New York State


Part of living mindfully is accepting the things that cannot by your own will be changed. It is with this knowlege that I arm myself whenever I venture to walk down Central Avenue, Albany’s main strip or any other part of the decaying corpse that we live in.

In my heart, I love this city, but it is because I come from this area and close friends and live here.  Otherwise, I have no strong attachment to the Capital City on the Hudson, whose time has long since passed. It is likely that I will move out of this area altogether to a warmer place at some point.
When my grandfather was a teenager in the 20’s and 30’s, Albany still had some of its character as a clean and thriving small city. The seat of government, the city was also a place for railroad and shipping. As many as 130,000 folks lived here. Now that number is about 93,000. Albany has changed in my lifetime, but it has absolutely transformed in his lifetime.

Central Avenue was once not just a thoroughfare for downtown traffic. It was actually a place for storefronts and business. So many of those businesses are gone, moved out to the suburbs where the car can better travel and closer to the homes of expatriate Albanians.

I will write more about Central Avenue but for now I can only say what I know, which comes from my eyes. The road is simply for the bus lines now. There is no economic life to it. Demographics and insipid urban poverty have crept along the North and South sides of the pavement. Like many other thoroughfares in urban America, Central Avenue is dead. It is a home to broken windows, boarded up storefronts and booted cars. What remains are the remnants of a depressed inner city economy; cellphone stores, barber shops and hair braiding businesses, one hardware store, and a whole lot of fast food.

Our Lady of Angels, once a thriving Franciscan community, has been closed. Reflective of the demographic shift and the shrinking Catholic population, it is now a Pentecostal church. Nevertheless, the structure is still very Catholic, with a tile-mosaic of Christ with the Sacred Heart and a Friary that looks anything but Prostestant.

Although there are some decent and affordable restaurants along Central Avenue, it is much easier to get a Big Mac with an order of fries or greasy Chinese takeout than something healthy. One organic food cooperative can be found hidden alongside a dollar store.

There can be no greater image of the economic malaise of Albany than Central Avenue. Although the surrounding suburban communities do well for themselves, there is nothing to entice a shopper do this stretch of road that they couldn’t get in their own town.

I often think that Central Avenue would look quite nice with stores and businesses, but I know there’s just no practicality in it. The malls in Guilderland and Colonie are much easier to get to and park in. The poverty of many of those who live in proximity to the street is prohibitive. Central Avenue may likely never be what we’d like it to be.

Just as documentarian Michael Moore has made his hometown of Flynt, Michigan something of an emblem of the death of blue collar America, so Central Avenue embodies the changing economic climate wherein those with money have abandoned the small cities, taken with them their spending power and heading for the suburbs. As the car has made it easier to commute into cities, it has also gutted commerce from them.


Ironically, a portion of Central Avenue towards the city line is dotted with auto dealerships, mechanics and parts suppliers. The Avenue houses a large element of its destruction.

(more…)

Advertisements

I don’t know exactly why,  but I felt lucky a few times this week so I bought Lucky 7’s scratch off cards from various convenience stops.

Each time, however, I was surely mistaken, as I got nothing.

Sure enough, I hate the lottery and rarely play it, particularly scratch-offs, but I figured I’d take a shot. Now I’m $3 shorter and New York State has an additional $3 bucks for it’s schools (or so they say). But hey, maybe if one scratch off wasn’t lucky and neither two or three, then four will hit the jackpot!…I think I’d have better luck being hit by a lightening bolt!

From the time that he announced he was running for Governor more than three years ago, to his shocking, embarassing political downfall on Monday afternoon, I never cared for Eliot Spitzer. To me, he embodied the type of politician, so ambitious to rise in stature that he would do all he could to crush dissent.

Where he was once described as crusading, tough, principaled and ethical, the words most closely attached with the shamed New York governor are now arrogance, brashness, conceit and hubris. Spitzer’s meteoric rise will always be seen in the light of his trysts with high-priced hookers, rather than any of the good he did or may have ended up doing for his state.

I suspect that Spitzer never really cared so much about the end result of New York State because his eyes were set on other sights; Justice Department, State Department or maybe even the White House. To Spitzer, dealing with the disparate factions of this diverse state were likely an annoyance, he seemed so much the man to look down on others.


When it was announced here in Albany that he was involved in a prostitution ring, even his own party members seemed to chuckle. This was not a man well-liked by many of those who dealt with him. It was just not easy to have sympathy for the “Steamroller”, the “Sheriff of Wall Street”. Down in in the City, the Wall Street traders rejoiced, handing out cigars, buying strangers drinks and giving ecstatic high fives.

Although most of Spitzer’s high-profile targets from his days as New York Attorney General didn’t say it, we know that in their cavernous offices, behind their cherry wood desks they felt free to let loose their pleasure with his downfall.

One who wasn’t so mum, Kenneth Langone, a former New York Stock Exchange boardmember told CNBC he hoped that the Governor, who had once tried to bury him to make some headlines, would roast in the fires of his own hell.

(more…)

It’s been more than two years since I moved out of New York City. I live about two-and-a-half hours north of the city in the state capital, where I am from originally, but my four years in New York City–Brooklyn in particular–have definately shaped me.


I always saw myself as living in New York City some day and in May of 2001, recovering from a bout of depression suffered at college in Boston, I took the summer to live with friends in Brooklyn instead of going home to my parents’ place.

