Oct 31, 2011

The Spark

Here is the product -- and the magazine cover -- that started the revolution.

Reading this article sent Gates and Allen into developing a BASIC programming language for the machine (after having picked up the phone and telling Altair officials that they had already done so).

It also sent the geeks at the Valley-based Homebrew Computer Club into a frenzy. Here, in kit form, was the answer to their dreams. By the time Wozniak showed up for a meeting, one was there laying spread-out across a folding table for all to inspect.

The company that made the Altair 8088, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), was a garage startup just like its more famed follower-firms that would come along a few years later. Founded by former Air Force engineers, its initial products were radio transmitters and the heavy-duty programmable calculators of the day. Its mail order approach gave it tremendous advantage on delivering the first desktop PCs to the massive starving geeks demand.

The early units are now collector items.

Was Rick Perry shitfaced?

It's the question raging among the netaholics and political junkies today: was Rick Perry drunk when he made this speech on the New Hampshire campaign trail or not?

Two scenarios:

- If Yes: is getting one's drink on a good idea for a presidential candidate? What does this say about his capacity for sound judgement?

- If No: This is what the guy acts like when he's sober? What other excuse can he now fall back on?

Oct 29, 2011

Joe's Bruno's Ghost - Halloween Edition

You Got Questions? Uncle Joe Has Answers.

Dear Joe,

I see where disgraced Congressman John Sweeney is actively practicing law. He was recently hired by some big shot Albany firm, even. Seeing him back working full time, I was wondering if you have thought about doing the same?


Dear Pete,

Sweeney is practicing law again? You gotta be shitting me! Can you imagine having this guy as your attorney? I mean, come on: he'd stand up to say something and the whole joint would burst out laughing. You wouldn't be able to shut up the giggles coming from the jury box.

Speaking of Sweeney, there's something that's been bugging me for awhile now. Remember that last DWI, where he was pulled over on the Northway with the young barmaid "on his lap?" What the hell does that mean, "on his lap?" I mean, was she sitting there butt-to-lap? If so, what direction was she facing? Was she driving the wheel, like a little baby? Or are we talking some other part of her being "on his lap?" Details, we need details! Jesus Christ, if I were still in charge here we'd have a full blown investigation into this matter, a commission or whatever. Instead, we don't know ooo-gots! This place has really gone to hell.

Dear Senator J,

What do you make out of the Occupy Wall Street thingamajig?

Bernie Samuels

Dear Writer B,

I actually went down there last week to check it out for myself. At first, I thought it was just a bunch of bored college kids who were trying to live out the 60's that they just read about in some class they took. But then I heard them yelling 'Fox News Lies!' and I knew they were my kind of people. I mean, look at the hatchet job the media did on me! That made me fall right in line with them. But five minutes later, I needed to take my afternoon nap.

Hey JBG,

How can I get a no-show job at the State, like your daughter supposedly got?

Frank A Tomlin

Hey FAT,

How about you meet me in the squared circle at the gym tomorrow morning?

Dear Ghost of Joe,

I hear you're a pretty good cook. Do you have any special recipe for doing up a good plate of lasagna?

Phyllis B,

Dear Ghost of Phyllis,

Sure thing. Here's how I make that happen. First, I lay out the plates and silverware. Then I open up a nice bottle of red wine. Then, I pick up the phone and call the boys down at one of the pie palaces I used to flood with state business and say "Hey Paisan: Uncle Joe here. Do me up a tin of the best lasagna you know to make down there and get it over to the ranch, on the double." It's funny, though - one of them told me to go take a flying leap the other night. He must have been having a bad day, I guess.

Dear Joe Bruno,

Knowing that you were a big shot at an Information Technology firm after leaving office, I thought I would hit you up for some advice on a computer problem I'm having. My Google searches are taking forever in Internet Explorer. But not Yahoo or Bing. I think it has something to do with some browser plugins that were added. How do I go about unloading all of them? Thanks in advance.

