Now, I’m a REAL Albanian

I was at a party in Albany, NY in the early 1980s. Someone commented how difficult it was to be considered “from Albany” if you weren’t born here, or had not been here “at least thirty years”. And I always remembered that.

Well, finally, I am real-life, dyed-in-the-wool person from Albany, with all the rights and privileges that come with it. Especially the right, nay, the obligation, to make fun of people on commercials who say Al-ban-y (like the guy’s first name) instead of ALL-BAN-Y .

I moved to Albany in 1979. So I didn’t remember, I was not present for:
*When WRGB moved from Channel 4 to Channel 6
*TV children’s entertainer Freddy Freihofer
*What Albany looked like before it was torn up to build the Empire State Plaza

But I HAVE been here long enough to remember:
*When Erastus Corning was mayor
*When the band Blotto was on MTV (Worst video? NO WAY!)
*When the band Fear of Strangers was the Units; own a Units single
*When the Spectrum Theater in Albany was the Third Street Cinema in Troy
*The Honest Weight Food Co-op, two addresses ago
* Metroland, a half dozen addresses ago
*Justin’s, a couple owners ago
*When Phil Jackson coached Albany Patroons, who played in the Washington Avenue Armory, and won the 1984 Continental Basketball League title
*The 1986 Albany Tricentennial Celebration
*The October 4, 1987 snowstorm
*When they filmed Ironweed in Albany; had a Jack Nicholson sighting at the Palace Theatre
*When the Knickerbocker Arena (or whatever they’re calling it now) was built
*When Jerry Jennings ran for mayor as a progressive
*The July 15, 1995 derecho; woke me out a sound sleep with 70 MPH winds rattling my bedroom windows at 7 a.m.
*Albany First Night

I should note that I did, in fact, live in Schenectady for a year and a half before moving to Albany. But everybody knows that, except for going to work or for special events (going to the Troy Music Hall, Proctor’s in Schenectady, the Palace Theatre in Albany, e.g.), travel between Albany and Schenectady, or Albany to Troy, for that matter, is strictly prohibited, enforced by the barbed wire at the borders. Likewise the cities and the suburbs.

I’m a homeowner now, but I was a renter for a number of years. As a result, I have lived on a number of streets in Albany, including: Hudson Avenue, Madison Avenue, Morris Street, Lancaster Street, Manning Boulevard, North Allen Street, Ontario Street, Second Street, and Western Avenue. Though I’ve been in the same place for the last nine years, I’m convinced that my friends still write my address in their address books in pencil.

In the last primary election cycle, one of the candidates indicated in the literature being born in Albany, while the opponent came here only in 1991. Is that 30-year rule is breaking down? If I’m remembering correctly, the transplanted candidate won.

Photo from the NYS Education Department

A few days in the life

Apparently, there are actually blogs that do nothing but note all the things that happen in people’s lives. I’ve been resistant to that, but I’m inclined to note the last few days in some detail. I suppose I could have made these many Twitter posts – and be mocked – but frankly have been too busy.

After racquetball, go to the dentist. He’d put a crown in last fall, but he was dissatisfied with the spacing between my teeth, where food would get caught, so he’s doing a redo gratis. It may be free, but it’s not free of discomfort. Also takes longer than planned and I miss my bus – another one doesn’t come for 2.5 hours, but my colleague picks me up.
End of the day, wife drops off daughter at my work to take home, so wife can go to meetings, one work-related, the other at church. Unfortunately, she can’t find the first meeting and the second one is canceled.

Father-Child Pancake Breakfast at daughter’s daycare. That was nice, but I had to break up a couple boys who were literally about to come to blows over toy dinosaurs. A friend of mine that I’ve only known since 1958, whose birthday is today, BTW, suggested over four years ago that it’s probably a good thing I had a daughter rather than a son. I didn’t understand at the time, but I think I do now.

