A Small American City podcast is a project by author Duncan Crary. It aims to re-acquaint listeners with small city life in North America through the voices, stories, history and urban fabric of his home city of Troy, New York.
The program features spoken-word essays and intimate conversations with a cast of characters who bring this unusual Hudson River settlement to life. This is not a news program. It is not a talk show. It is a passport into the lives of the people who inhabit a place.
You are a welcome eavesdropper. And so at first, you may be unfamiliar with and disoriented by some of the names you hear along the way. We won’t always clarify things for you. But like any newcomer to our town, you will get to know all the players over time, if you keep showing up. So belly up to the bar with us. Put your cell phone in your pocket. Let a different sort of exchange nestle in.
SAC #08: Lawyers' Row
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.
SAC #07: Reclamation
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.
SAC #06: James Connolly
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.
SAC #03: enjoy troy.
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.
SAC #02: Peter The Carpenter
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.
SAC #01: The Night Jack Quit Drinkin'
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.
ABOUT JACK CASEY
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
MUSIC IN THIS EPISODE
"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).
I'm in my mid-20s and the product of a mother from Troy and father from Pittsfield, MA who have also lived in Buffalo and Schenectady. For years I'd shunned such cities, but as I age they become much more fascinating spaces. This podcast is an excellent reminder that there is plenty to learn and love.
Troy comes alive!
As in his previous stint at the KunstlerCast, Duncan is at his passionate and entertaining best when touting Troy. He's got me convinced, it's the place to be in the 21st Century.
Really great stuff
This is a very well done podcast. Interesting topics and fascinating characters. It inspired me to pay a visit to Troy when I was in Albany for work a few months ago!