He who lives by the bridge . . . .

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Location: Patroon Island Bridge over the Hudso...

Location: Patroon Island Bridge over the Hudson River in Albany, New York Description: Looking North, up the Hudson River to the Patroon Island Bridge from just north of the boat launch in Rensselaer, New York. April 11, 2006 Category:Images of New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want my bridges not to collapse. Really, I do. Living in Rensselaer County and needing to find a way across the Hudson every day, I appreciate every dollar of maintenance that goes into the second Dunn Memorial (though sometimes I wish it were still a low-rise lift bridge) and the Patroon Island Bridge. I want them to stay up, and I’m aware that’s been a challenge. But working on both of them in the same year? Urgggh. All that traffic has to go somewhere — can’t go south, we’re out of bridges until Hudson (and out of free bridges until forever). North really doesn’t work, have to go all the way up to the Troy-Menands bridge for another opportunity to cross. (And the next bridge up, the Congress Street bridge, will also be under renovations this year.) I can still bike across the Dunn (despite massive tearing up of Broadway in Rensselaer), but if anyone wants to come with me, we may need to figure out how to run a kayak ferry across to the ballet school.

Add to this that the main road by our house, the only road that easily lets us go in the other direction away from the bridge, the only road that would connect us to Troy and stay on this side of the river, is about to close for construction, and I’m feeling a little bit hemmed in. Better start reading those tide charts carefully.

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This is what counts

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CJ Lee wedding stairs.jpg

For some reason I have tripped upon a lot of wedding-related writing in the past few days, and it just amazes me how insane people let it make them. I’ve long said that if people put anywhere near the amount of effort into the marriage that they put into the wedding, there’d be far fewer divorces.

I was looking for something else and ran across this photo from our wedding. It was 1983. We were married in our apartment on a cold November afternoon by a judge we didn’t know. A few friends and family came. She made that dress. We’re so young, and she’s so beautiful, that it breaks my heart. Of course, we had no idea what we were getting into. No one does. It’s been as easy as breathing, except for the parts that were awful and hard and painful. But I liked the hard parts, too, because we shared them, came through them, and now there’s just nothing we can’t get through.

A short ceremony in our apartment followed by a nice dinner in a restaurant we liked, a delightful evening out with friends and family. Was it a dream wedding? It’s the marriage that counts.

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Centrally located

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Albany Troy map

Albany Troy map (Photo credit: carljohnson)

This started out as a long, dreary post about why I live where I live, but I thought I’d cut the dreary. The “Non-Urban” part of My Non-Urban Life is that I’m in an early suburb, set just across the river and up a hill from the filth and noise of the city, advertised as a place for healthful living just minutes away by trolley. We’re on little village lots, close to our neighbors (in good and bad ways), on streets that should have had sidewalks but don’t. I live a block from a lovely little lake that has been the center of neighborhood activity since a neighborhood was installed on historic old farmland more than 85 years ago. The schools are good, the politics petty, and diversity almost non-existent. So sometimes I wish I lived in a place where I could tuck down the street for a morning coffee or an evening decaf or grab some groceries without getting in a car (although honestly, there are limited places in the city where that’s true). Since the number one thing I hate about my current location, perhaps the only thing, is one of my current neighbors, going back into a city setting and getting even closer (physically) to my neighbors seems unappealing.

But there are some other parts of the urban fabric I miss. Sidewalks, for instance. Stoops. Looking at the details on the brownstones. Somehow taking a walk through our neighborhood and looking at one sloppy vinyl siding job after another isn’t the same as tripping down Second Street in Troy and looking at the ornate doors and window casings. I miss wondering what goes on in the secluded back patios, what little gems of gardens are hidden there. And I miss being able to walk to work, as I could and did for several years in Syracuse and Albany. While it’s hard to figure out where jobs are going to take you, I’ve worked a substantial number of my years in downtown Albany, and my wife now works in downtown Troy, and it would be nice for one or the other to be able to roll out the door and down the street for a brisk 20-minute walk, rather than having to contend with traffic and bus schedules and the problems of crossing the bridge by bike.

