Faux Hawk

The Times Union Center is looking good. They’ve made a number of improvements lately, including a grand new atrium and giant electronic signs that make South Pearl Street look like Times Square. Heck, they even got rid of their most unsavory tenant, Talk 1300.

But there’s one problem that’s hard the fix: the pigeons.

Downtown Albany’s pigeon population is thriving, and they seem especially drawn to the arena’s nooks and crannies — so much so that a maintenance worker is outside every morning scrubbing pigeon shit off the sidewalks and walkways.

I noticed recently that the TU center was taking measures to scare off the birds, by fighting fire with fire. Ladies and gentlemen,  I give you the faux hawk.

You’d think this bit of fakery might have some effect, but I’m guessing the faux hawk is a flop. It’s covered pigeon poop — and in fact, the day I took this picture, several of the birds were roosting just above it.

What to do next? I’d suggest using REAL hawks. Every day when I walk from my parking lot, I see pieces of dismembered pigeons scattered about. One time I saw an entire set of wings still attached in the middle by a chunk of pigeon spine. The rest was completely gone. These hawks mean business.

So, you don’t need to be an ornithologist to figure this one out: bring more hawks to the arena and your problem will be solved. Maybe they could try releasing rats to draw in the hawks. That may sound unpleasant, but hey, it’s Downtown Albany. Nobody would notice.

Mugged

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to end the free release of mugshots and other booking information, and the media is freaking out. Cuomo says it’s to preserve privacy and to squelch sleazy websites that extort money from people who want the pictures to disappear from the web. News outlets like the Times Union say it will lead to abuse and “secret arrests.”

It’s hard to take newspapers and TV stations seriously on this since they exploit mugshots just as shamelessly as the websites Cuomo is fighting.

Today it’s worse than ever. Local TV and newspapers don’t just use the mugshots as part of the regular news coverage, but they plaster them all over social media. That’s when the fun begins, as people get to leave comments about the depraved/evil/corrupt/contemptible/ugly person in the photo. It’s open season, and it doesn’t matter that the person has only been accused, they are dragged through today’s town square — the internet — and locked in the pillory.

In Canada and the UK, mugshots are not released unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, like in a matter of public safety. Some countries go even further, like Ireland, where it’s flat out illegal to release the identity of someone accused of a sex crime. You may not like that, but it protects the rights of someone who may be wrongly accused.

Yeah, so tell me again how this is about transparency and the public’s right to know. Could it also be about selling papers, boosting ratings, tallying clicks, and counting shares and likes? Either way, the media is complaining loudly — so loudly that I can barely hear the cha-ching of their cash registers.

A Bit of Puffery

The morning began with computer problems as the SD card reader was not reading. Hmph.

There were a lot of solutions online and none of them worked — until this one turned up: blow air into the slot. With your mouth. OK, why not? It only took one sharp puff into the SD reader for the card to work when it was reinserted.

Fixing this trouble impressed me so, that it was hard not to imagine spending my retirement working at the Apple store. That would be my specialty, blowing air into the openings in people’s computers. One could do worse. 

Fast forward 13 hours.

The Beatles White Album has been on my turntable since Christmas. The new remastered version was released in the fall, including my vinyl copy, a double album that’s nearly identical to the original release’s packaging.

This evening, side one sounded odd, and after a moment of Back In the USSR it was obvious that a big old clump of dust was clinging to the stylus. So, what did it take to fix this tech problem? One sharp puff of air directed at the needle. Bam — fixed.

How fortunate is it to be a master of the machines, both digital and analog? And it was just a burst of breath that solved their troubles.

Yardstick

On Christmas, my brother brought some unexpected loot: A stash of the yardsticks my father used to hand out to promote his plumbing business. These were all over the house when I was a kid, and I hadn’t seen one in years. These were produced so long ago, that the phone number still uses the exchange name “Edgewood,” instead of being entirely numeric. Very cool.

Oh, and did I mention these were also my father’s weapon of choice? 

My dad was a great guy, but not shy about meting out corporal punishment. Now, if he were in a hurry he’d just use his hands or whip off the belt, but when there was time to plan, he’d reach for 36 inches of pain: the John L. Madeo yardstick. I should note, he’d often bundle several yardsticks together in his meaty hand when dispensing justice.

I know what you’re thinking. Look, they were different times, and I know now he was doing his best. And frankly, we were probably asking for it.

My father lost his dad when he was very young. My grandfather, Louis Madeo, was know as a bit of a hot-head, which certainly contributed to him being gunned down in the Bronx in 1934. Did he pass this trait down through the generations?

My father was only seven-years-old when it happened.

My memories of my father are all good. He worked hard and made a great home for us. Like everybody, he had his issues. Today I laugh about some of the things he did, especially when he lost his temper. I tell people about his antics and they don’t look amused, but it’s funny to me. I know my older brothers got it worse than me, so I don’t know how they feel when holding one of those yardsticks in their hand.

I put the yardstick up on the wall in garage by the door and I walk past it every day. It will never come down, except maybe to sometimes take measure of things.

Cold

We use our fireplace a lot. It’s mostly been for aesthetic effect — until this past weekend.

It was freezing outside and the furnace was barely keeping pace. In mid-afternoon, I stacked a hge pile of wood in the hearth and a short time later it was roaring like a son of a bitch. Within a couple of hours, the temperature was up five degrees and my wife was complaining about it being too warm.

It really makes you wonder what we’re doing here?

