Archive » December 2017 » Columns

This is the time of year that we set goals for ourselves. While polls show that fewer than one-half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, most of us seek to live better after the holidays by exercising more, eating less, and demonstrating willpower. We strive to not be the person standing at the kitchen counter, spoon in hand, polishing off the half-gallon of ice cream!  

Willpower, however, doesn’t help us create or sustain long-lasting change. According to the website Statistic Brain, only a fraction of those who make resolutions — 9.2 percent — report success keeping them.

Sometimes, perhaps, what’s needed more to improve our lives is a meaningful connection with other people. So, as we start the New Year, let’s look beyond ourselves (and our inevitable shortcomings) for some inspiration. And, maybe success!

One of the strengths of Community Caregivers is that we create a sense of community for those we serve and those who serve. We connect people who want to help with those who need a helping hand.

While our service area encompasses five Albany County Towns (Guilderland, Bethlehem, New Scotland, Berne, and Knox) and the city of Albany, we assign volunteers near where they live or work. And we serve as a trusted resource for family caregivers.

We invite you to join our community.

If you are an adult who finds it harder of late to keep your home and daily life in good order, maybe we can help. Our volunteers are kind, caring, and respectful.

A Community Caregivers’ volunteer might be able to offer you a ride, grocery shopping help, a visit, or a regular friendly telephone call. Depending on what you need, a volunteer might put away your groceries, help you sort the mail, read aloud, or simply swap stories and share a laugh with you.

We know that people are sometimes reluctant to ask for help, but remember, this is not a one-way street. Our volunteers are eager to serve and will also benefit from meeting you.

If you are a family caregiver who helps a loved one stay in the community and delay a move to assisted living, we offer support; education; and, importantly, a few hours off. Our respite volunteers may be able to give you a break by coming to your home and spending time with your loved one.

And, through education programs and a support group, we create a community for caregivers, so you know that you’re not alone.

If you would like to make a difference in the lives of others, volunteer with us. We always need volunteer drivers; our drivers use their own cars and start from home, not the office.

In 2018, we are creating care teams that might be a good fit for you; we always offer volunteers flexible schedules. If you have a cell phone and a few minutes, you can volunteer to make regular calls this winter to an elderly person who is homebound during the snowy months.   

So, in the days ahead, maybe think outside the box for a New Year’s resolution. Sign up to help in your community; we offer two volunteer information/orientation sessions monthly. In January, the first is Thursday, Jan. 4, at noon; the second is Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 1 p.m. We ask that you register: online at or by calling (518) 456-2898.

Call us if you might need a little help for yourself or a loved one and join us for caregiver education programs. We announce our programs in Caregivers’ Corner, on our website, and on our Community Caregivers’ Facebook page.

From all of us, we wish you a Happy New Year!

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.


On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Old Men of the Mountain met for their Christmas party (offered by Patty) at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

It is a good thing this party was held there because one of the largest groups of Old Goats gathered around the tables at Mrs. K’s. Forty guys walked through the door of the restaurant and enjoyed the music and hors d’oeuvres that were placed up and down the tables.

An OF could make a meal with just the hors d’oeuvres but, being a group of gentlemen, they did not. The music was supplied by two of the OFs and one of Santa’s elves. The OGs were Roger Shafer and Gerry Irwin, and the elf was Debbie Fish who is definitely not an OF, and was not counted. With the restaurant this full, this scribe had to remove his hearing aids so he could hear.

The Old Men of the Mountain would like to thank Patty (following in the footsteps of her mom) who put on this spread for the OGs who appreciate it very much and look forward to it every year.

Some of the OFs reminisced back to the days of when the OFs started gathering together for breakfast and when some of the OFs passed on.

It is obvious that when a group of OFs, or OHs (Old Hens) get together on a routine basis, the change of ranks will be rather quick; it is not like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts where relationships can go on for years. If a group starts out with the beginning word “old” sometimes it is necessary to drop the “s” on years.

Dealing with lemons

A throw-away society — that’s us. The OFs discussed Tuesday morning’s topic to some extent as how we, as a nation, throw so much good-to-new “stuff” away. The OFs claimed they do not know about other countries, only what they have observed first hand.

