Archive » May 2014 » Columns

It was Mother’s Day at Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church in Guilderland. The service, featuring heavenly sounds from the very musical choir and organist (my lovely wife, who I love to hear play) had just ended.

Normally, I’d leave at this point but we had a friend visiting so I went for coffee time, trying hard not to spoil my diet with all the cakes and cookies just begging to be eaten — a very nice way to start Mother’s Day.

As I’m standing there, two lovely ladies, dressed in their Sunday finest and obviously a mother-daughter pair, approach me.

“Aren’t you the one that writes for The Enterprise?” the mom asked me.

While I don’t get to church that often, or even around town that much, I get this all the time. The power of the written word!

“Yep, that’s me,” I replied, and we had a wonderful conversation about my columns, which they love.

Imagine that. Made my day for sure.

The big thing they wanted to know was how I decide what to write about, since it’s always something different. I told them I just write about whatever I’m thinking about at the time — “Thinking about Things” is the column’s name after all.

For example, I said, you know how, when you drink soda from a can, when you’re almost done, no matter how much you tilt your head, you can never get that last little drop that hides behind that little bit of lid under the hole?

This was something I’d been thinking about writing about for a while. It bothers me because you paid for the soda but can’t get it all.

At this point, the mom, wearing her pretty Sunday hat, looks up at me and belts out, “Who cares!”

I thought that was just great. Moms rock.

I remember one of the first pieces I saw Andy Rooney do on 60 Minutes. It was about paper clips. You wouldn’t think there’s much to say about paper clips, but that was the genius of Andy Rooney — he could take something we all take for granted, like paper clips, and make you think about them in new ways. Great stuff.

That’s creative nonfiction, and that’s what I try to do. The vagaries of real life, including the nuances of paper clips and that little drop of soda left in the can, endlessly fascinate me.

Another writer in the same vein is Nicholson Baker. Check out his book, A Box of Matches. He uses simple things, in this case a box of matches, to reflect on life. This to me is creative writing at its best, to take the tactile feel of a box of matches and just riff on that.

Drilling down like this, focusing on something rather ordinary to bring out larger truths, that, my friends, is real writing. I may know you, but when I know how you feel about a match, I can’t help but know you better.

Let’s get back to the soda. You paid for it yet you can’t get it all. I have similar experiences all the time.

My favorite mustard has always been Gulden’s Spicy Brown. A few years ago, Gulden’s came out with a squeeze bottle. This bottle works well when it’s full, but, in time, you get to a point where there’s plenty of mustard left but you can’t get it out. Very frustrating.

You can try angling a knife in there but it’s not easy. The other day, I got so fed up I actually cut the bottle in half and used a spatula to transfer the remaining mustard to a little container. Would you believe I got about a quarter cup of mustard out? That’s a lot of mustard!

Same thing with toothpaste. When you can’t squeeze any more out, there is still a lot left in there. I didn’t go to school for packaging science, but I think it’s clear there needs to be some improvement in this area. You paid for the product so you should be able to get all of it.

Microwave popcorn has been around for years. My microwave oven even has a popcorn mode, where it can sense the pops and know when to turn off.

When I pop a bag, I invariably get a whole lot of un-popped kernels. Why is this? Why can we send men to the moon but not figure out how to nuke popcorn?

The other night I got so frustrated with this I crunched up the bag with the un-popped kernels and put it back in the microwave. I admit I was kind of nervous about this — I’d never tried to re-pop popcorn before — but, surprisingly, it worked. The bag expanded without blowing up and most of the un-popped kernels popped. Hooray.

I could go on — try getting the last pickle half out of a jar without resorting to a fork; it’s just about impossible. Or try tasting non-fat, no-sugar-added ice cream — ugh. Or trying to keep track of all your passwords (ridiculous, there has to be a better way). But I think you get the drift.

There are so many little things like this that just bug you because you know they are frustrating and it wouldn’t take much to make them better. Oh well, I must be doing all right if these are the things I have to complain about.

Who cares? I do for one, but you knew that already.


This year marks a very special anniversary for Community Caregivers: 2014 is the 20th anniversary of the founding of an organization that took a simple idea, grew and spread, and yet, despite passing years, pressure, and changing times, never lost that simple focus.

This year, to celebrate neighbors helping neighbors for two decades, Community Caregivers will be having a number of events in which the public can take part, contribute to, or attend.

Thus far, we have raised around $10,000 from your kind donations, but we still have a way to go, so keep that up.

We are planning several events with further opportunities to donate, sponsor, or attend. Notably, we will be auctioning off a commemorative Caregiving Hands necklace made and donated by Refined Designs. That will take place in the late summer or fall at our gala.