FINALLY take items to the post office. This was something I was going to do on December 20, along with finishing the Christmas letter; the wife had edited what I had wrote. But I NEEDED just that one day, and when I ended up taking care of my sick child instead – and into the evening, because the wife had a meeting – not only did the window of opportunity go away, but so did a whole bunch of my holiday mojo. I was actually quite melancholy over it for weeks. I never did complete the letter – that weekend was impossibly full, and the presents, bought weeks before, never got sent. So, on this day, packages to my mother and sisters, plus some other items to Eddie, Tom the Mayor, Scott and a woman in Canada finally went out the door. (I STILL haven’t sent to Lefty Brown’s friend Anthony, because I don’t have his address.)

Take bus downtown. At my stop, Washington and Lark, is a fire truck, with an EMT truck pulling up. There’s a guy they need to defibrillate sitting outside the kiosk; it’s cold – could they not have done this in a vehicle? While this was going on, an ambulance and another fire truck stop a block away at Dove and Washington. What’s going on there?

My bus shows up, but not a half block on my journey, a car pulls out of its parking space and hits the bus I’m on. No one was hurt; in fact, I barely noticed. But the bus driver had to wait for the police and the CDTA supervisor. Fortunately,the bus company sent another vehicle less than 25 minutes later to finish the trek.

That evening, a first rehearsal with our new church choir director, Janet Davis, followed by a gathering at the home of the interim director, Chris, who lives in this quite historic house (once the home of the Albany Conservatory, and before that, a Presbyterian manse).


I heard that on the news that Albany High School will be delayed two hours because of the presence of Fred Phelps, who I mentioned here. This is actually something I’ve known for over a week ago but was told not to report, lest Freddy and the schemers be tipped off. So after I dropped off Lydia, I did what I suggested others not do – go to the high school. Across the street from the school there were the Westboro people well outnumbered by he counterdemonstrators. Most of the good guys were well behaved and spoke on their megaphones about Christian love.

Then people went in two different directions. Some, including me, went downtown to SUNY Central to rally where Phelps said he’d be on his website; evidently, he finally figured out that this WASN’T the campus and didn’t show. Still about 150 people (way more than the 50 the Times Union reported) made some noise and got lots of support from the passersby.

Meanwhile, the others went uptown at the not optimal (read: busily dangerous) Fuller Road and Washington Avenue, where the Phelps people ended up. That also went well, according to reports. Incidentally, there was ALSO a fairly large rally Thursday night in front of City Hall, where the mayor – who’s running for ere-election this year, unsurprisingly – showed up.

[We interrupt this blog to note End the Lies, a a new website showing some of the worst perpetrators of lies about GLBT people. Now back to the narrative.]

I had received a $50 gift certificate from the Downtown Business Improvement District in a drawing I barely remember entering for a place called Salon 109 at 109 State Street in Albany, so I opted to get a massage there. It was…WONDERFUL. Later, had lunch with my wife – this almost never happens – as we partook of an especially very good buffet of Indian food.

SATURDAY, MARCH 7 (yes, it was my birthday)

Very busy time in my house, with one person, John, fixing our oven that’s been out six days and our hall lights that had been out for over six months, someone else, Bonnie, cleaning the house, and lengthy conversations with both of my sisters and aforementioned old friend – HB, Sara Lee).

Played backgammon for an hour with the Hoffinator and a couple games of hearts with her and friend Orchid; I shot on the last hand to win the second game. Game playing – just what I wanted as a present. The Obama speeches book, the racquetball equipment and the Clapton 2004 DVD were just bonuses.


Church youth did Godspell Jr. It was excellent; surprisingly moving.
The weather is warming and I took Lydia to the playground for the first time this year. The ground is muddy, but the wood chip base around the slides is absorbent and not too bad.

That’s enough.


Q is for Quadricentennial

Q turned out to be one of the easier letters for me, for 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of a trip taken by Henry Hudson which directly led to the founding of Albany, NY, where I’ve lived for the past 29 years. In 1609, Hudson was looking for an easterly passage to Asia, commissioned by the Dutch East India Company.

