In Praise of Interpretive Artists

When I was getting paid to be a music critic, one of the more entertaining nights on the job was the annual get-together of all my newspapers’ music critics to compile our “Best Of” lists for the year’s Local Music Issue. These editorial lists were based solely on our own subjective opinions and observations, ostensibly filtered through our superior critical experience, while the separate Readers’ Poll represented the vox populi. It was sort of a “what’s good” vs. “what’s popular” dichotomy, to some extent.

The fact that there was very little overlap between the two lists probably says a lot about how music critics exist in little bubbles of elitism that have no bearing on the lives and experiences of most normal human beings. As I wrote in one of the opening paragraphs of Eponymous, music critics are:

“. . . the deeply demented souls who live in a world where a packed stadium equals ‘lowest common denominator failure,’ while eight of their kind gathered in a space of their own making watching a nobody doing nothing anyone else wants to hear equals ‘artistic triumph.”

One of the things that used to cause particular outrage at the annual gathering of the music critics was the fact that the hoi polloi would routinely vote for cover bands in the “Best Local Artist” category that we gave them in the Readers’ Poll. Can you imagine that?!? Lawks, how much we needed to educate the rabble, to help them rise above the humiliation of dancing in public to bar band versions of “Mustang Sally” or “Brown Eyed Girl,” while (shudder) actually enjoying themselves?!? Forsooth, we must select the most experimental, underground, obscure band we can find to counter their ignorance! Excelsior!

One year, though, one of our own turned on us: a normally dependable music critic came to the annual gathering of the rock and roll gadflies and nominated a duo who primarily played other peoples’ music for the “Best Local Artist” slot in our annual critics’ poll. The duo dug up pop obscurities and then completely reinvented their arrangements, he explained, turning them into something unique and fresh. They offered extraordinary vocals and exceptional instrumental talent. They were socially active, playing at the sorts of benefits that we liked to support, on behalf of the sorts of causes that music critics get excited about (e.g. “Hey! Let’s go to the PETA rally and see if there are any naked women painted as tigers there today!”) They collaborated with others in the community, sharing stages with some of the obscure weirdos that we’d already selected in other categories. Why, he pressed, would we not consider them for the top slot in our regional poll, just because they didn’t write their own songs?

Why? Why?!! WHY?!?!? Because . . . because . . . HERETIC!!! ABOMINATION!!! FREAK!!!! OUTCAST!!!! I won’t go through the details, but suffice to say that voices were raised, fingers were pointed, drinks were slammed, cigarettes were stubbed angrily, words were exchanged, feelings were hurt, alliances formed and broke up, more drinks were slammed, and in the end, we gave “Best Local Artist” to a new group composed of three of our friends who had only played two shows out in public to a total of nineteen people (but, boy, that TEAC Tascam 4-track musique concrete deconstruction of ABBA Gold they sent us was awesome!), while the proposed covers duo was grudgingly awarded a prize in a new category we created especially for them: “Best Local Interpretive Artists.”

These days, honestly, I’m generally happier to go out and dance along to cover tunes played by great local bar bands than I am to go shuffle morosely in a seedy bar, hoping to find the next best thing, and having it fail to show up. I still appreciate the act of songwriting, of course, and I love up-and-coming artists who sing what they write, but I also appreciate the act of performing and connecting with an audience, and some of the better shows I’ve experienced in the past few years have been shows primarily composed of cover songs.

So today, I lift up and celebrate our friends the Interpretive Artists by sharing a list of my Top 20 Favorite Cover Songs Ever, below. Feel free to submit additions to this list in the comment section, and I will make sure that no angry music critics show up to stub their cigarettes out on your arm.

