The Commute

Monday, December 13, 1999

What a drive. Got stuck behind someone on Rt 40 doing 40 or so. Finally passed them to have to stop for a School Bus. Got rolling again, only to get stuck behind a fuel truck. Finally passed him just in time to hit the red light in Schaticoke. Of course, just before the light turned green, a semi made the turn south in front of me. Normally I will not pass anyone from this point of the journey on, but a semi doing less than the speed limit, showing clouds of pebbles from its empty bed over my windshield was more than I could take. There are only 4 passings zones from here to Troy and needless to say, the first three had numerous cars heading my way. I had just about given up the attempt when a rock half the size of my hand bounced out of the semi hit the road and flew right towards my face, bounced off the windshield and hit the pickup behind me. Why in God's name it didn't shatter the windshield is beyond me. I flew passed him at the last available passing zone and made the turn onto to Irish Road. Finally I thought. Peace and quiet for a few moments. Nope. Garbage truck ahead. Goddamn it! Made the turn on to the bridge in Lansingburg and then the left onto 787 in Cohoes.

At this point I was completely fried, pissed and stressed beyond belief. Then I saw the parked car and them. Two people walking along the shoulder of the northbound side. A tall man and a short woman. As I passed them, they paused, looked at each other and she shoved him in the chest with both hands, almost knocking him off his feet. The light turned red ahead, so I sat there watching their drama unfold in my side mirror. She ran past their parked car until he caught her. More violent hand movements towards each other, until he threw his hands up in the air, turned and started walking north, away from her and the car. I guess she decided that she hadn't made her point clearly enough, so she jumped into the roadway, spread her feet and raised her arms in a stop motion towards the onrushing traffic. The squealing brakes made his head spin around and he ran back as fast as he could. She then jumped out of harm's way and started running south again until he caught up with her and threw her to the ground. Then the light turned green and I had to drive off, leaving there drama unfinished. I arrived at work feeling much better, knowing that someone was having a worse start to their day than I was.

Thursday, December 30, 1999

Rather uneventful commute this morning. Though getting stuck behind someone who is sitting behind a Ft. Miller truck, refusing to pass it was so frustrating. I was never so glad to hit the Collar City Bridge. Finally, a chance to floor it! Got so damn excited about the speed I decided to continue on up to the Starbucks in Newton Plaza for coffee.

I left at 1:30 for a meeting with Spence to go over the Centrus site. From there I headed to Borders to return Dick Francis. This Christmas was the first one in years that Dick appeared under our tree. And of course, he had to appear twice. This was the first time in 46 years that I've had to return a Christmas present.

Rather than go home up 787 and 40, I decided to take the Northway home. Good decision. Otherwise I might have missed an amazing cloud formation that was sitting over Wolf Road. There was a long, thin band of puffy clouds stretching east to west, with bright blue sky above. In the center of this band was a cloud pillar rising high above to a single, massive formation with a flattened top, tilting towards the Northeast. Yet another of my "Stieglitz Clouds".

Exited the Northway in Clifton Park and sat at the Rt 9 red light, thinking I was back in Jersey.

Tuesday, January 4, 2000

Heavy Rain this morning, so I went to work along River Road and then down RT 32 to Waterford and up 155 RT9. Very quiet & very little traffic. Felt like I wasn't competing with anyone.

Still raining in the afternoon. I decided to avoid 787 again. I hate driving on that road during rush hour, even on a sunny day. In the dark and rain, yuck. Here's hoping it never snows again. Anyhow, each turn I made on the way home was a last second decision, and not the decision I would normally make. Waiting for the light to turn green on RT9, I could see that the traffic heading north on 9 was minimal, so I turned left. Made it thru the next light and the one in front of Sienna. Unheard of! A short light at Fiddler's Road where I turned (never did that before on the way home).

Headed down to 155 and north on 32 to Waterford. Should I cross the Hudson here, or head north on 32? I was having a great time listening to everyone ranting on WFAN about Bill Billicheck's surprise resignation, so I was in no hurry to get home. North it was. About a mile on, the traffic came to a dead stop. It took almos 25 minutes before I came within sight of the flashing lights at the accident scene, just below the GE plant. Normally, I would have made a u-turn in the road as soon as the traffic stopped. But the radio kept me so engrossed I hadn't realized how much time had passed. There was a constant stream of traffic coming the other direction, so it seemed like only a matter of time before the traffic would open up heading north. As I got within sight of the accident, a volunteer fireman appeared a few cars in front. Every driver he spoke to, turned around and headed south. In other words, the road was closed and all that traffic that had passed me heading south for the previous 25 minutes had made a u-turn. Where the hell were the police! Why didn't they post a road closed sign back at the light in Waterford? And why were they leaving the traffic flow to a volunteer fireman, on foot in the dark! How much effort would it have taken to drive slowly south down 32 telling all the drivers heading north to turn around!

