O! Small-Bany! Part 4: Fall

Notes on an autumn in search of acceptance.

Elisa Albert | Longreads | April 2020 | 22 minutes (5,474 words)

The first time I get rear-ended is at a stoplight on the corner of Central and North Lake, around 4pm. One minute I’m on my way to school pickup, the next minute I’m disoriented and sobbing. The at-fault is a 19-year-old dude in a Jeep full of friends. He is nonplussed. He asks, without affect, whether I am okay.

“No!” I scream. “What the fuck?”

My car is badly damaged. I can’t stop sobbing. No airbags deployed. I am worried the dude will get back into his car and flee, so I photograph his license plate in haste, and call the cops. I cannot for the life of me stop crying. My rage and fear and shock and sadness are a tangle. The Jeep doesn’t have a scratch on it. It’s raining. The dude and his friends huddle under a shop awning, laughing.

The cop tells me to calm down: “It’s not that big a deal, ma’am.”

Later, when I call the cop oversight office to suggest that this particular cop go fuck himself, the oversight officer will watch the body cam footage and promise to speak to the cop in question about sensitivity in traumatic situations.

For some reason, I refuse an ambulance. (“Some reason”, ha: I am more terrified of institutional health care than I am of getting back into a smashed up car and driving away with whiplash and a concussion.)

I spend days in bed, in the dark, alternating heat and ice. A haze of phone calls from insurance agents, a hailstorm of Advil, rivers of CBD hot freeze.

You can get rear-ended anywhere. It wasn’t Albany’s fault, per se. But it’s so easy to blame Albany. Fucking Albany! This was God’s way of telling me I’ve done my time in this hopeless shithole of a city, right? Or maybe this was God’s way of punishing me for never utilizing public buses. Or maybe this was God’s way of shaming me for having my kid in private school. The thinks you think when you’re stuck in bed, in the dark, without distraction, for days on end! Meditation is a billion times harder than crossfit, and constructions about “God” are tough epigenetic habits to break.

***

A golden, shimmering autumn. Something about the light, the particular precious autumn light. The garden is still mostly green, but a hint of crunch has begun to sneak into the leaves: beginning of the end. I continue to water the strawberry plant even though there will be no more strawberries this year. If spring is birth and summer is youth, fall is the full bloom of middle age (and winter is death). I’m 41 now, the harvest-time of life. The bright, sunny September of life. Assuming the good fortune of a long life, that is.

If spring is birth and summer is youth, fall is the full bloom of middle age (and winter is death). I’m 41 now, the harvest-time of life.

A trio of youngsters — in, let’s say, the July of their lives — moves into an apartment next door. They’re showing friends around their new digs one afternoon, out on the back deck. They high-five and shout PARTY CENTRAL, BABY!!

“Hey there,” I wave from my garden.

They beat a hasty retreat.

***

I’ve been living here for a decade. That’s 40 seasons.

Seems like only yesterday I marched into the little house on Jay Street, set down my literal and metaphorical baggage, and decided that, by sheer force of will, this was going to be an awesome place to live. Things were going to start happening around here. Some iteration of the old Zionist narrative, all that stuff about making the desert bloom. Did I really think that I could, by sheer force of will, by patronizing every open storefront on Lark Street, by walking to the coffee shop every day and making cheerful small talk with regulars, by becoming a regular even though back then I didn’t much care for coffee, by inviting people over all the time, by flinging my literal and metaphorical doors wide open — transform what is essentially a raped and murdered corpse of a city, a deeply flawed, systemically undermined/ignored infrastructure-impoverished nightmare of a city, surrounded by complicit, anodyne, deaf-dumb-blind suburbs and exurbs, into some kind of Eden!? What a moron.

You’re supposed to move out of this neighborhood when you have kids, that’s the conventional wisdom. Those of us who won’t, or can’t, or don’t, we cluster in private Facebook groups and assure ourselves about imminent improvement, the rising tide that lifts all boats. This is a wonderful place to live, we tell each other, the very best place to live.

But neighborhood booster-ism seems increasingly beside the point when a simple walk around the block is like something out of Mad Max. What does it matter that there’s a delightfully twee craft market in the lake house next weekend if to get to the lake house you have to hazard a faded crosswalk on a road frequented by an endless succession of irate, entitled psychopaths behind an endless succession of wheels, eager to get the hell back to the suburbs or exurbs or wherever. In other words, still no progress whatsoever manifesting better pedestrian safety infrastructure. City Council did finally approve a small budget for putting in some reflectors and a few more signs around the park, but the projected date for installation has come and gone a few times, now, and every time I call the police station to request speed patrol, I get the brush-off.

