Category Archives: Events

Music to my ears – Modern English and Albert Cummings

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My new favorite cocktail – Cimarron Tequila,Pear Liqueur, Allspice Dram, Lemon Juice

2017 has been a year of great live performances, with a couple of exceptions. The most recent disappointing musical act I saw was Modern English at The Hollow earlier this month. I was so excited for this throwback band – the timing was ideal (the night before a holiday), I had plenty of friends going and their big single “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” is a classic 80s tune. What could go wrong?

Well, the tickets ($25) said 8:00 and we arrived pretty close to that time only to find the band’s equipment just being loaded into the venue. After about 20 or 30 minutes, some guys got on stage without introduction (that I heard at least) and played a song that was so friggin loud that we left the spot we had nabbed near the back bar and headed to the dining area where we wouldn’t be blasted at an obscene volume. Shortly after they left the stage an opening act came on and played some noise that just didn’t appeal to us, so we left and grabbed a drink at dp’s. Come to think about it, that drink (the Autumn in Jalisco) was probably the best part of the night. Maybe tequila isn’t just for summer.

We went back to The Hollow at about 10:30 and Modern English was just coming on stage. We stood about 20-25 feet back from the stage, but again, the music was damn loud that I just couldn’t deal. By this point, I was pretty much thinking “just play the song so I can go home, please.” They didn’t hear my mental plea, so I left. Too late and too loud = no fun for me.

Now, last night I had a completely different experience. After vowing to not squander an infrequent Saturday night off, my favorite guy and I made a pretty darn spontaneous decision to check out a blues performer downtown at The Upper Room. The space was new to us (I never went to Jillian’s) and had two distinct areas depending upon whether one had purchased general admission tickets ($20 at the door) or made a reservation prior to the show. We weren’t able to get a table so we instead staked out a spot near the railing which divided the sections and had a decent view of the stage and excellent proximity to the bar.

B44FCCA2-7D59-4CF3-B07C-B2C690A38E50Albert Cummings has played around Albany a number of times, but it was our first time seeing him and from start (when we walked past him behind the venue) to finish (when guitar geek guy copped a pick and we complimented the band on their set) it was an awesome show. The sound mix was solid, the volume was on point and the crowd was enthusiastic and fun. I was disappointed by the lack of cider as a beverage option, but the Jack’s Abbey Oktoberfest that we opted for was so very tasty that I had three. Yes, three!

Somehow I missed the fact that The Upper Room was doing a blues series, but there is one more show scheduled for next month and I’d go back again in a heartbeat. The show started on time, the band was tight (that drummer!) and the value in terms of price was terrific. I’ve enjoyed other shows (and meals) at The Hollow and will continue to keep an eye on their events calendar. Multiple entertainment options downtown are a good thing. Now, if we could just get some residents to occupy some of the space above the businesses downtown, we’d really be making progress, Albany.

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Time is short

I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.

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An extra hour, a yoga retreat and your favorite breakfast

E5C504E6-72A5-4AD2-90EE-14230974B2E6When I get busy the first thing to get eliminated from my calendar is yoga. I almost wrote “yoga practice,” but quickly decided that phrase would be overstating my commitment to yoga. I mean, I always feel better after I take a class, but making it to a class, even just weekly, is often a challenge for me. I do my best, you know? Anyway, the recent time change gave me only an additional hour, but I was able to parlay that into a full day of various classes and activities thanks to an offering from my favorite studio, The Hot Yoga Spot.

The day began with a really beautiful drive, orchestrated by WAZE, out to the hill town, Berne. The actual location for the retreat was Switzkill Farm, a property I learned was previously a pheasant farm and a Tibetan Buddhist retreat, but is now community owned. The house, situated atop a hill with glorious views, is the kind of dwelling that makes me fantasize about packing up and leaving the city for more rural digs – beautiful, a bit sprawling and absolutely ripe for cosmetic upgrades.

We convened in what must be the living room, adorned on three sides with windows and a large fireplace anchoring the space. I think there were perhaps 30 or so participants and our mats got arranged in rows facing the front of the room and, beyond, the Helderberg Mountains. Prior to beginning our practice, we were invited to introduce ourselves and share our favorite breakfast – a tough choice for me because I basically like everything breakfast – pancakes, French toast, eggs and omelets, cereal, fruit and yogurt, oatmeal, bagels and pastry…there are no bad breakfast choices in my world! I don’t know – it’s generally the first chance in a new day to provide nourishment to your physical self, isn’t it? I just can’t imagine not eating breakfast. How about you?

