Archive » May 2021 » Columns

On May 18, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner, in Middleburgh. It was a beautiful day to go for a ride, but as the OMOTM keep saying, anytime the OFs go for a ride, it is a ride in the country, so Tuesday the OFs went for a ride in the country — to eat.

Eating is a favorite topic of some of the OMOTM, along with old stuff, jobs, cars, trucks, gardens, etc. The group at our end of the table was talking about places to take a ride to have some good eats.

The OFs gave a plug to Saltsman’s Inn (Hotel). The OFs say this is a historic hotel, which is out by Ephratah, on Route 10, north of Canajoharie. This is another OMOTM day trip of not much traffic and into real country. Take Route 20 west to Sharon Springs; at Sharon Springs go north on Route 10 until reaching the inn. The restaurant is not open regular days so the OFs recommend getting the inn’s phone number or using the net to obtain the hours.

Why this place came up was because the OFs were talking about eating plants and flowers and, when milkweed is in season, the OFs who have eaten milkweed at Saltsman’s Inn say this dish is to die for. This is just a suggestion from the more sophisticated connoisseurs of the OMOTM who used to eat dandelion greens that their moms would show the OGs how to pick from the dandelions growing in the yard.

There was even dandelion wine, and people call these things weeds. The OMOTM know better.


For the birds

Another one of the early conversations was that this year some of the OFs have seen birds they have not seen in some time. One was the Baltimore oriole, and the other was a yellow-throated warbler.

One OF was telling about getting orioles to come to his feeders. The OG said he takes a regular hummingbird feeder and drills out a couple of the holes to make them larger. The OF said these birds love the stuff he puts in his feeder.

He said he takes half a cup of sugar to one-and-one-half cups of water (which the other OFs thought was really sweet) and the OF says that is what he uses, and the orioles love it. The other thing he does is hang the feeder close to a branch, which the birds can hang on to because the regular little hummingbird perches are too small for the orioles.

A couple of the OFs commented on not seeing certain species in years and they still haven’t seen them this year.  A particular bird they miss is the Bobolink.

One OF mentioned that his father would not start haying until the bobolinks left because they nested in the grass, especially the timothy. The OFs feel that so many family farms are disappearing and the fields are just turning to brush so the bobolinks have fewer places to nest. The scribe’s dad used to say the bobolinks left the fields in plenty of time for him to get the first cutting in while it was still good hay.


Voting confusion

Voting on the school budget was another subject discussed — especially concerning Berne-Knox-Westerlo. However, not the weather, or if the taxes were high, it wasn’t anything like that, but where to vote.

The OFs are OFs and are so used to going to the auditorium that they didn’t even know where the elementary school cafeteria was. One OF asked if anyone knew if they were going to take our temperatures. None of the OFs knew.

This scribe assumes this is all moot now because when this is being typed the elections have come and gone, and this scribe hopes no one got lost. That’s all we need — some OG wandering around the school in a daze with an OMOTM hat on.


On track

The OFs also discussed the eventual coming of the trains through Altamont and Voorheesville. That will be like old times, when there were more trains traveling the tracks headed towards Delanson.

However, the more the OFs talked, the more the issue drifted to the electric railroad that once was supposedly coming this way. Lots of noise, no action — that railroad never came. Some of the OFs think this might be the case also with all the chatter being bantered about the mile-long train (or so) supposedly coming to the villages.

I’ve been meaning to make a list of bad railroad puns — but I’ve been getting side-tracked.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh for a great coffee, and came by car and trucks, not trains, because the Schoharie Railway has been out of service for quite awhile, were: Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Peter Whitbeck, Joe Rack, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Otis Lawyer, Jake Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Paul Whitbeck,  and me.

It’s always been my opinion that people choose to live in Altamont because they want to be part of an actual community. That being the case, folks here tend to get out of their houses, walk, bike, mingle and so on. They attend concerts, visit village businesses, and create groups of friends and acquaintances that don’t exist in the ’burbs or the cities.

But in the last year, the pandemic threw a wrench into village life and many folks tried to fix that by creating virtual meet-ups, groups, and communities online. Some worked, some not so much.

The best examples I’ve seen are the Altamont Virtual Garage Sale group on Facebook and the Buy Nothing group, also on Facebook. Both have helped folks in rough times and from what I’ve seen, they’ve been friendly, pleasant, and last year, helped a lot when we canceled the village-wide garage sale. They continue to do good work even as things are getting back to pre-COVID days.

On the opposite side of things is the Altamont Community Facebook group, which currently has about 2,300 members (which oddly exceeds the total population of the village). Things there can go from nice to ugly in a matter of posts and do so far more frequently than they really should. The administrator of the group does a truly superb job of keeping things reasonably sane but considering she’s a volunteer, it’s very sad she must do that.

What seems to set folks off are certain hot-button issues like crime, policing, personal freedoms, personal disputes and NIMBY type issues (Not In My Back Yard). People asking for help finding a plumber are usually met with multiple helpful suggestions. People complaining about a perceived crime, or a personal attack generally seem to start World War III and I’m not sure why.

I suppose it has to do with differing age groups, multiple opinions, and folks who engage their fingers or thumbs before their brains. I’ve watched perfectly innocent remarks be attacked as if someone said a nasty thing about your parent or spouse.

I recall a recent tirade had to do with somebody outside the village who allegedly set off a cannon for giggles. Once things got rolling, the discussion devolved into name-calling and silliness.

