Archive » April 2021 » Columns

The Old Men of the Mountain met again at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. As the OMOTM talked after this very long hiatus, we discovered that many have not fared that well, and it is not COVID-related.

This is just a long time of not being together and catching up. The OFs found that cancers, age, and other serious conditions caught up with them, and now hearing about the collective numbers all at once makes these situations sound worse than hearing about problems every now and then. The prayer lists get longer in a hurry this way.

On the practical side, the OFs found it makes a lot of sense to do some financial planning ahead of time so that whatever the OFs have great or small doesn’t all wind up with the state, or at a nursing home. One thing that came to light was that it now takes seven years for many plans to take effect, where it used to take five years.

After talking to some of the OFs, depending on the individual circumstances, wills do not cut it like estate planning, even if the OFs don’t think they have too much of an “estate.” The wicket just becomes stickier, and stickier, with the underlying glue being the state.

The state seems to want to get its hands on whatever you have, in any way it can. It appears high taxes are not enough.

Do the OMOTM sound bitter? You betcha!

The scribe thinks this is another “we get too soon old and too late smart.” This is another reason to join senior groups where the senior generation can get good advice from people that have gone through it.

This scribe thinks if possible, don’t wait. Do something as soon as you can; age comes too quickly and there is a point of no return. The OFs comment the right thing to do is not become a burden to the kids or the neighbors, so plan ahead.

A couple of OFs, who were caregivers to their parents, mentioned that, even though it was hard at times, the OFs never considered the parents to be a burden. As one OF said, “Just consider how much you were a pain in the a-- when you were a kid and all the grief you caused your parents.”

Another OF added, “The rule of natural selection is you can’t select your gender, or your parents.”


Varied vaccine reactions

Many of the OFs have had their vaccinations, and there was quite a discussion on how most had no reaction, to some having quite a reaction.

A few said that the first shot one was fine; with the second one, they slept the whole next day; a few complained about having flu-like symptoms for a few days, and one OF said he became quite ill. This may or may not have been a reaction to the vaccine.

Either way, the OFs have heard that a reaction is a good thing because it shows the vaccine is working. One OF said, “Where does that put us? We had no reaction. Is it working for us? “

The other OFs said, “Hey, we don’t know. We are not doctors — Google it.”


Blessing in disguise?

One of the current events covered was working from home during the pandemic. Some of the OFs think this is going to change the dynamics of many companies like banks, insurance companies, big companies with large billing and collecting departments, and so many more.

The OFs think we’ve seen the last of the big skyscrapers. One OF thinks that now, worldwide, many of these buildings will be only half full.

To which another OF said, “Look how that can help with housing shortages. As the world’s population grows, there will be square footage for housing already there and we won’t have to gobble up all the farmland. Now we can grow food to feed the population as it grows. Is this a blessing in disguise or what?”

The OMOTM have mentioned this before, and this scribe thinks many times before, but the OFs said that, with all this high-tech stuff and knowing how computers work, they are now able to understand computer talk, so the new workforce can work from home.

Now who is going to fix the leaky faucet, change out the toilet, or hot water heater — all that kind of stuff. We need those people right now. Have any of you guys tried to get a contractor to come and build something or do home repair?

One OF asked, “How many actually show up, if and when they do get back to you?  If they give you a price, even show up to do the work, and if you get someone that is good and reliable, let me know.” (I was going to put a joke in here about carpentry, but I didn’t think it wood work).


Flood fallout

The OFs discussed speaking about contractors, etc. about how the villages of Middleburgh, and Schoharie and that area still show remnants of the flood of 2011. One large building that will pick up the area (the OFs think) is when the Parrott House in Schoharie is finished being brought back to life.

The quaintness of some of the other small towns and areas hit by the flood might be back to what they were, so hopefully, the whole valley may bounce back. The OFs are talking about this but really don’t have any answers — yet.

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and are beginning to try to get back into a routine. This was the first time at the diner in quite awhile. The waitress wore an Old Man of the Mountain T-shirt. How fitting. (Pun intended.) Those who made it to the diner were: Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aelesio, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jake Herzog, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Dave Hodgetts, and me.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

The only image of the Albany Glassworks known is this 1815 view of the glasshouse when it had been expanded from the time of the de Neufvilles’ operation. It is illustrated on script that would have been paid to a worker who could have used it to purchase goods in the community.

While this tale begins in 18th-Century Amsterdam, prosperous trading city of the Netherlands, it ends as a chapter of Guilderland’s history. Jean de Neufville and Leendert, his son and business partner, were among Amsterdam’s numerous wealthy merchants and bankers whose financial success was based on ownership of merchant ships, warehouses, and banks.

Descendants of Protestant Huguenots who fled French religious persecution in the previous century, the family prospered in the Netherlands. Jean de Neufville was an Amsterdam merchant who in the 1760s and 1770s traded in the Caribbean, and for several years was part owner of a coffee plantation on a Dutch island there.

As his wealth grew, he acquired a warehouse, a fine canal-side house at 224 Keizersgracht, and the estate Saxenburg at Wester-Amstel outside the city. Putting his profits to work, he established a banking partnership with his now-adult son.

The year 1776 brought the revolt of 13 of England’s North American colonies. Shortly after its outbreak, American representatives sailed to Europe, seeking financial aid and war materials to enable them to carry on their conflict against the British. While initially they turned to wealthy, powerful France, the prosperity of prominent Dutch bankers beckoned.


Loan not repaid

Jean de Neufville was sympathetic to the Patriot cause and in 1778 began shipping goods, including guns, to the United States. He had contact with the American representative William Lee and, acting on their own, the two signed a secret agreement. De Neufville had it approved by a Dutch magistrate and it was sent off to America on “The Mercury.”

Intercepted by the British, the attempt was made to throw the papers overboard, but they were retrieved. Sent back to England, the furious British precipitated the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War over the incident.

John Adams, then serving with Benjamin Franklin in France, was sent to the Netherlands in hopes of obtaining loans from Dutch bankers. One of the first bankers he met was deNeufville. The banker loaned Congress one million florins and also made a substantial loan to the state of South Carolina.

During this period, there was correspondence between de Neufville and both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin regarding the loan. At the war’s end unfortunately these loans and the lack of repayment led to the de Neufvilles’ bankruptcy in 1783.

Their homes and warehouse were sold. The de Neufvilles’ affluence, influence, and place in Dutch society were gone.

Jean de Neufville corresponded with George Washington in 1783, bemoaning “the ruin of credit of his house.” While some of the American loan had been repaid, South Carolina totally defaulted.

Washington responded in January 1784, “The disaster which happened to your house with which you were connected must be affecting to every true American, especially as your great zeal in the cause of liberty & your unwearied efforts to promote the interest of the United States are well known to the Citizens of the republic.”

