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Category Archives: Albany

I’m ready. I’m cookies.

I’m going to let you in on something I’m not at all proud of.

In college, I was a huge dick.

I’m not even exaggerating. I had my moments of NOT being a dick, but overall? Huge, huge dick. I thought I knew everything, and I was drinking, like, constantly, and when I wasn’t drinking I was crying or throwing shit around or overreacting about something and being a total theater queen or going on and on and ON about something and the sheer fact that people that knew me back then still want to talk to me kind of amazes me, to be honest.

Yup. Me. Pretty much.

Yup. Me. Pretty much.

Now, I know. College-age is a shitty time for a lot of people. We’re just babies when we’re that age. I look at kids that age now and I seriously think, “OMG, you are just a BABY” and usually I forgive them a lot of things because that’s a really tough age. You’re away from home for the first extended period of time in your life, and you’re experiencing a million billion things for the first time, and you have all this crazy-ass heady FREEDOM, and some people handle that better than others.

And some people come from a very, VERY small town, where their graduating class was 60 people (the same 60 people, give or take, that they started kindergarten with 13 years earlier) and their parents didn’t give them a curfew because why give someone a curfew if they’re not allowed to go out at all anyway? Curfew was whenever I got home from school, and it ended whenever I LEFT for school the next MORNING. And then they got to college, and there WAS no curfew, and there were all these PEOPLE, some of them MAN-PEOPLE, and there was ALCOHOL (even though a person was seventeen) and some of us may well have gone a little crazy. For quite some time. Years longer than was necessary, actually. As if it was ever necessary.

I think of Buffy a lot when I think of myself at that age. (I look to Buffy for a lot of life lessons, actually. Don’t we all? If we don’t, shouldn’t we?) I think of Buffy telling Angel, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies.”

I think a lot of us in college were cookie dough. Gooey, poorly-behaved, self-absorbed cookie dough. Waiting to become whoever to hell it is we’re going to turn out to be.

It just takes some of us a little longer to bake, is all.

In college, I had a friend named Josh. Josh and I met in my sophomore year and his freshman year. I believe we met in a playwriting class, or were perhaps introduced by David, who knew everyone who was anyone. It’s been a long time. And I was gooey cookie dough, remember.

We had a lot in common. We were theater people. We were readers, which was perhaps even more important; our mutual Stephen King obsession was HOURS of conversation. We were both writers. We both enjoyed movies, and picking them apart into little teeny tiny pieces afterward. He introduced me to Kevin Smith films, which I will never be able to thank him enough for.

Problem is? Cookie dough.

I don’t think I appreciated him enough. Because I was a dick. Because I was so mired in my own shit and my own broken brain that I found it very hard to pull myself out long enough to give even a moment’s thought to anyone else, or what they might have been going through. I think I put on a good enough front; I don’t think people walked away from me thinking I was a sociopath – at least most of the time. I’m sure some people did. Those people were probably the smart ones. (Smart ones: I’m better now. I promise. I spend most of my days thinking of others now. I most sincerely guarantee you this.)

Not long after I graduated, Josh and I got in a fight. Well, no. That’s kind of strangely overstating what happened. I’m not going into detail; it’s no one’s business but the two of us (and the third person involved, I suppose, even if he was involved tangentially.) I got angry at him for something that, in retrospect, was very small. Words were exchanged. I remember very well the last exchange I had with him, which was on our terrible inter-collegiate email: I told him I would neither forgive or forget what had happened, and I would never, ever speak to him again.

I am quite old-world in my vendettas. If someone is dead to me: they are dead to me. There’s no gray area, here. I erased him from my life. I erased three years of friendship; I erased three years of spending time together almost every day, of longhand letters back and forth in the summers, of constant conversation and sharing of ideas and writing and our lives. I took a big old Pink Pearl eraser and I got rid of all of that. Because I was angry. Because I felt betrayed. Because, as stated? I was 21, I thought I was always right, and I was a dick.

And seventeen years have passed. And we didn’t speak. For seventeen years. Because DEAD TO ME.

We had mutual friends; I knew he was teaching, and writing, and that was about it. I didn’t want to know anything else. No interest. I would have made a very good Italian widow, forking the evil eye and spitting when my enemies passed my doorstep.

And then, through a twist of very, very weird fate, we ended up with a mutual friend on Facebook (who was not a mutual college friend, but a mutual friend we didn’t know each other knew.) And Josh reached out to me.

This panicked the shit out of me.

Didn’t he know he was dead to me? What the hell with this? I waffled back and forth on what the hell I was supposed to do, here. Ignore him? Delete the friend request? Send him a message telling him thanks but no thanks and THEN delete the friend request?

Then I thought, Amy. Amy, it’s been 17 years. You need to be an adult about this.

Also, I don’t know if you’re aware, but carrying a grudge? It’s a very heavy weight. And you carry that alone. No one helps you carry a grudge. No one can. It one of those loads you HAVE to carry alone.

I accepted the friend request. I sent him a message that was probably ruder, in retrospect, than it should have been, telling him I was ready to forgive, and move on. I was bristly, though. I don’t trust easily, once trust has been broken. This comes from years of practice with broken trust. I’m a wary little wombat.

We’d been tentatively in contact for a while when he said he was coming to town for a conference, and did I want to have dinner?

Yeah, you think being friends with the guy online scared me? Invite me out to meet in person. You know I have social anxiety. Rachet that up with this kind of baggage, and I was MANIC.

But I thought it out. Like a grownup. Like a fully-baked cookie. And I thought of that heavy-ass seventeen-year-old grudge riding my back like a jockey who didn’t make weight, whipping me when I wasn’t going fast enough and muttering hateful words in my ear.

Yes, I said. Yes, I will meet you for dinner. Yes. Let’s do this.

Then I panicked quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly, sorry, people I panicked to) for days about this, because, well, it’s what I do.

We met for dinner after work the other night at his hotel. I put on my brave face. I can do this, I thought; I can do this. This is dinner. We eat, we don’t talk about touchy subjects, I am light, I am breezy, I am Monica leaving a message for Richard, I CAN DO THIS SHIT.

