Monday, October 19, 2009

It's amazing of how over the course of the past year or so, I've never been so many people ride their motor scooters in the middle of the street like I have recently. Especially as you get towards downtown Albany on Route 20. These road warriors are convinced these machines give them an edge in a battle against sidewalk walkers or even a CDTA bus. I'd rather not see the result of that unless the motor scooter itself transforms into a bus and goes head to head. If I can see that happen, go right ahead and rumble on the street. Just don't get in front of me unless you want to get with my blinders up front.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's Our Two Cents: A Larry King-ish Joint.

Bumpers should be used, so I use mine when I park in Albany… I’m trying to teach my dog to piss on the trees… I saw Jethro Tull, leather vest and all, at the Palace Theatre… I'll admit it: I've kicked tulips in Washington Park… Outside of a few choice bars, Albany could create its own version of MyNewHaircut… What's the point of traffic lights in Albany?... Running is not a sport… Unless you're running from a man in a hooded, black sweatshirt, or you're in a match with a referee never run for fun… Points should be given to motorists that hit these short-shorts people… The River Rats should ride to home games on the AquaDucks… The Pump Station sells beer-to-go in nice looking growlers—unlike Mayor Jennings' horrible tan…
If you’re going to park in Albany here's a thought: don't…When I was a kid trees was what we used to call weed…Saw a production of Cats at the Palace; it put any production on Broadway to shame…I got lost in Washington Park once, and I have the track marks to prove it…I don't go to bars in Albany very much, but when I do I get fucking hammered…Why can't I go right on red all the time. What is this, Russia?…If you hit a jogger with your car, an angel gets its wings…A machine that can drive and sail is an unholy machine…Went to a fancy restaurant in Albany once, and then spent an hour on the can wishing I hadn't…Mayor Jennings: If there is a more beautiful man on this earth, I haven’t met him…Careful taking a taxi home in Albany. The drivers will kill you for your fillings…Why is there never any convenient parking in front of bars, I hate walking… In my opinion, trees make excellent homes for birds and squirrels… Should the Palace Theatre have a moat? If so, how many crocodiles should there be?...Washington Park, why not Lincoln Park?... Is it because that name was already taken by a band?... Why are bars so loud?... I think they could make yellow lights shorter and nobody would notice… Why would somebody run for no reason?... They should at least be trying to get away from something scary… Do Aqua Ducks get better mileage on land or in the water?...Why are they called waiters when you’re the one always waiting for them?...Always keep motion lotion on hand when parking in Albany… Every tree in Albany is equipped with its own homeless person… Nobody straddles a piano bench like Tori Amos at the Palace Theatre… Washington Park: it's not just for executions over sneakers anymore…The best pickled eggs in town are at the Palais Royale… DiCarlo's is poop-your-pants kind of fun… Crossgates Mall is the first mall of its kind with an interstate running through it… Albany is so green its gotten rid of the yellow and red on traffic signals… Mayor Jennings = orange skin + white teeth… The last jogger in Albany was sighted in August of 1987… The Alive at Five crowd is thrilled with downtown Albany's new system of aqueducts… I had the Koto experience and didn't love it…I went into Ichiban's on Central Ave in Albany for five minutes to pick up food with my dad and as I came out, there was a parking ticket on my car… Why is the area called Pine Hills?... Because there's so many trees…I went to see Kat Williams' comedy act at the Palace Theatre last year, but instead of opening comedy acts, there were rap acts. For a rapper like me, even I thought this was bullshit…Washington Park: the park that never sleeps, except the bums…Albany bars: either they're ghetto or college ghetto…Fuck the traffic lights on both Western and S. Main and Madison and S. Main. I can never make it through the both of them without some asshole left turner who doesn't have the balls to jet out before the car that has the right away…I want to randomly start running next to some jogger one day and see how he/she reacts…Restaurants in Albany are just like any other small city with restaurants, only this city has Thai…When does Mayor Jennings not have a tan?...Parking in Albany is as easy as sticking your dick in a Cheerio…Albany's youth culture has gone green….The Palace Theater, I spent a week there one night…Washington Park has more hobos than tulips….The Palais Royale is where low culture meets loose women…Can I make a right on red if it's a snow day?...Albany's pedestrians seem to think this is a real city. Who told them they could cross with impunity?...I’ve seen people take a bath at the aqueduct…Albany pizzerias don't have to aim high. All pizza tastes good at 4 A.M…Who cares about Mayor Jennings anyway?...
The parking situation is so bad in downtown Albany that I leave my car in the campus parking lot and walk to the bars...The trees in Albany only serve to shelter mutant squirrels as they climb up ass-backward dragging a slice of pizza from the campus lawn…Only in Albany could the Palace Theatre be home to both high and low culture; whether it's drugs or Bill Cosby, entertainment doesn’t come cheap…Washington Park is most frequented during the bloom of tulips in May; the rest of the year it is known only for nightly muggings…Bars in Albany are home to all the crazy college girls who only have enough money to buy a miniskirt and fuck-me-pumps in the dead of winter. Out of money?... Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol…Traffic lights in Albany remind me of the movie Grid Iron Gangs…Joggers in Albany wait until commuter traffic hours just to piss off the people trying to get home for dinner. Hyperglycemic…Albany is proud to boast its newest vehicle of tourism in this historic city; Aquaducks…Restaurants in Albany are like mining for diamonds; the work that goes into finding a good one is worth the reward....You should take the bus…Dead bees fall from the trees in Albany…The blinking lights of the Palace Theatre may send me into a seizure-induced coma…While riding a bike in Washington Park a drunk girl nearly cracked her head open on the bumpy sidewalk when she flew over the handlebars…The bars in Albany are bars in Albany…The stoplights in Albany are on timers...Who uses timers anymore?...Only in Albany do you see joggers with a cigarette in their mouths…The Albany aqueducts are poisoned with disdain and hatred…There are no Phô restaurants in Albany. Where do people eat when they have a hangover?...Mayor Jennings? Who is Mayor Jennings?…I feel a sick satisfaction when I park under a sign that says, "Commuter Parking Only," and I am a commuter! … Live squirrels live in trees. Dead squirrels live on the streets … It’s been three months, when are they bringing back Toni Bennet?... … I saw something swimming in the pond. I thought it was a puppy. It was a rat … Can’t see um’, Fuck um’ … I’ve got a joke: A guy walks into a bar and says, ‘Welcome to Albany!’ … Rape-me is written across their bouncing bosoms … from Arbor Hill to the Hudson, like a daydream on crack rocks … all burritos come in the size: Bigger than your face … Just moved in January, haven’t met him … I carry a wine cork remover for protection … there’s a bike lock on my bike lock … in the future the ice cream truck will get your attention by blasting off nuclear missiles, for now: count your blessings … when riding skateboards, watch out for man-holes…Fire hydrants are overrated…The only purpose of trees is to breed shitting birds…Elmo at the Palace, pure frigging hell…Pond warning: Ignore floating bodies…The dirtier the bathroom, the cheaper the drinks…Let me give ya a tip: Walk around Saint Rose at night if ya wanna to get away with a fast mugging…Does anyone even jog in Albany?...If you’re ever in Albany flip off the duck for me…Debbie's Kitchen #16 get it…Jennings orange skin is genetic, he’s part Umpa-Lumpa.--A group Larry King homage by Ryan Callender, Allison Chin, Louis Cortina, Danielle Ely, Sean Hagin, Beth Hines, Randy Howard, Lyndsay Marchetti, Scott Wheatley, and ILLiptical, The WizARd of MARS.

