, anyone?
I’ve discussed here before how TV stations and newspapers don’t bother trying to moderate comments on their Facebook pages. And why should they? All those little clicks add up.
“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.
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:
- Use of the phrase “mainstream media.”
- Discussion of President Obama’s birth certificate. Or suggestion that he is a Muslim.
- They have a Donald Trump sign on their lawn.
- Include the the word “Benghazi” in any sentence.
- Blaming America’s problems on “political correctness.”
I could have written a list as long as your arm, but this should get you started.
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.