Washington added, “I have the pleasure of being acquainted with your son.” If de Neufville had written to Washington, hoping to get some sort of favor, he received only pleasant words.


Opening a glassworks

Turning to the United States as the place to revive their fortunes, first Leendert and two years later, his father, Jean, and stepmother arrived in the United States. Here they became Leonard and John de Neufville.

In 1785, Leonard was in Albany County in a virtual wilderness on the bank of the Hungerkill on the edge of the pine bush west of Albany. On May 12, 1785, Leonard de Neufville signed an agreement with partners Jan Heefke and Ferdinand Walfahrt to open a glassworks in this location.

The site would provide sand for glass manufacture, pine to fuel the furnaces, and the Hungerkill’s steadily flowing water for use in the glass-making process or power equipment if needed. The potash needed in the manufacture of glass was readily available from local farmers who were beginning to clear trees from the surrounding countryside.

The probable motivation of the three partners was that, with the population growth and settlement of new areas in the new nation, there would be a demand for window glass.

De Neufville sadly underestimated the difficulties he would face in restoring his fortune by manufacturing glass in a wilderness spot two miles away from the King’s Highway, the main road into Albany. The connecting road was a narrow dirt track called the Schoharie Road. The Western Turnpike, which eventually provided a more direct connection, was years in the future.

It isn’t known where the three men got the capital — was it theirs or was it from silent American partners? — to build a glasshouse with furnaces and the necessary equipment. Money was given to Heefke to travel to German to recruit 24 or 25 glassblowers while in the meantime the glasshouse was being erected.

Their location was given the name of Dowesburgh or Dowesborough, the first of many names given to the hamlet of Guilderland.

By spring 1786, glassblowing could begin at the glasshouse with Heefke acting as the company agent and Walfahrt as the manager. Production consisted of small panes of window glass — measuring 6-by-8 inches and 7 by 9 inches — and of bottles ranging in size from small snuff bottles to large demijohns.

Native Americans living near the Wildehaus Kill at Dunnsville were paid to weave willow coverings for the demijohns — large glass bottles with small necks — to prevent breakage in shipment.

The glass was taken by ox cart over the Schoharie Road to the King’s Highway, then into Albany for sales there and for shipments to be sent downriver to New York City.

Their Albany agent was Wm. John Van Schaick who handled sales and shipping. Cash flow must have been limited as one of his letters related accepting two barrels of pork and 10 barrels of beef in return for a window-glass sale.

Jean, or John as he became known, followed his son to the United States, moving to Dowesborough in 1787. His optimistic letter to Colonel Clement Dibble of Philadelphia let him know that things were going well at the glasshouse, as they were able to match the prices and quality of imported British glass although he admitted the public considered the British glass to be superior.

He also noted that unfortunately the Hudson’s winter freezing delayed shipments to New York City, but in the meantime production was being stockpiled for spring shipping.



However, a year later a different picture emerged when John was visited where he was living in Dowesborough by Elkanah Watson. Watson was a prominent businessman, a founder of the State Bank of Albany and promoter of canals.

During the Revolution he had been in the Netherlands and France while in the employ of a Providence, Rhode Island merchant and was also involved in his own business there. While in Europe he apparently met the then-wealthy de Neufville and had kept in touch.

After his visit to de Neufville in 1788, Watson left a written commentary that he had “found him in solitary seclusion living in a miserable log cabin furnished with a single deal [pine] table and two common arm chairs, destitute of the ordinary comforts of life.”

Watson, who had grown progressively more affluent as he aged, must have been saddened seeing the reverses suffered by de Neufville.

Earlier in 1788, the three glasshouse partners — Leonard de Neufville, Jan Heefke, and Ferdinand Walfahrt — petitioned New York State Legislature for aid, justifying their request with the statistic that 30,000 pounds (dollars had not yet become part of our monetary system at this date) were being drained from the state by being paid to English glassmakers instead of being spent on state-made window glass.

Although their petition was ignored, the next year the partners repeated the petition. By the time the state finally came through with a loan, the glasshouse had become bankrupt under their ownership. Surviving letters tell of unfilled orders, lack of credit, and legal problems leading to the bankruptcy which seemed to have occurred by 1789.

Other investors took over the glassworks operation and achieved profitability until readily available fuel ran out in 1815 when the works were shut down permanently.

John de Neufville and his wife moved into Albany where he died in poverty in 1796. Leonard had a mental breakdown, supposedly one of several during his lifetime.

Likely the stress of trying to make a success of a glassworks in the wilderness was a factor in his final breakdown. He died in 1812 in a Pennsylvania institution.

After John’s death, the United States Congress agreed to award John’s impoverished widow a grant of $3,000 in recognition of her husband’s contribution to our victory in the Revolution.


Largely forgotten

Drivers on Foundry Road in Guilderland barely notice the historic marker, pointing out the approximate location of the glassworks that began there in the mid-1780s. The men who established it are obscure and their efforts met with failure. Leonard’s other two partners get no credit whatsoever.

Today, few know that the de Neufvilles played an important role in our victory over England in 1781 and seemed to be known to many of our founding fathers. Because of their support, the de Neufvilles lost their fortune, and in coming to America ended their lives in poverty.

Yet, they were among the first to settle in what is now the hamlet of Guilderland and, by establishing a glassworks and bringing in glassblowers, created a small community that has continued to grow.

While the de Neufvilles’ personal story was a tragic one, Guilderland residents can appreciate their contribution to the late 18th-Century history of our town.

This scribe can write, “The Old Men of the Mountain” met at the Chuck Wagon Diner for real this time. There was a group that met most of the time while this pandemic was going on; however, a few more showed up that have now had their shots and feel safer.

The Chuck Wagon had shields between each booth so hearing what was going on was tough, but at least what the scribe was able to understand it seemed as if their preceding gatherings had kept on meeting. Much of the conversation was like a continuation of last week with considerable current events thrown in, just like always, and great to hear.


Busy beavers

One OF reported that there were beavers building a dam practically in his front yard. The OF said the close dam was the latest of three dams these hardworking critters have built on the pond across the road.

There are now four ponds at this location; each pond is lower than the other as the ponds are built up on sloping land. The dam holding the water in pond number three is higher than the state highway that separates the beaver ponds from the land of the OMOTM.

Dam number four is just about 50 to 60 feet from the OF’s property. The OF said, if that dam ever lets go, it might take that whole section of highway with it and wash out his pond in the bargain.

One OF said, “Too bad beaver coats are out of style. It looks like quite a family of these rodents is working over there. You could trap them, skin them, and make a nice coat.”

Then another OF commented that he thought the Russians still wore beaver hats. Maybe there is a market for the pelts.

Still one other OF declared, “Are you crazy? Killing a beaver over here in order to sell pelts over there would start another war — swatting a fly is almost a crime.”

