The Anti-Bucket List

I’m turning 40 soon. Like so many of my cohort who are doing the same, I never expected it to be a big deal. I remember being really turned off by “over-the-hill” jokes when my parents turned 40, and never quite understood the desire to stay 29/39 forever. I’m not so sad to put my 30s behind me.

And I stand by that. But the passage is notable, perhaps more notable than I expected to be, and I have found myself thinking for a while about how to mark it. This idea has been at least a year in the making. Continue reading

Stitching the City Together

The map of Albany on the screen, at quick glance, looked a little like a heat map of poverty and distressed neighborhoods, with one large red area over the Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill and West Hill neighborhoods, and another over the South End. There was a knowing intake of breath among the various neighborhood leaders and civic activists attending the Albany Roundtable’s May 21st event.

But the map that Dr. Mindy Fullilove (left), the evening’s keynote speaker, had put on the screen was not a current map. Nor was it a descriptive exercise reporting on building conditions or poverty.

No, that map was a cause. Continue reading

Safe Trains

As regular readers may know, I’m a big fan of train travel. I intend to be taking a train home from New Orleans in less than a month. It will pass through Philadelphia, as do the trains I take to and from DC regularly.

And given the awful derailment of last week I’m sure all of us on the train will have a moment of held breath as we approach that curve, even though we know that statistically we’re probably still safer than if we were driving on a highway, and even though we know that the disaster has finally prompted long-promised speed controls on that curve, even while it hasn’t shaken loose the bare minimum funding we need to upgrade the whole system to keep pace with the rest of the world.

Many people have in response to the derailment held forth at some length about the terrible shame that is the underfunding of our train system, and how it not only makes us the laughingstock of the industrialized world, but also is, clearly, dangerous. So I won’t repeat what they had to say.

But here’s what else I’ll be wondering on that trip: when I return home to Albany, will my kids be able to meet me at the top of the stairs? Will they have been allowed to watch my train pull in, and others out, and feel the magic of the train yard, and imagine as they watch where a train might take them? Continue reading

Beware the Self-Defeating Prophecy

Yesterday I saw a link to a set of well-wisher cards intended to be sent to people with serious illness, like cancer. Some were unusually blunt (“happy last day of chemo, let’s eat anything that doesn’t seem gross”) or brutally honest (“I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch, I didn’t know what to say.”) But the last one really resonated with me: “Please let me be the first to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason.” I think most people who have had something really shitty happen to them or to a loved one can relate. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Tests

Every once in a while, someone does us a favor and says explicitly what we’ve been suspecting they believed or intended all along. Sometimes it has to be captured by a mole, like Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment. Sometimes people say it loud and proud because, apparently, they don’t understand just how awful it makes them sound.

That was the case for NYS Regent Meryl Tisch’s suggestion that “high performing” schools be exempted from the high-stakes testing regime that is currently being forced on the school children of the state. Continue reading

8 Reasons Kinksters Make Better Vanilla Lovers

A spray painted black-and-white picture on a high concrete wall of a dominatrix leading someone by a leash

It can be a grand disappointment for many folks whose sexual interests run to the vanilla to hear that a promising romantic prospect spends time in the BDSM world. They tend to fear that said person will only ever want kinky play and nothing else.

Now, for sure, there are people for whom that is true. Two people can be far enough apart on the vanilla to kink spectrum to just not be sexually compatible, and that’s best respected for everyone involved.

But not everyone who knows what to do in a dungeon is only happy if there’s BDSM involved in their sex play every single time.

That doesn’t mean that that experience doesn’t influence the rest of their sex lives, however. It’s just, generally, in my opinion, that it influences them for the better.

Here’s why kinksters make better vanilla lovers*: Continue reading

Funding the City

At a regional forum on inequality earlier this month, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan made some remarks that jumpstarted some regional discussion about regional equity, commuter taxes, and the like. As reported by Jimmy Vielkind at Capital New York, Sheehan argued that “the funding mechanism for cities—property taxes—was set up at a time when cities were regional centers of wealth and industry. Times have changed, she said, and so should financial structures.”

This makes me very happy. In 2007 I wrote a column called “The Unapologetic City,” in which I argued that our municipal neighbors were getting a ton of benefits from the city without paying for them, but it seemed like a pipe dream then to be hearing others talking about what to do about it in earnest. Answers aren’t easy, but they do exist. Continue reading