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.
View from my mat
Last Saturday I had the unique experience of doing yoga with more than 80 other people downtown. If that doesn’t sound all that exceptional, let me add another detail – our mats were set up in the middle of South Pearl Street. Pretty cool, right?
#YogaPalooza, held in conjunction with Pearlpalooza 2017, was a free one-hour yoga class facilitated by the terrific staff of my favorite studio, the Hot Yoga Spot. As bands tuned up around us, we stretched and posed under gloriously beautiful blue skies for 60 minutes. It was a struggle occasionally to hear all of the cues, but I mostly was able to follow along by checking out my mat mates for a clue. Ultimately, for me, the practice became more about finding balance between being on my mat and being part of a large group in a novel place. It was really awesome.
Following shavasana, attendees were rewarded for their participation with an array of door prizes and this lucky girl won a cozy wrap from Athleta, making for a perfect morning. Special events like #YogaPalooza only make me love you more, Albany.
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.
Following what may have been the best June ever and a July that was fantastic, August has started with a bang! Last night I had a primo Albany evening – drinks with friends, a concert that was beyond all expectations and a late night walk around the Empire State Plaza. Plus, there was the bonus of leaving my car at home and relying on Lyft for transportation, a new and welcome option in our area.
Let’s start with my getting a Lyft. I got an email this week offering me up to $100 off of my next 20 rides within a specific time period. Knowing that I’ll be traveling for some of this time, I decided to initiate the offer last night and start saving $. I requested a ride from my home in the DelSo to McGeary’s, where I was meeting friends to pregame before the Alabama Shakes show. My driver arrived in less than 5 minutes and for a discounted total of $4.50 (plus a $3 tip) I was dropped off downtown at my requested destination. Hours later, I paid a similar amount to get from Lark St. back home. Again, the wait for my ride was mere minutes, unlike any time I’ve ever taken a cab in Albany. Total and complete game changer.
The concert was phenomenal. Thanks to the power of Facebook, I scored tickets after appealing to my friends that I needed to see this show. My seats were in the balcony, I had lots of friends in the venue and Albany welcomed the Alabama Shakes with great enthusiasm. I was lucky enough to have seen the band a couple of years ago down at Mountain Jam and their performance last night again demonstrated what a great band they really are. Lead singer and guitarist, Brittany Howard, is a force to witness and her modest, low key personality is a rare thing in the music industry. I absolutely loved the show. Put them on your list to go see next time they come around.
In between Lyfts and the show were a couple of tasty beverages with a group of people who I was happy to mix together. There was a lot of laughter, good conversation, a few tall tales and a stroll around the Capitol on a gorgeous summer night. Oh, August, you’re killing it! Summer, 2017 is turning out to be epic.
Filed under Albany, Aloysius, beauty, concerts, drinking, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Summer
Tonight, August 1st is National Night Out (NNO). There are all sorts of cool things going on around our pretty little city and I hope that you’ll get to enjoy some of the planned events. I scored a ticket yesterday for tonight’s Alabama Shakes show at the Palace, so I’ll be missing the celebration. Or, really, trading one fun event for another. Remember back when we Albany residents didn’t have the entertainment options that we now have? These days, there are choices!
I did my own NNO last night and couldn’t have been more pleased with my evening. Following an afternoon spent paddle boarding up in Saratoga, I popped open a bottle of Alsatian white and took a quick shower before getting on my bike and heading to Tricentennial Park for Bites, Camera, Action, a food truck and film event organized and sponsored by the Downtown BID. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hungry and curious, so off I went.
The ride down was great. I mean, it’s basically all downhill. Aside from the ease of the ride, it was interesting with an event held in the park at the intersection of Delaware and Madison and a few of the new bike share stations along my route. It seems like those bikes are getting some use with one station completely empty and a couple of actual riders observed. Cool beans.