Rudy Lindahl

Dear Rudy Lindahl,

WTF are you talking about? Google? Bing? Yahoo? Your making sounds a little baby would make. What are you, one year old or something? How did you learn to write if you're only one. I know, someone wrote this letter for you, didn't they? I'm on to your act. You can't bullshit a bullshitter, you little punk.

Dumb Ain't Good

Oct 27, 2011

talk talk talk

Listening to sports talk radio in the Boston market these days -- where you'd think the Red Sox committed the worst atrocity in the history of mankind by not making the playoffs -- makes me realize how similar these on-air blabbermouths are to the right wing sociopaths (Beck, Savage, etc) that dominate the political talk shows:

The more they keep talking, the further divorced from reality they become.

Oct 26, 2011

Fixing the OTB Mess

Privatize all the parlors / franchise the service to tracks

The Problem:

NYC OTB is closed. No longer can people walk to the neighborhood parlor to place a bet on the ponies running at the three NYRA tracks, Finger Lakes, the in-state harness tracks and out-of-state races. As a result, the handle (the amount of money wagered)is negatively effected to all those racing operations. Of importance to New Yorkers is the in-state tracks. In addition, funding to the New York State racing breeding programs are negatively effected.

Granted, NYRA immediately stepped-up with proactive initiatives after the NYC OTB doors closed. The result has been an uptick in on-track attendance and handle, which is a good thing.

But much like the old Sales School 101 rule to "never leave any money on the table" when closing a deal, the fact remains that a significant amount of wagering money is being lost to the state racing coffers as a result. This is not to wax nostalgic for the old OTB, by any means. On the contrary: the business model on which OTB operates (and arguably: was founded on) is a total mess.

Various plans are being floated as to "what next?" for NYC OTB. Given that at least two of other regional OTB corporations are in poor financial health as well, the question becomes a statewide concern. Suggested options include:

- Do nothing and operate without an OTB framework in NY
- Re-open NYC under a new efficiency model
- Re-open NYC and merge the separate OTB corp's into a single entity
- Allow NYRA to operate its own OTB operation in NYC

The Fix-It Man has a better idea...

The Solution:

The State / the OTB's / NYRA / whoever does not need to be in the business of operating OTB parlors.

Instead: open the opportunity for doing so to the private sector.

Setting: stop into any "neighborhood" type of bar or restaurant some weekday at lunch time and what do you see? Answer: a bunch of locals hanging out, with many of them occasionally buying a Keno/Lottery ticket from the barkeep. Come Sunday, that same crowd is gathering to watch NFL football, often tossing a few bucks at the "$10/square" grid behind the bar or making sneaky bets with fellow fans.

In other words, there are thousands of gambling dens already operating all across NYS, and they are all owned and operated by private business men and women. Horse racing needs to become embedded into these facilities.

How? That part is easy to answer. All we need to do is pick up a self-service betting machine from one of the race tracks, put it in a truck and deliver it to a bar that has paid to have one. Hook it up to the AC and the internet, and it's ready to go. OK, maybe not that simple, but it's awfully darn close! The machine vendors will gladly get involved in making the necessary firmware modifications, given the bonanza they are now sitting on.

So there you have it: walk into a bar, and there is a NYRA machine. Right next to the jukebox and the terminal that tells you that lottery ticket you bought last week is worth nothing. The bar gets a piece of the action.

Next comes the question of "who maintains the machines?" That answer is easy as well: the nearest race track. Take a map of NY, plot out the existing thoroughbred and harness tracks, and draw a circle around each one. That becomes their franchise area. The tracks already have the expertise in the care & feeding of the wagering terminals--now they just need to buy a few trucks to service their partners in the field.

But how does the money get divvied up among all the players -- the originating track, the private facility, the local franchise track, the breeding industry, the state?

Someone else figure all that out. I've just outlined the new paradigm. Details are not my forte.

