Saturday, October 11, 2014

Memories on the Move

Remember the circa-August rhetoric about getting to Hoffman’s Playland one last time? Yep, the Latham-based amusement park was on its last leg, so bring your friends and pose in front of the roller coaster for those final Facebook photos. All that sappy media coverage. All that crap about reclaiming childhood memories. In the end it was a waste. Hoffman’s Playland lives again, as Huck Finn’s Playland, reopening on the exciting Erie Blvd. over Memorial Day Weekend 2015.

If you didn’t catch my sarcasm about Erie in the previous paragraph, I’ll clarify: Erie Blvd. is the most depressing blvd. on the planet. If you don’t know what Erie Blvd. is, let me paint the picture. As you move south on 787, going past the city of Albany on your right side, you’ll see a string of eye-sore buildings and brownish warehouses and rail yards choked in tumbleweed. Bingo was his name-o. You’re looking at Erie Blvd.

I’ve heard the talk about Hoffman’s to Huck Finn’s beginning an Albany boon. But I can’t imagine that stretch of industrial wasteland as a fitting backdrop to little-kid fantasy. And the crowned jewel of this terrifying site is the Huck Finn’s Warehouse itself. I love Huck Finn’s furniture and reasonable prices, but going there on a Saturday afternoon is soul sucking. It’s like they followed the blueprint for Birkenau when constructing that place. The depressing Subway Restaurant. The depressing loading dock. Nothing’s worse than Huck Finn’s on a Saturday.

I don’t know if the Hoffman’s magic can be recaptured there. Even the 787 off-ramp to Erie is sad and scary. You have to turn right at that creepy gas station and nondescript/crumbling edifice behind it. Then drive into nothingness before hitting the first business. The other reality here: the Hoffman’s magic isn’t that magic. It’s been kind of overblown for nostalgia sake. It was a few third-rate rides and a decent ice cream joint. The best part of that place: location, location, location.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that Huck Finn’s Playland with that terrifying furniture retailer in the backshot is the marriage needed to jumpstart Erie. But I doubt it. The problem is Albany’s not destination now. Don’t believe me? Drive down Central Ave. tonight at eight p.m. Sure, it still has some good restaurants, and the biggest car dealers, and the State offices. But nobody wants to live in Albany or play in Albany. U Albany’s not even in Albany. They’ve been trying to get that Convention Center built since Bush I was in office. One look at the Greyhound Station down there and you’ll understand why that never happened.

It’s the suburbs now. Not just here but everywhere like here. Don’t believe me? Try finding a hotel room in Latham, CP, or ‘Toga tonight. You’ll get laughed at. Try going from Albany to Malta at four pm on a Friday. Hope you got a good book. Jennings had the best idea to build up Albany: do it through the bar scene. It worked for a while then the cliental changed. Party over.

I say Hoffman’s can never be redone in the City of Albany. They should’ve moved it to Ballston Spa or let this past summer finally be the Playland’s last.

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Brian Huba

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