I’ve seen similar things happen when crime comes up. The recent spate of nails on the roads has spawned everything from calls for vigilante justice to warnings about white slavers. Really, folks?

This seems to start when someone reports a suspicious person seen, a car broken into, a package stolen, or something nonviolent — just unfortunate or inconvenient. The next thing you know attacks on law enforcement are countered by attacks on accused criminals, millennials, folks of other races, and then the MAGA hats pop in and well, you get the picture.

The truth is, everyone has an opinion, and they are all entitled to them. But just because someone disagrees doesn’t make them a bad person.

The whole internet act of trolling, wherein a troll attacks someone just to create discord, get clicks or eyeballs, or hurt others is not something you would expect to see in a small-town discussion group. And yet, there seem to be folks here who are more than ready to attack on a moment’s notice.

Ironically, many of those same folks would never say such things in person, so the much-vaunted internet anonymity, once again, has bitten us in the collective butt.

I can’t say I have an easy solution for this sort of discord. But, there actually is a solution. It works by religiously following a couple of steps:

— Step 1: Read a post several times and then sit quietly away from your device and consider what was said and why;

— Step 2: Before you type in a response, ask yourself honestly if your response will help or hinder the situation;

— Step 3: Remember the age-old advice that states, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything”; and

— Step 4: If you still feel the need to respond and you’ve passed the previous tests, then, add your two cents worth.

If, after all that, the discussion still descends into chaos, throw your device away or, at the very least, get off social media. Some things are better left unsaid and wise people have always known that. Let’s all try to act a little wiser and maybe things online can stay pleasant.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been involved with multiple social media platforms on a professional (actually paid) basis since the early 2000s and says he’s still not clear why.

On May 11, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon in Princetown. It seems that, not only when the OMOTM meet, but most any group that meets on a weekly basis, the opening conversations, other than the weather, are a continuation of conversations from the previous week. The OMOTM are no different.

Some of the talk is the same as the week before; this time it was on motorcycles only with most continuations it covers topics that were not covered previously. This week, the dialogue was on trips and riding. This is an unusual fact because these are OMOTM and they were discussing trips for the coming year on motorcycles.

One OF said that, for he and his friends, plopping their butts on the seat and just taking off is not the way it happens. The OF said, after about an hour, they stop and stretch because the old legs begin to cramp up. Well that is understandable.

Many OFs have this happen just doing nothing. The OF bikers who also have a few outsiders join them plan very carefully, because these trips may take weeks, and in that time not too much distance is covered. The OF said one trip coming up will be into Maine and will cover about 800 miles.

One OF said, with his physical condition, he couldn’t ride a motorcycle to the end of the block. “Heck,” the OF said, “I couldn’t even swing my leg over the thing; I even have to pull my feet up by my pants leg to get my feet on the bench to tie my shoes.”

The rest of the OFs wish the bikers well.


Old goats

discuss real goats

Another continuation of one of our previous discussions was on goats. This scribe does not know how the OFs picked up the conversation on goats but it did come up and this time the stories were completely different.

An OF mentioned that he had goats, and he made a lot of money from goats. That perked up the other OFs’ ears — the words “money” and “goats”; only later on it was found that there was a chain being slightly yanked on this one.

It was not many goats; it was one goat that the OF said cost him a buck seventy-five. He had the goat for just a little time and, goats being goats, the goat caused a little trouble. One such bit of normal goat activity is butting heads or just butting.

Anyhow, this goat decided to butt the butt of a lady friend and that was not the thing to do. The OF decided he had enough of the goat and his shenanigans so the OF decided to sell it and he did — for seventy-five cents.

Hey, the goat was just being a goat — did anyone ever hear of putting a goat on a diet?

“Goats will even eat meat though it does not agree with them and they are not supposed to,” one OF added.

Another OF wondered if goats see the world in wide-angle because of their rectangular eyes.

A different OF said that a neighbor of his purchased some goats and penned them in the yard. In a short time, he had no yard. The OF said the neighbor apparently did not research goats. They are cute and fun but they do eat everything in sight.


Antique planes

The OFs who live on the Hill have an event that happens quite often and can happen day or night. It is the routine flight of the Hercules C-130 passing over their homes.

This scribe has mentioned these planes before in his little report but, as we were discussing them at Tuesday’s breakfast, it was mentioned that, because of the heavy weather, these four-engine aircraft were louder than normal and rattled the windows as they rumbled by.

For many of the OFs, these things seem so low that one OF said he could hit them if he threw a rock, and this was an effort because of the OF’s arthritis. Chucking a rock is nothing he would want to do but, if he did and it hit the plane, it might fall out of the sky.

At Tuesday’s breakfast, the OFs discussed how old these planes were, and it was found out the C-130 first started splitting the sky with its wings in 1954. These mechanical birds can be 660-year-old airframes with upgrades to keep them in the air.

One OF said, “Hey! They need antique plates.”

One OF said ,when looking at pictures of World War II planes of the early forties, compared to the cars and trucks of the same period, the planes look like they are from the future. Except for the Gooney bird, which was named after the albatross, a seabird known for its endurance and ability to fly great distances. They don’t look like they can get off the ground yet some of those planes are still flying.

Will invisible airplanes ever be a thing? I just can’t see them taking off.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who traveled to the Chuck Wagon in Princetown, and who never left the ground, were: Miner Stevens, Rick LaGrange, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Pete Whitbeck, Duncan Bellinger, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgett, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Otis Lawyer, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.

