“I have a lot of hardship to worry about, but I don’t want to give up. My biggest passion is music. Music is everything. No matter what. I could be mad; I listen to music... I’m good. I don’t care what genre you listen to, everybody’s got one song for each emotion. You've got hype songs. You got songs that meet you exactly how you’re feeling at any point in time. Depending on who you listen to, they’ve got something for you. It's art, and the writing process is the best part for me. It’s like writing a diary or a journal. When you can tell a story in that way… that’s impressive to me. Some of my favorite rappers, they can tell their story, just rhyming and putting words together in ways I didn’t know you could. I’m like… wow. How do you do that? You can get all your emotions out, express how you feel, just writing in that book, phone, whatever. Sure, you gotta find a good beat or whatever, but it’s really just poetry, and poetry is good. Poetry does it for a lot of people.”

"Since I was young, all I’ve wanted is to be a good mother. That’s my life. I want more kids. I’d eventually like to have 10 kids. I grew up with 10 kids in our house. My mother raised her sister’s kids, her brother’s kids, and her own sisters. I watched her and thought, ‘I want to do that.’ I was so thankful for that experience. I loved my cousins living with us. I loved sharing a room, sharing beds. We had four girls in one room; it was amazing… for me, anyway. They might tell you something different. *laughs* But I loved being part of a big family. Being a mom and having a big family is what I've always wanted to do."

“We’ve had a number of cats over the years, but lost several to old age. So we decided we wanted to get a cat that wasn’t as adoptable. You know, everyone wants kittens; but we said let’s get an older cat. So we went to a rescue in Albany and found Nipsy. He came home, and he... he just really gets along with everyone.

We got him as an adult, so it’s hard to tell how old he is. He’s definitely had a tough life.  He was a rescue. He was the only survivor of a house fire. He was taken from a hoarding situation. He’s got a little kink in his tail, and he's missing an ear. Last year, we found a mass and thought we were going to have to put him to sleep, but it turned out—thank God—it was just an inflammation. As far as I can tell, he’s just trying to enjoy the rest of his life as happily as possible. There’s a nice Amazon box upstairs he likes to sleep in. He loves our neighbor’s deck more than anything else, so when we’re done here he’s going to go stretch out back there. He’s just a sweet old man.

We have a connected back yard, and he was hanging out back there once. I checked on him after a while, but couldn’t find him and didn’t know what happened. It turns out that he had come out the alley and walked around front, and he was sitting here photobombing a wedding shoot that was going on at the plaza down the way. And we only found out about it later because someone sent us a picture asking, ‘Is this your cat?’”

"At this stage of my life, pursuing a relationship with my creator is very important to me: seeking out something greater than myself; knowing and believing that there is something greater; having faith that we as humanity know there's something greater that we should all be reaching out for. That would probably reunite us and give us more cohesive ways to deal with the problems we're facing right now.

I think I pursued that relationship when I was young, but a lot of things got in the way. We get older, though, a lot of things get out of the way. Our children grow up and go their ways. We have fewer stresses and fewer problems. So we become more open-minded to the pursuit. We have more time. It’s almost like we’ve put our creator on hold while we’ve lived our lives; but now as we get to the end of our lives, we want to pursue him more. We have the time, the freedom, the desire... and the importance of that pursuit just becomes more evident to us. It should be the other way around, really, but materialism and all these other desires get in the way.

Faith has been a struggle. We’re bombarded with so much stuff. But I think true faith is an individual's pursuit. When we pursue our faith through religion—we go to church, we pay our tithe, we find that a great deal of our teacher are so corrupt—it dims us and dulls us. We get a little apprehensive and pull out of all of that; we start to pursue him on our own. And, frankly, I think we do better when we pursue him on our own. Especially when we have someone else beside us that’s in that same kind of individual pursuit, and we can talk to them about it. Conversation between like-minded people helps us get where we need to be. I have a lot of friends who pulled out of religion because of mistrust and all that stuff. But the desire—the pursuit—is still there, I don’t think it ever goes away."

