Archive » May 2020 » Columns

Like most people right about now, the Old Men of the Mountain are getting antsy about getting out and seeing people. Some of the OGs are getting tired of looking like the latest bank robber when going out.

Though most adhere to the protocols in effect with the mask and staying at least six feet from other people, the OFs are getting tired of it. Many have not left home unless it is really important but, again, as the weather has improved, this scribe has heard of a few OGs that are going out and about.

All this anxiety about trying not to get the virus is testing the OGs’ mettle; a few came up with a type of release valve. Many of the OGs miss the Tuesday morning breakfast and the people there, so they came up with a summer get-together at the home of one of the OFs who has the land, the amenities, and the time. (Time! That is something all the OFs have right now.)

There is another aspect of getting together, which is like a high school reunion, especially one where many are basically housebound. That is to see how much the OFs have changed when they can’t get to a barber shop, or they’ve tried cutting their own hair. One OF said he is at the breaking point of doing just that (and so is this scribe) because he said he is not the type to wear a man bun.

Plans are now in the works for having an old-fashioned church picnic of the potluck variety, only not really as elaborate. The OFs are simple people, so simple it will be. It was decided, seeing as how the better halves have been cooped up with these old goats, they will be invited too. (Isn’t that nice of the OFs?)

As mentioned in previous columns, the OFs are not too keen on all this virtual stuff, although the younger people (meaning most of our grandchildren) seem to get it. One OF suggested we have a Zoom breakfast.

Some of the OFs don’t even have a computer, or a tablet, or a smartphone. (To many of the OFs, the TV show Star Trek and the flip phone is as modern as they get.) The few OFs spoken to wonder how Zoom would work; what would happen to all the burps, f----, and off-handed remarks? Zoom could not handle that, and that is where a lot of the fun is. Nah, this is not for the OMOTM.

Now all the aforementioned picnic planning has to be put in motion, and maybe this scribe will actually have an up-to-date report on the recent activities of the OFs. This scribe hopes it does work out — it will be great to see some of these OGs.

Twilight Zone

With not much new news to tell, the scribe has found a story to relate from past meetings. This one goes back to July 2 of last year. Two OFs asked if anyone saw lights in the sky the night before, and the answer was “no.”

These two OFs said they saw strange lights in the northwestern sky. They said the lights were bright and did not move and they were not helicopters. Both OFs said they saw them for quite a long time. The lights just hung there and then all of a sudden they were gone.

“Planets,” a couple of OFs said,.“If they were UFOs, they would be like streaks of light not something that hung around for a long time.” These first OFs maintained they were UFOs of some kind because the light was too close and too bright to be planets.

One OF said, “There was nothing on the radio, or on TV, or in the papers about bright lights in the sky, so you guys must have hit the ’shine a little too hard if no one else saw lights.”

The OFs claiming to have seen the lights stopped talking and did not pursue the sighting anymore. This scribe thought at the time that it is hard to see something unusual and then tell about it, even to people in the area that should have witnessed it too, and then not be backed up by anyone else seeing it.  Maybe we are living in the Twilight Zone.

Anybody else feel like they’ve cooked dinner about 395 times this month?


— Photo from the Office of the President of the United States

The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, his press secretary claimed Trump drew the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, although photographs showed otherwise.

One of the most celebrated experiments in the field of social psychology is a series of studies the Polish-born psychologist Solomon Asch began conducting in 1951 with 123 students at Swarthmore College.

The scientific record lists this body of work as the “Asch conformity experiments” or “the Asch paradigm.” The paradigm spawned generations of great psychologists — the late Stanley Milgram among them — who sought to understand how deep a person’s ethical convictions run.

For example, if someone came along and told you to harm somebody else, would you do it? What if a lot of people said so? Would economics be a factor?

Anyone who’s been to college and taken Psych 101 — or found out otherwise — knows Asch’s work, unless they were sleeping in class or are simply lazy.

At Swarthmore, Asch wanted to see if a person would tell the truth if a group put pressure on him to say otherwise — psychological instigation of the upperworst kind.

Of course, any time a person caves to the will of others, as research shows, perceptions change, the person weighs and measures things from an angle of anger and defeat.   

But let’s not blame the eyes for misperception, the eyes are directed by the managerial-mind to gather data for its ends, which requires denying the physical world and blowing with the wind.  

But we can’t blame the mind either; the mind works for the heart, the libidinous heart, which uses the mind to calculate pay-off — the basis of all religion.

When I first read Asch’s studies I wanted to know if a person would actually sell himself out by sacrificing his most treasured tool: an accurate-recording pair of eyes.

