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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning


"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

How do I define SmAlbany?

How do I define SmAlbany?: This is really three questions in one. First, how is the term "SmAlbany" used? Second, what geographical area do you consider "SmAlbany?" And third, why is your blog, which is unabashedly pro-albany, using the term?

The word "SmAlbany" is certainly of unknown origin, but most people who grow up around here encounter it for the first time when they are about 16. Invariably, one of their friends decides that "this town stinks" and that "there's nothing to do here." At that moment, someone will either recall having heard the term "SmAlbany" from an older sibling, or they will "invent" it themsevles, fancying themselves quite clever in the process. Either way, hordes of bored teenage friends will be using the term shortly thereafter. And so it goes.

If you don't believe me, just google "Smalbany" and read a few entries. The user of the term is invariably trying to put down the capital district and bemoan how much better life is in other places, typically new york city.

The problem, of course, is that Albany isn't a bad place - in fact, it's greast. It takes most users of the word a short trip into the real world outside of Albany around age 22 to discover that this is a pretty great place to live. Bordeom is everywhere, but places that can duplicate Albany are not. One needs only witness the retention rate that Albany has of those who grow up here ( and compare that to other cities) to see that there really is something to the capital region that doesn't exist elsewhere.

So that's the genesis of the word, SmAlbany.

Question #2 - What geographical area do you consider SmAlbany?

For me, SmAlbany is more a cultural idea than a physical place. For sure, Saratoga in August is part of SmAlbany but Hudson - no less far away - is not. I would say that SmAlbany is roughly the traditional captial district (Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and the suburbs between and around them) plus much of saratoga county. But really, SmAlbany is the common experience of people who grew up here - be it the AC Yankees, the track, the egg, Crossgates Mall, or Pine Bush little league.

Question #3 - Why is this blog called "Oh, SmAlbany!"?

I like the term SmAlbany. I like using it in a positive sense. My downstate friends from college used to call every city upstate "Albacuse," because they had trouble distinguishing them. I took that phrase and started using it to positively describe upstate culture. I think the same can be done with SmAlbany. Face it - you don't want to admit it, but everyone likes the fact that Albany is a small place and that it's not New York City.

The actual title of the blog is a play on the famous book by William Kennedy, O Albany!
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