I had business in Saratoga Springs on Thursday. I don’t know why, but an organization I belong to has a legislative forum in Saratoga Springs the Thursday before the Travers every year. The Travers is a horse race. The meeting is productive. Having it in Saratoga Springs two days before the biggest horse race of the year seems like an odd and expensive choice to me.
I’m kind of a local government policy wonk. I work in government. I have a degree in it. I’ve taught it. I used to report on it. I like to talk about it and I even read about it in my spare time. So, every year, we have this meeting where everyone talks about what the New York State Legislature has recently done and what it’s likely to do. I enjoy talking to the people at the meeting and I’m happy that my boss not only allows me to go, but pays for it as part of my job.
One of the people who attends this meeting every year is State Senator Elizabeth Little. I’ve met Sen. Little a few times. Neither of us really knows the other, but I’ve got to tell you she impresses me with her knowledge of local government, her passion for public service, and her candor. I feel good about the fact that she’s the chairman of the New York State Senate’s Local Government Committee.
Have I mentioned that I’m cheap? And I’m cheap with other people’s money, as well as with mine. So, when I go to Saratoga Springs a couple of days before the Travers, I don’t stay in Saratoga Springs even though my employer is paying for it. I stay in Albany about 25 miles south. If I stayed in Saratoga Springs, a comparable room to the one I stayed at in Albany would cost $270 more, and that’s just at the Holiday Inn, not the Gideon Putnam which is a very ritzy hotel. After spending the night in Albany, I get up and commute to the meeting.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to take my wife along with me, on the trip, but not to the meeting. The meeting would bore her to death. My wife and I pay her expenses and after the meeting, I take a day off and we go “Someplace Else” together. When we are on the way to and from “Someplace Else” and when we are there, we pay for both of our expenses. We wouldn’t even think of trying to charge my employer.
This year “Someplace Else” was Lake Placid the village. No, not the town in the awful monster movie, the home of two Winter Olympics. Lake Placid the village is a small, picturesque community whose business district is centered around a lake. No! Not Lake Placid the lake. Lake Placid the lake is kind of north of the lake that’s in the middle of Lake Placid the village. The Lake in the middle of the village is Mirror Lake. As far as I know, there’s no such thing as Mirror Lake the village and the two lakes are not connected, but they are near each other–not much more than across Mirror Lake Drive. Even though Mirror Lake is in the middle of Lake Placid the village, you might still think that Mirror Lake Drive goes around Mirror Lake and you’d be right. There isn’t a road that goes all the way around Lake Placid the lake.
Lake Placid, both the village and the lake, get around 15 feet of snow a year. That’s why it was a good place to hold two Winter Olympics. It’s also why I would much rather go there in the summer. I don’t like to be cold. I think I’ve mentioned that before. While we were there, we did the tourist thing. We stayed in a nice hotel, we ate some good meals, we shopped in local stores, we did some of the sights, including a one-hour boat tour of Lake Placid the lake. I never sign up for three-hour boat tours of anyplace. It’s a Gilligan’s Island thing.
We also visited the ski-jump facility that’s left over from and has been improved since the 1980 Winter Olympics. Standing on top of the 120-meter ski jump causes me to wonder two things: How does one become a ski jumper; and why? It seems to me that one of the bravest people who ever lived was the first guy to go ski jumping for a second time. I say that because you just know the first time was an accident. From the top of the ski jump, you can see John Brown’s farm house and his grave, the one the Civil War song said his body was moldering in. The Abolitionist Brown had a farm near Lake Placid and after he was hanged for raiding that federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in what is now West Virginia, he was buried on the farm.
Since I’m talking about the Olympics, let me correct myself. I said recently I thought Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps’ diet was kind of heavy on fried food and cheese. Then I heard a sports nutritionist on National Public Radio. The woman said if Phelps tried to get that many calories from a low-fat diet, he would not have time to do anything else but eat. So the fried food and cheese make perfect sense.
As someone who likes to be warm, I’m sorry to tell you that in what New Yorkers call The North Country a few trees have already started displaying their fall colors. Nevertheless, I like Lake Placid, both the village and the lake. The place is pretty and has some interesting stuff in and around it. I’m going back next month.
This year, I’ve traveled more than I usually do, but Friday in Lake Placid the village, I had a revelation about travel and what would make traveling more palatable to me. I was walking around Lake Placid the village Friday morning, looking for a place to eat when it hit me. In my perfect world, Ben and Jerry’s will be open for breakfast!