Most of the art that hung on the beautiful brick walls of Lark + Lily was curated by Ken Ragsdale. His connections in the artist community provided me the opportunity to display some truly special work. Ken did a wonderful job selecting pieces and he exposed me to numerous artists whom I’d never known before. To say he was discerning would be an understatement, and from all of the artists who approached either of us seeking to display work, Ken opted to accept work from only one – Ritvik Sharma. There was just something about his watercolors that fit the space, captured a moment and simply belonged.
When I sold Lark + Lily, Ritvik came collect his work and I decided to purchase one. I selected the image below because I loved his depiction of the Capitol with the addition of an imagined farmer’s market on the west lawn. The lines are simple, the palette pleasing and I knew it would make a wonderful addition to my collection.
A few days later, I had an unprecedented idea – perhaps Ritvik would do a commission piece for me. Now, before you think I’m some kind of high flying art patron, get real. I’ve never done (or imagined doing) this ever before and was completely uncertain how to proceed. So, I emailed Ritvik and asked him if he would consider taking on the task. I sent him a photo of what I was hoping for and he quoted a very, very reasonable price and proceeded in a remarkably short amount of time to create the image below for me.
I couldn’t have been happier with the result and am thrilled to have Lark + Lily in a place of honor in my living room. If you are seeking a unique and special piece of art, I highly recommend Ritvik. He’s a wonderful artist and a really nice man. Support the arts, people. They provide beauty in a world that sometimes feels as if it is full of ugliness.
My time as a restaurant owner provided me with some wonderful memories, a banging wine cellar and a collection of Albany-centric art. Not a bad take away really. I’ve finally hung the pieces I collected and couldn’t be happier with how they look on my walls. There are photographs, prints, a fine pencil drawing and a couple of watercolors and they’re a wonderful, tangible reminder of a chapter of my life that I was fortunate enough to experience.
First up, and apologies in advance for the less than stellar photo, is this incredible sketch of the interior of 200 Lark St. When I asked my friend, Ken Ragsdale, to do my required schematic for my liquor license application I had no idea that I would have this wonderfully detailed framed architectural drawing. It hung in a spot of honor at Lark + Lily and always garnered a tremendous amount of attention and I’m proud to have it now in my home.
The photos below were given to me by the remarkable Albert Gnidica, the man who is everywhere judging from the photos he posts on social media. I’m a fan of his work, particularly his skyline photos of downtown Albany, and I had these two mounted and framed locally. They did a really nice job and the photos looked great in the restaurant and equally good now in my living room.
A map of Albany’s neighborhoods is an image that evokes a few different emotions for me. I originally bought it at the Fort Orange General Store and was thrilled to see that the artist had included DelSo as one of the neighborhoods. Amazing, right? After popping the print into a frame and hanging it in one of the restrooms in L+L, where it perfectly covered an unsightly hole in the wall, it suffered some graffiti. Someone decided to take a black pen and, for reasons I’ll never know, attempted to scratch out DelSo. I was able to wipe it off, but it does make me a little sad sometimes when I think about what might motivate a person to do something like that. You can order one for yourself here. I think I want shirt.
This print, though, can cure any melancholia I might be feeling. I won it at Champagne on the Park’s silent auction and it is the last thing I see when I walk out of my house. I don’t knows how about art, but it feels kind of deco and the colors and depictions of Albany’s landmarks are joyful. Lee Dixon, the artist and graphic designer is a super nice guy and I’ve often seen his works for sale at local art events. He’s also done some awesome postcards that I’ve seen at Elissa Halloran’s shop on Lark Street.
Stay tuned for Picturing Albany – Part II
The Washington Post had an interesting article last month about the prevalence of marijuana smoke in our country’s capital now that recreational marijuana use has been legalized. The aroma of marijuana is unexpectedly filling the air in neighborhoods considered to be conservative, places like Georgetown and “even in the suburbs of Bethesda.” The writer interviews a number of residents and there’s a lot of wondering about who these pot smokers are – have they been smoking weed all these years secretly? Where? Who are they? Pot smokers have come out of the proverbial closet to enjoy lighting up without shame or fear of prosecution. In a country that is increasingly decriminalizing marijuana consumption, some might call it progress.