And there was Josh. And Josh looked the same, only like a grownup now. Seventeen years will do that to a person. (Seventeen years – a seventeen-year-old is only a year younger than I was when I MET him. That length of time – a bit mind-boggling, really.)

I’m not going to go into detail. We didn’t have a grand adventure; we didn’t take a billion photos. (Or even one, actually. I know. I’m terrible about photos.) We spent the evening reconnecting. We spent the evening drawing back what I’d erased, all those years ago, when I was 21 and I knew everything and was, as mentioned, kind of totally a dick.

There were waffles and a waiter who was possibly with the mob and coffee beverages and terrible music and the sharing of war stories and eclairs that were sexworthy and talk of books and movies and shared stories of the meeting and geeking out over famous people and laughter over possibly inappropriate things.

And guess what, you guys?

It was awesome.

It was awesome because we are the same people who connected all those years ago, but also better.

Because we’re ready, you guys.

Josh and I? We’re cookies.

And as we said our goodbye, much later than I’d planned because I’d had the whole evening mapped out in my head and I was SURE it would be awful and we’d have nothing to say to one another because I (shock! awe!) freak out sometimes, and gave each other a super-fierce hug, I felt this weird thing.

A seventeen-year-old grudge disappearing, that weight being gone, is a nice feeling. A light one.

A better feeling?

Forgiving your dicky younger self for, well, some of the dickishness? An even lighter one.

The best feeling?

Having an old friend back in my life.

The lightest feeling of all.

(Thanks, Josh, for not giving up when you most definitely could – and maybe should – have. Thank you for understanding I needed to keep baking, and for being patient enough, and kind enough, to wait. You’ve baked into a most fantastic cookie, my friend.)

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Gigantic clogs! (And other adventures!)

I am pleased to announce that I OFFICIALLY met someone whose writing I admire AND I DID NOT FREAK THE HELL OUT.

Well, maybe inside, a little, but I didn’t do what I did when I met Kevin Smith and act like a HUGE GOOBER and I didn’t run away like I did when I saw David Sedaris that time, either. I totally soldiered on. I was a brave little toaster.

So yesterday was meet Kat and Chris day. In case you haven’t been paying attention to my life (and if you haven’t, good grief, people, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU) Chris is Chris F. Holm, who is one of my most favorite authors and just an all-around kickass person, and Kat is his amazing wife, who is one of my most beloved Twitter people and humans.

Somehow, because September and October ended up being months crammed with amazing things, Kat and Chris ended up coming to town this weekend for Bouchercon, which is this GIGANTIC convention for people who create, and people who love, mystery and detective fiction. This is a huge thing. All the people come to these things. SOMEHOW, this year, it is being held HERE. In my town! I mean, *I* know we’re awesome, but the world often doesn’t. So this was quite a coup for us. And even BETTER, Kat and Chris were coming to the con! And to my TOWN! And wanted to MEET me!

Well, my first thought was YAY and my second thought was ZOMG SCARY BECAUSE I AM SCARED OF SOCIAL INTERACTION and my third thought was SHUT UP, AMY’S BRAIN, YOU NEED TO STOP BEING SCARED OF THINGS SO MUCH. I am actively attempting to be more brave. Like the sassy redhead in the Pixar cartoon, yo. Or that shouty Sara Bareilles song.

So Kat and I worked out a plan, and I helped her with a list of local restaurants (because listen! I love my area, and I wanted her to have the best time, and what if she got here and ate somewhere TERRIBLE?) and we worked out a time that worked for us between my job and their con schedule (because Chris and Kat are big deals, yo!)

So after work yesterday I zipped on over to downtown Albany and texted Kat all “I AM HERE!” and then THERE THEY WERE! And luckily, I didn’t have TIME to be all “ZOMG I AM MEETING KAT AND CHRIS!” because they were so happy and adorable and there was much hugging and we were immediately on our way to the restaurant (which, let’s be honest, was the same place I took Laura last weekend, because it is one of my favorites, and I try to go as often as I can, and ESPECIALLY when I’m bringing people who’ve never been before!)

And Chris brought me one of his books, and I felt like such a dork, because I was TOTALLY going to bring one of his books for him to sign, but then I talked myself out of it because I was like “that is so rude. Poor guy’s been signing books for days. and you want to bring one to DINNER? That’s just the rudest. You’d look like a crazy fangirl.” And I wouldn’t even have looked like one. Stupid second-guessy brain.

So we had dinner, which was delicious, and talked and talked and talked, and here are some things you should know.

They are lovely. Like, sincerely lovely humans. They are just about the most well-matched couple you could ever imagine. Are people SUPPOSED to be like a million times more attractive than they are in their photos online when they already WERE attractive in their photos? I mean, sincerely. It seems somehow unfair. But since I love them, it’s ok. I forgive the people I love ALL the things.

They know ALL the stories and they are super-fun and well-spoken and intelligent and witty and warm. I’m totally the most awkward and I didn’t feel at ALL awkward with them. They are kind of fantastic.

So then it was time to go, because they had a panel to go to and also the restaurant wanted us to leave because all the people wanted our table. It’s a very good restaurant.

So back to the hotel we went! And the GPS did NOT get me lost this time, so that was less embarrassing.

But before it was time to go, we took MANY photos. To prove to the internet it actually happened. The internet is often skeptical, you see.

We are lovely humans and don’t at all look like we’re about to rob a bank in a heist film or anything.

This is us looking murdery. Chris and Kat look murdery; I look like I was stunned by a surprise birthday party of some sort. (Don’t you ever do that. I hate surprises, and will totally make this terrifying face.)

More murdery. I feel like maybe Kat and Chris are better at being murdery than I am. Mostly I just look deranged.

Then we found a clog. We have all these artsy clogs around Albany. Because we’re Dutch. We decided not to GET in the clog (because we didn’t know who might have peed in the clog) but Kat totally got BEHIND the clog and then she got the giggles and she is just the best.

