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Tag Archives: Albany

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!)

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Old friends and new friends and adventures and SO MUCH FOOD ZOMG

I am far too tired to function at the moment. However, I really want to blog about the weekend of adventure, preferably before I FORGET about the weekend of adventure, so I’m going to soldier on. I’m intrepid, I am.

This weekend was crammed full of things. SO MANY THINGS. I don’t know if I’ve had a busier weekend in ever. HAPPY busy, but INTENSELY busy. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m honestly quite lazy. When I’m not doing things (and let’s be honest; I’m quite often doing things) I am sitting around blogging or watching television. I’m not much of an adventurer, for the most part.

This weekend? SO MUCH ADVENTURE. Sincerely.

So on Friday, I left work early and went to the doctor and then ran a bunch of errands. Because that night…that very night…it was LAURA NIGHT!

Yes, Laura came to visit for a whole weekend! This was a plan we hatched a while back when talking about shopping. See, the lovely Laura is a thrift store shopper extraordinaire. And we have a LOT of thrift stores here. So we came up with a plan for her to come visit and we would do all the shopping, plus I would show her around Albany and we would have a grand adventure.

So I went to the train station! And waited most (im)patiently! And then like 47 trains came in at once! (OK, fine, two. Two trains came in at once.) And I was afraid I would not see Laura, but then there she was! And she was ADORABLE and she was IN MY CITY!

TRAIN STATION TOOT TOOOOOT!

TRAIN STATION TOOT TOOOOOT!

(This is kind of unprecedented. I usually go TO people. People do not usually come to ME. This felt very grownup and fancy.)

We decided the first night we would chill out and just hang out at my place. So back to Casa del Futbol we went!

The first bit of surprise: DUMBCAT LOVED LAURA!

I mean, he likes people EVENTUALLY. But he doesn’t usually love people right AWAY. So I warned Laura he would probably run away RUN AWAY, as he does, and maybe hide under the bed, or in the pots and pans cupboard. But NO! She came in, and he didn’t run away at all! He actually was all “PET ME, WOMAN!” and headbutted her for MORE petting and was all filled with purrs! Now, this is unprecedented. He runs away from EVERYONE. (Well, except me, unless I’m trying to clip his nails or touch him when he’s not in the mood for such nonsense.) This made me very happy.

I actually made FOOD. Like, real live food. With INGREDIENTS in it. I didn’t even warm it up in the microwave. Like, there was COOKING, In the OVEN. True facts!

This doesn’t look as good as it turned out. I made enchiladas! With chicken and beans and much cheese and spiciness! (Because I’m a freak, I got all the things to make them, then was like “ZOMG WHAT IF LAURA’S A VEGETERIAN OR HATES BEANS OR MEXICAN FOOD” and then had to text her and say, “Um. Is this ok? Will you eat this?” and she WOULD. Whew.)

Enchiladas are not the PRETTIEST food but they are DELICIOUS. These were super-good. And I have leftovers for two more days, so that’s nice.

So we ate and ate and talked and ate and laughed and talked MORE and finally went to bed kind of late because all the talking. I do so like talking to Laura. She’s the best of talkers.

The next day was DAY OF ADVENTURE!

We woke up and first went to my favoritest of diners where DELICIOUS WAFFLES WERE CONSUMED! The best part of this (well, other than waffles) was that Laura was trying to find out what kind of sausage came with her breakfast. “Is it patties, or is it, you know…” she said, and then mimed something that looked very much like either a hand- or blowjob. Without missing a beat, the waitress said “They’re sausage links. Are you a teacher?” and it was SO PERPLEXING. How did she get teacher from that? When Laura asked, she said, “Oh, you explained that like a teacher.” WHAT KIND OF TEACHERS DID THIS WOMAN HAVE. This made us giggle. A lot.

My favorite diner YAY! Seriously, I'd been dreaming of waffles for WEEKS.

My favorite diner YAY! Seriously, I’d been dreaming of waffles for WEEKS.

Then we went to our FIRST thrift store, which was the Salvation Army. It is a big Salvation Army and it is pleasingly arrayed in color order. We saw many things there, like a jar opener (if you are very weak?), and one orthopedic shoe for sale (I guess if you only have one foot), and a framed mirrored piece of artwork with Eminem in it. Thrift stores make me wonder about the people who dropped off these things. Why did they EVER have them, and why did they get RID of them?

SALVATION ARMY, BABY!

SALVATION ARMY, BABY!

Laura found a couple of things, and even I found some things, which NEVER happens! I found a few shirts and a very cute skirt and a nice picture frame with beading all over it (because I have photos I want framed but don’t have the frames for them.) We also found a million copies of the Twilight saga in the book section. That made me irresponsibly happy.

