Category Archives: Albany

7 years without a raise is too long

image: qlik.com

Those of you who know me are familiar with my tendency to become irritated or even outraged over injustices.  When something bothers me, I am inclined to obsess about it or reference it repeatedly to draw attention to it.

We’re at a moment in time when there are an overwhelming number of things occurring in our world which I find outrageous or offensive or heartbreaking.  African girls being abducted, children dying in the sands of the Middle East, unarmed Black men being killed by the authorities in the Midwest, a beloved actor not able to love himself…these are some dark times.

Who do you look to for information about events like these?  For me, Twitter has become the spot to which I go first.  Within minutes I can get perspectives from dozens of sources, some of whom are affiliated with or representing print publications. I don’t necessarily have to subscribe to a newspaper because I can follow a writer.  Things have changed.

In the past couple of years, I’ve done some work for the Albany Times Union.  I shoot photos for some of their Seen galleries and had a writing gig that actually came with compensation.  I ended my relationship with Moms at Work following many months of being expected to do the work of two “Moms” but being paid for only one.  No, thank you. Because this was an income that was supplementary, I was in a position to simply walk away.  But what if that wasn’t my situation?

Each time I am subjected to evidence of the Hearst family’s generosity, their noblesse oblige, I feel a piece of my heart harden.  What ever happened to “charity” starting at home?  If one considers how much the price of daily essentials, things like gas, groceries, health insurance premiums, have risen in recent years, how can any employee of the Times Union sincerely celebrate the public unveiling of a new hospital wing or the purchase of a cutting edge printing press when they haven’t received a raise in 7 years?

When I browse my Twitter feed I see a lot of activity from the Schenectady Gazette – photos, articles and breaking news.  Their online presence, despite a paywall, is pretty remarkable and I find myself clicking through and reading some of their stuff even though it isn’t necessarily providing coverage of my neighborhood.  Some of the people I follow, for instance Mark McGuire, Jimmy Veilkind and Michael Janairo, once were TU newsroom employees. They, along with other writers, photographers and advertising salespeople have left the Times Union for new opportunities and, I imagine, the hopes of being better compensated for their talents and efforts.  I’m certain they are missed.

Those who remain at the Times Union, including Paul Grondahl who I consider to be the best newspaper writer in our region, continue to produce excellent copy, despite their lack of monetary appreciation.  They are professionals and as such, they continue to do their jobs writing, Tweeting and blogging, but it must be difficult to remain positive and committed to an organization which fails to reward their talents with more than lip service.

When I casually, and completely unscientifically, compare the online activity (specifically Twitter) of the TU and the Gazette I sense a difference in the level of eagerness present.  The employees of the Gazette seem to produce material which they know will be acknowledged and appreciated – both by the public and the corporation for which they work.  The Times Union folks seem to be driven to write because that is who they are – journalists, but there is also an underlying absence of  enthusiasm.  It must be hard to continue to produce, to in fact expand production to new forms of journalistic media, when one hasn’t had the benefit of a raise in 7 years.

Maybe Hearst can use that fancy press to print his employees some money – or at the least a new contract.  Shameful.

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Filed under Albany, Local, Moms@Work, News, Observations, Rant, SEEN

Baby, you can drive my car

image: stationwagonforums.com

I bought my first car when I was 20.  It was a 1973 Volkswagen wagon, a model in which the engine was still in the rear of the vehicle making the large space under the front hood a deep trunk perfect for road trips.  Sadly enough, the powder blue jalopy took me on only a single (aborted) road trip before it died, necessitating an expensive tow and the unfortunate conclusion that my newly purchased car had spent some time under water. Literally.

I didn’t venture into car ownership again for years, instead relying upon public transportation, my feet and the occasional rental car. Since buying that Ford Escort wagon (are you seeing a pattern?), I’ve pretty much always had wheels available to me, but little makes me happier than a day when I do not drive.  That’s why I live in the city, my friends.

On Friday, I needed to pick up a couple of things so off I went on foot.  I finally made it to the awesomely adorable Fort Orange General Store where I picked up a little thank you gift. I’m not a gift store sort of person, but the clean appearance of this spot is more stimulating than overwhelming and it is a treat to have such a place in the DelSo.  On my return walk, I ventured into the Asian market and scored a bottle of sweet soy sauce, a condiment with which my entire family is obsessed.  Nice to know I don’t have to drive to Central Avenue to get our fix.  My last stop was at the auto parts store to buy a replacement headlight bulb for my car.  I still haven’t put it in, because it is a bitch to do, but I’m getting there!

On Sunday I had a hankering for a burger that would not be denied.  The Capital City Gastropub was calling my name – and, quite frankly, I don’t care how much their burger costs.  Yes, it was nice to get one for half price, but seriously?  I don’t really eat burgers that often and they always make mine perfectly – uber rare, no bun, with fries served hot and well-salted.  At $15 it might seem a bit expensive, but for the quality, it’s a more than fair price.  Do you really think anyone is getting rich selling $15 burgers?