I also wanted to know how a person handles such “treason” because it results in such an erosion of one’s ethical core and moral fortitude.

Asch had eight students sit around a table who were shown two cards, one after the other.

On the first card, there was a single straight line. The second card had three straight lines of different lengths — one of which was exactly the same as the line on card one. Everybody was asked to say which line on card two was the same as the line on card one.

But seven of the subjects were “in on” the experiment, that is, the researchers told them beforehand to pick the wrong line on card two; they wanted to see if a person would buckle from pressure.

Incidentally, the assignment was a no-brainer, a child could pick out the line.

When it came to the “dupe’s” turn, he kept looking at the lines on card two thinking about what seven others just said.

Pressed with a decision, his calculator ran up and down the list of pay-offs: what to do, what to do — I can hear the music of Final Jeopardy!

For those needing a more concrete example, it’s this: There’s an apple. You see the apple and gush: oh, what a beautiful apple!

Then a group comes along and says: Beautiful nothing! That’s not an apple, it’s a baseball. And ticktock your ethical computer starts churning: Apple or baseball? Baseball or apple? What to do, what to do.

When a person says baseball — as his eyes are looking at an apple and reporting to the mind “apple” — the mind has already intervened and translated the data politically.

If you’ve ever studied the origin of numbers, you know why 1 became 1 and not a 2, or one-and-a-half. The species had come to an agreement that 1 would be 1, always, a hair no more a hair no less. 1 is 1.

One way to make sense of the militia groups that barged into the State Capitol of Michigan earlier this month armed with weapons of war, is that they were announcing to America 1 is no longer 1, and they had the means to prove it.

But, anyone who’s worked in a bureaucracy or mercantile corporation knows that such “proof” exists everywhere. The lead paper on the subject is “Hierarchy-induced conformity without an AK-47.” Workers on the lower rungs of organizations say 1 is not 1 all the time to save their jobs.

It reminds me of the Roman Catholic poet John of the Cross, a reformer who called for religious orders to return to the simplicity of Jesus.

Church officials didn’t like what he was saying so, on December 2, 1577, they sent minions to kidnap John and lock him in a monastery in Toledo, Spain. Art critics say you can see the building in El Greco’s “View of Toledo.”

John was put in a 10-by-6-foot cell with a sliver of light coming through a wall. On Fridays, the “administration” brought him to the dining room and knelt him before the monks. One by one, the men took up a whip and whipped John’s back while the rest kept eating. Criminologists call it preventive deterrence.

I’ve read several accounts of this event and nowhere does it say a single monk stood up and said: I will not do it! What would be the pay-off?

And then comes White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, meeting journalists on January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump was sworn in, claiming Trump drew “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Every photo taken showed the contrary.

Spicer said “PERIOD” with such a don’t-ever-challenge-me bang that he was saying 1 is no longer 1. The hammer of deceit had fallen on the anvil of truth.

I felt like I was one of Asch’s subjects sitting around the table at Swarthmore having just heard seven souls lie about what we all were seeing before our eyes.

If, as some say, a lot of people in America are angry these days, I say it’s because of the guilt they suffer from having sold their moral core like a bag of peanuts at a ball game.


The question of the day is the same question that is hollered by the kids from the back seat on any car trip over fifteen minutes, “ARE WE THERE YET?”

Are we there yet is a question the Old Men of the Mountain are asking, and they are answering this question themselves, “No we are not!”

The question (and answer) these days are about the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. The OFs seem to think it is going to be quite awhile, and to one OF that this scribe has spoken to, this virus is like dust and it blows all over the place.

Again, the few spoken to are chomping at the bit to just get out and about for a little while without all the worry, especially at the ages of these OMOTM.

It is not at all like World War II with rationing and books of rationing stamps. Those of the OFs who have been through that remember those stamps well and how little grumbling was done about them. At least the OFs don’t remember grumbling.

This is completely different. As one OF put it, “Screw up on this one and you are dead; screw up on your ration book and all you are out is five pounds of sugar.”

The OFs can’t wait to be “there.” “There,” in this case, means maybe a vaccine to handle this virus, or the virus just gives up and goes away — not “there” as dead.

The OFs spoken to talk about restaurants opening under the new guidelines, and the OFs ask: How are they going to fit the OFs into some, if not most, of the restaurants we go to?

Right now we are shoulder to shoulder, and hiney to hiney in them and, if we go six feet apart, we definitely have to eat in shifts. The early birds would eat in one shift, and the sleeper-inners in another.

One OF said, “Who the h--- is going to figure all that out?” But nobody is going to listen to him anyway. Maybe it can be done by days.

One OF offered a group to go Monday, one on Tuesday, and leftovers on Wednesday. That might work; at least the OFs would get out one day a week.