When I write these columns, dear reader, I try to find topics that I think will be of general interest in the community that this wonderful newspaper serves. Today, I’m going to take a different tack, by writing a column that I myself would love to read in a newspaper. Excited? I sure am, so here we go.

Hey, all you guys and gals who work, no matter what your job is — roofer, nurse, farmer, or even computer jockey like me — thank you for your service. By working, you are contributing to your family by putting food on the table; to your community by supporting your friends and neighbors through your taxes; and to your country by continuing to support the work ethic that makes this country great.

You rock! Feel free to pat yourself on the back, if you have that kind of range of motion in your shoulder.

On the political front — are you kidding me? Gag me with a spoon!

On the transportation front, I’m seeing electric vehicles are gaining run time as battery technology continues to improve. I don’t know if we’ll see it in our lifetime, but someday private vehicle ownership will be rare or gone.

Instead, you’ll open an app on your phone and a driverless pod-like contraption will show up at your door and take you to your destination, where it will drop you off and then continue merrily on its way. I just hope, when that happens, the car and motorcycle guys will still be allowed to have their old fossil-fuel-burning relics to play with.

On the pollution front, it is estimated that by 2050 the weight of discarded plastic in the oceans will be more than the weight of fish. My family has been ordering take-out during the pandemic to support local restaurants, and I just can’t believe the amount of plastic required for a take-out meal.

Somebody smarter than me — there are plenty of you out there, obviously — please figure out a way to reduce single-use plastic in take-out meals. Please.

On the sports front — wait, forget about sports. I’m a huge sports fan but there is too much coverage of sports as it is, especially when we have so many urgent, real problems to deal with.

On the competing-priorities front, I have tons of great recipes yet I need to lose weight. Maybe you do too.

You’re going to eat sweets anyway, so try this: Pour a dry chocolate cake mix from a box into a bowl. Add a can of black beans, with the liquid. Add a tablespoon of cinnamon. Mix in a blender or food processor until the skins of the beans are gone. Bake for the time and temperature listed on the box.

Let cool then cut into brownies. Maybe not health food but they taste great and have to be better for you than normal brownies because of the beans. At least that’s what I tell myself.

On the interior-decorating front, I don’t care what paint, wallpaper, and flooring you use: If your house is cluttered, it will not look good. Apparently a lot of folks are with me, because when I go to the landfill, I often see stuff on the pile that is better than stuff I’m using. Clean out the junk, now.

On the obsession front, I’ve now read everything by Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, and Lee Child. Now I have to find some new favorite authors (starting with David Baldacci).

On the we-all-could-use-a-good-laugh front, a guy was asked if he woke up grouchy. “Heck no,” he replied, “I let her sleep.”

On the facts-not-mattering-so-much front: Consumer Reports does an annual car issue. Every year they say Jeeps are too expensive, noisy, and unreliable. Yet you see more and more Jeeps all over the place. So much for the facts mattering.

On the it’s-about-time front: I don’t care what your religion is or if you don’t have a religion — if we could all simply treat each other the way we’d like to be treated, the world would be a much, much better place.

From my great quotations file: “If you’re lucky enough to be living your passion, no matter what your business, I congratulate you. And if you’re not yet doing so, what are you waiting for? Start working at it — you’ll never be bored or unhappy.” — Steve DiFillippo, owner of Davio’s Restaurants, from his really interesting memoir, “It’s All About the Customer.”

Let’s take a break right here and list some of my favorite shows on National Public Radio: Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me; The New Yorker Radio Hour; Radio Deluxe; Le Show; Freakonomics; and Fresh Air. If you aren’t listening to these shows, you don’t know what you are missing. Long live NPR.

On the reality TV front: I don’t watch any — zilch — so-called “reality TV,” which is in fact the furthest thing from reality, except for “Forged in Fire” on the History channel. This is where four bladesmiths from all walks of life compete in a timed trial to make a knife.

It’s just great on every level — craftsmanship, fortitude, perseverance, etc. Yet because it is indeed reality TV, they put the commercials right at the key dramatic parts. Still, if you have any interest in the age-old trades of blacksmithing and knife-making, it’s must see TV.

On the fashion front: The other day somebody asked me — me — about fashion. I know nada about fashion, but I know that you could put a natural beauty like my wife, Charlotte, in a potato sack and she’d still be a knockout. Still, I support the fashion industry because it provides lots of jobs and it juices the economy. Gotta love that.

On the I-could-do-without-it front: There are a bunch of very common activities that I don’t do at all: swimming, skiing, fishing, dancing, hunting, shooting, and golf. Of all of these, the only two I even care a little about are swimming, since it could save a life, and dancing, since it gets you close to women. It’s not too late to learn either of them, thankfully.

On the very under-appreciated front, let’s give big props to mathematics. Do you realize when they send a probe to the outer planets, they have to figure out where the probe and the planet will be literally years in the future?

The fact that the walls in your house are at right angles, and the bank can figure out the compound interest on your loan and on your savings is mathematics in daily practical use. Video games, the internet, efficient farming, and so much more are all possible because of mathematics.

Even music, which we all love, is very mathematical. If teachers harped on the sheer beauty and daily utility of mathematics instead of rote memorization we’d all be a lot better off.

