Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another Dose of False Outrage

Today I read that Sears is planning to drop Paula Deen products from their retail stores. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target have already discontinued their relationship with the queen of trailer-park cuisine. Her publisher is dumping her, all because Ms. Deen was caught on tape making "racially-insensitive comments." So what?

I don’t know if it’s this country’s need to be over-the-top politically correct or this belief that consumers have an actual relationship with the famous face behind the product, but why do we always throw such fits of false outrage? I think it’s pretty obvious that Deen’s capable of saying something as dumb as she said, the same way 99% of Americans do. She’s not a politician. She makes bad food for people who don’t care about their cholesterol count or waistline. How does her saying "racially-insensitive" things--years ago I might add--change that relationship with her millions of faithful buyers?

Admit it: You don't actually care what she said. You're not actually outraged. If Paula Deen's comments legit offended you, wow, you're not a very realistic person. It wasn't even a slur or racial really. It was just dumb. Watch here: If anything Deen got in trouble here trying to prove she WASN'T a racist. This need to show that she doesn't see people by skin color by commenting on their skin color. Little secret: We all see people first by skin color. Obama didn't make history because he's the first president to play basketball or come from Chicago.

I get it: Celebrities are held to a higher standard than you or I. They can’t get away with making comments about black people or Indians or whatever without someone running to the media with it. But before you crucify Paula Deen or even Michael Richards for their oh-so-ugly slurs, you might want to think about what guys like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin would’ve been caught saying if the whole world was on Twitter and/or secretly recording every word on cell-phone cameras. She made the comments. She apologized. Why all this epic fallout? Why does she get fired from the FOOD Network? Was the tearful apology on the TODAY Show really required? If anything the TODAY Show should apologize. Have you ever tried sitting through ten minutes of that crap? I'm not endorsing someone saying a black man can't be seen in front of a dark-colored wall, of course I'm not. But get over it. We're more angered over this non-issue than we are about an NFL star possibly murdering someone. Ah, false outrage.

This overblown situation is another reason why race is still an issue in this country. Now we get to hear talking heads like Wendy Williams soapbox about this. Cue the big, phony "boos" from the studio audience. Watch here: Oh, boy. Major corporations release statements. CEOs curse the awful, vile behavior. You’re telling me that rich, white guy who heads Target has never made a derogatory remark about a minority? If you believe that I got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Racial "slurs" are a part of the American lexicon. Like it or not, they’re never going away. Everyone uses them. When caught, apologize, move on.

In the ultimate act of hypocrisy and stupidity, we crush Paula Deen NOT for slowly killing Americans with her diabetes-inducing dishes but rather a few dumb comments. Maybe the end justifies the means in this case. Personally, I don’t care about this. These people aren’t my friends or family or associates. They’re celebrities. If you like her food, cook it. That's it. Who cares about her politics? And what she said isn't her politics, I don't think so. It was just a dumb thing to say.

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Brian Huba

Thursday, June 27, 2013

David Chase's Eulogy for James Gandolfini

Dear Jimmy,
Your family asked me to speak at your service, and I am so honored and touched. I'm also really scared, and I say that because you of all people will understand this. I'd like to run away and call in four days from now from the beauty parlor. I want to do a good job, because I love you, and because you always did a good job.

I think the deal is I'm supposed to speak about the actor/artist's work part of your life. Others will have spoken beautifully and magnificently about the other beautiful and magnificent parts of you: father, brother, friend. I guess what I was told is I'm also supposed to speak for your castmates whom you loved, for your crew that you loved so much, for the people at HBO, and Journey. I hope I can speak for all of them today and for you.

I asked around, and experts told me to start with a joke and a funny anecdote. "Ha ha ha." But as you yourself so often said, I'm not feelin' it. I'm too sad and full of despair. I'm writing to you partly because I would like to have had your advice. Because I remember how you did speeches. I saw you do a lot of them at awards shows and stuff, and invariably you would scratch two or three thoughts on a sheet of paper and put it in your pocket, and then not really refer to it. And consequently, a lot of your speeches didn't make sense. I think that could happen in here, except in your case, it didn't matter that it didn't make sense, because the feeling was real. The feeling was real. The feeling was real. I can't say that enough.

I tried to write a traditional eulogy, but it came out like bad TV. So I'm writing you this letter, and now I'm reading that letter in front of you. But it is being done to and for an audience, so I'll give the funny opening a try. I hope that it's funny; it is to me and it is to you.

