You're New Here: Perspective with distance

row house roofline State Street Albany 2016-June

As one person responded: "The primary thing I've taken from Albany is an appreciation for the historic assets of a region, specifically the buildings. Without preservation a city loses its character and becomes aesthetically diluted and undifferentiated."

Sometimes you find perspective with distance.

For You're New Here Week we thought it'd be interesting to ask a handful of people who have moved away from the Capital Region for their thoughts about this place. Specifically, we asked them:

What's something you've taken with you from the Capital Region, and why has it been important or significant to you?

It's an open-ended question, and we got a range of responses -- everything from memories, to experiences, to photos, to attitudes, to actual pieces of Troy.

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Answers have been lightly edited.

Patrick Dodson

The most significant thing I took with me is perspective. The great perspective I now have on life (and dealing with the struggles of moving and starting over) is because of all the memories of people I met along the way working for the Daily Gazette newspaper. The Capital Region covers such a beautiful and diverse area that I was able to see and experience all kinds of walks of life, people doing various great things, and life in different stages. There are many great communities that welcomed me, and I'd recommend anyone to explore and talk to people.

Two times I think of the most would be the dream wedding of 19 year old hospice patient Jahaysia Graham in Schenectady, which taught me that life is precious and many don't get the opportunity to experience it, and Eleanor Cunningham, skydiving on her 100th birthday in the fields of Saratoga County, celebrating a happy and full life.

Patrick Dodson is currently living in Brooklyn, working as the New Jersey Devils team photographer.

Alexandra Matri Aiello

I believe what was most significant for me that I have carried here in the NJ/NYC area is the community that WEQX has built. The station goes above and beyond to attract some of the biggest names in alternative rock to play free concerts in Albany, which have become the highlights of the year, either at Tulip Fest, PearlPalooza, Alive at Five, and, back in the day, LarkFest. My best memories in Albany are of when my friends and I would pull out a blanket, enjoy some beverages, and watch the show. I haven't found a radio station in the NYC area that gives so much back to the community like WEQX, which is what makes going back up to check out the festivals so special to me.

Alexandra Matri Aiello is now living in Newark and on Twitter as @alexaiello.

Martin (The Exile)

The Exiles Five Rivers photo

Attached is a photo of a picture hanging in our hallway. I took the original photo in August 2008 -- little over 18 months after our arrival in the Capital Region -- at Five Rivers. I remember someone mentioning this place to us -- maybe even before we arrived -- and we first visited on the 18th day of our time in the area.

We visited [Five Rivers] many times -- literally watching our family grow up there -- but never taking it for granted. We saw beavers, red squirrels, woodchucks, cedar waxwings, and fireflies, walked all the trails in every season and introduced many locals and visitors to its delights. We have been back to the area to visit friends since our move to Maine, but although we considered a visit to Five Rivers, we resisted -- afraid that if anything would trigger homesickness for our first home in the US, it would be to walk those trails again.

Martin -- formally of Exiles in New York and now of Exiles on a Maine Street -- now lives in the Portland, Maine area.

Erik Morton

Once you love Albany you never really leave Albany. My wife and I also have family in the area so we've been back several times since moving to Seattle in August of 2015. It also helps that my company (CommerceHub) is headquartered there so there's usually a reason (and a free flight!) to travel back.

The primary thing I've taken from Albany is an appreciation for the historic assets of a region, specifically the buildings. Without preservation a city loses its character and becomes aesthetically diluted and undifferentiated. It's not that Seattle has no history -- it was a pioneer port in the 1800s -- it's just that they don't think about history the same way people on the East Coast do. I'm painting with broad strokes here, but Seattle seems more focused on progress as the absolute first priority and everything else -- historic preservation especially -- comes second, if at all. Organizations analogous to Historic Albany don't appear to have a seat at the table.

