If a salesperson handed you an empty bag and said: “Five dollars, please,” how would you react?

I’d say, “You’re nuts!” or something equally unflattering.

But this is the situation for a lot of people living out in the country. Where I live, Internet service is purchased one piece at a time. (Here on the mountain, I’m lucky I have electricity.) There is no cable; if you want to go web-surfing, you first pay for a satellite dish and then for each byte that passes through the wires to you.You can get more bandwidth, but you’ll pay up to $250 per month for it. So why am I paying for television movies I can’t watch and services I can’t use?

I understand that communications companies need to charge extra to cover the costs of open-access channels, and public-service outlets. I agree with that. What I don’t agree with is paying for stuff I can’t get.

More channels, more money, OK. More money for streaming videos and movies I can’t access, not OK. I called the satellite television company and asked. A helpful voice called “Greg” in the billing department took my call. He assured me that he was sympathetic to my dilemma.

I’m pretty sure that every customer service rep on the planet is given a script of things to say as you are venting your frustration on the telephone. Every alleged “help” line I’ve spoken with uses the same list.

Greg seemed a bit perplexed by my question. He said his computer was having trouble finding an answer (surprise, surprise) and said he’d call me back. He didn’t.

I looked up a number in California, supposedly for the corporate offices. That number feeds directly into the same hellish loop that previously led me to Greg. I was connected to “Faith” who did not sound as though English was her first language.

I was told (of course) that it was impossible to transfer me to Greg, but, if I wanted to start all over again, she would assist me with my problem. Neither my mood nor my blood pressure was improved by this response.

She explained (over and over again) that if I had Internet, I could use all the “on-demand” features, just like customers who have unlimited Internet. I am charged the same amount because, if I had Internet, I could use those services.

Got that? The fact that I don’t have the ability to use them is irrelevant. It’s like having a broken leg and being forced to pay for ballet lessons, because, if you didn’t have a broken leg, you could use them.

I know I’m not alone. Our government advises us that big bucks are being spent (which I believe) to expand Internet service in rural areas (about which I’m not so sure). Regardless, the expansion of affordable Internet obviously hasn’t gotten this far.

Meanwhile, I’m inundated by ads plastered throughout whatever show I’m watching, advertising the aforementioned unavailable stuff. They’re lousing up the shows I can get with ads for things I can’t have. This is not the way to make friends.

I wish I could tell you that for once, the little guy triumphed, and I forced a revision of corporate policies. I’m usually pretty good at that sort of thing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Did you know that historically, revolutions happen only when people see the possibility of getting what they want if they take action? Hand me that pitchfork!

Coming up

April is Amateur Radio Month, National Autism Awareness Month , Stress Awareness Month, and Frog Month. The week of the 23rd - 29th is National Volunteer Week, Administrative Professionals Week, Spring Astronomy Week, and National Princess Week. National Lost Dog Awareness Day and Talk Like Shakespeare Day are the 23rd.  Hairstylists Appreciation Day, Red Hat Society Day and World Penguin Day are the 25th. The 26th is National Help A Horse Day. The 27th is Babe Ruth Day and Denim Day, and Arbor Day is the 28th. Eeyore's Birthday, World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and World Veterinary Day are the 29th, and the Interstate Mullet Toss is on the weekend.

The next trips for the Wednesday shopping bus to Walmart and Whole Foods at Colonie Center will be May 3 and May 17. Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to schedule your ride.

The Hilltown Seniors May meeting will be the second Saturday, May 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the Berne Senior Center. Please bring your table service and a dish to share. A charge of $1 is asked for supplies (coffee, tea, paper, etc.). Annual dues of $5 will be collected during April and May; please be sure yours are up to date.

A free Tai Chi exercise class has started on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. at the Berne Senior Center. Each class will run about 20 minutes, and will be conducted by Mary Jo McKeon. Tai Chi is  easy and low-impact, and helps to improve balance and reduce stress. The next classes are scheduled for April 25, May 2, May 16, May 23, and May 30.