Now, let's get on with it!

Oct 11, 2011

Girls Can Play Guitar, Too!

Debbie Davies: Friday, October 21

Blues Artist of Year to Play @ Saratoga

Growing up in LA in the 1960’s, Debbie Davies found that being a female guitar player meant only one thing: strumming an acoustic model. The electrics were still toys meant only for boys. But when she heard the British blues-rock bands, particularly the driving sounds of Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, she became completely captivated.

Going against the grains of society’s accepted roles of the time, Debbie pursued her dream with the passion of an artist and the soul of a rebel – by plugging in and turning up the volume. That path would eventually lead her to winning two Blues Music Association Awards in the ensuing years, including her latest in 2010.

Debbie Davies brings her supercharged electric blues band into Saratoga's Parting Glass Pub music room for a 9PM show on Friday, October 21.

Davies cut her teeth playing in blues and rock ‘n roll bands in California until1984, where she landed the lead guitar spot in Maggie Mayall and the Cadillacs, an all-female band led by the wife of John himself. In 1988 she was recruited by Albert Collins to join the Icebreakers, and for the next three years she was a featured guitarist performing behind one of the most innovative bluesmen of all time.

“I stepped through a door into the real blues world when I joined Albert’s band,” Davies says. “It’s one thing to listen to the records and pull off the licks, or sit in the audience watching these artists play. But actually going out and touring with one, turned the blues into something completely three-dimensional for me. I knew then what a special opportunity this was, but I know it even more now.”

“It was the most powerful band I had ever played with, so I learned to dig even deeper into myself to pull out the music. Albert was a man of so much grace and kindness, so I can only hope that I was able to absorb some of his humanity too.”

In September 1993 she struck out on her own, with the debut release, Picture This. Nine solo and two collaborative CD’s have followed, including her latest, the highly acclaimed and rocking Holdin' Court. She has received multiple nominations for Blues Music Awards, and in 1997 won the award for Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist. This past year, she won as Best Traditional Female Artist.

The local show has as a unique feature its 'Kids Under 16 Free with Adult' component, part of the Let Kids Hear The Music! initiative seeking to expose a new generation to genres not receiving air play across the modern radio dial. Adult tickets are $16 in advance (available thru the Parting Glass website) or $20 at the door.


"Davies exhibits guitar playing virtuosity with the likes of Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray." (Music Connection)

"She pulls out all the stops. She can play it all: seductive, soulful material, down-home delta blues, or humorous tales of life on the road." (Blues Review Magazine)

"Once in a rare while I hear a musician of such talent that I want people to know. I believe my reputation backs up my ability to recognize exceptional blues guitarists. Such a one is Debbie Davies." (John Mayall)

“She wields an electric guitar as if it were a wand.” (Los Angeles Times)

“Davies playing is extraordinary - full of propulsion and energy and melodic invention.” (People Magazine)


Debbie Davies Band

Friday, October 21 – 9PM

The Parting Glass - 40-42 Lake Ave - Saratoga Springs, NY

518-583-1916 – www.PartingGlassPub.com

$16 Adv / $20 Door / Under 16 = Free

Tix on Sale Here

Oct 9, 2011

Online Energy Usage: the clouds help

From the EarthTalk Files...

Dear EarthTalk: What is the environmental impact of so many people now using sites like Facebook and spending so much time online? (Bob Yearling)

The environmental impact of so much online time really boils down to energy usage, which in turn affects the amount of greenhouse gases we pump into our atmosphere. For one, each of us can help by limiting computer time (whether surfing the ‘net or not) and shutting them down or putting them into sleep mode when we aren’t using them (this can be automated via the computer’s power management control panel).

Also, when shopping for a new computer, consumers and businesses alike can opt for models certified by the federal government as energy efficient with the Energy Star label. If all computers sold in the U.S. met Energy Star requirements, Americans could pocket $1.8 billion annually in saved energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking some two million cars off the road.

