NXIVMN ADJACENT VIACOM STARS AT BARS
“Yo, that’s that chick from the Real World.” It was the mid-2000s and what follows is one of my more banal recollections, one that I recognize now as possibly not NXIVM Adjacent.
“Real World one?” I asked.
“No, it was the fifteenth or something.” That was my friend, suddenly hyper, bouncing on the squishy waiting area booth cushions. Each bounce producing a fart of squished pleather.
“There have been fifteen Real Worlds?!”
“There’s been more than that.”
We were sitting in the crowded waiting area of Longhorn Steakhouse. All of us were fulfilling our Friday night Capital Region duty of overcrowding Darden Group restaurants to the tune of 45-minute waits.
Olive Garden did scary well in a town that ostensibly had plenty of legit Italian spots.
You should’ve seen the crowds that would amass at Bugaboo Creek. Cheesecake Factory lines would be so long as to be a near-cousin to the lines you would expect at the Ravan Rock bunker with a comet strike imminent.
“I wanna see if she’ll get a photo with me,” my friend said, looking as though he would pop up at any second to hassle her.
“What? No way, you’re just going to bother some random lady.” My other buddy chimed in finally. He didn’t have a TV, so this conversation was over his head.
“There is no way an MTV person needs to wait with the rest of us at Longhorn.” I was sure the hostess would’ve jumped her party ahead if she was legit Real World.
“No, that’s totally her.” He was still bouncing, popping his head up at every apex. “What is she even doing here?”
NXIVM ADJACENT PAGER BOY
For whatever reason, I had drawn the short end of the stick, having to hold the blinky “your seat is ready” pager.
I was crammed in the foam bench cushion with everyone else. Grasping the sticky thing that a zillion other “Capital-Region” neighbors handled. It was coated in a film of skin cells and long spilled soda goo.
I cradled the obnoxious talisman of cowboy kitsch steaks, staring at it, wishing on it, “now… ok, now.” Once the shit buzzed and maniacally flashed, I could hand it back to the hostess and get drunk.
My memory might be clouded with unintentional bias. Still, I genuinely remember thinking, what the hell are stars doing in the 518?
Perhaps “star” was excessive. “Notable” would be how I would put it now—still, way more famous people than you would expect to be hanging around a Colonie Longhorn.
I have to be honest, I thought it was neat that the lady was there and possibly famous. Admittedly, I am not inoculated against star worship. I just hide my enthusiasm and try to be cool about it and not bother anyone.
My buddy on the other hand got his pic with the lady.
CLUELESS AND NXIVM ADJACENT
Probably the reason I am so breath taken by the Capital Region/ NXIVM stories is how it sucks me back to the Capital Region in the aughts.
The biggest stories then, not 9/11 related, were a brutal ax murder of one of our neighbors and a trial that saw a classmate of my sister on trial for parricide.
There was an awful boat capsizing at Lake George, and Trey Anastasio got drug busted which sunk the Albany Eye.
Fly 92 played the shit out of “Feel Good Inc” and “Breathe” by Anna Nalick.
I could count on “Breathe” playing often. And while I’m no true fan of popular music, I listened for it on the way to work.
I was halfway into a quarter-life crisis at that point; my grandmother had just passed away, and the world was shaky. The concept of life being “an hourglass glued to the table” fit right in with my obsession of time and existence.
I had burned a ton of family bridges (a decade habit of mine), was broke and wound up living in my parents’ basement. And daily facing the depression that comes with being an adult living in a parent’s basement.
Only it wasn’t so bad; I was patching up the relationship with my folks. I had a nice routine of lunchtime walks with my father.
And then, a short time later, he died.
NXIVM STORIES AND SQUIRREL PROOF BIRD FEEDERS
Reading these NXIVM stories, I began imagining how nice it would be to sneak away from the actual narratives to Slingerlands and see what my father was up to.
He would undoubtedly be doing some dangerous-ass yard work, clearing hornet nests, or harassing other insects with stingers. Possibly climbing around the roof for God knows why.
He may have been finishing up one of his historical travel books or researching for his day-job as town historian. He wrote at the kitchen table while casually keeping track of the birds congregating his “squirrel-proof” bird feeder contraption.
A feeder held aloft by lines of a hundred feet or more tied to trees and the house. Which mostly worked, and bonus, he got to witness me clotheslining myself once while mowing the lawn.
