It’s been about a month or so since I last posted my weight to this blog. I am happy to report that today at least, I weighed in at below 180. I believe this has to do not so much with my frequent running around Albany but instead the addition of weight training into my repertoire. I’ve never quite had too much success with weights in the past because I believe I pushed it too hard to quickly and at the same neglected to watch what I was eating.

Anyway, I found a very basic set of

instructions in August’s edition of Mens Health magazine which lays out three sets of exercises that can be done. I don’t have it in front of me right now, but I’ll share it with you later (if anyone is reading this).

This time around, I’ve really liked doing weight training. It’s exhilirating, particularly when the form is the right way. That and various reasonable abdominal exercises have really helped a lot.


Shooting at 327 Second Street

About two weeks ago I wrote about the killing of Henry Ferrell, a 32-year-old man on Western Avenue in Albany. At the time, the police had kept a cruiser out for days in front of the residence while people were investigating. Last week they picked up their first suspect, a man, also 32, from Brooklyn. On Friday the police grabbed his alleged accomplice, a boy who turned 16 just last week. Police say that it appears that the suspects Dwayne Wright, the elder and his teenage companion, Kymeir Turner, an Albany resident, killed Ferrell in a botched robbery. I’d jogged past that apartment quite a few times and wondered out of curiosity how long it would take to find the killer(s). We’ll see how the case goes.

Interestingly, Turner is from Second Street, a one-way road heading westward in the rough Arbor Hill section of the city. Just blocks away from his residence there was a murder early Sunday morning at 327 Second Street. Zechariah Banks, a 27-year-old from across the Hudson River in Troy was apparently shot also during a botched robbery at a birthday party.

I was sitting in a Valvoline having my transmission fluid changed when I heard about it on the local cable news station. I wrote down the number of the place and headed there with my camera. I’m always a bit reluctant to take pictures in Arbor Hill. I suppose that’s a part of my own racial insecurity. Feels weird poking around a nearly all-black neighborhood with your camera, particularly after a shooting. Still, I was able to get some alright shots. An Albany area Web site used one for their morning news update section.

I found the crime scene. It had already been cordoned off by the police for several hours. A news cameraman was there to take some B-roll footage of the block. There was nothing much to shoot there, really. The cops were obviously behind the tape and downstairs in the basement looking for evidence on the shooting.

Albany is not a large city (not even 100,000 people) and so it’s easy to recognize people from the news. Officer William Bonanni was watching over the scene from the outside, monitoring onlookers. Bonanni is a bit notorious in this small city for his own legal problems. Still, he was quite accomodating and friendly enough to approach with a few general questions about what had happened.

Bonanni had a good point about this shooting, which is that it was something that was very hard to prevent the way other crimes are.

There’s not much you can do to prevent people who have it in their mind to shoot others in a robbery from doing it. Preventing drug and gun sales, maybe.

Anyway, I grew up in the suburbs around Albany in a nice, mostly quiet town where there have only been a few murders in the last few years. I’ve lived in Boston and Brooklyn where by virtue of their being larger cities, there are more shootings and the like. Still, I’ve never really been exposed to crime scenes, which is to say nothing of killings. So you’ll have to excuse me for being a little wet behind the ears yesterday as I marveled that on this narrow block, within yards of a taped off area, life was going on quite normally.

Yesterday was one of the last days of summer, really. Labor Day is next Monday and a few days later the kids will be back in school. On Second Street yesterday, right across from the shooting scene, kids were enjoying a mild, sunny day. A gentleman whose SUV was parked at 325 Second Street, was washing it down. Life seemed to be going on pretty normally.

Still, it’s strange to think that across the river in Troy several peoples’ days were absolutely destroyed with the loss of someone they cared about. It must be awful to find out on a Sunday that your son or brother or good friend was popped in the chest over some money while he was enjoying himself at a birthday party. For the people who live at 327 it must be awful to think someone just ran into their residence with a gun with at least the thought of using it on someone in the back of their mind.