Then, on to thrift store #2! This one is more expensive but has more clothes straight from stores with tags on them and everything. I tried on so many clothes that I think I might have started a minor riot outside the two dressing rooms. SORRY HUMANS. But I bought SIX new shirts that I am VERY excited about and a very cute nightgown. No, you can’t see it, not even a little.

Goodwill! It is mega-huge,  yo.

Goodwill! It is mega-huge, yo.

Then it was time for lunch. Because we eat balanced meals, we had…

ICE CREAM! Kurver Cream was right across the street and is closing for the season soon and I was excited to bring Laura to my favorite ice cream stand. These cones were DRIPPY, you guys. We got MESSY.

Then it was time to take a quick tour of Albany. We were running out of time and had things to do that evening. So I planned a little excursion to my favorite place in all of Albany when you want to show someone the fantasticness.

The Empire State Plaza!

Laura seemed VERY happy with the beauty that is the Empire State Plaza. Weird shit was going down there this weekend. I have no idea what it was, but there was loud music and all the streets were closed and we had to hike across the Capitol lawn and we saw two wedding parties which was nice.

Laura at The Egg! Those ducks were cool. But we kept getting attacked by cheeky weird pigeons.

We then jetted home and got all dolled up for our ladydate. We totally forgot to take photos of ourselves all fancy, but we were wearing dresses and had pretty hair and makeup and we were the PRETTIEST. People were impressed.

First, we went to dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants, which is New World Bistro Bar. It’s where I take people when I want to show them the coolness. It’s got fun delicious food and a wonderful atmosphere and we were very impressed with the sexiness of all of the employees. We ate until our faces almost fell off.

We wanted dessert and even though the waitress was like “I warn you, that thing, it is HUGE” we totally ordered this ice cream sandwich which was rootbeer ice cream and rootbeer whipped cream and rootbeer cookies and listen. That waitress wasn’t lying.

I know, right? They weren’t screwing around about how huge. My word. We couldn’t finish this. We gave it a good try, though.

Then it was time for the theater! Originally, I was supposed to review a show that night, but that got moved to another night. So instead we went to my old theater to see Big Maggie, which I really wanted to see anyway, and was glad I could bring Laura to for many reasons, some of which were that she could meet my friends, and that some of my favorite local actors were working on this show.

And it was a total hit. We were IMPRESSED. The acting and the set and the direction – all of it was fantastic. And I saw so many people and got to introduce Laura to so many people and it was just the best time.

But THEN, a very bad thing happened which was the little headache I’d had all day got worse and worse and WORSE and then I was like, huh, it seems this is turning into a migraine. And by the time I got home, it was bad news bears. I took some aspirin, and the aspirin was the last straw and my head told my stomach “nope, we’re not accepting that” and then I had to go to the bathroom and fight the urge to vomit for many minutes because if there’s anything I hate it’s throwing up. Yuck.

So then it was time for early bedtime, which meant I went to bed but couldn’t fall asleep for a while because OUCH OUCH OUCH and then finally fell asleep and then when I woke up I felt all hollow like I had no brain, so that’s nice. But at least my head didn’t hurt anymore. Because it was HOLLOW, you see.

Then it was time to rush around and get ready to bring Laura back to the train station so she could go home. Sniff.

Back to the train station! Many hugs! Sad goodbyes! Laura was the best visitor. I don’t have many overnight guests. This was an excellent experiment in visitations. If it always went this well I would always have visitors. I MISS YOU ALREADY, LAURA!

Then it was time for the SECOND adventure of the weekend. I mean, with the second PERSON.

Not too long ago, one of my oldest friends contacted me and said he was coming to town for a few hours on Sunday, and did I want to get together for lunch? Yes. Yes, I did.

I have known David since the first week of college. So therefore, we have known each other since we were 17. SEVENTEEN. Can you imagine? That is a very long time ago. I barely remember that girl. I remember David, though, and I remember meeting him that day, when I was scared and homesick and a very nice boy smiled at me and held the door of the dining hall and told me I looked pretty that day, and then I ran into him again a few days later when visiting a friend at his dorm and we were friends from that point on. I’ve known David longer than I’ve known almost anyone. It’s funny, when you have that much history with someone. They know all of your things, and you know theirs, but then when you move away from each other, you still know those things…but then there are all new things you DON’T know, so that person’s still in there, but it’s also a new person. It really is a funny thing.

As you can see, this train station wasn't as awesome. (Obviously I did not take this photo today.)

As you can see, this train station wasn’t as awesome. (Obviously I did not take this photo today.)

So I then went to ANOTHER train station to get David, who was coming in about an hour later, and hung out in the parking lot like a creeper and wrote email and made phone calls and such. Then when the train was coming in I waited outside my car and I heard “AMY!” and there was David. And he looked like my David, even though I hadn’t seen him in ten years in person. (I thought it was just five years or something, but we figured out it had actually been ten. That’s a very long time.)

