Have you heard this refrain recently? People complaining that no matter what subject they bring up, it gets political? Is that an exaggeration? Or have things gotten very political while we were all busy trying to stay healthy amid an unmanaged global pandemic?

See there? I got political. I called the COVID-19 pandemic unmanaged.

Certain people out there of a certain political bent would suggest that I was taking a shot at the current administration’s murderous efforts to manage a virus by lying about it, hiding statistics, holding equipment and money hostage, profiting illegally, and just generally doing a Keystone Cops level job of managing a public health crisis. But I have no strong feelings on that.

Meanwhile, other first-world nations have gotten things quickly under control by actually following the advice of experts, infectious-disease specialists, and practicing common courtesy. They do this by masking up, keeping their distance, and not throwing public hissy fits when someone suggests they wear a mask to help their fellow Earth people.

In mostly sane countries, wearing a mask is not political. Only here, in ’Murica has it been made political by a person who is happy for thousands to die as long as he keeps his job. And that, folks, is why everything has gotten political. The people currently in power will do anything to keep that power and so they have taken common-sense issues and made them political.

We’re told we need to cut public spending on food stamps, unemployment, Medicare, and Social Security because we’ve run up a huge budget deficit. Of course the deficit was hugely inflated due to a world record trillion-dollar giveaway to corporations and billionaires. So now the social safety net has become ever more politicized.

Education should be a pretty simple issue. People would like their children to receive a decent education at their local public schools. Right?

Well no. You see, rich folks like education secretary Betsy DeVos (who never attended a public school in her life) have a vested financial interest in private schools, charter schools, and defunding public education.

Right-wing ideologues want diminished public education because an educated populace is hard to control and harder to lie to. And of course, the religious right hates public education due to wavering but still mildly intact separation of church and state that prohibits religious education in public schools.

OK, so how about health care? Should be a no-brainer, right? All Americans want access to decent health care, at a reasonable price, and yet we pay more per capita than any other western nation and get far less.

Why? Money and politics.

Highly paid lobbyists have bought most members of Congress who now routinely pass or block legislation that only works for big pharma, health maintenance organizations, doctors, hospitals, and so on. We pay too much for medication because big pharma would lose profits if prices were controlled by the federal government as they are in most other nations.

And, while we can easily afford a military budget that dwarfs the next six countries put together, the idea of universal health care is fought by the GOP and big money with the same level of hatred and vengeance they once unleashed on the Nazis in World War II (the United States was the original antifa).

Hmm, we’re running out of issues. How about Social Security?

You pay in during your working life and then you get a steady, albeit small payback after you retire and until you die. Seems simple. But no, the GOP wants to do away with it, and hand it over to their buddies on Wall Street to “manage.”

Then they can plunder the remainder of the fund and line their pockets. This is why they keep lumping Social Security in with Medicare; Medicaid; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Home Energy Assistance Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; and other social programs funded by the government through our taxes.

They keep calling Social Security an entitlement when that’s an utter lie. An entitlement is not something you pay into your entire working life.

So when you get down to it, everything has become political because the folks holding power have no interest in helping the people they were elected to represent. Thanks to the Citizens United decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, unending amounts of dark money now flow into political coffers from shadowy places, and the pols who are being paid do as they’re told.

Our government is truly for sale to the highest bidder and the wealthy and powerful one-percenters who pull all these strings like it this way. They want us squabbling amongst ourselves, blaming anyone and everyone for our troubles while they sit back on their yachts and in their mansions and laugh at us.

The last time they got really nervous was during the Occupy Wall Street period back around 2008. People were really starting to pick up the message that our real and true enemy was the one percent and support was growing fast.

So what did they do? They started a media campaign, got the FBI to infiltrate the movement, treated it like a terrorist organization, and broke it up. And the proud sheeple of the U.S. just baahed and accepted it as dished out by the mainstream media.

I could go on and on, but the real issue is very clear. Things are political because we are being used, manipulated, lied to and killed off so a small group of people can hold onto power. It’s not a new story and has taken place over and over again down through history.

The real question now is what we’re going to do about it. Argue on Facebook or take to the streets and take our country back. Your choice.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he has been to more protests in the past three-and-a-half years than in the previous 50. He and his wife are not planning on stopping anytime soon, he says, unless of course they’re grabbed off the street by federal stormtroopers in unmarked uniforms.

