Friday, August 31, 2012

Going Through the Motions

Hurricane Isaac aside, the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida was a complete joke. Everything about it looked and felt so old fashioned and out of touch, coming across on TV like grainy file film from the Richard Nixon Convention. Actually, it looked like the Dukakis Convention in ’88, where every Democrat there knew Mike D had no chance of winning, and thus were going through the motions. That’s what this past week was for the GOP: Going through the motions, because nobody there ACTUALLY thinks Romney/Ryan have a snowball’s chance against Obama. And they’re right: Romney & Ryan are going to get smoked in November.

The battery of speakers the GOP poured out for all of America was a silly, rather-cruel charade in the face of Mitt Romney. Was Ann Romney’s scripted sentiment nice? I guess it was, but who cares what the potential first lady reads off the prompter? Tuesday night brought out NJ Governor Chris Christie. I know we all love CC, because he’s big, and loud, and looks like Tony Soprano. I get it. I like him too. But he went 17 minutes before even mentioning Romney. In other words, he was there to kickoff his White House Run for 2016.

To me, Christie is the classic Republican, like him or not. Cut taxes, balance the budget; lay off everyone to do it. NJ has a 10% unemployment rate. That’s huge for the most densely populated state in America. To me it’s a no brainer: Keep my job or pay lower taxes. Um, I’ll keep my job, tax me if you must.

Going into the Convention, I liked Paul Ryan, for his back story and work ethic if nothing else. He speaks well on the trail, looks good, and seems like a solid #2. Plus, he’s FDR compared to the last idiot the GOP put out there on the ticket. You remember her, the Maverick, of course you do. With that said, I thought Ryan’s speech was as predictable and novice as it comes, plus it was full of lies. He came off a bit smug to me too. It wasn’t a killer moment for him, I’m sorry. The last night brought Clint Eastwood, who gave the worst speech I’ve ever seen, a rambling, nonsensical thing it was. It was kind of sad to see such a great actor/horrid speaker leading the crowd in a "go ahead, make my day" chant. Then came Marco Rubio who talked about himself for half an hour.

By the time Romney took the stage, to the catchy (I mean completely lame) chants of "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt," I actually felt bad for him. He gave a nice speech, made some points, but it’s just not going to be enough. Romney has bought his way to this point, but the bus stops here. I’m sorry, Mitt, you won’t ever be President, and the entire GOP knows it. The Convention ended with Romney leading his family and Ryan’s family in a singing of “America the Beautiful.” Oh, boy.

The GOP Convention was boring and didn't hit the mark. Bounce be damned, these guys have no chance against Obama. Starting Monday night you’re going to see a sharper, more in-touch, more exciting Convention than the borefest you just saw. Have you seen the list of speakers? Bill Clinton is going to speak. Obama is going to speak. Then when it's over, do you have any idea what Obama is going to do to Romney in the debates? You’re talking about a guy, in Obama I mean, who dethroned the Clintons then pounded John McCain. Romney can’t beat this guy, and the GOP knows it. This isn’t even going to be close come November. Truth be told, I actually like Romney’s business background. After Obama romps at the polls, I think he should hire Mitt as America’s business manager. President? Absolutely not, but CFO, yeah I like that for Mitt.

The GOP is out of touch. This country hasn’t legitimately elected a Republican since Bush Senior in ’88. Then we immediately voted him right out for a two-term Democrat. This country didn’t elect GW. He didn’t even win the popular vote. In my lifetime, I have only seen ONE one-term president. There is no way Romney is going to TKO Obama. The GOP has their eye on 2016, and that joke of a Convention this past week is all the proof I need on that point.

I like Mitt, don’t get me wrong, but all the money in the world won’t get him around Barack. The GOP isn’t behind him. And even if they were, the party is wrong on almost every major issue in America today, because this country doesn’t care about abortion, gay marriage, and this idea that we owe SOMEBODY trillions in deficit dollars. The average American can't even explain the deficit. America cares about their jobs, and their jobs, and their jobs. Obama is going to have a great second term. And trust me, cleaning up after GW isn’t a four-year job, it's more like a forty-year job. But we have the right guy in office, and he will get this country back on track. But you must remember, the whole world is in a financial funk. It's just a tough time across the globe. But America is in WAY BETTER shape than anyone else, and will continue to be so.