Individual responsibility aside, the creation and management of more efficient data centers by the major online hubs—especially as we enter the age of “cloud” computing whereby most of the software, content and services we look to our computers for resides online and is served to us as-needed—is what can have the biggest impact. Google, Facebook, and Amazon.com are already deeply committed to the cloud computing model, with Microsoft, Yahoo and others following suit accordingly.

For its part, Google has been a real leaderin the building of green data centers, even powering them with renewable energy. The company recently released environmental footprint scores for several of its data centers. While the energy usage required to run its cloud services (Google Search, Google+, Gmail and YouTube) seems huge in the aggregate—it used 260 megawatt hours to power its data centers in 2010—it boils down to only 7.4 kilowatt hours worth of energy annually per user. Google reports that to provide an individual user with its services for a month uses less energy than leaving a light bulb on for three hours. And because the company has been carbon neutral since 2007, “even that small amount of energy is offset completely, so the carbon footprint of your life on Google is zero.”

In an April 2011 report entitled “How Dirty is your Data?” the non-profit Greenpeace examined energy sources for the 10 largest IT companies involved in cloud computing, finding Apple, Facebook and IBM especially guilty of getting significant amounts of power from coal-fired power plants. (Facebook had come under fire earlier this year when reporters uncovered that the company planned to buy electricity for its brand new eco-friendly data center in Prineville, Oregon—one of the greenest such facilities ever designed and constructed—from a utility that derives most of its power from coal.) Yahoo, Amazon.com and Microsoft scored best in use of renewable alternative energy sources for cloud services.

In the long run, analysts think that the widespread shift to cloud computing will be a great boon to the environment. A report released in September 2011 by Pike Research, “Cloud Computing Energy Efficiency,” predicts that because of the shift to cloud computing and increasing efficiencies, data center power consumption will decrease by 31 percent between 2010 and 2020.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Oct 5, 2011

The Education of Steve Jobs

I never met Steve Jobs. But then again, I didn't need to -- I know pretty much exactly where he was coming from. After all, I grew up in the constant company of people just like him.

Jobs was born in the same exact year as was Bill Gates. If one goes in to "plus or minus a year or two" mode, we'd ensnare the names of many more of the early movers and shakers of the desktop computing revolution. That is not an accident.

I'm in there as well, although my badge would read Foot Soldier instead of mover & shaker. Heck, I can even lay claim to having almost been Employee #100-and-something at Apple. Unfortunately, my final interview took place in New Orleans, and let's just say I didn't show up to meet Mr VP with my 'A' game, for the predictable reason. But hey; being young and stupid leads to becoming wise and experienced, hopefully. In my case, it didn't, as I doubled-down on the stupid part a few years later by turning down the offer to be Employee #8 at a little local startup called MapInfo. That was two cups of coffee wasted, sealing my fate for a career in the mid-minors, so to speak.

But back to the shared experiences thing. Guys our age grew up in a continuous "hacking" mode. That term is defined here a bit wider than its popular current usage with its deviant connotations and all . Rather, it refers to the hobby of either building things -- especially electronic things -- or tearing them apart, usually for the sake of repairing them. Pre-teen years were spent building little DIY kits bought at Radio Shack (crystal radios, Morse code tap-taps), where any self-respecting 12yo knew his way around a soldering gun and a circuit board down in the basement. The ensuing teenage years has us neck deep into stereo systems and musical equipment, where we'd be slicing wires, replacing fuses and swapping woofers. The more advanced among us would even dive into the crazy stuff, like adjusting the currency flows of guitar pedals or adding oscillation to synthesizers. All in search of the most spaced-out sound, of course.

Growing up in this type of culture made for an easy transition onto the early world of PC's. Heck, it really wasn't even a transition; it was just another set of toys. Swapping mother boards in a chassis really wasn't that much different than replacing a blown crossover in a speaker cabinet. So when Jobs or Gates or Wozniak or Allen and all the others from that Boomer 2.0 wave ran across the older guys from the ham radio and punch card worlds with these new transistor boxes that had a little bit of decision-making power to them -- just like them big ass computers down at the lab -- it really wasn't such a big ass deal to them.