Monday, May 25, 2009

'You’re my friend, right?': An Interview with Dr. Jay Hamer

"The way I personally approach psychotherapy is very much about creativity and spontaneity": Dr. Jay Hamer in his traditional therapeutic pose.

You’re a counselor at The College of Saint Rose, but I also know that you like to dabble in music as a hobby. How did you get started with that?
Like a lot of people, I listened to music that I liked as a teenager. Being inspired, I thought, maybe I could make something that sounded sort of like that. So I bought a guitar and started teaching myself to play it.

What do you feel that you get out of being a musician?
I like to do spontaneous things as opposed to just reading music and playing what I see. Being a musician feels playful and joyful. I think as an adult, we often don’t get enough opportunity to experience a sense of play and joyfulness.

Do you feel like it helps you deal with the stress of your job? Would you say music is your preferred coping mechanism?
I would say it is one of my preferred. I also like going to see films. They are probably tied as my two favorite things to relieve stress.

Were you aware that of all the arts, Freud was least receptive to music?
He probably interpreted people playing woodwinds as being orally fixated. Freud suspected that deep down inside we are all conflicted and violent. I imagine he would value art in general, and that it would be both fascinating and scary to him. I didn’t know in particular that he was hard on music.

It is interesting to me that he didn’t care for music, given his fixation on sexuality, particularly childhood sexuality. Music is very sensual, with a great deal of bodily involvement. I can’t help but wonder why he would be more interested in say, poetry than music.

Freud was so grandiose that it was probably as simple as he wasn’t very good at music.

Where do you think creativity fits into psychology when it comes to working with clients?
In my first year of graduate school, I nearly got kicked out of my program for writing a paper explaining what I thought psychotherapy was. I wrote about it as a creative, artistic process, and the professor hated that. I remember him screaming and yelling at me out in the hall. It really caused me to think, and set some goals for myself.

On the one hand, I wanted to quit, but there was something that kicked in with me that said, “No, I think that I know what I’m talking about, and I’m going to stick it out.”

So for me, the way I personally approach psychotherapy is very much about creativity and spontaneity that is informed by empirical literature. I read the literature; I know all the tools and have them at my disposal, but still I am just like an artist picking the right color and the right brush. I still choose the right intervention as informed by research, but ultimately it comes from a creative place.

Do you think that psychoanalytic theory still has validity in today’s society?
I still think it has validity. I think what you have to do with psychoanalytic theory is subtract out the things that are ridiculous, and see what’s left. I think that a significant number of therapists believe that there are psychological processes that are less than conscious.

The most important thing about psychoanalytic theory has to do with transference and counter-transference. I think that anybody that does this work sees that after awhile. Clients often project stuff on to you, by virtue of being their therapist, and those therapists do the same with clients. Having some type of awareness of that process being out there is really important to doing good work.

What was it like working in Rockville, Maryland at Chestnut Lodge, a psychoanalytic-oriented hospital?
In terms of my first job, it was really interesting. It was founded by Harry Stake Sullivan who was in the Freudian line. It was a country club for very rich, very crazy people. Consistent with strict Freudian practice, they met with a psychotherapist four times a week for therapy. They believed that therapy still cured the most ill people. This was starting to change when I was there, but for a long time they tried to never use medication.

A method we used to sedate people was something called “cold wet sheet packs.” A client would be wrestled to the ground and then wrapped in ice-cold sheets. What happens is that when the body is that cold, the blood apparently rushes to the abdominal area and slowly starts to expand. That gradual expansion of warmth in the body is sedating. So, it does actually work.