My wife and I had to go out the other day to pick up a couple of things. Nothing crazy, mind you, just groceries. We donned our masks, made sure we had a wallet, our phones, and car keys, and headed into the store. 

Right off, stores are less crowded on most days than they once were. Most of the folks I saw were doing the distancing thing to the best of their abilities and all were masked and some gloved. It was like a congregation of surgeons on the way to the O.R., but the spousal unit called in a shopping list.

We used to find shopping a very relaxing experience, but now we find it tense and disturbing. You now think about every surface and item you touch as a possible disease vector, though the experts are suggesting that’s less of a worry than they first thought. You would use a public bathroom these days, but only in an emergency. Shopping carts should have the handle wiped down before touching. Items on shelves are still a little suspect no matter how clean and shiny they look.

Dealing with people is now more fraught too. With everyone having their faces covered, it’s hard to know who and what you’re dealing with in terms of emotional states. In the old, pre-pandemic days, you could always tell if someone was having a rough day and either avoid them or try to help, depending on how crazed they looked.

Now everyone looks sad, scared, and furtive. We dodge around one another like kids playing Marco Polo in a dark room.

We try to be extra courteous since we’re all in this wonderful Dumpster fire together and yet you still see human nature’s darker side winning out at times. People can be short, angry, and touchy for no discernable reason.

Some folks look very scared, especially older folks. The young can be silly and arrogant as if none of this applies to them. And the kids all look a little shell-shocked and wary. The only ones who seem oblivious are babies, who just seem to float on through being babies.

I feel for the folks who are working in stores these days. My wife and I have always been very courteous to people in stores because we’re polite people. We try very hard to respect everyone no matter what job they hold.

Well, that’s not totally true. I have little or no respect for politicians, bureaucrats, wealthy people, trial lawyers (the type that sue for a living), stockbrokers, and bankers. But I digress.

When I do speak to folks who work in stores, I always try very hard to be pleasant and polite. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to go to work every day for minimum or barely-above-minimum wage, little or no benefits, and no sick pay or leave. And yet they do it because they have to, in order to pay the rent and feed their families.

When this is all over, I truly hope these folks unionize and can force their greedy masters to treat them with respect, pay them fairly, and give them the benefits that all working people deserve. After all, if we’re giving a piece of human waste like Mitch McConnell a six-figure salary, a lifetime pension, top quality health benefits, and endless perks and sick days, then people who do real work deserve exactly the same.

But back to shopping. I find wearing masks very difficult as I find it hard to breathe in them. It makes me even more tense and, when I finally get back to the car, I can’t wait to pull it off and breathe again. The gloves, when I do wear them, don’t really bother me as I’ve used them for years in my work as a bicycle mechanic and jeweler.

Certain very dirty jobs are really done better with gloves and so we always keep a box around. When we load up the car, return our cart and get ready to drive away, there’s the ritual removal of the gloves in the prescribed fashion and then the quick spritz of hand cleaner before firing up the car and heading home.

When we get home, unload the groceries, put them all away, plug in the car to charge, and re-stash the shopping bags back in the car for the next trip, it’s time for a final hand wash. We don’t wash the groceries since the experts we tend to listen to have deemed it unnecessary unless you have special circumstances.

Then we can finally sit down and take a deep breath. We have ventured out into the infected world, taken precautions to protect ourselves and others, and made it back, hopefully still healthy.

I know this won’t last forever. Testing will ramp up to what we truly need, contact tracking will go into practice, and better treatments and ultimately a vaccine will emerge. We will make it through this, but the world really won’t ever be the same.

I hope someday shopping becomes relaxing again for us and I hope the folks in the stores can get what they need too. I want us to emerge from this mess better people living in a better world. That would be nice.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he and his wife used to consider shopping a date-night type thing; they hope to get back to that some day.

In the long-ago year of 2012, I wrote a column called The Altamont Wave. In it, I noted that, here in Altamont, we tend to wave to one another because we’re a real community and it’s good to acknowledge one another.

I further added that, if more people out in the world waved and recognized one another as people, it would make for a better world. Well, here we are in the year 2020 and things have changed quite a bit.

We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The country is being led by a mentally ill criminal. Our allies are laughing at our government’s failing efforts and people are literally dying every day of the week.

So, what does this have to do with waving? More than you think.

When lockdowns and quarantines began in other parts of the world, people quickly realized how much they missed and needed their neighbors, friends, and families. In Italy, folks began to play instruments, sing, and talk every day from their balconies.

