Archive » January 2014 » Columns

I was going to write about various hobbies I've tried and would like to try. In preparation, I looked up the word “hobby,” because I wanted to see what a hobby really is — for example, could writing about a hobby be considered a hobby?

When I pulled out my trusty Merriam-Websters's Collegiate Dictionary, my plans for writing about hobbies quickly got dashed, as the first definition for hobby is not what you would expect at all (gardening, model railroading, etc.).

Guess what the first definition of hobby is? It's "a small Old World falcon that is dark blue above and white below with dark streaking on the breast."

Huh?

I've been in plenty of hobby shops over the years, and I've not once seen a cage with a large, falcon-type bird of prey hanging from the ceiling. Seriously though, I find it amazing that, at my advanced age, I could find a word that has a totally different primary meaning than what I (and probably you) thought it was.

I mean, can you imagine if Atlanta's football team were called The Hobbies instead of The Falcons? Give me a break.

This got me thinking about quirky different usages of words and odd patterns of speech. When I was small, I vividly remember my Uncle Carmine. He liked big cars and often had a Cadillac or some other beautiful large luxury car.

I can remember very well him telling me, if you wanted to take care of your car, you had to "change the Earl" very often. Of course he meant "oil," but for a long time I thought he had some guy named Earl who worked on his cars and who for some reason he had to change for another guy named Earl every now and then. I'm not even kidding about this.

Then I had a friend who liked football. He was always disappointed when the team had to settle for a "field gold" rather than a touchdown (it's really called a field goal, of course).

This kind of pronunciation thing drives me crazy (and, no, I don't have that much free time, ha ha). One of these that really drives me up the wall is "acrost" instead of across, as in, "The park entrance is acrost that bridge." This seems to be a regional thing, as I've never heard anyone in the media or outside the Capital District say it. One more thing that makes us so cute and lovable, I guess.

Another one that gets butchered on a regular basis is "relator" when of course it's Realtor. You can forgive a layperson for making this mistake, but I've even heard Realtors mispronounce it. Since you'd think they want to present an air of competence and professionalism, this can't be good.

Perhaps their "ant" (meaning aunt) should tell them. I'm guilty of this one myself — I still lovingly refer to my Ant Lena. I know a lot of us do this, because saying aunt sounds a little fancy and pretentious. I hope all the other lovely ants out there don't mind.

Speaking of Ant Lena, when you went to her house, you could always count on having some "bizza and breadsels," that is pizza and pretzels. Ah, the good old days. You would have liked Ant Lena for sure. She's been gone for a long time now and I still think about her all the time.

How 'bout when you're watching the national news and a story comes on about Al-bany, not All-bany? I can sort of forgive them for this one. If you've never heard a regional pronunciation, how can you know what it is?

If you weren't from around here, how would you know how to pronounce, say, Valatie (val-LAY-shuh)? Still, Albany is the capital of New York, so mispronouncing it is kind of inexcusable when it happens.

If someone has a "couple a three" beers, how many beers did they have? My lovely wife says six but I know it's three. Don't ask me how I know this, I just do.

She did get me on one, though. Say you're listening to a ball game and it's the fifth inning. Guess what, look up “fifth” and you’ll see the pronunciation is listed as "fith" and that's the way she says it. The first time I heard her say fith I honestly didn't know what she was talking about.

I used to watch a lot of Met games and it was always the fifth inning, not the fith(!) inning, fer crying out loud, but it is in the dictionary so she's right as usual. I just know I'll never be able to get used to "fith." Sounds like some kind of a bad sickness to me. ("It's too bad, the poor thing's got the fith.")

Whenever I get a new GPS, the first thing I do is change the speaking voice to British English female. There's nothing like coming up to the end of Route 155 in Voorheesville and having that lovely English lady say in her fancy accent "enter roundabout."

Gotta love it. I get a kick out of it every time. You feel like pulling over for some tea and scones.

Without doubt, the most annoying pronunciation faux pas has to be the phenomenon known as "uptalk." This is where a declarative sentence is spoken as a question. If you've by some miracle avoided this auditory disaster, turn on the NPR radio show "Car Talk" and wait for a young female to call in.

Young women are the most notorious "uptalkers" by far. For example, the hosts might ask her where she's calling from. She's supposed to say "I'm from Philadelphia" but instead she says "I'm from Philadelphia?"

Then they will ask her what kind of car problem she is having. She is supposed to say "The check-engine light is on" but instead she says "The check engine light is on?"

This making every statement into a question, for me, is way worse than the cringe-worthy gold standard of chalk squeaking on a blackboard. It simply makes the speaker sound vapid and annoying.

I'm to the point where I have to change the channel when one of these women come on, or, if I'm at a party and someone starts uptalking, I'll remove myself from that conversation faster than Billy Fuccillo can say, "It's gonna be huge, Capital District, huge-uh."

So where did uptalk come from? One theory traces it to the late great Frank Zappa's only top-40 hit, "Valley Girl," where his daughter Moon Unit rapped and uptalked for three minutes in what was then known as "valspeak,” the language of southern California teenage girls. Back when it first came out in the early ’80s, it was kind of quirky and fun, but then it caught on big time and that of course ruined it.

Incredibly, many young girls and women still goofily talk like that today. I'm sure Frank Zappa is laughing his long dark curly locks off wherever he is, but I, for one, have had enough? Sorry, couldn't resist. Gag me with a spoon, as Moon Unit would say.

Now to get back to thinking about hobbies, and by that I mean leisure-time activities, not birds of prey.

On Jan. 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner, and it was another cold Tuesday morning. Most of the OFs left home and found zero, or a tad below, was the morning temperature — not a good way to start the day.

As this scribe renders this report to the computer screen, it is not any warmer. This scribe also wonders what the future generations will do to keep warm in the cold climates when the fossil fuels run out. They are not infinite, you know.

Speaking of the future generations, the OFs began talking about making plans from when they exit this world and go to the next. One OF said he wonders how many times we have done that.