Before the GOP Convention: I would've bet a million dollars on Barack. After the Convention: I'd bet a billion.

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Brian Huba

Monday, August 27, 2012

Here Comes the Plumber: Part Two

In the end, the final tally read as follows: $7200.00 in the blink of an eye, a house covered in white sanding dust, fourteen trips to Home Depot, a half-month lost in a haze of home improvement, one returned Fossil bag, and a partridge in a pear tree. The boiling point almost came when Marc disappeared for an entire day, sending a total stranger that he hired in the Wal-Mart parking lot an hour before to finish the sheet rocking job. His name was Jack and he did a great job, but I was uncomfortable when learning he’d never worked for Marc before, never even met him in fact. Then he got into a yelling match with Marc on the cell phone while at our house, angry at Marc for vanishing on a six-hour lunch break, and leaving no direction for the day. And that was the last we saw of the Jack Attack.

For the last few weeks, as we lived and labored through this project that started on a busted toilet and ended with a total remodel, I’d redubbed our Dream Summer the Disappointment Summer. But now, the house is clean, the painting’s done, the plumbers are gone, and as I stand in our brand-new, modernized bathroom, I see the beginnings of a home that we can be happy in, and that makes this the Happiest Summer. Not happy because of the new vanity and new tube with the mold-proof walls, happy because we have peace of mind against the possibility of what could’ve came from this faulty water system, and nothing is more important than that. If we had ignored the problem, spent our summer funds on Cape Cod and Fossil Bags, the fallout could’ve been epic. Now my family is safe, my house is sound, and the moral is nothing great comes without a little hardship along the way.

I am happier than ever that we didn’t sell our house this past spring, trade up to the big place with the perfect pool. I would’ve been saddened to see a young couple come into our home and have to deal with this plumbing disaster right away. The truth is we haven’t earned the big place with the perfect pool yet. The truth is we still had work to do in our current house, lessons to learn about interior improvement, and waiting our rightful turn, because nothing great comes RIGHT NOW. And nothing new can come until the work on the old is complete, shortcuts and easy way outs be damned. I forgot that for a time last spring. I relearned it two months later.

And now I know about shower valves, and water mains, and drainage pipes. I am a smarter, more informed home owner now, and that wouldn’ve happened if we had cut and run to the big place with the perfect pool before we had earned the right to upgrade that way. Nothing in life is worth it unless you earn it. Nobody is inspired by seeing a twenty-two year old in a Mercedes. Nobody is genuinely excited about the Kardashians’ fame, for the fact that it isn’t real, it wasn’t fought for and won, it was given. And now: who knows? We may never leave this house.

Of course Marc had to come back yesterday, because no “good” thing just ends easy either. Turns out he put the shower nozzle on wrong-way around. Which meant turning the water off, taking the shower apart, another trip to Home Depot, and forty more minutes of me doing the nodding-along thing as he explained the nozzle cartridge insertion. But something funny happened. As he explained the latest round of work, I actually DID understand. I wasn’t just a nodding drone saying, “OK, how much?” I knew what he was saying. I could’ve done it myself, ah, maybe. And like the poet Flavor Flav once said, “Knowing, my good man, is half the battle.”

I must admit I grew to like Marc and his rotating gang of assistant plumbers. But I was relieved that this nozzle-cartridge install would the absolute last stop on this job. Oh wait: Didn’t I say that same thing three weeks ago when white-haired Mike left with my $900.00? Back then my financial plane was plummeting towards Earth. Today my plane is at the refill station, and will soon fly again. Next summer: Cape Cod. Then again, the inside doors need replacing and new kitchen cabinets would be nice. OK, the summer after that: Cape Cod here we come.