A number of  post-lunch activities are on the books at the senior center for April and May. We will have vase and flower crafts on April 25, a fire drill on May 1, and a nutrition talk on June 6 followed by crafts (weaving a fabric box). May 15 will be a discussion on emergency preparedness, and we will be painting lady bug rocks on May 16. “Painting with Fran” will be on June 13.

The Hilltown Seniors Anniversary Dinner will be held on June 4 at 1 p.m. at the Briar Creek Golf Course in Duanesburg. Choices are sirloin steak for $12, chicken parmigiana for $7, or baked haddock for $8. Salad, rolls, potato, vegetable, pasta, and dessert are included. Call Shirley Slingerland at  797-3467 for more information.

The Westerlo Reformed Church’s last lunch of the season will be Thursday, April 27. Lunch is at Nnhe Reformed Church is at 566 Route 143 in downtown Westerlo; call Pastor Chris Allen at 797-3742 for more info. They also have a food pantry on site; donate or take what you need.

The first and third Thursdays lunches continue year-round, and are put on by the South Westerlo Congregational Christian Church at 282 County Route 405. First Thursday is most likely pizza; third Thursday (April 20) will be a hot dinner. Call Pastor Will Balta for information at 966-5094.

Need some legal advice? Appointments with attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York can be scheduled at the Knox town hall by calling Pat Lightbody at 872-9400.

Menu

Next week’s menu for Helderberg Senior Services will be:

— Monday, April 24, lasagna roll-ups, Italian blend vegetables, wheat Italian bread, tapioca pudding, and milk;

— Tuesday, April 25, beef and broccoli, carrots, egg noodles, wheat bread, tropical fruit salad, and milk; and

— Friday, April 28,, oregano lemon chicken, asparagus, garlic rosemary roast red potatoes, wheat bread, pound cake with blueberries, and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m. and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also have transportation to and from lunch. Just ask Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your Rage Anonymous group, Customer Service Saboteurs, or Luddite Lunch League  need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the Senior Center? Come have lunch, and then get together with your friends! There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us!

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, call Linda or send an email to , and put “volunteer” in the subject line. Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The Town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email me at .

I refuse to go to depressing movies. If I’m going to spend my hard-earned cash, I expect to feel better for it, not worse.

I don’t know if the people who line up for the latest tear-jerker or outrage live pleasanter lives than I do, or if they have a more highly-developed sense of fantasy, but their choice is beyond my comprehension.

It has been said that theater involves the “willing suspension of disbelief,” and maybe I’m more skilled than others in that one aspect. When I go to a movie, I’m agreeing to exchange my reality for the director’s version.

For me, the monsters have always been real. Even as a child, I had to be careful what I saw on Saturday afternoons. The other kids could watch Frankenstein, or prehistoric lizards, and laugh, or at least enjoy being scared.

I couldn’t. Each roar, or scream, was real, and it was just too disturbing to be fun.

At an even earlier age, cartoons and Snow White could scare me. When Woody Woodpecker got stuck in a Santa suit and couldn’t get out, I was horrified; how awful to feel so trapped, and not be able to breathe

I still can’t watch a lot of Disney, because so often a character we really care about dies. I want movies where, regardless of their unreality, there is hope for the world, and it doesn’t cost a few hundred lives to get to that point.

If I want reality and pain, I can turn on the news. The problem with that is that, as a member of the human race, I have an obligation to try to make things better on the planet, and I can’t fix all the slaughter. I do what I can, and I know I can’t do it all but, if I’m going to escape from day-to-day drudgery, I want to escape to a place where truth, justice, and happiness are possible.

Maybe the movie-makers think we forget the precariousness of our existence, and need a complete review of the potential apocalypse before they can bring out the cavalry to the rescue. I do not require conflict in my fantasies.

Bring on the dancing bears and Fred Astaire; I’m ready for a trip to somewhere beautiful.

Coming up

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Emotional Overeating Awareness Month, and Holy Humor Month. The coming week is Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week, National Library Week, and National Public Safety Telecommunicators (911 operators) Week. The Hilltown Seniors will gather at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 12 for their monthly meeting. Bring your own table service and a dish to share.

