Let me introduce this post by noting that I’ve been a resident of New York’s Capital Region for 17 years, and I love, love, love it here. I especially love Albany: its incredible history, its extraordinary architecture, its exceptional University, its rich musical and artistic cultures. I wouldn’t have chosen to move here in 1993, but once my Federal employer forced me to do so, I fell in love with the region and decided that it was more important for me to stay around Albany than it was for me to stay with the Federal government. And, so, this is home now.
Now, having said that, I will note that there is one thing about Albany that absolutely makes me crazy: the seemingly deep-set, City-wide inferiority complex that comes from incessantly comparing ourselves to the various megalopoli that sit mere hours from us, along pretty much whichever compass point you choose to travel. No, we’re not Manhattan. No, we’re not Boston. No, we’re not Montreal, nor even (shudder) Syracuse. But, boy oh boy, do a lot of us seem to wish that we were, to the point where we will often sacrifice our City’s dignity to be perceived as “big league.” Because of this, we often come across like the urban version of a nervous little Shih Tzu puppy that rolls over on its back and pees on the carpet whenever anybody “important” notices us, so thrilled are we by the attention.
The most recently obvious example of this has been the gush-gush-enthuse coverage of the filming and release of the new Angelina Jolie movie, Salt, for which major portions of Albany’s Downtown were shut down, inconveniencing countless local residents and employees, so that Jolie’s stunt double would have a nice place to jump off of a truck, or something equally banal and jejune, in a movie that will be pretty much like every other one of Jolie’s cookie-cutter action movies, only with Albany as wallpaper, because we’re cheaper than CGI. And, of course, Jolie herself came to town for a couple of hours to film! Wow! Angie in Albany! Yay, Albany! Oh! Let’s roll over and pee on the carpet again! Wiggle wiggle wiggle! Yay!
Come on, Albany. Show some dignity, will you? I mean, the great Jack Nicholson and the immensely-talented Meryl Streep coming to Albany to film our own William Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Ironweed, which is set in Albany, and is about Albany, and is a great work of art in both its literary and filmed versions? Now, that was worth getting excited about! But Salt? I don’t even need to see it to know that it will be lost and forgotten in a couple of weeks, an expensive summer trifle, backed by investors who could have better spent their money, from a societal standpoint, on, oh, pretty much anything.
Wait, what’s that you say? Angelina Jolie is an Academy Award winner? Yeah, well, so are Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sandra Bullock and Kevin Costner, so you can see how much that means. (Although I hate to ponder it, Albany, but I know you’d also roll over and pee on the carpet if Cuba Gooding Jr. was in town filming the straight-to-DVD Larry McSquire, Baby Cop III: Show Me The Bunny, wouldn’t you?) While I won’t argue that she did some fine work in her younger years, when I watch Angelina Jolie in films these days, I just have a hard time getting past the nagging, worrying sense that her tiny, tiny neck is going to snap like a pretzel stick under the weight of her larger than life head and hair, so whatever nuances might exist in her performances are generally lost on me, as I sit and dread the terrible Joe Theismann-like moment that I fear is coming, sooner or later.
So, let’s show a little pride and self-restraint, Albany, and stop soiling our collective carpet about this unimportant piece of film fluff. And just to be clear, let me put this in terms that you’ll understand and remember: NO! NO! BAD ALBANY!!! BAD!!!! NO NO NO!!! YOU ARE A BAD BAD BAD ALBANY!!!! [insert sound of rubbing Albany’s nose into Salt here]! BAD, BAD, BAD ALBANY!!! NO!!!!!!