Some of this “throw-away” mentality the OFs even participated in after World War II.  Maybe the habit developed from being in the military, or seeing the military discard perfectly good things.

Some of the OFs remember lend-lease, and some currently have witnessed political incompetence or corruption that lets food rot on docks; the food was never delivered from Good Will or other organizations that sent supplies to “third” world countries in order to help these starving nations.

This is not what the OFs were alluding to in this discussion. What the OFs were mainly talking about was how something brand new gets taken back to the vendor because it does not work right, or it is just not what the customer wanted.

The store generally just hands over a replacement and then (as a rule) tosses away the original item, which had been returned. Many times there is nothing wrong with it; the article just goes in the Dumpster.

The OFs think there could be a staging area where people would be able to go and either make an offer or rescue the discarded item to tinker with and see if they are able to revive it, or use it as it is.

One OF mentioned he can understand why stores do what they do because some devious enterprising individuals could buy something new, screw it up a little, take it back, and have a buddy purchase the one placed in the staging area, make a ridiculous offer on it, then take it home and fix it.  Because he is in cahoots with the guy who returned it, he would know exactly what to do.

One OF said he has toured the Ford Mustang plant in Michigan and said that tour was very interesting. When he arrived at the end of the assembly line and saw a car (which he had followed all along this line) start up and run out of the building to the staging area, it was very impressive. (Side note: The first trip a car takes is “pedal to the metal with screaming tires,” the OF said).

As the tour group watched this, the OF noticed some cars did not start, or they ran really rough when they did start. These cars were hand pushed to an area called the hospital. In this hospital, mechanics worked on them to get the vehicles started or running right.

This tour group was fortunate to observe one car that did not make it. The vehicle would not start at all. The mechanic slammed the hood down, and put a tag on it.

One of the people in the group asked the tour guide, “What happens to that car?”

The guide answered, “The car goes to the dealer and now it is up to him to fuss with it. Every car off the line is sold. We do not stockpile Mustangs.”

The customer who receives this vehicle gets what is commonly known as a “lemon.” Then it becomes what again is typically known as the customer, dealer, and Ford hassle.

The OF added that, in most cases, the dealer’s mechanics, for some reason, iron out the mechanical problem (especially those trained at a Ford facility). The OF said the tour guide said the group didn’t hear it from him, but he thinks “it’s because the dealer spends more time with the problem than we do at the plant.”

Those OFs who made it to the party at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh in fine running automobiles, for the most part, because one showed up in a horse and buggy, were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, George Byrne, Jim Heiser, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Jake Lederman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mace Porter, Rev. Jay Francis, Gerry Chartier, Jerry Willsey, Shirley Willsey, Ted Willsey with chauffeur Denise, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


Caregivers who struggle to balance their jobs while caring for older or ill family members or newborns, or have added responsibilities due to a family member’s military deployment will have added security and financial support with New York State’s Paid Family Leave, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018.  

Most private-sector workers in the state will be able to take up to eight weeks of paid leave and will receive half of their average annual earnings up to a cap. By 2021, when the benefit is fully phased in, workers will be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their wage up to the statewide cap. An employee does not have to use earned vacation and sick time prior to taking paid family leave.

If possible, an employee should provide advance notice to an employer of the need for paid family leave such as when a family is expecting a baby. However, as caregivers for older and sick persons know, a family health emergency can strike and there is an immediate need for time off.

This law is of particular benefit to older persons and their caregivers since some employers have given time off for maternity and paternity leave, but not for caring for sick or elderly relatives. Traditionally, women have been the ones at home providing care for newborns and also for older parents or relatives; with paid leave, supporters believe that more men will be able to provide care in the future.

The program is paid through small weekly deductions from employee paychecks (0.126 percent per week up to a maximum of $1.65 per week). The paid-family-leave insurance program pays for the leave benefit, not the employer. The employee’s health insurance is not affected. The employer is also free to use the leave worker’s wages to cover overtime costs or for temporary help.

For more details about the rules of the program, regarding which relatives are covered for leave time, what documentation is needed from doctors, etc., you can visit the program’s website at Locally, Community Caregivers’ staff can offer information and assistance to those who may be interested in learning more about the law and how it possibly can work for their families.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Michael Burgess is a health policy consultant for Community Caregivers Inc.