Prioritizing human-scale existence, aka walking: Is it a lot to ask? Is it unreasonable!? I’m a broken record about this. Are we really supposed to lock ourselves behind gates and lawns to try and ensure that we don’t get mown down by cars!? Is that the answer? If you never have to walk anywhere, it is a lot harder to get run down by a car. Ride around in cars all day every day, yeah, that’s better. You do the mowing down of pedestrians, and you win, right? Because the world is pretty much just a video game at this point, right?

Asshole Patrol, we call it: trying to get across the barely-marked pedestrian crosswalk into and out of our public park in broad daylight twice a day. I’ve (mostly) stopped screaming obscenities, but I do still mutter “fucking douchebag” under my breath when absolutely necessary. Ommmmm. And I spend an embarrassing amount of time contemplating how things unfolded in this country/state/city over the past hundred years to enable the dynamic in question. Conclusion: fuck the cult of the personal automobile. Probably wasn’t a picnic when the whole town was knee-deep in horseshit, either, though.

***

At the park in the mornings and evenings, we’re like religious supplicants gathered to pay our respects to the changing light. A childlike adult person walks alone through the park every morning around 9am and stops at the flagpole to salute and recite the pledge of allegiance. A young man asks his small brown shepherd do you have to go potty do you have to go potty do you have to go potty over and over, as though on a loop, the entire time they are in the field.

Sunrise, sunset. Make meaning, make meaning, make meaning! Why do autumn days feel so uniquely special, sacred, fleeting? The lingering dusks, the sunshine cutting through the cooling air, the cool air cutting through the sunshine. Such pathos in these days! In my tradition they’re known as the Days of Awe. What do we do with these days? How can we make them last? They’ll be gone too soon, too soon, before we know it, and we are all very certainly going to die. (I hope that’s not news to you.)

This is it: savor these days like they are all you’ll ever get. Because we all know what’s coming, don’t we? Winter is coming.

But oh, god, no, let’s not think about it just yet, no, don’t make us contemplate what’s coming yet, please. Surely there’s more time? Surely we can put off thinking about that? We all know it’s coming. But can’t we just forget about it for a little while longer? Just enjoy these beautiful, golden days? It’s just that the beautiful golden days seem to fly by so fast. Sometimes the chill in the air feels merciless.

***

A lady in a fancy administrative office asks me for my address, and when I give it to her she looks startled.

“You live right downtown? Right in the city?”

This lady has spent her entire life living in the skin-crawlingly wealthy suburb nine miles to the north of our murdered corpse of a city, and it is her conviction that my neighborhood is a blot on the landscape, a place to be avoided and ignored by any means necessary, a place where [say it with me in a haunted whisper] impoverished people live. But lo! I do not seem to be an impoverished person! I am wearing lovely knitwear and nontoxic lip-gloss and good boots.


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“Wow,” she manages, at length. “Not many people live down there.”

Um, a lot of people live “down there”!? They just don’t tend to be cloistered assholes!? (I mean, okay, maybe assholes, but definitely not cloistered.)

What the woman is saying, of course, is that not many people who have the choice to live elsewhere live “there”. What she is saying is that, given the choice, anyone in their right mind would get the fuck out of “there”. I shouldn’t take this lady’s worldview personally. But I take everything personally. Which is too bad for me, though useful creatively. Give me another 40 seasons, maybe I’ll figure out another way.

***

But put aside your cares, forget your woes! It’s time for the annual street festival known as Larkfest, which invariably deteriorates from a swell, cheerful, family-friendly block party at 10am to a loud clusterfuck around 1pm, giving way to a batshit bacchanal by 4. Then streets lined with vomit and food scraps and trash for days and good luck trying to keep the dog from trying to eat it all.

“This is a really great place to live if you’re an alcoholic,” someone mutters to her companion on the patio at Café Hollywood. “Isn’t everywhere, though,” the companion responds.

A t-shirt: Albany: A drinking town with a political problem.

There are not enough “amenities” in Albany, as a real-estate developer once developer-splained to me over farm-to-table cocktails in the Berkshires.

You can get rear-ended anywhere. It wasn’t Albany’s fault, per se. But it’s so easy to blame Albany.