Another OF said he may have been walking this planet as a cow, and, when that cow died, he came back as a fly, and, when the fly died, he came back as this OF. Whoops! The OMOTM’s first whacko.

In reality, the OFs were talking about how they will leave their personal information like wills, or no wills, things that they would like to see passed on, and to whom.  They need to have the next of kin know where they have their personal papers in case the wife has already passed on, or they should both be killed when their motorcycle went off the road.

Some of the OFs haven’t done a thing because it is too scary to think about and these OFs don’t want to do it.

Others have everything organized and explained to the kids so there will be as little of a hassle as possible for them when the OF kicks the bucket and his toe doesn’t hurt. A couple of the OFs have their plots and headstones bought and paid for.

One OF had the kids come and put stickers on what they want, and let them hassle it out now before the OF is gone, and what they don’t want can be auctioned off, or sold at a garage sale, or hauled to the dump.

The OF said, “I’m dead so how can I care?  I won’t even know if they speak good or bad, for crying out loud, I am dead, no skin off my bones what they say.”

Another OF said, “I can add to that, my kids can’t even get along while they are alive; their squabbles are a pain in the butt. I am going to leave everything so screwed up that it will take those two years of hassle just to straighten it out. And I don’t care if they wrap me in a sheet, put me on the manure spreader, and spread me over the field.  Like you say, I’m dead — I won’t know.”

Knox, RIP

Talk about dead — that is what the town of Knox is. What it was just a few short years ago, and what it is like today; there is a big difference.

The OFs from the Hill all remembered Si (Stevens) and the gas station, the country store, and going to the post office, all gone now, and so far replaced by nothing. One OF commented the only thing in the town of Knox now is the church.

 “But,” said one OF, “There is still the town park, the fire department, and the Taj Mahal-Town Hall.”

The OFs were remembering Si and the gas station, and the people visiting on the porch covering the day’s events and some of the OFs joining in. They mentioned Si and the penny candy and how she scooped out the ice cream and hand-packed it.

One OF mentioned how Si went to the garage to get kerosene for them and you couldn’t help her with it even if you wanted to. “Don’t you touch it,” she would say, “I will do it.”

What happened?  Did it all just find a sinkhole and disappear?

The OFs said what they have said many times: “We think we have lived through the best of times.”

One OF said that what the town of Knox needs is four large tombstones with “RIP town of Knox.  Beware of the Ghost of Years Gone By.”

One OF said, “Don’t be too hasty.  Towns and cities have ways of coming back, just like the movie The Lion King where the moral of the movie is the circle of life.  Again we can’t improve anything by being negative.”

“Spoil sport,” was the retort.           

Wish on STAR

The OFs had some conversation on the STAR [School TAx Relief] program, and in this group almost all are qualified for this program. The forms, though they are short and do not ask for much information, are quite confusing to the OFs.

There is one rule in the third paragraph of the Renewal Application which states:  “All owners, including nonresident owners, must attach a copy of either their 2012 federal or state income tax returns (if filed). (Tax schedules and tax form attachments are not routinely required.)”  Duh. Which is it? Must attach, or not routinely required? Another duh. There appears to be something left out here. Or maybe the OFs are old and have lost the art of reading between the lines.

This scribe checked, and the answer is, yes, send a copy. The second part about “not routinely required” is for all the extra stuff that goes with many tax forms; all they want is the front page. They are just looking for proof that whoever is applying made under 80-some thousand dollars. Not to worry for most or all of the OFs.

Some of the OFs who watch the news remembered hearing discussions about people taking advantage of the STAR program and were wondering if the new forms were an attempt to plug some of the holes. The OFs just didn’t know and there wasn’t any cover letter explaining the forms.

The forms looked the same, but to some of the OFs read differently.

One OF remembered his brother-in-law telling him at one time that, when people did not understand his directions, or instructions, it was not their ability about understanding — it was his inability to communicate the instructions or directions sufficiently enough so there would be no misunderstanding. It is not the hearer’s or reader’s fault; it is the communicator’s fault for not being clear.

“Amen to that,” the OFs said.

Those attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and getting out on another cold day were: Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Krause, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Andy Tinning, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.

Continuing with Marvin “Shorty” Vrooman’s newspaper clippings from the Knowersville Enterprise “From Our Files” column dated July 4th, 1885:

Local: Our druggist’s, Messrs. Davenport and Frederick have placed a soda fountain in their store and the boys are now saving their nickels wherewith to provide his delicious drinks for their lady friends.

The show of the season — the first big show will appear in Knowersville on Monday, July 20, and give two exhibitions.  It is a Frank A. Robbins’ circus and menagerie.  They have been highly complimented by the press throughout the country where they have performed and from what we can learn have deserved all the praise that has been bestowed upon them.

Saturday, July 11, 1885 

Guilderland: As usual, the 4th passed off very quietly here.  The small boys delighted in powder crackers and torpedoes throughout the day and about 4:30 pm we had a slight shower which cleared away.

In the evening there was a final display of fireworks in front of Sloan’s Hotel.  Two balloons ascended and it was a very enjoyable evening.

Saturday, July 18, 1885

Local: The residents of the village are much concerned over several burglaries during the past week.  On Friday night, burglars entered the houses of Messrs. Crary, Hart, and Ostrander, and relieved Mr, Crary of upwards of $30 and Mr. Ostrander of about $2.  They secured nothing of Mr. Hart as they awakened the household before they accomplished their purpose.  On Sunday night, an attempt was made at the residence of Mr. Philey, but as people were on the alert nothing came of it.                   

Saturday, July 25, 1885

Local: Thursday evening, August 3rd, the Knowersville Orchestra will give an instrumental  and vocal concert in the Lutheran Church. The admission is placed at 25 cents and everyone purchasing a ticket will be entitled to a dish of ice cream, which will be served immediately after the concert.  As everyone who has heard our orchestra knows that it will be a rare treat.

Monday, July 20th, was a red-letter day in our town, the occasion being the Frank A. Robbins circus and menagerie.  People gathered from near and far and by the time of the parade, the streets were filled with strangers.