On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. This, as has been mentioned before, is for some of the OMOTM the farthest and highest restaurant we OFs have on the roster.

Starting out Tuesday morning about 6 a.m., we found it was dark with a light snow and wet roads. The surprise snow blew strongly across the road, especially on a turn.

The OFs call this the “oops, surprise highway” as the car momentarily goes sideways for a few feet when it meets one of these turns at 45 to 50 miles per hour and the conditions quickly become 25 to 30 miles per hour, especially in the dark.

When the OFs left the breakfast, all their vehicles were covered with about 3 inches of wet snow. Old Man Winter is just getting the OFs ready for Christmas.

The first topic of conversation was how the OFs planned to use their 2-percent Social Security increase. One OF thought he would get a new truck and another said he was going to update his deck. Yet another said the wife and he would use it for a cruise to Alaska. Yeah right!

A couple of OFs said they lost a buck, another made two bucks, and some stayed even. This was a great conversation to start the day. It definitely was not how rich they were going to become. Some OFs opined on how they would spend the two bucks, others on how they would make up for the loss.

Bald truths?

There became a slight challenge between the OFs who had lots of hair; some with thinning hair; and some with hints of hair; and some, it has to be said, bald. Each OF began to discuss the benefits of each condition.

The ones with lots of hair maintained they look younger and attracted younger ladies. Many of the OFs disputed this claim saying, “You OFs are not counting all the wrinkles under that hair.” The one with hair maintained he had character lines not wrinkles.

A challenger from the hairless side said, “The one with hair has to go to the barber frequently and have it coiffed, has to keep shampooing it, and worst of all — clean that hair out of the tub and sink traps.  Now then, all I have to do is wash my head with a washcloth every day and dry it with a towel and I am all done.”

Then another OF retorted, “Yeah, you guys with hair tick me off. I go to the barber and they go zip-zip and I am done; you, on the other hand, occupy the chair three times as long and they charge you the same as they charge me. That is not fair.”

Then one of hairless ones came up with the standard cliché — “No grass on a busy street” (whatever that means) — and another OF pronounced an older cliché, which this OF maintains is true.  He said, “He (the OF with no hair) wore all his hair off on the headboard of the bed.”

“If you guys believe that one,” another commented, “I have a large bridge for sale and it crosses the Hudson in New York City.” And so it went.  Are we jealous or envious?

Tire talk

The OFs talked about flat tires and how seldom they see them with the new tires we have today, and they added how many more miles the OFs get on their tires. Then they started talking about problems they had with tires with stupid leaks.

Most of the leaks were attributed to the new tire sensors that are required to be in tires and how they can corrode with the salt and the weather in the Northeast, and in other areas where the winter brings ice and snow and roads are treated.

One OF mentioned how he had a tire that was continually going down and he found it was the hole in the rim was slightly oversized when the rim was made. Being an enterprising OF, he welded and drilled the hole again to the proper size.  Problem solved, tire stayed up.

The OFs then started to prattle on about tire punctures — these being a real nuisance.  One OF mentioned tractor tires and the thorndike thornberry tree (or shrub) that is native (on the Hill at least) to our area and how the thorns on the shrub can and do puncture tires of tractors if they should run afoul on one of these branches that has fallen on the ground.

A collection of these shrubs would be like meeting up with Johnny Horton’s song “The Battle of New Orleans” — the briars and the brambles where a rabbit couldn’t go. To work around these thorn trees would take an Oliver “Cletrac” — farm tractor with steel tracks that was made by Oliver until 1951 and now is quite collectible if you can find one.

Fordson fires

The OFs talked about things that haven’t changed from the forties till now. This conversation was about what the OFs consider poor design of equipment, highways, and buildings.

One that was in the thirties and forties was the Fordson tractor. This had the carburetor right over the manifold; the manifold became rather hot after the tractor was run for just a short time. The carburetor had a breather hole right in front of it and, when the float acted up anytime the tractor was plowing, the farmer would start a new row.

The right steel wheel would dip into the furrow, and gas would squirt out the little hole and Bingo! there was a fire. The farmer had to stop, or carry a bucket of sand on the tractor to toss on the flames, and then continue on. Gas might spit out on the next turn — then again it might not. What fun.