George Sodini’s tormented blog lives online

For the last week I’ve been reading with interest – perhaps morbid – about George Sodini, the 48-year-old mass murderer in Pittsburgh, who killed three women at an LA Fitness. I’ve written a little bit about him for this blog but have yet to really delve into what this incredibly lonely and angry man let the world know about himself through his own blog. Right now, I’m sure there are thousands of people reading Sodini’s vitriolic, self-absorbed online journal. I guess I’m one of them.

Predictably, Sodini’s own webpage has been taken down from the Net, but not before others could duplicate what he had written. I wonder how much access the public would have to Sodini’s mind were this crime had occurred in the 1980’s, well-before people shared their thoughts online. If he had done so in a notebook, it’s likely the public would have to go through the courts to get access to it and only after the Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania state police departments had it in their possession for a while, perhaps leaking excerpts to the press.

As disturbing as the shooting was and frightening that loneliness and alienation could contribute to someone doing such an awful thing, I am curious to read what he has written and glad that it has been preserved online. Still, probably won’t be much of a pleasant read.

More sketchiness with the neighbors on the corner

I’ve written about them – and judging by the stats few have read – but the family on the corner has reached a new level of bizarre. When I went out this morning to take my dog for a walk I noticed some marker-scrawled graffiti on the side of their house.

On the north side of the house there is what appears to be the word ‘sneek’ written across the wooden, white painted siding. I’ve heard of folks vandalizing other peoples’ property, but their own? Of course, I should consider that it wasn’t them but someone else who did it. The only reason why I’d think that’s not the case is because there is quite literally someone out there at all times on the wooden stoop.

I didn’t want to snoop around at 6:30 a.m. with my camera any more than I had. It was a little strange to see. As I don’t own property on my block – or anywhere for that matter – I am not too concerned. Just thought it was a little strange. I’ll see if more shows up on their’s or any other houses on the block.

What does daytime commercials say about us

I’ve had the last three days off from work and have spent an inordinate amount of it in front of our elderly, wooden-cased television set.

I have to say, daytime TV is really one of the most depressing things. Lots of commercials for the down and out; Cash For Gold, class action lawsuit attorney services, and advertisements for diabetes testing equipment.

The hours of 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. are obviously prime for the type of services geared at people down on their luck. These commercials, depressing as they are, do make me a bit thankful to have a job and not reliant on selling my roommate’s gold jewelry, searching for for someone who has been injured in a motorsports accident and developing blood sugar problems. Guess I should be happy I have my job and my health.

My apartment is somewhat tenament like

Back in December I took a day trip with my mother down to the Lower East Side to visit the Tenement Museum. It was an interesting trip. Although I thought that the tour of one of New York City’s last standing tenement buildings- the last families vacated in the 1930’s – was a little too short, it was very much interesting to think that hundreds of families occupied the building over the span of decades in the growing city of immigrants.

The tour was rushed and so my memories of the cramped quarters aren’t too clear, but the one thing that will always stick in my mind was the condition of the walls and ceilings – which have been preserved so that the public can know the hard conditions in which these families lived. The apartments, which housed many families at a time, were covered with dozens of layers of wall paper over the years. Unfortunately, they were glued to the walls with flour paste, which attracted rats and pests and increased the overall health risks of the buildings. It was one thing to have tight spaces, tainted milk and no egress in the case of fire, it was another thing altogether to be put in harm’s way due to the decorative coverings on their walls. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for these families to live in those conditions.

I’ve lived in some shitty places, apartments with roaches and mice and drooping ceilings, but still, I really have little to complain about. I’ve been protected from the elements. Still, I’ve been at this apartment here in Albany for nearly three-and-a-half years and since I’ve lived her I haven’t complained about much. I know that $800 for a three bedroom place with two porches and hardwood floors isn’t a bad deal and that it could be worse. I could be living in Gabon, starving with only a tin roof over my head. Still, everytime I go into my bathroom and I look up and see the awful mold on the walls and ceilings, I’m reminded a bit of what the working class Germans, Irish, Italians and Slavs must have had to live through in those awfully tight tenements.

My landlord’s known about it for years and yet the mold has continued to grow to the point where it simply can’t be good to breathe in. Finally last week he sent over his small Englishman maintenance guy to install a ventilation unit in our john. I’m just starting now to understand how gross it really is.