On the other hand I can certainly see the value of focusing on growth and progress. Seattle housing is expensive, but nothing like San Francisco because the city encourages large residential developments. But instead of restoring and reusing old warehouses, they are quickly torn down and replaced by the same cookie cutter development with retail on the first floor and six floors of "luxury" apartments on top. The result is that, besides the breathtaking natural beauty of this place, Seattle is losing whatever unique architectural flavor it had. Honestly, it looks a lot like Austin, Los Angeles, or other western city that encouraged development.

Erik ("Center Square forever!") now lives in the Seattle area.

Jessica Pasko

As someone who grew up in Albany, I never expected to return after college. But the lure of a job was strong, and I ended up staying for another five years. I think the thing I really learned during that time and still carry with me to any new place I go is that a place is what you make of it. I think Albany particularly embodies that sentiment. You can choose to complain about all of the things Albany (and by that, I mean the whole Capital Region) doesn't have or you can choose to seek out the things this area does have -- such as access to some amazing parks and mountains, affordable housing, etc. You can't just scratch the surface, you need to look a little deeper and you'll find some great things to do and see, great food to eat, great people to meet. But you aren't just going to be hit in the face with all of that. You have to be willing to look beyond the surface.

So that, in a nutshell, is what I've really taken from the Capital Region -- the idea that to really appreciate a place, you have to be open to it and you need to go a little deeper. Albany is what you make of it.

So that, in a nutshell, is what I've really taken from the Capital Region -- the idea that to really appreciate a place, you have to be open to it and you need to go a little deeper. Albany is what you make of it.

Jessica Pasko -- Albany native, former AOAer and (recovering) journalist -- is now working in Silicon Valley tech communications and living by the beach in Santa Cruz, California.

Stanford Steph

I like keeping in touch with the good people I met through AOA via twitter, so I guess that's something I've brought with me. It's cool to see how the food scene continues to improve in the area, as I saw firsthand during my 10 years there. I do miss the people I hung out with there. The SF Bay Area is a huge food scene, but also overwhelming. Albany always felt a little "small town" but now that I'm outside, there is value to that smallness.

Stephanie now lives in the East San Francisco Bay Area.

Wendy Voelker

The thing that I took with me from the Capital Region is the strong sense of a "community family" that I experienced. In my professional life in the Capital Region, I found that people were always willing to help one another if they could, but if they couldn't, they always knew someone someone who could. My network always made me stronger.

I've been trying to find that same feeling here in Cleveland, but it's a larger city, and there are greater geographical divides (East Side vs. West Side, Cleveland vs. Akron). It's an exciting city with a lot of interesting things happening (Cavs in the NBA finals, Republican National Convention in July), but it's not warm and inviting and HELPFUL like the Capital Region.

Wendy now live just outside Cleveland (on the EAST SIDE!) and can be found most frequently on Twitter -- @WendyinCLE. "I've been here since May 2013, and I miss Albany every day."


Moving away from the Capital Region -- specifically Albany, where I lived in Center Square and Pine Hills for six years -- has made me realize just how much I enjoyed my time there. There is a lot to do and the smallness is refreshing. Everything you need is right around you and there is no crazy traffic or confusion around "Wait, did you want to meet at the location in Midtown or on the Eastside?" -- in Albany, there's only one, and you'll probably run into someone you know there.

It may seem like a boring place at first compared to more exciting cities and locations nearby, but I promise, it is possible to have a great life and meet great people in Albany. You just need to put in the effort. I see so many people move there for jobs and have a perception of what the area is like before they arrive and that attitude shapes their whole time living there. In the Capital Region, you may have to work a little harder to find the cool things around you, but I promise they are there, and you'll miss them when you leave!

Katelyn now lives in the Atlanta area. She had a lot to say about this topic, so she wrote more about it at her blog, Hungry Twenties.

Innae Park

Innae Park Troy brick

I've stared at a similar brick many a time over a cheese board and a glass of wine from The Confectionery. Now it sits on my San Francisco bookshelf, across the country from where it was first printed and stacked.

It was downtown Troy that led me to admit I could actually see myself settling down in the Capital Region and not label it a stop on my broadcast journalism tour, hopping from city to city. Thanks to the Collar City's complex history, the unique innovation, its staunch loyalties, and some of the deepest friendships I've grown to have, downtown Troy will always be "home" to part of my heart -- as well as part of my actual home decor.