The OMOTM would like to offer their condolences to the family of Willard Osterhout. While Willard could, he was a faithful attendee of the OMOTM. He brought stories to the breakfast that would enhance the stories that bounced around the table every morning. Only Willard could connect the dots as to who was related to whom, and many times, who they were currently.

The OMOTM who braved the weather, which wasn’t that bad, except driving in the snow in the early morning darkness at the ages of the OFs is not fun anymore, and those OFs were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Jim Rissacher, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Marty Herzog, and me.


— Photo from John R. Williams

Really nice country: Some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County, and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York.

As the old man with the sleigh draws closer to getting it loaded, the Old Men of the Mountain met on their usual Tuesday — Dec. 5, at the Home Front Café in Altamont. Some of the OMOTM have their shopping done, some are half done while others haven’t even started yet.

“What the heck,” these OFs say. “It isn’t December 24th yet.”

The OFs wonder how some people wait until Christmas Eve until they decorate the tree. It takes most of the OFs who do decorate a week to get that chore done. At least that is what they attest to.

The ones who decorate in a few hours on Christmas Eve must have a Charlie Brown tree, or all the other jobs are done like wrapping the presents, and having what ornaments that are going to be put on the tree all laid out ahead of time.

Sun sets on summer jobs

The OMOTM wondered when kids working summer programs phased out. The OFs remember when kids could work the summer at Thacher Park, or for the highway department where they were painting fire hydrants and trimming around the guardrails, sprucing up the town barns, and painting and mowing the town parks.

All these jobs seem to have disappeared.

The OFs remember how, in early spring, there were notices in schools from farmers looking for summer help to work the fields. These notices, too, seem to be gone. Now it must be word of mouth by the kids themselves.

The OFs can’t remember, if they even knew, what the reasoning was behind removing these summer work programs.  

This brought up a topic concerning summer help of migrant workers. This issue is in the forefront of the news right now.

The OFs mentioned what an important and necessary part of the summer labor force these workers are. One OF added, “These guys really know how to work.”

The machines to harvest much of the delicate fruits and vegetables have not been invented yet. “Maybe never will be invented,” one OF added, “so this work still has to be done by hand.”

Migratory Old Men

The OFs talked about heading to warmer climes and what would be the best way to get there. This seems to be an annual discussion at this time of year.

The OFs say it all depends on how fast you want to arrive at you southerly destination, or if the OF wants to take his time and putz along the road less traveled. This brought up the train that takes the OF and his vehicle along with him; it is not that expensive. It sounds like fun; however, none of the OFs around this scribe commented on availing this service from Amtrak to give a firsthand account.

Irene revisited

Believe it or not, Tropical Storm Irene popped its ugly head up again. This time, the OFs were talking how some local bridges held up and some did not.

The OFs seemed to think that those bridges that failed were not built correctly from the beginning. This thinking may be correct because the OFs know the ground as much as what is below as what is on top.

The OFs think that the footings on some of the bridges were not on rock (or what a lot of people think of as rock) but the footings were built on what the OFs call hardpan. Hardpan, as one OF put it, is hard, slippery, and fluid.

Some call it good old-fashioned blue clay, but hardpan is a little more than that. The dictionary defines it as any layer of firm detrital matter, as of clay, underlying soft soil.

One OF mentioned that the water running off both hills that fill the Little Schoharie Creek as it runs through Huntersland were like waterfalls. The OF said that there were streams of water coming down the mountains from both sides into the creek that were never there before and the water in the Little Schoharie was rising as fast as if it were a bathtub being filled.

The OFs still think water was let out of the Gilboa Dam and came with such force that it demolished the covered bridge in Blenheim. That bridge had weathered many creek risings and floods.

In the OFs’ opinion, it was some special and unusual force that caused the bridge to go. One would think the event of Irene would be on the back burner but to those who lived through it this scribe guesses not.

Bridges to beware of

The OFs say there are some bridges that these OGs hesitate to use but, as far as this scribe knows, the OFs all go ahead and shoot across them anyway. One OF mentioned that some of these bridges are on small country roads and cover some creeks that have carved out deep gorges as the eons have drifted by.