The last lunch of the season at the Westerlo Reformed Church will be Thursday, April 21. Pastor Chris Allen and the crew will be getting some much-needed time off until fall. The second and fourth Thursday lunches will continue at the South Westerlo Congregational Christian Church at 282 County Route 405. Call Pastor Will Balta at 966-5094 to reserve a space.

Need legal advice? Appointments are available with attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York at the Knox Town Hall. Call Pat Lightbody at 872-9400 to schedule.

Menu

— Monday, April 10, American goulash, Romaine salad with Italian dressing, whole wheat bread, applesauce cake, and milk;

— Tuesday, April 11, chicken cacciatore, broccoli, rice, whole wheat bread, pears, and milk; and

— Friday, April 14, beef chili, cornbread, peas, ambrosia, and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also have transportation available to and from lunch. Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation. Does your sand-painting group, Canine Costuming club, or Sugar-glider fanciers society need an easy place to meet? Why not get together at the Senior Center? Come have lunch, and then meet with your friends. There’s plenty of room, and the Center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so come join us.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance t 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us your name, your telephone number, and how many are coming. If you’d like to help out, just let Linda Know, and she will gladly add you to our schedule of volunteers.

Tradition. It’s a good, solid word.

Tradition is turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas, unless tradition calls for ham, or roast beef, or lasagna. Tradition is what we’ve always done. Is it tradition because we’ve always done it, or have we always done it because it’s tradition?

Like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” we don’t always know why some things are traditions, but they’re important to us nonetheless. Some say”God bless you” when someone sneezes. It’s a tradition, but most of us don’t know that we say it because centuries ago, it was believed that the soul left the body during a sneeze, so you had to bless it to keep the devil from snatching it in that brief moment.

A lot of things used to be traditional, but aren’t anymore, like slavery, and women being property, and human sacrifice. Those were all traditions, until we decided for one reason or another not to keep them. Tradition probably means quite different things to a Norwegian and a Pacific islander.

Christmas trees were a German tradition until Prince Albert brought them to Britain. Freedom and independence are traditions in the United States, but only since the Revolutionary War. So traditions can be changed. Traditions vary from family to family, and country to country. So what counts as tradition?

There are things that we might call negative traditions, but those are usually associated with a culture different from ours, or something from the past that we no longer do. Swaddling babies or treating diseases with poisonous mercury were once traditions. Bigotry can be a tradition as much as Fourth of July fireworks, but being traditional doesn’t make it automatically good.

I guess what’s traditional depends on your age,  your culture, your section of the world, and how much of the past you choose to hang on to. Traditions are living things that grow, diminish, and change with the times. Ultimately, each of us has the right to select our own traditions, as long as we don’t judge someone else’s choice.

Coming up

April is a busy month! It’s ASPCA Month , Celebrate Diversity Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, Confederate History Month, Global Astronomy Month, National Card and Letter Writing Month, and National Licorice Month.

Next week is Golden Rule Week, National Crime Victims Rights Week, Bat Appreciation Week,  Ocean week, and American Indian Awareness Week.  April 1st is April Fools Day. April 2nd is International Children's Book Day, and National Ferret Day. Fan Dance Day is the 3rd.  Vitamin C Day and World Rat Day are the 4th, and the 5th is National Deep Dish Pizza Day and National Walking Day. The 6th is Army Day and Hostess Twinkie Day, followed by National Beer Day on the 7th, and Buddha’s Birthday on the 8th.

The Westerlo Reformed Church’s last two lunches until Fall will be Thursday, April 13, and Thursday, April 27. Lunch is at noon, and there is no fixed cost; only your free-will offering. The meal is followed by an hour of Bingo. The Reformed Church is at 566 Route 143 in downtown Westerlo; call Pastor Chris Allen at 797-3742 for more info. They also have a food pantry on site; donate or take what you need.

