On Tuesday, March 4, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie, and it was another cold morning. This scribe generally does not mind winter, but enough already.
This scribe has enough information in his little notebook to cover three weeks of columns. Notes like wacky weed, lungs, bears and bees, finding money, animals and cold, scams, computer time, eBay, running out of wood, medical proof, egg yolks, mirror on the wall, bats, lime and cloves, and one more this scribe can’t read because the scribe tried to squeeze it in and now can’t figure out the dumb word, and then this scribe really ran out of room.
Needless to say, only a few will be expanded upon.
The first one will be the mirror because it is a short anecdote. An OF sometimes will see himself in a mirror at a mall, or even reflected in the glass of some of the stores in the malls and he is taken back because the OF doesn’t recognize the person he is looking at.
He says to himself, “Who is that OF in the window?”
It takes a little time for it to sink in, but it is the OF. Some of the OFs say they sometimes jump at the reflection and become scared because they think it is their old man.
The OFs started talking about these phone scams that are a big problem. The OFs thought that these problems were in large metropolitan areas. Not so. Two of the OFs have been approached in two separate instances and both were radically different.
One OF reported that the phone rang in his living room and his wife answered it. The person on the other end of line said that they were calling from Georgia, and that their granddaughter (and they gave her name) was in jail in Atlanta from being at a party.
They said that someone from the attorney general’s office would call at a certain time the next day. They had all the particulars, but did not ask for money.
The next day, at the time they said they would call, they did call. The man said he was from the attorney general’s office in Atlanta and that they needed $2,000 to take care of their granddaughter’s expenses, and that she recommended the OFs, who were her grandparents, because she did not want her mother and father to find out.
The OF said it all sounded very professional except that he could tell it was a foreigner on the phone because he did not sound like he was from the Atlanta area, or anywhere else in the United States.
The OF told the gentleman calling that he would have to make arrangements to get the money and he would contact them when he did. The OF was given a phone number in Atlanta to call.
The OF said he hung up and called his granddaughter on her cell phone and she did not answer. So the OF became concerned and called her parents.
The parents told him where she was (she was in school) and she was probably in a class and this school does not allow cell phones in the class. Sure enough, a while later the granddaughter called and said she was in class and could not use her cell phone.
By the way, the granddaughter and her parents live nowhere near Atlanta. So a happy ending with no money being sent to a fake address to a fake attorney general and, when the OF told the fake that he recognized a scam, the fellow hung up on him.
The other OF related his very recent encounter with the same type of scenario only this one was by e-mail. The OF received an e-mail saying one of their friends (and it named the friend) was in trouble in Indonesia.
These friends of the OF are world travelers and are now living in the West and this was plausible. Without going into the whole e-mail, the OF was asked by his “friend” if the OF could e-mail $2,000 (note the similarity in monetary request) to a specific destination so their friends could get out of their predicament.
The OF’s wife did not go any further. The OF’s wife fired off a letter to the friend by snail mail, because the OF did not want any electronic connection to their friend. A few days later, the OF received a phone call from the friend who said that, up to that point, 17 people had reported to them they had the same electronic communication.
The friends of the OF wondered how the people who sent the scam obtained the OF’s e-mail because the OF was not on their e-mail list. The conclusion was that, not only did they work on the friends of the OF, but the friends’ friends list, and the OF must have been on one of theirs.
This is getting too scary. From what the OFs understood, in both situations, there is no way yet to catch these guys or round them up and stop them — these scams are worldwide. One OF thought we have no jurisdiction in other countries and that might be the reason these types of scams continue. The other thing we noted is that Berne, Knox, Middleburgh, and Schoharie are not metropolitan areas, but that doesn’t seem to count anymore.
Spring may get here with the black flies, then summer with its mosquitoes. The OFs have a trick to keep mosquitoes at bay when eating out in the backyard.