What was your first day like at John Umstead Hospital?
I walked in, not really knowing where I was. At the time, the patients were doing their morning chores. There was this fellow playing (really loudly) some Jackson Five song, and he had this great big, wonderful, Afro. He was playing air guitar on his mop and I thought, its kind of nice, I kind of like this.

Then this fellow walked up to me, stuck out his hand and said, “You’re my friend, right?”

So I thought, trying to apply all my knowledge, okay, how should I answer this question, I’m not really his friend, but we’re friendly?

While I’m thinking this he said, “You’re my friend, right?!” a little bit louder, a lit bit more agitated. Then I started talking, “I guess.” He got really upset and started saying, “You’re my friend, you’re my friend!”

It started escalating, and I thought Oh my God! What I am going to do? I’m going to be attacked by a patient on my first day! By instinct, I just blurted out, “Yeah, I’m your friend," and then he said, “O.K.,” and he immediately quieted down and walked away.

I think I was fixated on trying to be a professional psychologist, you know, what does theory say is the right thing? All he wanted to hear was that I was his friend. He just wanted some reassurance. It was a good lesson.--Heather Dingman

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday 5/19 in Banalbany

Good morning you crazy Banalbanians. Here's a quick look at what's going on in your 'hood this morning.

Taking a page of New York City's playbook once again, the rest of the state is looking into having chain restaurants and supermarkets post calorie counts of all products that are sold. I wonder if fast food chains are included as part of the deal. I say if we're going to kick the bucket, we might as well do it with something we all do and for cheap. And that's clog our arteries. No one will admit it, but we all know the food is better when you can see the grease through the bag. That's what happened when I went to Five Guys in Glenmont yesterday and felt no guilt at all. I wish we had a McDonald's that looks like that.

Also going on...the state wants to ban text messaging while driving statewide now. Here in Banalbany, Schenectady County are the only ones who have as law and Albany County will join them soon. Pretty soon car makers will make cars where your hands will be glued to the steering wheel the moment you get into the car.

Sounds like a Tuesday morning in Banalbany. What's your story today?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Cliff-Jumping Shaman-in-Training: An Interview with Megan Wright

"I like to help people": Meg Wright looks into our soul.

Megan Wright is a sophomore who used to go to Saint Rose and now attends University of Vermont in Burlington. I caught up to her on a rare visit to Albany and sat her down to ask about Vermont, hippie stuff, and her studying to become a holistic healer. Yep, that’s right. A Shaman.--Teresa Farrell

So, OK. My Spanish teacher in high school told me I couldn’t apply to any schools in Vermont because ‘bad things’ would happen. I think he meant that I would turn into a hippie. And be on hardcore drugs. But to be fair, nobody's said anything about drugs in this conversation. 

But there are a couple things I’m wondering about. Like how safe do you feel there? And I know you grew up in Virginia, really rural and everything, so just give me a sense, I guess, a comparison of the three?
Well, wow, I could definitely draw more similarities between my home state Virginia and Vermont. As a matter of fact, when I was considering Vermont for transfer over the summer, many people who came through my place of work--a resort in the hills of Virginia--remarked on how similar the mountains and the landscape are, and I would have to agree. And I do feel safe here.

I guess Burlington is the perfect combination of city culture with country vibes and views.

Ok. So I know at least while you were at Saint Rose, you used to be an English major, and music major, which are both pretty creative things. So why did you change to psych? I don’t follow.
 I’m starting to differentiate between my hobbies and potential careers. For me psych was the next logical choice.

Since a young age I've been that person who everyone finds easy to confide in. I feel that I am empathetic and sympathetic and I can offer insight to situations. But the main driving factor of my choice is my desire to help people find their releases.

That’s awesome. So, umm. Do you remember the first time someone did that for you? Like, the first time someone came up to you and was, like, You’re the only person I can tell this to? You don’t have to tell me who it was.
You know I've heard that phrase a surprising amount of times, "I haven't told this to many people," or "You're the only one I can tell this to." I don't remember honestly who the first person was, but the most recent was my friend Kayla.

Cool. So how about this whole therapy thing, the whole holistic medicine business? I know you’re into that, but I’m wondering if you can explain why, cause I know I mean it’s not every day that you go to study psych for the sake of being a holistic healer.
I've always been interested in herbs and their medicinal properties. Did you know most chemical prescriptions have a basis in some herbal counterpart? And when I decided on psych as a major, it was only natural--pun intended [chuckle] to combine the two. [Gets serious again.]

So many people today are dependent on dangerous medications, but with herbs and other alternative healing methods, they can be treated safely and sometimes more effectively.

Right on! I know, I remember once being sick—I was always sick living in the dorms, like once my roommate had pink eye and the stomach bug at the same time and I couldn't escape--but you had this whole arsenal of herbal stuff that you wanted me to try for it. And I never would, but that’s not your fault, I’m just a skeptic. So what is it exactly that you want to do? Is this actually, like, being the Shaman in a tribe sort of thing?!
[Laughs.] Not quite. I am looking into a much more professional setting, but relaxed at the same time. I would like to own a co-op or sorts with a partner, with a sort of "take care of the mind, by taking care of the body" motto. A combined gym, massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, herbalist place.

So is that like a health spa?
Very similar.

Sweet. So ok, now, I know you go to school in Vermont for this, which is pretty perfect. So tell me a story! What was your first adventure there?
Cliff jumping off of red rocks in Lake Champlain. It was exhilarating and one of the most daring exploits I've had in a long while. I felt like such a daredevil.

