Category Archives: Aloysius

Telling the story of A Fire, a Phonebook Page and Finding My Father

Photo credit: Jamie Thompson

I’m finally sobering up after a night that was intoxicatingly special. Friday night I was one of 6 storytellers at a public event held at the Linda Auditorium. The occasion was a celebration of the 8th anniversary of our local take on the Moth Story Hour, The Front Parlor Series, which occurs monthly in two locations; Albany and Troy.

Telling a story, without notes, in front of an audience is a nerve-wracking experience. I’ve never performed on stage or addressed an audience like I did on Friday and I wasn’t certain how to prepare for it. I knew the story I wanted to tell, the one about how I found my father’s family 30 years ago. It’s a good story, made better by the fact that it’s true. Obviously, I know the chronology of the tale and the important players, but it was challenging to decide which details added to the story and which might merely distract from the overall recounting. I began working it out on “paper.”

It took me a couple of weeks before I nailed down the segments that I wanted to include and the basic order in which to share them. I practiced in my head, honing and editing, during runs and walks and drives. I revised. My biggest concern, besides completely choking, was that I would forget a certain episode or anecdote that I knew was important. I decided it made sense to count paragraphs and associate each one with a word. That way I only needed to remember 12 things. I could do that! On Wednesday, I printed the story for the first (and only) time and made 12 flash cards, for rehearsing.

Friday afternoon, I went for a run (shocking!) opting for my usual 5 mile loop. I passed the remains of a house that had been destroyed by a recent fire. I inhaled and the scent of fire damage immediately tweaked my memory. I knew that smell. I showered, grabbed the last can of hard cider from my fridge and headed to the Linda with a couple of talismans.

The first photo I ever saw of my father, the page from the Dublin phonebook and a stone from my father’s grave fashioned into a pendant.

Somehow I imagined there would be space there for me to actually run through my story out loud. There really wasn’t, though, with 5 other performers and an increasingly full auditorium. I drank my cider, flipping through my index cards, scanning the paper copy of my story and periodically checking the crowd to see familiar faces who had promised to come. I peed three times. More quickly than seemed possible, I was being introduced and made my way towards the stage. My last thought was this – “If you get nervous, just imagine you’re just telling the story to me. You got this.”*

I exhaled, deeply and slowly, and stepped up to the mic.

*As always, thanks Aloysius

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Filed under Albany, Aloysius, Events, family, friends, girlhood, Ireland, Irish, Local, musings, Observations, stress, upstate New York, writing

Catching a Lyft to see the Shakes

Following what may have been the best June ever and a July that was fantastic, August has started with a bang! Last night I had a primo Albany evening – drinks with friends, a concert that was beyond all expectations and a late night walk around the Empire State Plaza. Plus, there was the bonus of leaving my car at home and relying on Lyft for transportation, a new and welcome option in our area.

Let’s start with my getting a Lyft. I got an email this week offering me up to $100 off of my next 20 rides within a specific time period. Knowing that I’ll be traveling for some of this time, I decided to initiate the offer last night and start saving $. I requested a ride from my home in the DelSo to McGeary’s, where I was meeting friends to pregame before the Alabama Shakes show. My driver arrived in less than 5 minutes and for a discounted total of $4.50 (plus a $3 tip) I was dropped off downtown at my requested destination. Hours later, I paid a similar amount to get from Lark St. back home. Again, the wait for my ride was mere minutes, unlike any time I’ve ever taken a cab in Albany. Total and complete game changer.

The concert was phenomenal. Thanks to the power of Facebook, I scored tickets after appealing to my friends that I needed to see this show. My seats were in the balcony, I had lots of friends in the venue and Albany welcomed the Alabama Shakes with great enthusiasm. I was lucky enough to have seen the band a couple of years ago down at Mountain Jam and their performance last night again demonstrated what a great band they really are. Lead singer and guitarist, Brittany Howard, is a force to witness and her modest, low key personality is a rare thing in the music industry. I absolutely loved the show. Put them on your list to go see next time they come around.

In between Lyfts and the show were a couple of tasty beverages with a group of people who I was happy to mix together. There was a lot of laughter, good conversation, a few tall tales and a stroll around the Capitol on a gorgeous summer night. Oh, August, you’re killing it! Summer, 2017 is turning out to be epic.