Brian Huba

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Here Comes the Plumber: Part One

This story starts the day we got home from a weekend in NYC in late July of this year. We stayed on the 31st Floor of the Hilton Garden Inn with a view of Macy’s and the Chrysler Building. Dinner at great places, and third row for JERSEY BOYS—the greatest play I've ever seen. Before leaving, we made a detour to the Fossil store (not my idea) on Fifth Ave., and left with a $300.00 bag for back to school (also not my idea). But hey, why not a little splurge? The dogs were safely at home with grandma, and life was going pretty well. Then, back at home, I saw the leak in the garage. Water pouring through the floor when the toilet flushed or the shower ran. Uh-oh.

Maybe this story really starts when we decided to put our house up for sale this past spring. We wanted to jump the gun, get the 300K+ house in Loudonville with the pool and perfect yard RIGHT NOW! Of course I know nothing great comes RIGHT NOW, but I didn’t care. I was obsessed. So the showings started and life became a treadmill of racing home from work, piecing the house back together, getting the dogs out, then in came the young couple who would soon say, “No thanks” or “Not for us.” We lived on eggshells for thirty days, every universe sign screaming at me: “DON’T MOVE. YOU’RE NOT READY!” Then one May night while sitting on the deck, we came to the joint realization that we weren’t ready to leave. We were happy here, with this, a manageable house and mortgage payment. We didn’t need to extend for happiness. We already had it. Where ever "there" was, we weren’t "there" yet. Something was still holding us in this house. And two months later, on that July night as the toilet water ran through the floor and hit the hood of my car, I realized what that was: Plumbing work and probably lots of it.

I went on Google and found a plumber with good reviews in Clifton Park, and called him up. Yep, trusting total strangers on the Internet. The new referral system. A white-haired guy named Mike showed up an hour later. He replaced my toilet and redid my sink piping for a modest $900.00 dollars. Next his partner would come in and look at the tub/shower. There was no mold, phew, we had some money saved up. So far, so good. Before leaving, Mike, who was a talker, told me he was once an airplane pilot. Of course I asked him, “How do commercial planes NEVER crash?” He explained it to me best he could, the whole it’s-safer-than-a-car thing, but I still don’t understand. Little did I know my financial plane was about to plummet towards the Earth.

The next morning at 8AM, the doorbell rang, the dogs went crazy which meant WAKE UP, and an Italian guy named Marc was waiting to see the damage. He came in, said he could fix the tub/shower damage for $1100.00. That's it? $2000.00 total with his work and Mike's the day before. Great. Cape Cod could still happen. We told him to go ahead. Of course he couldn’t start until the following Monday, which meant my downstairs shower was about to get double duty for four days. And, of course, this double duty helped us to quickly discover that, yep, the downstairs shower leaked too. Of course it did. Cape Cod on life support.

For the next two weeks, starting everyday at 8AM on the dot, Marc’s vans rumbled into my driveway, the dogs went crazy, and his team infested my house. Loud music, sledgehammers, and questions ALL DAY LONG. Why do they have to explain EVERYTHING? Just fix it. By the end of week one, I had been ripped out of bed everyday at 8AM (not the worst thing in the world, I know), half asleep and being told that the estimate was going up, up, up, and I did that thing all guys do, nodding along like you know what this plumber is talking about before finally asking, “OK, how much?” This process was much harder still in my sleeping shorts with bed head, eyes filled with little crusties. “OK, how much?” That became my August wake-up call. Since Marc had a slipped disk in his back, I was also ripped out of bed to move the old tub outside and bring the new parts and pieces inside. I love August.

What happened to NYC and July? Why didn’t we sell last spring!! We were at a whole new shower and partial remodel upstairs, a shower seal for downstairs = $4000.00. By the end of week two: New shower, new tub, new vanity and FULL remodel = $7000.00. Goodbye Cape Cod. Then—perish the thought—the Fossil bag from Fifth Avenue had to go back. We needed Home Depot money. JERSEY BOYS felt like a lifetime before. In many ways, it was, just ask my poor bank account. Enter rock bottom.

Part Two to follow. Spoiler Alert: I spend more money and almost beat up Marc.