And that is, one day toward the end of the show — maybe season 4 or season 5 — we were on the set shooting a scene with Stevie Van Zandt, and I think the set-up was that Tony had received news of the death of someone, and it was inconvenient for him. And it said, "Tony opens the refrigerator door, closes it and he starts to speak." And the cameras rolled, and you opened the refrigerator door, and you slammed it really hard — you slammed it hard enough that it came open again. And so then you slammed it again, then it came open again. You kept slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and went apeshit on that refrigerator.

And the funny part for me is I remember Steven Van Zandt — because the cameras are going, we have to play this whole scene with a refrigerator door opening — I remember Steven Van Zandt standing there with his lip out, trying to figure out, "Well, what should I do? First, as Silvio, because he just ruined my refrigerator. And also as Steven the actor, because we're now going to play a scene with the refrigerator door open; people don't do that." And I remember him going over there and trying to tinker with the door and fix it, and it didn't work. And so we finally had to call cut, and we had to fix the refrigerator door, and it never really worked, because the gaffer tape showed on the refrigerator, and it was a problem all day long. And I remember you saying, "Ah, this role, this role, the places it takes me to, the things I have to do, it's so dark." And I remember telling you, "Did I tell you to destroy the refrigerator? Did it say anywhere in the script, 'Tony destroys a refrigerator'? It says 'Tony angrily shuts the refrigerator door.' That's what it says. You destroyed the fridge."

Another memory of you that comes to mind is from very early on — might have been the pilot, I don't know. We were shooting in that really hot and humid summer New Jersey heat. And I looked over, and you were sitting in an aluminum beach chair, with your slacks rolled up to your knees, in black socks and black shoes, and a wet handkerchief on your head. And I remember looking over there and going, "Well, that's really not a cool look." But I was filled with love, and I knew then that I was in the right place. I said, "Wow, I haven't seen that done since my father used to do it, and my Italian uncles use to do it, and my Italian grandfather used to do it." And they were laborers in the same hot sun in New Jersey. They were stone masons, and your father worked with concrete. I don't know what it is with Italians and cement. And I was so proud of our heritage — it made me so proud of our heritage to see you do that.

When I said before that you were my brother, this has a lot to do with that: Italian-American, Italian worker, builder, that Jersey thing — whatever that means — the same social class. I really feel that, though I'm older than you, and always felt, that we are brothers. And it was really based on that day. I was filled with so much love for everything we were doing and about to embark on.

I also feel you're my brother in that we have different tastes, but there are things we both love, which was family, work, people in all their imperfection, food, alcohol, talking, rage, and a desire to bring the whole structure crashing down. We amused each other.

The image of my uncles and father reminded me of something that happened between us one time. Because these guys were such men — your father and these men from Italy. And you were going through a crisis of faith about yourself and acting, a lot of things, were very upset. I went to meet you on the banks of the Hudson River, and you told me, you said, "You know what I want to be? I want to be a man. That's all. I want to be a man." Now, this is so odd, because you are such a man. You're a man in many ways many males, including myself, wish they could be a man.

The paradox about you as a man is that I always felt personally, that with you, I was seeing a young boy. A boy about Michael's age right now. 'Cause you were very boyish. And about the age when humankind, and life on the planet are really opening up and putting on a show, really revealing themselves in all their beautiful and horrible glory. And I saw you as a boy — as a sad boy, amazed and confused and loving and amazed by all that. And that was all in your eyes. And that was why, I think, you were a great actor: because of that boy who was inside. He was a child reacting. Of course you were intelligent, but it was a child reacting, and your reactions were often childish. And by that, I mean they were pre-school, they were pre-manners, they were pre-intellect. They were just simple emotions, straight and pure. And I think your talent is that you can take in the immensity of humankind and the universe, and shine it out to the rest of us like a huge bright light. And I believe that only a pure soul, like a child, can do that really well. And that was you.

Now to talk about a third guy between us, there was you and me and this third guy. People always say, "Tony Soprano. Why did we love him so much when he was such a prick?" And my theory was, they saw the little boy. They felt and they loved the little boy, and they sensed his love and hurt. And you brought all of that to it. You were a good boy. Your work with the Wounded Warriors was just one example of this. And I'm going to say something because I know that you'd want me to say it in public: that no one should forget Tony Sirico's efforts with you in this. He was there with you all the way, and in fact you said to me just recently, "It's more Tony than me." And I know you, and I know you would want me to turn the spotlight on him, or you wouldn't be satisfied. So I've done that.

