Western/Madison/Allen intersection

US Route 20

I live near Albany, NY’s Western/Madison/Allen intersection. It isn’t straightforward to explain it. On the map, the red line is US Route 20. To the west, it’s Western Avenue. Where it makes the bend, it becomes Madison Avenue, but Western Avenue continues if you follow the straight line.

A “Getting There” column in the Times Union from 2015 contained this convoluted-sounding but utterly accurate question. “When coming north off South Allen Street and taking a left onto Western Avenue (you cannot take a left onto Madison Avenue) or going straight onto North Allen, there is most often confusion in the intersection. Cars coming south on North Allen can make a left onto both Madison and Western Avenues.”

Thus, WALK lights are needed to allow pedestrians to cross the streets safely. That is unless a driver is on Madison Avenue and makes an illegal right turn onto North Allen. And by “illegal,” I mean there is both a word and a graphic sign prohibiting it. Still, cars make that turn. Recently, three vehicles in a row did so.

Allen Street is but one lane in each direction. A red light came on when a fire truck was racing south down North Allen, so cars weren’t moving. Nor could they pull over because it’s a neighborhood with a lot of street parking. The truck passed eight vehicles, got through the intersection with sirens blaring, and went on its way.

What was audacious, and one of my neighbors saw it as well, was that the fifth car in line followed the fire vehicle. Since it did NOT have a siren, it almost caused an accident at the intersection.

Yield to the ambulance!

A few weeks later – last week – an ambulance was racing east on Western. It couldn’t travel straight onto Madison because cars stopped at a traffic light. So it had to head back to the common road area, then veer back onto Madison.

Meanwhile, a vehicle is heading west at Madison’s end, which normally would have had the right of way save for the approaching ambulance. Somehow, I waved the car down – the driver possibly thought I was daft – and it stopped. The ambulance veers back onto Madison, as I expected, and the crisis is averted.

It’s a weird intersection. In 2005 (!), I wrote The Streets of Albany Were Designed by Sadists. It’s more an issue of bad surveying, but the effect is the same.

The good thing is that the intersection is a major stop for the CDTA buses: the #10 Western, the #114 (it’ll get me to the train station); the #106 (circumnavigates the city), the #111 (UAlbany), and the new express #910. 

Old cities have quirky aspects. 


in the dark

Sometimes, I start writing a blog post that doesn’t come together satisfactorily. Here are some recent examples.

I started a post called Weird. One aspect was how some political emails I received mentioned people by their full proper names. “Tell James Daniel Jordan your opinions.” Or “Are you supporting Elizabeth Lynne Cheney?” Or “Thank Charles Ellis Schumer.” These are, of course, Gym Jordan – I mean Jim Jordan, Liz Cheney, and Chuck Schumerr, respectively.

This led to an internal discussion about why some younger performers receive the “whose real name is” treatment while I’ve not seen “Ice-T, whose real name is Tracy Lauren Marrow.”  Most casual fans didn’t even know the original names of Martin Sheen (Ramón Estévez), Vin Diesel (Mark Sinclair), etc. But do I get into old-time actors like Archibald Leach (Cary Grant) and Marion Morrison (John Wayne)? Mission creep.


The initial impetus for Weird was a trip from our house in Albany to a restaurant in Troy, a distance of seven miles, the day after the August blue moon. We passed a broken-down CDTA bus, then the aftermath of at least five accidents. A cop car was blocking the entrance to the gas station across from our dining establishment.

A few weeks later, I sat at the bus stop on Western Avenue at N. Allen, waiting to go downtown. Two cars were in the two westbound lanes. The vehicle in the right lane made a right turn. Then, the car in the left lane also made a right turn. Instead of falling behind the first car, it attempted to pass and got hit on the right passenger side. Weird. And stupid.

Let there be light.

One thing we need to fix in our house is providing more illumination. It’s weird how bad my night vision is. The light at the top of the stairs is too faint for one, especially THIS one, to see well. But the fixture is sealed, so we can’t open it to replace the bulbs. There’s a nightlight on constantly because it’s too far from the outdoor light.

The living room has long been a problem. We need to replace the ceiling fan with one that isn’t as wonky and has a light future. As a guy who goes to the file cabinet that contains 70% of my CDs, I can’t read the titles on the spine at night or when it’s overcast.

But the most problematic, and the most weird, is the main kitchen light. It works great. Then it stops. Based on my experience working at FantaCo in the 1980s, the problem isn’t the light bulbs – which we could replace – but the ballast. When I walked into the kitchen one evening, I could see. Then, I could not. I bumped into a Chewy box next to an open bag of cat litter. The litter was dumped onto the floor. Other examples of weird I either incorporated into another post or forgot.

I remember what I owe

Albany Savings Bank

Best f TrafficWhen Albany Savings Bank became a public company named Albank in the early 1990s, I was working in a temp job processing these huge checks of companies wanting to buy the stock.

Separately, as a customer of ASB since 1978, I was allowed to purchase said stock, actually in a favored position versus the raw investor. They couldn’t necessarily buy all of the $1.3 million – the ceiling – they wanted.

(If I were totally unethical, I would have reached out to some of those companies with the large wallets and say, “Hey, I have a better status as an existing ASB customer…” I’m sure the Securities and Exchange Commission would want to know how a temp worker could come up with that kind of money.)