It also struck me while reading NXIVM accounts that the folks inside it, who had migrated from elsewhere, never got to experience the Capital Region for what it is. A history-rich place sandwiched between the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Berkshires.
I would love for NXIVM folks to come back and experience the area, just as tourists.
Which sounds ridiculous. Maybe returning to the Capital Region wouldn’t be great for their recovery. And in the end, it’s the Albany area we’re talking about.
Would a visit to Albany even be a good idea for average tourists? “Duck Boat” tours, an accurate indicator of a visitable town, are no longer in operation.
I’m ashamed to say I wouldn’t know how to encourage anyone to visit Albany. A Not Necessarily the News bit from the 1980s about Lebanon tourism comes to mind.
In 1991 at my high school in Martinez, Georgia, I told a gal, whom I had a massive crush on, that my parents were thinking of moving to Albany. I guess I hoped a possible move to New York would impress her.
I was in 9th grade, and New York always impressed me.
She was like, “EW!” and I was like, “Albany is not that bad.” And she stood up, walked over to a massive encroaching roach, and smashed it.
I was sure the “ew” was reserved for the roach, but I’m not entirely sure.
Hell, Upstate New York doesn’t work out well for its most notable fictional characters. Rip Van Winkle was mickey finned into a 20-year nap, and Ichabod Crane was chased out of town by a decapitated rider wielding a flaming pumpkin.
Albany isn’t a Wheel of Fortune prize destination. A Spice Girls reunion tour will not stop at the Times Union Center. And the coolest local brand is possibly a gas station (which isn’t as uncool as you might expect; they have seriously excellent ice cream).
BUT COME VISIT ANYWAY
The Capital Region isn’t just a, manage your expectations, and you will have a great time, kinda’ place. It is that for sure, but…
Suppose you’re into revolutionary history and want a heavy hitter that’s not Philadelphia, Boston, or New York. In that case, come to Albany.
Albany was a patriot stronghold during the American Revolution. It hosted some of our most revered and reviled forefathers, including the man behind one of the hottest tickets on Broadway.
Hamilton left a large footprint on the Capital Region; he tied the knot and eventually got shot over Albany circumstances.
Hamilton married Albany native Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780, six years before Albany celebrated her first centennial.
Elizabeth Schuyler’s parents, Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer were prominent and wealthy early New Yorkers. You’ll find that both last names are integral to Upstate New York history and Capital Region maps.
Hamilton wasn’t dueled to death in the Capital Region; it was in Weehawken, New Jersey (of course, it was New Jersey). And pretty much the exact spot where Hamilton’s eldest son was dueled to death three years prior for the love of God.
Like Inigo Montoya in reverse with guns and a decidedly unhappy ending for Hamilton fans.
The dueling site is three miles from Frank Sinatra’s birthplace and two miles from the birthplace of baseball, so that part of New Jersey is alright by me. Albany is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon from Old Blue Eyes and baseball; they’re practically sons of Albany.
HAMILTON V BURR
The duel itself stemmed from acrimony and ultimately a job cock block in Albany. Boiled down, Burr wasn’t going to be VP long, so he wanted to be governor, and Hamilton didn’t want him to be governor.
Burr himself had lived in Albany; he enjoyed that “healthy” Albany air. He passed the bar in Albany and would beat out Hamilton’s father-in-law in 1791 for a seat in the United States Senate. And nine years later, Burr would become Thomas Jefferson’s Vice President.
Burr was still vice president when he ran for governor of New York and lost. Apparently, Hamilton wasn’t saying very nice things about Burr around town. Calling Burr a “profligate” and an extreme “voluptuary.” Whatever the hell that means.
Ok, so I looked it up; Hamilton said Burr was high-post and wasteful, possibly into sensual shit.
If you were colonial and liked talking that shit, you could get in trouble fast .
The historical equivalent of a “your mother” joke ran the risk of being slapped with a dueling glove in colonial times. Thank God dueling fell out of favor long before the dawn of the interstate highway system.
But it wasn’t Hamilton calling Burr “voluptuary” that got him tied to a fatal “affair of honor.” Apparently, the duel was sparked from some watered-down third-hand shit talk that got printed in the Albany Register.