The most disturbing Unsolved Mysteries segment I remember watching

It’s strange to me just how the mind and memory work. Both are extremely fallible. As I spent three days scouring my apartment for car keys, it occured to me that my memory of things longterm is often much better than my memory of things in the immediate past. I have no clue what I may have done with my keys, but I can recall names and faces pretty darn well. Even batting averages and the birthplaces of ballplayers (for some reason whenever I think of Nebraska, I think Wade Boggs).

Still, time does have a way of warping memories. I’m not sure if it is in the initial moment of processing information or if weeks, months and years can insert new features or redact old information on any event.

For some reason this morning, which already has escaped my memory, I attempted again to find information on an Unsolved Mysteries episode I watched nearly 20 years ago when I was in the fourth grade that scared the living daylights out of me and in many ways bothered me for many years to come whenever I remembered it.

Because I only remembered a few specific details of the episode I had trouble locating information on it. Had I accurately recalled a few details about the abductions of two kids, I may have not had so much trouble finding information on the case. The search terms I’d entered over the years in the Google search engine were mostly accurate I suppose but certainly didn’t bring me any closer to finding information that was probably pretty readily available online. Finally today, on a whim I found more information than I thought existed on the 1988 disappearance of Tara Calico, a 19-year-old college student from New Mexico and Michael Henley, a 10-year-old boy also from New Mexico.

At the time of the broadcast it was believed by some investigators that a photograph linked Henley’s April 1988 disappearance and Calico’s vanishing, which occurred  five months later.  Because of the circumstances of the cases, Unsolved Mysteries broadcast a story on the missing persons and the discovery of a Polaroid in Port St. Joe, Florida that was believed in the fall of 1989 to possibly be of Calico and Henley bound and gagged, laying next to each other with looks of noticeable fright upon their faces.

It was the photograph that really upset me when I watched the episode as a nine-year-old.  Though the specifics of the case receded from my memory – for some reason I thought the boy had disappeared in Tennessee on the same day as Calico – the image of the two frightened people in the picture stuck in my mind. Today, the picture seemed to look the same as when I first saw it on TV 20 years ago and I was a bit chilled by it.  I recall that for several weeks after I watched the program, I slept directly underneath my bedroom window, so as to be out of sight of anyone who may look in to my room to try and snatch me.

Without getting into too many specifics – for that there is plenty on the Internet – it appears that the photograph doesn’t link the two cases as Henley’s body was found several months after the Unsolved Mysteries broadcast and investigators had determined he had died of exposure after wandering off on a camping trip with his father and uncle in the New Mexico wilderness. The brand of Polaroid film the picture was developed on was not on the market until after he first went missing. Investigations into the photograph have lead to different conclusions on the young woman, with no clear consensus on weather it was Calico.

Sadly, Calico’s mother, who maintained it was indeed her daughter in the photo, passed away three years ago. Last September, on the 20th anniversary of her death, there still was no conclusion and not one arrest made. The Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera, who took over the Calico case years after her disappearance apparently believe he knows who was responsible, but understandably without a body has not been able to make any arrests. W ithout disclosing names, he believes rather than being whisked away in some elaborate kidnapping, Calico, who vanished during a daily bike ride, was killed along State Route 47 by teenagers who may have been trying to harass her and perhaps went too far. Rivera says he believes her body could be buried somewhere in the New Mexico desert not far from her hometown Belen.

Seeing the photo that disturbed me as a kid was still a bit unsettling, but getting the chance to read about it for a while – even the erroneous chatter of people on the Net – was interesting and a little comforting. It turns out that Calico’s younger sister has been able to make a decent life for herself and though her mother passed away with dementia, the woman had and her husband had also tried to get on with their lives, relocating to Florida of all places.

As for the most chilling feature of the case, whether it was fraudulent, or the frightened young lady in the photo was Tara Calico, or the subjects are two other people who were abducted,  it  is a mystery and it’s unlikely anyone  will ever know. That’s sad and disturbing to me as I am sure it is to most people. Certainly there are plenty of cases out there that will never have closure, and attached to them are real people who may never get to see justice carried out.