One OF compared the beaver to the hippopotamus. The OF said the hippo makes canals and builds ponds during the rainy season and in the dry season all the other critters take advantage of the hippo’s collection of water, and the beavers do the same thing.

Many other critters and birds take advantage of the beaver ponds. Now people are taking over, and the critters are just doing their thing. The beavers don’t know their way to survive can cause havoc on people and people’s activities.

This situation is not too far from this scribe’s abode, so this scribe took a walk to look at it, and it is just as described. These dams appear to be holding back water on over three acres of ground just on the lower three dams. The upper dam should not let go because there is a road over that one, and it is now not a beaver dam.


Cost spikes

The subject of not doing much gallivanting, or visiting, mostly staying at home and eating, means the OFs in our booth have all gained weight, and this has cost money at the grocery store. As one OF in this group noted, many people are struggling and grocery prices are going out of sight.

The OFs could not understand why such basic foods cost so much. Purchasing items to go to food pantries is getting quite expensive, one OF mentioned. With so many people hurting for no reason of their own it is hard for the OFs to understand why we have all these spikes in the cost of necessities.


Getting out

Upon greetings, the opening conversations were on how everybody was doing, and it seems that over the span of time many of the OFs’ wives and acquaintances, and OFs themselves, are pretty darn sick, not with minor illnesses but cancers, tumors, joint replacements, trouble walking, serious arthritis, sleepless nights, and getting about, not just simple running noses.

The old problem of age jumped right in there but, as one OF put it, “We do the best we can, and we don’t give up. Sitting in a rocking chair moaning ‘woe is me’ doesn’t cut it for me.”

Another OF answered, “This is the best medicine of all — just getting out. All the other stuff would have gone on anyway. As we generally gather weekly, the news of physical problems would be incremental and not noticed as much as getting a ton of information all at once.”

Among all this somehow the comment, “We should be eating more bananas” was mentioned and, “We would all be healthier.” The OFs in the booth all agreed as if this had been one of the conversations all along.

How the heck did bananas become part of the talk this scribe doesn’t know, but all of sudden there it was. Bananas! The food to end all our problems.

All the OFs in the booth seemed to like bananas and did eat them, some on a daily basis. However, some ate them only because bananas are easy to prepare, are filling, and taste good with just about everything.

The last word on this banana topic is: Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

Those attending — the OFs that challenged COVID (and so far are winning) — at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown were collectively Rick La Grange, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Bill Lichliter, Jake Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, John Dabrrvalskes, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Paul Whitbeck, and me.

Community Caregivers is working hard to make sure seniors have access to COVID vaccines. We have learned that being eligible for the vaccine does not guarantee access. Many seniors do not have smartphones, notebooks, laptops or desktops. This is the same demographic that is most vulnerable to the virus.

For those of us who can navigate the internet, finding an appointment for a vaccine has been challenging.  We have had to search various websites and complete online pre-applications so that we can access the actual application typically sent to us through other electronic communications. In this seemingly exclusive electronic effort, seniors are being left out.

Community Caregivers has a three-step approach to make sure seniors are included. First, we bring up the topic and directly ask: Do you need help getting a vaccine? We are asking this question to about 600 distinct individuals that we served in 2020.

Prior to our conversation, many seniors have not been asked the question. They, like the rest of us, need to have these discussions if for no other reason to vent some of their mounting COVID-anxiety.  

Second, if a senior is interested in obtaining a vaccine, we search to find them an appointment. We do not have access to a secret stash of vaccines, but we do have perseverance.

We, like many, have found success with a relentless effort to review the different sites over and over until we find an appointment that suits each senior. Then on their behalf, we book the appointments, collect all necessary forms, and help fill out the hard copies.  

Third, we provide transportation to and from the appointments, observing all necessary COVID precautions. We find volunteer drivers who will transport door-to-door. 

Our volunteers call in advance to make sure all the arrangements are in place and we provide the personal touch of driving seniors individually so there is no worry about traveling in a group.       

These are steps Community Caregivers is taking to assure seniors are included and protected as we get through this pandemic together. Please feel free to call our office at 518-456-2898 or email us at if you know of a senior who needs help setting up a vaccine appointment.


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.

Its 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. Community Caregivers also provides services by phone in Rensselaer County to reduce isolation and make referrals for other needed services.

Editor’s note: Tony Cortese, M.S.W. coordinates services for Community Caregivers.

— From Cornell University

Only about 12 copies of “Tamerlane,” the first published work of Edgar Allan Poe, are known to exist. This is the most recent one found — in 1988 in a New Hampshire antiques sore, purchased for $15. It is now in the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection at Cornell University, the largest privately-owned Poe collection in the world. 

At the end of February 1988, a Massachusetts man, a fisherman — who would not be identified — came upon a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tamerlane and Other Poems” in an antiques barn in New Hampshire. He had been looking through stacks of ephemera — pamphlets, catalogues, and the like — and there was “Tamerlane.”

The man recalled having read about it and thought it worth something. At the time, he told The New York Times, “It rang a bell in my head. I was alone. I got very excited.”

It cost $15.

The next day, he was off to the Sotheby’s office in Boston, book in hand, to ask the staff of the elite auction house what they thought. They said he had a gem; in March, they were telling reporters they thought the book would bring in the many high thousands.

In June, “Tamerlane” came up for sale and went for $198,000, dirty cover and all; it has a ring on it as if someone used it as a coaster.

The buyer was the well-respected New York City antiquarian book specialist James Cummins. He never flinched at the price; he said he already had it sold.

Cummins is among those book specialists around the world who view “the book” as a cultural artifact, a work of art, and the more unique the work — limited signed first edition, jeweled cover — the more a certain subset of book-lovers are willing to pay big prices for it — to a known dealer or a scout who found it in an attic or barn, like the fisherman — but they know what they’re looking for.

Almost as if to defend that genre of bibliophile, the artist/writer Maurice Sendak said, “There is so much more to a book than just the reading,” which explains the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School. There, they offer courses like “Introduction to the History of Bookbinding,” “The History of the Book in America, c.1700–1830,” and “The Handwriting & Culture of Early Modern Manuscripts.” Twenty-two hours of class cost $1,000.

But there is another subset of book phile, says the late A. S. W. Rosenbach — considered the greatest antiquarian bookseller of the 20th Century — whose members are taken over by circean lust. In his semi-autobiographical “Books and Bidders” (Little, Brown, 1927), Rosenbach says he had “known men to hazard their fortunes, go long journeys halfway around the world, forget friendship, even lie, cheat, steal all for the gain of a book.”

Cummins, Rosenbach, Tamerlane, and every facet of the rare and antiquarian book trade are presented in D. W. Young’s recent (March 2019) enchanting documentary “The Booksellers,” available on Amazon Video.

Greats from the antiquarian book world show off gems like proud parents. They describe the psychology of what hooked them as well as that of collectors who live for “the find.” But everyone in the movie is so disarmingly honest, they seem like simple monks. They have no filter.