The work on the new houses and the improvements on those already built is progressing favorably. Messrs. Tice, Staley and Wilber will be able to occupy theirs soon.  Mr. Osbornlighter is ready for mason work and carpenters are still at work on the homes of Van Auken and Crounse.

Guilderland Station: The summer boarders still continue to arrive en route for the Helderbergs. It is reported that the various boarding houses are being filled rapidly.

West Township: Two gentlemen have been through this place engaging hop pickers.

Saturday, August 1, 1885

Local: Tuesday, August 18, Triumph Lodge will go on an excursion to New Baltimore.  They go by train to Albany, leaving Knowersville at 9:35 a.m., stopping at Guilderland Station and Voorheesville, thence by boat to New Batimore, arriving there at 12:15pm.  A fine grove has been secured and in the afternoon baseball and other games will be the order of the day.  They leave New Baltimore on the return trip at 7:20 thus giving everyone a chance of a moonlight ride on the Hudson and arriving at Knowersville at 10:00 pm.

The fare for the round trip has been placed at 75 cents.  Ice cream and refreshments will be served on the boat, and everything done to make the trip enjoyable for all.

Saturday, August 8, 1885

Local: Nearly all the flagstone for the walk on the east side of Church Street (now Maple) have been delayed.

Sand’s Mill will resume business Aug. 10th having added a new power and remodeled their mill in general, they will be able to turn out work in the best manner.  Feed grinding on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Saturday, August 15, 1885

Thompson’s Lake: Seventy-seven registered ay the Lake View House

Sunday.

Guilderland Center: A.V. Mynderse is building an addition to his vinegar house. Phillip Ogsbury is doing the carpentry work.

Local: We are pleased to note that improvements are taking place in  Prospect Street and Helderberg Avenue. The first mentioned street has a stone walk its entire length.  We hope that Church Street will wake up and do likewise.

Why can’t some arrangement be made with the railroad company so we can have a nice park in our village? A neat fence, shade trees, walks, flowers, etc. would transform an unsightly common into a beautiful park.

Guilderland Center: The game of baseball between the “Get There Elies” of Guilderland and the “Brown Leghorns” of this place was won by the latter, 42 to 8.

Local:  At the annual school meeting on Tuesday, the following were elected for the ensuing year:  Jacob Van Benscoten, trustee; N. Sturges, collector;  F. Keenholts, librarian;  George Lainhart, clerk.   The sum of $710 was voted to be raised to defray expenses for the current year.

Historian's note: If readers would like to read more of "Shorty” Vrooman's columns, "From Our Files," published in The Altamont Enterprise from July 28, 1978 to Dec. 13, 1984, they can be accessed through the Guilderland Public Library website along with the original McKownville Enterprise editions from which they were taken.

Continuing with Marvin “Shorty” Vrooman’s newspaper clippings from the Knowersville Enterprise “From Our Files” column dated July 4th, 1885:

Local: Our druggist’s, Messrs. Davenport and Frederick have placed a soda fountain in their store and the boys are now saving their nickels wherewith to provide his delicious drinks for their lady friends.

The show of the season — the first big show will appear in Knowersville on Monday, July 20, and give two exhibitions.  It is a Frank A. Robbins’ circus and menagerie.  They have been highly complimented by the press throughout the country where they have performed and from what we can learn have deserved all the praise that has been bestowed upon them.

Saturday, July 11, 1885 

Guilderland: As usual, the 4th passed off very quietly here.  The small boys delighted in powder crackers and torpedoes throughout the day and about 4:30 pm we had a slight shower which cleared away.

In the evening there was a final display of fireworks in front of Sloan’s Hotel.  Two balloons ascended and it was a very enjoyable evening.

Saturday, July 18, 1885

Local: The residents of the village are much concerned over several burglaries during the past week.  On Friday night, burglars entered the houses of Messrs. Crary, Hart, and Ostrander, and relieved Mr, Crary of upwards of $30 and Mr. Ostrander of about $2.  They secured nothing of Mr. Hart as they awakened the household before they accomplished their purpose.  On Sunday night, an attempt was made at the residence of Mr. Philey, but as people were on the alert nothing came of it.                   

Saturday, July 25, 1885

Local: Thursday evening, August 3rd, the Knowersville Orchestra will give an instrumental  and vocal concert in the Lutheran Church. The admission is placed at 25 cents and everyone purchasing a ticket will be entitled to a dish of ice cream, which will be served immediately after the concert.  As everyone who has heard our orchestra knows that it will be a rare treat.

Monday, July 20th, was a red-letter day in our town, the occasion being the Frank A. Robbins circus and menagerie.  People gathered from near and far and by the time of the parade, the streets were filled with strangers.

The work on the new houses and the improvements on those already built is progressing favorably. Messrs. Tice, Staley and Wilber will be able to occupy theirs soon.  Mr. Osbornlighter is ready for mason work and carpenters are still at work on the homes of Van Auken and Crounse.

Guilderland Station: The summer boarders still continue to arrive en route for the Helderbergs. It is reported that the various boarding houses are being filled rapidly.

West Township: Two gentlemen have been through this place engaging hop pickers.

Saturday, August 1, 1885

Local: Tuesday, August 18, Triumph Lodge will go on an excursion to New Baltimore.  They go by train to Albany, leaving Knowersville at 9:35 a.m., stopping at Guilderland Station and Voorheesville, thence by boat to New Batimore, arriving there at 12:15pm.  A fine grove has been secured and in the afternoon baseball and other games will be the order of the day.  They leave New Baltimore on the return trip at 7:20 thus giving everyone a chance of a moonlight ride on the Hudson and arriving at Knowersville at 10:00 pm.

The fare for the round trip has been placed at 75 cents.  Ice cream and refreshments will be served on the boat, and everything done to make the trip enjoyable for all.

Saturday, August 8, 1885

Local: Nearly all the flagstone for the walk on the east side of Church Street (now Maple) have been delayed.

Sand’s Mill will resume business Aug. 10th having added a new power and remodeled their mill in general, they will be able to turn out work in the best manner.  Feed grinding on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Saturday, August 15, 1885

Thompson’s Lake: Seventy-seven registered ay the Lake View House

Sunday.

