January 02, 2022

Anti-Aging Medicine

Anti-aging Medicine
By John R. Greenwood

Simply open your phone, and you're flooded with advice on how to look and feel younger. I'm starting to think that my phone is the main reason I'm on a fast track to aging. One thing that does keep my mind from rusting is maintaining a sense of humor. Eating well and exercise is crucial to staying fit physically, but in my opinion, keeping your laughter tank topped off is the key to enjoying the ride. When it comes to placing all your eggs in the exercise basket, comedian Ron White explains it best. He once talked about a man in Florida who tied himself to a tree ahead of an impending hurricane. At 53, the man felt he was in good enough shape to withstand hurricane-force winds. Ron questioned the man's thought process by explaining it this way, "It's not THAT the wind is blowing, it's WHAT the wind is blowing. If you get hit with a Volvo, it doesn't really matter how many sit-ups you did that morning."

There is no one size fits all answer to fighting the aging process. No one gets out alive. I hope to go as far as possible with a smile on my face and compassion in my heart. As I headed out on my latest bottle release mission, Mrs. G. simply shook her head and said, "Be careful." Knowing I run a little off-balance, she says it multiple times a day. To see her husband of 47 years leaving the house to place a quote-laden bottle in some random location probably has her questioning her life choices.

If memory serves me correctly (it rarely does) this is bottle #10 to be released into the wild. 

"Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone." - Jeff Fiebig

Every paycheck of mine since 1974 has relied on a company whose bottom line was based on ice cream. I have witnessed parents, grandparents, teens, toddlers, and even a Labrador or two, lose a scoop off the cone. I've seen it from Saratoga to Plattsburgh, Watertown to Newburgh. The faces that follow those tragic drops could bring tears to the most hardened soul. It's not the cost. It's the immediate blow to the taste buds. It's the hard-brake to the happiness engine that makes losing a scoop to the parking lot such a downer. 

On the opposite side of Bottle#10 is a truth that we can ALL finally agree on.

"In a dream, you are never eighty" - Anne Sexton

As I read the quote aloud, I realized I hadn’t considered the ninety-year-olds out there.

Now that my bottle deposits have surpassed double digits, I'm not sure I'll continue this random act of insanity. 

But if I do, you'll be the first to know.

Happy New Year!


December 28, 2021

Of Course I Talk To Myself


Of Course I Talk To Myself 

By John R. Greenwood

It’s been three years since I released a quote emblazoned bottle back into the wild. I began my ‘bottle release program’ in February 2018. I believe this evenings release will be #9. I’m only aware of the whereabouts of one or two of the eight that I set free three years ago. 

“Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.” 

— Dorothy Parker 

I stole the quote above from the blog of artist Austin Kleon. I felt Kleon’s own book title “Steal Like An Artist,” gave me guilt-free permission to use Dorothy’s great quote for my own personal entertainment. I highly recommend you sign up for Austin’s weekly newsletter. They show up every Friday like clockwork and I have yet to receive one that didn’t lead me to a gold mine. 

I’m not sure what the impetus was that reignited the three-year-old bottle release program. I do remember having a lot of fun doing it; especially the day I got a message from a friend of mine who lived in Clifton Park. She’d seen the photo of the bottle when I released it and recognized the location. I’m not sure where she was at the time but she later told me she was ecstatic to discover it was still perched stoically in it’s temporary home in Congress Park when she got there. 

One of my releases had to be replaced. It met an early demise when it was knocked off a table at Caffe Lena. I delivered a replica to friend Joe Deuel, who promised to “have and to hold till death do us part.”

If you’re new here and I’ve peaked your curiosity you will find a label on my blog titled “Bottle Stories.” There are a handful of similar posts related to this random act of insignificance. For some crazy reason in today’s world this somehow seems like a good way to stay sane. Or, maybe it’s proof of the opposite. Either way, a bottle will hopefully find a new loving home tonight. If you’re the lucky one, get in touch, I like to know the kids are safe and being well cared for.

Happy hunting! 

