Category Archives: Albany

World Cup recap – bonding over balls and beer

Are you a soccer fan? Prior to the recent World Cup tournament, I certainly wouldn’t have declared myself to be one. When I answered Matt Baumgartner’s call for temporary employees to assist during the tournament, I was responding as a worker, not a soccer fanatic. But, something has definitely changed. This whole soccer thing? I think I like it.

Although two of my boys play soccer, I’ve avoided the moniker “soccer mom” with the skill of a teenager ducking household chores. Not me, no way. I attend games and cheer enthusiastically from the sidelines, but I certainly have no interest in driving around in a minivan with a soccer ball decal stuck to the back window. You know me, I’m not much of a joiner or follower.

The first match I worked was Team USA vs Portugal. The crowd at Wolff’s Biergarten was tremendous – pumped up and loud, but in no way aggressive or obnoxious. I loved their enthusiasm and the excitement was contagious. This was definitely going to be fun.

As “our” team advanced, along with Team Germany, the team of my maternal side of the family, I realized that my soccer playing middle son needed to be part of the scene. I arranged to bring him and a couple of his friends down to check out a match. They were awesome! In a crowd of hundreds, they hung out, clad in red, white and blue, mesmerized by the game and the other spectators. I was impressed by their poise and comfort and knew that Griffin and I would become regulars for the duration of the tournament.

As the matches came fast and furious, so did the communication between my family and me – emails, Facebook messages and status updates. Knowing that my family in Germany were occupied watching the same event as we were, was intensely comforting. Who knew that a ball game could make the world seem so small? I absolutely loved it.

When Team USA was eliminated, we placed our energy into cheering on the motherland, Deutschland. Our German flag accompanied us to the subsequent matches and I cherished the opportunity to be proud of being German in a world that doesn’t always perceive us as being worthy of admiration. The hefeweizen flowed and steins were raised amidst shouts of Prost! and Griffin and I hung out, side by side, united in our interest for 90+ minutes.

Photo: Wolff's Biergarten

Photo: Wolff’s Biergarten

Four years from now, my son will be 19, perhaps not as inclined to hang out in a sports bar with his mom as he was this year. I’d like to think, though, that he’ll someday tell his own children about the times he and I spent together watching the World Cup. If he doesn’t, believe me, I will.

More pictures from the tournament here.

http://www.timesunion.com/seen-events/slideshow/SEEN-U-S-A-vs-Belgium-World-Cup-at-Wolff-s-88979.php

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Filed under Albany, beer, Boys, Events, family, Germany, soccer, Summer, television

World Cup mayhem!

photo(171)How was your Sunday?  Mine was wonderfully insane, thank you very much.  Why, you ask? Well, I spent my day selling mugs and beer tokens down at Wolff’s Biergarten, which may not sound very fun to those of you who aren’t into crowds or soccer, but it was right up my alley.  There were hundreds (thousand+?) of folks sporting red, white and blue looking to have a great time on a gorgeous day.  What could be bad about that?

While the match may not have ended soon enough for team USA to walk away with a win rather than a tie, it was still a fantastic day.  I’ll be working a number of additional shifts in the next few weeks and hope you all make it down to take in a match and indulge in some tasty beer and a scene unlike you’ll find anywhere for this event.

photo(172)For the uninitiated, here’s how it works:  for $20 bucks you get a 1 liter plastic stein and 2 beer tokens.  The tokens are good for .5 liters of beer so you can fill your mug fully once or halfway twice, your call.  Personally, I’d go with the halfway twice because I like my beer cold and I like to wander between the Biergarten and the Bier Tent.  Since taking beer from one location to the other isn’t permitted, you’d probably want to enjoy a beer in both places to catch the full scope of fandom.  Need more beer?  Additional tokens are $7 each or 3 for $20 and the tokens don’t expire.  Speaking of not expiring – your stein will get you entry into any and all subsequent games so make sure you hold on to it.  Bring it with you for any matches during the World Cup and you get in without any additional charge.

