"Everything that is
-- from an inscription on stone in Joe Bruchac's yard
It was Groundhog's Day, 2006 when I last bought a car. At that point I'd been driving a large maroon Chevy Suburban which looked somewhat similar to Tony Soprano's, and both James Gandolfino and his character were still alive. I got a lot of deferential treatment with that vehicle as a result; people always let me pass through intersections first. The Suburban had followed a Dodge Maxi-Van that worked well for family trips but not so much for business purposes. The Suburban garnered respect, not only for its impressive heft, but for the implication that its owner could afford to drive around getting only about 12-14 miles per gallon, whether that was true or not. In 2002, when I got that set of wheels, I felt that confident. The real estate market in Saratoga Springs, NY (and virtually everywhere else) was rocketing and moving upward with the force of a torpedo. Exuberance was in the air, and as a former owner of small Subarus, Hondas, Nissans, and Toyotas, I was proud to be back to American-made, with something more substantial and less "thrifty" underneath me on the road.
Flash forward a few years: by the time gas prices had crept up over $3/gallon, I started regretting the Suburban purchase, particularly since there was no market for such used behemoths at that point. I owed more than it was worth by trade-in time, but had gotten some great use out of it. The sound system was better than any I'd had in a car of mine before, and when we'd first driven it home from the dealer in Glens Falls, I recall hearing OutKast booming out "Bombs Over Baghdad!"-- a prescient song if there ever was one-- as Bella, Miles, and Dare sang along at top volume on the chorus.
During those Suburban years of driving, Miles was playing in 3 or 4 basketball leagues-- Rec, Jr. NBA, Travel, then CYO once he went to St. Gregory's in Loudonville for 7th and 8th grade-- while AAU ball filled up the spring and summer. That big ole SUV transported tons of friends and classmates and teammates, as well as our family of five, all over the place. We went through what a lot of "sports parents" do-- nonstop travel and constant restaurant and fast food expenses-- occasional hotel layovers, routes all over the state and through New England and in 2005 to Virginia Beach for AAU Nationals. The Suburban conveyed us through those days in fine fashion, but had become too much of a guzzling beast.
One day when it cost me 95 bucks to fill it up, it struck me that I had to get rid of it immediately. Six-figure fill-ups were looming. The friendly salesmen at the now-defunct All-Star Chevrolet south of SPAC let me test-drive a reputedly 30-mpg model on the lot called an "HHR"-- which I later found out meant "Heritage High Roof" or something like that, and which I fondly dubbed, "my little gangster car."
First it was a bright orange set of wheels, the only advantage to that being I'd never get lost in a snowstorm, but my daughter shrieked and laughed when she saw the color. "But it's the same shade as a basketball," I protested. "Well I'm not riding in it," my then-9 year old girl scout informed me, as headstrong then as she is now. I went back and found a black one that looked even more authentically gangsta-like, as if from a re-make of a 1930's movie, minus the machine guns hanging out the windows...
It never quite averaged 30 miles per gallon, but was twice as efficient as the Suburban, at least. It fit me like a glove and became my new trademark. Some people used to mistake it for a Chrysler PT Cruiser, which would only annoy me: "The hatch is not sloped like that one; mine is a much more noble and elegant creature!"
Long story short, eight years and nine months later, I have now travelled 243,003 miles in that great 4-cylinder car. It has gotten me from the end of Miles' time at St. Gregory's to his four years of Catholic Central HS in North Troy, when my wife and I would trade off to break up the 140 miles per day required back then, 35 miles each way, two roundtrips per day. The HHR made its share of trips to LeMoyne for the four years he was there, as well, until the newer Volvo my wife drives took over on the highway voyages. My trusty HHR got me through Daryn's high school years and most of Bella's trip from Greenfield Elementary to Saratoga Springs HS. It took me through my professional transitions from RE/MAX Park Place to SPA Realty, and then to RE/MAX Premiere, Coldwell Banker Prime, and then to Keller Williams Realty of Saratoga. I would travel close to 30,000 miles per year without fail, through the tail end of the boom market to the lean years when I had foolishly gone out on my own, and back to the recovery years, from 2010 to the present. Now with EQUITAS Realty, I guess I am finally, and somewhat reluctantly, ready for an upgrade in my vehicular choice, but am staying with CHEVY, opting for an EQUINOX now, close to my company's name.
My loyalty is based on my affection for what the HHR did for me-- I rarely had to do more than change the oil and fill the gas tank, and replace tires now and then. It held up well until one fateful day when I scraped out the oil pan in dead-winter when an ice-flow had cratered the ruts in our road pretty badly. All the oil drained out when I parked and when it was towed to our then-favorite mechanic, he told me the engine was blown and it would be roughly $1500. to replace it. I was crushed. On a friend's recommendation I had it towed a second time to an amazing dude named Ryan near where I live in Middle Grove, who proceeded to bring the HHR back to life for something like $300. It was like a reincarnation of a dead car. That must have been three or four winters ago, and nearly another 100,000 miles later, that VORTEK engine is still going strong.
Over time, however, the HHR showed signs of its age. The right side interior would get wet on the carpet when it rained, even with the windows up. The blower on the heater and A/C stopped working long ago, the radio was full of static, and some bushings in the steering needed replacement. The transmission was getting a bit clunky and a new set of tires were in order. In fact, the most recent flat in the driveway is what drove me to the new car lot. Expensive repairs were not worth it anymore, sad to say.
Miles and Bella-- both superb Internet shoppers-- had been showing me options online for quite a while, hint hint. They knew that shopping is my least favorite thing to do.
But more pertinent to this blog-- I have to confess my sentimentality for inanimate objects in my life. This car has been as good to me as almost any friend I've had, and I feel affection towards it like I would a horse that I'd been riding for years on the open plains out west. I spent countless hours inside it. I sang to songs inside it, went on several thousand appointments in all kind of weather, and drove my kids and wife to all kinds of events with its help. My butt fits the seat perfectly, though the fabric is now torn and pulling apart. As with the recent commercial showing a guy turning in his iPhone-- with Suri inside it, pleading to him to remember "all the good times!"-- for a newer model-- I feel I am betraying a long-time pet in the family by "putting it down" before it is ready for the graveyard.
But I have to turn it in. I wanted to do a funeral service of some kind, a memorial as it were, but my family thought (and still thinks) I was nuts. I have trouble parting with the important parts of my life... still have my old laptops and cell phones and even a typewriter or two from the really olden days. Am I crazier than most? Probably. Is there a name for an automotive hoarder? Well, yes-- guys like me with larger lots are way too common in parts of Saratoga County, and their yards are littered with their old "best friends." Thinking of it that way will allow me to let go... and usher in a whole new era of comfort and driving adventures.... I'll take some pictures of her one last time for the archives, and clean out all my random belongings that have been in her dash, her compartments, under her seats, and in the back hatch area. I have to be strong...
But I might sob just a bit as I take one last trip with it-- with her!-- down to Mangino's, where the trade-in value was almost nil, but better than letting her rust in the driveway while I cruised around with the newer, younger, model.
I'll think fondly of the last time I washed her and really waxed her up good-- parked on High Rock Ave. near my office, and someone asked me-- "Did you get a new car?" because, frankly, she still looked good from a distance.
No, not yet I said-- this one only has about 242,000 miles on it, why should I?
Gulp, it's time, I gotta go... my Equinox is prepped and waiting for me-- time to start a new mechanical affair of the heart...
One last time, I will insist: Everything that is, is Alive!
Wayne Perras, for WaynesWord2
A Slice of Life, or Two, out on the Middle Grove plateau...
When certain people ask you-- Got any plans for the weekend?-- sometimes you gotta admit you're just not that exciting at the moment: Just doing some yard work, walking the dog, clearing out the basement a bit, gotta drive to the transfer station, that kind of thing... In short-- "I need to F'eng shui my place..."
Happy to have a Home to come Home to, and time to spend there. I would like to have said I had concerts to go to, or a trip to Vermont planned, or maybe a local mountain to climb before hunting season begins in earnest. But no, I'm just chillin' on the home front, and trying to get it winter-ready, for now.
If it weren't for Bentley, our 7+ month old golden retriever, I likely would NOT have seen today's cold mid-fall morning being born. After 5 days of grey rain, it was a glorious sight to see the stunning sun rise above the horizon again, shortly after 7:20 a.m., the last week before the clock's change.
The upper windows of our house, facing due east, ricocheted the solar glow at me from behind, as the rays cleared the trees. It was startling to feel the (reflected) sun strike me in the back from the west as I walked east that early in the morning.
What really comes in handy is that extra acre out back of our home-- for which we paid a $5K. lot Premium, way back in 2003-- when it's time to let this volatile and lanky pup run. Bentley now does laps like a greyhound through the wood trails, cornering like it counts, as if a race is at stake. Another athlete in training in the family, and it's almost as gratifying to see him in action as it was when Miles played hoop, or Daryn sprinted or long-jumped, or Bella danced, or ran track.
Yet, in speaking of sports, my only spectator passion these days centers on professional basketball, not college or high school sports, not baseball playoffs or NFL games. In late October, I am just marking time till the real NBA season begins, which is usually just before Halloween, and the clocks change to create early evening darkness.
The Knicks last pre-season playoff game was last night, a close loss to Toronto in a packed Montreal stadium. Even Canadians-- once merely hockey fans-- have become fanatics about my favorite sport. Soon I will be watcing in earnest: NBA TV on TWC channel 308, the Knicks on MSG, the Nets on YES, then ESPN or TNT whenever featured games are on in prime time. I will be multi-tasking well into the evenings once these games are on-- writing at my desk, researching real estate data, reading and doing the books, with HOOP on in the background--the only way to justify my recurring addiction to b'ball on the tube.
On weekends I take it as my task to become the breakfast chef for the family as they rise, one-by-one: custom egg, cheese, & veggie omelettes of some improvised sort, sometimes with white beans or kidneys on the side, in the low-carb mode. Or it might be flaxseed and buckwheat pancakes, with raspberry syrup. Other times I just cook scrambled eggs with spinach, or plain fried eggs with Ezekial toast. My kids -- and occasionally their friends who sleep over-- will remember me more for that perhaps than anything else, years from now.
Once well-fed myself, I load up the HHR on Saturday with recyclables & the weekly refuse. Instead of paying Big Waste monthly fees, for the time being, I'm trucking it myself, as I see lots of thrifty elders do. Had a flashback on old landfill visits on certain mornings with my dad, prior to my being 10 years old, I'd guess. Transfer stations much more sanitary now, and you don't have to drive over the cratered two-tracks of packed-down garbage.
Before the last 4-5 days of persistent rain, the front lawn had been dry as powder, so we certainly needed this long dose of wetness. But today redemption from the dark wet chill of the week came in the form of an idyllic mid-autumn sky, blue as could be.
Now for some long-overdue observations on the geographic & physical changes of the in-town landscape, in real estate terms...
PERIMETER EXPANSION OF SARATOGA SPRINGS...
Coming into town from the west... on 9N from Greenfield Center toward Saratoga Springs, you can't help but see how much construction is going on between Buff Road and West Avenue. Despite all the talk of "in-fill" projects within the City proper, there is apparently plenty of demand on the outskirts northwest of town.
A lot that sold two years ago is finally being cleared in a hurry and infrastructure is going in tl provide road drains and whatnot. The bulldozers transformed an overgrown wooded lot adjacent to the former Good Shephard home, which sold for $652,000. in 2012, into a parallel expansion of the adult home business, just to the right of the current residential facility. At one time I thought this would become another 7-home McMansion subdivision, but no-- it is going purely commercial now under the guidance of Bellamy Construction, whose trucks and front-end loaders and Cats are all over that site. Longtime residents (among them, me) may remember when there were some shabby barn buildings on the property that housed a company called "T-N-T Plumbing & Heating"-- those gents fixed my well pumps on more than one occasion. After they moved or shut down the business, those old barns fell down and the second-growth woods took over for a decade or two. Now the woods are scraped clean and the site is smoothed sand with not a tree left on it. Concrete and brick are soon to ensue.
Across the street and diagonally closer to town is another construction site this fall-- a medical building that briefly identified "Fresenius & Associates" as the occupants of the building-in-progress. This would be the third medial/dental/office building built in that stretch between the old "Ash Grove Inn"-- once a resplendent restaurant with gorgeous views out the back-- and the Jeffersonian mansion (purchased in the 90's by the late-but-rescient Peter Paquet) alongside those classic horse fields which abut Sunnyside Acres off to the left, just before the RR overpass. 25 years ago, said fields underneath the new medical buildings were the growing grounds of an organic farm--way ahead of its time-- run by an industrious & eccentric man named Palazzini (who happened to be a hunchback) who'd developed the stretch of farmland on Locust Grove Road to the west of all this, where my family and I lived for 14 years at one point. This section of Church Street Extension has filled in nicely from an economic perspective-- but the scenic swath of that formerly bucolic northern view across the McNeary family's open pastures on Denton Road is now blocked. Such is the cost of progress to those whizzing by...
Over the bridge and past Care Lane you see more new construction-- a massive project by local standards-- proceeding apace at the corner of West Ave. and Church. This long-delayed project- simply called "2 West Ave."-- at a prominent entry-corner of the Town, dates back to a once- proposed condo project prior to the recession of '08-09 to the current apartment complex being built by the ubiquitous Sonny Bonacio and a small army of subcontractors. I always think to myself, after hearing doomsayers on the weird inflammatory radio stations that abound on the dial-- if the End of the World is indeed approaching, Bonacio's boys-- along with The Galesi Group, Bast-Hatfield, and a multitude of others around here-- are going to be building right through it.
You go past that to another 100-foot crane lifting steel beams into place just past the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club... this is the site of Saratoga Hospital's $36-million annex being built on the west side on their complex, abutting Myrtle Street on the Emergency Room side. Thus, in the stretch of less than half-a-mile of Church Street alone, I would guesstimate there were at least 300-400 construction workers of all kinds, truck drivers coming and going, and heavy equipment operators staying quite busy just on the westside of Saratoga Springs proper. I doubt very much any other upstate city of under 100,000 residents has this much going on right now.
If you cut over to Washington Street (aka, Route 29, heading into town from the west, parallel to Church Street) you will see two other projects "in-filling" what used to be scruffy empty lots for years, awaiting this current, cumulative building boom. Closest to the Mobil Station that has anchored the West Ave. corner for generations now is the Eastside Group's final touches on their 2-story mixed-use project, soon to be the new home of Saratoga Vision, with apartments on the upper level. A short block or two south there is a new Kodiak Construction project on the left across from the Sherwin Williams paint store... a nice looking office building awaiting tenants.
Turn right onto Birch Street at Roma's Italian Deli, and before you go left on Grand at the four-way stop-- you will see the former Scavuzzo's Bakery (known to old-timers as such) under re-hab into an expanded single-family residence, and further down Grand Ave., notice 2 or 3 other notoriously-messy homes under full renovation on each side of the street, on the way down toward The Local Pub. One rundown Victorian that fell into use as a drug den, as well as nondescript older working class homes with aluminum siding, are being restored or completely re-built into upgraded housing, contributing to the overall rising of the tide in this town. Check out 152 Grand, for instance, and try to remember how shabby that little home on the site used to be.
Even a scrappy half-lot across an alley on South Franklin Street from the former Figelman's Junkyard (which recently evolved from a "Scrap Dealers" business, to a more cleanly dubbed "Spa Recycling")-- is the site of a new home being built on (by another Bonacio crew) on the backside of a 4-unit fronting on Oak Street.
Then, the truly massive 6-story Embassy Suites Hotel rises into sight, on the site of the long-vacated, one-floor retail space of Broadway Joe's, as part of the rebirth of Congress Plaza. Bast-Hatfield has been working here for the better part of 2014, and the results are now evident. Here, 100-foot cranes have been a common landmark, and just recently the top-floor windows on the north (street) side were being installed, in an effort to get the 149-room upscale brand building water-tight before snow falls. New restaurants have already gone in there, while Purdy's iconic liquor store-- having been through a couple of changes-of-plaza before-- awaits the lack of construction-site chaos with impatient glee, I would think. The new Hotel-- a DCG Development Company project-- will be bringing in hundreds more visitors on a weekly basis to a part of town that has mostly retail, offices, and apartments in that area up till now.
On Broadway, there are no cranes in sight, and haven't been since the Northshire Bookstore Building (dubbed "The Washington") was built last year. Most of the storefronts are full and vibrant, with the exception of a new For Lease sign on the corner of Congress and Broadway, as apparently Talbot's is moving out from its highly visible but no-so-profitable location. Across the street, in Congress Park itself, the major change is that a few of the majestic white pines to the left of the park entrance have been taken down this year, presumably because they threatened the Spirit of Life statue and its pool, which were in its shadow. More openness and light are the result, but it's still a bit sad when primordial trees must come down.
Most of the news on Broadway these days has been "behind the scenes." The Adelphi Hotel, which has remained shuttered for two summer seasons now, since its sale in 2012, has shown no visible signs of progress toward its massive new makeover. In the meantime, however, the new owners have purchased two separate parcels behind and to the left of The Adelphi proper, around the corner on Washington Street, including a smaller building, a former rectory, part of which is ancient stone. This is all just behind behind the Rip Van Dam building's parking lot.
Number 23 Washington is the address of the rectory that sold, for $850,000., to the right of the magnificent architecture of the Universal Preservation Hall, which is number 25. The property to the left of the UPH apparently also was a separate part of the puurchase-- a rectory that served the Bethesda Grace Episcopal Church, at 41 Washington St.
The word on the street (and later in the local papers) is that the stone portion of 23 Washington will be transformed into an entry point for an expanded banquet hall off the back, for weddings and large social events, as an adjunct to the complementary expansion of The Adelphi's rearside courtyard/pool/and outdoor bar complex, slated for completion in 2016, if all goes as planned.
This project, along with Bruce Levinsky's approved plans for a 176-room expansion of the Van Dam Hotel building just south of The Adelphi, will complete a huge transformation of that atavistic block, where Route 29 starts west of Broadway.
As of the date I submitted this, the rectory seems vacated, and the two car garage to its right looks like it may be destined for quick demolition. A truly large and majestic tree (a remaining elm?) has been sliced down and removed (but for the stump). A bulldozer has chewed up some of the turf out back, and the lot looks empty and forlorn; no sign yet of what's to come.
The gaunt and boarded up backside of the Adelphi looms, dark at night, off to the right, while the south and eastern face of 18 Division Street mixed-use and condo building is semi-lit-up, to the rear and left. The Universal Preservation Hall is still very much in use, having been nicely renovated, at least in the outer shell, due to the efforts of local supporters, former parishioners, and lots of fundraising efforts over the last two decades. At first I thought the iconic Hall itself was part of the Richbell Capital purchase, but that was not the case.
Between the purchase price of the Adelphi ($4.5 mill), the projected renovations (approximately $6 mill, BEFORE structural problems were discovered), and the $2.1 million reportedly paid for the two church properties, this zone will become perhaps the most expensive real estate investment zone in the downtown section of our City at present, rivalled by the aforementioned Hospital additions, or the $30 million dollar high-rise hotel proposed at the Saratoga Racino (or Equine Sports Center, if you prefer), between Jefferson Street and Nelson Ave.
A few years ago (or was it a decade now?), when the quintessential horse property adjoining the Flat Track on Nelson Avenue (formerly the Whitney estate) sold for roughly $27 million to a prominent prince from a Middle eastern Emirate, it was assumed that numbers like that would not be achieved by any other properties in this town for awhile. But the Big Money continues to pour into Saratoga Springs, boding a continuous upward curve in the City's fortunes, even without the advent of Vegas-styled gambling, which was chased out of town by an unofficial referendum earlier this year.
The beat goes on. In November I will detail some developments, good or bad, you will have to decide-- on the East side of Broadway... stay tuned!
Postscript, on my conversion to Dawg ownership:
Ok, to my sisters, who have been dog-lovers for decades, and to many of my friends and co-workers who are devoted dog-people, I confess that I have joined your ranks, somewhat reluctantly at first, but lately with more love and enthusiasm.
I wrote about Bentley when we first travelled north to purchase the "puppy-version" of said Golden Retriever... and of course after 5 months of nonstop feeding (part-goat, part-voracious black hole...), he is now about 60 lbs. of sinewy energy and taut muscle. His paws are almost as large as my hands. When he jumps up on me, his head is chest- or shoulder-high. When he tugs at the leash, it seems like he conveys more momentum force than a small horse. When he stares in my eyes, looking for love in return, he melts me almost as much as one of my own offspring.
The problem is, he demands more attention of me than anyone else in the household, and follows me around nonstop from the moment I wake up till the "night-night" call at 11 p.m. or so. When I come home from work he goes nuts on me like I've been around the world, away for a month. If I should get up for a drink of water in the middle of the night, I have to tip-toe down the stairs, hoping not to have him wake up as well.
My morning routine has changed inexorably. Getting up early used to mean having an hour or two to myself, for reading or contemplative music, maybe a light lifting session in the basement before breakfast. Now it means hoing to get some coffee made before he tugs me out the door for the pre-breakfast poop walk and backwoods run. I get more cardio and fresh air now, whether I like it or not. I get to see what the outdoor sky looks like every a.m., before 7 o'clock; sometimes before 6.
I have learned to tolerate the fact that every time out the door is a different "smell-a-thon"-- in that he samples the smorgasbord of the world through his nose, his snout, and often his tastebuds and tongue as well. I've learned that if he gets away from me on the leash, I will earn the stern gazes of my neighbors, and appear ineffectual when I yell at him to return. Folks ask me if I've had him trained yet, and I say, No, it's more like the other way around.
The real pleasure, as I noted in the beginning of this blog, is taking him out into the woods, and down the hill out back, down to the Kaydeross Creek and doing the 3/4 mile loop along various paths on the HOA lands behind us. He runs manically in figure-8 loops all around me, trailing the leash behind him as I give him some freedom and latitude to really RUN, as he is not allowed to do so anywhere in the neighborhood, of course. Now that my three kids are older and not so inclined to join me on these "Creek Walks," Bentley is my hiking buddy and that has been a huge boon to my health and our mutual well-being.
Is it worth the cost of dogfood, vet bills, treats, leashes, dog toys, and chewed up clothing and shoes and slippers and sneakers??? Yup, I admit it is. Sometimes I wish he had an OFF button, but in general, we love that Dog Dude, and here in print, I grudgingly admit it.
To those of you who still love cats, so do I, but that is a more passive form of pet ownership, that's for sure. A dog like this is not purely for petting and sharing naps, and hearing the motor-boat of contentment after a good meal. This kind of Dog is inter-active, highly kinetic, and a source of nonstop affection, attention, and alertness. It has cut into my contemplation time, my writing time, and yet when he sprawls out in front of the desk in my study, I have to acknowledge, he is a cool creature and, I guess, a blessing.
Stay tuned, and see you soon.
Wayne Perras, for WaynesWord2
Having this dog gives me more to blog about and less time to blog it. He provides constant exercise at times when I would normally flop on the couch, or sit at my desk, and takes up considerably more time and attention than anyone in my life since my youngest was a year or two old.
With a cat or two, you can be a recluse first thing in the morning on your rare day off-- feed 'em quick and they leave you alone. The dog tugs you out in the world, every darn day of the week.
This is gonna be a quick one...(but it's been on my mind for a while).
Who says that the Year has to be divided into Quarters? -- I vote for Thirds. That way,
we lump January thru April together, then May thru August becomes "the middle chunk." In roughly that time period, these have been some of my favorite individual songs, stuck in my head in one way or another:
Courtney Barnette "Avant Gardener"
Benjamin Booker "Violent Shiver"
Vance Joy "Riptide"
Beck "Blue Moon" & "Heart Is A Drum"
Milky Chance "Stolen Dance"
Young The Giant "Mind Over Matter"
The Kooks "Around Town"
Big Data "Dangerous"
Spoon "Do You"
Man Man "Head On (Hold Onto Your Heart)"
Alt-J "Left Hand Free"
Josier "Take Me To Church"
Robert Plant "Rainbow"
(A word here about the Australian influence on the above list...if I had to pick my two favorite new songs of the year, one male, one female, I would choose an Aussie singer/songwriter in each category: Courtney Barnette, who I hope to see this fall at Upstate Concert Hall, and Vance Joy, a dude whose real name is James Keefe. Both have quirky and distinctive voices, a surrealistic flair to their lyrics that reminds me of French poets of the early 1900's. Word play is my thing, and these two are amazing. As for musicianship, if Courtney is actually playing lead guitar on her breakout, dry-witted song "Avant Gardener" then she is the best distortion-shredder since Annie Clark, and if not, I have to find out who is, and see that band. Vance Joy, on the other hand, melodically "swings the crap" outa his little ukelele in a YouTube video "On the Tram" with a version of Riptide that just totally hooked me, and a train car full of commuters back in Melbourne, or Perth, or somewhere back home, as well. These two combine with early-year favorite "Boy & Bear" so far to qualify for a musical gold, silver, and bronze in the singles category this year.)
I can't help it, my tastes are still changing. Other than the obvious vintage guy of the group (the miraculously still relevant if not even revelatory Mr. Plant), and of course BECK, and perhaps SPOON, these performers on the list are not much older than my kids, if at all. The talent just keeps on coming... and there is more and more of it all the time that gives me faith in human expression, still evolving. Indie music is by its very nature non-formulaic.
In analyzing this, or just writing it down, I realize I am tilting to WEQX land more than WEXT lately. Frankly, I can't take it all the time, but the former seems fresher than the latter, though not always with the deep sense of history WEXT brings.
Both stations could be accused of playing certain songs and groups repetitively, but for anything on the above list, I was happy to hear them multiple times. Though about half the above tunes were played on both stations, I believe the others would be the sole domain of the Vermont station, from Mount Equinox. Conversely, only WEXT would be playing "Rainbow."
Perhaps I am finally getting a bit burned out on the "Beatles" emphasis by the NPR affiliate out of Troy. It seems they feel they have to cater to baby boomers of that era to support their public programming, though I'm not sure that's true. (Full disclosure, I'm still sending in my monthly stipend.)
I can handle the old blues masters WEXT plays-- John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Johnson-- but I get tired of the same Johnny Cash tune over and over, and got especially sick of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's monotonous single ("Pretty Little One") before their appearance at Proctor's recently. So I turn to 102.7 FM more often than I used to. I happen to dig the snark humor of Jeff Morad in the mornings, and his slightly twisted view of the news, even if I have to hear some Toyota commercials and McDonald jingles now and then. At least at 'EQX they allow the folks at 42 Degrees to balance things out a bit in the world of commercials...
WEXT still has the best syndicated radio shows in the land, WORLD CAFE with David Dye out of Philadelphia 10a.m. to Noon six days a week, and ECHOES with John Dellaberto, after midnight each night, an amazing kaleidoscope of soothing, sensual, cerebral sounds.
Some of my close friends don't listen to the radio at all anymore, and prefer the mono-thematic drudgery of certain Internet stations, or Pandora mixes. I prefer the human element and the spark of the new. I have no idea how I might've found the ten or twelve tunes I started with here, without the intro from radio. I will be listenin' till I kick!
(And I'm glad we have a couple of great radio choices around here, regardless of my minor criticisms.)
Take care & carry on,
Wayne, for WaynesWord2, at saratoga.com
As I walk the rambunctious pup at dusk, the season's BIGGEST RACE now done, far more important people than me are jetting overhead, up and out of the County airport, to destinations more pressing or latitudes more impressive than Saratoga Springs. Perhaps Their Horse Lost, one can only surmise. Perhaps they are sheiks in that airborne vehicle, or one of the American billionaires hereabouts. In any case, they are of another ilk than earthbound folk like me, though I too am NOT partaking of the local post-race Commotion, Celebration, and outright Partying that will play out tonight among the wealthy and the hoi polloi alike, as it does almost every day of summer in this hot and famous little town, but especially on this, The Day of The Travers.
It is dubbed the 4th Leg of the Triple Crown, I learned for the thirty-eight year in a row, as I had watched the Horse Race Spectacle from the comfort of my family-less family room, given superb coverage by NBC on National TV. Like a vicarious tourist at home, I enjoyed all the recognizable shots of spots downtown & around town. Certainly itz fun and unusual to see that--LIVE!-- on a Saturday 4:30- 6pm slot, with heavyweight announcers like Tom Hammond, Randy Moss, and former master jockey Jerry Bailey extolling the virtues of our fair city. I had the wide-screen SAMSUNG to myself, what with my family lake-bound to the far north while I work at least a half day every day, and make up for lost time... having spent too much of it in nostalgia-land following a high school reunion last weekend. But that's a separate blog...
The race that caught my interest more than the main event was the first of the two to be televised on the Day's card-- The Ballerina-- and it was really the first full fledged race I've watched from start to finish all season so far. I was drawn to the #1 horse right away, due to its exotic name: ARTEMIS AGROTERA. Not only was his name cool, so was his trainer (a laconic dude named Mike Hushion), his incredible jockey du jour (Rajiv Maragh), and especially his owner... Chester Broman of Chestertown Farms, whom the TV announcers noted as owning a breeding farm just "50 Miles north of Saratoga." Since he originally hails from one of the wealthier parts of Connecticut, the connection to "Chestertown, NY" seems an apt coincidence rather than part of his birthright.
In any case his 3 year old bay filly blew away the much-touted competition with a
stretch run that was pure beauty, winning by six and a half lengths. Even to a non-fanatic like me this horse looked impressive, and she becomes my reason to tune into the Breeders Cup in the fall, (also to be broadcast by NBC). I have a new rooting interest, it seems.
The Travers itself, the 12th of a 14 race-card that day, was a much more compelling race, and also made for some good television. I got a kick out of the fact that "The Big Three" in this race: horses named BAYERN, TONALIST, and WICKED STRONG were touted heavily and had their back-stories told during the pre-race buildup. But the eventual winner, V.E. DAY, was not mentioned once as a possible winner by any on the on-air prognosticators, much to my delight. He came out of nowhere and you didn't hear his name once it seemed until Tom Dirkin (in his Final Travers Call!) was singing it out: "and HERE COMES V.E. DAY!! Running down WICKED STRONG..." who had had the lead the whole second half of the race, until the last two seconds. Amazing finish, with momentum on the side of jockey Javier Castellano, the hottest rider in America apparently, who knew his horse had won before any of the officials or pundits confirmed it. He piloted a perfectly timed surge by that horse, owned by a woman named Magalen O. Bryant, who seemed quite overcome with joy and disbelief in the aftermath.
The other cool thing I didn't realize till the race was over was that the two top horses involved were both trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the only trainer with two in the race, albeit for different owners. The owners of Centennial Farm in the Boston area had gotten a lot of good PR after some rough times, it seems, based on the horse named after the trademark spirit of that city. I was truthfully rooting for WICKED STRONG to win on that basis, and NBC seemed to be steering their story that way. But V.E. Day
stole the show in a way that told me NBC had not prepared for that eventuality. The fanfare was unscripted, and then after much hype and hoopla, the Travers was over.
I bet, in retrospect, that it was the owner of last place finisher BAYERN who was flying out so quickly after the race. There was no reason for him to stick around. But there would be other races, elsewhere, I'm sure.
Till next time,
Wayne, for WaynesWord2, on saratoga.com
Part Two... Pet History as of Summer 2014
So it was May 31st of this year when our lives changed, and we became "dog people." (This is the ballad of Bentley...)
It was a somewhat spurious decision-- my wife's local yoga teacher mentioned a cousin of hers who was about to start selling golden retriever puppies at a mere hundred dollars a pop, with a few still unclaimed. No papers or pedigrees were promised, nothing official, and we would have to drive almost all the way to Potsdam to retrieve said retriever, but it seemed worth the risk. On that fateful Saturday we boldly ventured out of cell phone range and had a great drive up through the more desolate parts of the central and northwest Adirondacks on that fine sunny Saturday...
We meandered our unhurried way through the Mountainous part of the State, just the two of us-- no kids along to make the decision for us. Up into North Warren off Exit 29, past Newcomb over to Indian Lake, through the Blue Mountain Lake area and then Long Lake, finally Tupper Lake and then further up past a remote reservoir area to South Colton, a small agrarian crossroads north of the Adirondack Park Area border. The farm we were aiming for was on a turn up a hill, off a picturesque side-road of rolling hills and pristine valley views. A golden eagle could be seen swooping around in long looping circles as we got there, a good sign.
Our cordial hostess-- who had raised 6 or 7 children on the pristine farm where these fields met the sky-- led us up to a well-kept board-&-batten barn and opened the half-door. Spilling out in unison was a roiling horde of eleven perfect puppies, identical except for subtle shadings of color, from blonde to light brown. The proud
Mom was a beautiful lithe reddish retriever who bore no ill effects from having spawned this litter ten weeks before. She sniffed at her brood and hovered a bit, but ultimately they moved as a unit, flowing in an undulating attern, otter-like furballs spilling across the manicured lawn, into the tall grass, and back out. They were pure frivolity in motion.
Five of eleven had been claimed but not taken yet, and the owner had marked those by painting their toenails different colors. Mostly males remained. I liked one of those who clung to my feet a bit but Melinda picked up another, an almost pure blonde puffball, who seemed to love being held, and that was that. We paid the hundy, as my downstate friend Danny would say, thus separating the first one out of the pack, and started our way back. Melinda was ready for this, in theory anyway, and cooed and coddIed him on her chest-- like she'd suddenly adopted a new baby,
sixteen years after having our youngest -- and hugged him to her chest all the way back to the Saratoga region, via Route 30 South. The pup barely moaned or complained at all, and licked her chin. "Right outa central casting," the little dude seduced us with cuteness from the start...
Flash forward roughly three months... the cuddly blonde puppy who could have fit into a small child's shoebox when we got him now has become a lanky beast who stretches out to about five feet in length from tail to toe when he sprawls sideways on the floor. He had doubled in size after two weeks, and tripled after six. He seemed to be larger every time he emerged from his crate in the morning. What at first were pellets and lumps in the yard became small logs and now resemble the kind of scat small bears leave behind. To produce this fodder he eats no less than sixteen meals a day, handfuls of Rachel Ray-endorsed dogfood and whole cans of Alpo or equivalent in 20 seconds flat.
The only indication of what was to come was when we had stopped the car for the un-named-at-the-time-dog's first official pee in Long Lake, and fed him some kibbles we had brought. Five minutes later on the road, I hear a sharp OOOOOWW!! and look over to see my wife contemplating a steamy little heap of dog puke adorning her cleavage. She seemed more concerned about him, seeming not to want to traumatize him by yelling about it, though he did look a bit sheepish, even at that infantile phase. This a precursor of both comedy and clean-up maintenance that would be required in coming weeks and months.
Once we got him home and the four of us (as Daryn didn't seem to care) tossed out our favorite potential names, each dubbing him something different for a while... my daughter's choice of "Bentley" won out, mostly because "she liked the sound of it..." without reference to any particular college or unaffordable car.
I was the one who'd resisted this acquisition for years, as some of my friends and relatives know. And now, as I feared, it is usually me, at 6:30 or 7 a.m., and then at night too, wearing the yellow or olive-green bag on my hand, seeking out heaps of Bentley poop, and removing them from the lawn, the median, and occasionally the grass of unnamed neighbors... (sorry!)!
Whereas I used to be the guy raging against other fools who catered to their canines in this manner, now it is me. I never wanted to be "that guy" yet that guy is me. At least I don't live in the city where other people can see me.
I spend a half an hour or more I cannot spare each morn setting him free from the crate, watching him ritually pee in the "squat-with-curled-tail" routine, feeding him a bowl or three of food, changing his water, and then awaiting the sharp single bark that tells me it is time for the the constitutional walk. He sniffs till he finds a good place and I am the fool-in-waiting. What fun, I always think, as my wife and two younger kids are still sleeping. Although it does get me out in the brisk morning air, I long for the e-z days of just opening a can of food for the cats and then letting them out the back door for the day. The dog requires so much more. He wants to play, he wants to track, he wants to sniff, he wants to sample grotesque things in his mouth like a road-squished toad, or worse yet, a live one, along with objects like sticks, roots, dirt, cans, insects, weeds, cardboard, pine cones, squished plastic bottles alongside the road, and god forbid the occasional dead mammal. Then, once inside, to stay in practice, he will chew any available shoes, sneakers, slippers, couch covers, anything with tassels, pillows, hassocks, furniture legs, folded laundry piles, and anything he can pull from the recycling bin.
The cats never did any of this stuff.
They might leave a stray mouse or shrew on the deck, or parts thereof, and gross us out in other ways, but it didn't take hours of your day to entertain or babysit them.
A dog of this sort is insatiable when it comes to food or play or exercise, that's all there is to it.
When I complained to my buddy Chris, who had two more or less mature and civilized (though still very energetic) Goldens... he texted back-- DON'T WORRY, THAT PHASE WILL ONLY LAST ANOTHER YEAR...OR TWO!
I didn't know whether to laugh or curse my stupidity. Itz a love/hate thing at this point, and I don't see any easy way out of that. At one point my wife was at the local Stewart's with the 3 or 4 month old Bentley on a leash. Grizzled hunter-guy walks by, sez: Thatz a fine lookin' dog-- if you ever wanna sell that pup you let me know?
When she came home and told me that, I said, What do you think he would offer?
and my daughter and wife were mortified. On other occasions, when it was THEIR turn to be exasperated by his antics or rough play, they asked the same question. This became our running joke-- how much would a country-lovin' dude with a pickup truck pay for a sleek retriever like this?
It was really touch and go whether we should keep him or not during that first month or two... only a tag-team match of constantly taking turns dealing-with-the-dog kept us from losing it, and posting his cute face of Craigslist-- Free for the Taking! Comes with collar and leash...
Flash forward, late August. He is growing so fast now that when Miles goes away and comes back in three days, he swears he's bigger than he remembers. Also turning redder, losing the blondish fur...
My wife and the kids went up to Loon Lake for a few days so it was just me and Bentley last night, and then again this morning. He let me get some writing done
without being too needy, and willing went to bed at eleven. This morning I rewarded him with a long walk down to the Creek, a steep hike down and up and along the banks of the North Fork of the Kaydeross. Off the leash he galloped ahead and then ran past me 20 yards turned around and did it some more. Repeat, repeat, repeat, now pant. He never ventured too far out of sight, and came when I spoke his name. He ventured out on some rocks with me and lapped at the clear water. He followed commands and the paths, sometimes overgrown, instinctively and swiftly. He is proving to be a dog-of-a-hiker, which I need to be. This is the redeeming side of dawgdom-- I realized as I rubbed his panting chest on a break sitting in the sun, amid the thick ferns of the valley.
You can't take a cat on a hike like this, at least not since my cross-country skiing cats vanished on me 30+ years ago. I was stuck with, and hooked on, this critter called Bentley, for better or worse, for older or younger, for wild or tame. And my both contemplative and chaotic life would never be quite the same.
And that's the ballad of Bentley, so far.
Copyright Wayne Perras 2014
If all had gone well, and if a certain jerk of a pedestrian hadn't jumped in front of the headline act's tour bus in Boston last night, I would not be here writing this right now. I would be already safely across the pedestrian bridge at SPAC, surging with concert-going masses 70 feet above Geyser Creek toward the amphitheater seats and/or lawn blankets that would give us our vantage points for the evening's entertainment. I was looking forward (admittedly a guilty-pleasure alert)) to the soaring chords and howl of their hit from a couple years ago--Your Sex is On Fire-- by those headlining former Tennessee choir boys, one of whom is now biblically involved with a Victoria Secret's model, so I'm guessing that song worked for him. But I also like the new title song Temple and the one that caught my attention lately from that new album -- Family Tree. Even though they are almost a pop group now, I still like their sound.
In mid-August, absent any t-storms that could rock your world, one of the best places in America to see a concert is right here in 'Toga town, as I've written about many times before (and hundreds of others probably have too). This was s'posed to be a killer triple bill that I figured to be the highlight of my local summer concert scene... and the KINGS OF LEON have done this to us here in Saratoga before, two years ago, when the lead singer went into booze rehab just before they would've come to town. This time his brother the drummer was the casualty, as it was Nate Followil's ribs that were busted up in a quick stop that injured him instead of the freakin' nutbag that tried to either drunkenly hi-jack the bus, or get killed by it. Maybe the bus driver should've just plowed into the wacko attention-seeker, and there would still be music happening on this night.
Think of the nasty and negatively expensive karma that spins out from this one guy's impulsive & asinine act-- thousands of people...maybe 15-20 thousand tonite alone... who would've been enjoying Kongos and Young The Giant as much or more than the Kings of Leon (according to my younger consultants), are now missing out on perhaps the most au courant concert of the SPAC summer. I'm not likely to get the same vibe from either Li'l Wayne vs. Drake next Tuesday, or Steely Dan at the end of August... one too young a crowd, the other almost too old and nostalgic for my taste. Since SPAC is a seasonal venue, it's not easy to re-schedule gigs here-- it costs the bands money, the promoters money, the SPAC vendors and employees lots of money, and a lot of work was done issuing tickets that won't be used, including mine-- Section 8, right in the middle of the arena, straight on view. Bummer, bummer, bummer, thricefold. The band Kongos were even supposed to be playing out of their trailer before going onstage, somewhere on the Park property, so make that fourfold. You can't re-invent a concert like that. I wish now I'd gone to see Young The Giant separately down at Upstate Concert Hall a month or so ago.
Not only the SPAC crowd in Saratoga will miss this tour from this point on, but maybe another month or more of cities that will have to cancel their shows as well... what is the extrapolated impact of one fool's action?! The only good thing here is I'm going to be a lot fresher for work tomorrow than I would have been after getting out of that chaotic back parking lot off Route 50 at midnight otherwise. O well: hell's bells to the Followils and their followers, there's nothing to be done but to go with it, or in this case, not go.
On the bright side, instead of experiencing new sonic revelations and feeling visceral exhilirations, I am also NOT getting bit by mosquitoes and standing in long lines to the john after paying for $9 beers in plastic cups. I am here in my study with a cool breeze in my face from the west-facing screens getting one more blog done, and getting ready for more music to come this month.
Next week, after a High School Reunion whose numerical value I do not even want to contemplate, I hope to hit the Rest Fest in Troy on the way home and see some true indie bands again instead of pinning my hopes on over-hyped luxury tour-bus types. I just heard a tune called "Faxes on a Yacht" by "Rival Galaxies," one of the 4 groups that will be there, and that song sounds like dynamite...
Till next time, this one was just a brief one...
Copyright 2014 by Wayne for WaynesWord2 at saratoga.com
Prelude-- My Life With A Sequence of Cats...
I have pretty much always had cats in my apartment or house, since college. Diring Junior High and High School, I grew up with Spooky
-- one a grey tiger cat we found one Hallowe'en who lasted with us, and later kept my dad company, for 19 years... and the other a beautifully ruffed female tuxedo cat who turned into the prototype Russian princess, plump and vain, wanting her belly to be rubbed whenever you passed by. Fuzz
had the softest fur I've ever felt on any kind of cat, and she loved to let you stroke it.
Once on my own I had twin male cats dubbed Lucius
, the latter of whom was the only feline I ever found willing to go not only on nature walks with me, but whom actually would follow when I cross-country skied, hopping in the wake of my trail. I was crushed when each of them respectively disappeared during my early twenties, when I rented a rustic shack in Greenfield Center. If you don't "fix" your male cats, I learned, they are prone to taking off on their own once the dark urges strike.
In my extended bachelor years I co-habitated with two fine and intelligent creatures named Smudge
-- pure white with a touch of ash on her forehead-- and Ruckus,
another female who was the perfect "writer's cat"-- perched Buddha-like on the edge of my desk, loving the clack of my typewriter keys, how quaint that seems now, in the age of largely quiet keyboards. They lasted from my funky bohemian pad on the backside of a Nelson Ave. house where I rented, and made it well into my early family years on Locust Grove Road, when we sprouted a couple more children to join in with my stepson and wife, Melinda. The cats had grudgingly relinquished, or rather shared, my devoted attentions to other people, babies and toddlers to follow, but never really forgave me for giving up our idyllic (for them, anyway) bachelor-with-cats lifestyle we enjoyed in town. They enjoyed the 1/2 lot bordering on a farm, with its monster willow tree, great for climbing and perching... and they caught more mice and shrews and other small rodents than they ever would've found on the manicured eastside of Saratoga.
As with most cats, they required very little in the way of full-time maintenance-- other than feeding them twice a day, giving them water and then a bit of milk now and then, and some regular petting and low-key affection on the couch while I was reading or watching hoop,
there was precious little to worry about. I could go about my work and play, come and go all day, without "worrying what they were up to..." It seems so easy in retrospect.
In my apartment I had a litter box to deal with, of course, but once on the fringe of town with the bigger yard in the first home we bought, these civilized pets would just let us know when it was time to go out, and discretely conducted their business, no muss no fuss, and we never seemed to see it. When Smudge
was about a dozen years old, however, our proximity to a very busy country road caught up with her, and the squeal of brakes and a thud one day, with a subsequent knock on the door from a distraught but conscientious driver, led me to see her prone body and blue eyes glazing over in front of me, and I sobbed for most of the rest of that day as I buried her next to the blue spruce in the front yard. Ruckus
never seemed the same after that, always skittish around me and the kids, like she didn't belong there anymore, and sadly she met the same fate, in almost the same spot, a few months later. After that, we stopped with having cats for a spell. We had enough to deal with on the home front with 3 boys to raise, and then a baby daughter. Pets were a luxury we did not need at that time.
When my dad died in May of 2001, however, my sisters came up from Atlanta and Bolinas, CA respectively for the services and reception, and on a nostalgia trip down to Ravena where we had grown up, and then out in the country of Alcove and Coeymans Hollow where we'd had many friends, we came upon an old abandoned farmhouse that Kara wanted some pictures of... it was classic old clapboard, covered with vines but had the best collection of fragrant lilac bushes that late May in upstate could bring. While cutting off a few clusters, a soul-full meow emerged from the undergrowth, and a loveable little kitten came our way-- I scooped her up and named her Lilac
, and she rode home with us back to Saratoga, on my shoulder, purring the whole way. My daughter at 3 and a half was then old enough to appreciate such a pet and Lilac became a beloved part of the household for two and a half years hence. When we moved to our new, much bigger, more distant home in Middle Grove, however, Lilac also took off into the adjacent woods and never came back, like my male cats in Greenfield Center had done, albeit this one had been neutered. Bella's grief was sad to behold. A few months later, our first spring in the new home, Bella and Miles talked to me into visiting the Adirondack Save-A-Stray shelter in Corinth, "just to look." My wife and Daryn were off on a school trip to Boston. Well, just looking led to the inevitable. In a raised ranch full of about 200 fee-roaming cats vying for or ignoring our attention, there was one, in a cage, who seemed smarter and more intent on getting a new owner than all the other jaded foster pets combined.
She looked a lot like my original FUZZ
cat-- sleek black everywhere except for the white neck and belly, and her face had eyes that bore right into mine as we passed by, and she reached out as if to say "You gotta get me outa here, man!"
Behind her in the cage was apparently her brother, a more laid-back version, just laying there, yawning and unconcerned. It turned out they had been unceremoniously dropped off in the driveway the night before, and had not been acclimated to the rest of the cat population yet, in this mewling cluster of unclaimed felines. Having viewing the entire harem of furry creatures, some affectionate, some prickly, we went back and claimed the 2 we saw first as we entered, and released them from their temporary cage. Kelsey
was the female who got our attention, and Mello
was the cool and casual male, and in 2004 they came home to join us, as the "two cats in the yard" that Crosby, Stills, and Nash had sung about back in the '70's.
Flash forward 10 years.... Kelsey
is still with us, now just as plump as Fuzz
ever was, well-fed and handsomely rewarded for her audacious sales pitch back at the shelter. Up until recently, she ruled the interior roost-- adorning whatever bed or piece of furniture she wanted, lounging like a Kardshian, as if her supposed beauty entitled her to eat and sleep with impunity.Mello
was always more of an outdoor guy. The woman who ran the shelter of course cautioned us not to let either of them roam freely outdoors when we signed the "agreement" to adopt them. "We do not save these cats just so they can become coyote food!"
she sternly warned us. I had lived in the city and on the edge of town and in the deep country, and my cats had always been allowed to go outside, I told her, and I wasn't about to de-claw them and let them become effete. That was not their nature, in my mind, and I was not an old lady. She scolded me some more and we made our donation and left.Mello
came and went as he pleased for a good four years or so. In a neighborhood of a few leashed dogs, he walked down the median with his tail held high, and galloped away safely if the dogs ever got loose and chased him. He laughed at their dog nature. He stayed out all night, and caught many vermin-- mice, moles, shrews, voles, and even, much to my chagrin, chipmunks and small rabbits. He was the top f the food chain for a while, until the day when I'd heard quite a commotion overnight and found him the next morning, in shock and not moving, under the deck, his tail dis-engaged. Took him to the vet to find out that he'd been attacked by a fox, most likely, or a wild dog, who had yanked his tail out of his socket and caused internal injuries. Life in the wild had caught up with him. "National Geographic" in our own backyard, I called it. He was never the same, and his tail never rose striaght up behind him again. A year or two later, at a time when we'd adopted another barn cat named Mika and watched her have a quick litter, he felt a bitter jealousy that he wasn't the alpha cat anymore, and also disappeared one night-- we think in a meeting with that same fox who almost did him in the first time. Another sad passing of one very cool cat, and perhaps the male cat I'd bonded with most closely in my life.
The barn cat Mika
was a reluctantly accepted gift from a neighbor, and she was at least half-feral, so wasn't allowed in the house much, mostly living under the back deck. She, I swear, bred with a strange lynx I had seen briefly on the edge of the deck at twilight one evening... and when she bore a litter of four kittens, we named one female Minx, one male Binx (a gorgeous blondish-red cat), and gave the other two away before attaching names. At one time, during the cruel recession, we were feeding five cats or more on a daily basis.
Long story short, Minx
is still with us. Mika
ran off into the wild-- perhaps looking for that Lynx again?-- after we spayed her, and that money was not well spent. Binx
was beloved by both my sons, but was just like Mello
in that he always wanted to be outside, and never cared much for domestic affection and the life of hearth-&-home. He only lasted a year with us before succombing to the predators of the wild out back, we think. His passing made both my sons cry, and Daryn still perpetuates his image and memory on his laptop's screen-saver.
He could've been the coolest of them all, and was the most distinctive looking of any we've owned. I still deeply regret not getting him neutered early on, and making a domesticated male house cat out of him-- but would HE have wanted that?
So now, or at least up until May 31st of 2014, we had just the two surviving cats-- Kelsey
a vintage 2004 model, and Minx,
born in April 2009 as the runt of the 1st litter Mika
has become the closest approximation to Smudge
I've had, as a cat who will camp lightly on my chest as I nap on the couch, riding the slow waves of my ribcage breathing. Like the venerated Mello
and her sorely-missed brother Binx,
however, she prefers the outdoor world to the comforts of indoors, aside from thunderstorm weather, or winter blizzards. Her fur is also just about as soft as Fuzz's
remains intelligent yet aloof. She considers herself as entitled as any Millennial teen. Her eyes are the most compelling of any non-human creature I've met, but only Daryn feels the deep bond with her as a pet-- the rest of us not so much.
Which leads us to the dilemma of this past May...
For years I've had to hear from Bella and Miles, and to some extent, my wife--- "When Can We Get A Dog??" "Dad won't let us get a Dog!" "I wish we'd had a Dog when we were younger..."
I had always employed the HIGH-MAINTENANCE argument--- when we were shuttling kids to 2 or 3 different schools non-stop and following Miles's basketball exploits year-round, or I was working 60 hour weeks and Mom was doing retail work up in Queensbury, it was never even an option to consider a dog.
I also used the glib rejoinder-- When they invent a poop-less dog, I will allow you to get one...
Sometimes I would substitute the word "bark-less."
For a while Bella had pictures on her phone of those little toy-dog things that Paris Hilton would fit into a purse-- no barking and apparently nothing much to poop either, except maybe little antiseptic pellets. I thought that would be all right, until I found out they cost a grand or two just for acquisition fees. No, not going to happen.
Then we talked about labs and collies, and I flashed back on a boxer my parents had when I was about 2 years old, and a floppy-eared beagle I loved who died of distemper when I was about 7. Since then, I had never had one in the house, it was too sad of a memory, and we just were not cut out to be dog people, I thought. Even though my favorite writer Jim Harrison lauded the virtues of dog ownership, I could not picture it myself. Even though my sisters and most of my best friends had also tried to tell me how much I would love the mutual affection a dog would provide, I was never one to be swayed...
But on one fateful, weak-hearted day in late May of this year, all that changed....
(Stayed tuned for Part 2...Dog Day Acquisition)...
Copyright Wayne Perras 2014
My life has been a constant vacillation between competing urges-- wrestling with desire to be in the middle of the madding throng... (say, recently, on the dance floor
listening to a way-loud Funk Evolution at Dango's in July, or soon at Bailey's outdoor cafe in the middle of August, or anytime at Gaffney's or City Tavern if you really want a mobscene...), versus chilling on the homefront in the hills nine miles out.,. where everything seems green and peaceful. It's nice to have the choice. And on this blog, at various times, I've extolled the virtues of both possibilities.
Some urban dwellers prefer a life where staring at stars or a sunset from your front porch has no appeal, and life involves nonstop action, entertainment, partying...with little trace of nature in the picture. Plenty of rural folk, however, could not take the pace, density or intensity of even a city like Saratoga Springs in the summer mode, much less NYC or DC or Boston. To each his own, but I like both.
As I write, the small city is at maximum activity, and it takes three changes of a light to cross Broadway at Church Street. Tourists and track visitors alike take the peripatetic stroll up and down Broadway and its side streets, filling outdoor cafes and whatever restaurants are within walking distance to their parked cars. Locals know that strolling from home is simpler than driving many times. Certainly, if you are trying to get around for real estate appointments or other forms of travel, you have to try to work around or avoid the obvious times of high traffic... like around 6 pm six days a week, when the race track crowd hits the streets-- clogging East Ave., Union Ave., Circular Street, Lake Ave... Nelson, Lincoln, Crescent, and of course Broadway especially (Route 9), as well as Route 50, which splits off from 9, going either north or south. Today however the Bolshoi Ballet had an afternoon performance at SPAC which let out at 5 pm and clogged both Ballston Ave. heading back into downtown Saratoga (a mile of gridlock) before the track even let out. I was trying to get to Ballston Spa and going south was no treat either, with a two-mile backup of the sort one usully sees after late rock concerts of 20,000 or more fans tries to exit all at once. I never made it to the appointment, unforeseen logjam gridlock.
But I U-turned out of it and headed west, where the touristos and SPAC-crowd don't know to go..... it becomes rural in a hurry, and the roadrage and frustration melt away... as the scenery turns greenery.
I have some great client friends now named Benji and Robin, recently married, who just this month moved up here in a life-changing mode... leaving behind an 800 sq ft apartment near Dupont Circle in D.C. for a 23-acre organic farmstead (with 2200 sq ft house) they bought in the rustic zone I'm describing, west of Ballston Spa. They went from walking to the subway in the steamy miasma of the Nation's capital to their chosen field of dreams where they are now learning to hitch bush-hogs to tractors and disc the soil with tillers, and collecting currants and berries of all kinds, and planning by this time next year to be on the Farmer's Market circuit themselves.
They, however, are music fans themselves, and not averse to testing how many decibels of indie music they can handle. They liked my blog when they found a reference to Valerie June, whom they'd just seen live. Robin and I had compared notes on music and many other topics in our first chat, and I'd had a good time trying to convince her that she and her new husband would NOT be moving to a cultural wasteland if indeed he-- a brilliant Tibetan scholar-- accepted a new position at Skidmore. When I mentioned my early affinity for the beat poets of the '50's, she mentioned than Benji was related to one of the peripheral writers of that crowd, a friend of Lew Welch and Gary Snyder and Ginsberg and Burroughs and even Jack Kerouac himself. It was a serendipitous match of personalities, and I gave them the pitch that, short of Boulder or Denver or the west coast itself (think Vancouver, Portland, or Seattle,and the Bay area), Saratoga might be one of the best places to illustrate the balance of downtown culture in immediate proximity to natural retreats.
A week or two after they had closed on their property, and had the requisite visits from relatives and close family well-wishers, I caught them on a relaxed evening where we could play three-way Petanque-- a French spin-off of bocci-- in the driveway near the barn, in hilarious fashion.
I took pics of them together as we soaked our dusty feet in the cool blue swimming pool which had been an un-sought bonus to their purchase, and asked if they had sent any slightly-gloating selfies back to their friends inside the Beltway. They looked glowingly at each other and admitted, No, not yet... and when I inquired why, they said, well, we don't really want to brag about how HAPPY we are... they wouldn't understand.
I am not saying this is a trend of any sort-- it is just a choice that happened to make these two people content. The irony is that they had looked at multiple other homes in Saratoga proper, Ballston Spa and Round Lake villages, and the one they bought was significantly different than everything else they looked at. They could have gone the route of "being within walking distance of Broadway" which is so in vogue right now that it constitutes about half my real estate business. Instead, they opted for the 60's or 70's idyll-- back to the land. They speak fondly of acquiring chickens and honey bees and maybe a goat or two, and clearing more and more overgrown acreage each year from here on. They will be cutting firewood for the woodstove in the fall once Benji is back from Vienna, where he will be lecturing on his specialty, the lives of certain esoteric Buddhist masters of Tibet and Nepal.
So this to me is akin to the best of The Dharma Bums, my favorite book in my late teens-- wherein Japhy Ryder (who was really Gary Snyder) tries to convince the narrator (Kerouac himself) of the virtues of early rising, survival skills and agility in the wilds of the High Sierras and Rockies, when Jack would have rather been in the jazz dives of Denver or San Francisco, drinking red wine into the wee hours of morning, and partying with the rebels and hedonists of the beat generation, whose grandchildren now populate the downtown post-midnight revelry of Saratoga Springs to varying degrees of frivolity, seven nights a week. The scene is there if you want it to be, but if not, it doesn't take long to get out to the QUIET, to re-charge.
I'm not saying this as a shill for the Chamber of Congress, nor as a Realtor giving you the hype on why you should live here, I'm just alluding to the reasons I do.
Peace, and thanks for reading...
Wayne, on the outskirts of Saratoga, 7/31/14
As I began to write this, we were into early June, and as of 4 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon-- when most upstate towns are in a semi-somnolent state, the Broadway Saratoga scene was bustling and jammed like mid-summer already. Anyone transported here who didn't know the town would wonder-- "What holiday is this? Am I missing something?" Or, if they knew about SPAC they might wonder if there was a major concert going on that made the downtown population swell like this. No, it is just another late spring day in Saratoga Springs, and this is how the local inhabitants and random passersby hang out here.
The previous weekend, in late May, the Dave Matthews Band appeared for a two-day stint at SPAC; in less than a month PHISH would be appearing for the 3-day 4th of July extravaganza. But there is nothing big going on at the State Park south of town today. The third race of the Triple Crown the Belmont) was yesterday and I'm sure the horsey-crowd was partying hard last evening, but this is the aftermath of that, and the real horse people don't show up here till mid-July.
Skidmore College students have largely left by this time of year, and local high school kids haven't graduated yet, so they weren't contributing to the hordes downtown I wouldn't think. But there is a magnetism of our town's primary Boulevard which draws the traffic of both motorists and pedestrians, to make it feel like a thriving small city on just a "normal" Sunday in the Northeast's hippest enclave.
But sometimes, for music at least, we have to venture a bit farther, and out of our comfort zone, to see some truly good stuff. So, about two weeks ago now (as I write this) that it was MY turn to Get Lucky, as Daft Punk sang, and I won some tickets to see The Head and the Heart-- a six-piece Seattle band of some note-- down in Clifton Park, at Upstate Concert Hall-- which I hadn't been to since it was called Northern Lights, however long ago that was.
Memorial Day was the end of a 3-day weekend heralding summer's imminent arrival of course, but for me was a Monday when I still had to work. "Your day off is my day on..." I used to say early in my career, volunteering to give up my holidays like a dutiful bodhisattva. Sunday had involved 8 hours of sun doing yard work so I could easily have passed on the freebies and stayed home in boring middle-aged fashion... but with the help of some post-supper coffee rallied to make the trip 20 miles south or so. From where I live west of Saratoga you can bypass the Northway and head south on Middle Line Rd to Route 50 and swing onto Rt 146A to make your way to the unlikely shopping plaza location that houses perhaps the best concert venue in Saratoga County, other than the seasonal glory of SPAC itself.
We got there after the opening band had played already and the parking lot was full-- certainly an anamoly for any other shopping plaza in upstate NY on a holiday Monday evening. We passed through the burly bouncers and ID-checkers at the 1entry, who seemed bored that the crowd that evening was so civilized and un-rowdy. With the stage straight back, most of the standing room area was jammed full even though there was no sign of the headliners yet. I'd read the place could hold a max capacity of 1400 but it looked liked maybe half that to me. Not hard to grab a beer at the U-shaped bar in the middle of the place... not a heavy-drinking crowd, apparently. A random survey told me that more than half the audience was female-- not the average punk- or rage-music aggregation which would've given the bald/buff bouncers more conflict to deal with.
My exposure to the band-of-the evening was via the two radio portals I keep talking about on this blog-- WEXT, a sponsor of the event and source of my free tix-- and WEQX, the independent Vermont station which procliams itself "the true alternative." I had purchased the 2013 release from The Head and the Heart a few days before-- a Sub Pop production dubbed "Let's Be Still." Out of the 13 songs thereon, three had grabbed my attention the most-- the killer "hit" was the infectious SHAKE, while "Another Story" was quite different as a beguiling break-up tune, and I'd been seduced while writing one night by the last song on the CD-- "GONE" which built to a swirling quasi-orchestral climax. I can't say I was knocked out by the album overall-- nice harmonies, but more ballads than upbeat tunes-- not my favorite mix as a rule. Hence, I didn't feel like a fanatic fan going in, and in looking around the Hall that night, it seemed I was outnumbered by those who knew all the words...
But once onstage, "From Seattle, Washington..." as Master of Ceremonies Chris Wienk intro'd them..."The Head and the Heart!"-- they got right to it. Some groups have their big radio tune batting clean-up-- 3rd or 4th song in to their set-- or worse yet, they save it for the very end. Here, the tune I'd come to hear was batting lead-off...
"SHAKE" starts out with a big, firm TOM TOM beat like a call to a POWWOW, a ritual dance, or a HOEDOWN, then comes the bouncing pogo-stick bass line that buoyed the crowd instantly... me included. With a great set of lyrics concerning a brief "one-day" stand, it became a natural sing-a-long in a hurry:
"And the memories we've maaaaade
Will never be lost, no... oh!
And the look on your face--
We both knew the cost
But the wind, yes the Wind keeps
The mass of those in front of us, much closer to the stage, was just a swelling clot of bobbing heads (and hearts, come to think of it)) as the ode to evanescent love payed out, culminating in the last chorus, in which the narrator/composer/singer asserts his indelible imprint on his lover's life:
"Even if it was a mistake, I can't forget your face
Even it was just a day, you won't forget the man
Who's making you SHAKE!
and the song revvs up to orgasmic fun and fury as we all mutually REPEAT:
Who's making you SHAKE!
I'm making you SHAKE
I'm making you SHAKE!!!
What a great sweaty climax on the first five-minute song, I thought. Good start, and it eliminated the suspense of waiting for it.
Next song up was called "Ghosts"-- a jaunty tune about death and moving on. From their stage presence and tone, my wife notes, "This group sounds happy..." as opposed to the subject matter, I'm thinking, nice contrast. The third song, however, was a sweetly mournful one called "Another Story..." which I took to be the less-contented side of failed romance. Along with SHAKE, this is getting radio play locally on both Exit 97.7 and WEQX, which is kind of surprising in that it is a piano-driven ballad...with a lilting upper-range chorus, and Charity Rose Thielen's haunting violin lines. This song has grown into one of my favorites from the CD, beautiful and deep. The "AHHHH-YOOOOOO" choruses were like a signature yowl from this group's harmonic palette.
The next song of their set was familiar from their first CD-- update singalong called
"Lost in My Mind..." a title I can relate to all too well:
Put your dreams away for now,
I won't see you for a while,
I am lost in my mind,
I get lost in my mind...
O my Brother, your wisdom is older than me--
O my brother, don't worry, don't worry about me...
Then comes the tom-toms again, heralding the blue-collar hymnal section, which the crowd took to more enthusiastically than any church-goers would:
How's that brick layin' comin'??
How's your engine runnin'??
Are your hands gettin' filled??
Won'tchu tell me my brother??
"Cuz there are STAAAAARRRRR's
UP A- BUUUUVVVE...
(the whole place singing this, surprisingly harmonic)
...& we can start
And the communal singalong had once again raised the hairs on my arms and gave me a few moments of goosebumps-- not bad for a suburban shopping mall experience on a Sunday night.
As I sipped a beer and soaked in the next few songs, with opening lines like:
"There's no such thing as love" and "I wuz burned out and lost..." the spell diminished a bit, but that was all right. Can't be ecstatic all the damn time. I scribbled my typical garbled bar-notes as I watched the enticing Ms. Thielen saw and slither with her violin bow..
"Echoes of long-gone 70's bands I remember... Renaissance, with Annie Haslem playing the sultry front-lady part, or a group called It's A Beautiful Day, who had a quasi-FM-hit with a song called White Bird... "
Then suddenly it was time for the "last tune" (i.e. before the encore) which turned out, after a somewhat dreary start, to be a song worthy of closing time in an Irish bar-- "Rivers and Roads", to wit:
"A year from now, we'll all be gone.
All our friends will move away.
And they're going to better places.
But our friends will be gone away...
Nothing is as it's been.
And I miss your face like hell.
And I guess it's just as well.
But I miss your face like hell.
Rivers and roads, rivers and roads,
Rivers till I meet you."
It was moving, as a live tune, though it had left me cold on the album, first time. And not too many rock groups have the nerve to finish off a set in a capella fashion.
The encore sequence began with a solo acoustic version of the title tune, "Let's Be Still" by (I'm guessing at the name here) Jonathon Russell. But the more exciting tune to follow started slow and mournful too--
I wish I was a slave / to an age-old trade,
like riding around on rail cars
and workin' long days...
Lord have mercy on my rough 'n rowdy ways...(repeat)
And it turned out to be that so-familiar tune that came out a few years ago, and already feels a hundred years old... "Down in The Valley." The recurring Tom-Tom drum picked up the pace again, as the singer's voice gains enthusiasm and traction:
I am on my way, I am on my way,
I am on my way back to where I started--
California, Oklahoma, and all the places
I ain't never been to--
But down in the valley, with
these are the places you will
find me hiding. These are
the places I will always go...
And I thought that fine tune would be their last, but there was one more. It was the final cut on the new CD, and it had attracted me at my desk when I first listened to it-- dubbed simply "GONE." As with the dynamics of the live concert itself, the tune was almost orchestral and non-rockish, and yet grew with intensity to hit a collaborative climax that was unexpectedly complex... and the words, when I read them reflect the name of the band, indeed:
Whether it's your head or your heart
And you're too damn scared to start
it's in your mind and your soul
But you just don't know where to go
It's in your head and your heart
And you're too damn scared to start
It's in your mind and your soul
But you just don't know where to go
Now you're Gone
and so were they, abruptly, Gone.
The sad thing was, we had Meet and Greet rights for the band afterwards, but didn't connect with MC Chris Wienk quick enough to take advantage of that once we slipped outside for some fresh air and came back in. I wouldn't have know what to say-- "I wasn't wild about the new album right away, other than Shake and Gone...but man, in concert you were freakin' GREAT..." would've been an inappropriate (duh) fan reaction, so at least I didn't embarrass myself by saying something stupid. We rode home happily and listened to both CDs in the car, having picked up the first one with the strange front cover at the merch table. Having studied the lyrics and recalled the feeling of the live concert itself, their music became more amazing and intelligent to me, with lots of hooks and triggers that now enchant me. I would love to see them again.
PS-- Since seeing this concert I caught BECK at MassMoCa on June 24th which was amazing and also gave me a new appreciation for his mastery and breadth of catalog over the past 20 years... more on that some other time.
Sorry the delay is so great between posts... will try to speed up production...now that Saratoga is in full summer bloom.
The Slowest Blogger in the World
Wayne Perras, for WaynesWord2
Saratoga Springs, NY
For reasons I won't get into here, I've not published a bit for this blog in 5 months...I know.
It's time to start again. I had to resolve and get beyond some old karmic debts of in my rear view mirror and get squared away in my rejuvenated real estate business at 38 High Rock Ave (where I've been since late last September, 2013) before I could indulge in the relative frivolity of writing about music and culture and places I love... Also had to simply get through a brutal winter, which, for a lot of us, proved to be an elemental challenge to the practice of real estate. At one time, say late February or March, if I'd had a Twitter account, I'd have declared: It's hard, up here in the North Country, to get any business rhythm going unless you're a snowplow operator... though that seems nostalgic and somewhat whiny in the retrospective mirror, now tha, in late May,t the temp is in the 70's, finally. Still, the massive man-made snow-hill dubbed Mount Middle Grove in the Town Park only recently receded fully into the ground as of May 5th.
But I had to put my head down and work workaholic hours, making a New Years vow not to drink a beer or a glass of wine from Jan. 1 until I felt I was out of the woods, so to speak, in my life and career. While others of my age and ilk took off on vacations, my family and I stuck it out in the north country this year. My world was limited on a north-south axis from Delmar to Hague, and east-west from Troy to the Sacandaga region. Saratoga is the fulcrum of all that, and for most intents and purposes, I didn't leave town much in early 2014. It's a hundred and two days into the year as I write this, and I'm just now looking up. Recovery doesn't come to the passive.
I didn't blog about music as I wasn't really seeing any-- once again WEXT was my audial pipeline to what was going on...the quirky pop tune "Southern Sun" from Australian duo
Boy & Bear was one of the radio highlights in early spring, in my car or at home... but otherwise I was just watching a ton of basketball on TV in my office during evening hours, as my only allowable narcotic and relaxant. Mostly paid attention to the NBA this year, although the NCAA Tourney was a grueling crapshoot during March Madness too, and I saw a few exciting High School games featuring teams from Spa Catholic, Hoosic Valley, Lake George, and a killer bunch from Scotia, who amazingly won the Class A Hoop Title for all of NY State.
(I still may try to recap all that on another website, but not here,)
There is no hangover from a hoop addiction, however, so I was emailing & texting clients and prospects till 11 or 12 at night and resuming at 5 or 6 in the morning. I became the real estate fanatic I had been at my peak a decade or more ago, and let my light shine out from under the bushel as much as I could until the spring market arrived.
Since then there have been a few "watershed" events... the first was a phenomenal concert at the renowned TROY MUSIC HALL on April 12th, featuring two of the few, if not only, SOLO local performers I would be inclined to pay to see-- SEAN ROWE, and MARYLEIGH ROOHAN. This was perhaps the only time in my life I will think far enough ahead to grab front row seats in a major concert hall-- and it scored me big points with my wife, since I designated it the "modified, officially revised" date of our Anniversary.
In that she is a huge Sean Rowe fan, and virtually melts at the sound of his raspy baritone, this was one of the better gifts I'd come up with during our recent years of austerity, with two boys in college and a daughter with extensive taste still at home.
We had seen SEAN blow away the room like a one-man tornado at the Caffe Lena last February, a little over a year before, and the chance to hear him in his own hometown, during his first historic performance in the acoustic elegance of this Second Avenue 1920's HALL was a notable treat indeed.
I won't launch into a review of the concert, belatedly, here, but Greg Haymes wrote a pretty good one for the Times-Union the next day. He said, however, that Rowe had performed a few too many cover tunes.... though he admitted that the Richard Thompson epic guitar workout -- the infamous "1952 Vincent Black Lightning"--was a highlight of the evening, just as I had witnessed at Caffe Lena as the final sweaty climax at Lena's-- the tornado referenced above. In addition to that, Sean played a great growling, guttural version of The River, which more than a few Springsteen fans appreciated, and also the Howlin' Wolf tune "SPOONFUL" in which he sounded like the white grandson of the Wolf himself, and which I felt might have been my personal favorite, since I love the Cream version I heard first, in junior high, before I had a clue what it meant. Spoonful is about addiction of all sorts-- everything from sugar to smack, from booze to "tea", is mentioned, with the baddest of them all-- a woman's precious love-- the kicker to them all. Rowe sang with intrinsic knowledge of that kind of yearning and withdrawal that cannot be faked. To hear true blues like that in a classically-timbered enclave was remarkable, and jarring. No whiskey-swilling or beer-bottle singalongs in this venue.
In addition to Sean's music-- with his precisely cross-patterned duct-taped guitar still in tow-- and his formal attire (lol) of flannel and black tee-- his between-song patter was fluid, well-timed, and natural. Whereas at Lena's he seemed to be more confessional as to the woes of being on tour a bit too long on the road, away from his wife, he seemed to be in more familial mode, closer to home, and regaling us about his parenting skills--
"Sometimes as a dad you have to use a little "reverse role modeling," he told us slyly..."I was out for a walk with my 7 year old daughter, and said, why don'chu go over there and give that dog a KICK, and she wouldn't do it, so there ya go. Some useful parenting info to take home with you..."
Stories of a former favorite nun at a Troy school ensued-- "She called all of us boys "Master" when she read the roll call-- which was fine for me--"Master Rowe" but I felt bad for my buddy Bill Bates when she got to him..." He let that one sink in while he fiddled with tuning his guitar.
...And, since we were at an event sponsored by and a Benefit for Ia Rural Land Preservation group, he told stories of his early days spent in the back-country of Rensselaer County told with deadpan gusto: "I guess I coulda used a little more guidance...since my way of learning about nature was putting cricket heads on top of grasshoppers, stuff like that..."
Needless to say, he was quite at home there, like a natural vaudevillian on that stage.
MaryLeigh Roohan-- who we'd seen give a great CD release party at The Parting Glass in Saratoga earlier in the winter-- was poised and note-perfect in her opening act that night. Whereas Rowe wielded his acoustic (plugged into his amp, whom he introduced as "his band") like a weapon he used for emphasis, MaryLeigh strums a strat as a harmonic counterpart to her exquisite voice, on all her well-crafted tunes, which showcase her resonant voice, and radiant upper ranges. She took full advantage of the legendary acoustics of that venerable hall-- and then humbly proclaimed it to be by far the highlight of her career so far. At 22 (or maybe 23 by now?) she seemed destined for such a stage, and though a bit coy, protesting her nervousness, delivered her goods with confidence. We saw her and her boyfriend later at a boutique-tavern down the street a couple hours later and she was still clearly glowing from the experience. I know she converted a ton of new fans that evening, and pleased those that knew her already. When she hit the high notes of her best tune yet-- "BABY YOU SHOULD KNOW"-- I'd Give You The Wooorrrrrlld If I Could... it was goose-bump material, angelic.
We came away with a whole new appreciation of downtown Troy after strolling the streets for a while in the post-euphoria of the concert. I must admit, the esoteric beers we drank that night-- 102 days into the year-- tasted so good it was tough to stop with just one or two...but still had to drive the 40 minutes or so back home to the western edge of Saratoga's vale. A concert event like this was well worth the motoring.
Once we got into May, our KW Realty Saratoga office had a few people (including me) sign up to take part in what was dubbed the TreeToga Festival, sponsored by the excellent group Sustainable Saratoga, in conjunction with the DPW Department of Saratoga Springs itself-- headed by Skip Scirocco . It was a ritualized tree planting ceremony-- led by retired EnCon Forest Ranger and longtime Saratogian Rick Fenton, and Tom Denny, as head of Sustainable Saratoga. Our group, after a bit of speech-making and instructional guidance, was assigned the planting of three trees-- 2 tulip poplar (Liriodendron) saplings and a larger on I was told was basswood (actually an American Sentry Linden--(Tilla Americana)-- across from The Saratogian office building on Lake Ave, just below the Police Station. The idea was to re-populate the in-town street-scape with new arboreal species to replace some of the dead or diseased trees that have been removed in recent years. Shade, beauty, and oxygen production are the obvious benefits, and providing native species to counteract some of the invasive varieties was part of the picture too. Although I showed up for a pre-scheduled afternoon listing appointment later that day a bit scruffy and dirty under the fingernails, it was still worth it, although I did not in fact win out on the listing.
There were a lot of cool people there that day, parents with their kids, older retired folks who had grandchildren living in the area, and lots of young urban professionals who had consciously chosen to live in Saratoga in the past decade, plus some who had grown up here, moved away, and had come back. Tough I'd been here since the late 70's, it was the first time for me to participate in something like this, and I commend the city for budgeting for the trees, many of which still have their tags on the branches, as they start their re-growth in this wonderful small city.
One last watershed event of a family sort was a couple weeks later, when my wife and daughter and I ventured early on Sunday May 18th to Syracuse to witness my son's graduation from LeMoyne College. This was a defining watershed event for me, as Miles had felt the same tugs and distractions that I had felt at college-- the same temptations to quit and go back later, or maybe take a year off, or transfer, or whatever-- but he stuck with it on graduated "on time", as I've been told is somewhat rare these days. I had been supportive but somewhat nonchalant during his career there, but his last semester, coinciding with my workaholic phase in early 2014, was his most grueling in the study of Information Systems at The Madden School of Business. I had talked him off the ledge on a few evenings when he was facing multiple all-nighters to get classwork projects, papers, and final exams completed in time to "walk the stage" in the cap-and-gown with his friends and classmates. It was harrowing like most worthy endeavors and I applaud him and his classmates for completed the 4-year cycle-- shout out to Keaton Woods-- his long-time teammate from Catholic Central-- John Rogan, one of his good friends from the Saratoga area, and Jamie Patchett, his lovely girlfriend from a fine family up in Hague on Lake George. You (collectively) did it! Your future awaits....
SARATOGA SYNOPSIS--- May 2014--- Quick snapshots:
To move beyond the personal to the Saratoga-centric, a lot has changed and taken shape since I last wrote on this blog---- among the most notable--
SAVE SARATOGA has indeed fought off the dragon of Vega-style Gambling from the city limits, and defeated the siting of the state-anointed Casino within the City limits. More on what this means, and what challenges remain in this realm, on another occasion.
The Pavillion Hotel has been un-shrouded of its winter-long plastic-wrap cocoon and completed on 30 Lake Avenue...a beautiful monument in the downtown landscape... on the site of a now-long forgotten Mobil Station... right alongside the venerable Parting Glass Pub, still there.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel is framed and towering on Congress Street, a block from Broadway on the westside, also nearing completion later this year...a Bast-Hatfield Company project.
The Northshire Bookstore and Criterion Bowtie Cinemas are now anchoring fixtures on the cultural and architectural downtown scene, and fully dressed-out.
15 Church Street--a low-key restaurant facade-- has been tastefully created out of a longtime brick shell, just behind the Post Office, close to Broadway...also Bast Hatfield, with architectural design by John Muse.
More to come...!!!
(Wayne is back!)
Take care, see you soon...
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