Then she HID behind the clog, which is VERY murdery.

I’m not sure what’s happening here, but it makes me grin.

This one’s totally for Dad because she’s being a one-armed truck driver. ONE-ARMED TRUCK DRIVER! Oh, Dad totally warned me about those.

It is now very late and I have to go to bed because I have work tomorrow and then am meeting ANOTHER person for dinner who is NOT an internet person but a real LIFE person but one I have not seen in a very long time so it’s like a whole different type of adventure.

Meeting famous internet people and they are now friends: WIN.

(Thank you, Kat and Chris. I had a great time. I hope the rest of the con is great, and you have a safe trip home, and I hope we get to do it again someday!)


Life is perfect, never better; still your daughter, still the same

I am woefully behind on this weekend recap. Blame my insane schedule; by Saturday, I will have reviewed 4 plays this week. It’s actually for the best – since I’m on vacation at the end of the month, I’m getting all my work in early this month, so I’ll still have my happy extra paycheck to look forward to (and I’ll still have gotten to see some excellent theater.) But it does mean last week and this week are a little…well, crazy. To put it nicely. However, next week I get to relax a little, pack for vacation, and do some serious catching up on life. (And then when I’m on vacation, I plan on sleeping for a billion hours to catch up on all the sleep I’ve missed lately. What, you can do that, right? Bank up on sleep? That’s totally a thing, isn’t it?)

If I sleep enough, I could wake up 100 years old. Neat, right? Will there be flying cars?

If I sleep enough, I could wake up 100 years old. Neat, right? Will there be flying cars?

Anyway, let’s recap my weekend of adventure. That’ll be all the fun, won’t it? It totally was a weekend of adventure, too. The best kind of weekend.

I had to work on Saturday. THAT wasn’t the adventure. It never is. But working has to happen, of course. So, work work work. Which was busy, busy, busy. Too many people were calling us on Saturday. I got out early, though, because MOM WAS COMING!

Now, Mom was worried, because she’d never driven to my place by herself before. Or even to Albany by herself before. She’s of course come here before, but either with my dad driving, or with one of her coworkers (she works for a company that has a branch here, so has had to come here before for work things.) She borrowed Dad’s GPS and used it all week to make sure she understood how it worked and was SO NERVOUS it would trick her into driving off the highway or into a lake (I assured her that probably wouldn’t happen but she was unconvinced.) She was supposed to be waiting at my place for me when I got home from work, so I was a little nervous when I got home, she wouldn’t be there and I’d have a final gurgling phone call from the bottom of the lake that nefarious GPS had sucked Mom into.

NO! SHE WAS WAITING WHEN I GOT HOME!

The GPS didn’t drive her into a lake! She made it all by herself!

This made Mom feel very empowered and strong, and that made me very happy for her. I like when people do something by themselves that they didn’t think they could. It makes them all powerful and glowy.

(Yes, I know I’ve lived here for almost 11 years and she’s never visited me alone. She hates driving long distances by herself, and if she and Dad come for an overnight visit, they stay in a hotel because Dad hates cat hair. This is a true thing. He comes over and he looks at the couch and says, “LOOK. AT. ALL. THAT. CAT. HAIR.” and is very disgusted. Poor Dumbcat. He doesn’t mean to be sheddy.)

First, Mom and I had dinner plans. Mom didn’t want anything weird or fancy, because she doesn’t like weird and fancy things. And I didn’t want to bring her to Olive Garden. (I’m not hating on Olive Garden. I just wanted our weekend adventure to be Albany-centric, and a chain restaurant didn’t fit the bill.) So friend A. said, “Bring her to Ralph’s!” and I was all, “No. What is Ralph’s.” And he was all “MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT EVER!” and I looked it up and it was a nice basic Italian place and that fit the Mom-bill nicely and I asked him if I had to make reservations and he said “Nah,” but I was worried because it was the 4th of July weekend and might be busy, so I called them anyway and they were kind of confused by me. “A reservation? Um. Yeah, I guess we could do that? Your name? How many people? 5:00? Yeah, we’ll get you a VIP table. *snicker*” So that was a little off-putting. But friend A. said it was his FAVORITE RESTAURANT EVER! so that was a very strong recommendation.

Well, it wasn't THIS fancy. We didn't eat at a strip club.

Well, it wasn’t THIS fancy. We didn’t eat at a strip club.

So off to the restaurant we went! And when we got there, there was a huge line! And people walked out all huffy because there was a 20 minute wait! BUT NOT ME AND MOM! Because we were VIPs, baby! (No, seriously, there was a little card on the table that said VIP and everything. It was super-fancy and Mom was all impressed.) The restaurant was not all that fancy, but it was VERY delicious. Mom doesn’t like red sauce so she had chicken with white sauce and pasta and a glass of wine (“but not more than one, or I will embarrass you on our adventure!” she said, and I had to wonder if she’d ever spent any significant time with me at all) and vegetables and salad (they give you a LOT of food at this place) and I had scallops and seasoned fries (good seasoned fries are one of my weaknesses) and the BEST clam chowder and coleslaw that was only meh. And then the waitress decided she forgot bread and brought us the HUGEST basket of bread and that just made us laugh because we had so much food the table was about to collapse. And other than the coleslaw and Mom’s broccoli (which she couldn’t cut and she was trying REALLY HARD) it was SO GOOD. I was stuffed with scallops. Scallops are one of the best things to be stuffed with. This may or may not be a euphemism, and may or may not be slightly scandalous. Your choice.

Then it was time to go to the thee-ay-tah! This was outdoor theater. I am not a fan of outdoor theater for the following reasons:

  • bugs
  • heat

This is also why I am not a fan of camping or hiking or, well, outdoor things. Period. I’m very much an indoor person.

However, when your paper says, “review the outdoor theater!” you go. Because it is the best job ever. I’d review a play in a portapottie if they asked me to.

