How Not to Be Inappropriate in the Capital Region

daniel nester

The author, being bookish.

By Daniel Nester

The folks at AOA asked me to come up with an inappropriate-themed post to accompany my new book -- How to Be Inappropriate -- and I was happy to oblige.

What I have come up is a series of don'ts to prevent you from committing the same local faux pas, blunders, and gaffes as your intrepid author has.

Don't mispronounce town names

Sure, there's the "COL-ony"/"Colo-KNEE" kinks to work out upon moving here, as I did five years ago. A little later one gets the hang of saying "KAY-ro" instead of "KI-ro" (Cairo).

And then there's Rensselaer. It did not pass unnoticed when President Obama mangled the county/town name, using at least to me the relatively new "Ren-soler" when visiting HVCC this fall. I have heard the town mostly pronounced the way students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and most long-time residents do: "wren-suh-leer," while others assert it's two syllables with the first stressed: REN-sler.

I won't even go there with the Water-Vuh-Leet/Water-Vleet differences. What's the appropriate way? You tell me.

My favorite mispronunciation above all else is Coxsackie. When I emphasize the "Coxs" in Coxsackie, many locals correct me, stressing the k-sound is silent, making the town name "Ko-SAK-ee." While that may be the local diction, my preferred pronunciation seems to be the more universal, thanks to the virus of the same name.

I often tell non-locals that my favorite town name around here is Coxsackie. I tell them "it's just north of Ballsackie." Bad-dum-bum.

Don't express your ignorance of local history

I remember telling someone at a professor-types party that I rather enjoyed the "brutal, Leninist"-style architecture of Empire State Plaza. I thought I was really getting my architecture critic on as I waxed on and on about the way those marble-and-steel buildings pierce the sky at night.

Thing is, the person to whom I was waxing had close family members who were among the 9,000 people displaced from area when the plaza was first built. As I stood there with my foot yet again in my mouth, I learned for the first time that eminent domain was used to pluck people out of their homes. I learned later the ESP's open space, fit for a totalitarian leader rallies, has put many public planning types' knickers in a twist.

UAlbany entrance fountainDon't call the University at Albany anything other than University at Albany

I try not to get the name of my college wrong when I tell people where I work. I always spell out the "Saint" in Saint Rose, since that's house style now.

When David Paterson spoke at commencement in 2008, he called my employer "The College of Mount Saint Mary's." "We should give him a break," one colleague said. "He is blind, after all."

The same principle applies to the largest campus in the SUNY system, which is now called University at Albany. That means no University of, in, nestled among, straddling, or bleeding local property taxes from Albany, SUNY-Albany, SUNY at Albany, Albany U., SUNY-Guilderland, SUNY-Niskayuna, Moon Colony Between Western and Washington Avenues, or the Place Across from the Barcelona Restaurant.

Don't go to bars in the Pine Hills neighborhood after 10pm on weekend evenings

An obvious lesson, you might say, to anyone who falls into an adult demographic. But I learn things the hard way.

During the day, the Washington Tavern is one of my favorite places to grab a good lunch, share a pitcher of cold beer with friends, and eat al fresco in warm weather.

By the weekend, however -- which we will define here as Wednesday to Sunday evenings past 10pm -- the Washington Tavern turns into "The WT." Several bars in the area lead this double-life of restaurant and nightclub. I didn't know this then; I know it now.

I visited the WT after midnight once. Once. It was a warm evening my first week in town, and the same place where I had noshed on artichoke dip and a cold pint listening to the Eagles now blasted out a Black Eyed Peas medley. A young person in a tiara -- which I learned later is requisite headwear for one who turns 21 -- led a dance troupe of her inebriated friends.

I finished my beer at the corner of the bar, limped over to the WT's adult swim counterpart, The Ginger Man, and felt very, very old.

Don't f--- with state workers and their free parking

As a former resident of Center Square, I can say without equivocation that parking in the downtown neighborhoods is a blood sport. And the biggest reason for this by far is the mammoth influx of state workers who come in from out of town. Never mind that state workers have subsidized parking spaces available at the cut-rate prices, that if they carpool those spots are, like five bucks; when there is free parking available, I have learned, state workers are on it like white on rice. These people are pros.

Anyone who lives in those neighborhoods unwise enough to enter their car from 6:30am to 9am knows the feeling of being watched by a state worker driving in from out of town. They can spot a lanyard-less, non-state worker figure on sidewalks from blocks away. The first time one drives beside you and follows you to your car, you may think you are about to be abducted. Rest easy: they just want your parking space.

I usually took a shuttle bus to work during my days in Center Square, but I couldn't get out of driving my car one winter morning at 7am. As I approached my Honda, not one, but two cars waited for me to pull out of my spot on Dove Street. As I selected a CD to pop in, both cars eyed me up. One flashed his brights to cajole me out of my prime curbside real estate. As I pulled out, the ugliness that followed involved slush and a lot of horns honking, and a lot of schadenfreude on my part.

Nester photo: Joe Putrock


Hahaha, I love it.

Other "proper" area pronunciations (or variations thereof):

Rensselaer - can also be pronounced as 'Rentler.

