Attack of the Sample Zombies

Since I first attended the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, the event has grown to monstrous proportions.

What was once a quaint celebration with a small town feel has grown into a behemoth and the two-day affair seems at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. The vast remote parking lots, shuttle busses and hordes of garlic hungry sample zombies were almost too much to bear.

Yes, sample zombies.

You’ve seen them. They’re the folks who shuffle mindlessly past every booth at farmers markets and food events, not in search of brains to eat, but cheese, relishes, exotic olive oils and dipping sauces — and in this case, many different varieties of raw garlic. They lurch from table to table stabbing at tidbits of food with toothpicks, elbowing past other sample zombies for their share of the bounty.  Mmmmmm… foooooood… gooooooood…

The most patient and persistent sample zombies can make a meal of the tiny morsels, one small nip at a time. Me? I prefer to feed in large hearty bites and find sampling to be exquisitely annoying.

The sample zombies do not drink blood, they drink free shots of vinegar.

Sample zombies are attracted to free shots of vinegar.

And how about that garlic? Some varieties were noticeably sharper than others and a few had a taste that snuck up on you, the way hot sauce sometimes takes a minute to really hit home — but overall, the different types of garlic all tasted very much the same.

I couldn’t begin to guess how much raw garlic I ate, but I will say this: I stunk of garlic the next day. The fragrance oozed from my pores and orifices like nobody’s business; while sample zombies may have been a problem over the weekend, vampires were not an issue.

Bears 1, People 0

Holy crap! Did you read about that bear attack in New Jersey!?

Yes, earlier this week a 300 pound black bear killed Darsh Patel who was hiking with friends in the Garden State’s Apshawa Preserve. Reports say that Patel and his four friends split off in different directions when the bear appeared to be stalking them — and when they found the victim, “Officials said it appeared that the bear was guarding the body and may have considered Patel a food source.”

As the old saying goes, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

It’s rare for bears to attack humans, but when they do, Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (on their very terrible website) advises “If a black bear does attack, fight back!”

OK, bear, put up your dukes. But maybe you can head off an attack as follows:

Avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge. Never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.

Hopefully, bears are not aroused by the odor of human urine or feces, because there’s a very good chance it will be coming from you.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if this bear incident triggers some sort of irrational response from us humans. And you know what will inevitably follow: Bear Week on Discovery.

Ironweed 2014

This is highly unscientific, but it sure looks like there are more people on the street in Albany these days. More people panhandling, more people living in ragtag camps and more people who are obviously on the fringe.

Recently I noticed a guy sleeping tucked away under 787. That couldn’t be a great place to get any rest, what with all the traffic a few feet over your head, not to mention the nighttime construction along that stretch of highway.

But now it doesn’t really matter, because someone piled rocks all over the little shelf where this guy was camping out.

overpass

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people should be sleeping in a place like that, but it seems a little cruel to mess with somebody’s spot.  It’s very likely that there’s more to this story, but isn’t there more to every story of all these people you see wandering around town?

Cover Your Ears

“That kid’s a terrible dancer!”

When I said that to my wife I was just kidding, but only a bit. Many of the little kids wildly dancing around in circles at this month’s Irish 2000 Festival, really were terrible dancers.

But could it be that some of them couldn’t hear the music?

A number of parents had outfitted their little squirts with earmuff style hearing protection to guard their wee ears from the Screaming Orphans up on stage.

I’ve seen this before, but never have I seen so many kids with the colorful protective devices. And they were side-by-side with just as many (or more) young kids without them.

Now, this is not the place for my observations about the parents. It would be wrong to make snap judgements based on their appearance, and I would never suggest that the ear muff crowd looked like insufferably annoying people. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, I trust that the ear muff children will grow up enjoying the benefits that come with having better hearing: they will be more attentive in school, get better grades, go to more prestigious universities, earn more money and subsequently be better citizens.

In the end, the ear muff parents will have the last laugh against those fools that allowed their kids to enjoy themselves bare-eared without the encumbrance of those ridiculous looking but extremely practical accessories. The rewards in life will not go to the best dancers, but to the ones with the clearest hearing.

Spacing Out

I shared an elevator earlier this week with an older woman who was visibly flustered.

“The parking here! It’s horrible!”

Yes, I agreed, it’s never good on weekdays in Downtown Albany. I suggested she use a nearby garage next time; it’s a longer walk, but much less of a hassle.

