Last weekend’s New York in Bloom flower show at the NYS museum is the ultimate harbinger of spring’s impending arrival. Click through for my Seen gallery on the TU site. As always, the museum and the exhibitor’s did us proud while raising funds for a worthy cause!
Category Archives: SEEN
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.
For those of you with school age children – what are your summers like? Are they a time to explore new interests, further develop skills and pad college applications? Are your children busy with summer jobs or camps? Maybe they’re already tackling their summer reading lists to get a jump on things for fall. All good things I suppose.
Around my house, though, things don’t look quite like that. My oldest son has been busy re-watching episodes of Murder She Wrote and mastering the art of making omelets. He also has a part-time unpaid internship set to begin in another week or so and I know he is looking forward to that experience. Liam also learned recently how to pay by phone for Chinese food when I forgot to bring my wallet when I picked up the Chinese food, which meant he needed to call in my credit card information. I think that’s an important life lesson, don’t you?
The middle guy has been occupied with playing lacrosse and watching the World Cup. He’s been working on his game, both on and off the field, and I had a weird sense of pride when I saw his photo in a recent Seen gallery shot at Wolff’s Biergarten. He was rocking his red, white and blue and appeared completely comfortable taking in the match while surrounded by beer-fueled adults. I believe he finally may now understand that spending a little time each day doing homework eliminates the need to spend 10 more months taking Spanish 2 because you failed the class with a 62.5. My walk last night with Jeter also taught him that I may just unexpectedly come around the corner when he is out hanging with his friends in the neighborhood – a good lesson for him to absorb, don’t you think?
As for my youngest, well, this week he mastered making his own pbj and has been taking even bigger steps towards independence. Last weekend, for instance, he attended an afternoon birthday party a couple of blocks away and walked home solo. Sort of. The birthday girl’s mom texted when he was leaving and there may have been an older cousin who walked him partially home. The bottom line is he felt a sense of accomplishment and independence. That is the kind of summer enrichment I’m looking for.
Summer, for me, is a time to catch up on things – some tasks around the house, a few books I’ve been meaning to get to and visiting friends I don’t often get to spend time with during the school year. How about you?
For the second year in a row my middle son and I went to both nights of the Dave Matthews Band’s pretty much annual stop at SPAC. As always, Carter smiled continuously as he banged the drums and Dave praised the crowd and venue. We had a good time and I got some great crowd photos in the parking lots prior to the shows. We ran into some people we knew and even made some new friends. It was fun and I imagine we’ll do it again next time the band is in town. By then, I hope to have erased some of the less pleasant parts of this year’s shows.
I haven’t kept track of how many times I’ve seen DMB, but seeing that it was Griffin’s 6th show, I imagine I’ve got somewhere between 12-15 shows under my belt. I grew up taking the bus into the city for shows at the Garden and consider myself a concert veteran, but there’s always something new to see, right? Take that man’s penis, for instance. What a shocker that was! I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never before stood in line next to someone who was pissing into a red solo cup – and I hope to never repeat that experience. The close up of a stranger’s
not so privates may have been a blessing in disguise because when that woman on the lawn threw her skirt up and prepared to pull her underwear down to pee on the lawn in front of everyone, it wasn’t that traumatic for me.
Now, urine aside, the only other bodily fluid which made an appearance was vomit. Fortunately, I missed seeing that (re)enter the world, but I became aware of it after someone near me on the lawn stepped in it. Situations like this completely validate my decision to always wear closed shoes, often rain boots, at outdoor concerts.
Now – the good stuff! We met some awesomely friendly people while taking photos, including two adorable hula hooping pixies who were so pleased with the photo I took Friday that they sought me out on Saturday to reward me with a hug. Sweet! I also ran into one of my favorite parents from school and finally met her collaborator in creating 4 fabulous kids. That kind of made my night.
As far as the music goes, the set lists were epic and I’m so glad we went both nights because we heard nearly every song we had hoped to hear. The transitions between songs was flawless and the flute solos provided a fresher sound than the sometimes (to me) tedious violin solos. Highlights were #41, the acoustic What Would You Say, and pretty much the entire second set on Saturday night.
Towards the end of Saturday night I looked around at the crowd and concluded that pretty much everyone would end the night by either fighting, having sex or falling asleep. Me? I slept well.
After working for 16 of the last 18 days, I finally hit the wall today. Maybe you heard the sound of me crashing around 4:30 Sunday afternoon when I returned home from the Hong Kong Bakery, my belly full of terrific Chinese food. My initial thought had been to grab Jeter and head down to the dog park for a little bit of play time. But, I started thinking about our last visit’s mud situation down there and my utter lack of interest, (or energy, it turns out), in giving both the puppy and the bathroom a thorough cleaning two days in a row, and decided that a nap for myself was more necessary than a play date for Jeter. Sorry, puppy.
I climbed into bed with a book and was asleep in less than 10 minutes, a state I stayed in for nearly 2 hours. Long naps are not typically my thing. In fact, I boast of my ability to benefit from a mere 5 minute nap. Sunday, though was different. Both my body and my brain
needed required demanded some down time. I was tired.
If you know me, you’re aware that I like to pace myself. All of the activity and events of the last few weeks, though, got away from me a bit and sleep was the only area that had “spare” time built-in. I think I’ve averaged 5 hours or so of that precious state lately, no more than 4 of those hours being consecutive and uninterrupted. Work and boys and Jeter have conspired to challenge, and ultimately upset, my best intentions to balance living with rest.
I am so grateful that I’ve learned to recognize and respect my body’s need to regroup. Saturday night, after waiting on what seemed to be the entire Western Hemisphere,* I fell asleep with the alarm set for 7:00 a.m. and a firm intention to both run and photograph a race in Saratoga. That didn’t happen. Even though I initially put my running clothes on, I just didn’t feel like busting my ass to do both tasks and I elected to go with the job that paid. It was a good choice.
