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.

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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

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