- The roads are in crazy good shape, but they are narrow and shoulderless, and this is going to be a problem for this road cyclist.
- Gas prices are about 20 cents a gallon cheaper than in New York (and yet more expensive than New Jersey), but a new gas tax is going to ruin that for me.
- It took me five minutes to set up my electric account. I set up my water account entirely online. Verizon took a single phone call. Everyone showed up when they said they would. I'm wildly confused by this experience.
- As a friend warned me, people talk to you in elevators. This is insanely unnerving to a New Yorker.
- To what I hope is the annoyance of Albanians who pine for such things, I'm a short drive from both an IKEA and a Wegman's, and my internet is Verizon FIOS. I hope it makes it even more annoying that I really don't care.
- Well, maybe I care about the IKEA more than I wanted to. My first week here, it was pretty much all I saw of the area. Much was assembled that week, I can tell you.
- People have NO IDEA how to drive in snow. Or even rain, apparently. I know that the 20 inches a year they get in this area isn't the 60 inches we get in Albany (and nothing like the 120 inches we used to get in Syracuse), but still ... it's not like it doesn't snow all the time. There's a dusting on the ground and suddenly we're DC? Seriously, Philly, we're going to have to have a talk.
I can't recall if in my brief writing career I ever reviewed a live music show, but I think I'd be the world's worst music reviewer because I like to wait for a few days for the show to settle in on me before I really decide what it was like. Some are just enjoyable but fleeting, others are transcendant. This week's Elvis Costello show at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall was transcendant.
If we learned nothing else, it was that the TSB Music Hall was designed and destined for whistling solos. Elvis treated us to no fewer than three of those in the evening, and the crazy effect of the delayed echo from the back of the hall was marvelous. It was also a hall designed for listening. He referred to the show, tongue in cheek, as the gospel show, but in fact there was something churchlike and reverent in listening to him in that hall. Because every sound can be heard, the faintest creak of a chair, the twisting of a candy wrapper, the audience sat in rapt silence throughout. Even the constant waving of iPhone screens was kept to a minimum. (The silence compared to a recent performance at Proctor's where several patrons felt content to display their coughing prowess throughout the evening.) Every note could be heard. And Elvis took full advantage, moving from whispers to bombast, even singing and playing off-mike. When he played "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," no amplification, just singing from the stage, it felt like a show from a century ago.
Which, oddly, is what he does. He's an old-style showman, something he started to present with his alter ego Napoleon Dynamite and the spinning songback way back when (which, for us, was in a brightly lit gymnasium at Oswego State on a cold winter night in 1987, the first time we got to see him. Nick Lowe was on the bill that night, too). What was then a smarmy caricature has become something genuine, and as he channels his entertainment lineage he really couldn't be more sincere.
And then, there are the songs. Has anyone written a wider array of amazing songs, in a broader range of styles? Even when it's not quite right, it's interesting, and when it hits, it hits hard. But he didn't choose anything that wasn't quite right in this show. I was pleased to hear what I think are neglected gems like "Little Atoms" and "All This Useless Beauty," and pleased that his use (one time) of the "REQUEST!" sign kept the audience shouting to a minimum. (People: seriously. You're grownups. Shut the fuck up and listen to what the man came to play.)
We've only gotten to see Elvis a handful of times; in recent years he's been doing bigger shows in bigger cities, and when he's been here he's been on someone else's bill. So it was fantastic to see him in this incredible venue.
The full setlist, by the way, is here.
I know, I know, but I had no choice. Some elements of my fancy new job absolutely require that I take my fancy new Macbook Pro and run some seriously unfancy Windows programs. So, fine. I continue my neediness and order even more new software, an install disk for Windows and a copy of Parallels for Mac (on the advice of brilliant daughter, who had already tried the Boot Camp path and found it to be silly). Software arrives, Parallels is downloaded, and suddenly I realize: the MacBook Pro has no DVD drive. I mean, I knew that, but I also knew that that really hardly matters, because I don't think I used the DVD drive on my previous work Windows machine more than three times.
Check Parallels, and its website has a simple solution: I can use DVD sharing on one of my Macs that does have a drive, and just run the Windows disc over there. They even helpfully pointed me directly to the Apple knowledgebase article on the topic, which helpfully contradicted their contention by clearly stating that DVD sharing can't be used for things like installing Windows. So I've used up Plans A and B, and am now scouring the internet for Plan C, and the advice is wildly awful. Nearly all of what I turned up was written by people who didn't understand one system or the other; the good news was that their errors were almost always pointed out in just-south-of-trollish responses, but it was clear most of these approaches to the problem weren't going to work. And all I really needed was a disk image of the Windows 7 install disk that Parallels could use to do the installation, on a USB drive. It seemed like it should be so simple.
