Yesterday I compiled my list of things I’ll miss about Albany now that I’m moving to Florida. Today I’d like to discuss the opposite: things I most definitely will not miss once I get down there. In fact, all ten of these items are really just sub-items related to three major issues: shitty weather, shitty traffic and shitty people. That’s not to say that everyone in Florida is an angel, there will never be traffic jam and the weather will always be pleasant (they do get hurricanes there, after all). Still, here are ten specific things about this area I’m glad to be getting away from.
#10 Window Air Conditioners
I lived in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area for about six years when I was active duty navy. One of the first things I noticed when I got there was the presence of central air conditioning literally everywhere. Up here in New York that’s a rarity. Most houses and buildings were built before the proliferation of central air, so we just use window air conditioners in the summer – which are, themselves, another major pain in the ass of installing and uninstalling them.
Anyway, when I moved back to Albany in 2007 one of the first things I realized was how hot it was (and this was in late October/early November). I couldn’t just flip a switch and cool my apartment down, I had to open windows and use fans. What the hell?!
Down south, they realized the importance of central air a long time ago and it’s in virtually every home, apartment and office building. I recently gave away my two window ACs and people said “You’re moving to Florida and you’re NOT taking air conditioners with you?!” Nope. Don’t need them. There will be central air everywhere.
#9 The Insfrastructure & Toll Roads
Traffic is pretty bad even if you live in a mid-size metro area like the Capital District. And I don’t want to make it sound like it’s anywhere near as bad as that of major metropolitan areas like New York, D.C., L.A., or Atlanta. Those cities don’t have highways as much as they have movable parking lots. So yeah, I realize Albany isn’t nearly as bad, but that doesn’t mean it’s great.
Once again, let’s compare Albany to Norfolk. Norfolk actually has a larger population spread out over a larger area. And yeah, there were traffic jams during the morning and evening rushes, but they weren’t that bad. You know why? No toll booths! That’s right, you can drive pretty much anywhere down there without having to pay a toll. Here in Upstate New York (and the northeastern section of the country, for that matter), we LOVE toll roads. Somehow politicians have tricked us into believing that if we didn’t pay tolls the highways would cease to exist (though somehow most other states manage to keep up their infrastructure without tolls).
Toll booths have a major effect on traffic jams and overall delays because of the bottleneck they create. You multiple that with the thousands of cars that go through the toll booths every day all day and I really adds up. My commute would’ve been significantly shorter without toll booths.
I would love to see Albany install Metro Rail, mostly for the benefit of state workers who account for the majority of the morning and evening rush every weekday like clockwork. I won’t hold my breath, though.
#8 Cramped and dilapidated roads
I never realized how cramped this area was until I moved elsewhere. I even lived in northern Illinois for about a year when I first joined the navy and I saw how much more spacious everything was there. Down in Virginia there was plenty of room everywhere all the time. There’s no such thing as a street being limited to one-way because it’s so narrow. That can’t be said of this area: everything’s close together – even the suburbs.
The absolute worse is downtown and midtown Albany, especially in the areas around the colleges. When you go to the bar at night you end up parking a mile away because there aren’t any parking spaces available. And in the winter when it snows… dear god… these streets are both undrivable and unparkable.
Every winter the snow and ice get into cracks in the road and wreak havoc. So the DOT patches them up and the road becomes a patchwork quilt of various grades of asphalt and concrete (anyone who’s ever driven on Route 85 knows what I mean). You end up wondering what’s worse: driving over a bunch of potholes, or driving over a bunch of tiny speed bumps.
#7 People’s attitudes
You’ll notice that the majority of the items on this list fall under this general category of bad attitudes. I don’t know what it is about Blue States, Blue Cities, and Albany in particular, but so many people around here have a completely undeserved sense of entitlement and elitism. Sure, anywhere you go people take pride in being from there, but there’s something about Albany that makes people so arrogant, so conceited, and so brash it turns them in complete douchebags and pricks.
You always see spoofs of people in New York City constantly fighting with each other, but that should be the Albany stereotype. I think it may have been true of New York for a while, but that attitude refused to die and migrated northward. I remember reading somewhere that the Capital District was voted “Most Unfriendly City in America.” I absolutely believe it. We were also voted “Most Atheist City in America” as well. Whether that’s just a correlation and not a causality I do not know (I’m inclined to believe that one of those caused the other but I’m not sure which).
I’ll also say that Albanians for some reason think their shit doesn’t stink. Whatever they say or do is pure gold. People who are popular or have some semblance of power or sway in the community let it go to their head and think of themselves are movers and shakers on par with those down in the District of Criminals. For example, I once dated a woman that was really popular in the local food and arts scene. She ran a bunch of “charities” and attended awards galas on what seemed like a weekly basis. My reaction was just “Oh my gawd, really? This is Albany – I’m sure that housing center for artists is just going to put us on par with Paris now, eh?”
And that’s just one example. Let’s go over some more.