  1. “Young Man Blues,” by The Who (covering Mose Allison)
  2. “Morning Dew,” by Einsturzende Neubauten (covering Bonnie Dobson or Tim Rose)
  3. “Whole Lotta Love,” by Tragic Mulatto (covering Led Zepellin, filtering Willie Dixon)
  4. “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores,” by Bauhaus (covering John Cale)
  5. “Shipbuilding,” by Robert Wyatt (covering Elvis Costello, though technically Wyatt’s version went public first)
  6. “Black Diamond,” by The Replacements (covering KISS)
  7. “Sugar Smack,” by The Hanslick Rebellion (covering the Archies and the Velvet Underground, at the same time)
  8. “I’m Not Lisa,” by Killdozer (covering Jessi Colter)
  9. “Stagger Lee,” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (covering Lloyd Price and 1,000 bluesmen)
  10. “Scumbag Pines,” by The Kamikaze Hearts (covering Beef)
  11. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” by Isaac Hayes (covering Glen Campbell)
  12. “Ray of Light,” by Madonna (covering Curtiss Maldoon)
  13. “The First Cut is the Deepest,” by Rod Stewart (covering Cat Stevens)
  14. “Pablo Picasso,” by John Cale (covering Modern Lovers)
  15. “Going Up,” by COIL (covering the theme song of British TV show Are You Being Served?)
  16. “Love Hurts,” by Nazareth (covering The Everly Brothers or Roy Orbison)
  17. “Yoo Doo Right,” by The Geraldine Fibbers (covering CAN)
  18. “Personal Jesus,” by Marilyn Manson (covering Depeche Mode)
  19. “Viva Las Vegas,” by Dead Kennedys (covering Elvis Presley)
  20. “Kaw-Liga,” by The Residents (covering Hank Williams)

Weather Conspiracy and Other Matters

1. The first half of January in Des Moines was so nice, weather-wise, that I had become convinced that the tales of severe Iowan winters were just a myth cobbled up and promulgated by the locals to keep expat New Yorkers like us from moving here. I have ridden my bike, worn shorts and hiked more in the past three weeks than I ever did in any winter month during my 18 years in Albany. Nice! Unfortunately, though, yesterday the temperature dropped into single digits, the wind kicked up with 50 mile per hour gusts, and the dry, stinging snow started flying. Oh well . . . I guess they do have winter in Iowa. But with an annual average snowfall of only 33 inches, I can’t imagine it being worse than a typical endless, icy, sleety, dark Upstate New York cold season. Fingers crossed. Katelin and I did some really nice walks during the warm spells, including another trek out the Great Western Trail and a nice walk around Saylorville Lake.

2. When I was in sixth grade, our family lived at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while my dad attended the Army’s Command and General Staff College there. Last weekend, Katelin, Marcia and I went down to Kansas City for a night on the town, and on our way there, we popped over to Leavenworth to assess the old homestead. It didn’t look half bad, honestly. When I looked out of my bedroom window, I saw the distinctive dome of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. My next door neighbor was Rob Heinsoo, who went on to achieve a high degree of acclaim as a game designer, including serving as the lead designer for the fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. His brother (another Eric) and I were among his very first dungeon victims, and it was an absolute hoot to read about his tentative first dungeons many, many, many years later in this interview. I still remember the School for Dragons . . . there was no going forward after we bumbled into that. The Napoleonic war game mentioned in the interview was based on the Battle of Jena-Auerstädt and to this day, the only things I know and retain about that battle are based on the game. That was also the year that I became a life-long Kansas City Royals fan. Needless to say, Fort Leavenworth holds fond memories for me!

Moving Along With Moving Along

This week is Marcia’s last in her current job, and she will be heading west to Iowa next Thursday, picking up Katelin en route so they can keep each other company through the long drive and first few days in Des Moines. I’m glad things worked out that way, schedule-wise, for both of them.

Marcia will be living in a furnished corporate apartment for the first six weeks or so, while I remain in Albany to take care of various local and regional things that I need to get done before I’m able to join her. If all goes as planned, my last day of work at the University at Albany will be November 9, the packers and movers will take care of clearing our current house on November 10 and 11, I will head west on November 12 (with the cats), arrive in Des Moines on November 13, with closing on our new house on November 14.

Between now and then, I will also be serving in my volunteer capacity as Secretary of the Corporation for the American Institute for Economic Research at their annual meeting, and as reunion coordinator for my Naval Academy class at our 25th anniversary homecoming. I will also be attempting to maintain a small and tidy footprint in our current home, to facilitate selling it soon. So it’s going to be a busy six weeks.

