We use our fireplace a lot. It’s mostly been for aesthetic effect — until this past weekend.

It was freezing outside and the furnace was barely keeping pace. In mid-afternoon, I stacked a hge pile of wood in the hearth and a short time later it was roaring like a son of a bitch. Within a couple of hours, the temperature was up five degrees and my wife was complaining about it being too warm.

It really makes you wonder what we’re doing here?

I’ve always liked the winter and I spend more time outdoors than most people, but the last few seasons have been tough. It may not be time to look south, but I’ve caught myself glancing once or twice.

What I’ve seen of life down there doesn’t impress me. In Florida, many of the communities catering to retirees feel bleak and crowded. And a lot of people seem not to enjoy it.

We stayed at a friend’s condo once, right next door to her parents who lived in the same building. On morning we wanted to go to the ocean and asked which beach they prefer. They had no idea what to tell us, because they’d never been to the beach. Whoa, hold up: You live in a costal city in Florida and you’ve never been to the beach?

For now, we will continue to shiver, embrace the suck, and throw another log on the fire. Bundle up and deal with it. Moving south may feel like the answer, but at what cost? It seems less like a new beginning than the beginning of the end.

Media Weak

Quote of the Week
“I don’t want to give out any misinformation here.” – Paul Vandenburgh

What?! Vandenburgh is constantly giving out misinformation on Talk 1300. This guy gets things wrong even when he’s reading them directly out of the newspaper — and a lot of what he says comes directly out of the papers. I’m not sure how that’s even possible. Someone should keep a tally of how many things he gets wrong every morning, but who has that much time?

I used to hate WRGB because they were so smug, but the truth is they backed it up by being good. Not so much anymore.

Last night the station ran a story about Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse delivering his “state of the city address.” Yes, that’s absurd in itself — but WRGB failed to mention the recent domestic abuse allegations about Morse. OK, just allegations — but what’s absolutely true is that numerous prominent members of his own party called on Morse to resign, including Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

I know who’s working in these newsrooms, and I can excuse some inexperienced producer over this — but what about Greg Floyd who lined up the story? C’mon man.

By the way, Cohoes, the state of the city is that your mayor is a thug.

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.

Blister in the Sun

Bethlehem was lovely when I moved there, but it gets uglier every day. Every open space is filling with cookie cutter houses and fast food outlets, the traffic is becoming unbearable — and now this abomination:

Yeah, that’s a fugly blot on the landscape.

The local soccer club teamed up with an area company to put up the dome which holds “grass-like playing surfaces to simulate the feel of outdoor play.” None of the grass-like playing surfaces qualify as large enough to a play a high school lacrosse or soccer game, so it seems they are used for practice, clinics or scaled down matches.

Now, here comes the “when I was a kid” part.

When I was a kid, sports had seasons in the Northeast that were enforced by weather. Maybe it varied in other parts of America depending on the weather — or maybe it was just common sense that certain games were played at certain times of the year.

Taking the seasons out of sports is another way adults have taken the play out of play. They’ve created a culture where games are a measure of their child’s worth — and by extension, their own. Don’t buy that it’s damaging? Then look at the rise in the number — and severity — in youth sports injuries.

If kids want to kick a soccer ball around in the winter, maybe they should do it outside. I see people outside all year round at St. Rose’s Christian Plumeri Sports Complex in Albany. Bundle up and deal with it — and take your big ugly bubble out of my town.


My mother died in July.

Times like that are always busy, and I don’t think you really have any perspective on big things like death until later, but I was forced to reflect on her passing right away because I was asked to do the eulogy.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I wanted to share it with you.

~ ~ ~

Near the end, my mother asked if she’d done enough, if she’d made the right choices. I said yes – except maybe for that time with the underwear.

Let me tell you a story: when I was in first or second grade I was sent to the nurse’s office because I couldn’t stop scratching. It turns out that my mother had washed my underwear with the drapes — and the drapes, they had some sort of fiberglass or something in them. So there I am at school, scratching uncontrollably — down in my underwear area.

So I got to go home.

But that’s just one of the things your mother does when you’re little — washing your underwear. When you’re a kid, you don’t think about it — and this is very typical — I only remember the day I was itchy, not all the days that I wasn’t.

There were a million things she did for us. Just think about school lunches. 180 school days. A sandwich every day between, say kindergarten and sixth grade? For five kids? That’s like 63-hundred sandwiches. That’s a lot of peanut butter and jelly.

I’m sure some of you are saying that’s a lot of baloney.

But as a parent, you try to do your best. What does anybody really know about that job — except what we learn from our own parents.

And what was growing up like for her? A small apartment with six kids on Tiebout Avenue in the Bronx. It was the middle of the depression – but that probably didn’t make a huge difference to people who really didn’t have much to begin with.

But those had to be hard days. They were humble beginnings, and like so many people from those neighborhoods, it gave way to the suburbs and the nice house, and all the things you only imagined growing up. So, it must have really been something to hear us kids complaining about things – we had no idea what it was to struggle. And she made sure of that.

I can’t stand up here and not mention my father.

Some of you may remember that he was… a polarizing figure. Not everyone appreciated his sense of humor, for example — but those who loved him loved him a lot. You wonder sometimes what brings people together, but in the last few days looked through a bunch of photo albums and I could see it. They were a striking couple – beautiful together — and obviously very much in love. It was a great blow to lose him so young.

The last few years were hard. Getting older is a roll of the dice, so easy for some people and so hard for others. But while her body failed her, she remained very sharp and that’s a great blessing.

A couple of years ago I visited my mother and she stopped me as I was leaving and said, “Robbie, I love you. I don’t think I ever told you that.” This really surprised me and I mumbled something back like, “Oh, and I love you too.”

Everybody talks about love. What does that mean, anyway? I think one way could be how much you worry about people – you don’t worry about people you don’t care about — and she worried about us endlessly. In fact, if love is measured by how much you worry about someone, her love was immeasurable.

So, yes, it’s how much worried about us. And the million little things she did. Her attention to little things. That may not be saying “I love you,” but they are certainly the signs and the symptoms. She couldn’t have loved us more.

High Hopes

Gotta say, I love pizza rat!

And who wouldn’t love this little scamp?

Look at him challenging the odds to make the big score, rather like the little old ant with the rubber tree plant in High Hopes!

So any time your gettin’ low
Instead of lettin’ go
Just remember that rat
Oops there goes another… slice of pizza