Archive » July 2023 » Columns

When you put your all into something — when you really try your hardest — you want very badly to succeed. I think we can all agree this is true.

That’s why I was so bummed out when it took me not one, not two, not three, but four — count ’em, four — tries to get a good colonoscopy. Yes, I’m at the point in my life where getting a good colonoscopy is something I try very hard to do. Failing to get it right is, literally, a pain in the butt, haha.

Men over age 50 are urged to get a colonoscopy once every 10 years. When I got my first one, they found polyps. These were removed, but just because I had them I was urged to get future colonoscopies every five years.

So five years ago, I did it; no problem, but when I tried again this time it was problem after problem. Welcome to old age!

I had my wife mix up the preparation solution. Of course then I blamed her when I failed. But it wasn’t her fault.

They wanted me to get up at 2 a.m. and drink water every half-hour until 6 a.m. I chose to sleep instead. Of course, that round failed: My preparation was so bad they couldn’t see anything from the camera that they shove up where the sun don’t shine. So the first failure was on me.

For the second try, I followed the instructions to the letter. I mixed up the drink myself, drank it at the appropriate times, then got up at 2 a.. and drank water every half-hour until 6 a.m. What a rotten way to spend a night.

Some of the infomercials on the in the middle of the night are truly bizarre. Even after all this, I failed yet again. Now I knew something strange was going on.

At this point, I did some research. It was then that I found out that the main ingredient in the colonoscopy preparation solutions is a chemical called magnesium citrate. Turns out this chemical has been on a worldwide recall since July 2022.

It simply is not available at this time. So the preparation solutions I had been using were not up to snuff. Just my luck.

I had mentioned all this to my little brother. He told me about the solution he used, which was so powerful, he claimed, that his doctor told him he’d had the best colonoscopy preparation he’d ever seen. Wow.

So, for my third go round, I specifically asked for this preparation solution. I got it, I followed all the directions exactly — and I failed again. Three strikes and you’re out!

At this point, I was freaking out. Breast cancer is the most common cancer, but colorectal cancers are right up there (see Since I’d already had polyps removed once, I was extremely worried that I had them again, and that these failed colonoscopies were preventing my doctor from finding and removing them. So I had to change the game plan.

The next thing I did was go into the doctor's office myself — this was too important for phone or email — and get right with the nurse who worked with him. I explained to her that, for my fourth colonoscopy attempt, failure was simply not an option. She then met with the doctor, and I received new instructions.

For the fourth one, I was going to have to eat a low-fiber diet — the exact opposite of a healthy diet — for several days before the colonoscopy. Then I would have to fast not one but two days before the event.

Finally, I was given a new colonoscopy solution to try, and not only that, but I had to double it over two days. Clearly, they were going for maximum firepower to get my stubborn bowels cleaned out.

So how did the fourth colonoscopy attempt turn out? Do you remember the column I wrote about two years ago, where I told about the new bidet I installed myself? Well, let me tell you, over those last six or so hours before the colonoscopy, I got my money’s worth out of that bidet.

Believe me when I say it, without that soothing and cleansing water jet, I would have rubbed my nether regions raw with all the wiping. With a clean prep, the doctor was able to get right up in there, and one polyp was found and successfully removed. I even have pictures from inside my colon. Just stop by if you want to see them, haha.

I talked to the pharmacist about the magnesium-citrate issue. She said drugs and chemicals get recalled for various reasons all the time but, because colonoscopies are so commonplace, this one has affected many, many people.

In fact, the nurse who worked with me prior to my last, successful colonoscopy told me that she herself had to do it five times before she got a clean one. How about that?

Cancer is no laughing matter, obviously. If you are a man over age 50, please work with your doctor to schedule a colonoscopy if you haven’t done so already. It’s not fun, it’s time-consuming, and the prep solution tastes awful, but it just might save your life.

“Dr. IQ” transitioned from radio to television. Here, in a Dec. 15, 1958 episode, an answer is solicited from an audience member of the number of candles President Dwight Eisenhower had on his birthday cake.

To lighten things up today, let’s play “Dr. I. Q., The Mental Banker.”

People of a certain age will recall “Dr. I. Q.” as a popular audience-participation quiz show that flourished on radio in the 1940s. Many consider it the first great quiz show to ever hit the airwaves; its ratings were always in the top 10.

Members of a live studio audience were randomly selected — announcers with mics roamed the theater so contestants could be heard — to answer a question put to them by Dr. I. Q. If the contestant got it right, he was awarded a bevy of silver dollars, the amount determined by how hard the question was.

One of the announcers would begin by introducing a contestant, “Doctor, I have a lady in the balcony.”

And the Doctor would shoot back right away a question like, “Mexico, our nearest neighbor to the south, touches three of our states besides Texas. Seven dollars if you name all three.”

The contestant had 10 seconds to answer, the Doctor from time to time cautioning the audience “No coaching now.” The pace was lickity-split. Correct answer or not, the announcer was onto the next person.

And if a contestant got the question wrong, Dr. I. Q. always had a sugary aloe, “Oh, I’m sorry! I think you’d find that a rooster is the only kind of chicken that doesn’t lay eggs — but a box of 24 delicious Mars Bars to that lady and two tickets to next week’s production here at the beautiful Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis.” (That from an actual show.)

Let’s begin our game here right now. I’ll be the MC and start with this, “Doctor, I have a young man at The Altamont Enterprise newspaper.”

And, playing the part of the Doctor as well, I respond: “I have a two-part question for the man at The Enterprise, sir. Part 1 for 20 silver dollars is: How many punctuation marks are there in the English language?”

And Part 2 of the question, for 100 silver dollars, is: Name every one of those marks. The clock is ticking, no coaching please.

And also playing the part of the contestant, here is my answer to Part 1, “Doctor, there are 14 punctuation marks.”

“That is correct! There are 14 punctuation marks, 20 silver dollars to the man from The Enterprise.”

And here, Doctor, for Part 2 of the question, are the names of the marks: (1) the period, (2) the question mark, (3) the exclamation point, (4) the comma, (5) colon, (6) semicolon, (7) dash, (8) hyphen, (9) brackets, (10) braces, (11) parentheses, (12) apostrophe, (13) quotation marks, and (14) ellipsis.

“That is correct! 100 silver dollars to the man at The Enterprise. Outstanding, son, outstanding!

As a writer, I keep those 14 stabilizing tools in a small kit bag atop my writing board daily. They are my Good Samaritans. I have studied and mulled over their nature so much I can split enough hairs to make Dr. I. Q.’s hair stand.

Of course, the neophyte writer has at his disposal style manuals that show the proper way to lay down a comma or a dash. In assessing those marks myself, I have long considered the exclamation point as a kind of fascist, the writer telling the reader to get hyped up with what was just said, as in, “I really like you!” How about, “I really! like you.”

When I look over the conversations I have by text, I am amazed at how often people use the exclamation point to make a point. Even Jeb Bush’s logo for his presidential run in 2016 was: Jeb!

In an oft-quoted study done in 2006, researchers looked at the number of times men and women used the exclamation point in their electronic communiqués and found that women used far more than men, as well as more emojis, caps, and word repetitions.

In a June 2019 article in “BBC Worklife” titled “The danger of overusing exclamation marks,” Emily Torres said she knew why in her own case: “Each unnecessary exclamation mark is a little request to my recipient to my request to please like me, and please say yes.”