Of course, that period of time is still going to seem somewhat empty to me, since I’ll be alone at the house for much of it. While a six week separation for Marcia and me is nothing compared to what many of my Naval Academy classmates and all of our fellow soldiers, sailors, pilots and Marines endure as a matter of course, it is pretty dramatically outside of the family paradigm to which we’ve become accustomed, as we’ve never been separated for more than a week during the past 24 years.

So I’m advance planning on how to amuse myself during that time to make it go more quickly. Those of you who know me or have read my work over the years are probably aware that I have a fairly deep masochistic streak. Not in the sexual sense, mind you, but rather more in the monastic/ascetic/penitent/endurance athlete model of the word. I often like to push myself to the point of discomfort to see how I manage it, because I believe we learn things about ourselves that way. For example: is it possible for a reasonably fit person to lose 30 pounds in 30 days? Answer: yes, which I know because I’ve done it, though it was a long, long month. What did I learn from the experience? That I never, ever, ever want to gain weight to the point where I feel like I need to lose 30 pounds again. 16 years later, I never have. Mission Accomplished.

So, my planned self-betterment schemes for October and November currently include:

1. Eating The House: You know how you often buy food items on a whim, or when planning some meal that never quite comes to pass, and then they sit in your cupboards for months, or (sometimes) years? We have a good number of those sorts of items about. So, starting October 7, I will not spend a penny on food until I have eaten every bit of food in the house. (Within reason, of course: I’m not going to drink a bottle of Tabasco Sauce straight up or eat a bowl of ground cumin, but rather will be focusing on living off all of the end product dry, canned and frozen goods in the house). As an adjunct to this, my fighting weight for the past several years has been in the 208 to 212 pounds range, and I’d like to see what I look like back under 200 again, since the last time I was there was in 1995, after dropping from 227 to 197 in 30 days (see above). So I’m sure I’ll come up with some extra uncomfortable physical activity to facilitate that piece.

2. Living Off The Stuff: My last paycheck from my current gig will come sometime in late November, and I’d like to be able to put away all of my earnings from October and November to provide some buffer and safety net for the first couple of months in Des Moines. Toward this end, I will be attempting to live completely off money earned or collected outside of my salary and benefits. For example, I plan to hold a CD and DVD sale of the “Three bucks per disc, 10 discs for $25, and 25 discs for $50” in my garage some night in October. I guarantee you that my collection contains a lot of stuff that you’re not likely to find elsewhere, especially at those sorts of prices. I have a restored vintage ARP Solus analog synthesizer that I’ll be selling too, and I’m going to start re-activating some of my paid freelance writing relationships over the next couple of months. Finally, there will be The J. Eric Exotic Escort Service . . . okay, just kidding on that last one. At bottom line, though, all discretionary activities until I arrive in Des Moines (to include gas for getting around outside of work responsibilities, and food, once I finish eating the house) will be funded through such additional income streams, which will also help me de-clutter in advance of the move.

3. One Bag Out Of The House A Day: Some de-cluttering can’t take place through selling stuff, but rather needs to be taken care of by chucking or donating things. For my last 30 days in the house, I want to have one large garbage bag’s worth of stuff (or a similar volume, for items that don’t go into bags) leave the house each day, either into a dumpster, a Salvation Army collection bin, or someone else’s home, in the case of items that can be directly free-cycled that way. I used this approach in a facilities job I had once, and it was amazing how much we cleaned the place up just by forcing ourselves to look for the things that really could go, right now, rather than seeing them and thinking “Well, maybe someday this might could possibly of some use, to someone . . . ”

I’m sure I’ll come up with other games to play to amuse myself, but these are the ones I’m planning at the moment. Watch this space for updates.