In New York City, folks gather every day at a certain hour to applaud and cheer for first responders and front-line folks still working to keep us safe and keep the country functioning. And here in Altamont, we still wave but now, it’s progressed to a check-in.

On certain streets, folks come out at 5 p.m. every day, beat drums, sound gongs, and connect with neighbors. They talk, laugh, share news, and just let each other know that life, despite the insanity of our situation, does go on, all from six feet away, of course.

One of the things I’ve noticed most is that we’re all getting to know one another better. We’re asking one another how it’s going and actually listening to the answer.

People are taking being neighbors to a new level and actually exchanging names, email, and phone numbers, just in case. People are helping each other through this and that’s what, ultimately, being part of a community is really about.

We’ve gone from waving and acknowledging one another to actually having conversations and checking to see how we’re all doing. I’ve seen folks giving things out, sharing recipes, making and giving away masks, and offering tips on where to find things.

We’re very lucky as we live in a quiet little corner of the state with a low population density and a relatively low incidence of cases. We’re not immune, by any means, but our chances are far better than those who live in cities.

We’re also, largely, a community of reasonably intelligent, educated people who take the news in and try and act in a responsible manner. One of the things our governor keeps trying to get across is that human life is the sacred thing, not profit and business.

We live in a blue state and, except for red patches, New York is a pretty forward-thinking place. We wear our masks and keep our distance to help one another, not due to a government conspiracy. We listen to Dr. Fauci and the CDC, not Trump and McConnell who are far more interested in killing people to stay in power.

Here in little old Altamont, there has always been a sense of community and a fair bit of involvement. The current situation has, for the most part, brought that out in a wonderful way.

I really like taking the grandbabies for a walk nowadays. People wave, smile at the little drool monsters, and ask how they’re doing. You know how seeing a cute puppy makes a lot of people kind of go gooey? Well, seeing the twins has the same effect on many folks and our other little ones, who are a bit older, are equally pleasant company.

This is what being part of a village is all about. You come here, have kids, raise them, and then they have kids and we all help raise them. It does, indeed, take a village.

Now, during a global pandemic, the life we create in our village means far more day-to-day, than what some nutjob in Washington says. I can rely on my neighbors to be there if something goes wrong. And they can count on me to help as best I can. You can’t say that about politicians, bureaucrats, and cronies who care only about holding onto power and lying to do it.

Altamont will survive as will, hopefully, most of us. I think it will always be a good place to live because people who live here want to be part of a community. And that spirit is what we are now seeing, perhaps more than we have in a long time. It’s what will keep us sane and healthy until things get better.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has lived in Altamont for about 28 years, his wife, for 60 years. They’re not moving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When you live with three cats with wildly diverse personalities, and then add in four babies of different ages and personalities, you get something akin to a barely contained chemical reaction. The best part though, is how much both species actually have in common.

For instance, the 2-year old granddaughter likes to knock things over, throw things, kick things, and generally cause mayhem, just like our cats. If I build a tower of blocks, Audri will grin widely and promptly send it flying to great guffaws.

Then, without batting an eye, she’ll pick up blocks, hand them to me and suggest I build another tower. Quickly! She doesn’t have all day!

The cats prefer to knock things off counters, desks, and other flat surfaces usually in the middle of the night or in direct proportion to cost or breakability. I think they smile when doing it too.

The handling of food is also quite interesting. The cats will prowl about, meow loudly, and make every effort to trip you as you serve them food. The toddler will repeatedly say, “Snack!” and lead you by the finger to the kitchen and cry uncontrollably if she doesn’t get the correct food in under 1.6 seconds.

The 7-month-old twins are a bit easier as they mostly just eat formula. Of course, if Mila gets hungrier than she likes, she will howl at a volume that has been known to peel paint off walls and send cats scattering faster than using a vacuum.

Miles, Mila’s twin brother, is a little mellower but will get vocal too, just at a lower volume. And their cousin, Sullivan, at 1 year is a very quiet fella but able to empty a jar of baby food in nothing flat.

So both species want food and will let you know it, in roughly the same manner.

Playtime for both species is quite an event. Our cat Romeo will jump halfway up the wall if he sees light bouncing off my watch and reflecting on the wall.

The twins will bounce up and down in a bouncy seat with great panache and Sully has turned the Jolly Jumper into a gymnastic event. Toys elicit similar reactions with Sully attempting to eat or at least taste any and all toys.