Brian Huba

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tebow: Madison Avenue Jesus

For the love of God! Please stop the Tim Tebow nonsense. I don’t care if he’s a “really nice guy” or if he believes in God. Enough already! Tim Tebow is nothing more than a magnet for people who need to find something to rally around. He’s just the latest example that proves the power of manias in this country. “But, Brian, he’s magic on the football field.” First of all, he’s not magic on the football field, he’s TERRIBLE! And second: kids believe in magic. When rooting for Eli Manning or Tom Brady: magic not required.

Tim Tebow is a cartoon character.

I believe there are two types of people in this world: People Who Get it and People Who Don’t. For instance, if you recognize that the SOPRANOS was landmark television, you are a Get it Person. If you thought Sarah Palin would make a good President, you are a Don’t Get it Person. In regards to Tebow, Get it People understand he is nothing more than a second-string QB with less-than-marginal skills who is NEVER going to lead a team to an NFL Superbowl. Let me repeat: NEVER. If you’re a Get it Person you also see that this whole virginal-Messiah-QB thing he’s doing is nothing more than a character trumped up by Madison Avenue to make people interested in him. Didn't Britney Spears sell the same crap in 2000? Eli Manning: no trumped-up character required.

Tim Tebow's "journey" is a Walt Disney movie.

Now if you’re a Don’t Get it Person, you spend a lot of time talking about how Tebow helps kids out, and visits hospitals, and believes in God, and everything that has nothing to do with actual football. “But, Brian, he’s a good teammate.” Really? Ask Mark Sanchez about that. What you forget to notice is the camera crew that follows him through the hospital, and the fact that he posed for GQ as a shirtless likeness of the Crucified Jesus. (For the record that is called Madison Avenue Blasphemy.) And don't tell me it was taken six years ago. Whenever it was taken, he's clearly posing and it's clearly a photo shoot. What you forget is that he called a press conference to announce himself as the Jets BACKUP QB. And don't try telling me he's a victim of the big, bad NY media. What you forget is how he ran shirtless past a row of reporters in the rain at training camp then said, “Oh, Gosh, I didn’t expect any attention from that.” What you forget is how he shows up at EVERY, SINGLE media event and sports show with his “I just want to win” nonsense. At the ESPYs he was on stage more than the show’s host. Don’t you people see that this kid is playing all of you for the fool? That he is riding this Virginal-Messiah thing right to the bank of continued relevancy? Oh wait, of course you don’t get it. Anybody who likes Tim Tebow is a 100% percent Don’t Get it Person. We need not look further than Jeremy Lin to understand the power of phony manias in this country.

Emilo Estevez from the THE MIGHTY DUCKS should play Coach Rex Ryan in the kids' movie: HAIL MARY LIFE: THE TIM TEBOW STORY

Anyone who likes Tebow spends most of their time talking about everything except actual football. Much in the same way Phish fans, who follow that band around America, talk about the atmosphere of the concert, and the cool people, and the great vibe, and the friendships made; everything except the actual music. But me, I’m an actual music guy. I want the product. Who cares about the “vibe, man?” I’m a Coughlin/Eli Guy. I’m a winning Superbowls guy. I want my QB and coach to be good guys, sure I do, but I don’t want them selling themselves as QB Jesus to get publicity. Eli Manning is in the football business. Tim Tebow is in the media business. Get it Guys get that. John Elway gets that, and thus got rid of Tebow ASAP. What business are you in?

Tebow is Rudy on steroids, maybe literally.

Manias! I can never get over how droves of people hitch their wagons to these frenzies time and time again. When will you ever learn that mania darlings never endure, they never survive the test of time? If you’re a Tebow, the football player, fan, ask yourself one question: Why? You’ll probably start listing a bunch of things that have nothing to do with football. And as you name these non-football reasons, understand that 99% of those things are fictional, created in a Madison Ave. office to make people like you buy Tebow jerseys. And if you are OK with that reality, root for your favorite backup QB and punt team player. Root hard and be proud!

Tebow Mania is the biggest joke in America.

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Brian Huba

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's Time for Jennings to Go

It’s time for longstanding Albany Mayor Gerry Jennings to step aside. Yes, this needs to be Jennings’s last term in office. He’s been mayor since 1994. It’s been a great run, a historic run, second only to the unconquerable Erastus Corning who ruled for 42 years. And I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Jennings. He's part of the city’s homegrown fabric, the good old boy who went from bartender’s kid to CEO. But everything has to end.

