A Hitchcockian Evening

It was a not-that-dark, clear and cool night two and a half weeks ago, before the first snow. I was riding my bicycle home past the NEW! IMPROVED! Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library.

Then I noticed a presence. Well, it wasn’t a singular presence. Rather, I could sense a whole bunch of creatures seemingly peering at me. I noticed that the trees were filled with black birds, crows or ravens. It was eerily like that Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, which I saw decades ago and which terrified me, except that film used a flock of seagulls, if I recall correctly.

Suddenly, the birds were on the move! Were they going to attack?! Well, no. But in traveling from tree to tree, they were going to poop. I heard the plop, plop of bird droppings all around me as I rode feverishly the last few hundred yards to my house. Fortunately, I made it home without pelted. I called my wife to see the hundreds of loud, cawing birds in our tree and the trees of our neighbors.

The next morning, they were gone. All that remained were their “gifts” all over the sidewalk, the road, and notably, all over the cars on the street, including ours.

I will remember the evening that I was almost murdered by crows, figuratively..

Crow in birdhouse at the Bronx Zoo.
Location: New York, NY, US
Date taken: 1942
Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt
For personal non-commercial use only from LIFE.com

Strange Questions Meme, Part 2

Back to Sunday Stealing, whose motto is: “Cheers to all us thieves!”

26. What color is your watch?

Seriously, I kill watches. I think it is in my DNA that whatever watch I own dies in four months. I have a brown-strapped watch around somewhere; doesn’t work.

27. What do you think of when you hear “Australia”?

Sydney Opera House. I blame the Wonder Pets.

28. Would you strip for money?

No. You should be pleased.

29. Do you go in a fast food place or just hit the drive thru?

Generally inside. Something ecologically and aesthetically even worse about the drive through than getting fast food inside.

30. What is your favorite number?

37. It’s my birthday. Once, when I was commissioner of a college election, in order to stop voter fraud, I had a friend mark the 37 on the back of the students’ ID cards. And yes, quite a few people had tried to vote more than once.

31. Who’s the last person you talked to on the phone?

Time Warner cable. Wanted to know why it is that when I look at the next six days ahead on the DVR, there is NO information for Monday. Last weekend, there was NO information for Tuesday. Had I not specifically checked this, I would have missed not only those days, but also subsequent days.

32. Any plans today?

Same as it ever was. “Water dissolving… and water removing. There is water… at the bottom of the ocean.”

33. In how many states have you lived?

Two, North Carolina (4 months), and New York (the rest of my life).

34. Biggest annoyance right now?

Might be the New York State legislature for all sorts of reasons, not the least having to do with cuts to education and libraries.

35. Last song listened to?

Oh Bess, Where Is My Bess by Frank Sinatra. This excludes songs at church yesterday.

36. Can you say the alphabet backwards?

Yes, and so can my five-year-old daughter. In fact, she was my motivation.

37. Do you have a maid service clean your house?

Someone does come by some Saturdays for an hour or two. In fact, when she does not – and this past Saturday was one of those times – I clean obsessively thoroughly. Cleaning the spaces between the radiator folds. I don’t enjoy it, as I take forever, but if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it well.

38. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?

Red Chuck Taylor sneakers. I have a Christmas ornament that someone gave me that looks like red Chucks. Apparently, I was a great disappointment to my fellow JEOPARDY! contestants in 1998 when I DIDN’T wear them on the show after I had been wearing them during the warm up.

39. Are you jealous of anyone?

Anyone who can type.

40. Is anyone jealous of you?

Seriously doubt it. I could be surprised.

41. Do you love anyone?

Quite a few, actually.

42. Do any of your friends have children?

About half of them.

43. What do you usually do during the day?

A working class hero is something to be.

44. Do you hate anyone that you know right now?

This seems to be a very popular question on these things. No, but there are certain people that, if they just all developed laryngitis, or failing that, fell off the face of the earth, I’d be mighty happy.

45. Do you use the word hello daily?

Hello, hello. I don’t why you say goodbye. I say HELLO.

I was once working at the voting polls, which involved being there at 5:30 a.m., so I was walking there at 5:20, and this guy says, “Hello.” I say “hello” back, but I haven’t talked to anyone yet, so the vocal chords weren’t really warmed up. He didn’t hear me, evidently, and he said, “Don’t you say ‘hello’ when someone says ‘hello’?” I said that I DID say hello, that he hadn’t heard me. Yeesh.