December 28, 2021

December 25, 2021

Bury The Skunk
By John R. Greenwood 

Bury the skunk is not a title you’d normally attach to a nostalgic Christmas story, but then again, normal is a word that doesn’t seem to fit anything these days. Using Christmas story to describe it is also a stretch. A better explanation is that I found this little note just a few days before Christmas 2021. I was straightening up my tool bench when I opened an old tobacco tin filled with my father’s memorabilia. The note above was folded in half and tucked in the bottom. As I unfolded it I was reminded of the day I found it under my windshield wiper at work. I had probably just returned from a twelve hour day delivering a tractor trailer full of Stewart’s product somewhere in the far reaches of New York State. I was in my forties and probably looking like they say, “rode hard and put away wet.” Dad’s health was not great at the time. He could still drive and mow the lawn on his John Deere riding mower, but digging a hole to bury a deceased yard-skunk was not something he could manage. By this point in his life he’d  realized some tasks were best left to his dutiful son. By this point in my life, I’d realized it wasn’t worth questioning dad’s requests, you simply nodded and complied. That roof over my head for the first eighteen years didn’t pay for itself. 

I don’t remember the details of the skunks demise or the funeral proceedings, but I do remember why I saved this little scrap of paper. I saved it for moments like this. Those little pauses in life where you reflect on all the tiny scraps that combined to make a life worth living. The simple joys, the tearful losses, the cherished memories that weaved a giant patchwork quilt bursting with good people and laughter. The pauses you hold dear to your heart. The ‘bury the skunk’ notes and the Pharaoh Lake fishing trips. I miss my parents. I even miss the not-so-great times that were mixed in the middle. Those are the ones that help you embrace the isn’t-life-grand moments.

I’ve been a lucky man. My Christmas shows up 24/7/365 in all shapes and sizes. As I placed dad’s little note back in the bottom of the tobacco tin I realized that sometimes burying a skunk can smell like a bed of roses.

Merry Christmas.
May your 2022 be filled with notes of joy!

November 18, 2021

My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories

My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories
By John R. Greenwood

Jean Tafler as Margaret Hamilton enjoying a resounding standing ovation 

This is not meant to be a theater review of John Ahlin's mono-drama My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories. Its purpose is to emphasize the joy you can find when you venture off the edge of your comfort zone. Attending a play is not foreign to me, but it's not something I levitate to naturally. When it comes to buying tickets to a public performance, I'm much more apt to purchase tickets to a musician or author's event. A friend of mine who masterfully played the part of Lennie in Hubbard Hall's 2014 production Of Mice and Men highly recommended I purchase tickets to this latest one-woman play. When it comes to witnessing outstanding theater performances at Hubbard Hall, my record stands at two for two in the win column. In both cases, I am indebted to Chris Barlow of Sandgate VT.

I would like to commend Hubbard Hall on their handling of this beautiful play in times of Covid. They took every precaution possible to ensure the safety and comfort level of everyone involved. By prioritizing safety over numbers, my wife and I were able to experience a Tony Award-worthy performance by an extraordinarily talented Jean Tafler. My wife has been a fan of The Wizard of Oz ever since it first aired on color television. She has been a fan of Margaret Hamilton's just as long. Due to that long-standing fandom, she was quick to table a little covid-phobia and accept my invitation to attend the sixth and last showing of the play at Hubbard Hall. Fortunately, I acted quickly enough to secure tickets to that final matinee.

We were treated to an exceptional afternoon of theater in its finest attire. Jean Tafler gave a Broadway performance on Main Street with grace, humor, and professionalism. My wife and I are a hometown-average couple who enjoy life's simplest pleasures. It might be sipping coffee in our backyard or peeling a couple Slim Jims on a country ride. Let's say we are happiest when surrounded by things that calm us and keep us grounded to the earth. Although we were both looking forward to an entertaining play, we were awestruck at the acting ability and engagement we got from this talented actress.

I want to express how important it is to approach life with open eyes and mind. Thinking about what I would have missed had I been a rusty old curmudgeon and placed an afternoon of NFL above a Sunday Matinee at the theater makes me cringe. More importantly, both of us would have been shortchanged in the game of life. These little unearthed treasures are crucial to our mental health. For me, they keep me peering around corners, not in fear but in anticipation of the next great discovery. I've been blessed with plenty of what's good in the world, and I've never taken one speck of it for granted. It has taken a lifetime to hone the ability to appreciate whatever it is and place it on the "Life is Good" bookcase. The same bookcase I refer back to in times of doubt or despair.

Day after day, I witness people of my hair color whimpering and whining about the government, gas prices, or rain in the forecast. I'm guilty on occasion but what I don't do is park my pickup there. It only takes the turn of a page to find an opposing vantage point. One where you can witness the sun highlighting the leaves on that giant maple in your yard or the rain quenching your thirsty lawn. These are the times I'm reminded that life is precious and if you can't change something, why dwell on it. Stir that lemonade and move on.