It does get admittedly harder to feign excitement about yet another new small business with unreliable hours. The poke bar serves decent food but exclusively in single-use plastic. The new bakery barely has any fresh anything and is furnished with folding chairs; it will be vacant in less than a year. The cute little sweet shoppe lasted about six months and then relocated to a strip mall in Clifton motherfucking Park. The Mediterranean bar and grill had themselves a nice sign above the door, a real actual custom permanent sign above the door, wow, look at that, but the place folded almost immediately. Everything feels so provisional. Set up to be temporary, and barely scraping by. With the exception of the artisanal cider donuts on North Pearl, which proved so wildly successful that they just announced the opening of a new location up in mall-death hell, with plenty of parking, the press release repeats a couple times. Wouldn’t want anyone to break a sweat en route to or from a donut fix. The guy who bought the huge abandoned cold storage warehouse taking up half the skyline made some noise about arts district something-something, but he owes half-a-million dollars in back taxes and has done nothing to get the building up to code. There’s an unfortunately placed billboard advertising our aforementioned private school standing proudly up against this eyesore on the highway: poetry in the wild.

***

But there I go again, focusing on the negative. All those marginally literate new-age feeds I skim must not be sinking in. Hope is where it’s at! Hope! Keep it up, against all odds! There’s tons of great stuff in this town. The best thrift shop in the world and Elissa Halloran’s magical house of treasures and the best coffee shop for a hundred miles and the epic skate shop and the family who makes organic soap and the outrageous vegan deli and the woodworker whose custom tabletops feature mosaic representations of housing projects and the great young couple who renovated and reopened the wine bar and decent yoga and good street art and vintage ‘90’s streetwear shops and local pride, local pride above all, so yes, let’s hear it for the 518.

***

Word travels fast about two armed robberies back-to-back on a Tuesday night around 10. One on our corner, and one on the corner of Lark and Lancaster. We’d noticed a lot of flashing lights and peered out the bedroom window to see what the hell was going on. A few cops walking up and down the block. Nothing too exciting. We shrugged and went back to watching Sacha Baron Cohen play a Mossad spy in Syria circa 1962. A third armed robbery takes place the following Thursday, but this time the cops are on high alert. They immediately catch the perps, who turn out to be children. An 18-year-old, two 15-year-olds, and a 12-year-old. The firearm turns out to have been a BB gun. No less terrifying for the victims, but.

***

The dog has a bad habit of interrogating men who stroll through the field unaccompanied by dogs of their own. The dog finds it necessary to thoroughly question and intimidate said men. THIS IS MY FUCKING PARK, she barks at them. Is it possible that she is the outward manifestation of my private aggression? The dog is an unapologetic misandrist. Some men are unbothered by her interrogation, and walk on. The dog respects this. Other men are badly startled, and these men invariably become enraged, which further enrages the dog. It doesn’t matter how much I reassure them that she will not bite, that she has no history of violence, that she will not hurt them.

One day, a man with a long grey ponytail in a Siena College baseball cap pulls a knife on me and my barking dog. I stay strangely calm. She’s not going to hurt you, I say. She is just barking, just ignore her, keep walking, she’s not going to hurt you, sir, I’m sorry, but sir, please put the knife away, she is not going to hurt you, I would be glad to leash her up but sir, you are holding a knife out at me, so I’m not going to come any closer until you put the knife away. He rants and raves and jabs his knife at the dog, who becomes more and more upset. Finally, at wits end, I take out my phone and inform him that I am filming him now. At this, he walks away, still muttering to himself and waving his knife around. I have zero emotional response until about an hour later, then I’m shaking all day.

***

Yom Kippur, and we endeavor to ride the rail trail, which stretches from Albany all the way to Voorheesville. The problem is: how to get to the trailhead, which is exactly three miles from our back door. Biking to the trailhead would be the logical way. But those three miles are just about the least bike-friendly you can imagine, so to be remotely safe we’d have to ride mostly on sidewalks, which are all busted up in general. There’s the option of driving down to the parking lot at the trailhead. But this makes me petulant, and I refuse on principle. What is the point of a local freaking bike trail to which you cannot ride your freaking bike!? What kind of dystopian nonsense is that? We hazard the sidewalk ride.

It’s fine-ish until we make it down to South Pearl, the heart of the much-maligned South End, where residents seem possibly outnumbered by vacant homes and storefronts. On one block here last year, a fire started in an abandoned house and destroyed five adjacent homes. There’s a convenience store, a streetwear shop, and a wellness studio with, alas, a mold problem. The DMV and a soon-to-close McDonalds cower beneath the grotesque malignancy of Route 787, alongside which run the good old bomb trains. Whose fault is all of this? Impossible to say, though I’m pretty confident they don’t (or didn’t) live anywhere near here.