This tip came from Georgia. Take a lime, cut it in half. Take some cloves and, at each joint in the lime, stick a clove there. Then brace it up in some water so the flat side is up, place it at the center of the table, and voila — no mosquitoes.
Of course, none of the OMOTM have tried this to see if it works because it isn’t summer yet, and maybe by summertime the OFs will forget all about it — forgetting is a common trait amongst the OFs. But the OF who played Heloise on this one said his daughter swears it works.
The OFs who met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie, and who can’t wait to see if the lime-clove mosquito chaser works were: John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Andy Tinning, Roger Shafer, Miner Stevens, Jim Heiser, Robie Osterman, Dick Ogsbury, Mark Traver, Glen Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Henry Whipple, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Ken Hughes, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Bill Rice, and me.
All the Old Men of the Mountain who ventured out Tuesday morning wound up at the Country Café in Schoharie. This scribe wondered why, early on, the original cast of characters picked Tuesday as the day to get away. That was many years ago.
This past Tuesday the breakfast was Feb. 25. (It is about 40 weeks until Christmas; better plan now.)
One OF made a normal statement that many of the OFs make and that statement was: “Believe me.”
This started a conversation on “trust” and “believe.” The OFs came to the conclusion that whenever the words “trust me” or “believe me” are said in a sentence, the warning antennas should pop up like on My Favorite Martian.
“Trust me; would I lie to you?” Whoa, back up, because now is the time to listen carefully. Generally, a fib is hidden there somewhere.
The other expression the OFs mentioned was: “Believe me, this is going to work.”
This should have “Danger, danger, Mr. Robinson” stamped all over it.
One OF said, if it is necessary to ask for trust, then it is a good indicator that the person or persons have not been too trustworthy in the past, or they are using the word “trust” as a word shield to hide some real hanky-panky tucked in there someplace.
“Yeah,” an OF said, “real trust comes when someone says it for you. For instance, ‘You can really trust Joe Blow — he doesn’t say much but, when he does, he knows what he is talking about.’”
Another OF opined, “My frustration is hearing the words, ‘Believe me.’ Too often. I have been told ‘Believe me, that is not going to work,’ and so many times I back off and don’t finish the project I started. Then, later on, I try it my way again and the project works just fine.” The OF continued, “Why did I listen to the OF who told me it wasn’t going to work in the first place?”
“Well,” one OG said, “I guess forewarned is forearmed but I bet we all will make these same statements at one time or another.”
Most of the wounded OFs have returned to the breakfast, and rather quickly this scribe may say.
The OFs — by virtue of being OFs — are tough or they wouldn’t have made it to being OFs. Even at the ages of this group of senior citizens they still maintain that degree of toughness.
It stands to reason that the OFs discussed their recent bouts with the knife and subsequent body repairs and one OF reported that his blood work showed he was low on iron.
So the OFs bantered on about iron pills and foods high in iron and finally one OF said that low iron was not even mentioned when he was a kid.
To which one OF replied, “When you were a kid, they didn’t even know what blood was.”
Undaunted, the OF continued, “We had a woodstove in the kitchen and there was a fire in that stove even in the summer.”
The OF pointed out his mom cooked in cast-iron pots, and in cast-iron skillets, and the top of the stove was cast iron.
“Ya know,” another OF said, “we did the same thing. I bet you are right, you OG; when we were young, we got real iron right from the pots and pans, and veggies from the garden, not processed. And our own butchered meat and chickens, none of this chemical feed stuff.”
“How about what we hunted and brought home and ate,” another OG said.
“That’s full of lead, you OF, not iron.”
“Oh, yeah,” the OG said.
Beating cabin fever
Some of the OFs say that getting out to the breakfast is a good break from cabin fever. Cabin fever seems like it is a problem this winter with all the cold.
The OFs are beginning to add cold to their litany of complaints, especially this winter. One OF mentioned that he has learned to live with many of his aches and pains, plus not being able to do what he used to do. The OF said this year he has to add the cold weather to not being able to do what he used to do.