Elizabeth Schuyler was the real loser; geez, her husband and kid felled by a dueling pistol in New Jersey. And her husband’s death was sandwiched between the loss of both of her parents.
Meanwhile, Aaron Burr must have discovered illicit bath salts—he got a bit screwy.
Burr tried to raise an army to invade Mexico for reasons I’m sure made sense to him.
Due to his treasonous behavior, Burr wound up being the bastard father to the Insurrection Act. Which gives legal authority to the President to deploy active-duty military in times of crisis; you’ve probably seen it trend recently.
But, wait. Are you telling me that legal authority wasn’t around when Alexander Hamilton, in his capacity as Secretary of the Treasury, marched a Militia of 13,000 towards Pittsburgh to put down the Whiskey Rebellion?
Outside of Hamilton being as big as Cardi B these days, I would guess history folks would want these moments separated. I’m willing to bet it has something to do with, Militia versus Army.
I’m sure there’s a lawyer or historian or history fanboy that could set me straight on this. Leave me a comment below (smash that follow button while there)!!
Either way, irony.
Speaking of irony, Benedict Arnold was a goddam revolutionary hero around 1777. He went HAM AF on the British in nearby Saratoga, where the Americans turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.
Although for me the real local-ish, Benedict Arnold story was when he teamed up with Ethan Allen to take Fort Ticonderoga. It must’ve looked like a Lethal Weapon movie with muskets.
The guns captured at Fort Ticonderoga were dragged, literally(?!), across the entirety of Massachusetts to Dorchester Heights.
And those guns sent General Howe packing from Boston for Halifax. Which got a Haligonian/ Bostonian beef going that wouldn’t be fully repaired until the (then) largest man-made explosion in the history of the planet.
SOME CLAIM ALBANY IS OLDER
Albany’s an old city; she is now well on her way towards her official Quadricentennial. The official date for Albany being granted her charter was July 22, 1686. But the town was bustling well before then.
Some folks mark her age by Henry Hudson’s first appearance in the area.
In 1609, Hudson was heading north from New York City, and when he couldn’t get any farther up the river, he stopped, and there was wherever the hell this place was.
Henry Hudson immediately pulled over and met up with a beaver and a Native American. And they quickly posed for a town seal and then got drunk.
Maybe while drunk, he could have imagined that the river he followed north would eventually bear his name. And that this area would eventually be the capital of something important and home to NXIVM.
ALBANY IS MAD UPSTATE
I have heard arguments that the Capital District is the very definition of “Upstate New York.” And compelling arguments that Albany isn’t Upstate enough. It really depends on who you ask.
Ask Henry Hudson, and he would’ve been like, “what green horror art thee talking?” Ask someone from Long Island, and everything above Mount Vernon is probably upstate. Talk to someone from Plattsburgh and anything south of Kingston is New York City.
By the way, the Capital Region is actually made up of 3 large-ish cities. Albany, Schenectady, and Troy. Sometimes the area is lumped together as just Albany or name-sandwiched as “AlbanySchenectadyTroy,” or referred to as the “Tri-Cities,” “Capital District,” “the 518,” et al.
Each of the Tri-Cities is unique with its own flavor of city.
Oh, BTW, you did know that Albany was the capital of New York State, yea? New York City is not the capital of New York state, thanks.
New York has to be in with the collection of states that give Fourth Graders fits on US capital tests.
“Is Buffalo the capital, Miss Von Ribbonface? Syracuse? Utica? Wait, Albany? But I thought Maine was the only state to steal a capital name from a small Georgian city? Maine obviously went with Augusta, hoping to score some memberships at Augusta National. Why are you putting a big F on my paper, Miss Von Ribbonface?!”
HIGHWAY FLYOVERS SUCK
The capital city most similar to Albany that I can think of is Richmond, VA. Both share a small cluster of tall buildings, an extensive collection of neighborhoods, and are bisected with overpasses.
Oh, and lots and lots of flyovers. Like, overpasses and fucking flyovers going every direction. If you ever played Atari’s Hard Drivin’, you’re going to get flashbacks driving through either city.
There’s this one goddamn flyover in Albany that splits to drop you off either in Rensselaer near the train station or the center of Albany. The problem is the exits are sorta’ opposite of what you would expect, directionally.
And there’s a giant goddamn UHaul building obscuring your view, so the Albany exit actually looks like it should be the Rensselaer exit.
