Mushroom Person

“I’m a mushroom person. I grow mushrooms, both for work and for a hobby. At home, I grow them to eat and to satisfy my curiosity. At work, I’m a research scientist. We’re using mushrooms to research new materials and develop new technologies that no one else has yet. I love it. There’s always a challenge. My family is from Europe, and people there love mushrooms. There is a lot of culture around mushrooms. People get crazy with them.”

I want to have at it…

“I’m a kid’s librarian, but I’m not your stereotypical librarian. I’m not really quiet. I don’t shush people. I encourage kids to play. You won’t see me telling people to be quiet at the library. And I love it when kids say they’d rather die than read. The best thing is surprising them with the perfect book. Books give people such joy—if you have the right book, anyway. Being able to do that for people—it’s a good feeling. I deal with stories all day. Really, that’s what we’re all about. Our existence—everybody has their own story. There are things that connect us all. When you come across those tethers… that’s exciting.

My favorite author is E.B. White. What an incredible guy. I would love to have a drink with him. One of my favorite short stories by him is called ‘Bedfellows’, about the ghost of his dachshund. I was really affected by that story, and of course by Charlotte’s Web. Animals are near and dear to my heart. In my spare time, I do some animal right’s activism. I sign a lot of petitions. But I still feel like there’s more that I could do. I just haven’t figured out what that is. It might be writing a book or something. Maybe not a book, per se. Reading E.B. White has made me love essays. I don’t just want to have a life that I enjoy, I want to be a part of something that is larger than me. I’m in my early 50’s, so I realize that time is… well, I hear the clock ticking. So I want to have at it.”

Where life takes us…

Do you see yourself staying in Troy?

“No.”

Where to next?

“Don’t really know. Wherever life takes us, I guess.”

Watercolors

“For over twenty years, I worked as a nutrition educator for one of Cornell University’s extension offices. I used to work in a number of different settings: with the elderly, in rehab centers, in children’s summer camps. It was all satisfying, but it was hard. It’s hard to change someone’s diet. It’s such a personal thing. So any little success was very gratifying. I especially liked introducing children to very healthy snacks. To put it in front of them, let them enjoy it, and have them know it was good for them… that was a high point for me.

As I move into old age, I find myself wanting to learn how to do watercolor painting. I find it very comforting. I took art lessons as a child, but I drifted away from it. I’d like to get back to it now and become somewhat proficient before I leave this world.”

“Doesn’t mean you’re going to get them done…”

“Friends of mine who were like family put me on the bus to Albany from New York City because they knew I was about to do something real wrong. Well, not wrong, really… it was because of something done to me. See, I’ve got this scar on the back of my head. Five or six guys jumped me. I never saw it coming, it just happened. I fell down on my face, that’s why my eye is scarred too. After the doctors went in and fixed it up, some guys I knew brought me two guns and told me, ‘handle your business.’ So I found the corner where they were all together in one spot — that’s the way I wanted it. I had the ammunition to do it, too. But my friend stopped me from doing it. He caught me, and the bullets went into the ground. Those other guys knew it though… they took off. I’m glad I didn’t do it, but it didn’t just feel like the right thing, it was the right thing. People do shit like that to you? It’s not right. I could’ve died, you know what I mean? But if I’d done it, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here, that’s for sure. You take five guys out, what do you think they’re going to do to you? You’re going to jail for life. That’s why my friends knew it was time for me to get out of there.

Purpose in life? Not really. There’s a lot of things you might want to do; doesn’t mean you’re going to get them done. I’m at an age now where that just ain’t gonna happen. I always wanted to be an entertainer. I like to sing, to dance. I’m a comedian if you could believe that… a dirty comedian, you know, not stuff I can really do in public. I can do some clean material, but when I get into it, I’m going in deep. That’s just the way I am. Sometimes, I even do it out here on the streets. If I’ve got people around me and I’m in a good mood, I’ll have everybody on the ground.”

Farm-to-library

“I work at the library down in Albany. I’ve been there 15 years. I’m the maintenance man. I clean the floors, put the books away. My father owned a dairy farm up in Schaghticoke, and I used to have to milk cows for a living. All of the other kids eventually got married and moved away. I couldn’t run the farm by myself, because we were milking over 300 head a day. So I decided to sell it and move down here to Troy. I miss it a little, but it sure is a lot less work! I’m getting up there in age, so it’s nice that I don’t have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning like I used to!”

