Category Archives: Albany

When Pollyanna met Polly

The summer after I moved into the house I currently live in, my neighbor, knowing that I would be seeking a position as a school librarian, offered to introduce me to someone who might be able to help. He offered to take me for a ride to go meet a woman who purportedly had some influence with the school district. Her name was Polly Noonan. I had no idea who she was, but my ignorance made her no less interesting on the afternoon she and I met.

I had lived in Albany for about 7 years or so, but my local history knowledge was pretty weak. I had learned a little bit about politics, mostly while serving politicians and lobbyists at either PD. Ladd’s or the original Yono’s, and what I learned took away more than a little of my idealism. I became acquainted with  who the major players were locally at the time – Jim Coyne, Tom Whalen, Jerry Jennings as an upstart and the Breslin and McEneny clans, but I had real no depth. Corning was just a tower to me. And cheap plates, of course.

On a sunny day, George and I climbed into his Ford sedan and drove over to Polly’s house. I’m sure it was arranged in advance with a phone call, but I wasn’t privy to that. We just drove up and Polly met us and welcomed us into her home. Twenty plus years later, what I most remember is an exchange we eventually had prompted by a painting on her wall.

The painting, an oil as I recall, was of a beautiful Siberian husky dog. Being a dog person and not really understanding how this dynamo of an old woman with a gravely voice was going to land me a job, I asked if it were her dog. She squawked back at me with “yes,” and then continued to say that Jack had given her the dog as a puppy. Jack Kennedy, that is. The puppy had come from a litter that had originated with a dog that had been given to President Kennedy directly from Khrushchev. Yes, that Khrushchev.

I’m certain my eyes were wide, as she matter of factly related her deceased dog’s lineage. This woman who lived in a simple house remarkably close to the thruway, (and as I’ve come to learn, near Corning Hill in Glenmont), deserved a deeper look.

Since that day I’ve told this story a dozen times, maybe even to you. It’s one of my favorite memories connected to my former neighbor, who I continue to miss years after his passing. Reflecting on it, I think it may have been the exact moment that I first began looking at Albany as being an interesting place with lively history, rather than merely a location for a good quality life at an affordable price.

I didn’t receive a job in the Albany school district, but since that day, I have gotten quite an education about my adopted beloved city. I now know stories about Albany and I find it to be a fascinating little city. Thanks, Polly.

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Filed under Albany, Education, Local, Observations, politics, Schools, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Celebrate yourself – like a grand dame

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From one grand dame to another…

It’s Wednesday and I’m almost recovered from a fairly epic weekend. I understand that people sometimes have complicated feelings about birthdays, or maybe more specifically aging, but my philosophy is that each one is to be honored and celebrated. You know that Pink Floyd lyric about “shorter of breath and one day closer to death,” right? Well, the way I see it, each birthday that passes is one less that I get to commemorate and I don’t want to waste a single one.

Here’s a recap for you to maybe take inspiration from –

● A hair appointment after work. A little pampering is the perfect way to fill the gap between school and dinner, I think. Maybe you do something similar?

● Dinner at a favorite spot with a favorite person – or two, as the case may be. When our cozy table for two was crashed by a third, it just made the evening more festive. Perfect doesn’t always appear exactly as what we may have planned.

Lark Fest – at least on the early side when I was there, was a fun time. I love when the street is closed to traffic and wandering around checking out booths and eating yummy food is always a win-win.

● Taking a run to work off the eggplant and red wine from the previous night and to prep for the evening of…

● Dancing at June Farms’ 80s Dance Party. What a blast! This has quickly become one of my favorite places to spend time, especially when I’m lucky enough to be with good friends, which has been the case every single time I’ve been there.

● A Sunday morning 5K expanded to a 7+ mile run with the Luna B*tches. It was a beautiful morning to participate in a great local race.

● Some time spent with the New York Times and my youngest son before heading to…

● Saratoga Springs and the Outlaw Festival with two of my oldest friends. I haven’t seen SPAC full like that in a long time and wish I had a chance to connect with all of the folks I knew were there, but it just wasn’t possible.

● My favorite pastry and coffee combo on Monday morning before the drive south.

● An afternoon massage to work out that knot in my right piriformus/IT band.

● Dinner on New Scotland Avenue with my son to take advantage of their Restaurant Week.

● A hot bath & bed.

Was it indulgent? Yes. Did I feel special? Absolutely. Is this something that is possible every single year? No way, but in a month that also includes 2 funerals and a wake, I won’t apologize for how I spent my weekend. Life is short, friends. There’s only so much time to work on becoming a legend to your future grandchildren. You’d better get busy!

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, breakfast, concerts, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, relationships, running, Saratoga, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Getting bent at Fort Orange Brewing

September, with its temperatures that can swing 40 degrees in 48 hours, is flying by. If I look at my calendar too far ahead, I get palpitations, so I’m trying to be in the moment as much as possible. I don’t want to miss anything in my haste to get through a month that is chock full of events and activities. Yoga helps.

