Sebastian Humbert

Albany is expansive. Of course, there is not much of interest in its large area, just more of the same, uninteresting things; like small houses and small, scattered apartment complexes, and mid sized, box-malls.

Discovering the more suburban side to the capital of New York was not all that different than living in the urban area. The people were different looking, but had similar attitudes. There were more white people and more fat people and more Asians, but still generally lower middle class and sad looking.

From downtown Albany it takes almost half an hour to get to the mall, and it’s just a one-road shot up a red-light-glaring Madison Avenue. The alternative is two dollars in tolls and a ten-minute savings by means of the Governor something-something Thruway, road 87. It’s not any more interesting, however, in fact, it is a lot more sad than taking Madison all the way up. At least on Madison you pass the University, where young healthy looking folk share the road with you for a while.

They look like they still have it in them; it looks like they still try. Fit and with dyed blond hair. It is a contrast to who is left with you on the remaining part of the road, the ones which will also be going to the mall.

The fat, sad ones; the ones who gave up a long time ago; the ones who are blond/black/grey haired and sit on the mall benches with no bags make up the rest of the lot.  There are kids in wife beater t-shirts and girls in short skirts but still wear leggings.

I bought twister and rented a red box movie.

Driving back to my girlfriends’ apartment I took the highway. Tall trees surrounded the whole four to six lanes of it, and the people driving next to me, for the most part, wore business suites. They, however, were sad looking too. Shit, the trees even seemed to be a more grey shade of green.

At this point I had forgotten why I wanted to be there at all. My trips to the capital region usually end this way. Although, I can only remember one vacation where when the last day came I did not say I was ready to go home. Beef Island on Tortola. But then again, I live in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a vacation spot to many; so my home sets the bar high.

On the bus back to Boston, there was a family with two young girls and a boy – all of them under three years old, I bet.

They cried the whole fucking way back and no one said anything about it.

Sebastian’s new project, GroupCorner (http://www.groupcornerpr.com) is due to launch early summer, 2011. Check it out!
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Sebastian Humbert

“Man, you should be a singer,” he said. A singer? This guy, who may well have been a homeless person, told me this at the Albany bus station. He was a confusing character: I couldn’t tell if he was waiting for the bus to Boston or keeping warm on a cold day before being kicked out to find a place to sleep on the street. He had a clean, blue t-shirt, a decent jacket and dark blue jeans. His shoes were not overworn and he had a Boston red socks cap on. But his mannerisms were just like any other homeless man.

“You could have 30,000 teenage girls yelling for you on stage,” he continued. What the hell is this guy’s problem? I don’t know this person, maybe he has mental problems; like a functioning schizophrenic, or whatever the politically correct term is for that disorder this year.

“What do you do now? You should be a singer! Whatever you do now cant be better,” he went on, as I brought out my cell to pretend to text someone and began to ignore the guy.

He eventually gave up on me, but it was a crazy 10-minute, mostly one-way conversation. After some time, another guy entered the station; the crazy man ensued.

“Hey brother, how is it going,” the crazy man asked the newcomer. “hey, what are you up to?,” he responded.

“Not much, just socializing with some new friends,” he said.

“Oh,” responded the newcomer.

The crazy mans voice had changed with this man. Not for bad, but for calm and composed. Where he was about to get up in a fit about how I was not a singer, this new guy was treated as a regular person.

“I’m ganna go outside for a cigarette,” the newcomer said.

“Can I come?” the crazy man said.


That was the last I saw of them for a good, quite ten minutes.
Then the bus driver got there and began to take our tickets. One by one the ticketholders were allowed on the bus. I walked on and was about half way down the isle when I looked over and saw the crazy man in the line.

Whatever, I though, just as long as he didn’t sit next to me.

So I found a fairly isolated seat near the back of the bus and sat down. The row I was in did not have a power outlet so I connected my laptop up to the seat in front of me. I was thinking to would ask the person who sat there to watch out for it.

As my luck goes, and as God is funny, it turned out to be the crazy man who ended up sitting in front of me.

“Hey dude,” he said, as his head spun 180 degrees to get a look at me through the seats.

“Hey,” I responded awkwardly.

The man who gave him the cigarette, the one who he called his brother, was sitting next to him. At this point I was thinking he might actually have been his brother. Cigarette man was trying to calm crazy man down, or keep him from acting up.

This had a limited success rate, and ended up did not going well. The bus from Albany to Boston usually has two stops in between, Worchester’s union station and the Riverside station at the MBTA Green Line.