She said her fear was, “I won’t get what I want or need, so I soften my tone and emphasise my interest. I add a layer of friendliness because I don’t want to be perceived as cold.”

For years, I facilitated a poetry workshop at the public library in our village at which I found myself repeating the maxim, “Some words incorporate others.”

That is, I can say, “I went to the store quickly” but cannot say “I ran to the store quickly.” If you’re running, you’re already quick; “ran” incorporates “quickly” thereby eliminating the need for it; poets speak of such economies of scale as “concinnity.”

All the poet/writer really wants to do with punctuation is have the reader assume the same rhythm/pace/breathing pattern that occurred when he received the story (via vatic consciousness) in the first place.

I don’t think there ever was a writer who’s taken more flak for her use of punctuation than the great American treasure Emily Dickinson. Even the poet’s so-called friends, when they started putting her posthumously-collected poems into book form — Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd — edited her punctuation as if she didn’t know the English language.

The reality is they were pandering to the Victorian reader’s constricted breathing patterns that conflicted with how easily Emily’s breath flowed onto the page.

Here’s a riddle: If Emily Dickinson were one of Santa’s reindeers, who would she be? The answer: Dasher. Per pound, per square inch, or by any other measure, Dickinson used the dash more than any reindeer in history.

Here’s an example in her poem #18 (she never titled her poems; a numbering system was later devised by editors).




Morns like these — we parted —
Noons like these — she rose —
Fluttering first — then firmer
To her fair repose.

Never did she lisp it —
It was not for me —
She—was mute from transport —
I — from agony —

Till—the evening nearing
One the curtains drew—
Quick! A Sharper rustling!
And this linnet flew!


Twelve dashes for 52 words — nearly 25 percent — might be an indoor record.

When I first read Miss Emily, the dashes bothered me but I learned to understand the way she spoke, so now, I’m happy to report, I breathe like her.

It’s been on my mind for years to go to our grammar school up the road and find out at what grade kids in our school system are taught punctuation (and grammar) and how the sales pitch is received.

Are the kids interested in what it takes to express themselves clearly? How about the teachers?

Do they understand that the more a person’s words follow the natural rhythm of his/her/their innermost self, the greater the chance is that that person will find a modicum of happiness in life?

For the correct answers to these questions, Dr. I. Q. says he’s got a million silver dollars waiting in a truck just outside the gates of Fort Knox.

July 18, The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. Quite often the OMOTM discuss the ride to the eating place of that Tuesday.

This past Tuesday morning, it was a little unusual. Not too often do the OFs say the ride over was at times miserable because of the drizzle, fog, and smoke — smoke; that is new.

Some said they could smell the smoke inside the car. This is not unusual because during the fall and winter when the air is heavy it is possible to smell the smoke from the homes that burn wood, or have outdoor furnaces and the smoke from these heating devices waft across the road and can be noticed in the car. This, though, is short and sometimes is nostalgic or at times will make the OF hungry.

One OF thought the smell of burning leaves in the fall is also very nostalgic and the OF really enjoyed burning them; now we are not supposed to burn our leaves. Now we are supposed to mulch them someplace, and in the towns put lawn rakings in bags or rake them to the curb, and city or town will pick them up.

Now raking leaves is nothing but work, all the fun is gone. One OF said we pay more taxes so the municipalities can pick up the leaves and now we can live longer with more aches and pains and pay more taxes.


Feline focus

Many (and that is a good word) of the OMOTM have or have had cats, or at least one cat. Some mentioned just one or two to others with dozens.

Cats, according to some of the OFs, can be friends or just a plain ole pain in the butt. The range of a cat’s affections can go from super friendly to don’t mess with me, and feral.

One OF asked questions and told of an experience at the same time. The question was: Why do cats love boxes? That question just got a bunch of shrugged shoulders for an answer.

The other question was how to use boxes to catch feral cats without them running away or clawing the catcher to pieces.

The OFs said to just place boxes out, it was not said when but the OFs feel it is safe to say when the cats are visible and around (and it was not said whether a little food was placed in each box or not) and watch the cats. They will examine the box and eventually jump in, curl up and lay down.

Then the OF should stealthily amble up to the box and close the lid. Bingo, the scrappy feline is caught. 

This may or may not work. Cats are not the easiest animal to catch if they do not want to be caught. Quite often, if something is really hard to do, it is referred to as “trying to herd cats.”


Longer lives

Our aging society is beginning to show up in groups like the Old Men of the Mountain. One OF thought that is why there is such a concern with nursing homes and homes for the elderly.

The OFs thought that in previous years people died off at an earlier age before they were all crippled up with arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and other ailments that require a ton of care which homeowners can’t provide even if they wanted to and could.

This scribe checked out that the average age for a male in 1950 was 65; in 2022, it was 79.5 or almost 80. That gives the OFs 15 more years to get all the ailments that used to put the OFs in the “home.”

On the flip side, that is 15 more years of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, watching the kids grow, contributing your accrued knowledge not only from education, but life itself, on to society so the average end of life can become still older and better.

It may be smart to invest at both ends of living: Manufacture items for babies and toddlers like strollers, and car seats and then, at the other end, manufacture items like rollators, wheelchairs, and hospital beds.


Lake picnic

For some years, one OF has offered the use of his camp as a location for an OMOTM picnic. This has turned into an annual event.

On July 19, the OFs had their “annual” picnic at this OF’s place. This outing includes the OMOTM and their wives or significant others.

This camp on Warner Lake sits right on the water and is very private. Close to the camp is a huge cedar tree where many of the OFs circled in the shade of this tree told stories and passed on misinformation, or maybe the real stuff, who knows, it all has to be sifted out.

A few of the OFs gathered in the shade of the porch, close to the goodies. Mentioned often was how lucky the group was with the weather. It was a beautiful day; considering the summer so far, this day was one of the rare ones.

The host, who is very gracious in lending the use of his home on the lake, took the OFs out in small groups on his pontoon boat for a leisurely lap around the lake.

As we reported many times before, some of the OMOTM have antique or restored later model vehicles. One OMOTM arrived in his Model-T, which ran better than some newer cars. Others showed up in restored vehicles that would be the envy of any car show.

The whole event went very well; now it is wait until next year.

This scribe is going to tattle on himself here (here-hear); a good example of what happened is in typing “who knows” in this column, when re-reading that section, this scribe saw he had typed “who nose” — ah-hah.

Finding their way to Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh on a smoky, foggy, morning, the Old Men of the Mountain were: Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Rick LaGrange, Ed Goff, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Frank Fuss, Dan Pellitier, Ken Parks, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, George Washburn, Russ Pokorny, Frank Dees, Gerry Chartier, Rev. Jay Francis, Jake Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Bob Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Paul Guiton, John Dab, and me.

After 50 years of either going to school, working, or going to school and working at the same time, I’m finally retired. It’s only been a few weeks at this point, so it still just feels like being on vacation, but I really am officially retired.

Truly, every day is Saturday now, in that when I get up I have complete control of my agenda. Very powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility.

I still get up super early because my body is just used to it. The first thing I do is bring in the newspaper — yes, I still get an actual physical newspaper delivered every day — and then I stare at the front page to see what day and date it is. Do not think I’m kidding here.

When you are retired, and no longer tied directly into the work week, every day really does seem the same. So the first thing I do is get in my head the day of the week and the date, so I can at least have some semblance of connection to the working world.