This OF liked to cross-country ski and snowshoe, but now with the cold air, both of these activities have had to be curtailed. This OF wants to hang in there until March 20, the vernal equinox, when spring is supposed to start.
That is only a few days away and, to this OF, it looks like it is going to be, “Spring? My foot.”
According to the weather guys, it appears that, in our little section of the world, the thermometer will still be registering in the 20s until late March. These guys can be wrong quite often and we might only make the high teens in that period of time.
One OF said, “They can be wrong the other way, too. We can be in the high 30s.”
“Well, let’s hope so, I am running out of birdseed.”
The OFs who grumbled all the way to the Country Café because of the weather were met by a cheerful young waitress with coffee carafes in hand saying “Good morning, gentlemen, regular or decaf?” and those OFs who answered her were: Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Dave Williams, Frank Pauli, Karl Remmers, Robie Osterman, Andy Tinning, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Roger Chapman, Dick Ogsbury, Don Wood, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Garry Porter, Bill Krause, and me.
Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.
Right off the bat, this scribe must report that he was not there, but assistant scribes were assigned to gather names — one OF for the early birds and one OF for the late arrivers. When this happens and the appointed scribes do not accrue much information, this scribe is forced to go to his little red, or black, or blue book and look up old notes on conversations that were deemed too racy, too redundant, or, in this scribe’s opinion, not too interesting.
Sometimes, the problem is too many notes (all good) but they would fill half a page of the paper if this scribe used them all. That would make the OFs rather boring, so this scribe eliminates some of the varied conversations.
Occasionally, the OFs talk about upstate-downstate and how there is such a large difference in the two sections of the same state. In the all-knowing Times Union (ooh, my cheek hurts) there was an article of a movement afoot about having two New Yorks. Wow! What a novel idea.
This has been mentioned on and off for many years, and quite often by the Old Men of the Mountain. The OFs, as a rule, when discussing this issue, use Route 84 as the cutoff point. The TU mentioned Westchester County as the cutoff point. The OFs feel there is more money in 10 houses in Westchester County than all of Montgomery County, and the OFs think this is also another electric railroad debacle.
The OFs wonder if those in Westchester County, and New York City, and Long Island even know what the rest of the state goes through in the money department. To the OFs, many feel that downstaters think $1,000 is like $10 to those of us above Route 84.
One OF said that many of them have no idea where milk, meat, eggs, and veggies come from. This OF thinks that they imagine it all comes from the grocery store and “they” (downstaters) have no idea how it gets to the store. This OF assumes that many believe the items just sprout on the shelves.
Another OF thinks New York City is nothing but one big sponge that sucks up all the state resources to keep it going, and leaves nothing for those of us upstate.
Another OF took the opposite tack and opined that upstate cannot stand on its own. This OF feels that we need New York City in order to keep the state solvent. For instance, this OF feels there is not enough tax money upstate to support our portion of the state’s transportation department, or the university system, or maintain the Adirondack Park, and support our portion of the State Police. To this OF, the idea of a separate upstate-downstate sounds good, but he doesn’t think it would ever work and he feels confident enough to say it can’t work.
No fancy funerals
The OFs have an undertone conversation that crops up often. This time, it was on the number of people that the OFs know who have passed on in the last few months. It seems the wave of life the OFs are on is beginning to crash upon the shore.
This time, the OFs mentioned the type of funeral they would like, but the cost of dying is like everything else — getting out of hand. Many OFs say, “Just stuff me in a pine box or the crate the fancy coffins come in — that is all I need.”
One OF said, “Me too, and have the funeral from my living room, with family and friends gathering afterwards right in the house.”
Another OG said, “For me, no organ music. Those dirges sound like you are at a funeral.”
To which two OFs in unison said, “You OB, you are at a funeral, and it is yours.”