I’d been to the city many times, but it took me just three weeks there to decide I wanted to live there and so I stayed, transferring to my alma mater, Brooklyn College where I would eventually graduate.


I really love that place and as expensive, grimey and frustrating as it can be, I miss it and surely will choose to live there again at some point.

This morning the New York Times City Room blog was updated with an article about the late Marvin Franklin, a Metropolitan Transit Authority track worker who was killed last spring while doing work on the notoriously pokey G-train line in Brooklyn.

Franklin’s story is one that is not particuarly dramatic, but interesting all the same. A lot of people take jobs that are not personally interesting or invigorating to them. They spend precious years of their lives toiling away at projects that speak neither to their personal ambitions or their soul. Marvin Franklin was apparently different. The veteran transit worker was an experienced artist who used the setting of his work-a-day life as inspiration for his drawings and paintings.

Three years away from retirement, Franklin, according to several articles about his death, was gearing up for a career teaching fine arts.


Unfortunately for Mr. Franklin, a subway car crushed him to death before he could realize his ambition. Fortunately for us, Mr. Franklin’s work is on display at the MTA museum in Brooklyn.

Because Mr. Franklin did so much work reflecting one of the largest transit systems in the world, the museum with the assistance of his union, has selected to display his images of subway riders and homeless station dwellers.

New York City’s subway system are the veins that carry it’s lifeblood. As corny as that sounds, anyone who has lived in New York City for even a few months knows that its trains and cavernous, dark tunnels become a part of their life. All of us who have lived in New York City have waited with sleepy eyes and tired muscles at some stop late at night be it Bay Ridge Avenue in Brooklyn, 170th in the Bronx or Whitehall in Manhattan, waiting, waiting, waiting for our train to arrive.

We’ve all seen minutae, malaise and drama on the train. I once saw a man beat his girlfriend on a Bronx-bound 4-train, a drunk Brooklyn teenager drop his trousers and pee all  over an R-Train car or a rude evangelist get booed out of a car. The train is a stage in New York’s theater. It unites all New Yorkers, visitors and tourists, if even for a three station trip.

Looking at pictures of Mr. Franklin’s art work, I can see that the artist was able to really capture that. Not knowing much about art, I can only say it reminds me a little bit about some of Edward Hopper’s New York City scenes. People become a part of the setting while at the same time the subject.

I look forward to visiting his exhibition in Brooklyn the next time I go down to the city. Looking at his pictures really makes me miss the place that I cursed and shouted at under my breath. It’s too bad he didn’t long enough live to teach his craft.

Unless you’ve been in a cave, you know full well that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the second time in four years.

Of course, if you know that the Sox have won the highest honor in the baseball world, you know that there’s been some shakeups in the New York Yankees organization:

  • Joe Torre out
  • Alex Rodriguez gone
  • Joe Girardi hired as manager
  • Don Mattingly
  • Larry Bowa leaving

Before you know it, there will be other changes. Don’t bet on Ron Guidry coaching pitchers next year or even the staple of the Yankees four series titles, Mariano Rivera, even wearing pinstripes in the 2008 season. Add to that Jorge Posada leaving, and you could see a vastly different Yankees roster on April 1.

It’s clear that the Sox ascendency as the best team in the American League has George Steinbrenner and his son Hank in fumes (it has me in fumes and I’m a Mets fan). Therefore, the Steinbrenners, and their henchmen Brian Cashman needed a scapegoat and they got it in Joe Torre. (more…)

I’ll start by saying that despite my being a New York resident, and a Democrat, I have never and will never vote for our junior senator, Hilary Clinton.

(more…)

It’s not my last day at this place:

 

I wish it were so that I could relax and recuperate from five months of some of the most boring days of my life. It’s strange, because when I look out the window I can see the street I was parked on January 6, 2006 when I phoned an obnoxious editor of mine and found out that I was being laid off. I was back home for the day in Albany and very dejected about the whole thing. Since then, I’ve worked nothing but annoyingly slow jobs, just boring. So boring. I can’t describe.

 Every second of your life is one that is closer to the end, whether you’re doing something good or not with moments, the finite amount given you. But spending those limited seconds and miliseconds doing something like what I’ve been doing, which is not much more than making some copies, writing some letters and sitting in on meetings that have little to do with my position, the time is even more squandered. It moves slower, as if to torture you with the fact that you’ll be going nowhere for the rest of the day.

 In the end the world will explode. That will likley happen millions if not billions of years after we are gone. Nothing any of us have done on Earth; Buddha, Ghengis Khan, Adolf Hitler Harry Truman, Ghandi, Stalin, Queen Victoria, Mussolini, Mao, Tom Cruise, Bob Saget and Pierre Turgeon included will matter one bit.

 There should be some beauty in that, although at first inspection, it seems kinda depressing. I have a spiritual side; a mildly transcendant side, that knows in my heart of hearts it’s the love in and of life that matters. All things, as St. Paul said will stay here and can’t be taken with you into the next world.

 Regardless, I’d like to make a dent somehow. I did get a little gift today from one of my bosses, who after about an hour, I will likely never see again.

It was nice of her. She’s a great lady. A successful antiques dealer, actually. Out of necessity, propriety or just kindness, she stopped on her way to work to get me something this morning.

It was nice, a gift card, the quintesential easy-to-please gift. It was for $20, which is nice. Now it has $14.52 on it!

I can walk away from here with not much, but at least I have that, which is pretty cool. Who knows how long it will take before I exhaust it.

Next Page »