Category Archives: Local

Censorship

image: anh-usa.org

It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose. The longer you live, the smaller the world becomes and the more likely it is that the individual spheres of one’s personal world will begin to overlap. Last night I helped train our new server at the Wine Bar. She is a former student. Sigh.

I obviously share a lot of my personal life and thoughts here, but it mostly feels anonymous. I don’t really know who reads this stuff and thus am often surprised when I meet someone in real life who knows about me or my adventures and antics. I do think, though, that I’ve done a decent job of keeping my day time school life separate from my night-time restaurant life. Until yesterday, that is.

I kind of pride myself about being ‘Me” wherever I am. That doesn’t mean, though, that I necessarily am comfortable being my blunt and sometimes bawdy self behind the bar with a young woman who used to attend the school where I teach. Must I now censor myself?

As I consider what I can  and can not say while in the presence of a former student, why don’t you take a moment to ponder the First Amendment and the right to free speech on a literary level?  Next weeks marks the  American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week.  While I figure out the best way to say what I want, you can maybe read a book by authors who have used their words to freely express themselves.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Lark Street, Local, Schools

Red light, green light, one-two-three

Did you play that game when you were a kid?  We usually alternated between Red Light and Mother, May I? on autumn evenings which grew more quickly dark as each day passed.  They were fun games to play during times, which I recall as, much more simple than today.  No batteries or cords necessary.

These days, I run for fun.  Unfortunately, negotiating my way around the streets of Albany isn’t always fun.  I play a different game now – Green light, red light, one-two-three.  Are you familiar with it?  It’s where you watch the light cycle through from green to yellow to red and then count “1, 2, 3″ before approaching the intersection.  If you fail to follow the rules, like the scofflaw driver blowing through the red light, you’re likely to get run over.  Really.

There isn’t a single time I’ve been out getting some miles in, when I haven’t observed drivers running red lights.  It is no joke.  I can appreciate the frustration with Albany’s lights which sometimes seemed timed expressly for making me late for my destination.  I get it.  But, seriously?  Is it really going to be worth running a person or animal over?  Drivers in Albany really need to drink a big old mug of slow the f*ck down.

Red light cameras are controversial and considered by some to be invasive, but I truly believe their value in potentially protecting lives exceeds their threat to privacy. Folks are concerned that the company which will be monitoring the cameras will be aggressively doling out tickets because they are a for-profit entity. So? Don’t run red lights and it will cost you nothing.

Albany is a fine place to live.  We have invested in schools and libraries and crosswalks.  There are cool new places to shop and eat and our mayor is committed to the arts.  Wouldn’t it be great if families felt comfortable moving into our city because they knew that public safety was a genuine priority?  I’m all for quality of life tickets a la Giuliani, jaywalking, bike riding in the wrong direction on the streets, drivers failing to respect pedestrians in crosswalks and red light runners.  Give them a warning then give them a ticket.  If the ticket comes from a camera monitored traffic light, give them the picture, too.  It’ll last longer, right?

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Filed under Albany, Local, News, Observations, politics, running, upstate New York

Labor Day – sunshine and duck butts

After a summer spent working and vacationing, I elected to spend this holiday weekend, quietly at home. Friday night I ate al fresco at The Cheese Traveler, devouring my burger and merely indicating yes or no with the motion of my head. So good! Saturday, following a run, I ate at Mingle’s bar very much enjoying my salad and paella, along with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Sunday was a day for leftovers and binging on Orange is the New Black with a side order of tennis. It was definitely a lazy weekend, other than for Jeter who spent quality time each day at the Normanskill Dog Park.

Today needed to be different. I needed to burn some energy in the hopes that I would get a good night’s sleep tonight and feel fresh for tomorrow’s back to school activities. I decided that today was the perfect day to give paddle boarding a try – weather, opportunity, mood, it all added up and so, I hit the highway for Saratoga County’s Kayak Shack. I had a Living Social deal, bought earlier this summer for $20, which gave me 3 hours of paddle boarding for two. I was solo (do you think the businesses in receipt of deals for 2 being redeemed by only 1, tsk tsk silently and sympathetically?), which provided me lots of time to focus on keeping my balance, something of which I really need to remain cognizant in a general sort of way.

So, what was it like? I loved it! I had no issue getting on my board and moving from kneeling to standing. There was a strong current, with an accompanying wind, which made my trip out quite an exertion. It is a real abdominal workout, which I welcomed.  Seems like I’ve taken a few shots to the gut recently and any assistance in keeping that area defensively taut is welcome.  For every 4 or 5 strokes on the left side of the board, I had to take a dozen on the right side to remain on a semi-straight path. There were a couple of moments when I absolutely wobbled and fought to maintain my balance, usually when I neglected to pay attention to what was going on in the water around me. I dumped once, but welcomed the refreshing dunk in the lake and had no issue climbing back on board. Literally.

Here’s what I found kind of interesting – I grew up in lake community and feel like I have some experience with boating, be it from my teen years waterskiing or my brief time spent sweep rowing/sculling. Today, I discovered fairly quickly that motor boaters had no real regard for paddlers. There were all sorts of instances when a boat’s wake provided an experience similar to what one would find in a wave pool. It was mostly ok, but I still felt a bit irritated by the lack of respect for those of us with a paddle rather than a throttle in our hand.

I booked along at a pretty good clip as I worked to raise my heart rate and turn my fun into a true workout. The shore on both sides was marshy with leaves threatening to begin changing colors and tons of ducks greedily going bottoms up as they munched on some delicacy underwater. I paddled to a wider part in the water where things really started to feel a bit like the Wild West with motorboats and kayaks and stand up paddle boards chaotically strewn across the water. I grew up in a town filled with cowboys, but we had more of a sense of water traffic regs than most of the people I encountered today.

Bottom line – it was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. If anyone wants to give it a try some weekend before the water grows too cold to be described as invigorating, let me know. I’d love to go back.

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Filed under Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Exercise, ideas, Local, Normanskill, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, Summer, upstate New York

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

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