Some people use drugs and alcohol to escape reality, with often terrible or even fatal results. I have a better idea: Sit down and read “The Hobbit,” written in 1937 by J. R. R. Tolkein. I just read this recently for the first time and I was blown away. Sheer joy. I can’t wait to read it to my grandson. Immerse yourself in “Middle Earth” and you won't need any other way to escape reality.

From the amazing animal facts department: A hummingbird weighs less than a penny, a cat’s lower jaw cannot move sideways, and penguins have an organ above their eyes that converts seawater to fresh water.

Here are three great smells: a baby’s head, fresh asphalt, and early morning out in the country on your bicycle or motorcycle.

If you don’t know these names, look them up on YouTube and be prepared to laugh until you cry: Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Lucille Ball, Bob Newhart. You don’t have to be dirty to be funny.

If you’re looking for something fun to do while there’s a pandemic, have you considered motorcycling? The helmet is your mask; motorcycling is by default socially distant, and it’s just plain fun. Hudson Valley Community College offers the beginning rider course where you get your motorcycle license when you finish, which is a great way to get into riding.

When you’re out on a nice day with the sun at your back and the wind in your face, COVID will be the last thing you’re thinking about.

Finally, to everyone who works in supermarkets, hardware stores, restaurants, and all kinds of offices, which all require wearing a mask all day— thank you. Your perseverance and dedication are what have made this truly awful time at least bearable. We all appreciate you very, very much.

— Photo by Wolfgang Sauber

Heracles slaying the Hydra is depicted on Etruscan pottery.

Psychologically-speaking, when the human creature — a person — has a hard time dealing with some ugliness in himself — and does not have the strength to deal with it directly, that is, absorb it into consciousness — he spits it out. Psychologically-speaking, he projects.

The process is not unfamiliar; people accuse each other of doing it all the time — if not face-to-face, they’re thinking it. A cheating husband starts calling his wife unfaithful; a pathologically-lying politician calls people who challenge him, liars. It’s what sociologists refer to as “labeling theory.”   

Projection is a handy psychological tool because the actor casts his “problem” elsewhere: It’s now outside, in the external world; the projectee is bearer of the ill.

These days, we think of “projection” in terms of people, one person projecting onto another, but, in many traditional anthropological cultures, people projected their ills onto things like sticks and stones. A man who had a fever would rap a stick, toss the stick away, and the fever would be gone. The traditional biblical image of “scapegoat” is the tip of the iceberg.

The maddening paradox about projection is that, regardless of the ailment a person projects, no real transfer — psychologically-speaking — takes place. The problem, the ill, still resides within the projector; the pathological liar is still a liar; the cheater, still cheating.

Projection is hydra-headed in that it includes the ill the projector is trying to get rid of; the act of projection; the reception of the weight by the other; the ill-will created; and the low-level depression it causes.

To force potential projectees to submit, as well as punish those who refuse to accept the lie, the projector develops a vocabulary of “bully-talk.” It reflects a radical shift in the person’s cognition-network and explains why it’s near impossible to get projectors to confess; they refuse to give account.

Projection is economic in the sense that it involves the redistribution of worth; the projector enhances his own worth by getting rid of negativity and the dumped-upon is diminished by the burden imposed.

In his famed “Golden Bough,” the brilliant social anthropologist J. G. Frazer provides endless examples of tribes in all parts of the world getting rid of physical and psychological ills through custom protocols such as rapping a stick or bathing in a river.

In ancient Rome, Frazer says, a sick person cut his nails, rolled the clippings in a ball of wax, then stuck the wax to a neighbor’s door (in the dark of night) — whoever opened the door first got the fever.

Thus projection is a form of the Pontius Pilate Syndrome because the projector refuses to accept the negatives life has assigned him or that he brought upon himself — as when he chose to become a liar for the sake of power. Abdication is a powerful drug.

In the United States today, the projection process has become so rampant that people see evil everywhere. Social resentment is white hot.

The most glaring example is the Jan. 6 extravaganza when a mob of disaffected arch-projectors raided the United States Capitol and beat with a pole — attached to the flag of the country they live in — those the country had hired to protect “them” from people like themselves.

What is most alarming is that the mob of arch-projectors had redefined projection to mean eradication. A simple transfer was no longer effective, the other had to be eliminated; a goodly number of the assailants wore shirts celebrating the Nazi extermination of six million Jews: fascists!

But there is another process — psychologically-speaking — that goes in the opposite direction. Instead of (even while) spitting out unwanted parts, the ailing person takes in, ingests, borrows, something from the outside to enhance his worth; it’s called introjection.

The most brilliant among Freud’s original circle was the Hungarian-born psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi who took great interest in this process. He was not an economist but did pay attention to his patients’ feelings of worth — and why they felt compelled to borrow strength.

Freud said the borrowing is part of human nature in that everyone at some point in life, in some way, feels unequal to what life has set before him, and has to borrow strength. The archetype, Freud said, is when the child “ingests” the father (or some other person in power) to bolster the self; their power is transferred to the borrower.

It’s like Popeye with the spinach; he can’t handle Bluto so he borrows strength from the outer world; the can of spinach is his father.

Every sane being — and that distinction has to be made these days — believes that pain diminishes the value of living and, even when a person has techniques to absorb the pain, he might decide it’s cost-effective to dump it on someone else — there’s a wide spectrum of how people do it.

And though projection connects people, it’s so aggressive that it reinforces the gap between self and other; good and bad; mine and yours; worth and worthless; inner and outer; you and me. It’s where churches develop their sense of hierarchy.