Before I get to the base of my argument, let’s take a snapshot of the city’s landscape. The schools are a disaster. The taxes are through the roof. The city is losing population. The number of boarded-up business fronts is rising like rapid fire. The crime is out of control. And don’t believe that APD report about city crime being down. Like Mark Twain said about lies, “there are three types: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Albany is a terrifying place, and I’m not just talking Arbor Hill, which is worse than Bedford Stuyvesant, I’m talking the entire city. It’s scary, big-city scary. But let’s forget all that, if such forgetting is possible, and talk about the latest issue at hand: Jennings vs. the Bar Scene.

Wow, that’s a line I thought I’d never write about the Capital City’s 74th Mayor. Jennings grew up the son of a bartender, and one of the first things he did when coming into office was take up the idea to build Albany’s economy on the back of Pearl Street. He jump started Alive at Five, and he was at the forefront of the bar scene buildup. He was Mayor when the Big House got rolling. Then came Mad River, the Bayou, Jillian’s, just to name a few. I can’t count the number of times I saw GJ at McGeary’s, beer in hand, mixing with the masses. His Alive at Five moves were brilliant. County and State Workers get paid on Thursday, so let’s bring all that new money to the Riverfront and let’s rock. I loved Alive at Five. It was all going great. Talk of a Convention Center and "Destination City” status was in the works. He got the Giants up here. He built up Albany International Airport. The U Albany Science buildings are here. Parking-ticket scandal aside, his legacy is secured. Get out, Gerry, while the getting is good.

Before I say another word about the bar scene battle, I will tell you that Jennings is 100% right on this issue. Most of the Downtown trouble comes after 2AM, and said trouble is a strain on local police and even hospitals. It’s a Warzone on Pearl Street after 2AM. But right doesn't always mean right. The fact remains that Jennings is trying to stifle out the monster he built, he’s turning his back on the partnership he made from Day One. Even though he’s 100% right on this 2AM thing, it feels a bit desperate to me. It feels like the end. The Big House is gone, Mad River is gone. And now Jillian’s is gone. That was a big one. And when the Bayou goes dark (because the Bayou is as Albany as Jennings himself) that to me will feel like a symbolic finish. And don’t get fooled, this Mayor cannot rebuild Downtown by waging this war against the bars. It’s time to start fresh.

Five terms in, Jennings is just too comfortable. He’s not hungry enough. How could he be? The man walks on water. He even made number one on my Famous Capital Region List. I love consistency. And I love Jennings as the face of Albany. But the ship is sinking. Smart people are moving out of Albany, and it looks like the bar scene isn’t far behind. The Convention Center can’t get off the ground. If Jennings is sticking around to outlast Corning as Albany’s longest-running Mayor, I don’t think he’s going to make it anyway. Jennings must be hungry for a new challenge. Senate? Congress? And the City of Albany needs a new voice to get in there and shake some things up. I love Gerry. He has great taste in food (I see him at D’Raymond’s all the time). He’s a homegrown good old boy. But it’s time to change gears. Get out, Gerry, while the getting is good.

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Brian Huba

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Capital Region's Most Famous

Every area has its list of local celebs. This is what I came up with for the Capital Region, the most important Region in the entire world.

20. Kristi Gustafson: TU Blogger "On the Edge"
19. Tom Durkin: Voice of Saratoga Raceway
18. Steve Barnes: TU Reporter/TU Blogger "Table Hopping"
17: Terry Kindlon: Albany Lawyer
16. Matt Baumgartner: Owner of Bombers, Biergarten & Wolfs 111
15. David Soares: Albany DA
14. Ray Blesser: Northeastern Fine Jewelry
13. Angelo Mazzone: Owner of Prime 677
12. Jim Miller: Former Albany PD Spokesman
11. Benita Zahn: Channel 13 News Lead Anchor/Health Reporter
10. Chris Porco: Convicted of killing his father and maiming his mother
9. Steve Caporizzo: Channel 10 Meteorologist/Animal Lover
8. Carmine Spiro: Albany Restaurant Owner/”Carmine’s Table”
7. John Gray: Channel 8 Lead News Anchor/Troy Record Contributor
6. Mary Lou Whitney: Saratoga-based Philanthropist and Socialite
5. Uncle Vito Masonetti: PYX 106.5 Deejay/"Ranger Danger"
4. William Kennedy: Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author of LEGS, IRONWEED & ROSCOE
3. Bob Kovachick: Channel 13 Meteorologist
2. Billy Fuccillo: Local (and National) Car Dealer/The “Huge” Guy
1. Gerry Jennings: Albany Mayor

Did I forget any?

