Like most trips I take, this one begins and ends with Amtrak.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that Bouchercon, the fantastic annual mystery convention, has to be held in a city just getting back on its feet. This was my third Bouchercon, after Indianapolis and Cleveland, both of which have been hammered by the recession. Albany was no different. One of my favorite things to do, though, is take a day to walk through the city, ride a public bus down the main thoroughfare and eat at a local business, chat with the people behind the counter. Hey, I take the “for President” name of this site seriously!
There was a little mixup and I had the wrong address for the Soho Crime dinner, so I ended up in a rough part of town. No biggie. I’m usually given to Taoist thought, but when I’m lost, I enter a Buddhist phase and think, “There’s a reason why I’m here.” Well, if there’s a reason to have fried chicken at a dicey place where my fellow patrons seemed to be involved in illegal activities right out the door, then I haven’t found it. I did get a kick out of using cheap “Chinese” hot sauce packs on the chicken, lending them a certain Doritos touch.
The evening was still young, yet, though (only about 11pm), so I walked to Joe & Dough, a great little diner that also makes donuts. They’re open until about 5 in the morning and I absolutely had to go, based on the name alone. That’s one with Bailey’s Irish Cream icing on the left. The one on the right is homemade caramel. I had a nice talk with the proprietor, Alexander Portelli. Something really amusing happened while I was there, and I related it when I was on a panel the next day. Go and support Alex when you’re in Albany. He’s a good guy.
The next day, I ambled over to the Empire State Plaza. My pals and I agreed that it was very Pyongyang-inspired.
You gotta keep give ’em a reason to be lively. Yeah, they’re looking a little out of it here, but the room was overflowing and rocking by the time we got started. The panel, “Surprises: Keeping your readers turning the pages,” was great and I got to retell the amusing encounter the previous night at Joe & Dough. Thank you so much fellow panelists Graham Brown, Richard Doetsch, David Freed, Roger Hobbs and Keith McCafferty!
Right after you finish a panel, you are hustled to a signing to table to meet your fans. This enterprising guy brought color copies of his books for me to sign so he wouldn’t have to lug ’em to Albany!
I finally got to hang out with the Soho Crime crew and the paralyzingly great authors Cara Black, Mick Herron and Lisa Brackmann in addition to my incredible editor Juliet Grames and amazing publisher Bronwen Hruska. It was a Belgian place and I had a drink called “The Perfect Crime” that was 10% alcohol by volume. I’m a lousy drinker and after that, it was bound to be an early night for me.
In the morning, I headed down to the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast before getting back on the train. As I stood in line, waiting to be seated, I stared getting that hollow feeling. I hadn’t seen enough of Albany, it told me. I walked out of the lobby and headed northwest. I’ll let the next few pictures go by wordlessly. Albany’s buildings are beautiful.
One of many White Castle imitators! This place is repurposed as a club now.
What’d I tell ya? Back at Amtrak. So long, Albany!