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, his vessel, the Halve Maen (Half Moon), after first sailing down to the Chesapeake Bay with a sister ship, eventually traveled into New York Harbor and proceeded up what is today called the Hudson River. It made it about 150 miles, as far as what is now Albany before he was forced to turn around by waters that were too shallow. He realized that the river that would come to eventually bear his name was not a westerly passage to Asia.

Eventually, on the western shore, a settlement was established in what became the cqapital of New York State.

But this is not just a celebration of one city but of an entire region. Check out this site, or better still, this one for a list of events during the upcoming quadricentennial year. Also, check out this video, which will explain things somewhat.


Mud pie

So I needed a hook, and one was provided to me.

On Monday, July 21, I went to pick up a newspaper called The Capitol, a free monthly newspaper covering what passes for state government in Albany. It was located in one of those blue boxes not unlike those you’d find when one is buying a daily newspaper. Sitting on top of the pile of papers inside the container was an aluminum pan filled with what was meant to look like manure. At least, that’s what I hoped, since I didn’t bother studying it too closely. I took a copy of The Capitol, wrapped it around the pan, and threw it away in the nearest receptacle. But I needed to wash my hands right away, It was evident that the individual putting the pan in expected someone to reach in lazily and get this substance on his or her hand.

About three days later, I’m telling this story to a white male person of my acquaintance. I added that I wondered if the act was in any way racially motivated. I based it on two facts: 1) the cover story was about Barack Obama, or more correctly, which NY state legislators might become Presidential timber like former Illinois state legislator Obama did; 2) the box was located in front of a black-owned business. He said, “C’mon, that’s a stretch”, and I dropped it for a time. Later, though, I mentioned it again, and he wondered why. But a couple minutes later, he had an epiphany. “Oh, but why WAS that pan placed there?”

That was primarily what I was really trying to say; the thing was there for SOME reason, and curious librarian minds wanted to know if it was merely a random prank or something more significant.

Bringing up race – or the possibility of racism (or sexism or homophobia) is fraught with danger. Some will suggest that one is/I am looking through a prism of race; quite possibly true. Just mentioning race, some will suggest, IS the problem, a position that I do not ascribe to; the current presidential campaign suggests that does not work, at least not yet. Sometimes you have to talk about it anyway.

As Jay Smooth put it: “Race: the final frontier”

A gay pride march

Back on March 9 of this year, there was this story in the Times Union by Jennifer Gish titled “Humanity in ‘Laramie’: High school actors project offers lesson on more than gay tolerance”. It was about Bill Ziskin, a teacher at Schenectady High, directing his young actors in Moises Kaufman’s “The Laramie Project.” Gish writes: The play is based on interviews conducted by New York theater students with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyo., after the 1998 ultimately fatal beating of gay college student Matthew Shepard. Because of its mature nature and strong language, Ziskin did
run the idea by school administrators before going ahead with it… Today, it’s hard for some of the kids to imagine that kind of brutality.
One of the actors was quoted as saying, “When they told us about it I thought it was something that happened a while ago, like the ’70s or the ’80s.”

Ah, the optimism of youth. Earlier this year, though the stories I read were about a month after the fact, a Gay California student’s slaying sparks outcry, and “Activists demand that middle schools do more to teach tolerance.” Lawrence King — Student Who Was Murdered For Being Gay — To Be Honored With National Day Of Silence. I heard there was a similar case in Florida recently like the California case cited.

As for that day of silence, in some places such Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, WA, it was anything but, as I read this Seattle Times account Lynn Thompson. Unfortunately, I actually sort of know one of the people protesting against gay acceptance.

As New Yorkers almost surely know, the governor of the state has ordered government agencies to recognize gay marriages that were performed in states and countries where they are legal. While, for at least one of my gay blogging colleagues, marriage is not such an overriding issue, for others ,it is of paramount importance.

I note all of this as my church plans once again to participate in the gay pride parade next Sunday. that same gay blogger I know opined that the idea of a march might have been diluted by corporate interests. I think we agreed that MAYBE in locations with a large gay population, such as New York City and San Francisco, it has lost its urgency. I’m convinced, however, that it still has meaning and efficacy in places like Albany, NY.


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