Courtesy of the Times Union

Ugh, outdoor theater. Bugs. Heat. WHERE IS MY AIR CONDITIONING?

So we went to the park, where the play was. When I entered the park, I drove a safe speed because of children running around in said park. And also I was looking for a parking spot. A black PT Cruiser got right on my tail, which I hate. There’s no reason to be that close to someone. Not even ever. I continued driving carefully (but not even all that slowly) and looking for a spot. EVIL BLACK PT CRUISER GOT EVEN CLOSER TO ME. And then HONKED.

EVIL.

EVIL.

So I did what I almost always do in those situations, and I screamed, “Are you fucking KIDDING me?” and flipped him off through the back window as I pulled into a spot. (And he promptly squealed around me and drove about 50 mph in the park. Hope you didn’t kill any old people or children, asshole!)

With my mom sitting in the passenger seat. My very religious mother, who doesn’t even like me to say the word “shit” and has sure as hellfire-and-eternal-damnation never heard me drop the f-bomb.

I apologized profusely. She said, very quietly, “thank you.” But in a way that meant “all the breath has been knocked out of my body by what you just did.” Also, she brought it up like 47 times over the time she was there. “And then remember the time you said that super-naughty thing when that impatient man honked at you? Because I DO.”

So we went to the play. Now, just so you know, we are in the midst of a heat wave, with the highest, nastiest humidity, and every few hours we get a terrible thunderstorm so we’re always in danger of flooding (and sometimes do – half of the road to work was flooded yesterday morning.) It is terrible and exhausting and I’ve had a constant headache for a week and I’m cranky as hell and wondering when I moved to the rainforest. So, YAY THEATER OUTDOORS.

There was a snack stand where I immediately bought and guzzled a 20-ounce bottle of water. I find it telling I didn’t even have to go to the bathroom that badly afterward. I WAS SWEATING IT ALL OUT. I immediately went back up and got ANOTHER bottle of water, because, well, it was 90°. NINETY DEGREES. In the OUTDOORS.

(Also, the snack stand had a big sign on it that said “SNANCKS.” What’s a snanck?)

Mom was super-impressed that I went up to the box office and said my name and they had tickets for me that I didn’t even have to PAY for, AND the artistic director of the whole theater came over and introduced himself (not as impressed when I said, “Mom, you know that’s the job I was doing at my theater for the last 3 years, right? It’s not so fancy. Also, of course they’re nice. They’re trying to get a good review.”)

The show was good, and a lot of fun (I was a little worried Mom was going to hate it – it was Spamalot, and Mom doesn’t like sketch comedy or things that are foolish – but she liked it very much, and it made her laugh, and she was very impressed with how professional it all was) but I felt TERRIBLE for the actors. Those heavy costumes! That heat! ALL! THAT! DANCING!

I giggled a lot, as always, at the word "shrubbery."

I giggled a lot, as always, at the word “shrubbery.”

Also, side note, Dad’s biggest fear in the theater (I think we’ve discussed this before) is that an actor will come off the stage and grab him and force him to get onstage against his will. At one point in the show, an actor comes off the stage, picks someone out of the audience sitting in a certain seat, and brings them up on stage. Mom leaned over. “Your father would HATE this!” she giggled gleefully.

Then it was home for us, and review-writing for me, and bedtime for Mom. It was also misbehavior time for Dumbcat.

The minute Mom curled up on the couch, Dumbcat used her as a trampoline and jumped with his whole weight on her spleen. “He is heavy and SHARP!” she gasped. But she also laughed because she loves her grandcat.

She said he would be fine and I went to my room to write the review so the laptop and the light didn’t bother her.

After about an hour, there was a HUGE CRASH in the living room. I quietly snuck out. “DUMBCAT!” I hissed. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“He’s apparently breaking the whole house,” Mom said in a very sleepy sleepvoice.

What? Not me! I am GUDCAT! I am GRAECFULL and leape around LOTZ, Momme!

I looked all over and couldn’t find him, even in his pots and pans cupboard, but then he appeared from under the couch and we had a merry chase all over the living room and dining room area until I captured him and said “Naughty naughty loud cat!” and brought him back to my room and trapped him in there with a big box fan in the doorway.

He was SO EXCITED. Bed with Mom! ON THE BED WITH MOM! So he headbutted me merrily for a very long time and then fell asleep purring. I was up until very late writing and then emailing people I had been neglecting (sorry if those emails were incomprehensible, people) and then when I left the room to get ready for bed, I trapped Dumbcat in there with the fan so he wouldn’t run amuck in the living room and wake Mom up again.

Well! That didn’t sit well with him. MOM MOM WHERE’D YOU GO, MOM? So he apparently pawed at the box fan with his mitten-paw and managed to knock it over until it made a very loud noise like “wheeeeeeee!” and he LEAPT on it with his big old paws and was FREE! and I was all “Good grief, Dumbcat” but it was too late to go find him because I’m not at all stealthy so I decided Mom would have to deal with loud old Dumbcat on her own.

The mitten-paws in question.

The mitten-paws in question.

Then I woke up in the middle of the night with Dumbcat curled up to me. How he got BACK over the fan without knocking it over? Will remain a mystery. (Leaping, I assume, but he’s about as graceful as an airborne frog, so I’m still stumped.)

Then the next day, Mom got up very early to worship the Lord (she found the church all by herself! Look at her little empowered self go!) and I grumped around on not enough sleep. When she got home, she was all, “How do I get nails like your nails?”

I had fancy nails because I had those Sally Hansen nail sticker thingies on. They’re my favorite because you get to stick them on and they last for like a week and you don’t have to wait for them to dry and there’s no mess. So I was like, “Here! I have a billion boxes of these things. Pick out your favorite, we’ll play beauty shop.”

Mom has always wanted a daughter. I think I saw a tear in her eye.

