The other day I was talking to someone about things to do and places to go in Knoxville, and they said, "You really love it here. Like, you really are excited about the Sunsphere and the gardens and stuff. You never talk that way about Albany, though. Did you hate it there?"
This is kind of a complicated answer. I was very happy to leave Albany when I did, as I was not happy working there. When I left, it was in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness less than 24 hours after my going away party, and I was 100% certain that there was nothing in town I would miss besides my friends and my comic store. It wasn't until I drove back for summer vacation a couple of years ago that I remembered that there were a few other things there that I appreciated:
1) The giant statue of Nipper:
I lived there for a couple of years before I even knew that this existed, and actually thought it was a hallucination the first time I saw it and had to be convinced by my friend Tiff that it was real. The conversation went something like this:
"OK, so last night Rich and I were leaving Jillian's, you know, after it closed, and we split a cab with these girls that Rich was trying to hook up with, and we were, like, all over downtown where all the warehouses and stuff are, and I was so drunk that I looked out the back window of the cab and I thought there was, like, a giant puppy on top of one of the buildings! And it was staring into the cab!"
"There IS a giant dog on one of those buildings."
The warehouse that Nipper sits on top of used to be an RCA distributor, which is why the statue is there. He weighs four tons, has an aircraft warning light on top of his ear, and there are only two of him in the whole world (the other is in Baltimore). He's no Sunsphere, but I guess he's still kind of cool.
2) Random vintage signs:
There are whole sections of Albany that don't seem to have changed since the 1960's and 1970's. Driving through them is like taking a brief trip back in time.
3) The Egg:
That's an amphitheatre downtown. Over the years, I successfully avoided attending a number of performances of "The Vagina Monologues" there, but the downside is that I never got invited to anything else there so I've never been inside. It is an interesting building to catch glimpses of from the outside, though:
and is near a random gigantic hole in the ground:
After six years of living in Albany, I still have no idea what that is.
4) Pride Fest:
Albany Pride Fest is the first one I ever attended. It's also the only Pride Fest where I've spilled wine on myself:
At least it didn't stain.
5) The SUNY Albany campus:
When I interviewed with the staff of the soul sucking vampire pit of a department where I used to work, I fell in love with their main campus, which was designed in the early 1960's by Edward Durell Stone and built on the grounds of a former golf course. It was unlike any other campus I'd ever visited or worked on because, being conceived all at once, everything matched:
In the minds of many of the students that I spoke to over the years the endless expanse of concrete (allegedly the largest poured concrete structure in the world) and tall, narrow windows:
(that one with the plywood in it was one of the bedrooms in my apartment) made it kind of prison-like, but to me the campus always looked kind of like dated sci fi:
It's the kind of setting that you would have seen Captain Kirk and the original Enterprise crew beam into on a random "Star Trek" episode.
I kind of forgot about how pretty it was while I worked there, but now that I'm gone and familiarity isn't breeding contempt, I see it again.
Albany, I kind of wish we'd been better friends, but yeah, I kind of love Knoxville more.