When projection reaches the name-calling stage and then extermination, everywhere the projector looks he sees evil — Paranoia is born.

Alfred Heilbrun, a psychologist at Emory University, et al., had a paper published (in 1985) called “Defensive projection: An investigation of its role in paranoid conditions.”

The last lines of the abstract read, “Process paranoids demonstrated the most idiosyncratic free associations to verbal cues suggesting the autistic (self-preoccupied) quality of their thinking and delusions.”

Which I translate as: Projecting paranoids become so divorced from reality that a password can set them off; “most idiosyncratic free associations” means folks are willing to deny the physics of their being to live psychotically autonomic lives.

Years ago, the sound of “Hillary Clinton” produced, “Lock her up!” On Jan. 6, there was “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Kill Nancy Pelosi.” Psychotically autonomic responses.

Great power-projector-players like Donald Trump are well-schooled in how to shape autonomic Pavlovian responses; they know how to foster a shift in consciousness where the only choice is A or B, the same choice facing those contemplating suicide.

By “the autistic (self-preoccupied) quality of their thinking and delusions” Heilbrun and his colleagues are saying that the cognition network of such people is a form of autism.

Two great 20th-Century French philosophers — Gaston Bachelard and Jean Hyppolite — were interested in the cause of this, Bachelard in his “La Poetique de l’espace” (The Poetics of Space).

Their thinking was: “Le premier mythe” of humankind is “du dehors et du dedans” and our aggression toward each other “se fond sur ces deux termes.”

Which I translate as: When we accept the difference between you and me as unbridgeable — dehors et dedans — alienation is born, and why so many people in the United States go nutso these days with guns; bullets are the only words an A or B option offers. Suicide is homicide inverted; homicide is suicide projected.

The United States of America is a very sick puppy. I wonder if we’ll ever find a couch big enough where we can all lay ourselves down and confess our sins therapeutically.

In two recent columns in The New York Times, Tom Friedman says the War Between the States: II has begun.

He must have been reading about the end of the Roman Republic when, on election days, armies flooded the forum — a very scary time, and very sad — and very much like today.

On Tuesday, May 4, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie, where the proprietor covered what has been going on in her life and the life of the restaurant during the pandemic. It is amazing how strong and resilient so many people are.

This scribe suspects that ailments and sickness will go on and on as the group is composed of OFs. That can become boring and depressing. The only up-side will be unusual cases and what is being done about them.

This may bring encouragement to those who read the column regularly (and who may be mostly old people anyway) or maybe just one or two young-uns (who read for laughs and giggles) that have a malady and are glad to see they are not alone.

Like other organizations that have regular meetings, as people arrive the greeting chatter is generally about the weather; so it is with the OFs. This time the chatter has been about the rain, drizzle, and general nastiness of what the skies have been offering us in the Northeast the last couple of weeks.

In our area, many eyes are on the creeks and streams of the Hilltowns as they race to the valley. The word at the meeting on Tuesday morning is these channels of running water are becoming full, and powerful.

The report on the little Schoharie creek, and the creeks around Huntersland, is the fullness and the power of the rushing water. This water is beginning to move some of the rocks placed there to prevent flooding from the storm that occurred in 2011, and these rocks are now being shoved around. Some of the rocks are the size of a Volkswagen. Oops.

One OF mentioned hydrologists may be great engineers, and study fluids day in and day out, but trying to outguess Mother Nature is quite a challenge. Of course Mom Nature has millions and millions of years of practice, and her drawing board is just trial and error, and this ole planet is still in the trial period, or so the OFs think.

Hardest hardship

The OFs began a discussion on “Old People.” Well, duh!

Who could be better to have this discussion than the Old Men of the Mountain? The basis for this talk was when to stop driving and give up the licenses.

For most OFs, this is the hardest hardship of all. As one OF put it, it is just like being put in prison.

This OF said he has a relative who lives with another OF for economic reasons but they both were still able to drive and the two OGs went everywhere together. Eventually his relative had to stop driving, but since the other OF still could drive his relative’s coming and going didn’t change much.


What is “old?”

This brought up when, and what is old. The OF said the old adage of age not being a number is only half true.

Some people become old when they are in their late fifties or early sixties, and others know when they are old in their late eighties or early nineties, and a darn few never seem to get old.

One OF said, “All the books in the world that tell you to do this and that, or take this or that so anyone can stave off getting old is a bunch of bologna. All of a sudden your body will tell when it has had enough. More often than not ,the mind won’t agree, but it is best to listen to the body and adjust mentally and physically.”

One OF said that there is something about the people who try to help fend off the age bit by eating right and exercising; it does work. The OF said eating chips and rocking in the rocking chair just gaining pounds, moaning and groaning about life and living is the easiest way to getting old in a hurry that he knows of.

This particular OF is going to push himself as much as his body will let him. The mind is another thing; however, this OF doesn’t know much about that. Maybe that is a good thing.

Sometimes the mind (as discussed above) has nothing wrong with it, but one little part of the body limits the OF’s mobility. That event is very discouraging. The OFs try to correct this problem so they can catch up, and again sometimes that is difficult.  

Getting off on a little side track, one OF mentioned “Bones them bones, them dry bones.”

“Well,” as another OF said, “Dem dry bones can be one h--- of lot of trouble.”

Another OF commented, “The doctor that works on our shoulders doesn’t have much to worry about. The bones are big and the only weight these bones have to carry is your head. Down where the foot is located, it is loaded with a bunch of little bones and they have to carry all two hundred pounds of the OF.”