The cigarette man did his best, but after staying in one position too long I guess the crazy man just got restless. His voice fluctuated frequently, responded to by the cigarette man calming him down; he wanted to get up and walk around a couple of times, but the cigarette man didn’t let him. This dance went on for at least an hour and a half.

The bus driver did not understand, or maybe he did not want to understand. Because I know the driver, and don’t like him, my comment is that he, too, might be retarded. His decision-making skills really made that bus ride a unique 2-hour experience.  Stopping mid route on the highway, he got up and walked over towards us. “Excuse me, sirs, your being really loud and disturbing the passengers,” the bus driver said. “If it doesn’t improve im’a have to separate you two.”

The crazy man looked down while the cigarette man did his best with the driver. “Sorry, sir, we will quiet down,” he said.

“Good,” the bus driver stormed off.

“You showed him,” the crazy man said to cigarette man, while obviously trying really hard to keep his voice down. “Lets just try to keep it down till we get somewhere, okay?” his possible brother responded.

There was a period of no more than 20 minutes where both crazy and cigarette man tried to be quiet. There were small falters in between, but the conversation soon escalated to the level it was at before. Which was not terrible, but it was just a notch over normal.  Crazy man was a large guy though, (not fat, and far from it, just large) for him it was understandable to have a loud voice.

At this point, however, the bus driver pulled over again. “Get up,” the bus driver called to the cigarette man. The cigarette man played the confused card: “What? Me?” he responded. “Yeah, you, who else. I don’t want loud mouth sitting next to me,” the bus driver shot back, as he dragged the cigarette man to sit in the front of the bus.

After this event, which incited a decent amount of whisper-level gossip in the rest of the bus, there was dead quiet for a good five minutes.

Sitting behind the crazy man, I got the full experience, which began at whisper level and fake cell phone talking.

He took the phone out of his pocket and raised it to his ear, “hey man,” he said. “Yeah you need to take that bitch back, man,” he said with enthusiasm. As his solo conversation went on, his voice went up.  It was a bad start; yet, it was nothing compared to what it turned into.

It took a while, but he eventually dropped his phone, and kept talking by himself. It had to only be a matter of time before the bus driver stopped the bus again.

Less than half an hour from when he decided he did not need his phone to talk, hands flailing and body jumping, the crazy man had a business plan. “Millionaires! We can be millionaires!” crazy man promised the back of the chair in front of him. “We’ll have the fastest crew in town, see,” he claimed. “Water heaters! We can install them in 20 seconds! With 4 of the best guys in town we can do 800 a day!”

Holy crap. This guy is sitting in front of me. It’s like watching some crazy movie, except, I’m in the movie and its real life. In retrospect, this was probably a much more precarious situation than I took it to be.

I watched in amusement from my first row seat, while the rest of the bus glared from safety. No one said anything, of course; political correctness prohibits this.

Soon after what must have been crazy man’s peak, the bus stopped and the driver stood up and got off. Crazy man was silent, and in almost a whisper he asked his dear friend, back of chair: “are we in trouble?”

Then the blue lights showed up. Crazy man looked out the window at them and exclaimed to the bus: “oh shit! The cops are here! I think were in trouble! Everyone put their hands behind your heads!”

The bus driver had in fact called the cops. After the crazy man was walked off, the bus driver asked every one to fill out these forms claiming their was a disturbance on the bus that justified the situation.

There was a drone of gossip until we got to Worchester and then it was quiet all the way to the last stop on the green line, and then into Boston.

Sebastian’s new project, GroupCorner (http://www.groupcornerpr.com) is due to launch early summer, 2011. Check it out!
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Sebastian Humbert

We pulled onto Madison and off of Grand, as we are always forced to do because of the way the streets are arranged. It was still early, but I had decided to leave on the earlier bus because I was ready to get out of Albany. This aside, and more importantly, I was hungry.

I had my girlfriend, Alex, drive me through the McDonalds close to her apartment. Its two or three blocks away, on South Pearl and Madison and is shadowed by a highway. They have a couple of short trees in the front of the building to contrast that, though.

I don’t know how long the promotion will last, or how they do it, but right now at McDonalds they have a full-fledged Angus burger for only four dollars. It’s bigger than my fist and complete with full sized purple onions, real-tasting cheese and a plump, larger than normal, bun.

So I ate the whole thing in under a minute; and it was a bad idea.