We settled on our mats and began what would be a 90-minute yoga class. The instructor was new to me and she gave us a great class with plenty of ab work. Next up was a breathing workshop, which isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but there were some cool methods demonstrated and I have to admit to adding one particular technique to my toolkit for middle of the night insomnia episodes. Lunch followed and, despite the limitations of my pre-colonoscopy diet, I was able to enjoy my wrap with hummus and cheese, and especially the gluten-free cookies.

We headed outdoors for a walk through the woods which was a perfect digestif. The trails we were on were beautiful and I can see how the Dalai Lama found the property so appealing. It was lovely. By this point in the day, I had almost hit the end of my self-indulgence limit but I’m really glad I decided to participate in the 30-minute Barre inspired class. It brought me to exactly where I wanted to be – satiated without being exhausted. I cut out before the meditation and flow classes but was completely satisfied with my day and the excellent value I received for my $75 fee.

I’ve not been to Kripalu or any other facility specifically for yoga, but this event definitely leaves me open to exploring other retreats in the future. Would you have one to recommend?

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Rickie Lee Jones at the Cohoes Music Hall

Yes, RLJ at the Cohoes Music Hall. I was on the Cape when the tickets went on sale and immediately snatched up six, knowing that it wouldn’t be hard to share them with likeminded friends. You know, people who would also be blown away by the fact that RLJ was playing in a 475 seat venue in our area, even if it is a place that always feels like a firetrap to me.

I’ve seen RLJ a couple of times before and I’m familiar with her reputation for being ah…a bit difficult eccentric. The last time I saw her was maybe 7 or 8 years ago at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie. It was a beautiful venue, but what has stayed with me since that particular show was something Rickie did to one of her percussionists. As I recall, he wasn’t a regular in her band at that time, but was filling in for an absent member. At one point, apparently, he wasn’t playing the little handheld instrument the way she wanted him to. She walked over to him, took the shaker out of his hand and stared him in the eyes as she demonstrated how she wanted it played. It was awkward.

Wednesday night, though, she seemed very pleased with her two band mates, a percussionist and a guitarist. Actually, in general, Rickie seemed to be in a good place, sharing stories and soaking in the love the audience (less than capacity) freely showered upon her. She explained that she preferred to play for small audiences of adorers rather than larger groups who might not really be present for the music. Recalling a story Aloysius had once told me about Rickie leaving the outdoor stage at a show he attended and inviting true fans to follow her to a different, more intimate venue, I took her at her word.

The show was magnificent. Her voice sounded incredible and she retains a control over her instrument which is remarkable. Her setlist was amply stocked with old favorites and more than once she brought me to tears, an experience I don’t have very often at a musical performance. There’s just a raw quality to her work that penetrated that particular evening. I was mesmerized – and not just by the fact that seemed to be wearing the same red velvet Frye boots I scored last month. It was easily my favorite performance of hers ever and I swear it’s going to be one of those shows that becomes legend.

My only criticism goes to the venue’s employees. There was way too much noise being made in the balcony where we were seated as the bar staff broke down their service bar. Buckets of ice being dumped and bottles clanging did not add to the event. What did add to the night, though, was a really good meal pre-show at The Hollow. I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries and look forward to eating there again in a couple of weeks pre-show for the Modern English concert. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Telling the truth – in Albany

We are living in scary times, friends. I don’t know about you, but I feel anxious about the state of our country and the relationships we have internationally. It seems like a long time since I’ve woken up without having to wonder what kind of outrageous statement or action with which Donald Trump has greeted the new day. It simply doesn’t always feel good to be an American in 2017.

Last Friday, though, was a bright spot in an otherwise dark time thanks to the New York State Writers Institute. Their schedule this fall is fantastic and the symposium they hosted over the weekend was absolutely tremendous. Although I was able to attend only two sessions of the event, I walked away with a glimmer of hope and a new sense of pride in my city. Bravo, Paul Grondahl and the NYSWI.

A few observations about the panels I attended:

  • The participants* were smart.
  • The audience was interested and mostly respectful.
  • Page Hall was packed.
  • The time went remarkably fast.
  • It was affirming, inspiring and reassuring.

Check out the rest of their schedule of events. There’s something there for everyone – and it’s free.

