Category Archives: blather

It doesn’t matter if you want it back

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Not enough attention to this blog lately, while Hoxsie gets my love nearly every day! It’s been years since we’ve done a Top 10 of Absolutely Nothing here, so here one is:

  1. “Dear Lemon Lima” – what a sweet little high-school-outcast-makes good movie this was. It was quirky, sweet, kinda real, kinda not.
  2. “Brick” – somehow I had completely missed this one, despite my natural acceptance of all things Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and all things noir. Film noir set in a modern high school. “She knows where I eat lunch.”
  3. Amanda Palmer’s “Theatre is Evil.” Well, soon, anyway. I backed the Kickstarter and got the fabulous CD and bonus tracks and all, but am not sure my head is in the space for what she’s singing about just at the moment, so I’ve only listened to the tracks that I had already heard, and even that is a bit much for the moment. “It doesn’t matter that you want it back / You’ve given it away / You’ve given it away.” Fabulous naked video here.
  4. Fresh electricity – 21 years ago I bought a house with somewhat substandard electric service and a scary tangle of wires stapled to a sloppily painted chunk of board in the basement. It didn’t magically get better with time. Work on the house finally forced me to call an electrician to clean up the mess down there, and a fine job they did. Cleaned up a lot of the mess, pulled all kinds of dead wires, gave me shiny new plastic-covered wire outside the house (because cloth-covered wire is just gauche). And now I have a circuit breaker box I feel safe working in.
  5. Awesome new tools. Where do I apply to get back the years of my life that I wasted with poor, ancient hand-me-downs that simply didn’t do the job? How did I get by doing occasional framing work all these years without a laser-guided chop saw? Why did I continue to try to cut with my grandfather’s circular saw, which clearly wasn’t up to the task? And why did I not understand that a Milwaukee hammer-drill is just about the finest cordless drill for everyday use I could want? They just make every single task easier, WAY easier. If a poor carpenter blames his tools, does a good one praise them? I don’t know, but my work is much better for having these new wonders.
  6. Creative vegetables. It was our first season with a CSA (community sustainable agriculture) share. Even at a half-share, it was a struggle to keep up with all the food each week. What do we do with all this kale? And tomatillos? And all these tomatoes? We’re not canners, but we did discover the joys of dehydrating, as well as inventing dozens of new combinations of hot and cold mixed vegetable dishes. Also rediscovered beets. Now, seriously, what was I thinking not eating beets all these years? So much flavor.
  7. Missing the daughter who’s away at college, especially now that the days are shortening and I think of those quick suppers we had together in the kitchen on nights when it was just the two of us, or our little breakfast rituals in the dark mornings. So excited for her, so thrilled that she’s doing so well, and that she goes to the kind of college that has a major career fair just for summer jobs (my day, my school, that did not exist). But missing her nonetheless.
  8. Enjoying the hell out of the daughter who’s still at home. Love coming home to catch her practicing piano, unbidden, and listening to her sort out compositions. She’d rather we weren’t around to hear it, and I enjoy hearing every note. We’re sorting through the college search process now, which is daunting and exciting as we watch another one who can pretty much do whatever she wants, will get into one of the top schools for what she wants, and will have an amazing college career.
  9. Leg bands. This is really a bottom ten, not a top ten. But god, why do bicycle leg bands not work on my pants? Having had several failures, I tried a nice expensive rubber-backed Planet Bike band that is not only reflective, it lights up. Should be amazing. Would be amazing, IF the elastic didn’t keep sliding back in the clip, and if it would stay up on my leg and hold my pant leg in place. It won’t. Going to a full gaiter on one leg, one step removed from spats, just seems like one more thing to manage on a bike commute that is already a disproportionate pain in the ass. I think I’ve decided to just completely give up on purpose-built devices and just use binder clips, which seem to never fail.
  10. I’ve rediscovered my intended epitaph: “I yield to myself as much time as I may consume.”

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Centrally located

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Albany Troy map

Albany Troy map (Photo credit: carljohnson)

This started out as a long, dreary post about why I live where I live, but I thought I’d cut the dreary. The “Non-Urban” part of My Non-Urban Life is that I’m in an early suburb, set just across the river and up a hill from the filth and noise of the city, advertised as a place for healthful living just minutes away by trolley. We’re on little village lots, close to our neighbors (in good and bad ways), on streets that should have had sidewalks but don’t. I live a block from a lovely little lake that has been the center of neighborhood activity since a neighborhood was installed on historic old farmland more than 85 years ago. The schools are good, the politics petty, and diversity almost non-existent. So sometimes I wish I lived in a place where I could tuck down the street for a morning coffee or an evening decaf or grab some groceries without getting in a car (although honestly, there are limited places in the city where that’s true). Since the number one thing I hate about my current location, perhaps the only thing, is one of my current neighbors, going back into a city setting and getting even closer (physically) to my neighbors seems unappealing.