Latham: Lathums

Berlin: Should always (and I mean ALWAYS) be pronounced as BURLIN' , not as the city in Germany at all....ever.

Center Square parking: Thanks Dan, now I'm having auditory flashbacks on the early morning sounds of birds mixed with cars flying in reverse up my block, chasing me backwards towards me and my car....thanks....a lot.

I don't get the SUNY thing. As a former student and current employee I've never known anyone here to take offense to a whole spectrum of titles.

In fact, if I'm in the Albany area I'll just refer to it as 'SUNY'.

Yeah, I don't get the SUNY thing either. Actually, their sports teams now go by UAlbany and my wife (an alum) has a UAlbany sweater. So I think there's still a wide array of names that are used pretty interchangably for the school. Nothing wrong with just saying SUNY, or SUNY Albany, etc.

As for Center Square parking - used to live in Albany and used to park there sometimes even though I (egads!!!) lived in the Pine Hills. I know, how dare I??? This is the oldest, most lame complaint in the city of Albany. It's tiresome, it really is. Kinda sad to see it even make this list, really.

Au contraire, CC... the "oldest, most lame complaint in the city of Albany" is that we don't have an Ethiopian restaurant. It's one of the reasons Henry Hudson didn't stay that long in 1609. The parking thing too, but mainly Ethiopian.

I agree that the parking complaint is incredibly lame. Notice that there is a parking problem at center square at 7pm, hours after the state workers have gone home.

Why? Those formerly 1-2 family brownstones are chock full of 3-5 units of students and 20-somethings, many of which have multiple cars in each unit. That's why Washington Park is full of cars at 2AM on a Tuesday.

That said, the city should crack down on people who sit and idle, or who do dangerous and stupid things like cut off a bus on the Swan St ramp and shoot down Hamilton in reverse.

You missed one: Don't spell the Governor's name incorrectly.

Editors: Thanks. It's fixed.

@Duff I that's why residential parking permits downtown--by which we do not mean Pine Hills--never gets through the council? It's not the state workers union quashing it every time it's been introduced for decades when they do that thing where they introduce it into city council and everything?

How Inappropriate!

@Duff: I agree that Center Square parking is just as bad at night as it is during the day. During the day it doesn't affect me as much because I can walk to work, but god forbid we should try to GO anywhere in the evening. The other night we came home at 11 and had to circle the neighborhood for an hour before we found a spot about 6 blocks away. However, I have acknowledged that there is probably nothing that can be done about it. I still love living there, and I'll take my lumps.

As a PR person who did projects with the state university here a few years ago, I can tell you that they ONLY want to be called "U. Albany" or "the University at Albany."

It's a rebranding thing, a way to distance them from any possibly negative SUNY-system associations--kind of like saying "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," rather than "Fresh Prince of West Philadelphia."

"The WT"? I don't think so. It's definitely just WT's. Possibly just T's after a pitcher or two on trivia night. And don't ask (you didn't) why the WASHINGTON Tavern is on Western Ave.

There used to be a Washington Tavern on Washington Ave (known simply as the Tavern) but it has since become Chubby's and I am way over 21 now so I'm not allowed in.

@Sockie P: What the state unions do or don't do is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the really dumb residential parking plan will have a negative affect on things that have a positive affect on your neighborhood (ie. Lark St)

My favorite is in the winter when you are trying to clean the car off - the State workers really get mad then...God forbid you take too long doing that. I sometimes go back into the house just to piss them off!

I am determined to walk the thirty minutes to Lark St. no matter what the weather or time of night. Driving down there to park gets more and more frustrating with every minute spent slowly cruising in circles, being faked out by fire hydrants and driveways, with some asshole on your tail flicking his lights menacingly. I can't imagine living and parking there every day.

@Duff The plan, as I understand it, limits visitor parking to a couple hours, which is fine for a Lark Street jaunt, but weeds out the non-residents who park there all day. True, many houses are divided up into multiple apartments in Albany, but less so in Center Square and surrounding nabes. It's also more compressed. It's been brought up before, this resident parking permit thing. With people taking sides:

I worked as an intern for the state all through grad school, in the Cultural Education Center (what most people think of as the State Museum building.) I lived first on campus at SUNY, then even closer.

So I took the bus a lot, especially at the beginning. But when I had somewhere to be after work, or was running late, I would drive.

Now, to get subsidized parking, a new state employee must do one of two things. Or they did in 2005, when I started.

1. Park in the lot in friggin' Menands. Or, if you're lucky, on McCarty Ave. Take the shuttle bus.

2. Wait for enough people to die or retire that a spot on the Plaza opens up. The woman who sat next to me got her spot shortly after I came to work there. She waited for ten years. I didn't bother to get on the list, although the wait became considerably shorter during my time there.

Speaking of the Empire State Plaza and eminent domain, the TImes Union/Knickerbocker News archives have some absolute treasures of photos of the neighborhood, its demolition, and of the last family to move out packing up and leaving.

There is plenty of parking in Center Square during the day (after the am rush). Parking at 10:30 am is way easier than parking at 10:30 pm - this has nothing to do with state employees. Resident permits with do nothing to solve that problem.

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