Monthly Archives: August 2018

Albany XXX

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Amsterdam

What’s up with that title, right? Is it porn? Extra large? Nope…Roman numerals – thirty, as in thirty years since I first moved to Albany.

In August of 1988 I was 21. I moved here knowing not a single person, other than Mary Panza who I was lucky enough to meet when her roommate tried to seduce me find me an apartment in his role as a real estate agent. The summer of ‘88 was hot, so damn hot. There was a heat wave that was unrelenting. I traveled to England and the Netherlands in July that year and I loved every day of dreary, damp weather we experienced abroad.

That first trip to Europe changed my life. It opened so many doors and windows and made me a traveler in a way I had never imagined. I had met a guy on the ferry on my way back to London and was acutely aware that he was great, but that the timing was not. We did, however, make some lovely memories and everyone should know the excitement of a long distance romance. When a man flys into jfk, hops into a rental car and drives to Albany to spend 2 days with you…well, you feel kind of special. I hope you know that feeling.

Albany charmed me from my very first visit when I found my way to Lark St.and enjoyed a fancy brunch at The Beverwyck. Once I got a handle on the size of the city (it’s always felt small to me, initially a disappointment but ultimately an asset), and began connecting faces and names, history and legend, I settled in with interest and made a life here.

Albany has witnessed my greatest joys. I got married here, right in Washington Park on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon. I own a house and pay taxes in the city and appreciate the privilege of both of those being possible because of the education (and degrees) I received from SUNYA. My children were born here and are students in the city school district and, while the education they receive may not be as immediately impressive as the high test scores and college acceptance rates of the suburbs, I do know my sons have learned a lot about getting along with people who don’t necessarily look or think like they do. Lessons in life count too.

I started running, an activity I never could have imagined I’d love, while a student at UAlbany and have run thousands of miles around this city.  I’ve learned to write and take photos and have been lucky to share some of my passions with an interested audience.  The opportunities here have been limited only by my own level of competence.  It’s been so cool, really.

Albany, though, has also been the setting for some of my saddest days. There are places around this town that are absolutely haunted for me – spots that I do my best to avoid because of the personal ghosts. The news, both domestic and international, that I’ve witnessed while living in Albany, has left an imprint as well. Princess Diana dying, the towers falling, the children murdered in whatever most recent school shooting…I can tell you exactly where I was for each of those breaking stories. I’ve shed a lot of tears in this town. Believe it.

After 30 years, I love Albany more than ever. The happiness I’ve known in this city that receives credit for how easy it is to get to places “to which you really want to go,” has far outweighed the heartaches I’ve experienced. I’m not sure what the future holds, (once I hit my 30 years teaching, who knows?), but these three decades have been the most productive, challenging and exciting times of my life and I wouldn’t have wanted to live them anywhere else.

Thanks, Albany xx

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, DelSo, Education, Europe, family, favorites, friends, house, Local, London, love, musings, News, Observations, relationships, running, Schools, Summer, travel, upstate New York

Reflections on Summer 2018

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  • My travels have taken me new places and I am so appreciative of the memories I made and the food I ate and the wine I drank and the friends I hugged.
  • Cape Cod without children is like shared custody following the end of a marriage/relationship – a dirty little secret in all the best ways. (Credit to LGP for the custody thing)
  • Summer is a time for me to take on larger household chores, such as organizing and weeding out extraneous stuff that can weigh a person down. During these tasks I always stumble upon things I find interesting – like my journals from the early 90s.
  • One of the most important parts of summer, for me, is spending time with people I don’t always have the luxury of seeing. Pool dates, lunches and nights out with friends, have made Summer 2018 exceptionally special.
  • Being reminded of past heartbreaks and lessons learned can be really comforting. I think that every relationship that I was in that “failed” was followed by a much better personal situation. Sky’s the limit. Full steam ahead.
  • It’s been a hot summer and I’m fortunate to not have to work in what have been extreme temperatures. I’ve been able to accept the heat without needing to fight it. Night runs have been tremendous and I’ve mastered closing up the house to keep it cool during the daytime. It’s summer. I like when the seasons perform as expected.
  • In the last week or so, I’ve encountered a number of work friends and a couple of students. Seeing them reminded me what the very best part of my job is – the people with whom I’m lucky enough to work.
  • There are some ways in which I feel like a different person, as if I’m evolving into a new, hopefully best, version of myself. Some of it originates with physical change – different hair, new car, but more of it comes from having been through a lot emotionally and feeling a little less naive. Currently doing my best to retain and refocus “wonder” as a word of future possibility instead of rear-view second guessing.
  • Authenticity is topping the list of new words in my vernacular these days. It appears above catfishing and intentional mind fuck, not just for alphabetical reasons either. Authenticity deserves its own damn blog post. Stay tuned for that.

