Mike Agranoff

Blog - 2018

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June 10, 2018
Mortality Awareness

The weather today was predicted for cloudy and cool, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take care of my annual house maintenance on the roof. Boring stuff: clean the chimney, clear out the gutters, sweep a year of tree debris off the edge...that sort of stuff. So I got out the ladder and climbed onto the roof, and noticed a new situation that needed attention. A tree adjacent to the house had a few minor branches sprouting from midway up the trunk. And those branches had now grown to the point where they were overhanging the roof itself, and crowding around the flue pipe from my boiler. That needed to be remedied.

But what to do about it? I could surely trim the branches from where I could reach them from the roof. But they would quickly grow again to the point where they were a fire hazard from the flue pipe. The proper remedy would be to remove the branches from where they sprang from the trunk. The photo shows the situation (after the branches had been removed). The tree originally had a double trunk, but the nearer branch of that trunk had grown to overhang the house dangerously, and had been removed some years ago, leaving a horizontal stump just about level with the edge of the roof. The new branches that were crowding the flue pipe sprang from the further trunk. There was no safe place on the ground to put a ladder leaning against the tree. But if I could stand on the stump of the nearer trunk, I could easily get to the base of those branches with a chain saw. The stump is about 4 feet from the edge of the roof. And 20 feet off the ground.

Had this happened 5 or 10 years ago, I would have unhesitatingly leapt the distance. I know damn well I can make a running broad jump of 4 feet without even breathing hard. And with the far trunk available to grab and stabilize my landing it would have been a sure thing. But after that incident in 2015 when I fell from my deck and broke my clavicle, I've become aware of my own mortality. I couldn't bring myself to make that leap. I went down to the garage and got a sturdy plank and laid it between the roof and the stump. And you know what? I couldn't even bring myself to walk that one step on the plank to reach the stump. I got down and sat on the plank and inched myself along to the stump, where I was able to reach the base of the offending branches with the chain saw. With age comes wisdom. Or cowardice. Or something.

Consider this thought experiment:  Cut a circle about 14 inches in diameter out of plywood to represent the stump, and place it on the ground with the edge of the plywood touching a tree.  Then draw a line on the ground four feet from the plywood circle to represent the edge of the roof.  Then starting on the far side of the line, jump onto the plywood circle.  You almost wouldn’t even have to jump.  You could just take a long step.  What are your chances of failure?  Vanishingly small.  True, the consequences of failure are equally miniscule, as opposed to the consequences of failure from the roof.  But that shouldn’t bother you if you are so certain to succeed, should it? 

It shouldn’t. 

It didn’t use to. 

It does now. 

I’m getting old.

April 16, 2018
Morning Edition

I made the news this morning!

After a weekend of unsettled spring weather, where the temperatures ranged from 40° to 80°,I awoke this Monday morning to a torrential rain and 38°. As is typical, I wakened while it was still dark, long before I was ready to get out of bed, and turned on WNYC radio, the New York NPR station to doze while listening to Morning Edition, their morning news program. I was thinking that one redeeming factor about the ugly weather was that I didn't have to run.

I have a regimen of running every other morning. Not very far. I do a loop around the neighborhood of about a mile. And I hate every minute of it. (And as time goes on there are more and more minutes to hate.) I take no joy in this exercise. I get no "runner's high". It is strictly a therapeutic activity designed to remind my heart and lungs what they're supposed to do for a living in my otherwise relatively sedentary lifestyle. But I give myself permission to skip this onerous task if it's raining, snowing, or under 15°. So I do rejoice when I can give myself a weather-related vacation.

So, as I lay in bed contemplating happily upon my respite, the local weather came on the news. They too noted the unsettled weather, and asked listeners to call in and leave a voicemail on how they were coping with it. Without hesitation, I reached for the phone, dialed the number they gave, and at the beep, said, "I love this rainy weather! I run in the morning except in inclement weather. And this morning I don't have to.! Yaaaaaaay!!

Morning Edition repeats its news cycle on a two hour interval. And later on, after eventually getting up, showering, and preparing breakfast, the weather report came up again. And they played my comment.