When I originally read that story, I immediately thought of the increased occurrences of Americans spewing racist, bigoted, misogynistic and homophobic beliefs since Donald Trump became a resident of the White House.* Violent, self-perceived victims have crawled out of the swamps and woods and from under the rocks where they’ve been hiding to flaunt their Nazi ideology and inflict damage upon those who reject their philosophy. What happened this weekend in Charlottesville is directly related to the principles of our current administration and while these domestic terrorists weren’t literally given consent to act upon their twisted and often downright evil beliefs, the leader of our country has tacitly with his policies (immigration, LGBT, permitted police response) deemed their actions as acceptable.
Well, you know what? It isn’t acceptable. It isn’t civilized. It isn’t what our country is about and it will not be swallowed like a hit from a bong. Demonstrate your lack of acceptance of Neo-Nazism TODAY, Sunday, August 13th at 5:00 at Townsend Park. Get fired up and be there.
*See what I did here? I just can’t refer to him as the President.
Seeing that I have a couple of races next month, running this 10 miler seemed like a good idea when I impulsively registered for it on Thursday. Of course, I haven’t run as much recently as I would have liked and I had a ladies night out with drinks and nosh at dp’s and Mama Mia at Cap Rep last night…whatever. I was in.
I woke up this morning cold. Last night’s rain really made things feel chilly this morning and getting dressed to run was a little challenging. I settled on a skort,* tank and long sleeved pullover, which I ditched immediately prior to the race. Foolishly, I neglected to bring any nutrition, a bandana to keep the sweat out of my eyes or my Camelback. This is what happens when I don’t pack a bag in advance, dumbass. (That’s me talking to myself, btw.)
The conditions were pretty much ideal with clouds preventing too much sun and fairly mild temps in the lower 70s. We began (and finished) at an elementary school, but wove through a few neighborhoods and some lovely rural areas as well. I had no idea what to expect from the course and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too hilly. There was a beast of a hill somewhere around mile 7, but I made it to the top of that one with the encouragement of a few ladies who opted to walk up it. All I needed was that “Don’t stop!” and I mustered up the will to get to the top. Too bad they weren’t behind me when I hit a wall during the 10th mile. That last damn mile did me in!
I was home by 10:30 and would definitely consider running this one again. I love a small race that supports a good cause and Castleton is super close. It was a good morning.
*skort is one of my least favorite words, but I do like to run in one.
One of the most appealing things about Charleston is the food scene. It is very much a happening thing. There are an insane number of restaurants and the trend, like in many other places, is all about local products. This translates to lots of shrimp and crab, fresh produce and, of course, barbecue. In advance of my recent visit, other than a culinary tour for my first afternoon, I didn’t make any reservations for meals preferring instead to be spontaneous. See? I’m working on that, friends.
Here are my five favorite meals:
Look at those grits!
My warm cinnamon roll.
- Breakfast at Hen and the Goat.* I found this place on Yelp and it sounded promising. What it actually was, though, was fantastic. It’s one of those places where you order at the counter and take a number to your table for food delivery. I ordered the Bill Murray – 2 eggs, ham, salsa, with cheese grits subbed for the home fries and a side of avocado because a girl needs her vegetables. The eggs were scrambled soft as requested and the grits were the best I’ve ever had – creamy, cheesy with zero grittiness. The ham was a tad salty for my taste, so I left some on the plate and rewarded myself with a cinnamon roll which was So Damn Good. Charleston and I were off to a good start.
That’s a half order.
Super fresh fruit bowl.
- Next up – another breakfast out. This meal was my reward for an 11 mile bike ride to Folly Beach. Lost Dog Cafe had been recommended by my AirBandB host and I’ve got to say, he’s got good taste. The place was popping when I arrived but I nabbed a seat at the bar and was well taken care of. I had a half order of biscuits with sausage gravy and a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit. It was simple food, well prepared and exactly what I wanted. Well, almost exactly. I really wanted to try one of their heralded cinnamon rolls, you know, for scientific reasons, but I just couldn’t justify consuming another baked good. I should have eaten it – I still had an 11 mile bike ride home!
Simple and perfect.