So we went to the restaurant, and talked and talked and waited for the restaurant to open, and David was in town because he is a very fancy talent agent and was there to surprise one of his clients who was starring in the tour of Ghost, but we ruined the surprise because she saw us on the street and she was so cute and surprised to see him and then she gave me a HUGE hug and she was teeny-tiny and full of all the excitement and I liked her very much. So I got to meet the star of Ghost! Which I am reviewing on Tuesday! So I certainly hope she’s good because how awkward will it be if she’s terrible and she was so adorable and filled with hugs? (Damn, but it’s tough being honest sometimes. Let’s just cross our fingers she’s wonderful.)

Then we went to lunch, only the restaurant wasn’t ready for us even though we had a reservation. “Can you come back in an hour? We’re cleaning up from a party last night,” said the man at the door. “Um. No? Because of theater reservations?” we said. After much sighing, he agreed to let us sit outside. So we had lunch and talked and talked and caught up and it was just nice, you know? If you’ve known someone that long, catching up with them is a nice thing. (And behind us, the people kept bringing trash and ice sculptures and such out of the restaurant. The whole thing was very strange. I don’t know that I’d go back there.)

Then we walked around town a little and then it was time for David to go to the show and for me to go home and crash out because WHOO WHAT A WEEKEND but we totally took some photos which I do not have explicit permission to post here but I’m doing it anyway.

This is us being…shocked, I guess? We are making FACES here, yo. Also I like how the Ghost poster looks like it’s telling David a secret.

Now we look happy and relaxed and beautiful. This is one of my most favorite photos of my whole life. Seriously. This makes me beyond happy. This is a photo of two people who have had a very good day and love each other.

And when I got home I had blogging and a weekends’ worth of internet things to catch up on and emails to write and a freelance job to do and now I am GOING TO BED, dammit. SO SO TIRED.

Best weekend. Just the best. And more wonderful things upcoming. So many things happening. So happy.

Hope you all had the best weekends filled with adventure, and all the delicious foods and friends and laughter.


No one’s going to be friendly if you keep insulting them, you know.

When I was on vacation, I started noticing a lot of angry mentions of Condé Nast Traveler from locals on Facebook and from local blogs. I was, however, on vacation, so I just said “hey, Amy, remember to look into this at some point” and saved one of the links as a reminder to myself. (I really try to stay away from angrification while on vacation. Why would you WANT to purposely upset yourself when you’re on a vacation which is geared to lower your stress-levels and blood pressure?)

I then promptly forgot all about it, because I’m Amy and I forget things ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously.  I’ll remember something that slipped my mind weeks ago and feel TERRIBLE but how do you fix it, other than telling the person “I’m a huge dork with too much going on, I’m so sorry. Please don’t hate me. Or, if you do, please don’t tell me you do. Because I don’t deal well with all the hatred, it makes my stomach hurt.”

But NOW, well. NOW, here I am. I’m just not very TIMELY.

Condé Nast (a very fancy publisher in charge of such things like The New Yorker, GQ, Vanity Fair, Bon Appétit – these are all, interestingly-enough, known as “magazines that are way too effing fancy for Amy to even touch because she would most likely leave smeary fingerprints on the shiny, shiny covers”) has a magazine called Condé Nast Traveler. I don’t know much about this magazine. I assume it’s all travelly and shit. For rich people. Like, “14 Greek villas you MUST stay in before you die” or “How to travel Europe on $100,000 a day.” Mostly, I’m trying to buy a ticket to see Andreas for less than $1,000, yo, I don’t care about Greek villas.

Yep, "The Islands Issue" sounds about what I'd expect from this magazine.

Yep, “The Islands Issue” sounds about what I’d expect from this magazine.

So Condé Nast Traveler did a feature last month called “The Friendliest and Unfriendliest Cities in the U.S.”

I find things like this ridiculous to begin with, but we’ll go more into that in a bit.

According to the site, the results of this feature came from their annual Readers’ Choice Survey:

For more than 25 years, Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards have been a coveted seal of approval for hotels, cruise ships, and airlines from the world’s most discriminating travelers. Tell us where you’ve traveled and what you’ve loved (or not)—47,000 of you participated last year to make this list what it is. 

So a bunch of fancypants fancy people went and voted on what’s best and worst and from those votes, this high-falutin’ magazine made a list of the “friendliest” cities in the U.S.