So, there you have it.  Soccer, bier, peanuts.  Come get some.

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Filed under Albany, beer, Events, Local, Recommendations, soccer, Summer, sunday

Summer solstice

It isn’t often that I have a day when nothing displeases me. When such a day as this occurs on the absolutely longest day of the year, it makes for an incredibly satisfying day. That is precisely what I had yesterday.

flowers

baby’s breath, peonies, roses

The day began with flowers as I cut a bouquet of the beautiful roses and peonies which are currently blooming in my garden, as well as in my neighbor’s backyard. Jeter and I followed breakfast with an early morning visit to the dog park where he played with a lovely dog who had recently been rescued from NYC. I resisted the urge to immediately adopt the sweet young dog, but I do hope she finds her forever home soon.

berries

a berry warm from the sun is one of nature’s ultimate delights

My middle son’s mid morning haircut appointment went well and I left the salon with plenty of time to get home, swap boys and head to Altamont Orchards to pick some strawberries. It took less than 25 minutes to pick 3 quarts of sweet and juicy berries. On our way home we stopped at the Guilderland location of Fin where Quinn got an apple juice and an already prepped meal of seasoned swordfish with corn salsa.

I made an easy caprese salad for lunch, with my own basil, and reveled in the simple delight of summer eating. I followed my meal by folding a couple of loads of laundry while watching the first half of the Germany-Ghana match with Griffin, my source for soccer commentary. Germany looked good, especially their keeper (holy hotness!), and I decided it was a fine time to make my way to a joint high school/elementary graduation party in Delmar. Since the day was supremely beautiful, I chose to ride my new bike and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

The party was lovely and my initial impression about not knowing anyone was rapidly put aside as I enjoyed meeting and talking with some really nice people. Seems I was wrong about not knowing anyone as connections were quickly made. Yes, it is a small world. Griffin kept me abreast of the match via text and I loved knowing that my son and my family in Germany were simultaneously taking in the same event – more connections.

sword

swordfish steak, corn salsa, steamed spinach

I rode home and made a simple and delicious dinner while taking care of our bounty of strawberries. It was strip steak and corn on the cob for the guys and grilled swordfish with a side of steamed local spinach for me. So delicious! After cleaning up the kitchen, I prepped about half of our strawberries for the freezer already anticipating their eventual use in smoothies. I should have picked more!

Jeter and I returned to the dog park for round two but ended up home again after a short while since it is never really fun to be the only dog at the dog park. While playing fetch in the yard, I got to witness the reaction of two teenaged girls to my son’s haircut (“Oh my God, you cut your hair!” exclaimed in a shriek.) which is still making me laugh.

I changed into running clothes and hit the streets for a fast (for me) 5 miles, luxuriating in the extended twilight on this, the longest day of the year. There were only pleasant aromas tickling my nose and I realized that there hadn’t been a single affront to my senses all day long. The temperature, the smells in the air, everything I had eaten, the conversations shared, the view along the drive to the berry patch, the birds at the feeder…every single thing had given me pleasure. It was the beginning of a new season. Life is good.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, biking, Boys, Delaware Avenue, Dinner, Exercise, family, favorites, Flowers, friends, Germany, Local, Observations, running, Summer

Up a tree

image: John Carl D’Annibale/Albany Times Union

I’m sure you’ve heard the saga of the Albany Bear.  A young black bear, with a history of repeatedly wandering into populated areas, was a deemed a “nuisance” and euthanized yesterday.  The last 24 hours of the bear’s life included being struck by a car, shot with both a shotgun and a tranquilizer gun and falling approximately 60 feet from the tree in which he had sought refuge.   It makes me so sad.

