Instead of working my normal Thursday shift, I packed up my car, took a friend, and headed to downtown Albany for a slew of local bands performing at Valentine’s. First off, I just have to say that I think my first two visits to Albany for EQX gold coated the city a little too much for me. I have come to this conclusion because my previous events were held on Pearl Street – sort of the Broadway of Albany.  After driving through some of the lesser parts of the capital to arrive at Valentine’s, I quickly realized that Pearl St. was going to be the high point of my visit. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good experience, but I am saying that given a choice to come back to Valentine’s or Jillian’s….well, that’s not really a question. But, as always, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Valentine's Wall Graffiti

We arrived at Valentine’s without too much trouble, but with some expectations crushed a new worry that our car might not survive the slums, let alone ourselves. We got straight to work by introducing ourselves to the staff and putting up posters. I have decided that I have to look at this experience as a good one, with both pros and cons, so I’ll describe the setting as having nice graffiti…..yeah, that’s about the best I can do. 

Once we had gotten things set up and I met my EQX boss outside, I had to put my name on a list after showing my ID and wasn’t allowed back out of the building because I was under 21 and they were serving alcohol on the premises. It’s something I can understand from their business perspective, but from my own, I was having trouble because a) I don’t like being told that my age is going to cause problems and b) I really don’t like being told that I can’t leave someplace. It makes me feel a little claustrophobic and it does not sit well with the independent nature my parents raised me on. Still, it was an adventure that helped me to see for the first time what a down and dirty local band night really looked like. 
After an hour or so though, we lost our hearing, view of the stage, and desire to smell another human being again so we headed downstairs. The bouncer was kind enough to let us leave with the exception that if we wanted to come back we had to eat somewhere close by and come right back as soon as we were done. So, we headed to the pizzeria right next door and the best part of our evening began. 
My EQX boss was in there having dinner and attempted to pay for our own, which we would not let her do. However, in the middle of the argument, we both lost as the pizzeria owner shouts over the counter “I don’t take either of your money, I pay for girls dinner myself!” This response triggered blank stares from Amber, my friend, and I as we all stared at the pizza guy. He was so excited to buy us pizza and a soda that Amber actually asked us what we had said to the guy to make him so nice. We simply shrugged our shoulders and ate our free pizza. 

Granted, it may sound kind of creepy, especially for such a shady side of Albany, but he was the nicest and most pleasant part of our evening, as he came over and ate dinner with us, talking about his sheep farm and family back in Italy. Once I explained that I had raised and showed sheep for most of my own life as well, we couldn’t get him to stop telling lambing stories and how much he misses his farm. It was a breath of fresh air in the sticky thicket of Albany that lasted a good two hours and I am ashamed to say that we didn’t even find out his name. We were, however, emphatically told that if we were ever again in that part of Albany we should come back and he would buy us dinner again! I cannot begin to describe how rich that conversation with the unnamed sheep farming pizzeria man was, but I can say that he made it an evening I will never forget. 

By the time we were done eating and talking it was ten p.m – time for New Politics to hit the stage. However, after we debated if we would even be able to get back in and whether or not it would be worth it do so, we decided we had enough fun for the evening and left for home with the pizza guy as our pinnacle memory. Getting out of Albany proved much more difficult than getting in, which made the end to our evening more exciting than even we had anticipated. We did manage to get out eventually and made it home by 1 a.m. 

All in all, it was an interesting evening, a good learning experience, and I hope that I never have to repeat it in any way close to Valentine’s – unless, of course, we take pizza man up on his offer.

Around The World and Back onstage