The cats just prefer to bat things all over the house until, without fail, the toys end up under the stove. Audri will carry toys all over the house and leave them in seemingly random places. I mean it’s great to find blocks in the couch, puzzle pieces in plants, and small plastic people under furniture.

Of course, one issue that does come up during playtime is when the kids see the cats and want to play with them. The cats do not see the fun in this and generally disappear in ways that would make Houdini proud.

Sylvie can go from asleep on the couch to under our bed upstairs so fast you start looking for a time machine or transporter. Romeo just turns 180 degrees as soon as a baby approaches him. But, to be fair, he has allowed the kids to pet him on occasion. If I’m holding them and I sedate him. Nibbler, our tiny half-feral calico, simply leaves the ZIP code if she spies a tiny human.

Outdoor time is a big hit for both species. The cats love to be outdoors, killing small animals, lying in the sun, and leaving various organs and body parts for us to find. They also enjoy walking up and down the street and hoping someone will feed them.

The kids are all about outdoors too. Sully will attempt to consume any and all objects within his reach be they animal, vegetable, or mineral. The twins just enjoy staring wide-eyed at everything and looking cute. And Audri is queen of all she surveys from the playground on Maple Avenue to our backyard and every muddy puddle, snow drift, or interesting object she encounters. And of course, she also enjoys chasing the cats all over the yard.

And the final area of inter-species agreement is sleep. The cats can and do nap anywhere and anytime it suits them. The babies, well, they do sleep but rather randomly.

Audri is usually good for a solid post-lunch nap as is Sully, but only for us, less so for his mommy. The twins sleep whenever, usually after a meal or a long run in the bouncy chair.

Mila is the worst with an infant case of FOMO (fear of missing out) despite the fact that she’s not even clear on what she might be missing. Miles is a little better, but both twins will fight sleep usually when their parents are the most exhausted.

Oh, I forgot. Our son also has two cats: twins called Fester and Gomez that live on his side of the house and revel in tearing up his apartment, running around the neighborhood, and getting into it with our three.

So, there you have it. Four grandbabies, five cats and a 140-year-old house. It’s never boring on Lincoln Avenue.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he takes time out of the daily madness to feed his Betta fish, Bruce, who seems unbothered by the chaos around him. So far.

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By now, you’re probably aware that later this year, we’ll be having a national election that will decide who occupies the White House, who controls the Senate and House, and who gets to address our current issues (world strife, huge deficits, climate change, political polarization, domestic terrorism, racism, financial inequality, healthcare reform, educational funding, the war on women).

But, you ask, what does that have to do with me and my desire to remain sane and not rip my ears off and tear out my eyeballs? Glad you asked.

The current 24/7 news cycle makes it very difficult to stay informed in an even-handed way while maintaining sanity. When I was young and first in the news business, the idea of 24-hour news was just getting started with CNN.

In those days, you got a morning or afternoon daily newspaper, listened to news on the radio or watched the six o’clock news after work, or caught up at 11 p.m. as you were nodding off. Most news was fairly even-keeled and objectivity was in fashion for most news professionals.

What that really meant was that you were not bombarded constantly with information of dubious quality, by hyper-partisan sources with agendas that had nothing to do with objective journalism. So how do you manage to stay informed with today’s spewing fire-hose of daily media insanity? Well, it’s possible with a couple of simple steps.

Step one: Decide if you’re interested in actual facts or you just want your current world view reinforced.

Step two: Choose a news source or sources that, by the standards of most sane people, achieve that goal. If you’re happy with the world as it is, stay tuned to Fox News (an oxymoron for a foreign-owned propaganda organization). If you’re upset or frankly scared poopless, then go for CNN, BBC, CBC, NPR, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, CBS, or maybe The Altamont Enterprise.

If you notice that I included two foreign news sources, you’re paying attention. The reason is that both organizations are historically pretty objective and also have no vested interest in skewing news about the United States, which to them is a foreign country.

Step three: Take small doses. Read no more than a story or two at a time or view no more than 30 to 40 minutes of a broadcast. Afterwards, think quietly about what you just learned and take many deep breaths.

Ask questions. If you’re still in the dark on an issue, try researching it on the internet, but again, watch your sources and don’t spend more than 30 to 40 minutes at a time online; it can rot your brain pretty fast.

Step four (final step): Form a tentative opinion based on what you learned. But, be prepared to possibly modify that opinion, as things do tend to change as stories develop and issues become more fully explored.