Then the discussion started. What about push-ups, pull-ups, throwing balls, footballs, basketballs, etc., how about swinging a tennis racket, a ball bat? Hey! The shoulders get a workout.

“Nah,” one OF said. “You are talking all muscle here.”

As scribe, I would like to have the last word on this conversation. If you boil a funny bone, it becomes a laughing stock. Now that’s pretty humerus. (The humerus is the upper arm bone — get it?)

What this group needs is a good physical therapist to sort it out for the OFs who are interested in this issue, but in a few hours the OFs won’t remember they even had the conversation.

Those attending the Your Way Café in Schoharie and who are still arriving at the establishments by car (and at least not yet canoes) were: Glenn Patterson, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Rick LaGrange, Roger Shafer, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Jake Herzog, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, John Muller, Pete Whitbeck, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgett, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

Original Central Warehouse blueprints.

The news yesterday spread faster than the fires that twice engulfed Albany’s Eyesore in the last 11 years: Albany County has listed the Central Warehouse for auction.

Within an hour of the Times Union’s bombshell report that the county had seized the initiative to auction off the Central Warehouse, News 10 had picked up the story. The Albany Business Review wasn’t far behind.

By 9 p.m., reactions on social media had exploded, which, as a description, conveniently segues into yet another plea for this wretched structure’s detonation.

“They never contacted me,” building owner Evan Blum told a reporter for the Albany Business Review, vowing to fight the county’s planned auction. “I don’t even know how they have the right to do it. You would think there would be a process to do that.”

As it turns out, there is a process “to do that,” and Mr. Blum would’ve known the county had the right “to do it” had he been an Altamont Enterprise subscriber. Because this past January, the Enterprise followed up on my inaugural call to demolish the Big Ugly Eyesore by urging Albany County to enforce the half-million-dollar tax lien.

Citing applicable provisions of New York’s Real Property Tax Law, the Enterprise meticulously detailed Mr. Blum’s reprehensible inaction throughout the four years since he’d purchased the building, and demanded that local officials do something.  

That is the real story here.

Albany County’s dramatic maneuver to auction the building (check the listing available on its website) is the first salvo of what will be an arduous process. Yet it already reflects the efficacy of community mobilization through the auspices of local media. In affording a forum within which to advocate for action, the Enterprise’s continuous Central Warehouse coverage helped raise awareness and mobilize a response.

But it couldn’t have done it alone. In a seeming “high five” from the opinion pages on opposite sides of Albany’s weekly vs. daily print media divide, last month I penned a letter to the Times Union editor commending the “apparent turnabout by one of Albany’s most visible commentators,” who had a month prior finally acknowledged the wisdom of knocking down the “ongoing safety problem.” In this case, the nexus between government action and a hometown’s media echo chamber is hard to refute.

That’s because local newspapers are uniquely suited to identify long-standing controversies and involve the public in their resolution. They focus attention and, thereby, resources to improve communities. Citizen involvement matters; the Enterprise and her sister publications continue to channel it. Sure enough, local officials listened, considered, researched, and finally took action.  

And that’s the other facet to this story. It’s easy to forget that our municipal officers are themselves members of our community, selected to advance the constituent interests they reflect. Their jobs are thankless, contentious, and — once the campaigns are over — unglamorous.

So it’s important to recognize our elected, appointed, and otherwise dedicated public servants for jobs well done. Indeed: in this and so many other ways, the McCoy and Sheehan administrations are a credit to our county and city interests.   

Except that now it’s time for more whining, because that’s the sound “pursuit of happiness” makes.

“I got no due process,” Mr. Blum told the Albany Business Review, conveniently forgetting the three-day trial in Albany City Court earlier this year wherein Judge Helena Heath fined him $78,800 for a slew of code violations. Resorting to a novel tactic he’d most recently used to address his overdue tax bill, Mr. Blum — drumroll please — didn’t pay the fine.  

“I’m not the bad guy,” Mr. Blum declared to the Times Union, sounding very much like the bad guy. He warned that, if the county sold the building, the new owner would be “some slob who doesn’t do much for the city,” in what neutral observers are describing as the most self-unaware pronouncement of 2021.   

But if Mr. Blum’s latest proposal — to wit, that the building’s massive blank exteriors be adorned with a “continually changing ‘mural show’” — sounds delusional, it pales in comparison to our local government’s bated-breath expectation of a knight-in-shining-billions.

Because right on schedule, Albany County spokeswoman Mary Rozak announced that Albany hadn’t “given up hope” for “a person who will be the right fit, who has a plan that will put the building back on the tax rolls.” Meanwhile, over at City Hall, Chief of Staff David Galin heralded Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s confidence that “the private sector will step up and make a compelling proposal for the site.”

An aside: One of the limitations to the written word is that it doesn’t satisfactorily convey furiously desperate shrieking. So readers will just have to use their imagination when I reiterate that DEMOLITION. IS. THE. ONLY. FEASIBLE. OPTION.

Deep breath. Calm. Let’s take a beat; walk with me here.

History repeats itself

Thanks to gracious research assistance by Carl Johnson, longtime publisher of Hoxsie — an online magazine that celebrates Capital District history — I was able to ascertain that the Central Warehouse was constructed by a company known as the Central Railway Terminal & Cold Storage Co. Inc. (An advertisement in the Knickerbocker Press on May 4, 1927 announces the offer of securitized equity in the building.)

