Random Notes

Quote of the Week
“I’m swallowing news every minute.” – Paul Vandenburgh. He swallows so you don’t have to.

On the Money
I received this $20 bill when cashing in a lottery scratch off this week. Someone saw fit to draw a mustache on Andrew Jackson, but not just any mustache, one that looks like a toothbrush mustache — AKA a HITLER moustache.

OK, Hitler didn’t invent the toothbrush mustache, but he certainly ruined it. Today, you’d have to be pretty ballsy to sport one of those.

But the other interesting thing about the bill was that the number “1120” was written on the back. I could not find any significant connection in Jackson’s life to the date November 20, but there was this: Jackson’s farm, The Hermitage is a 1,120 acre plot.

Hmmmm. This may not rise to the Dan Brown level of mystery, but still intriguing.

Redemption?
John Sweeney was back in the news this week, in a fawning Times Union profile that chronicles the former congressman’s rise and fall and his struggle with alcoholism. It’s always interesting to read about drunks, but this tale Sweeney told the reporter caught my attention:

In the first year of his sobriety, as he pumped gas into his black Suburban SUV at a Clifton Park gas station, Sweeney locked eyes with the State Police trooper who arrested him for DWI for a second time, which sent him to jail. Both men shared a moment of recognition. The trooper’s family was in the car and he looked away. Sweeney walked over to the trooper and said: “I just want to say thanks. You saved my life.”

I don’t know Mr. Sweeney, but I know some drunks, and I’m calling bullshit on that one.

No Free Parking

It’s been a long time since a parking attendant has been seen at Thacher Park — and I reckon you’ll never see one again. It’s not because they won’t charge you for parking, but because of these kiosks springing up in the lots. The parking stations provide a convenient way for the state to collect your $6 “vehicle entrance fee” without actually providing the service rendered by a human attendant.

The park told WNYT that the fees help pay for maintenance and for park employees. That’s interesting, because without the pool and parking attendants, they probably employee fewer people than ever before. As for maintenance, I’m all for that. In recent years, it’s not been uncommon at Thacher Park to find broken picnic tables, busted grills, and trails in need of attention.

I love Thacher Park and I’ll gladly pay to use it, but the cranky old man in me requires that I ask the following: “What about all that tax money we pay?” And my cranky old man does have a point.

But pay we must.

And by the way have you been to the new visitor center? It’s pretty cool — and I hope that in coming years we see as much attention to the little things in Thacher Park as we’ve seen to the big things. A picnic table may not have the governor’s name on it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

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?

Lame
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.

A Visit by Erastus

It’s always interesting to see what people are throwing away, and a keen eye toward trash will sometimes yield treasure, large and small.

One day at WNYT, I hauled a bag full of crap down from my office (despite what you’ve heard, I really was the creative services director, not the janitor) and saw a bankers box labelled “archives” in the dumpster. Well, who would’t peek at that?

It was crammed with an assortment of old correspondence dating back to the 1950s — and a folder full of photos. If these are archives, I reasoned, they belong in my office, not the dumpster.

A lot of the papers dealt with the mundane matters of running a business, but among the photos were a few real gems, like the ones below. My favorite is this picture of good old Erastus Corning 2nd gamely peering into the WTRI camera for a PR shot.

And how about the look on this dogs face? Clearly, dogs have a lower tolerance for goofy photo ops than do politicians.

This photo is not quite so old. It’s from 1960 after they’d switched to the unfortunate call letters, WAST, for Albany-Schenectady-Troy. Add an “E” and you’ve got WASTE. The caption on the back identifies the woman as “Miss Nancy Doell, local Albany television actress.”

These pictures are from a time when television was still rather new and glamourous, but I think local TV still holds a certain fascination to people. I always enjoyed giving tours at channel 13 and seeing how much people loved looking behind the scenes. And the anchors and meteorologists? They’re the closest thing we have to celebrities. Well, I suppose in this town, politicians are also celebrities of a sort, just not always in a good way.

Pickup or Delivery?

Late one night I was backing up the ambulance at one of our fine local hospitals. Parked near the emergency department entrance was a dark minivan with tinted windows. I wouldn’t have even noticed it — but then a man emerged from a set of doors wheeling a cot. Even in the dim light, it was unmistakable that he was removing a body.

As we unloaded our patient, he was fetching a customer.

OK, they weren’t coming out the same doors we were going in, but it was pretty darn close. If this surprised me, imagine how you’d feel if you were on our stretcher and looked over to see the undertaker picking someone up. Not very encouraging.