I’ve always liked the winter and I spend more time outdoors than most people, but the last few seasons have been tough. It may not be time to look south, but I’ve caught myself glancing once or twice.

What I’ve seen of life down there doesn’t impress me. In Florida, many of the communities catering to retirees feel bleak and crowded. And a lot of people seem not to enjoy it.

We stayed at a friend’s condo once, right next door to her parents who lived in the same building. On morning we wanted to go to the ocean and asked which beach they prefer. They had no idea what to tell us, because they’d never been to the beach. Whoa, hold up: You live in a costal city in Florida and you’ve never been to the beach?

For now, we will continue to shiver, embrace the suck, and throw another log on the fire. Bundle up and deal with it. Moving south may feel like the answer, but at what cost? It seems less like a new beginning than the beginning of the end.

Pass the Mustard

Regular season football is winding down, and thus ends our season of frustration. I’m a Jets fan and my boys are Bills fans, so there is some rivalry between us, but we share a contempt for the New England Patriots.

We went to see the Bills play the Lions on Sunday, taking advantage of the late-season cheap ticket dump. This time of year, even the most loyal fans decide that a pointless game during the third week of December is something they can live without.

But not us!

Bills fans are legendary partiers, and on Sunday we sought out the epicenter of Buffalo pre-game activity: the Red Pinto Tailgate. This is where “Pinto Ron” presides over a bizarre scene where people are drinking shots from a bowling ball, eating meatballs from a bed pan and cooking over a red Ford Pinto that’s been converted into a huge grill.

The celebration peaks when Pinto Ron is doused with mustard and ketchup. I can’t explain why. Some things in life require no explanation.

It was uncommonly mild for Buffalo in December and the Bills won, so overall it was a fine day. A pair of curmudgeons behind me were complaining about the game day tailgating culture, saying it was bad for the game. C’mon, man. Get out in the parking lot and have a sausage and pepper sandwich. Watch some guy being sprayed with condiments. Meet some other fans and share your guacamole. And most certainly, drink a shot out of that bowling ball.

Congressman Jackass

He loves puppies and has eclectic taste in music. His sisters were his role models and his kids have become his best friends in many ways. His first heartbreak? At six, when Timothy the turtle died.

What is this — some middle aged guy’s lame online dating profile? No, it’s from the 20 Things You Don’t Know about John Sweeney.

It doesn’t mention the former congressman’s three divorces, the drunk driving arrests, the domestic strife, the ex-stripper, those frat party pics, that assault involving his kid, the ski trip thing — but hey, that’s stuff we already know.

I always read these 20 Things features that Kristi Gustafson Barlette writes, and I wasn’t surprised when the Sweeney item left a few readers bent out of shape. One guy wrote, “I’m looking forward to next week’s segment, ’20 Things you don’t know about me: Chris Porco’.” Kristi says her subjects are folks who are “interesting and people know them — or know of them.” By that standard, a Chris Porco 20 Things is not off the table. And you know we’d all read it.

So here comes John Sweeney again, reimagined as the cool, sensitive guy in recovery who “used to party with the band U2.”

Yeah, right.

Mr. Sweeney, do us all a favor and go away. Go away and quietly pick up the mess you’ve left in your wake. And I’ll tell you what: we’ll say a prayer for your recovery, and another prayer that you don’t fuck up again and damage the lives of more people around you. Best of luck, sir.

None of us are perfect. I may not have accomplished huge things in my life, but at least I’ve been a good husband and father. I’d like to think that’s enough.

Dogvision

Our dog Callie just turned a year old.

This is the fourth dog we’ve had — and they’ve all been very different — but this one has a peculiar habit: she’s very attentive what’s on the TV. She’s especially interested in any sort of animal, but it’s dogs and horses that really get her wound up.  Sometimes she’ll go and look outside, as if the TV is a window and all these animals are out on the lawn.

Callie is an irrepressible goofball, always clowning around or running off with your socks, insisting on being the center of attention. Our older dog gets mildly annoyed, but she’s better for it; having a puppy in the house has been good for everyone.

I’d forgotten how much work it is to raise a dog, but now we’re beginning to see the work pay off. She’s gradually settling into adulthood, and as her more challenging behaviors recede, we see her personality emerging.

Every day I do the math. How old will I be when she’s five? How about ten years from now? This is the dog that will usher me to retirement, and god willing, I won’t end up the one who’s barking at the television.

Big Bird

Maybe I’m just getting old, but this year’s turkey was a gigantic pain in the ass.

Clocking in at more than 25 pounds, it was a huge and unwieldy bird that was challenging every step of the way. Next time, I think I’d be better off cooking two smaller turkeys. It would be more work in some regards, but after wrestling with the mega-brid, it’s worth considering.

Did I mention the stuffing incident?

When I was taking the turkey out of the stove, the roasting pan slipped and dropped onto the oven rack. It didn’t fall more than a couple of inches, but the impact was enough to launch a load of stuffing straight into the air. Some of it ended up in my hair, some on the floor, and some was on the cabinet doors.

My son walked into the kitchen. “What’s that up there?”

Holy crap — several clumps of stuffing were clinging to the ceiling.

Overall, it was not the easiest day, but the trouble was worth it. The turkey was spectacular — probably the best I’ve ever cooked — but more importantly, it was a great crowd of friends and family and everyone had a wonderful time. Spirits were soaring on our all-American holiday, soaring almost as high as the stuffing.