Have you ever seen a bear outside of a zoo?  I’ve been lucky enough to see one twice, both times from the safety of the car in which I was driving.  The first time, in a rural area of Massachusetts, the dog in our vehicle sensed the bear’s presence before we did.  When I saw the bear loping along, my heart lifted.  I had always hoped to see a bear and the glimpse I had of this one affirmed my belief in nature and all the wonders which she often holds secret.  I was elated.

A couple of years later, in a more densely populated area in Orange County, N.Y., I noticed a dog on the right side of the road barking furiously at something on the opposite side of the road.  The dog was maintaining a respectful distance, rather than approaching whatever it was that had attracted its attention.  I looked to my left and immediately saw it – a black bear lumbering through the underbrush, more than likely heading towards the nearby orchard.  Hours before this occurred, I had returned to the States after some time spent in Europe, a place I always feel is devoid of wildlife.  Seeing this bear was one of the best “welcome home” experiences I’ve ever had.  I was thrilled.

I understand the perceived threat of a wild animal in a residential neighborhood and the need for authorities to address the situation, I really do.  My struggle with what happened yesterday (just blocks from my home) stems from my sense that that bear wasn’t dealt with respectfully.  His tagged ears indicated he had prior experiences in local communities, but I can’t help but wonder how much effort was put into relocating him to a new home at a substantial distance.  We like to brag in New York State about our 6+ million acres of “Forever Wild” land in the Adirondack Park.  Couldn’t that bear been taken farther away from settled areas during one of his previous visits?

Was this really necessary?     image: http://alloveralbany.com

Why wasn’t there a more humane plan in place after 24 hours of officials monitoring the situation?  Was it really necessary for the bear to fall 60 feet to the ground?  How do we prevent another tragedy like this in the future? The bear may be the one to have fallen from the tree, but the authorities are really the ones who dropped the ball here.

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Filed under Albany, Local, News, Observations, Random, upstate New York

Confession – I didn’t vote yesterday

I’m hoping that publicly admitting my failure to act as a responsible citizen will help me to exorcise the guilt I’ve been feeling since last night’s decision to not get in my car and drive to yet another new polling location.  You know I’m a big believer in exercising one’s civil rights, and I truly believe that those who don’t vote really shouldn’t feel entitled to offer an opinion on politics or education.  So – why didn’t I get myself to Hoffman Ave last night?  Well, I just didn’t feel like it.

I’m generally happy with the education my boys are getting in the Albany City School District.  My only minor complaint is a lack of communication from the attendance office at the high school.  I mean, my middle son has a crazy amount of tardies, yet I’ve never received notification about his inability to make it to class, particularly his first class of the day, on time.  Not a big deal in my situation, or should I say his, but potentially problematic for students who may be truly teetering between passing and failing.

I’m glad the budgets in both my community and the district where I am employed passed.  I know folks complain about taxes all the time, but I think my taxes are fair and I’ve never resented paying them.  After years of teachers being in the crosshairs when it comes to public vilification and perception, the focus has changed a bit recently.  It seems that school boards and administrators are now on the receiving end of the public’s wrath and dissatisfaction.  God forbid we should look both higher (state and federal policy makers) and lower (parents and caregivers) when we assign blame for standards not being met.

I’d say more, but, since I couldn’t spare the time to vote, I’ll spare you my opinion on the subject.

Did you vote?

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Filed under Albany, Local, Schools

The mean streets of Albany

Occasionally when I write, I pause to consider how a particular post is going to play. Will it garner comments? What sort of response will it get? How many retweets or shares will it prompt? I really don’t know how the incident I’m about to share will be received, but I’m just going to put it out there.  Here’s what I experienced yesterday during an evening run.

It was fairly early in my run and still quite light out.  As I headed west on Whitehall Road, I approached a group of teens walking in my direction. There were three or four of them, I don’t exactly remember – or, more accurately, I hardly really noticed.  What I did notice was the tremendously bright smile on the face of the girl closest to me. Spectacular!