But there are some other parts of the urban fabric I miss. Sidewalks, for instance. Stoops. Looking at the details on the brownstones. Somehow taking a walk through our neighborhood and looking at one sloppy vinyl siding job after another isn’t the same as tripping down Second Street in Troy and looking at the ornate doors and window casings. I miss wondering what goes on in the secluded back patios, what little gems of gardens are hidden there. And I miss being able to walk to work, as I could and did for several years in Syracuse and Albany. While it’s hard to figure out where jobs are going to take you, I’ve worked a substantial number of my years in downtown Albany, and my wife now works in downtown Troy, and it would be nice for one or the other to be able to roll out the door and down the street for a brisk 20-minute walk, rather than having to contend with traffic and bus schedules and the problems of crossing the bridge by bike.

So as we’ve just refinanced and are looking at finally making this into the house we wanted it to be, it’s also tempting to just re-assess and see if there isn’t a better location. I find downtown Troy absolutely charming and have enjoyed the residents I’ve met, but wonder if it could fit my lifestyle. Right now it doesn’t seem that way — I don’t see city houses with off-street parking, room for bikes and boats, and a decent separation from neighbors at a price I can pay. Or where I do, they’re essentially in neighborhoods just like mine, not adding a lot of walkability or diversity; they’re just suburban houses in a city.

So I think we’re staying put in our little slice of non-urbia.

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The fine print

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Not fitting in the neighborhood

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I’ve been lucky enough to have Hoxsie’s educational chewing gum featured frequently on All Over Albany’s “What’s Up In the Neighborhood” feature. I appreciate the attention from Mary and Greg, and it gives me a nice way to graze through some other area blogs that I may not read often or be aware of. But with all the local blogs and tweets I’ve read lately (yeah, I’m on Twitter — I’m hip to the 21st century, baby), I’m coming to realize that there are some things that people around here care about, deeply and importantly, that I really just don’t get.

  • Let’s not even start with Trader Joe’s, because it will just lead to a long-form rant I’ve been working up to for a long time about corporations sucking the wealth out of our communities, , and how we need to be creating wealth, not jobs, and how every chain we welcome into town and wait in line to hand our money to is one more flesh wound that destroys our . . . okay, I’ll stop now. To be resumed.
  • But even without that, there’s a vigorous discussion of what is the best grocery store in the Capital District, and it’s a discussion I just don’t get. Are there things I wish I could get in my local store? Yes. Am I willing to drive all over three counties to find those things? No. So it doesn’t matter what people think is the supreme grocery store, because to me, the only store that counts is the one that’s within five minutes of my home.
  • There’s also been an unbelievable amount of ink spilled over the closing of the Miss Albany Diner, which apparently was a very special place etc., etc. Don’t know, never ate there. Or any of the other places that people are writing about. You people go out to eat way, WAY more than we do. Eleven of the neighborhood blogs were about restaurants. How do you do it? It’s expensive.
  • Also, I’ve lived in this area for 39 of my 51 years. I’ve never seen or even heard of these mini hot dogs that you claim to be a Capital Region delicacy. I think you’re just fucking with me on that one.
  • I freely admit to being willfully ignorant of sports that aren’t bicycle based, and I have to squint to remember who was in the Super Bowl last week. I do get some level of fandom. But I don’t get the part where you think “we” won. Massively paid, massively doped athletes won (over other massively paid, massively doped athletes). It was probably exciting to watch, but you watched it from your couch or barstool. You probably don’t ever play the game you’re watching. Keep it in perspective. (I don’t hear cycle racing fans saying, “We sure showed those Omega-Pharma-Lotto bastards!” It’s not that kind of sport.)

Don’t misunderstand . . . I’m not trying to put anybody else down. I’m just saying I feel a bit apart from my fellow local bloggers.

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Turning into our parents

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Yesterday the blogotwittofaceosphere was all abuzz over the
Oscar nominations. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten completely away
from going to the movies, something I used to love. Part of that was economic –
a night at the movies for two cost more than a month of Netflix and Hulu
combined. While we enjoy the experience and the movies at Spectrum8, the other
theaters around are unpleasant experiences, and the few times I think we should
go out, there’s never anything I want to see. (How much do I sound like my
parents now). And so while all this Oscar buzzing was going on, I realized that
once again I had not seen a single movie they were buzzing about. In fact, I
think I had only even heard of one of the movies.

Ultimately, this is how we turn into our own parents. It’s
partly accidental, as over time there are just too many new things to keep up
with, too many things to pay attention to, and too few that we actually need
to know to get through life. So things like texting emerge, and we ask, “Isn’t
that just email to your phone?” and the kids shake their heads. (It is, by the
way.) Or the latest thing that replaces that last latest thing comes along, and
you’re just not ready to move on (“I just got ON Facebook!”)

