Monday’s Rain

1. Marcia and I had a great anniversary weekend staying at The Lodge at Turning Stone. It’s technically part of the casino there, though it’s a completely independent physical space, free from the chintz, smoke and gaudiness of the gambling area. It’s elegant and tidy, both features I appreciate. On Saturday, we played a round of golf at the Kaluhyat Golf Club. A combination of a late tee time and a gentle drizzle essentially turned it into a private course for us; we saw only two other carts with players in them throughout the afternoon. The course is a challenging one, with a couple of Par 5’s that were almost laughably complex and convoluted in terms of the combination of over-the-river-and-through-the-woods and sheer distance involved (see links posted in the comments below). I’d definitely play it again, though. We then had a great dinner at Wildflowers and started Sunday with massages at the Skana Spa. Even if you detest casinos, I would recommend The Lodge as a great weekend getaway spot, since you never have to set foot in the main casino building. They offer some really nice combination packages, too, that can cut costs considerably. Hint, hint, dooders. (And I don’t mean “Boys’ Drunken Golf Weekend Away”).

2. A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to take my library, please . . . and you did! My zillions of books and cassettes, collected over decades, have now been rescued from my basement and sent to loving new homes. It was great to have folks come visit and find things that they’d been looking for, and great to have a bunch of the books go to support good charitable causes. I feel a nearly visceral sense of catharsis in letting go of something that it took so long to collect, and that consumed so much space. As noted in the earlier post, at this stage in my life I have no desire to have the grand oak-paneled library anymore, but would prefer to live in something like this. A few dozen well-loved books with sentimental attachments on a small bookshelf will do me just fine there.

3. I’m one of the apparently relatively uncommon folks from the United States who actually, actively follows international soccer through the years of qualification rounds leading up to the World Cup, all the way through the big event. And, because of that, while I’m sorry for the players on our national team that they’ve been eliminated, I actually feel a sense of relief every four years when Team USA steps off the pitch for the last time, because this event really doesn’t mean very much to us a nation, and I don’t think we’d really appreciate it properly if we won it. Since the African contingent (who I always root for) mostly tanked this year, and having traveled to Argentina with the aforementioned native a few years ago, I’m now pulling for an all-South American Final Four of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, with Maradona’s squad taking the title. Be gone, Old Europe! It’s our hemisphere’s turn to celebrate!

21 Years Ago Today

And we still smile when we walk arm in arm. Boy, how did I get so lucky? And how I have stayed so lucky for so long? These are great mysteries, indeed, although I am immensely grateful for and appreciative of my good fortune, even if I can’t pretend to understand what I did to deserve something and someone so wonderful. It must have been something very, very good, indeed, that’s all I can figure. Yay, me! Yay, she! Yay, we!

Take My Library, Please

We’ve got basement work that needs to be done, and I’ve reached the point in my life where I realize that I’m never going to have a gigantic oak-paneled library where all of my many books can be displayed in public. The combination of those two factors leads to the realization that I need to get rid of lots and lots and lots of books, several thousand of them, I would estimate.

Before I put them up on “Stuff for Free” on Craigslist and let the garage sale gremlins come hoover them all away, I thought I would first offer them here (also for free!) and on Facebook to folks who might actually be interested in what I read, since you read me. There’s lots of music criticism, history and biography, tons of natural science and history, political science, an eclectic blend of fiction, tales of human suffering (Arctic exploration, lost at sea, etc.), and who knows what else mixed in the pile. We’re a big reading household with omnivorous tastes, so there’s probably something for everybody here.

You can have as many of them as you want (for free!), if you’re in the area and can get to my house to get them. I’ve pulled them all up to the garage, and will plan to pick an evening or two later this week when you can stop by and forage. I’m hoping to have lots of them go away, rather than having you spend an hour digging through them for a couple of rare finds (of which there are a good number). Special bonus for the hardcore music geeks who aren’t technology snobs: a HUGE box of cassettes from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, some pre-recorded, some recorded from vinyl, some mixes, etc. I don’t even have anything to play them on anymore.

If you are interested, please shoot me an an e-mail, and I’ll get you the location, and we can figure out the time.

As a second order question: how else do you get rid of books? I have donated to the town library in the past, though I’m not sure that’s still as much of an option as it once was. I also have taken books in to used book dealers, though the cost-benefit return on that is generally low, since they tend to be a bit more selective in what they’re willing to buy, given space constraints and resale considerations, so a lot of what I took in also came back home with me. I need these to go and not come back. Thoughts?

Sprawl Sad

I’ve spent most of my adult life (and all of my time in New York’s Capital Region) living in the suburbs. I am perfectly happy and comfortable with this situation, and will never, ever apologize for this particular life choice, though it has become trendy and fashionable in some of the social and media circles in which I move to denigrate the suburbs and those who live within them.

I find much of this sort of anti-suburban sentiment to be heavily freighted with a distasteful intellectual elitism, as though my choice (and the choices of millions of other like me) to commute to the city where I work, rather than actually living there, was made because I wasn’t smart enough to make a different one. I’m not stupid, and I’m not materialistic, and I’m not a cultural Philistine, so if your social critique of the suburban lifestyle involves you looking down your nose at me in a patronizing fashion while listening to NPR in your little downtown apartment, then I’m really not at all interested in hearing from you.

Your scorn and/or pity are meaningless to me, because I love my home, and I love my yard, and I find just as much value, culture, history and opportunity in my suburban neighborhood as you do in your urban one. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to exploring the bits of suburbia around me that many folks never see, in fact, as documented in my occasional (and probably ongoing this summer) Hidden In Suburbia series. There are just as many mysteries, secrets, surprises and fascinating stories to be found in the woods around my suburban house as there are in Albany’s Center Square, if you’re willing to invest the time and energy to look for them. And I am.