This scribe thinks that for kids and young people this may be, as they say, the new normal — all this virtual stuff, but for all of us OFs in our seventies and eighties these have been long years for habits to become really ingrained in our tough old hides, and it is even tougher to change at this point in our lives.

Even so, some of the OFs are keeping themselves very busy; one OF in particular said just the other day he is so busy he doesn’t know which way to turn.

That is a good problem, but then some OFs know of families and close friends who have been laid off, furloughed, or had hours cut back; no matter what it is called, these workers will eventually be out of work. The OFs think that in many cases this is going to be a permanent situation.

One OF said two things are going to happen to companies small or large: They are either going to reopen, or fold up. But for the company that has to use the “lay off” on key, talented personnel, an incentive is in order to keep them.

If not, the company may lose them because all those gone are not going to hang around until our friend, the “there,” comes. They will look for other jobs, and who knows. This is a sticky wicket any way it is looked at. And it is worldwide, which makes it stickier.

The other OF who is on the busy side is Jack Norray and his son. They are planning on having their Norray family annual chicken barbecue in front of the Knox Reformed Church on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This is going to be a different barbecue than those in the past because things are different than they were in the past. This will be a drive-through pickup according to Jack. It will be necessary to order your chicken dinner ahead of time. Well, that is different!

How are the OFs supposed to know about this, or the people who are out for a ride, and don’t want to make dinner? This scribe answered his own question by saying, “Hey, we will put this information in the column. After all, we are OFs of the highest order.”

So anyone will be able to go online to:, or by calling 518-872-2257. Just so there are no surprises, the price is 12 bucks for half a chicken, a baked potato, coleslaw, and a homemade roll with honey butter.

The scribe is hungry just typing this. Last week, I said I went to a new restaurant called “The Kitchen.” You must gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have no clue how this place is still in business.


Remember when the COVID-19 pandemic first started, and you couldn’t find toilet paper anywhere? We didn’t have a problem because we buy stuff like that in bulk when it goes on sale, but a lot of people were left high and dry, no pun intended.

Well, since then I have serendipitously found out how to reduce or even eliminate the need for toilet paper. Don’t believe me? Read on.

Back in the sixties, three generations of us would gather around the TV on Sundays at 7:30 p.m. to watch “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” This show was great because A, it was about animals, and B, you never knew what was going to happen.

In one famous episode, a huge boa constrictor started to wrap itself around one of the hosts. It took quite a bit of effort to free him. Wow.

After Wild Kingdom came “The Ed Sullivan Show.” At that point, my brothers and I hightailed it out of there. Why did we do that? The thinking was, if it appealed to my parents and, God forbid, my grandparents, it couldn’t be “cool” like Wild Kingdom was with the animals. So we ignored Ed Sullivan at the time.

Fast forward to today and there is a channel on cable called “Decades” where they play all the old shows, including Ed Sullivan. So now, after all these years, indeed, decades, I can see why my parents and grandparents loved Ed Sullivan. Here was a true variety show with the best singers, dancers, actors, and vaudeville acts of the time on every week for your entertainment. There has been nothing like it since. Too bad.

The Ed Sullivan show is where the Beatles made their first United States TV appearance. The screaming of the girls in the audience was deafening. You name the group — the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Santana — they all appeared to wild applause on this show.

In fact, when Elvis Presley made his appearance, his swaying hips were considered so risque he could only be shot from the waist up. What a difference between then and now, eh?

Ed Sullivan also had all the great comedians on — Jack Benny, Richard Pryor, Rich Little, George Carlin, and so many more, including novelty acts like jugging unicyclists, spinning-plate balancers, ventriloquists, and knife-throwers. And who could forget the cute little talking mouse puppet “Topo Gigio?”

But my favorite thing about this show was that he had the best tenors and sopranos from the Metropolitan Opera on frequently. Can you imagine that, live opera on prime-time TV? I don’t know of anyone else but Ed Sullivan who did that.

The other day, I watched a rerun that featured Beverly Sills, one of the greatest sopranos of all time. She did this thing where she was singing tones, not words, and she hit high notes, repeatedly and with ease, that one would otherwise have presumed are not humanly possible. Truly amazing.

So what does the Ed Sullivan show have to do with not needing toilet paper anymore? Well, the second worst part of the pandemic, for me, is that the library is closed (the worst part is not getting to see my grandson). This means I have not been able to get my normal one or two books a week that I usually get.

So I’ve been forced to read my own books over again. I just read five, count ’em, five Kurt Vonnegut novels in a row. More on that in another column. I also glanced at a book of heath tips that I have lying around.