*Participants included moderator, Bob Schieffer, Douglas Brinkley, Franklin Foer, Amy and David Goodman, Maria Hinojas, Harry Rosenfeld and Tim Wu.

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Crafts and craft cider

There’s something about Columbus Day weekend that makes me want to take a road trip. I don’t need to go far or stay away from home for long, but I just need to scratch my itch and get out town. As is often the case, the options for the holiday weekend were numerous and making a decision was a challenge. I’m inclined to fill up my dance card, so to speak, and it took some effort to select two events to attend. Plan in hand, I hit the road late Sunday morning and headed south. First stop – Kingston’s Hutton Brickyards.

Field + Supply, “a modern makers craft fair” is not the kind of event I generally attend. I’m not particularly crafty and don’t like crowds, particularly when they’re fawning over darling and precious handiworks. But, I got the sense that this was different and it was in a perfect in between spot to meet Hudson Valley friends. I’m so glad I went!

The venue is pretty cool, situated right on the river with covered spaces providing shelter on a damp day. Parking was free and well organized. We paid our $15 entry fee, adding an extra $5 to score a cloth bag, and wandered in, immediately impressed by the set up. There were plenty of people around, all of whom were remarkably attractive, but it never felt crowded. The various vendors craftspeople offered an array of handmade, small production items including jewelry, clothing, furniture, leather goods, fragrance/cosmetics and food.

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IMG_3037We availed ourselves of a number of items and I couldn’t be happier with my cool leather/wool plaid shoulder bag, an organic hair product designed to smooth and shape hair, incense and a bodacious jar of honey. It feels good to purchase from producers. Next stop…Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook.

This was the third time, I think, that I have attended Cider Sunday sponsored by Nine-Pin. The cider and food are always solid, it’s the weather that’s the wild card for this event each year. By the time I arrived after 3:00, it was warm, humid but not raining. No complaints on the weather, or anything else for that matter. I chatted with some folks I know, sipped an Original cider, ate some DeFazio’s and enjoyed the music. It was the perfect pit stop with a purpose.

Another good Sunday spent exploring the Hudson Valley. We are so lucky here, people! PS. If you feel the way I do about craft fairs, let me recommend one that’s coming up – The Half Moon Market is docking again in Washington Park’s Lake House. It makes for the perfect fall afternoon in Center Square.

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Bees and bruises – Moreau Lake 15K Trail run

2 Lunar B*tches

This time of year is incredibly busy. There are school meetings and events, soccer games and doctor’s appointments all to be worked into a calendar already full of other mundane tasks. This means there’s a lot of picking and choosing when it comes to selecting races in the early fall.  Last week Lunar B*tch Karen and I went with a race that was new to us, but sounded like fun with its 80s theme and challenging trails – the Moreau Lake 15K.

Repping the Class of ’84 (post-race)

The drive started super early in the morning, but took less time than expected. Check in was quick and there were no crowds, making for a pleasant introduction to this new place. When the horn blew, we began, warming up quickly on the somewhat cool morning. Less than a mile in we encountered our first obstacle – bees. We were tipped off to their presence by a woman running slightly ahead of us (Our goal time is “uninjured.” Many people were ahead of us.). Her piercing screams and flailing arms were a clear sign that there was a hazard ahead and we cut off the trail to take a detour. We met her later on the trail and she said she counted at least nine stings. Yikes – good thing she wasn’t allergic.

Beautiful!

A bit swollen, but basically fine.

Back on track, we reveled in the absolutely beautiful terrain. The trails up there are fantastic, soft for the most part and incredibly scenic. It’s a gorgeous course. While we avoided bees, my bad ankle challenged me by continually rolling – 3 times actually in the first four miles. Of course, I picked myself up and, operating on the theory that it’s better to keep it loose with use rather than letting it tighten up, kept going. I think it was the right choice.

Not real pretty, not terribly painful either.

We had a few climbs that were intense, but nothing like Seven Sisters. The course was pretty damn technical, though, and I took another tumble, and a good one at that, but carried on with a colorful scrape on my arm which eventually bruised up in a vivid rainbow of blue, green and yellow. Just a flesh wound, I scoffed, as I swallowed a couple of post-run Aleves.

The last couple of miles were fairly flat and skirted around water. We reached the beach basically intact and that water felt amazing. I’d like to give this race another attempt next year – maybe with an ankle wrap. It was a winner – like Karen and I! We each finished third in out respective age groups. I’m not sure if there were more than three in our age group, but that still sounds like a bronze to me!

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