So Tony Soprano never changed, people say. He got darker. I don't know how they can misunderstand that. He tried and he tried and he tried. And you tried and you tried, more than most of us, and harder than most of us, and sometimes you tried too hard. That refrigerator is one example. Sometimes, your efforts were at cost to you and others, but you tried. And I'm thinking about the fact of how nice you were to strangers on the street, fans, photographers. You would be patient, loving and personal, and then finally you would just do too much, and then you would snap. And that's of course what everybody read about, was the snapping.

I was asked to talk about the work part, and so I'll talk about the show we used to do and how we used to do it. You know, everybody knows that we always ended an episode with a song. That was kind of like me and the writers letting the real geniuses do the heavy lifting: Bruce, and Mick and Keith, and Howling Wolf and a bunch of them. So if this was an episode, it would end with a song. And the song, as far as I'm concerned, would be Joan Osborne's "(What If God Was) One Of Us?" And the set-up for this — we never did this, and you never even heard this — is that Tony was somehow lost in the Meadowlands. He didn't have his car, and his wallet, and his car keys. I forget how he got there — there was some kind of a scrape — but he had nothing in his pocket but some change. He didn't have his guys with him, he didn't have his gun. And so mob boss Tony Soprano had to be one of the working stiffs, getting in line for the bus. And the way we were going to film it, he was going to get on the bus, and the lyric that would've one over that would've been — and we don't have Joan Osborne to sing it:

If God had a face
what would it look like?
And would you want to see
if seeing meant you had to believe?
And yeah, yeah, God is great.
Yeah, yeah, God is good.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So Tony would get on the bus, and he would sit there, and the bus would pull out in this big billow of diesel smoke. And then the key lyric would come on, and it was

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
trying to make his way home.

And that would've been playing over your face, Jimmy. But then — and this is where it gets kind of strange — now I would have to update, because of the events of the last week. And I would let the song play further, and the lyrics would be

Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rollin' stone
Back up to Heaven all alone
Nobody callin' on the phone
'Cept for the Pope, maybe, in Rome.



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm SPAC'd Out

This past Sunday we went to SPAC to see the Tom Petty show. The band was amazing, and Tom was still strong at 62 years old. We sat inside, on the aisle, about twelve rows from the stage, so the visuals were fantastic. We’ve seen the last three concerts from inside seating, which is nice, because the tickets are more expensive, so you’re sitting with career guy vs. job guy out on the lawn. I will never sit on the lawn again. Nothing ruins a nice night quicker than drunken white trash stumbling around shirtless looking for a fight. Double that same sentiment when dealing with 50-year-old WT of the same description. I’m done with that in my life. But maybe that’s not all I’m done with it.

I’m 33 years old. In my 20s I loved going to DMB concerts at SPAC. Change that: I pretended to love it. I think Dave Matthews is the best band in the world, but I wouldn’t be caught dead at one of his SPAC shows now. Why? I can’t handle the carrying on, and the screaming, and the young kids, and the traffic, and the all-day tailgating. Enough already. Petty is more my speed now, so I thought. My problem here is not with the white trash on the lawn or the DMB fanatics. My problem’s with SPAC itself. I’m SPAC’d out.

It seems to me that the foremost goal of the SPAC staff is to ruin everyone’s concert experience. After paying $400.00 for Petty tickets, we had to pay ten more to park. Um, OK, I guess. At the entrance gate, we were both patted down like perps. It was really intense. On the way to our seats, we stopped to buy two waters and a bottle of Pepsi. I was so excited about drinking my ice-cold Pepsi and watching Petty on a HOT June night. But no, no, no. Ice not allowed. So we headed inside to our seats, water and sodas in hand. After showing our tickets, we were forced to put the bottled drinks into big cups. Why? They’re plastic bottles. Why do I have to pour them into cups? Is this about sneaking alcohol? You think I’m worried about sneaking shot bottles into my drink? Couldn’t I do that even easier with an open cup? OK, fine, can I get a top and straw for the cups, because I’m now carrying three open drinks through a crowd of thousands. No tops or straws. So now my drinks are sitting wide open all night while people bump, and dance, and sweat on all sides of me. Plus the soda was piss warm by song three. So much for that.