Congratulations. You have now gathered information, thought about it, and formed an opinion. This is what people did in the old days before people shouted at them 24 hours a day and told them what to think.

This set of steps, repeated over the coming months will allow you to remain reasonably sane (though medication might also be in order for some). By the time the actual election comes, it will allow you to vote in an informed and conscious manner. A few other tips are in order though.

First, ignore all campaign advertising, even from candidates you think you might want to support at the voting booth or, Goddess forgive, financially. All campaign rhetoric is suspect as it is meant to further ambition, not truth.

The problem is that there is no such thing as an honest politician. No matter their party affiliation, sex, orientation, color or flavor, they are interested in winning at any cost.

I realize that’s a harsh and cynical stance, but I’ve been in the journalism business in one way or another since the 1980s and can honestly say no politician I have studied, has ever been truly honest. Many have been decent people (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, FDR, Ike, Ted Kennedy to name a few) but even they had many flaws and faults, and made lots of mistakes. Sadly, all politicians share a common trait: They’re human.

Next tip. If a story comes out, or a photo or video surfaces that is just startling, shocking, or hard to believe, chances are it’s been faked or taken out of context. Examples of these stories (look into the term “deep fakes”) and images, are already popping up and being debunked on a daily basis.

Be prepared for a lot of propaganda from all sides and especially from sources that actually originate outside this country. Make no mistake, we have enemies in the world, and they are waging war on us via social media and regular media.

They did in 2016 and it has never stopped. So, as we approach the next major election, foreign influence will be a real issue and the current administration has done little to stop it, and some say, much to encourage it.

Final tip. Keep your eyes on the prize. Distraction is a major weapon of anyone who would keep people from the truth.

Don’t get distracted by the silly stories that always pop up about a candidate that have little or nothing to do with the current state of things. Be wary of stories that ignore real issues or that smell of a set-up.

Much of what was printed and broadcast in 2016 about Hilary Clinton was based on distraction. Here we are, four years later, and nothing she was accused of ever came out as true or real. Keep that in mind as this election moves forward.

The only truth I can give you is this: 2020 is going to be a truly historic election and a truly challenging one. Many forces are at play here; more than usual, and it will make our job as media consumers and more importantly, as voters, very tricky. Just stick to basics, sip at the media fire hose and for the sake of all that is still good in this world, do one thing: VOTE.

Editor's note: Michael Seinberg notes he is a trained journalist, award-winning columnist, ex-newspaper editor and photographer, and all-around professional cynic. He also votes. Every. Damn. Time.

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In the last year, we went from having two grandchildren to having five. Of that number, four are under age 2 and all four of those spend more than a little time with us every week (some every day). It’s what you might call higher-order grandparenting.

When you spend that much time with tiny humans you’re related to, you begin to understand any number of things except one: time and its fluid nature. For instance, when a five-month-old infant with a touch of colic is screaming at you because her tummy hurts, it seems as though time pretty much stands still. Of course, once she burps, poops, or otherwise rights her innards, you soon discover about three minutes have passed, not three hours.

Conversely, when said persnickety person is happy or sleeping, you get the impression time’s fleeting only to discover she’s been out for two solid hours. I guess you get so focused on their situation, you forget your own, which is not a bad thing these days. Tiny humans are incredibly helpless compared to most baby mammals and you never really consider that until you have to care for one.

Now, I have raised children before and dealt with babies, but it’s been more than 25 years since it was a daily thing. A lot has changed in that quarter-century from what are now termed best practices, to my energy level. Let’s face it, I can’t pull off at age 55 what I did when I was 30.

And my lovely wife, who recently retired as a teacher (librarian) is actually the lead in all this grandparenting, so she’s the one who gets up at 4 a.m. to help with a certain screaming banshee (as she has been named by her father).

Oh, and just to be clear, we have one granddaughter who will be 2 in February, a little guy who is 10 months old and twins who were five months old on Jan. 1. Happy New Year!

The twins live with their dad and his fiancée next door, the toddler is with us five days a week, and the middle guy is here at least one day per week, so like I said, we’re hip deep in diapers, bottles, cribs, strollers (we currently have five) and baby clothes. And rolling those strollers around the village, we see other grandparents doing the same. We should form a club.

I’m not complaining, but it is a great deal of work to deal daily with that many little folks. The truth is, we’re frequently outnumbered, which also contributes to the time dilation effect.

