Roger Answers Your Questions, Shooting Parrot, Tom the Mayor, and Rose

Albany is the right size for me.

I’ve been to the blog of Shooting Parrots, and have yet to see any dead or maimed birds. Regardless, he asked:

With most blogs, you get a sense of a life, but not necessarily a sense of place, apart from hints here and there. Could you describe the area where you live, what you like and/or hate about it, its history, the places you like to visit and things you like to do? Pretty much a blank cheque really!

Yikes, this is tough! So open-ended. Well, OK.

Albany is the capital of New York State. One of the things that kinda annoys me about that is that people from other parts of the state say we have to “fix Albany” when they mean state government. It’s like “fixing Washington” when referring to the US federal government.

Not that there aren’t things to fix in the city itself. Part of it has to do with bizarre urban planning. There is something generally called the Empire State Plaza, or the South Mall, which was built in the 1960s, apparently, as a result of the then-governor, Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, being embarrassed by Albany’s allegedly parochial look when some Dutch royalty was visiting. This involved tearing down dozens of houses, and made the city’s downtown less walkable and vibrant in many ways, though it did provide it with its distinctive skyline.

Of course, Rocky couldn’t have pulled it off without the support of the city’s mayor, Erastus Corning, a Democrat, who ended up being mayor for 41 years. This is STILL a one-party town and has been for nearly a century. I don’t think there’s a single non-Democrat on the Common Council (and if there is, it’s a Green, not a Republican). This makes the primary election all important.

There is a long-standing event every year called Pinksterfest or the Tulip Festival that goes on in Washington Park on Mother’s Day weekend in May. Washington Park, BTW, was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the guy who planned New York City’s Central Park, among many others. when I lived closer to the park, I didn’t mind not having a yard, because I had the huge yard that was the park.

This is a university town. I recently wrote about that.

Albany is often called, derisively, Smallbany, because there’s a good chance that, particularly in the arts/progressive community, you all know each other or know somebody a degree or two away. I HATE when, in describing Albany’s virtues, one notes that it’s three hours to New York City, Boston, or Montreal, as though its proximity to SOMEWHERE ELSE is its sole calling card. Also, Montreal is at least four hours away, unless you drive like one of my brothers-in-law.

It’s like those TV shows that tease – in the middle of the show, in the lower corner – the NEXT show, as though watching THIS show isn’t good enough to be watching. And it is. For all its flaws, I like Albany. It’s working hard to TRY to be a more livable city. The population is well-educated, in the main, and reasonably liberal.

Speaking of TV, the first TV program was broadcast around here. Really. I’ve been to the Schenectady Museum, where there’s lots of early broadcast equipment.

There are some lovely old buildings here. Coincidentally, just this month, I visited the state Capitol on a tour. The interesting thing is that when it was built, there were massive cost overruns and a four-year project took about 40 and was technically unfinished when Governor Theodore Roosevelt, one of four New York State governors to eventually become President, pulled the plug. So state government’s incompetence is not a recent phenomenon.

Albany is the right size for me. Not overwhelmingly large like New York City, or too small, like my hometown of Binghamton, NY has become. Because it’s the capital, there are usually events going on, some of them free, though not as many lately due to budgetary constraints.

Specifically, I live in a section called the Pine Hills, which has both homeowners and student renters, a good thing, I believe. I can walk to the post office, drug store, supermarket, and movie theater.

I like Albany because it’s an old city, founded in 1686. It has a history, which it sometimes undermines, but cannot entirely. In some newer cities, I’ve found lots of shinier buildings, but no THERE there.

What do I DO here? The wife and I try to go on a date once a month. It might be a restaurant, a movie (almost never at a theater in the malls), or the Albany Symphony, which plays in Albany and Troy. Used to go to Capital Rep theatre, but I think we’ve been there once since the child was born. There’s Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, a nearby city, an old revitalized vaudeville house that I happen to love. And not that far out of town, is Thatcher Park, with tremendous views.

Tanya Bayo came by to say: In the chinese culture, the autumnal equinox coincides with what we call the “mid autumn festival”. During this time we get together with close friends and relatives to play a dice game and give mooncakes to each other. Thanks for that, Tanya.

Tom the Mayor, with whom I worked at the comic book store FantaCo asked:
Did the fact that Fantaco was publishing some pretty gruesome, {and selling some even more gruesome}, books have a part in your leaving Fantaco when you did?

Well, sorta. We started selling books like that as early as 1981 when we published Splatter Movies. But it wasn’t the gruesomeness that turned me off, it was the fact that I was no longer even reading the products we were publishing, because of their gruesomeness, to be sure, that made me feel very detached from the place at a certain point. I was shocked to go through my journal from the summer of 1987 and see that I wrote that I would leave in a year; I didn’t leave until November 1988, but I knew I wasn’t going to stay there forever. And if the market had allowed us to do more stuff like the Chronicles, it might have been different.

Ironically, if I had stayed, I could have made quite a bit of money, because I was making a percentage of mail-order sales of goods that I just wasn’t that into.
Rose asked:
You recently switched from Blogger to WordPress, how do you like WordPress compared to Blogger?

It’s funny. I’m typing this in Blogger because I find it easier. Sometimes when I’m typing in WP, the screen jumps, especially when I’m trying to put in some simple HTML code. Also, Blogger will SAVE NOW automatically; maybe WP does too, but I’ve typed stuff, failed to save it, and lost stuff on WP; that made me crazy. And I still haven’t mastered the photos on WP. When I had my Times Union blog, before this one, I wanted to put in a picture of Dudley Do-Right, who I thought looked a bit like the former governor Eliot Spitzer, and the photo ended up twice the size of the page, so I put pictures in Blogger.

That said, I like the LOOK of the WordPress blog much better, I like the Akismet spam blocker, I like how I can reply to specific questions.

BTW, Rose’s question wasn’t an idle one. The blog I’m on now I won in a contest she held back in February, I think. Not incidentally, she’s holding another one.

Rose also asked:
Why did you choose to be a librarian?

I will refer you to the aforementioned Times Union blog, where I answered that very question just this month!

Scott, Anne-Marie, and anybody else, more answers on Monday!

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

7 thoughts on “Roger Answers Your Questions, Shooting Parrot, Tom the Mayor, and Rose”

  1. Pingback: Parrot Sense
  2. Thanks Roger, that really helps paint a picture of Albany and is also incredibly timely. Just today I finished reading Never Look Away which is set in the fictional town of Paradise Falls, not far from Albany, which features in passing. As does the three hour drive to Boston.

    If you are interested in the history of television and you ever get to the UK, try the National Media Museum in Bradford.

    Thanks again

  3. When I lived in the Massachusetts Berkshires, my then-husband and I visited Albany on a couple of occasions. Once to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse at some large arena type place and another time we walked around and I discovered this cute little shop in the lower level of a brownstone – it was the something-or-other herb shop. I bought a little monkey that clapped cymbals when you squeezed a little pump. It was a totally groovy place even though it only sold the kind of herbs you cook with! 😉

  4. Neil Young just played a solo concert in May 2010, but I’m guessing you’re talking about something that’s now known as the Times Union Center, but before that was the Pepsi Arena, and before that, the Knickerbocker Arena.

    I suspect that herb shop was on Lark Street, a pretty bohemian place, though it could have been this place on State Street I used to shop every Christmas.

  5. Good for you fog going back to school as an adult. Thanks for answering my questions. I enjoyed learning a bit about you & thanks for the plug.

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