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Filed under aging, Austria, Cape Cod, concerts, DelSo, Eating, Europe, family, favorites, friends, Germany, love, musings, Observations, Random, relationships, road trips, Saratoga, Schools, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation

BlacKKKlansman

Eight or ten years ago my former husband and I celebrated an anniversary on Martha’s Vineyard. I think it was Labor Day weekend and, to kill time before our ferry departure, we squeezed into the Black Dog Cafe in Vineyard Haven for a final indulgent breakfast. After we were seated, I noticed the father and son seated next to us and realized pretty quickly (confirmed by the Yankees cap) that it was indeed, Spike Lee and presumably his pre-teen son.

The conversation at their table had been lively and Spike looked a little exasperated, but even more amused. He and I made as much eye contact as was possible in our tinted glasses, and smiled at one another before exchanging a few words:

“Why do we teach them to speak?
They never stop talking!”

…and then we laughed.

It was pleasant and illustrated to me how he and I are much more alike than we are different. We’re both parents and we spend time teaching our children how (not what) to think and behave and communicate. It was a perfect encounter with a cultural icon.

If we’re incredibly lucky, we raise children who can communicate like Spike Lee. His ability to depict with film a reality with which many people are unfamiliar, is remarkable. In his most recent release, BlackkKlansman, he strings together images from Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, and 2017’s tragic white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA, with the true story of Colorado Spring’s first black police officer, Ron Stallworth, to make his case that overt racism is the American way. We’ve been perfecting it for generations.

I went to the movie with my generally aware 13 y/o, yet repeatedly found myself elbowing him to explain historical references such as a mention of Branch Rickey or the blaxploitation scenes, both subjects with which he was unfamiliar. When it came to the closing scenes of the violence which was perpetrated in Charlottesville last year, it was my turn to be unfamiliar – somehow I had avoided ever seeing that footage. I left the theater in tears.

If you haven’t yet seen BlackKKlansman – go.

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Street talk

Damn, girl. You lookin for a friend? You work out!

I know I’m expected to be offended by the words above, but, I’m not. I’m almost 52 years old and a young man (maybe 25?) who was tall, handsome and jacked, said those very words to me last night as I walked to the Empire State Plaza. I’m probably old enough to be his mother and, instead of feeling disgusted by his attention, I was absolutely flattered. Is that weird? Wrong?

In these #metoo days it sometimes feels as if we all are expected to respond to something in the same way, as if we share some mass mentality that takes offense at exactly the same things. Maybe for you, a man less than half your age conveying IN A NON THREATENING WAY that he appreciates your physical appearance is an act of disrespect, but I don’t feel the same way. Perhaps that’s because each time it happens, I think to myself “this might be the last time this happens to me.” Maybe I’m just not ready to become invisible yet.

This guy did not intimidate or harass me, nor did he follow me or demand my attention. There was no pressure on me to respond and I didn’t, beyond a bemused smile. I wore that smile for the rest of the evening, truth be told.

While men may be more inclined to utter out loud their inner thoughts when it comes to a female’s appearance, I can confess that my women friends and I guilty of objectifying the male form in a similar fashion. We’re just a little more evolved about actually expressing ourselves in these particular situations, which makes catcalling one of the few areas of communication in which men exceed women in their ability to share their thoughts.

Thoughts? Experiences? Share.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Local, musings, Observations, Summer, upstate New York

Telling stories

Monday night a friend and I headed downtown to attend the August edition of the Front Parlor series. This month’s theme was Drugs and it wasn’t until nearly midway through the program that I decided to participate as a story teller. While there were quite a few options in terms of what I could share when it comes to drug stories, I was inspired to be a bit less literal.*

The rules for participating are pretty simple – no notes, 5-7 minutes length and based in truth. As a person who is currently experiencing some real challenges processing that last requirement, I decided to tell a story that I wove together from the following notes…

Drug stories? I’ve got those.
*getting shot at when I 15 and on mescaline
*my boyfriend copping 100 hits of purple microdot in NYC and bringing them upstate to sell for $3 each.
*petting a green dog while tripping on green acid
*and having my name written out in an 8-Ball of coke for my 19th birthday on a mirror – in script

But, those aren’t the drugs I’m going to talk about. The drug that I find the most dangerous is a different drug – words.

I find words to be the drug that has most frequently caused me trauma.

The most recent example of this addiction began with an email.

Where have you been all my life?

What would your reaction be if you received an email with that as the subject?

The guy who sent it was someone I had met the previous night at an event for foodies and bloggers. Our conversation had been easy and friendly and I assumed his tendency was to hyperbole.

That was generous. It really was more like bullshit.

But me? I’m apparently a sucker for smart repartee and literary references. I was hooked.