As it was, my then-wife and I didn’t even have the $250 minimum purchase price. So I went in with two of my co-workers and bought the stock. And I would get periodic dividends until Albank got bought by Charter One, which then got purchased by Citizens Bank.

One of my fellow investors was named Mona, and I even had her address for a time. But my attempts to reach her failed. And now I don’t even remember her last name except it began with a U. I figure I must owe her, and the other person, whose name I don’t remember at all, a few hundred dollars each.

Books and music

Many years ago, obviously, I borrowed an LP called Best of Traffic from someone at a party on Washington Avenue in Albany. You know the band with Steve Winwood and Dave Mason. I’ve lost track of who I borrowed it from, although I’m pretty sure it was a female. But I still have the album, and I’d give it back if I could remember and find the person.

There are a couple of books on my shelves I borrowed. One must have been at least seven years ago. The other was from 2018 or so. I have started both but have finished neither. One is comics-related and the other one concerns the law. I will get them back to you folks next time I see you, which, given the pandemic, won’t likely be until NEXT year.

These are the things I remember at 2 a.m.

Don’t pass a car that’s waiting to turn left

I had some choice words for that driver.

At a level FAR greater than in previous years, my family has been involved in several near-collisions in 2017, specifically in March and April. None of them involved the weather, and most of them took place in the daytime.

A majority fit into the category of the title, which I stole from the Monday traffic column in our local daily, compiled by Tim O’Brien. He, like several folks with the Times Union, is leaving for greener pastures after dealing with the parsimonious Hearst Corporation daily rag for years.

ITEM: The Wife is turning left; we’ll call her car A. The car facing her is also turning left, car 1. A vehicle behind her, NOT the car immediately back, but the car behind THAT, car 3, gets impatient with the wait, passes car 2 and 1 on the right. Car A sees car 2, but barely breaks in time in the turn to avoid getting hit by car 3.

ITEM: The Wife is turning left. The car facing her is also turning left, car 1. She doesn’t see, but I do, the bicycle passing car 1 on the right. If I hadn’t called it to her attention, it was likely that she would have T-boned bike 2, the rider of which, BTW, was not wearing a helmet.

ITEM: I’m riding my bike, going straight ahead; I’m vehicle A. Car 1, signaling left, is patiently yielding the right of way to vehicle A. Car 2, however, is having nothing to do with THAT, and passes car 1 on the LEFT, across the crosswalk and practically into my path before slamming on its brakes. As it tuns out, it was a nice day, and car 2 had its windows down. I had some choice, albeit repeatable, words for that driver.

Not all the near-collisions involved left turns. The Wife was turning right from a one-way street onto a two-way. But the driver coming from our right apparently thought he too was on a one-way, because he wasn’t staying right. IF she hadn’t aborted the turn at the last moment, we would have hit him for sure. The Daughter, in the back seat, got pretty shook up about this, and understandably so.

There are a couple other traffic examples in recent months, but you get the gist. As Phil Esterhaus used to say, “Be careful out there!”

Always look on the bright side of life

always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-lifeHey, I’m working on it, looking for the moments with a positive outcome. I got the idea from Ken Levine’s post, Those little pleasures, about which he notes: “Especially now, I’ll take all the pleasures – little or otherwise – that I can get.” Especially since Post-election stress is a big problem (and not just for liberals).

ITEM: My friends Broome and Penny became grandparents last month. Anna, who is partially named after me, and Will , are proud parents of Connor, born November 18.

ITEM: I’ve mentioned my late friend Vito Mastrogiovanni, who died from AIDS back in 1991. His sister Lisa befriended me on Facebook. We started reminiscing about her brother, and Vito’s friends Jane, Harry, and Donna all chimed in with Vito stories.

She mentioned that she and Vito had seen me in Boys in the Band back in 1975 in Binghamton. The director was named Charlie, but none of us could remember his last name. I posted the question to a Binghamton FB site and a guy came up with Charles Dietrich, who is now a professor of theater at Baruch College in New York City. I befriended Charles on FB and sent him my recollection of being in the play.

ITEM: Melanie is a blogger I’ve been following for a time. In mid-October, she wrote to me privately that, to her surprise, she has found somebody who wants to share his life with her. I wrote back and noted how wise and honest her blog is.

Then, about a month later, she wrote Because.

ITEM: I was crossing Madison Avenue in Albany, heading for the CVS drug store. This car was trying to make a right-on-red turn onto Main, but once he saw me in the crosswalk, he apologized profusely. I said it was cool, but he insisted that blocking pedestrian access in the crosswalk was unacceptable.

After he parked, he saw me IN the CVS and apologized one more time. Totally, unnecessary, and it made me laugh.

ITEM: SiriusXM Agrees to Pay Up to $99 Million to Settle Turtles-Backed Copyright Suit. I know it’s a complicated issue, involving differing state and federal copyright laws prior to 1972, but I don’t care. It made me happy. (Obligatory Happy Together link.)

ITEM: Arthur@AmeriNZ is posting a lot of holiday ads from around the world. I particularly enjoyed a Coke ad for three different countries, similar in format.

ITEM: This is sad, actually, but I’m glad she got her shot. ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant dies before show airs. Show scheduled to air Tuesday, December 13

As noted: Always look on the bright side of life, from my favorite Monty Python movie, Life of Brian.

OH, here are 7 breathing GIFs to help you calm down and take a moment.

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