February 24, 2018
Arming Our Teachers

"President" Trump suggests we require a small percentage of teachers to carry firearms on the premise that it would dissuade potential school shooters from carrying out their attacks, knowing they would face armed opposition.

That would only hold true if school shooters were rational. Which, by definition, they aren't!

All that would accomplish would be to make all teachers, armed or not, the primary targets.

February 20, 2018
Justice Served Against Corporate Malfeasance!

Many years ago (I'm not sure exactly when) I was done a great wrong by AT&T. (I don't quite remember the precise details of that injury.) I felt battered and violated, but I didn't know what recourse I could take to correct this mockery of justice. However, I and thousands of my fellow victims resolved to band together to set matters straight. We hired attorneys and experts to launch a class action suit against the dastardly perpetrators of this heinous crime. We doggedly pursued this case through countless roadblocks and legal maneuverings by the corporate villains. We met their delaying motions with counter-motions of our own, overcoming all legalistic impediments to our cause, launching appeals higher and ever higher within the court system. And in the end, we triumphed! We won our case.

But collecting our settlement was another matter. Again platoons, nay regiments of lawyers battled in our behalf for years and years. And when the dust had cleared, we again triumphed. And yesterday, a check arrived in the mail representing my share of the settlement. I am so happy and proud, I decided that rather than cash the check, I'd frame it and hang it on the wall as a symbol of my part in the little guy's battle, and eventual triumph over corporate greed.


January 12, 2018
False Alarm

Names and phone numbers redacted for privacy


Those of you who are regular patrons of this Blog might recall the piece I wrote in 2016 about my Uncle Albie in which I fondly recalled the then 96-year-old athletic uncle who was very much a part of my childhood. Well you can imagine my sadness at receiving the above notice in the mail today. What made it worse is that the letter had been mis-delivered to the wrong address, and then forwarded to my correct address, where I received it only two days before the memorial.

I called my brother Saul to inform him of the sad news, and then called my cousin Lois in Michigan, Albie's daughter, to offer my condolences. She reacted with shock, not having heard anything about it. I explained to her about the notice. And she burst out in laughter. "It's not a memorial. It's a 98th birthday party!" she exclaimed.

Sure fooled me. Look at that notice with its black border, and tell me that I didn't make a very reasonable, although happily incorrect assumption. I called Saul and told him about the error, and we both had a good laugh.

I'm going to the party.


POST SCRIPT: January 15

Uncle Albie, his wife Nydia, and Nydia's daughter Daisy in background.
(And me in the mirror behind them, taking the picture.)

So I went to the party. It was great to see Uncle Albie after something like 17 or 18 years, and my cousin Phillip after more than 50 years. But truth be told, other than that it was not much fun. The affair had been put together by a professional party planner, complete with a deejay, who filled the hall with music so loud it was almost impossible to hear Albie, whose voice is quite soft. Or to hear anyone else for that matter, even when they were shouting to be heard over the music. The deejay also served as master of ceremonies to the proceedings with all the warmth and sincerity of a game show host. The food was good, though. So I stuck it out for a couple of hours, until I felt a headache coming on, and then took my leave.

The word had already spread through the crowd of 50 or so guests about how I had misinterpreted the party invitation as a memorial gathering before I arrived. And everyone had a good laugh about that. Nydia is Latina, and the attendees were an equal mix of Hispanic and Brooklyn Jews, and all very comfortable with each other. My circle of friends and acquaintances is primarily pretty white-bread, and it was gratifying to see the harmony that reigned in that gathering. The deejay had appropriate selections for both branches of the family.

Albie is in good spirits, but he is somewhat frail, and uses a cane to get around. He's still very much into the sport of running (He ran his last marathon in 2000 when he was 80.), although nowadays his participation is more in following the activities of his running club then in the actual participation in the sport. His 2nd wife, Nydia is 12 years his junior, and doing just fine. Albie was sort of wishing that they would have held off and thrown the party on his 100th.

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