Turns out there is something called psyllium fiber, made from the husks of “plantago ovata,” whatever that is, which is very, very good for your digestive system. The authors went on to say they normally don’t recommend specific brands, but in this case they had no choice because one product of this type stood out above all the others. That product is Metamucil.

Now what do you think of when you hear the word Metamucil? I know what I thought of: old people. I mean, I’d heard of this stuff before but, since I never considered myself old, I never thought much about it.

Heck, I’ve now been on God’s green Earth for six decades and I still don’t consider myself old. I ran three miles this morning, and I’m going to practice guitar after I finish writing this. If that’s old, I wish I’d gotten old sooner.

So just for grins, being that the medical-tips book had otherwise very sound advice, I went and got some Metamucil. I’ve been drinking it once or twice a day for a couple of weeks now. The good news is it tastes orangey, like Tang, if you’re old enough to remember that.

The better news is — wait for it — now, because of Metamucil, I don’t even need to wipe anymore. I mean I still do, but there is nothing there. I kid you not, folks. I don’t know how it does it, but it fixes you up so you basically don’t need to wipe anymore.

Is that a miracle or what? I wish I’d been using this product all my life; it’s that good.

Take a tip from me: Just because your parents or even grandparents like something does not automatically mean it’s not “cool.” And don’t go out now and buy up all the Metamucil like you did with the toilet paper. Please leave some for me! Like the old Monkees’ song goes, when it comes to Metamucil, “I’m a believer.”


This should be an interesting week for the Old Men of the Mountain. On May 3, 2003, the iconic rock ledge near Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, fondly known as the Old Man of the Mountain, crumbled and tumbled down to the base of the mountain. This rock face was used to promote New Hampshire from as early as 1850. This scribe and his wife, on one of their many trips to the coast of New England, made the journey to see this out cropping and it was impressive and very well defined.

When New Hampshire used the image of the Old Man of the Mountain as its choice to put on the ninth state quarter in the 50 State Quarters program in September 2000, one of our OMOTM, Mike Willsey, purchased enough of those quarters for all the OMOTM and then some.

Mike soldered or glued pins (used for jewelry) on the back of each quarter (the back being the side of the quarter that did not have the image of the Old Man of the Mountain on it) and gave one to each OF. Most of the OMOTM pinned Mike’s gift to their OMOTM caps and wore them proudly.

The Old Man of the Mountain is now just a pile of rubble at the base of the mountain. The Old Men of the Mountain hope they wind up more than that, but that pile of rubble has had quite a history, and even a short story written about it by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

This scribe, because he was reminiscing on the quarter handouts by Mike, brought on by the anniversary of the collapse of the Old Man of the Mountain 17 years ago in May, called a very good friend of his that was brought up in New Hampshire, just about at the base of this ledge formation.

This fellow said that even the Indians had legends of the outcrop. He also said that his brother worked for the state and with the crew that maintained this rock feature in the summertime. One of the problems they had was with the people themselves that came to view the profile.

To maintain the Old Man the workers had a path, which they made on a back road, to get to the top of the mountain in which they hauled themselves and equipment up to do the work. The visitors eventually found this path and would go up there and party and leave all their trash behind. It was not a park but the people made a mess and left it, and the state had to go and clean it almost daily.

The scribe’s friend also said that at the base of the mountain was a lake called Profile Lake, and people were allowed to fly fish in this lake, and the lake was stocked.

This is the same problem the OMOTM that work on the Long Path have with Vroman’s nose in Middleburgh. Vroman’s Nose is a prominent geological feature in the town of Fulton (near Middleburgh), in Schoharie County. People climb to the top and leave their rubbish.

The plateau on the top of Vroman’s Nose is kind of a park and when college is in session in Cobleskill the trash is substantial. Sometimes the benches even get thrown over the cliff, and there has been evidence of some pretty good-sized fires started on this highland. The OMOTM go up there and clean it up.

No worst food

The reminiscing continues on another subject. At one time, the OFs began a conversation of foods they did not like. This was a selective category with no real winner.

Beets were mentioned but quickly voted down by other OFs who like their beets, cooked or not, pickled or not, soaked in vinegar with onions or not, tossed in with cucumbers and onions or not. Cukes themselves were mentioned, but they too lost out; so did broccoli. One OF mentioned pineapple, but this OF was told that was a fruit and didn’t count.

Another OF said he didn’t like cheese sauces thrown on everything. “If I order string beans, I want string beans, not string beans covered in some awful tasting, rich cheese sauce dribbled all over the beans so there is no taste resembling string beans,” he said.