Many of the bridges in the localities where the OFs reside are Kodak moments. For instance, some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York. This is in really nice country.

After crossing the bridge and continuing on south to Flat Creek Road to County Route 17, the driver comes out at the Schoharie Creek below the dam at Gilboa. This is where there is another bridge that crosses the Schoharie Creek, which takes the driver back up to Route 30 — an interesting ride submitted by the OMOTM.

This scribe is sure there are many spots like this throughout New York State.

Those OFs who traveled to the Home Front Café in Altamont and traveled over some of the interesting bridges to arrive at the restaurant were: John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, George Byrne, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

— Photo from Facebook

Bill and Judi Yelton founded their restaurant, Will’s Grill, in Lawrence, Indiana in 1998, and named it after Bill’s son, Will Yelton, who died in 1995, barely in his thirties.

My lovely wife and I had the luxury of taking a long car trip in the summer. We got to see a lot of sites that were on our bucket list, visit a lot of friends, and overall just have a nice relaxing time.

The budget hotels we stayed in weren’t the best, but then again you get what you pay for (if you’re lucky). Maybe an RV is in our future. We’ll see.

So often when traveling it’s the unexpected occurrences or places that become the big highlights, the kind of things that memories are made of. Stumbling onto a great beach, park, or restaurant is always fun.

These days, with computers and phones, it’s no problem if you want to ultra-plan everything, squeezing in the maximum number of activities and experiences possible. There’s certainly something to that, and I admire those people who have the skill and persistence to pull it off, but mostly I like to just take things as they come. Surprises (when they’re good ones) help make traveling worthwhile.

One day during our trip, it was lunchtime and I was getting hungry. We were in the middle of nowhere and just for laughs I had my wife do a search on her phone for a White Castle restaurant.

In case you haven’t had the pleasure, White Castle serves those delicious but gut-busting tiny burgers known lovingly as “sliders,” “belly bombers,” “murder burgers,” and other colorful names. They have this reputation not because there’s anything inherently wrong with them.

Like most fast food, they are high in calories, fat, and salt. The problem is they’re so darn good you tend to eat way too many and then get sick after. (I’ve eaten 20 at a single sitting several times — ouch). Truly, too much of anything is not good.

So she finds a White Castle location in Indiana of all places and just like that we’re in the parking lot and I’m drooling. Now my wife has a more discerning palette than I do, and, if she never saw another white-and-blue White Castle building with the big yellow “The Crave!” sign in her life, she’d be fine.

So, as usual, I was at a crossroads. I really needed a White Castle fix but I wanted my wife to be happy as well. Then I looked across the street and there was this funky combination café-restaurant-trucking company there. It had a real “down home” look to it, to say the least.

It reminded me of the place in “The Blues Brothers” movie where John Belushi asks what kind of music they like, and the waitress responds: “Both kinds — Country and Western.” So, just like that, White Castle was out, and a new adventure was about to begin.

As soon as we sat down, the cozy, down-home atmosphere indicated we’d made the right choice. Picture a snazzy black-and-white tile floor, a high lofty ceiling with bicycles hanging upside down, a huge American flag on the wall, and all kinds of wild memorabilia all over the place.

Despite the busy decor, the atmosphere was relaxing: tables filled with ordinary working folk just having a good time. They even have actual Blues Brothers mannequins in the corner, singing and dancing at the mic! There’s something about the heartland that inspires people to create places like this, and I for one am grateful for it.

Before you could say “yee haw,” we had our drinks and the owner was sitting with us, chatting us up. The place is called Will’s Grill & Restaurant, and the owner, Bill Yelton, is a character straight out of a “Prairie Home Companion” radio show.

Before we knew what was happening, we were regaled with all that was going on in the area, how the business was doing, and what was wrong with the world, but not in an obnoxious or complaining sort of way. Rather, it was done in that small-town American way where everybody knows everybody and a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

I’ve always been a fan of small businesses and the people who make them run, because these kinds of shops are the backbone of our community and our country. Hardworking, taxpaying people like these really are what make America great. We had such a good time at Will’s Grill that, when we left, after saying cheerful goodbyes to everyone, I took a business card and stuffed it in my wallet just in case I ever get back to that neck of the woods.

