I’ve been on a Rolling Stones kick recently. Maybe it was that tribute band I went to see a couple of weeks ago at The Hangar. I listened to them all the way on my run today from home to Troy, where I met my neighbor at event and caught a ride home. It wasn’t the easiest run I‘ve ever taken and parts of the route were new and a little unnerving to me, but I don’t regret a step of it. It was a gift to be outdoors with the air on my skin and every scent encountered along the river pleasant.
I ran in South Troy for the first time, which was kind of cool since I had made a brief cameo just yesterday at my friend Mary’s birthday. You know, Mary Panza from South f’n Troy. She’s my oldest upstate friend and I was thrilled to attend her celebration yesterday and to give her a gift. Not just “a gift,” but the most perfect gift – one I had seen at Elissa Halloran’s and immediately knew
it she belonged with Mary.
Giving Mary to Mary was the perfect demonstration of how much more joyous it is to give than to receive. That is a true gift.
I’ve had a lot on my mind lately and it’s caused me to struggle with writing a bit. I’ve been purposefully keeping myself busy – attending events like Champagne on the Park and working extra nights, such as last Wednesday at the annual Troy Arts Center Gala. But, today, there was that run from Albany to Troy which gave me a long time to think things through and I believe I’m getting closer to being unstuck. At least for now.
Life is so unpredictable. Who really knows what’s next? With things in such a state of flux, is it even worthwhile to try to figure it the fuck out? Just keep running…
I’ve been examining how I’ve grown from situations I’ve faced, and have to admit that I just don’t yet have the necessary perspective to understand exactly what happened. I know I’ve changed and learned new things, but haven’t yet determined at what cost.
Taking the time to process stuff is critical. It’s comparable, I think, to pain management. You have to be aware of it, understand that you can’t hide from it and stay on top of it before it has a chance to overwhelm you. Eventually, though, you need to move forward with what comes next. This song just might help you with that.
Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, birthdays, Exercise, favorites, friends, musings, Observations, relationships, running, sunday, Troy, Uncategorized
Unexpectedly, I found myself with the evening free last night. Since I had been mourning a lack of opportunity to visit the park on a sunny day and the evening was stellar, I grabbed Jeter and headed down with my Nikon for a walk. I parked on South Lake and meandered along the “lake,” making my way towards Moses and the tulip beds, passing folks fishing and families strolling and runners, feeling perfectly content with exactly what I was doing.
The air was wonderfully fresh and scented by blossoming trees. Jeter was better behaved than usual despite the unfamiliar surroundings and the dozens of people roaming around. I took pictures, reminding myself with each shutter snap how much I’ve missed taking photos with my camera, instead of my phone. As I glanced around, I was surprised by two things – how few people I recognized and how wonderfully diverse Albany was becoming.
Everywhere I looked I saw people with skin in a rainbow of shades. Folks were dressed uniquely and children, particularly little girls, were wearing their spring finest posing among the flowers for family photos. There were no harsh voices and everyone seemed to be enjoying time spent outdoors after a spring that was a long time coming. It was lovely and left me feeling so happy and proud of my adopted city.
I’ve got two recommendations for you – get there if you can. The tulips should be blooming for at least another week, I imagine. My second suggestion? When you find yourself with some spare time, fill it doing something that gives you joy.
I know about as much about jazz as I do about wine. I like some of it, I recognize a few names and I am usually willing to try something new when it comes to both of those topics. While my favorite wines are often bright and fruity, when it comes to jazz I’m more taken by dark and smoky sounds. I like jazz that sounds like you might have once heard it played in a candlelit bar in a city whose name you can’t quite remember.
Last night I took a chance on trying something new, jazz-wise. I had seen an ad for the Brad Mehldau Trio and the description “Thelonious Monk classics, American Songbook standards…” had grabbed me, so I got myself to The Egg on Sunday and bought a ticket. After a quick stop at Cafe Capriccio for a delicious Stoli gimlet, that is.
The trio consisted of Brad on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums and each of them were mesmerizing in their own way. At times, I felt as if I were a voyeur observing the relationship that seemed to exist between each of the musicians and their instruments. It was so intimate – the curve of Mehldau’s back as he curled over the keyboards, the drape of Grenadier’s arm around the neck of his bass, the varied tension that Ballard possessed in his hands..