The OF continued, “As a matter of fact, when the dang cheese is dribbled on the beans it spreads on everything on the plate. The whole plate tastes like the sauce, so why order the food, just order the sauce!”

One OF brought up rutabagas and that was shot down also. Surprisingly, more than one OF had rutabagas and potatoes mixed together by their moms, and they all said they miss that dish. Slosh some real butter over and chow down, was the universal decision. One other OF said that he sprinkled brown sugar along with the butter and it was almost like dessert.

It is a good thing that people have different palates or eating would be quite boring. I need to practice social distancing from — the refrigerator. Half of us are going to come out of this quarantine as amazing cooks. The other half will come out with a drinking problem.


It goes without saying that times are incredibly difficult at present. Contributing to this is the complexity of the language around this pandemic.

Navigating new buzzwords and phrases can be confusing, and it is important that we overcome this obstacle to assure that we all are able to correctly interpret the constant information coming our way. In doing so, we can confidently and effectively respond to do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 — or, since we’re talking buzzwords, to “flatten the curve.”

The following is a breakdown of the different ways that we can maintain space from others to limit transmission of this virus.

Social distancing

On the light end of the spectrum, we have perhaps the most widely used term of all — “social distancing.” Interestingly, this refers to simply minimizing physical interactions with others. More specifically, it means avoiding unnecessary large gatherings (10 or more people, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as maintaining a physical distance of six feet or more when you absolutely need to be in public.

You’ll note the repeated use of the word “physical.” What is really vital here is not avoiding social interactions, but rather in-person contact. All that “social distance” truly looks to accomplish is a decrease in opportunities for sickness to spread.

By all means, you can still call your friends and family if you are able. Indeed, with many facing an increased amount of downtime, this is as good a time as ever to catch up remotely with those you care about.

Quarantine and isolation

Here we have two phrases that may be considered more official. Nonetheless, just like social distancing, “quarantine” and “isolation” have the same goal of preventing infectious spread.

They simply work toward this goal to a greater extent. In the case of both quarantine and isolation, people are separated and cut off from physical interactions (i.e., no outings whatsoever — unlike social distancing) until the risk of spread has run its course (about 14 days). The primary distinction between quarantine and isolation, however, is who they are intended for.

Whereas isolation should be practiced by all those who are already sick and/or tested positive for COVID-19, quarantine casts a wider net. In the present situation, this includes all those without symptoms who have had confirmed interactions with someone who has the virus, as well as those who have been in environments that are considered “high-risk” for transmission (e.g., traveling from/through heavily impacted areas — including here in New York).

In other words, we isolate those who are already sick from those who are healthy. By contrast, we proactively quarantine those who are healthy but may become sick. In either event, the risk of spreading the virus to more healthy people is mitigated.

Notably, although quarantines can be mandated by law, thus far, officials have largely enacted only measures such as shelter-in-place mandates that increase social distancing. Thus, the onus is currently on us to recognize our own risk and respond appropriately.

This is of especially high importance as COVID-19 has been shown to often manifest asymptomatically. If you may have been at risk to acquire this virus, please quarantine for 14 days while monitoring for symptoms. Otherwise, maintain your physical space while keeping up with loved ones from a distance.

Armed with proper understanding and action, we can each help flatten the curve and fight this pandemic.


For over 25 years, Community Caregivers has helped those in local communities who may require a little assistance while they remain in their homes and live independently with dignity. Through a network of dedicated staff and volunteers, clients receive reassurance calls; friendly visits; and help with transportation, shopping, and light chores. Caregivers are also provided support through education and respite visits. Community Caregivers is always seeking new volunteers and clients. For more information, visit or call 518-456-2898.

Editor’s note: Aaron Garcia is a student at Albany Medical College.


When I started writing this column back in January or February, things were, shall we say, a little different. But, as I opened this up more recently and reread it, an awful lot of my original thoughts still make sense. Well to me, anyway.

With more folks at home, the number of people out walking every day has grown tremendously, and that’s a wonderful thing amid all the current stress and insanity. However, my original intent was to point out that all is not exactly perfect for walkers in our little corner of the world. So, hear me out and see what you think.

We live in a village where people walk. You see people walking with friends, family, dogs, babies, children, and so on. My wife and I walk frequently. We walk six to 10 miles each day year-round and the only days we miss are when conditions are seriously too dangerous (ice, freezing rain, pouring rain, thunder, wild bands of marauding chipmunks). That being said, when you put in the miles, you notice things that you might want to change.

First on the list would be to instruct drivers on the meaning of a double yellow line. While they taught us in drivers’ ed that it means one doesn’t pass in that zone, they also taught us that, when you come upon a person pushing a twin stroller filled with, you know, twins, you do have to give them room.

You can cross that sacred set of lines for the sake of pedestrian safety as long as nobody is barreling down on you in the opposite direction. In fact, you can actually slow down or stop if someone is coming at you to give the pedestrians a fighting chance and then cross the sacred golden lines once the other person has passed. It’s just common sense and good manners but, then again, those are not always in general use.

Another issue in the village is the use of crosswalks. You know the white lines they actually put on the street to show where humans can legally cross the street?

In other states, the law has been on the books longer and drivers are better trained. In Massachusetts, I’ve had drivers stop for me if I even looked at the crosswalk and was considering crossing the street. It was like telepathy! Here in New York, the law is newer and also not very well enforced, so things are different.

My understanding is that drivers must stop at a crosswalk and allow a human to cross if they are already in the crosswalk. That seems logical as it would likely result in many injuries if drivers just kept going if you were already in the crosswalk.

Personally, I would like to see more drivers stop if they see you clearly intent on using the crosswalk. I wish I had a nickel for every SUV that blew right through as my wife and I stood at the side of the crosswalk with a stroller filled with grandbabies waiting to cross. Just a thought, folks. Again, good manners.

Another issue in our fair village is speed. The village proper has a very clearly marked 30-mile-per-hour speed limit that our fine Altamont Police Department actually attempts to enforce now and again. But, since it’s a part-time group of folks, people know they are free to speed at certain hours.

For instance, folks coming down off the hill on Western or Bozenkill in the early morning have a tendency to go just below Mach 2 a lot of the time. I realize gravity pulling those huge pickup trucks and large four-wheel-drive vehicles does tax one’s brakes but, then again, you’d actually have to use the brakes to know that.

Another issue is the safety of various surfaces for walking on. During the warmer months, all two of them, it’s generally safe to walk wherever you want.

But, during the cold months, all 10 of them, it can get dicey fast. The worst place to walk in the cold is on the sidewalks. For some reason, they tend to get icy very fast no matter how much the village sends the lawn destroyer, I mean little snowplow/blower, to clean them up.

I think it would probably help if the sidewalks got salted like the roads, but I have no idea about the logistics and cost of such a thing. Suffice it to say the roads are less icy in winter thanks to the liberal use of salt and extensive plowing by the village, county, and state.

On roads with no sidewalks, the shoulder is where you’re forced to go but, in reality, that can also be a real issue due to the condition of many of said shoulders. On the boulevard, the shoulder on the left heading out of the village is excellent and actually has sidewalks till just past Altamont Oaks. Past that, it’s small, but not bad most of the way down to Brandle.

But on many roads, the shoulder is a mess of broken pavement, car parts, broken glass, garbage, and dirt that makes for a less-than-safe surface to walk on. Thus, drivers need to cut walkers a bit of slack. Most do, but some larger vehicles seem almost too big to fit in the lane and be able to go wide for walkers without killing someone or running off the road. Well, that’s how they’re driven, anyway.

I know many drivers have a problem with sharing the road but, in the current situation, they have to, since so many of our walkers are newbies. Also, if the world does choose to end, a la Mad Max, then there will be far more walkers than giant modified hell vehicles. I won’t even get into the treatment of bicycles and motorcycles except to say they’re largely in the same boat as walkers.

As we all work our way through the pandemic, working from home, schooling from home, and enduring just general nuttiness, I think this is a great time for drivers to really rethink how they act on the road with regards to other users. We really all can peacefully coexist, and we really should work toward that.

After all, if the zombies or the hell vehicles come marching up Main Street one day, we’ll need our friends and neighbors more than ever. How is that going to work if they’ve all been run over by pickup trucks, SUVs, and little sports cars? 

And getting away from hyperbole; once things settle (and they will), people will still want to walk in Altamont and we should all work toward making that a safe and happy pastime, as it should be.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg and his wife have collectively logged an estimated 137,000 walking miles in the past 27 years. They have every intention of continuing.


As usual, these are a few notes from the Old Men of the Mountain who email or who this scribe speaks to over the phone. From those spoken to, they are beyond bored. The lack of socializing is getting to all of them.

There is some “social distancing” but the freedom of going to anyplace at anytime is a freedom that is not allowed now. Even the routine of grocery shopping is now a planned event.

The OMOTM miss the weekly breakfast, they miss church and the events the churches hold, lodge gatherings and all their events, seniors lunches with bus trips and their other experiences. The OFs with their hobbies and outside interests that hold weekly or monthly meetings and again have planned events, like car clubs, antique clubs, vegetable and flower gardening clubs, and military associations are sorely missed. The list goes on and on.