So, what do you do when you hit the proverbial wall? If you’re anything like me, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and sign the wall with a big ole Silvia was here. And you just keep going.
*a bit of hyperbole, but there was a large table of Canadians as well as an even bigger table of folks from various countries in South America via NYC.
A few months back I bought a Living Social deal for Javier’s in Saratoga. My motivation was to enjoy a night out and sample some of Brian Bowden’s food. Well, you know how that worked out. Nonetheless, Thursday night we hit the Northway and arrived promptly for our 6:45 reservation.
While the downstairs bar was completely empty, the upstairs dining room was close to full. We were shown to a nice table and looked over the recently updated menu. Eventually we decided to start with fried oysters and a pear salad, followed by the duck breast and monkfish entrees. I settled back contentedly with my glass of bubbles and my favorite fellow, prepared for an indulgent meal.
Our meal service began with dense and cheesy “muffins,” accompanied by softened butter garnished with roasted garlic. Nice. Our first course was served and I don’t know which one of us was more crestfallen by the size of the portion. You see, we’re good eaters and the salad, particularly, was shockingly paltry. Seriously – it was about a third of a pear. Maybe. The oysters appetizer was four morsels – a bit of a disappointment if you’re coming from the Rick Weber school of fried oysters, which is more than likely where this rendition originated.* The oysters were tasty but definitely would have benefitted from a touch of salt and a multiplication of two.
The entrees were far more impressive. Both of the portions were reasonable and the plates were nicely presented. The duck was perfectly medium rare, with a touch of sweetness to the sauce and nicely crisped skin. I don’t often eat monkfish, but I certainly would order it more frequently if I was assured it would be cooked as masterfully as the piece I enjoyed at Javier’s. My “poor man’s lobster” was mild, and moist and the accompaniments were a nice foil to the fish. Well done. I didn’t take any photos of our meals, but you can see the salad and monkfish on this blog.
We had a dessert, some sort of something leche which was simply not my thing, but my dining companion made short work of it. Dinner, before discount, came to just over a $100, pre-tip. Service was capable, but not particularly personable. I’ve met Javier before (and his wife, following dinner) and they are both warm and social. It would be pleasing if the service reflected some of that.
Two days later, I was back in Saratoga to shoot some photos for the Times Union. The occasion? Chowderfest 2014. This was my first time attending this event and it is a huge deal. I believe there were 86 restaurants participating and, from what I understand, this annual celebration of chowder is second in popularity only to Travers Day. Props to Saratoga for hosting an event, in January, which literally fills their streets and sidewalks with folks willing to wait in line to sample minuscule “cups” of chowder. The crowd was enthusiastic, patient and seemingly appreciative of the offerings, as well as the relatively mild temperature.
My tight schedule prevented me from being able to invest time waiting on the sometimes formidable lines, but I would definitely consider participating in this fun event in the future. Truth be told, finding a reason to visit Saratoga, and a place to have a bite, is never a struggle.
*Brian Bowden worked with Andrew Plummer who worked with Rick Weber and those oysters had Rick Weber’s name all over them.
I was lucky enough to shoot photos at two related events this past weekend in downtown Albany. In case you are one of the few residents of the Capital District who I didn’t run into (and have been living under a rock), this weekend was the 5th annual Albany Wine and Dine for the Arts, an outstanding culinary event which is rapidly growing into the highlight of what can often be a grey month in upstate New York.
I began the weekend with Friday evening’s Grand Tasting. This event is truly a terrific way to start a three-day weekend and people really seemed to be enjoying themselves. The sizable crowd was wonderfully diverse with couples, both young and old, as well as groups of friends, meandering around the ballroom carefully balancing tasting plates of food and adult beverages. If you’re someone who is intimidated by “haute cuisine,” this would be a perfect opportunity to expand your culinary horizons in a completely low-key fashion.
As I roamed, snapping photos for a Seen gallery, I was able to make connections with old friends and new faces. In all honesty, I didn’t eat or drink because I was
working planning to take an evening run and didn’t want the excess ballast. If I had been indulging, the offerings from Cafe Capriccio, Bake for You and Javier’s all would have attracted my fork and, while I didn’t transition to the Slider Slam, held at 90 State, it looked like quite a party! Next year, for sure.
Saturday, though, was my night to indulge and I do believe I did justice to the fabulous offerings. I had originally planned to attend an old friend’s party in Troy, but the sloppy weather prevented me from making the trek. I like to ski on snow, not drive. I consoled myself by finagling a spot at one of the Gala’s tables and tucked into pretty much every course which came my way. Oh, and there was wine, too! Lots of tastes of lots of wines, including an ’81 Chateau Margaux and a ’66 Talbot. What an evening…
I wish I had been more disciplined about taking notes about the individual courses along with the wine pairings, but Friday had been the time for discipline. Saturday was all about dining with friends and filling my mouth with tastiness. And taking pictures, of course.
There was one aspect of the event which left me a bit disgruntled… This event would be impossible to pull off without the tireless efforts of the committee, the chefs and all of the professional hospitality industry employees. Prior to the start of meal service, there were a number of honors, awards and recognitions which needed to be presented. Unfortunately, there were quite a few tables which lacked appropriate decorum during this time and it was often difficult to hear the individual presenters and recipients. There was no lack of food or beverage served during the one-hour cocktail reception prior to the commencement of the sit down portion of the meal and it would have been nice if the attendees could have closed their mouths for just a short while.
Mark your calendars for mid-January 2015 – this event is going to continue to be the premier food and wine event in the Capital Region and you’ll want to be there.