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.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

My name is Rob and I own a cat. But wait, I also have a dog!

Look, I usually go my own way with head held high, but the matter of cats and dogs stirs some uneasy feelings. There’s a subtle prejudice in our culture about men with cats that’s cut with sexism and old stereotypes. In a nutshell, it’s the idea that cats are feminine, dogs are masculine and a guy with a cat — particularly a single guy — is not a manly man.

Don’t get mad at me, I’m just telling you what I’ve observed. And if you don’t believe it, read what Kristi Gustafson Barlette wrote on the topic. She stopped just shy of calling it “creepy,” for God’s sake.

You might think that as a married man with a dog none of this would phase me, but the cat stigma has affected my behavior. Here’s the thing: when I go to the pet store and buy two dozen cans of cat food, I’m always sure to throw in a dog item so the clerk doesn’t judge me over my pet proclivity.

Dog treats, dog toys, various dog accessories and dog chewy things — as long as it’s clearly for a dog. I’ve even held up an item and said to the cashier, “My DOG is going to love this!”

Yes, that’s nuts.

What can I say? Blame society for this cruel view of men and cats. It benefits no one — except maybe for my dog. She loves it.

Taking the Plunge

Something came over me last Friday and I texted my friend Tom.

He’s been starting off the year with the Lake George Polar Plunge for more than a decade and he’s been after me to join him for a while. I’d never quite managed to pull it together, but this year would be different.

So — why start during a cold snap that’s made the past few weeks downright miserable? Some things can’t be explained, and this is one of them.

It was quite a sight as people started gathering on the beach: they were a mix of young and old, men and women all dressed more for an ice fishing shanty than a day at the beach. There a lot of energy in the air , very much like what you feel before a road race. But this was no 5K. As we stood on the shore watching the volunteers slide big sheets of ice away from the waterfront, some of the plungers started to wonder if they’s started 2018 by making a very bad decision.

Too late.

I didn’t expect a walk in the park; a quick glance at my Google search history will reveal various combinations of the terms “cold,” “freezing water,” “shock,” “hypothermia” and “heart attacks.”

As the mintues ticked down, the clothes started coming off. Soon I was standing in my bathing suit, water shoes, gloves and a knit cap. There were jokes that my body hair would keep me warm. If only.

When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. When my time came I stormed into the water and went out as far as the safety crew in their cold water suits . It wasn’t terribly deep, so I crouched a bit to bring the water up to my chin. At first it wasn’t so bad — hell, the water was 30 degrees warmer than the air — but it didn’t take long for a weird combination of numbness and burning to begin taking hold of my legs. Time to get out.

Once in dry clothes I felt pretty great, deeply refreshed and oddly renewed.
I thought my friend Tom was pulling my leg when he went on about cleansing away the old year and prparing for the one to come, but he wasn’t kidding. And my penis didn’t break off, so that’s also a big plus.

The Week That Was

An Itch for Christmas
A few years ago, there were lots of stories around about ticks in Christmas trees. Well, the good news is that ticks are not really a problem. The bad news? There could be 25,000 other bugs on your tree.

Quote of the Week
“People don’t know what wine tastes like until they taste it.” – Paul Vandenburgh

That’s either a brilliant nugget of wisdom or the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Crushing It
I made a lot of news promos, and I’m still impressed when I see something that nails it like this MSNBC spot.

These folks have been portrayed by the idiot in the White house as enemies of the people. Their response: we do this because we love you. Extra points for using R.E.M.’s Orange Crush.

Tie One On This Christmas

So, about the Christmas tree.

On our way home from getting the tree, we passed another car on their way home from the same mission.

The other car’s tree was secured with a cheap piece of frayed twine that looked like it would snap at any moment. I was sure the tree would tumble to the road on the first sharp turn.

I try not to be judgmental, but the ability to tie things down is a fair measure of one’s competence.

My wife wanted me to honk and alert them.

I refused. “No. He needs to learn.”

My tree? There was a ratchet strap across the middle holding it snug to the roof and then a heavy nylon rope to keep it from pivoting. I could roll the car over and that tree would still be attached to the roof.

It wasn’t exactly pretty; no sailor would be impressed with these knots, but they were secure.

People get stressed out at Christmas, but the key to having a nice holiday is to accept that there are some things you can control and some things you can’t.

Accept the things you can’t control, and you’ll be happier — tying a tree to your car is something you can control, so don’t screw it up.

Media Roundup

Turkeys
The Times Union tried to charge us extra for the privilege of receiving their big Thanksgiving edition. What the what?  You should be paying me to take your giant pile of advertising. And , yes — I still have the paper delivered, which I guess means that I’m old.

Quote of the Week
“Everybody says something stupid at one point in their life.”                                   -Paul Vandenburgh

Yes, they do. In fact, some people say something stupid every fucking day of their life. On the radio. In Albany.

The Departed
Two high profile departures from WNYT announced this week: morning anchor Phil Bayly and meteorologist Jason Gough. Both were really solid guys and great at their jobs.

What does it mean? Maybe nothing, but two in one week seems a little weird; if we get a third, then we know something’s up. Too bad we don’t have a media reporter in this town.