These 'born in the mid-50's and later" guys were different from their older, Boomer 1.0 brothers in another key aspect as well. That was their having what we might call a "software mindset" to complement their hardware-hack skills. Whereas the early pocket protector-wearing code jockeys were diving mostly into machine and O/S level projects, the new breed realized that the game was all about user interfaces and soon thereafter: applications. Applications, as in department- and personal-level programs that best complemented the now-affordable system configs available to the masses. Jobs got that part, although not quite as quickly as Gates. But he'd catch up real well eventually, especially when he tweaked the concept of applications into something more akin to delivery models.

So where did this embedded soft-side smarts come from, then? That's an east answer, too. Go back to the 'teenage years' reference, where every red-blooded young American male of the 70's was in Music Mode. The device management was mastered, but the party didn't cook without the music -- the software of its day. Content is king, and this demographic bought into that notion hook, line and sinker. I know that Steve Jobs was, for his whole life, heavily into music. I'd be willing to bet that he obsessed over Sgt Pepper and Dark Side of the Moon, like we all did. I'd also be willing to bet a bundle he also took a shot at playing in a band as well, like we all also did. This obsession (for lack or a better word) was unique to this/our specific demo-age. The automatic tie-in of hardware (stereos and musical instruments) to software (recorded and performed music) had as its natural progression the marriage of computers and application software in the ensuing years.

Steve Jobs, like all of us then, was a creature of his time. If he'd been born even five years earlier, none of this would have gone down for him. (Note: the drug experimentation of the day should not be ignored here either, as Jobs himself often pointed out). He (like us) was also a creature of his own place within that time. It likewise wouldn't have happened had he been hanging in Albany instead of in the Bay Area, or if he hadn't caught the rampant phone-hacking bug going thru his posse at the time, which in turn locked his elbows with his pal Woz in the pursuit of profits. Then there is the concept of good old fashioned luck: what if Markkula had declined to get involved? We likely would never have heard of any of these people if that happened.

So yes, I know an awful lot about the guy without ever having met him. It could have just as easily have been any one of us, cut form that same cloth. I also get his personality, and how it was so common to our tribe. I speak here of the black aspect and well as the white. Yes, the temper, the naked ambition, the way he ripped-off Woz early-on, the ignored first child. The O/S that for all intents and purposes was ripped-off from the PARC and Xerox. I recognize all that: my generation didn't pick up and carry on the noble traditions of our parents, and those kinds of actions are way too common and oh-so very familiar.

But Steve Jobs was us. Plain and simple, the good and the bad. His achievements were our own individual and unfilled ambitions. That's why today's news gives such pause.


With all of the Steve Jobs quotes now floating about, this one caught my eye and best reflects the spirit of what I was talking about above:

" Our goal was to bring a liberal arts perspective to what had traditionally been a very geeky technology.. "

Keep that in mind when the debate turns to the need to emphasize math and science as our primary education tracks. This guy went to school to study Easter philosophies.

..and of course, the Final Thoughts from Fake Steve Jobs.



"...have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

- Steve Jobs, 2005 @ The Stanford Address

Kodak is Dead, All Hail Kodak

Having spent the first two years of my college life in Western New York, I got to befriend a number of folks from the Rochester area. Back then, if you were from Rochester, you had some sort of connection to that mighty corporate giant named Kodak.

At its height (which would have been about that time), Kodak employed 60,000, Think about that figure and the impact and influence it has on a mid-sized metro like this. If someone's father didn't work there, then another close relative or two likely did. If not, then someone in the family worked somewhere or other for a firm doing some sort of biz with the mighty K.

