Photographs by Stanley Johnson
Story and photographs by Stanley A. Johnson
Demolition on the buildings at 100-104 Jay Street in Schenectady continues this week following the fire earlier this month which killed at least four, injured several more and left dozens looking for new homes.
I did not know Harry Simpson, Robert Thomas, Berenices Suarez nor Jermaine Allen, who all died in the blaze. I did recognize James & Kristie Lynch, who lived at 100 Jay Street. They were volunteer security at almost every Alive at 5 concert for the last decade. James is always the first to tell you to get down if you attempt to get upon someone’s shoulders to see better.
The couple has had a particularly hard time settling down in the past year, winding up on Jay Street after being forced out of one of the two Colonie motels that are also currently being demolished, those for code violations.
Those two tall Jay Street buildings across from Schenectady City Hall have been home to hundreds, perhaps thousands of short and long-term residents over the years. The Gleason Building, 104 on the left, had an elaborate front full of faces and scrollwork.
This is not a “best of” list because, as recent comments about a local cancelled awards show indicate, these kind of things are often considered political and, even when judged by an educated panel of peers, are mostly just quantified opinions.
But even that non-event got me thinking. Just the other night while I was photographing a high school wrestling match (where I was paid to be) I witnessed something that occurred several times that evening. A wrestler in a weight class was brought out on the mat. But there was no opposing wrestler in the same weight class. So the ref held up the arm of the wrestler in a sign of victory, the audience applauded and the wrestler went over and shook the hand of the opposing team coach. Then the wrestler went back to his side of the mat, where he was congratulated with high fives by his coach and teammates. All for doing nothing.
But I realized that the wrestler did do something. He joined the team, practiced and practiced some more, got into his uniform and made the effort to be there and ready. That’s what the applause was about.
Most of the time, taking pictures at shows shuts down my ears for the sake of my eyes and my camera. I spent many years going to concerts without bringing a camera. This was because I cared so much about the music and what it did to me that I didn’t want to distract myself. The sometimes miserable circumstances of my daily existence are changed into an alternate here and now, where I am completely involved in every moment of a performance.
I’ve learned this heightened here-and-now experience also happens while reading a good book, when watching a good movie or play, and, sometimes, despite commercial interruptions, while watching television. Not only do my senses seem sharpened, I feel connected to the minds of the artists and audiences who share these experiences. Sometimes these good feelings continue beyond the next day.
So that’s what this list is about: My Favorite Things that this year distracted me from worry (like how I’m going to afford big increases in health insurance) and put me right in the here and now where I am fully involved. These individuals and groups made the effort and succeeded in making my year a whole lot better:
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
I took a walk with the living dead along Guy Park Avenue in Amsterdam on Saturday (October 25). Not only were there zombies everywhere, but all kinds of ghosts, vampires, werewolves and fairy princesses, too. It was the City of Amsterdam’s annual Halloween Parade, and the weather was too nice to be spooky.
I walked with Abigail (dressed as an eskimo maid) and her elementary school group from Barkley Microsociety in Division 2 of the parade. Others groups in the division included McNulty Academy, Techler Arts in Education, St. Mary’s Institute, Marie Curie Institute, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and the Amsterdam High School Cheerleaders.
Story and photographs by Stanley Johnson
In a recent Nippertown story by local performer Erin Harkes, she wrote about Richard Thompson and how he was one artist for whom she would hold open the date of his show so she could be sure to go.
I’m the same when it comes to certain writers, as in book authors. When I heard that Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Russo was returning to Gloversville, I had to be there.
Russo, the author of about 10 books, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for “Empire Falls.” Several of his books, including “Mohawk,” “The Risk Pool” and “Nobody’s Fool” (which was made into a 1994 film starring Paul Newman), were fictional but accurate depictions of his youth in Gloversville, a small mill town on the northwestern fringe of Nippertown. (Okay, maybe it’s beyond the fringe.)
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk, Stanley Johnson
On Day Two of the inaugural American Music Festival for the Lake at the Charles Wood Park’s Festival Space in beautiful Lake George, the focus shifted from Saturday’s rock ‘n’ roll menu to a more country-oriented line-up on Sunday, but the basic concept remained the same – featuring a mix of national headliners (country-rock veterans the New Riders of the Purple Sage, bluegrass stars the Claire Lynch Band), regional favorites (Boston’s Girls Guns & Glory, Mississippi band Roscoe Bandana) and homegrown Local 518 heroes (the long-running Stony Creek Band, a surprise return appearance by Rich Ortiz, who also opened the fest on Saturday).
Photographs by Stanley Johnson and Andrzej Pilarczyk
It was built on the site of the old Gaslight Village amusement park, whose slogan promised “yesterday’s fun today.”
But there was no nostalgia for the Good Ole Days of Yore during the grand opening weekend at the Charles R. Wood Park’s Festival Space. It was a solidly rockin’ first day of the American Festival for the Lake, a full day of music that featured bona fide headliners (Robert Randolph & the Family Band, NRBQ), regional rockers (Paranoid Social Club) and top notch homegrown talent (Wild Adriatic, the North & South Dakotas, Rich Ortiz).