I recall having the toddler solo one morning as my wife was out and her dad was occupied with the twins. I was scheduled to have her for about three hours, which felt like an entire day by the time it was over. I mean, keeping someone two feet tall with unlimited energy and no fear alive becomes quite a challenge. And did you know toddlers have Olympic-level speed?

It turns out that ,if you look away from a toddler for 1.7 seconds, she is fully capable of going from one floor to another up a full set of stairs or from the back porch to the front of the house. It’s certainly helped improve my sprint speed and also my research into leashes for toddlers.

She is fun though, and endlessly happy when she’s not screaming in frustration because you won’t let her eat an entire cake or six dozen cookies. She also can’t fathom why you won’t allow her to dive into a mud puddle or snowbank. Thus is life at 23 months.

But when all the dust, diapers, and dirty laundry clear, and they’re all asleep or gone home, you can rest easy knowing you did something useful with your day. I was never a huge fan of children, probably due to being bullied and having less than ideal memories of childhood.

But being a grandparent is a very different role and a very nice one. When I was growing up, my grandparents on both sides lived far away, so I maybe saw them once or twice a year. These little ones will grow up truly knowing us and I think that’s a good thing.

We’re able to help their parents and enrich the lives of the little beasts. We’re calmer, more experienced, and less stressed than young working parents with not enough time in the day.

Let’s face it, childcare in this country is a joke, like so many things that have to do with helping normal people. Having family nearby is now almost required for young families to do well. But I’m not going to get all political here; that’s for another time.

As I write this, my granddaughter is asleep in her little chair here in my office. She’s snoring quietly, perfectly happy, safe and warm. Her parents are happily asleep with her twin brother next door and all is right in their world. And isn’t that the whole point of being a grandparent?

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been a grandparent for the past 13 years. The fifth one is 13 years old, lives on the west coast, and visits once or twice a year.

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Well, by the time this gets into print, it will be really 2020 and folks will be all into their resolutions and big plans for changes, improvements, upgrades, new lives, and maybe some post-holiday napping. It’s natural. We always treat the start of a new year as an occasion to try new things and make life changes, but the irony is that, for all that effort, we’re still us, no matter what changes we try for.

That’s not to say people can’t change or shouldn’t, but I sometimes wonder if we get caught up in the ever-present urge to change just for the sake of change. In our current excuse for a society, we tend to worship the new, the young, the hip, the fresh — and have little to no regard or respect for the old or the current. But there’s an old saying I tend to live by: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

To put it more simply, before you jump into some radical change or new life, stop for a second and examine the current situation. Why do you want to make a change? Will it make you happier? Will it make you healthier? Will it make you a better person? Will it improve the world around you? Or are you just bored and want to spice things up?

Years ago, my wife and I used to belong to a gym and we tended to go pretty regularly all winter. Once spring, summer, and fall set in, we both preferred to be outdoors, she running, me on my bikes and skateboards, or both of us walking.

Each January, the gym filled up for a couple weeks with folks I referred to as “resolutionists.” You know them. The folks who join a gym to get in shape, lose weight, and feel better. They come in with a sort of grim but determined look on their faces and gamely try to make it into a habit that sticks all year. The vast majority were long gone by February first and the leftovers usually either succeeded or left by March.

I applaud their intentions but, like most people who make new year’s resolutions, they approached things the wrong way. They say you have to do something for 21 days straight to change it from an intention to a habit.

I never tested that theory, but I suppose it makes sense. But on the trip from intention to habit, I have noticed that many bumps appear on your path. Those bumps are real life. I have a feeling that’s where people make the biggest mistakes in trying to go from one place to another.

If you join a gym with the intention of going several times a week, but you also have a full-time job, a family, and a spouse you like to see with some regularity, then something has to give elsewhere to make it possible to find gym time.

If you need to change your eating habits to one less likely to land you in the cardiac unit for a triple bypass, but your family has a frequent flier plan to every fast-food chain on Route 20, you’re going to have a problem.

If you want to keep you living space cleaner but you share it with three cats and four children under the age of 2 and your partner is allergic to using a vacuum cleaner — well, you get the picture.

I guess what I’m getting at is that, if you really want or need to make a change in your life, chances are you can find a way to do it. But you also need to give yourself a break along the way.

One of the recurring memes I see on social media these days is to remember the need for self-care while you’re caring for others. That’s good advice, no matter how trite it might seem.

As we move into 2020, think long and hard about where you want to be at this time next year. And make sure that destination is reasonable, possible, and ultimately helpful for you. If so, chances are you’ll make it. I wish you luck.