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Brian Huba

Monday, August 13, 2012

Holding out for management

It was nice to see America win the overall medal count at the Olympics this summer. Other than that, I don’t have much to say about the Games. I enjoyed some of the stories, but there’s not a lasting investment in these athletes for me. I left the Olympics knowing two things 1) Usain Bolt, the Jamaican Sprinter, is obviously using performance-enhancing drugs, and 2) America is still the greatest place on the planet.

I don’t understand why people complain about the current American System. Is the economy that bad? (It's better than anywhere else in the world.) Is it that hard to find a job? Tonight we ran errands in the stores where we live (Clifton Park), and EVERY SINGLE retailer, from Home Depot to Friendly’s, was hiring. HELP WANTED signs plastered all over the place. Anyone who wants a job, and is willing to work, I mean actually work, can have it.

You’re upset because this economy doesn’t allow you to go from college to the corner office. Tell me a time in American history where the economy did. Here’s an economic lesson. It’s called Supply vs. Demand. When our colleges graduate three million students every year, the demand for these degrees obviously declines. “But, Brian, I just spent 80 thousand on my degree. I deserve a high-paying job asap.” Therein lies the problem. That’s not how a sustainable economy works. You need to climb the ladder, eat some crow, get your hands dirty, make connections, earn respect. Then, after all that, you’ll get the big job. And guess what? You’ll be ready. Ask Tom Coughlin about waiting your turn.

I know, you’re WAY too important for Home Depot or Friendly’s. That's beneath you, because you have a communications degree. Who doesn’t? Now it’s time to actually work, the same way the generations of the past did, the ones you claim made this country great, in a way-back time you claim was great. Make today great. Hump concrete for twelve hours a day, sling eggs in a 100-degree kitchen, wait tables five nights a week. Whatever you do, be the best at it, and if you’re educated and eager, you’ll get your opportunity. But you might have to wait, and while you wait, you might have to work. I washed dishes in a retirement home with a bachelor’s degree. So what? Six months later, I had a career. I got that because I met the right guy in that kitchen, and he hooked me up. Thank God I wasn’t too big for dishes.

I say this is the greatest time in American history. I say this economy is better than it’s ever been. Think about everyone you know who’s been fired or laid off. I bet--if you’re being honest with yourself--there’s nobody who’s hard working and smart and humble on that laid-off list. I bet if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that the guy who’s willing to go the extra mile, who’s 100% invested in what he does, is still working right now. The American System is Darwinism. The weak will be weeded out. But the ones who are willing to do whatever it takes, it’ll work out for them in the end.

What do we all think when somebody says, “I’m holding out for management”? We know that guy doesn’t want to work. We know that management job is never coming. Now imagine a whole nation holding out for management. It's a joke. So tonight I salute the woman who helped me buy a sink at Home Depot, and the young girl who made my milkshake (with whipped cream) at Friendly’s, and the guys who washed my car at Hoffmann’s. You’re the reason why this country is better than it's ever been. And ten years from now, I’ll see you in the corner office when I need a mortgage loan approved or an insurance policy explained, while all those guys who were too good to scoop ice cream or clean cars are still "holding out for management."

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Brian Huba

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Great Valenti Family

To Ralph, the Amazing Emma, and the entire Valenti Family:

We have marked countless life moments at your family's restaurant. Your family is a part of our family. And we will grieve the loss of Jarid with you forever.