Oh my God, I love cliff jumping. I used to go up at my camp in the summer, technically I guess we were in Canada so we weren’t supposed to, in case anything happened, but usually it didn’t except once I almost died cause I slipped when I got up on the rocks. They were pretty high up but not far enough out, so you had to jump and I just didn’t, I failed to make it work at all. Everyone was so pissed. I almost got them all in trouble I guess. We were like fifteen though, who cares! But tell me the whole story. I want to hear it. Who were you with?
I actually went with my room mate and her boyfriend and his roommate.

Yeah? I think that’s one of those things everyone should do. At least once. It’s awesome, you’re so right. Is that what you guys do in Vermont? All this cool crazy adrenaline stuff? I’m jealous. Seriously, do you?
During the summer it's much more rampant, a need for thrills. It's as common as any other place steeped in the outdoors. Being active is very important to Burlington lifestyle, but during the winter, unless you do snow sports, you tend to hibernate and relax a bit.

I'm so jealous. So do you go out and get crazy in the warm weather? Like what do you do? For example?
[Laughs.] Cliff jumping was the most exciting; I've taken up long boarding as well and just enjoying the scenery, sitting on the docks on Champlain, touring downtown and Church Street. It’s a beautiful place to be.

Oh! Church Street, I've heard about it!! Pretend we’re there and be my tour guide. What’s good at Church Street?
Well, Church Street is easy to discern from the other downtown streets. It’s marked off so cars can never drive down it, and it’s paved with bricks. All the shops are quaint stores, and most of them locally owned, as is the Vermont style. I recommend sticking to the outdoor shops. And in the summer, stalls and vendors come out. It's really like a cultural flea market in the 21st century. And it all leads down to the waterfront.

Sounds awesome! So I have to ask this, cause we all know this is Vermont, ok. So are there hippies all over? Does it match the stereotype?
Yes [Laughs] It certainly does. [Begins to recite passage that she wrote about Burlington] Burlington is a town of educated, health-nut hippies. A town that cares about global warming and recycling anything they can get their hands on and some things they can’t. And what better place to camp than the majestic peaks of the Green Mountains or the encompassing Adirondacks cupping the shores of Lake Champlain?

You should write travel literature.

Seriously--you've got me thinking about transferring. How’s the weather up there? I can’t deal with too much snow.

Actually, up until after winter break, I was feeling overly confident about handling the winters here. It seemed relatively mild and about the same intensity as what I had experienced in Albany. Then we got a cold spell that lasted for weeks—the kind that sinks into your bones and never leaves. Since then we have had a few warm days, but that icy bitter cold is never too far behind.

Ew. Sorry, I guess I’ll pass on that. Well, Meg, it was great catching up with you! Totally wish you the best with this whole Shaman thing, too. And, legit, sign me up when you open a place. I have ridiculous knots in my shoulders.
Great talking to you too, Teresa! Come visit me sometime. Like you always say you will.

Okay. Just not when it’s 30 below.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Childhood Dream of Food: An Interview with Mary T, Price Chopper Price Accuracy Coordinator

Four white walls surround the table Mary and I sit. Birthdays of the Month, Position Availabilities, Insider Notices all stare at us while we discuss Mary’s influence on Price Chopper. For almost 30 years she has dedicated her life to working with the public under our corporation. Managing different departments, keeping the store in check, and conversing with ‘regulars’; she has made a small difference in everyone’s lives she has touched. A part time job turned into a lifetime of challenging days, the many smiles, the laughter after something difficult was accomplished, and finally the small achievements that have been met. --Sarah Downing

When you started working in the Deli Department when you were a senior in high school. Did you ever think you would come to love this job?
Well, I’m a people person and I enjoy working with people; I love meeting new characters. Working with the public is my type of career path. I could not imagine working anywhere else. I like what I’m doing and it’s different day. Every day is a different challenge when I accomplish a difficult day it’s a motivating and encouraging feeling.

In the Price Chopper world, each store is a different volume, four being the highest and one being the lowest. Because you have worked in numerous stores with all different volume numbers; which one would you prefer to work in? Which environment do you think fits you best?
Westgate is my number one choice, it is a volume 2. I like the clientele better here; it gives a person a rough edge. Our co-workers have tough attitudes being we work on Central Ave. The surroundings are not picture perfect.

This job is about being consistent. Also, how you mold the associates you have to work with you to be the most productive. Being a team gets this job done right. My team works well together; we are always up front about issues.

If someone isn’t cutting it, then you have to put a smile on your face and try to keep up, make up for the work being lost. You just need to smile and try to get the most work done in one day to make the store look presentable. It’s my 100% responsibility. When my crew doesn’t do their job to their fullest potential, then I look bad.

Everyone here at Price Chopper has a different attitude towards work. What’s yours? Remember, ‘job’ and ‘work’ have different meanings.
Work seems like you are going to have to do work and you better hope that you enjoy what you’re doing. Work is about everyday life. You can’t survive without work. Although this job is hard for me sometimes because I had been a manager such a long time; I have always been meticulous in my job. High shrink numbers, for example, bother me.

Why the Departments allow items to go out of code, or become damaged for some reason is something I also don’t quite understand. Why, if an item isn’t moving very fast on certain days, why put out that much? Item movement is important especially in Perishable Departments to keep their shrink numbers down. Putting out a large amount of a certain item that will spoil quickly on a day when the store isn’t busy doesn’t make sense.

Working is how you’re doing your job and my job is my title. My job is my work and what is my work relating to? My job title is Price Accuracy Coordinator; my work consists of everything: monitoring all the departments, physically price changing the stock on the shelves, dealing with discontinued items. And the list goes on.

A childhood obsession of food became a career for you. Did you take after your parents in your career path?
My father was a cook, my mother was a nurse. As a child I always dreamed of being a school teacher or on occasion of being a nurse. Although I loved to cook in my free time, I was one of eight children and my father always was cooking around us. That’s most likely why I liked being a Food Service Manager.