Guilderland Center: A.V. Mynderse is building an addition to his vinegar house. Phillip Ogsbury is doing the carpentry work.

Local: We are pleased to note that improvements are taking place in  Prospect Street and Helderberg Avenue. The first mentioned street has a stone walk its entire length.  We hope that Church Street will wake up and do likewise.

Why can’t some arrangement be made with the railroad company so we can have a nice park in our village? A neat fence, shade trees, walks, flowers, etc. would transform an unsightly common into a beautiful park.

Guilderland Center: The game of baseball between the “Get There Elies” of Guilderland and the “Brown Leghorns” of this place was won by the latter, 42 to 8.

Local:  At the annual school meeting on Tuesday, the following were elected for the ensuing year:  Jacob Van Benscoten, trustee; N. Sturges, collector;  F. Keenholts, librarian;  George Lainhart, clerk.   The sum of $710 was voted to be raised to defray expenses for the current year.

Historian's note: If readers would like to read more of "Shorty” Vrooman's columns, "From Our Files," published in The Altamont Enterprise from July 28, 1978 to Dec. 13, 1984, they can be accessed through the Guilderland Public Library website along with the original McKownville Enterprise editions from which they were taken.

On Jan. 14, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie. The contingent of Old Men that attacked the Blue Star was large in number.

The OFs thought it was the good weather that brought so many to the breakfast, or maybe it was just timing. One OF started counting backwards the last three or four Tuesdays, and recounted the temperature for those Tuesdays, and it was zero or below.

Tuesday was 40 degrees when most of the OFs started out. This OF, too, may be right — it could be the weather.

The OFs started talking about how the concern for our country’s past is quickly being lost by many of our young people because of the desire for the dollar.

So much of the country is being bought up and torn down to build this mall or that mall, or this housing development or that development, or this parking lot or that parking lot; soon all the young people will have to remind them of their heritage will be photographs.

The OFs said that many developers will destroy a historic building to build a mall when two miles down the road is a mall that has been abandoned. The OFs can’t understand this, and the thinking of the town fathers that let it happen.

“It all comes down to greed, and greased palms,” one OF said.

“And who owns what,” another added.

The OFs mentioned two barns that are in good shape coming down. The key word here is “good” shape. The OFs agreed that, if something is ready to come down around its ears, tear it down before someone gets hurt and replace it with something useful. So often that does not seem to be the case.

Maybe it is because the OFs are antiques themselves that they are concerned with preserving antiquity. It is thought that thousands of people travel thousands of miles to countries abroad to see, touch, and feel buildings, streets, and communities of old, and here, in many cases, we bulldoze the same things down.

Moldy material

The OFs discussed the newer composite decking material that was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. Some of the OFs who have used the material say there is, in a short period of time (depending on location), mold that appears quite quickly on this material.

These OFs said that, once the mold does occur, the material becomes very slippery. One OF went so far as to purchase a pretty good-sized pressure washer to wash the mold off.

One OF also said, the older the material is, the quicker the mold reappears. None of the OFs knew why this happens or if it is something they missed in the instructions.

For instance, should their deck be located where it receives a lot of sunshine?  One OG said the stuff is expensive, and he is stuck with it now.

“Oh well, live and learn,” one OF pined.

 Better doesn’t always win

One OF mentioned that his kids gave him a new iPod. (This scribe thinks this is right.) And, if this scribe understood the OG right, this new piece of technology does not work with the other computer equipment he has, like printers and scanners.

Kodak found that having a proprietary product does not work, and so did Beta way back when. Beta had the better product but it only worked with Beta.

The OFs think that there should be ways that, if some company comes up with a great product, that company should allow for connections to all the other products that pertain to that product instead of making it so the purchaser of that product has to go and buy another printer, scanner, or whatever to work with that product. This would make the connections and compatibility universal.

“Nah, too simple,” one OF said.

Eventually, in many cases, the better product will go the way of the Dodo bird just like Beta.

Tapped out

Most of the OFs have received their power bills and were ready to take what muscles they have left and attack the power company.  Of course, this would not be a fair fight because the power company employees wear hard hats.

Then the bills came from the fuel oil companies with their outrageous price for home heating oil.

“No wonder,” one OF said, “couple these charges with the taxes and anyone can see why so many are leaving the state.”

One OF said, “When the last one leaves, will they please close the door and turn out the light?”

One OF commented he hears one legislator wants two billon dollars for this, and another wants a billion for that, and yet another wants a billon so his yacht club can have another ramp.

The OF chuckled and said, “I just made that last part up.”

But, by golly, the scribe bets it is true and this money could be hidden somewhere in all these billons of dollars.

The same OF said he remembers when a hundred bucks was a lot of money. The OF continued with the key issue, “Where in h--- (fill in the blanks with letters of your choosing) do they think the money is coming from?  I am already tapped out just from paying those ridiculous power, heating, and gas bills, let alone my meds. And I am getting tired of eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with a cup of soup day in and day out; there is nothing left in my pockets but lint!”

(What is a billion?  This number gets thrown around like chump change.  A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive and the Roman Empire was in full swing.  A billion hours ago, we were in the Stone Age.)

Those attending the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie and becoming really concerned about the health of some of the OFs and their wives were: Kenneth Parks, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Andy Tinning, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Dick Ogsbury, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aleseio, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Bill Rice, Don Moser, Don Wood, Henry Whipple, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

About an hour ago, a small calico kitten named Nibbler was sitting on my desk, looking at me. She was obviously considering whether or not to kick me off my computer and go online to look for cat videos on YouTube.

Another cat named Lemon was sitting at my jewelry bench across the office, also watching me and wondering why I wasn’t busily opening a can of cat food for him or cleaning his litter box.

Meanwhile, my sometime co-author Minnie, the now almost 15-year old Chihuahua, was asleep on our bed, oblivious to the feline machinations.

So how did I come to have cats in my office? No, I didn’t forget to close the back door. It’s way weirder than that and involves traps, strays, cat people, and the Dumpster behind the Chinese restaurant.