Each email brought a rush to my head and a flush to my face.

We exchanged notes and direct messages and texts until we met and finally became lovers. It was heady.

Every ping, ring and ding made me high. There’s no other way to describe it. The things he said were more powerful than any opiate I could ever imagine.

But…the high didn’t last. As time went on, the words could no longer lift me because the actions didn’t align with them.

I knew I needed to break up with him. My drug was no longer getting me stoned.

So I began to work really hard to start remembering other words like:

Happiness
Fun
Laughter
and Truth

And the more I thought of those words, the more committed I became to realizing those words in my life. His words no longer held me under their power because his actions screamed far louder and I finally found the strength to walk away.  I broke the addiction.

Thank God for wine.

That was the foundation for my story. There were some facts, a couple of details and enough fiction to protect the not-so-innocent. I tried to tell my tale slowly, working to stay cognizant of structure and flow and I’d like to believe it made for a much more entertaining story than it did a life experience.

A friend with food issues once told me that her addiction was so difficult to combat because food is something she will have to consume for the rest of her life. Words are the same. It just becomes a matter of being far more cautious about what one is willing to swallow.

*Generally, I am painfully literal. I think that’s what’s gotten me in trouble – I expect people to be truthful and this man was everything but honest.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Events, friends, Local, love, Observations, relationships, secrets, Summer

Coming clean

Welcome to one of the saddest days of my life year.

Even though it happens every year, if I’m lucky, the final morning on Cape Cod always leaves me feeling melancholy. There’s something about knowing that it’s the last time I’ll be seeing the ocean and smelling the salty air that punctuates my summer in a way that makes me feel down. There’s just nothing like the Cape.

This year’s time has been particularly sweet. I have some really special people in my life and was lucky to share time with them in one of my favorite places on earth. There was a wonderful mix of my oldest childhood friends, folks I have met through the years at various jobs and someone kind of new who makes me laugh and wonder why I had allowed myself to live without such simple joys for so many years.

Although my friends all came to me in different ways, there are common experiences we each share and it turns out, we know a lot of the same people. Sometimes our knowledge of mutual friends is pretty consistent, but other times it seems that individually we’ve been exposed to very different facets of these common acquaintances. Information shared over cups of coffee and delicious cocktails made with fancy rum can reveal character in ways unimaginable. It’s kind of remarkable and, to be completely honest, more than a little disconcerting to learn that sometimes we indeed knew very little about someone for whom we spent years caring. How do people live such deceptive and duplicitous existences – and why would they ever expect to get away with it?

This morning I took my last outdoor shower of vacation. The water was hot and I used the soap my new friend turned me on to and then left behind for me to enjoy. The bar of soap I had brought with me from home, a gift from someone I apparently never knew, was abandoned in the shower. When I dried off, I felt clean, fresh and ready to move forward in a way that is becoming more natural and healthy every day.

See you next year, Cape Cod. Minus the dirt, please.

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Filed under aging, Cape Cod, favorites, friends, love, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, secrets, stress, Summer, vacation

In pursuit of perfection

When I instruct 6th graders on bibliographic formatting I always tell them that perfect is never my goal, except for in MLA citations. Beyond that, perfect is not my expected, or even necessarily desired, outcome. I don’t need perfect.  Authentic and true is more than enough for me.

This year’s Cape vacation has come with some moments that absolutely took my breath away. Simple joys – friends, good food, sunshine, stretched legs and a tired dog. It’s been heavenly. Yesterday Jeter swam in our pond and he was so happy that my heart almost burst. As he paddled towards me with water rolling off his back and light shining from his eyes, I took a minute to take a mental snapshot to add that moment to the other ones from this wonderful past week.

The pace of this vacation has been ideal. The first couple of days were spent as a duo (or trio if you count Jeter) and the weather was kind of overcast. It was a great way to ease into the week and become familiar with both our surroundings and each other in this new place. It was quiet and sweet and left us in the perfect position to greet our first friends with an easy and happy warmth when they began to arrive.

By midweek we were in full swing and hosted a rager mixer with friends joining us from their own vacation homes for a great afternoon/evening of walks and drinks and dinner and so much laughter. It was an epic blend of people, alcohol and sand and it was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had. Sun up to sun down, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. Thursday was similarly full and our evening spent at Race Point was amazing, even if the array of folks around the bonfire was shy a few faces. Effortless, organic fun.

The weather has once again shifted to windy and overcast and we’re down to two (and Jeter, of course) again. We’re vacillating between sitting around in a relaxed puddle and checking a few more things off our list of intended activities. It’s too early to tell which way will win, but I imagine whichever way we go it will be as close to perfect as I ever need life to be.

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Filed under aging, beauty, Cape Cod, favorites, friends, love, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, Summer, travel, vacation