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Filed under Albany, Aloysius, beauty, concerts, drinking, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Summer

Sometimes life isn’t a beach

5f29a6a7e27014926b505f9d7a663911For the first time in 18 years I don’t have summer accommodations booked for Cape Cod. After last year’s trip, which took a lot out of all of us despite the great house and nearly all good company, and buying the restaurant which kind of put a new limit on the length of time I can be out of town, I had decided to wing it for Summer 2016, thinking I would keep my eyes open for maybe a last minute cancellation or other opportunity. Spontaneity is something I’m working on.

About 2 weeks ago I started getting antsy about not having a plan in place so I consulted with Aloysius and we both started looking for a suitable property. We were confined to a single week of the summer and despite that limitation, we found a house. Well, actually, two houses. Unfortunately, the owners of the first property, after responding that the house was indeed available for our desired week, seemingly dropped off the face of the earth never to be heard from again. House number two went even further – I paid a deposit, including a Jeter fee, and entered the dates on my calendar only to hear two days later that the house owners planned to occupy the place during the week we needed, thus, voiding our contract. Back to square zero…

So, now what to do? It seems that maybe the Cape isn’t meant to be the spot of our family vacation this year and I’m taking our lack of success as a sign from the universe to take a break from our usual summer destination, Wellfleet. The boys and I are talking about checking out some new places – perhaps a couple of days in Canada or a trip down to Mystic or egads, even the Jersey shore. I wouldn’t be opposed to a cabin in the Adirondacks for 2 or 3 nights, maybe on a lake? We’re thinking a couple of 2 or 3 day trips rather than the regular 2 weeks in a single area.

How about you? How is your summer shaping up? Any ideas to share with me about slightly offbeat, semi-low budget family destinations? We’re open – let me know!

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Filed under Aloysius, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, friends, road trips, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Cucina Woodstock rivisitato

After an active weekend and the theft of an hour, I wasn’t feeling much like cooking. When the opportunity presented to meet Aloysius for dinner it felt like the ideal way to punctuate a weekend and I jumped on it. As we considered a comfortable meeting spot, Woodstock’s Cucina popped into my mind with an undeniable vengeance. A finely mixed cocktail and pasta were exactly what I was seeking and based upon my prior visit with the girls, I knew I would not be disappointed.

I arrived a few minutes later than expected and found Aloysius at the bar enjoying a beer. I took a quick look at the cocktail menu and selected the Orient Old Fashioned, which I believe is the same cocktail I had on my last visit. Bulliet and house made ginger simple syrup simply calls my name, what can I say?

As we caught up and sipped our drinks, I eyed the plate of a gentleman sitting near us at the bar. The tuna served with white beans, micro greens and thinly sliced spicy red peppers helped to seal deal for both Aloysius and myself and we decided to go with the very reasonable 3 course Prix Fixe menu for $33 per person beginning with the tuna as our first course.  It was excellent with a hint of heat, beautifully firm beans and tender and flavorful tuna.

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We diverged for main course selections with Aloysius going with a pork dish loaded with mushrooms and served with polenta.  The taste I had was delicious, but I was really satisfied with the pasta dish I had selected – taleggio filled ravioli with a porcini sauce.  The ravioli were delicate  and tender and just filled with flavor.  Aloysius barely got a forkful.

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The pasta, along with the dessert, probably would have been more than enough to eat, but I do like to eat a vegetable, too, so I added a side of  broccoli rabe.  It was very similar to how I make it, al dente and generously seasoned with garlic.

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I finished with a butterscotch, salted caramel confection that I’m pretty sure I had last time around.  I inhaled it so quickly that there wasn’t an opportunity to take a photo.  This is the dessert of my dreams and if you want to be my favorite, show up at my door with an order of this and you’re in – guaranteed.  I’m not willing to wait another 2 years before getting a spoon into this stuff again.

Cucina remains one of my two favorite spots in Woodstock and I’m already mentally trying to arrange a rendezvous with the girls to get there again.  Dinner for two (not including the drinks at the bar, but with a beer and a glass and tip set us back $125. This place absolutely rocks.

 

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Filed under Aloysius, Dinner, Eating, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, Spring, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Whassup, Cape Cod!

