Author Archives: Rob

At the Movies

Spectrum TheatreI went to the Spectrum Theatre recently, and it turns out they no longer accept these pre-paid passes.

The theatre changed hands in 2015. The new owners bought the Spectrum’s funky hippy-dippy indie vibe, the art exhibits, the homey slideshow ads, the cake and cookies and popcorn with real butter, but there’s one thing they didn’t buy: a long-term commitment to honor these cards.

At the box office, I explained that it’s not cool to turn down the passes. The box office clerk explained back to me, “I can’t help you. Call customer service if you have a complaint.”

And he handed me this fortune cookie-sized piece of paper.

Landmark Theatres

Landmark wants to hear from you. Or not.

The woman I talked to at Landmark was impatient with my call. I suggested that when they bought the theatre, they also bought the Spectrum’s loyal long-time customers — and their passes. “Too bad,” she said. I was obviously not the first person to bother her on this topic.

No biggy. I can afford to buy movie tickets and I’ll still go to the Spectrum.

But one more thing: the passes you and I bought may not be any good, but it turns out that the former owners — Keith Pickard, Sugi Pickard, Scott Meyer and Annette Nanes — got a nice bonus as part of the purchase deal. Keith Pickard told the Times Union:

“We have passes forever. That was negotiated. That was part of the negotiating deal — that we have movie passes for as long as Landmark is leasing the property. Don’t forget,” he added, “we’re film lovers.”

Well. that’s terrific. Too bad your long-time customers — the film lovers who patronized you business for decades — don’t get to use the passes they purchased “forever”.

Keith Pickard also said:

“We’re very happy to be a part of this, and we think Landmark will serve the community well. … The legacy is very important to all of us, and I can’t stress this enough. We feel we have a good partner for this. It’s stewardship.”

You’ve got your legacy, Mr. Pickard. And your lifetime pass.

Welcome to Albany

I’m not squeamish or fussy, but Albany’s bus station is a complete shitshow. Let me explain.

There’s only one thing worse than that desperate urge to pee; it’s worse
when you’ve felt it all through your drive to work — and now you have
a lonnng walk to the office.

Fortunately, I park right near the bus station in Albany, and I
recently ducked in there to relieve myself.

In the old days, busses were part of my routine, and I’ve done my time in bus stations from Plattsburgh to Long Island. The worst one ever? The Port Authority Bus terminal, which in the early 1980s was in equal parts filthy, colorful and genuinely dangerous.

But let me tell you this: You will seldom see a a place as seedy as Albany’s bus station, and indeed, it’s the worst public space I’ve seen in the entire city.

Whether it’s a “public space” is debatable. The station is owned by Greyhound and run by a private operator — but this is all the more the reason they should be able to run a tight ship, and by that I mean keep out the people who are pissing and shitting on the floors, breaking things and hassling the customers.

It’s quite the first impression. Step off the bus into something that looks like a Bruegel painting and stinks like the sewer. Get out of there quickly, is my advice — and then take in the grand sight of the city’s trash-strewn parking lot district. Welcome to Albany.

Growing Concerns

The guy we hired to do the rototilling came to the back door, sweaty and flustered.

“I can’t take your money for this job.”

What?

“I can’t charge you for this. Your soil is terrible — it’s all clay — and you won’t be able to grow a thing.”

He pushed his rototiller up to the street, but before he was able to drive off, I forced him to take my payment.

“You came all the way out here and did the work, so I have to pay you.”

He reluctantly stuffed my check in his shirt pocket. I wasn’t convinced he’d cash it.

Well, what the hell. The yard’s all ripped up now, so I figured I’d better plant something. The internet said “improve your soil,” so I added two yards of composted manure and covered it with a layer of hay for mulch.

So, I planted.

For a garden where nothing would grow, things are popping up like crazy. The tomato plants are heavy with fruit, the chard looks good and I’m up to my ass in cucumbers. My kale is full of little holes from some mysterious pest, but still edible.

Lots of cukes.

I’ll have the rototiller man back next year, but I’ll be sure to go easy on his prediction that my plot was doomed. No matter what, he did the hard work of getting the garden established, and the rest was beginner’s luck. And watering.

Maddy, Not Daddy

My wife called our son to tell him the dog died. We were on our way home from the vet, and were both pretty upset.

“I’m calling to tell you Maddy died.”

There was silence on the other end of the line.

“Daddy died?”

The connection was not great — it took about a minute to sort out who was dead — and it was a terrible phone call over all. It’s funny now, but at the time, not so much.

Maddy

So, Maddy died. She was nine-years-old and we had no idea she was walking around with a tumor growing inside of her. One day she was herself, and the next day she was lethargic and wouldn’t eat. She was bleeding inside and that was creating pressure on her heart. It was literally squeezing the life out of her.

The vet cried as much as we did when she gave us the news that there was nothing to be done. And just like that she was gone.

Our older dog, Scarlett, has been glued to my side since this happened. She always paid a great deal of attention to me, but now she doesn’t leave me alone for a minute. I don’t know what dogs feel, but she’s feeling something.