Ten Things I Will Not Miss When I Leave Albany

I’m down to my final seven weeks in Albany, which means that I’ll be regularly doing a lot of routine things here for the last time. Many of these final passages are bittersweet, or make me wistful, and I will write about those sorts of fondly appreciated things in more detail later as my days here get even shorter. Today, though, I’d like to examine the flip-side of this season of closure, and provide a brief overview of some of the things that I am totally looking forward to bidding adieu, forever, world without end, amen, when I leave Albany for the last time.

1. Price Chopper Advantage Cards: I got so sick of being bullied by cashiers about having to put gas in my car from a certain gas station (where I don’t buy gas) before a certain date, lest I lose my points (or whatever they were) that I actually cut up my Advantage Card, and now just demand that they give me the discounted prices without it, simply because I am in their store, spending my money, and that’s the right thing to do. The thought of our sole locally-based major grocery chain running such an information gathering scheme so obviously and zealously is kind of sad, and I suspect that it plays a role in local longing for other, better grocery chains hereabouts.

2. The New York State Thruway: I have spent a lot of time driving from Albany to Long Island and from Albany to Geneseo over the years, and I’ve reached a point where the thought of paying high tolls to drive on one of the most efficient, but skull-crushingly boring, highways in the world makes me crazy with dread. I’ve developed alternate routes that don’t take too much more time when I head to Geneseo (west of Syracuse, anyway), and I’ll often go south on the Taconic Parkway or New York Route 22, rather than watching the mile markers crawl by between the New Baltimore and Suffern Rest Areas, but even so, I’ll be glad to toss my EZ Pass in a dumpster once I get west of our Nation’s Toll Highway Zone.

3. Crossgates Mall: I only go inside this Shopping Abomination when I absolutely have to, but its toxicity taints much of the area around it, often generating traffic clogs that impede my progress to and from the University at Albany. You know something is bad wrong when a major retail shopping center has to put curfews on young people during evenings and weekends. Here’s hoping the vastly superior Colonie Center and Stuyvesant Plaza slowly choke it to death, so that it can crumble back into the Pine Bush that was raped to birth it.

4. Northeast Public Radio: A tidbit of history: the very first public radio broadcast in the United States was made in 1922 from station 9YI (now WOI) at Iowa State University, in Ames, Iowa, some 30 miles north of where we will be living. Here’s hoping that Iowa Public Radio does a better job today of hewing to the intended regulatory purposes of public broadcasting (service to minorities, children, and localities) than our local public broadcasting syndicate, which seems instead to be focused on empire building, shaking down listeners to fund the ever-growing infrastructure needs of the ever-growing empire, serving the needs of affluent tote-bag carrying white urban and suburban professionals, and smugly dismissing all products offered by commercial broadcasters as inferior, along with the people who enjoy such products. No thank you, snobs. You don’t get to decide what’s good for us all.

5. Summer in Saratoga: Being in the nonprofit sector, I’ve had to spend a lot of time working the Saratoga summer scene, and I’m delighted to ponder a future where I can be happily oblivious on matters of deep urgency to the local media hereabouts, such as which matron is wearing what hat to which event being put on by what diva, and which feminine hygiene product she uses on her face to keep it young and taut looking. The horses are spectacular to ponder, sure (well, except when they have to be executed on the track after breaking their legs), but the scene always feels ugly to me, as the privileged rich flaunt their status, while the addicted wannabes circle around them, betting their kids’ college funds on a chance to rub shoulders briefly with the beautiful people, who snub them.

6. Not Having My Vote Matter: I am a dutiful voter, in primaries and general elections, but in the 18 years that I have lived here, I have never gone into a voting booth with any sense of mystery about what the outcome was going to be the next morning. Our voting districts and habits at a local, regional and state-wide level are so ossified and compartmentalized that the act of voting always feels like we’re just going through the motions of a process orchestrated by the career political elite (more on them a little later). At least in Iowa, the Presidential caucuses are early enough to be influential, so I look forward to participating in that process, and not knowing what its results are going to be before I do so.

