Category Archives: Local

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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Filed under Albany, beer, concerts, drinking, Events, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations

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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Filed under Albany, art, birthdays, Books, breakfast, Coffee, concerts, Cooking, Dinner, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Food, house, Local, medical, Movies, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips

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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Filed under beauty, breakfast, Events, Exercise, friends, Local, Recommendations, sunday, upstate New York

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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Filed under art, concerts, Dinner, Eating, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Restaurants, upstate New York

I like that

2B1BA3C8-94F6-4EDB-BBAF-12E804849B00When I was an undergraduate, studying English and Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, I didn’t often buy prepared food in the basement of the campus center. There was one occasion, though, when I was on campus in the evening for a panel discussion and needed a bite to eat. I walked downstairs and hesitated a moment before entering what was then the grill area of the food services concession. As I stood at the doorway I witnessed the cooks behind the line blatantly eyeing up (and down) each woman. As the women approached the counter to place an order I could clearly hear the men saying “I like that. I like that.” They made no attempt to hide what they were saying, nudging each other and smirking. Did they think they were offering compliments as a side order?

I, being full on a diet of Women’s Studies, stepped up to the counter and addressed the cooks and informed them that what they were doing was unacceptable and they needed to stop. Their response? “What are you? Anita Hill?” This was late fall, 1991 and the news was full of Clarence Thomas’s nomination to the Supreme Court and Anita Hill’s testimony accusing him of sexual harassment. Knowing that I wasn’t going to get anywhere dealing directly with the kitchen guys, I walked away shaking my head.

The next day, I wrote a letter to the then head of Food Services at the university. A couple of days later, I received a phone call from his office and arranged for a meeting with him on campus. He complimented me on my letter writing skills and we discussed the incident. I explained my position and the concern I felt for 17 and 18 year-old women who might not be comfortable confronting men who were engaging in inappropriate verbal harassment and that campus should be a safe place for everyone. He was sympathetic, understanding and assured me that the situation would be addressed. I never went back to the cafeteria again.

Maybe those men were spoken to and developed a new understanding of what is acceptable in terms of addressing women and professional demeanor. Maybe they have daughters of their own now. Maybe they even now know that we don’t like it. At all.

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Filed under Albany, Education, girlhood, Local, musings, writing

Friday night at S & S Farm Brewery

F0E15BAC-3120-4965-BA64-9C6AEE710813Back in the day when I owned a restaurant, we had a collection of draft beverages of which I was pretty proud. We worked with local brewers and brought in small production brews that our guests really enjoyed. One of my favorite breweries, S & S Farm Brewery in Nassau, consistently produces some great beer and I always enjoyed working directly with family members when I needed a delivery.

I’ve heard that they throw a good party and for a long time now, I’ve wanted to get out to the farm to check out one of their events. Friday night, I finally got it together and wrangled two of my three sons into the car and headed east at about 5:45, having been warned that it gets crowded. Not an exaggeration, we would come to learn.

The ride out was stunning. I have a lot of really great memories that involve driving Route 20, but I’d not driven on Jefferson Hill Road before and it was so very pretty. The foliage and the old homes definitely had me considering if city life was as superior as I always think it is…

Upon arrival we were directed towards a parking area which was a short walk from the tasting room, tables, band and food. I had been warned that these Friday night things are popular, but I was stunned by the size of the crowd. There were probably 500 people there! Everyone we talked to was super nice and we got to spend some time chatting with a few folks as we waited in line to place our Burger21 order. Of course, being a practical person, I had thrown $20 to my kids and suggested they get soup or hot dogs from the second food truck since there wasn’t a line for the more simple fare being sold, while I grabbed a beer inside. With all of us placated, we committed to the approximately 40 minute wait for our excellent burgers and baskets of fries.

The food, my Brown Chicken Brown Ale and the setting were perfect. It’s been a particularly beautiful October and last night’s star filled sky was exceptional. I can’t imagine there was a better place to spend a couple of hours last night than exactly where I was. Let’s go again!

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Filed under beer, Boys, favorites, Local, Recommendations, road trips, upstate New York

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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Filed under Albany, Education, Events, Local, News, Observations, Recommendations, upstate New York