Such was the case as I sat next to my wife of 47 years and soaked in an actor living out her passion full throttle. What a gift it was to see a room full of like-minded people fully engaged in watching Jean transform herself into Margaret Hamilton. She thoroughly convinced everyone in the room that we were face to face with Margaret herself. She made me want to hug every witch I knew and buy them a new broom.

I didn't write this to be dramatic about a play and its star; I did it to express my love of curiosity and what it has placed at my door. I remember being petrified of department store Santas as a child. I loved the old guy, but when offered the opportunity to sit on his lap and look him in the eye, I became overwhelmed with fear. I now have a four-year-old grandson who sported his little Santa outfit all summer. That's when Santa sits on your lap and melts your heart. Talk about Santa handing out gifts!

Unfortunately, you missed the opportunity to see this play locally. I don't know where it will travel to next, but I do know there will always be another play, concert, presentation, class, course, hike, Zoom, fundraiser somewhere tomorrow, next week, or next month. Don't think; act. Don't walk; run. Don't press pause; press play. Whatever you do, don't hesitate.

Take Thanksgiving seriously this year. It's a good time to forget why you don't like the person next door today and remember why you liked them five years ago.

Thank you once again, Hubbard Hall—for everything…

Yours truly, 

Raining Iguanas

September 29, 2021

RIP Brookside Dairy

RIP Brookside Dairy
John R. Greenwood

Hall's Brookside Dairy
Wilton Rd.

I lost a dear friend today, and I'm having a hard time with it. A few days ago I was told the remaining buildings on the old Brookside Dairy property would be torn down. Praying they were mistaken, I drove by the farm on my way to a Greenfield Historical Society Event. The Brookside property had been cordoned off with caution tape and there were two demolition dumpsters sitting next to the main house. Personally, I think crime tape would have been a better choice. It was Saturday morning, and no one I spoke with knew anything about what was happening at the old farm.

Jump ahead three days. I received a text message that Captain John St. John's 1789 home was no longer standing and that it was on its way to the landfill. Ironically, there is a drawing of that same home on the cover of a long-forgotten 1970s publication titled "Greenfield Heritage Resource Inventory." On page #3 of that Heritage Resource Inventory, under a section titled, "AN EVALUATION OF WHAT THERE IS IN THE TOWN," is the following paragraph under HISTORIC RESOURCES:

A detailed analysis of the history of the area and its architectural record is given in chapter one. Some forty structures were felt to have historical significance, and the report isolates each one, shows its importance, and urges a general program for preservation and enhancement of these areas. 

Guess which structure is now a pile of dust—yes, #9. The Captain St. John house was in the top ten! 

Thank goodness they designated the Greenfield Town Hall #1.

Enlarged photo of Heritage Resource Inventory book cover

Captain John St. John Home 
later became Harold L. Hall's Brookside Dairy 

Description on Page #51 
Greenfield Heritage Resource Inventory 

Excuse my anger; it manifests itself when someone hurts or threatens someone close to me. Brookside Dairy was not a part of my family, but it played a significant role in who I became. Brookside Dairy taught me work ethic when I was still in single digits. It's where I learned how to build a hay fort and friendships. It set a foundation for a career in the milk business, which put a roof over my head and fed my family. It nurtured my lifelong leaning to the positive side of the road and my passion for saving and sharing stories of good times. It fueled my love of history and tightened my grip on nostalgia. Most of all, I learned the lesson of compassion. In the 1990s, Harold L. Hall shared an oral history of his life. You can find it on the Saratoga County Historical Center's website. He shared one story that stuck with me. He tells of a day in the farm's early years when he was sick with the flu and could barely move. He was in the barn milking when one of his immigrant neighbors came in the barn and saw how sick he was. He told Harold to go in the house and that he'd be right back. When he returned, he had others with him, and they proceeded to finish the milking and other chores. Harold seemed to pause in quiet reflection as he told the story.

I'm told that mold and vandalism riddled the buildings on the property and that the cost to save them would have been in the millions. That may or may not be true but what hurts the most is knowing that the people responsible will never experience the way I felt when I saw those two dumpsters. 

DOD 9/27/2021

At least we have a book cover to hold on to...

The Greenfield Historical Society's Chatfield Museum in the Odd Fellows Hall in Middle Grove is #24 on the Heritage Resource Historic Structure List. If you see a dumpster there tomorrow, call 911.