Closing my eyes, I absorbed the music in the center of my body. The songs rolled into one another, with some alternating solos thrown in, and after about 85 minutes or so, it was over. I was home by 9:15 with a new favorite contemporary jazz trio and a promise to myself to buy their upcoming album and enjoy it with some wine.
Stringing seven consecutive positive days together isn’t always easy. For some people it may never happen, which means that those of us fortunate enough to experience good weeks should celebrate them. What makes a good week? It involves finding a balance between all of the various roles we play in life, for me, specifically Mom, friend, worker and player.
Last week, I doubled down on some of my favorite activities and was able to work in two (different studios) yoga classes, two (different routes) runs and two (different golf courses) skis. I went to a party early in the week and saw a cool band Friday night at The Lowbeat. In between there was a good soak in a hot tub, along with some responsible financial and medical decisions and a bit of vacation planning. I worked two solid shifts at Mio Posto and was rewarded for my efforts when a slice of coconut cream pie was plated by accident meaning we got to eat it. That was a sweet way to end my work week.
Colonie Golf Course
Sunday was a great day – not too busy, yet productive without feeling rushed at all. I made waffles for the boys for breakfast and leisurely read the papers. I washed the car and had my nine remaining toe nails attended to with a pedicure. The sheets were changed and laundry was washed, dried and folded leaving the hamper empty for a brief moment. Jeter and I took a fun run down the yellow brick road and through the farm into the back nine at Muni and came home more exhilarated than tired. There were baths for both of us, mine with bath salts and a book, followed by dinner. My mushroom, provolone and ham omelette with a side salad topped with a perfect avocado was delicious, as was the Cherry Garcia ice cream that beautifully punctuated my supper.
I was in bed by 9:15 and asleep a short time later. I awoke this morning before 5:00 feeling ready for a new week and appreciative for all of the positive and wonderful things present in my life. It may not sound like much, but if you treat the small gifts like large ones you might be amazed by how rich you really are.
Filed under Albany, beauty, Dinner, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Observations, running, sunday, Uncategorized, x-country skiing, yoga
Tuesday night I was lucky enough to join an already in progress festive event down at Cafe Capriccio. Gathered together to celebrate Albany’s literary native son William Kennedy’s birthday were dozens of family members, friends and colleagues. I arrived as speakers began to share their thoughts, memories and best wishes and it was remarkable. The evening’s host, New York State Writers Institute director, Paul Grondahl, invited those present to share their own words in Bill’s honor and for a brief second I considered accepting the offer. It probably would have taken 2 more glasses of wine to get me to speak publicly, but the thoughts that were prompted can just as easily be shared here.
Albany has a modern literary tradition thanks to William Kennedy. His characters populate the streets and the imagination of a city which has been maligned and misrepresented for decades, if not centuries. The stories he has told portray a city filled with residents, frequently Irish American, living hardscrabble lives, corrupt, violent and often tragically funny. The struggles of his characters are familiar and universal, yet because they take place in Albany, N.Y., they are our stories. We own them, just like William Kennedy belongs to us, and despite the less than stellar reputations possessed by so many of his characters, we embrace them.
Because of William Kennedy, and his vision in founding the New York State Writer’s Institute, acclaimed authors have visited our area and shared their craft with audiences at no cost to attendees. As an undergraduate, I was thrilled to listen to Allen Ginsberg and Joyce Carol Oates read from their work. More recently, an in-depth symposium focused on telling the truth in a post-truth era brought heavyweight journalists to our area for a weekend of timely and interesting events. None of these experiences would have been available without the NYSWI and we as a city are indebted to Bill Kennedy for the opportunities to hear and learn from literary luminaries and embattled professional journalists.
The third gift I received that night was less tangible than the others and I don’t know if I have the words to describe it. The best I can come up with is it was a combined sense of pride, belonging and possibility. As the child of an Irishman I never met, I’ve sought out Irish culture and traditions for as long as I can remember. Witnessing a roomful of people singing a rousing chorus of Molly Malone (and joining in!) fed my soul as delightfully as Jim Rua’s always-prepared-with-love meals feed my belly. The thrill and privilege of being present at such an incredibly special event is something I will never forget. While I don’t imagine ever writing a book, the fact that Ironweed wasn’t published until Bill Kennedy was 55, and that I was present at his 90th birthday party, reminds me that just about anything is possible.
