Albany Excursion 2004, Part IV: Washington Park and Downtown
Michael Ubaldi, March 23, 2005.
After an early morning rise and long day's adventure on Saturday, Paul, Ed and I took Sunday more slowly. In early afternoon Ed drove us past streets of beautiful, 19th-Century townhouses to Albany's Washington Park. Uphill and downhill, we passed small groups, families, sunbathers and an enormous "Pride" event smack in the middle of the park. Respectfully circumventing the thumping beat of at least one rendition of "We Are Family," our straight trio was hit on only once, if by a seedy-looking fellow with a handlebar mustache who sounded distinctly like Sonny Bono.
After twenty minutes we investigated the Park Playhouse, an open-air, public amphitheater for musical performances by amateur youth casts. When Paul disappeared with his camera, Ed and I assumed he was looking for the restroom. Twenty minutes later, he told us about the stunning interior photographs he'd been snapping.
No bother; it was a beautiful day. Until Paul returned, Ed and I passed the time watching stagehands confer, direct, schlep, scramble up and down scaffolding and lay the set foundations for their approaching performance.
The three of us set off again, circling around the edge of the park's waterway, picturesque to a fault.
I noticed this fellow walking on the bridge just as, if you look closely, he noticed me.
Satisfied with our tour of Washington Park we had Ed drive us to downtown Albany, where we were greeted by the regulars.
What would it be like if Cleveland's Superior Avenue, uptown, near Ontario, were lined with run-down, looming, abandoned centennials? Why, you'd have Albany's State Street, a main street in New York's capital whose dilapidation stands in bizarre contrast to comely renovations right across the street.
"Most of the original staff knows about the twelfth floor — er, the disturbances, I mean."
Being the civic-block minded man I am, I practically interrogated Ed on the subject. How could the state's queen city let a block, a historic block, fall to shambles? Wasn't there an interest group looking after a venerable building — even a public committee somewhat keen to rectify the political problem in a condemned city block kitty-cornered to the Statehouse? Ed, the bureaucrat, God Bless him, didn't know or particularly care. People for the simultaneous restoration of New York heritage and salving of open concrete sores, fear not: Paul Bray, for all his populist incendiary, is taking the fight to City Hall.
Of course, I found said article last night. Ed and Paul practically dragged me, shrieking something about urban decay and the cold Great Society, away from the site.
I quieted down by the time we walked to Empire State Plaza.
The Plaza is an extraordinary mall, a concrete park bisected by a long, fountain-bedecked pool; flanked by a row of stolid, utopian state buildings to the west and to the east a more attractive Empire skyscraper beside a frighteningly postmodern, egg-shaped theater complex.
The first two Albany Excursions were in early November and late October, respectively; I wanted to see Albany in the springtime, and was not disappointed. Since we came on a Sunday near the dinner hour, the Plaza was not much more active than in winter months.
Still, serendipity was had: the girl in black exited the oval theater — known, indeed, as the Egg — and walked in front of where Paul and Ed and I were sitting, fussing with our cameras.
She walked around a bit, then stopped and stared upward.
Everyone does it.
Cloudier than the day before, our sky was unreliable; at the time I was a bit frustrated to keep losing color and contrast just as I'd set up a shot but the pictoral result of my little game with the sun is compelling.
I also had a bit of fun knitting stone tartans with my macro lens.
Legend has it three Eggs have been built and that one of them saw function follow form when it relented to gravity and collapsed. Not wishing to be held responsible for any tumble in my presence, I took a turn as Atlas.
Sunday after hours, the pools were swept only by the westerly wind. Next year, we'll catch the fountains.
See more: Fotografi