At that point, I now have complete freedom to do what I want. Some days, I might bust out the guitar for an early morning practice. Other days, I might go for a power walk, or do calisthenics first.

Eventually, I’ll read the paper, have breakfast, and do the crossword and the other puzzles. Nice to have so much freedom to do what I want.

Then it’s time to see what the major part of the day will be. I might choose to work on some house project, or do some of the never-ending landscaping that comes with living in the suburbs, or work on one of the motorcycles.

If I have to go out, I always combine my trips. Much more productive, time-saving, and fuel efficient to do this if you can. For example, a trip might include a visit to the library (my favorite place), the post office, the home center, and then the supermarket.

One great thing about retirement is I now get to do these trips during the day when I’m refreshed and raring to go, rather than on the way home from work when I’m tired and so is everyone else. Hey, senior discounts are nice too, when I remember to ask for them, haha.

I’m a big reader. I average one book a week. Now that I have time, it would be so easy to sit outside in a chair and just read for hours.

Because of this propensity, I actually have to moderate my reading, so I don’t spend too much time on just this one activity. As much as I love it, there are other things to do, both for fun and that just need doing.

But “War and Peace,” “Anna Karenina,” “Crime and Punishment,” the complete Holy Bible, and many other large, highbrow classics that you never have time for when you are working, look out, ’cause I’m coming for you.

As you can imagine, my wife has had to make a big adjustment now that I’m home during the day. Let me say this about her: She is one busy gal. She is not sitting around eating bonbons and watching “Oprah,” as the stay-at-home housewife cliché goes.

During the day, she is always, and I mean always, cleaning, decluttering, or organizing something, often while multi-tasking by being on the phone, computer, cooking, etc. at the same time. I had no idea during my working life how hard she really works to make the house look presentable and not be too chaotic. Now if I can only learn how to keep up with her!

The other day, she came out with this pronouncement: “You are obsessive about the mail.”

This is because I know when the mail comes and I get it as soon as I can. Why do I do this? There are several magazines I get that I really like, but really it’s because of the vehicles I own.

Let me explain: I’ve gotten recall notices that my vehicle may have a seat belt, brake, or even exploding airbag problem (the shrapnel from a defective exploding airbag can kill you). When I get a recall notice, I call the dealer as soon as possible and schedule the work.

Why would you not want critical information such as this the earliest you can get it? So, yes, I am obsessive about getting the mail, because I like to stay on top of things. Better safe than sorry.

Much of my skill set from my working life is in high demand right now. My friends have even suggested I could get a gig working maybe three days a week, possibly all of it from home.

While that is intriguing in many ways, I think I’d rather move on to something else. Finding the right volunteer opportunities is something I’m working on. And if I do wind up doing something for pay, I’d rather it be in a completely different field. Why not try something new at this point?

I’ve been working on playing the guitar for the past three years. When working full-time, it was a struggle to get regular practice sessions in. Now, I’m shooting for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night, every day.

Truly, it’s not so much the time you put in, but the regular practice that keeps you moving forward. No matter what you’re trying to learn, being persistent and consistent is the way to go.

We’re planning some travel, which is like a full-time job in and of itself. Remember back in the day when you just went somewhere?

Now you have to compare everything online first, research when the best times to travel are, get bookings and tickets, etc. What a hassle.

I’d be fine with getting in the car or on the bikes and just heading out to see what comes our way, but my level-headed and planning-oriented wife would never be happy just doing something off the cuff like that. Still, when you spend more time looking for wi-fi than for a nice picnic spot, you wonder if all the tech is really worth it.

Retirement so far is a lot of fun. So nice to not have to be at any specific place at a specific time anymore.

Do I miss the satisfaction of being on a team and getting projects done? Yes, no doubt.

But finding new things to learn, new things to do, and new places to go has its rewards as well. Wish me luck as I attempt to find the right balance between setting and achieving tasks and just relaxing with a good book, so I can use my precious time wisely.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, the Old Men of the Mountain appeared in a mysterious communiqué that arrived at the Middleburgh Diner. This letter was current but the year mentioned was not.

The year was 1998, and as the letter requested it was passed to the current names listed in the CC at the bottom of the letter. So this July 11, 2023 quickly was transported back in time.

This scribe proceeded, just out of curiosity, to see who would have been in attendance at the breakfast in 1998. A phone call was made to the editor of The Enterprise, requesting if she had any records of the OMOTM at that time. She did, and the editor graciously forwarded to this scribe the names of those in attendance.

This scribe found 16 Old Men of the Mountain at breakfast at that time. Of those 16, only two are still currently regular attendees, and two are still taking nourishment but are in their nineties. One does not hear very well and has trouble getting ready until later in the day; the other is 97 and has basically the same problems.

This makes four who are still taking up space on this planet, and the other 12 have passed and are having breakfast every Tuesday with all the other OFs on some cloud in the sky.


Rare beauty

The OMOTM quite often report on the weather in our area — sometimes good and other times not so good. This can be true of most any part of this sphere that anyone happens to be in at any particular time.

After all the miserable weather the area has been having, the morning of Tuesday, July 11, was an exception. The air was crisp and clear and, looking across the hills, it seemed as if one could see forever.

Around 6 or so in the morning, some fog popped up here and there, and the sun lit up the hills. Some OFs stopped and pulled to the side of the road to take it all in on their way to the Middleburgh Diner.


Drones evolve

In conjunction with the beauty of the day, the discussion of drones came up and how many people that have these new toys can take unusual pictures from perspectives they never could before. Some of the OFs have these machines and noted the early ones were driven by radio-controlled airplane engines, which are pretty touchy to start and run.

Now most of the drones are battery operated; the controls are the same but all that is necessary to get the drone started is to flick a switch and the operator with his machine is underway. 

A couple of OFs discussed how there is quite a learning curve on flying a drone, similar to a radio-controlled airplane. Once they are in the air and a distance from the operator, it is tough to know which way the drone is going. Is it away from the operator or towards the operator?

The other similarity is, once the drone passes the centerline of the operator, many of the controls reverse. Right now becomes left, and left is right.

At this time, the drone is quite a tool for the search-and-rescue teams dealing with all the flooding going on now, or when people are lost in the woods. But as one OF thought, once AI gets cranked up, and these things become more sophisticated, society is getting set up for George Orwell’s Big Brother warning in the book “1984” big time.


Precious stuff

The OFs, as they age and now have time and money, have a tendency to accrue stuff — just stuff. What happens to this stuff when the OFs get to the point they are no longer able to enjoy the stuff or get out and about like they used to?

All this stuff does is collect dust, rot, or rust away. Because of the letter mentioned at the start of this column, the OFs talked about passing all this junk, stuff, antiques, etc., on. However, the odd thing is, nobody wants it; it is only interesting to the OF.

Who do you give it to most of the time? Your kids, nah. They don’t want it; they already have their own stuff so they don’t want yours.

Quite often, when the OFs eventually get to be OFs, their kids are beginning to approach their own OF age. The OF’s trinkets are theirs — not the kids’.

However, this does not hold true especially if the trinkets and stuff are true antiques. Now may be the time for an auction, or sale but this is tough. One OF said he has become really attached to a lot of his stuff and would rather die while it was still in the barn.