There wasn’t a single day I dreaded going to work…

“I try to be positive about life. I’m a work in progress. I feel like I encounter a lot of negative people. That’s been my life in an office lately. But every day, I get out and take a walk with Ruby, take it all in, try to feel grateful for the moment I’m in and where I am. It helps me be appreciative of what I have. My ultimate goal is to help people. I used to work with kids—worked at a daycare center—and I loved it. That’s definitely my passion. If I could make what I do now working at an office working with kids, I would absolutely do that. I work in behavioral health for a health insurance company, so I am kind of helping people; but I’d eventually like to get back to more hands-on with kids. There wasn’t a single day I dreaded going to work when I did that. I’m trying to get back to grad school, even if it’s just part time. I know I’ll get back there someday. It’s what I love.”

Support Troy Stories

We recently published our 100th story. To celebrate, I’ve created a beautiful 18″ x 24″ poster made up entirely of portraits that have appeared on Troy Stories.

I created these posters to help keep the project alive. But I don’t just want to keep on sharing people’s stories, I also want to help meet people’s needs. So I’ve teamed up with Unity House, a human service agency based in Troy that helps meet the needs of people in our community who are hurting and struggling. A portion of the sale of each poster goes directly to Unity House.

You can pre-order a poster for $20. Pre-ordered posters will be available for pickup at the first outdoor Troy farmer’s market this year (May 6). Posters will also be available for sale at the farmer’s market for $25. We’ll have a booth set up, and the mayor himself will actually be there for a time signing copies of the poster. If you’re not able to pick yours up that day, we’ll have additional times where you can pick yours up at the Troy Innovation Garage on 4th Street.

Oh, and don’t wait too long to order! The first 50 posters sold will be autographed by the Mayor Patrick Madden (who I spoke with for the 100th story).

Thanks so much for your support!

The 18” x 24” poster is a beautiful, museum-quality print: 4-color staccato screening on 80# silk coated paper. Printing by Snyder Printing on River Street in Troy.

Questions? Send them to troystories@plasticmind.com.

Church of Miracles

“I worked in the governor’s office for years, but that wasn’t my passion. My passion is kids. I love education and teaching. I get energy from it. My husband and I opened a new child care facility in an old church in Watervliet. We call it the Church of Miracles, and we’ve got 100 kids there. I just started the program in November, and things are really starting to pick up.

The last 5 years have been very challenging for me because I’ve been dealing with children with autism. I hadn’t dealt with that as much in the past, but they are such wonderful, intelligent kids. You can’t just say: I don’t want to deal with these kids in my city. You have to accept them, and then we have to start working with them. There are so many families in need. I see parents get frustrated. No one wants to help them, so they get frustrated and their solution is to throw them in a home. No. I go and visit these kids in facilities, in these long-term programs. They don’t come home. They’re separated from their parents. It’s saddening to me.

I worked with my girlfriend’s son for 6 years. I told her, have him checked out; but she said she didn’t want to go through all of that. I ran into her a few months ago, and she broke down crying. ‘You were so right. I went 3 years without getting him help, and now I can’t do anything. I had to leave my job. His father left. What do I do?’ I worked with her to help her get into an advocation program to get some equipment that will help her son, and it really changed things for them. Now he’s sleeping at night. But it came at a cost: she had to lose her job.

It’s hard getting funding and everything, but my goal is to open a center for kids with autism. God’s gonna bless me with that this year. Those kids are really so special, but you’ve really got to get to know them to get that uniqueness out of them.”

“I’m too young for settling…”

“I’m from Puerto Rico… moved here about 7 months ago. I like it here. I miss my country, though. I used to go to the rooster fights. Y’know, cock fighting? I loved that. I left behind 42 roosters and 3 horses there. I used to have a big farm, too. I miss it.

I got married a few weeks ago, but it was only for business… to get to the States. I mean, we’re friends. But at the wedding, I felt like… I don’t know. It felt like nothing. She wanted me to love her, but… I just like her. I guess I’m just waiting for my real love some day. Wait for that right time, the right woman to come along, when I’ve got everything ready for her… then I’ll get divorced. I’m too young for settling down right now. When I get old, get some money, get a big house, then I’ll start thinking about that.

My dream? To become a model. You’re going to see me one day in a magazine and say, ‘Oh, it’s that guy I took a picture of!’”