Big Bad Ben

About the murders in Oregon, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says that if confronted by a gunman, he would “Not just stand there and let him shoot me,” and, “I would say, ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'”


Whenever Mr. Carson appears in public, he’s probably accompanied by armed men, so what should we expect if someone shows up at one of his events and waves a gun in his face — that he’s going to intervene?

No, it’s my guess that Mr. Carson will have his ass on the floor faster than you can say neurosurgeon.

It’s some pretty big talk to say you’d take on an armed man. Among all of the people running for president, the only one I’d believe that from would be decorated Vietnam veteran Jim Webb. This is from the citation that accompanied his Navy Cross:

Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers.

Read the whole thing for the part about him shielding one of his Marines from a grenade blast. Yes, I’d believe it from Jim Webb — but Jim Webb wouldn’t be stupid enough to say it in the first place.

So, good luck to you, Ben Carson. I hope we never get to see what would happen if an armed man comes for you.

In Vino Veritas

We had dinner at Angelo’s 677 Prime on Friday. We are not high rollers, but thanks to couple of gift certificates to defray the expense, it ended up only costing us what we’d pay to go to a normal nice restaurant.

No, I would not describe 677 as normal. It’s grand in a way that comes very close to being over the top; in my Yelp review, I described it as the “Donald Trump of Albany restaurants.”

Certainly, it’s good, but it wouldn’t be my top Albany dining recommendation, even to someone who wouldn’t think twice about ordering a $62 steak.

But let’s talk about the wine list.

Let’s be clear: I know little about wine, and if you present me with a wine list that has more than seven-hundred items on it, that’s going to be confusing. The 700+ figure is not an exaggeration.

My approach to wine is to never buy the cheapest bottle, buy the second cheapest one. It’s probably reasonable that a place as special as 677 isn’t going to sell crappy wine, right?

Now that I look back on our grand meal, I wish I’d done one thing differently: have them send over the sommelier and ask them, “What’s the best bottle of cheap wine on your list?”

Bring it to me please. With two jelly glasses.

At the Movies

I’ve been going to Albany’s Spectrum Theatre for more than 30 years. They’ve grown, but much is the same as the first time I went there: the hard-to-find indie films, the cool alternative vibe, the popcorn with real butter. But recently, I’ve noticed something new at the Spectrum: people who won’t shut the fu** up during the movie.

It seems that there’s an epidemic of talking at the Spectrum, and the culprits are almost always people who are over 60 year old.

It’s not a steady stream of chatter breaking the silence, but people making remarks about things happening during the film. For example, in a movie I saw over the weekend, it’s revealed that a character is having an affair. The man behind me said, out loud, “Well, that’s not good.”

Oh, really — that’s not good? Thank you for pointing that out because I thought it might be good that this character was discovered having an affair. I’m not sure I could understand the movie without your commentary, so I appreciate your help, you @#$% idiot.

You may think this sounds petty, but it went on throughout the movie. And lately, it happens every single time I go there.

I’ve occasionally resorted to being the guy who shushes movie goers, but why should that be necessary? Who are these people who act like they’re sitting at home on the couch instead of in a theatre? I’d like to know, because if I knew their names, maybe I’d feel less like strangling them.

The fact that it’s always older people is surprising, too. Maybe young people are too busy texting to talk to their neighbors. What should we do about movie talkers? I like this approach from acclaimed director, Richard Linklater

Oy Vey

Before my departure from TV world, I started to notice something in the newsroom: many of the young people working as reporters or producers were sort of ignorant.

I’m not saying they weren’t smart, just poorly educated in certain areas. What areas? Oh, I don’t know — little things like history, politics, culture… the sort of things you learn by doing some reading.

We saw a good example of that this week at Chicago’s WGN-TV where they used a wildly inappropriate graphic with a story about Yom Kippur:


Who would use this painful reminder of the Holocaust to represent a story about Yom Kippur? Someone who’s clueless. More likely, several clueless people — from the graphic artist who found the image and prepared it for air to the producer(s) who’s supposed to review this stuff.

Rack it up as an honest mistake.

Nobody knows everything — and context is not something people learn in school


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

Speed Picking

Yes, it’s oh-so fun to pick apples, isn’t it? Apple picking has become the go-to fall outing around here. And why not? It’s the perfect family activity — and hey, single gentlemen: if you want to impress that lady friend, nothing’s better than a trip to the orchard.

But you know what? Actually picking the apples doesn’t take very long, unless you’re pulling them off the tree with your mouth (which I don’t recommend) or doing it blindfolded.

We stopped at Indian Ladder Farms Saturday for some apples, and because dogs are not permitted, someone had to wait in the car with the Scarlett and Maddy. I volunteered for the picking duty and my objective went from take your damn time to get it done as fast as possible.

It ended up taking me longer to pay for my bag and walk to the trees than to pick the apples; I was done in less than five minutes. Look, I’ve spent plenty of time strolling through the orchards enjoying the beauty and bounty of fall. Sometimes you just want some apples.

The Old Plantation

The area around Hilton Head has many beautiful neighborhoods of a sort you don’t see around here. These well-planned developments have wonderful landscaping and homes — and many have a gatehouse and guard at the entrance.

It’s also worth noting that  a lot of these private enclaves for the affluent have the word “plantation” in their name.

If you look up plantation in the dictionary, the top definition is that it’s a farm for cash crops — but culturally it seems like a loaded term, especially in a place like South Carolina.

I’m sure that some of these communities are located on grounds that were actually plantations in the past, and yes, I get that you probably don’t mean it as a reference to the antebellum South. I understand,  but here’s the thing: you’ve got this place where the wealthy white people live behind a gate and it’s called the plantation? It just feels a little odd.

Catabetic Emergency

maeve“Oh, shit, the cat is dead!”

It was 4am and Maeve was sprawled on the floor. She was cool to the touch and unresponsive. I took this picture to document how she was found — I couldn’t just leave her there until my wife got up — and knelt down in front of her. That’s when I saw that her eyes were open.

We’ve been giving Maeve insulin shots for several years and now she was in trouble, most likely extremely hypoglycemic, and she wouldn’t last long without help.

We called the pet hospital and they advised that we get some sugar into her — just as you would with a human — and their advice was to rub Karo syrup into her gums. So there I am, at 4:30, on the floor with a handful of sticky syrup in one hand and a cat in the other.

She gradually grew more alert, and when I showed her a small plate with a tablespoon of food on it she sat up and ate. Soon she was up on her feet, but a bit shaky; we herded her into the cat carrier for her trip to the vet. It turns out her diabetes was in remission and the insulin was making her blood sugar plunge too low. I’ll be damned.

I’ve told this story to a few people and the wondered if the cat’s physiology may hold some sort of medical secret that reverses diabetes. Actually, it’s not uncommon for diabetes to go away in cats, but wouldn’t that be something? Imagine the side effects listed in the commercial:

Some people may experience an urge to chase mice. Taking this medication could cause you to lick your hands and feet and curl up in someone’s lap…

So, all is well with Maeve the cat. Two days later she’s acting completely normal. You know, by cat standards, of course.