Category Archives: Tiny Annoyances

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.

Whistle While You Work

In Voorheesville, it’s hard to miss the sound of the trains. Even
where I live, a mile away from the grade crossings where the trains are required to blast their horns, it’s noticeable. And I like it. Hearing the whistle and rumble of a train as you nod off at night is very pleasant.

Downtown Voorheesville

But to folks who live just a few hundred feet from the tracks, the romance of the train whistles must wear thin — so much so that a group in Voorheesville has been lobbying to silence the railroad.

Their goal is to establish a quiet zone through Voorheesville, which is not as simple as it sounds. For the trains to be exempt from sounding a warning, the two crossings in the village need more gates or traffic control measures that would make it hard for cars to skirt around the barriers. This would cost about $400,000, money that might come from a federal grant.

Rob, you may be asking, who buys a house near the area’s busiest rail line and then start complaining about the noise? That’s a question I can’t answer, but I will say this: during our house hunt, we ruled out more than one property that was too close to the same rail line.

So, who knows? Personally, I would miss hearing the train whistles. If they were right in my backyard? Probably not so much.

Sidewalk Serenade

Thanks to Google Maps, I figured out that the downtown lot where I park for work is .39 miles to my office. And thanks to Albany, I really need to watch my step.

I’ve written about the wasteland that has been dubbed the city’s Parking Lot District — and like any true wasteland, there are hazards. Like the sidewalks on Green Street, which, to put it mildly, could use a little work. How bad could it be?

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sidewalk2

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In short, it’s so bad that people have to walk in the street.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan probably doesn’t care what some non-resident thinks of her sidewalks, but I’ll tell her anyway: they suck. You’ve got a lot of people who need them to get to work, and it’s disgraceful that they’re in this condition. And don’t tell me that the sidewalks are not the city’s responsibility, not when your damn parking meters are all over them.

OK, done ranting. Carry on and mind the sidewalks.

A Good Walk Spoiled

Today we return to a theme explored in many blog posts that you’ll find here: dog poop. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m certainly an enthusiastic amateur.

Albany’s Capital Hills golf course welcomes dog walkers during these winter months when the links are closed. It’s a terrific place for dogs to run, and this year it’s especially nice because El Niño has deprived us of snow.

But as usual, somebody has to ruin the good time.

There are a certain class of people who feel no responsibility to pick up the piles of poop left behind by their pooches on the course. For the purposes of this blog post, let’s refer to them as assholes.

Seriously, it’s everywhere.

So, on Saturday I’d been doing a fine job dodging the hazards, but in a moment of inattention, stepped in a huge mound of fresh crap that some asshole couldn’t be bothered to pick up. No, not the end of the world, but c’mon.

what's trending in your life and in mine

Capital Hills even has special poop cans located on the golf course.

I’m sure there are no assholes reading my blog, but if there were, I’d tell them this:

Dear dog walking assholes,

Just because nobody’s watching doesn’t mean it’s OK to leave your dog shit wherever you like. Pick it up. Believe it or not, doing the right thing will actually make you feel good, even if it involves something as unpleasant as picking up dog poop.

Thank you. Assholes. 

State of the Grinch

For years I’ve complained about journalists misusing the Grinch metaphor around the holidays. Every evil-doer is a Grinch if the crime involves holiday anything. What they miss is this: to be Grinch-like, you must not just seek to ruin someone’s Christmas, but in the end, discover the holiday’s meaning and find redemption.

A few examples of misplaced Grinchitude:

Grinch steals Christmas from multiple Shreveport families

Grinch steals gifts meant for 3 year-old girl

Sparks Grinch Gets Six Months In Jail

This year I noticed another type of Grinch story, people who are stealing Christmas lights, wreaths and other decorations:

Upstate Grinch Steals Holiday Lights

“Grinch” caught stealing holiday decorations

Grinch swipes $800 in Christmas lights from New Dorp home

Consider this for a second: are people who steal Christmas decorations actually Grinchy? Not if they want to use the stolen decorations to deck their own halls. That is absolutely not Grinch-like.