The first and third Thursdays lunches continue year-round, and are put on by the South Westerlo Congregational Christian Church at 282 County Route 405. First Thursday (April 6th) is most likely pizza; third Thursday (April 20th) will be a hot dinner. Call Pastor Will Balta for information at 966-5094.

Need some legal advice? Appointments with attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York can be scheduled at the Knox Town Hall by calling Pat Lightbody at 872-9400.

Menu

Next week’s menu for Helderberg Senior Services is still tentative, as the County hasn’t given final approval, but as far as we know, it will be:

— Monday, April 3, barbecue chicken, green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, wheat bread, chocolate pudding, and milk;

— Tuesday, April 4, roast prok with gravy, carots, mashed potatoes, stuffing, milk, and birthday cake; and

— Friday, April 7, lemon garlic baked fish, spinach, baked sweet potato, wheat bread, rice pudding, and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also have transportation to and from lunch. Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your Wombat Walkers club, Sunflower Girls gathering, or Red Hat Society need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the Senior Center? Come have lunch, and then get together with your friends. There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, call Linda or send an email to , and put “volunteer” in the subject line. Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

Location:

Our March meeting showed 69 members in attendance. I imagine it was because of the corned beef and cabbage that we were going to have for lunch at the Berne Reformed Church in Berne.

We thank Alan and Millie Zuk and the kitchen crew for a delicious meal.

Birthdays this month are celebrated by Fran Brezenski, Bob Porter, Scott Wright, Shirley Willsey,  Elsie Wilms, Ed Wood, Sue Miner, and Don McDermott.

Anniversaries are celebrated by Peg and Ernie Crawford and Elsie and Fred Wilms.

Cards were sent to Bernice Bunzey and Madeline Bradt.

The pen pals of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Connections Program met and had a good time trying to figure out who went with whom.

Pizza and chocolate cookies were served and Dennis and Mary White entertained us with their guitars and songs.

Zenie Gladieux, of the Kiwanis Club stopped in to invite us to the Memorial Day Parade. This year’s theme is, “Home of the Free because of the Brave.”

They are looking for all veterans to join the parade. Any veteran who would like to participate please call her cell phone at (518) 894-8589.

We would like to thank Sean Lyons for giving us a box of seed packets. We will make good use of them.  We are looking for a place to have a garden and plan to share the produce. Is there anyone who can help us?

The program that Randy Bashwinger started, Neighbors helping Neighbors, was put to the test this past week and it passed with flying colors.

We haven't seen snow like that in a long time. Thank you to the highway departments and people who lent a helping hand.

Trips ahead

So, now to brighter and happier times, our trips. In April, we travel to the Culinary Institute and Roosevelt home. That trip is filled.

May 9, we are going to Lincoln's house in Manchester, Vermont, which costs $30 for members and $55 for non-members.

June 14, we are going to the Mac-Haydn Theatre to see “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and we’ll eat lunch. The price is $50 for members and $70 for non-members.

Shirley reminds us that a passport or enhanced license is required for our Canada trip.

So, with that all said, I will return to watch the third basketball game of the night.

Oh by the way. Does anybody understand the difference between area code 838 and 518? Things were never this confusing in the “pitchfork people” times.

All we had to do was tell Ethel what number we wanted.

Location:

I remember, when I was quite small, sitting at the old mahogany-veneered dining room table for dinner. The menu that night was shrimp.

“I don’t like it,” I said.

It was very clear to me; the shrimp was there in front of me and I didn’t like it.

My mother said to me, “But you love shrimp!”

Her remark made no sense at all. I knew what I liked, and it was not this shrimp.

“I don’t like it,” I repeated.

“But the last time we had shrimp you couldn’t get enough!”

I vaguely remembered that other time, and yes, I had liked the shrimp then, but this was now. What did then have to do with now? There was obviously some sort of erroneous assumption that these two separate events were connected; that having loved something, or done something at some past time made them assume that once done, it became permanent.

What a ridiculous idea! Now was where I was, not then, and now I didn’t like those shrimp.

