Hockey Puck

When I was a kid, I somehow ended up rooting for the Philadelphia Flyers. This was the height of the Broad Street Bullies era, the heady days between 1973 and 1976 when the team made it to the Stanley Cup finals three times and won twice.

I was such a big fan that I once staked out the Island Inn in Westbury to wait for the team as they departed for a game against the Islanders. In the lobby I got autographs from Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and The Hammer Dave Schultz, whose number I wore on the back of my Flyers jersey.

Over the years I lost interest in hockey, but now the game seems interesting to me again. A big part of it is TV; brilliant widescreen HD has made hockey a spectacle to watch at home, compared to the awful wide angles and invisible puck that used to dominate hockey coverage.

Watching the Rangers and Canadiens the other night reminded me of this wonderful short film based on made Roch Carrier’s iconic story The Hockey Sweater. If you have ten minutes, it’s really worth the time; it’s a story of boyhood, but also a thinly veiled commentary on the tension between Quebec and English Canada.

The Sweater by Sheldon Cohen, National Film Board of Canada

Eye in the Sky

There are security cameras everywhere these days. That may not seem like a big deal today, but wait a few years. Even if you are a fine citizen with nothing to hide, I guarantee that cameras will eventually feel intrusive as marketers add them to the tools they use to target your behavior.

I know that sounds slightly crazy, but mark my words: it’s coming.

Despite these reservations about constant surveillance, I can get behind Albany’s plan to use red light cameras.

green streetI drive a stretch of Green Street in Albany every day, and I slow down and look both ways at every single corner. Why? Because people have so little regard for stop signs and red lights. On that .45 miles of road, I’ve seen more people barreling through intersections in the past six months than in my entire life of driving combined.

What is it that makes people think that the rules do not apply to them?

In my neighborhood I drive ten miles per hour below the speed limit because I know there are kids around. I stop at stop signs in the middle of the night when there isn’t another moving vehicle within a quarter-mile. I scrupulously keep it between the lines, even when driving through parking lots.

If you’re going to drive, you’ve entered into a social contract with the rest of us on the road — and those who think the rules don’t apply to them make the road unsafe for everyone.

Down By the Water

You should know by now that screwing up Mother’s Day is bad news.

I’m happy to report that this year’s celebration went off without a hitch. The agenda included brunch at Max London’s in Saratoga, a leisurely trip to the Spa City Farmers’ Market and a stroll in the Saratoga Spa State Park.

We walked along the trail where many of the mineral springs are located and, naturally, brought a cup along so to take of the fabled curative waters.

How was it? My impression of the magical mineral elixir was about the same as when I first tasted it decades ago: “Blech!”

Imagine drinking water that tastes like it comes from a rusty pipe and that will give you some idea of the flavor.

Nonetheless, I insisted on trying each one, as if we’d eventually stumble on one that tastes like an enchanted cross between a fizzy mountain stream and unicorn nectar.

My son had more sense and did not partake. But he was curious, the conversation going something like this:

“How is that one?”

“Not as bad as the last one. But bad. It smells like sulphur, which makes it interesting. Are you sure you don’t want some?”

“Yes.”

One spring, according to a nearby sign, was known for helping digestive ailments and for its laxative effect. That’s not exactly what I’m interested in when out walking around in a park.

We went away with the memory , but I swear I could still taste the water in my mouth hours later, perhaps because of all the minerals I’d ingested. And without going into detail,the next morning there was a definite laxative effect.

Warming Up

It was great to see Neko Case at The Egg Wednesday night.

I bought the tickets in January, so the waiting seemed interminable, but the payoff was a tremendous show. Our seats were great, too: second row center. It’s nice to be up close, not just because it makes for a more intimate experience, but it’s cool to see what the musicians are doing — and you can their tattoos.

On Neko case’s arms is tattooed the phrase, Scorned for Timber, Beloved of the Sky. Turns out it’s the name of a painting she loves. Thanks again, Google.

I credit Neko Case with teaching me to be respectful of warmup acts.

In 2003 I went to see Wilco in Montreal. As we waited for the band to come on we, stood around in the back of the theatre drinking beer and talking loudly (how typically American), paying no attention to the opening band.

In short order a woman marched forward to admonish us for our boorish behavior. She did so in a very politely Canadian way, saying something like, “Excuse me, but you’re making it very difficult for us to enjoy the show with the noise you’re making.” That always makes it worse, when people scold you politely.

And who was this singer she felt so strongly about? Neko Case. It was several years later that I discovered how much I loved her music — and I still kick myself for completely missing her show.

So now I arrive on time — and in this case enjoyed a set by The Dodos, a San Francisco band that I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Madness

God, I’m so sick of it: this obsessive dissection of every TV show is really getting on my nerves.

For example, the morning after every episode of Mad Men the web is littered with stories about the show — and I don’t mean by stupid little blogs like this one, but major publications.

What ever happened to the time when you would just watch the show. Now we need endless analysis the next day, not just reviews, but extreme navel gazing about every single detail and what it all means, often with a grade or rating. Then there will be hundreds and hundreds of comments from fans taking it even further — many of them complaining that (insert show name here) now sucks, especially compared to the first two seasons.

Hey, internet: shut up, shut up, shut up.