The music’s going! The crowd’s rocking! Life was good. Enter the ticket checkers with their tiny flashlights. Ma’am, you don’t need to stop me from dancing in the middle of REFUGEE to check my ticket, when I’m standing right in front of my seat. Then comes the ticket checker with the two ANGRY women, ruining everyone’s night. The concert was an hour old, and this SPAC worker finds out that these two women are sitting a row lower than they should. Nobody cares. The chairs they pirated were otherwise unsold. It wasn’t a problem, but it was. For the next thirty minutes, this woman is dragging these two concertgoers up and down dark aisles trying to locate their “actual” seats, disrupting everybody else’s time. All this and this worker couldn’t find the seats either, so the women were allowed to return to their original seats. Awful!

Then the SPAC security guards are running up and down the aisles every ten seconds like someone is about to shoot the President. Guys, relax, it can’t possibly be this serious for the fifteenth time. When security is carrying on like that, it charges people up. It can incite a riot. This is what I thought to myself as we winded out towards the exits at show's end, past a woman openly peeing on the lawn, two feet from the passing crowd. How many times can I do this same experience in my life?

I’m SPAC’d out.

Sidebar: I saw the strangest thing at the Petty show: A sign-language woman playing out the concert for the hearing impaired. She stood next to the stage with a single spotlight on her as she worked. I'm sorry, if you're deaf, you can't experience a rock concert through sign language. During the long and many guitar solos she just stood there. Couldn't she at least play an air guitar to capture the effect? Then I wondered: How does this work? Does she have to learn every word to every Petty song? What if the band changes the words as they play? Like, "she grew up in a NEW YORK town." Bands do that all the time. Sign language at a rock concert. Wow.

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Brian Huba

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's all in a name Part II

Again, I ask: Would this ever be Justin Timberlake?

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Full support for half-staff

On the same day our Gov.'s girlfriend stupidly tried to vacation in the hotel room James Gandolfini just died in, New Jersey’s Chris Christie has decided to put state flags at half-staff in honor of the late actor. After reading the article that detailed Big Chris’s plan, I read the Facebook comments that followed. The consensus: Christie is wrong. Half-staff should be reserved for those who died at war and/or public servants. I say Christie is 100% right.

The commenters railed on about how those at war are the real heroes and Gandolfini was just some actor. People always get so artificially righteous about Vets. That kid you’re calling a hero was the same Vo-Tec kid you gave swirlies to in high school. So don’t think it makes you a better American to pretend you have all this respect for him when he’s killed by a roadside bomb. We both know you don’t care about that guy the same way we know you never missed an episode of THE SOPRANOS.

Maybe if we stopped filling these young recruits with the belief that people will salute them at gas stations and applaud them when they walk into restaurants, maybe less would sign lifetime contracts at eighteen, when they have the world-perception of a garden slug. I know an eighteen year old who signed up for the Army because he broke up with his girlfriend and needed to get away for a while. That’s eighteen-year-old logic. Recruiters toss these kids a free t-shirt and a bunch of lies. Said kid thinks he's gonna get a million dollars from the government. If less signed on maybe the Military would shrink and we wouldn't be able to set up in Afghanistan for thirteen years, doing God knows what. It's supply vs. demand. If the supply keeps coming, we can plant roots around the world, be at war forever.

I’m saddened when any Army kid is killed because I think of the life wasted, same way I was sad when that football player gave up the NFL to fight, then got killed five minutes later by friendly fire. He’s not a hero. He’s a fool. If you can lower the flags for him, you can lower them for Gandolfini.

And before you dismiss Gandolfini as nothing more than Tony Soprano, the most important TV role of all-time (Sorry Archie Bunker), educate yourself on what else he was. He raised and donated millions of dollars and brought national awareness to VFWs. Remember his documentaries on the men and women in uniform? He went to Afghanistan and has used his star power to do more for the Armed Services than you and I ever will. My opinion on the war and those who fight it may be the wrong one, but it’s consistent. We both know you delete the flags-at-half-staff email that comes across your desk a few times a week.

Of course Christie is doing this for PR attention. But I'm OK with this look-at-me move.

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Brian Huba

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Forever Tony

I'm not going to pretend I have anything novel to say about the shocking news out of Italy.

The world lost the greatest TV actor of all times today. But James Gandolfini was so much more than just a great actor. He was a cultural icon, an American legend as Tony Soprano. I feel like I've lost a family member. Who didn't love THE SOPRANOS? The anchor of the greatest show in TV history is gone at 51. Wow! All I can say is what I've been saying for the past ten years: Nothing will EVER touch THE SOPRANOS. And Gandolfini's untimely death will surely launch Tony Soprano's historical spot into the stratosphere. But anyone who ever watched five minutes of the HBO classic already knows where he ranks on the list of TV greats.

