Tuesday, May 9 2023
location: room 7, Washington Park Inn, Albany, New York
This morning after we woke up, we tried to watch teevee as we had two years ago when celebrating that earlier of our 20th anniversaries in this very same room. But something was amiss with the cable package, because all we saw was error messages when we tried to watch any of the Vevo music channels. So we weren't going to be watching any pop or country music videos, which had been a surprisingly rich source of entertainment back in the height of the pandemic. The best we could do was watch the a cheeseball movie on the Hallmark channel, intercut (during the ads) with several segments of old episode of Baywatch. Both of these are from a decidedly pre-golden-age-of-television directorial school. For Baywatch, this makes sense, since it dates to the 1990s. But the Hallmark movie we watched dated to 2015, so its bland inspidness was very much a choice.
There's not much to say about Baywatch other than that, from a modern perspective, it reads as parody. There's also something distracting about the uniformity of the rhinoplasty, which forces the same nose onto a diversity of faces, many of which make it look out of place. As for the extreme whiteness of the characters and their situations, that might just be another artifact of the times it was produced in, when the absence of diversity didn't seem so noticeable because it was so baked into television production culture.
The Hallmark movie was entitled Love, Again. It featured a loveless couple keeping the state of their marriage secret from their daughter at a remote resort in Camden, Maine, where the daughter and her boyfriend have impulsively (though everyone thinks it's great) decided to get married. The characters have absolutely nothing happening in their lives that is the slightest bit interesting. The lummox of a middle-aged man who has fallen out of love with is still-somewhat-hot wife now has an overly-made-up young woman working for him as a web "designer," but there's no actual sexual tension between them. And there's no real sexual tension between any of the characters who are not in relationships with each other. There's no dark uncurrents or hidden intrigues, and the only not-entirely-white people all play the roles of either enterainers seen briefly in the distance or "magical negroes" (though, without so many blondes around them, they might well have passed as white). It was all, as the kids now say, very "cringe," but we wanted to watch just to wallow in the simple-minded anachronism of it all. Despite how stupid and ridiculous it was, Gretchen admitted to tearing up at some poigniant moments, something she said was not unlike Romy and Michele (in the movie Romy and Michele's High School Reunion) tearing up watching Pretty Woman when Julia Robert's character finally is allowed "to shop." Sure, they were hate-watching it, but there were moments when they still felt moved.
After going down to the kitchen for multiple coffees, a bagel (for me), and cereal (with oat milk) (for Gretchen), we grabbed our stuff, locked it in our car, and then crossed Madison Avenue to stroll around the "lake" in Washington Park. We passed through the deep shade of some Norway maples as Gretchen mentioned that the park looked like a Frederick Olmsted creation (which it is), and I mentioned that evidently the planting of native trees must not have been a priority in Olmsted's day. Then we passed a deciduous conifer that was labled "bald cypress." Further on, there were beeches with obviously bred-in purplish leaves and at least one great spreading horse-chestnut, which was festooned with pyramidal white flower clusters. Down at the "lake," we came upon a group of Canada geese near a male/female pair of mallards who were dozing on the shoreline with their bills tucked under their wings. As we walked past them, Gretchen (as she tends to do) walked a little too close to the mallards, and I saw the orange of one of the male's slightly-open eyes appear as he began to track her approach. But he never removed his head from its tucked position.
At the north end of the lake, I saw some small water bird with a flotilla of little babies swimming behind her, and as we rounded the end of the lake, it became clear that this was a female wood duck with five or six ducklings. Wood ducks always nest in holes in trees (or, sometimes, nesting boxes), so she'd evidently found such a place, hatched a brood, and now they were swimming around in an urban park. I gave this little bit of nature guide information to a random middle-aged couple who happened by, and they nodded along in wonderment of the mother duck's resourcefulness. Nearby, there numerous basking painted turtles among the reeds. As we were looking at these wonders of nature, Gretchen was horrified to see a couple young women brazenly plucking tulips from flowerbeds over on the west side of the "lake." They were carrying impressive bouquets that they kept adding to, apparently without concern that people could see them doing this.
Further on, I pointed out a female red-wing blackbird, which blew Gretchen's mind for how different she looked from the flamboyant-epauletted male. A little further on, we saw a male perching on a reed who had barely a hint of red on his epaulettes. While we were watching him, we saw him reach out one of his feet to combined a second reed into his perch, adding stability in the breeze.
Further down along the east shore of the "lake," we came upon a fancy old building with a stage and a real set of amphitheatre seats facing it. But between them was a wide swath of pavement that served as an active roadway (>42.656334N, 73.771752W). That was kind of weird.
Southeast of the "lake," we could see massive beds of tulips in full bloom (as tulips tend to be for a limited time in this particular season). Near all these tulips was single oversized sabot (the wooden Dutch shoe, famous for the people who used them to destroy the machines that were replacing them well before the time of ChatGPT). Clearly, there was something very Dutch going on at this end of the park. So we walked over and had a look at the many varieties of tulips. I much prefer tulips to roses, so I enjoyed this more than similar strolls we've had at, say, the rose garden on the hill south of downtown Portland, Oregon. There's a fancy bronze statue/fountain in the center of all the tulip beds, and it was difficult to tell whether the unspecified figures in it (said, on a plaque, to be a memorial to some guy's father) were biblical or pagan. (I would later learn that the central statue on the non-operating fountain was of Moses.)