It’s also partly intentional, because, as always, so much of
pop culture is just crap that fills the time. And there are so many gems
from the past that need to be read, watched, listened to, it seems like there’s
no time or room for the cascade of the new, which is unculled and untested.
Occasionally something marvelous suddenly catches my eye or ear (Florence +
The Machine) and I’m actually a little bit plugged into the zeitgeist, and
sometimes I hear something at the skating rink that doesn’t actually offend me, and I’m forced to ask the main (or perhaps emergency backup) teenager
who it is, and it turns out to be someone with actual talent (Adele) that I chose to ignore because she was just one more one-named singer.Again and again I hear the names of actors and actresses whose work I’m absolutely unaware of, and I find that I don’t really care to figure it out. I know there are such things as Ryan Reynolds and Megan Fox, and that’s exactly as much as I know.

My willful ignorance, however,  cannot overcome the absolutely
insidious omnipresence of  Khardashians, which I view as truly a sign of the
end of days, or at least an admission that we no longer require our
entertainment to be in any way entertaining, just that it be on and
omnipresent.

So, this is how we turn into our parents. Turns out it’s not
entirely accidental.

Floored.

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Home ImprovementBusy. Not all good. Winter’s finally here, or at least the cold and blowy parts of it, and I’ve been off the bike, which is fine because I always need a break from it. Been on the skates a bit though,which has been fantastic for my old broken knee. Turns out to be just what I needed to finally, after a year, get it back to feeling normal. I can even kneel again, which I proved over the weekend by installing a new floor in the hallway. Usually when I finally get around to a project that I’ve put off for 20 years, I find out exactly the reason I’ve put it off — they prove to be nightmares. This one wasn’t like that, it proved to be a dream, especially with my new laser-guided chop saw. That thing’s a frickin’ dream, and for the first time ever I got the trim exactly perfect, everywhere.

Things I left behind in 2011:

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  • An umbrella that I KNOW I brought home.
  • A balaclava that I am absolutely positive was hanging by the heat register with my other cold weather biking clothes just a couple of weeks ago, and yet is nowhere to be found.
  • My favorite winter hat.
  • A stuffsack that was filled with other stuffsacks. We have torn this house apart looking for them, and they are nowhere to be found.
  • Elvis Costello’s “Imperial Bedroom,” as far as I can tell the only CD I have lost since I bought my first one in 1985. I have it on digital, but it still bothers me.
  • My left knee, though I think it’s coming back to me.
  • A certain sense of financial insecurity.
  • And, apparently, a certain sense of a different security.

Successful Christmas

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Of course, it hasn’t happened yet, so there are no reactions, no “present faces,” no “you shouldn’t have’s” yet. But I’m ready to call this the most successful Christmas in quite some time. For starters, we did a huge amount of our shopping in local stores, particularly Troy, particularly Pfeil Hardware, which is one of those treasures we all wish would exist. Small, friendly, bursting with just about everything for the home. Go there and be amazed, and then go back again and keep buying stuff there. (Our nearer hardware store used to be like that, but they gave in to terrors of Walmart and Home Depot and gave up carrying a lot of the household items that made them such a great local resource.) Also did a lot of business at Market Block Books and a number of the great little galleries and stores nearby. If Rebekah had her way, she’d spend every dime she gets at DesignIt Together, which does some wonderful designs and carries a lot of local music. Everything we didn’t get in Troy we got from Amazon, and a few things from Target. So in the end, there was only one trip to the mall during the entire Christmas season, and it was a bust, so not a dime was spent at a place that I hate with a resounding passion. I consider that success.

Also, the roast squash, pear-cranberry pies, and panettone pudding are all made and cooling. Tomorrow, we pop the local ham from Rolf’s Pork Store in the oven (and rinse and repeat on Monday), and all is done. I was in a position to treat people for Christmas, and to keep a lot of the money local. What could be better than that?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Ruling things out

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Surgery for the Eye and Ear

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

I don’t think I’ve had medical treatment in the past couple of years that wasn’t primarily designed not to treat the problem, which has usually already passed of its own accord, but in order to rule things out. It’s a good thing to do, it’s the way to keep from being caught by surprise, and I have definitely known some people who were caught by surprise, but five hours in the ER, a nice little dose of radiation and ripping off the IV tape seems a high price to pay to learn, once again, there’s nothing wrong with me. But ruling things out comes with the over-50 territory, doesn’t it? So I rule things out. But at this point it would be nice to find out something is actually wrong and be able to fix it. I was actually excited a few months back when it looked like my nagging knee problem was a torn meniscus, something that could be surgically corrected. I don’t want surgery, haven’t ever had anything major, and there are definite risks, but I actually got excited that there could be a quick fix. I had to draw the honest surgeon who looked at it and said there was nothing for him to do. And so it goes.

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