Category Archives: Local

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

Sipping from Siro’s Cup

With Dominick and Carolyn Purnomo.                            Photo by Joe Putrock, Special to the times Union.

Last night I attended my first Saratoga “event,” the 21st Annual Newton Plaza Siro’s Cup.  I was thoughtfully included in a friend’s group and during a very busy week, it was the thing for which I was most excited.  What to wear? Could I forsake peer comfort with foot comfort and wear flats? Accessories were key and I wanted to feel put together from head (day 2 hair, flat ironed and sprayed) to toes (freshly pedicured in a gorgeous shade of pastel sea foam).  I knew I needed to feel confident in my appearance and went with a whole Goddess of Reading look.  I think it worked.

The showers through which I had driven in Albany had completely disappeared and the air in Saratoga was fresh and comfortable.  The fancy cars, Maserartis, Rolls Royces and my dream car, a 2 door Porsche, were parked on display and the whole thing felt about as swanky as you can get when you’re essentially walking barefoot from your own wagon parked in a grassy field.

Inside the party there was an almost overwhelming sense of stimulation.  People were ON.  The multiple bars set up attracted what seemed to be the most outgoing cliques of friend – there was a definite (and deserved) sense of holding court.  The clothes, the makeup, the hair…there was so much to absorb.  Fashion-wise, it seemed that anything went.  Naturally, there were Nantucket Reds, seersucker and linen adorning the guys and dresses in every length and color on the women.  There was a lot of jewelry, along with a fair amount of serious suntan.

A constantly flowing river of attendees were carried on a current of cocktails. People seemed happy and there were many outbursts of laughter to be heard.  The “first party of the season” feel to it made for an excellent vibe.  It was fun.  I loved seeing my favorite Pirate Girl and am so psyched the she has taken up residence for the season, like the ballet or the writers of Yaddo.  There were other hospitality folks there – the generation II Purnomos, Matt Baumgartner, Michael Cocca.  It was nice to see them being on the receiving end of hospitality for a change.

Many familiar faces were in the crowd.  I mean, I’ve worked in local restaurants for long time and have probably served thousands of people. I had a couple of moments, though, of feeling mildly out of place amongst a crowd who have far more lucrative investments than merely budgeting carefully and buying consigned clothes.  A couple of times I greeted attendees I knew from one restaurant or another and I wasn’t recognized without giving my name or context.  Do I look that different?  Am I invisible as a server?  Have I gained weight?*  Am I aging poorly? It was a little awkward to navigate.

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

The scene, though, was captivating.  I could have walked, marveling under the star-filled sky, for even longer, but my belly demanded food and I don’t like eating standing up.  I headed to 15 Church and got exactly what I was looking for – something delicious and indulgent to eat and sip and the welcome of friends I’ve worked with over the years.  I wish Saratoga was closer.

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

*no charge for that peek inside my head.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Events, Food, friends, Local, Restaurants, Saratoga, Summer, Wine

The berry best

berriesYou know how, as a parent, you want your child(ren) to eat well and appreciate simple pleasures?  We work to expose them to flavors and provide them with options when it comes to satisfying their appetites as well as their curiosity about what things taste like, and where they come from.  Well, there is no better time to do that than now – it’s strawberry season and nothing will teach your kid faster about the superiority of fresh local produce than some time spent in a field picking (and eating) berries.

All over Albany did a great post last week summarizing many of the options available in the Capital District for picking your own berries.  On Saturday, Quinn and I headed out to Altamont Orchards and quickly picked three quarts of juicy fruit.  We were prepared with our own containers (not too deep because the berries will crush under their own weight), sunscreen and clothing we wouldn’t mind becoming stained from the berry juice.  The drive took a little longer than I had expected, but Quinn’s company pretty much entertained me the entire way.  Note: the pick-your-own fields are not located in the same location as the farm stand/market.  Call for clarification if you plan to head out there.

 I wish I had the words to describe how amazingly delicious that first berry I popped into my mouth was…warm from the sun, succulent, juicy, sweet…it tasted so different from a supermarket berry that it isn’t accurate to call them both the same name.  When my middle son sampled a couple of berries after we got home, he asked “How come they make the ones in the store taste so different?”  I’ve got no answer for that, just a suggestion for him – eat as many of these as you can because the season is way too short.  I guess we could take that advice about living in general, right?

For three fine mornings I enjoyed berries in my cereal and with my waffles.  Jeter, who is inclined to sit at my feet when he sees me slicing strawberries, also appreciated the berries which I shared with him.  We’ve got a quart of cleaned berries in the freezer at the ready for smoothie-making and I’m trying to figure out a way to get back to the fields this coming weekend.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Filed under Boys, family, Local, Recommendations, Summer

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