The Old Men of the Mountain that attended the breakfast in 1998 were: Steve Kelly, Ivan Baker, Walt Coulter, Frank Ostrander, Herbie Wolford, Myron Filkins, Carl Slater, Keith Saddlemire, Gerd Remmers, Harold Murphy, George Washburn, and Warren Willsey who was brought as a guest because he was just a young-un at that time, and me (and those who were very active but have had to retire: Robie Osterman, 91, and Mike Willsey, 97). 

Now those who were at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh 25 years later were: Wally Guest, Ed Goff, Miner Stevens, Russ Pokorny, Harold Guest, Frank Fuss, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn again, Pete Whitbeck, Otis Lawyer, Gerry Chartier, Jake Herzog, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Dick Herzog, Herb Bahrmann, and me again.

The Enterprise — Jesse Sommer

Jesse's nephew proudly sports a Kiwanis T-ball team jersey adorned with his uncle's company branding.

Either I’m tilting at windmills — routinely polluting the Enterprise with doomsday admonitions to repent before the future swallows us whole — or there really is something to the economic efficacy of smalltown USA.

But we don’t need to choose right now, because it’s my column and, rather than defend my perspective, I’ll just demand that readers presume its merit. So with the abiding thesis that a sense of place is the most stable and fertile ground on which to construct a business, I write to tell y’all about two new websites — and — which extend the Town of New Scotland from the physical to the digital.

The New Scotland Historical Association

On June 13, 2023, the New Scotland Historical Association launched its new organizational website at  Designed by an “elder Millennial” — those vanguards of the generational cohort who came into being even before the release of Nintendo’s “Mario Bros.” — this website was immediately stale upon launch. It boasts no generative artificial intelligence integrations, it has no mobile application companion, it can’t cook your dinner or fold your laundry.

And yet it still fulfills its core mission of making New Scotland more accessible to residents. New Scots reading this column online should click its embedded links to tour the dramatic Xennial upgrade of NSHA’s predecessor website.

It offers a brief history of both the town and organization.  

It exhaustively lists every historical marker in the jurisdiction.  

It provides information about the New Scotland Museum and its featured exhibit. (Psst! If this is the first time you’re learning that New Scotland has a museum, you need to get our more — or, I suppose, you need to spend more time on your phone’s web browser, since many of the museum’s collections may be digitized and presented online in the years to come.)

The site offers both web-and-mail-ordering options for a slew of “New Scottish” literary titles, to include “A Sketch of the Beginnings of a Nineteenth Century Railroad Town” — Dennis Sullivan’s heartstring-tugging treatise on Voorheesville — as well as an “Images of America” series installment entitled “New Scotland Township.”

There’s “Times of Our Lives: New Scotland Memories” — a compendium of memories and materials published by NSHA in 2011 — and a history of the Indian Ladder Region by Tim Albright and Laura Ten Eyck (New Scottish institutions in their own right).

There’s also corporate sponsor information, membership applications, a list of ways to volunteer with NSHA, and a donation page where site visitors can lend financial support to this not-for-profit’s mission of “preserving, protecting, and promoting history in the Town of New Scotland through the stewardship of material culture directly related to the Town.”

You can additionally peruse nearly two decade’s worth of issues of The Sentinel, NSHA’s quarterly newsletter. (Check out my winter 2018 contribution entitled “The ‘New Scot’ Defined: What It Means to Be New Scottish at This Moment in Time and Space,” edited as it was by my seventh-grade English teacher.)  

As an NSHA trustee and New Scottish entrepreneur, I’m militantly committed to securing New Scotland’s rural and agrarian traditions — both for their own sake and because those bucolic, pastoral landscapes that bound the drive from the city of Albany up into the Helderbergs directly impact my business. Any threat to that environment or the community therein directly jeopardizes my brand.

That’s why I’m also proud to be a charter member of another estimable organization, to wit:

“Our New Scotland”

“Our New Scotland” is the trade name for New Scotland’s business community. Accessible online at, this organization promotes the interests of small businesses located within New Scotland and just outside its borders. (The consensus was that the group’s Hilltown members warrant distinction as honorary New Scots.)

Conceived in 2022 but officially launched just this year, Our New Scotland remains a work in progress. It’s currently experimenting with annual membership fee structures and various service benefits under the guidance of organization founder Craig A. Shufelt (a local entrepreneur himself).

Most recently, Craig has introduced a “speaker series” wherein group members give mini presentations on business-related topics ranging from best practices to social-media marketing techniques. The objective is to help local businesses network among themselves and raise public awareness of their offerings.

Craig is the proprietor of Shufelt Group, a public relations and marketing firm based right here in New Scotland. In assembling this article, I called him up to ask how’d he articulate the premise of Our New Scotland.

“For 30 years, I’ve heard the same refrain when I talk about businesses in town,” Craig said.  “It’s always ‘I had no idea such-and-such even existed!’ Mind you, I’m usually talking about a local enterprise that’s been up-and-running for over a decade. This community is packed to the gills with successful small businesses; they’re what give New Scotland its richness and identity. But you have to seek them out.

“People know Gracie’s Kitchen and Northern Barrell. OK. How many have never once set foot inside? How many people trek out to Central Avenue for a car wash when Advanced Car Wash is half a mile from their front doors?”

Craig notes that many of New Scotland’s businesses are hidden; they either lack a storefront or have one off the beaten path. “People know where to grab a pizza, get some ice cream, or fill their tank. But do they know of New Scotland’s photographers and engineers, beauticians and woodworkers, landscape architects, contractors, dog walkers, dentists, and yoga instructors [and intrepid, debonair, distillers-cum-Enterprise-columnists]? We need to change that.”

Craig is excited by the many vibrant businesses in town, and believes the forthcoming Blackbird Tavern and Romo’s Pizza will further position New Scotland to be a celebrated commercial destination throughout Albany County.

“But these are still just the visible tip of the iceberg,” Craig says. “There’s well over 150 businesses registered to a town with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. That’s one business for every 66 residents. We can’t expect the community to fully flex its potential if our native entrepreneurs are losing patrons and foot traffic to the malls or Amazon.”

Community Day

This is why “Our New Scotland” is hard at work preparing to execute the town’s first ever Community Day in Voorheesville’s Jim Nichols Park on Sunday, Aug. 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This’ll be a chance for people to familiarize themselves with the goods and services right beneath their noses,” Craig says. “We’ll have food, a live band, and more than a dozen local vendors sampling their wares and informing their neighbors what they offer. We’re doing everything we can to make sure people come out to support the businesses that contribute so much to New Scotland’s culture, tax revenue, and livability.”

There’s much to be said about people’s charitable impulse. In reality, though, helping a neighbor often begins at the point of sale. And, with that in mind, I want to share a personal anecdote.

I’m a small business owner. Though I launched my enterprise in 2016, the nature of whiskey distilling is such that it wasn’t until last year — after I’d left military service and had aged my spirits for more than half-a-decade in charred oak barrels — that I began selling my “Helderberg Whiskies.”  

New Scotland Spirits has grown by leaps and bounds in those 16 months thanks to the generous support of my fellow New Scots.  

Yet this summer’s crucial sales season has proven vastly different from last year’s; attendance at every one of the farmers’ markets where we’re operating vendor booths is down. Way down.  

This is not unexpected; the economic downturn has left money as tight for families as it is for fledgling startups. Yet the cruel irony of economic recessions is that the only way out of one is to spend. Unlike with the pandemic, this time we won’t be able to depend on the government’s money-printers. We’re literally going to have to shop our way out of this.  

