Tag Archives: events

I told a story

For months I’ve been seeing posts on Facebook promoting the Front Parlor Series – public storytelling in the Capital Region. The group hosts an event every third Monday of the month at The Olde English and describes them as being “like The Moth radio hour…” Hmmm, doesn’t that sound interesting?

Needless to say, I’ve been wanting to get down there for some time and when I saw that June’s theme was “Dads,” I knew I had to go. The event began at 7:30 and I rolled in solo some time after 8:00. The upstairs room at The Olde English was steamy hot which provided the perfect excuse for my flushed face and general sweaty-with-nerves appearance. I  missed the first group of storytellers and had arrived at intermission. Never having done an open mic thing before, I looked around for a sign-up sheet, but learned quickly that it was more casual than that – just leave your name and they’ll let you know when it’s your turn.

There were three people in front of me and they each told stories which were unique in both content and conveyance. The first man seemed to be responding to an earlier participant (his daughter?) and tended to wander  a bit, while the second man had a more focused tale that he shared, gathering laughs along the way. The woman immediately before me told a sweet, but alarmingly brief, story that had a distinctly poetic sound to it. I would have enjoyed hearing more from her, but suddenly it was my turn.

The rules stated no notes, so I didn’t have anything beyond a mental outline of what I was going to share. Participants are limited to 5-7 minutes, but I had no sense of how long it would take to tell my story. There had been a timer which had actually sounded during one of the previous stories, but no one really paid any attention to it from what I could see. Maybe it would have been an issue had there been more participants, but on this particular night it wasn’t a problem. That took some pressure off and I made a note to speak slowly and take my time collecting my thoughts and words.

So – my story was about how I found my father. I brought a prop for inspiration (and a shot of confidence), the 30+ year old page from the Dublin phone directory which led to me locating my first ever relative on either side of my family. It’s a story that can take significantly longer to tell than 7 minutes, but I hit the most important parts while purposefully keeping the story focused on my father and his our family.

The response from the audience was encouraging. They laughed and sighed at the right times and afterwards a few were kind enough to compliment me on my story.  I recognize that I tell stories here, but standing in front of a roomful of strangers and actually seeing their reaction was a whole new experience for me. I’d definitely consider doing this again, if only as an exercise in pushing myself beyond my comfort level.

Maybe you have some stories to tell, too?

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Filed under Albany, Events, ideas, Local, Observations, Recommendations, writing

Listen

Some people find it odd that “my” library is at the end of the wing where the music department has some of their classrooms. When the air conditioning is on we close the doors, but for much of the year sounds from the band room make their way to my desk and I love it. Wednesday afternoons the jazz band plays and it’s my favorite day of the week to listen. Our teachers are so good at what they do – exposing students to music, cultivating their talents, inspiring their efforts. It truly never ceases to amaze me.

This time of year, our students are working hard to prepare for various concerts and performances and the song selections include graduation favorites such as Pomp and Circumstance, a tune that never fails to make me feel nostalgic. Hearing this song is an audible reminder that the school year is almost over, that it’s time to mark both an ending and a beginning, and it is music to my ears.

The clear delineation of the calendar is one the greatest perks of teaching for me. I’m the kind of person who appreciates a new academic year, a new semester, a new quarter, a new week and a new day because each of these milestones comes with an opportunity to start anew. I’ve always loved flipping a calendar to an entirely new month of days and a brand new notebook never failed to inspire me to attempt to do my best work. There’s always a fresh beginning for which to look forward, something different coming our way.

In the past couple of days two people whom I’ve admired and been inspired by, found themselves unable to survive the thought of another day of living. They were in a place so dark and so sad that they couldn’t see that the next day, or even the very next moment, provided another chance to start again.

As we get ready to witness the commencement of another class of students and send them off to their next life chapter, I worry that we’re creating a culture where music and books aren’t thought to belong together, but success, depression and suicide are. What are we teaching these kids? When do they get to connect – with one another and not the WiFi network? We have dozens of devices designed to facilitate conversation but no one’s really communicating.

We need to slow it down and start listening better. This is a health crisis and we can do better. Listen.