Christmas Day was pretty stunning this year with that gorgeous fresh snow. Once the boys were on their way, I grabbed the dog and my skis and headed to Muni for my first ski of the season. Conditions were decent and I went straight out past the driving range towards a wooded trail I like. After a few hundred yards something weird starting happening with my left ski. My foot kept coming loose and the binding just wasn’t cooperating. I ended up taking both skis off, tossing them over my shoulder and simply enjoying the walk.
After I got home I looked closely at the skis and realized that one of the bindings was missing a piece. No worries, until I could it repaired I could use skis that belonged to the Lilly boys. Jeter and I got back out to the golf course the next day. Imagine my
annoyance surprise when I realized that these skis also had a malfunctioning binding. The good news that day was that I discovered the problem before I attempted to ski. I put the skis back in the car and, again, we took a walk.
A local ski shop suggested I check out LL Bean for replacement bindings and I headed there bright and early the 27th. I got lucky and was assisted by a super knowledgeable salesperson. I didn’t catch his name but he really knew his stuff and he was more helpful than any other ski salesperson I’ve worked with in the past. The replacement bindings he had available were clearly not great quality and he offered to mount bindings that I might buy somewhere else. Unfortunately, the nearest locations to purchase the NNN bindings I needed was more than a 30 minute drive and I wanted to ski NOW.
The salesman and I talked about the life expectancy of a pair of cross country skis and the cost of new boots, which I needed. My boots had been splitting at the seams for the past three years and I had tossed them at the end of last year’s season. The boys’ boots were about a size and a half too big, but I had planned to make them work until I had a chance to replace my own. Impulsively, I asked how much it would cost to put me in a completely new set of skis…
Twenty-five minutes (and $360) later I walked out of LL Bean with a completely new ski package. The shopping experience was great and I love my skis. This equipment is exactly what I’ve been looking for in terms of ski length and width for the kind of skiing I do on mostly ungroomed trails and Jeter and I have been tearing up the golf course every chance we’ve had since. Maybe we’ll see you there!
Saturday was a great day to be an active Albanian. The day began with yoga and while the evening’s activity was a no-brainer, the choice of which class to take was a real dilemma. For the sake of trying something new, I went with the pop up yoga class being offered at the art museum at the University at Albany.
I had originally heard about this free class (donations welcome) last month when it was first offered. I couldn’t make that class, but getting to this one at noon was easy enough despite my lack of familiarity with where to park on campus. We set up our mats on the second floor and were led through a 75 minute all levels practice. Modifications were offered and our instructor, Carrie, was proactive about moving around the room to offer assistance and suggestions. There was a really nice spiritual element and we were invited to consider the art on display as we imagined the colors prompted by our positions. It was the perfect way to loosen up my muscles and joints for my next activity – Albany’s Last Run
This race is my absolute favorite 5k of the year. There’s just something about running with your favorite running friends through the garish light display in Washington Park that screams Christmas to me. Factor in our first snowfall of the season and you’ve got the perfect event to herald the holidays. It was a blast!
Since parking can be challenging, I find the best way to reach the starting line is to run from my house to Center Square. This year I was particularly glad that I did that since my warm up run gave me an opportunity to experience how truly treacherous the conditions were from the still falling snow. It was crazy slippery! After meeting up with the Lunar b*tches, we made our way to the Capitol and cheered as the fireworks display lit up the snowy sky. Despite the fireworks going a bit long (it felt a bit self-indulgent as I began to get chilled) it was pretty damn festive. When the horn sounded for us to begin, I happily started up Washington Avenue.
The conditions were definitely intense – lots of people, slick streets and some spots that were not particularly well-lit. You know what? None of it mattered. It was a beautiful night for a run through Washington Park and Albany was shining like a diamond. As the race drew to a close, I managed to resist the urge to sprint down State Street for a big finish, which was a good show of restraint considering the number of people who went down as they crossed the finish line. I really wouldn’t have wanted to fall, or to have missed a second of that run. It was a great day and night to be an Albanian.
Filed under Albany, beauty, Christmas, Exercise, favorites, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, running, snow, Uncategorized, yoga