7. No Hands-Free Gas Pumping: Of all of New York’s nanny state laws, this one probably bugs me the most, since it is so patently, objectively stupid and needless. I like to put the gas spout into the tank inlet, lock it down on full flow, and then go check my oil or wash my windows while the gas pumps, knowing that it will knock off at the appropriate moment, since the technology required to make it do so is pretty rudimentary and dependable. In Iowa, I will be able to do this. In New York, signs warn me that it’s a crime to use my gas cap to lock the pump in place. Guilty as charged. Now what?

8. Calories Being Printed on Restaurant Menus: Look, when I go to Ruby Tuesday or similar chain restaurants, I’m not going there for a healthy meal, and forcing the restaurants to list the calorie counts on all of their menu items isn’t going to change my ordering habits, since anything good on the menu is going to be upward of 1,000 calories anyway, so shifting from a 1,400 calorie dish to a 1,200 calorie dish in the name of health seems sort of pointless. This one is an Albany County special, and since its inception, I have secretly hoped that its sole impact would be to drive local customers to outlying counties, where they can eat their Parmesan Chicken Pastas in peace, blissfully ignorant of the 1,400 calories of tasty delicious goodness they are ingesting, even before they woof down the garlic cheese biscuits and add bacon to their salads.

9. Three Men in a Room: New York’s state-wide political process is notoriously non-representative, with the Governor, Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly (and their unelected staffs) generally running the state in an imperious fashion, ordering their respective troops into tidy lines, then leaving them sitting there while the real work of the State is done behind closed doors without them. This approach is made possible by a professional political class that is willing to do what it is told to preserve its ill-earned compensation, as well as deep-seated political machines and an entitled sense of “incumbency for life” (especially in Albany, where Gerald Jennings now lags only Erastus Corning 2nd in mayoral tenure). In Iowa, the legislature is seated the second week of January each year, and they generally finish their business on behalf of the State within 100 days, when their per diems expire. I like the thought of politicians who have to spend eight months each year doing something other than politicking.

10. The Times Union: When we moved here in 1993, I was honestly delighted by the quality of our local news daily, which was edited at the time by the heroic Watergate newsman, Harry M. Rosenfeld, and had some great editorial writers and reporters working on its behalf. But sometime after Rosenfeld’s retirement in 1996, things took a serious turn in the wrong direction. If there was a single moment when I began to think that our local newspaper had definitely lost its bearings, it was when the Times Union purchased naming rights for the Arena Formerly Known as Knickerbocker, which seemed (and seems) wrong on so many planes. Since then, the print version of the paper has atrophied into meaninglessness, its lifeblood and energy sucked dry by its bloated online doppelganger, where comment mobs run amok, paid staff spar smugly with their readers, and unpaid bloggers are duped into believing that the “exposure”  they receive is adequate compensation for their intellectual property. I don’t believe in regret, since all we are is all we were, but if I did, donating my work to such an unsavory organization for nearly four years would be high on my list of things to deeply rue. So it will be a happy day when my personal and professional lives have no further overlap with this tedious media enterprise.

Upstate Scene War: Rockets Over the Pruyn House

Albany: Oh man, did you see this week’s concert listings? Someone messed up big time. On Friday night, they’ve got Wheel Dio, Stake Knife and Cake Gobbling Merkin playing up at Ting’s Tavern in Saratoga, the same night that we’ve got Gassy Veal Kittens, Space Chubby and a Drunknard poetry reading at Mister Larry’s Music Space here in Albany. This is a problem! Why would anybody book another big local show on top of ours? This seems to happen every single time we get something big lined up! Why, dammit? Why?

Saratoga: Oh, there’s no problem here, really, Albany. We can just combine the two shows into one at Ting’s Tavern, see? I mean, six bands isn’t so bad considering Stake Knife only plays for 10 minutes. Plus, you can’t drink at Mister Larry’s, or at least not legally anyway, so why not just take this whole gig out of Albany and move it up the road to Saratoga and have great night out for the whole scene? I’ll give you 10% of the door and 5% of the bar and you can buy some nice little art for your nice little nonprofit music space. Or a pizza. What do you say?