Of course they’re involved in a business but their fascination with and love for books govern their being. It would not be the same with baseball cards.

They know everything about a particular title or even the entire oeuvre of an author: the editions of each book; the paper quality; the stitching of the binding; cover-design; even the watermark — the image a paper mill presses into each sheet that’s (mostly) unnoticeable until you hold it to the light. Today, it’s mostly the company’s logo or percentage of rag in the paper.

For my graduate degree in classics (Greek and Latin), I had a course where we spent considerable time examining the watermarks of atlas-folio-size sheets hung on a line the teacher strung across the room. [A Jesuit from Fordham.] [I could not get enough.] [I was in my twenties.] [Giant sheets of Gregorian chant.] [Incunabula.] [Appreciation of the beauty of the package words come in.]

I’d recommend “The Booksellers” to every booklover there is, but I do not because there are so many strata in the category of “booklover” today.

I know readers of Danielle Steel and James Paterson who say they love books. I know people who read Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia,” Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation,” and John of the Cross in Spanish and say they love books.

And I know, and have met those — I owned a used-books store once — who lust after jeweled bindings and first editions and say it’s because they love books — the text incidental.

I suppose the crooks who made off with the great Gospel of Columbkille in 1007, its cover bedecked in gold and jewel, considered themselves booklovers too. But when the tome was recovered, the gold and jewels were gone — the crooks hadn’t read the words within.

The cognoscenti say “Tamerlane,” 40 pages long, was expensive because it came out in 1827; only 50 copies were made; it was Poe’s first work; he wrote it as a teen. And only a cognoscentus would know it was by Poe because the author page lists the poet as “a Bostonian.”

For those who like the money part, in 2009 Christy’s sold a copy of “Tamerlane” for $662,500. It was the most ever spent for a book of American literature; James Cummins called it a “black tulip.”

I love books; I’m not a collector but I buy only cloth, and those fitted with a jacket; I want to know how the publisher depicted the author’s vision.

I also look at the paper quality of a book; I consider how the binding’s stitched; I assess the index, and how easily the print sits on the page; I love words, and especially those clothed in beauty.

For some time now, a cadre of booklovers have been saying they fear the book is done for. They point to computers, Kindle, Facebook, and other paperless engines of information. They say the physicality of a text, the turning of pages — and how such a simple act allows for a second of reflection — are anachronisms.

I used to hear people say, “I’m gonna curl up with a good book tonight,” which I took to mean they were going to create a space in which they and the author would sit in a kind of bubble and converse about life — no interruptions — and explore — when books are at their best —issues of human redemption.

People say they love movies and TV because they allow for escape. But the book, thick with pages and a cover of record, does the opposite; it asks the reader to engage the world, and intimately; even with Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man” somebody’s got to find out who done it.

The saddest thing about the book’s lessening presence in our lives is that reflective reading is passing as well; those words, sentences, paragraphs, whole texts that encourage a person to find his purpose in life, sit on the shelf.

For centuries, Christian monks have called reflective reading lectio divina — texts that move a person to assess what he does for others, how much joy he creates, whether he helps to relieve pain and suffering — it’s really lectio humana.

Such reading requires time-away, a break from the day, a time and place to sit and think and ponder — curl up, as some say. You cannot buy a spiritual life.

In “The Booksellers” the three daughters of Louis Cohen, the late founder of the great Argosy Books in New York City — Judith Lowry, Naomi Hample, and Adina Cohen — appear as angels. I hope they live the way I think they do; then they’d be poets too.

If you’re a booklover who can look in the mirror and say: I want to know all there is to know about books, Ms. D. W. Young made “The Booksellers” for you. As they say in French: Point!

As it stands right now, the Old Men of the Mountain are going to attempt to start up our weekly trek to the restaurants that will have us. The next report shall be from multiple sources and, true or not, from actual visual and verbal connections. Will it be any different? We shall see.

However, right now we will continue with some of the phone calls. Before that, this scribe was contacted by two gentlemen in Altamont that want to do a book on the paranormal of Altamont and the surrounding area.

They asked if any of the Old Men of the Mountain had any encounters, or know of anyone who did have interesting or real ghost stories to tell of the immediate area, so that they could include these in the history they are trying to collect. These gentlemen considered the Old Men of the Mountain because they are the Old Men of the Mountain and have collective years under their belts, and those anecdotes of their friends would be a good place to start.

This scribe is sure that the information does not have to stop at the OMOTM, but they would be interested if anyone has a story of their own, or in their family history. For complete information, anyone can contact The Enterprise and they would fill you in on all the particulars and put you in touch with the two fellas that are assembling all the stories and putting them in readable form.

This scribe, for one, would be interested in reading such a book. Altamont and the Hilltowns should be replete with tales of spirits wandering around occasionally making themselves known.

Because of the scribe’s own experiences, the scribe has a tendency to take some stories with the “Hmm, could be so” attitude; however, many others have made the common comment, “Really?”


Where are the April showers?

The OFs spoken to are glad to see the weather in April as it is. However, a few spoken to said it is too dry too soon.

The warm air and the breeze are nice but don’t help with the next growing season. One OF said the so-called miserable weather in April we generally have is very necessary to keep the ground moist if not wet.

Another OF mentioned snowfall disappearing too fast and it was not sinking into the ground. Many of the OFs, as previously reported, were farmers and know how this old planet works. The OFs were taught by the best teachers and from the best schools, the school of hard knocks, their parents, the animals, and life.

This scribe mentioned to one OF that the OG was right. If too much snow goes from the top and not the bottom, there may be problems ahead if not enough rain comes to make up the difference.


Swap University

This scribe wonders, after talking to the OFs, if there should be a school called “Swap University.” At this school, the semesters would change instructors.

One semester would have teachers 80-years plus. These older instructors would teach nature the way it really is, weather the way it really is, animal husbandry, etc. and students would be your typical freshmen. The next semester, the students would be 80 and above, and the instructors would be the typical freshmen, and they would teach the 80-year-olds how to use a cell phone, how to use the TV, and how to use a computer so an 80-year-old can understand it.

The 80-year-olds could teach how to drive a shift car, and freshmen could teach how to drive these new cars for which it is not even necessary to use a key to start. The degree would not be a bachelor of arts, but a “living life” degree. The graduates would now be ready for whatever came along.

This education would go along with what one OF mentioned way before this pandemic started and it almost now sounds prophetic. The OF said that too many of the young people live only for today; even though they might make tons of money some have a tendency to spend their money on pot and good times.

This OF said there should be something set aside for when things go wrong. This OF thought everyone, boys and girls, should learn to be handy: Guys should know how to cook, and girls should know how to fix a faucet and be able to do so.

This OF thinks the young folks should have two plans. One would work before retirement, and the other for when the market, or whatever their money is invested in, collapses. Make plans for their money and investments one way, and food, water, fuel, shelter, and medicine in the cellar in case of the other.

