Albany has fine cultural offerings

the walk signals

Albany culturalThe blogger Jaquandor has more questions for Ask Roger Anything.
Do you like the cultural offerings in your area?

I LOVE the cultural offerings in the Capital District of New York State. The Albany Symphony Orchestra received two more Grammy nominations this year. They often perform contemporary, challenging pieces, not just the old warhorses. Although they do those very well.

Proctors Theatre in Schenectady offers a panoply of performances. I have season tickets to see the shows that were on Broadway and are now touring. But there are a lot of other things going on in the former vaudeville venue with 2700 seats.

Capital Rep does very fine theater with mostly Actors’ Equity performers. In the past, I’ve had season tickets. There are many fine other theatrical venues in the area, such as Mac-Haydn Theatre.

Free shows in the good weather include Alive at Five, performances on the Empire State Plaza, the Tulip festival, Larkfest, and many more.

The New York State Writers Institute offers name authors and challenging films throughout the year. The Underground Railroad history project always has informational and educational events.

APL

I can’t forget the Albany Institute of History and Art, since we are members. The New York State Museum is another of the many museums and galleries in the region. I must mention that the Albany Public Library, which offers over a thousand events each year, including a weekly book review at the Washington Avenue branch.

My friend David Brickman writes about a lot of these. Check out Nippertown for more events than I could possibly attend. My theory: if you’re bored here, you’re not trying very hard.

What’s something completely mundane that bugs you or freaks you out? For me, it’s the fact that the buttons on the drive-thru ATM have braille on them. It’s clear why (they probably don’t bother making multiple sets of buttons for those machines), but it still always strikes me as really odd.

It’s the walk signals in Albany. Some of them do nothing except mirror the street lights, so what’s the point? Some of them you press and you get extra time to cross the street – important crossing Madison at West Lawrence. Without, it’s about five seconds, and you’ll probably die.

There’s an intersection a block from there. It has five spurs. The walk sign lights up only if you hit the button crossing Madison at South Allen,. If you cross Western at North Allen, the walk sign lights up regardless of whether you hit the button. But the sequence of when you can cross and when you can not is unchanged.

A meteorological winter lion

About 22 inches over two days

Winter.Amy Biancolli
c 2019 Amy Biancolli
A lot of folks complained about how early substantial snows hit the bulk of the US in 2019. I was reminded by something that Kiwis such as Arthur understand. December 1 is meteorological summer in New Zealand. This means it’s meteorological winter in the Northern Hemisphere. And it surely came in like a lion.

When we got home from a play on Sunday, the 1st, I shoveled the four inches that had fallen. But ugh. I woke up to about ten more inches. Little wonder why virtually every school in at least a seven-county area and the libraries were closed. Later that day, I helped my wife dig out the car from its on-street parking space. That packed snow is SO much heavier.

Then Tuesday morning, I shoveled enough to get to the replowed-in car, and we dug it out again. Not only is there about eight more inches of snow, but there’s also nowhere to put it. You don’t want to place it where it’ll be more difficult for others to get out of their spaces. One’s not supposed to put the snow onto the street, though surely several people did.

After my wife and daughter went to school with the two-hour delay, I went back to bed and took a nap for an hour. The joy of retirement. Then I attacked the sidewalk snow.

Methology

Historically, I’m from the “shovel often” school of snow removal. I learned this back in the 1980s, when I worked at FantaCo, the comic book store on the first block of Central Avenue.

“Shovel the walk” does NOT mean creating a path a shovel-width wide. I mean, clear the WHOLE sidewalk, walkway to the house and the steps. I mean, clear it so you can see the pavement. If you do it early enough, the winter sun will do the work and minimize the need for rock salt. I use it as sparingly as possible.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan recommended that drivers be wary of pedestrians. This is true because there are folks digging out their vehicles. But it’s really important to protect those who’ve abandoned the sidewalks in favor of walking in the road. The guy passing our house pushing the baby carriage, going with traffic, made me particularly nervous. If you’re walking on the road, you should go against traffic.

Some of the worst failure to remove snow was by some bus stops. One was a couple of blocks away, where Western and Madison meet. People were forced to go well into the intersection. The nearby gas station cleared around the pumps and the entrance, but the walks, not so much.

Too high

I have lost the ability to mountain goat. No way I’m going to climb over those piles of snow. Oh, I tried once and my shoe got stuck in a mound. Damn, that was uncomfortable.

Some folks complained that Albany didn’t call a snow emergency until Tuesday night. Alternate-side parking kicks in while the parking spots are plowed out. I was fine with that. Hey, at least my city didn’t have to call out the National Guard, as Schenectady did.

I’m not about to complain about meteorological winter. Now, I may complain about people’s poor response to it, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

Forty years in Albany; two score!

Shall the city of Albany accept the offer of Mr. Andrew Carnegie of $150,000 for public library purposes?

Albany.land trustIt had totally slipped my mind that I have lived for forty years in Albany, NY. I moved to an apartment on the corner of Morris and Ontario Streets in August 1979 My intention was to attend graduate school at SUNY Albany in Public Administration.

I spent one year in grad school, pretty much hating it for a variety of reasons. Working at FantaCo, the comic book store, was meant to be a summer job; it turned out to be 8.5 years. After a little over a year at a not-great insurance job, I went back to UAlbany, this time to library school.

I worked for the NY Small Business Development Center for 26.7 years, in five different spaces. This included two in the same building, and one in Corporate (frickin’) Woods, also the general locale of the insurance job.