Sometime in late October, my wife and I were taking our evening walk when we noticed a kitten behind the Chinese restaurant. We explored further and discovered she had friends.

We started out just leaving a few cat treats for them and then we moved up to feeding them. Finally, with winter approaching, my kind-hearted wife started worrying about what would happen to them when it got cold.

They were moving from an abandoned barn across the railroad tracks to the hot-air vent at the Laundromat, but that was obviously not going to cut it once it got really cold. So, being an occasionally smart guy, I called Animal Control.

They don’t do cats. Really. Just dogs, and rabid things and stray politicians I guess.

I called a few cat organizations and was pretty much told the inn was full. So finally, Happy Cats, a nice agency over in Voorheesville said, if we could catch them and hang onto them for a bit, they could find homes for them. Not a big deal right? Oh, so wrong.

Happy Cats loaded my car with three Havahart traps, two good-sized crates, and instructions. Within two days, we had five semi-wild kittens in our living room, eating, meowing, and pooping in pretty much that order.

Now what? I contacted a few other agencies, including the wonderful folks at Whiskers and Guilderhaven.

Next stop, the vet. Using a couple borrowed carriers, I managed to get all five to the vet for checkups, shots, and tests. We now had three crates, five cats, medications, and enough cat food to feed them for awhile.

Then I got a call from the vet that they needed more meds over the following week. That equaled two syringes full of icky tasting liquid per cat per day. Seriously. After an insane session of holding struggling cats, and watching meds fly everywhere (it was very fetching as a hair product), we started mixing it in with food, which mostly worked.

Then began the daily insanity of taking care of Caramel, Nibbler, Lemon, Harry, and Demon Kitty for almost two months. It literally took from Nov. 5 until almost Jan. 1 before the final kitty was adopted/fostered and we were left with the two I already mentioned.

The house is now free of crates, we’re down to one litter box, and there seem to be cat toys everywhere I look. I think cat toys must breed and multiply at night.

This is not my first rodeo. I’ve had a cat or two in my past, but never mildly domesticated kittens. To these guys, each and every object in the house is either for playing with, scratching, biting, or eating (including the aforementioned dog).

They climb better than mountain goats with crampons and eat like starving hyenas. They’re rather comical, very strange, and have the same number of mood swings as a menopausal human woman.

So now, three months after the initial discovery with two more mouths to feed, I realize that no good deed goes unpunished.

If we had to do it over again, would we? Knowing what we do now? Not likely. But, thanks to the fine folks who helped us, all the kitties are safe and warm, healthy, and out of the cold.

So that’s what we’ve been up to for the past couple of months. Nibbler and Lemon are nice people and once they and Minnie reach some sort of agreement on sharing territory, I think things will be OK. In the future, we’ll be leaving animal rescue to professionals or people far crazier than we are.

Editor’s note: Mike Seinberg, a lifelong dog fan and animal lover in general, says, as a rule, he prefers animals to people.

He recommends to everyone who can, to support Happy Cat, Guilderhaven, and Whiskers either financially, as a volunteer or by adopting an animal, and says these are great organizations run by dedicated people trying to do the right thing.

There was an article in a local newspaper about learning how to do remodeling and home-improvement projects. It told about the many benefits of doing such work; including learning new skills; the pride gained from doing it yourself, and, of course, saving money.

It also noted that doing these kinds of projects, especially for first-timers, would naturally take longer than having a pro do it, or even an experienced amateur. One way to find this extra time, it said, was to drop any exercise program from your schedule, and use that time to work on the project.

Now, I've read hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles on getting in shape over the years. These articles always explain the importance of getting enough exercise and offer plenty of tips on how to squeeze exercise into our busy lives.

That's why I was so blown away when I read something telling me not to exercise. It was like my conception of reality was turned upside down.

I thought about this recently as I undertook refurbishment of a bedroom, hallways, and stairway in my home. This was a large-scale project — a lot of Sheetrock repair; a new door; new flooring; and, of course, fresh paint.

Like the newspaper article said, I took time that I'd normally use to exercise to do this work, but it wasn't by choice; I had arthroscopic shoulder surgery a couple of months ago, and I'm still waiting to get my full strength back so I can start exercising again. The funny thing is, even though I wasn't exercising in the normal sense, I sure got plenty of workouts.

When you're working on the second floor and your tools are in the basement, you face a dilemma — how many tools to bring up? You don't want to bring up so many that you'll have a ton to put away, but not so few that you need to make a lot of up and down trips either. No matter how you do it, the exercise you get from traversing two sets of stairs over and over adds up, let me tell you.

I had to remove lamps from the ceilings and patch and paint up there. Just working overhead is quite taxing, not only for the strength required, but also for craning your neck to see what you're doing.

Ouch.

It's also nice when the paint splatters on your hair and face; that way, when you look in the mirror later, it really looks like you accomplished something. Hey, some people pay big bucks to get their hair colored. I got mine colored for free.

I truly admire guys who do this work every day. I have a feeling that their own houses need work, because I'll bet the last thing they want to do at the end of the day is more of the same.

Think about that for a minute. You're a painter yet your house needs painting; you're a carpenter yet your house needs repair. No wonder why so many people play the lottery.

Do it your way

Aside from the workout you get (whether you want it or not), the really good thing about doing your own remodeling is you get the final say in every aspect.

For example, a lot of places sell painting supplies, but I only buy one very well regarded brand along with the best brushes when I paint. Painting is so involved that I only want to do it once.

The only time I've ever heard any valid reason to use less than the best was a landlord telling me he cuts his paint 50 percent when the tenants change because he's really just painting to clean.

If you can wait for the sales — and you can if you're doing it yourself — you can get the best at a good price, so that's what I do. Painting is just too much work to have to deal with inferior materials.

Don't forget, of course, when you work on a room, you have to get the stuff out of the room first. It's times like these when you realize just how dusty and dirty things can get when you don't deal with them for a long time.