She wanted boring nails (“No glitter. No skulls. WHY DO YOU HAVE SKULL NAILS? You are so weird”) so we did pearly nails with butterflies on them. I showed her how to stick them on and how to make them pretty and she was all, “THIS IS TOO HARD WITH ONE HAND!” so I ended up doing most of them for her and then I didn’t like that design anyway so I gave her a whole box of the same design to take home with her so she could do her nails all pretty when she got home. She was all “Look at my pretty nails!!!” and that made me laugh.

Then we went to The Nephew’s party, and I’ve already talked about that a little. He was adorable and wonderful and perfect. He always is. And now he is four! Aw, the best age! (I’m biased. They’re all the best age with him.)

And then Mom went home. She made it home in record time because I think she is a little speed demon like her daughter. And we didn’t fight once! And we had many good talks about things going on and she gave me good advice because she knows me very well! And it was a very nice weekend and now she wants to come back when we have more time and we will have more adventures because she knows how to get here ALL BY HERSELF!

Whew, weekend wrapup. Off to bed. Very sleepy. Happy…um…what day is this. Thursday? HAPPIEST OF THURSDAYS! More adventures await us soon!


Why diminish your soul being run-of-the-mill at something?

“But why diminish your soul being run-of-the-mill at something? Mediocrity: now there is ugliness for you. Mediocrity’s a hairball coughed up on the Persian carpet of Creation.” ― Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas

While I was in Baltimore at the beginning of the month, I ran across an article that I found very upsetting. However, I was on vacation, and upsetting things are not allowed to enter my vacation-space. The only things that are allowed in my vacation-space are laughs and delicious foodstuffs and the reading of many books.

HOWEVER, now I am home. Yes, I suppose you could argue I’ve been home for weeks and weeks but I had other things to talk about; cut me some slack, Jack. I have a lot of things in my brain-area. They don’t always come in a logical order.

OK, so here’s the thing: apparently, according to some company called Acxiom, who ran some serious tests in 2004 to come up with this data, guess what the number one most average city in all of Merka is.

No, seriously, guess.

ALBANY IT IS ALBANY.

You GUYS! This company called Acxiom (which Wikipedia says is “one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of,” so that’s not at all shady) says MY HOME is the MOST AVERAGE CITY IN ALL THE LAND!

Well. This cannot stand. Average? Average means BORING. Who wants to be average? No. Not me. I want to be stellar. I want to be amazing. I want to be EXTRAORDINARY. And I want the place where I live to be extraordinary as well.

OK, yes, TECHNICALLY, I do not LIVE in Albany, I live just OUTSIDE of Albany, but that’s not the POINT. THEY ARE MALIGNING MY HOME.

Now, All Over Albany (one of our most excellent local blogs; suck on THAT, “average”) did a more up-t0-date comparison to see if we’re “average” or not. They measured us against the nation’s average in all kinds of categories to see just how average we are, exactly, since the statistics to us being known as THE MOST AVERAGE CITY IN MERKA are about ten years old.

What did they find out?

As opposed to the nation’s average, we have:

  • More adult residents
  • A higher household income
  • Many more white people; therefore, fewer non-white people
  • Less families; more non-family units living together (apparently we like livin’ in sin ’round these here parts…or it could be that we have many colleges here, so that means there are a lot of roommate situations happening here)
  • Many more households that speak English only (and, of course, therefore, fewer households with English as a non-primary language)
  • Many more people with a graduate degree
  • Fewer married couples
  • More people who live alone
  • Women who tend to have fewer children

SUCK ON THAT ACXIOM!

Ok. FINE. Those aren’t really all that awe-inspiring, those statistics, are they. They’re just kind of slight variations. And they’re easily explained away. We’re a very professional, very educated group of people. Our biggest employers are the state, the county, and our various colleges and universities; you need a higher degree to either get ahead in these things, or to do these things.

Well. I’m really going to have to wow you, to prove to you that where I live isn’t average. Because it’s not, you see. It’s not at all average. I knew that the minute I first pulled into town. I knew that the minute I arrived. It was home, and it was just as stellar as I needed a home of mine to be. And, I mean, all you have to do is look at the comments on that Mother Jones article up there to see what people think of where I live. BLEAK! They think it’s BLEAK! What is WRONG with people?

DOES THIS LOOK BLEAK TO YOU? I don't THINK so!

DOES THIS LOOK BLEAK TO YOU? I don’t THINK so!

So, without ANY further ado, here are some VERY excellent reasons why my home is FAR from average.

The Egg!

Now, how can any city with a building as amazing as The Egg be AVERAGE? I mean, come on. This is a building filled with WHIMSY, you guys. Every concert or talk or reading I’ve ever seen here starts with the person performing remarking upon the utter insane awesomeness of The Egg. THERE IS NOTHING ORDINARY ABOUT THE EGG.

We are the state capital!

There are a lot of cities in New York, but WE, my friends, are the CAPITAL OF THEM ALL! We have GOVERNMENT here! With SENATORS and CONGRESSMEN and such! We have a CAPITOL BUILDING with CARVINGS and GHOSTS in it! We have a GOVERNOR’S MANSION here! Yes, fine, maybe the governor doesn’t exactly LIVE in the mansion, but that’s not the POINT, we HAVE a mansion! And our governor is dating SANDRA LEE! Who is a very famous television lady! And he’s not a shabby governor himself! He always looks pissy and cantankerous and he GETS SHIT DONE!

We are the longest continuously chartered city in all of Merka!

ALL! OF! MERKA! Think of how big Merka is, you guys. Think of all those cities, both big and small. ALBANY IS THE LONGEST CONTINUOUSLY CHARTERED CITY OF THEM ALL! Think of all that history! Think of all the people who’ve lived here! Think of all the fur-traders and ironworkers and Dutch immigrants who went to and fro RIGHT IN MY CITY! It’s mind-boggling. I won’t be upset if you need to go get a cool drink and take a few deep breaths before you continue.

We have awesome town names!

