Tag Archives: events

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.

Advertisements

1 Comment

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.

3 Comments

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

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, concerts, Dinner, Eating, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Restaurants, 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.

3 Comments

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

Crafts and craft cider

There’s something about Columbus Day weekend that makes me want to take a road trip. I don’t need to go far or stay away from home for long, but I just need to scratch my itch and get out town. As is often the case, the options for the holiday weekend were numerous and making a decision was a challenge. I’m inclined to fill up my dance card, so to speak, and it took some effort to select two events to attend. Plan in hand, I hit the road late Sunday morning and headed south. First stop – Kingston’s Hutton Brickyards.

Field + Supply, “a modern makers craft fair” is not the kind of event I generally attend. I’m not particularly crafty and don’t like crowds, particularly when they’re fawning over darling and precious handiworks. But, I got the sense that this was different and it was in a perfect in between spot to meet Hudson Valley friends. I’m so glad I went!

The venue is pretty cool, situated right on the river with covered spaces providing shelter on a damp day. Parking was free and well organized. We paid our $15 entry fee, adding an extra $5 to score a cloth bag, and wandered in, immediately impressed by the set up. There were plenty of people around, all of whom were remarkably attractive, but it never felt crowded. The various vendors craftspeople offered an array of handmade, small production items including jewelry, clothing, furniture, leather goods, fragrance/cosmetics and food.

IMG_3041

IMG_3037We availed ourselves of a number of items and I couldn’t be happier with my cool leather/wool plaid shoulder bag, an organic hair product designed to smooth and shape hair, incense and a bodacious jar of honey. It feels good to purchase from producers. Next stop…Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook.

This was the third time, I think, that I have attended Cider Sunday sponsored by Nine-Pin. The cider and food are always solid, it’s the weather that’s the wild card for this event each year. By the time I arrived after 3:00, it was warm, humid but not raining. No complaints on the weather, or anything else for that matter. I chatted with some folks I know, sipped an Original cider, ate some DeFazio’s and enjoyed the music. It was the perfect pit stop with a purpose.

Another good Sunday spent exploring the Hudson Valley. We are so lucky here, people! PS. If you feel the way I do about craft fairs, let me recommend one that’s coming up – The Half Moon Market is docking again in Washington Park’s Lake House. It makes for the perfect fall afternoon in Center Square.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, road trips, sunday, upstate New York

A half dozen halves

Good friends

I recently ran my 6th half marathon – a claim I never imagined writing, much less accomplishing. The race, Rosendale Runs organized by the Shawagunk Runners group, was essentially a rail trail course, with a couple of miles at the beginning on the road. It was my first time running this race and I really liked the course. There was basically only one hill, and it was very early on, making for a mellow 13+ miles.

Saturday races can be challenging from a practical point of view, especially when they’re out of town. This one worked out pretty well since I crashed at a friend’s place Friday and woke up in close proximity to the course, which was in Rosendale just north of New Paltz. It was a damp, cool morning and I was really glad I had tossed a hat in my bag because I definitely needed it.

What can you say about a half marathon? It was scenic, the runners and organizers were all pleasant and I felt pretty strong running the distance. There was a trestle bridge that offered beautiful views and the path we ran on was soft and wide making for ideal conditions other than in the muddy spots.

Good swag!

I’ve gotten a tad blasé about 1/2s, and have accepted the reality that I’m probably never going to break any speed records. Instead, I run them to push myself a bit and to gain a new experience. I was happy to share this one with a couple of friends and I’ll be checking to see if it fits in my schedule next year again. Maybe I’ll even run it a little faster.

1 Comment

Filed under beauty, Exercise, friends, road trips, running, Uncategorized, upstate New York

When the spot for hot yoga is South Pearl Street

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. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, Events, Exercise, Local, Recommendations, yoga