Where consumers shop determines how the economy will be salvaged. Giving your money to big-box stores with corporate headquarters in Delaware ain’t the way. Anxiety shopping online is akin to overnight shipping wads of cash to China’s President Xi.

Farmers’ markets and other such vendor popups are where the community comes to keep the money inside itself. It’s where “neighbors” become a “neighborhood.”  

When you buy a local merchant’s products, you’re equipping him to pay the employees who live down the street from you. You’re enabling her to manufacture more product with partners right here in the Capital District. You’re empowering me to support local not-for-profits that enrich the fabric of our hometown.  (Seeing my whiskey company’s name on the backs of the local Kiwanis T-ball jerseys remains my crowning comedic achievement.)

Like all my fellow Our New Scotland members, entrepreneurs seek neither your charity nor your pity.  But we do seek your business. Our wares might be a few dollars more than the name-brand alternatives, but those extra dollars end up right back in the community.  

That’s the point of Our New Scotland. It’s about keeping the money in town — buying from the local business owners who employ our friends and family so we all can spend your dollars locally in turn. Your friendly neighborhood craftsmen, farmers, artists, chefs, barbers, and service providers have woven the web of this local economy in ways that uplift us all.  

So now let’s bring this full-circle: Our New Scotland exists to give the New Scotland Historical Association a community to chronicle. It’s how we make a living that makes life worth living.

The next time your cupboard is bare, or your grass needs mowing, or your wedding needs a DJ, remember this mantra: 

Shop New Scotland.  

Taste New Scotland.  

Drink New Scotland.  (Spirits.)   

And did I mention that cash is king?


Another Tuesday, this one was on the Fourth of July, 2023 and the Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfast was at Hillbelly’s in Westerlo. Google finally changed the name of the restaurant to Hillbelly’s ─ before it kept referring to it as Hillbilly’s.

Many of the restaurants are some distances from where the folks who are members live. Hillbelly’s is one of these for those who live almost due north of Westerlo. Normal time for these OMOTM to make it to Hillbelly’s would be about an hour.

This was their first trip and this scribe does not know if they used GPS or not but they arrived just as some of the OFs were leaving. This carload said it took two hours to get there. They claimed they wound up in Greenville.

One of the OFs said someone there, or at least on the way, gave them directions that were pretty good so they could get to Hillbelly’s. At least once in Westerlo there is not too much there: a deli, some churches, a post office, bank, library, fire department, Hannay Hose Reel, and Hillbelly’s. That’s about it.


Wrong group

This is an after-the-fact communiqué. This happened during the breakfast, but this scribe did not know about it until afterwards.

A new member was invited to attend the breakfast to see if he liked the crowd. This new member arrived rather late and most of the OMOTM were already there. Apparently, arriving late, he noticed there was no place to sit in the back room where the OMOTM were.

Tuesday morning at Hillbelly’s there was another group of 12 meeting at the same time and in the front section, which is part restaurant and part store and there was space there. According to the fellow reporting the incident, the new guy-to-be thought they were the OMOTM and sat with them — until they started their Bible lesson.

The apparent new member told the OMOTM who invited him he knew now that was the wrong group. Well duh.


Stuck key

One of the OFs mentioned how he was having trouble turning a key in a lock and became rather irritated so he proceeded to go get a vise grip to give extra leverage on turning that key. No lock was going to outwit this OF, but it did. The key snapped off, leaving the OF with a piece of the key in the vise grip, and the other in the lock.

As luck would have it, this OF was sitting directly across from an OF who is a locksmith; the locksmith said this was one of the most common problems he runs into. He proceeded to explain how to handle this type of situation.

The locksmith OF said: Do not try and twist the key; instead spray WD-40 or an oil that the OF recommended (this scribe did not catch that), which was something like 3-in-One oil, in the lock and insert the key in and out several times, do not twist, just in and out; the key will become freer as this is done.

When the key is working in and out freely, try and twist, doing it very easy; the lock should then open. The OF said do not use graphite, or grease; all this does is collect grime and dust, which makes matters worse.

This OF began giving a lesson on locks and how they were made and worked. The OF also said most all locks are made the same: The top moves and the bottom is stationary.

Just like flush toilets, keyed locks, or a form thereof, go back to Roman times. My goodness, some things have not changed in thousands of years.

The way the OF explained it, the Roman locks were more like combination locks. As mentioned before with Roman engineering, using Roman numerals, and now combination locks, those lettered numbers somehow worked well.


Legal costs

The OFs then talked a bit about the attorney ads on TV. One OF thought attorneys charged about $200 to $400 an hour, more or less.

So, as one OG thought, the insurance company offers a grand, the lawyers say they can get more, they do, they get you $1,500 hundred dollars — big whoop! They charged $800 maybe, or more, to get it.

That is a quickie two hours of work — maybe. Whoops $1,500 minus 800 bucks; let’s see, now you get $700. Hmmm. This is just lay people talking; it might not work this way.

This is nothing against lawyers because, when the OFs are in trouble, or selling a home, or planning a will, who is the first person the OF will run to? A lawyer.

Who knows the ins and outs and makes things run smoothly in routine daily life? A lawyer. But just wait until one gets into politics, which is another story.


Mourning Bob Giebitz

The Old Men of the Mountain would like to send our condolences and prayers for the passing of an OMOTM, Bob Giebitz, known for his gardening abilities.

The Old Men of the Mountain that traveled to Hillbelly’s and solved all the world’s problems using the best lessons learned, passing the test with high marks in the lessons of common sense taught by the school of hard knocks were: Wally Guest, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Doug Marshall, Russ Pokorny, Frank Fuss, Ed Goff, Roland Tozer, Rick LaGrange, Pete Whitbeck, Paul Whitbeck, Pete Parisi, Jake Herzog, Gerry Chartier, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, John Dab, Paul Guiton, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Dick Dexter, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.

“Christ Crucified” by Diego Velázquez, circa 1632.

After Judas Iscariot, Jesus’s other apostle Thomas — known as Didymus, the twin — was arguably the most despicable of the very first Christians. Judas sold out Jesus for money — for 30 pieces of silver, the gospel writer Matthew says, while Luke and John say he was possessed by Satan, that is, had gone off his rocker.

The case against Thomas was based on his denial of the most fundamental belief of Christianity — the raison d’être for Jesus being born — that he, though having experienced human death, rose from the dead and thereby beat death at its own game.

With Thomas’s denial we get the archetypal character of the “doubting Thomas,” an epithet applied to someone who rejects belief in some basic principle or event. The disbeliever is chided, “Ah, don’t be such a doubting Thomas.”

The gospel writer John says that, after the Good Friday execution on Golgotha, the official Registrar of Deaths had Jesus listed in the dead column but that he soon appeared, as if alive, to all the apostles, except Thomas was out at the time.

When he got home the 11 others excitedly exclaimed, “We have seen the Lord! He was here! He showed in person! He’s alive!” Thomas thought they were off their collective rocker: Jesus was dead; everybody saw him die on the cross.

But Thomas conceded he would believe if he could stick his finger in the holes in Jesus’s hands from when they nailed him to the cross, and could stick a hand in the hole in his side where a soldier had pierced him with a spear.

The story continues: Eight days later, all 12 apostles — Matthias had replaced Judas — were gathered in a locked room and Jesus appeared again, this time passing through the door as if he was Casper the Ghost.