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Filed under aging, beauty, Education, Europe, Events, favorites, France, friends, musings, NYC, Observations, politics

Lost and Found: Sunday yoga

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Photo from Lost and Found

The first outdoor yoga class I took left me unimpressed with the experience. I recall it being a little annoying – there were all kinds of bugs, my mat wasn’t even on the bumpy and lumpy ground and grass got all over everything. Instead of the setting enhancing the experience, for me, it was a distraction. No bueno.

I didn’t unroll my mat again outdoors for a long time. When I finally felt ready again to take my practice outdoors, I went in a different direction – on my own deck, on a paddle board, on the streets of downtown Albany. Each of those opportunities provided more satisfaction than that initial foray into the great outdoors, so when I saw that Lost and Found in Albany’s Warehouse District was offering a free Sunday morning class, I decided to give it a shot.

While I had originally intended to ride my bike downtown, my Sunday morning speed nixed that plan. I was able to assuage my guilt at being a slacker by offering to pick up a friend on my way and we arrived at our destination a few minutes before the scheduled 10:00 start time. Parking was plentiful and we made our way to the end of the second row of yogis.

The morning sun felt wonderful and I quickly shed my long-sleeved shirt in favor of just a tank. The grassy lot was fairly flat and whenever I found myself face down on my mat, I couldn’t help but inhale deeply. The clover sprinkled grass just smelled great. The two instructors co-taught the class effectively, helping participants adjust poses, modifying and offering options and clearly communicating throughout the practice. It was a wonderful way to spend an hour outdoors and I’ll definitely keep an eye on Lost and Found’s Facebook page for future classes. 

Note – class participants are given a 20% discount on any brunch entree following class and, while the class is free, donations were accepted to benefit Out of the Pits, a pit bull rescue organization. Cool, right?

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Filed under Albany, Brunch, Events, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Spring, yoga

Seneca 7

Three days post-race and I’m thinking I may have peaked in terms of muscle soreness. Since I can’t really run for another couple of days, I’ve got a little time to share my first relay race experience from an event I participated in the last weekend in April. You know, that spring weekend when it legitimately snowed…

The Seneca Seven is a seven-member team relay race with a course that goes completely around Seneca Lake. The race is divided into 21 legs with each runner taking 3 legs. I was runner 4 with a total mileage of just about 9 miles. I had requested hills and my generous teammates indulged me by giving me a terrific climb of approximately 300 ft over 3.5 miles for my second leg. Honestly, it really wasn’t that bad but don’t tell my teammates!

Before I got there, though, there were a lot of group messages on Facebook and far too many details to be communicated and managed. Seriously, organizing 14 women is truly like herding cats and there’s a reason that this sort of event is one that I’ve not experienced before – it’s too much work for too little running. Not taking into account any of the time prior to our departure for Geneva, N.Y., the race absorbed 36 hours of my weekend and I ran less than 10 miles. That’s negative math for me.

But, the positives? There definitely were some. I really enjoyed riding in the van and getting to know the women who were on my team. We had some fun for sure and I’d happily hang out with any of them again. The course was beautiful, even in the snow/rain mix with which we had to contend. I haven’t been to the Finger Lakes in years and Geneva looked like a perfect spot for a summer weekend spent enjoying the outdoors as well checking out some of the restaurants and shops that line the charming streets of town.

There are also tons of wineries and breweries that I’d be happy to explore, maybe even on bike. The roads generally have wide shoulders and I think the riding would be awesome.

img_4974One of the best things about the race came after the 12 hours we spent on the course. Apparently, there was some controversy about this year’s race shirts. It seems that some folks were offended by one of the images on the shirt, an image one of my teammates had questioned because we didn’t understand what it was depicting. The image, a swoop of yellow hair with a line drawn through it represented Donald Trump and was included, according to race officials, because of his lack of support of environmental issues.

While some might say that politics don’t belong in races, I disagree. Personally, I hesitated before committing to the Shape Half Marathon last month because I’m not a fan of the event’s media sponsor. Choosing to participate in an activity can be interpreted as supporting a cause or endorsing a person and I don’t generally do that lightly. I’m not sure that I’ll do this particular race again, but I will proudly wear my new shirt.

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Filed under Events, Exercise, friends, Observations, road trips, running, Spring, Uncategorized

Running for the sun and in the rain

6C2FD511-7AB1-4E36-82A5-F281E1249DEFWhile I don’t maintain a formal bucket list, I have long thought that I would like to take part in a race in NYC. When an elementary (!) school friend contacted me a few months ago about the Shape Half Marathon, I knew I had found my race. The price was a little extravagant, and the media partner wasn’t really my cup of tea, but the course was appealing and I’ll pretty much spend a weekend in NYC anytime – even if it means I have to run 13.1 miles!