Rochester, then, became the prettier sister when compared to its nearby twin called Buffalo. Whereas the Big B's steel and smokestack industries made it gritty, smelly and dirty, the Kodak (as well as Xerox) economy of Rochester seemed both cleaner and "smarter". Of course, we needn't kid ourselves now: whereas Buffalo was visibly spewing its manufacturing toxins into the air, Rochester was no doubt burying its version into the ground. But image is everything, so there we were.

Today, we find Kodak on its kness and about to collapse into bankruptcy. Regional employment is down to about 6,700 and sinking, and we all know why. Things change and shit happens.

When the "Chapter 11" (or 7 or 13 or buyout whatever) announcement comes, the paid pundits will sit back and talk about how Kodak never made the transition to digital, how it held on to its traditional business for too long, how management blew it and so on. Don't bother: we already get all that.

But we don't need it all packaged in the tragedy & horror wrapper. Where is it written that business enterprises must exist forever, or else they are tagged as a failure in the future history books? Such an analysis is improper.

If Kodak disappears in the coming months or years, let us instead celebrate its profound legacy as inspiration. It had what sure was a pretty darn good run; and that should be good enough.

Oct 4, 2011

Price Deflation in Action

Today's iPhone 4s introduction / dog & pony show unveils (among other features) an 8MP camera sensor.

It seems like just last week we were putting the initial plans together for the TVT advenuture, when the idea of an 8MP stand-alone digital camera purchase was put on the table as a possible capital investment.

The cost at the time? $2400.

Needless to say, that idea fell back off the table rather quickly.

Oct 3, 2011

The Left Awakens ... (maybe)

Occupy Wall Street as a Tipping Point?

It's All About Theater -- and a New Play Just Opened

Act One: Calling BS on the BS'ers

The Occupy Wall Street thing down in lower Manhattan might not quite be at a "movement" stage; but it could be darn near close. If it can get there, then the fun will really start -- and it's about goddam time.

The Greatest Nation on the Face of the Earth has been living in a Superman / Seinfeld'ian Bizarro World for the past two years, where the expected norms have been tossed to the wind and we're left with a landscape that just doesn't make the least bit of sense.

A collective near-death experience brought on primarily by the decades-running corporate corruption of government has as its populist and political fix something called the Tea Party movement (there's that word again) advocating the minimization and dismantling of said government, thereby supercharging the aforementioned offender with even more power and an even-larger stack of 'get out of jail' cards than it had before the shit hit the fan. Wait; what? Wake me up from this insanity, now please.

With the Right running hog wild, where's the Left been in all of this? You know, an expected counter-push? No matter where's one's opinion might fall in all of this mess, this should be a no-brainer of a question to be asking -- right? So, could Occupy Wall Street be it? The answer: we'll see.

Notice the corp-media's painting of this picture: "What the heck do these idiots want? They can't even list their demands!" As usual, they miss the big point. Or, they get the big point, but need to sell it as a joke to the masses.

But OWS makes perfect sense: all it is doing is attempting to change the frame of the debate and point the finger at what its participants feel is the true and actual source of the problem. In other words, it is calling bullshit on the Tea Party's platform by saying "hey dudes; it's not government that's the source of the problem here, it's these guys in the big buildings around the corner frm here. Now deal with it"

And that is important. Decentralized rage at this stage is just fine and the proper status point; coalescing around key policy points and key figureheads (individuals or organizations) comes next ... but first things first. One just needs to look at the Arab Spring examples for proof of this formula. Add in the social media mobilization, and we could have a winner here.

It's all about winning those hearts and minds, and that is best done through effective theater. Whereas the Tea Party takes their stage production to the bastion of its targeted enemy (halls of government), OWS is doing the same by shifting its stage to the belly of that beast called Wall Street.

So far so good. Just like Cairo or even Tiannemen Square, momentum is building from a dead start to something bigger as each day passes. The buzz is feeding on itself. I've seen many Facebook posts saying "I'm looking forward to get down there myself" or more subtle signs of support.