Because we are so old, we have many town names with old foreign (and domestic!) roots. Canajoharie. Castleton-on-Hudson. Coeymans. Poestenkill. Rensselaer. Schaghticoke. Schenectady. Stuyvesant. Valatie. (That’s pronounced Va-LAY-sha, just in case you thought it was VAL-uh-tee.) Watervliet (which my mom pronounced “Watervillay” for the longest time, even though I told her over and over “Mom! IT IS WATERVLEET!”) Voorheesville (which always makes me think of Jason Voorhees.) Kaaterskill. How can you not love an area with names like this? Aren’t those names AMAZING? When I first moved to the area, I would read street signs and highway signs and just giggle with glee and try to guess how they were pronounced. I know how they’re pronounced now, but they still give me glee. MUCH glee.

Tulip Fest! Lark Fest! Pearlapalooza!

We love street festivals here. We have Tulip Fest, where we celebrate the coming of the summer and the blooming of the tulips! We have Lark Fest, where we celebrate Lark Street, which is one of my favorite streets in all of Albany with old buildings and cobblestones and artsy residents and cool businesses! We have Pearlapalooza, which is trying too hard to be Lark Fest but is still enjoyable! Also, at all of these things, you can get fried dough. FRIED! DOUGH! And real musical acts come and play at them! It’s all very happy and sunshiney. Except for when it rains. Which is almost every time there’s an outdoor festival. Because the heavens have a sense of humor.

Famous people were born and/or grew up around here!

FAMOUS!

FAMOUS!

Martha Quinn from MTV! Gregory Maguire who wrote Wicked! Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes! Kristen Gillibrand, one of my favorite politicians! The guy who directed Die Hard and is in prison now because of that weird private eye scandal! The woman who wrote The Mists of Avalon! Jimmy Fallon went to the College of St. Rose and worked for one of our local papers in college and grew up down near Poughkeepsie! David Hyde Pierce from Frasier grew up in Saratoga! Rachael Ray grew up in Lake George! Mickey Rourke was born in Schenectady! Even Grandpa Simpson said he was the handsomest boy in Albany, New York in his childhood on an episode of The Simpsons! LOOK AT ALL THOSE FANCY PEOPLE!

ALL THE THEATER!

We have such an amazing and vibrant theater scene in the area. There is always something you can watch. We have big, beautiful, historic theaters – Proctors, The Palace – and smaller, newer ones – Capital Repertory – and more community theaters than you can imagine. If you want culture, here’s your place. Is that average? I DO NOT THINK SO!

Fun and kooky things to do!

In the winter, our entire Washington Park (which is really big) gets all lit up by some local business (I want to say it’s Quick Response Restoration or something) and you pay like a billion dollars* (*fine, it’s like $10) and you drive slowly through the park and are alternately charmed by and worried by the light display. It’s a holiday tradition around here. One year, there was what was SUPPOSED to be a man beating a drum, but the drum had burned out, so the man looked like he was…um…pleasuring himself…and the drumstick was his…well, his drumstick. That’s totally a euphemism. We drove by that thing three times and laughed until we cried. It’s one of my most favorite local memories.

Also, there used to be (and might still be, I don’t know) New Year’s fireworks, and we went to the top of a parking garage to watch them, and people were being too loud in the crowd, and the mayor was on the PA system saying happy New Year! Enjoy the fireworks! And the people were talking TOO LOUD and the mayor was SO MAD and so he was all – ON THE PA – “IF YOU DON’T CUT THAT OUT THERE WON’T BE ANY FIREWORKS!” and we laughed and laughed because he was TOTALLY gonna cancel those fireworks and also send us to bed without dessert.

Come on. There’s magic in every corner of Albany. You just have to approach it with the right attitude. I feel that if you bring your A game? Albany will give it right back to you.

Also, I just want to mention that one time there was a chocolate festival where you got to walk around the State Museum and eat all the free chocolate and look at weird dioramas of prehistoric people. It was very surreal and also very wonderful. I got to have food dipped in a chocolate fountain AND cacao nibs for the first time. YUM.

People here are super-nice!

They really are. It’s a big city (and a big area) but it doesn’t FEEL big. People are really very friendly. Yes, sometimes the traffic makes you want to punch someone in the neck but that’s what you get when you live somewhere that’s got things to do in it. People are nice and look out for each other and welcome new people into their groups and can be incredibly kind, even when you don’t expect it. There’s a real sense of community here.

Sometimes you see wildlife!

HI AMY! Says the hawk.

HI AMY! Says the hawk.

It might be a city, but there’s enough wilderness around that you still see wild things, and you guys know how much I love wild things. I’ve seen typical things like skunks and possums and woodchucks (mostly as roadkill, sadly) but I’ve also seen deer (just hangin’ on out in the work parking lot, hi, you daily-grind 9-to-5-ers! I AM A DEER!) and a few hawks (which I LOVE, I totally watch those for longer than I should, probably, but I think hawks are the coolest) and wild turkeys (NO, not the alcoholic kind.) I like that there are huge high-rises not too far away, but also turkeys.

I LIVE HERE!

Listen, it all boils down to this. I LIVE HERE. How the hell can anything be ordinary if I live here? I mean, I’m like a shooting star of a human, baby. ZAP ZIP ZOOM! I’m pretty sure just by me living in an area, it IMMEDIATELY stops being average and turns EXTRAORDINARY. Because I don’t see anything like a normal person would. I see the magic and the wonder in EVERYTHING. And I totally see it here. Or I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I have, and I certainly wouldn’t be planning on staying for the rest of my life.

MY VERDICT?

Suck it, Acxiom. We’re not average. We’re AMAZING around here. If you come here and you think we’re blah and boring and industrial and – ugh – BLEAK – you are not looking hard enough. Look again. Rub your eyes a little. There’s so much magic here. And I’m going to spend the rest of my life finding every last bit of it.


Murder…ON HIS MIND!

I had a whole big plan for this post. But, you know what they say. THE BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE AND MEN…um…often get attacked and eaten by Dumbcat? Something something. FINE, I will look it up. It is “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.” That is not really the best of English. It just means, don’t plan nothin’, sunshine, because your little old heart’s gonna get squashed like a spider climbing up the living room wall.