Albany: How come Saratoga is always messing with Albany, huh? You think you’re better than us? Well, I think it’s time that we come up there and hapkido your ass, Saratoga! Then when that’s done, we need to drag your pretentious, horsey-loving, plaid-stretch-waistbanded-fancy-pants-clad asses back down here to Albany to have a little sit down under the bright lights to let you know what’s going to happen if you book another unapproved out-of-town gig for our local Albany artists again!

Clifton Park: The head of the dojo we take our kids to says that hapkido is only for self defense. So Saratoga would have to attack Albany first, or it would be a violation of the rules. We’ll bring it up at school tonight when we’re meeting with the principal and the guidance counselors to make sure that all of our kids get into all the talented and gifted and advanced preparatory courses they need to make us all proud, so we don’t have to disown them and ship them off to Catholic schools in Waterford or Troy should they fail to make (and start on) the cross country, basketball, and lacrosse teams. There will be no average kids in our houses, no way!

Saratoga: Oh, I’ll attack first, Albany, you bet! Your thin, anemic blood will be spilt by psychic fire from Saratoga before you even get your Toyota Tercels out of your driveways! Bring it, little Capital City! We superior horse-folk will crush you with our fabulousness and complete and utter disregard for the less-than-wealthy people who populate your badly-furnished little swamp along the Hudson. For Mary Lou! Onward! Huttah!

Waterford: Oh, no, watch out! Upstate Scene War, with us in the middle! It’s on! Call the gang! Call the cops! Call Troy!

Troy: Troy represent! Ain’t nobody can take on Troy and be able to walk away! This Friday night, Troy will draw blood from both Saratoga and Albany simultaneously with a show by The Fearsome Furniture Fondlers at the Pretentious Arthaus Klownplex! Take that, you backward-looking, government-loving sissy towns! And, uh, now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got a City Hall to sell so that we can send our kids to school. Later.

Albany: Yeah, that’s right, Troy, you just shut your collar over there! Everyone knows you’re just Albany’s little side-kick city, where we stick our community colleges and minor league ball clubs. The stuff that’s not nice enough to go into the suburbs.

Latham: Yeah, we get all the nice stuff. Sam’s Club. Latham Circle. Latham Circle Mall. Hoffman’s Playland. Latham Farms. We look down our noses at Troy.

Loudonville: Oh my heavens, will you look at this? Mindy Muffinstuffer and Heather Loudonvillian are holding a fundraiser for NPR this Friday at the Starbucks in Loudonville! Bring your tote bags and coffee mugs, everybody! Six dollar grande skim soy lattes, dust of nutmeg, vapor of cinnamon, stirred with cruelty-free, sustainable recycled wooden stickie thingies, for everybody! Yay!

Latham: Oh, shut your pie-hole, Loudonville! You don’t even really exist. What the hell’s a “hamlet,” anyway? You’re just a Bantustan for rich wingnuts. Latham is where it’s at! And we mean that literally, in the case of that Starbucks. You just like to say it’s in Loudonville to make the coffee-snob wingnuts who hang out there feel special.

Guy Who Esplains Thins: Latham is correct. The Starbucks in question is north of Newtonville. It is therefore impossible for it to be in Loudonville.

Loudonville: Latham is where we send our more marginal residents (and sometimes children) to work. It’s also where we feed.

Newtonville: Please don’t fight, Latham and Loudonville. Every time you do, I’m the one caught in the middle! Think of the children!

The Children of Newtonville: We live on Maxwell Road, right on the bitterly contested Latham-Loudonville border. At night, we fall asleep to the sound of rockets flying over the Pruyn House.

Newtonville: See? There’s the problem: most of Maxwell Road is actually in Newtonville. In fact, the heart of Newtonville is the intersection of Maxwell and Route 9. It’s us innocents who continually get blasted in the internecine war between the Loudonville and Latham Bantustans, with the trust funds on one side, and the wannabes on the other. We’re like the Kurds of Suburbia.

Osborne Road: We got it the best: blue collar neighborhoods with a Loudonville mailing address. Jacks the property values up like crazy, yo!

Pruyn House: We are the Switzerland of the northern suburbs, a little forested enclave filled with chocoholics, frolicking in the flowers. All people are safe in the neutral Pruyn House. Although we do have quotas for the number of Newtonvillians we will let in.