Months later, I’m doing a wallet purge. This is where you find your wallet getting so big it’s causing physical pain so you’re forced to finally clean that sucker out lest you develop an even worse posture than you already have.

As I’m doing this, I come across the Will’s Grill business card. I was just about to toss it on my stack of saved business cards (where it will just lie around for years before getting tossed so why not just toss it now but that’s another story) when I happen to flip it over and notice there is printing on the back, which is unusual for a business card. Here is what it said:

“He is nothing, he can do nothing, he can achieve nothing, fulfill nothing, without working. If you are poor — work! If you are rich — continue working! If you are burdened with seemingly unfair responsibilities — work! If you are happy, keep right on working! Idleness gives room for doubts and fears. If disappointments come — work! If your health is threatened — work! When faith falters — work! When dreams are shattered and hope seems dead — work! Work as if your life were in peril. No matter what ails you — work! Work faithfully, work with faith. Work is the greatest remedy available for mental and physical afflictions.” — Bill Yelton, Will’s Grill & Restaurant, Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

As I stood there reading this screed over and over my jaw literally dropped. It’s like Bill Yelton read my mind and said what I’ve always felt but in the most heartfelt and eloquent way, in that good old boy country style that I could never do.

What I mean is: He nailed it, like a basketball player sinking a three-pointer to win the game with no time left on the clock and the ball going swish as the buzzer blares and the fans go crazy. Game over!

My first job was delivering newspapers after school and I’ve been working straight through ever since. I’ve worked part-time while going to school; I’ve worked two jobs at time; I’ve worked while raising a family; I’ve worked while maintaining a home and rental property and fixing my cars and everything else around the house; I’ve kept working while the house slowly becomes an empty nest; and I have no immediate plans to stop working even as I edge closer and closer to retirement.

I’ve worked long and hard and never even thought twice about it because work is just second nature to me. Some people play the lottery in hope of getting out of working; I, on the other hand, play the lottery only when I can remember to buy a ticket, which isn’t often. Even if I won, which is doubtful as you know, I’d still work at something.

Work is life, life is work. It’s as simple as that.

That quote from Bill Yelton hits home with me because I recognize the value of work. Work gives you purpose; meaning; and, of course, remuneration for your hard effort. That’s a great deal if you ask me.

How serendipitous to wander into an out-of-the-way country restaurant and have it stated so simply and effectively. Indeed, if you have the good fortune to work as if your life is in peril, you can go to bed at night happy and fulfilled knowing that you’ve contributed to society.

Just by the simple act of your daily sweat and toil, you become part of the solution, not part of the problem. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you, Bill Yelton, for so beautifully capturing the essence, value, and meaning of hard work.


"Adoration of the Shepherds" was painted in 1622 by Gerard van Honthorst.

For my Latin student of 52 years ago, Thomas Halley (1952-2017). Requiescas in pace, amice.

For many years, I was part of and later oversaw a poetry workshop group at our public library. The meetings were essentially criticism sessions where poets and poets-to-be came every other week to share their work.    

A poet would read a poem and the gathered writers — a dozen or so — would respond with kudos or offer suggestions about how the writer might better say what he wanted. For concinnity’s sake at the very least.

A participant might use the phrase “to reiterate again” and a fellow poet would suggest: delete “again” because “re-iterate” implies repetition. That’s a small example.  

But there were two or three individuals in the group who, whatever was said, accepted nothing; they got huffy, short, and sometimes fired back at the offerer with a sharpened word. Their minds were made up about “what was what” and brooked no interloper.

Because Christmas is on its way, the other night I was re-reading the birth narrative of Jesus in the Christian gospel of Luke and, halfway through, began to think of those walled-in poets. I thought that, if they had been there that first Christmas, nothing would have happened. No angelic communiqué would have gotten over their psychic wall.

As you might know, the birth narrative tells of a young woman visited by an angel who informs her of a plan for a child to be born who will shake up the world and, incidentally, did she want to be part of it?  

A lot of old-timers believe the angel gave Mary an order, a command she could not refuse. But that’s not so. The angel told her she had a choice and should think things over because accepting the offer would bring great upheaval in her life.