When it comes to my practice, I’m happy to take a variety of classes. Fortunately, The Hot Yoga Spot is always upping their game and offering classes in cool new locations – like June Farms or, as I experienced Sunday, the Warehouse District’s Fort Orange Brewing.

Class (approximately 60 minutes) was a total bargain at $12, including a beer. I arrived about 10 minutes early and grabbed a spot in the rear, away from the open garage door that faced the street. Our instructor was terrific – her voice projected well and despite a lack of mirrors, her vocal cues kept us all engaged and focused.

Although I’ve probably been guided through chaturanga to upward dog dozens and dozens of times, something clicked for me during yesterday’s practice. I finally, while in plank, shifted my body forward before bending my arms and the flow was completely different. It felt awesome. Today, my arms and shoulders feel tender, a sensation that I welcome as evidence of my need to use those particular muscles more frequently.  The cool evening also provides me with the ideal excuse to take an indulgent bath. Win-win.

I’ll be stretching those traps and triceps again this Saturday at the 2nd annual Yogapalooza. See you there?

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Filed under Albany, beer, Brunch, drinking, Events, Exercise, favorites, Local, Recommendations, sunday, yoga

Albany XXX

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Amsterdam

What’s up with that title, right? Is it porn? Extra large? Nope…Roman numerals – thirty, as in thirty years since I first moved to Albany.

In August of 1988 I was 21. I moved here knowing not a single person, other than Mary Panza who I was lucky enough to meet when her roommate tried to seduce me find me an apartment in his role as a real estate agent. The summer of ‘88 was hot, so damn hot. There was a heat wave that was unrelenting. I traveled to England and the Netherlands in July that year and I loved every day of dreary, damp weather we experienced abroad.

That first trip to Europe changed my life. It opened so many doors and windows and made me a traveler in a way I had never imagined. I had met a guy on the ferry on my way back to London and was acutely aware that he was great, but that the timing was not. We did, however, make some lovely memories and everyone should know the excitement of a long distance romance. When a man flys into jfk, hops into a rental car and drives to Albany to spend 2 days with you…well, you feel kind of special. I hope you know that feeling.

Albany charmed me from my very first visit when I found my way to Lark St.and enjoyed a fancy brunch at The Beverwyck. Once I got a handle on the size of the city (it’s always felt small to me, initially a disappointment but ultimately an asset), and began connecting faces and names, history and legend, I settled in with interest and made a life here.

Albany has witnessed my greatest joys. I got married here, right in Washington Park on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon. I own a house and pay taxes in the city and appreciate the privilege of both of those being possible because of the education (and degrees) I received from SUNYA. My children were born here and are students in the city school district and, while the education they receive may not be as immediately impressive as the high test scores and college acceptance rates of the suburbs, I do know my sons have learned a lot about getting along with people who don’t necessarily look or think like they do. Lessons in life count too.

I started running, an activity I never could have imagined I’d love, while a student at UAlbany and have run thousands of miles around this city.  I’ve learned to write and take photos and have been lucky to share some of my passions with an interested audience.  The opportunities here have been limited only by my own level of competence.  It’s been so cool, really.

Albany, though, has also been the setting for some of my saddest days. There are places around this town that are absolutely haunted for me – spots that I do my best to avoid because of the personal ghosts. The news, both domestic and international, that I’ve witnessed while living in Albany, has left an imprint as well. Princess Diana dying, the towers falling, the children murdered in whatever most recent school shooting…I can tell you exactly where I was for each of those breaking stories. I’ve shed a lot of tears in this town. Believe it.

After 30 years, I love Albany more than ever. The happiness I’ve known in this city that receives credit for how easy it is to get to places “to which you really want to go,” has far outweighed the heartaches I’ve experienced. I’m not sure what the future holds, (once I hit my 30 years teaching, who knows?), but these three decades have been the most productive, challenging and exciting times of my life and I wouldn’t have wanted to live them anywhere else.

Thanks, Albany xx

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, DelSo, Education, Europe, family, favorites, friends, house, Local, London, love, musings, News, Observations, relationships, running, Schools, Summer, travel, upstate New York

Street talk

Damn, girl. You lookin for a friend? You work out!

I know I’m expected to be offended by the words above, but, I’m not. I’m almost 52 years old and a young man (maybe 25?) who was tall, handsome and jacked, said those very words to me last night as I walked to the Empire State Plaza. I’m probably old enough to be his mother and, instead of feeling disgusted by his attention, I was absolutely flattered. Is that weird? Wrong?

In these #metoo days it sometimes feels as if we all are expected to respond to something in the same way, as if we share some mass mentality that takes offense at exactly the same things. Maybe for you, a man less than half your age conveying IN A NON THREATENING WAY that he appreciates your physical appearance is an act of disrespect, but I don’t feel the same way. Perhaps that’s because each time it happens, I think to myself “this might be the last time this happens to me.” Maybe I’m just not ready to become invisible yet.