And as for me? Well, I don’t do resolutions. I just kind of stick with general ideas. In 2020, I want to write and paint more, ride my bikes a bit more, as long as my body can take it, and continue to remain sane and happy.

And in between, I have four grandchildren under the age of 2 who need a lot of supervision, so they don’t take over the world before they’re ready.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been writing for The Enterprise for more than 25 years. He says it never gets any easier.

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As you might have noticed, the news pretty much sucks these days. Hatred, thievery, corruption, anger, division, and puppy-kicking dominate the airwaves and smartphones of early 2019.

So, what’s a humor writer to do? When my editor recently suggested she’d like me to write more often, I admitted I was having trouble coming up with much humor.

I mean I’m happy to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the antics in Washington and Albany these days but that’s more black humor and cynicism than anything. And then I realized something.

I knew a happy person. We’re talking seriously thrilled here. Just blissfully happy about even the smallest things. And so, I decided to ask her what the secret is.

My little happy person is Audrianna Rae or Audri. She’s 11 months old and our newest granddaughter. Audri likes everything pretty much. When you say hi, her eyes go wide, and she grins and wiggles.

When you set her on the floor, she immediately starts crawling in pretty much every direction, exploring the carpet texture; the toys we set out for her; the cats, who give her a very wide berth; and the little solar critters we have around the house.

Nothing makes Audri happier than the solar hula dancer and flamingo on the kitchen windowsill. She stares, in rapt baby attention, at the wiggling hips and flapping wings as if they are the coolest things she has ever seen. And to her, they are.

They’re colorful and move for no apparent reason and just make quiet little clicking noises, and that’s all they do. And for Audri, that’s good enough. That’s great, in fact.

When I stare at them, I like the movement too and the sheer silliness of a pink flamingo and tiny hula dancer just wiggling away. They’re kitschy and silly and have no real purpose except to entertain small humans and anxious writers. And it works.

Have you noticed that the world is filled with textures? Audri has.

She loves to rub and grip and grab at carpets, couches, my beard, blankets, cane chairs, and pretty much everything else. Her tiny fingers explore and feel, and she stares intently, trying to figure out what it is she’s touching. Try that sometime.

Food is huge these days. Audri loves to eat. But she most definitely has her own tastes.

When she sees a full bottle, she is ready to rock. She reaches for it, squeals happily, and sucks at that puppy like it’s the center of the universe. Of course, I see similar reactions from adults when confronted with a cold beer, a glass of wine, or those amber-colored rust inhibitors (hard liquors) people like to rave about too. So even some grownups kind of get this.

After a bottle, the real fun begins. Audri likes crunchy puffs, applesauce, and various multi-colored baby-food concoctions. She no sooner gets a spoonful in her mouth than she’s looking for the next one. This kid eats with purpose and dedication, grinning all the way through and making happy noises.

She’s like a baby foody in a gourmet eatery as the waiter brings out each exquisite course. When was the last time you enjoyed a meal that much? You could. You just have to slow it down and savor. Just focus.

Ignore calories. Just be there, and savor and munch and slurp and become one with the meal. Get all Zen on it! The marketers would crow about mindfulness at this point. Audri doesn’t do marketing, she just lives it.

And there, I think, is the real secret. Audri doesn’t multi-task. She doesn’t anticipate or worry and hold grudges or analyze.

She is right there in the moment at all times, laser focused on whatever it is that’s in front of her. Well, at least for 15 seconds or so. I mean, when was the last time you were in the moment like that? Totally focused. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just actually try and be there.

At the moment, I’m typing. I feel the keys under my fingers, hear the sound of the keyboard, and see the words appear as black shapes on a white field. I’m trying to get something from my brain onto the screen and eventually into print.

I’m just writing. I’m here. Where are you? What are you doing? Are you actually there?

So, do you want to be happy in 2019? Take a tip from a baby. See the world through new eyes. Laugh at it; it’s pretty damn silly. Savor it all. Stay present.

And the news? The hell with it. It’s all fleeting anyway. Are you furious over some moron move in Washington? Some horror overseas? The economy? Expanded rights for some group or other?

Sure, many of these stories and issues are important. But, can you fix them by being angry? Maybe spend a little more time trying to understand what’s getting you riled and maybe see about doing something concrete.

And then, go enjoy your favorite snack. Really get into it. Take a walk and look at the color of the sky. That is some serious blue some days.