Sometimes you'll even find something you'd thought you'd lost forever; I once found a much-loved belt-carried multi-tool, which had been missing for years, when I moved a desk. No such luck this time, but rooms look so much better when they're less cluttered that it's worth a painting job just as an excuse to clean things out. Less truly is more

With any kind of painting, the trick is in the preparation. If you can feel any kind of bump or ridge with your fingers, you'll see it when it's painted. So now you're into endless spackling, sanding, and priming; the problem is in knowing when to stop.

I always tell myself I'm not going for House Beautiful or whatever other magazines there are that celebrate such stuff, and the truth is you tend to focus on the flaws because you know where they are, but others may not even notice.

Others in this case does not include my lovely wife, because she has the impressive talent of being able to spot any drips, runs, or unspackled holes the instant she walks into the room, no matter where they are, in about two seconds. They say that all men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner; how true, how true.

Once all your prep work is done, the interior design aspect of the job begins; you have to chose colors and styles. Here is where I lose it totally.

I have absolutely no sense of style or what matches what. Believe it or not, I go by the names of colors more than anything else. For example, the color I used for the bedroom, a cool and calm light blue, is called Niagara Falls.

Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? I know, it makes no sense, but I have a wife to deal with color schemes and all that. She picks by look, I pick by name, and somehow or another it just works out, how about that.

You don't normally think of painting as exciting work but have you tried painting a stairway ceiling lately? You can use a roller on an extension for the main part, but that won't work for cutting in the sides.

Here — there's just no way around it — you need a ladder. I have a fancy new one where the legs can be adjusted separately, so I set it up on the stairs. Looking at it was weird; it just doesn't seem natural for a stepladder to have two unequal length legs.

Since I've had a ladder collapse under me, I'm very careful around them now. I gingerly got on it and, yes, it held and I was able to cut in the sides and corners, but I never felt real comfortable on it. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. It's going to take me quite a while before my faith in ladders is restored.

The finale

 When you're done and showing off your handiwork, People will admire it unless they're married to you or using a microscope; as long as you get things mostly smooth, you should be OK. If you want absolute perfection — true glass-like smoothness on all visible surfaces — be prepared to pay for it with lots of time or money. There is no other way.

I truly think most of the value from a painting project comes from the cleaning and overall freshening up that goes along with it. My new rules are: No shoes on the new carpets and less stuff in the rooms, including only the bare minimum of stuff hanging on the walls. I hope that following these rules along with the normal vacuuming and dusting  will mean I won't be doing this work again any time soon.

The good news is the project got done and the one bedroom along with the hallways and stairway now look terrific. The bad news is the rest of the house now looks way overdue for the same treatment, sigh. Once my shoulder gets better I hope to get back to exercising, so I guess now is the time to buy more paint while I still have some free time. I wonder if they have a color called Serenity Now?

On Jan. 7, the Old Men of the Mountain’s first breakfast of 2014 was at the Country Café in Schoharie, and it was cold. The OFs were talking about how cold it was and that most of the OFs have experienced colder weather than this but, for some reason the air on Tuesday, was cold.

One OF remembered the real temperature, not this wind-chill thing, on the Hill was about 20 or maybe even 30 below. This, the OF thought, was in the mid 1980s to early ’90s. (With the OFs, time is so irrelevant that they may say something happened a couple of years ago when, in fact, it would by more like 10 years ago. So the ’80s or ’90s could be a tad off. )

Back to the conversation.

“At that time,” the OF said, “the coldest temperature in the nation was announced on the radio to be in Canajoharie, N.Y.”

This OF said, on that particular day, he was supposed to go to Utica, N.Y. and, as he drove up the Thruway towards Utica, the OF noticed the highway was like a tractor-trailer parking lot.  All along the Thruway, the big rigs were brought to a standstill by the fuel gelling, even with additives.

This OF said he got off at Canajoharie just to see what the coldest temperature in the nation would be like. The OF reported it was no different than the 20 to 30 below on the Hill.

When it gets that cold, cold is cold!

However, this same OF said that the cold walking up the sidewalk in Schoharie to the Country Café, was cold and he noticed it. Some OFs wondered if it was because back then the OF was about 45 years old, and now he is 80.

“Well,” the OF said.

Then another OF said, “We are not used to it; we have not had a real cold snap like this in years.”

“Whatever…” the OF was sure glad to close the door behind him as he went into Country Café.

News stays the same

This scribe is reviewing his notes taken at the breakfast, and the list runs from bottom to top, cars, kids, stories, pigs, cows, health, who you know better than what you know, and reporting the news. Much of that is redundant like cars, kids, pigs, cows, and especially health, which leaves the talk of who you know better than what you know, and reporting the news.

A little clarifier here, many of the OFs do not watch the news, but, when they do, they find that the news doesn’t change. One OF mentioned that, if he catches the news one day, and then does not watch it for a couple of weeks, and happens to catch it again, it is the same news; just the names and locations are different.

Another OF said, if something really spikes his attention, he will become interested and watch it until that event plays out. This OF mentioned the 911 attack on our country, and another news episode was the landing of the plane in the Hudson River.

One a disaster, the other a miracle, and that is about it.

One OF said that he gets really ticked when he does catch the news and can understand why people who watch it on a regular basis are so stressed out.

Another OF made only one brief comment.  He claimed that so much of the news is slanted one way or the other and the newscasters act like they are holy. Whichever way the station is bent, they think they have the solution to the problem, when, in his opinion, they are the problem.

“Conversely,” an OF commented, “I watch the news all the time. How do you guys know what’s going on? How do you know what the weather is going be?”

“You believe those guys; I just look out the window,” said another OF.

Give me a newspaper any day, get one paper leaning one way and another paper leaning the other and somewhere in the middle they just may be right and there is always the funnies to balance it out. Any way the paper bends the news, “Pickles,” “Pearls,” and “Speed Bump” are great stress relievers.

Getting somewhere

Many of the OFs think this is too true. You might have the solution to solving the most demanding problem going, like curing cancer, or a propulsion system that does not require fossil fuels, and, if you do not know the right people, it goes nowhere.

