A Small American City






June 2018
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TROY, N.Y. -- They say history doesn't actually repeat. But it does rhyme. Duncan Crary and Troy Attorney E. Stewart Jones Jr. share a legacy that binds them to one of America's most notorious Prohibition Era Gangsters, Jack "Legs" Diamond. Crary's great-grandfather, John, was the New York Sun correspondent assigned to cover Governor FDR’s statewide roundup of the Diamond gang. Jones' grandfather, Abbott, was the attorney representing Legs in an infamous trial in Troy on the last night of the gangster's life. Today, Crary and Jones carry on their ancestors' work in the same trades, in the same city. Music by Jack Casey.

Direct download: SAC_08.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:44pm EDT

TROY, N.Y. -- It's been almost 10 years since Vic Christopher, 37, and Heather La Vine, 35, landed in Troy. They came here to recharge a minor league baseball team.

But they fell in love with the city and with each other. Their "office" romance was not allowed. So they got hitched and left professional sports. Today, they're working to revitalize the city, instead.

Last year, the husband-and-wife team opened The Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar at 12 Second St., a building they own and live in. It was an instant hit in town, with its eclectic décor of reclaimed materials and Troy ephemera.

Just over a week ago, the couple purchased an adjoining building described as "one of the most endangered buildings in downtown Troy."

In this rolling and sometimes outrageous conversation, Duncan Crary speaks with Christopher and La Vine about love, marriage, urban renewal, gentrification, economic development and The American Dream.

At the start of this episode, Crary reads a personal essay, "So you think you own this?"

Music: "Untitled #9" by mount mole; "Downwind" by Sean Rowe.

Direct download: SAC_07.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:11pm EDT

TROY, N.Y. -- In 1916, James Connolly led the Easter Rising in Dublin, which eventually resulted in the creation of the Irish Republic we know today. He was a freedom fighter, a husband and a socialist labor organizer. Connolly lived in Troy, N.Y. from 1903 to 1905, where he worked to promote socialist ideals in this city that once bustled with industry and inequality.

In 1986, Belfast native James Devine worked to create a monument to Connolly in Troy, to honor the Irish hero's years spent living here. Like Connolly, Devine was a labor organizer at the time. Host Duncan Crary speaks to Devine about the Connolly, the monument and the Irish experience in America and in Northern Ireland.

The residue of James Connolly still remains today. Jon Flanders, a railroad machinist and labor organizer from Troy, works to continue the Connolly tradition in this small American city today through The James Connolly Forum. Crary speaks to Flanders about what it means to be a socialist in Troy today.

Music by The Broken String Band, feat. Michael Cooney. "James Connolly" and "The Big Fellah," by Black 47.

Direct download: SAC_06.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:24pm EDT

TROY, N.Y. -- When you first arrive in Troy, you can't avoid seeing it. A playful sticker placed here and there. A black and white oval, with happy little lowercase lettering that says "enjoy troy." This "meme" has spread all over town. But for a long time few people knew where the cheery mandate orientated. When it started appearing on clocks and signs at local businesses, even the original creator of the slogan didn't know who was spreading those joyful gifts. In this episode, Duncan Crary speaks with Linda Passaretti and Tom Reynolds, the duo behind The Enjoy Troy Co. Today, there are dozens of variations on the original icon, which appear on shirts, hats, coffee tables, etc. that can be purchased locally at the art galleries and stores downtown. And the small entrepreneurs have plans to sell their wares nationally to other cities and people named Troy. But this effort has never been about making money for Tom and Linda. It's about spreading a philosophy -- to enjoy the small city they love. Music: "Come To Life," by Ben Karis-Nix (feat. Sea of Trees)/Swordpaw; "Trojans," by Atlas Genius (courtesy of +1); "Joy All The Time," by Ben Karis-Nix.

Direct download: SAC03.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:03pm EDT

TROY, N.Y - As a carpenter, Peter Albrecht has built many of the "third places" in Troy, where the people come to life when they are out on the town. But as a barroom Socrates, he holds his own with Ph.D's, crack heads and all strata in between. He is as quick to cite the ancient texts as he is with a bawdy tale. He's also the last stop for Trojans down on their luck, often sharing his meals and even his home for those with nowhere else to go. In this far-reaching conversation, Peter provides a glimpse of a life examined.