He wished everyone peace, “Pax vobis,” then turned to Thomas right away — it was a business trip — and said, “Thomas, take your finger and stick it in these holes in my hands and put your hand in my side where the spear went, and stop being a disbeliever: Believe!”

All a stunned Thomas could say was, “My Lord, my God.” The vulgate says: “Dominus meus et Deus meus.”

Looking at him Jesus said, “You believe because you see what’s in front of your eyes, but blessed are those who do not see such things, physically, and believe.”

The moral of the story? The true Christian believes that Jesus rose from the dead — bodily — and that that body, as some gospel texts proclaim, later ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

What resurrected these thoughts in me was an article in The New York Times this past Easter (April 9, 2023) by an Anglican priest, Tish Harrison Warren, called “Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?” She meant bodily.

Not to be disrespectful but the “bodily” part reminds me of when my chums and I played “Cops and Robbers” as kids and someone got shot dead; after a few minutes the dead person got up, came running back in the game shouting, “New Man! New Man!” And we accepted it.

Warren’s article turned out to be an interview she did with the renowned scripture scholar N. T. (Tom) Wright whose 848-page scholarly treatise “The Resurrection of the Son of God” appeared in March 2003.

Wright, once the respected Bishop of Dunham in the Anglican Church — the same denomination as Warren — also held the esteemed Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College in the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

He was long interested in a Christian’s view of life after death and, with respect to whether Jesus rose from the dead bodily, he said all the biblical talk about resurrection and apparitions, etc. was not metaphorical. The guy came back.

Wright’s thinking is considered by many as theologically and Christologically conservative; in 2005, he threatened to discipline clerics in his Anglican Church who registered or blessed a civil partnership. He was incensed that an openly gay Anglican vicar had exchanged vows with another man inside a Newcastle church.

On March 11 of the same year — two years after his magnum opus appeared — the bishop found himself on a stage in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary with John Dominic Crossan, an Irish-born, former Roman Catholic priest, prepared to debate/discuss/dialogue — but not argue — with the man about the correct view of the life and death and after-life of Jesus. The session was advertised as “The Resurrection: Historical Event or Theological Explanation.” It was standing-room only.

To those committed to getting to the bottom of this pons asinorum, the session was their “Rumble in the Jungle” or “Thrilla in Manila.”

Everything the two said, and discussed, and exchanged views on that day, can be found in “The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue,” which Fortress Press put out a year later; its editor, Robert B. Stewart, included articles from eight renowned scholars to help make sense of the issues.

I might add that Crossan was and remains the world champion of scholars on Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. He’s got more than 15 books on the subject without an ax to grind.

What he shared in his discussion with Wright was what he’d said many times before. In his 1998 “The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus,” he said, “Bodily resurrection has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of its tomb … Bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in the world. That life continued, as it always had, to form communities of like lives.” As in communities of love.

In other words, Jesus died, and was no more, and would never be again. And for all the talk of Mary Magdalene finding an empty tomb on Easter morning, the stark reality is that a renegade peasant Jew like Jesus, crucified on a cross for being a rabid insurrectionist, was not likely to see a burial at all.

As Martin Hengel says in “Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross”: “The crucified victim served as food for wild beasts and birds of prey. In this way his humiliation was made complete. What it meant for a man in antiquity to be refused burial, and the dishonor which went with it, can hardly be appreciated by modern man.” Id est, Jesus was chum.

When I was in fourth grade in a Roman Catholic school being taught a lesson on the mother of Jesus rising from the dead and being assumed into heaven, bodily — the same “perk” as her kid — I told the nun that that was preposterous; I said Mary, like everyone else, was buried below forever and ever.

I wrote about it in a monograph in 2010 “El Día Que Me Hice Un Poeta” (“The Day I Became a Poet). After I registered my objection — I was 10 — as I say in the text, “The nun responded as quickly as I had to her: Impossible, [she said], that is blasphemy; the things of God are not the things of this world. The body of the mother of the son of God lives in heaven forever and ever without stain of sin or death.”

Two things I am sure of: the first is that the day I became a poet, life and death were one; the second is that, if John Dominic Crossan were a web designer today, he’d offer his services to any loving couple who wanted to marry, doing for them what Jesus had done for him.  

A very much belated Happy Easter.

Growing up, my oldest daughter loved birthday parties. We tried very hard to make them fun and exciting for her. My wife made up all kinds of games for the kids to play, and we had a lot of food and cake.

These parties were a ton of work, but the kids all had a blast. Every year, we tried to outdo ourselves. It’s so great to have that kind of energy when you’re young, haha.

One year, we rented a pony for her. Having that pony in the backyard giving her and all her friends rides was a lot of fun. Kids love animals. I’m sure the pony rental business does real well.

Another time we did a pool party at a local health club. That was fun too, especially for the kids who knew how to swim. Anything that gets kids moving around is good.

Then one year, I got the idea to play Jeopardy — America’s favorite TV game show — at my daughter’s birthday party. What a decision that has turned out to be.

I never was and am not now a TV game-show fan. So many better things to do than watch game shows. But I always liked Jeopardy. I used to turn it on after school, when Art Flemming was the host.

The thing I always liked about Jeopardy was that you actually had to know stuff to win. It wasn’t based on luck or stunts or goofy stuff. Plus, if you paid attention, you could even learn some things from watching. I thought that the educational aspect of it was terrific.

So I got a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood. I cut it in half the long way, to make it easier to transport. Then I painted it and installed some hooks, which allowed me to have removable panels that would cover the answers.

The idea was, just like in real Jeopardy, you’d call out a category and an amount, the panel would be removed, and then you’d see the answer. Then you’d have to give the correct question to get the points.

My wife and I sat down and thought up suitable categories for the young kids who would be at the birthday party. Well, we must have done something right, as the Jeopardy game was a huge hit. So much so that we used it for other birthday parties, then for bridal showers and other special events. I had a hit on my hands for sure.

There are several motorcycle rallies I go to on a regular basis. Seeing how well my daughter and her friends liked playing Jeopardy, I decided to do it at the motorcycle rallies as well.

Now, motorcycle rallies have a lot going on: music, rides, tech sessions, bike judging, field events, and more. But I tell you the truth, at any rally that I did my homemade Jeopardy game, it was by far the most popular event at the rally. Yes, it really was. Fun, prizes, entertainment; what’s not to like?

Last year, my wife and I were riding in the car somewhere, and somehow we got to talking about the big week-long Americade motorcycle rally that happens every June in Lake George. We’d been going there, usually for a day or two, for many of the 40 years that it’s been happening.

Then, out of nowhere, my wife says, “You ought to offer to do Jeopardy at Americade.”

Holy cow, why hadn’t I thought of that? Probably because Americade is a really big deal, attracting thousands of riders from all over the world for one intense week of wall-to-wall motorcycling: demo rides, guided tours, boat rides, comedy shows, a huge trade show, fireworks, and much more.

How could my little, homemade birthday party Jeopardy game fit into something so huge? Well, it turns out my wife had a very good idea after all (just one more of many, I might add).

Once I presented the idea for an Americade Jeopardy game to the folks at Americade, they were all in. So on the Thursday night of the rally, under beautiful clear Adirondack skies, many folks came inside to watch and play the game.

Know that, even though I was competing against many other activities — including a chartered boat ride for veterans — I still had at least 50 people in the audience. That was a great turnout for an inaugural event.