The most interesting of such is the F/B wall volleys I see from a barely know him acquaintance on my own dashboard. Since we befriended one another, I've been regularly tortured by his regular rants in support of Ron Paul or other right of center leanings. Now, this same fellow is rooting on the NYC guerrillas as if they were his high school football team and spreading the various viral buzz pieces in full support of this newly visible "big business is the problem" message. Sure, such a change in opinion might not make sense logically, but it's not about logic. It's all about theater! This guy gives it four stars!

We've been here before: the Seattle WTO riots looked like the counter move but they've since faded into the "it really didn't matter" part of the history books. Given the right's control of the mass media, OWS could soon find that same fate.

But we hope differently here in this corner. Bizarro World must end. The debate needs to be re-framed -- properly this time and in opposition to the puppetmasters currently setting the debate rules. Obama needs to be pulled back into what should be his natural constituency, for everyone's sake, including his own. The left needs to be re-charged and enter the squared ring with a dynamic that can actually influence the Great Middle, before the keys to the family Buick are handed to a private equity fund manager named Romney or a lunatic wingnut named Perry.

Occupy Wall Street is arriving just in time. The question is whether it is still around six months from now. If yes, then it means there's a whole new game going down.

Oct 1, 2011

Mental Illness is a Lifestyle?: now isn't that a convenient fix to a big problem?

Without a Chance and Without a Net

If an Invisible Kid Dies, Does it Really Count?

The past day and a half has been rather troubling for me, on a personal level. To explain:

On Thursday night, while shuck'ing & yuk'ing with a small group in one of my 'burghs, I was approached by a young lady in a state of distress. Her “bags” were missing, and she sought our help in locating them as she pointed to the opposite sidewalk. Nothing made sense, as her speech was baffling, to the nth degree. I began to suspect some sort of hallucinogen was flexing its muscle in front of me.

Within a few minutes, a waitress emerged from the nearest door, with the two handbags in question. She handed them off to the rightful owner, saying something to the effect of “you left them in here again; now you really need to stop coming here and doing this.” She'd obviously been there before.

It soon became apparent that I was dealing with a youngster in possession of some sort of mental health issue. Notice the word “I” in that previous sentence: the folks with whom I was running with were now making cuckoo motions around the ears and signaling me for me to move away from her, as if I was endangered. Be aware that this kid was college-aged, 5 foot-something and 100 pounds. Against their advice, I sat her at a table in another nearby joint, with instructions there to get her whatever she wanted — she looked like she could use something to eat, pronto. I went about wrapping up some affairs nearby, after telling the owner there (a friend) I would be back in a bit to settle the accounting.

I returned in an hour; the gal was surprisingly still there and had run up a grand total of $1.50 on me for an unfinished soda. My pal took me aside with news that that some of his staff were familiar with her, and labeled her with such terms as “mental case”, “homeless person” and “wacked.” Sitting down with her, I attempted to ascertain her status, but was again answered with barely-audible fragments of incomplete sentences, random-access thought pattens and lost-in-the-headlights eyes. In addition, she was not properly dressed for the elements (example: ballet slippers).

Closing time was upon us, and she asked to stay with me in the hotel room I was in up on the main drag – confirming the homeless part of the profile. I concluded that such a scenario would not be in anyone's best interest— given the circumstances— while at the same time not willing to leave her to fend for herself at 2AM. So, I went Plan B, ringing up my longtime friend JR and going into Pulp Fiction mode (but showing up with a live body vs a dead one or an OD victim). I knew that his brand new abode had some extra crash spaces, and off we went. The hotel room went unoccupied that night.

Once there, I went about getting her some food and the safety and security of a small little room all her own. Meanwhile, more and more random bits emerged from here life story, but not in any coherent and connected format. The next morning, JR – the gracious landlord of this sudden flop house – joined the scene and took an equally active interest in both learning what we were dealing with here as well as brain-dancing with me as to what we could do to best help this poor creature.