This scribe answered that he thinks to have young people make these plans is much easier said than done. Those who live in people-packed cities may have a tad of a problem having a store in the basement just for them, and a garden in the backyard, when they don’t have either a cellar or a backyard.

The scribe is now looking forward to our first meeting in almost a year where we can have more of these interesting discussions and solve life’s problems. Some days I amaze myself, and other days I look for my phone when I am talking on it.

I was 11 when my uncle died, unexpectedly, in 1993 at the age of 42 — just a few years older than I am now. I don’t remember much about him, sadly, aside from a couple scattered memories of his zany brilliance.

But I vividly recall the funeral, and how my dad — whom I’d never before seen cry — gripped the lectern as he recounted the countless times that, growing up, his older brother deliberately made him laugh so hard at the dinner table that milk would come out his nose. It was now just another of their many childhood anecdotes that would never again be shared with its co-author.

If I ever appreciated that “Uncle Scott” was my father’s brother, I did so only abstractly; there was no reason to perceive an identity prior to and independent of his primary role in my life. Yet before he was my uncle — and far more importantly — he was my father’s only sibling. And though Dad was already a husband and father of four back in 1993, I imagine the meaning of “family” wasn’t quite the same for him after Scott took off.

I’ve never talked to Dad about his big brother’s passing, and I don’t intend to. That would force me to confront a central anxiety which, thus far, I’ve managed to suppress — even as it simmers beneath the reason I write this column in advance of a holiday you might not be tracking.

Saturday, April 10, is National Siblings Day. The commemoration was conceived in the United States by Claudia Evart to honor the memory of siblings she lost in separate tragic accidents — one of which ripped her 19-year-old big sister, Lisette, from her life when she was 17, and another of which then stole her 36-year-old big brother, Alan, 14 years later, in 1986.

Without warning, Ms. Evart was suddenly rendered an only child, just as my dad would be seven years later. She responded to that crushing heartbreak by dedicating her life to the establishment of a national day to honor siblings.

I empathize with the ferocity of her mission. After all, but for the untimely catastrophes that tear siblings away from people like Ms. Evart and my dad, the bond between brothers and sisters will likely define the longest relationship a person has in his or her lifetime.

So, curious as to the status of her work, last week I fired off a Hail Mary barrage of messages via LinkedIn, Facebook, and email. We finally connected only when Ms. Evart returned the voicemail I left after finding her phone number through the phone book, thereby marking the very last time in human history that anyone will ever again resort to such antiquated lunacy.

And in yet another illustration of how this column practically writes itself, Ms. Evart informed me during our call that she was once a fellow Albanite, having lived right down the road from where you’re reading this column as a student at the State University of New York at Albany. Because of course she was.  (That revelation dropped my jaw, and forthwith justifies Albany’s designation as “Sibling City.”)

In discussing the commemorative day she’d pioneered, Ms. Evart was laser-focused on her unfinished task: securing a Presidential Proclamation from the Biden Administration that would once and for all enshrine formal observation of a National Siblings Day.

It’s the only mountain left to climb. Because since 1995 — and through the auspices of the not-for-profit Siblings Day Foundation she founded to advance her cause — Ms. Evart’s tireless efforts have resulted in the official observance of Siblings Day by 49 of 50 states (California is the lone holdout), as well as celebratory “Presidential Messages” by presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

Unofficially, the day is already societally entrenched. From Facebook newsfeeds to the far-flung corners of Oprah Winfrey’s media empire — to say nothing of “Big GreetingCard,” that most notorious of America’s industrial cabals — April 10 boasts exclusive currency as the day our nation honors siblings.

I asked Ms. Evart what Enterprise readers could do to further the objective she’s been advancing for more than a quarter century. She said that, while the most obvious form of support is tax-deductible donations through or SDF’s just-launched GoFundMe initiative, equally helpful are the “it-only-takes-a-minute” public pressure and awareness campaigns that supporters can execute from the comfort of their web browsers and mobile apps.

“Lobby the White House through Twitter,” Ms. Evart instructed, directing me to SDF’s twitter handle and encouraging users to tweet the official “@WhiteHouse” account with pleas for federal recognition of National Siblings Day. “Connect with SDF on Facebook and Instagram, so we can demonstrate this movement’s support.”

She also agreed that asking local, state, and congressional representatives to join her in calling on the Biden Administration to declare April 10 as “National Siblings Day” would significantly enhance the organization’s prospects for success.

“This is a contentious time,” she told me. “Formalizing a day that honors unconditional love [among siblings] and which already exists in practice nationwide would be really meaningful right now. Nearly 80 percent of Americans have at least one sibling — it’s a fundamentally bipartisan issue!”

Ms. Evart’s quest so resonates with me because a federally-recognized day to honor siblings would annually commemorate the most important people in my life. I’m the oldest of four, blessed to have three baby sisters who followed my arrival in rapid succession.

The derivative benefit of my mother’s renowned obsession with babies’ chubby cheekies (four sets in five years) was a brood so close in age that, throughout early adulthood, my sisters and I could roll up to Lark Street’s bars as a motley and self-contained clique.

Years before that, in 2001 — when the four of us were jointly confined for eight hours a day in Voorheesville’s Junior-Senior High School — my weekly responsibilities included flagrantly violating my hall pass to distract Robin and Brenna from the doors of their classrooms, only to then goof off with Caitlin in the percussion section of concert band.

Granted, I spent most of my teen years completely ignoring my siblings, because they were annoying and stupid and dumb and annoying. So adolescence didn’t afford me much perspective to appreciate the development of their identities in live-time. But, in retrospect, I was right there alongside them as they grew into the wonderful women I know today.

From the same parents, we each became our own independent people, while sharing so many threads and eccentricities in common. Even now, our every conversation advances the ongoing inside joke that, in the whole universe, only the four of us know.

While I can’t lay claim to ever making milk involuntarily burst from my siblings’ noses, I’m sure Uncle Scott would’ve nonetheless been proud to watch the nightly sabotage of my parents’ attempts at a civil dinner as I perfected the performance art of making my sisters laugh.

Though the military granted me a title, the honorific of which I’m most proud is “brother.” And in that role, it’s been endlessly rewarding to watch my fellow parental progeny forge their own paths from infant to individual.

Over the last half-decade, I’ve even been promoted to the rank of “Uncle Jiss,” solemnly serving as the same mischievous influence my sisters recall from childhood to my adoring nephews and nieces, whom I’ll forever regard as just free-floating pieces of the siblings I so cherish.

I wonder: How did Ms. Evart convert her pain into inspiration? How did Dad so bravely embrace the unexpected burden of keeping alive the boyhood memories his brother once helped him shoulder? And how will I know true happiness or weather life’s losses without having all my siblings there beside me?