All of that being said, I did appreciate an article by Peter B. Fleisher that ran in the print version of the Times Union a few weeks ago, called “Sprawl Without Growth Is Ruining Too Much of New York.” Fleisher’s logic is sound, and he offers an economic argument against additional development that’s predicated on something other than an ivory tower distaste for people who choose to make their homes in the suburbs. I accept his intellectual and moral positions on the matter, and appreciate the way in which he frames them.

The point of Fleisher’s article was really hammered home to me a week or so ago when I had some time to kill in the car before picking up my daughter from an appointment, and noticed a new development going into a formerly-wooded area where I’ve spent a lot of time on my bike in the past. I turned into the development, and was dismayed to see just how much of the forest, and just how many pretty little streams and gorges had been destroyed to put up home stock that doesn’t seem to be needed, based on population trends in our market. Essentially everything I wrote about in this particular Hidden in Suburbia report is gone now, including the incredible deep woods racing oval that must have supported generations worth of kids and their bicycles. (Former aerial view of this great, lost hidden treasure above).

I suspect, frankly, that a big part of the rationale for this development going in is that it is in one of the increasingly uncommon undeveloped regions within the Loudonville Zip Code, and there is a social cache associated with that address that makes such properties desirable, thereby leading developers to develop them, never mind the toxic waste dumps in the valley just down the hill from many of them. I don’t damn or condemn the folks who will buy these houses, because I believe that they will be just as happy with their lives there as I am with mine here, but I do wish that our local town government would perhaps step up to the plate a little more aggressively to ask why we need more housing stock when our population is stagnating or declining.

If they build it, we will come, and we will be happy to have done so. So the solution to the sprawl without growth conundrum isn’t to denigrate or deny happiness to suburban homeowners, but rather to have the many, many layers of local and regional government that exist hereabouts more actively involved in trying to ensure some realistic correlation between development and population trends. I’m not sure that the tax dollars generated by this new development will provide a greater good to the community than the bicycle loop in the woods did for generations of kids who once lived around here, and it makes me sad to think that the kids who grow up in this development won’t have the opportunity to love these woods as much their predecessors (and I) once did.

Though I would never condemn their parents for making the choices they make to live there. We all chase happiness in our own fashions, and none of us deserve to have our happiness sneered at by snobs or elites.

The Road to Hell

From my perspective, today and tomorrow, the Road to Hell would be I-87 northbound to Saratoga, where the Dave Matthews Band will be playing a two night set at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).

Coming home from work tonight, the traffic heading up to the abyss was already heavy, and there were way too many vehicles pulled over on the side of the highway as folks ambled about aimlessly on the shoulders and along the woods, because, uh, that’s what you do on the way to a Dave Matthews Band concert, I guess? I really don’t know what they were doing, or why they couldn’t do it in a parking lot, off an exit ramp. It will remain a mystery to me. An annoying mystery.

While I consider DMB’s music to be mostly harmless and inoffensive, when I was sent to review one of their shows at SPAC a decade ago, it was literally one of the most painful experiences in my thirty-plus years of concert-going, so totally not my scene, so totally not my taste, so totally not my community, and so totally annoying and boring to me in equal measure.

So if you wanted to punish me and punish me good, you could require me to be up there sweating in the traffic, crawling up Route 9, and then being forced to pick my way through the lawn at SPAC as the noodle dancers worked their magic. If I had to pick that or a root canal, I’d chose the latter, since at least I’d get legal anesthesia that way and wouldn’t remember the most painful bits.

But to all of you who find these evenings to be joyous occasions, I salute you, and wish you the grandest of grand times with your like-minded friends and associates. I’m honestly pleased these days when anybody takes the time and energy to go see music that moves them live, rather than just streaming it on their computers, even if I don’t have the faintest idea why you like what you like. So have fun! Dance good! Do pretty!

But just don’t do it on the side of the road near my house. Please.

Peeking in the Wayback Machine (Again)

Some more visions of life in olden days in the South Carolina Low Country (primarily McPhersonville) and beyond:

My grandmother, Henrietta Cheshire, who would (much) later be known to family members as “Mama Hen.”

My grandfather, Delmas Waters, with my aunt Mary Glynn, and my mother, the smaller child, at right. I get my inscrutable squinty eyes from the man everyone called “Daddy Delmas.”

Dickie Colcock (from yesterday’s war photo) and my grandfather, Delmas Waters, building the house in Ridgeland, South Carolina where I spent a good chunk of my childhood.

My Aunt Mary Glynn.

My great-grandfather, Lafayette Calhoun Cheshire, (father of Henrietta Cheshire, husband to Henrietta Colcock), and his mother, whose name I do not know. She was French.

Lafayette Calhoun Cheshire again, with his daughters Henrietta (my grandmother) and Helen.

My mother, Linda Ann Waters, with her dog, Lorna, and puppies, posed in front of some sort of amazing Southern household and property carnage.

The post office at McPhersonville, South Carolina. The gentleman in the hat between the two windows is my great-great-grandfather, Marion Woodward Colcock.

My great-grandfather Randolph Waters and my great-grandmother Sidney Faircloth Waters. Sidney was a great writer, and left some amazing handwritten manuscripts behind when she passed.

Great-grandparents Randolph and Sidney Faircloth Waters again, at what I think is a Waters family reunion. Notice the Carey’s canned vegetables at bottom right, a true Southern tradition.

My grandparents, Delmas and Henrietta Cheshire Waters, my aunt Mary Glynn and my mother (the younger baby), and my great great aunt, Hetty Hutson Colcock Woodbridge, who raised my grandmother, along with her brother, Dickie Colcock, featured in yesterday’s photo.

My great-grandfather Randolph Waters in front of four of his sons, including my grandfather, Delmas, at right.