But just shy of seven years ago, a gentleman by the name of Eugene B. O’Brien advanced a slightly different origin story in a comment to an article about the Central Warehouse on the once beloved but now defunct “All Over Albany” blog.

“I believe the Central Warehouse may originally have been built by what was, in 1916, the Albany Terminal Warehouse Company,” he wrote. “My great-grandfather, John F. O’Brien, who was also a New York Secretary of State in the early years of the last century, was its President. By 1930, the organization’s name had changed slightly, to the Albany Terminal and Security Warehouse Co. My grandfather, John L. O’Brien, Sr., who died in 1980, was its President.”

I was unable to corroborate the Albany Terminal Warehouse Company’s authorship of the Eyesore. But John F. O’Brien was indeed once New York’s secretary of state, and an advertisement published on a dusty old page of this very newspaper on Jan. 31, 1969 identifies John L. O’Brien as the president of the Central Warehouse Corporation, which New York State records reflect as having an initial Department of State filing date of July 23, 1935 and a dissolution effective Sept. 29, 1993.

Regardless of how these marginally conflicting accounts ultimately reconcile, the reason this history is important — the reason I remain so obsessively insistent on consolidating the Central Warehouse’s record in easily recallable columns — is that resolutely documenting the Central Warehouse’s trajectory is the most effective way of illustrating how hopeless is the promise for its supposed modern-day potential.  

Yes, there was once a use for that building, ladies and gentlemen, just as there was once a use for the telegraph, kerosene lamps, and phones produced prior to 2013.  

But that’s all behind us now. Each time we try to envision or reinvent a use for this disintegrating structure, we confront the Eyesore’s history — and specifically, the one that incessantly keeps repeating itself. Just look at what Matt Baumgartner, Albany’s most defining Gen X serial entrepreneur, wrote on his Times Union blog back in June 2009:

“[R]ecently I have heard that some big development company bought [the Central Warehouse] and is planning on turning it into apartments or condos or whatever, with storefronts at the bottom. Every night before I go to bed, I ... pray to Jerry Jennings that this rumor is true. Wouldn’t that be FANTASTIC for Albany?! To have beautiful, modern, riverfront, sustainable condos in that building?”

Different mayor, same pipe dream.  

Please: Re-read my past columns about the warehouse. I’ve documented each and every one of the failed endeavors that have successively burdened us with false hopes that delay the inevitable.

Just for sport, here’s another entry in the sordid tumble of developers thwarted by the Big Ugly’s uncompromising intransigence: After Trustco Bank acquired the Central Warehouse at a foreclosure auction in 1996, it sold the building to Frank Crisafulli, a retired owner of a food-distribution company, for $1 and approximately $120,000 in back taxes.

Add that to the other ten transactions I’ve previously detailed. Fellow Albanites, for the sake of whatever sanity has yet to slip through our fingers, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I dare you to make something of this sinister slab of concrete.

Promise me

For readers accessing this column online — here:  

Take both sets of blueprints to the building I’ve collected!  

Take the architect’s original building designs!  

Take Albany County’s complete summary of the building’s recent transactions, property description, contaminant profile, and tax maps!

The only thing I plead with you not to take — you intrepid pie-in-the-sky property developer heaven-sent to answer Matt Baumgartner’s prayers from over 10 years ago — is time.  

Look, you win: I’ll do it, guys. I’ll take the plunge. I’ll cross my fingers and join everyone for a 60th instance of believing something practical, meaningful, wonderful can be done with an edifice that has blighted Albany’s backdrop since before the grandparents of those county and city spokespeople were born.  

I’ll give you six more years of faith that we can finally rehabilitate the historical relic that now threatens to mutilate the views of our new skyway park. But in return, you give me your word:  


If we still haven’t found a developer to manifest our hopes and dreams by May of 2027 — 100 years after the Knickerbocker Press announced the arrival of that brand new Central Warehouse — let’s jointly commit to dropping the Big Ugly Eyesore like the bad habit it’s become.

That means lining up the C-4 now, folks. Because the next smooth-talking out-of-towner is right around the corner, peddling lofty promises and fuzzy math, ready to do nothing with that building but give me something to kvetch about.

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


The summer months are very important to our health and well being. Sunshine helps our body generate vitamin D and has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, a hormone in our body that improves mood and helps with anxiety.

While we should enjoy the warm weather and stay active outdoors, it’s important to protect our skin.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

We lose a lot of water from heat, wind, and physical activity. The conventional “eight 8-ounce glasses of water” is enough for most people. However, if you are exercising, outside on a hot day, have certain medical conditions, or take certain medications, then you might need more or less water.

How does water affect our skin? Without enough water, our skin can become dry, flaky, and tight, making it prone to wrinkles. While there is no data on water improving the appearance of skin, many people claim their skin is more radiant and healthier when hydrated.

Protect yourself from harmful rays!

The sun radiates a lot of electromagnetic waves onto Earth, particularly infrared radiation (heat), visible light (colors), and ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). This radiation is important to our environment and ecosystem but can be harmful to our skin.

UV radiation and visible light has been shown to penetrate our skin, resulting in tanning, sunburns, aging, and, possibly, skin-cancer formation. In fact, one in five Americans will be diagnosed with a skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

How can we protect ourselves? Staying in shade during peak sun hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; wearing UV-protective clothing; and, finally, putting on sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen that is broad-spectrum (protecting against ultravioletA and ultravioletB rays), has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and is water resistant.