#6 RPI hockey fans
The last two nights I went to Union/RPI and RPI/Union hockey games at each team’s arena. I’ve been attending these games for nearly 20 years so I know there’s a heated rivalry. RPI has won two NCAA Division I hockey championships and Union has won one. For some reason, RPI fans think that gives them license to be complete and total toolbags on par with the worst superfans of pro sports teams in major cities: Oakland, Philly, Chicago and soccer hooligans over in Europe. RPI fans just love yelling “you suck” every two seconds. Even if their team is LOSING! Don’t get me started on the whining, either. No RPI player has ever committed a legitimate penalty in the history of time according to RPI fans. Also, no RPI goalie has ever given up a legitimate goal. It’s ALWAYS the refs’ fault.
I can’t imagine any fan of any Florida sports team could be as arrogant as RPI fans, but we’ll see (I’m sure Miami Heat fans were pretty bad when LeBron James was down there).
#5 The Table Hopping comments section
This one pretty much speaks for itself. If you’re even remotely into food in the Albany area, you’ve probably seen Steve Barnes’ “TableHopping” blog on the Times Union. The same newspaper which also hosts my beer and comics blogs. There are a couple MAJOR differences between my blogs and this one, though. First of all, it garners an insane amount of traffic. Secondly, Steve Barnes is an actual Times Union employee so that blog is in essence an extension of the newspaper itself.
As I said before (and will continue to say throughout this list), Albanians are elitists and have ridiculously high expectations for everything. For some reason, Albany is a quasi or faux foodie city. I’m not sure when or how it happened, but people around here think they know gourmet when they don’t. South Park recently did an episode about everyone in the town becoming a self-entitled “food critic” on Yelp. It’s almost as if they were making that episode about Albany itself (with pretty much everyone playing the role of Cartman).
Table Hopping announces all the restaurant openings, closing, holiday events and other events and general commentary. One person will complain that the review was completely wrong and another person will chime in to tell them THEY’RE wrong. Then another person will correct that person’s spelling or grammar. Then another person will say they walked by that place with their dog once and then another person will say that breed of dog is stupid and it just descends into freefall.
At first, I found this veritable orgy of semantic violence to be funny and quirky, but now it’s just pathetic. I lurk the blog every once in a while because it mentions beer events and other beer news of the area and I like to share that on my Albany Craft Beer social media outlets. Sure enough it is the exact same handful of people making the exact same comments over and over and over. They have all declared themselves not only the local food police, but the local food BLOG police! This comment section is SO NOTORIOUS, in fact, that it is now part of Albany’s reputation. Whenever I meet someone that’s a foodie from another area and I tell them I’m from Albany they tend to ask me if the rumors are true about that food blog and if people in Albany really think their food scene is nothing but 5-star restaurants as far as the eye can see.
#4 Capital District beer snobs
As I mentioned in my “Top 10 Things I’ll Miss About Albany” blog, the beer scene in this area I think is legitimately good (and “great” considering this isn’t a major metropolitan city). The downside to having such a quality beer scene is that it spawns a lot of snobbery. And it’s not snobbery in the form of pride in this area – just the opposite. People who constantly complain about the selection, the quality and what they consider a lack of originality.
The local beer snobs formed their own Facebook group which is a Good Ol’ Boys network of hardcore traders and hoarders. You know, the kind of guys that spend a ton of money on exclusive bottles from The Bruery and then complain that the beer was only okay. They’re the type of guys that will go on what can only be rightfully described as a 400-mile roundtrip beer run to tiny breweries in the middle of nowhere to wait in line for hours just on the hopes of getting a few growlers filled or scoring a case of a sought-after beer. The kind of guys who traveled hundreds of miles years ago for Dark Lord Day and/or Hunahpu Day and/or Pliny the Younger Day and now say those beers are overrated.
Nothing is ever good enough for these guys (I say “guys” because 99% of these snobs are dudes, but there are few snobby broads as well). Either Local Brewery A makes crap beer, or Local Bar B doesn’t have as good a selection as it should, or Local Beer Blogger C (that’d be me) is an asshole. And yeah, I hear that regularly. What’s worse, these snobs don’t even have the balls to say it to me even remotely directly. I’ll read their vapid comments on the Table Hopping comments section or hear it secondhand from friends who are members of that aforementioned Facebook group. None of them have been able to articulate why they don’t like me; they just don’t. They’re kind of like the RPI hockey fans who will yell at the other team “you suck!” when they’re losing.
Yet again, it comes back to the stuck-up attitude problem this area seems to have. And it’s worse when that manifests itself in the form of rubber-meeting-the-road policy….
#3 The politics and politicians
I could write an entire book on why I dislike and despise politics and politicians in particular. And for some reason, it’s supposedly “liberal” and “progressive” politicians who are the absolute worse. Sure, Neocons and theocratic Republicans are pretty bad, but they seem to be self-aware that they’re playing the role of a villain. For lefties, they think they’re smarter than everyone and will save everyone from themselves through government action. I can’t stand it. That’s what I’m an anarchist.