--Mr. & Mrs. Brian Huba

Originally ran 9.4.11

Go to the Villa Valenti you fools

Last night we went to dinner at our favorite restaurant, the Villa Valenti, and we were the only two people in the place at 9.15PM, which was pretty great because of the real 1-to-1 service. (For the record, it was very busy earlier in the night, a 30 minute wait at the bar.) It was also weird having nobody else in a restaurant at that time on a Saturday night, while Lombardi’s parking lot, a mile down the road, looked like the outside of Giants’ Stadium ten minutes before kickoff (I mean Met Life Stadium). And it was a little sad, because the Villa Valenti is the best restaurant in the world, and I should know because I’m the greatest dishwasher the place ever had. You’re probably saying, “Brian, how can you say the Villa is the best restaurant in the world. Have you been to every restaurant in the world, even Europe?” Yes. Yes I have.

Here’s what I propose.

The economy is pretty rough, and my male-modeling career for Hollister is beginning to go dry, (How many shopping bags can your shirtless likeness appear on?) so I am submitting my letter of interest right here and now for the unadvertised opening as the Villa Valenti’s Marketing Director, working for Ralph Valenti and family. Prior experience? Greatest dishwasher ever. Need I say more?

My campaign would be a simple one. I’d tell Ralph to stop playing the game of dinner specials, blanket emails, and presentation over substance. I would tell Ralph to stop all the advertising and 4 for $20.00 dinner nights. Forget it. Under my direction, he would go in the newspapers, on the radio waves, and say, “You want specials, I don’t do specials. Here’s what I do. I SELL THE BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD, and I’m right down the road.” The second commercial would go like this. Cue Ralph Valenti saying, “Go to your so-called favorite restaurant and get your so-called favorite dinner. Then come to the Villa, get the same exact thing and I promise: YOU’LL NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR ‘FAVORITE’ RESTAURANT.’ Why? Because I SELL THE BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD!”

I’ve been everywhere in the Region. Sam’s, Lombardo’s, all those CafĂ© places in Albany, Verdile’s, the Brown Derby, D’Raymond’s, Ralph’s on Central, TJ’s, that place by Lark Street with the curbside seating, the Circus Cafe. NOBODY can touch the Villa. NOBODY. The place should have 1,000 people every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. The Villa bread and salad bar? Don't get me started. I could eat the Villa 8 days a week. If I was on Death Row, for last meal, I would send the Jailer Man and Sailor Sam to the Villa Valenti for their chicken parm, eat it, and die a happy man. Go to the Villa Valenti you fools.

You need a coupon offer, here it is: It's the best dinner you'll ever have. How much is it? I don't know: The fairest price on the planet. Less than its competition, I'm sure. And don't give me that crap, Averill Parkers, about how the Villa used to be good but now it's not. The Villa was the best in '81, '91, '01 and still in '11.

When I was 17, I washed dishes in the kitchen at the Villa, and it was the best job I ever had. I washed five feet from the restaurant’s matriarch, Emma Valenti, who would show up for work every day, except Tuesday, sit behind a pushcart and cut tomatoes, shred cheese, slice onions so thin they were invisible. From 2PM till 10PM she would pick apart every single thing I did wrong as I slaved over that dishwasher in a kitchen that would hit 100 degrees, and I loved every, single second of it. Then she rewarded you. Free food, bread, homemade dessert, it was great. Every 17 year old needs an Emma Valenti in their life. Maybe our younger generations wouldn’t feel so entitled, run so fast from hard work if they had an Emma Valenti telling them where the rubber hits the road. I betcha.

My greatest memory of Ralph Valenti is years later as I waited at the bar for a takeout order. He told me that night if he could work any other career it would be as a teacher. I won’t tell you how that influenced me, Hollister career aside. They are a great family, but more importantly they are the architects and engineers of the greatest restaurant menu in the business. If you have never eaten at the Villa, you have never eaten Italian-American food.

Every year on my birthday, the whole family goes to the Villa, of course. Right now I am staring at the receipt from the night of my 29th birthday. My father had such a great time that night, we all did, and he paid the entire $279.00 bill, a bargain for the seven of us, I promise you. I keep that receipt because it’s the last time we ever went out to family dinner with him, as he was gone 3 months later. Thank you, Villa, for that great final memory.