Since I first became infatuated with Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) last year, I’ve sought out opportunities to indulge my urge to be on the water paddling to my heart’s content. In July I had a great time in my hometown with friends tooling around the lake on a windy afternoon in kayaks and on board. This month I got on board in Cape Cod and experienced entirely new conditions and scenery. Let me tell you about it…

imageOn Friday I picked up two paddle boards (along with leashes, paddles and a life vest) from Jack’s. Although they originally couldn’t commit to renting them to me for three days due to scheduling conflicts, ultimately they extended my one-day rental into a three-day at a cost of $127 per board total. We spent two days paddling around at the beach at the end of our road on Lieutenant’s Island. At high tide the tidal marsh fills in and it was quite an adventure to paddle through the tall grasses spying on birds and taking random turns going deeper into the marsh.

On the third day, we put in at the bridge down the road a bit. Again, the tide was high and we actually launched from the side of the road a few hundred yards before the bridge. As Quinn and a gang of other kids jumped from the bridge, we paddled to join him. Going under the bridge took some attention, but the allure of the bay made it a worthwhile effort and we enjoyed the peace of the open water. We headed towards “our” beach but turned around as I had a moment of feeling the need to check in with my jumper.

Assured that all was fine, we again went under the bridge (easier the second time around) and explored the salt marsh taking advantage of the unique view of the island. Aloysius and I then went our separate ways, he heading back towards the car and me ducking under that bridge one last time to take the long paddle to the beach.

imageI love the independence of being out on the water, pacing myself and feeling the sun on my shoulders and the salt air in my face. If you haven’t already, try it. Stand up paddle boarding – it is what’s up!

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Filed under Aloysius, Cape Cod, Exercise, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Fathers – the ones we have and the ones we don’t

imageI went to mass the other day. It was in my hometown in the same church where I made my first communion, attended catechism classes and impatiently sat through midnight mass on Christmas Eve eager to only get home and open a single gift, as was our custom. I was there to accompany one of my oldest friends as he said a final public goodbye to his father.

The priest was “new,” having been there for just 20 years, he said. He was not the priest from my own childhood, Monsignor O’Flaherty who had no hesitation about addressing those dressed too casually or arriving too late for mass. Reverend Sweeney, along with my friend and his siblings, provided a lovely eulogy to a man who lived a long life filled with family and friends. I learned for the first time that my friend’s dad had never met his own dad and rejoiced in the thought of that introduction finally, 87 years later, taking place. The image made me smile.

Am I a true believer in heaven and life after death? Probably not. Do I believe that when we leave our earthly bodies behind our souls somehow come together and combine with those of whom we missed to create a new energy? I think I do.

I hope your Father’s Day, be it the third Sunday of June or some other day not yet on the calendar, is filled with love and a sense of connection.

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Filed under aging, Aloysius, friends, holidays, musings, road trips

Mountain (without the) Jam

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Aloysius

Last year’s memories of Mountain Jam are a bit tainted. I’d had a really rough morning, thanks to my middle son, and my early afternoon proved that the day could, in fact, become even worse. As always, my friends pulled me through that day and were once again on hand this year to replace any previous negative associations with laughter – and beer.

Unlike previous years, the weather was spectacular. I think this May have been the first time I attended this show wearing anything other than rain boots. We successfully smuggled some sunscreen in and I do not regret my criminal decision. I would have fried without repeated doses of #30.

Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson

The music was great! Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes) has a new project and I appreciated their set more than I had enjoyed his band when I saw them last. Sean Lennon performed with his band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and while I may not have been familiar with his band, it was really cool watching the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono making music. He’s definitely rocking his father’s look and vibe.

Sean Lennon

Sean Lennon

As far as Michael Franti goes – well, sign me up to be a member of his church. He preaches good vibes, positivity and love and I’m a believer. He is one of the most inspiring and alive performers I have ever seen and this show was awesome. Musical joy. The Allman Brothers played a super set of rock and roll. As always, their songs seemed to have risen up from some dank mud which also happened to have bred the blues and jazz.  While we didn’t stay for their encore, we did hit the road satiated and completely satisfied with our day.

Michael Franti

Michael Franti

A couple of random things –

  • Security was pretty strict and did not permit food or aerosol cans to be brought in.  A bit of a bummer for those on a budget or who had packed cans of sunscreen.
  • I ate a delicious bratwurst sandwich, with everything, thank you very much.  And an ice  cream sundae!  Beers were reasonably priced ($6 for decent drafts) and a full bar within the lodge was also available.
  • Offered as continued evidence that it is indeed a small world, I ran into not one but, two, guys I knew from when I was married.  I hadn’t seen either in years and it was more pleasant than awkward.

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Filed under Aloysius, beer, concerts, friends, Music, road trips, upstate New York