Approximately thirty seconds after getting back from Chattanooga, I flew up to Buffalo, New York for a conference. This is the first time since we got Alice that I've traveled without her. I have to say, it felt really weird not having her there. I missed that sweet little girl something fierce.
I actually started out okay. I was only gone a week and was busy all of it, and The Human Male is with her and I know they'll have fun together. Then I found a channel with an America's Next Top Model marathon my first day, and a terribly sad HeartGard commercial came on-- it was that one with the dog in the cage getting the heartworm treatment and they talk about how he can't have much human contact. I actually got a little misty.
After a night spent not bending around a puggle and a long day working the conference, I was doing okay again. But I came back to the hotel tonight and found an Alice hair on my laptop. It made me cry a little-- but not as hard as when I lost the hair. I missed that sweet little girl something fierce.
Okay, so I wasn't totally without her: I brought a picture of Alice along with me. So I decided to take pictures around town with the picture. So it's kind of like she's here. Just flatter and less inclined to beg for treats.
Here "she" is in front of the big Buffalo Theatre sign.
And in front of a buffalo.
My coworker and I went out to dinner at a great restaurant called The Chocolate Bar.
I had a raspberry truffle martini. It was delicious.
Main Street in Buffalo has a trolley system. The framework on it is really cool.
Buffalo also has an obelisk that looks like a mini-Washington Monument. The idea of a fake Alice in front of a fake Washington Monument makes me giggle.
The conference ran from Sunday to Wednesday. On Thursday, I hopped on Amtrak and headed across New York State to Albany to visit my Urban Family. This was Alice's "first" train ride.
Funny aside, a few stops after I got on, this guy wearing a leather jacket and carrying a nice suitcase sat down in the row across from me. I didn't think much of him until he took off his jacket, exposing his old, ripped up racing shirt, with the sleeves and collar cut off. Then he opened up a cooler, pulled out a can of Budweiser, and slipped it into a coozie. By the way, this was 10:45 in the morning. I was all prepared to be snobby about it, but when he finished and went in his cooler to grab another, he leaned over to me and politely asked if I wanted one. I didn't accept, but it was seriously the nicest thing anyone did for me this week.
I was greeted at the Albany-Rensselaer train station by my friends $-Money and Sean. What a nice treat! I went to grad school in Albany and lived there for a few years, so it holds a special place in my heart. I've also had some very odd and memorable experiences here-- it's easily the weirdest place I've ever lived. This was the first time I've been back since I moved two years ago, and I knew there are some special places around town that I just had to get "Alice"'s picture in front of.
One is The Egg.
The Egg is a theatre in downtown Albany that looks like the spaceship for a breed of alien chickens. It's a great place to see a show-- because it's roundish, there isn't a bad seat in the house.
We dropped my stuff off at $-Money's house, and then we walked over to Lark Street. We cut through Washington Park, this great place that was designed by the same guy that did Central Park. In the Park, there's a giant fountain of Moses. I don't know why.
We walked through Washington Park to get to Bombers Burrito Bar. Bombers may be my favorite place in all of Albany-- and there are some super mean restaurants there (I actually lost 10lbs when I moved to DC because the food's not as good here). Over the years Bombers has gotten fancier, but it's still no-frills, awesome giant burritos and the best margaritas around. One of the best things about Bombers is that on your birthday, you can get either a free burrito or a giant margarita with sparklers in it. I still celebrate birthdays with giant margaritas because of it.
I wanted a picture of Alice here for a couple of reasons. One, it's my favorite; two, many special moments in my life over the past five years have occurred here (including that my fam went here for lunch before my grad school commencement ceremony); and three, The Human Male and I met each other here, at $-Money's 25th birthday party *. In fact, we met right in this booth.
I'm going to state for the record that I tried to talk to the Human Male that night, but he ignored me. Nay, he gave me attitude, and then he ignored me. I wrote him off as a frat boy. We started dating a year later **, after he started talking to me and I learned he wasn't actually a frat boy.
My burrito and margaritas were just as I remembered. Delicious, filling, and I needed a nap afterwards.
On Friday, $-Money and I went down to Poughkeepsie to visit our friend Katie. The Human Male's from there, so we do have actual pictures of Alice there. But not in this super-classy top we found at C.C. New York Wigs.
Katie has a cat named Regis, who's both the biggest and fanciest man cat alive. I had to get a picture of Alice with him.
We stopped for lunch at the Eveready Diner in Hyde Park, which you might recognize if you watch the Food Network. When we go to the PK, I always try to stop here. The food's awesome and the Sundaes are EPIC. I got a cherry ice cream soda that was beyond awesome.
After we got back to Albany, another member of the Urban Family, Miss Heather, arrived from Long Island, and she, $-Money, and I went over to the Biergarten. It's a new place run by the same guy that owns Bombers and is in an old firehouse that used to house one of my favorite places in the city when I lived here called Noche (also owned by the Bombers Guy). I'm convinced that space has good vibes-- I've never had a bad time at any establishment that's been there. It was really fun to see what it looks like now. Noche used to be very sleek and dark, all red lamps and black leather couches. Now it's brightly-lit picnic tables and even brighter colors, with peanut shells all over the floor. Oh, and on your birthday, you get a beer served in a 2-liter glass boot.
Out of all the great times I've had in this space, this one was way up there. This is the type of place that needed to go in here.
On Saturday, we met up with some other friends at the Miss Albany Diner (which is next door to the Biergarten).
If you've ever seen the movie Ironweed, you might recognize this place. I can't say enough good things about it. It's a great cross between being as old-school as a diner gets, but with incredibly creative food-- like making a delicious horseradish sauce for the garden omelet (which has different veggies every time), or making home fries with sweet potatoes and peanut sauce.
Down the street from here is a giant Nipper statue. Alice had to go to it.
Rumor has it that Nipper's little brother, aptly named Little Nipper, is up in Baltimore. I'm going to try to hunt him down with the Real Alice.
Later in the afternoon, we stopped by Kurver Kreme, an ice cream stand that's a lot better than it should be. Miss Heather and I regularly had dates here during college and after work. The Human Male and I have had a few dates there, too.
Saturday evening, we went to a Roller Derby match. It was hugely fun, and our team (the Department of Public Hurts-- BRILLIANT) won! The roller girls were really nice and the crowd was great. There were all kinds there: college kids, twenty- and thirty-somethings, families. The little kids were the best. You could tell they were getting a kick out of the pushing and the fun uniforms. It was really touching to see the little girls watch the match-- this may sound a little strange, but what a wonderful, powerful example the roller girls were setting.
I left first thing the next morning, and got back to my real Alice in the afternoon. She looked smaller than I remembered, and was eighty times happier. I also learned that she pulls the stuffing out of her toys for my benefit.
As much of a pain as it is, I'd rather be picking it up than not having her around.
* As a courtesy to her, I'd like to point out that we were celebrating her 25th birthday in the fewtcha. Don't worry, $-Money-- I'll go along with you being 18.
** Today, in fact, is our third anniversary.