Besides dedicating your life to the public world in Westgate Price Chopper, you also worked another job for only six months. Why?
Well…before I started working for Price Chopper, I worked for the New York State Liquor Authority. It was an interesting job, but I hated it. Completely opposite from the job I have now.

I was in an office with no windows. I sat at a computer and typed these outrageous files of the applicant’s entire history and then filed them. I did the same thing every day; repetition gained new meaning to me while I had that job. Here at Price Chopper, every day has a new mission, a new task to handle, new items to deal with, and people to converse and smile with.

Monday, April 27, 2009

To Albany and Back: Josh Cotrona's Albany Adventure

Josh Cotrona, rocking a Baroness t-shirt.

The first time that I moved to Albany, I was only about nineteen years old. I never really went out or anything at that time. I guess I wasn't smart enough to get an ID back then. I would go to shows a lot, though. And Valentines sometimes.

I did enjoy going to Tulip Fest at Washington Park. And since I lived downtown on Lark Street, there was really no way for me to avoid Lark Fest. I think that one of the stages was like right across from my apartment, so I was kind of forced to listen to that.

Nothing too crazy happened then. I guess the only thing would be that at that time when I lived downtown, sometimes I would find drunk people passed out by our entry way. Some would ask for money. But it wasn't often. It wasn't too bad.

I left, though, and went on a road trip to California. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving. I didn't even tell my mom that I wasn't living around here anymore until I had been living out there for a month. She freaked out a little, but I kind of expected that.

The friend I was with was from Colorado, so we stopped there on our way to California. When we were visiting his hometown, that's when I met my wife, Betsy. She was actually from Maryland and just happened to move out there. It was pretty random. We were both just in the right place.

I lived in Carlsbad, California for a while. When I was there she came out to visit me. I also went back to Colorado to visit her. And that was kind of how we started dating. We decided to move back east together. We moved to Newport, Massachusetts. About a year later we got married.

We decided to move back to Albany because I grew up here and all of my family is here. It is also a lot cheaper to live in Albany than it is to live in Newport. Since we were trying to save a little money. Moving back was a good idea.

So now I live back downtown off Lark Street on Chestnut. Overall, I like living downtown. I still don't really go out that much. Sometimes I'll go to Bombers. I used to go a lot when they had Win, Lose or Draw. That was fun. But now it’s a little too crowded for me.

I do go to the Lark Tavern sometimes. And I like going to the Spectrum for movies. I’m not that raw. I guess what I do here isn’t that raw, either.

It's fun to people-watch in Albany. I try never to talk to anyone when I do. But, sometimes someone will make eye contact and I can’t avoid it. I'll do it anywhere: a coffee shop, the laundromat, that sort of thing.

I work as a freelance carpenter: remodeling, construction, painting. It's not hard to find work or anything, though. I just do it on my own. Sometimes I get work through somebody else, but mostly on my own.

I have thought about moving out of this area. As far as living somewhere else in Albany, I would live over by St. Peter's Hospital. I would move there if I was ready to have a home and settle down, if I wanted to have children and start a family. I'm not ready for that yet.

Realistically, when we are ready for that, we probably won’t stay in this area at all. I would most likely move back to Massachusetts. It's a nice place to have a family and raise children.--as told to Katie Serfilippi

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

'Not Everybody Bleeds': An Evening With G. Jinx Masilotti, BodyMod Artist

Jinx, after the piercing.

I’m here in Dead President’s Lounge on Madison Avenue in Albany about to get my navel pierced. Can you tell me your name?
My middle name’s Jinx. That’s what everyone calls me.

Okay Jinx. Is this navel piercing going to hurt a lot?
No. On a scale of one to ten, I’d say it’s a four. At most.

I’m tough. I think I can handle it.
If you’re tough, then I’d say three.

People like you and I who deal with the public on a daily basis – I work at a McDonald’s – all find customers annoying sometimes. Do you have any specific pet peeves about things that customers do or say?
My biggest pet peeve is when people say, “I want to gauge my ears.” There’s no such thing! A gauge is a unit of measurement! So that would be like saying “I want to inch, or centimeter my ears.” You know? [Laughter] It drives me fucking crazy when they call the jewelry “gauges.” It’s like, no, that’s the unit of measurement! That drives me nuts. And it’s only been in the last three or four years people started doing that. I have to tell somebody every day, “It’s not gauging your ears! It’s stretching!”

This is a very unique profession. What inspired you to be a BodyMod Artist?
I found a book when I was 16 called Modern Primitives, and it was when the modern primitives movement was just starting. It showed me a whole different world of stuff that I’d never seen before. This book had scarification, branding, and suspensions. I got into it immediately when I was 18, right out of high school. I found a guy who owned a studio who would teach me.

I lucked out, because I ended up getting two mentors: the shop owner mentored me, and a guy named Jack Yount who was mentoring the owner also mentored me. Jack was one of the first piercers in the U.S. He opened one of the first shops here. He died in 1997 at the age of 75 after 40 years as a piercer.

But things have changed a lot. It’s completely different now. It’s super commercial now. You can buy body jewelry anywhere. It’s just different.

So how many piercings do you have?
I don’t wear jewelry in many of them anymore, but let’s see… [Counting on his fingers] Fifteen?

Fifteen! What was the one that hurt the most?
Nipples. It hurts men a lot more because we have the same amount of nerves in a smaller surface area. Most women say it’s nothing!