Speaking of bikes, Tricentennial Park needs a bike rack! I ended up locking up to a metal sign, but it wasn’t ideal. That is my only criticism of what downtown has going on – it was a really fun, relaxed event and I was very happy with my meal and my good fortune to run into a number of former students. I had a hankering for a burger and the super friendly folks at Burger 21 did me right with a delicious burger with bacon, cheddar, lettuce and tomato and a side of the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. It was everything I hoped for – and only $13.
The ride home, once I made it up to Eagle Street, was great. The half moon hanging in the sky shed light on City Hall and the Capitol and Albany looked absolutely beautiful. It might not be perfect, but it’s getting better all the time.
Things are amping up here in Albany as the September mayoral primary approaches. Of course, the winner of the primary in our fair city is the de facto winner of the election. That’s just how things work in our overwhelmingly democratic capital city. I’ve noticed while driving and running around town that there are a lot of lawn signs for the candidates popping up, particularly it seems for Frank Commisso, Jr. They’re everywhere and their prevalence has caused me to wonder what the appeal is for this candidate who I perceive to be a newish face on an old machine. Maybe you can help me with that, reader?
I’ve got my candidate – I’ll be voting again for Kathy Sheehan. Out of all of the candidates, I believe she is the smartest and least inclined to work for her own interests. I’ve heard criticism about her lack of political savvy and some say she is merely performing her duties as a step towards a more elevated position. It’s ok. I’ll take intelligent and ambitious. I think she’s done a good job and is making positive changes for residents. Plus, I like her – she’s approachable, compassionate and we seem to share similar values. She’s got my vote.
There have been a number of folks polling and campaigning at my door already and I’ve signed a few petitions. The other two primary candidates have stopped by and I had a very nice conversation with Frank Commisso, Jr., but remain firm in my commitment to Mayor Sheehan. Maybe that’s why I was dismayed to find a Carolyn McLaughlin sign staked in my front garden when I returned from Cape Cod last week. I do have a first floor rental flat, though, and would certainly permit my tenant-friend to express his own political leanings by supporting his own candidate. When I saw him, I asked if he had given permission for the sign to be posted and he responded with surprise and said “I thought you put it there.” Hmmm. Nope.
Looking across the street, I noticed another McLaughlin sign staked in the front yard of a neighbor who I know to be traveling this summer. When I reached out to my neighbor and asked if she had approved the sign, she quickly said “No,” and asked me to remove it. Done. Both of “our” signs went into the trash last night. Now I’m left to wonder if those Commisso signs all over town might have also been distributed and posted without explicit permission. Regardless, let’s hope they’re removed post-primary as quickly as they’ve appeared. They’re blocking my scenery.
As of 4:55 on a Wednesday in June, I no longer belong to the ranks of business owner – and it feels great. The transaction was as low-key and undramatic as are all of the involved parties. The deal was put together without realtor representation and the terms were easily agreed upon with minimal negotiation. I walked out of the attorney’s office downtown positively elated.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments in the past few months when I had twinges of regret and times when I had to fight against a feeling of having failed. Maybe if I had done X or Y differently, perhaps I needed to stick it out longer or make dramatic changes to achieve the level of success necessary to make remaining in business an appealing prospect. Ultimately though, I know this was the right move. I can return to what I do best and enjoy most – providing hospitality. Later, for you Quickbooks and Paychex. We’re officially over.
The experience of owning a business has been life changing. I tried something I never imagined doing. I stretched myself thinner than ever before and did not allow myself to get broken. It was more than, as I overheard one of my former employees say, “that old cliche, a waitress who thinks she can be an owner.” See, unlike the person who uttered that statement, I could be an owner. It just didn’t bring me joy and joy, not money, not ego, is the currency of my life.
I’m so excited to witness the success of Mio Posto and to play even a small part in that goal. I’ve worked a couple of nights already and Danny’s food is exactly at the level that I knew it would be – creative, high quality and composed with passion and professionalism. It’s wonderful. I wasn’t certain how it would feel to be “just” an employee, but I’m really happy to fill that role and to realize that my pride comes from providing guests with a memorable dining experience, not from signing paychecks.