The OF that started this little part of the conversation said, “You know what I mean. Play some good old country music, like Hank Williams Jr.’s song ‘There’s a Tear in my Beer,’ or the song by Garth Brooks, ‘Friends in Low Places’; that’s my kind of funeral music.”
Another OG said that he is not going to have a funeral; he is donating his body to science, and bypassing “Digger Odell” altogether.
“Come on,” one OG said. “Science is not going to want your saggy old body; it is all used up. What will they have to experiment with? You are nearly blind; you can’t hear with or without hearing aids; one shoulder, one hip, and two knees are nothing but metal. You might just a well sign yourself over to the scrap yard at the port.”
“Look who’s talking,” the OF answered. “When they place your lard butt in a coffin, they won’t be able to get enough pallbearers under it to pick it up. A hearse will be out of the question for you; they will need a pickup truck and a crane.”
This same topic has been covered before, and will be again, but the scenarios change sometimes from the same OFs. One OF mentioned awhile back that he was going to be cremated, and his ashes put on the manure spreader and spread on the fields of the farm.
Another OF told him that would be a good idea because at least, for once, he would be doing some good.
“Like we just talked about a couple of weeks back,” one OF interjected. “Once we are gone, we won’t have a clue as to what goes on. We will be gone. The family may join in the funeral one-upsmanship, just like weddings, no matter what we want.”
“I can just hear the kids saying, ‘I don’t care what the OF wanted, my dad isn’t going to be buried in a pine box,’ and the kids will go for a casket that costs as much as a car.”
“Not my kids,” one OF said, “I may have a preplanned funeral, and they will take that money, and then wrap me in a sheet, get a shovel, dig a hole and dump me in, and that will be it.”
“Smart kids,” came a remark from a corner of the table.
All the OFs who are still breathing came to the breakfast at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and they were: Henry Whipple, Andy Tinning, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Steve Kelly, John Rossmann, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Don Woods, Ted Willsey, Harold Guest, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Garry Porter, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, and not me — but I am still breathing.
To this scribe, the time to report on the doings of the Old Men of the Mountain seems to come closer and closer. This scribe feels like he just finished typing the previous one and now it is time to type another and this one is for Tuesday, Feb. 11.
On Tuesday, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and it was cold again, but by now most of the OFs are used to it, except those with stents; that cold air gets to them.
To continue with the complaint that has been growing with the OFs, and that is keeping the home warm and how much it is beginning to cost, one OF mentioned that he does a lot with solar energy. His panel system puts out 6,000 watts (if this scribe understood him correctly).
So this OF could make coffee, 200 watts; make toast, 800 to 1,500 watts; have the refrigerator running, 600 watts; have the furnace running, 800 to 1200 watts; fry eggs and bacon in an electric frying pan, 1,200 watts; and do a load of laundry 500 watts; watch TV, etc. and have wattage left over. Not bad and all free energy.
The energy is free, but the solar system is definitely not. Eventually though, there will be a payback and, if it were started when the OF was a YF, he may make it. Then again, at what age does it mean you are an YF? As the OF’s age, the YF age seem to become older.
The discussion on energy suggested that somehow we (meaning the country) have to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, or natural gas and propane, just for heating homes, businesses, and domestic use. The OFs think this would free up oil and propane for running equipment such as trucks, ships, trains, and planes and subsequently lower costs.
The OFs started talking about co-gen plants that burn everything from tires to rice hulls to generate electricity, and, if we can get electric power down to something reasonable in price, we could return to using that.
One OF complained that he signed up for 100-percent wind power and pays a premium per kilowatt on his power bill and yet his bill jumped by 80 bucks. This OF is wondering why is he paying for the propane-usage fee if, in essence, he doesn’t use it.
“Something is wrong here,” this OF said.
This energy movement isn’t going to die; it is becoming a real problem, according to the OFs, and, as mentioned last week, they fervently believe it is all a scam.