Americade provided many extras as well: custom-made contestant lecterns, prizes, top-notch audio/video equipment, and two beautiful assistants to work the board. If it sounds like we had a barrel of fun, it’s because we did.

Half the fun of doing my own version of Jeopardy is coming up with the categories, answers, and questions. Just to give you a taste for the game, here is one category from Americade Jeopardy, The Blues (anybody who rides motorcycles, by default, loves this quintessentially American form of music).

Try covering up the questions as you read the answers, so see how many you can get (the numbers are the point values):

— 10 A) He called his guitar “Lucille.”
10 Q) Who is B. B. King?

— 20 A) He is most certainly “Bad to the Bone.”
20 Q) Who is George Thorogood?

— 30 A) This blues instrument is known as a “harp.”
30 Q) What is a harmonica?

— 40 A) His classics include “Rollin’ Stone,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy,” and “Got My Mojo Working.”
40 Q) Who is Muddy Waters?

— 50 A) This blues act started as a skit on “Saturday Night Live.”
50 Q) Who are The Blues Brothers?

The last part of Jeopardy is always Final Jeopardy. I thought I had come up with a very easy one. See if you can get it:

Category:Interstate Highways

Answer: The longest interstate highway

Here’s a hint: It runs from Seattle, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts.

Doing my homemade Jeopardy game at Americade was a blast. Based on the feedback I heard from all involved, I wouldn’t be surprised if it became an annual event. What fun.

Also, a special thanks goes to my lovely wife, Charlotte, for coming up with the idea, and for keeping score during the game. Who would have thought all of this would have come about out of a simple kid’s birthday party activity?

P.S. The answer to Final Jeopardy is I-90.

June is almost gone, and the last Old Man of the Mountain breakfast for June was on Tuesday, the 27th of the month, at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. The longest daylight day has come and gone; Christmas and snow is just ahead, better get your shopping done.

According to some of the OMOTM, one would think that the most important item on the planet was not the almost civil war in Russia, or interplanetary finding of possible space-travel wormholes, but the sore toe on the right foot of Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.

This is a disaster, as one OF put it; it should be in all the papers in the United States and then some. Doctors from all over the world should be consulted to find out how to heal this toe, have it healed and get Judge back on the field. These OFs think the world would be a better place if Judge were back out there.

Glutton’s punishment

To get to the Chuck Wagon, OFs come from some distance; eventually, they have to get on Route 20 either from Duanesburg and go east, or from points east from Princetown and head west. Those who were heading west on Route 20 encountered a very large bird, dead in the road about 1,500 to 2,000 feet from the Chuck Wagon.

Some thought it was an owl, some a hawk, and some a vulture. All thought it had found something dead in the road and was using it as a meal and was so intent on eating that it failed to notice an oncoming vehicle and met its demise right there in the middle of the road.

This scribe thinks it was a vulture because hawks, kestrels, and owls are not scavengers and don’t eat dead animals — vultures do. If there were a live bunny hopping across the road and some large hawk spotted it, and car/truck, bunny, and bird all met at the same time, then it could happen. Probably not.

Waning creatures

Previously, the OFs have mentioned, and this scribe has commented on, the absence of many insects or at least if spotted how few there seem to be. Bees, dragonflies, lightning bugs, butterflies, etc., they all seem to be disappearing.

On Tuesday morning, an OF mentioned how his garden had something eating his vegetables so he set some traps and found it was woodchucks. This is a rodent that has seemingly been on the wane along with the insects and snakes.

There used to be woodchuck mounds all over in the fields and they could be seen scurrying across the road quite often. This OF said he caught three of them and thinks that is the lot. The OF said they were living under a shed on the farm, not in the fields like they used to, and those were the only chucks he had seen in quite awhile.

One OF piped up saying, “With all these creatures disappearing, are we next?”

Old connections

As usual, there was a discussion on, “Where are they now?” This time, it was not necessarily on OFs but on those the OFs knew in high school, or when they were young.

This is a study in concentration and memory. First, the person or persons has to be someone other OFs knew so that part of the search starts, “Do you remember XYZ?” And, if no one remembers, then that hunt stops.

Quite often, these are sad trips when one is found, because of the ages of those in this inquiry find so many of those being inquired about are either sick or dead. Another rather common find is that they now live in Florida, or Georgia, or the Carolinas.

One OF commented, “What are we chopped liver? We are still here.”

Another OF retorted, “There is no place I would rather be than right here.”

Again this reminded this scribe of a song sung by Johnny Russell, “Red Necks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer” — great song.

All of sudden, people in the OFs’ high school, or not-too-often college yearbooks, or classes, or even neighbors that the OFs only knew on the edges back then, and rarely if ever spoke to, are now lost friends that the OFs somehow want to contact, or really know how they are doing.

One OF commented that, even though they seem to be missing quite a few, and the group at the class reunions is getting smaller, we seem to be living longer. We do have our aches and pains but seem to be in better shape.

One OF said, “You can’t prove it by me. Every morning when I wake up I say, ‘Oh darn, I woke up again; now I’ve got another day to get through.’” Talk about a downer OF.

A second OF said just the opposite; the OG used a cliché that is heard often. The OF said, when he wakes up, he rushes to the bathroom to look in the mirror and see how much better looking he’s gotten since the day before. 

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and all better looking than the day before were: Miner Stevens, Rick LaGrange, Paul Whitbeck, Doug Marshall, Frank Fuss, Roland Tozer, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Marty Herzog, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Duncan Bellinger, Paul Guiton, John Dab, Jack Norray, Dick Dexter, Lou Schenck, and me.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

A hug at Voorheesville’s commencement ceremony on June 23. “When you’re not sure what’s real, hold onto the love,” advises Jesse S. Sommer.

To the Class of 2023’s most distinguished graduates:

Strap in; the rest of your lives start today, and yours will be a particularly bumpy ride.

Because “when I was your age,” aliens weren’t real, the universe wasn’t a two-dimensional holographic projection, artificial intelligence was confined to the cinema, and there were cinemas.

That was then — on the date of my own graduation, long before you were born, in the heady summer days of pre-Nine-Eleven 2001. A few months later, Earth would be fundamentally, forever, and irreparably changed as the forces of war reshuffled the globe and the advent of high-speed internet ushered in the New World Order into which you were born.

Yet even in the midst of all that chaos and rampaging societal transformation, at least aliens weren’t real.

On June 11, 2023, career intelligence officer David Grush appeared on cable news network “News Nation” to disclose the existence of a specific program to retrieve “non-human origin technical vehicles” — i.e., “spacecraft” — “that have either landed or crashed.” To top it all off, he confirmed that the United States was in possession of “bodies.”

Extraterrestrial bodies? Not necessarily. “[M]aybe they’re coming from a different physical dimension as described in quantum mechanics. We know there are extra dimensions due to high-energy particle collisions, et cetera, and there’s a theoretical framework to explain that,” Grush said in an interview addressing his whistleblower complaint.

For days, I kept waiting for the government to issue some opaque denial of this fantastical report with allusion to some top-secret explanation.

I kept waiting for the media to apologize for so poorly vetting this crank — you know, a 14-year active duty Air Force veteran and former lead of the unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) portfolio for the Department of Defense’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

I kept waiting for some pop physicist to debunk his claims with reference to the impossibility of intergalactic space travel due to the physical limitations of a lightspeed commute.