One OF asked the rhetorical question: How many of the OFs got their first job from someone they knew, or someone told you that so-and-so was looking for somebody to do a certain job?

It was interesting how many wound up working at a job that, in their formative years, the OF was not even trained to do.  Because someone recommended the OF and the someone the OF was recommended to had a matching karma, that OF turned out doing really well at whatever it was.

In college, it is quite often said, the contacts made are better than the education.

“Yeah,” an OF said, “but, even then if you are a wise guy and a slacker, that trait will come through and the contacts will not be worth anything because that is how you will be remembered.”

“You’re right,” a second OF said. “I guess the real approach is to try and do your best all the time.”

This OF said he wound up working at a position that was nothing like what he studied for and did very well. One thing the OF did in college was learn to adapt, and to study, and to retain what he studied. Life is funny that way.
Those gathering at the Country Café in Schoharie and having the Hungry Man Special, which should hold anyone for a week, were: Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.                                  

In 1994, Joel Edwards, Mary Therriault, and Vic Ross sat down in a church basement in Altamont, and came up with a plan for volunteers to help their neighbors. Twenty years later, that plan is still in place and has since helped thousands of area residents.

Neighbors helping neighbors was the original idea and we’re proud to say that is still the guiding principle behind everything we do. Our volunteers and clients form the heart of this organization and this year we want to celebrate both.

To that end, several events and initiatives have been planned for 2014 that include enhanced versions of the Golf Outing and Gala, a special commemorative giveaway, an annual appeal, special Pay-It-Forward volunteer effort in the spring and summer, and a drawing involving many Guilderland and Bethlehem area restaurants. 

The recognition will kick off this month with the annual appeal campaign, “Twenty Thousand for Twenty Years.”  The goal is to reach $20,000 through donations from individuals and businesses.

The organization currently provides services that enable individuals of all ages to maintain their independence, dignity, and quality of life within their homes and communities. We offer non-medical assistance to local residents who might otherwise be hospitalized or institutionalized, and help home caregivers manage the physical, emotional, and financial toll that continuous caregiving can take.

Community Caregivers serves residents of mainly the Hilltowns, Bethlehem, Guilderland, Altamont, and Voorheesville area of Albany County, but, in 2012, we also started providing services in the city of Albany.

For more information, please contact me by e-mail at kathy@communitycaregivers.org or by phone at 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Kathy Burbank is the executive director of Community Caregivers.

— From the Guilderland Historical Society

Historic Enterprise: A 1960 photo in the Altamont Enterprise building shows Marvin “Shorty” Vroman, then part owner of the newspaper, seated at the typesetting machine. James Gardner, at rear, the present owner, and James Pino, a former part owner, look on.  The weekly paper has been published continuously since 1884.

 

A frail blue, cardboard-covered booklet titled “From Our Files” was passed on to this historian from the late assistant town historian, Fred Abele.  It is a collection of news items put together by the late Marvin “Shorty” Vroman, who had been a part owner of The Altamont Enterprise

Vroman assembled the news items from 1978 to 1982. The news had been published from 1885 to 1891 in the issues of the local weekly paper.

The century-old news clippings give a sharp look at the beginnings of the small village of Altamont, handling its growth just as the time for electricity and cars were beginning to make transportation and community growth completely different.

This historian will begin with several of the news items of 1884 and 1885 in the tiny village then called Knowersville before it became Altamont in 1890.

Saturday, Nov. 29, 1884

Local:  Knowersville has become a ready market for all farm produce.  Over 10,000 bushels of wheat has been floured at Sand’s Mill this fall.

On account of not having space in last week’s edition, we were obliged to leave out the grand parade and clambake which took place last Wednesday evening...There were not as many present as was anticipated  (on account of the storm) yet there were enough to  devour five barrels of clams. 

The village was illuminated with Chinese lanterns and bonfires.  The Knowersville House was immensely illuminated, every window from basement to garret was differently arranged; no pen could picture what the eye could catch at a glance.

Guilderland Center: G. Young has opened a butcher shop on Maple St. We wish Mr. Young success.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 1884

Local: The one great advantage Knowersville has, the farmers can sell all their produce of this place and receive more money than taking out the expense of going to Albany. And they can buy groceries, boots, shoes, nails, and cap from our merchants as cheap as they can buy in the city.

Saturday, Dec. 20, 1884

Local: We have a little snow, not much, just a little. Children look out for old Santa Claus Christmas Eve.

Saturday, Dec. 27, 1884

Editorial titled “For 1885”: “The year of 1884 is fast drawing to a close,  and would it not be well to take one glance back over the past year and see if any improvements have been made in regard to our moral, spiritual, or intellectual qualifications, and then start the new year with a better determination; that it permitted to live to the end of next year…and make greater change for the better.

“Every year brings changes in various ways; what is Knowersville now, only a few years ago was farmland with here and there a dwelling.  The old Susquehanna, as a few years ago it was called, started for a trip to Binghamton and passed through this farming community.

“A station was built and located at the foot of the Helderbergs,  and soon a store and stores, then dwellings, hotels, church and then more dwellings etc. The people came from  surrounding towns and the capital city; they came each year and brought to this village marked improvement, and we have no doubt that during the next year, 1885,  there will be greater improvements in regard to the wealth of our beautiful village.”

Local: The sleighing is very good — good enough to go visiting. The thermometer at The Enterprise stood at 18 below zero.

Fuller’s Station: The laying of the abutment at the covered bridge causes great inconvenience to the traveling public.

A.M. LaGrange killed 37 turkeys that weighed 458 pounds when dressed.

Knowersville Market:  “Butter, 22 cents per pound, eggs, 28 cents per dozen, rye,  65 cents per bushel, oats 32 cents and new hay $7 - $14 per ton; buckwheat 50 cents per bushel, stove coal $5.25 per ton, pea coal $4.25, chestnut $5.25 and bituminous $6.00.

Saturday, Feb. 28, 1885

We are informed that a skating rink has been opened at Hart’s Hotel, Thompson’s Lake.