So as we’ve just refinanced and are looking at finally making this into the house we wanted it to be, it’s also tempting to just re-assess and see if there isn’t a better location. I find downtown Troy absolutely charming and have enjoyed the residents I’ve met, but wonder if it could fit my lifestyle. Right now it doesn’t seem that way — I don’t see city houses with off-street parking, room for bikes and boats, and a decent separation from neighbors at a price I can pay. Or where I do, they’re essentially in neighborhoods just like mine, not adding a lot of walkability or diversity; they’re just suburban houses in a city.

So I think we’re staying put in our little slice of non-urbia.

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The fine print

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The Philadelphia Story

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Love Sculpture.jpg

Did something we hadn’t done in 29 years, and spent the weekend in Philadelphia. Since I now go through the city of brotherly love just about every week, I thought it would be nice to get off the train and see what was what.

The real impetus was the Van Gogh show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Go there now. It was simply amazing . . . I was unprepared for the emotional impact of seeing those paintings up close.

What else was there? Surprisingly good pub food, the most amazing waffles ever, and a great trip through the Mütter Museum. We learned that threatening to touch a teenager with a dessicated arm is a VERY effective parenting tool. Wish we’d known that years ago. And that there are diseases I didn’t yet know to be afraid of.

Walked for miles along city streets and the river trail, took subways, took the train. And listened to an organ concert in a department store. Can you have a better weekend? I don’t think so.

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Not fitting in the neighborhood

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I’ve been lucky enough to have Hoxsie’s educational chewing gum featured frequently on All Over Albany’s “What’s Up In the Neighborhood” feature. I appreciate the attention from Mary and Greg, and it gives me a nice way to graze through some other area blogs that I may not read often or be aware of. But with all the local blogs and tweets I’ve read lately (yeah, I’m on Twitter — I’m hip to the 21st century, baby), I’m coming to realize that there are some things that people around here care about, deeply and importantly, that I really just don’t get.

  • Let’s not even start with Trader Joe’s, because it will just lead to a long-form rant I’ve been working up to for a long time about corporations sucking the wealth out of our communities, , and how we need to be creating wealth, not jobs, and how every chain we welcome into town and wait in line to hand our money to is one more flesh wound that destroys our . . . okay, I’ll stop now. To be resumed.
  • But even without that, there’s a vigorous discussion of what is the best grocery store in the Capital District, and it’s a discussion I just don’t get. Are there things I wish I could get in my local store? Yes. Am I willing to drive all over three counties to find those things? No. So it doesn’t matter what people think is the supreme grocery store, because to me, the only store that counts is the one that’s within five minutes of my home.
  • There’s also been an unbelievable amount of ink spilled over the closing of the Miss Albany Diner, which apparently was a very special place etc., etc. Don’t know, never ate there. Or any of the other places that people are writing about. You people go out to eat way, WAY more than we do. Eleven of the neighborhood blogs were about restaurants. How do you do it? It’s expensive.
  • Also, I’ve lived in this area for 39 of my 51 years. I’ve never seen or even heard of these mini hot dogs that you claim to be a Capital Region delicacy. I think you’re just fucking with me on that one.
  • I freely admit to being willfully ignorant of sports that aren’t bicycle based, and I have to squint to remember who was in the Super Bowl last week. I do get some level of fandom. But I don’t get the part where you think “we” won. Massively paid, massively doped athletes won (over other massively paid, massively doped athletes). It was probably exciting to watch, but you watched it from your couch or barstool. You probably don’t ever play the game you’re watching. Keep it in perspective. (I don’t hear cycle racing fans saying, “We sure showed those Omega-Pharma-Lotto bastards!” It’s not that kind of sport.)

Don’t misunderstand . . . I’m not trying to put anybody else down. I’m just saying I feel a bit apart from my fellow local bloggers.

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