Holiday wish list: Duncan Crary


On Duncan's list: Wooden shoes, Volcano juice and pig snouts

The holiday season is a time for making wish lists, and shopping lists. In an effort to help you with both, we're asking a handful of people what's on their local holiday wish list this year.

Today's list comes from author, podcaster and self-described Troy supremacist Duncan Crary.

I'm pretty enthusiastic about things upstate New York (understatement). So naturally most of the gifts I give, and hope to receive, have a little regional flavor. My mother started me young on this kick by keeping up the old Hudson Valley customs.

As a kid, I always felt a bit spoiled this time of year, because my family was the only I knew of who were visited by both Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus -- two entirely different December gift-slingers.

Everybody knows about Santa. (He first appeared right here in my neighborhood in Troy!)

Saint Nicholas, on the other hand, is a little harder to explain. Unlike the jolly old elf, St. Nick is a tall, skinny (and Turkish) man with a pointy hat and long robe. He always arrives a few weeks before Christmas, either on December 6 or December 19, and for some reason he likes giving gifts to people in Holland and in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Throughout our childhood, on the night of December 5, my sister and I would leave shoes outside our bedroom doors. And in the morning we would discover them filled by Saint Nicholas with gold chocolate coins and Dutch-themed tchotchkes, like wooden Jacob's ladders, etc.

Lately, though, I've been getting dissed by the old guy. Which may have to do with the ratty old Rockport boat shoes I've been leaving outside my door for him. They've been unfilled for three years in a row (including last week).

In the meantime, I've given fancy new wooden shoes from Holland to my friends and family. And they're still getting swag in them from St. Nick. So I think it's time for a footwear gift receptacle upgrade of my own for next year. So I'll top my holiday wish list with this:

Troy-themed wooden shoes

One pair, Dutch wooden shoes, size 10 please. Any decorative style will do. But a super special gift giver would enlist the help of some local artisans to create me a pair with a Troy theme -- either painted with colorful scenes of the Collar City, or all black with an Enjoy Troy sticker on the top of the right shoe. (A product line I'll be suggesting to the Enjoy Troy team for next year.)

And in case you're wondering, it's pretty easy to order finished and unfinished Dutch wooden shoes online. They also pop up occasionally at various "antique" stores and garage sales around the region.

P.S. Please, no one take this request as inspiration to boost one of the large painted shoes from the streets of Albany.

Shoe swag

For any Secret St. Nicks out there who might want to fulfill my wishes early, some people do celebrate Saint Nicholas day on Dec. 19.

CVS carries standard gold chocolate coins, or you can find fancy organic ones at Honest Weight Food Co-op.

As for other shoe stuffers, some of my favorite doohickeys and works of local art can be found at Art Centric Gallery, the official retailer of Enjoy Troy products.

Peppermint Pig snout lollipops

These are made by Saratoga Sweets in Halfmoon, the makers of the famous Peppermint Pig. (Personally, I prefer my porcine-shaped confections in marzipan flavor. But I like to give out the snout pops as ambiguous presents to people who've been naughty to me during the year. So this would be a devilish re-gift.)

Spot It!

Spot it! is a simple, addictive little game, for ages 7 and up, where you match the symbols on the cards. And maybe it's the coaster-shaped cards (or the amusing effects of alcohol on the players), but I found that this game is a blast to play with adults in bars.

I like to give these away to the pubs I frequent, and I'm plumb out. I ordered my copies from Foam Brain Games in Troy.

Duncan's wish list stuff.jpg

Volcano juice and vodka

For most of the year my liquid intake consists strictly of water, black coffee, beer, and the occasional whiskey. (Add Red Zinfandel to that now that the The Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar has ensnared me with its awesomeness.)

But during the winter months I need to add a little Vitamin C to the mix. And the best way to do that is with Italian Volcano Blood Orange Juice from Honest Weight Food Co-op.

Hint: A little locally distilled vodka from Harvest Spirits helps the medicine go down.