When we got in our car, Gretchen wondered about the four or five inch-long sticks someone had placed in the hollow around the base of the gear selector shaft. The sticks had been roughly broken or somehow cut through and looked like they'd been pieces of a set of chopsticks. I didn't know anything about them and Gretchen said she'd put the chopsticks in the car only yesterday. When we looked at the long narrow paper bag the chopsticks had come in, we found the end had been torn off and one of the chopsticks removed. The car had been locked overnight, so no human could've gotten into it. This led us to conclude that there must be some varmint living in our car as we drive it around from place to place. Something capable of processing a chopstick like that must be at least as big as a chipmunk.
After driving out of the Washington Park Inn's driveway onto Madison Avenue, we got an unexpected call from Powerful, the formerly-incarcerated gentleman who lived for two years in our basement. In recent months he's fallen on hard times and stopped communicating with us, probably because he had nothing but bad news to tell us (that he was broke, that someone had destroyed the perfectly good Prius we'd sold to him for cheap, and that he was likely suffering from continued medical issues). So why was he calling? Gretchen answered the phone and expressed her surprise that he was calling. "Are you in Albany right now?" he asked. (We'd known we were staying in a hotel near his apartment for our 20th anniversary, but he's been so out of touch that there hadn't seemed to be any reason to reach out to him.) Gretchen said that indeed we were and how did he know. He said that he was in an Uber that was going down Madison Avenue taking him to work when he'd looked over and seen Gretchen in a car waiting for a space in the traffic allowing her to leave a driveway. Gretchen explained that we were celebrating our 20th anniversary and then she asked Powerful how the hell he was doing. He said things were good. He'd had a new job for about three weeks now that involved him going out into the streets of Albany to convince kids not to use guns to solve their arguments. He said he likes the work, and that it gives him an opportunity to exercise his creativity. He also said that his co-workers think he has it in him to climb up the hierarchy in the organization. Best of all, he has a full set of benefits, including health insurance (which, for someone with all his health problems, might otherwise be prohibitively expensive). Gretchen knows a lot about Powerful that he doesn't know she knows. She knows he was recently too broke to afford internet and she knows the sad fate of his Prius. So she didn't bring any of that up, and Powerful clearly didn't want to get into all that. He just said he and Gretchen needed to sit down and catch up. He went on to say that he's now getting financial advice to deal with, among other things, some debt he racked up. He also admitted that he'd been hanging around with the wrong crowd, including a sketchy woman who may or may not have been his girlfriend.
The last of that conversation happened in our car just before we got out and went into Wizard Buger, the all-vegan specialty burger shop that we love. We went in there and each ordered a burger. Gretchen also ordered "chicken" tater-tots for the both of us and a ginger beer for her. For my drink, I ordered a big sixteen ounce Broken Skull IPA to help bring me down off the over-caffeination I'd done to myself with Keurig-brewed coffee back at the inn. As we ate our delicious burgers, we chatted about the latest news from Powerful. Both of us agreed that even when we'd hung out with "the wrong crowd," we ourselves never suffered that much due to our strong individuality. One of Powerful's weaknesses is the ease with which he transforms himself to fit in. That's recipe for disaster when you have the wrong friends.
Gretchen got to talking with the guy working the cashier at Wizard Burger, and it turned out that he'd been the cook where we'd eaten last night at the Meadowlark pop-up. "It's the Albany-area vegan scene is the Simpsons, and there are only so many characters to go around," I observed. Gretchen and the cook chatted for quite some time about the local vegan restaurant scene until a bunch of customers showed up.
Gretchen wanted to walk around some after we'd eaten our burgers, so we walked down to a nearby gallery to look at some art on the walls. It included some interesting freehand geometric pencil drawings and some finely-made cermaics depicting unholy combinations of arms, legs, and heads (many of them specifically duck heads). In some cases these sculptures had little human arms and legs where you would expect things like mouths and eyes. These skeeved Gretchen out, but I rather liked them.
We then walked on a pedestrian bridge passing over I-787 where it cuts Albany's downtown off fron the Hudson river front. We were feeling sleepy by then, so we decided to drive back to Hurley.
On the way home, we stopped at Ray & Nancy's house to pick up the dogs. Both Ray and Eric the painter were there and it was a beautiful mild spring day, perfect conditions for painting.
After hours of no communication from whoever runs the Washington Park Inn (maybe it's ChatGPT) regarding the state of the room we'd booked, they finally got back to Gretchen some time this afternoon. They aplogized, saying some family emergency involving a grandmother had happened while the person who does the cleaning was working on the rooms on our floor, and this accounted for why it had been left in a partially-clean state. They refunded our money for the night and also gave us a voucher for a future stay, though I hope they fix their Vevo channels before we take them up on that.
A mother wood duck with her flotilla of ducklings in the "lake" in Washington Park. I only had my phone, so I couldn't zoom in like I like to.
Painted turtles in that same lake.
Tulips in Albany's Washington Park.
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More of those tulips.
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Some ceramic art at a gallery down near the Hudson in downtown Albany.
Click to enlarge.
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