Yes, the signs are correct. Which is small comfort when approaching the split at highway speeds wrestling with what the signs say versus what it looks like the road is about to do.
The state capital buildings of Virginia and New York diverge from my comparison.
Virginia’s state capitol looks like it climbed right out of the collective imagination of what a stereotypical capitol building should look like. That stereotypical capitol building then went to a bar, got drunk, and made it with a Klingon Warship.
On the other hand, you have the New York State Capitol, which looks like the most expensive Sheraton you ever stayed at. It’s beautiful.
Albany’s City hall isn’t that shabby either. It looks like the type of place Julie Andrews might run out of at any minute, belting “the hills are alive with the sound of music—get out of my way!”
And if you were passing through on the highway, you would miss all of this shit. The section closest to the capital is like the one spot where the highway is at ground level. Enjoy the views of overpass and a fucking parking garage.
ALBANY, NOT FOR THE FAMOUS
If you were visiting our neighbor’s capital, Boston, and asked a native to describe Boston—outside of “wicked pissah.” You would inevitably get a “have you seen Good Will Hunting?”
The closest Albany could get to that is, “have you seen Ironweed?”
You are not going to accidentally run into Matt Damon in Albany. The best you could hope for in the Aughts was Rachel Ray or Andy Rooney. Maybe J-Live in the late 90s… That’d be cool.
I’m sure Albany is quite different in the imagination of folks visiting for their first time. They probably think New York City is fantastic, and perhaps Albany, NY is half-fantastic. Like, a smaller version of NYC.
It’s really not. At all.
New York City is the kind of place where anything you want is a short walk away. You would barely impress your pedometer after picking up dry cleaning, expensive coffee, a dirty water dog, groceries, and a bunch of flyers.
In Albany, you need a car with at least a half-tank of gas for that kind of itinerary. If you are car-less, you should install Pokémon GO on your iPhone to reap the shit out of those weekly walking rewards.
Albany’s Whole Foods is closer to the airport than downtown. We didn’t get a Trader Joe’s until, like, 2012, and it’s in Colonie.
Albany has some neat boutiques and stores, but shopping is dominated by strip malls or giant malls. There are also outlets we frequent near Lake George and east towards Springfield, Massachusetts.
BTW the nearby Springfield area has a neat list of historical/ cultural cred, being the birthplace of Basketball, Friendly’s Ice Cream, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But not the hometown of the Simpsons.
NO PRO TEAMS
Speaking of basketball, no legendary NBA teams hail from Albany because Albany doesn’t have a franchise (we occasionally get some pre-season games).
That’s not to say the Capital Region doesn’t have any HOF basketball history whatsoever. Phil Jackson once coached the Albany Patroons, and Pat Riley lit it up in high school nearby.
We also, apparently, invented baseball (take that Hoboken).
The inventor of Baseball, Abner Doubleday, is from Ballston Spa. Unfortunately, he probably didn’t actually invent baseball.
Cooperstown still got the Hall of Fame, so I feel like we should still get a team (and we still love you, Abner).
We have more people living in the Capital Region than Milwaukee, and all we have is the Valley Cats, whom we dig most of the time. Though, the Valley Cat stadium’s namesake probably wasn’t “NXIVM adjacent.”
Sports are significant to the area, but the stars are all amateur. Colleges locally have certainly had their moments in basketball and hockey. Like Riley and Jackson, they move on from the area to really make their name somewhere else.
The River Rats (AHL) had some great years and a legendary mascot/ logo. Unfortunately, that didn’t save them from moving away either.
BUT LET US ENTERTAIN YOU
Albany is home to my personal favorite entertainment venue on the planet, the Palace Theater. It has delighted audiences for near a century with Vaudeville, “talkies,” and a slew of live performances. The Dalai Lama even visited the Palace, but that probably also wasn’t NXIVM adjacent.
The building itself belies what’s going on inside; if it wasn’t for a fantastic marquee emblazoned with lights, you might think the building was an old armory. The structure looks tiny from the outside. There’s an illusion going on somewhere; the massive size of the auditorium will take your breath away.
The interior is garishly beautiful, with gigantic chandeliers and statuary. The place is a gem.
In 1993 my family had tickets to see Wilford Brimley in his stage debut as Ebenezer Scrooge at the Palace. Brimley would later admit to avoiding theater projects due to “typically long production runs.”