What was the first piercing you ever did and what was it like?
A tongue and it was terrible. We used to have a release form that asked if you had any disorders. The girl was epileptic and didn’t tell us. I pierced her tongue and she had a seizure and I freaked out.

Did you cry?

Oh, I would’ve!
Well, I had EMT training. So that popped in and I did everything I needed to do.

What’s the craziest piercing you’ve ever done?
Trans mandible. Through the jaw. It comes out underneath the tongue.

Ow! Would you ever get that one done?
[Chuckles] No. I don’t really wear a lot of jewelry any more. I get tattoos now. I don’t get pierced anymore. I have my micro dermals [on each cheek bone] but that’s it. I screw things onto them once in awhile.

Isn’t it awkward when you have to pierce nipples or genitals?
Not at all. It’s all the same.

It’s all the same!

I don’t believe you! I think that would be so awkward!

After 15 years, it’s all the same. I’m pretty desensitized to everything. But right now you’re gonna feel me drawing on you, I swear it’s not a needle yet.

Oh my God, so this is the moment of truth? I won’t be able to watch this. I can’t. I hate stabbing. [Chuckles] That’s fine. Stand up. I’m just gonna mark you a little more right now.

I seriously have a phobia though. That’s why I had to bring my roommate with me, just in case I pass out so she can drive me home!
I’m sure you’ll be fine! I’m gonna have you look in the mirror okay? I need you to stand perfectly straight, put your hands to your sides, and keep your head straight. When you move so does the center of your body. We want to get a nice perfect center, since I guarantee everything I do. All right, take a look!

Beautiful. I’m so scared!
Just lay on the table. Don’t be scared. I’ll do it really quick, I promise.

Do people scream a lot?
Nah. I don’t think you’ll scream.

I’ll probably just be like ah! [I make a crazy face.]
You might say ouch really loud. That’s common.

Okay. [Nervous giggles]

I’m just darkening your marks right now. [Holds up metal clamps] I’m gonna put these on. They’re gonna pinch a little bit.
[I gasp] Told ya!

It feels so weird! [A noise of terror escapes my lips as he moves toward my belly button.]
Okay, take a deep breath in. Let it out. Take a breath in. Let it out. Last one. In. And let it out, and…

AH! Ah ah ah ahhh!!
That’s the worst of it.

That hurt!
I thought you said you were tough?

I am tough! But it still hurt.
Well, the worst is over. Okay, you’re gonna feel a little tiny pinch right now.

Is it bleeding?
Not at all.

Is that a good thing?
Sure. Not everybody bleeds.

--Samantha Smith

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Warehouse Songs and Stories: A Conversation with Mike of Mary Jane Books

Heading on over to Mary Jane Books to interview Mike, I was stopped by one of his coworkers, Nathaniel, who explained that Mike wasn’t in the store. He told me that if I still wanted to see Mike, he would be busy in their warehouse. This came as a big surprise. I was a bit skeptical at first--going into an unknown warehouse seems risky--but I was pleased to see Mike and a host of other people who only work exclusively in the warehouse waiting inside.

Mike offered me a chair, as he sat on a stool ladder.--Tony Geras

It’s just so weird interviewing you here, because I was expecting to go to the store. I was told by your friend Nathaniel to come here instead. I didn’t even know that you guys had a warehouse.
All the books that don’t get used during the semester get stored here and then a lot of books get bought off the internet and then we have to store them down here. We just sort them all down here; all the books that never get used for semesters you can get for a lot cheaper this way.

It’s kind of like a secret library, you know? There’s no sign showing this place is owned by Mary Jane Books, and there are literally thousands of books in here that aren’t held in the store.
Yeah, it’s pretty cool down here. You can get out of the store; it’s not as stressful.

Everything about the atmosphere here seems pretty laid-back. Both buildings have these hip, indie vibes. Do you listen to the kind of music that’s playing right now? What kind of music are you into?
We listen to all different kinds of stuff. I mostly listen to punk, a lot of underground stuff that you probably haven’t heard of before.

What bands?
The Big Boys?

Haven’t heard of them. I’ve gone to some underground punk shows, too, but it really wouldn’t be “underground” if we’ve all heard of it before, huh?
[Turns his attention to his coworkers as they’re walking by.]
You can get these guys to do an interview, too.

[Laughs] So all you guys just come down here to chill?
Yeah. A lot of the book orders get handled down here, too. The deliveries come down here, and then we price them and make sure they're OK.

Have you guys ever just came down here when you were too stressed out at the store?
Not really. Usually we’re just down here when the book orders get in. Nathaniel works down here. Usually there’s not as many people working down here either. When kids come back from school for the first couple of weeks, more people are employed.

What do you do to relax?
I ride bikes a lot. I’m a big bicycle rider. Not so much in the winter but during the summer I’m outside every day.

I think I’ve seen you riding around here before! Do you live in Albany, then?
Yeah, on Madison Avenue.

Cool, I was going to head to Madison at some point. I was initially going to interview someone at a head shop down there.
Which one?

I have no idea. There are so many!
Yeah, I know of a few that are on Madison, and there’s a bunch on Lark Street.

I ended up at one on Lark Street and the store got robbed while I was in there. When I went in, another person followed me inside and started asking for change; the lady working there told him that she doesn’t have any, but he could take a few quarters out of the tip jar. Then, he walked out with the tip jar.
Why do they have a tip jar in a head shop?

I dunno. Has anything like that ever happened to you guys?
Some lady tried to sell a library book.

Really? Did it have the barcode and index thing on the back that you could tell?
It had printed right on the front: Albany Public Library. I was like, “Uh, you should probably return this to the library.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

What I've Learned: Steven Coffey

Steven Coffey, photographed in the author's kitchen in East Greenbush, NY.

