Scenic Flights

Driving into Greene County on Route 32 always brings on the nostalgia.

I was at an event in Freehold the other night, not far from places where I’d visited as a child. My parents took us on a number of family trips at resorts in the area; it seems so odd that we used to vacation at places so close to where I live now.

The Borscht Belt may be better known, but the northern Catskills were just as vibrant, with pockets of resorts catering to throngs of downstate Irish, Italians and Germans escaping to the mountains.

You don’t have to look far to see the history. There are a handful of resorts still operating and others have been re-purposed, some by religious groups. Here and there you see abandoned resort buildings making their last stand against decay.

The attractions we’d visit, like the Catskill Game Farm and Carson City, are no more. We never went to the Mystery Spot, but I’m pretty sure that’s gone, too. Also absent is the sense that you were in the middle of nowhere.

One thing I’ll never forget are the signs for Freehold Airport offering “Scenic Flights.” I’d see these signs as we drove from place to place and imagine how incredible that would be, going up in an airplane and seeing it all from the sky. I never dared to ask my father if we could do it, because “Scenic Flights” seemed like something so… extravagant.

My father’s been gone now for more than 25 years. I have nothing but fond memories of him and certainly harbor no regrets, but there is one thing: I really wish I’d asked about those “Scenic Flights.” Maybe he would have surprised me and turned down the road to the airport. I love to imagine being up in the plane, just him and me and the pilot, soaring together over the Catskills.

Foto Friday

Don’t Die Like My Brother

Interesting story in the New York Times about the upcoming retirement of Garrison Keillor after his last Praire Home Companion show. I’ve listened for many years — even when it tried my patience — and I’ll miss Keillor.

The show’s future is uncertain. They’ve named mandolin virtuoso Chris Thiele to take over hosting duties, but that will account for just 13 new shows during the next year and the rest will be repeats of Keillor programs.

Then another public radio item caught my eye: WHYY in Philadelphia has dropped Car Talk from its schedule. The long-time public radio staple has been in “best of” mode since 2012, and co-host Tom Magliozzi died two years ago. I still listen and laugh and I’m sure it still makes money, but you can’t go on like that forever.

When you take away Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion, the list of big public radio shows is pretty short. When’s the last time they had a new show as popular as This American Life or Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me?

Maybe public radio doesn’t need a next big thing, but popular shows have great power to bring a lot of new listeners to the table. At a time when NPR and its affiliates are losing audience, they’re going to need something.

Idiot Watch List

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:

  1. Use of the phrase “mainstream media.”
  2. Discussion of President Obama’s birth certificate. Or suggestion that he is a Muslim.
  3. They have a Donald Trump sign on their lawn.
  4. Include the the word “Benghazi” in any sentence.
  5. Blaming America’s problems on “political correctness.”

I could have written a list as long as your arm, but this should get you started.

Somebody’s Been In Prison Too Long

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.

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.

Foto Friday

Christman Sanctuary, Delanson NY

All Set

Chris K

Chris Kapostasy (Jansing) back when the WNYT news set — and the newscast — was in its prime.

So, somebody asked how long WNYT’s been using the same news set.

I was there when they debuted the current set, you know, the one with lots of wood and the faux control room in the background? It’s been there so long that I couldn’t even remember when it was new. I looked it up and the answer was surprising.

Here’s an article from the Times Union about the station installing the new set — in 1995!

That makes the set more than 20-years-old. If it were your kid, it would be in college — and at this rate, it might be witness to a third term with a Clinton in the White House.

After all these years, the set is looking shopworn, especially the background, which has clearly faded with time. If you watch closely you’ll glimpse the unmistakable white mop of hair belonging to Newt Gingrich, speaker of the House in 1995.

But the bigger question is this: what’s more important, the news set or the people sitting on it?

The answer is both, but not in equal proportion. You’re much better off having great anchors sitting on an old set than the other way around.

How long does a news set last? Let’s go back to the 1995 news story:

Neither Fenhagen nor the people over at Channel 13 would give even a ballpark figure as to what it costs to build a set, which usually has a lifespan of between five and 10 years.

Or twenty years.

Either way, it’s time for a change. You could get away with certain things before DTV and 50 inch screens. The old days of analog TV were much kinder to rough-looking news sets and wrinkly anchors.  Now, something that’s faded looks faded.


I used this picture, taken at the Stewart’s in Selkirk, in a presentation about communication.


My point was that some things, no matter how simple, still need to be explained. Things like “DO NOT DRINK” the cleaning products.

I probably did not need to mention that this was in Selkirk, but what Glenmont person can resist a Selkirk joke? You see, people may think all of Bethlehem is snooty, but in truth, the town has its own pecking order.

  1. Slingerlands people look down on Delmar
  2. Delmar is scornful of Glenmont
  3. Glenmont considers Selkirk the other side of the tracks
  4. Selkirk folks joke about Ravena

We could also go back up the scale, but suffice to say, you think anyone above you on the list is a condescending ass.

What do the people in Ravena do? They disapprove of  Coeyman’s Hollow. Coeyman’s Hollow? Westerlo. Westerlo? Medusa… and so on. You could draw a line all the way from the Capital Region to Arkansas.

Next time you generalize about Bethlehem, just remember this: it’s the Slingerlands and Delmar people who are contemptible, not the lovable crowd in Glenmont. But don’t get me started on Selkirk.