We cruise along the sidewalks, apologizing to the few pedestrians we see. Past the police station, Baptist church, Family Dollar, Uncle Dan’s Diner, and liquor store, until the sidewalks peter out amidst auto-repair shops, and there’s the 787 onramp.

We stop and look around. We consult our maps. The trailhead should be right here somewhere, but all we can see is ruins and highway and highway and ruins. To find the trailhead do we really have to cross this half-road-half-onramp with no crosswalk, no light, no pedestrian or bike infrastructure whatsoever? Indeed, we do.

We survive the crossing and what do you know? Immediately past the parking lot it’s perfectly serene and pastoral. Two minutes later we are coasting on the trail, wowed by the serenity and peace and abundant beauty of a perfect fall day under canopies of yellow/orange/red trees and the rush of the Normanskill creek. Another world. South Pearl is a distant memory from a different dimension.

The moral of the story is that to have this nice experience without having to directly confront the post-industrial late-capitalist nightmare of a failed American city, you should hitch your bike to your automobile and drive directly from your safe exurban or suburban dwelling directly to the parking lot at the trailhead, your feet never having to touch unhallowed ground.

***

How can I see this place in all its depressing glory and still keep trying to embroider a meaningful life here? I hate it here, and it’s my home. I am raising a family here because of fate, by which I mean: a job. It sucks, and it is my home. It has so much potential! But progress and improvement are slow. I want it to be better. I have to believe it can be better. I do believe that it can be better. One can only bemoan the shittiness of something one believes could be better.

I have a friend who moves every few years because no place turns out to be as cool as she’d hoped it might be: Providence, Joshua Tree, Oregon, L.A., Brooklyn, Woodstock. Each turns out to be lame, lame, lame.

Oh, honey, the places might not be the problem.

Still, how does change really happen? And when? And what’s the difference between nasty gentrification and a rising tide that lifts all boats? Is it just a question of aesthetics? Values? Money?

A suburban sitter asks my son where he’ll go to high school. My son says Albany High. The suburban sitter says Albany High is totally sketchy.

“What does ‘sketchy’ mean,” my son asks later.

I stumble through a weak attempt at explaining racism and classism and exceptionalism and white flight and privilege and the criminally shitty urban planning and pathetically short-sighted real-estate development and political misdeeds that have shaped this murdered corpse of a city, which is itself so typical of so many cities all across our huge, fucked up, murdered corpse of a country, and in closing reassure him that Albany High is awesome.

Prioritizing human-scale existence, aka walking: Is it a lot to ask? Is it unreasonable!? I’m a broken record about this.

Is Albany High awesome? Anecdotal reports are varied, but it had better be awesome, because the attitude of that suburban sitter is what’s actually sketchy as fuck.

***

An officer sits in his cruiser today, facing the horrible crosswalk where we try daily not to die. He watches me attempt to exercise pedestrian right of way. The car coming at me from the left slows to a crawl, but the car coming at me from the right makes it clear that it will absolutely not slow.

A reasonable person, hoping to not get hit by a car, might stop and wait in the middle of the crosswalk for the offending asshole to pass. Might makes right, after all; a body is no match for speeding tons of metal. But I stand firmly in the path of that fucknut, holding up my hand for said fucknut to slow the fuck down and stop. The fucknut does not run me down, thankfully, but he does lower his window and scream, “get the fuck out my way, bitch”.

The officer is maybe 10 feet away, observing all of this from his cruiser, cup of coffee in hand. As I pass his open window, he tells me, cheerfully: “You really want to wait for drivers to pass before you cross, ma’am.”

“That’s a pedestrian right-of-way crosswalk, officer. In our public park. In the heart of our city.”

He shrugs. “They really won’t always stop, ma’am, and I’d hate to see you get hurt.”

“Sir, you’re on duty, yes? And you’re right here next to this pedestrian crosswalk, which drivers are flagrantly disregarding. Do you think it might be possible for you to flag and ticket drivers who blatantly disregard traffic laws and endanger lives? Or maybe get out of the car and escort pedestrians back and forth? Your job is to enforce laws, is that right?”

“Just be more careful in the future, ma’am.”