Maddy loved our walks in Thacher Park. Early in the morning, the park is deserted and most days you won’t see a soul. We’d take the dogs off leash and let them run up and down the trails and explore the woods. I know, it’s against the rules.

Maddy’s ashes are going up to the park, where we spent so many hours. I’m sure they have some sort of rule about that too — but rules be damned. Off the leash one last time, through the woods and away like the wind.

Stranger Than Fiction

The Albany Smudge has been on my mind lately. One of the things I loved about the site’s satirical stories were the ridiculous quotes from clueless people with an overblown opinion of themselves.

In case you’re missing The Albany Smudge, don’t worry: sometimes real life is just as funny. Here’s Shenendehowa school board member Robert Pressly in a TU story about why superintendent L. Oliver Robinson gets paid so much:

“Our desire is to have a district where people can proudly state they’re from a certain school,” Pressly said. “We think we’re definitely on track with that in terms of what people say about us and perceive about us.”

Well, Mr. Pressly — I have a pretty good idea what people say and perceive about you, but it’s not what you think it is.

Ah, and the story had a pretty great headline, too:

Shenendehowa superintendent gets another raise

My italics.

O-Bits

What’s better than sitting on the back deck early in the morning with a cup of coffee and the obituary page? I’ll tell you what: having a cigarette while you do that — but I digress.

The obits are certainly one of those things that are better on paper. Something about the ephemeral nature of newsprint that matches our own brief shelf life. That’s pretty deep, if I don’t say so myself.

But today, obits live forever online — as long as you don’t mind them served up with a few ads.

I did a completely random check to see what ads appear on the obit page and here’s what I came up with.

OK, Natalie Merchant at Tanglewood. Personally, listening to Natalie Merchant would make me feel better if someone died. Some might say her music could make you feel worse, but if it takes your mind off your grief, that’s a win-win in my book.

And PODS? Well, moving is often a byproduct of someone’s death — or at least getting rid of their stuff, so I judge both of these ads to be contextually appropriate and useful in your time of grief.

What do obits cost? Here’s a rate card I got from the Times Union, and believe me, if you’re going to have an elaborate obituary, it will cost some money. A few basics:

The first 10 lines are free the first DAY that the obituary runs, the customer pays for those lines every time after that.

After the first 10 lines each additional line is $4.75 per line with an additional $16 service charge.

A line constitutes roughly 22-25 characters including spaces and punctuation.

So, they throw in the first ten lines, which is maybe 250 characters, or, less than two Tweets. Want a picture? That’s $47.50. Cash up front unless you’re a funeral home — and yes, they have procedures to prevent fake notices from being placed.

I advise you to write your own obituary. This will take a lot of pressure off your loved ones, and hopefully, they’ll publish whatever you leave behind, regardless of cost. Seriously, do you think your family is going to edit your obituary? I mean, I might do that — but remember, my edits are always to make your work better.

Smudged Out

“Chalk up this one up as a winner. A bright spot on an increasingly bleak and depressing internet.”

In 2015, that was my blub-worthy assessment of The Albany Smudge, the Capital Region’s own Onion-esque satire website. Yesterday the humor page posted some bad news: they’ve had enough.

Publisher “Burt Wilkersonn” explained why the site is ceasing publication in a story dated June 18:

“We decided to stop before we completely sucked. I mean, how many times can you make fun of doctors’ wives and their naturally gifted children in Bethlehem, or the underprivileged folks of South Colonie?”

Albany Smudge possessed a keen understanding of the area and knew the exact location of its soft spots. They mercilessly jabbed at cultural touch-points — especially our stereotypes of local towns and their inhabitants.

It’s sad to see it go, but easy to understand. It must have taken a lot of time to write the well-crafted stories they published. Their output was prodigious, putting out new editions every week since November 2014.

I can’t say if Albany Smudge every caught on in the way it deserved. There’s so much content for people to sift through today — much more than when I used to publish Albany Eye, more than a decade ago.

The most impressive thing about Albany Smudge may be this: even when it took sharp aim, it was never mean. These days, that’s saying a lot.

Foto Friday

JC

A Dog’s Age

There are a world of people out there that you’d never talk to, but put a
leash in their hand and you’ve got something to chat about, And it’s not just
trivial banter, like about the weather, but something that’s that’s
interesting and personal. Caring about someone’s dog, is caring about them.

But I’ve noticed something interesting about dog dialogue. Without
fail, one of the first questions is this:

“How old are they?”

I’m not sure if people are genuinely curious about how old ours dogs are, or if it’s just something to get the conversation going. Is it going to provide them with some insight into behavior or temperament? I don’t know if it would mean anything to me, unless we’re considering a very young or very old dog.

Sometime I give the answer in people years, which really throws folks off. One time, I said “This one’s nine and that one’s eight.” Then I gestured to my wife. “And she’s 55.”

Some of us had a pretty good laugh about that one.