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A Word Fest ‘evening of poetry and prose’ at Hudson River Coffee House April 18

Monday, April 18, 6:30pm
An Evening of Poetry and Prose
Allen Parmenter, Daniel Nester, Heidi Pangratis, and Brian Dorn, hosted by Harvey Havel
Hudson River Coffee House
227 Quail St, Albany, New York 12203
Facebook event page

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That time 10 years ago I played a cop on Psychic Detectives.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I played a cop in a reenactment scene on reality TV.

My wife edits TV shows. Sometimes she’s a combination editor-producer (called a “preditor”). Ten years ago, we were still living in Brooklyn, and my wife got a job preditor-ing to help revamp a previously aired episode of a show called Psychic Detectives, which aired on Court TV (now called TruTV).


My wife’s show includes interviews with Renier, Times Union reporter Carol DeMare, who covered the story when it broke, as well as retired Colonie Police Lt. Ray Krolak and Andy Zostant. The investigation led to the arrests and conviction of James Mariani, a grandson of the victims, along with Robert Skinner, the gunman, and Keith Snare, an accomplice. They’re all in jail now serving up to life in prison sentences.


The episode centers around the 1986 double-murder of Jacob and Dora Cohn in Colonie, NY. (The only Times Union story I could find that mentions it is online here.) During the investigation, Colonie police consulted psychic Noreen Renier from Orlando, Florida, who confirmed a lot of what the detectives were finding out using what I guess would be called non-psychic evidence.  A show called Sightings had covered the psychic angle in 1994, but you can never get enough psychic cop shows.

We shot Brooklyn for Colonie that day. My wife helmed the second unit, working with a special slow-motion camera for shots of the crash of a teacup and bullets hitting the kitchen floor. In the front room, I was outfitted in a late-80s Barney Miller-style suit and tie, an unfashionable detective’s jacket, and a notepad.
My role was to play a Colonie copy who was first at the scene.

I found a DVD of the episode I had gotten from the production company, and posted the first segment on YouTube.

Like the stars say, a lot of film work consists of hurrying up and waiting for one’s scene. The mood on-set was surprisingly upbeat, especially considering were about to re-enact a double-murder that had occurred 20 years ago.  I stood outside in front of the row homes, drinking coffee, shooting the bull with the two guys from the NYPD who were required to be on-site while they fired a gun with blanks.

I remember that I had to wear contacts, since what kind of a cop would wear artsy hipster horn-rims. I hate contact lenses. My eyes were dry and red by the end of the day.

The only people who weren’t cracking wise were the two actors hired to play the Cohns. They took the job seriously. They made the choice to act out their scenes, crying out for help as they lie on the ground. They did all this even though they were told there would be no sound recorded. Their method acting continued as dead people, both stone-silent as I walked through the crime scene, which made it a lot easier for me to get into character as the the hard-boiled, seen-it-all Colonie cop, placing those plastic number-markers besides pieces of evidence.

In the weeks after the shoot for this, my first and only TV acting job, in which I investigate a crime near Albany, I would visit Albany in real life to interview for what turned out to be my present job. I suppose this is all coincidence, but as I write this, I can’t help but think about the simulacrum of it all, the way I played Colonie in Brooklyn, then played Brooklyn in Albany. The reversal still spins around in my head as I watch the scene replay again.

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“Straddling the Working Class Memoir” on Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

Photo by Thomas V. Hartmann

Photo by Thomas V. Hartmann

In case you missed this one, people: “Straddling the Working Class Memoir,” an essay on what it means to be working class and represent the working class as a background in a memoir, was published in the Fall 2015 issue of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

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Just out in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s The Power of Forgiveness: “Flag Waving for Beginners.”


A couple months I got an email, subject line “Your Writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness.” It said my writing was being considered for inclusion in an upcoming anthology. I didn’t recognize the title, but figured it might have been the thing I wrote about the flag my sister gave to me after our father’s ashes had been scattered at sea.

It was, and I liked the new title as well. And now it’s out. The Chicken Soup people sent me 10 copies of the book and a check–a check!–for $200. If only every anthology could do that for their writers.

Anyway, order your copy today!



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Follow and help with my “Double Clap Single Clap” Spotify list.

I love songs that use the double-clap single-clap. You know, that thing? Sometimes it’s used in the whole song, other times it’s in the bridge or the intro or outro.

No matter where it is, I love it.

So I started making a Spotify list to help put them all in one spot. The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes.” J. Geils’ “Centerfold.” The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.” Sometimes it’s down in the mix, other times right in the hook.

There are limitations to Spotify, of course–no Beatles or Led Zeppelin–but what I have there, with the help of record nerds and Facebook friends is pretty good. Do you know others? Help a Double Clap Single Clap brother out. And follow along as we add songs.



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