I didn’t feel like driving (especially since it was getting dark and I’m lacking a low beam!) so I grabbed my bike and headed over. Although I only had one beer, it was nice to know I could comfortably drink more since I wasn’t driving.  I sat on the patio with my bicycle in arm’s reach and completely savored my meal and the beautiful evening.  Then I hopped on my bike and “drove” home.  Beep beep’m beep beep yeah.

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Filed under Albany, biking, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Eating, Local

Urban Raid, 2014 edition

photo(173)Well, I survived it sore, but generally unscathed.  Actually, I finished a respectable 10th out of 46 in my age bracket, which is nothing to be ashamed of, I suppose.  But…

…it was really hard!  Here’s the blow-by-blow:  My wave took off at 10:35 from a different starting line than last year’s spot on State Street between the ESP and Capitol.  For 2014 we began (and finished) inside the Times Union Center, which meant that the first .75 of a mile were unrelentingly uphill.  Did I mention it was hot out and that I much prefer to run late in the evening in the dark? Yeah, that.

I muscled my way up the hill, carefully tracking who passed me and who I went by.  It wasn’t a big number in either case, but I quickly lost the ability to count anything much beyond how much further it would be until I crossed the finish line.  The first obstacles were closely spaced hurdles, which, incidentally really take the wind out of a person.  While plenty of folks did a slow step over them, you know me, I leaped like a semi-graceful deer over them quickly burning my lungs in the process.

After finally reaching Madison Ave, there was a bit of a reprieve from the leaps and hills and I enjoyed a little downhill action.  I hit the first water station and reinvigorated myself enough for the next task – carrying a sand bag up and down a bunch of steps.  The subsequent obstacles came fairly quickly and I shimmied and crawled and grunted my way through them.  There was more of the same with monkey bars to swing across and huge heavy tires to move with my favorite challenges still to come within the arena.  Within the arena – doesn’t that sound so gladiatoress?

See that bruise there?  I earned that!

See that bruise there? I earned that!

I began keeping track again of whom I was able to go around, feeling particularly gleeful when it was a man.  That minor in Women’s Studies sometimes aligns beautifully with the slightly competitive streak I normally keep in check.  I loved the knotted rope climb, despite the injured dude on the ground in front of two of the possible ropes choices, and the wall clamber and net were awesome – so fun!  The stairs and the stairs and the stairs were dizzying, but I prevailed and clocked in with an official time of 41:33, finishing 192nd of 517. Not too shabby.  How about you?  Did any of you take part in the fun and games?

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Filed under Albany, Events, Exercise, running

Don’t. Stop. Believing.

imageEvery year when it is time to drive west from wherever we happen to be on Cape Cod, I don’t want to leave. It doesn’t matter how much I miss my own home or that I already have a place booked for the following summer – I don’t want my beach time to be finished. As I approach the Sagamore Bridge I reliably feel my eyes fill with tears, which I don’t release, of course. I don’t need to further convince my kids that I’m getting soft in my middle years.

Each and every time I run through my neighborhood I witness cars running red lights. I’m not even talking about lights that are stale yellow, I mean lights that changed to red while the approaching car was at least a half block away. Red light cameras? Yes, please! People need to learn how to stop.

I am at the point in parenting when I very soon will have a household of boys who no longer indulge me by believing in any of the wonders of childhood. No tooth fairy, no Easter rabbit, no Santa Claus. All done. I’m taking a final shot later this month when my youngest and I head to a most magical place – Disney World. I’m hopeful that Quinn will be impressed by something there – the rides, the fireworks, the characters, and decide that believing is sometimes worth the suspension of reality. Dreams can still come true, right?

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Cape Cod, Local, musings, Observations, running, vacation

The speed of sound

Image: hear the sounds

One of the things I most miss about being on vacation are the sounds – the remarkable buzz of the hummingbirds, the rhythmic pounding of the waves, the echo of my running feet on the sandy road. Each of those noises reminded me that I no longer was home in the DelSo and I grew relaxed by the music created by nature.

On one of my first days back, I walked down Delaware Avenue to meet a friend near Lark Street. As I made my way past familiar storefronts and homes, there were different sounds than those of which I had recently become accustomed. Music, aggressively booming from cars, the din of traffic, teenaged girls in loudly colored skinnies talking in Spanish, and the lilt of Burmese women speaking softly to their children. The stimulation and energy caused my feet to move a bit faster as I adjusted my pace to keep up with everything going on around me.

Last night’s violent storm, complete with powerful wind, hail and driving rain, prompted a completely different symphony of sounds. There were sirens as emergency vehicles rushed to various locations, the voices of neighbors checking in on each other and sharing the conditions of their basements and the steady drone of machines pumping water into the street. That last noise was what ultimately lulled me to sleep after a soggy run through the neighborhood surveying the storm’s impact.

Sight and smell seem to be the most frequently remarked upon senses, but random sounds and noises are equally powerful reminders of where we are and where we’ve been. Are there noises that particularly resonant for you? How did Tuesday evening’s storm sound out your way?

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Local, musings, Observations, vacation

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