But when it comes to Albany in particular, you have to consider that this is a very blue city in a very blue state. We’re not quite at the level of San Francisco, New York, or anything Bernie Sandersville just yet but we’re getting close. The local city and county crooks have begun implementing (or tying to implement) pretty much every Progressive policy you can think of, but they try to do it on a local level. They banned pharmacies from selling tobacco; they made restaurants list their calories on the menus; They banned fracking (because apparently someone's going to start a gas mining company in the city of Albany?); they put up Big Brother red light cameras all over the city (as cities across the country have been dismantling them because they don’t work right and citizens are beating them in court); they banned Styrofoam food packing; and now they’re considering raising the legal smoking age in Albany to 21. And gun control - oiy - unless you're a cop you can't get a gun in Albany. I’m sure there’s dozens of other inane rules, laws, regulations, etc. that have blown my mind over the years, but these are some of the most memorable ones. And though they may sound petty, it’s the principle of them that irks me.
And yes, I’m smart enough to realize that wherever you go there will be idiot politicians elected by idiotic voters to implement idiotic policies. I’m not sure how Florida compares to New York, and Albany in particular, but I’ve gotta believe it can’t be this bad.
NOTE: I should put a disclaimer here that there’s a difference between being political and being an asshole. I’m neither conservative nor liberal; neither Republican nor Democrat. In fact, I tend to disagree with both parties’ politics most of the time. That being said, I don’t mind talking politics if people actually want to have a calm, rational discussion. It's the people that immediately invoke name-calling and all the fallacies in the book that I can’t stand. In my experience, I find people on “the left” are more apt to do this than people on “the right” (I put those terms in quotes because they’re all authoritarian centrists to me). So you can be a progressive or a neocon or whatever you want to call yourself, and we’ll get along just fine as long as you’re not an asshole about it. The problem is, the people who are genuinely passionate about politics and are NOT assholes are few and far between.
#2 The high taxes and high prices
The problem with politicians (well, one of them anyway) is that their stupidity, arrogance and ignorance of how the world really works can make things worse with the laws they pass. As I said, this is a blue city in a blue state so one thing they really love around here is taxes. Property taxes, school taxes, sales taxes, luxury taxes, parking meters every 2 feet, toll highways, DWI checkpoints, speedbumps, gun buyback programs, etc. All programs and laws that are supposedly in our best interest but are actually counterproductive if you do the research.
All those government programs create massive bureaucracies which in turn cost a lot of money, so they have to be paid for in the form of taxes. And since everyone is paying so much in taxes they have to charge more either for their goods and services (if they’re a business) or their labor (if they’re an individual). It all adds up to a very expensive cost of living. Now, obviously Albany is nearly as bad as New York or other cities like it, but for a relatively small city, the cost of living here is far above average when compared to the rest of the country.
When I moved to Albany from Virginia I immediately noticed how much more expensive EVERYTHING was. I couldn’t find a single item that was cheaper up here than down there, except maybe houses since everything is brand new down south and everything is old up here.
One of the major reasons I chose Florida as my new home is because there’s no state income tax. So even if I earn the exact same per-dollar salary, it’ll translate to a higher pay check because there will be one less thief stealing my money. Also, the lower prices will also amount to more net gain for me. It’s a win-win.
#1 The Winter
I grew up in Schenectady, so the winter is no stranger to me. Even when I lived in Virginia it still got pretty cold, but it rarely snowed. It’s not that I’m a wuss when it comes to cold – just the opposite in fact. When I go to the gym to work out at 6am between December and February and it’s only 20 degrees out (or colder), I’ll just wear a sweatshirt over my gym shirt and shorts and I won’t get too cold. I’ll even go for an 8+ mile run in the winter months as long as there’s no snow or ice on the sidewalks.
That being said, just because I CAN tolerate the winter doesn’t mean I HAVE TO! I don’t know what specifically happened, but sometime last winter I just hit a wall where I couldn’t take the cold, the snow and the darkness anymore. Before I got laid off from LTI, I had been asking my bosses if there was any way I could get transferred to the South Carolina office. It may not be Florida where it’s 70 in January, but at least it wouldn’t be ridiculously frigid all the time, either. And actually, when I was let go from LTI, my first inclination was to finally pack up and move to Florida. I had applied for some brewery jobs down there at the time, but they didn’t pan out, obviously. I stuck it out all summer here in Albany and for some reason it seemed unusually hot and humid all summer long and I loved it. I thought it would be awesome to live where it’s like this year round.
I probably should’ve mentioned in my “Top 10 Things I’ll Miss About Albany” blog that the Christmas season is always fun and nostalgic for me. For whatever reason, I never seem to mind the cold and snow up to and including December 25th. But beginning on December 26th it just becomes a major pain. It will be strange celebrating Christmas somewhere where you could go swimming the same day. I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually and I’m sure I’ll fly up to Albany for Christmas some, if not most, years. Still, I’m willing to part with the nostalgia in exchange for warmer temperatures.