- One of my goals was to eat seafood and my friend Dora, from Fin, had spoken highly of 167 Raw on East Bay. The wait for a seat for one was about 45 minutes, but the time passed quickly with a nice Cremant and social fellow waiters. I was eventually seated next to another solo diner, Natalie from Brooklyn, and we spent a really nice hour or so chatting and slurping. I completely enjoyed my array of oysters, a second glass of wine and the conversation.
Pretty, right? Also pretty hard to eat!
A salad with a grilled peach? Yes, please!
- S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad) had been recommended by a number of people and I can understand why. It’s a pretty spot in an old warehouse with a nice bar, open kitchen and lots of windows facing the bustling street. I made my way here for a light dinner (an appetizer and a salad) at the bar and thought the food was really good. My single complaint was the attractive, yet highly impractical presentation of my crab, shrimp, avocado, heirloom tomato cocktail. Eating it delicately at the bar was a pain in the ass. Maybe I should have requested a fish fork? I don’t know, I just wanted to dump it all onto a plate. Call me a cretin.
I pretty much ate everything on this tray…
- When the chef you work for tells you to go to a barbecue spot, you go. That’s how I found myself at Swig & Swine, a place that takes bar-b-q to a new level. The menu was a little intimidating with the meats sold by the half pound, but I took a minute and determined that ordering a brisket sandwich without bread was my best move. In place of bread, I added a second side selecting mac and cheese and cole slaw to accompany my beef. Damn, this place was fantastic. It was easily the tastiest, most tender brisket I’ve ever had and the sides were equally memorable. Their beer and bourbon selections were pretty impressive, too. I love a place that takes their work seriously, but retains a sense of humor and this spot definitely did that with their t-shirts proclaiming that they’ve been “Horrifying vegetarians since 2013.” Cool spot.
*This was the only place I made it to twice. Here’s the avocado toast (with an added fried egg or two) I thoroughly enjoyed when I stopped in for my second meal. Isn’t it beautiful?
Micro greens with a purpose – they really added to the dish.
- Five hours and two quick flights later, it is possible to be parking your rental car on King Street.
- My curls look best when my hair is dirty and salt water and sand are my chosen hair products.
- Charleston has far more liberals than I expected. There were even Bernie stickers!
- Where to eat and where they worship are two things shared frequently by residents.
- Speaking of where to eat, grits, biscuits, cinnamon rolls and mac and cheese would be my downfall eventually. I’m a carb girl.
- I can change my clothes in a car like a boss.
- The humidity in Charleston in August is a whole ‘nother level. I hope I remember this when we get hit here in Albany by elevated levels of heat and humidity.
- Downtown Charleston is beautifully compact and so very walkable.
- It’s a swamp – not a criticism, just an observation. There is water everywhere.
- Dining out, going to listen to music and having a drink solo is far preferable to not getting to do those things because you’re traveling without company.
- Life is satisfying when what you feel on the inside is radiating out for people to take note of. Case in point, this message from my AirBandB host:
I was so thrilled to see all the ways in which you discovered Charleston! You totally amazed us with your level of independence. Loved it!
One of the roads taken on this trip.
Do you ever have a day or two or three when it feels like you must be doing something right in your life? I mean, how else can you accept the good fortune that you’re experiencing? It almost makes a person believe that old adage about how if you’re happy inside, you’re happy everywhere you are. There’s no other way to explain the feeling of loving everywhere you go.
This trip has been remarkable. As I sat facing the charm of Rainbow Row, I had a hard time processing how lucky I’ve been in Charleston. The rain cooperated and only came at times that had no bearing at all on my activities. That’s saying something considering it rained 3 of my 5 days there. The people I’ve talked to have been friendly, the drinks cold and the food terrific. I scored parking each time I needed to and only hit legitimate traffic once – and that was on a draw bridge. It couldn’t have been a better solo trip.
You know, I didn’t grow up expecting to ever be in a position where I could indulge my itch to travel. I’ve come a long way since my first trip to Florida with one of my dearest friend’s family when I had $50 in my pocket, and that only because my brother gave it to me as I left our house. Along the way I learned to travel inexpensively, meals from grocery stores and delis, low budget accommodations, lots of self guided walking tours…you get it. It was good practice and I learned a lot.
Memories were made and I’m heading home with what feels like a new piece in place in my life’s mosaic. What’s your next destination?
“So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry”
– Jack Kerouac