A few years ago I made a mixed CD with songs with “hello” in the title: Hello, It’s Me; Hello Hooray; Hello Hello…

46. What color is your car?

Some boring silver gray that is so damn generic that I never recognize it except by the license plate.

47. What size wedding ring do you wear?

No idea at this point. But it hasn’t changed.

48. Are you thinking about someone right now?

Yes, whoever asked such a lame question.

49. Have you ever been to Six Flags?

Well, yes and no. There is one not that far from me, the Great Escape in Lake George. I was at a conference at the lodge, and walked around the closed amusement park – it WAS November in upstate New York.

50. How did you get your worst scar?

May have told this story before: When I was 16, I had borrowed someone’s bike. My friend Carol and I were going to ride over from our part of town, Binghamton, NY’s First Ward, to the South Side to a friend’s house. We managed to go the length of Front Street without having to stop or slow down.

However, as we were going across the Riverside Drive bridge, I found myself gaining on Carol. Every bike I had had up until then would brake by essentially peddling backwards, but this was not working; I would later discover that it was one of those new-fangled bikes with hand brakes. Anyway, in order to not run over my friend, who I had known since kindergarten, I put my foot down on the sidewalk to slow me down. The bike somehow flipped over.

After recovering from the fall, we rode the rest of the way without incident. It was only there when Carol and our friends Karen and Lois looked at my arm and saw the gash in my arm, full of blood, dirt and pebbles. They cleaned it out, but the scar lasted. Although with my vitiligo, the scar has virtually disappeared; hey, an upside!

That was the day I first heard the first Led Zeppelin album, incidentally: “Good Times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share.”
Record producer Bob Keane died last week.
For no particular reason, save for the whimsy that comes with fatigue, above is a picture captioned: “Served at dinner for Captain Richard McCutchen, winner of the $64,000 question, on TV quiz program, a large basket of fruit which was part of the dinner.” (September 1955; photographer: Yale Joel for LIFE).


Now greener ogre

I came across this software that takes phrases and makes several anagrams. One of the samples is the title of this piece. It also took the line “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” and changed it to “Neatly weighs up mawkish philosophy about unforseen reality”, which I thought was rather funny.

Saturday, we had plans to go to a museum a distance away, only to discover that it was unexpectedly (and illogically) closed. Plan B involved the usual housecleaning and shopping. But there came a point were my wife was going to take a nap and the daughter had fallen asleep on the sofa. Could I go to the grocery store to get some things?

I was surprised a bit by my disappointment. The idea of being in my own house, well not alone, but with it to myself was SO tantalizing. Going out to the store seemed counterintuitive, but go I did.

On the way back I run into five boys, maybe aged 14, on bicycles; no helmets, BTW. I too was on my bike. one asked me where Central Avenue was. Central Avenue is only THE main street in Albany. The answer wasn’t that simple; if they wanted a low number, it would have made sense to head east on Western Avenue, but the higher numbers would suggest going straight (north) on West Lawrence, ignoring the fact that the road seems to end, something you can do on a bike, though not a car.

I travel on, and see them AGAIN on North Allen, in front of the elementary school. The same kid said he couldn’t find Central. I said, “You have to keep going.” Another kid asked, “Is it beyond Washington Avenue?”


Second boy: “See, I TOLD you so!”

Then boy #1 told me about some “furry” candy he wanted to buy, but his friends were going to go buy pot. Was this true, or an attempt to get a reaction from me? As it turns out the address they gave me was in Colonie, well past the Colonie Center mall, and I warned them it as a long ride.

I restated my directions: ride until you run into a funeral home. At which point, one of the other boys burst into a crying jag. I was told that his grandmother had just died. But this was “crying” that sounded mighty insincere, and I feel they’re trying to yank my chain, though I passingly apologize.

