Let Him Jump

I was listening to my local talk radio station the other morning and the host was bitching about a huge traffic jam that tied up an area bridge. It seems someone was threatening to jump.

He called the man on the bridge an “attention grabber,” and said we should just  “let him jump.”

Well, don’t be shocked.

Talk radio shows are just that: shows. The host’s job is not to be moderate and thoughtful, it’s to stir you up. The more provocative the better — and appealing to the angry mob brings ratings. Angry mobs don’t talk people down, they scream, “Jump!”

But I’m not here to attack the talk radio host. Doing that would be like going to the circus and criticizing the clowns for — well, acting like clowns. That’s their job.

I’ve never had a suicide affect my family directly, but I’ve known people who killed themselves and seen what it does to those left behind. It’s tragic — and the pain and loss upends lives and lingers forever. I suppose that “let him jump” is one solution when someone is in crisis, but maybe it’s not the best solution.

Meanwhile, the angry drumbeat of talk radio rolls along. Deport all the immigrants. Throw the bums out. And let him jump.

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

I’d been thinking go buying a cheap smoker to dip my toe into the dark art of barbecue when my wife Ann called.

“I have a surprise for you!”

Oh, Christ, what now — another cat? But this time she’d really outdone herself: standing in the garage was a ceramic Big Green Egg, one of the fancier — meaning more expensive — smokers out there.

This was certainly not something I would have ever bought for myself, but she discovered it on Craigslist, for sale by a man who bought it several years ago and never used it. He finally decided he couldn’t stand looking at it anymore, and it came to us at a fraction of the price of buying a new one.

So, since then, every weekend has been a festival of meat.

It turns out that when it comes to barbecue, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. You can find a recipes for anything you want  — but ten-thousand of them — and every person who smokes meat has a different opinion on how to do it. It makes your head spin.

pulled pork1

Pork shoulder which went on the smoker at 4:50am on Sunday.

But for all the confusion, one thing has been constant: everything I’ve cooked in the Egg has been spectacular. Can you remember the best chicken you’ve ever eaten? I can — it was last week.

So, what about health considerations? Some would say that at 54-years-old, eating more meat might not be the best game plan — but I’m not really eating more meat, just better meat. The jury is out on the health effects of breathing too much smoke, but hey, what are you gonna do?

Enjoy Every Sandwich

If you were a kid like me, the highlight of your grade school day was lunch. Now, nearly fifty years later, there are still days like that.

For the most part, I’ve always been a brown bagger, and making my sandwich is a morning ritual. Some days are better than others, but — and not to brag — as a sandwich artist, mine is probably better than yours.

One this week was especially colorful:


This sandwich had an especially local flavor: the beets and greens came from the Great Barrington farmer’s market. I cured and smoked the bacon from a pork belly I bought at Rolf’s Pork Store. The bread? One of the great products that comes from Herkimer’s Heidelberg Baking Company, and the onions — well, I bought them at Price Chopper, but pickled them at home.

When Warren Zevon was dying of lung cancer, he told David Letterman how he’s approaching the great beyond.

“You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute of playing with the guys and being with the kids, and everything.”

Yes. Enjoy every sandwich.

Pigture This

Inspiration can come from many places. A book, a beautiful landscape, a moving experience… mine came from Chuck Miller. Let me explain.

You may know him. Among other things, Chuck is the Times Union’s most prolific blogger, a trivia whiz and a really good photographer. At lunch a few months ago, I whined that I felt I was in a creative doldrums, particularly in regard to my photography.

“Here’s what you do,” he said. “Pick a picture you like and get it printed and framed — then enter it in the Altamont fair in August.” This was good advice. I’ve been a photographer for forty years, but most of my work is hidden away in boxes or hard drives. Maybe setting a goal, even one as simple as getting one photo entered in the fair competition, was just what I needed.

I chose one of my favorite pictures, some pigs I saw at Peter’s Dairy Farm in Castleton. I was there to shoot Carmine Sprio milking a cow for his cooking show, Carmine’s Table, and happened to have my $20 plastic Holga 120 with me. Those pigs are long gone — as is the cooking show — but the photo remains.


Anyway, I woke up this morning and saw Chuck’s blog post about how his Altamont Fair photo entries did — and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw that he posted a picture of my pig photo hanging at the fair with a blue ribbon under it.

How about that.

What Chuck did for me was a small thing that made a big difference, but that’s the kind of guy he is, somebody who does small things that make a big difference. We could all learn something from the example he sets, not just on how to be a better photographer but about being a better person.


My wife says to me, “There’s poop on the front lawn again.”

And says I, “Human or canine?”

Look, in the burbs, letting your dog shit on someone’s lawn is the ultimate anti-social act. I’m quite sure people are peering from their windows when my dogs squat on their lawn, so I don’t just pick up the poop, but go though elaborate kubuki-like moves with the poop bag to make it obvious that I’m cleaning up.