Turns out: it was. I found one crucial piece of information in one of the threads regarding creating an .ISO file that the installer could read. All I had to do was insert the DVD in my Mac Pro, go to Disk Utility and choose to make a new image from the DVD. Instead of a Mac partition, I was to create the new image as DVD/CD Master. Putting that on a 4GB thumb drive, I would have a file with a Windows gobbledygook name that ended in .CDR. So how to get that to change to an .ISO file? Ignore the people who posted Terminal scripts that would accomplish this. Just go to the file in a Finder window and change the name manually. Delete .CDR, make it .ISO. Quit Disk Utility, eject your thumb drive, put the thumb drive in the MacBook, and tell Parallels that's where the Windows installation disk is. In the end, it almost couldn't have been simpler.
Just a side note: I installed Windows. I installed nothing but Windows, and my entire machine is a week old. But as soon as I tried to run Internet Explorer in Windows, I found a nasty rogue that is called Antivirus Pro; it essentially hijacks your machine, redirects your URLs, and extorts you to pay for a key by putting up a list of alleged viruses your machine is infected with. The list is fake, but this thing is real. Now, where could it have come from other than the Windows install itself? Microsoft claims its antivirus tools are aware of it and will remove it, but I tried two of them without success. I found instructions for manually removing it, which took a little while and a few tries but did eventually work. So glad to be using Windows again! It couldn't get to the FIRST task I asked of it without a massive problem.
When it comes to my possessions and my ways of doing things, I can be loyal to a fault. I've had my commuter bike since 2002, though that's not old for a bike. Until two weeks ago, both our vehicles were 12 years old. And my personal phone was a Motorola Razr flip phone from 2007. But with the recent announcement that I will be abandoning friends, family, the house in which I reared my children, and several hundred years of family history for nothing more than the pursuit of gainful employment, I've decided to give change a good squeeze and go all out. Three weeks ago I went out and bought a brand new car, and last weekend I finally nixed the Razr in favor of an iPhone.
The car is hardly fancy, a brand new Subaru Forester, but ye gods -- I got 30.3 miles per gallon on the 4 hour drive down to Philly. I know this because it has about 47 displays dedicated to telling you little else but the gas mileage. But for a good-sized all-wheel drive vehicle (which handles like a dream), that was pretty amazing. I love my Xterra, but I can't say that I don't feel the pain when gas prices go up. The Subaru also returns heated seats to my life, a luxury I haven't had since I turned in my leased Beetle, and heated seats are just a good thing.
It also connects pretty seamlessly with my iPhone. I'm the guy who insisted he really had no use for a smartphone (my previous job supplied me with a Blackberry, which really didn't qualify as smart, either). I'm also the guy who thinks people should just get a map and know where the hell they're going. But this morning, as I was bombing down dark country back roads to avoid the highway, I have to admit I was loving having the phone give me directions, through the car's stereo. I would have been absolutely unable to follow written directions in the dark, with virtually invisible road signs, hidden turns, and fast-moving traffic.
In other weird news, at the ripe old age of halfway to 106, I reported for work in a big city for the first time today. After 24 years of working in a very small city indeed, that was a little surreal.
So weird to say this. I never really set out to make Albany (actually, Albany semi-adjacent) my home. It just happened. Grew up in Scotia, lived 11 or so years in Syracuse, landed a job in Albany, and 24 years went by. We bought our house in the Grönen Bosch in 1991, reared our kids here, were very happy here, but with our younger one finishing high school, we were thinking about a move somewhere else in the area. The job situation was unstable at best, and suddenly an opportunity arose to become much more stable and remove myself from the vagaries of political winds. But after years of dismissing offers to move to NYC and Boston out of hand, we suddenly found ourselves deciding to move to Philadelphia. Western suburbs, most likely. Valley Forge-ish; I hear the winters are delightful.
Just like our last big move, we're not going to do it all at once. I will act as scout and ensure the area is free of both Indians and Quakers before finding a new homestead and moving my spouse; both children will be safely esconced in pricey Eastern colleges by then, and unable to prevent us from tossing their precious comic books and Matchbox collections. If they had such things.
As a result, I'm on a bit of a weird farewell tour, driving and biking to places and realizing it may be the last time I get to see them for some time. I'm probably not going to be able to climb up to Dutch Church again before I go, and our recent visit to the mummies was probably the last time I'll see the Albany Institute for a bit. While I'm glad to see progress being made, I'm a bit miffed that the Black Bridge, the key to biking to Cohoes without having to try to cross a six-lane highway where the lights won't change for bicycles, is finally open now that I will almost never need it. (And actually, I've used it three times so far this week, just out of spite.) I had the sense that these may be my last visits to the Waterford visitors center, where I like to rest my legs and sometimes talk to the boat people. I even visited my father's grave, a location that doesn't carry much emotional weight with me, and realized it may be a while before I'm back. Other things are done without a chance for farewell: ice skating at the Plaza after work, for instance. The lesson in all this, of course, is to take your chances while you can, because something may change and you'll never have the chance again.