Considering how busy these places are, it always surprises me how shabby emergency department entrances can be. Rather than projecting a professional impression, many look more like a place where the hospital brings out its trash. It would go a long way to have them clean and well-lit — and you’re receiving so many patients, why not have someone stationed to meet the ambulance and begin the intake process?

If nothing else, let’s move the mortician access to someplace a little more discrete. I think we all have enough reminders that our last ride is on the way.

Ziti and Meatballs

The corruption trial of Cuomo confidant Joe Percoco grinds along this week. It’s hard not to feel bad for this guy, who seems to have gotten in over his head in every way possible — but you’ve got to admit, the “ziti” business is funny.

The feds claim that Percoco would refer to payments by the code word “ziti,” and they say they have emails with Percoco writing, “Keep the ziti flowing … Don’t tip over the ziti wagon.” And where did he come up with that? According to the prosecutor, from watching the Sopranos. In other news, Mario Cuomo is rolling over in his grave.

Meanwhile, in a federal courtroom in Allentown, something entirely different is on the menu. Prosecutors there claim that the word “meatballs” was used as code for illicit payments in the bribery case of mayor Ed Pawlowski.

This from the Allentown Morning Call is priceless:

“So, this is not code for a bribe? Did you actually go to Mike Fleck’s to pick up meatballs?” Morgan asked.

Strathearn replied yes.

“Did you actually get meatballs?” the prosecutor asked.

Strathearn replied that he had, but not as many as he was expecting.
“How many did you get?” Morgan asked.

“Four,” he replied.

On cross-examination, McMahon played several more recordings containing references to the meaty Italian cuisine and suggested “meatballs” was, in fact, code for a bribe.

“You want these people to believe it’s really meatballs?” McMahon yelled. “It’s a payoff, Mr. Strathearn. You know, I know and everybody knows.”

Yes, everybody knows meatballs mean money. And meatballs and ziti? Fuggetaboutit.

From the Heart

Imagine what it must feel like to get another chance after a life-threatening health emergency. It has to be pretty amazing.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares has been very open about discussing his heart surgery in 2016 and the way it changed his life. Stories like this one in the Times Union, in which he tells what it was like to face down a disease that could have killed him. It’s inspiring. Honestly.

But I’ve got to ask a question: is it OK for a public official to appear in a TV commercial endorsing a hospital. I’m asking not because I want to be a wiseass (which is often why I ask questions), but because I’m genuinely unsure. Have a look.

Even a not-for-profit entity is still a business — and if you have any doubt that hospitals are a business, just look at all the competition between them that’s expressed in their advertising. And they do a LOT of advertising.

So, it’s something to ponder. Purists will say that an elected official like the DA should avoid anything that can be interpreted as showing favor. But on the flip side, is there really anything wrong with showing a little heart?

All the Editor’s Men

It was interesting to read Harry Rosenfeld’s take on “The Post” as reported by Paul Grondahl in the Times Union. Rosenfeld knows a thing or two about the Washington Post. Before coming to Albany to serve as editor of the TU, he was the Post’s metro editor and oversaw a couple of guys named Woodward and Bernstein. Speaking of movies, Rosenfeld is a key character in All the President’s Men, played by Jack Ward.

Anyway, Grondahl went to see the movie with Harry Rosenfeld, and if you look past all the misty-eyed tribe of ink stained wretches bullshit, it’s a pretty cool story. However, I can’t help but imagine Rosenfeld and his wife talking out loud during the movie, because that’s what old people do while watching a movie at the Spectrum.

“Look at the hair. Ben Bradlee didn’t comb his hair that way.”

“The chair?! What’s wrong with his chair?”

“No, his HAIR. It’s all wrong. Too long. And he parted his on the other side.”

And on and on and on. You can turn around and tell them to shut up, but it won’t do any good.

By the way, after the movie, Grondahl writes, they all went for “a nosh.” Oh, really? Did the Rosenfeld’s also kvetch about the schlep to the diner? Oy.

Random Notes

Down the Rathole
Paul Vandenburgh used “rathole” as a stand-in for President Trump’s “shithole” remark this week. Coincidentally, both rathole and shithole are acceptable when used to describe his radio station.

Wrap This
Anybody else sick of these ads that are wrapped around your goddamn Times Union every day?

The Ripoff Report
I like the Empire Report website and visit frequently. It’s a great way to keep up with New York political news, but I’m perpetually bothered by the site’s design, which is basically swiped from Drudge Report. Here’s the thing: when you steal someone’s design, you’re also taking all the hard work they did to build their brand — and in the case of Drudge, that’s worth a fortune.