And my family pissed Brimley off by showing up late to the performance.
My father’s number one theater rule was to always follow the usher’s marching orders. If you have to go to the bathroom and the usher won’t let you go back to your seat until curtain call, thems are the breaks, kiddo.
Our usher at the Palace’s production of A Christmas Carol must not have had any fucks to give. The usher led us down to our seats by flashlight while Brimley’s Scrooge lectured Bob Crachit on stage. Our seats were just in front of the orchestra pit.
I’m not saying Brimley broke character, but he stopped lecturing Cratchit and stared at us for an uncomfortably long time.
USHERING AT THE PALACE
My father was the Palace’s head-usher at the end of his life. Stemming from my mother’s reluctance to see the number of shows he wanted to see there. And he didn’t like watching shows alone, so he began volunteering at the Palace.
My father’s last show as head-usher was in January of 2007 for Albany Symphony Orchestra’s “A Night in Old Russia.” It was Tchaikovsky night, and the Orchestra was playing the hits. And it was absolutely magical for me.
By the time we wrapped most of our Usher-ly duties for the night, I had spied him take a seat on the stairs at the top corner of Orchestra Right for the show’s finale, the “1812 Overture.”
So, I joined him.
My father had a wicked cancer then—I knew anything I did with him would be the “last time my father and I did __________.”
I wanted the band to just keep playing.
THE 1812 OVERTURE AIN’T AMERICAN
There were also two things I learned that night from my historian father. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture had shit to do with the United States, and Russia also had a war in 1812.
I always imagined Tchaikovsky had witnessed our war of 1812 as part of a delegation, citizen swap, or early tourism. And it’s not that crazy a notion to my mind, John Quincy Adams, son of a president and later President himself was in St. Petersburg during the Napoleonic War.
Maybe Tchaikovsky stuck around to watch part two of America versus England? Chilling just south of Albany in Kinderhook with the real-life Ichabod Crane, Marten Van Burin, and Washington Irving, being Bohemian AF.
“Hey Van Burin, I wrote a song about your 1812 war; wanna’ hear it?”
“Fuck you, Van Burin!!”
Isn’t the song about America? Wait, Tchaikovsky wasn’t even alive in 1812?
I always saw the Overture as “goddamn American.” I obviously didn’t pay much attention in High School history class.
SENDING OFF GRAM WITH CANNONS
The 1812 overture played at my grandmother’s funeral two years prior, and it wasn’t on purpose.
“Classical music” had been playing from a slew of mix CDs for her viewing; it was the only kind of music gram tolerated. The music played at such a low volume that it was almost wholly imperceptible and accidentally left playing for the funeral an hour later.
A decade earlier, my grandfather’s casket was closed without warning in front of funeral attendants and was absolutely jarring to watch. So, it had been decided there would be a cue to close our eyes and reflect on her life.
There was plenty to reflect on. Gram was an intimidating but lovely woman. Daughter of Irish immigrants and a Kingston native, she once worked for Hoover and the FBI around the Second World War.
We bowed in silence, and her casket was closed for her eternity… Just as Tchaikovsky was getting to “God Save the Tsar!” It was so absolutely ridiculous. I was crying before, then suddenly, I had to vigorously staunch a laugh.
ALBANY CAN GET RELIGIOUS
Albany has the stuffy, old-fashion religious credentials. Two of her Christian churches are among the oldest in the country.
The aptly named First Church in Albany was not only Albany’s first church; it was also the first Church outside of NYC.
Theodore Roosevelt is probably considered a more recent parishioner at First Church in Albany. And the church has an ancient weathervane that would almost certainly cause someone to faint on Antiques Roadshow.
Just to the northwest is First Lutheran Church, home to the oldest ELCA Lutheran congregation in the United States. And they have a bowling alley in the basement! Or at least they did when I was a member.
If you follow the Hudson River north, it brings you to Troy, home to one of our country’s earlier Synagogues. The second oldest structure still used as a house of worship. And according to the Congregation Berith Sholom, New York State’s oldest building in continuous use as a synagogue.
SO, MAKE LEGS TO TROY
Troy is known as “the Collar City” for her early production and refining of all things collars and cuffs.
