My dying city

Part of living mindfully is accepting the things that cannot by your own will be changed. It is with this knowlege that I arm myself whenever I venture to walk down Central Avenue, Albany’s main strip or any other part of the decaying corpse that we live in.

In my heart, I love this city, but it is because I come from this area and close friends and live here.  Otherwise, I have no strong attachment to the Capital City on the Hudson, whose time has long since passed. It is likely that I will move out of this area altogether to a warmer place at some point.
When my grandfather was a teenager in the 20’s and 30’s, Albany still had some of its character as a clean and thriving small city. The seat of government, the city was also a place for railroad and shipping. As many as 130,000 folks lived here. Now that number is about 93,000. Albany has changed in my lifetime, but it has absolutely transformed in his lifetime.

Central Avenue was once not just a thoroughfare for downtown traffic. It was actually a place for storefronts and business. So many of those businesses are gone, moved out to the suburbs where the car can better travel and closer to the homes of expatriate Albanians.

I will write more about Central Avenue but for now I can only say what I know, which comes from my eyes. The road is simply for the bus lines now. There is no economic life to it. Demographics and insipid urban poverty have crept along the North and South sides of the pavement. Like many other thoroughfares in urban America, Central Avenue is dead. It is a home to broken windows, boarded up storefronts and booted cars. What remains are the remnants of a depressed inner city economy; cellphone stores, barber shops and hair braiding businesses, one hardware store, and a whole lot of fast food.

Our Lady of Angels, once a thriving Franciscan community, has been closed. Reflective of the demographic shift and the shrinking Catholic population, it is now a Pentecostal church. Nevertheless, the structure is still very Catholic, with a tile-mosaic of Christ with the Sacred Heart and a Friary that looks anything but Prostestant.

Although there are some decent and affordable restaurants along Central Avenue, it is much easier to get a Big Mac with an order of fries or greasy Chinese takeout than something healthy. One organic food cooperative can be found hidden alongside a dollar store.

There can be no greater image of the economic malaise of Albany than Central Avenue. Although the surrounding suburban communities do well for themselves, there is nothing to entice a shopper do this stretch of road that they couldn’t get in their own town.

I often think that Central Avenue would look quite nice with stores and businesses, but I know there’s just no practicality in it. The malls in Guilderland and Colonie are much easier to get to and park in. The poverty of many of those who live in proximity to the street is prohibitive. Central Avenue may likely never be what we’d like it to be.

Just as documentarian Michael Moore has made his hometown of Flynt, Michigan something of an emblem of the death of blue collar America, so Central Avenue embodies the changing economic climate wherein those with money have abandoned the small cities, taken with them their spending power and heading for the suburbs. As the car has made it easier to commute into cities, it has also gutted commerce from them.


Ironically, a portion of Central Avenue towards the city line is dotted with auto dealerships, mechanics and parts suppliers. The Avenue houses a large element of its destruction.

Continue reading

The last day of the last week of what I hope will be my last unfulfilling job

It’s not my last day at this place:

 

I wish it were so that I could relax and recuperate from five months of some of the most boring days of my life. It’s strange, because when I look out the window I can see the street I was parked on January 6, 2006 when I phoned an obnoxious editor of mine and found out that I was being laid off. I was back home for the day in Albany and very dejected about the whole thing. Since then, I’ve worked nothing but annoyingly slow jobs, just boring. So boring. I can’t describe.

 Every second of your life is one that is closer to the end, whether you’re doing something good or not with moments, the finite amount given you. But spending those limited seconds and miliseconds doing something like what I’ve been doing, which is not much more than making some copies, writing some letters and sitting in on meetings that have little to do with my position, the time is even more squandered. It moves slower, as if to torture you with the fact that you’ll be going nowhere for the rest of the day.

 In the end the world will explode. That will likley happen millions if not billions of years after we are gone. Nothing any of us have done on Earth; Buddha, Ghengis Khan, Adolf Hitler Harry Truman, Ghandi, Stalin, Queen Victoria, Mussolini, Mao, Tom Cruise, Bob Saget and Pierre Turgeon included will matter one bit.

 There should be some beauty in that, although at first inspection, it seems kinda depressing. I have a spiritual side; a mildly transcendant side, that knows in my heart of hearts it’s the love in and of life that matters. All things, as St. Paul said will stay here and can’t be taken with you into the next world.

 Regardless, I’d like to make a dent somehow. I did get a little gift today from one of my bosses, who after about an hour, I will likely never see again.

It was nice of her. She’s a great lady. A successful antiques dealer, actually. Out of necessity, propriety or just kindness, she stopped on her way to work to get me something this morning.

It was nice, a gift card, the quintesential easy-to-please gift. It was for $20, which is nice. Now it has $14.52 on it!

I can walk away from here with not much, but at least I have that, which is pretty cool. Who knows how long it will take before I exhaust it.

I wanted this weekend to be fun!

I suppose it can be. After a late night ice hockey game (I scored!), I still feel beat up and exhausted. Not really sure that there is much I can do right now.

I’m getting a little down about the whole situation as far as searching for jobs is concerned. There are a lot of really shitty jobs out there. Even in the Albany area, which can boast one of the best economies in the Northeast–outside of the major cities–there are just a lot of really boring, mind numbing jobs that are posted.

I see a counselor for anxiety and other issues and he is a career counselor as well. He works for the Diocese of Albany and is a really neat guy so far. Anyway, he’s suggested that I read What Color is Your Parachute on the side of another book he has assigned me.

Never have I been able to apply too well the wisdom doled out in those types of books, but as I know where to get a free copy, I’ll give it a shot. I deserve to help myself.

The last 18 months have been rough. I’ve been through a lot. I was laid off from my job as a newspaper reporter, which in itself wouldn’t have been so bad had it not hurt my chances of getting back in the field. I was going through a lot of anxiety unrelated to the job, when I began working there. I’d uprooted after graduating and basically said goodbye for good to a four-year relationship. Never did I have much guidance, as I was assigned to a field office. I just hated it in general. But I’d like to be a reporter again at some point.

I can get mad or see the situation for what it is. Some things aren’t meant to be and that’s alright. Maybe everything has a point and a purpose. I love to write but I love to write about things I love to write about, not village board meetings in shitkicker locales or whatever new thing an editor wants to exploit to stay hip.

This last year has been punctuated by shitty jobs. I made it to the third round of what could have been an awesome government job, but was passed over for a more qualified candidate. I’m going to send my resume over again in case. Just in case she’s moved on to greener pastures.

Well, maybe I can do something interesting tonight. Hell, when all else fails, just get loaded!