So a few weeks ago, I read that Lifetime (TELEVISION FOR WOMEN!!! I am a woman! It’s for ME!) was going to be doing a movie based on the Chris Porco story. I WAS VERY EXCITED. Why? Because it was Lifetime? No. Because Porco is kind of a funny last name? No. Because I’m nuts? Perhaps.

Because it happened HERE! IN MY TOWN! And also, as you know, I’m obsessed with murder. Also with rolling one’s “r”s so words sound more portentous. Murrrrrderrrrrr.

So back in 2004, when I’d not been here very long (but was totally already in love with my new town) there was totally an axe murder here. An AXE-MURDER! I know, that’s the most salacious. Someone broke into the house of a very nice man and his wife and axe-murdered the husband and also attempted to axe-murder the wife, but she survived. The husband did not survive. Also, you guys, AXE-MURDER. Shocking!

Even more shocking? Guess who was the number one suspect?

THEIR COLLEGE-AGE SON CHRIS PORCO!

All these details started coming out. Their son was pretending to be rich to all of his college friends, even though he wasn’t. He forged his dad’s name on a big loan and his dad found out and was threatening to call the cops. He was flunking out of college. He’d stolen and sold some of his parents’ electronics on Ebay. Whoever broke into the house that night not only knew the alarm code, but left a door-key in the lock. His Jeep was seen on camera leaving campus and returning to campus in the exact perfect timeframe for the murder. And he stood to inherit a lot of money when his parents died.

Oh, also, when the cops and EMTs showed up at his parents’ house that night, one of the cops asked her who did this. Was it a family member? She nodded yes. Was it Chris? She nodded yes again.

So the cops questioned him but he had answers for all of their questions. And he kept saying he would never axe-murder his parents. Who would axe-murder their parents? What kind of person would do that?

So they arrested him, and then there was a trial, and one of my most favorite local lawyers represented him (no, seriously, he’s awesomeness, and if I ever get arrested for murder, I’m so calling him, and when I told my mom that, she said, “Are you PLANNING murder? Don’t plan murder”) and it was ALL OVER THE PAPERS and it was MOST SALACIOUS.

This is Terry Kindlon. If you murder someone in Albany, you call Terry. He's awesomeness.

This is Terry Kindlon. If you murder someone in Albany, you call Terry. He’s awesomeness.

Oh, also, apparently all the ladies were in love with Chris Porco? I didn’t understand that, so much. He was a good enough looking kid, I guess, but he must have been super-charming, because I don’t know that I would want to be hanging out with an axe-murderer. SORRY! “Alleged” axe-murderer at that point, right? Did I just spoil everyone? Shit.

See? Just an ordinary kid. He must have magic powers or something, I don't know.

See? Just an ordinary kid. He must have magic powers or something, I don’t know.

They moved the trial to Goshen which is down by Woodstock because they didn’t think he could get a fair trial here. I like the town of Goshen because somewhere at some point in my life (I want to say from my grandmother?) someone used to say “Land o’ Goshen!” when they were surprised by something. Like, “Land o’ Goshen, why are you climbing on the bookcase?” Then when I found out it was a real town, I laughed and laughed and now whenever I drive past it or someone mentions it I call it LAND O’ GOSHEN!

Holy hell, Land o' Goshen is a THING! A Biblical THING!

Holy hell, Land o’ Goshen is a THING! A Biblical THING!

Well, long story…um…truncated, he was found guilty of murdering his father and attempting to murder his mother. Oh, and his poor mother. She was all chopped up and has a glass eye and totally was defending him up and down and said she never nodded when she was asked about it, and if she DID, it was because she was LYING IN A POOL OF BLOOD AND ALSO BRAIN MATTER. Decent point, Mrs. Porco. But also kind of sad. He got 50 years to life, is currently in prison up by my parents, and still says he did not axe-murder anyone. And someone once told me he gets all the fanmail. Which makes me sad for whoever’s sending that.

Now, I suppose he might be innocent. He might have been Shawshanked. I mean, it looked like Andy Dufresne killed his wife and her lover, too, but he was framed. So maybe Chris Porco was framed. Anything’s possible. But oh, my, if someone framed him, that was the best frame-job ever. Wait, is frame-job a euphemism like hand-job? It wasn’t meant to be. Unless you want it to be. Do you want it to be?

Shawshanked!!!

Shawshanked!!!

(I think an important disclaimer that should have been made a long time ago should be made right now. I don’t condone murder or think murder is cool. I’m just oddly fascinated by this kind of thing. I think in a former life I was a cop or a lawyer or a morgue attendant or more likely brutally axe-murdered.)

ANYWAY, so of course I was very excited when Lifetime decided to do the Chris Porco story. Oddly, they named it Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story, which was just confusing. What the hell did that have to do with axe-murder? But it’s Lifetime, I always set the bar low. This is the network that had the movie about the Craigslist killer and when they talked about Albany, where he went to college, they pronounced it Alll-banny, instead of Awl-bunny, and every time they did that, I screamed at the television, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, WE ARE THE STATE CAPITAL!”

See? Even old-timey newspapers know we're the STATE CAPITAL!

See? Even old-timey newspapers know we’re the STATE CAPITAL!

However, Chris Porco filed an injunction! And stopped the movie! And I was so so upset! Because I was all prepared to watch it and mock it and laugh and laugh! But then at the last minute the judge allowed it to air! Oh, the excitement!

Yeah. Well, here’s where the plans gang aft agley, friends.

THE MOVIE WAS THE MOST TERRIBLE THING.

I took notes but I kind of gave up at one point because it wasn’t even so bad it was good; it was just so, so bad. Embarrassingly so. I have no idea why Chris Porco stopped this. It had just about nothing to do with him. Nothing. Other than his name. And a tangential axe-murder. And at the end of the movie, they even SAID they’d made up a bunch of characters. They didn’t even stick to real characters! They made UP characters! Lifetime, you are the worst. The WORST! If you are television for women, what women, exactly, are you television FOR? Ones with terrible taste who like really bad things?