Old Niskayuna Road: Psych! I’m not in Niskayuna! I’m a Bantustan within a Bantustan! The slightly-rich Loudonvillians all pine to live on me, with the fabulously-rich ones who actually do!

Something-Shaker Road: We can’t even keep ourselves straight. All we know is that having the word “Shaker” in your road name means “higher traffic, lower property values.” Damn you, Old Niskayuna Road, Maxwell Road and Fiddlers Lane, how we hate you!!

Watervliet-Something Road: How do you think we feel?

Watervliet-Shaker Road: Is it any wonder I have an inferiority complex, given my parents’ low self esteem?

Spring Street Road: I have the best name of all times! I am a street and a road!

Troy-Schenectady Road: Well I guess I’m screwed, but good.

Watervliet-Shaker Road: Yeah, our motto is “Thank God for Troy-Schenectady Road!”

Latham: If we sealed our borders, all of the northern suburbs would starve and run out of hardware. Don’t push your luck, Loudonville. And by the way, Newtonville: we consider you to be our Sudetenland.

Loudonville: Yo, Latham, you are aware that Latham Farms isn’t really a farm, aren’t you? You’d starve if we isolated you from Albany!

Latham: Latham Farms honors our agrarian past. Now we don’t need farms. We have Sam’s Club, Target and Allstar Wine and Liquors. All of our needs are met within our borders! Plus, we’ve got the best water towers in the region. Dig those checkerboards, yo!

Menands: I think I can lay claim to the best water towers, actually.

Latham: What?! How can Menands claim better water towers than Latham?! Menands is nothing but a historical anomaly, like San Marino or the Vatican City. It is only a matter of time before it fragments, with its richer folks joining Loudonville and its poorer folks joining North Albany. What a silly, useless little town it is!

Colonie: Menands is ours, you fools. And, really, don’t you all realize that you all effectively live within Colonie anyways?

Latham: Shutup, Colonie! You’re always trying to lord it over all of us that “Oh, look! I’m the township! You’re just hamlets!” Well, piss off, you! Because the only part of you that matters is the strip between Route 5 and Sand Creek Road, that none of the rest of us want. That’s nothing to be proud of, fool!

Colonie: Look, facts are facts, and if you don’t live in Albany, then you’re pretty much in Colonie. Unless you’re in Troy, in which case you’d be wise to keep your mouth shut.

Latham: See, Colonie, it’s just that attitude that makes us set up our own little hamlets. You’re like the Holy Roman Empire, with a little self-satisfied government sitting in Town Hall while the Huns and Goths from Watervliet and Cohoes are terrorizing the hinterlands. No wonder Loudonville and Latham have to take care of our own affairs. We sneer at you, Colonie. And The LORD is clearly on our side, because we are home to the largest evangelical church in this region. It’s a big box church to go with our big box stores. We’re a big box kind of hamlet. But we’ll be all set when the Day of Judgment comes, all self-contained and happy while all the heathen Loudonvillians roast in their own rich juices.

Heather Loudonvillian: Did someone call for me? I could certainly use a little roasting in my own juices, if you know what I mean, after all those crantinis and wine coolers I just had down at the Club with Mindy Muffinstuffer. Who’s on first? It’s tee time! Hee hee! Hic! Urp . . .

Tommy Cohoes: Hey there, Heather Loudonvillian. I think I got just the baster for you!

Heather Loudonvillian: Urp!! Hic!!! I don’t feel so good, all of sudden. I think I need to . . . bleeeurrghhh! Bleeee-ARRRRGGHHHHH. Bleeuarrgh-uh-peck-a-wretch-a-kopf!

Guy Who Esplains Thins: Peckawretchakopf was a brilliant composer and laptop player. I saw him at the Pretentious Arthaus Klownplex in Troy once, before he died of consumption and ennui.

Vrolobad Peckawretchakopf (in Hell): Zank you, Guy Vot Esplainses Zins. Ich bin gut to be remembert. Das Sigh.