Thursday, September 26, 2013

Albany NY: Solving the mystery of public transportation

     So I went off to Albany (NY) last week to attend a convention for murder-mystery writers and readers, and I got to meet a whole bunch of my favorite crime-novel writers

     But the biggest mystery to solve in Albany, for me, was how to get around on its bus system.  However, by the time I left that fair city, I was the Sherlock Holmes of bus schedules -- but only after putting in hours and hours of gumshoe surveillance first.

     Why in the world would anyone want to drive a car anywhere when taking public transportation is so much more adventurous, exciting and, er, challenging?  Forget all that stuff they say about taking trains and buses because it is good for the environment.  Taking public transportation is good for the soul!

      Where else can you have so many adventures in so short a time?  Or get lost so often?  Or have so many helpful people come to your rescue?  Or even meet so many interesting people?  When you're alone in the bubble of your own car, who do you meet?  No one.

    So I left my airport hotel (after having just spent three whole hours on the phone with AT&T, trying desperately to explain to them why I still wanted access to my Yahoo e-mail account and they were not making that possible) and went to stand at a bus stop in front of a Dunkin' Donuts on the road to Schenectady.  No buses appeared for almost an hour -- so I stuck out my thumb.  But no one stopped.  How come people always stop to pick up Jack Reacher -- but apparently a little old lady with a broken arm and struggling along with a laptop bag, a huge carry-all purse and a roll-away suitcase is far too intimidating to stop for.  But I digress.

     Then the bus into Albany finally came.  But it was the wrong bus.  But then some nice lady from the Capital District Transit Authority talked me down off the wall over the phone.  "Can you see a WalMart from where you are standing?"  No.  "How about a Home Depot?"  Yes.  "Well, then, just walk two blocks north from there to the stop for the 182 bus."  Sure.  But which way is north?

     Another hour later, I finally got into downtown Albany with only two mistakes -- all rectified by various helpful people who I met on the bus, America's salt of the earth.

     And the convention went well.  I met all kinds of authors and got all kinds of free books.  And also stumbled across the wonderful New York State Library's seventh-floor computer room -- with its awesome view of the Empire State Plaza and the Catskills.

    The Empire State Plaza is all built in that grand Mussolini/Stalin/Mao type of imperial architecture that reminded me of the main plaza in Pyongyang, North Korea.  But, hey, it was built by a Rockefeller so it's entitled to look imperial. 

     Albany has a whole bunch of amazing architecture, from its old colonial buildings and amazing gingerbread state house to its modern convention center, appropriately called The Egg.  Definitely worth a trip there.

     But now it's six o'clock and time to fathom the mystery of how to catch a bus out to the motel I will be staying at.  But then I got lost again, ended up walking six blocks in the wrong direction and getting stranded on some dead-end freeway on-ramp, still carrying the roll-away luggage and the laptop bag and the carry-all purse -- plus an additional 20 pounds of free books.  And the broken left arm.

     And then I got on the wrong bus.  Again.  "I'm sorry," said the bus driver, "but you must have wanted the 182."  Really?  "So just walk back that way another three blocks."  Really?

    And then there it was, the glorious 182 bus, stopped at the light.  I waved at the driver frantically.  No use.  "Not an official stop," he mouthed and waved.  So then I desperately and hopelessly chased the damn bus, running penguin-style on my poor painful knees for the next five (5) blocks.  With the purse, the roll-away luggage, the laptop case and the new bag of books, all balanced on and/or being dragged along behind me with my one functional arm.

     But then the bus got stuck in traffic -- but I still wouldn't have caught up with it if everyone on the bus hadn't been cheering me on out the windows and forcing the driver to stop for the penguin-stepping little old lady and the roll-away luggage and the books and the laptop case and the broken arm who had just sprinted five blocks "through the traffic like a mounted cavalier," to quote Chuck Berry.

     And guess what?  One of the  authors from the BoucherCon convention, Robert Kroese, was on my bus too and gave me an autographed copy of his new book!

    Now I ask you.  Would I ever have had such excellent (and mysterious) adventures if I had only just rented a car?


Advertizements for myself: In these hard times of brutal (and illegal) corporatist ball-busting socialism-for-the-rich-only, I am doing whatever I can to make a spare dollar. Here are some of my current alternate-economy schemes that never seem to work -- but I keep hoping!

If anyone ever wants to hire me on as a travel writer (or war correspondent), "Have laptop, will travel!"


Need someone to help you throw out stuff? I'm really good at deciding what needs to be thrown out (starting with all those corporate-owned bums in Washington!)


Need an actor to play an older woman in your movie?
Then I'm your man! I can portray all kinds of older women -- from judges, business execs and other insane zombies to bag ladies, cancer patients, kindly grandmothers and dying patients in rest homes. I've played them all. So send me a script and let's do this. Hollywood, here we come! Here's my reel:

Are you a plaintiffs' attorney who is tired of writing those pesky personal injury settlement briefs all the time? No problem! I can write them for you. Years of experience. And pay me only if you win the case.

I recently got my Notary Public commission!

Need a Notary Public? Have seal, will travel. E-mail me at and I'll stamp your document, make it official and only charge $10. Of course if you live outside of Berkeley, I may have to charge travel expenses -- but am well worth it!

Want something good to read? Buy my book! "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East," available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It's like if Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain and/or Janet Evanovich went to war.

I also wrote a book about going on Hajj (also included as a chapter in "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket," but this book is cheaper -- but it's worth buying them both!) My book on the Hajj is so outstanding that I bet even Christian fundamentalists will love it! Please buy it here:


"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World peace in one generation!"
You can now buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for parents and teachers. To purchase, just click here:
"Life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds."
You can also buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for those of us who are still idealists in these troubled times. To purchase, just click here: