Friday, June 25, 2010

Oh, Albany!

I'm an Albany native. People think it sucks, but it's actually a great town. A couple of years ago, my mother, my brothers and I had a good chuckle over a couple of lists published in Forbes (I think) on the "Least and Most Stressful Cities in the U.S.," after my father moved the family business from Loudonville (Albany suburb where Siena College is located) to Miami Beach. Most stressful: Miami-Dade. 2nd Least Stressful: Albany-Schenectady. My mother has complained pretty consistently about the move over the years, but I think she's got it pretty good now, spending winters down here and summers up there.

Albany has low crime, practically no traffic. Low divorce and suicide rates. Relatively low unemployment because everyone works for the state and can't get fired (it's the capital). But the chicks are kind of fat and people still perm their hair and wear acid wash jeans. This reminds me that I wrote an email once with a list of ways that you "might be from Albany," à la Jeff Foxworthy, after reading one that I thought was completely inaccurate to my upbringing. Of course, I grew up overlooking the first green of my country club and went to private school, but, uh, that's what I had to work with. This comes from an email that I wrote in December of 2005, just one month after moving to Miami full-time -

Given, all of us identify closely with the jokes in the attached email, especially those gems about ice fishing and camouflage, but I think a slightly more accurate version of this would go as follows-

Blah blah blah, Upstate New York:

If you’ve been in a car accident with Donna O’Higgins.

If you hate the fact that no one knows that Albany is the capital of New York.

If you went to St. Gregory’s and are now an alcoholic.

If your dad swims naked at the FOC.

If you get irritated when people assume that when you say "New York" you mean the City.

If your mother thinks driving to Crossgates Mall is really far.

If your father owns winter golf gloves.

If you own a pair of those itchy LL Bean wool socks. I hate those things.

If you have a mud room. I mean, you come in contact with so much mud that you have an entire room dedicated to it? That’s crazy.

If you think the Albany skyline is really beautiful.

If your town has one country club for every 100 residents.

If you think that El Loco is the greatest [Mexican] restaurant in the world.

If you’re a member of the LBL. (that’s just for Loudonvillians)

If you know what "all whites on Sunday" means.

If you’ve ever played paddle tennis.

If you’ve ever even heard of "paddle tennis."

If you’ve worked at Saratoga race track.

If you get all excited at the mention of ‘Albany’ during episodes of Law & Order.

If you get excited about Albany for any reason.

Yup, I'm a regular William Kennedy.

So anyway, when I saw the headline "Bar owner charged in food critic's beating" on Drudge, I immediately clicked. Once I saw that the article began "ALBANY, New York (AP)," my interest piqued. Peaked? No, piqued.

Beware, all you cantankerous critics of comestibles. And also you would-be-criminals who might consider counteracting criticism with crowbars to the cranium. Man, how do I do it? It's a gift.

Albany's most well-known food critic and blogger, the Times Union's Steve Barnes (I actually have no idea if he's really the most well-known, but I have a hunch that he is. I did meet the guy once when I was out on Lark Street with my brother and friend who owns McGuire's, and he is kind of a douche bag,), was assaulted after leaving a restaurant in Stuyvesant Plaza. He had told his readers that he would be dining at the establishment that night, and he was allegedly ambushed by some alleged thugs who were allegedly from Troy, allegedly hired by allegedly Timothy "Allegedly" Rankins. This all allegedly happened back in 2008. I think we can remove "allegedly" from Troy. They're from Troy. That's where you go to find thugs to beat people up in the Albany area.

What a great story. I feel bad for the guy who got punched in the face, but that's what happens to jerks sometimes. Other people want to punch them in their faces. That's why I never tell anyone where I'm eating in advance. Did I just call myself a jerk? Man, what a jerk. I also carry several communication devices to throw off powerful enemies that might be tracking me through email and telephonic communications. Am I texting you from Surfside, confined by the Eruv (in which case I'm probably not supposed to be using my mobile phone)? Or do I only look Jewish and am actually down on Lincoln Road rollerskating in my fuchsia speedo, sending witty BBMs to my boys? Or maybe I'm tagging a wall in Overtown with my homies, listening to Pandora on my'll never know, Barton G. Weiss.

I thought of a new dish you can serve at one of your stupid restaurants, by the way. "Summer Steamers." They would be littleneck clams from New England, but you eat them in a steam room. Get it? Then you'd be in a steamy place, eating steamers, and people would think "my oh my, that Barton G. is such a clever restaurateur. I hope his restaurants don't all go out of business at the same time." Of course I don't really want him to go out of business. That would be like Red Sox fans saying that they wished there were no Yankees fans or that the sun would come out once in a while so they weren't so miserable all the time. I love to hate that restaurant the way I like that most people speak English as if they never passed 2nd grade. It makes me feel intellectually superior and better about my insecure self.

In closing, I'm flying up to Albany tomorrow evening to attend the New York State Writers Institute at Skidmore. I'm taking two non-fiction workshops to hone my skillz. So, I guess what I'm saying is that all of you restaurants are totally f*****d. When I'm done I'm going to glow like Leroy from The Last Dragon-

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