He said the woman who accepted the invitation would be expected to conceive, give birth to, and rear a revolutionary whom a lot of people would call Savior or Messiah.

The angel warned her that this might sound exotic but the mission would bring considerable pain and sorrow. But he added that, if she adopted the ways of her son, she could experience a joy equal to God’s.

Like the poets in our library, Mary had been offered a gift about how to proceed in the future but the correction would not involve a typo or two but rather a restructuring of the grammar of one’s being.

The choice: revolutionary movement or status quo?

Those who have read these scriptures know that Mary accepted, got pregnant, and, just as she was about to deliver, had to go with her husband to a far-off town to be counted in a census.     

When she and Joseph arrived, they could not find a place to stay so were forced to use a stable, where animals were living, as the room where Mary would have her child.

There in the dark of night the young mother gave birth. She wrapped her son in shreds of cloth — the old scriptural versions say “swaddling clothes” — and, after feeding him, laid him in a wooden trough called a manger.

One of the other gospel writers, Matthew, adds to the story. He says, right after the birth, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds in nearby fields. The angel “announced” to them a child had been born close by who was destined to change the world and, incidentally, did they want to be part of the plan?

As with Mary, the shepherds had to think things over. They did, and soon found themselves in a stable overlooking the newborn child. Something happened there because they left and began going about telling people about what they had seen.

No one knows if they mentioned the Messiah-Savior thing, I don’t think they knew. Such labels were textual add-ons by the gospel writers.    

The Christmas story then is: an offering made and a choice to follow. But, as with the poets in our library who refused to choose, a lot of people want to hear nothing about choice at Christmas.

They want chestnuts roasting on an open fire or Der Bingle crooning “White Christmas”: “May your days be merry and bright.”

What they don’t want to hear is “where ... children listen.” That means becoming like a child, opening up to what’s in front of the eyes. Children are economical; they want to get things right so they can go about and offer joy to everyone.

Such a lot to chew on: never mind for a gal not yet 20. One of the gospelists says that, while Mary “treasured” all these things, she needed time to digest them. After all she was the Mother of Christmas.

Charles Dickens picked up on this in “A Christmas Carol.” A money-mongering miser, Scrooge, had reached a point in his life where he was treating people like dogs, dismissing their cries for help with a walled-in condescension.

The situation had reached a point, Dickens says, where the powers-that-be thought Scrooge needed a tune-up. They sent ghoulish ghosts to sully his dreams, hoping the scare would straighten him out.

It was Scrooge’s dark night of the soul. When he woke in the morning, he was radiant as he had seen things as they are; he started shouting out the window to passers-by on the street: “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, Everybody!” But he kept asking them what day it was, fearing he had missed his date with destiny.

It was not too late; it was Christmas, they said. Scrooge ran about buying gifts for everyone he knew to be in need, those whose needs he had dismissed as of no account. Everybody who’s read the story has Tiny Tim imbedded in their minds.

Tim was real for Dickens but he was also symbolic of every person everywhere whose needs are not being attended to.

Scrooge went to Tim’s home, the home of one of his employees, and eased the worries of the family. Scrooge kept saying the gift was to himself.   

I think today Scrooge would be shouting up and down to the streets that no human being deserves to worry about being sick because he hasn’t the means to purchase needed care. Scrooge would say every citizen of the United States should have the same health care coverage as every Senator from anywhere.  

And, with respect to help after hurricanes, Scrooge would demand that every citizen on the Island of Puerto Rico and every soul in the Virgin Islands be treated as one of us. To think otherwise is a crime.       

These are the kinds of things Mary needed to ponder if she decided to follow the ways of her son. Bringing peace and goodwill to everyone is a dark night of the soul.

What I like about Christmas is Christmas Eve, after everybody’s gone to bed, and the cold silence of winter enters my room, and it does every year. But there, once, sitting in the darkness I swear I heard an angel asking about my plans and whether they included bringing peace and goodwill to everyone.


Tuesday, Nov. 28, and still no snow to bother the Old Men of the Mountain as they make their appointed rounds.

This round was the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown; as a matter of fact, the weather was quite nice. The Chuck Wagon sits on the crest of a hill on the south side of Route 20.