As we passed each other, the small group politely fell into single file formation as we met on the not-really-so-wide sidewalk.  The teens were talking animatedly and the big smile girl made eye contact with me and said “She’s got anger issues,” with a nod of her head to one of her companions.  I interpreted her tone as joking, and responded, without breaking my stride, with “She’s working on it!”  What happened next was disturbing enough that it is still bothering me.

The girl with the “anger issues” started yelling at me – to mind my own business, that she’d show me and a few other choice words she felt I deserved for “getting in her business.”  I had the distinct impression that if I had elected to stop and turn around, she would have been right in my face.  Her voice and words were threatening and I chose to keep running, maybe even a little faster than I had been previously.

The incident brought to mind the coverage I’ve seen recently about “girl brawls” which have occurred around the Capital Region.  I reflected on my own teen years and considered whether I would have ever been that aggressively confrontational with an adult in similar circumstances.  My conclusion was no.  I couldn’t imagine speaking to a stranger with such anger and disrespect.

This young woman and I were different from one another, and our differences did not stem from the fact that she is black and I am white.  Her behavior and demeanor were hostile.  She was assaultive and seemed to be actively seeking a fight.  She was indeed angry and somehow viewed me as a potential target for her fury.  She and I were not alike at all.  But…

I won’t make assumptions about her home life, but I can tell you that by the time I was in middle school I had lived at 9 different addresses.  I don’t know what the composition of her family is, but I do know that I never had the good fortune to meet my own father, or a single blood relative other than my mother and brother, until I was an adult. Maybe she comes from a family with limited positive educational experiences.  My mother was limited to an 8th grade education until she was able to obtain a GED in her early 40s.  I know about Medicaid and free lunch and long afternoons spent at social services as a child.  I get it.

What I don’t get is her rage, nor her desire to inflict it upon me.  I have no intention of give up my running route, but I do hope she finds a way to exorcise her anger.

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Filed under Albany, Local, Observations

Talking smack

Seeing that we’re officially in the merry, merry month of May, it seems appropriate to talk about flowers.  Typically, we Albanians, discuss the state of the tulip beds in Washington Park at this time of the year.  Are they blooming already?  Will it be an epic Tulip Fest or more of a Stem Fest?  I can tell you this; I ran through the park last weekend and am reasonably confident that the tulips will be at peak Mother’s Day weekend and stunning.

I love tulips but there are some other flowers popping up around here that I don’t like.  In fact, I find them absolutely terrifying.  Poppies. Opiates. Heroin.

In the last week or so, I’ve heard too many stories about the impact heroin is having in our region.  Stories like these:

  • Google “heroin overdose” and “Albany” and you will return a frightening number of results, completely confirming what a professor friend who has students employed in a couple of local hospitals (Albany) has heard from them – heroin abuse and overdose are regular parts of their work day.
  • I had dinner the other night with a younger friend.  She told me she has personally lost 6 friends to heroin.  She isn’t even 25.

This is no joke.  When my high school health class teacher told me that heroin was so addictive that after a single use a person could be hooked, that was all I needed to know.  No, thanks.  It was not for me, nor for any of my closest friends, thank God.  In my life, I’ve known two heroin addicts – both thirty-something males, both smart, educated and handsome.  One of them seems to be successfully battling his addiction, the other continues to struggle.  While I was surprised to learn of the first guy’s addiction and recovery (we had worked together years prior to his addiction), the most astonishing thing, to me,  about the second man is that he is still alive.

What’s going on?  Why is heroin use so prevalent?  Here are a couple of recent news articles about the growing problem which shed some light on what has been called an “epidemic.”  It’s cheap.  It’s available.  It’s incredibly addictive.   While it may too late to nip this plague in the bud, we, as a society, need to deal with it.  Heroin is not the kind of  “flower” any of us want to see take root.

Have you seen evidence of heroin in your neighborhood?

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Filed under Albany, Local, News