The OFs talked about the movie, Grumpy Old Men, with Jack Lemon, and Walter Matthau. What brought this discussion up was that one OF visited friends in that part of the country and this OF visited the motel that these two stars stayed at while they were filming in Minnesota.
The motel has pictures of Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau with some of the staff at the motel. The OFs talked about how funny a movie Grumpy Old Men is and some of the OFs fit right in with these two.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to know much of it is about ice fishing, and the movie is something like Lawrence of Arabia. In the Lawrence of Arabia movie (about half-way through), the people in the audience felt like taking their shirts off. In Grumpy Old Men, the same audience wanted to put on another coat.
One OF said that, if you ask an OF to bundle up and go out and get the mail on a cold, blustery winter day, there may be an argument. Ask the same OF if he wants to go ice fishing, the OF has his gear on before the suggestion is over. Go figure.
One OF said that Minnesota has more lakes in it than the rest of the country combined. This scribe thinks this OF might mean “more than any other state.” The word “combined” would mean an awful lot of water. (Google it coming on).
Tough to top
Those OFs who watched the opening ceremonies to the Winter Olympics were duly impressed. The ceremonies were spectacular, especially the ending with the twirling dancers that looked like fireflies.
The OFs were wondering how they could do that and not fall over. One OF said he got dizzy just watching them.
The OFs mentioned the little 11-year-old girl who was dreaming the dream that the whole show was based on. She was flying through the air during the opening show (after breaking her arm in rehearsal) and she still went on with her performance at the opening ceremonies. A real trouper.
One OF mentioned this is like the game “Can You Top This.” The next opening of the Olympic Games is going to try and be better or more outlandish; however, this one is going to be tough to top.
Finally, the OFs talked about this good, old-fashioned winter with all the snow on the ground and buildings. (At our ages what’s so good about it? Let’s just call it an old-fashioned winter.) This winter is not going away because of the cold.
As one OG said, “The snow does not melt and make room for more; it just keeps piling up.”
This OG said he still has snow from the first snowfall. The guys who plow driveways with their pickup trucks are having a heyday this winter.
“Yeah,” an additional OF said. “If they don’t wear their trucks out before the winter is over.”
Those OFs who were at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and a few who still do their own plowing were: Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Andy Tinning, Steve Kelly, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aleseio, Bill Rice, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ken Hughes, Henry Whipple, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Guest, and me.
On Feb. 4, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. For a brief few hours in the morning, the sun shone and the OFs enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, though it was short.
The weathermen, with their voices full of glee, were broadcasting a winter storm warning for later on that Tuesday evening into Wednesday, Feb. 5. The OFs are happy they made the trip Tuesday morning up to Rensselaerville and the Hilltown Café.
This cute little place, which was once an old school (and the school bell is still in the restaurant) is perched about 1,650 feet up in the Helderbergs.
The OFs were ready to chew nails and spit rust over the bill increases from National Grid. The OFs say everyone should smell a scam from the beginning. (They can.)
We have had much worse winters, and, when Niagara Mohawk supplied our electricity, none of this happened. Under Niagara Mohawk Power, the prices were high, but in line with other utilities, and we had no ridiculous price hikes like what is going on now.
“Yeah,” one OF said, “and, with the ridiculous hike, comes the ridiculous lame reason.”
A second OF opined, “One real reason is because Niagara Mohawk was an American company, and this National Grid company is English and they don’t give a rat’s patootie about the customers.”
Another OF said that, coupled with the false claim of no product, National Grid can push through the hydrofracking by claiming, if they had more product, they would not have to raise prices.
“BS,” he added.
Then, one OF said that the state isn’t saying anything because it is in cahoots with National Grid. The whole thing is a scam.
Still another OF believed that the natural-gas suppliers have learned well from OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), and how the oil people carry on their scare tactics and false shortages to get the prices of oil up. Now, with the price of oil joining the ridiculous category, it is causing the price of everything to skyrocket, and the government seemingly goes right along with it.