I’m not going to draw this out. Here’s the listing:

Friendliest (from #1-#10)

Charleston, South Carolina
Galena, Illinois
Savannah, Georgia
Asheville, North Carolina
Austin, Texas
Jackson, Mississippi
Natchez, Mississippi
Telluride, Colorado
Sonoma, California
Branson, Missouri

Unfriendliest (from #1-#10)

Newark, New Jersey
Oakland, California
New Haven, Connecticut
Detroit, Michigan
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Los Angeles, California
Albany, New York
Wilmington, Delaware
Anaheim, California
Sacramento, California

I take a little offense at the whole situation, but a LOT of offense at #7 on the Unfriendliest list.

AS I LIVE THERE.

According to snooty old Condé Nast Traveler, or at least the READERS of said magazine (or internet trolls, as I suppose you don’t have to subscribe to vote):

To be fair, Albany is probably better known as a through-station than a tourist destination. That may be why it scored low on our survey. Still, some readers had strong opinions: The “not-so-nice” northern New York city was described as “dull” by one reader, and others said it was best to avoid, “especially in the winter.”

We’re the CAPITAL of the STATE. We are the SIXTH-BIGGEST city in the state. (And I mean, come on. Like we can compete with New York City. None of us even TRY to compete with New York City. We’d just lose, so why bother?) We are a city of theater and arts and government and architecture and history; we have both urban sprawl and beautiful green spaces you can get lost in; we have sidewalks and lawns, concerts and plays, museums with mummies and a gigantic river running right through the middle of us.

And I’ve been to a lot of cities over the years, and you know what?

We’re friendly as hell.

(No, I don’t mean that in an ironic way, even though it sounds like that. We’re really very friendly.)

People look you in the eye when you walk past them on the street. People smile randomly; there are a lot of small kindnesses. We pull together as a community when things go bad. We pull together as a community when things go well, too. We don’t discriminate against small towns around us; we’re all the Capital District. We’re all good enough.

I got here in the summer of 2002 without ever having been here. I knew nothing about the area. I’d never even been close. I thought it’d be – well, you know what? Like the survey says. A through-station. I thought maybe I’d live here a couple of years, get my head together, move on elsewhere.

Until friend C. took me on my first tour of Albany and I felt that click. That chest-slammingly right feeling. That feeling that I’d lost something, and I’d never known it was missing, and here it was. I’d found it. And how had I ever gone without it?

That feeling, it’s a feeling you only feel when you’ve come home.

Call my home unfriendly, if you must, you fancy magazine. Call it “dull” and say people should avoid it in the winter. (Listen, that’s most New Yorkers with money, to be honest. We call ’em snowbirds, because they fly on outta here the minute the flakes start falling.) Say it’s “not-so-nice.”

But you’re wrong.

And, furthermore, you’re wrong about ALL those “unfriendly” cities.

A city is as friendly as what you put into it. This is true for a lot of things. You need to give in order to get. You’re not going to get very far in a romantic relationship if all you do is yell at your partner and tell him or her they’re not good enough; you’re not going to get very far at work if all you do is complain about the workload; you’re not going to get very far at learning a new skill if all you do is read one sentence and then walk away frustrated.

All of those “unfriendly” cities (and all of the “friendly” ones) are filled with – shh, I’m telling you a huge secret – people. Yes! People! With good days and bad days, hearts and lungs and brains and memories and feelings.

Walk around in any of these cities with a good attitude, as if you’re there to have an adventure, with a smile on your face – well. I’m pretty much guaranteeing the city’s going to be friendlier toward you.

Walk around all “grumble grumble grump DAMMIT THIS PLACE IS SURE SLUSHY AND DULL!” and probably people aren’t going to go out of their way to be kind. Because you’re being scary. And, let’s be honest, a little weird.

Maybe you like where you currently live. Maybe you hate it. Maybe you’ve found your home; maybe you’re still looking. But anywhere, anywhere at all, can be friendly.

Albany is the friendliest, most welcoming city I know. It’s the city that gave me a home when I didn’t know what home was; it’s the city that gave me a community when I needed one. It’s got my whole heart.

I don’t need some magazine I’m too daunted to purchase to tell me it isn’t.

Because I know they’re wrong.

(Come drop on by and visit us, fine people of Condé Nast Traveler. You can’t look at The Egg without breaking out into a smile; you can’t see Nipper or watch one of our foolish local commercials without grinning; you can’t read the local arts listings without thinking “wow, there’s a lot of heart in this town,” you can’t walk through Washington Park and see the kids playing without thinking how vibrant and full of life the city is. I dare you to try. You’ll lose the bet, though, and you’ll owe me a cone from Kurver Kreme. Until that time, however, I’ll just be here, enjoying the best city I’ve ever had the opportunity to know. I’m perfectly content with where I’ve chosen to wait.)

You have to love a city that has a huge statue of Nipper in the skyline. You just have to.

You have to love a city that has a huge statue of Nipper in the skyline. You just have to.


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.


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