Am I allowed to ask God — softly, subserviently, without making any sudden movements — that my sisters and I be permitted to experience together the many joys and tragedies yet lying in wait?

A tangible example: Long after we’ve said our final goodbyes to our parents, the best of them will still be reflected in my siblings, who radiate my mother’s compassion and my father’s wit. And since it’s in retelling the legends of mum and dad over whiskey that my parents will live on, can I respectfully request that God not take my sisters from me until the bitter end?

The answer, I know, is no. Ms. Evart and my father are testament to life’s sole lesson: Nothing is promised, except that it’ll all be taken away someday.

For Ms. Evart, a National Siblings Day will only ever serve as a memorial — a realization driven home when, at the end of our call, she said: “Be sure to give your sisters a big hug the next time you see them.”

How’s that for sobering? Yes, I have the enviable luxury of hugging my sisters.

So, rather than fear their hypothetical loss, I suppose I should instead count the blessing that, this coming Saturday, I’ll be wishing them “happy Siblings Day” in the group text thread that crackles with life all day every day, while taking a moment to thank God for having already given me so much time with the coolest humans on Earth.

I hereby dedicate this column to the siblings in our midst who’ve lost their own brothers and sisters, be it to death, addiction, mental illness, irreconcilable disagreement, or whatever else obscures that most sacred of bonds.

I honor the self-reliant bravery of those who never had siblings, and who thus met the world each day without the affirming (and often humbling) influence of a person who always had your back while simultaneously pronouncing that tormenting you was their exclusive purview.

I commend my dad for reassembling the shattered pieces of his heart, though one has been missing for nearly 30 years. And I thank my sisters for this anecdote:

I was once at a bar in North Carolina, my confidence flowing as freely as the bourbon which fueled it. I don’t remember exactly what I said through my Casanova haze to the enchanting woman I’d just approached, but the pronounced roll of her eyes suggests it was inordinately witty and brilliant.

“You must have sisters,” she said after a pause, smiling.

“I do have sisters,” I replied, bemused by the non-sequitur. “How’d you know that?”

“Because all boys who hit on women in bars are insufferable,” she said, placing a charitably condescending hand on my cheek. “But at least the ones with sisters know how to do it respectfully.”

It remains, to this day, the nicest compliment I’ve ever received. Although the enchanting woman evidently lacked an appreciation for witty and brilliant overtures, our encounter nonetheless left me beaming. Because even when sauced, somehow I still proudly exuded my sisters’ influence.

And maybe that’s the answer.  Maybe that’s how Claudia Evart persevered, how my Dad managed to navigate his anguish, how I might survive if one of my sisters didn’t. Maybe siblings remain indivisible parts of us, no matter what coast they’re on, whether on the phone or in our dreams, with us in this life or the next.

Maybe that’s how Ms. Evart found the strength to bring her noble advocacy to the doorsteps of yet another presidential administration, or how Dad figured out how to laugh even when the other party to his life’s most hallowed inside jokes was laid to rest in a synagogue cemetery.

Maybe a sibling’s resilience comes from having endured so many squabbles, practical jokes, and efforts to defraud them of their trick-or-treat hauls. Maybe siblings live on so as to ensure that a piece of their departed brothers and sisters do as well.

Whatever the answer, I’m just relieved that I haven’t had to figure it out yet — that, for me, National Siblings Day is a celebration of those still here. I’m sorry the same can’t be said for my dad, to whom I’m just so grateful for his role in creating my sisters.

They’re the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.

Captain Jesse Sommer is an active duty Army paratrooper and lifelong resident of Albany County. He welcomes your thoughts at

As I begin my seventh decade, it occurs to me I must be doing something right to make it this far (though you wouldn’t necessarily know that by just looking at me, haha). I’m a computer guy at heart, and computer guys love acronyms so in the hope of sharing my philosophy of life with you in as helpful a manner as possible I’ve created an acronym to make it easy to remember — PARTNERED. Let’s go through it letter by letter:

— P — Physical activity. It is very important if you want to stay healthy to include some kind of physical activity in your life. Over the years, I’ve done just about everything except swimming and skiing. If you do nothing else, at least try and get in some walking. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s incredibly beneficial to you in so many ways. If the drug companies could put all the benefits of waking into a pill it would be the most popular pill out there for sure, yet we can do it for free. Good deal;

— A — Attitude. You need to accept that things won’t always go your way. No matter how smart you are or how hard you try, every now and then the ball won’t bounce your way. You must learn how to deal with it. I actually heard on the radio recently that something like one out of 10 people are just not going to like you for no reason at all. Yikes. Make sure you are mentally tough enough to stick to your core values despite all the noise. Being tough is much more than big muscles or nasty weapons. Control your attitude and you control everything;

— R — Read, and then read some more. I cannot stress how important this is. You need to read to get other viewpoints, to build up your base of knowledge, and to learn about things you might never be exposed to otherwise. Plus reading is just plain fun. Take it from me — the book is often much better than the movie. Run, don’t walk, to your local library right after you finish this article! I mean it — support your local library and all the wonderful programs it offers. You show me a good library and I’ll show you a happy, vibrant community;

— T — Be on Time. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Maybe, just maybe, there may be some reason to be “fashionably late” in your personal world, but certainly not in the world of business. I’ve always made it a point to try my hardest to be on time for everything as a matter of respect to whoever it was that invited me. How refreshing it is to be there, relaxed and ready, when things just start. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. When you make being on time one of your core values you will be surprised how much better things go for you;

— N — Notice others. By this I mean be aware of others, the same way you’d like them to be aware of you. This means little things like letting them pull out of gas stations, to big things like not berating them if they hold different views than you do. Imagine how boring it would be if we all thought and acted alike. It used to be we had manners and could engage in discussing our differences politely. I’m hoping, for society’s sake, we’ll get back to that someday. I miss civil, intelligent discussion — by our leaders in government, by the talking heads on TV, by our friends on social media — more than anything else these days;

— E — Eat wisely. This is a tough one, as we are bombarded with fast-food places and junk food commercials all the time. Still, your body will help you with this one, whether you want it to or not. If you can eat “clean” most of the time — lean meat, vegetables, not a lot of desserts — then you can splurge now and then. But if your idea of a vegetable is a “blooming onion,” you’re going to have problems. Learning to cook, if you don’t know how, is a great idea because then you can control what you’re eating. In computing, we say GIGO — Garbage In, Garbage Out. It’s the same with our bodies;

— R — Responsibility. This is the big one. I know only about five people who, if they tell me they are going to do something, I have no doubt it will get done. That’s how I try to be and how you should try to be. If you are known as a man or woman of your word, there is no higher honor. Being responsible is the ultimate sign of maturity. This doesn’t mean you have to be an angel all the time. We all need to let our hair down now and then. But when you give your word, do your best to keep it. If you can do this, consistently, people will notice and the world will be a better place;