The day progressed at a relatively mellow pace, scattered with meals, naps, strolls, work sessions (I helped JR with a real estate legal hassle he was involved in) and soft conversations. The plan was to “make some calls” later in the day to check the status of our new young friend's possibly impounded car as a means of determining her true identity. From there, we were hoping to track down a family member --- we kept hearing 'Connecticut'.

But we didn't quite get there to that end game. As is usually the case with mentally troubled individuals, a great big 'hassle moment' always lurks. Ours hit the scene about 3PM, when a surprise visit from JR's sister sent our girl into panic mode, with a demand that “you and I need to get away from these people and it has to happen right now!” She wasn't getting talked out of this idea, either: the best I could do was to get her to agree to let JR drive us downtown, where she and I would go about figuring what to do from that point onward.

JR and I had another idea, course; that being to get this kid into the Emergency Room at the hospital, which just happened to be right on our planned path downtown. We came up with the ruse of my having to “get a prescription filled in there,” and off we went.

But the plan failed miserably. She smelled a rat and bailed out of the vehicle while I was inside the E/R trying to arrange some sort of intake session with a mental health evaluator. Before JR could get a handle on the situation, she was gone — disappeared into the neighborhood , not to be seen by our eyes again. She had obviously been down this road before, too.

“Hey, you tried,” is the automatic response we got from everyone to hear our story the rest of the day. “Not too many people would have done what you guys did.” Yeah, right, big deal. Aren't we the heroes? On the contrary, JR and I then went about concluding that we hadn't done enough and then beating ourselves up for such a shortcoming So, we started making those planned calls anyway, figuring that we could find the girl downtown again if we had a reason to do so. But we weren't given that reason.

The car pound didn't know what we were talking about. The hospital said they couldn't do a thing unless she showed some obvious signs of suicidal tendencies. County Mental Health said that she couldn't be admitted without consent, and the E/R incident told us that wouldn't happen. The Police Department was actually familiar with the individual (ah: a breakthrough?), but they couldn't do anything because.....

“..this is just a lifestyle choice she's made.”

A lifestyle choice? This young kid, who is possibly from an upper-middle class New England background, has apparently – in the eyes of the local Department of Public Safety, at least --- CHOSEN A LIFESTYLE whereby she is: a) roaming the streets day after day in the same set of clothes; b) seeking shelter by asking to stay in strangers' hotel rooms; c) penniless; d) possibly off her medications; e) incapable of walking properly in a crosswalk, ordering food in a public restaurant or even asking for help in a coherent manner; and f) not even entirely sure of the name of the small upstate city in which she currently finds herself in or where her car might be sitting for the past 60 days or more. Quite the lifestyle there to strive for, isn't it?

The system is broken when a 20+/- yo kid (sorry: when they're my own son's age, they are kids in my view) is as incapable of basic survival as what I witnessed here; while totally alone in the world to do anything about it, and there is no mechanism for the larger community to reel her in somehow.

Oh yes; I can hear the wise ass crowd now: “Well, she isn't that incapable of survival. She got you two assholes to wait on her for a day and she probably has someone else doing the same thing right now!” To those people, the best reply would include something about feeling a bit toasty in a rather unpleasant location run by a creepy fellow with a pitchfork.

Meanwhile, the citizens of the City of Saratoga Springs – that facade of charm, beauty and livable community – are hereby advised that there is a desperate kid roaming around in their midst, in one day-at-a-time mode but without the functional reasoning capabilities to figure out how the hell to get there. Granted, she wasn't in your recent Lip Dub, but there's a good chance you'll be reading about her in the paper one of these days soon.

Per chance, if any of you are by some longshot chance concerned about that fact and have some sort of useful advice to remedy that situation, get a hold of me. I'm all ears. Why? Because my own "lifestyle choice" is in this general give a shit category, but it feels kinda lonely here in that camp.