We are also tentatively planning a Neighbors Helping Neighbors event for Sept. 11 with both $500 and $250 sponsorships available.

Don’t forget, the upcoming golf tournament has multiple opportunities to sponsor as well as play.

If you’d like more information on any of these opportunities, please call the office at 456-2898, or contact Kathy Burbank, executive director, at

At a time when our leaders can’t even agree to disagree and the economy continues to sputter along in a state of static equilibrium, neighbors helping neighbors means more and more each day. One person helping another improves both lives and that truly makes the world a better place for everyone.

If you want to become a volunteer, have a need for services, or just want to learn more about CC, call the office, attend a meeting, or check out our website at Thanks and we look forward to the next 20 years of neighbors helping neighbors.

Canes at the ready, the Old Men of the Mountain attacked the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg on the history-making date of April 29, 2014, and to many of the OFs it is still winter. Some have even put the lawn mowers away, and gassed up the snow blowers.

The OFs that had farms or grew up on farms began talking about the types of animals they raised on these farms. Most were the usual kinds — cows, horses, mules, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs, turkeys, and goats. These were the mainstay of the farm.  Some of the OFs had, not unusual, but “different” animals like guinea hens, peacocks, rabbits, or suchlike.

Growing up with these critters taught the OFs how different animals behaved. Some were quite alike and some were totally different but most had their own personalities. The OFs could tell if any of their animals were sick and required the attention of a vet.

On the other hand, if the animal was not sick but in severe distress, the OFs then knew which was which and it was time to get the gun.  Most OFs, with tears in their eyes, would painlessly put the poor animal down.

Continuing on with the farming theme, the OFs maintain that everybody is sticking their nose in the business of farming, and most of those doing the sticking have no idea of what they are doing. The OFs maintain that they should go back to washing windows, and keep their collective noses out of their business and everybody would be much better off.

“Well,” one OF said, “someone has to be looking out for the common people.”

Another OF picked up on this and said, “I am a common person.”

And the first OF replied, “You know what I mean.”

“Of course,” the other OF answered. 

The original OF said he knew some farmers would cut corners just like some contractors and even manufactures cut corners. One OG said he knew that, but that was not what he was talking about.

He opined that milk inspectors and people like that knew most of the time what was going on, and common sense was the norm between most of the routine inspectors and the farmer, but mandates like having to install bulk milk tanks, instead of using strainers and milk cans, put him out of business. This OF thought that milk cans were the cleaner way to go anyway, and he felt that, if the farmer wanted to install the bulk tanks, OK, but let the little guy still use his milk cans.

Such mandates have killed many of the small farms.  Most of these small farms are now in disrepair with barns and out buildings falling down. The once productive fields are now trees and brush.

“Yep,” another OF said, “the big money cats have persuaded the legislators to tax these same farms as building lots and the farmer can’t pay these high taxes so the developers jump in and buy the farms.  The guy in the capitol has met his commitment to the fat cat.

“We can take this little sneaky conspiracy one step further. Where does our food come from now — Chile, Brazil, Australia, Canada?   I bet,” the OF continued, “this is another commitment met, only higher up.”

End of OF rant.

Pessimists and optimists

Most of the OFs are glad to see April go, as much as the OFs were glad to see March go.

One OF said “he feels like he is wishing his life away by wanting May.”

Then another OF added, “Maybe this year, we will be glad to see May go also.”

Yet some of the OFs were talking about tomato plants and planting gardens.

Optimism and pessimism in one little conversation.

Strong concentration

The OFs had a small discussion on the phrase “lost in his work.”

One OG was picking up another OG to go to the breakfast and the OG being picked up was out working in his yard. The picker-upper drove up his driveway and the OG being picked up kept right on working.

The picker-upper OG turned around and drove back down the driveway and sat waiting for his friend who just kept right on working. The driveway was no more than 50 feet from where the OG was raking.

The picker-upper OG sat for a short while with the car running and finally blew his horn. The OG working in the yard just raised his head and waved in the general direction of the road and went right back raking.

The OG picking up this OF then really blew his horn, and, finally, the OG turned and saw the car and laid down his rake and walked to the car.

It is a good thing this scribe does not use names because, if anyone realized who this was and saw the OG working in the yard, they could drive right up his driveway, steal one of his tractors, drive it away, and the OG would never know it. That is what is known as engrossed in your work.

As one of the OFs commented, “That OG is the type of person you would want working for you — one that is not easily distracted.”

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg (with some OFs quite removed from farming but still think they are farmers, yet are now are able to go out to breakfast and not to the barn) were: Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Dave Williams, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Andy Tinning, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ken Hughes, Jack Norray, Duncan Bellinger, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.