Troy is also where famed mobster “Legs” Diamond, aka Gentlemen Jack, was “collared.” Or well… put on trial, beat the rap, got prohibition crunk, and then was murdered a week before Christmas. Quite the end for the celebrity mobster adored by the local proletariat.
The little guy couldn’t get enough of “Legs.” As illustrated by a nine-year-old boy at Diamond’s kidnapping trial who apparently was heard shouting, “They’ll never get Legs!”
FDR, then Governor of New York, was not one of those “Legs” Diamond fans; but Raekwon the Chef of the Wu-Tang Clan probably is. “Legs” seemingly got a posthumous hip-hop shout-out when Raekwon took his moniker for a spin as “Lex Diamond.” His “Wu-Gambino” name on the seminal Only Built for Cuban Links.
Troy just exudes classic workhorse New York town, and I bet that’s why “Legs” beat the rap there in 1931. He was an everyman hero, a “Robin Hood”. And he had a good lawyer (Whom he was never able to pay, what with being murdered and all).
TROY WITHOUT BRAD PITT
In ancient times, Troy, the one on the Aegean Sea, saw the fantastic Greek sleight of hand that ended a 10-year siege on the Anatolian city. Of course, I’m referring to the Trojan Horse, the ingenious weapon of war that probably didn’t actually ever exist.
Troy seems like a good moniker for a modern city where Uncle Sam, the lovable and fictitious warmonger, was “born.”
Uncle Sam’s alter-ego, Samuel Wilson, was apparently an affable dude who had some delicious, canned meats, and all that somehow led to the nickname.
Oh, and there’s the “bomb factory,” which is technically just across the Hudson River in Watervliet. It didn’t get its start as a bomb factory. The Arsenal has an almost Lieutenant Dan family tree of military bona fides.
In the beginning, the Arsenal loved its artillery, as its name probably suggests. Still, later it saw a market opportunity for plane dropped munitions.
The Iraq war was happening, and bunker-busting bombs, weapons dropped from planes that crashed deep into the earth and exploded, were in demand. Yet there were reservations on how deep bombs of that era could penetrate to threaten some of Saddam’s underground shelters.
Watervliet spotted an opportunity to stay relevant and repurpose their heavy-ass cannons into heavy-ass bombs.
Ending wars by marrying war stuff to more potent war stuff would totally be in the same wheelhouse as ancient Troy.
And btw Troy, NY, has the cherry on top of any war-loving ‘burgh as she’s home to the HVCC Vikings. Harvard on the Hudson, baby! Who wouldn’t love a Norse Warrior representing their town? Sorry Puckman.
HOW DO YOU EVEN PRONOUNCE SCHENECTADY?
Schenectady is the “town that lights and hauls the world,” referencing the city’s history of Edison and locomotives.
Schenectady is the area’s spout of massive technological advances, just like, 100 years ago advances. So don’t expect a northern-ish SXSW ever accommodating a shitload of hip techie potheads in Schenectady.
Advances began to come to fruition in 1826 when residents were introduced to New York’s first chartered railroad in New York.
Schenectady was home to the DeWitt Clinton, one of our country’s earliest steam-powered locomotives and the first train to offer regularly scheduled passenger service in the state.
The locomotive was named for Dewitt Clinton, the seventh and ninth Governor of New York. Clinton also held pretty much every other New York political job of import, and he even ran for President.
BTW, DeWitt Clinton has been referred to as the “father of the Erie Canal.” And still, his uncle George Clinton is probably more well-known. And we’re not talking, “Paint the White House Black” Parliament-Funkadelic, George Clinton.
DeWitt’s uncle George Clinton lived in the 1800s and could have certainly tried to paint the white house black as vice president for Jefferson and Madison. Something tells me Dolley Maddison would have gotten all up in George’s shit like, “WTF, CLINTON?!”
GE BRINGS GOOD THINGS TO LIFE, AND THEN GHOSTS
General Electric was founded in Schenectady thanks to some vacant buildings and the promise of cheaper than Manhattan labor. And the folks there powered some astonishing technological advances.
Schenectady was home to the first television broadcast test, and it’s home to one of the first television stations in the world.
GE was responsible for ancient radio glory giving the Capital Region claim to one of America’s oldest radio stations. Yet even before that, Schenectady heard the world’s first radio broadcast on Christmas Eve 1906. Or, well, residents could have heard it if anyone had a radio.