One encouraging note: this story about a school in Missouri that’s using the Grinch tale to teach kids to be better people. As a bonus, these children will grow up understanding the significance of how the Grinch is not just bad, but good. Yes, it’s unfortunate that they’re making the kids watch Ron Howard’s hideous Grinch movie, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Fighting the Fun Police

The orthodontists where I sent my kids are at it again with their Halloween candy buy back program.

Here’s how it works: patients receive $2 for each pound of candy they bring to the braces factory. As an added incentive, for each pound collected the orthodontists  donate $2 to a scholarship fund. That’s nice — they’re putting $4 per pound behind this.

But wait a second, look at this:

Candy will be donated to the Capital Region Food Bank

So let me get this straight: candy is bad for our patients, but it’s OK to give it away at the food bank to kids who are too poor to afford braces.

In defiance of this stupid idea that kids shouldn’t have candy on Halloween, I decided it was time for a gesture: full size candy bars. That’s right, no of “fun size” nonsense at my house this Halloween.

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It’s my sincere wish that none of this  candy ends up at that orthodontist office — and by the way, if you ask me, there is nothing fun about “fun size” candy bars.

When did Halloween become about teaching children not to eat candy? I’m sorry if it means you have a few extra brackets and bands to fix this week, but save your lessons for another day and let children be children.

If you really want to stop the little darlings from munching on chewy treats and ruining  the tooth scaffolding, charge the parents a pile of money to fix the damage. That might work.

At the Movies

I’ve been going to Albany’s Spectrum Theatre for more than 30 years. They’ve grown, but much is the same as the first time I went there: the hard-to-find indie films, the cool alternative vibe, the popcorn with real butter. But recently, I’ve noticed something new at the Spectrum: people who won’t shut the fu** up during the movie.

It seems that there’s an epidemic of talking at the Spectrum, and the culprits are almost always people who are over 60 year old.

It’s not a steady stream of chatter breaking the silence, but people making remarks about things happening during the film. For example, in a movie I saw over the weekend, it’s revealed that a character is having an affair. The man behind me said, out loud, “Well, that’s not good.”

Oh, really — that’s not good? Thank you for pointing that out because I thought it might be good that this character was discovered having an affair. I’m not sure I could understand the movie without your commentary, so I appreciate your help, you @#$% idiot.

You may think this sounds petty, but it went on throughout the movie. And lately, it happens every single time I go there.

I’ve occasionally resorted to being the guy who shushes movie goers, but why should that be necessary? Who are these people who act like they’re sitting at home on the couch instead of in a theatre? I’d like to know, because if I knew their names, maybe I’d feel less like strangling them.

The fact that it’s always older people is surprising, too. Maybe young people are too busy texting to talk to their neighbors. What should we do about movie talkers? I like this approach from acclaimed director, Richard Linklater

Two Sizes Too Small

First, let me say this: I love the Grinch. The Dr. Seuss book is magical — a perfect Christmas story — and the 1966 cartoon version is one of the greatest and most successful adaptations of a literary work for TV or film ever. Seriously.

Because I love the Grinch, I hate Ron Howard’s revolting film version of the story. It’s a hideous mess and if there were a way I could destroy every copy of the movie I could find, I would do it. Yes, I know that sounds a tad… extreme, but what can I say?

And because I love the Grinch, seeing him mischaracterized in the media troubles me — and every December, writers trot out Grinch as their description for every holiday evildoer. I’ve explained before (ad nauseam) that this is inaccurate because the Grinch returned everything he stole back to Whoville.

Bear with me. When would you describe a thief as being like Robin Hood? Only if he turned over his booty to the poor — not if he kept the loot. Similarly, without giving back, one can not be like the Grinch.

Nevertheless, every December the Grinch gets a bad rap. A few examples:

Woman Stealing Wreaths Called “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”

Grinch Steals Salvation Army Kettle in Oak Lawn

The Grinch Who Stole Jesus

Real-Life ‘Grinch’ Committing Christmas-Related Crimes

‘Grinch’ Arrested for Stealing Readstown’s Christmas Tree

As you might suspect, I could go on all day.

So how can you help? The next time you see Grinch misused in a news story, leave a friendly comment pointing out the error. And be nice! It’s Christmas — and you wouldn’t want to be inappropriately compared to Scrooge.