Friday, January 10, 2014

My first trip to the New York State Capital

Yes, I know that it seems unfathomable that a person who has been to 56 countries and 40 states could possibly never have been to her own home state capital when she has lived in the state on and off since she was 7 years old!!! But its true.  So today I expanded a work trip to Albany into a tourist exploration.  I was up there putting on a forum about community college completion.  (Yes, yes, might sound geeky to some of you, but I embrace my geekyness and now get to work focusing on interesting topics like this.)  Anyhow, I digress, it was a chance to come to Albany and started me off on the right foot for any state capitol visit. At the event I made sure legislators and their staff, as well and other government and nonprofit folks learned about an important issue and hopefully were inspired to legislate to improve things.  So, by the time I set off on my Albany exploration I was in a legislative state of mind.  
The large focus of my exploration was a great private tour of the state capitol building. (I was the only tourist who showed up for a tour all day!  (I guess Albany isn't a hotspot.) I got to admire the strange mix of architecture and interior decorations.   It took 32 years to complete the building and the final cost ended up being twice what it cost to build the capitol building in DC.  (Humm, I wonder if that is where the corruption that goes on there today started?  Seems like to reach those numbers money must have been leaking out somewhere?)  The State Senate chambers are just awesome!  The walls are covered with shiny 14 carat gold.  Yes, yes, we don't mess around in New York State.  The State Assembly chambers are pretty striking too.  Instead of wall paper the walls are covered with painted stone carved patterns that were different than anything I had ever seen before. My favorite thing in the Assembly chamber though was that each member had little flags to represent them.  Clearly there were plenty of USA and NY State flags, but also rainbow ones for gay marriage and Irish, Cuban, Israeli… to represent different legislators' ethnicities.  It really emphasized the melting pot that my state has come to be.

I walked around the Hall of Governors looking at all the portraits interwoven with a historical timeline.  I had already spent some time pondering who my favorite governor was and thinking about trying to get a snap shot with that gov's portrait. In Texas, I was able to stand between George Bush and Anne Richards with my middle finger towards one and the peace sign facing the other. You decide which was which. Picking a Roosevelt (Teddy or Franklin, seemed cliche) or should it be Al Smith who I feel like I know so well from the Power Broker. He was short and Italian.  I've always liked short Italian guys?  Anyhow, I didn't come to a conclusion till I saw a plaque for NY's 10th guv, Enos T. Throup who was in power from 1829-32.  He didn't accomplish much and left for a federal appointment under President Andrew Jackson, but I just love the name so from now on he will be my favorite NY governor! I <3 enos.="" p="">

In true New York, center of the universe style, I couldn't help but notice that there were plenty of pictures and carvings of presidents and founding fathers that were not from New York State.  Is that normal?  (I feel like the two state capitol building I keep comparing this two, Iowa and Utah, focused pretty heavily on their own leaders and their own stories, but then again New York IS the center of the universe and we did house the federal government at one time.  Maybe that means we can claim everyone at that time as our own?  My favorite NYS thing to be proud of was Elisha Otis who invented the elevator and made skyscrapers possible!  And as they say, the rest is history….

After a great capitol building tour, I wandered around the underground passageway that connects all the legislative buildings.  Its a bit like the passageways around Rockefeller Center, but with an extra charming lobbying twist.  There was a display of professional hockey jerseys and a big call out to that sport and a wall of ski resort logos from around the state and my favorite was the display for the NYS Snowmobile Association with real snowmobiles and mannequins in them. It made me want to support any legislation they needed.  Then there was the display outside the state police with a motorcycle and a case with the old state trooper uniform.

As for the rest of what I saw…  I went outside and got to get a look at the Albany architecture which is a bit strange to me.  I bet the buildings were all designed but star architects of their times.  Each building is prominent in the main Empire State Plaza area, but they definitely aren't cohesive.  There is no one look to Albany for me.  Its is a real mishmash of design history.  I can't decide if I like that or not…

All in all, I'm so happy to have been able to walk around and get the lay of the land.  Now when I hear my friends are up there, I'll know where they are.  I'm an experiential learner so things like that are important to me.  So anyway, thanks Albany.  Hopefully it won't take year till we meet again.

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