General Electric did a ton more advanced shit in Schenectady over the years. Unfortunately, employee dismissals seemed to become a talent as well. General Electric has since (kinda’ sorta’) moved on from Schenectady.
I think if the Schenectady had a few more warm months and at least one Lamborghini dealership, she would have probably become Silicone Valley.
STRIP MALL HELL AND THE RISE OF NXIVM
The entire area is also a bit of a sprawl magnet. Its strip malls and business parks are all dated, like 1970s dated. As if someone wanted the Capital Region to be the next Wheaton, Maryland.
A zillion business parks that all look like an excellent place to set up a chiropractor office next to an eye doctor next to a vacant Woolworth.
And “strip mall hell” describes the areas where NXIVM decided to officially locate itself. Like NXIVM’s Colonie (and I think) flagship location once located at 455 New Karner Road.
Their brick building with its sorta’ Pizza Hut restaurant hump practically screams, get your teeth pulled here. It looks like a dentist’s office, and I’m not painting it that way because my actual dentist was just 2000 feet from NXIVM.
The sorted tales of NXIVM have seemingly, forced building management to try to clumsily ghost the building’s past. In 2015 the building was 455; then 2017, it was 4__5; in 2018, it was just 4.
I guess this is to throw off the morbidly curious. Or maybe the morbidly curious stole the numbers?
NXIVM also had a strip mall restaurant. The group used it, not for slinging hash, but for training or meetings or whatever, which probably confused locals.
And there was one seemingly clairvoyant snark apropos to Apropo. Doubtful it’s the real “Vanguard” (Keith Raniere) commenting on a rando Times Union Blog piece, but one could certainly hope. Raniere, by the way, was the head NXIVM dude.
Anyway, the capital region has a glut of these abandoned, detached non-chain restaurants that at one time must have been the toast of their strip mall.
To get to Clifton Park, you take the Northway across the Thaddeus Kosciuszko bridge. No one really calls the bridge by its Christian name, though; it’s colloquially known as the Dolly Parton bridge for ehm… obvious reasons?
Kosciuszko was a military engineer and largely unsung hero of the Revolution. Dolly Parton is just awesome. Either name works.
Take the third exit on the Northway after crossing the Dolly Parton bridge. When you get to the light at the bottom of the ramp, take a left if you want to be in Clifton Park. Take a right, and you head into Halfmoon.
Alexander Mcintosh, the father of the father of Mcintosh Apples, called Clifton Park home. Alexander’s son John Mcintosh discovered New York’s famous apple that would later become a part of hip-computing legend. So basically, Clifton Park is the birthplace of the iPhone (take that Hoboken).
And the birthplace of Super Bowl winner (and loser), Joe Vellano, an undrafted NLF-er, won a Super Bowl with the Patriots and lost a Super Bowl against the Patriots.
Clifton Park seems like the type of town that would still have Friendly’s. And I don’t mean that negatively; if Clifton Park was an old lady, I would want to pinch her goddamn cheeks, “how cute are you?”
Friendly’s, as mentioned earlier, was a chain started nearby (Springfield, MA). Before it began popping up all over the east coast and, at one time, looked like the diner-chain to beat in the 80s (think Dennys but way better). Lately, that most underrated of burger and banana-split chains have fallen on hard times.
SNAPPED INTO NXIVM LAND
Cue the Sharon Martin-like voice-over lady – Having a chain restaurant named “Friendly’s” did not create an umbrella of nicety that enveloped this small Upstate town.
Clifton Park also apparently housed NXIVM’s makeshift prison. Nancy Salzman or “Prefect,” NXIVM’s second in command, called Clifton Park home.
Keep reading with Sharon Martin’s voice — Remember that right at the bottom of the exit ramp? Take it. Now you’re in Halfmoon, where “Vanguard” held court in a cul-de-sac since the 1980s.
Halfmoon seemed to operate as an after-hours NXIVM enclave. The group’s twilight volleyball ensued in Halfmoon, and so did creepy the late-night strolls with Raniere.
Halfmoon might appear aggressively ordinary with her modest homes engulfed in evergreens and further fauna. You might expect the deviations springing from the nest of infamous townhomes would serve as an intimation of something more sinister.
And some of the NXIVM townhomes housed famous as hell (for the area) people. Jeez, imagine yourself a huge CW/ Syfy channel-loving individual living in Halfmoon?