At a young age, Peter experienced extraordinary psychic events -- full-blown Kundalini stuff. And his upper middle class peers at the time thought he was out of his mind. He was unable to relate to the world and to others. But when a carpenter who took him on as a student, Peter eventually acquired the tools to relate to general mass of humanity. Still, as a common man's carpenter hustling for a modest livelihood out on the streets, he has had a life-long battle against fate and the current beliefs of our society.

This episode begins with "A Hero's Toast to Achilles (in Troy, N.Y.)," written and read by host Duncan Crary.


Content Warning: This episode contains some curse words, the mention of violence, and a story with a sexual reference to a religious figure.

Direct download: SAC_02.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:03pm EDT

TROY, N.Y. - It's been a long time since novelist Jack Casey had his last drink. But they say Troy stands for "Tell Right On You," and some locals in this place still spin yarns about those wild days before this reformed bohemian novelist took the pledge. In this episode, we get the scoop straight from the source. Like many Trojan stories, this one was forged at the bar before it spilled onto the street to tangle with history, class warfare, politics, justice, celebrity and iron.


Back in the 1970s, Jack was tending bar at night and slinging copy for the newspaper by day. He had three pairs of pants and three shirts to his wardrobe. But he had dreams of making it as a novelist. And when the local newspaper agreed to let him publish his novel in serial, the doors started opening for him. Soon, he had a New York City agent, three paperbacks on the rack, a beautiful bride and a Victorian house on the hill. He got himself a law degree and was starting to make a name for himself in politics, too. Things were looking good.


We all know, however, that writers, the Irish, politics and booze go together...until they don't. And eventually, Jack had all four strikes against him.


Content Warning: This episode contains curse words.




Jack Casey is a novelist, musician, attorney and former New York State Senate parliamentarian. His books include "A Parliament of Fowls," "Kateri - Lily of the Mohawks," "A Land Beyond the River," and "The Trial of Bat Shea." His website is JackCasey.com




"Dunlop's Saloon," "Had Enough," and "As the River Flows" by Jack Casey, from the soundtrack of "The Trial of Bat Shea: A Play in Two Acts" (released March 2, 2001. Troy Grit Productions).

Direct download: SAC_01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:38pm EDT

TROY, N.Y. - For many Americans, "The City" only refers to New York City, or one of the other major metroplexes in the country with populations in the millions. But North America is filled with smaller cities that were once just as lively, if only at a smaller scale. And they may come back to life again as events already underway continue to unfold.


Urban polemicist James Howard Kunstler believes that people will be living a lot differently in the U.S.A. during the coming years. Financial distress and energy scarcity are just two forces that may dictate Americans re-inhabit the centers of our smaller cities. But contrary to prevailing suburban notions of our times, life in an activated urban center - at a smaller scale - is delightful. The more activated these places become, the more desirable it will be to be in them.


Kunstler feels that Troy, N.Y., with its currently population of 50,000, has many characteristics that make it a universal stand-in for every small American city. But he also believes there are aspects that make Troy uniquely poised for a genuine comeback.


For this pilot episode of A Small American City, Kunstler joins host Duncan Crary for a special, introductory conversation about small cities, Troy, N.Y. and the urban fabric. From 2008 to 2012, Crary and Kunstler produced the popular podcast series, The KunstlerCast, a weekly conversation about "the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl." During their run, the two often used Crary’s home city of Troy, N.Y. as an informal laboratory to illustrate and observe the urban design, energy and economic issues of the times.


Now, after completing what he considers an "intellectual apprenticeship," Crary will be setting off alone to continue exploring the urban organism. The episode begins with an excerpt from an essay by Crary about his time spent learning from Kunstler and living in Troy, NY. It first appeared in print as the concluding chapter of Crary's book, The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler…the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl, (New Society Publishers, 2011).




James Howard Kunstler is the author of "The Geography of Nowhere," "Home From Nowhere," "The City in Mind," "The Long Emergency" and "Too Much Magic." He has written more than a dozen novels, including "World Made By Hand" and "The Witch of Hebron." He lives in Washington County (one county north of Troy).




The song featured in this episode, used by permission, is "After the Great Flood of Troy," by The Parlor (formerly known as We are Jeneric), from the album "Hansel & Gretel; Stories from the Stove," (released: March 1, 2007)

Direct download: SAC_00.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:16pm EDT