Friday, December 21, 2018

Happy Trails, All Over Albany

Earlier this week, the sad news came out that the website All Over Albany would stop putting up new content at the end of the year. I’d say I pop on to their website somewhere between 4 and 6 times a week to check in and see what’s going on in town. I expect I’ll probably just keep automatically clicking on the bookmark for a while.

I have no idea how Greg or Mary from All Over Albany stumbled onto my blog and started including it in their weekly “What’s Up in the Neighborhood” round up. I’m not even sure how long ago it was. But ever since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the All Over Albany extended family. What a great group of people.

As my blog posts shifted from barbecue toward cured/smoked meats and then settling into the current pizza obsession, All Over Albany kept tabs on my general insanity. At some point (I think it might have been after I made up a betting point spread and over/under line for The Tournament of Pizza final round), I had droned on enough about pizza that I was invited to be a judge in the final Tournament of Pizza. Would you believe I almost turned down the offer? No joke. Politely declining the offer was something I considered and there was a drafted in an email explaining why. I mean, how colossally stupid would that have been?

The reason my irrational brain came up with to pass on The Tournament was because a daydream I had. One year The Tournament had a mystery entry. The mystery entry in each bracket turned out to be a chain pizza. The daydream was to compete as a mystery entry and run the table. I wanted to win The Tournament of Pizza. As someone that would have been a judge, it felt like a conflict of interest to jump over into the competition side of The Tournament. That’s how into their Tournament of Pizza my pizza obsessed brain got. I worked myself up into a bizarre ethical conflict that most likely didn’t exist. In a very long winded email (that I still have), I explained why I was conflicted by outlining the whole daydream to Mary. “The plan is that in 2016 or 17, I’m going to ask you and Greg if I could compete as a ‘Mystery’ entrant” is something I wrote to someone I didn’t really know very well. Mary, who was probably thinking, “Oh no, what did we get ourselves into?” talked me down by telling might be the last Tournament and she couldn’t see why judging one year would knock me out of any possible future competitions. Deep down I must have known the conflict of interest thing was stupid. With a future title still a possibility for me, I joined the judging panel and had a blast. Eating pizza and hyper analyzing it with other people who are crazy enough to hyper analyze pizza is just the best.

After The Tournament, I was invited to other events and projects Greg and Mary organized for All Over Albany. Many of the emails leading up to these events are about getting the gang back together for something. A mini pizza tour. I wrote about raising some cattle (an essay that Greg edited into one of the best things I’ve written). A burger tour. The AOA birthday parties. A pizza party in my garage (which I want to host again now that I’m cooking in the wood oven). A recent ice cream tasting.

There was also an annual end of year end request asking several people to briefly write about the best thing they ate this year. Greg’s specific instruction was to not spend a lot of time on it. Well, I take my All Over Albany assignments seriously so it was in the back of mind all year. “Wow, that’s good. Is it worthy of the best thing I ate all year? I don’t know. I’ll file it as a maybe.” I’m not sure if they will do the annual column next week, but I have my 2018 pick ready to go if they do.

Being part of the All Over Albany community was an honor. One I will no doubt miss. Instead of getting sad that there will no longer be an All Over Albany with its unique coverage of local politics, stories, maps, Snowpocolypse winter storm ratings, and seasonal moment photos, we should look forward to whatever Greg and Mary do next. Doesn’t matter if it is together, each on their own or Albany even based. Whatever project they work on next is going to be great. No doubt in my mind. Best of luck for a wonderful 2019, Greg and Mary.

And let’s get the gang back together for a pizza party. My house. Got a few new topping combinations I want the gang to try.

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