Shoe repair

I'm sentimental. And that extends to clothing and even appliances. So each year I ask to have one of my old items repaired by the shops and tailors in Troy.

This year, I need some new leather soles from Troy Quick Shoe Repairing Co. put on my favorite dress shoes.

Local books & prints

Any book from the local section of Market Block Books; Troy themed lithographs from Clement Frame Shop & Art Gallery.


A new fishing rod for striper season on the river; a box of black & white cookies from Bella Napoli - Troy; prepaid vouchers for drop off laundry services at Hans Laundromat (I don't know if these exist, but I could use a few for those occasions when I find myself broke, busy and wearing inside-out socks).

Duncan Crary lives, works and plays in downtown Troy. Stay tuned for his new all-Troy based podcast "A Small American City," launching later this month.

More holiday wish lists from this year:
+ Laura McCarthy
+ Jim Larson
+ Jenny Witte
+ Deanna Fox
+ Tim Dawkins
+ Kate Welshofer and AnchorCat Brian Williams

+ Holiday wish lists from 2011


my shoes are famous!!

I love wooden shoes. I keep a pair on my desk at home. When I was little, I used to see this pair in an antique store on Lark Street and wanted them badly. I begged for them, half-aware they might not fit me. I pleaded and pleaded and the answer was always "no." Then one day my uncle came by with a brown paper bag. He'd bought me those shoes, even though he also realized they might not fit. They didn't fit. They were about a half-size too small. But I loved them despite that. They were MY Dutch shoes; just like I'd seen at the Tulip Festival. And, all these years later, they're still sitting on my desk and hold my keys, change, etc.

Hi Paula,

So great to hear from another wooden shoe lover. But you can order new wooden shoes in your size. Or...if you hint to someone, he/she might order them for you. Just go online and search for wooden shoes. You'll find lots of distributors in the Netherlands and even in the Midwest that can make you a pair to fit and wear around.

Do you know of anyplace Downtown that one might still be capable of scoring one (or many) of those black/white oval "Enjoy Troy" stickers? When Sarah and I were making "goodie bags" for our wedding guests, we wanted so badly to include those stickers but could find them nowhere, including via the WWW.

Hope all is well Pal-CHEERS!


Paula, that is such a sweet story! I am happy to have read it.

Hey Mark,

You can find all your "Enjoy Troy" merchandise needs at ArtCentric gallery at 266 River Street, Troy, NY. Say "Hi" to Deb for me.

P.S. The Book Outlet in the Uncle Sam Atrium also has a selection of Enjoy Troy merch. Great place to visit during the Saturday Winter Farmers' Market. Tell Cheryl I sent ya.

@Mark...I believe I've seen the Enjoy Troy stickers at Art Centric on River Street.

Oh Duncan, my dear friend. I am horrified by your desire for black & white cookies. I think we need to roadtrip to Utica for some half moon cookies to set you straight.


I'm always game for a road trip to Utica, especially if there's cookies involved. (And besides, there's a bartender in East Utica that I've been meaning to propose to.) Let's round up all the Utica ex-pats and hit the road. :)

If nothing else, let's ensure that Duncan receives his Troy themed wooden shoes, so that he may safely and stylishly amble on down to The Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar, and the chocolate gold schillings, so that he may truck foiled wrapped sweets for glasses of draught Red Zinfandel.

UPDATE: Although Troy is an unorthodox place, St. Nick arrived on the orthodox date this year (Dec. 19) to sling presents and joy about. He filled my ratty old Rockports with quarters for the laundry because he couldn't find a laundromat in town that sold gift certificates for drop-off service. He made a special "Helen of Troy, New York"/Enjoy clock for a neighborhood lass with that name. And there were lots of chocolate coins flying around. Santa? I'll stick with the old Turk, thank you. ;) And word is there will be lots of wooden shoes in town next year.

"Red" zinfandel?

There is Zinfandel, and there is pink sugar water.

I have my nana's shoes from when she was a kid. Love them- as does my daughter who frequently climbs around the house with them :)

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