The Old Men of the Mountain used to meet later in the morning — now the major part of the group is there at the doors waiting for the restaurants to open up. This puts the OFs on the road the same time as most of the crazies who are hustling off to work.

Most of the OFs are heading west on Route 20 while most of those going to work are heading east right into that early morning blinding sun. The OFs notice the drivers going east on Route 20 are hunched over the steering wheel and peering under the pulled-down sun visor, while going over 60 miles an hour just to keep up with traffic.

This is just one of the many reasons the OFs are glad they are retired and don’t have to do that shuffle off to work any more.

The OFs, at times, do vent to each other on the public utility companies; Tuesday morning, it was what used to be Time Warner and is now Spectrum. The general consensus and opinion of the OFs is that Time Warner was not the best but compared to Spectrum it was aces.

The OGs say that Spectrum is like a big bully — it likes to take its own sweet time getting back to you. Spectrum has taken away shows the OFs were accustomed to and replaced them with nothing. QVC is one of these shows and it was one of the major channels for the wives of the OFs.

The OFs are not on the fast track for the big bucks so they do not understand why Time Warner sold out to such a schlock outfit. At least (in our area) Time Warner had a lock on cable viewing as it was the only game in town. This was the end of the tirade.

Tech talk

The OFs discussed the pros and cons of drones. This new craze has a lot of ironing out to do.

Some OFs said if they see one of those things flying over their house or land they will shoot it down. One OF said it is bad enough that Google flies over and has cars going up and down the streets spying on everybody.

The statement “your home is your castle” is not true anymore. Any pervert can Google your place from the street or from the air then Google puts it on the net so people in Afghanistan can see your place, get the coordinates right down to the seconds. The OFs question how all of this is legal.  

This scribe thinks we have covered this topic before but not quite like Tuesday morning. One OF sees lots of pluses for the use of this new, fun technology. This OF said, in the case of fires, fire departments can use a drone to see the fire from above, and this, he said, will aid the firemen in fighting the flames more safely.

He said it will also help in locating people if they’re trapped in the fire and show the safest way to get them out. He mentioned that, when people get lost in the woods or hurt while hiking in the wilderness, these drones can go where people can’t. All this made a lot of sense to the OFs.

Another OF thought many trades could now use drones as a tool like loggers, surveyors, highway engineers, farmers, and probably many others. The OF said it is the idiot that uses them as a new level of peeping toms, or flies them around airports, which makes it seem like there is always a few that spoil it for everyone else.

Plum Island

A couple of OFs spoke about an Island off the North Fork coast of Long Island, east of Orient Point, Long Island. This island is called Plum Island.

According to the OFs, this is a rather nasty place. It has its own private ferry to take workers there and back. This ferry can carry just a few vehicles and no private individual or vehicle can board this ferry.

The OFs mentioned that, when fishing this area, there are patrol boats that keep their boats from getting close. These patrols function 24/7/365.

What this scribe understands is that this is a government-run animal disease-control center, whatever that means. Maybe the OFs who go fish those waters should think twice about catching any fish there, let alone eating them.

Shopping styles vary with gender

’Tis the Christmas season, and that means Christmas shopping, and that means the OFs have to find new hiding places so their better halves can’t haul them off to the malls. The OFs complain that we are surrounded by malls. The OFs say they see themselves sleeping with their heads in their hands in the chairs that run up and down the center aisle of major malls, or else they are out in the car, taking a snooze.

One OF said that his wife,  in malls and grocery stores, has approached many OFs thinking they were the OF she is married to. This OF said his wife said we all look alike.

Well, the reply was that trying to find our wives in the mall is tricky because all the older ladies look alike with the same hair-dos and the same clothes. This comparison goes both ways.

Most of the OFs agree the ladies shop; the OFs say they run in the store, grab the closest item to what the OF is looking for, pay for it and run out — shopping complete. Locate item, pay for item, and out in 15 minutes, whereas the OF’s lady spends 15 minutes looking at one item and then doesn’t buy it and goes to the next one three feet down the aisle and repeats the same process. The OF’s lady will spend two hours in the store and come out with nothing.

Those OFs who made it to Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and showed their way of shopping by ordering their breakfast without looking at the menu were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Wayne Gaul, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Mace Porter, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Rev. Jay Francis, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.