I felt a bit angry, and a little bit guilty; obviously I had disappointed her somehow, or failed to meet her expectations. But the liking or not liking of shrimp was only one example; my approach to life and time was oriented almost exclusively in the now. The past had no connection to the present; history was irrelevant.

This worldview has become muddled over the intervening years. What keeps us safe is usually our belief that, if something happened in the past, it will happen again.

Our beloved “scientific method” is based on it. We develop elaborate explanations for the times when this belief is challenged. We talk of “miracles” and “exceptions to the rule,” but there is always a rule, never randomness.

This perception seems to develop as we age; we make safer choices, which hopefully allow us to live longer, and we assume that longer is better.

Is longer presumed to be better because we have developed an awareness of our own mortality? It seems that at some age, we begin to connect our actions to the possible cessation of life, and fear kicks in. At what age do we begin to believe that death could happen to me, and to fear that outcome?

My mother saw a continuum, a chain of cause-and-effect. I didn’t. It seems that it is only as we get older that we impose those connections.

How about you? Does the future scare you, or present itself as an adventure waiting to begin? Fear, or excitement?

I work at holding onto my faith in possibilities, but it’s a tough line to walk. I have no desire to be dead in the near (or distant) future, but I can choose to be, or feel, anything I want to right now. This time has never happened before; its potential is infinite. Time is infinite, and all time is now. I think I’d like some shrimp.

Coming up

Speaking of hope, March is Spiritual Wellness Month, National Nutrition Month, and Sing With Your Child Month. The upcoming week is Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Week and American Crossword Puzzles Week. March 26th is Make Up Your Own Holiday Day, Purple Day, and Spinach Day. Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day is the 27th, and Barnum & Bailey Day is the 28th.  National Mom & Pop Business Owner's Day is the 29th. March 30th is Grass Is Always Browner On The Other Side Of The Fence Day, I Am In Control Day, and World Bi-polar Day. We end the month with Bunsen Burner Day and Cesar Chavez Day on the 31st.

The Westerlo Reformed Church’s next lunches will be Thursday, March 30, and Thursday, April 13. Lunch is at noon, and there is no fixed cost; only your free-will offering. The meal is followed by an hour of Bingo. The Reformed Church is at 566 Route 143 in downtown Westerlo; call Pastor Chris Allen at 797-3742 for more info. They also have a food pantry on site; donate or take what you need.

The first and third Thursdays lunches are put on by the South Westerlo Congregational Christian Church at 282 County Route 405. First Thursday is most likely pizza; third Thursday is a hot dinner. Call Pastor Will Balta for information at 966-5094.

Need some legal advice? Appointments with attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York can be scheduled at the Knox town hall by calling Pat Lightbody at 872-9400.

Cooperative Extension has free water test kits available. No outside labs or special fussing; you can do the test at home. The main number at Co-op is 765-3500.

The Hilltown Seniors are sponsoring a trip to the Culinary Institute of America and the Vanderbilt Mansion on April 5. Cost is $50 for members, and $70 for non-members. The trip includes a lunch of antipasto, Italian Roasted Chicken (Petto di Pollo Alla Salvia), Glazed Carrots, Chocolate Lava Cake (Tortino di Cioccolato), and coffee or tea at the renowned Caterina de' Medici restaurant. Shirley Slingerland is taking reservations at 797-3467.

Menu

The Helderberg menu for next week is:

— Monday, March 27, chicken with peach sauce, broccoli, brown rice, wheat bread, tapioca pudding, and milk;

— Tuesday, March 28, chili con carne with tomatoes and beans, spinach, corn bread, apple crisp, and milk; and

— Friday, March 31, grilled Muenster cheese sandwich on wheat bread, tomato soup, coleslaw, apple juice, brownie and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also have transportation to and from lunch. Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your Highland Heritage group, heirloom seed-collecting consortium, or Hot Wheels collectors club need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the Senior Center? Come have lunch, and then get together with your friends. There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, call Linda or send an email to , and put “volunteer” in the subject line. Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

Location:

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