…not the gifts. Although, they’re lovely and thoughtful and it can be so fun to unwrap surprise packages. Most of the time, that is. But, when all is said and done, it is truly all about the people with whom we are lucky enough to spend time.
For countless years, I feel as if I have had the best birthday ever, each year. How incredible is that? I’ve said it before, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it remains true – I am a simple person. I do appreciate daily luxuries like great soap and delicious coffee or a pair of Frye boots that I can wear for 20 years. But, truly, stuff isn’t all that important to me however, people…well, now you’re talking.
Friday night my favorite running friends spent the evening easing me into my birthday weekend. We laughed and ran under a big moon, and talked. Then we cleaned up, went out and toasted our strength, our good health, our years of life.
We were joined by one of my oldest friends, a woman who I have been fortunate enough to grow up with for the last 30+ years. She had driven nearly two hours to be with me as I made the joyful leap into a new year. We shared memories and hugs and laughter.
Our designated driver took us to Wolff’s Biergarten and even indulged my whim to go to a second spot, not because I needed another drink, but because I just didn’t want the night to end. The contribution he made to my perfect night should not be minimized. There was thoughtfulness, care and love, none of which can be presented in a package, no matter the size. Me, the reputed “difficult to take care of,” had been thoroughly taken care of.
The merging of three different areas of my life, the active, the established and the emotional was the perfect way to close out my 46th year and herald a new year of living. No bow or wrapping required.
What are you doing October 5th? Nothing? Well, I’ve got a couple of ideas for you to consider. First – there’s the Komen Race for the Cure. This annual event is a fundraiser for breast cancer research and, although I haven’t participated, I’ve always heard the vibe is incredibly positive and empowering. Maybe get some friends together and do the run or the walk?
I would have loved to have accepted the invitation I received this year to join a team, but I already had made a commitment to volunteering to help out at Wolff’s Biergarten’s 4th annual Oktoberfest downtown. And, you know what? So can you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to lend a hand (the one which isn’t holding a stein) at one of the best parties of the year. There will be music, food, dachshund races and a selection of beers which would make my Opa weep.
Last year’s weather left a little something to be desired, but Matt promised that if I wear an authentic, low-cut dirndl the sun will shine! (Actually, he never said that at all. It is a conversation which occurred completely in my own head.). Whatever – put a sweater on, if necessary and get yourself there. It’s going to be wunderbar!
Sunday evening I trucked it up to Saratoga to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Believe me, the drive did not compare to the time a group of us traveled via bus and maybe (?) train from groovy Greenwood Lake to the Nassau Coliseum to see the very same band. Yep, I’m an old school TP fan and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for these guys since they were my first arena rock and roll show – 1981, Brendan Byrne Arena.
As always, the band played with heart and humor. Tom Petty made just the right amount of anecdotal commentary with the crowd and played a great mix of old and new(er) tunes. As expected, he closed with American Girl, a song which remains a favorite of mine despite the whole Silence of the Lambs connection. His lyrics aren’t often cited as poetic, but he does have a plain directness in speaking which manages to convey emotions pretty effectively. It was a fun show and my date, who coincidentally (or fatefully?!?) had attended a show from that very same 1981 tour, was the perfect partner for the night’s adventure, an adventure which ultimately ended at the Schenectady County Airport with some gawking at Tom Petty’s private jet.
Sounds like an awesome night, yes? Well, let me share a couple of my complaints with you…
The ticket prices were outrageous. $50 for a lawn seat is pretty damn obscene when you’re spending your night breathing in secondhand tobacco smoke and dodging drunks who are literally falling down. It seems there’s no benefit in pricing the tickets high, assuming that’s an effort to keep the riffraff out. Maybe not over-serving the crowd would be a good idea? It is rather remarkable that folks manage to get so totally inebriated when beers are priced between $9-12 each. I suppose one might as well drink alcohol because paying $4.50 for a 20 oz bottle of Dasani water is no bargain. If you get drunk enough, you would have a hope of forgetting where all your hard-earned money went, I guess. I realize that my first concert was a long time ago, but the price of tickets and refreshments (don’t get me started on the merch!) certainly seems out of whack with the general state of inflation.
Come on, SPAC/Live Nation give me a break – otherwise you won’t be seeing this face in the crowd.
A big part of traveling, for me at least, is the food. I’ve seen some stuff written recently about Michelin starred restaurants in Germany, but that wasn’t what this trip was about. No, this time with family was more focused on home-style cooking a la Deutschland.