Then there is just going out to eat, meeting friends at the restaurants, and being unable to do that now because most restaurants are closed. The OGs miss traveling to family and friends that may be just a couple of hundred miles away and seeing the grandkids, or just plain old socializing.

The OFs spoken to are tired of regular TV, but there is a resurgence of the old cartoons and to the OFs it is like seeing them for the first time. Bugs Bunny is the new superstar.

The OMOTM have a problem adjusting to, and don’t think they ever will, these “shows?” called virtual TV, and communications, and they can’t quite dig fan-less sports. One OF complained he is too old to fiddle with this; however, maybe it will become normal for the younger crowd.

This scribe has a narrow selection of OFs to base opinions on but when a call comes in from a different OF, that OF seems to reiterate what the others have said.

Nursing homes

The ones who call say they hope they have been nice enough to their kids because a common remark is to be nice to them since they are going to pick out your nursing home. The OFs say this is one place no one wants to be, and they ask how the virus knows to go where it is full of easy pickings.

If the nursing homes are using disinfectants to clean with and watching the food coming in and checking each employee, how is the virus getting through the defenses?

This scribe thinks this virus needs a unified worldwide three-pronged approach. One for a cure, two for a vaccine so we don’t get it, and three to find out where the heck it came from and destroy it.

If this virus comes from where this scribe’s wife says it comes from, destroying it will be kind of tough. She thinks it comes from extraterrestrial life, which the dictionary says is of or from outside the Earth or its atmosphere.


Back to the self-style quarantine type of living and how beauty salons, or barber shops still have to remain closed. As the OFs have mentioned before, their hair is really getting long and scraggly. If it gets much worse, one OF and this scribe began a scenario conversation on grooming.

The OF and this scribe do not have much hair on top but still enough to grow; the edges are over our ears, and the back is down our necks. Pretty soon the OFs will fit the characters of the Hatfields and the McCoys, or Li’l Abner, who are all like real OFs.

All the OFs will need to do is put on their bibs (OF-speak for their bib overalls), take the musket off the wall, go and sit in the chair on the porch with the dawg, and wait for them revenuers. That is about all we can do. The OFs can’t go down to the store and whittle — tain’t allowed no more.

Home brew

Speaking of revenuers, the scribe can remember way back when in the hills of Schoharie County (and a couple in the hills of Albany) there were stills cranking out home brew. A few may have been for profit but most just for kicks and giggles.

Traveling the short distance on Route 443 from Berne to Schoharie, it was common to see smoke from the stills drifting into the air. But then it wasn’t bibs and bandanas, it was tight jeans neatly folded at the shoe tops, with T-shirts and a pack of Camels or Pall Malls rolled up in the shirt sleeves, and duck-tail haircuts.

That was the dress for the still runners in the OFs’ younger days. On Saturday nights, they would grab their instruments and lightbulbs and head to Lasalle Park in Schoharie. There they would play, dance, sing, and check out who had the best ’shine. Oddly enough, the most drinking was store-bought beer.

At that time, the jail and the sheriff’s office were in back of the Parrott House, and Lasalle Park was further up the hill in back of the jail and sheriff’s office. When the weather was right, these places were within shouting distance of each other.

This scribe cannot remember a fight breaking out, but there were some pretty loud arguments, and most of those were about cars and women.

 In preparation for, and trying for, inspiration to write this column, this scribe was wondering why music was coming from his printer. Apparently the paper was jamming.


In 1936, women pleaded with rebels for the lives of prisoners in Constantina, Seville during the Spanish Civil War.

For years, I taught a course at the Voorheesville Public Library called “Writing Personal History for Family, Friends, and Posterity.”

The group met once a month, sometimes twice, and around Christmas one year we sponsored a dinner-reading in the library’s community room. On neatly-arranged tables, we dressed the white linen cloth with pots of red poinsettia; everything looked grand, dinner buzzed with happiness.

After dessert and coffee, each writer got up and read a favorite story, mindful of the gift of those who came.

In 2015, the group came out with a book called “Tangled Roots: A Collection of Life Stories” that I edited and wrote a preface for. The stories are great.

Each contributor — there are nine — offered touching vignettes about how they came to be the person they were; who helped along the way; and who, in the words of the Geneva Bible, was a “Pricke in the fleshe.”

But the stories are not about thorns; they’re celebrations of life despite the thorns.

When people in our community referred to us as a “memoir” group, I told them right away that we were not a memoir-writing group but a writing-personal-history group and that the “history” part means a chronicler has to adhere to certain facts: names, places, who did what to whom, and how the “whom” fared afterward. It requires a discipline that calls memory to account.