Sit and read a really good book or story and lose yourself in the words and images. And if you can, read to a baby or a child or someone else and share the moment. You only get a certain number.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is doing his best to take his own advice. Mostly. Audri says he needs work.

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Roughly 25 years ago on a warm May day (Garage Sale Day, actually) I moved permanently to Altamont and found my first real hometown.

I grew up moving and by the time I settled here at age 29, I’d moved at least 10 times. My dad was a corporate attorney, so we moved for his career. It was like being an Army brat but with better benefits I suppose.

While I sometimes envy those who stayed in one place their whole lives, living in different places gives you a great deal of perspective. That’s why I think of Altamont as my adopted hometown more than any place I’ve ever lived.

One of the things that has always meant a lot to me about living here, is the real sense of community we have. We’re a small place with 1,500 or so residents, far smaller than Voorheesville and a mere flyspeck compared to Albany or Schenectady.

Walking around, you see familiar faces and you get to watch people come, have kids, raise them, send them off to college, and start talking retirement. Some old neighbors have gone, some new ones have joined, and many others have stayed. It really does take a village to raise a child and a family, and we have that here.

Years ago, I wrote a column I think I called “The Altamont Wave” in which I waxed poetic about the fact that we all tend to wave to one another around here, even if we’re not sure who we’re waving to. In a divided, angry, and frightened world, that means something. It really does.

Why do we all fondly remember when they all shouted, “Norm!” in “Cheers?” Because we want to live where everybody knows our names.

All that being said, I find one thing about living here to be a real problem. Change. And I don’t mean change like storms, floods, houses falling down, or being attacked by roving bands of angry chipmunks.

I mean greed-driven change. When I first arrived, they were just building Kushaqua and I remember riding my mountain bike through the muddy construction sites. Since then, we watched Brandle Meadows blight a pristine stretch of green space and the new development out on Bozenkill inflicted on another green buffer. Though, in fairness, 10 homes and most of the trees left intact is a lot less of a problem.

In the past couple weeks, we’ve watched as our elected officials bowed to the wishes of Stewart’s instead of listening to the residents who elected them. And now the same developer who schemed (gift basket, anyone?) to erect Brandle Meadows is intent on adding more apartments right in the center of the village on another green buffer (replete with 50 parking spaces). Has this person ever met a piece of virgin land he didn’t want to pave over? That’s a rhetorical question; we already know the answer.

I know change and growth are part of life, and I generally accept that. But not when the change involves upheaval and destruction that will only benefit one person or a small group of people whose driving force is greed.

Every time you build another residence, it means more stress on our water and sewer systems, more work for emergency medical services and firefighting folks, and a small-but-never-adequate increase in the tax base. And the fact that the village boundaries have been extended to the benefit of the developers just reflects that our elected officials don’t have the interests of the residents at heart.

Anybody who attended the Stewart’s meeting recently knew the fix was in from the very start. A bigger Stewart’s with a massive parking lot and surface-of-the-sun lighting doesn’t fit into our quiet little village. Neither does the destruction of an old, occupied, and architecturally correct home (comprehensive plan, anyone?).

Our mayor should have recused herself from the vote due to her prior public support for the project, which rendered her utterly biased and incapable of rendering an objective decision. That a recently-appointed board member who has yet to be elected also voted in favor certainly gives the appearance of impropriety. In our current political climate, optics are everything, as they say.

But enough of that. Altamont is still a small village made up mostly of people who moved here for that reason. They didn’t want to live in the suburban wastelands that surround us in Guilderland.

For many people, the suburbs are a perfect place to live and raise their families. More power to them.

But for those of us who are looking to live in a functional community, the character of Altamont is something precious and worth preserving. I want to live in a place where people wave, ask after the kids and the cats, and tell you how they’re doing. In a world full of problems and worry, it’s nice to know your neighbors and care about them.

Consistently giving in to commercial pressures serves only those who benefit financially. I don’t want Altamont to turn into Guilderland. But for developers, the character of a community doesn’t matter when there’s money to be made.

Let’s all remember why we moved here, why we live here, and why we stay here. Next time someone suggests building, tearing down, or changing things, let’s ask them a simple question: Who will this really benefit?

I want to live in a place where people know my name. During our short time on this little blue ball, that’s something that really matters.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg points out that he and his wife have lived in Altamont a combined 85 years and they have also walked thousands of miles through the village in that time. Remember to wave, he says; they’ll wave back.

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