We didn’t do anything about it initially, but it reminded me of a similar situation at Chilawamba, a new restaurant jus a block away, on Madison Ave. While restaurants in this neighborhood are not usually good, they are always nearby and cheap — like Number One Dragon, for example; you know it’s going to be bad, and possibly tear up your intestines, but you do it anyway. Why? Who knows. At that exact moment it could have been one hundred different reasons.

I though Chilawamba would be different though. It was new and it looked family run and sort of clean. I bought into the Haitian restaurant. Once inside I was a little apprehensive, but grew to like it during my eat-in. They had what sounded like tasty chicken and good rice and even amarillos, what is known up here as fried plantains. It shattered me within an hour.  What the hell was wrong?

And now, my McDonalds Angus Burger!

Nevertheless, we arrived at the Greyhound bus station and waited for a moment before realizing that I didn’t really want to get out of the car feeling this sick. I still had time before my bus left, however, and did not worry.

Alex, on the other hand, was now hungry – But God forbid she eat anything that is not grass fed, organic and cage free — so we drove up to Lark street. At the top of Capitol Hill, past most of the immigrant and minority neighborhoods, is the up-and-coming Lark Street, where all of the hipsters and college students who have money to spend hang out.

It borders the nice large park in Albany (a stark difference from the not so nice large park, which is closer to the neighborhood Alex lives in) and has hundreds of small café’s and dinners and swinging bars with large, expensive, retro neon signs. They all have names like, “Justin’s” and “oh” and “Legends.” We did no stop in any of those, thank God. Yet, where we ended up eating was not drastically better.

Dino’s Pizza was the shabby looking place on the strip — which would have made it a golden beacon of dignity if it were just a little more than a mile down the hill. We parked caddy-corner to the pizza place at a Dunkin Doughnuts on Madison and Lark.

I had trouble walking across the intersection because my stomach hurt so bad; I couldn’t hold myself up straight. The only thing on my mind was: why shitty pizza?

I had never been there, but Alex raved about it almost constantly. So it did spark some curiosity, and I ended up ordering a slice. Really, I don’t know how I made myself do it. I yelled for a slice of cheese and honey barbeque chicken pizza.

It did not even look good; in fact, it looked obviously like it had been sitting out under a hot lamp since 9a.m., when they opened. They didn’t bother to cook it up again, or even throw it in the microwave.

When the cashier took our orders he grabbed both slices, threw them on one of those thin white paper plates and gave it to us.

Each bite, however, made my stomach feel a little bit better. I don’t know if it was the gooey chicken or the day-old cheese that did it, but I ended up thanking myself for pushing my sick self so far. By the last bite I felt great — completely healed — and ready to get off Lark Street to begin my long journey back to Boston.

Sebastian’s new project, GroupCorner (http://www.groupcornerpr.com) is due to launch early summer, 2011. Check it out!
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The first in a series of short, true stories from Albany, NY.

Sebastian Humbert

“You look freezing,” the unattractive, not-young black woman yelled to me on the sidewalk in passing. And I was, in fact, freezing.

It was between 5 and 8 degrees that morning. But in that range it does not matter, your hair freezes anyway; single digit differences make no difference at all.

“Yeah…” I responded, the lady to my side, thinking it would be the end of just another short-lived conversation on a New York sidewalk.

“Cuz boy, you hot,” she snapped back. I kept walking, ignoring her. “Hey, you sexy…hey where you going!” she continued, as I walked down the street, a bit faster now.

No, it turned out not to be another short-lived New York City conversation. Those, on one hand, are usually exciting and filled with an anxious suspense that reminisce bad 70’s movies about how edgy and dangerous New York can be, or was. This, on the other hand, was the real-deal. This was a dreadfully thrilling, short-lived conversation in Albany, NY — a place that is, if you can imagine, worse than New York City in the 70’s. It was a very scary event.

I was walking to the Greyhound bus station, down Madison Ave. — the main road off of Grand Street, where I was staying. It’s a bad area, and I was glad to finally be getting out of there.

There is nothing good about Albany, really. There are not very many stores, restaurants or things to do. There is a nice soccer bar, and a decent dinner next to it. But the coffee milk i once ordered there had a short, curled up, black hair in it.

I ordered it three more times, desperate for coffee milk outside of Rhode Island.  I always thought it was too coincidental to happen the next time, so I kept ordering the coffee milk. But i couldn’t enjoy it after that first time.

I stopped going to the dinner all together soon after that. So there is not much else to the capital of New York, and much less on Grand and Madison.

Sebastian’s new project, GroupCorner (http://www.groupcornerpr.com) is due to launch early summer, 2011. Check it out!

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