***

An acquaintance from a nearby storybook creative class weekender enclave posts a photo of Empire Plaza and a derisive caption about how creepy Albany is, and I find myself incited to quick, decisive anger. No, storybook creative, you may not deign to breeze through our (admittedly creepy and, admittedly definitive) city monument and define it as such. You do not get to be derisive about our creepy city. That’s our job, those of us who live here, in what is our home, which is, in fact, a deeply complex and old and noir and gorgeous and diverse and beset and hopeful and dysfunctional and hideous little city, filled with tens of thousands of people who do not necessarily get to choose where they live. Kindly leave the disparaging remarks about my creepy city to me.

***

Deep thoughts whilst walking the dog around the lagoon (we really need to stop calling it a “lake”): 1.Twitter is a great way to reach numbers of people who are always on Twitter. 2. Facebook is a great way to reach numbers of people who are always on Facebook. 3. Instagram is just for fun. 4. Time is a bitch, because the sadder you are, the slower it goes and the happier you are, the faster it goes.

The question is not whether or not you like living in Albany; the question is whether or not you can do your work here. Work is hard and consuming no matter where you do it.

Something about status and money. Something about fashion, ambition. Something about —

Halloween is warm. Throngs of people, big and small. Laughter fills the streets. Dove between State and Lancaster is the best stretch, but Lancaster between Swan and Lark is no joke, either. Everyone is out on their stoops. There is a true spirit of joy and camaraderie. I trail half a block behind my tween and his friend. Everyone’s in a good mood. I love this neighborhood. This fucked up little city is the world’s best-kept secret. I should be more of a booster. The world is a fundamentally kind and decent place, headlines notwithstanding, and we cannot live separate from our communities.

The youngsters in the apartment next door host a monstrous party that night. A hundred people crammed in there, and spilling out onto the back deck. The screaming and laughter and thumping bass keep going past 11, past 12, and eventually I call the cops on them.

***

I forget to lock my car one night and a homeless man spends the night in it. I’m assuming it was a man, but I could be wrong. There’s plenty I’m wrong about.

I find the compartments ransacked. The car reeks of ball sweat and cigarettes and booze. Poor dude found nothing of value, just my registration and a dust cloth and some packing tape and 50 copies of a gorgeous inspirational-quote coloring page my son made when he was 8. I thought I’d give those copies away or put them up on bulletin boards around town or something, but never got around to it. Look Within, the coloring page said, times 50. I guess the homeless guy who spent the night in my car did literally that: he looked within… my car. I hope he was cogent enough to appreciate the humor.

The next night, walking down to Post to get an Impossible Burger (yes, I know they’re not really good for you), we pass a chic, artsy-looking couple walking the other way. Prospectors, it’s clear. Casing the town.

“It’s not as cool as Hudson,” the woman says.

***

Three people are shot in separate incidents on Second Avenue within the course of a week.

The mayor goes around with the Chief of Police, knocking on doors to reassure people, and to listen to suggestions about what they can do to help the neighborhood. God, you have to love the mayor. She bought a wreck of an abandoned house nearby to renovate and empty-nest. Also she’s a redhead, which, well, enough said.

There’s one convenience store in particular that seems to be the locus of much of the neighborhood activity: good, bad, ugly. Close down that store, people tell the mayor. That store is the source of all our troubles.

But it is the only store left in that corner of the neighborhood. All the other stores have already closed down, because this is, lest we forget, a murdered corpse of a city.

***

A young creative from the city (the city) once paid me a visit. We were having a party, and the young creative, having kept mostly to themself all night, left seeming less-than-pleased. I thought them somewhat rude, but a few days later I sent them a thank you note. You don’t have to be Miss Manners to know that this person owed me the thank you note, but I wanted to “close the circle” or something, so I thanked them for coming and wished them well. They offered no thanks in return; just rambled for a while about how great my life seemed, how great that I got to live in the coolest neighborhood in the coolest town, and in such a great house, with such a great community. Everything was so great for me, how great for me, so great for me, so, so, so great for me. Lucky me. Life wasn’t half so great in Brooklyn. Life was hard in Brooklyn. It was impossible to make ends meet and the pressure was unending and everyone was in it to win it and no one was “real” and there was no community and it was exhausting. I read and reread this note in complete bafflement. Perspective is everything, and nobody ever really knows shit about the precise reality of anybody else’s struggle or reward. I sent a link to a list of abandoned houses for sale via the Albany County Land Bank, ‘cause you know what? Life is great here. So why aren’t you lining up to rebuild some small corner of it? Wouldn’t that be great? There are worse ways to spend your time and energy than saving/maintaining/protecting a tiny corner of the world in the shadow of Rockefeller’s arrogant brutalist concrete and marble hellscape for a tiny fraction of what it costs you to live in the glittering cutthroat ultimate metropolis of dreams. Get out a hammer and nail and learn how to use your hands, to paraphrase the Indigo Girls. Not just your head; you’ll think yourself into jail! A refuge never grows from a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose! Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose!