"Honestly, I just want a happy life with a happy wife. I just want to be rich. Being rich would solve my problems. They say mo’ money, mo’ problems, but I don’t agree. I’m flat broke right now, so I think more money would fix the problems I have. And you know what? Let me be that guinea pig. Yeah, go ahead and give me that money, and I'll show you it won’t bring me problems. I guarantee it would solve all my problems."

"I am from Ukraine originally. My family came here in 1992. We had been having a very hard time back then. The 90’s were very difficult there. Our youngest child served in the army before the collapse of the Soviet Union in… I think it was 1992? There was new money… paper money. Russian money. Ukrainian money. Special store for Russian money. Special store for the Ukrainian money. It was all very hard. At that time in Ukraine, we had to get up in the early morning to pay money for tickets that allowed us certain products at the store.

My husband’s brother was living in America, and he made arrangements for us to come over. This country was so good for us, for our family. I don’t know about anyone else, but America was good for our family. Everything here was so very different! I remember going into a store with my husband, and… oh! There were so many things. We came here in December, and everything was... Christmas time! It was like a fairy story.

A few of our relatives still live there. My older son is still in the Ukraine. We get to see him by computer sometimes, but we visited him when he was 40 years old and then again when he was 50. I also have relatives here. One son lives in East Greenbush and has two teenage daughters. Another lives in Saratoga with two boys that are the same age, and my little granddaughter who is 7 months old already. I used to see them more, but now that my husband is very sick, I come here to Troy often to visit him."

"My first kid is on the way... August 15th. That motivates me every day to go out and work and get money so I can get my own apartment. I’m a little nervous. I come from a big family, so I already know how to take care of kids. So in some ways it’s gonna be easy for me, but at the same time hard. My dad wasn’t always there for me. He was kind of a crappy dad. So my goal is to be 100% better than that. I want to be there for my kid all the time no matter what. I want him to have everything he could possibly need. I’m striving to be the best dad there is. I hope he don’t… I hope he’s not like all these other kids getting into trouble. I’m gonna to try my best to keep him out of that. I’m going to try to get out of Troy. I already know I don’t want him growing up here. I’ve been here all my life, so I know how it is. And I don’t want my kid in this. I’m 19, so it’s definitely forcing me to grow up faster."

“I was born and raised in Troy. Worked construction for a while, doing fire protection and sprinklers. But I’ve been retired for 15 years now. Now I’ve got a small farm that I keep pretty busy with, garden and chickens and such. I’ve been coming to Famous Lunch for 60 years. Their hot dogs are delicious. My father used to bring me here when I was young. Now I come by once in awhile when I don’t feel like cooking. Same place. It hasn’t changed a bit. Of all the things changing in the world, this place hasn’t changed a bit.”

“I struggled silently for a while—hid it really, really well. But I’m not ashamed to talk about my story honestly and openly now. If I could help even just one person out of addiction… that would be a victory for me. I went through a halfway house. I just finished inpatient treatment for addiction, and now I’m going through outpatient. It’s really hard, and I’ve lost a lot; but I’m slowly getting it back. I have to take everything one second at a time now. There are a lot of temptations, a lot of people that I know around here who could pull me back into it all. But if I keep myself focused and working toward the goal I’ve had for the last six months… I just don’t want to lose all of that.

My daughter just turned six. I don’t know if I could have gone through all of that if it weren’t for her. She's definitely my motivation through all of this. Every time I see her, she puts a smile on my face. I think about how she’s watching everything I do. My dad was an alcoholic, so I saw it firsthand. And I don’t want her to have to go through the same stuff I went through. Not saying my dad was a bad person or that anyone with an addiction is. It’s just… she watches me. She does a lot of the things I do. She expects nothing, but she remembers everything. So to give her the curse of addiction… I just can’t let that happen.

It’s a journey. It’s worth it. I’m looking forward to all the victories from here on out.”

"I’ve lived in Troy since I was born. I used to work at Flomatic Valves. I made underground water valves, making valves for pipes inside the house. I made the molds, then they’d pour hot metal into them to make the valves. We'd grind them, make them look new, and send them to the people next door who would rethread them. I did that for 8 years. That was the 70’s. I wasn’t really making that much money — $2.50 an hour or something like that. I'd work 8 hours straight and then went home to nothing. I did enjoy that job, but they closed up a while back. There are some other valve places around, but it’s all so different now than what we used to do.