Construction Manager, 45, Albany
By Emily Catherine Massa

You got to be mean. And I’m mean. I’m a carpenter by trade, but my vocation is construction management. To be a construction manager, you have to know how to technically do everyone else’s job, so you know they’re doing it right.

A lot of people in construction aren’t in it by choice. All they care about is getting home to the five o’clock cure. If they could be doing anything else, they would be. So you have to be very aggressive and patient at the same time. I’m basically a kindergarten teacher.

I’ve been doing carpentry since I was a very young man. My uncle was a builder. I got into the Marine Corps right after high school. I got out, went to college, and got a degree in Geology. My whole class was hired by Exxon. But I was a former specialist-in-nastiness, so I was more valuable to them as a Marine than a geologist. They said they were going to put a rifle back in my hands, and I just wasn’t having it. So I came back, and started to build. I love it.

I’ve been shot twice. So I know all about it.
I started a development on my own and I needed money for everything. There used to be this “Money to Lend” feature in the New York Times. I answered one of the ads, and it was all very official. There was a lawyer and lots of paperwork.

But before I knew it, I was getting money in suitcases. Cash. It was just like in the movies, except these guys had real guns. But that didn’t really bother me. They didn’t shoot very well.

Drink your beer. I was renovating a bar on Lark Street, The Griffin. It was the end of the day, we were all done, the bar’s ready to open. I was sitting at the bar with the owner, his bartender, and my foreman having a beer. I hadn’t been drinking for a couple of years, so mine was just sitting in front of me. All of a sudden, this guy drags his girlfriend in off the street, down the stairs, beating her. Just horribly. Wailing on her.

So I looked around and said, I’ll take care of this. I went over and intervened. In three-tenths of a second, I’ve had the guy’s arm twisted up behind his back and was tormenting him. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the emergency room. The girlfriend had gone over to the bar, picked up the beer I wasn’t drinking, and cracked me on the back of the head with it.

I should have drunk my beer. It would have been lighter.

When a German shepherd looks at you, it like they’re looking at your soul. I had this ninety-pound, solid black, German Shepherd I used to bring to the construction sites. Albany was pretty rough then. He would sit in front of the door and guard. If someone new came, he would just look at them. I’d had to say, Oh, let them in for him to move. That dog was so good.

Both of my daughters are excellent carpenters. I could never stand the thought of somebody watching my children, so they would come to the site with me. When it was nap time, I would put a blanket in one those construction tubs, and they would take naps in the tubs with bulldozers and people hammering in the background.

There used to be a lot of drinking on the job. One day my wife came by the site after work to take the little one home. The house we were working on was perfectly blank, just plain floors and sheetrock. So in the middle of this empty room is an empty beer can. And the little one walks up to the beer can, looks at it, and says Aww fuck! And my wife looks at me and says That’s it! And that was it. My girls developed some foul mouths being on construction sites. But it hasn’t hurt their personalities.

I’m never going to retire. I’ll give up working seven days a week, but I’ll still build one or two houses a year. That should keep me fine; I don’t need anything to retire on. Really, it’s all for my kids.--

Monday, April 6, 2009

School Play: David Quinn's Not-Great Story About His Short-Lived Film Career

David Quinn in School Play.

David Quinn—father, husband, lawyer, longtime Center Square resident, folklorist, brother of original MTV VJ Martha Quinn—has stories to tell. Leaning back in his office chair, it becomes clear that, despite calling a week on the set of an Andy Warhol production School Play 'not a great story,' he has no qualms about making it one. “It was a great, great time to be 19,” he tells us. “I had the world by the short hairs.” He smiles as he reenacts his week, laughing at his 19-year-old-self and the adventures he had.--Michelle Cabral

It was the summer of 1969 and I had just dropped out of college. I went back to New York, back to my mother’s house, and found a job with a film production company. I thought that was what I wanted to do with my life.

I didn’t know anything about film, but I liked film, and thought I could do something with it. I got a job in the editing room, cleaning and splicing film together. It was mostly grunt work, but I told the guy I was interested in it and he sent me to Long Island University for a film production workshop.

Bud Wirtshafter taught the course; he was this avant-garde filmmaker. He had a piece called “Polar Bears in the Snow.” It was just a blank white film with a voiceover, describing all these polar bears running around in a blizzard. It was ridiculous but hysterical.

Well anyway, he was hired to do the camera work for this production out in Bridgehampton.

He asked, “Who wants to come out and watch and maybe help out?”

“Uh, Sure.”

So we go out to Bridgehampton and, lo and behold, all these Warhol Factory people are there. Taylor Mead and Gerard Malanga were the most famous people. There was also a woman named Brigid [Berlin]. She was this was this hugely fat, very pale woman, famous for her nude calendar. Anyway, I was young, wasn’t bad looking, and this guy says, “Wanna be in this movie?”

“Oh shit. Sure, okay,” I say.

“Put on this bathing suit.”

Oh god--I saw it coming. These were weird people, weird people, but peaceable people. Just a little weird.

The opening credits of School Play. Quinn's name is third down in the second column.

The plot of the movie was this series of dream sequences, sort of a Cinderella kind of fairytale thing. It was weird. And you know, when you shoot a movie, you never know what it’s about, unless you’ve written it or you're involved with it.

My character in this movie was one that would reappear in the various dream sequences with Brigid, who was the princess or whatever. Then we would repeat the scene with another woman who was just the absolute visual negative of Brigid.

I would repeat those scenes, and we did a couple more weird scenes. In one scene, this guy Carl was in a big cast iron pot, and I was one of the natives cooking him. I was supposed to taste him—ladle out of the pot and make native nosies. Ooga-booga, things like that.