They went on their way, I mine, left wondering: who ARE these kids, where did they come from, what did they REALLY want in Colonie, and how the heck do they not know where Central Avenue is?
I’ve been having a lot of vivid dreams recently. One involved a relative of mine on my father’s side who accused me of mocking her when she had a child out of wedlock. this is untrue, as far as i know, but the specificity of that and other dreams is fascinating to me. These are the dreams you wish you could film, or are really glad you cannot. Another dream was particularly grotesque, again with references to my father’s people. These things are supposedly manifestations of something, but I’m at a loss to ascertain what.
Why has my mother’s phone number in North Carolina changed? New area code AND the seven digits. I’ve known the old number impressed in my mind for years. Arrgh.
Arthur at AmeriNZ on bigotry, in this case, a homophobic columnist.
Thom Wade links to the Jon Stewart/Daily Show assessment of an Al Franken amendment to a Congressional bill against rape by governmental contractors. 30 Republicans, who I thoughtfully listed in the comments to that post, opposed the bill.



Tegan had a blogpost, the title and the sole content of which was “Bleah”. I can relate.

The daughter and I both are suffering our seasonal allergies. The ragweed count has been low, but the grass has been moderate, and three days ago, was high. More than anything, this affects the sleep. I might spend nine hours in bed, but the first hour I spend coughing. Then when I DO get up in the morning, I’m logy. Everything aches and the legs feel as though they weigh 1000 pounds apiece.

The wife was so concerned about the daughter that she took her to the doctor, who confirmed that it was allergies, not a cold, that she has been suffering from.

My work computer I’ve had to shut down at least once every single workday for the past week and a half. And Ctrl-Alt-Del doesn’t work; I have to hard boot it. Seems to have something to do with Adobe.

At home, every time I go back to the computer, there is an “unresponsive script”, even when I’m looking at something not very graphical, such as my Gmail. I seem to have downloaded an unauthorized version of Windows somehow; “You may be a victim of software counterfeiting,” I’m told by my computer. I got a replacement printer, but it isn’t recognized by the computer.

And I put air in the bike tire on Thursday, but by Sunday, it was flat; now I need to take it to the shop, because I don’t know what’s wrong.

The good thing about feeling lousy is that I get more work done in the office. I have to concentrate really hard on what I’m doing, lest I lose track, and the bottom line is that I’m more efficient because I’m necessarily more focused.

I’ll miss choir rehearsal tonight, so I can attend this, but that’s not all bad, since my throat’s so scratchy, I can’t sing a thing right now anyway.

So, bleah. Regular blogging will return tomorrow. Guaranteed, actually, since it’s already done. Then Saturday’s done in my head. Sunday, I answer questions.

This too shall pass.


No Forwarding Address

Sometime last year, we started getting mail for a Hrishikesh Samant at our home. We have been at this address for nine years and the people who lived here before were not so named either. I thought it would be an easy matter to Google the name and perhaps trying to contact him. No such luck; there seems to be at least a geology and/or zoology professor in Mumbai, India and a GIS expert in the US. Here’s a video of one of them. Or maybe it’s all the same guy. But it doesn’t explain while mail, including utility bills, cable bills, and items of the sort started arriving at our door in that name.

So I decided that perhaps I should contact the authorities to see if someone was trying to perpetrate some fraud in Mr. Samant’s seemingly good name(s). I contacted the postal authorities. They told me to just return to sender. After three or four months, the mailings have seemed to stop.

Now we are getting mail for Gwen Powell. It’s all what we would consider junk mail. Moreover, we at least have a theory about how we came to get “Gwen’s mail”. My wife’s given surname, her “maiden name” if you will, is Powell. A C and a G have similar structures; the line of the G plus ar could be construed as a w, I suppose. In cursive, o and e both have loops. I need to contact these vendors to get “Gwen” off their mailing list.
There was a story this week in the local paper about an a 11-year-old boy who pedaled his bicycle into the path of a car and later died. Very sad story made worse by the fact that he waited 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Someone on Twitter commented that the fact that the driver of the car wasn’t ticketed was tantamount to getting away with “murder”, and used that specific word.

Now few people complain more about how irresponsible car drivers are vis a vis bicyclists than I do. I got a broken rib about 50 weeks ago from trying to avoid a car running through a traffic light. But the facts in the case – the boy’s bike hit the passenger-side door – suggests that the boy either didn’t see the car, had his brakes fail or some other circumstance. In any case, the driver, who will undoubtedly be traumatized for a long time, doesn;’t need apparently unfounded claims of murder bandied about.


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