This guy did not intimidate or harass me, nor did he follow me or demand my attention. There was no pressure on me to respond and I didn’t, beyond a bemused smile. I wore that smile for the rest of the evening, truth be told.

While men may be more inclined to utter out loud their inner thoughts when it comes to a female’s appearance, I can confess that my women friends and I guilty of objectifying the male form in a similar fashion. We’re just a little more evolved about actually expressing ourselves in these particular situations, which makes catcalling one of the few areas of communication in which men exceed women in their ability to share their thoughts.

Thoughts? Experiences? Share.

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Telling stories

Monday night a friend and I headed downtown to attend the August edition of the Front Parlor series. This month’s theme was Drugs and it wasn’t until nearly midway through the program that I decided to participate as a story teller. While there were quite a few options in terms of what I could share when it comes to drug stories, I was inspired to be a bit less literal.*

The rules for participating are pretty simple – no notes, 5-7 minutes length and based in truth. As a person who is currently experiencing some real challenges processing that last requirement, I decided to tell a story that I wove together from the following notes…

Drug stories? I’ve got those.
*getting shot at when I 15 and on mescaline
*my boyfriend copping 100 hits of purple microdot in NYC and bringing them upstate to sell for $3 each.
*petting a green dog while tripping on green acid
*and having my name written out in an 8-Ball of coke for my 19th birthday on a mirror – in script

But, those aren’t the drugs I’m going to talk about. The drug that I find the most dangerous is a different drug – words.

I find words to be the drug that has most frequently caused me trauma.

The most recent example of this addiction began with an email.

Where have you been all my life?

What would your reaction be if you received an email with that as the subject?

The guy who sent it was someone I had met the previous night at an event for foodies and bloggers. Our conversation had been easy and friendly and I assumed his tendency was to hyperbole.

That was generous. It really was more like bullshit.

But me? I’m apparently a sucker for smart repartee and literary references. I was hooked.

Each email brought a rush to my head and a flush to my face.

We exchanged notes and direct messages and texts until we met and finally became lovers. It was heady.

Every ping, ring and ding made me high. There’s no other way to describe it. The things he said were more powerful than any opiate I could ever imagine.

But…the high didn’t last. As time went on, the words could no longer lift me because the actions didn’t align with them.

I knew I needed to break up with him. My drug was no longer getting me stoned.

So I began to work really hard to start remembering other words like:

Happiness
Fun
Laughter
and Truth

And the more I thought of those words, the more committed I became to realizing those words in my life. His words no longer held me under their power because his actions screamed far louder and I finally found the strength to walk away.  I broke the addiction.

Thank God for wine.

That was the foundation for my story. There were some facts, a couple of details and enough fiction to protect the not-so-innocent. I tried to tell my tale slowly, working to stay cognizant of structure and flow and I’d like to believe it made for a much more entertaining story than it did a life experience.

A friend with food issues once told me that her addiction was so difficult to combat because food is something she will have to consume for the rest of her life. Words are the same. It just becomes a matter of being far more cautious about what one is willing to swallow.

*Generally, I am painfully literal. I think that’s what’s gotten me in trouble – I expect people to be truthful and this man was everything but honest.

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Sultry

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We’re going with definition 2. Let’s be positive.

You know how tropical places are reputed to have a very ambling sort of pace? People wear clothing that flaps in an island breeze or exposes skin to the sun and there is a glisten to everything your eye finds. It just feels sensual, but in an organic kind of way. Not posey. More passionate.

I like walks when it’s hot – they’re slower and from the hips, not the shoulders as it is in colder temperatures. While I appreciate the sexiness of staccato heels and a fast gait, flats and a sway of the hips are at least equaling appealing, I think. And it feels so much better.

When it’s been 80+ degrees for 42 consecutive days, you’ve just got to learn how to live with it. Maybe it’s air conditioning or a camp on a lake, but there’s probably some method you’ve devised to get through it. For me, it’s become about acceptance and appreciation. Which makes sense since those are really crucial parts of my overall thought process when it comes to emotional things. Having it be consistent with my physical comfort and well-being seems almost crazy sane.

I’ve run when I could, and walked or cycled a bit more than typical, and it’s been great. Some days I shower three times. I’ve heard some describe the weather as “oppressively hot”weather but I’ve decided that my takeaway is that it’s summer. We’re having summer weather and, while it can be destructive and unpredictable, it really is characteristic for July and August. And – next month this hot spell will be a blip in your rear view mirror and you’ll be wearing jeans again. 

It’s obvious the Europeans are more advanced than we are – many of them take  a substantial amount of time off in August. I wish everyone had that same opportunity. It would probably make for a more civilized world, frizzy hair and all.

How are you coping?

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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, Exercise, Local, musings, Observations, Random, running, Summer, upstate New York