So that was the movie.

When we wrapped, Brigid came over to me. “Oh David, you gotta come to L.A. We’re gonna start a TV series, The Every Day Show, it’s gonna be fun, you’re a natural, you should come to L.A. with us.”

Well, these people were weird enough, and it was going to be far for me to go off to L.A. with them, I tell you that right now.

Then Charles Rydell, the film's director, comes up and he has my check: 290 dollars. He comes up, just like on Cash Cab, and says “Well, I got your check right here. But I suggest you join SAG.”

“SAG? What’s that”?

“That’s the union for screen actors. Once you get into SAG, you get paid union rate”--scale, they call it--“and you get health benefits and all it’s a great gig. If you’re ever going to do this you’ve got to be a member of SAG.”

So I said, “What’s that going to cost me?”

He says, “275 dollars.”

“Wait a minute," I say. "You want me to give you my 290 hard-earned dollars and get 15 back, for a card? I don’t think so.”

And I think it was probably a mistake--it would have been worth the 290 dollars to carry a SAG card today.

About the spring of 1970 was when the screening occurred. I got a job in the Natural History Museum and went down to the book store and this guy comes over to me.

“Hey, David. Were you ever in a movie?”

Aww shit man, I’m getting busted on this. “Well uh, yeah, why do you ask?”

“Cause there’s a magazine, Interview, you’re in it.”

“No way.”

“A picture of you uh, ladling something out of a pot, and you’re name’s there.”

I never saw that picture. I never saw that magazine. I’ve no idea what this magazine was about.

So that is a flash-in-the-pan of my events with the Warhol group. That was pretty cool. But it’s not a great story.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jack's Grillside Tales: An Interview with John M., Owner of Jack's Diner

Walk into Jack's Diner at 547 Central Avenue, and you're plunged into another time. Its fifties-style construction and décor jives well with clatter of cups and plates and sizzle of the counter-side grill.

I sit down at a booth, coffee in hand, to speak with John M., owner of Jack’s for 46 years. An active 77, he’s constantly running from kitchen to grill to customers, making everyone welcome with a smile and a joke. Over the course of forty minutes, we cover everything from family to the comical results of losing taste buds.--Dan Henderson

How long have you lived in Albany?
77 years—in the Capital District, that is.

What do you think the most rewarding part of owning the diner is?
Enjoying the job. The people. The money; it isn’t so important.

Just one of those nice things to have on the side?
I just enjoy the business. I talk to a lot of people—my son doesn’t enjoy it, but I do. You know, you meet the characters from A to Z in a diner. You have the governor sitting over there, and the worst bum on the streets there.

Has anyone famous ever stopped in or become a regular?
We had a couple actors, but I didn’t know who the heck they were at the time. The governor—Governor Wilson and the Mayor have been in here, but otherwise nobody that I know of. The biggest writer we had in here was Bill Kennedy.

Ever read any of his books?
Well, I’m not a reader. The last book I read was “See Jack run, see Jane run.” I mean, sometimes I’ll read the paper, you know.

You never read any books?
In high school I used to. We had comic books back then; they were famous books, like Moby Dick. I brought in Moby Dick for a book report and my teacher said “M––, who are you kidding?” He knew I wouldn’t have read it. They were good though, those books. I should’ve picked something different to do my report on. Moby Dick was huge!

Would you consider writing a book or contributing to a newspaper article to talk about your experiences working here and hearing customers’ stories?
We’ve been in US News & World Report and some diner magazines have written about us. But you could do a book just on the characters that have been in here.

Have you made plans for retirement anytime soon?
Not at this moment, no. God has been good to me and I’m healthy. I can have three beers a night and I feel good. I’ll be 78 in July.

You’re a lucky man.
Yeah, I broke my kneecap and I lost my taste for beer for a year and a half. I went to my doctor and he asked me how I was doing. So I told him I broke my kneecap and I lost my taste for beer for a year and he said, Oh my God, why didn’t you tell me sooner, I could’ve given you a shot!

So do you have it back now?
Oh yeah, I started drinking wine, but I just couldn’t do it. My father died an alcoholic, my father-in-law died an alcoholic, and my wife still thinks I’m an alcoholic. [winks and chuckles]

You must still be proud of your children, though.
Oh yeah, but I don’t know, I never taught any of them how to drive. Their mother did that. I put in more hours. We went on vacation, we would go places, and we had a nice boat. The kids were good.

I’ve got a question: Are you Catholic?

Nope, I was raised Episcopalian.
Well, I have been all my life. I go to mass at Saint Mary’s, and one day the priest told us that everyone who bears a cross can get to Heaven. And I sat there in the pew thinking about it, and thought, “Everybody I know is going to Heaven, because everybody I know bears some kind of cross.”

Everybody has problems. It’s just life.

That’s for sure.
I lost thirty-five pounds last year using an ancient method. My father died and my mother put a pound on that first month. She was worried, so she went to the doctor, who was Jewish, and in his office he had pictures of people in the concentration camps on his wall. He told her, if you want to lose weight, just do what they did, don’t eat! And that’s what I did. I stopped eating. I just cut down. You don’t need your special diets, you just eat less.

Of course I don’t have taste buds, so everything I eat tastes about the same. I could practically get away with drinking sour milk. You could open kerosene in here and I wouldn’t smell a thing. I could probably get away with not taking a bath for six weeks.

I don’t know if I’ll quote you on that.
In Korea, I went without a shower for about that long, we were being pushed back and nobody had the time to do anything. But when you’re eighteen or nineteen, it’s no big deal.