And when no such response materialized, it was how my sister ended a phone call that drove home the point. “OK, talk to ya next week. Isn’t it weird aliens are real now?”

This column is a waste of your time; little of the world which existed two decades ago is transferable to your experience now, and your young adult lives will be as different from mine as were your teenage years.  Remote learning during a pandemic? Communal identities forming around not ZIP codes, but TikTok’s algorithmic applications?

Still, it can just as easily be said that the world three years from now may be as different from today as is this world from the one that existed 20 years ago. Change happens faster and faster; it’s as if we’re all graduating 2023 together.

So rather than chart a course for your future, I’ll instead offer a few suggestions about what to hold onto from your past as tools in your existential survival kit. I can’t tell you what to expect, but I can tell you what prepared me for the things I didn’t expect.

First, trust that there will always be Albany County.

From the urban vibrance of our capital city to the peaceful forests of the Hilltowns, from the open fields of New Scotland/Bethlehem/Guilderland to the suburban expedience of Colonie, from the peaceful remoteness of Rensselaerville and Coeymans to the post-industrial renaissance along the Green Island/Watervliet/Cohoes riverbank, this county has all the accouterments of a life well lived.

Good school districts, scenic drives, affordable real estate, world-class cuisine, and convenient transit by highway, air, and rail are all just a stone’s throw from any front door. Sure, there may only be two-and-a-half nice days per year in upstate New York, but it’s just as likely that the entire planet will be climate controlled in the next few years as it is that the oceans will submerge us all. (A betting man would wager that the global thermostat has already been invented and we’re just waiting for the aliens to show us how to work the dial.)

So keep your hometown in mind as you explore the great “Out There.” Whether your future takes you to St. Louis or another dimension, there’s no shame in realizing, as I did, that people are freaking weird wherever you go. Albany will forever be your type of weird.

Second, don’t get distracted by the inevitable mass awareness that, if everything’s possible, then nothing’s real. Is the linear timeline by which you marched from kindergarten through senior year real if time can be traversed?

Does anything mean anything anymore if the scientific community is coalescing around the statistical likelihood that we live in a virtual simulation? Or, to borrow a more pointed question: “You think that’s air you’re breathing now?

Tell your soon-to-materialize physics major college roommate that he can wax poetic about wave function collapse and quantum entanglement on his own time. Because there are a few things that are real, that do exist, regardless of who or what is observing the electrons zinging through twin slits.

The sum total of these things is “you.”

What can’t be denied is who you were, where you’re from, and the people who love you. Yes, Mr.-or-Ms. Philosopher Physicist Theologian, I get it: Maybe it is all a virtual world, maybe it is all a holographic projection, maybe it is just a single photon zipping through the interdimensional universe at the speed of time itself.

So what? Within this virtual holographic infinitesimally singular instant, there are people who care about you. It could be a teacher you’re now leaving behind, or the parents who escorted you to commencement, or the sibling who watched you grow into a high school graduate, or the best friend who traveled beside your stumbling adolescence to this precipice of adulthood, or the classmates with whom you shared the. most. formative. moments. of your life.

All of these people were, are, and will be real for however long you hold them in your heart. You’re a reflection of the signatures they’ve left on your identity.

Those autographs in the pages of your yearbook will soon be entombed in a dusty box at the back of a forgotten closet, only to again see the light of day when you’re in need of a nostalgia fix. A lot will happen between now and that someday trip down memory lane; don’t lose sight of the person to whom those heartfelt and playfully teasing comments were once addressed.

Third, I care not a whit about whatever wisdom we’re soon to inherit from our 10th dimensional neighbors. Anything they can offer will still just be coloring in between the lines. Oh, really bro? Yeah?  We’re all just the unified extension of a singular innate consciousness? Word. That garbage doesn’t pay the mortgage.

Meanwhile, of all you learned in school, “remember this the best: Don’t hurt each other and clean up your mess; take a nap every day; wash before you eat; hold hands, stick together, look before you cross the street.”

See? You already know the essentials. Trust me: No one’s more irritated than I am to discover that all those platitudinous clichés lurking smugly in the movies, Bible, television, summer reading list, and zeitgeisty music titles contained the only knowledge worth discovering.

“May the force be with you.”

“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” 

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Ugh. If, like me, you round the bases at age 40 and feel stupendously cheated, well, join the club.  “I’ve had the answers all along?!” you’ll shriek as yet another strand of reality is shredded by some new experiment at CERN. “You’re telling me that this whole time, the only things that mattered were the people I loved, the friendships I prioritized, and the memories I made?!”

Yeah, player — looks like it. Pretty anticlimactic, I know. Even when the robots come and the aliens emerge, the ancient insight that’s bound humanity together for thousands of years will remain as true as it always has, to wit, that what’s most vital are the people you can reach out and touch, the memories you make alongside them, and the bittersweet pangs of sorrow when they’re gone.

Sure, in the future it may take a bit longer for people to go. By the end of the decade, there will be vaccines for cancer and heart disease; graduates of the Class of 2023 are projected to have natural life spans in excess of 140 years. But don’t get it twisted: All the people you love will someday be taken. What matters is the love that remains in their place.

Love will persist throughout your journeys despite the inevitable losses you’ll endure, amidst the trials you’ll undergo, and even in your darkest hours. So share it with everyone you can, and be vocal about it.  Having people to catch you when you fall, to reach out to you when you’re alone, or to hold you when you’re sad makes existence a little less tiresome. Just because we probably live in a simulation doesn’t mean your day job will suck any less.

Find people you can count on and who can count on you in return. Indeed, there are peers with whom you’re graduating who’re worth keeping till the bitter end — and then whatever comes next. Because, yes, I get it, “all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.” Roger.

Can I just say that I’m so angry my physics major college roommate was right about time and space being an illusion? He was insufferably pompous about it. That he’s been mathematically vindicated is just plain unjust.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Why not? Doesn’t everything feel a bit better when people are nice? Isn’t there something about believing in Santa Claus that makes us all seem to act a bit more like he’s real?

Take Santa Claus with you; he’s as nondenominational a myth as it gets. And there will be people who need him. You’re soon to encounter those so ground down by life, so wounded by past mistakes and betrayals, so embittered by grudges they’re too afraid to release, that they just want to watch the world — or the simulation thereof, or whatever — burn.

And in this upcoming presidential election cycle, the forces of deception and control will deploy an army of “deep fakes” to screw with your perception of reality and compel you to alter it in turn.

But, when you’re not sure what’s real, hold onto the love. Check in with yourself, identify how you’re feeling, and execute that sole worthwhile mission: to love the ones you’re with.

Aliens are among us, artificial intelligence has arisen, and so, yeah, I guess it’s true that “[w]e belong to something that is greater than ourselves, that we are not, that none of us, are alone.”

We never really were. Because upon your graduation, there were classmates sitting to your right and to your left whom you’ll be happy to someday run into at the airport or on the street or across the table at the improbable romantic date of which you once dreamed.

While today you may be setting out on your own, you’re not doing so alone. Carry the faces of your youth along with you. In your darkest hour, remember that they will answer if you call. Try it out. I promise you — they’ll pick up.

That’s really all I’ve got. Anything more that I might’ve offered has been said before and more eloquently. The best I can do is adapt some of what you’ve already heard so you can pass it along yourself someday. And with that in mind: Love hard, live long, and prosper.