A.F. Dietz will build on his property purchased from M. VanAuken, a new barn and a manufacturing building for making and bottling soda, sarsaparilla etc. H. Schoonmaker has the contract.

Fuller’s Station: A passenger train with nearly 200 passengers aboard was stalled about a mile west of here Wednesday morning and remained until nearly night.

Nearly all our boys and men are shoveling snow on the West Shore. Only one track is open to date.

The Enterprise failed to make their appearance Saturday night.  They must have been stalled in a snowdrift.

Saturday, March 7, 1885

Aaron Blessing has informed us that he has already loaded and shipped over 100 carloads of hay and straw for Mr. Fuller.  He said their large barn is entirely filled with straw awaiting transportation.

Guilderland Center: A.F. Dietz of this place will remove to Knowersville where he will continue to manufacture sarsaparilla soda etc.

On Wednesday morning, the thermometer marked 4 degrees below zero.

 

Note: This historian will, in future columns, attend to more of early news columns assembled by Shorty Vroman.

 

Location:

— By John R. Williams

On Christmas Eve, many of the Old Men of the Mountain, served on a Santa-strewn tablecloth, were dressed in red and green or wore Santa hats for the occasion.

 

On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for their traditional Christmas Party. Again, the staff of the restaurant out- did themselves with the hors d’oeuvres on the tables.

There was enough there to feed all the OFs without ordering breakfast. Of course, the OFs did order their normal breakfast plus they cleaned up a lot that was placed on the table, especially the hot meatballs. The OFs would like to thank Loretta, Patty, and their team for having such a scrumptious holiday spread for the Old Men of the Mountain.

Some of the OFs came all decked out for the occasion — some in Santa hats; and others with Christmas sweaters; some wearing red and green; and there was one fellow there with a battery-operated Christmas-tree-bulb necktie, which was all lit up. 

A couple of the OFs who are musically inclined brought their instruments and the restaurant had a small area set up for them to play Christmas music.  The OFs joined in on the tunes they knew.

Of course, Gene Autry was doing a couple of flips in his grave, and maybe even holding his ears as the OFs attempted to sing “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” 

This year, on the “eves,” the Old Men of the Mountain will stay in Middleburgh because, on New Year’s Eve, the OFs will be at the Middleburgh Diner. This makes two attacks (in Middleburgh) by the OFs to end the year 2013.

Can that little town take it? The town fathers might think about reactivating the Schoharie County Militia, muskets at the ready with fixed bayonets, prepared to run the OFs out of town if they even attempt to sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

Tractor origins

This scribe had to raise his eyebrows as some of the OGs’ next conversations and observations did not seem correct. However, there is always the chance the OGs might be right, so it was off to the Internet to check them out. (The Internet is always right, you know).

The flat statement made by a couple of OFs was that “no” tractors were made in this country, that “all” tractors were made elsewhere. The words “no” and “all” are what drew attention to the conversation.

In checking, this scribe found a real mixed bag, so, using John Deere as one example, it was found that Deere manufactures tractors in many countries throughout the world. 

Most of these factories make farming equipment, lawn and garden equipment, harvesting equipment, heavy constructing equipment, among a slew of other products, including toys and clothing, which are done on a leasing basis. Depending on the size of tractor the OFs want, it can come from the United States, India, or wherever. 

McCormack International, though, is quite convoluted.  Sales to companies and different conglomerate organizations are now in business from Italy.  Another company is currently buying the rights as this scribe understands the dealings. This scribe can’t follow all this high-end business intrigue, so it is suggested, if you are interested, go check it out on the net.  

Kubota Tractors were originally built, starting in 1890 in Osaka, Japan; however, in 1988, Kubota opened a huge plant in Gainesville, Georgia, where it produces the tractors for the U.S. 

So, in two of the examples, John Deere started here and built plants all over; Kubota started there, and built plants all over. The answer is: “Yes,” many tractors are still built in the U.S. and are competitive.  Smart moves by both companies.

Why leave NY?

Now that New York is the fourth most populous state, behind Florida, the OFs jumped on the bandwagon, asking why people are leaving New York.

It came down to two explanations with two side bets thrown in: One, taxes (politics); two, weather.

The two side bets were, cost of maintaining a building, and the cost of doing business.

The OFs said even farming, which was shielded from much of this, is beginning to feel the pinch of being over-regulated by a select group of do-gooders in New York City making rules and regulations for farmers, and this group doesn’t know the difference between a rabbit and a cow.

One OF threw in the ringer of New York being known as the welfare state.  The reason this state’s population is where it is, is because other states ship the ne’er-do-wells to New York where the state will take care of them.

“Then,” an OF added, “we have a juxtaposition here, this OF thinks the state of New York has one of the highest educated populations in the country and that is why we have as many people here as we do.”

This OF said, “Companies are after the brains of New York.”

And so it goes. ’Tain’t this fun?  It is.

The OFs get their points across either way; no one changes anyone else’s mind because that is what we are — OFs!  Our minds were made up years ago, so the OFs laugh or grunt and go on to something different.  

Those OFs who gathered at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and absorbed what holiday spirit they could were: Elf one Harold Guest, Elf two Mark Traver, Elf three Glenn Patterson, Elf four Roger Shafer, Elf five George Washburn, Elf six Roger Chapman, Elf seven John Rossmann, Elf eight Jim Heiser, Elf nine Otis Lawyer, Elf ten Steve Kelly, Elf eleven Robie Osterman, Elf twelve Mace Porter, Elf thirteen Gary Porter, Elf fourteen Ken  Hughes, Elf fifteen Jack Norray, Elf sixteen Lou Schenck, Elf seventeen Don Wood, Elf eighteen Ted Willsey, Elf nineteen Jim Rissacher, Elf twenty Bill Krause, Elf twenty-one Mike Willsey, Elf twenty-two Elwood Vanderbilt, Elf twenty-three Gilbert Zabel, Elf twenty-four Harold Grippen, Elf twenty-five Gerry Chartier, Elf twenty-six Todd Wright, and Elf twenty-seven, the littlest Elf, me.