Bobby was right when he told Tony, in the end the lights go out, there's nothing.

I'm devastated.

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Brian Huba

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sophie's Letter to Shaker Vet

Dear Dr. Patrick:

Thank you for performing the surgery that saved my life. Since your phone call last Friday with the results, the good news means my mommy & daddy can stop crying. I'm back to doing my three favorite things 1)Going on long walks with my sisters, 2)Chasing chipmunks in my yard (but never catching them), and 3)Taking naps in the afternoon in the big bed. When the staples come out and the hair grows back, I'll be ready for summer. My mom & dad don't work over summer, which means going up north to my grandma's house, A LOT! Up there we take all-day boat rides on the lake in grandpa's big boat or take long walks in the Adirondacks with my sisters AND my cousins. At night we all get into bed and watch TV. I sleep between my mom & dad, head on the pillow "human style." Every morning when I wake up, bark to go out and/or eat, I'll take a minute and think of you, and know that this life almost didn't happen for me, and I'll know it did because of you. And when my daddy hears the song that says, "baby, you're a firework" he'll scoop me up and dance with me, and I don't know why he'll do that but he always does, and I'll be happy.

Barks to You and Yours,
Sophie Cinnamon


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"They're called boobs, Ed."

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Million-Dollar Baby

The other day I was talking to an 18-year-old who signed up for the Navy. They hooked her by promising to put a million dollars in her bank account after six months of service. This is obviously a complete lie, the first of several falsified, cleverly-worded promises. She bought it, autographed a lifetime contract, which means the Navy owns the last breath she’ll ever breathe and every breath till then. She was hoodwinked and outsmarted and now she’s government property. That’s what these recruiters do. They target the poor and the dumb and prey on them. It’s criminal. Try shooting that routine to Little Calib at North Colonie. His mother would’ve had that recruiter arrested. Calib goes to college. Vo-Tec kid goes to Iraq.

Should we be paying fake-homage to young people who sign on for this? At nationwide high school graduations this month, new recruits in all branches of the Armed Services, will accept their diplomas, donning the same uniform they’ll one day be buried in. Everyone will obligatorily applaud their bravery and make them believe we respect what they’re doing. But every smart parent is actually thinking: Thank God that’s not my kid. If it was socially acceptable to confront these young people with the severity of their decision, less would sign on and sacrifice their lives, because they believe the Government is going to give them a million dollars and people are genuinely clapping their “brave choice.” If we told them the truth: You’re going immediately to war, there is a chance you’re going to be killed at the hands of a total stranger, they might--um--reconsider. Maybe.

I read an article in the TIMES UNION about Albany native Todd Clark, a 40-year-old Lt. Colonel killed in Afghanistan this weekend. Why was he killed? Who knows? But we do know he leaves behind a wife and two young children who will never know their father, but will be able to call his mantle-piece picture hero. Hero or not, he’s dead 40 years too soon, murdered in the desert dirt, then shipped home in a flag-covered box like luggage.

Here’s where I have to say Todd Clark was a hero and he’s the reason I get to enjoy my American Freedoms, and all that other stuff politicians spout to get elected. If Todd was selling cars on Central Ave right now, I’d have the same exact life. But hey, he got a million dollars after six months, right? What? His wife has to work and raise two kids and just squeak by? You mean that million-dollar thing was a recruitment lie.

“Brian, who will protect your American freedoms?” Well, we got about 200,000 able-bodied boys doing push-ups in prison cells, costing the economy millions of dollars a day. They can protect my freedoms and Todd Clark can sell cars. “Don’t be ridiculous, Brian, they’re hardened criminals.” I thought we were rehabbing them for the betterment of society. If they can’t even go to Afghanistan and put bullets in “bad guys,” why are keeping them around?

I love the old they’ll-pay-for-my-college logic. First off, they probably won’t. Second, who cares? You want to give up ages 18-22 to save a few thousand dollars? So instead of bars, and girls, and concerts, and spring breaks, and an enjoyable education, you’re going to Afghanistan so you don’t have to pay back college-loan debt? I’ll take the loans over war. I’ll take Attica over war. I have no interest in leaving America at 18 years old to chase Middle Easterners around their hell-on-earth country. America is the greatest thing in the history of the world. We have HD TV, Disney World, and Tom Coughlin. I’m not going anywhere if I don’t have to. And guess what? We could stay in Afghanistan for 200 years, and radical attacks against America will still happen.