Not everyone feels this way.

Lately we’ve found quite a bit of dog poop on the fringes of the lawn. Hopefully it’s just that dog walkers are lazy and not making a statement about me and my stupid blog.

Well, thanks to science, now you can figure out which dog pooped the poop. Several companies, like PooPrints offer DNA testing of dog sh*t with the aim of matching man’s best friend with your worst enemy. — in fact, according to the New York Times, there are Brooklyn apartment buildings using this technique to identify tenants whose dogs foul the elevators and hallways.

Great idea — but the problem? How exactly will you get a DNA sample from your neighbor’s pet to establish a match? If you live in a community strictly controlled by a neighborhood association or in a New York co-op, yes, you could require members to submit poop samples, but in the suburbs it’s a squishy proposition. Literally.

So, how does one collect a DNA sample from the suspect dog in a typical subdivision? Maybe let the suspect dog it lick your face and then swab your cheek — or sneak into their backyard to collect a sample?

I don’t know — they make it look so easy on CSI Miami. It would probably be easier — and cheaper — to just accept that sh*t happens.

Nuts for Squirrels

After years of chasing squirrels, my dogs finally got one.

It always plays out the same way: the dogs sprint out the back door and the squirrels dash away from the bird feeder and up the tree — but this time was different.

A smallish, young squirrel fumbled its escape and Scarlett caught up with it at the bottom of the tree. Just as she put her paw on it, I called her off — but the squirrel turned and ended up right in from of Maddy, who cornered it in a nook at the base of the tree.

Maddy — who tends to be stubborn — wouldn’t back off, and I had to go over and pull her away from the startled critter.

Once the dogs were back in the house I went to the tree. The squirrel looked down at me and was like, “Dude, WTF?!” I couldn’t tell if it was injured, but after a while it vanished into the trees, so I’m assuming it was just shaken up.

The next day — like it never happened — the squirrels were back at the feeder, including one who looked a lot like the one the dogs captured.

And the dogs? I’ve got to figure that they’re filled with new hope. Now that they know they can catch a squirrel, anything is possible.

Shoe Business

Wouldn’t it be great if there were voice activated toilet seats? You just could walk in and tell it to go up or down and never have to touch the damn thing.

seatWell, we don’t have them — so until that wonderful day arrives you should just do what most sensible people do: use your foot.

This leads to an interesting question: how dirty are your shoes from touching toilet seats?

“How dirty” stories used to be all the rage in TV news. I did promos for stories where we tested hotel rooms, household items and common objects you find in public, like doorknobs and water fountains. We’d swab the things and send the samples to a lab for analysis. Two weeks later? Instant sweeps story!

Anyway, way back in 2008, ABC News did a story about dirty shoes. The results? Your shoes are astoundingly dirty — maybe even the dirtiest things you own. I’m not trying to freak you out here, but you may be making a toilet seat dirtier by touching it with your filthy shoe.

Just something to think about. Meanwhile, I suppose in the future it will be odd to hear people calling out “up” and “down” in public restrooms.

A Tale of Two Headlines


June 11, 2015


July 9, 2015

Well, it took a month, but the Times Union finally figured out what other media outlets were reporting from practically day one: that the Dannemora escape was far from the first.

In today’s front page item, the paper blames Governor Cuomo for spreading the “first escape” story; one has to wonder who Cuomo is blaming.

Paul Grondahl writes, “Cuomo’s comments were picked up and repeated, including by local residents.” Yes it was picked up and repeated. Please refer to the photo at the top of this blog post.

Anyway, this makes it all OK:

The Matt and Sweat imbroglio, however, did not eclipse the level of subterfuge in the escape of George Leggins of Coxsackie, who broke away on July 31, 1915, from a farm outside Dannemora’s walls.

Anyone who can use imbroglio and subterfuge in the same sentence gets an A+ in my book.

Would You Rather Be First or Right?

The Dannemora prison escape has been a fascinating story, and Friday evening, with one escapee gunned down by police and the other on the run, it was a big news night.

There were many wild tales from the North Country woods, many of them brought to us by eager reporters on Twitter. Unfortunately, some of them were not exactly true, like this one from Time Warner Cable News reporter Geoff Redick.

Exciting? Yes. True? No.

But, Rob, Geoff Redick says right there that “TWO police sources” told him this story.

Oh, really — what police sources? To be so confident, it must have been two very high ranking people with direct knowledge of what’s going on — like officials from the command post.

Mr. Redick went on to tap this one out:

Later in the evening, this all turned out to be bunk. Whatever — stop distracting me with all those annoying facts!

TV news has always been obsessed with getting stories first, even if only by a few minutes. Social media has taken it to the next level; it used to be about who could get it on the air first, and now it’s who can tweet it first.

I’d say this is progress. There’s never been a faster way to get things wrong.