“You got that one right,” one OF said, “because, when things cost more — and taxes are a percentage based on the selling price right down the line — the state and federal governments rake in big bucks and they don’t care if gas is ten bucks a gallon, or a tire is five hundred dollars, or a crooked, knotted, two-by-four is twenty bucks.”
“We are in a Catch-22,” one OG added.
However, this OF thought we always have been in situations like this one way or another. This OF said the country has gone through this type of “spin” as long as he can remember, only today the numbers are higher, which makes this time around more alarming.
This OF continued that this might cause people to think about driving and building huge houses with four bedrooms for two people, and more bathrooms than a football stadium.
“Think that one through, Buddy,” said an OF. “You’re saying that then only the rich people can go see Aunt Tillie whenever they want and the poor people would really have to plan, and maybe not be able to afford the trip if Aunt Tillie kicks the bucket.
“The National Grids, the oil companies, and many banks don’t care about the people getting by on darn little, and throw in day care for families where both parents work and therein lies a bigger problem than I can get my little pea-pickin’ brain around,” said the OF.
One OF said (and this scribe knows this has been said before) the OFs have lived in the best of times. This OF thought we should bring back Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton — these guys knew what they were doing.
Going back to the power price hikes, the OFs did agree they think this whole power situation is phony — there is no shortage. It is just a way to increase pricing and exploit the hydrofracking situation in favor of the gas business and to heck with the environment, or any other damage it may cause to people’s lives.
Wow, this scribe wondered: How many sides can there be to a discussion?
The OFs are of an age where they can just hang around the house if they want to — and, many times, that is what the OFs do. So what do the OFs wear while doing this strenuous activity?
Some don’t even bother to get dressed until noon. One OF said that the invention of sleep pants is great; they are nothing more than a heavier fabric pajama, which doesn’t look like pajamas.
“Heck, I even wear them out,” one OF proudly stated.
“I like sweats,” one OG said. “A sweatshirt, and sweatpants and I am all set,” he said “Put that together with not even bothering to shave and the day is great,” the OF continued.
“Well,” one OF answered, “I hope you bothered to shower but, knowing you, probably not.”
“Showering is one of my favorite things, wise guy. I make sure there is heat in the bathroom, and the hot water heater is up to snuff.”
“Maybe so,” the other OF came back with, “but I have been in your bathroom and all the towels are gray.”
“I like gray,” the OF retorted.
The OFs have talked about getting dressed before, and they consider this to be their daily exercise, but this time the OFs were talking about how they are finding they can put on one sock easier than the other and putting on socks is the hardest part of getting dressed.
One OF said he finds he has to sit down now to put on his shorts and pants because, when he raises his right leg to stuff it into his pants, he feels like he is going to fall over, and he can’t raise the leg high enough, or it may be that he can’t bend over low enough to the right. Going to his left is no problem; he can slide that leg right in.
This was strange because many of the OFs go through the same thing, only describing different body parts they are forced to use.
One OF said, when he puts on his coat, it has to be on his left because, if it is on his right, he can’t get it on.
Another OF said he has a similar problem with gloves. If he puts on the right glove first, he has trouble getting the left one on, so he takes the right glove off, puts the left one on, and then puts the right one back on.
This scribe pondered, are we all that weird?
What happened to the rat farm?
A few of the OFs talked about the rat farm that used to be in Altamont. One of the OFs said he worked there, and another OF said his dad worked there, and another OF said his mother-in-law worked there.
One OF said he thought some outfit in Ohio bought it but he really doesn’t know what happened to it after that. One OF questioned if the new owners just opened the cages and let all the rats out.
Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Hilltown Café, in Rensselaerville, and finding out that some other OFs got twisted around taking short cuts to find the restaurant (like an earlier car load did once) were: Miner Stevens, Andy Tinning, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, Jim Rissacher, and me.