I have looked into the memoir genre for some time — there are endless books, courses, and seminars on how to do it. I just searched “memoir-writing” on Amazon and more than 20 offerings came up on the first page — “how-to” after “how-to” after “how-to.”

There’s no need for names but some memoirists “hawk” their memoir-writing-tactics like aluminum siding. That might be too harsh a judgment but I get the sense a lot of them want to be fiction writers. Some have pushed the envelope so far in that direction that they’ve been called on the carpet for fiddling with the truth.

For them, it seems that everyday life lacks the juice or heft — Lorca’s duende — to interest family, friends, and posterity. And many forget that personal history is about the people around us, that we’re just part of the picture. We do not “own” our self.

When my late friend and great writer William Herrick (a determinedly-interesting person) started to write his autobiography, he ran into trouble right away. “Facts” clashed with his memory.

On more than one occasion, the former kid from Brooklyn told me that, during the summer when he was young, he went to live at the socialist/anarchist Sunrise Cooperative Farm in Saginaw Valley, Michigan. He said he met Emma Goldman there; no, he said he sat on her lap and fondled her, for our purposes here, unmentionables.

But when Bill started collecting data, he found that Goldman was out of the country then, having been deported to Russia (on the good ship “Buford” with 248 other souls) by the United States government.

He told me he was switching from autobiography to memoir because the rules were less demanding. Parenthetically, he said he began to wonder: If not Emma’s lap, then whose? Maybe there was no lap? Maybe no unmentionables!

What he finally did say about his life can be found in his head-turning “Jumping the Line: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Radical” published by the University of Wisconsin in 1998. It has ’tude.

The “American Radical” part is when Bill went to Spain in 1936 to help Spain’s indigenous communities fight Franco’s fascist invasion. He wasn’t typing memos in an office, he had a gun, he was out in the field with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion listening to bullets whizz by — one of which caught him in the neck.

The doctors said, if they tried to get it out, he would die, so the bullet was with Bill on his deathbed. His wonderfully-enlightened supportive wife, Jeannette, used to say the only thing she wanted when her man died was the bullet in his neck.

Former Voorheesville librarian Suzanne Fisher — one of 27 librarians in the country singled out by The New York Times for its (distinguished) Librarian Award in 2005 — and I arranged to bring Bill to Voorheesville to talk about Spain.

He read a passage from his celebrated book on the war, “Hermanos!” It’s catalogued as fiction but Bill said it’s all true.

While he was in the hospital, he said, he confided in a nurse who then “ratted” on him to the commanding Stalinist wing of the revolution. He was escorted from the hospital to a church basement where members of the wing, the GPU, brought a half-starved Spanish boy before him and said, if he didn’t retract what he told the nurse, they would blow the kid’s brains out.

Bill said no way, and they blew the kid’s brains out.

They did this a second time with another emaciated soul and, when Bill refused again, the boy fell to the floor like a heap of wet canvas.

It happened a third time with a young girl and she was murdered too.

As Bill read about this sad traumatic period in his life, his eyes welled with tears. He told the crowd that, even after 50 years, he could not forgive himself for being righteous — he could have saved lives — and that his guilt would stay with the bullet.

In his writings and interviews later on, he spoke of the internecine warfare that took place among the leftist divisions in Spain, in some cases bullet for bullet worse than Franco.

What Herrick saw was what Orwell wrote about in “Homage to Catalonia,” that the Communist- and Stalinist-based factions fought against the grassroots collective efforts of the Republicans. They especially despised anarchists.

As we all live like Carthusians these days, I’ve heard that some older folk pace the kitchen floor wondering when dinner will be served, hoping maybe things’ll go better tomorrow.

I have a suggestion for them, and every other soul their age, and that’s to sit down at the kitchen table with pen and pad — asap — and write a paragraph of their personal history they would like the world to know about.

And from there go to paragraph two.

When a soul takes time to reach paragraphs three, four, and five, and beyond, it sees that it’s engaged in a discipline of solitude that diminishes the pain of seclusion.

Everyone must then take their finished story — it might be only a page — and put it in the metal box where deeds and similar papers are kept.

And then begin on story two.

Imagine a granddaughter 50 years from now coming upon her grandfather writing about his childhood 50 years before — the span of 100 years — explaining how he came to be who he was. What a sense of roots!

All I can think of is the prophet Isaiah (11:10) speaking about the “root of Jesse,” saying his grounding would serve as a “banner” for all the world to turn to for guidance, a rootedness the Scripture adds, that rewards such souls with a glorious resting place.

I think that’s what my Voorheesville group was striving for, to be a banner to which family, friends, and posterity could turn for guidance and maybe help a soul along the way untangle itself from roots that deny it happiness.