“We’ve had a number of cats over the years, but lost several to old age. So we decided we wanted to get a cat that wasn’t as adoptable. You know, everyone wants kittens; but we said let’s get an older cat. So we went to a rescue in Albany and found Nipsy. He came home, and he… he just really gets along with everyone.

We got him as an adult, so it’s hard to tell how old he is. He’s definitely had a tough life.  He was a rescue. He was the only survivor of a house fire. He was taken from a hoarding situation. He’s got a little kink in his tail, and he’s missing an ear. Last year, we found a mass and thought we were going to have to put him to sleep, but it turned out—thank God—it was just an inflammation. As far as I can tell, he’s just trying to enjoy the rest of his life as happily as possible. There’s a nice Amazon box upstairs he likes to sleep in. He loves our neighbor’s deck more than anything else, so when we’re done here he’s going to go stretch out back there. He’s just a sweet old man.

We have a connected back yard, and he was hanging out back there once. I checked on him after a while, but couldn’t find him and didn’t know what happened. It turns out that he had come out the alley and walked around front, and he was sitting here photobombing a wedding shoot that was going on at the plaza down the way. And we only found out about it later because someone sent us a picture asking, ‘Is this your cat?’”

In Pursuit of My Creator

“At this stage of my life, pursuing a relationship with my creator is very important to me: seeking out something greater than myself; knowing and believing that there is something greater; having faith that we as humanity know there’s something greater that we should all be reaching out for. That would probably reunite us and give us more cohesive ways to deal with the problems we’re facing right now.

I think I pursued that relationship when I was young, but a lot of things got in the way. We get older, though, a lot of things get out of the way. Our children grow up and go their ways. We have fewer stresses and fewer problems. So we become more open-minded to the pursuit. We have more time. It’s almost like we’ve put our creator on hold while we’ve lived our lives; but now as we get to the end of our lives, we want to pursue him more. We have the time, the freedom, the desire… and the importance of that pursuit just becomes more evident to us. It should be the other way around, really, but materialism and all these other desires get in the way.

Faith has been a struggle. We’re bombarded with so much stuff. But I think true faith is an individual’s pursuit. When we pursue our faith through religion—we go to church, we pay our tithe, we find that a great deal of our teacher are so corrupt—it dims us and dulls us. We get a little apprehensive and pull out of all of that; we start to pursue him on our own. And, frankly, I think we do better when we pursue him on our own. Especially when we have someone else beside us that’s in that same kind of individual pursuit, and we can talk to them about it. Conversation between like-minded people helps us get where we need to be. I have a lot of friends who pulled out of religion because of mistrust and all that stuff. But the desire—the pursuit—is still there, I don’t think it ever goes away.”

Money would solve all my problems…

“Honestly, I just want a happy life with a happy wife. I just want to be rich. Being rich would solve my problems. They say mo’ money, mo’ problems, but I don’t agree. I’m flat broke right now, so I think more money would fix the problems I have. And you know what? Let me be that guinea pig. Yeah, go ahead and give me that money, and I’ll show you it won’t bring me problems. I guarantee it would solve all my problems.”

“Like a fairy story…”

“I am from Ukraine originally. My family came here in 1992. We had been having a very hard time back then. The 90’s were very difficult there. Our youngest child served in the army before the collapse of the Soviet Union in… I think it was 1992? There was new money… paper money. Russian money. Ukrainian money. Special store for Russian money. Special store for the Ukrainian money. It was all very hard. At that time in Ukraine, we had to get up in the early morning to pay money for tickets that allowed us certain products at the store.

My husband’s brother was living in America, and he made arrangements for us to come over. This country was so good for us, for our family. I don’t know about anyone else, but America was good for our family. Everything here was so very different! I remember going into a store with my husband, and… oh! There were so many things. We came here in December, and everything was… Christmas time! It was like a fairy story.

A few of our relatives still live there. My older son is still in the Ukraine. We get to see him by computer sometimes, but we visited him when he was 40 years old and then again when he was 50. I also have relatives here. One son lives in East Greenbush and has two teenage daughters. Another lives in Saratoga with two boys that are the same age, and my little granddaughter who is 7 months old already. I used to see them more, but now that my husband is very sick, I come here to Troy often to visit him.”

“Striving to be the best dad…”

“My first kid is on the way… August 15th. That motivates me every day to go out and work and get money so I can get my own apartment. I’m a little nervous. I come from a big family, so I already know how to take care of kids. So in some ways it’s gonna be easy for me, but at the same time hard. My dad wasn’t always there for me. He was kind of a crappy dad. So my goal is to be 100% better than that. I want to be there for my kid all the time no matter what. I want him to have everything he could possibly need. I’m striving to be the best dad there is. I hope he don’t… I hope he’s not like all these other kids getting into trouble. I’m gonna to try my best to keep him out of that. I’m going to try to get out of Troy. I already know I don’t want him growing up here. I’ve been here all my life, so I know how it is. And I don’t want my kid in this. I’m 19, so it’s definitely forcing me to grow up faster.”

