Over Memorial Day weekend, Mike and I flew to Upstate New York (or northern New York, as one native referred to it). Friends were getting married in Skaneateles (pronounced “skanny-atlas”), and I quickly realized we could make a weekend out of that affair by touring the Albany capitol (#15 for me—I have a goal of visiting all 51) and the National Baseball Hall of Fame (one of Mike’s bucket-list items).
We had made these plans before we learned about Teddy (although we hadn’t purchased tickets yet), and once we brought Teddy home, we figured we’d go ahead with them, although we hadn’t thought through logistically how that would work. And then my parents mentioned wanting to visit over Memorial Day weekend. How would they feel about staying with Teddy over the weekend while we were gone? They’re grandparents. Who live across the country from their grandson. Three days to spoil him with no parental interference? They loved the idea.
So we settled them into our condo, left detailed information about Teddy’s schedule (including feeding and naptime instructions we knew they would disregard completely) on the kitchen table, kissed our boy goodbye, and headed to Albany.
We were delayed for several hours at DCA. (This was not good for someone feeling a lot of nervous energy. I had far too much time to compulsively check my phone for text updates from my mother, who, unsurprisingly, didn’t have much to report at that point.) The last capitol tour was at 3 pm, and fortunately, we made it with about 10 minutes to spare. We don’t always get a guided tour in capitol buildings (although my rule is that I have to tour it, even if I’m just walking around it myself), but I’m so glad we made it for this one. Our tour guide was one of the best we’ve had: passionate about the capitol and full of knowledge. We were allowed in to the Senate meeting room and the Assembly (known as the “House” in most capitols) meeting room, which isn’t always a given.
Among other things, we learned that New York’s first capitol building was on the same grounds as the current building, although New York City was the first capital city, where members met in people’s homes or pubs. And we learned that a company was commissioned to replace the ceiling of the Senate meeting room with oak, but instead replaced it with (much cheaper) plaster of Paris painted to look like oak. New York sued the company—and lost. But that plaster of Paris ceiling ended up saving the capitol when a fire started. Had the ceiling been oak, the fire would have consumed the room and spread to the rest of the capitol. Instead, it was contained long enough to be extinguished before spreading. Today, that ceiling is still plaster.
The highlight of the tour was the sandstone “Million-Dollar Staircase,” with its four points of entry. Gorgeous color, smooth round pillars (amazing given that they were cut square), and detailed craftsmanship including faces of historical people (and locals who had cash for the artisans) atop those pillars.
The lowlight was getting stuck in the elevator. Yeah. After the tour ended, I asked the guide where the governor’s office was. He directed us back to the second floor, and our whole group followed us. Once the 16 of us were back in the elevator, we pressed the button for the second floor. And…nothing. The door was stuck. We were enclosed in that seemingly increasingly small space for probably no more than 10 minutes, but once we were freed, we decided we didn’t need to see the governor’s office that badly. Besides, our parking meter had run out, and while we figured Albany would be a bit more relaxed than DC, you never know.
Next up, Cooperstown. We had no idea the National Baseball Hall of Fame was so isolated! It’s out in the middle of nowhere! That said, the drive to the middle of nowhere is gorgeous. And the town itself is really pretty, very leafy. Living in the city, I forget how much I love trees! Our whole time in Upstate New York, we were surrounded by them. Anyway, this part of the trip was solely for Mike. He’s a HUGE baseball fan. (He’s also a fan of the local team, wherever he is, so he was a bit frustrated by how under-represented the Nats were in Cooperstown, given how young they are.) And here, where anyone can rattle off not only statistics about their favorite team but basic information about every other team as well, Mike was in baseball heaven.
We had a crucial conversation the night before we visited the Hall of Fame. Mike let me know that it was perfectly acceptable for me to bring my book. He knew he’d be lingering, reading everything, soaking in every detail. He knew I’d get bored—quickly. I appreciated his permission to not stay with him through every exhibit and feign interest. So I downloaded my book club book onto the kindle app on my phone (I didn’t want to be so conspicuous, with my actual kindle; besides, with my phone, I could always pretend I was checking baseball scores…), and after I finished an exhibit, I sat on a nearby bench (put there for people like me, I’m sure) and read.
We were in the museum for 5.5 hours. I finished my book club book. (We did go outside for lunch. We munched delicious slices of pizza—Mike’s favorite food—while sitting on a bench outside in the sunshine. Bliss.)
Needless to say, Mike loved every minute of those 5+ hours. And I enjoyed watching him in his element. I think he got our money’s worth for both tickets. That said, I did enjoy what I paid attention to. I learned a lot about the history of baseball and its transition from an amateur sport to a professional, commercial enterprise. (Did you know the Green Monster was built to block the view of unpaying spectators?) I also enjoyed learning about the press’ role in baseball, and how people were really nervous about broadcasting games, first on radio, then on TV, because of concern that if people could listen, and then watch, from home, they wouldn’t feel the need to buy tickets. (Commentators were so detailed that one reporter noted he could write a story about the game just by listening to it on the radio.) However, such concerns proved unfounded. Attending a game is a uniquely American experience, after all. And of course, I enjoyed watching Albert and Costello’s classic Who’s On First.
Our final weekend stop was the wedding that inspired the getaway to begin with. It was a beautiful affair in Skaneateles, a small town about three hours west of Albany. The ceremony itself was outdoors and then we ate dinner in an old barn. One of my favorite details was the centerpieces: wooden boxes with potted herbs. I love that! I could flavor my own dinner with basil and oregano and sage and mint. (Not that I did, of course. Dinner was delicious without any additional seasoning.) And there were cornhole boards set up so the guests could entertain themselves before dinner while the wedding party was posing for pictures. Too fun.
And then we arrived home to find that my parents had had just as much fun over the weekend as we had! In fact, they informed us we’re welcome to go away any time we want.