But I will share some of my notes with you. I mean, we’ve come this far, right?

OMG, already SO CREEPY with pictures of a SCARECROW and BLOWING LEAVES. It’s like a Halloween murder mystery!

DELMAR NEW YORK!!! OMG, this is EXCITING! I wonder how they’ll pronounce Delmar. Probably like Dalemore.

Dead people on the FLOOR! Blood on GLASSES! SALACIOUSNESS!

Heh, look at Porco going for a casual jog like he didn’t just axemurder his parents. Wait, why is this Porco blonde and all ripped? They couldn’t find a short dark-haired kid with glasses? This is misleading.

Not at ALL like Porco. What the hell?

Not at ALL like Porco. What the hell?

Will from Will and Grace! Oh, well, HE will lend some much-needed gravitas to this film, right?

He misses Jack. I think we all do.

He misses Jack. I think we all do.

Nope. Nevermind. Will seems to be in this film to grimace a lot, and also say things in a grumbly low cop-voice.

Ew, this is graphic for a Lifetime movie? Axe chops to the face? This is on like at 8pm on a Saturday night. Couldn’t kids be watching this? This is kind of upsetting my stomach.

Whew, they said Albany correctly. It’s like they did some research for this one. I approve, Lifetime.

Oh, so, see, Porco is a ROMEO. He can talk any woman into ANYTHING. I don’t remember that being mentioned in the paper or as part of the case or anything. Why is that the direction this movie decided to take? The story’s interesting enough without the weird “Porco is porking all the girls in the greater Delmar area” angle.

Will from Will and Grace is gonna solve this case, yo. You know what would help? Jack. Or Karen! Karen would totally help. She’d get all drunk and then Porco would try to seduce her and she’d get the secrets from him. CALL KAREN, WILL!

Oh, and now Will’s daughter is all in love with ROMEO. This is sad. Why’s everyone in love with this douche? I’m so confused with this movie. SO CONFUSED.

Heh. Every girl thinks they’re his girlfriend. Like, five different girls think they’re exclusive with an axemurderer. That’s the saddest.

Now he’s going to work with animals? Yeah, that’s how a lot of killers get their start. Good idea, lady who runs the vet clinic. Letting him have access to scalpels and animals and anesthetic and such.

This woman that loves him like a son that works in the vet clinic with him also seems to be happy in her pants about him. Is that on purpose, do you think? Or just a terrible acting job?

Oh, his girlfriend found out he was a LIAR! Your pants are on fire now, blonde Porco wannabe!

Heh. Now he’s saying his family are all mafioso and THAT’S who killed his family. Did that happen in the real case? I don’t remember that happening. That’s actually a very funny twist. “Yeah, I didn’t kill my family, but my other family members…the, um…mafioso? THEY DID THIS.”

Oh, now it’s all dirty-sexy and the cop’s daughter is all being seduced even though she KNOWS he’s the axemurderer, what is WRONG with people?!?!? Are they going to have sex in this swimming pool? Why is she in the high school swimming pool in the middle of the night? Aren’t places locked up? YAY SHE STOOD UP FOR HERSELF! Watch out. He might axemurder you. I kind of like this sexy song. What, he’s gonna sexually assault her in the pool? What is this shit? Why isn’t she more scared? Why is she laughing like this is a fun game of Marco Polo? (If you people watched television with me, this is kind of the things I say to myself as I’m watching something terrible. Or anything, really. I talk to myself a lot. I pretend I’m talking to the cats, but I really talk to myself, I’m not fooling anyone.)

This guy playing Porco’s lawyer is not at ALL as cool as the real guy. OH SIDE NOTE, the real guy was on television this week and was all, “Yeah, I watched the movie. The man playing me…um…quoted me a couple times? That’s about all I have to say about that.” Hee! I love him.

The real guy is much more awesome than this. This guy always just looked stunned.

The real guy is much more awesome than this. This guy always just looked stunned.

Good grief, this has nothing to do with the case. Chris Porco was not at all this sexified. He was like kind of a normal kid. Not gross, not super-hot. Just normal. This is so strange.

“Just tell me you were SOMEWHERE!” says his frat brother.  “He was somewhere. He was chopping up his parents,” says me.

MURDER ON HIS MIND!!! Oh, now this is why I watch Lifetime movies. Because they say things like “murder on his mind.”

Why the hell is the guy playing his lawyer Canadian? He keeps saying “aboot.” He’s not Canadian. This is so weird.

SO MUCH AXE CHOPPERY. This is turning my stomach and I’m usually very good about such things. GAH. OMG the dad WALKED AROUND WITH AXE CHOPS AND BRAIN DAMAGE GETTING READY FOR WORK BECAUSE HE DIDN’T REALIZE HE WAS DYING. This is the WORST. Can you imagine that your last actions on earth are getting ready for work? Emptying the damn dishwasher? When I go out, I want to go out doing something AWESOME. Rescuing someone from a burning building. Having all the sex. Eating a really good sandwich. Something other than EMPTYING THE DISHWASHER. (I don’t even HAVE a dishwasher!)

Then I gave up on taking notes, because the movie was terrible, and there was a TRUE CRIME thing after it that I watched and it was even MORE upsetting and also showed crime-scene photos and MORE axe-choppery and poor Mrs. Porco and Chris Porco in prison reiterating he would never, ever do this and also his older brother who was kind of a hottie in a severe angry ginger sort of way.

Also, my cable keeps freezing up, and I need to call Time Warner and ask them what the hell, because it’s always at the most exciting part, and it’s doing it again tonight during The Walking Dead and I almost missed something EXCITING.

So, as you can see, this totally COULD have been fun and exciting, but was NOT. However, because I am intrepid, I stretched this out into like a billion words. As I do. As I always do.

Hope you all had the best weekends ever, full of adventure and fun and…um…maybe chocolate? Sure. Chocolate. If that’s your thing. I’ve got two cats here that need some petting and are VERY underloved. Aw, I’m neglecty. See you all soon, jellybeans.


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