— E — Enjoy. Life is short. You should try to enjoy your short time on this big blue-green marble if you can. By enjoy I don’t mean making it all about money, either. For me enjoyment is sitting under a tree with a glass of iced tea and a good book, or doing a crossword puzzle, or helping my grandson build a wood-block tower. Find out how to get your dopamine (the “feel-good” brain neurotransmitter) flowing — yoga, volunteering, going fishing, whatever — and go for it. There are so many ways to really enjoy life, and many of the best ones are free. Go for it. You deserve it;

— D — Demand accountability. If you order a pizza and it comes all soggy and cold, you have a right to demand a new one. In the same way, if you eat the biggest sundae for dessert, you better go run five miles the next day. Demand accountability from people you’re paying, and more importantly, from yourself, at all times. You can do it. Demanding the best from others is much easier when you set a good example by demanding the best from yourself. Set high standards and go from there. You can’t always be perfect, but as they say in the military, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

Finally, let’s discuss the acronym itself, “partnered.” We, all of us humans, are social animals. We can’t exist in isolation, by default. It’s just not our nature.

We need one or more of the following, the more the merrier (in alphabetical order): family, friends, God, pets. Without someone to confide in, have fun with, and ride out all of life’s ups and downs with, we’d be lost.

I’ve had people tell me, “You don’t need friends.” And I’ve just never understood that kind of thinking. Life is so much more fun when you can enjoy it with others.

So there you have it. Getting “partnered” has served me very well over the years. I hope it does the same for you.

Cold, windy weather and even the sun can damage your skin and COVID-19 precautions add a whole other dimension.

The winter weather, from which we are just emerging, causes dry, flaky, and irritated skin by reducing the number of cells in the outermost layer of our skin. In addition, the dry winter atmosphere can rob skin of valuable moisture. We also tend to drink less because our thirst sensation is decreased in cold weather.

As a result, many people suffer from dry skin that can crack and bleed. Some may have worsening of existing skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

What can you do to prevent dry skin? The first thing is to drink enough water. It is recommended that men drink about 16 cups of fluids and women about 12 cups every day. You can also use thicker, heavier moisturizers, especially after showers or baths.

Finally, make sure you are gentle on your skin! That means warm, not hot showers and gentle cleansers followed by gentle drying. If you’re still having dry skin or if you think you might have a skin condition, visit your primary care provider or dermatologist.

We usually associate sun damage and tanning with warm summer months, but the sunlight in winter can play a major role in skin damage. Excessive sunlight and ultraviolet radiation can cause aging of your skin and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. 

What can you do to protect yourself? Wear sunscreen!

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, of at least 30 that is water resistant and broad-spectrum. That means it protects against both Ultraviolet A (UVA), which has a longer wavelength, and is associated with skin aging, and against Ultraviolet B (UVB), which has a shorter wavelength and is associated with skin burning.

Make sure you apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and every two hours thereafter. Sunscreen does reduce your skin’s ability to make vitamin D so, if you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, please talk to your provider about options.

The best way we can avoid spreading flu and COVID-19 is wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands. However, regular washing can disrupt our skin barrier and integrity, which can lead to dryness and skin rashes.

Wash your hands using cool or lukewarm water for at least 20 seconds. Then pat your hands dry without rubbing and apply moisturizer afterwards. (If you are using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, find ones with at least 60-percent alcohol with added moisturizers.)

Look for moisturizers in tubes instead of jars, so you do not double dip and contaminate the product. Try to avoid putting moisturizer on dry hands. Instead, wet your hands in lukewarm water for 20 seconds, then apply the moisturizer.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using ointments or creams instead of lotions, which can be more irritating. Look for products with jojoba oil, dimethicone, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum, or shea butter.


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.

Its 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. Community Caregivers also provides services by phone in Rensselaer County to reduce isolation and make referrals for other needed services.

Editor’s note: Kanthi Bommareddy is a candidate for a medical degree in 2021 at Albany Medical College.

When I decide to buy something, I tend to ask a number of questions of the seller or maker of the product. Does the product function properly? Is it a good value? Is it safe? Do other people like it? And so on. As is true in life, you have to cut through the advertising and make sure what you’re getting is what you’re paying for.

The same can be said in politics. If a party or candidate is asking for my vote or support (financial or otherwise) I want to know, in no uncertain terms, what that party or candidate stands for and supports. I want to make sure my views on issues are their views on issues, or at least, reasonably close.

After all, if I’m an avowed feminist person, I want to make sure the candidate or party takes women’s rights seriously and defends them.

So, in that spirit, I have invited Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell to be with us this month and answer some questions, so we better understand what he and the GOP stand for and support.

And, in the interests of truth, I have contracted with a reputable white witch to place a spell on the Senator that compels him to tell only the unvarnished truth in answer to all of my questions. Let the interview commence.

Mike: Senator, I’d like to welcome you to this magically enhanced interview. It’s very kind of you to take time out to tell us about your party and politics.

Mitch: I feel very strange. For some reason I have no urge to lie. This is very new to me. Well then, what would you like to know?

Mike: Well, Senator, first off, what are your plans to help us get past the pandemic and get our country back to normal, if normal is even possible anymore.

Mitch: Well, in truth, we want folks to stop dying and start spending and working for sub-minimum wages as soon as possible. The billionaires that back us have benefited greatly during the past year, but we need to get the slaves back to rowing if we want that trend to continue. But plans? We never had any and still don’t. We leave that nonsense up to the Democrats. If they succeed, we just step in and take credit and if they fail, we get to blame them.

Mike: By slaves, you mean normal American workers, who get terrible wages, no benefits, and have to work two and three jobs just to survive?

Mitch: Wage slaves, yup, you got it, boy. That’s why we strongly oppose unions, government-supported health care, and raising the minimum wage. It’s every man for himself and only the strong survive.

Mike: Speaking of health care, what’s the GOP plan for helping more Americans get health insurance they can afford, like Medicare for all?

Mitch: Our main plan is to make sure health care in this country stays in private hands, where profits can be maximized. I sure don’t want my big pharma stocks to tank. Do you have any idea how much my GOP Senate friends and I have made in kickbacks and stock from Moderna and Pfizer? Daddy is very happy. Besides, if everyone in this country got cheap or free health care from the government, the health care lobbyists would stop paying us. People would feel free to change jobs and no longer be trapped into accepting terrible benefits and low wages. That would hurt business across the board.

Mike: So healthy workers who are empowered and motivated to make a better life for themselves and their families is not what the GOP wants?

Mitch: Slaves, boy, we want slaves. Dumb, docile, and poor.

Mike: Speaking of dumb, what is the GOP plan to help improve public education in this country? While many states like New York and Massachusetts have very good public-school systems, states like yours have very poor ones due to years of neglect and lack of funding. That means your people are at a distinct disadvantage in the workplace and in life. They’re trapped by ignorance and lack of skills and opportunity.

