Monday, November 30, 2009

I've always found Empire Plaza to be arrestingly utopian.

Update: This got me thinking about when I first started working in Albany, in November 1985. I’d blown off my job in NYC in April of that year. Couldn’t face another summer in the city. I worked at a variety of temp jobs in Westchester County that summer and fall. I wanted to go to graduate school but didn’t see a way to afford it, what with rent, commutation, etc. Must have been Veteran’s Day when I impulsively got the idea to go to Albany and check it out. I’d visited many times before, for elementary school museum trips or holiday shopping at Colonie Center, the only mall around, but it had been years since my last visit, and I’m not sure I’d ever walked around downtown or seen the campus. Bob was agreeable - it had been his idea to go to NYC and now it was my turn. I remember “We Built This City” was a popular song on the radio that had just come out and it was playing when we drove on 787, with the fabulous view of Empire Plaza and nearby buildings. I always associate that song with the Plaza when it is lit up at night. Funny.

We liked what we saw, and started looking for apartments. Not an easy task with two dogs! That night we slept in the car in a Grand Union parking lot and the following day we found a decrepit little bungalow that seemed like paradise. We were moved within a couple of weeks, and went to work finding jobs. I got a temp position at the NYS Office for Aging, at Empire Plaza. The weekend before I was to start we had tickets to see Cats on Broadway in NYC. (One of the few shows I’ve ever hated.) My brother had treated us, we were taking his twins to celebrate their 16th birthday. I got back to the Capital District from that trip only shortly before my temp job began. I changed my clothes in the bathroom of Dunkin’ Donuts on Lark Street and traipsed off to find the Plaza. I asked a passerby which one was Agency Building 2?

My supervisor at that job taught me to use Lotus 1-2-3, as I mention in this post. Knowing the software opened a lot of doors for me! A temp salary in the Capital District goes a lot farther than in NYC. We were able to figure out what we planned to do with our lives, get better jobs, go to graduate school, buy a car and a house. Yes, Albany has been good to me - and that humble job in Empire Plaza was just the beginning.

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