Spring has been a long time coming in the northeast this year, which only made Saturday’s forecast of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s that much more appealing. The race, however, was being held on Sunday morning, which had much less favorable forecast. Our only solution was to soak up as much sunshine (and carbohydrates) as possible pre-race, which we did as we walked and ate our way around the city. 

2D0952C4-C7CD-44AE-A311-9A4631FD6C42Race day dawned dry, but cold. We cabbed the 30 blocks to Central Park and spent the 45 minutes or so before the start working hard to stay warm. It was a raw and miserable morning* and I regretted not adding gloves or a warm hat to my racing wear.  My legs were trembling from the cold for the first mile and it wasn’t until the 3 mile mark that my hands felt warm, but, I was running a race in NYC and somehow that made it ok. My favorite parts were when we were on the east side of the park with views of the Guggenheim and the Met, the area at the northernmost part of the park and all of the daffodils and flowering trees in bloom. It was spring in NYC!

51F7B6B0-B3DD-49A1-91BD-9B948EB8075FThe hills of the park didn’t register too much on my radar, but my pace was slow and comfortable, except for that last mile which felt like 5 miles. I didn’t have much kick left to finish strong, but I managed to get across the line in 2:23:09 with a bathroom break and multiple water stops. I was in the top half of my age group and that satisfies me. After the race I wrapped up in my first foil blanket and caught a train back to the hotel for a gloriously hot shower. Next race: The Seneca 7, a 77 mile team relay in the Finger Lakes. Let’s hope for a sunny day!

*although not as raw and blustery as this year’s Boston Marathon. Man, those runners are warriors!

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Filed under Events, Exercise, Flowers, friends, NYC, Observations, road trips, running, Spring

What William Kennedy gave me on his 90th birthday

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.

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Filed under Albany, Books, Events, favorites, Irish, Local, Observations, Restaurants, upstate New York

Getting schooled at Cafe Capriccio

C407CADB-0DA3-41F5-808A-FC99748F03B1.pngI’ve been a devotee of Grand Street’s Café Capriccio for so very long that if I had a sip of Chianti to match each wonderful memory I’m lucky enough to have created there…well, I’d be pretty damn drunk. I’ve experienced just about every type of event imaginable in this incredibly cozy space – romantic date, girls’ night, Mother’s Day, countless dinners at the bar, chef’s table parties upstairs, significant birthdays, a bridal shower, musical performances, a psychic reading, pre-concert meals, staff holiday dinners and after hours dance parties*. I won’t say that each and every visit to the Café has been stellar, but I can count the disappointments on a single hand and when you’re talking about 25 years’ worth of dining, well, that adds up to a pretty solid history.

A couple of Mondays ago, I added a new experience to my Capriccio memories – Cooking School. I had tried to register for classes in the past but had been shut out, as they’re limited to a dozen attendees and fill up quickly.  A friend and I jumped on the opportunity quickly this time and successfully landed a couple of spots at the table. Our menu:

img_3262Beans and greens – made with Franco Rua’s house cured pancetta, broccoli raabe, white beans, garlic and hot red pepper flakes.

Salad of chicory and endive tossed with tomatoes, celery, onion, oil and vinegar

Pasta with Italian canned tomatoes, house made guanciale, cheese

img_3263Lamb chops – pan seared and finished in the over, served with a pan sauce of anchovy, garlic, rosemary

Walnut torte

I may have forgotten a few ingredients in the above dishes (it was 2 weeks ago!), but I won’t forget how much fun the night was. The group seated around the table was convivial, friendly and definitely interested in cooking, food and travel. While we didn’t actually participate in the preparation of the meal, it was a very casual evening and guests were certainly welcome to move around and get as close to the action as they desired. Service was excellent and the flow of wine (the Palladio Chianti was delish) was bountiful, a couple of classic Capriccio features I always have appreciated. The Ruas know how to run a restaurant and have never been miserly with their stories or knowledge and  I’m very much looking forward to getting more educated in 2018.

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recipes, Recommendations, Restaurants, Wine