Since I lived in close to a dozen places in my first two decades here, my friends told me they put my information in their address books in pencil. I resided on both Morris Street in the Pine Hills section, and on Lancaster Street, off of Lark, two different times. The nice two-family house where I lived in the West Hill section of town now has a red X on it.

Before I moved to Albany, I resided in Schenectady, in the same metropolitan area. Though less than 20 miles apart, they’re quite different places. Schenectady has had Democratic mayors and Republican mayors.

1902

Forty years in Albany means that Erastus Corning 2nd, “the longest-serving mayor of a major American city,” was still running the show. The Democrats have been in control for nearly a century, and the Republicans for the previous 30 years before that. I blame the patroons.

In 2007, the city voted to create a much more robust library system. This was in stark contrast to a century earlier. From the Library Journal, volume 27, Nov 1902, under NEW YORK STATE LIBRARY SCHOOL, CALENDAR, 17TH SCHOOL YEAR, 19O2-3, NOTES AND NEWS:

“The students have been interested in watching the Carnegie library campaign, which culminated on election day, Nov. 4. The following question was submitted to the people on a separate ballot: Shall the city of Albany accept the offer of Mr. Andrew Carnegie of $150,000 for public library purposes?

“The offer was rejected by a majority of 5056. There were 7152 votes for and 12,208 votes against the proposition, 23,334 being the total city vote cast for Governor. Only four out of 19 wards gave a majority for the library.”

Albany was one of the relatively few cities in the US that rejected a Carnegie library because they didn’t want the comparatively small cost of maintenance. So Albany has evolved somewhat.

Sometimes, my wife asks where we might move to if ever that was our choice. I dunno. Right now, I’m within three blocks of a pharmacy, a grocery store, a library branch, a police station, a half dozen restaurants, and at least four bus lines. Whatever its flaws – and there are still a few – Albany is still home.

Demisemiseptcentennial or dodransbicentennial?

Rats and cops and drug dealers

175thMy grad school alma mater, UAlbany, is celebrating its 175th anniversary. It was founded in 1844 as the New York State Normal School. It became the Normal College in 1890, the College for Teachers in 1914, and a university in 1962. So 2019 is its demisemiseptcentennial.

WHAT? Demisemiseptcentennial is literally one-half (demi-) x one-half (semi-) x seven (sept-) x 100 years (centennial). Is this a real word? Villanova used it 2017.

According to the Wikipedia, the Latin-based term for 175th anniversary should be dodransbicentennial. It’s from “a whole unit less a quarter,” but I’d never heard that one and I’m even less likely to remember it. My spell checker likes neither of the terms.


There’s a large window behind me where I work in downtown Albany, on the third floor. (Note to self: Water the plant!)

About 4:50 p.m., I hear some male voice yelling. I assume he’s part of an argument. But looking up the street, I see just one guy . He’s carrying some sort of plastic bucket, with stuff, and holding a thin white pole. Even from fifty meters away, I can tell he has holes in the knees of his jeans, and it was cold enough for him to be wearing his dark knit cap.

I tune him out and leave to catch the 5:40 p.m. bus. When I exit the building, the guy is still there. Now I can understand what he was saying: “Rats and cops and drug dealers”, which he repeated every ten seconds, sometimes directed at worried pedestrians.

The #10 Western Avenue bus arrives and folks queue up to enter it. The guy mumbles, “Oh, this will do,” and returns to his litany. He enters, then stands near the front of the bus, saying to nearby customers his message. The driver miraculously ignores him.

Sometimes he adds a few words. “Do you you know it’s rats, and cops and drug dealers?” At least one rider is amused, but others are clearly terrified.

He gets off at the stop near the Washington Avenue branch of the library. At once, I am both relieved that the auditory performance is over, and worried the APL patrons will be subjected to it.

Beauty and the Beast; Sweet Charity

I should note that in Beauty and the Beast, Belle was played by Alexa, my niece – my BIL’s daughter.

Beauty and the BeastMy family saw two high school musicals the last weekend in March, Beauty and the Beast at Catskill HS and Sweet Charity at Albany HS. They both were excellent, so I’ll be rooting for both schools in a competition.

“The School of Performing Arts at Proctors announces the 3rd Annual HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE AWARDS for New York’s Capital Region in partnership with The Broadway League. Fashioned after Broadway’s Tony Awards…”

Our family attended the awards event last year. Caitlin Van Loan was nominated as best supporting actress for playing Marion the Librarian’s mom in Catskill’s The Music Man; she was excellent this year as Mrs. Potts.

Annabelle Duffy WON as best actress in AHS’ Hairspray last year, and got to represent “the Capital Region at The National High School Musical Theatre Awards competition in New York City” last June. She played Charity this year. Albany also won three other awards in 2018, including best choreography.

I should note that in Beauty and the Beast, Belle was played by Alexa, my niece – my BIL’s daughter. She’s been in the CHS productions for seven years – and I believe I’ve seen them all – but this is her first lead. My unbiased opinion is that she was very good.

So was the guy playing the Beast, Magnus Bush; Alexa and Magnus are pictured. The performers playing Lumiere, Gaston, Cogsworth, Madame Bouche and many others were also strong. There are far more decent male singers in the CHS productions than there were even three or four years.

While the Albany HS productions have been solid for a while, there has been a real emphasis on its social relevance in recent years. So they’ve taken the historically sexist play, written by Neil Simon, and attempted to give it a feminist spin.

I was unfamiliar with the story of Sweet Charity, though I knew three songs: Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now, and the faux religious The Rhythm of Life.

In any case, we’re making plans to attend the High School Musical Theatre Awards ceremony on May 11 at 7 p.m. at Proctors.