Having said that, I think that Don hanging up poor dead Lane Pryce’s NY Mets pennant may be a good sign. After all, it’s 1969, the year the Mets won the World Series, so surely this symbolizes that something unlikely will happen — perhaps that Don, the guy everybody has dismissed, will rise up and win in the end. Or that he will die.

Star Trail

I read over the weekend that Chris Jansing has been named NBC’s White House correspondent. That’s a pretty big deal — and I’d say that it’s easily the most significant thing achieved by anybody who ever worked in Albany TV news.

If you’ve been around for a while you may remember watching Chris on WNYT – if that’s the case, I certainly don’t have to remind you that in those days she went by Chris Kapostasy. There wasn’t a time when my father-in-law didn’t see her on TV and say in his thickly accented English, “Her name means cabbage in Hungarian. Chris Cabbage!”

Chris was the anchor during WNYT’s rise to the top, and during those golden years in the mid to late 1990s I was responsible for the station’s marketing. We had it all going on, and looking back I realize how fortunate I was to be part of that winning team.

People have a hard time believing me when I tell them I wrote and produced thousands of TV spots, but it’s true. Many were forgettable, but this one always felt special to me.

This was in 1996 when the Olympic Torch Relay passed through the area.

We started in Palatine Bridge, me and photographer Tom Wall, leapfrogging ahead of the torch for the whole day as it wound its way to Albany. The money shot was Chris with the torch and Tom nailed it.

I’d say it was one of the best days at work I ever had — and it produced the single most memorable image from my 25 years in TV, Chris running with the torch, waving to the crowd, clearly on her way somewhere.

Sudden Death

“This is nice because if I die, there will be less of my stuff to sort through.”

That’s what I said this morning when I opened the door to my newly tidied closet.

It’s hard not to think about dropping dead when you reach my age — and I suppose it doesn’t help that my wife reads me the obits of guys in their early 50s every morning.

My father died at 62, but it may have been lifestyle that lead to the second heart attack. There is some longevity in his family, but that didn’t help him; one of his sisters is over 90-years-old, and another who turns 90 in September, is in better shape than most 70-year-olds.

So, I’m starting to plan there are some things to do in case I die:

Write an obituary. You shouldn’t don’t trust anyone else with this job. If you die suddenly, somebody will get stuck doing it who has other things on their mind, which is why there are so many half-assed obits in the paper. Nope, DIY is the way to go.  I’m considering writing mine in the first person, which is something you don’t see very often — and I’m leaving a space for cause of death. Seriously, what’s the point of obituaries being so evasive about that? Don’t make people guess — just say how you died.

The funeral home experience. I like the idea of having an iTunes playlist that they can put on during the wake. I’ve already picked out some of the songs, which include some unlikely things like Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans, and Mary Hopkin’s Those Were the Days, songs I loved as a child. I might put a few things in there for laughs, like Seasons in the Sun. A lot of people do some sort of slideshow, which is also a nice touch.

The Funeral. I just hope some people show up! I suppose it’s a good idea to choose a few readings, and some churchy songs. On the short list are Simple Gifts and Amazing Grace. Morning Has Broken is nice, and Battle Hymn of the Republic, while bombastic, can be a real showstopper. I’d also like Danny Boy.

And as for my mortal remains? Cremation. I once joked that I want my cremains mixed with the dog food, but that may not be good for them. The ashes  can be buried if you feel the need to bury something, but if not, take them down to the ocean and pour them in the water. That will do. Don’t do it on a windy day.

You Gotta Look Sharp

A long overdue closet cleaning got me thinking about local retail.

I found the pants from one of the first suits I ever bought by myself, from Kelly Clothes in Latham. Kelly shut down in 2003, so I will never have the opportunity to ask them how I ended up with a taupe suit. Now, there’s nothing wrong with taupe — but if you’re going to have one or two suits, they should probably be navy blue or charcoal.

I also found the jacket of a snazzy black double-breasted suit from Spector’s, also more than 20 years old. The pants were MIA. Spector’s closed up shop this year after being in business since 1917; not even moving to the mall could save the clothier, facing stiff competition from big department stores and large menswear chains.

I did work for both Kelly Clothes and Spector’s during my days as a commercial producer. Menswear spots were always tough because nobody wanted to spend money on models. If you think dealing with empty suits all day is tough, try shooting video of them.

Independent bookstores get loads of ink as examples of little retailers battling for survival, but they are not the first to fight that fight. Small family owned businesses like clothing stores have been practically wiped out and nobody ever shed a tear for them. Unlike most independent bookstores, I was always able to find what I wanted at a those clothing stores.  – and they always made sure it fit just right.

Tradition

We had a conversation last night about Easter morning. The question? Do we hide eggs.

Hiding the easter eggs is something I’ve done that goes all the way back to when my older son was little. We’re talking decades. Today, one son is in his mid-twenties and the other not even living at home — but the egg thing. It worries me.

Will he be disappointed when he comes over on Easter if there are no eggs to look for?

eggs

Traditions can be important in ways you don’t always realize. The best example of this was Christmas a few years ago when I had the great idea to put the gifts out on Christmas Eve instead of early Christmas morning. It seemed like an insignificant thing to me, but it caused quite an uproar with the kids. What’s going on? Why are the presents out? Presents aren’t supposed to appear UNTIL MORNING!

I never did that again.

Don’t screw around with your traditions, not even the small ones.