Go to the Villa Valenti you fools.


Villa Website:

Brian Huba

Sunday, August 5, 2012

One Door Opens, One Door Closes

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past week, you probably know about the Trader Joe’s opening on Wolf Rd. Everyone has been excited about this, um, grocery store, so excited that police escorts were called in to control TJ’s traffic flow for Friday’s Grand Opening. People, it’s not the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s Hannaford with a different colored sign. Who in their right mind needs to race to a grocery store on a Friday afternoon to get, well, I don’t know what? What needed to be bought so badly that you were willing to fight a mob in order to get it? Wait a second: Did you take the day off from work on Friday because you HAD to be at Trader Joe’s for the opening? I bet you took the day off from work the first day Dinosaur BBQ & Krispy Kreme opened too. When you showed up at Joe’s on Friday, were you wearing your new Tim Tebow Jets jersey and your Jeremy Lin “Linsanity” shorts? Well, savor the favor, Capital Region, because Trader Joe’s will be out of business in eight months. Ah, manias.

Read More:

I read a very sad story yesterday: Jillian’s in Downtown Albany is closing its doors. What a stake in the heart of the Downtown Bar District. The club’s owner said he dumped everything into Jillian’s, but Downtown Albany proved to be his Waterloo. For those who don’t know, Waterloo is the newest water-slide ride in Great Escape’s wet park. Anyway, this sad ending of an era got me thinking about Mayor Jennings, whom I've always loved. Maybe it’s time to face the truth, maybe it's time for him to step aside. Albany’s schools are in trouble, crime is nonstop, housing values are decreasing, taxes are through the roof, the Convention Center?, and now the one thing that Jennings built up better than all else, the bar district, is dying a slow death. Why? People think it’s too dangerous down there. I used to love DA. But I wouldn’t be caught dead there now, and this is coming from a guy who was on the 3rd floor at Jillian’s when a 250-person fight broke out then spilled onto Pearl Street. Those were the "safe" days. Today, it would be knives, maybe guns. No thanks.

Jillian’s never proved to be a confidence builder for me. Every time I went to Jillian’s, and we went there a lot, I always told myself this is the night I finally have fun, but I was a plague in that place. Jillian’s girls hated me. So one night, my friend John and I decided: no more of this. We’re taking the Groove Shack by storm. We looked good, felt good, were dressed to the 9s, it was time to turn the Jillian’s curse upside down. We strode confidently into the Groove Shack, cut a rug right to the heart of the dance floor. Yep, this was going to be our night. As we made the mouth of the dance floor, right in front of the main stage, someone dropped an elephant fart that peeled the paint off the walls and might’ve grinded the DJ’s music to a stop. It was toxic times a thousand. Girls ran fleeing from the dance floor, one kid vomited in a garbage can in the corner. And all this is happening at the same time that John and I entered, feeling like Travolta in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. Long story short, someone looked at me, with plugged nose, and said in disgust, “He did it.” Then me and John were booed and heckled off the 3rd floor, as people said, “You’re disgusting,” and the stink of this elephant fart followed us to the front door. RIP, Jillian’s.

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Friday night we went to the Cheesecake Factory. We were sitting in our booth when the hostess brought this man and his family to the table next to us. I recognized this man from all my nights in Downtown Albany, hazy recognition but I knew it was him nonetheless. I never spoke to him, but he was always there at the Bayou or Big House, having fun like us. But on Friday night, he was there with his wife and his two young kids. And I thought to myself: That era is really over in my life, and for most of the people who were out when I was out. My peer group is onto the stage of young kids and first houses now. So maybe the closing of Jillian’s is fitting. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.

Brian Huba

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"I was snappish with the boy."

I came across this interview tonight. It's from 6.21.12.
This is the most uncomfortable but also amazing late-night interview I've ever seen. Letterman destroys Justin Bieber with daggers in his eyes. He mocks him, makes fun of him, talks down to him, backs him into corners. It's filled with awkward silences and semi-heated exchanges. Letterman gets pretty mean at times too. Bieber is like a sheep to the slaughter.

Check it out:

Brian Huba