Is this Afghan War STILL about 9/11? Didn’t we kill every single person who had anything to do with that? Why are Americans still being mortar-bombed 13 years later? I’ll tell you why: George W. Bush. Bush II ruined this country. He ruined education, economics, housing, the auto industry, long walks on the beach, and of course the military. He ruined everything. The only silver lining I can see when I read about guys like Todd Clark and talk to people like my 18-year-old friend is that Obama only took four years to plug the toxic spill that was the GW Presidency.

The other day I watched Channel 10 News, with my boy John Gray as anchor, and the Around the Nation Stories were as follows: Unemployment down, market up, housing back, education on the mend. Obama’s next four years are going to be golden, a miracle after Bush. And when he puts America back on total track, maybe more people will decide to take on college and/or the work force instead of falling for the fear-driven lies sold to children by the Armed Services. But probably not.

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Brian Huba

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Alive at Five Time Machine

This Thursday night is the first Alive at Five. I used to love Alive at Five. There was a magic in the air on Albany Thursdays. I would tingle with excitement as we left the Riverfront, walked up Maiden Lane, heading for the big white McGeary’s tent. My friend John would come up. We’d meet up with our friend Justin. We'd laugh, drink RBV’s, talk to girls. What a life.

Then one day it stopped being fun, and I never went back, probably never will. Sometimes that familiar tingle hits me, and I imagine what it would be like to round up the boys and do a Thursday night like old times. When summer’s coming and school’s about to break, I always think maybe we’ll do one for the heck of it, but I know we won't. John’s married. Justin’s talking kids. I couldn’t handle two beers without puking. Those Downtown Thursdays are done for me. So I’ve decided to go back to A @ 5 the only way I can: In my mind. Set time machine for July 2005, when 50 Cent sang “Just a lil bit,” and the Spurs won the NBA Championship. Let’s go back . . .

There I am: Sunglasses, pattern shorts, t-shirt, white sneakers, no socks. John’s mom just dropped us off. We prepay at McGeary’s, hit the ATM, cross the bridge and head for the hill by the river, watch the C-list musical act that Jennings booked. There’s boats parked at the shore. The place is a mob scene, 10,000 people, maybe more. It’s hot. We see John’s cousin. Justin’s friends from EG. My uncle Jack. Everyone is there. Albany is the center of the universe on Thursday nights.

After an hour, we head to the Barge. There’s usually an older crowd there. We see Lady in Red. She’s a late-twenties brunette who wears red every single time we see her, but denies it. She gets a kick out of us. She likes us. There’s a nice vibe at the Barge. Right on the river, good live band, cheap drinks. I’m sufficiently buzzed by now: 7.30PM. It’s gonna be a good night.

We roll back as the actual A @ 5 show is ending, cross the bridge to Maiden, up to Pearl, where we pass the string of bars with people sitting outside them. There’s Mark AKA Gorilla outside Mad River, and his friend who doesn’t drink. Join forces. We’re now a five-man machine as we cut the McGeary’s line with our prepaid bracelets. The Refrigerators are sound checking, so we head inside, where our friend Gary is tending bar. “Four RBV’s, one water, Gary McGeary.” He pours, I pay with a twenty. He changes me with a ten, five, four ones. The sun is about to set. The music is booming in the tent, which is filling. This is about the time when that Pearl Street tingle is ready to rupture. We look out on this sea of humanity, and John whispers, “Someday we’ll be too old for this.” I agree but I don’t believe him.

Things get blurry after that. We see the General, a small Chinese man who always talks to us. The fun usually ends at that pizza place on Pearl. I wonder if they still charge six dollars a slice. Before this night is over, we start thinking about the next Downtown adventure. Seems like we’ll have a lifetime of these before we’re done. Finished with the “food,” we head outside to say goodbye. Mark leaves with his friend who doesn’t drink. Justin takes a cab Uptown. Me and John catch a cab back to Averill Park.

Right before the driver turns right onto I-90 at the Clinton Ave. exit, I look back at Pearl Street through the rear window at 12:45AM. It’s dying. There are only a few scatterings of people where packs once were. Half the bars have closed, their neon signs dark. It looks sad, when a short time ago it was magic. The traffic light turns green. The cab hits the highway. Downtown is out of sight. We’re gone.

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Brian Huba