Sunscreen should be worn every day, even on cloudy days when up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful rays are able to damage your skin. The average adult will need about one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) for the entire body to be applied about minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen as directed on the bottle.

Certain people are especially sensitive to sunlight and can develop redness or hyperpigmentation. In addition to UV radiation, visible light itself can cause significant redness and hyperpigmentation. Tinted sunscreens can reduce your skin’s exposure to UV rays and visible light.

How can we keep our skin looking healthy and clear? Hydration and daily sunscreen are the first steps. Exfoliation can help remove dead skins and stimulate growth.

Remember to gently rub your skin with an exfoliator for 30 seconds and rinse with warm, not hot, water. The frequency you exfoliate depends on the sensitivity of your skin.

For people with certain skin types, medications (retinols, benzoyl peroxide, etc.),and other skin products can make their skin red, hyperpigmented, and irritated. For those who are prone to hyperpigmentation on their faces, topical vitamin C has been shown to prevent UV-induced pigmentation and photoaging.


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 slated to graduate from Albany Medical College on May 27. He is a volunteer for Community Caregivers.

— Photo from John R. Williams

A beaver dam has pooled water that is close to Thompson Lake Road and Old Stage Road. Some of the trees that the beavers toppled to build their home are at least a foot in diameter, says John R. Williams, adding, “This is quite a critter God has put here for one reason or another.”

On April 27, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh. This time it was a meeting of many OFs, and again it is because of vaccinations, and the releasing of some of the restrictions as more become vaccinated, and the percentage overall of citizens contacting the virus.

One of the discussions (a continuation of one of the conversations of last week) was on the beaver pond on two busy roads in the Hilltowns. Trapping the beavers is not as easy as it sounds. One of the events that might happen — which many of the OFs might never have thought of — is how to trap the beaver and not the neighbor’s dog.

The OMOTM are lucky to have a professional trapper as a loyal member of this group. When people in the area have problems with wildlife, the town, county, and state have contacted this individual to take care of the problems.

They still continue to contact him but, as always, age and other problems seem to creep up on the OMOTM and we are not as able to do what we used to do. Such is the case here.

This OMOTM said he does farm these situations out to his kids but with his supervision. However, no one from any of these public entities has contacted this OF on the beaver-dam problem.

According to one OF, some government departments have washed their hands of the pending problem and claim it is not in their bailiwick and so they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Hmmm.


Now what?

The OFs discussed a dilemma that has gone on for a long time, probably longer than the Old Men of the Mountain have been gathering to discuss the world and its problems. This is companies going in and out of business. This trouble happened to be on motorcycles, but it can be anything.

In this case, the difficulty was purchasing a motorized two-wheeled conveyance in one place, and then having something go wrong. In some of the places the OFs discussed, the shops were not just around the corner. The OFs then attempt to go back where they bought the item and it is out of business. Now what?

One OF commented that, when he tried to get his motorcycle repaired, in the first place he tried other than the place from which it was purchased, the owner said, “I only repair what I sell; better go somewhere else.”

Thank goodness, that response is becoming less frequent. Another comment from the place an item was purchased sounds something like, “Oh, we don’t carry that anymore; it had too many problems so we dropped it.”

Hearing that sentence is like swallowing a bowling ball and feeling it drop to the bottom of the stomach.

This predicament doesn’t have to be only motorcycles. It can be TVs, microwaves — anything. The problem is the OF now knows he has purchased a piece of junk, but sometimes it is top of the line except not too popular and doesn’t move, so as one OF mentioned it is not necessarily the cheap stuff. On the other hand, generally it is.


Hoof prints

In the chatter, it is often that one OF thinks what has happened has only happened to him. As the story is told, the OF finds another OF has gone through the same thing. Which only goes to point out what a small world this is.

One OF was telling how, when the company he worked for went to trade in the leased car the OG had for his use in the business (because the OF traveled for the company) there were scratches on the hood and roof. Those scratches were put there by goats.

The dealer that was going over the car at the trade-in completed his routine checking of the vehicle for dings and scratches and asked, “What are those marks on the roof and hood of the car?” He asked if it was parked under a tree.

The OF said they weren’t tree scratches; they were hoof prints. The dealer said with a very questioning tone, “Yeah right, hoof prints” and the OF had to maintain, “Yeah, hoof prints.”

After telling this little story at the OMOTM gathering at Mrs. Ks, another OF started telling another story about his vehicle also having hoof prints on his car. The stories were similar, but not quite the same; in the second OF’s story, the hoof prints were also questioned.

When people hear this they don’t believe it but they don’t understand goats. A goat’s favorite game is to butt heads while standing on top of anything it can get its eight tiny hoofs on. Goats then rear back and slam their goat heads together. They can do this for hours. This little game doesn’t look like fun to the OFs.


Bucket lists

The OFs discussed a little bit about bucket lists, a rather recent term applied to events the OFs would have like to have done but either never took the chance, or they were too busy making a living and raising little Jack and Jill, and keeping the wife happy.

At ages 50 to 60, maybe even 70, most of these were still doable, but at 80 that bucket was now just a little sand pail. However, I am proud to announce that I completed the first item on my bucket list. I have the bucket.

Those OFs who made it to the Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh and left their buckets at home were: Rick LaGrange, Marty Herzog, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Mark Traver, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Herb Bahrmann, Allan Fazzio,  Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgett, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Joe Rack, and me.