The parking downtown stinks, and that’s why this caught my eye:

Park(ing) Day

Yay, a mini dog park!

These folks are part of an event called Park(ing) Day sponsored by Parks & Trails New York. The idea is to raise awareness of the need for open space, and the way they’re doing it is setting up temporary “parks” in actual parking spaces. In a press release they say it’s “an excellent way to remind ourselves of the importance of having natural areas that are accessible to everyone.”

Well, that’s certainly interesting  — and I do get it — but it has to be one of the most poorly thought out things I’ve ever seen.

There was a fellow standing nearby when I took the picture above.

“What do you think of this?”

“Oh, it’s pretty cool!”

“How would you feel if you couldn’t find a parking space?”

“Haha.. I guess I’d be pretty pissed!”

Look, nobody can argue against green space, but within a mile of that parking spot are the Corning Preserve, Washington Park, Lincoln Park and half a dozen smaller urban parks.

Maybe inconveniencing people is a good way to make your point. Albany seems to think so, because the city and Downtown BID are among the event’s sponsors. Me? I’m not sure that the elderly woman  who couldn’t find a parking space would agree.

A Towering Mistake

Love it or hate it, the Empire State Plaza defines Albany’s skyline, and the jewel in this crown is the Corning Tower.

Maybe you’ve noticed that the building’s distinctive profile has been sullied by the construction of some sort of storage shed on the roof.  It’s bad enough that the Corning Tower has sprouted antennas in recent years, but the shed is nothing less than a huge wart on the nose of one of the city’s most important landmarks.


Most of you probably don’t care, but it’s wrong to mess with the vision of the architects — and of Nelson  Rockefeller himself — by ruining the clean lines of the building. According to Joseph Persico’s terrific biography, Rocky was an aesthete who was famously controlling over the design of the Plaza; the shed would have driven him mad.

Worse yet, according to All Over Albany, the structure is a permanent fixture.

What were they thinking? I’m guessing there was no serious consideration at all. It’s hard to imagine that an architect would be that disrespectful of a building so important — or that anyone could look at the plans and not see the damage they were doing.

There are buildings all over downtown that have had various structures and equipment piled on top of them. That’s a routine practice and most of it goes unnoticed, but what they’ve done to the Corning Tower? That’s an abomination.

A wider view after the jump…
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Wordless Wednesday

County Kerry, Ireland

Arms Race

Some people believe that crossing your arms is a sign of resistance and defensiveness. I think it’s a sign of JOURNALISM!

The Times Union has started highlighting some of their key talent like Chris Churchill, Jordan Carleo-Evangelist and Jennifer Gish — reporters who have clearly earned the right to stand with their arms crossed.

tuarms

I’ve done plenty of shoots, and the conversation usually goes like this:

Talent: What should I do with my hands?

Producer or art director: Ummmmm… I don’t know. How about you cross your arms.

The truth is that it always looks pretty good — unless you do it every single time you shoot a picture. Then the power stance starts losing its power.

Road Kill

Have you ever run over a deer with your car? Well, let me tell you, it sucks.

High up in the Albany County Hilltowns over the weekend, a fawn dashed out from the woods and into the road. There was no way to avoid it; I tried to stop but it was too late.

It was a tiny thing, probably no more than a couple of months old, and as I walked back from my car, I was wishing for two things: either it would miraculously get up and run off into the woods or that it would be dead. But no, what I found was a gravely injured animal.

It was breathing and drifting in and out of consciousness — but as far as I could tell not suffering. This only made me feel slightly better. No, it was not my fault, but who could help feeling some of the collective guilt of all mankind. Cars are just a speck on the timeline of history, and it’s only relatively recently that deer/car collisions became a thing.

There was no damage to the car, but what about the deer? If it were dead, I would had dragged it from the road and been on my way, but this was more complicated. I called 911 and waited patiently with the deer. A couple of cars went by and I waved them away from the injured animal. My wife yelled to me from the car, “Watch out for bears!”

Bears? Yes, she figured that bears would emerge from the woods next, summoned like sharks by the scent of blood and prospect of an easy meal. Fortunately, two sheriff’s deputies arrived before the bears. They took down my information and sent me on my way, saying they’d put the animal down after we left.

I wonder sometimes if natural selection will someday bring us deer that are wise to cars, animals smart enough to stop and wait at the edge of the road and look both ways before crossing. Then we can blame them for being hit, and not ourselves.

Note: I have a picture of the deer here if you’re curious; it’s not gory, just sad.