And this was after being sick at work all day with the flu!

Wednesday, January 5, 2000

Very quiet drive in and home. Almost.

I left work 5:05 to get home early. Andy and I had a UMUG meeting tonight and I wanted a chance to relax for a few minutes. Of course, I had to leave the headlights on all day and walk out to find a dead battery. Thank God Ellen's brother had given her jumper cables for Christmas.

Thursday, February 4, 2000

Attended a web conference in NYC today. Almost a complete waste of time.

The alarm (radio and the oven timer downstairs) went off at 3:30. Somehow has out the door by 4:05. Literally, no one else on the road until I hit the Troy city limits. Even at 4:40, there were half a dozen cars making the dogleg on 40 into Troy. 787 was almost as deserted. I was actually able to use my high beames! Arrived at the train station with 15 minutes to spare. Unlike the last trip, my on-line reservation with Amtrack actually worked. I must have been the only person, or at least man, who did so, for the desk clerk knew my name before I could finish a sentance.

I sat down in one of the front seats, on the west side of the car. It wasn't until later that I realized why the rest of the passengers walked towards the rear of the train. The temperture this morning was -15 and there was quite a wind whipping down the aisle each time someone walked through to the club car.

Slept most of the way down, although I did a little bit of work on the laptop. Amtrack, I noticed, has a power strip running down the side of the coach, with occasional outlets. After arriving at Penn Station I walked up Sixth Avenue to the conference. The slow leiserly walk took 20 minitues. Add in the 2 minutes in the bathroom at Penn Station and the 5 minutes to sign-in at the converence, I could have taken the 6:20, and still heard the entire keynote. The featured speaker did not start until 9:10. Oh wells.

While listening to music, my mind tends to wander, joining together the musical imagery with stray thoughts, fragments of daydreams and vignettes of passing scenery. On very rare occasions, musical collaborations between seemingly incongruous artists make themselves felt.

Once such collaboration that only exists in my mind is Bob Dylan and ZZ Top. No wait. I'm serious. Most of his music from the early 80's and on is very much blues based. Go back and listen to "Seeing The Real You At Last", "Clean Cut Kid," "Trust Yourself" and "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" from "Empire Burlesque" or "Dead Man, Dead Man," "Trouble" and the title track to "Shot Of Love". These songs scream out for the edge that only ZZ Top can supply. I can picture old craggy faced, tousled haired Bob standing on stage between those two long, white beards. Someday it will come to pass, I know it will.

Ray Davies of the Kinks is someone else whom I've always admired. But I believe that he has missed his true calling, the musical stage. Born at the right time, he would have given Gilbert & Sullivan all the competition they could have handled, and them more so. If someday, I were to win the lottery and have millions of dollars to play with, I would gladly spend it bringing together Ray Davies, George Martin and Stephen Sondheim. Three tremendous talents.

All of this, of course is leading to LM. During my commute last week, while listening to the live thang, I started thinking of one of the CD's my son got for christmas, something by Wierd Al. Needless to say, I pushed that thought out of my head as fast as I could. But the thought of LM collaborating with someone kept spinnning and finally stopped at Peter Schickele.

Yes, this is the same man whom has given us P.D.Q. Bach. But that is not why I thought of him. Rather, it was an album he collaborated on with Joan Baez in 1968 called "Baptism." The album consists of Baez singing and reciting 23 poems set to music written and arranged by Schickele. It is one of the lesser known albums of hers, but certainly one of the my favorites. The highlight for me is Jacques Prevert's "Song In The Blood," the verses spoken slowly, with sadness over a mournful, repetitous cello. His arrangment here is almost a pre-echo of Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3.

I've always loved to hear the spoken word set to music and never has it been done better than on Baptism. LM's ability to weave together her musical vision with the poetry and songs of distant times would bring out the best in Peter Schickele once again.

Some of the other poets featured on Baptism are Joyce, Garcia Lorca, Whitman, Blake & Rimbaud. The recording is available on CD.

This was a failed attempt at a narrative on the daily commute between Greenwich & Albany, New York. It became far too depressing to read, let alone write.