You’re not still reading this in Sharon Martin’s voice, are you? You can ditch that shit.
But say you’re a Smallville fanboy, and suddenly you realize fucking Allison Mack is your neighbor?! That’d probably be so awesome you would shit yourself. Or not.
I dated a gal who lived in Clifton Park (her mother and her ferrets lived together in Halfmoon). We knew nothing.
NOT NXIVM ADJACENT READING
I worked at News 10 in Albany mid-2000s, the nefarious NXIVM stuff would have been one hell of a local scoop.
Actually, scratch that; I may have been susceptible to a NXIVM pitch. I was aimless and yet still desperate to show myself as a success to my parents.
It was really only the newspapers, like the Times Union, who seemed to have an early bead on NXIVM in the Capital Region. As such, I’ve sprinkled links to their coverage in whatever the hell this is that I’m writing. Also, check out their podcast NXIVM on Trial.
If you are looking for more in-depth information from the inside, I would suggest reading Sarah Edmondson’s book Scarred. She was one of the more prominent NXIVM proponents outside of Albany before her dramatic falling out with the group.
Edmonson’s falling out formed the spine of CBC’s Uncover Season 1 — Escaping NXIVM.
Sarah Berman’s book, Don’t Call it a Cult is also very informative and includes dispatches from within Raniere’s trial.
Frank Parlato, once associated with the group, also has tons of posts critical to NXIVM at the FrankReport.
HBO’s docuseries the Vow covers, and some think it over-covers, the entire NXIVM affair. (I could not reasonably criticize length, having written 6000+ words on whatever the hell this blog piece is).
Therapist and podcaster Rachel Bernstein’s Indoctrination has a few interesting conversations on NXIVM (and other high-control groups).
And while I’m not much into the pain and misery NXIVM causes, I can’t get enough of the accounts. As awful as they are, they paint a picture of the Capital Region where my father is still alive a few miles away.
THE CAPITAL REGION ISN’T MAGICAL, BUT IT DOESN’T SUCK
Earlier I said I would have had a hard time advertising the Capital Region to potential tourists. I fear by promoting some of the area’s negative stories that I may do the opposite.
The area shouldn’t be lumped in with NXIVM as if one could be the definition of the other. There is a risk that could happen. Yet, fortunately, the Capital Region hasn’t suffered the same events and stigma as, say, Waco (which can’t be a terrible place, they gave us Dr. Pepper).
And that’s not to say NXIVM is close to being the only negative story to come out of the area.
As with the rest of the country, we share a depressing history with our native populations who called this area home. The Mohicans were the 518 before the 518 was the 518. They actually fought with the Patriots during the American Revolution and were later forced from their ancestral lands.
The last living enslaved man in New York was from the Capital Region. “Caesar” was also the last known living slave north of the Mason-Dixon line and the last to die in bondage in the state of New York. He was also possibly the earliest born person to ever be photographed.
And because Albany is the seat of New York power, it has invited all flavors of political scandal throughout the years. Here’s just an accounting of 2018.
So obviously, this place isn’t magical, even when it tries to be. We literally had a yellow brick road in Albany that some genius paved over.
BUT I LOVE THE 518
Almost from the beginning, the area and its people built Albany, Schenectady, and Troy; likewise, they helped advance our country to where it is today.
There have been flaws. There have been terrible people. But that shouldn’t turn away away from a place with as much history, quirks, and incredible people as the Capital Region.
We have the Altamont Fair. AndProctors. We have the Lincoln Park Swimming Pool. And Secrets with their “wa-wa-water cannons.” We have Indian Ladder. Oh, we have the Albany Egg! And now we have goddamn NXIVM.
I know I missed a ton of unique area history; this spasm of anecdotes was never meant to try to cover it all (or even be this long). Please let me know what I missed in the comments.
My father was the town historian of Bethlehem when he died (precisely 15 years ago as I write this). The history I have included was some of the favorites he imparted on our lunchtime walks.
BTW he would have been far more miffed by my omission of the Canal than all of my swears.
For more competent info on the area, check out the blog of Bethlehem’s current historian.
And now that I think about it, I bet the Real World lady’s trip to the Colonie Longhorn was just to pick up Flo’s Filet with Lobster Tail.
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