The day they knocked down the Palais

Around 1987-1989, I was living in this nifty apartment in the West Hill section of Albany. I loved this building.


I’m listening to the Kinks recently, not surprising since Ray Davies’ birthday was June 23. The song Come Dancing came on, and, oddly, I got all melancholy.

The lyrics begin:
They put a parking lot on a piece of land
Where the supermarket used to stand.
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local Palais.

It reminded me of things as they once were, which are not anymore. My elementary/junior high school, where I spent ten years of my life, was torn down years ago to build some housing that just didn’t mesh with the character of the neighborhood. My grandmother’s house, a few blocks away, where I came home for lunch every day for a decade, is also long gone. My high school merged with the other public high school; I get these nostalgia solicitations to remind me that I went to Binghamton High School. Except that I didn’t; until 1982, it was Binghamton CENTRAL, the Bulldogs, not the Patriots. There are actually a LOT of those places that used to be in my hometown, replaced by highways, or nothing at all.

But what triggered this nostalgic wave occurred considerably later, around 1987-1989, when I was living in this nifty two-family apartment in the West Hill section of Albany. I loved this building. It had two apartments, and when I walked down the hall and inside, I was in the kitchen! The bedroom was next to it. The living room, and the spare room, where I kept my comic books at the time, were in the front of the building. The best thing, though, is when I moved in, I could put all my books and records on the enclosed back porch, taking my time to unpack them without having to trip over them. The landlord, Steve, was pretty OK, too, now that I remember. It was my favorite place living by myself for a lot of reasons.

I’ve been riding my bicycle partway home, and I always ride down North Lake Avenue, but I decided to veer off to pass by the old homestead. It was all boarded up, with the grass around it all overgrown. My heart sank a bit. I know the neighborhood had deteriorated since I was there; still, this made me more than a bit sad. I suppose I could buy it for $31,300, but I fear what renovation would be required.

And that Kinks song, imperfect match though it was, ran through my head. Though I was in my thirties by then, it was as though “Part of my childhood died.” It was, if not my best self, a period when I was quite contented.

Listen to Come Dancing by the Kinks.