Op-ed column: Summer pleasures relieve problems of world

From time to time I have to step back from trying to understand and explain world problems and refle

From time to time I have to step back from trying to understand and explain world problems and reflect on the good things in life. For many people this is hard to do right now, especially for those affected by the recent floodings, long-term unemployment, 9/11 memories, etc. Rather than despair, I focus my reflections on the good things that are available to me either free or at low cost in the Schenectady region. Fortunately, there are many.

Here are some things that I enjoyed this summer that gave me temporary respite from carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.

— Freedom Park concerts in Scotia.

They’re free and cater to a variety of musical tastes. I enjoy bringing my family to the park, spreading a blanket on the ground, carrying a picnic basket with snacks and listening to the music, which is always first rate.

Sometimes, we’d walk over to Jumpin’ Jack’s for an ice cream or a milkshake. Both are now closed for the season, but we’ll look forward to their return next year.

— Hiking and biking trails.

With hundreds of miles of trails within an hour of Schenectady, it is a paradise for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts — and it’s free.

From Thacher Park to the great Adirondack wilderness, I frequently can’t wait to get to the next ridge just to see what’s there. Biking on the Schenectady-Troy rail trail along the Mohawk River is good exercise and its eastern end evokes images of a long-gone industrial era. Rarely am I disappointed.

— Schenectady Civic Players. I’m a big fan of summer stock theater — even when it is performed in January.

Just $55 gets you tickets to five enjoyably produced plays. Nary a bad seat in the house. Opening night performances include cake and champagne.

— The intersection point of Grand Boulevard and Nott Street near the back entrance to Schenectady High School.

For several years now, local residents have cultivated this small patch of ground with flowers, shrubs and other plants into a beautiful garden. It’s a joy to drive or walk by and never fails to lift my spirits. Residents on Wright Avenue between Eastern and Central parkways have also cultivated gardens on the median between the two lanes. Thanks neighbors. Pass it on.

— My granddaughter is a cheerleader at Ballston Spa High School and I attended their first football game of the season. Admission price was $2. The stands were full of supporters on both sides of the field.

Enthusiasm was high. Students were joyfully connecting with each other after a summer apart. The booster clubs were going all out selling hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, sodas and raffle tickets to raise money for various school activities. And, the Scotties won the game with an exciting come-from-behind victory against a talented and spirited opponent.

For three hours, all was well with the world.

— The Tri-City ValleyCats minor league baseball team. On a warm summer evening, it is fun to go to the ball park and watch the players play their hearts out. Many hope to advance to have a shot at the majors. Excellent seats are quite inexpensive and I’ve long ago noticed that a beer and a hot dog always tastes better with a ball game in front of them.

— Saratoga and North Creek Railroad. This is a new venture which I hope will be able to stay in business for a long while. Although somewhat pricey ($40 round trip in the dome car), it’s well worth the money for the experience.

The ride is long enough (60 miles, two and a quarter hours one way) with sustained speeds around 30 mph to give you a real sense that you were on the Super Chief in the 1950s. Their menu was quite satisfactory and very reasonably priced. I enjoyed seeing the Chilled Stewed Prunes on the breakfast menu. I didn’t try it, but it was a favorite of my father on the old New York Central. Afterwards, my granddaughter told her mother that when they take their next trip, they have to take the train! Hear that, Amtrak?

Space is limited to comment on all the wonderful activities and events that are free or inexpensive and available to everyone here in the Capital District. I appreciate and thank all of the organizations, citizens and elected officials who financially support and sustain these activities year after year and make them happen. It certainly makes this corner of the world a lot brighter. Pass it on.

Ken Moore teaches strategic management at the University at Albany and lives in Schenectady. He is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.

Categories: Opinion

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