It's a weird thing to have to prepare to become unattached to a place, when not only you and your children but your parents and generations of ancestors have had some connection to it. My family in Albany and Schenectady goes back to the Norman for whom they named the kill, and even though I don't come from the kind of family where that kind of history was handed down, that sense of place resonates deeply with me, and I'm oddly emotionally connected to the history of this area.
But perhaps even weirder is that I feel perfectly prepared to become attached to a new place. Quite where that will be, we don't know yet, but living in this age of the internet, it's amazing what a sense of place you can get without leaving your wifi connection. Between Twitter feeds and StreetView, the world is a very small place indeed.
So all this will go on. This blog may become a little more frequent, if only to make "winter in Valley Forge" jokes, because the uncertainty that has been hanging over me for a very long time now is gone, and I feel more free to write about what's going on in my life. Hoxsie! will continue -- obviously I can't stop writing about the Capital District's amazing history just because I won't be here anymore. It may become a tad less reliable as the actual work piles up, but be assured it will continue.
But here is the truth of nostalgia. We don't feel it for who we were, but who we weren't. We feel it for all the possibilities that were open to us, but that we didn't take.
-- Welcome to Night Vale
- The man who shot Liberty Valance was not the bravest of them all.
- No one put the "bop" in "bop shoo bop shoo bop." It just grew there.
- It does not make your brown eyes blue.
- Phone. Fax. Voicemail. E-mail. Letter or note. In-person. Through an intermediary. Simple disappearance. There are, at most, eight ways to leave your lover.
- Anyone can do the shing-a-ling like you do. Anyone.
- You don't have to wonder. She ran away because she was sick of all the drama. Where will she stay? She's at her sister's, in Hoboken. No big mystery.
- "American Pie" wasn't about pie. At all.
- Not everybody has heard about the bird. My mother, for instance, had no idea what I was talking about.
- Indiana doesn't want you.
- The beat actually does go on. Myth confirmed.
This weekend, I spackled, sanded, stained, grouted and painted. I cleaned all the windows on my cars and Rain-x'd them thoroughly for the fall rains. I rode my bike about 65 miles over two days, fairly casual rides with one really annoying flat. I took a couple hundred photographs (oh, for the limiting days of film), and even got around to processing a few of them. I looked at some art with my wife over in the Stockade. I talked to some strangers about bike jerseys and photo lamination. I talked to my mom about pretty much everything. I tried to get ice cream at Mac's, but they weren't open for the day yet when I rode by. I got groceries for the week. I made pickles. I watched "Spy Kids" and several episodes of "Angel" with my daughter.
And come Monday morning, I wonder why I'm exhausted.
I'm super proud of how much progress she's made in the past year or more. Not everyone who's going through cancer treatments decides it's time to start running (and for those who do, good for you!). Not only did she get through that first 5K last year, but she ran the Freihofer's again this year and has slowly been building back her base, able to do things she couldn't just a year ago. We cycle together too, and she's making strides there. When this picture was taken, we had just climbed up Flight Lock Road in Waterford, an easy climb for anyone with hundreds of miles in the legs, but a challenge for someone who has lost some of her wind. When we've gone out riding I've mostly kept her to the flats so she can go a little farther, enjoy the distance and not worry about having enough juice to get back. But this time we were only on a short jaunt, and I underestimated how much of a challenge the hill, which runs alongside a series of canal locks, would be to her. But she just kept cranking away at it until we got to the crest. Then we coasted down one lock, took a rest, coasted the rest of the way into town and stopped to admire the river at the Waterford Visitors Center.
Then, of course, she hurled. (In the rest room, happily.) We're blaming virus rather than exertion. And after the hurling, she said:
"I want to do that hill again."
Which is why she's cool.
It is that time, time for the annual "Holy #@&! Where did July go?!" post. The one where I realize that in the month of July I have posted not once, and then try to explain how it came to be that the only thing on my front page for a month has been a celebration of free wheat germ. It's a million things, really:
- It's summer, hot and oppressive until just this week when it became so sweet and perfect. Summer, when one daughter complains that we never run the air conditioning, which has been working non-stop to keep the house at a suitable temperature.
- It's the outdoor stuff, biking and running and not nearly enough canoeing/kayaking because of this year's constantly swollen rivers. But still: some.
- It's the summer activities: summer camp in a semi-distant place, special events, outdoor farmer's markets, arts nights, and many excuses for ice cream.
- It's "Much Ado About Nothing," Joss Whedon's brilliant take on my very favorite Shakespeare play, which requires repeated watching.
- It's events and reunions, including my 35th high school reunion, which was really an unexpected delight as we celebrated the bond of a common point of origin and a brief but very important educational experience.
- And of course, it's the Tour de France, which took on a new twist as I figured out a way to get coverage from Eurosportplayer and watch the English (and sometimes French, and sometimes Danish) feeds. Although Froome won early and with way too much power to not raise questions, the individual stages were all exciting this year. Corsica was beautiful, climbing Alpe d'Huez twice was murderous, and as usual, watching the whole thing took up most of the month of July.