60 Years Famous

“I was born and raised in Troy. Worked construction for a while, doing fire protection and sprinklers. But I’ve been retired for 15 years now. Now I’ve got a small farm that I keep pretty busy with, garden and chickens and such. I’ve been coming to Famous Lunch for 60 years. Their hot dogs are delicious. My father used to bring me here when I was young. Now I come by once in awhile when I don’t feel like cooking. Same place. It hasn’t changed a bit. Of all the things changing in the world, this place hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Victories from here on out…”

“I struggled silently for a while—hid it really, really well. But I’m not ashamed to talk about my story honestly and openly now. If I could help even just one person out of addiction… that would be a victory for me. I went through a halfway house. I just finished inpatient treatment for addiction, and now I’m going through outpatient. It’s really hard, and I’ve lost a lot; but I’m slowly getting it back. I have to take everything one second at a time now. There are a lot of temptations, a lot of people that I know around here who could pull me back into it all. But if I keep myself focused and working toward the goal I’ve had for the last six months… I just don’t want to lose all of that.

My daughter just turned six. I don’t know if I could have gone through all of that if it weren’t for her. She’s definitely my motivation through all of this. Every time I see her, she puts a smile on my face. I think about how she’s watching everything I do. My dad was an alcoholic, so I saw it firsthand. And I don’t want her to have to go through the same stuff I went through. Not saying my dad was a bad person or that anyone with an addiction is. It’s just… she watches me. She does a lot of the things I do. She expects nothing, but she remembers everything. So to give her the curse of addiction… I just can’t let that happen.

It’s a journey. It’s worth it. I’m looking forward to all the victories from here on out.”

Love Yourself

“I’ve lived in Troy since I was born. I used to work at Flomatic Valves. I made underground water valves, making valves for pipes inside the house. I made the molds, then they’d pour hot metal into them to make the valves. We’d grind them, make them look new, and send them to the people next door who would rethread them. I did that for 8 years. That was the 70’s. I wasn’t really making that much money — $2.50 an hour or something like that. I’d work 8 hours straight and then went home to nothing. I did enjoy that job, but they closed up a while back. There are some other valve places around, but it’s all so different now than what we used to do.

I don’t do that much anymore. I don’t mow the grass or anything. I just take it easy. I take care of myself now. I just love myself, that’s all. I think God wants men to love themselves and protect themselves. If all men relaxed and loved themselves the way it’s supposed to be, the world would be a lot more safe. There wouldn’t be no problems with people getting hurt, kids getting hurt. You could teach the kids to love themselves and grow up to be adults who love themselves, even with dresses on.”

Trust the equations…

“I was the head of the math department at RPI. And that was really… you know, there were ups and downs, but when I tell people what I am, what I do, what I did, it’s that. And I still do the math, I just don’t get paid for it. *laughs* I’m passionate about math. My field was applied math, so I got to work with mechanical engineers, biologists, and other fields. I was always asking ‘what can I do with math that adds to this field?’ Every time I was successful at that, it was incredibly gratifying.

My desire to learn started back in kindergarten — I was annoyed that they wouldn’t teach me to read in kindergarten. I said, ‘you’re going to teach me to read,’ and they did! *laughs* It’s just who I was. I didn’t think about wanting to push the envelope or anything. I was at school, and I just wanted to learn. My propensity for math came in middle school. Small town, small class. I got a math book and sat in the corner reading it. While everyone else was doing 9th grade math, I was doing 11th grade math. While they were doing 12th grade math, I was doing calculus and other advanced maths. Then I came to RPI which at the time was very friendly to people like me, people who were good, but not great. I got to do a lot of things with people: some were just fellow students, some were professors that recognized I was looking for things to do. 

After a few years of being on the faculty, I started working with a nuclear engineer. He and I looked at the big problems of the day, problems that people were interested in. I could do the equations, but he was my connection to reality. We looked at the stuff that needed to be done, and we did it. We changed the way of thinking from doing experiments and making graphs out of those experiments, to putting information into the computer to calculate the physics of what’s going on in order to understand what was happening. I always said trust the equations. If you’ve got the right equation, they’re going to do what’s right. It was revolutionary at the time.”

“I’d just rather be out there working.”

“I’m a landscaper. That’s what I do. Been doing it 20 years, at least. I love being outside, working with my hands. Gotta be on top of everything. When I was younger, I used to do a lot of cooking and cleaning, but I started doing landscaping and now I’m doing well with it and staying busy. I’ve thought about getting a desk job before, but I think I’d get bored after a while. I do want financial stability, but it’s not even about the money. I’d just rather be out there working.”