Mitch: We’ve been working to destroy public education for years, and we sure won’t stop now. In our perfect world, only wealthy white Christian children will have the money to go to exclusive private schools and private colleges where they’ll be trained and groomed to take over the world. All this cursed public schooling just puts fool ideas into lesser folks’ heads and gives them false hope that they can be our equals. How cruel. It’s like suggesting minority people should be treated the same as white people, How absurd, sir!

Mike: So you don’t support equal rights for LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and immigrants?

Mitch: Why would we want to give rights to lesser people and sexual perverts? No sir! This is a white Christian country and we aim to keep it that way. As for women, well, a good Christian woman knows her place.

Mike: Well, let’s move off of those hot-button social issues and look for some more neutral ground. Wouldn’t you agree that, since we are one of the world’s foremost democracies, we need to strengthen and protect voting rights?

Mitch: Son, what have you been drinking? Everyone knows that our party represents a minority of Americans and is shrinking. The only way we hold onto power is through voter suppression, the great practice of gerrymandering; disinformation campaigns from our friends in Russia; the wonderful media at Fox, OAN, and the other right-wing echo chambers; and constantly changing the voting laws at the state level. The truth is, if we could hack the voting machines themselves and get away with it, we would.

Mike: So the new bill from the Democrats that would guarantee voting rights across the country and do away with all your current practices, that’s a problem for you?

Mitch: Son, I will personally burn the Senate to the ground before I allow people of color and women to join with liberals to determine the direction of this country. The founding fathers would never have allowed that, so why should we? After all, we loaded the courts with crazy, right-wing, substandard judges to make sure and quash this sort of thing. I have to tell you, I laughed myself silly every time we placed some gooney-bird judge on a bench for life that the American Bar Association disapproved of. What fun we had!

Mike: So, to sum it all up: In your perfect world, we would go back in time to about 1950 and just keep the current technology?

Mitch: Nope, we’d prefer to go back to 1750.

Mike: Well, thanks for your time, Senator. It’s been very illuminating.

Mitch: It’s been my pleasure son. By the way, is this magic spell of yours permanent? This has been fun, but I have an idea it might come back to bite me if it stays like this.

Mike: No worries, Senator. You’ll be back to normal in about t10 minutes.

Mitch: Thank goodness, I have another interview with Fox and Friends in about an hour. If I told them the truth, their tiny little heads would explode.

This interview was supervised by the Magical Guild of America and the ASPCA. No turtles or any other animals were harmed, and no magical rules were broken.
Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he wishes that spells like this could be cast for real; in lieu of that, satire and hyperbole will have to suffice.

This column is basically about being old; that is the reason for the so-called title. There are many books, articles and cartoons about being old. Maxine comes to mind, and oodles of others pertaining to the category of becoming old.

The fact of the matter is, as soon as we are born, we start getting old; there is no getting around it. However, there is old, and there is old.

To wit: One Old Man of the Mountain called and related this heartwarming story to another OF. It seems the OF was grocery shopping with his wife and they were checking out. In front of them was an elderly gentleman who had just checked out and was struggling with two bags of groceries and trying to maneuver putting his change in his wallet.

He was having quite a time of it. The Old Man of the Mountain finally decided to help the old gent out and so he helped put the bags in the old gent’s cart.

After doing this and asking the man if he wanted him to go with him to his car, the old gent told the OF no, he could handle it from there. The OF said the old gent thanked him and the old gent further said that not too many young guys would step in like that and help out an older fella.

Then, the OF continued, the elderly gentleman said to him, “Getting old is tough; just wait until you get to be 72 and you will see how hard it is.”

The OF almost said out loud that he was 84, but thought the better of it and let it go. There is old and there is old.

This scribe does not know how many of these events happen but they can sure boost your spirits when it does.


Together again?

Some of the OFs have asked if now that many of the OMOTM have had their shots, and restrictions have been lifted a little on the restaurants, maybe we could start getting together again. Some of the OFs have been gathering right along at a couple of the restaurants but this scribe has contacted some of the other restaurants and so far not getting much response.

One mentioned that the restaurants are not set up for big crowds and don’t think they could handle us yet. One said maybe we could change the day to Thursday as they are now closed on Tuesdays.

This scribe does not know how large a crowd we will be. Maybe that is a survey this scribe will have to take before he starts calling again with a little more solid information.

Boy, the scribe can’t wait as he and the wife still practice the stay-at-home protocol even though we have had our shots. This is getting boring.


Phone calls

When calling the OFs, most of the time the scribe found the phone is answered right away because almost everyone is at home. It used to be this scribe spent a lot of time talking to a machine. That is the way it should be because it shows people are out and about spending money.

The phone calls this week were mostly about the weather, or if someone was born or passed away. None of the OFs have been out causing trouble, getting arrested for one thing or another — now the problem is just loitering.

One OF did say a year ago he and the bride were talking about getting another car, but heck, the OG said, “We haven’t put any miles on the one we have, and the doctor is just about around the corner so that doesn’t add many miles either. That idea has to be put on hold for awhile.”

Another problem this scribe has run into is that he is finding more of the OFs are ill, or their spouses are ill, so the scribe has to think twice before picking up the phone. These OGs have to get out and move around; also it might be necessary to give the little lady a break from the OGs.


Road trip?

One outside event that was discussed is the OFs just go for a ride to nowhere and back. Pack a lunch and take a longer ride — just get out of the house; it’s making the OGs sick.

One OF did mention that he has taken rides on roads he has never been on before right here on the Hill. The OF said there was no reason for him to be on those roads because they didn’t go anywhere he was headed at any time.

However, this idea sounds like it might be fun. You can go to your area on Google and list the road not traveled and then travel on them to check them out.

One OG added that, if we do that, make sure it is not a dead end and the folks living in the last house don’t come out and meet you with a gun. In any case, the scenery won’t change much because the OF will still be wandering the hills. This scribe thinks he will take his own advice and do this a couple of times.


Wake-up call

One OF answered the phone at 3 p.m. and sounded like he just woke up, and it turned out that, in fact, he did. The OF was glad for the call because, he said, he has been sleeping too much.

His comment about the stay-at-home pandemic advice was that he sleeps too much, he was not much of a reader to begin with, so all he does is eat, watch TV, and sleep. This OG thinks he is going to get sick just staying home. He could be right; check paragraph above.


Time warp

All this discussion on age made this scribe realize that his birthday will be coming up shortly. Age is a relative term. All my relatives keep reminding me of how old I am.

Well, I am so old that I have actually dialed a rotary phone connected to a party line, while listening to a black-and-white TV with aluminum foil on its rabbit ears, and chewed Black-Jack gum. I am sure none of my grandchildren have the slightest idea of what I am talking about.