***

Boundaries are at issue in a small town. Privacy. Anonymity. Which is to say it is a terrible, no good, very bad idea to publish true thoughts and observations and opinions about my neighbors (or my neighborhood). I erased the first version of this essay. Don’t shit where you eat. But true thoughts and observations and opinions are pretty much all I have to offer in exchange for money! And… I still have to live here. You have to get along with your neighbors; it’s one of the main tenets of decent human existence. Where does tribalism come from? Where does racism originate? What was the earliest iteration of war!? How did moronic bullshit like nationalism ever take root in human consciousness!? Because of being judgmental and cunty to your neighbors: that’s fucking how!

***

Huge snowstorm on December the first. Still technically autumn, mind you. But now there’s two feet of snow on the ground. A rare and stunning quiet envelops the neighborhood. School’s canceled. The kids go sledding in the park. We let the dog off leash because the whole town is profoundly silent, and she frolics through the powder, weaving around the dumb holiday lights. She might get tangled up in the wires and electrocute herself. If this fucking piece of shit city kills another of our puppies, I swear to God. But she steers clear of the wires and all is well until later, back at home, when she starts vomiting, and becomes lethargic to a terrifying degree. The internet suggests that she is mortally ill from eating too much snow or possibly ice melt, and that she will either die or be fine. Is she going to die? Please don’t let her die. Not again. Not another dog done in by this town, please, really. It takes a couple days, and she ruins every rug, but she’s fine.

***

The second time I get rear-ended is at a stoplight, again, at 4pm, again, by a 19-year-old dude, again. It’s raining, again. I scream what the fuck, again.

The question is not whether or not you like living in Albany; the question is whether or not you can do your work here. Work is hard and consuming no matter where you do it.

This time the dude feels really bad. This time my car has only cosmetic damage, but his Volvo is all smashed up. “I’m so sorry, ma’am,” says the dude. “My brakes must’ve locked up.”

Bullshit, I do not say, you were texting.

“My dad is going to kill me,” the dude whimpers. “I’m having such a bad day. I lost my job last week. I guess this is how it is: I just can’t catch a break.”

Dude really wants my sympathy right now!? I’m supposed to comfort him!? He can’t catch a break? But sure enough, wouldn’t you know, the old caretaking instinct rises up and I hear myself going hey, hey, it’s okay, it could be a lot worse, it was an accident, obviously you didn’t hit me on purpose, it could be worse, it could be so much worse, it was an accident, everything’s going to be okay, you’ll see, hang in there, shit happens.

Whiplash, concussion, sure, whatever, fine, fine, sure, I know the drill. Ice packs, Advil, darkness, fine, yeah. But this time the physical impact is a footnote to the pure distilled emotional blow. This time the message is loud and clear: down on your fucking knees and stay down, bitch. This time, to borrow the tagline of some Jaws sequel or other, it’s personal.

Rear ended for the second time in six months, almost to the day!?

“Maybe you’re putting out too much negativity and this is some kind of cosmic retribution,” says a friend.

“You do have a lot of hostility about cars,” my husband notes.

“Maybe you’ve done your time in Albany,” another friend says.

Everyone’s right.

***

Had dinner with a friend down in Hudson the other night. Hoppin’ hipster happenin’ Hudson. Such a relief to spend time in Hoppin’ hipster happenin’ Hudson. Why? Because of the fine dining, the sartorial glamour, the aspirational edge, the people-watching, the cutting-edge amenities! Because of the way money and poverty do this interesting masquerade, this tense dance, this stylized gliding right up to and around each other in a way they simply don’t in many other places. Shit: maybe this whole thing, this whole gripe, this whole meditation, these 40 seasons, this whole observational essai, might really just have been a cri de couer about class all along. In which case I haven’t scratched the surface of the truth.

Anyway, my friend spoke about the intense throngs of hoppin’ hipster happenin’ visitors who flood Warren Street on the weekends to prospect and shop and eat and drink and see and be seen. The crowds are intense and unpleasant and uncool.

It’s fucking unbearable, she said. People are starting to talk about moving to Albany.

***

Elisa Albert is the author of After BirthThe Book of Dahlia, and How This Night is Different. She is at work on short stories and a new novel.

Editor: Sari Botton