“You’re on the payroll…”

“I work in the kitchen at Russell Sage. I was on my way home from getting a beer, just walking by one day, and this guy said, ‘You want a job?’ And I was like, ‘No way, man… I don’t work.’ He said, ‘Put that beer down and I’ll give you a job.’ I thought he was just kidding around with me. But then I came around again one day, and he said, ‘Get in here, you’re on the payroll.’ He put my beer in a cooler, and I worked with him the whole day. That first day was great. I loved it. I’ve been there 36 years.

About 3 years ago, my girlfriend died. She had a heart attack. She died right in front of my eyes, right there on the loveseat. You never really think something like that is going to happen. It’s a part of life, though. When your time comes, you gotta go. Nothing I could do about it. Took me a while to get through it. I dream about her sometimes, late at night. Someone dies in your arms, it’s scary. I’m happy now, though. I got my love: Budweiser. She’s my second woman. Doesn’t talk back to you. Less expensive. I’ve got my bubbles. I’ve got my job. I’m a happy person. I’m just going to keep working until the man upstairs tells me to stop.”

Secret Relationship

“I’ll never forget my first boyfriend. This was a long time ago… in my junior high school. He was a really cute boy, and I was extremely happy. I’m from China, and this kind of relationship was usually restricted at that age, so we had to keep it a secret. You know, pretend we weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. I told my parents that we were just friends, but most of my classmates knew that we were dating. We’re not dating anymore. It’s hard to say what happened to us, but I moved to another city for high school, and he stayed in my home town, so there was distance between us, which made it hard. But we are still friends. I’m not dating anybody now. This is my first year as a Ph.D student in Mathematics, so I really need to focus on my studies.”

Food Pantry

“I’ve worked this food pantry off-and-on for seven years. I started out helping my brother, but took it over for him when he got too old. After his heart attack, he started getting sick all the time as his system got worse, so I stepped in. Somebody else does all the paperwork and stuff, but I decide what to order, what to load up for everybody. We do all Troy housing, which is 1400 apartments—not that everyone there comes here—but when they need it, once a month they can come down and get it. I enjoy doing it. I enjoy meeting different people and talking with them. The hardest part is keeping enough in there so everyone stays supplied. Sometimes when we’re low or out of food, it’s tough to tell a family that they’ll have to come back in a week when they’re telling me they ain’t got nothin. But at the end of the day, I like what I’m doing and I’ll keep on doing it as long as I can.”

There’s our rookie!

“I worked 20 years on the garbage truck. Back in the day I used to work, no shirt, just shorts… in the winter time! But I’m out now. I keep myself occupied with walking. I take walks all over town and check on elderly people that I got to know when I worked on the garbage truck. I help them out. I check on their houses, keep an eye on them, clean them. I also wash a lot of windows. The Chinese place? I did those windows. The eyeglass place on 3rd Street? The dentist on 3rd Street? Did them all. All the old-timers in the police department know me. Just wait ’til the boys down there see this picture, they’ll love it. ‘Oh boy, there’s our rookie!'”

“I’m being real.”

“A couple of my friends turned out to be professional athletes, professional boxers, world champions. They all grew up in the projects with me here in Troy and went on to great careers. I didn’t box professionally, though. Just actual fights. *laughs* Things have been so down lately, though. I’m on social security. I have so many injuries that I got from painting and roofing. It’s just been hard. It’s been a real hard struggle. I haven’t worked in five years. I’ve had six surgeries. I just had an MRI the other day, now I have to go back and see the results. I just wish I could move to a nicer place where the landlords take care of their property so we can have a nice home. That’s it. That’s all I want. To hang out in the back yard with the grandkids, have a safe place where they can come. There are other things in life that I’d like to have, but realistically they’re not going to happen unless something comes through for me. I’m sorry, I know it’s a bleak picture, but it’s honest. I’m being real. This is part of the real stories of Troy. I hope it gets better. It has to.”

Nothing but me…

“I just brought my mom and my little brother out from Iowa to support them. That’s why I’m working, to take care of them. I’ve got work here… really good work, too. Construction. I’ve always worked with my hands, but I haven’t always been handy. I used to wash dishes. Worked at a meat company. But I’d like to get into real estate. Flipping houses. I didn’t graduate high school, though; so that’s one step I’ve got to take to get me there, I think. Getting started is the hard part, though. But there’s nothing really that’s stopping me. Nothing but me, tell you the truth.”

My little helper…

“There’s not a lot that I’m driven by more so than my kids. I mean, I try to keep a healthy marriage. My husband and I have been married for 13 years. But I wake up every day for my kids. I guess y biggest struggle is that I never feel like there’s enough money. I want to make sure my kids have a house to live in. Make sure they’ve got food on the table. Make sure the lights stay on. Those are big priorities to me. My husband and I both work. We’ve got three different incomes, but it never seems like enough. I just want to make sure I keep my kids happy and bring them up as good people, smart, polite. I have a son who’s 12…”.

“He’s 11.”

“Oh right.” *laughs* “He’s 11. She’s my little…”

“Helper!”

Such Good Care

“My husband and I have been married about two and a half years, but we’ve known each other for almost 10 years now. We were friends for a while, then dated for about 6 years or so before we got married. What can I say? I love him so much. He takes such good care of me.”

Major Change

“Even though I can’t play music, I really love music, and I really love being around people that love to play music. I tried to pick up drums, but I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t even into music that much in high school, but I really loved going to concerts with my friends in high school. Even if I didn’t like the bands, I liked the experience of being at concerts. When I came to RPI, I got involved in this community that put on small concerts on campus. I got to help run that and put together concerts. That was the coolest thing in the world.

And that inspired me to change what I wanted to study. I came to the school for chemical engineering, but after learning about all of the electronics that powered these concerts, I switched to electrical engineering. And I’ve come full circle. Music and electronics inspired me to change my major, and now I’m using my engineering knowledge to help musicians create better music.

I like that I’ve found a community of people that really love art and music, people that understand that the humanities are just as important as engineering. Without art, technology doesn’t ever get into anyone’s hands.”

“Yo! Get a picture of us!”

“Yo! Get a picture of us!”