Explore this area -- and learn to love the souls who have poured themselves into making it worthy of your time.

Innae now lives in San Francisco and works in fundraising for Teach For America. She's on Twitter as @InnaePark.

Heather Barmore

There are many things that remain significant to me about the Capital Region, for example, my parents -- I like them. But what has stuck with me as I moved from Albany to Washington, DC and now to Philadelphia, is the necessity of finding a good -- no, great -- place to practice yoga.

I was incredibly fortunate to be apart of The Hot Yoga Spot family when there was just one location in Stuyvesant Plaza. I was also devoted, there almost every evening. (I actually met one of my best friends via THYS). Thanks to that community, I have tried and tried to find a great location for yoga.

Unfortunately, not every place will be like Albany, though it is one of the things I miss most and carry with me.

Heather Barmore now lives in Philadelphia and Washington, DC and is the deputy digital director for the Democratic National Convention Committee.

Carl Johnson

Before we left the Capital District for the walkable small city paradise that is Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (think of a cross between Bedford Falls and Stars Hollow), our lives were increasingly centered on Troy, a place we had always hoped would become what it is becoming. It was very likely that a change of domicile would have landed us in the Collar City.

Things didn't go that way, but we were thrilled to see the boom continue, and as we were preparing to leave, one of the beautiful buildings downtown that we had always hoped would be rescued finally was. It was 9 First Street, now the home of Slidin' Dirty but then just known as the one-time Young's Book Bindery built around 1864. We followed its restoration on social media, and one day, while we were in the midst of our move, the project tweeted out that it had some leftover pieces looking for a home, including old pine beams. Civil War-era wood, probably old-growth from the Adirondacks, doesn't show up every day, so my wife, Lee, called the project manager immediately and ran over there after work to see what they had.

What they had was interesting, beat-up, dry-rotted, slightly burned old beams, three inches thick and 10 inches across. We had to have them for a dining room table she imagined I would build someday. While she was there, the manager pointed out some old leaded glass windows they weren't going to be able to use, and of course we had to have those as well. Our movers thought we were absolutely insane, shipping down 10 foot lengths of extremely used old wood, and once our tiny row house in Phoenixville was stacked floor to ceiling with our oversized belongings, I wondered if we would ever be able to clear the spot where this imaginary table was supposed to go.

Carl Johnson table made from Troy wood

I pulled the rotten old nails -- I like to think they came from Henry Burden's nail factory up on the top of Mill Street in Troy -- and hand-planed the beams, and got them as square as I could. I sanded out some of the scorch marks and rot, but couldn't resist letting one particularly busy bit of old insect-work remain, encasing it in epoxy. Eventually the table came together, and a little bit of 1864 Troy fills our 1900 dining room in Phoenixville. The old windows hang on our living room wall, making odd reflections at different times of day.

It was very hard to leave an area where I'd spent more than 40 years of my life, and where various branches of my family had been since Albany's earliest days, but taking a little bit of that place with us and being able to work it into something entirely new felt good. I've still got some of the old Troy wood left, waiting to figure out what it wants to be.

As a post-script, Lee was wandering Troy recently and a young man came up to her, excited to see her and asking her about the wood -- how it was, had she been able to use it. She couldn't place him at first, but he clearly remembered her and the project. Eventually she realized she was talking to the man who had sold her the wood and windows, helping her pick them out, cutting the beams for her, pulling some of the most dangerous nails. He's still in Troy, doing cool things: that was Cory Nelson, the energy behind the new Troy Kitchen.

Carl Johnson now lives in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

Many thanks to everyone who shared an answer with us!

More You're New Here:
+ You're New Here: Food
+ You're New Here: Hiking
+ Drawing: You're New Here Week local food and fun package
+ You're New Here: Kid-friendly destinations

You're New Here Week on AOA is sponsored by Linium, CDPHP, Columbia County Tourism Department, Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District.

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