I don’t do that much anymore. I don’t mow the grass or anything. I just take it easy. I take care of myself now. I just love myself, that’s all. I think God wants men to love themselves and protect themselves. If all men relaxed and loved themselves the way it’s supposed to be, the world would be a lot more safe. There wouldn’t be no problems with people getting hurt, kids getting hurt. You could teach the kids to love themselves and grow up to be adults who love themselves, even with dresses on."

"I was the head of the math department at RPI. And that was really… you know, there were ups and downs, but when I tell people what I am, what I do, what I did, it’s that. And I still do the math, I just don’t get paid for it. *laughs* I’m passionate about math. My field was applied math, so I got to work with mechanical engineers, biologists, and other fields. I was always asking ‘what can I do with math that adds to this field?’ Every time I was successful at that, it was incredibly gratifying.

My desire to learn started back in kindergarten — I was annoyed that they wouldn’t teach me to read in kindergarten. I said, ‘you’re going to teach me to read,’ and they did! *laughs* It’s just who I was. I didn’t think about wanting to push the envelope or anything. I was at school, and I just wanted to learn. My propensity for math came in middle school. Small town, small class. I got a math book and sat in the corner reading it. While everyone else was doing 9th grade math, I was doing 11th grade math. While they were doing 12th grade math, I was doing calculus and other advanced maths. Then I came to RPI which at the time was very friendly to people like me, people who were good, but not great. I got to do a lot of things with people: some were just fellow students, some were professors that recognized I was looking for things to do.

After a few years of being on the faculty, I started working with a nuclear engineer. He and I looked at the big problems of the day, problems that people were interested in. I could do the equations, but he was my connection to reality. We looked at the stuff that needed to be done, and we did it. We changed the way of thinking from doing experiments and making graphs out of those experiments, to putting information into the computer to calculate the physics of what’s going on in order to understand what was happening. I always said trust the equations. If you’ve got the right equation, they’re going to do what’s right. It was revolutionary at the time."

"I’m a landscaper. That’s what I do. Been doing it 20 years, at least. I love being outside, working with my hands. Gotta be on top of everything. When I was younger, I used to do a lot of cooking and cleaning, but I started doing landscaping and now I'm doing well with it and staying busy. I've thought about getting a desk job before, but I think I’d get bored after a while. I do want financial stability, but it’s not even about the money. I’d just rather be out there working."

"When the weather’s nice, I play ultimate frisbee. That’s the reason I do a lot of working out, trying to stay in shape, and all that jazz. It’s a big passion of mine, and it's a lot of fun. I picked it up at a summer camp when I was 12, but it’s one of those things that has always stuck with me and has become a pretty large part of my life. I’m a senior in mechanical engineering, so I’ll probably be going into industry. I’m actually looking into working at a company that helps make prosthetic limbs and organs. They’ve been playing with making heart valves from pig’s hearts because they’re very similar. I’m pretty passionate about sports therapy and physical therapy, probably because of ultimate frisbee. I always say ultimate frisbee players are just people who weren’t good enough to play regular sports. We’re all nerdy engineers."

"I served in the Marine Corps for nine and a half years—worked on airplanes for Desert Storm and Desert Shield. We did what we had to do. I just don’t like to talk about it."

"Every day I wake up, I’m very happy to study about and design games. My major is game design. Of course, I like very much to play games too. I don’t exactly have a favorite game, because I have to play them all! But I hope to create a sandbox game. There’s a lot of freedom in a game like that. It’s like a new world for players. I’m into the art: designing the worlds, the world backgrounds, the characters. I’m from China; but I'm studying abroad, and I’m very excited to be studying at this school. Our department directors always send us emails about game development in Troy. Because I’m just a freshman, I have not so much experience… so, I have to wait. But I think it’s all very exciting!"

"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’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.”

Do you see yourself staying in Troy?


Where to next?

"Don't really know. Wherever life takes us, I guess."

"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."

“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.”