Wandering around Freiburg’s Munsterplatz earned us a delicious sausage sandwich from Meister’s food truck. Topped with beautifully browned onions and a dab of mustard, it was the perfect snack to tide us over until dinner. Next time I’m in Germany I hope to schedule an entire day in Freiburg eating, beginning with strong coffee and pretzel rolls smeared with unsalted butter. I hope to make lunch a leisurely enough event that it will effortlessly flow into the evening’s repast. I think the best way to accomplish this lofty goal would be to begin at the Munsterplatz’s food trucks with some version of wurst, washed down, naturally, with a fine hefeweizen or two.
For dinner, I plan to wander down to the Markthalle (food court) and sample as many different offerings as humanly possible. ”Food court” is a bit of a misnomer because this place is nothing like what you might find at Crossgates.
If the broom is out, they’re open!
It’s more like a German version of the restaurants at Eataly except the individual kiosks are each independent and devoted to an eclectic array of international cuisines. There are tables and central gathering spots where one can enjoy a bite to eat and/or a drink and there is a bustling sense of activity akin to that of a bee hive. That’s where I want to be.
Unless, of course, I’ve got wheels and get a little outside of the city and find a Straussen or Broom restaurant. We hit one of these last month in the Markgrafler wine region and thoroughly enjoyed the meal, the local wine and the cozy makeshift dining room in the winery’s tasting room. I had the Flammkuchen and it was delicious – and perfect with the local wine! Flammkuchen, or fire cake, is sort of like a pizza, but instead of tomato sauce, the top is spread with some sort of creamy yumminess. I had mine with diced veggies and it was a satisfying yet not too heavy dinner.
All this food talk and I still haven’t shared any images of our traditional Black Forest breakfasts…until I get to it, imagine plates holding meats and cheeses accompanied by a basket of freshly baked breads and rolls. Yes, save that thought and trust me, morning was definitely not anything to dread.
Sadly enough, I did not run when I was in Europe. Nope (or should I say “nein?), not even once. I did get some quality exercise walking good distances nearly every day, but my greatest exercise may have come from pacing myself when it came to beer and wine consumption. I wrote about getting exercise while on the road here.
Regrettably, I did not take a turn riding the mechanical bull, but more than 50 people did last Saturday at a super fun event at the City Beer Hall. Check out the photos here. The team representing The Standard restaurant stood out in my mind as the ones to beat, if only for their matching t-shirts and lively personalities. What a terrific fundraiser for The Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany! Keep your eyes open for this event to be repeated next year and start practicing with that thigh master machine you keep stored under the bed. It’ll help.
A fun couple who spent their honeymoon last year in Munich!
One of my sons asked me the other day who drinks more beer, the Irish or the Germans. Being the product of a German mother and an Irish father makes me an authority in his eyes, I suppose. My best answer was it depends what month of the year it is – and October belongs to the Germans.
Yesterday was the 4th annual North Albany Oktoberfest which is an awesome block party orchestrated by Matt Baumgartner and an array of participants and volunteers. It was my first time attending (I worked Saturdays for years and was unavailable for carousing at noon) and I absolutely loved the scene! There was a constant stream of bands, games that involved diverse skills such as goal scoring and boot drinking, entertainers, a variety of traditional German foods and dirndls and lederhosen. Oh – and dachshund races! Ya vol!
I generally identify as more Irish than German, but place me at an event like this and I get all “danke” and “bitte” as the long forgotten language of my childhood floats around in my brain on a puddle of beer. My German efficiency reared its kopf during my volunteer shift as I placed wristbands on attendees, snapped photos for the Times Union SEEN gallery* and managed to sample some bier from Wolff’s, all while trying to stay reasonably warm and dry on a windy and damp October day. With the promise of a hot bath in a clean tub to follow, I managed to rise to the challenge and I am so glad I was able to be a klein part of a super fun day.
A couple of random observations from my afternoon…
- That wheat beer that Matt gave me was deliciously strong. One was definitely the right number for me.
- The Mac and cheese from Wolff’s was kick ass good. Perfect to warm a body up on a rather dank day.
- Matt’s new enterprise, Sciortino’s Pizzeria, looks awesome! The diner is sparkling clean and filled with
personal, family touches. I’m sure the Browns are thrilled to see their former space treated with such care and
attention. And the tomato pie and chocolate cake looks crazy good!
- The crowd was upbeat, fun and self controlled – a great combination of characteristics for any large event.
- The Irish and Germans must be equally smart to have both chosen 31 day long months to celebrate their
* My photos are mixed in with another freelancer’s, Diana Hawkins.